Jenny was one of two female patrol officers under the age of thirty-five working for the Missoula County Sheriff's Department. Tonight she was the one tapped to work as a prostitution decoy at the truck stops along I-90. She loved this job but not this assignment. Half naked in the bitter wind, the cold, dry air freezing the insides of her nostrils while an unwashed trucker eyed her over so she could negotiate an agreement of sex for money. but once the nasty part was over, it was easy. It was supposed to be easy. Drive around back, hon, and I'll meet you there. Then the supporting officers would take him down. That's the way it was supposed to go.
Suffice it to say, but in Alafair Burke's Winning, that's not the way it went. Something terrible happened to Jenny. But this story is not about the crime itself, rather the aftermath and how she and her husband deal with it. It's a fascinating exploration of gender identity, and how the different sexes interpret and handle stressful situations.
Jenny, the skilled police officer, considers the situation a win. Yes, she was sexually assaulted, and admits to the reader it was so horrible that she cannot bring herself to talk about it. But the man was captured and arrested, all thanks to her. It was a little too late for her liking, but she did the job she's paid to do. She considers this a "win."
Her husband Greg thinks differently. Why was the man able to drag Jenny into his vehicle while other officers where around? How was he able to drive away with her a captive? Why wasn't she allowed to carry a gun on such a dangerous assignment? All he sees are ways the system failed to protect her. As a husband, he considers it his job to protect his wife, especially when law enforcement wasn't able to. For him, the situation was a total "loss."
These arguments would have probably been left for therapy sessions had her assailant been convicted and thrown in jail for the rest of his life. No one expected him to make bail and to be set free while awaiting trial. How will Jenny and Greg react?
Who will be the first to seek vengeance?
This short story can be found in The Best American Mystery Stories 2009. For more information on Alafair's work, including her newest book 212, check out her website.