Chapter 4 – The Audition
Lourdes Cooper pulled her detective car into her driveway with takeout Chinese dinner on the front seat. Her husband Danny and 5 year old daughter Emily had been waiting for her on the front lawn. They were hugging and kissing hello when her cell phone rang, the ring tone indicating it was a call from the office of Tucker Bailey, chief of police.
Crap, she thought, there goes our family dinner time, again.
Lourdes let it ring a few more times as she held Emily in her arms and swayed from side to side. Emily loved that. Danny was saying “I’m sorry, if I had picked up dinner we would have finished eating by now. Tell Bailey you need fifteen minutes to feed your family.”
Lourdes answered it while she held her daughter. “Cooper” was all she was able to say, the caller was Marcia Gray, Tucker Bailey’s assistant. Marcia immediately began the rapid-fire orders she had been told to pass along to Lourdes. There had been an alleged rape and beating at the university involving a professor and a student. She needed to arrive there as soon as possible. Uniform police were on the way and university police were on the scene.
“Five minutes” she replied and clicked off her phone. “I’ve got to go back to work for a little while Emily, but I’ll hurry home as soon as I’m done, honey. You and Daddy have your dinner now, but save some for me, ‘cause I’m gonna be hungry as a bear when I get home! OK honey?”
“OK Mommy, we’ll keep it warm for you too!” Emily hugged her hard, this not being the first time they had this conversation. Lourdes was almost ready to call Marcia back and tell her to send someone else; her family was a hell of a lot more important than her job. Deeper down she knew she did this for her family, so if Danny lost his job, or had a relapse of his illness, this was all they had to support them. She handed Emily to Danny, kissed them both on the cheeks, handed off the Chinese food, opened the bag, grabbed two egg rolls, and left them waving at her on the lawn.
It wasn’t hard to find the location of the “event”. Uniform patrol cars were gathered at the rear of the auditorium where it joined the rear of the gymnasium. There was something going on in the gym, probably a basketball game, as the parking lot was full, there was a bus from another South Florida school parked at the entrance and even the press was already here. My lucky night, Lourdes thought.
The uniformed officers were doing their job keeping the press from entering the auditorium, but there were too many school staff hurrying in and out of the doors. She recognized the school doctor and nurse rushing in and she called out to stop them. She didn’t want anyone treated that may interfere with a rape case investigation.
Once inside, she was surprised by what she found: lying on his back with a gash on his head and blood on his hands was the man she recognized as the performing arts professor. She called out to let the doctor and nurse in to treat his wound until the EMT’s arrived.
Sitting on a stage prop trunk was a woman, student age, with no apparent injuries and a defiant look on her face. This was not what Lourdes had expected. In her experience a rape/beating case presented a battered woman and a defiant male suspect. This looked like the opposite, but she withheld any assumptions, and went to the injured male first.
His forehead was bleeding profusely. He had a dazed look as the university sports doctor applied pressure to the wound with a gauze bandage. The EMT’s arrived and the doctor relinquished his position but he continued talking to the wounded man, “Harold, I have to stay in the gymnasium until this game is over. You’ll need stitches on that cut. I’ll come to the hospital as soon as I can to make sure that whoever stitches that up is capable of preventing a lasting scar. And I’ll make damn sure this woman is prosecuted and prevented from doing harm to anyone else, here or anywhere!” As he finished this little speech, the doctor glared at the young woman sitting on the trunk. She glared back until the doctor and his nurse hurried back to the basketball game in the gym.
There were lights shining in the open stage doors from the press video cameras and Lourdes ordered all non-police or EMT personnel out and the doors closed. As this was being done, a door opened and in walked Tucker Bailey. Lourdes had to make a conscious effort to keep a surprised look off her face as he approached her. She wondered, what would cause the police chief to leave his home in the evening just to poke around an assault case?
He walked up to her. “Fill me in Lourdes.” Bailey was staring at the man on the floor. “I just arrived. It appears the man is the victim. I’m going to question him now before they transport him for treatment. I don’t know if he’s the rape suspect or not.”
Bailey was now looking at the woman. “Rape? Is she claiming he raped her? She doesn’t appear injured, does she? What did she clobber him with?”
The professor yelled an answer. “She beat me with a bamboo post from the stage set! Then she flung it over there!” The man was turning around, and they saw him pointing to stage left. They turned to see a uniformed officer shine his light on a piece of bamboo lying under a stage curtain. Lourdes walked over and picked it up with a gloved hand. She came back and knelt by the man.
“Who are you sir?” “I’m Harold Hampton, dean of the university performing arts department. He raised his hand and pointed at the woman. “That woman is Barbra Ossa, a student here. She attacked me with that post and nearly killed me.”
“I was defending myself! He raped me!” she screamed back, jumping up from her seat on a equipment trunk. She began to come towards them but was stopped by an officer.
“Oh, come on! She seduced me. She was hoping to force me into guaranteeing her a leading role in our upcoming play. When I told her that she needed to work on her acting and singing skills, she turned on her charms. She seduced me. I mean, look at her, barely dressed in that costume, is that appropriate? She knows she is very pretty and thought that sex would compromise me into giving her the part. I know it was wrong to give in to her advances. I offered to help her learn the skills for future productions. When I refused her the part in this play, she flew into a rage and attacked me!” He looked frightened as he recalled the event. Very convincing, Lourdes had to admit.
Bailey was convinced. “Book her for aggravated assault. We’ll see what the DA wants to charge her with when we have all the facts, possibly attempted murder.”
“What? Are you nuts? He raped me! He told me to put on this costume. He put his hands on me during the audition, supposedly to instruct me, he said to “position me” for the reading. He became irritated when I resisted his touches, demanding I cooperate so he could help me succeed, saying we could help each other! Cerdo!!” She spat in his direction and became furious, stomping her feet and waving her arms. “He held me down with his body on top of me on that trunk. He put his hand on my throat, the other under my clothes. He had his tongue in my ear. I think I passed out. I awoke and he was inside me, hurting me, pushing. I was yelling NO, NO, trying to push him off. It was hard to breathe, and that frightened me. I shoved him harder then and he pulled on my hair as he fell off me. He jumped up and slapped me, then kneed me where he had been inside me. I kicked at his face, and fell off the trunk. The bamboo stick was there on the floor so I picked it up and swung it as he leaned over me yelling. It hit him in the head, so I was able to get up. I kept swinging it and hit him more times as backed away. I LOVED the surprised look on his face.” She turned to the professor. “Didn’t any of your other rape victims fight back, Puerco?”
Well, this interview is going well, Lourdes thought. “OK, OK miss, we’ll get the rest of your statement at the hospital. Right now the EMT’s will check you for injuries, then we’ll take you to the hospital for a rape examination. I’ll be there to get your complete statement. Please have a seat.”
Lourdes said to Bailey “I’ll take her to the hospital for the rape kit exam and get a detailed statement from both parties there and report back to you tonight if you wish.”
“Officer, please escort Ms. Ossa to my car, but go out the side door to avoid any university staff or students or the press waiting at the rear doors.” To the uniform Sergeant Lourdes said “Please tape off the stage area and lock up. Inform the university not to allow anyone in until we notify them that CSSI has completed their crime scene examination.”
“Mr. Hampton the EMT’s will take you to the hospital and I’ll get your full statement there.”
Harold Hampton was complaining loudly “I just gave you my statement. Write it down. That is what happened. I was compromised and beaten by this aggressive woman. She’s a liar! I’m the victim here!” The EMT’s tried to calm him and stop the flow of blood from overpowering the bandage on his head as he yelled, the veins in his neck and face standing out. “I’m the one who called 911! I called the police, not her!”
“He’s got a point Lourdes, be sure and look at both sides in this. We don’t want to ignore any possibilities that would abridge his rights.” Bailey said to her.
Lourdes thought, yeah, you men do stick together, but so do we women. Wouldn’t want to tarnish the university’s image would we? She knew Bailey was thinking of where the city’s bread was buttered. Oh Lord, help me to see the truth in all things, she silently prayed. “Yes sir.” was all she replied.
Eventually she followed the woman and an officer out the side door to her car, the bloody bamboo post in her hand.