Authors: Lauren Weisberger
“Yes, of course,” Karolina said, wondering why they'd ask her such a ridiculous question. She was driving it, wasn't she? “Officer, I really don't think I was speeding. We literally just pulled out of the driveway. See? We live right back there. I'm just taking my son's friendsâ”
The female cop looked hard at Karolina and said, “I'll need your license and registration, please.”
Karolina checked the woman's face. She wasn't kidding. Karolina carefully removed her driver's license from her wallet and was relieved to find the car's registration tucked neatly in the glove compartment. “I, um, as you may recognize the name from my license thereÂ .Â .Â . I am actually married to Senator Hartwell,” Karolina said, giving her best smile. She wasn't usually one to name-drop, but then again, she wasn't usually being pulled over by angry-looking cops.
The male officer furrowed his eyebrows. “Ma'am, have you been drinking?”
Karolina was vaguely aware of the boys going quiet with this question, and her mind flashed back to an hour earlier, when she'd deliberately opened a bottle of Graham's outrageously expensive cabernet that he'd been buying by the case lately. Harry and his friends had been polishing off pizzas, and of course she'd known she'd be driving them home shortly, so she'd had half a glass. If that. She hadn't even wanted it, really, but it had been satisfying to open the bottle and know that it would likely go bad before Graham got home from New York. He'd asked Karolina to join him for a New Year's dinner at a friend's apartment in Manhattan, but Karolina didn't want to leave Harry behind on New Year's Eve. She'd been upset that he'd gone without her, although she wasn't completely surprised.
Summoning her most dazzling smile and her most direct eye contact, she said, “Officers, I have children in the car. I assure you that I have not been drinking. I didn't think I was speeding either, but I suppose it's possible. If so, I'm very sorry about that.”
At the mention of children, the male officer took his flashlight and began walking the perimeter of the car. He didn't seem to care that the light was shining directly in the boys' eyes. Karolina could see them all squint.
“Mom, what's happening?” Harry asked, sounding nervous.
“Nothing, honey. I'm sure it's just a misunderstanding. Just let them do what they need to do.”
With this, the male officer called to the female officer and gestured to something with his flashlight. They exchanged looks. Karolina felt her heart do a little flip-flop, though there wasn't a reason in the world she should be nervous.
“Mrs. Hartwell, please get out of the car. Slowly,” the female officer said.
“Excuse me?” Karolina asked. “Why on earth would I get out of my car? I'm not even wearing a coatâ”
“Now!” the male cop barked, and it became immediately clear that this wasn't a routine traffic stop.
Karolina jumped out of the driver's seat so quickly that she didn't bother to use the running board, and as a result she twisted her ankle and had to grab the door to keep from falling.
The officers exchanged another look.
“Mrs. Hartwell, we have observed both reckless driving and empty bottles of alcohol in the backseat of your vehicle. Keeping your arms down by your sides, please walk in the middle of the street for a distance of approximately twenty feet. Our officers are stationed down the road, so there will be no oncoming traffic.”
“Waitâyou found what? In my car? You must be mistaken,” Karolina said, trying not to shiver. “My husband is going to be livid when he finds out about this!”
The female officer gestured toward the very road Karolina lived
on, now slick with rain, and motioned for her to walk. Immediately and without thinking, Karolina wrapped her arms around her chest to keep warm in her too-flimsy silk blouse and began to stride confidently toward her house. If there was one thing Karolina could do better than nearly anyone else on earth, it was work a catwalk. But what she hadn't expected was seeing her neighbors' doors and curtains open, their familiar faces squinted toward her, recognition dawning on their features as they realized who was performing a field sobriety test like a common criminal on their beautiful, quiet street.
Is that Mrs. Lowell?
Karolina wondered, seeing an elderly woman peek out behind a crisp linen curtain.
I didn't realize she was visiting now. I can't believe she's seeing me like this.
Karolina could feel her cheeks start to color despite the cold, and somehow she must have missed the small pothole in the road, because the next thing she knew, she'd stumbled and nearly fallen.
“Did you see that?” Karolina said to the officers, who were watching her closely. “We've been telling the town forever that this road is badly in need of repair.”
They gave each other that look again. Without a word exchanged, the male cop approached Karolina and said, “Ma'am, you're under arrest for suspicion of driving while under the influence. You have the right to remainâ”
“Waitâwhat?” Karolina shrieked, before noticing that Harry had stuck his head out of the Suburban's window and was intently watching the entire scene. “Under
“âsilent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right toÂ .Â .Â .”
The words were familiar, of course. So many police procedurals she'd watched with Graham, and nights of
Law & Order
marathons in her single days, but who knew they actually said those things in real life? Was this actually happening? It seemed so surreal: one moment she was just another mom driving home her son's friends, and the next she was being escorted into the backseat of a police cruiser.
“Wait, excuse me!
Listen please, I can't just leave the children in the car!” Karolina called as the car door slammed closed. She was alone in the backseat, entirely cut off from the world with a thick layer of presumably bulletproof glass.
The officer's voice came through some sort of speaker. “Officer Williams will look after your son and his friends and ensure that everyone gets home safely. I'll be taking you to the station now.”
The engine started, and with it, the sirens went on. She couldn't hear Harry, but she could see that he was screaming “Mom” and trying very hard not to cry. Hand against the window, she mouthed to him, “Don't worry, everything's fine,” but Karolina knew he couldn't see. With lights and sirens blaring in the quiet night, the cruiser pulled away from Karolina's son.
“How dare you!” she screamed at the officer, before noticing a camera with a blinking light mounted in the corner right above her window, but the officer didn't so much as glance up. Never in her life had she felt so completely helpless. So totally alone.
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hey hadn't allowed Karolina a phone call until nearly two hours after she'd been arrested. Was that even legal? she wondered, trying to keep calm. At least the woman officer had come by the holding room to tell Karolina that Harry and his friends were all home. The parents of the boys had each come to the station to retrieve their sons, and when Graham didn't answer his phone, Harry had suggested they call his grandmother Elaine, who had swept in to take Harry back to her house. Karolina was relieved that Harry was safe, but she was filled with dread at the idea of retrieving him from her mother-in-law.
“My husband isn't answering,” Karolina said to the officer overseeing her phone call.
He was slumped over a desk filling out paperwork. He shrugged without looking up. “Try someone else.”
“It's almost midnight on New Year's Eve,” Karolina said. “Who am I supposed to call to come pick me up in the middle of the night from the local police station?”
With this, the officer looked up. “Pick you up? No, sorry, Mrs. Hartwell. You'll be staying here tonight.”
“You can't be serious!” Karolina said, nearly certain he was joking.
“Strict orders from above. All DUIs have to sober up for at least five hours before they can be released. And we only do releases between the hours of seven a.m. and midnight, so I'm afraid you're out of luck.”
“Do I look drunk to you?” Karolina asked him.
The officer glanced up. He looked barely old enough to buy beer, and the blush that spread across his neck didn't help. “Sorry, ma'am. Those are the rules.”
She dialed the only other number she had memorized. Trip, who was their family lawyer and Graham's best friend, answered on the first ring.
“Lina? Where did you say you're calling from?” he asked groggily. Leave it to Trip to be asleep before midnight.
“You heard me, Trip. The local drunk tank at the Bethesda County Jail. Sorry to wake you, but I figured you'd understand. I tried Graham, but he's nowhere to be found. Surprise, surprise.”
Trip and Graham had been roommates at Harvard Law and best men at each other's weddings and were godparents to each other's children. She'd always thought of Trip as almost an extension of Graham, an extra set of eyes and ears, an acceptable substitute, a brother figure. Usually they shared a warm, mutual affection. But tonight she didn't even try to mask her displeasure that she was talking to Trip and not Graham.
“Can you please get me out of this hellhole?” she whispered into the phone. “They said they won't let me out of here until morning, but that can't be possible.”
“Sit tight. I'll call a few people and get this sorted out,” Trip said with reassuring confidence.
But either he didn't hurry or there was nothing he could do, because Karolina didn't speak to Trip again until he showed up to bail her out at seven the following morning. Without Graham.
Trip read her face immediately. “Graham wanted to come, of course. I was the one who advised against it.”
Karolina took a seat in one of the plastic chairs next to Trip. Her entire body ached from lying on a bench in the holding roomânot a cell, exactly, more like an outdated boarding gate at an old airport.
“I'm not an idiot, Trip. I understand pretty clearly that the optics of a sitting senator walking into a county jail to bail out his wife aren't great. But you can't blame me for wishing he'd done it anyway,” Karolina said, trying to hold back tears. “Can you tell me what the hell is going on?”
Trip's cell phone bleated, and he silenced it without looking at the screen. “I'm going to be honest with you, Lina. This is a first-rate shit show.”
“You think I don't know that?
the one who slept in jail last night.
. And where is my
Trip's brow furrowed. He cleared his throat. “Lina, it's notâ”
Karolina held up her hand. “Don't. First I want to know who has Harry. Who's getting him to school?”
Another throat clear. Karolina almost felt bad for directing her anger with Graham at Trip. Almost. He looked so miserable. “Harry stayed the night at Elaine's house.”
“He's still there?”
“You know Harry called her when they arrested you last night. Naturally, some of the journalists picked up the story from the police scanner, and a few cameras were waiting outside your house when Eleanor went to drop Harry off. She just kept driving and took him back to her place. The media has staked out your house, and we didn't want to put him through that. At least now no one knows where he is.”
Karolina nodded. As much as she disliked her mother-in-law and the idea of her son having to hide out at Elaine's house, she had to agree
it sounded like the best option. “Fine. Now, how are we clearing up the rest of this nightmare? This is entrapment! False arrest! We should be talking lawsuit!”
Trip coughed, looked at Karolina, and coughed again.
“Trip? What's going on?”
“It's just thatÂ .Â .Â . Well, it's complicated.”
“Complicated? That's a funny word. I would say confusing, perhaps. I'm certainly
that I was arrested for drunk driving when I was not driving drunk. And even if I were driving drunkâwhich I absolutely was notâmy husband happens to be a United States senator with more connections than a teenager on Instagram, and I know
that if he wanted this to disappear, it
would have already,” Karolina hissed.
A garbled announcement came over the loudspeaker, and a female police officer hurried past them and out the front door.
“Why don't you take me through it, Lina? Tell me exactly what happened.”
It was only now, many hours into her ordeal, that Karolina felt like she may not be able to control her tears. She'd been stoic through the arrest and braver than even she would have predicted when she realized that no one was coming for her. But in the face of Trip's familiar kindness, his obvious concernâeven though it should have been her husband sitting thereâit was all she could do not to weep.
“Sorry,” she said, swallowing a sob. “I'm justÂ .Â .Â . overwhelmed.”
Trip cleared his throat. “Did you and Harry go out at all last night?”
“Out? Of course not. I mean, only if you count running to the grocery store at about five to stock up on chips and salsa for the boys. He invited four friends over to hang out. I ordered them pizza, and they played Xbox and God knows what else twelve-year-old boys do. FaceTime girls? Each other? I don't know. I'm not proud of it, but out of spite, I opened one of Graham's thousand-dollar bottles of cabernet and poured myself half a glass. I knew that was all I was having, but it felt very satisfying to stick the barely drunk bottle into the fridgeâhe would have a heart attack when he saw it, and truthfully, I was looking forward to it. But that's all I had. Half a glass.”