Heavens to Betsy

*Excerpt from a police transcript investigating an alleged hit-and-run death*

Interrogating Officer: Miss Carry, can you give me some idea of what happened?

Tori Carry: I was always a tinkerer when it came to my car. As cars became more and more sophisticated, I couldn’t resist adding all the newest gadgets to my little Betsy, you know …  proximity detectors, automatic global positioning sensors, speeding alarms and the rest. It appealed to my sense of humour that a PT Cruiser would be hiding all these super-brilliant devices, like a spy car. So when AI addies for cars became available, I bought the best brain I could afford.

Of course, it wasn’t the top of the range; I’m not a millionaire. The AI couldn’t talk like my satnav, but it communicated by running text through a screen above my CD player, and kept me informed on the engine, the car, and external conditions like road conditions and weather. It was all very shiny and clever and so up-to-the minute techno-geekiness. I gave my Betsy senses with which to see, hear, smell, touch and taste, and other senses to do with electricity and magnetism that I can only imagine. I thought I had given her a real personality.

Um. You know how some people anthropomorphise their car, sort of like I did, by giving it a name and stuff? I had taken that to a whole new level.

Some people saw the AIs as another driver distraction, but the AI was able to collate and coordinate all the other devices in the car, and so cut down on the number of data inputs. I had Betsy rigged up so that she would write, “Hiya, Tori” and update me on the weather and any road works as soon as I turned the ignition on. It felt like Betsy was communicating with me.

She could respond to my spoken commands. The AI was well designed, so that it slowly learnt all my preferences and could read my moods. She would put on happy tunes when I was down, or refuse to turn on her motor when I was tipsy. She acted like she was my friend, and I started thinking of her as a person, but just car-shaped, you know what I mean?

I think she liked me back. I do. After all, I spend more time and money on her than I did on any relationships I had. Cars are easier to trust than people. Well, maybe not. But they are more honest with their feelings.

Interrogating Officer: Please, Miss Carry. Could you focus on what occurred on the night in question? We can return to this part of your statement later, if you like.

Tori Carry: Oh. Okay.

Well, I’m a student, studying music at the Conservatorium. I’ve managed to pay my way through uni by playing gigs at pubs and stuff. I play covers of what’s in the Top Forty, old standards, a bit of folk music and country rock. I don’t get too much upfront from the managers of these places, you see? So I depend on raking in extra by getting tips.

The thing is – is that sexy sells. So I always dress up when I play these gigs. Nothing too slutty, but I make sure I look nice. I might wear something slinkier than I would normally. Put on too much make-up, as the lights tend to wash you out.

And you flirt with the customers. Well, it is kind of like flirting. I don’t actually want to go out with any of the drunks and goons; I have a perfectly good boyfriend.

(Carry pauses here. She starts to cry.)

What’s Neil going to think about all this? Oh god. He isn’t going to want to touch me after this.

*Interview is suspended while suspect regains control of her emotions*

Interrogating Officer: Are you sure you are ready to continue, Tori? I know you’ve been through a lot, but we need your account of the events.

Tori Carry: Yes. I know. But this is hard, you know?  I never thought something like this would happen to me.

I never noticed him the crowd. You think that a creep like that would give off a vibe, or something, but he didn’t stand out at all. I’ve had my fair share of weirdos staring at me, and idiots shouting inappropriate comments to me. Usually, the bouncer or one of the bar staff walks me to Betsy when we think one of those jokers might get nasty or stupid. Last night, they seemed like a pretty normal crowd; in fact, I was a little irritated that they seemed more interested in their drinks than my singing.

Unlike some places, the car park is well lit. There isn’t any place to lurk and jump out at anyone. I saw there was a guy near my Betsy, but I didn’t think anything about it. After all, he could have been a patron heading home.

He just looked so ordinary.

He grabbed the second I had opened the car door. He had a knife in his hand.

“Get in,” he hissed.

He got into the seat behind me, and kept the knife close to my gut.

“Drive,” he said, “I’ll tell you were to go.”

I was so scared! So many scenarios went through my mind. My parents never knowing what happened to me. Maybe people would think I had run away. Was he going to hurt me? Was he going to kill me?

It was a good thing Betsy is nearly able to drive herself. I wasn’t concentrating on the road. Though maybe, if I had tried, we could have had an accident. Then all this wouldn’t have happened.

Interrogating Officer: Don’t dwell on the might-have-beens. All we need are the facts. What happened next?

Tori Carry: Well, he made me drive up to the old quarry. It is miles away from any houses, so that no one could hear me call for help.

He made me get into the back seat with him. Then he pushed me flat on my stomach, pushed up my dress, and used his knife to cut off my underpants. Then he raped me. He raped me twice. In my own car. (Carry falls silent for a minute or so.)

Interrogating Officer: If you are able, can you give us more detail than that? Anything at all might help us discover the truth.

Tori Carry: Um. He didn’t want me to turn Betsy off. He wanted the heater on, and the music playing. He kept telling me that I should consider myself lucky. That women like me were dirty, flaunting ourselves in public, that we should expect this kind of treatment. That I must have wanted it. Asked for it. Deserved it.

After a while, my mind seemed to take me away from what was happening. First of all, I started thinking how it was going to be impossible to get the smell of this pervert out of Betsy’s seat covers. I was going to have to replace them. I can remember thinking about the amazing seafood place my family had gone to on our last holiday overseas. I can remember thinking about how I wanted to study in Paris.

I had to survive. I had to survive if I wanted to see my parents. Neil. Paris. I think I was whispering that to myself over and over again. “I have to survive. Hold on.”

Interrogating Officer: Would your car have been able to hear you?

Tori Carry: Of course. Betsy was on. All her sensors were engaged. She would have heard everything. But I don’t think an AI has any legal status in a court of law, does it? Can a car give evidence?

Interrogating Officer: That’s something we can consider in the future. Right now, would you be able to continue with your statement?

Tori Carry: After a while, Betsy developed a growling noise in her motor. You’d think I wouldn’t notice something like that. But, like I said, my mind kept trying to run away from what was happening to my body. It was easier to worry about the noise in the engine than what was going to happen after he had finished with me.

I thought he was going to kill me.

No. I knew he was going to kill me.

And I wasn’t ready to die. Not without seeing and studying in Paris.

What seemed days later, he was finally finished. He pulled up the zipper on his fly, and made me turn over. I started to come back into myself, and suddenly I could feel how badly he had torn me, and all my bruises, and I was scared again.

All the light in the car seemed to be reflected in the blade of his knife. He told me what he was going to do with the knife. I felt sick and weak.

Betsy’s motor began to growl so loud that even he noticed. The lights flickered on her dash.

“What’s wrong with the car?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe she is overheating? Something might be caught in her belts?” I had only just refuelled before the gig, so I didn’t think she was running low.

He must have thought that he needed to kill me quickly, as Betsy was his only transportation out of the quarry. He pulled me out of the car.

That’s when things got strange.

Interrogating Officer: Strange?

Tori Carry: Betsy suddenly started revving her motor. She fell out of park, and started to roll forward, down the hill. He yelled at the car, and ran after it.

I tried to get to my feet and run away. But the pain was too much. Everything started spinning, and I fell down. I think I blacked out.

When I came to, Betsy was back beside me. Her motor wasn’t roaring and growling, it was a quiet purr. I managed to drag myself into the back seat … the door was still open. Then I must have blacked out again, because the next thing I remember was waking up as people dragged me out of Betsy and into the hospital.

And here we are.

(Upon consultation with her doctors, it would appear the suspect was probably not lying about the periods of blacking out, as convenient as the blanks in her memory may seem. She has suffered internal injuries; the extent of these injuries means it is unlikely she will ever be able to bear children. There was copious blood loss that would have caused her loss of consciousness.)

Interrogating Officer: So what happened? Can you tell me where your rapist is now?

Tori Carry: No. I wish I did.  I hope you catch the bastard.

Interrogating Officer: Did you know that we have found blood and human tissue on your tires and plastering the underside of the car? And we will be checking the quarry to collaborate your confession.

Tori Carry: Confession. What do you mean?

Interrogating Officer: Your alleged rapist is very dead, Tori. We knew that from the amount of blood and the types of tissues found under the car. Brain tissue. Spleen. Heart. He hasn’t survived you running him down. Still, there are extenuating circumstances. You might even be able to plea self-defence.

Tori Carry: Look. He’s dead? Really?  (A few seconds of silence. It must be noted here that the suspect did appear to be genuinely surprised by the news.) I suppose it is going to make me sound as guilty as hell, but I’m glad he is dead. I wish I had done it. But I can’t see how. I don’t remember doing it.

Last time I saw him, he was chasing after Betsy as she rolled downhill. Could he have run under her in the dark, by mistake?

Interrogating Officer: Okay. Say that was the case. There are a lot of inconsistencies in your story.

After rolling away, the car returned to where you were lying. And you must have driven to the hospital. You didn’t call for an ambulance or police, which looks suspicious, because it took you away from the crime scene. Unless there was a third person at the scene, that leaves just you or your attacker to drive the car.

Of course, as we haven’t yet identified your rapist, it might not be his blood and tissue under your car. However, preliminary tests have proven the semen and other cellular contaminants collected as evidence from your body matches the blood type found under the car. (At this point, it must be noted that the suspect commenced dry retching and the interview had to be suspended until the next day.)

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