Chapter 6

The following day when Caitlin and I went to see Sergeant Wallace at the police station, the first thing he did was pull a tape recorder out of his desk. A large man with white hair and capped teeth, he was dressed in a short-sleeved shirt with blue slacks. “We videotape and audiotape all meetings,” he told me. He glanced over at Caitlin who was playing with the toys provided for visiting children in front of what was obviously a two-way mirror. A female police officer, in her mid-40’s with too much eye shadow, introduced herself as Constable Shirley and sat quietly in the corner.

I gulped, feeling as if somehow I was guilty; someone who needed to defend herself.

Sergeant Wallace pulled out a pad of lined paper and a pen. He leaned over the recorder and said, “Sergeant Wallace speaking with Heather Williams. It is Tuesday, September 10.” He sat back up and turned to me. “Okay, go ahead. Tell me what happened. Start from the top.”

My mouth went dry. How do I start? I wondered. “Well, um a few days ago a neighbor friend told me,” I paused. “She told me that Caitlin, my daughter, well she told me that Caitlin…” I couldn’t finish.

I twisted in my chair, uncomfortable and aware of the red blinking light of the video camera in the corner and the scratch of Sergeant Wallace’s pen as he scribbled his notes.

I leaned in and asked, “Should my daughter be hearing this?” I had sheltered her from all talk of the abuse since she disclosed it.

Constable Shirley stood and offered to take Caitlin to another room. I nodded and said, “Caitlin, please take your toys and go with the constable.” Caitlin gathered up her things and obediently went with the smiling officer.

Sergeant Wallace continued, “You were saying?”

“Yes. Well, Donna told me that when she was babysitting the kids one day she...”

He interrupted, “Who’s Donna?”

“My daycare provider. The woman Caitlin disclosed to. Well anyways, one day Donna was babysitting and two boys started to fight.”

“Your boys?”

“No, I have only my daughter. Donna babysits for people in our apartment building.” I continued, “Donna separated them and said, ‘No fighting. No one should hurt anyone else.’ At this point, my daughter said, ‘My daddy hurts me.’” I stopped.

My throat constricted and my tongue expanded within my mouth.

“Would you like some water?”

I nodded and watched Sergeant Wallace walk out of the room. Returning moments later, he handed me a Styrofoam cup filled with ice cold water. I took a long swallow.

“Go on, please.”

“Well, Donna, my babysitter, she took Caitlin aside and corrected her. ‘Your daddy doesn’t hurt you’. But Caitlin said, ‘Yes he does’.”

My eyes started to sting and my nose tickled, but I continued, “Then Donna gave Caitlin a doll and asked her to show how he hurt her – using the doll. Caitlin poked her finger between the legs of the doll and said, ‘Like this.’”

At this, a cry escaped my lips. I covered my face with my hands. “He touched her in her privates. He violated my baby.” My moans became sobs.

Sergeant Wallace turned off the tape recorder and leaned forward. He said nothing but his deep hazel eyes softened. Then almost in a whisper he explained that he would have to talk with Caitlin without me in the room. He offered a tissue.

“Of course,” I managed.

I wiped my eyes, fanned my face, and took a deep breath. Caitlin must not see me like this. I stood, pressed my shoulders back and pulled myself together.

Caitlin returned with a quick, “Hi, Mommy,” obviously content to be led from room to room. I shuffled back to the outside room to wait once again.

The agony of the wait was palpable. The cringing pains in my stomach folded me over in my chair, and twice I had to swallow hard to push down rising bile.

The clock ticked the minutes away. Caitlin sat behind that closed door for a full fifteen minutes. How was she holding up in there? Were they drilling her with questions? Were they making her cry? Were they accusing her of lying? I felt helpless to protect my baby. Oh God, help her. I can’t be in there with her. God do You hear me?

The door swung open and Caitlin walked over to me. “Hi, Mommy.”

I looked up and dropped my hands away from my face. She’s all right. She’s happy.

Sergeant Wallace shifted from one foot to the other. He glanced at his watch, then tapped my shoulder as he turned his back to Caitlin, “We have enough evidence to pull Rod in for an interview and polygraph test. But not enough for a criminal conviction at this point. We’ll need to interview Donna, of course, but mainly we’ll have to rely on the tests from the hospital.”

My heart fell. “So now what?”

“Get yourself a good lawyer.”


Once we were back at the apartment, I pulled out the list of lawyer phone numbers Megan Schwartz, the C.A.S. intake worker, had given me. I picked a name, Eunice Turner, and booked an appointment for later that day. On my way to the lawyer’s office, I dropped Caitlin off at my mother’s. It would be good for her to spend time with her grandparents after such a meeting.

When I got to Ms. Turner’s office, she was sitting at a small round table waiting for me. She dressed in all black, with midnight black hair and ivory skin. I noted a single dark mustache hair over her upper lip.

“You come highly recommended,” I said, sitting in the chair she indicated. My voice was strong, but the inflection at the end of the sentence made it sound like a question.

The office had no windows. It smelled like geraniums. I began to feel claustrophobic. The walls were lined with plaques, awards, and a few pictures of the founders of the firm. Looking down at my russet slacks and plain white v-neck and fleece vest, I wondered if I had underdressed for this meeting.

Ms. Turner, preoccupied with the contents of her briefcase, asked, “Yes, well, how do you think I can help you?”

Anger raced up my throat. I explained my situation as calmly as I could. But how do I coolly state that my daughter disclosed that her father abused her but there’s not enough physical evidence to criminally charge him? I feebly said, “I need to protect her.”

“Yes, well,” Ms. Turner didn’t even look me in the eye. “I have a very busy case load. And my rate is $250.00 per hour. You would have to provide a retainer of a thousand dollars before I could open a file.”

I should have thanked her right then and left. But I was desperate. And she was a woman – somehow I thought she might better understand my pain.

I said, “Is cash okay?”

“Fine, fine. My next available appointment is a week from Thursday. The nineteenth at 10:00 a.m. I’ll see you then.”

I felt as if the bottom had dropped out of my stomach. “Thank you, Ms. Turner.” I stood and left the lawyer’s office.