(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

In the ten days since Jeanette’s assault, my life had become something I hadn’t expected, something completely unfamiliar. During the days, I walked the streets of Venice looking for clues—houses, people, dogs. I spoke at length with all the mail carriers. I traversed the alleys and peered over fences. And when nothing panned out, I widened my circle. The place in which I had chosen to make my home had become a place that was filled with suspects and witnesses and criminals or potential criminals. I was aware, in every waking hour, just how on-the-edge my neighborhood really was. I read the crime reports. I knew where the black clouds hovered. And still, I found nothing.

I talked to Cagney every day, and most evenings I saw her. She had to deliver the news that the first police technician who’d dusted for prints had found none. I was heartbroken and lobbied for her to try again. She’d have to pull some strings in order for that to happen, so she wanted me to make sure we could find some viable prints. I consulted with John, and together we mapped out the areas in which he strongly believed there was real evidence that would lead us to a suspect.

When the second police technician arrived, I directed him to walls, countertop areas, the stovetop and other surfaces. First, he’d paint a layer of gray dust over wide sections, and then he’d zero in on something and carefully lift dust particles in the form of fingerprints onto squares of clear plastic. I watched him for the better part of an hour pull at least 15 useable samples. When I wasn’t watching him, I was scanning the room trying to imagine what had happened. All the blood was still there, untouched. The toaster oven was open and a paring knife was lying nearby. One of the last things Jeanette said she remembered was making dinner. I asked the man about the possibility of getting prints from the knife, but he said it had already been dusted. I asked him how they determined the difference between all of our prints and anyone else’s, and he said that if the prints didn’t match any that were in their system, it didn’t much matter whose they were.

As it happened, the prints didn’t match any that were in their system. It seemed like we were getting nowhere with the investigation, and when I wasn’t frustrated, I felt hopeless. This detective stuff was crap. In fact, it was tedious crap. Much as I loved and appreciated Cagney, I wondered if we’d have more resources or if the case would have been a higher priority if Jeanette had been murdered.

My afternoons and early evenings were spent at Mary’s apartment with Jeanette. I needed to see her every day—I needed to know how she was feeling, what she was thinking about, if she remembered anything. I always felt better when I was with her, and I stayed as long as I could. Despite there being a dark pall over everything, the atmosphere was almost festive; we’d created an extended family of sorts, all of us coming together with a singular goal: to encourage Jeanette to reclaim her life. Interestingly enough, we all had some reclaiming to do of our own.

Some days were good, some weren’t. With the passage of time, reality set in and the long road to recovery stretched out before us. And yet, laughter was the consistent thread that pulled us through.

Jeanette kept saying that I had saved her life, but I hadn’t, and I wanted to be very clear about that. The idea that I had saved her life meant to me that she wasn’t recognizing the decision she made to live. “No, you got up,” I kept insisting. I hadn’t stumbled upon her unconscious; instead, she had gotten to her feet and asserted her will by phoning me and asking for help. I thought that was a profound distinction, and I wanted her to fully embrace it: she saved herself. In fact, her doctors had told us that her injuries had been so severe they were amazed she’d survived the trauma, so it was vitally important to me that she recognize her own power. In fact, I also thought it was highly likely that she’d had a near death experience—that she left her body during the time of unconsciousness, and then made a decision to return. Regardless, it was a life lesson I felt she was dodging by giving me too much credit. And so I insisted that she tell people she had saved her own life.

Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out how to go on comfortably with mine. I had an alarm system installed in my home, and even though I armed it when I left the house, I also made sure it was fully functional whenever I was inside. I needed to know if windows or doors were being opened—though even that was feeble comfort. When I arrived home after dark, I had Rob come outside to meet me and escort me inside. We’d perform a thorough search of the place, and then I could be left alone. If Rob wasn’t available, I had a stable of friends on call.

And of course there was Michael. The more he showed up, the more I resisted. I was willing to accept the fact that I had absolutely no powers of discernment. He kept saying things that sounded hollow to me but I couldn’t tell if they sounded hollow because he was a fraud or because I suspected everyone of being a fraud. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and I invited him to move in with me.

Michael might have been the most attentive, protective, thoughtful, spiritual man I’d ever met. He told me things every woman wants to hear: that he’d been looking for me his entire life, that the sum total of his experiences were preparation for meeting me, that he couldn’t believe how beautiful and sexy I was, that he had no idea that love could be so deep and so instantaneous. It all sounded really good to me; the problem was, I didn’t believe it. Oh, I wanted to. I wanted to fall in love with him. I wanted a strong, handsome, perfect man to sweep me off my feet, and I wanted it to be him. I just had this horrible feeling that everything he said was a lie. But since I couldn’t seem to reconcile anything anymore, I assumed that I could no longer tell the difference between perfection and disaster.

So I made a list. I didn’t think Michael was particularly smart. When I took him to Mary’s to meet Jeanette and all of our friends, he embarrassed me. While I thought he was handsome, I didn’t feel regularly turned on by him. Probably because he didn’t shower enough. And yet, I thought all that was my problem; I thought that my recently skewed worldview was tainting me. I introduced Michael to my friend Linda whom I’d met at a retreat center near Palm Springs. Linda lived in Santa Monica but made regular weekend trips to the desert. I suggested that Michael go with her and check it out. Linda and Michael became fast friends. When Michael discovered that Linda had a trust fund, he began telling her all the things he’d said to me and they ran off together.

I’d like to think that I saved myself, but the truth is, Linda saved me.

…go to Part 14