“Well-Officer-it’s-like-this,” and then it would come, another lame excuse for breaking the law. That’s always how it was, absolutely and no doubt, every single time. Officer Dirk Mallem drove around the neighborhood lazily, casually resting his right wrist on the steering wheel, leaning his bent arm out the window to let it fry.
He’d gotten into the policing business through no fault of his own, just his idiotic idealism. He blamed his old buddy Joe, mostly. It was honorable Joe who convinced Dirk to go into law enforcement with him, and so he, like a dummy, followed. Kind of ludicrous, really. But Dirk had always admired his friend Joe, his resolution and his sense of loyalty. All that righteousness and shit, it was addictive, and Dirk wanted to feel that way. He wanted to feel that good about what he was doing for his paycheck. Didn’t really work out that way.
All the bull people told him, man he was tired of the tortuously confused pile of cack people seemed itching to get themselves into and for no good reason at all other than, so far as he could tell, they were whacked. Maybe not all, but most people were just whacked. That’s what he got out of this, and it was wearing him down, real thin now.
He missed gigging. Playing drums, touring with his old band. He still wrote songs, just whenever. Had a whole pile of his music stashed in a box under his bed. Dirk had a fresh score he was scratching out, just resting on the passenger seat, soaking up the sun right along with him.
Dirk thought about an island, distant and crisp, not fuzzy like a dream at all, but real. A beautiful place with no humans around except maybe a person to bring him some food and stuff. But really he preferred the idea of being somewhere without any people at all, just sand and water and sky.
He thought, I could happily starve to death, if I could just lay in the sun, in peace, just really in peace, and not have anyone tell me another damn lie. Then it hit him, just that wonderful feeling, that certain sparky thing he’d get sometimes. That could make a pretty good lyric. He’d have to remember that. Good blues material, that stuff. Everybody needs a good blues song now and then.
Officer Dirk sped up a little so that he could pull up to an intersection and stop for the red light. He grabbed his pen and quickly scribbled the words.
What was it? Right.
I could happily starve
If I could
In the sun, in peace
in peace, and not
No one at all
Not have anyone to
To, to, tooo
Tell me another
The light turned and Dirk shoved the tip of his pen down into the crack of the passenger seat, right between the seat and back, and exactly in the middle, so it wouldn’t slip around and he’d know just where to grab for it. He never carried a pen in his shirt pocket. The other officers could do that, not him.
He could tell he was going to be stopped at the next light, so he took his time and didn’t bother to accelerate that much. He’d get there. He let the song tinker in his mind, playing out different notes for the words, “Tell me another.” That was tricky, that part.
He reached the next red and checked his rear view mirror. Hilarious.
The driver idling right behind Dirk obviously noticed Oh-Man-The-Cop looking from his rear view mirror and right at him. Gripping tight to his steering wheel, the man totally freaked, just absolutely froze right to his seat, as if he might get caught doing something wrong.
Dirk was well aware. Happened all the time, that stuff. They all just see him there, doing nothing in particular, but because he’s in his gear they feel bad already, like they’re guilty about something. They probably are, at that. Dirk smirked to himself and sighed. People.
It was a warm and sunny day and Dirk could feel the heat singe his non-driving arm. He registered the ledge of the car door’s window frame digging good and well into his forearm, where he was resting it. He thought about moving his arm down or something but then the light turned green.
A faded red Sedan peeled right in front of him, just right in front of him and in the middle of the intersection, coming from his left. Some chick turning left on red was careening around that corner, right in front of his nose.
Well, he had green, so she couldn’t have made it any easier for him to catch up to her and get her to pull over.
Now Dirk had to move his left arm. He used it to grab the wheel so that his right hand could grab for the radio. He called it in, hit the siren button for a short burst, and then flicked a switch, to the megaphone.
“Ma’am pull over. Pull over now, please.”
He knew what she was going to say. It was always one of three possible reasons. Option one: drunk or high, in which case he was about to hear all sorts of denials and excuses, none of them true. Option two: the old tale of my-pregnant-female-relative is giving birth and I need to get to the hospital. Option three: I’m late for X, the X being pretty much anything. Weddings were the usual. Why do people think a wedding is good cause to drive like a fool? There was of course what happens after the wedding, namely, an anniversary, or maybe a reunion, a baby shower or court appearance. If it wasn’t personal, it was all about the-most-important meeting or presentation of-my-life.
There was that one time though when that batty lady said she left all her cats, all four of them, alone and with the iron on. He absolutely ticketed her ass. Just ditzy, that one.
This one pulled over, well off the road and with plenty of room so Dirk could pull up behind her. They weren’t in anyone’s way. Good.
Dirk got out of his patrol car, wondering what this female driver was going to lay on him. He spotted her looking at him in her rear view mirror. She looked earnest. He was betting on the court appearance.
He swaggered up to the driver’s window, checking the car for any signs of drink or weapons, just peering through the windows. No need for any paperwork, not for that.
She already had the ignition off, her window rolled down, and nice of her to sit both her hands on the steering wheel so he could see them. Nothing on her passenger seat, so he was feeling fine with this.
“Good morning, Ma’am.”
“Morning, Officer.” She was attractive, no doubt about it. Looked kind of part Asian-Something, maybe even Inuit, hard to tell.
“I’m Officer Dirk Mallem. You are?”
“My name. Of course. I’m Dixie Cayce.”
Probably a nut Cayce, thought Dirk.
“Ma’am, do you know why I pulled you over today?”
She nodded. “I was speeding and turned left on a red light. I’m really sorry. I probably shouldn’t be driving right now.”
Well that was refreshing. She didn’t pretend to not know why he pulled her over, and then she listed the reasons he should give her a ticket. Pretty nice. Her hair was shiny, too. Dark and a little mysterious even, something he could write a song about for sure.
“That’s correct, Ma’am. I’ll need to see your license and registration, please.”
She nodded, held up a finger and reached for her glove compartment.
“That’s very reckless what you did. Can you tell me why you were driving that way?” Ten to one odds she’s late for an appointment.
She sighed, as if exasperated with herself. “I just had a vision,” she said, and handed Officer Dirk her papers and driver’s license.
He took the small bundle from her. “Excuse me?”
“I know this sounds nuts, absolutely nuts. But I just had a vision, a few blocks back that way, right in my car.” She looked up at him, and her eyes were not dilated or glossy or bloodshot. She had clear hazel eyes, nice eyes and not too much make-up, either.
Officer Dirk Mallem cleared his throat. Cute, but maybe she really was a whack. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.” He swallowed. She was clearly upset about whatever this vision thing was. “All right?”
He stepped back to his patrol car and checked her record. Dixie Cayce, aged 23, with an address not far from here, not married.
She had a parking ticket from the university parking lot she hadn’t paid. Probably a student. Dirk sighed. He tried not to notice that she was only a few years younger than he was. A vision? Nothing about her seemed all that whacked, so he couldn’t understand this whole vision angle.
Officer Mallem walked back up to her car, really not sure what he was going to do about her.
“Miss Cayce,” he looked at her face, “you don’t seem under the influence to me, but I just need to be sure. Could you step out of the car please?”
She sighed, “Sure.”
He had her walking down a straight line, heel to toe. Of course she could do it. She had excellent balance, smooth hips.
“So what was this vision of yours, if you don’t mind my asking?”
She smiled, but grimly. “I was pulling up to this light, an intersection, and I noticed this van just in the next lane, to my right. It was leaking something really strange, something I’ve never seen come out of a car before. So I stopped next to the van, you know, so I could just let the driver know about it. The window was partially open, but all the windows were completely blacked out.”
He nodded. “Ok, just touch your nose with the tip of your finger, one and then the other hand, yes, like that. Good. Keep going.”
“I’m just starting.”
“I mean what happened next?”
“So I called out, and said, ‘Your van is leaking something really not right.’ Nothing, no response. So I said, a bit louder, ‘Hey Mister, your van is leaking.’”
“You said his windows were blacked out. How did you know it was a male driver?”
“When I was pulling up, the sun was beating through his windshield and I was able to make out a silhouette. Had to be a man.”
Officer Dirk nodded. “I see. You can stop touching your nose. Just tell me what happened then. What did he say?”
“Well, still he said nothing. No reaction. He was ignoring me. Actually it made me kind of mad. I mean, I was well away from the crosswalk and going, you know, a little out of my way to tell him there was something wrong. I was thinking it could be dangerous or something. So, I hate to admit it, but,” she sighed heavily, “I said, ‘Your van is taking a piss!’”
Dirk stifled a chuckle. “Did he respond?”
“No! He did not. So I said, ‘Hey Asshole, your van is taking a leak all over the road. I know you can hear me.’”
“Was this your vision?”
“No, no of course not. The vision came after he stopped ignoring me.”
“So he did talk to you.”
“Well, sort of. He rolled down his window and then turned to look at me. He was really good looking, I mean insanely handsome.”
“I get it.”
“No, I mean like ludicrously handsome. I saw his face, and how he was smiling at me, like ‘oh, I’m so innocent,’ kind of a look. I just laughed out loud.”
“Oh yes, and when he looked surprised at my laughter, he gave me this look, like, ‘What?’ You know, like he didn’t know what was so funny about it. But of course he did, you know. He totally knew. And I just laughed more. So then I say again, that there’s something wrong with his van, that it’s leaking something I’ve never seen come out of a tailpipe before, and that he should get it checked. He indicated, without words, that I don’t need to worry, it was all alright.
“He smiled his thanks and I felt good, like I had done my duty and gotten the guy to listen to me. So my eyes kind of wander down the length of his van, you know, just taking another look at it, and I notice how it has this rather large, vertical window in it. Not running along the van, like you usually see on a van, but up and down like a portrait. Completely tinted for privacy, which I thought was pretty cool, so I said, mostly to myself really, not so much to him directly, ‘I’ve always wanted to travel the world in a van. That window would be perfect, waking up in the morning, you’d have a great view of what’s around you when you wake up. If you just have a bed right there, running underneath it, that would be perfect.’”
“Have you? Have you always wanted to travel the world in a van?”
“Oh yes. So I looked back at the guy, the driver, and suddenly his expression is different, you know, kind of serious. Then it was my turn to ask, ‘What?’ And he asks me if I’d like to talk with him, and he points to this empty parking lot just on the other side of the intersection.”
“What did you say?”
“I said yes.”
“So you talked to this total stranger in an empty parking lot?”
“No, I didn’t.”
Dixie shook her head. “No. Because I had the vision.”
“That he would attack you?”
“Oh, no. Not that. I was at the light, waiting for it to turn over. We had actually been sitting there for several turns.”
“You’re not supposed to do that.”
Officer Dirk shook his head. “No. But go on.”
“Ok, so the light is red and we’re supposed to go into the parking lot. And then I have a vision. I saw myself introducing him to my parents. My dad was suspicious and disapproving, my mom was over the moon happy about it. It’s very clear that the guy is an actor, and he tells my dad that he just got his big break.”
“So he’s good looking enough to be a successful actor. That’s what you’re saying.”
“Oh, totally. But that wasn’t all. I see myself getting married to him, the guy, in this vision. We go on a honeymoon, on a beautiful island somewhere. It’s stunning, with bright blue skies and clean water and white sand. It’s terrific.”
“I know, right? But then I see my photograph in a magazine. There’s this terrible picture of me in a bathing suit and I’m bending over, with my backside towards the camera, and the gossip in the magazine is all about my cellulite! I was freaked out, just completely freaked out. This could not be happening to me. It all felt so real, I’m certain that if I actually pulled over and talked to this guy, my fate would have been sealed. So I’m in my car, my heart rate is beating like this,” Dixie beat her chest with her hand balled up.
“I feel like I’m going to explode or something. So the light changes. Green. I tell you what, I just hightailed it out of there like the devil was after me. I wanted to be sure the guy couldn’t catch up to me or find me again, so I just went fast, and I took a couple of turns. And that’s when you found me.”
She stopped, looking at Officer Dirk, waiting for him to tell her she was a loon. He could tell by looking at her face and watching her body language that she fully expected him to give her a ticket, at the very least. She didn’t care. She just wanted to tell him the truth, consequences be damned.
“Wow.” Officer Dirk scratched his temple with the back of his pen. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but,” he shifted his stance and scratched at his face a little. “I believe you.”
“You don’t think I’m crazy, bonkers and nuts?”
He shook his head.
“Am I going to jail now?”
He laughed and shook his head. “No. This is such a bizarre situation. I’m going to let you go with a warning.”
“I know, don’t speed, don’t drive recklessly.”
“Well, there is that, too. Yes. But also, don’t meet with strange men in empty parking lots.”
“Oh.” She laughed. “Yes, Officer, I can see the wisdom of that.”
“Good.” He smiled. “Look, I think you’re nice and I would like to get you know you better. Would you like to maybe go out for a coffee with me some time?”
Dixie sighed and shook her head. “I’m sorry, but no.”
Dirk felt his heart smack into his stomach. He deadpanned it pretty well though. He stuck his pen in his shirt pocket. “Ok.”
“I suppose this means you’ll give me a ticket now.”
“No, I’m not going to give you a ticket. But I would like to ask you why.”
“Why won’t you go out with me?”
“Well-Officer,” she began.
Here it comes, Dirk thought.
“I once had a vision that I married a cop and then he died in the line of duty. I feel like, you know, if I actually said yes to you, it would be like signing your Death Warrant. You know? I couldn’t live with that. You’re better off without me.”
He smirked. “Well that’s a new reason, for certain.”
“If you weren’t a cop, I’d definitely go out with you.”
“No kidding. I wouldn’t kid about something like that. I’m not the type to yank a guy around.”
Dirk smiled. He suddenly knew, just like that, what he was going to do next. “I just decided it. Right now. I quit.”
She laughed. It was a good and hearty, full laugh. Dirk really liked this woman. She was just his kind of crazy.
“You can’t be serious.”
“I’m totally serious. Go out with me, right now. We’ll drink coffee – you like coffee?” He moved an arm and held open his hand. Dixie saw that his arms were actually very well defined. The slightest movement emphasized his musculature quite nicely. Dixie especially liked his strong hands, good honest hands.
Dixie nodded, smiling.
“We’ll drink coffee, get to know each other better. What do you say?”
He added, jokingly, “Hey, you can help me look for a new job. Now that I have no income, your dad is going to love me.”
She smirked. “Yes, I think he will too. Anything you’re good at?”
“I’ve the soul of a musician.”
“What kind of music?”
“Does that matter?”
“Yes it does, so make it good. I’m a singer.” Her eyebrows were arched. She was serious. It made Dirk want to kiss her, right there.
“Rock, with some Blues, sometimes a little funk here and there.”
Dixie smiled. “Where are we going?”
“No empty parking lots,” Dixie feigned being perplexed and tsked. “Darn, I really love those.”
Dirk laughed. Dixie really liked his laugh. He had those masculine wrinkles around his eyes, really nice eyes. Warm.
Dixie looked over his shoulder, indicating the destination with her gaze. “How about the cafe just right down the street from here? That way, we can just walk.”
Dirk stopped laughing. This was a woman who might run from him if he wasn’t careful. She just offered to walk with him somewhere. This might turn out to be a very big deal.
“We can’t leave our cars here. We need to park our cars in actual parking spaces.”
“You mean to suggest that I should meet you, a stranger, in an empty parking lot and then go to a cafe with you?”
He smiled, “Well Ma’am, since it’ll be you and me, I figure it won’t really be an empty parking lot. There’ll be at least the two of us.”