Our hero Jim is being stalked by a sociopath, who has already set fire to Jim’s house and barn, shot his pets and stolen his pickup truck. The local police have no idea what to do about the crimes, but due to Jim’s past, they suspect Jim is staging all this for insurance money.
Jim’s friend John– older, wiser and politically connected– suspects the sociopath’s next move will be to try to murder Jim. John has been looking for a way to keep Jim alive.
– – – – – – –
“So what… wait?”
“And they’ll come get me and lock me up? What changed their mind?”
“Oh, nothing changed, just a clarification of what we were wanting.”
“And… what do I do?”
“Nothing. They will take care of what needs to be taken care of as far as the paperwork. You just be yourself!”
I didn’t like the sound of that.
“Nothing. Nothing at all,” John said breezily. “Just be yourself.”
* * *
A couple of days later, calls for work began coming in again. Nothing big enough to pay the mortgage or the truck payment, but work was work. Luckily the bank understood—they held both farm and truck notes and were willing to wait for the insurance money. It was a small enough town that they knew the story. The plumbing supply store extended me credit so I could buy some basic tools and John lent me his car for transportation. I was limited but I was back in business.
“Off to work?” John had made breakfast early, knowing I would want to be out before his normal breakfast hour. Tim was a night owl and John normally ran the kitchen schedule to please him. Normal breakfast was somewhere around 10am.
“Feels good to work again. I need to look at the job—I might have to buy a tool or two if I can’t find what I need in the garage. This job is big enough that I’ll rent a truck today—leave you the use of your car.”
“I have no plans for it. By the way, I gave you a key didn’t I?”
“Right here,” I patted my chest pocket.
“Any news on the insurance investigation or your truck?”
“Nope. They’re probably waiting on someone in some office somewhere to send one piece of paper to somewhere else.” I shrugged. “Who knows? It feels good to be working though!”
“I can imagine. You’ll be home for lunch?”
“Depends. I might be done by then, or if not, maybe just work through ‘til it’s done and then come back.” I added, “I miss the lunch time crowd at the Diner–good contacts there.”
“I’ll be back sometime this afternoon,” I said as I got up to leave.
“I’m sure you will,” John smiled. “Drive careful.”
* * *
The patrol officer stared at his partner until he turned his head and faced him. “Since when are we doing crap like this?”
“Special assignment.” The officer sitting behind the steering wheel turned his head back to the front. They were parked in an inconspicuous speed trap.
“Same thing,” said his partner in a flat voice. “Special assignment. Why? You always question orders?”
A smug smile almost parted his partner’s lips.
“What do you care anyhow? It counts for our monthlies. And you know the guy’s got it coming or they wouldn’t be after him.”
His partner just grunted. Not his way of doing things.
“What are we looking for?”
“A rental pickup truck. I have the driver’s name.”
* * *
The cop car came out of nowhere, lights flashing and siren on.
What the hell? I looked down at the speedometer. Eleven miles over the ridiculously low speed limit on the back road that ran in front of a corn field? I swore. A speeding ticket! Just what I needed now. I’d been to the jobsite, made my list of supplies and was heading to the plumbing supply place.
Maybe I was a little over the limit, but dammit! I just wanted to get to work and get it done!
To make matters worse, there was no shoulder here to pull over. Brush lined the road within three feet of the pavement. I slowed but didn’t stop.
“Please pull over to the shoulder.” The idiots! What were they blind?! What shoulder? And what was with using the bull horn? I felt my temper rising. Who were these jokers? I knew most of the patrol officers in the area and none of them would bother to go this far for a damn speeding ticket!
I pulled over, branches scratching the paint on the passenger side of the rental. The officer driving waited before getting out of the car. I could see two of them, talking and then laughing. My temper went up another notch. Only one got out of the car, the driver.
“Good morning sir. May I see your driver’s license and proof of insurance?” He played it straight-faced and serious.
“Sure.” I reached over to the glove box and realized the insurance paper wasn’t in it. I’d given it to the guy at the rental place and hadn’t gotten it back. Dammit! “Uh, here’s my driver’s license. The insurance card… I guess I left it at the rental office.”
“No insurance?” I swear the officer was smiling. I looked again, but the clean-shaven young face was as serious as a heart attack.
“Well hell yeah I have insurance! They wouldn’t rent to me if I didn’t! I have a card to show them. I just don’t have it here with me. I told you, I left it at the rental office.”
“No need to us profanity sir. Just verifying what you told me. You say you have no liability insurance?”
“No! I said I have insurance but I left the card at the rental place. They didn’t give it back to me. Want me to call them?”
“No sir. I just need to see proof of insurance.”
I swore again. “Well I don’t have any with me.”
“Are you aware that you are required to produce proof of insurance on demand, sir? State law.”
I looked at my feet, put both hands on the steering wheel and squeezed hard. Then I took a deep, slow breath and spoke calmly.
“Ok, boys. What’s going on?”
The officer stood still and straightened up, on alert.
“What the fuck are you guys doing? What’s going on? This is no normal stop.”
“As I said before, there’s no need to use profanity sir. This is a routine stop, you were clocked at over ten miles an hour over the speed limit and I am asking you for your driver’s license and proof of liability insurance. You have given me your driver’s license and you are not producing proof of financial accountability or liability insurance. Is there something in any of that which you don’t understand?”
“Whatever. I don’t have the card.”
“Thank you. Please wait here, sir. I’ll be right back.”
As the officer got back in the police car, the two officers looked at each other, said something and laughed so loud I could hear it.
It took all I had to not get out of my truck and walk back there.
It became real obvious how this stop was going to turn out. They escorted me to the rental place where there was no insurance card—of course! I was then taken to the police station for no liability insurance, insulting an officer and resisting arrest. No bail was set. The sentence was 30 days in jail. It wasn’t until afterward I realized this was exactly what John had been talking about, ‘just be yourself’. Bastard! But I had to smile in spite of myself.
* * *
“I care about keeping our friendship alive. That requires keeping you alive.”
“In jail?” I was already bored. And I hadn’t been able to call that customer back until after lunch. How do you explain that their bathroom wasn’t going to be working for the next thirty days? I wasn’t impressed with John’s chosen method of protecting my life. “A gun would work, and I have a concealed weapon permit.”
“Jail here in town is probably the safest place you could be at this point. Sociopathic criminals seldom visit city jail cells. And the officers here are familiar with your case. And,” he added with emphasis, “it is in their best interests to keep you alive. Your case has been far more trouble to them than you might think.”
“So, no sociopaths? That means you won’t be by much?”I asked John. He kept a straight face.
“I remind you, I considered having you kidnapped and held in a convent in Chicago. Unfortunately, that involves Federal charges and crossing state lines, and my contacts are not good enough to make that happen. And no, I won’t be by as often as you might like, sorry to say. Here in town you are easy for me to get to but I also have more…obligations here to keep me busy.”
“I’ve never asked, but what exactly do you do for money?”
“Oh, I have several sources of income. Mostly non-commercial, some are non-profit as well.”
“Nice non-answer. None of my business, I guess.” Now it was John’s turn to smile.
“I’ll see you in a day or two,” said John.