“License, please!” While keeping his eyes on the shepherd, the driver pulled out the license from his wallet and extended it through the gap of the window. Petrie wedged his flashlight under his armpit and waited for the driver to look up. The driver glanced twice, before fixing on Petrie’s eyes. Petrie grabbed the license and lowered it slowly under the light, all the while watching the driver’s eyes follow the path of the license until the license rested atop the barrel of Petrie’s gun, now aimed at the driver.
The driver startled and looked away, yet kept one hand on the steering wheel, the other muzzling the shepherd. He stared through the windshield, sweating copiously, trembling, looking pale and sickly. Petrie skimmed over the license: San Francisco address, hair brown, eyes green, height 6-5, weight 230. The
picture matched the face.
“So, your complete first name is just Jim? Sure must have caused law enforcement some confusion, eh? Do you still live at this address, Mr. James? Are you carrying any weapons in the
The driver paused. “N-no.”
“Well Mr. Jim Saint James, the reason you were stopped this time is for speeding. I’m sure you figured that out already. You have any proof of ownership for this vehicle? I need to see your proof of vehicle ownership, your registration, proof of insurance, if you have them.”
Keeping his grip on the shepherd, the driver reached into his glove compartment with his free hand and carefully pulled out a stack of papers. All the while, Petrie kept the driver on the defensive.
“Carrying any weapons on your person, Jim?”
The driver took several seconds before answering. “N-no.”
“No, no you say? You don’t have any weapons, any guns, or knives in the car? How about drugs? Do you have any alcohol or medication with you, Mr. James?”
Another long pause, as the driver handed Petrie the registration and vehicle ownership papers. “No,” he said, “I have no insurance.”
“No insurance, huh! How about weapons, knives, guns?”
Again, the driver took a few more seconds to respond. “No.”
“No? No weapons? No drugs of any kind? Are you taking any prescription drugs, pain relievers, marijuana, do you have any marijuana on your person or in the car, any intoxicants whatsoever, Jim?”
The driver seemed too confused by the questions. He slowly shook his head. “No.”
“Any open bottles of alcohol? How many drinks have you had this evening, Mr. James? Where’re you headed, where’re you coming from? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
“Home! Where’s home, Mr. James? Where do you live now? You haven’t been drinking tonight, have you?” For such direct questions, the driver took too long providing answers.
“San Francisco? So you’re both going to San Francisco and coming from San Francisco, is that what you’re up to? How then did you wind up all the way here? Sure are a long ways from home. What’s your reason for all this travel, are you delivering something? Are those your boxes? Anything special in them you want to tell me about?” As the driver delayed answering, the shepherd resumed growling.
“Leaving a funeral.”
“A funeral! Who’d you kill this time? Just what’re you up to, Mr. James? Is that your dog?”
The driver looked away before mumbling an answer. “Now she is.”
“Now she is? You meant the dog, right? Why don’t you have any insurance? Sure seems late for a funeral? Where was it held, in Canada? Who was it for? How did you get this dog?”
“A close relation,” the driver replied, head now lowered.
“A close relation? Do you mean the dog or its true owner? Are you sure you don’t have any drugs in your car, Mr. James?”
“I answered that—” As the driver spoke up, the dog yanked its jowls free and lunged toward Petrie with a yelping growl. The driver quickly regained control, his large hand enclosing the dog’s snout.
“I don’t believe you have, Mr. James. The reason I keep asking is that you are being vague and a bit slow with your answers. Now if you are using intoxicants of any kind, you need to let me know. Are you sure you’re not on any medication you’ve forgotten about or have forgotten to take? Is that it? Did you forget to take your medication, Jim? That would certainly explain your behavior.”
“I don’t think so?”
“You don’t think so, huh? So you do take medication? Is there anything else you’re not sure about? Mr. James, I’ll ask you one last time. Are you carrying anything that could be considered dangerous or illegal in the form of a weapon or a drug? Think real hard now.” The shepherd barked through the driver’s fingers.
“Shhh, Snow. Shhh!” When the dog quieted, the driver answered, “No.”
“No? You sound sure this time. How about the backseat right over there?”
“Nothing? You’re quite sure about that?”
“Oh! Then what’s that over there, Jim?”
“Right over there, Jim!”
“Right over where!” the driver replied, raising his voice.
“Right over there, Jim. Just follow my light.” Petrie flashed his light upon the suspicious shaft of metal protruding under the backseat. The dog barked at Petrie. “Just under your shepherd there. Mind if I have a look?”
“Look at what?” the driver asked, though staring in the object’s direction. “Oh, that!” he said. “That’s a staplegun.”
“A gun, did you say? Mind if I have a look!”
Keeping a hand on the dog’s snout, the driver reached under the backseat.
“Stop, Mr. James. Mr. James, keep your hands where I can see them. I need you to step out of the vehicle.” Petrie waited as the driver opened the door and then placed a foot on the road. Petrie blocked his way. “You’ll need to take your dog with you. Do you have a leash for your animal? Even up here, we have leash laws.”
The driver nodded and twisted around again to reach into the back. He pushed aside two boxes before plunging his hand into a small box. When he yanked free a chain, the shepherd jerked free and burst out of the car, bumping hard against Petrie as it darted onto the road. The driver followed, diving headlong after the shepherd.
The dog and the man seemed of one leap—of one and the same hybrid blur that stunned Petrie and left him dazed and speechless. Before Petrie could react, both driver and shepherd were about 10 yards away, rolling together on dry grass.
“Do not move!” Petrie shouted. “I advise you not to make another move.” During the blur, Petrie had turned and raised his gun, its aim reflexively following the driver as he followed his shepherd dog out of the car. The driver had one arm hooked around his shepherd’s furry neck, the other arm wrapped about its torso. Both his hands were buried in fur. The flashlight was still held under Petrie’s armpit, but the driver’s vehicle registration papers and license were now scattered on the road and grass. “Stay just the way you are,” Petrie commanded. The shepherd squirmed for several seconds before submitting with a whine to the driver’s cooing whispers.
Petrie spat out his gum, then returned his gun to its holster. He reached inside the Camaro and grabbed hold of the peculiar shaft of metal protruding from under the backseat.
Hearing another bark, Petrie looked back at the driver who was now on his feet with both hands restraining the pet from behind. As the shepherd squirmed and tugged to free itself, the driver kept both hands firm on the collar. Wearing a white T-shirt, the driver for a moment appeared to extend from the snowy shepherd—as if pulling himself out from the collar of a furry white costume. The revolving red and yellow glow from Petrie’s lightbar blinked upon this dog/man figure.
Petrie yanked free the shaft of metal protruding from under backseat. He flashed his light on metal object. At first, it looked like a gun with a long barrel and its handle wrapped in black tape. It did not appear to shoot bullets, however, nor did it have a trigger. He flashed his light around the car’s interior, atop the TV set, inside the microwave oven, upon the stacks of boxes in the back, then the front seat and onto the floor where the driver first had been reaching. There was only a small green announcement card. He crammed the card into his front coat pocket, and then repeatedly flashed his light over the stacks of boxes, all of which seemed to have been taped loosely shut, coming apart at the seams. Petrie reached into the box that had the chain of a leash now hanging out. Looking through its contents, he found various photographs, letters, cassette tapes, music CD’s, small trinkets of little or no value, but nothing incriminating. He backed out of the car and held the
peculiar tool under his flashlight. At the end of its barrel were two sharp prongs that could very well be from a large staple.
“A staplegun, you say? So it shoots staples, huh?” Petrie would take whatever he could get.
“No,” the driver said, adjusting his grip on the shepherd’s collar before continuing. “It inserts them.”
Petrie swung the staplegun in various directions. “It seems to make for a pretty good weapon. I guess you can use it like a … like a hammer and leave a staple with each blow. I’m sure you already thought as much?” The driver merely shrugged. If Petrie could get the driver to admit that this tool was also a weapon, the driver would be admitting to having concealed a weapon. From such an admission, Petrie could perform a thorough search of the driver’s vehicle. Petrie continued swinging the staplegun. “Out here, in the middle of nowhere,” Petrie prodded, “never knowing who or what you might run into … no one you know, no one you can trust … Yes, this gun makes for a good weapon. Very good, indeed.”
“I only use it on carpets,” the driver said.
“Did you say ‘used’ or use? Did you say, you can also use the gun on carpets? What do you use the gun for now?”
The driver shook his head, again adjusting his grip on the dog’s collar. “I have only used the gun in my car.”
“Is that right! Can you show me where?”
The driver walked over to his Camaro, careful at keeping the shepherd as far from Petrie as his arms could stretch. He pointed to an area of the carpet embedded with large staples, then another area, and then another area, before resuming a two-handed grip on the dog’s collar. The staples appeared to have been lodged in a reckless scatter.
“A fella’ with your Popeye the Sailor forearms can probably find a lot of things to do with a staplegun,” Petrie said, staring at the driver’s forearms. They looked ridiculously massive and disproportionate to the body. “Yes, you can probably do someone a lot of physical damage—”
“I was speeding?” the driver interrupted. “Couldn’t have been going more than—”
“Not here,” Petrie shot back. “I clocked you coming down the Ridge at 40 in a 15 zone.”
“Where? Way up on that hill?” he asked, pointing into the darkness.
"Yes, way up there,” Petrie smiled. “Over half an hour ago, right between those two road lamps on the Ridge.”
“Half an hour ago? How can you be so sure it was me?”
“Do you see anyone else here?” Petrie asked. The driver glanced briefly about in the darkness, stirred only by the red and yellow blinks from Petrie’s lightbar. Not even the buildings nearby appeared inhabited. “Yes, I’m pretty sure you were the one speeding down the Ridge. You must have seen me, too, why else would you park right in the middle of the road with your lights off. And next, you tried to sneak away down a side road.”
The driver looked down and mumbled, “Thought there was an accident.”
“An accident, you say! Did you say, you thought there was an accident? Why then didn’t you drive over to help?”
“I was trying to avoid accidents.” The driver’s Camaro was dirt-gray with several dents on the door, some possibly from the drive along Munsun S.
“Sure you were. Speeding downhill on a twisted road is the very best way to avoid accidents, right? I tell you what, Mr. James, you and your dog might want to avoid the mosquitoes and wait a spell in your car.”
After seeing the two in the Camaro, Petrie gathered up the man’s papers and license, then took them and the staplegun to his patrol car. The cold AC air greeted Petrie as he opened and slammed the door shut. The vehicle was now freezing from the AC being left on. More than likely, the mosquito was frozen solid. Such an anti-climactic end. They sure did match up well; he could give the mosquito that much posthumous credit. If the mosquito had made Petrie a lighter sleeper, he had made the bug an ever more cautious pest. Though Petrie kept missing in haste, his eager assailant kept leaving its surveillance a few seconds too soon, always just before Petrie would drift into a deeper doze. With remarkable persistence, the bug always seemed so close to procuring a petty drop of blood for its troubles.
Petrie turned off the AC switch, then radioed Gail and read to her the man’s driver’s license.
“Is that Jim or James?” she poked.
“Just reading what it says, Gail.” He had always liked Gail. Too bad she used to date Robby. Had Petrie asked her first, Gail would have gone out with him instead. That much, he was sure of.
Ten minutes later, Gail was still scanning checks on the driver.
“Hate to be the one lowering your stats, but so far I can’t find anything on your speeder.”
“Take your time Gail; something’s bound to pop up.”
“Okay, okay,” she sighed, “but so far it looks like your suspect’s not suspect enough.” It was fast becoming an all-around anti-climactic night. Gail will never forgive him for wasting so much of her time. Petrie wished he had stayed completely awake. He would have much preferred killing his assailant directly, with one well-timed swat. If he had concentrated on relaxing his breathing, long enough for the parasite to draw out a little blood; if he had given his assailant enough time to poke around for a choice spot on the jugular, maybe three or more seconds to get its nightstick wet, Petrie could have slapped it down—red-handed. All that would have remained of his blood skulker would be a small black and red smudge on his hand, and soon that would be gone, too.
Petrie pulled out the green announcement card from his coat pocket. The cover’s engraving had a vase with flowers. He opened the card to read a funeral announcement for the deceased Mrs. Mattie James-Briggs. A “close relation,” the driver had said. The funeral was held the previous day in Flagstaff, Arizona, no more than 20 hours ago. To get to Snohomish under 20 hours, the driver must have sped the entire distance, likely on some form of amphetamines. Still, if the driver was heading to San Francisco from a funeral held in Arizona, how then did he get all the way into the State of Washington? That sure seemed a roundabout way of getting home—unless of course he was genuinely a lost speeder.
Petrie crammed the card back into his front coat pocket, then opened the long barrel of the staplegun. The gun had a single row of gray staples. Though he had not previously seen a staplegun, this tool did look like what a staplegun should look like. That by itself did not make the tool illegal to possess. He pulled out a staple and tried to bend its prongs, but the thick iron did not give. He closed the gun, then stared again at the face on the license. So far, everything Mr. Jim Saint James said was holding up. Petrie was bound to be wrong some times, and perhaps this speeder was nothing more than a frustrated driver trying to get home. Confused, sleep deprived, grieving the death of a close relation, likely near the edge of a mental collapse, the man must have made a series of wrong turns to end up here. In addition, Petrie had harassed him. And, he had almost fired his gun.
Petrie had to wonder if the mosquito’s off-and-on attacks had affected his own judgment. One’s strength is also one’s weakness. Such was the insect mindset. By chipping away at the strength of Petrie’s light sleeping and speeding up his reflexes, the bug was thereby elevating Petrie’s anxiety levels, perhaps causing Petrie to be more nervous and jittery than usual and, just as Gail implied, too quick to suspect the driver of wrong.
Nevertheless, there were too many disconcerting details to dismiss altogether. Something just didn’t seem right about the driver, something in his behavior, the way he had stopped in the middle of the road with his lights off, before trying to sneak onto Munsun S. The driver even admitted to intentionally avoiding Petrie’s vehicle. “Avoiding accidents,” he said. The driver did not challenge the speeding charge until some forty minutes into Petrie’s procedure. Until then, he took too long answering the simplest questions, all the while trembling, sweating and looking away. His shepherd Snow was odd as well. For all its growling, barking, even biting at the window, the dog’s owner would have done better to name his beast, “Rabies.” One can learn a lot about people through their pets, and that crazed beast was no more a family pet than the driver a family man. The dog was huge and seemed protective, impulsive, and quick to the bite with what seemed like a knowing and violent reaction to Petrie’s pistol. Now where did the shepherd learn to fear authority? That dog Snow could very well be the best gauge of its master’s propensity for violence.
The man’s leap from his vehicle was another disconcerting detail. When the dog shot out of the car, it was running as soon as its paws hit the road. Yet, the driver leaped and tackled the shepherd from behind.
Petrie pondered the man’s leap. Though the event still seemed a blur, Petrie could recall several specific details. The driver was sitting twisted in his cramp Camaro with one foot on the road and his arms stretched into the backseat area. When he pulled at the leash in the box, the dog squirmed free; he must have loosened his grip on the dog’s snout. As soon as the dog took off running, the driver followed, bursting from the car in a single headlong dive that cleared several yards before tackling the shepherd from behind. The physical outburst seemed quite an amazing feat of speed, agility and reflex—especially for a man listed on his license as 6’- 4”, 235 pounds, and 34 years of age—unless drugs were involved. It just didn’t add up that the man who initially had appeared so slow in the head, kind of spacey, always giving vague and delayed answers to the simplest questions, yet had the quick twitch reflexes to ignite such an explosive jump. The physical outburst was not only startling, it was overwhelming. Petrie had almost fired his gun. The aim of his gun had followed the driver, but luckily Petrie had the presence of mind not to fire. This was a serious matter. Officer Petrie had almost shot an unarmed man.
“Success! Success!” Gail was back on the radio. “I finally found what’s up with your speeder.” Your Mr. Jim Saint James recently had his license suspended in California.”