I raised my hand hesitating to knock on the door of Kiera's home. This is the one part of the job that I hate. Being the person that has to tell the parents about something like this is never easy. I braced myself for the reactions from the news that I would have to deliver to her family. I just hoped that hearing it from me will make it easier for them to take in. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to keep my professional mask from slipping to reveal the anguish below, but I needed to for a little longer for her parents sake.
"Can I help you?" said Mr. Blake confused as he opened the door. Glancing at the uniform and then at my face I saw the moment he recognized me.
"Mr. Blake, my name is Ethan Parker. I am a detective with the Washington County Police." I said trying not to stumble over my words as I cite the greeting that was drilled into my head at the academy.
"I remember you, Ethan. What can I do for you at this hour?" he replied crossing his arms across his chest. A look of confusion settled over his features. Did he even know Kiera was missing?
Trying to stay professional I replied, "I need you and Ms. Blake to come to the hospital with me." There was a catch in my voice that caused me to hesitate a little too long. I had to get my act together. I had a job to do right now.
"Why? What's wrong Ethan?" he asked in a panicked voice as Mrs. Blake joined him at the door with a worried look on her face.
"We found your daughter, Kiera. She was unconscious at the edge of the road near Hastings High School. Did you know she was missing?" I tried to ask with as little emotion as possible.
I watched as Karen collapsed in tears against her husband hearing this news. There wasn't anything I could do to make this any easier for them. I wanted to reach out, comforting them, but there is never a good way to tell a family that their only daughter had been attacked and left for dead on the side of the road.
"What happened Ethan? She was supposed to be at a friend's house. Is she okay? How bad is she hurt?" Mr. Blake asked with a trembling voice while holding his sobbing wife. "She is alive but critically injured. We don't know how long she was held or what was done to her. I have a team investigating the scene where she was found, but I went straight to the hospital with her." Pausing long enough to take a deep breath I continued. "She was still unconscious when I left the hospital, but preliminary reports from the doctors tell me that she will recover. I came straight here to escort you and your wife to Regional Medical Hospital where they have admitted her if you want to get your belongings."
As they turned to quickly getting a bag together, I braced myself on the porch railing. This was harder to do when you have grown up caring for the victim from a distance. Steeling my resolve, I knew the best way to help was by getting them by her side faster with a police escort. They were out the door within minutes, and we headed towards the hospital.
As we entered into the wing where she was located the nurse informed us that she was finally conscious and able to talk. Pausing in the hallway, I turned to her parents asking, "If you don't mind I would like to ask Kiera a few questions since she is awake."
"Of course Detective, just let us visit with her first." Mr. Blake replied numbly. He placed his hand on the small of Karen's back and led her into the hospital room to see their daughter.
I decided to wait in the hallway until they finished up checking in on her. Hearing the sobs coming from the room was excruciating. It equally pissed me off and broke my heart. Clenching my fists, I realized that putting them through the wall would not be very professional instead I began to pace up and down the hallway. Things like this happened in the city, not in a small town like Hastings, Michigan. I should have been patrolling that area sooner maybe I could have stopped it before it happened. The door opening broke my concentration and brought me back to the matter at hand.
"Alright Ethan you can talk to her now but please try not to upset her, she is finally calm. We are going to wait here until you're done in case she needs us." He wrapped his arms tightly around his wife as he led her to the chair across the hall. Seeing the family go through this much pain ignited my anger towards the person that did this to her. I vowed to find that person and return the favor tenfold.
Walking into her room and seeing her broken took what was left of my heart and tore it into shreds. Her eyes had lost that hint of sparkle that she had during cheerleading. They were dull and lifeless as she stared at the television that a nurse must have turned on for her. Speaking softly, so I didn't startle her, I introduced myself with the same ‘official' response like I was supposed to do.
"Hello Kiera, my name is Ethan Parker. I'm a Detective with the Washington County Police, and I need to ask you some questions about your attack if it's okay with you." I paused waiting for her to allow me to continue but mostly so I could remove the lingering anger from my voice.
When she slightly nodded her head, I continued, "Your parents are waiting just outside the door if you need them." My voice caught as I hesitated before going on, "We found you on the road just outside Hastings High School in the middle of the night. Can you tell me why you were there?"
Watching her reaction as I asked the questions was not easy. There were tears forming in her eyes as she turned away from me trying to bury her face in the pillow. Her fists clenched the sheet tighter pulling it up around her face. There was a hint of fear and embarrassment painted across her face before she covered it with the blanket blocking my view. This was extremely hard for me, so I know it was even more difficult for her, but I had to continue.
"You were badly hurt, and your clothes were torn to pieces. Do you remember anything about who attacked you or what happened?" I asked while hearing her begin hyperventilate as I mentioned the attacker. Her hands were trembling as she grasped the blankets pulling them off her face. Edging closer to the bed I reached out touching her hand trying to reassure her but she jerked it away. She began shaking her head back and forth saying "No, no, no….get away from me. Leave me alone."
It took everything I had not to wrap my arms around her, but I recognized the terror in her eyes. Touching her now will only make her recede further into her mind, so I stepped back whispering, "It's okay Kiera, you're safe now. I won't let anyone hurt you ever again." The nurses and her parents rushed into the room as the monitors alerted them to her distress. I had to get out of there before my exterior cracked showing them all the feelings I was trying desperately to keep in check.
Turning to the parents as they rushed to her bedside I asked Mr. Blake, "Can I talk to you outside?" I tried to wait patiently while they were in the room, but I felt trapped. I began pacing the floor back and forth trying to get my emotions under control. I wanted to hunt down the bastard that did this and rip him apart. Several minutes passed as they calmed Kiera down. I hated seeing her this upset. She had been a bright and happy girl in high school before I graduated. Now she just looks defeated and afraid. Berating myself again, I wished I would have been patrolling the area before this had happened maybe I could have stopped it. The real question was how could I stop something like this from happening again?
Mr. Blake had gained my attention when he exited the room and shut the door cutting off my inner struggle and stopping me from pacing a path into the floor. I had no choice but to inform him where the department stood on the case at this point. "I can see that this is hard for her but unless she can remember any details we don't have anything to go on. The attacker left no evidence behind for us to find at the scene. It looked like she had been running through the woods from the cuts on her feet. We don't know what direction she came from in the woods. There weren't any fingerprints, bodily fluids or DNA found by the doctor during his exam while she was unconscious. Our only chance is if she can tell us what happened. I know she is in shock right now but if she remembers anything, please call us immediately."
Handing him my business card with my personal number on the back I added, "I have been officially assigned to her case since I was the first at the scene." I froze under his scrutiny. I felt as though he could see through the mask I held firmly in place. "I promise to do everything I can to find the person who did this to her." Taking the card he finally looked away, and I felt I could relax a little. Hearing his voice catch as he tried to find the words to say almost broke my resolve. "Thank you for everything you have done already Ethan. I'll let you know if she remembers anything."