|by Amita Murray|
Caroline looked at the table as Philips recorded the items in his packet book: “1 pipe, 1 pouch of tobacco, one handkerchief – blue, I Bible.” He looked up at Downing. “No watch, nothing else of value.” It was an observation not a question. Caroline lifted her chin, meeting the policeman’s scrutiny while she folded her hands into her pocket.
Caroline leant back against the cold bricks of the wall and closed her eyes at the slam of the door, breathing in and out deeply as Philips’ steps echoed away. She reached out, fumbling for the handkerchief and used it to wipe the salt water from her cheeks. She kept her eyes closed focusing on her breathing until it settled.
She opened her eyes then and refocused on the table. He seemed convinced they were all she had to declare and he didn’t seem that interested in getting her to reveal any more of herself. She’d heard stories, but it was late and maybe Philips just wanted to head home, maybe getting into an argument with a six foot black man wasn’t something he cared to do; maybe the cape would still be enough. She tipped the white felt brim further down her forehead.
As the door opened she rolled her back off the wall .
“Well Mr Downing nothing to here to keep you.” She smiled with relief at the floor, but her brow knitted as she noticed the second pair of black laced boots. She looked up and met his eyes. They were more questioning than Philips’. Sceptical? She settled hopefully for concerned. “This is Dr Stern, he’s one of the doctor’s at Bow Infirmary – you ever been there?” Caroline shook her head slowly. “Well, given …” Philips paused trying to find the most appropriate word, “given the incident, it’s been decided that the infirmary rather than the cells would be a better place for you and.” “As you’re not feeling well” Stern interrupted “better to be somewhere with medical professionals where we can take care of you.”
Caroline felt bile rising at the back of her throat and she focused once again on the breath in and the breath out.