Someone Is Watching
Read by Christina Traister
Bailey Carpenter is a PI - - - a private investigator - - - for a law firm in Miami. When we first meet her, we find a tough, no-nonsense woman in her late 20's, hired to follow embezzlers and deadbeat husbands. Hiding in the dark bushes of a south Miami street, late at night, she is spying on one man's apartment with her binoculars when, suddenly, someone grabs from behind, slams her to the ground, jams a pillowcase on her head, punches her . . . and rapes her. At the moment of his climax, he whispers gruffly in her ear, "Tell me that you love me."
Bailey's life is then turned upside-down. Before, she was confident, enjoying her job, even sneaking around to have an affair with one of the senior partners in the law-firm where she works. After the trauma, she turns what they once called hysterical. She locks herself in her condominium, skulks around her apartment, believing that the rapist is hiding in one of the rooms. She takes scalding showers four or five times a day, sleeps an hour or two, wakes up with terrifying nightmares.
Every hour or so she traverses the rooms, scissors in hand, convinced that the man has somehow gotten into her place to violate her again. Every time the telephone rings, she is sure it is him.
She meets reluctantly with friends and fellow-workers who come to visit. She takes an extended leave from work, cannot eat nor sleep. When she goes out on the street, she sees every man as her rapist, repeats to herself what she told the police: "average height, dark hair, between twenty and forty years of age."
Her fear makes it impossible to move around the city, even during the day. At night, she stays trapped in her condominium, afraid to even answer her door.
§ § §
And the reader comes to be trapped too. Because in her inner monologue, her fears are repeated again and again, and we wonder how much longer Bailey - - - and the rest of us - - - can go on like this.
Which is one of the points of the author. I can think of few other books that have painted the post-trauma nightmare of violation as this one does. Those who have been through rape find themselves continually forced to relive the grisly experience - - - and in Bailey's case, it is not only the violation, but being hit, bitten, scratched, bruised, being told to "tell me you love me" - - - such memories revisit her again and again and again.
Fortunately solace comes, not from any of her friends, nor even from her ex-lover. No, her chance to come back from her trauma comes from a therapist, and from a half-sister and her daughter.
It is her once-estranged sister Claire who comes through to help her survive her days and nights, to deal with friends and neighbors, to help with the endless visits from the police, their repetitive questions. Claire is a nurse, and extremely competent when dealing with trauma.
She also brings along her daughter, Bailey's half-niece, sixteen-year-old Jade - - - who seems like the only live-wire in this whole crowd. She comes in with her mother after jimmying the door to the hall.
"You must be Bailey." Cherry red lips move furiously as she manipulates a giant wad of bubble gum from one side of her small mouth to the other. "Sorry about your rape."
"Jade, for God's sake," her mother says.
The girl's heavily shadowed blue eyes widen with disdain.
"What?" She looks toward the door. "You should get that lock replaced," she tells me. "It's a piece of shit."
"I just had it replaced," I say.
She makes another face. The face tells me to replace it again.
"How did you get it open?" I ask.
"Piece of cake." Jade returns to the door and opens it indicating the locking device. "See this? It's really cheap stuff. All these so-called luxury condos and they all install this crap. You just have to insert something long and thin, like a nail file or a bobby pin, and give it a good twist. I thought you were a private investigator. Shouldn't you know this stuff already?"
Turns out that Jade is about the only live-wire in the book. Which I will suggest is not the way you want to write a book, even one about such a gloomy subject. Every book about cataclysm must be leavened with more than a little touch of facetiousness or joy or, at the least, irony.
Against Hamlet's tragedy, there was the fooling around in the graveyard with Yorick's skull. Macbeth featured a drunken if somewhat grim hall-porter. In Lear we have the "Fool" - - - who was hardly anyone's fool.
§ § §
I won't bother to take you on the long winding road of the plot of You Are Being Watched more than to tell you that it has more twists and turns than the mangrove swamps in the environs of Miami where all this takes place. We may be dismayed by the repetitious thoughts of Bailey in the first part of the book - - - I think a better author would show these more artfully, less boringly - - - but we can agree that is one of the messages of the book is that trauma will not leave you alone.
The other directive that the author repeats more than necessary, true as it is, is that rape is not an act of passion, nor an act of lust. Rather, it is sign of violent hate.
§ § §
To set the story off, we get to see some oddments of Bailey herself, ones that made her so successful in her chosen field of work. She is what we might define as being obsessive, which may certainly contribute to her post-violence reaction. As PI, she often used her binoculars to discover the secrets for her bosses. Afterwards, she continues with her spying, peeking out the window of her other condo neighbors. Her upper story flat gives her dozens of windows to peer into, which she does, with her binoculars, day and night, finally honing in on a man in the building across from hers, a man "of average size, with black hair." He seems to like flaunting himself with his varied lady visitors, the curtains wide open for all to see. "At one point, she wonders. "Is this the one who . . . ?"
Becoming a peeping tom seems to be the only thing left that Bailey can do with any enthusiasm. Even the rock-like Claire seems to get a kick (as does daughter Jade) of peering at this mysterious stranger with his late night show-off activities.
It's his final demonstration (with pistol) that brings on the ultimate denouement, gives the plot a twist that - - - as in all good mysteries - - - let's the reader participate in an A-hah now-I-get-it moment.
If you buy this particular disc, competently read by Christina Traister, prepare to spend some time glued to your car radio (that's where I, caught in the toils of my early morning or late afternoon smog-jams, got my thrills).
It certainly beats peering out of my doughty apartment window, spying on my neighbors up to no good, showing off in their ugly, curtainless condos. And lives.--- Pamela Wylie