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I Had a Dream…

February 10, 2017

Nothing along the lines of MLK’s, though.  I got the flu last week when we were in Orlando. A couple nights later, back home, sleeping fitfully and totally miserable, I woke at about 3AM with a story going around in my head. It was almost fully developed, but over the next few nearly-as-sleepless nights, I began filling in the details. Yesterday afternoon I finally felt decent enough to sit down and write it out.  Laura thinks it could be an episode of Black Mirror. See what you think.

 

DashCam PlayBack

 by

David M Benson

c 2017 David M. Benson and Bruised Peach Productions

 

Sean Tobin, Sergeant Sean Tobin, was roughly halfway through his usual four to midnight shift and roughly halfway through the section of the city’s northwest quadrant that had become known locally as Restaurant Row, when fifty yards ahead a large man in a boxy suit and gray fedora ran full speed out the front door of Sustainably Yours  and headlong into a baby blue vintage Cadillac. Before the passenger door was fully closed the Caddy peeled away from the curb not far in front of Tobin’s decidedly non-vintage Dodge Charger patrol car and ran the red light at the corner.

A few measured words and number combinations spoken into his headset mic let dispatch know where he was and that Tobin was now in pursuit of the scofflaw, although when asked for the Caddy’s tag number, he answered with the verbal equivalent of a shrug.

“Standby.”

Tobin, squinting to make out the unfamiliar tag, hit his lights and let wail a single blast of siren just as the Caddy driver ignored the next red light, choosing instead a screeching right turn on red, although without the obligatory stop that the law says should precede one. And his quarry was now really booking, at least fifty or so in a thirty zone. But within a few car lengths, and to Tobin’s great surprise, the Caddy slowed, coming to a stop next to the solid row of parked cars that lined the street. Tobin stopped the Charger a half car length back and slightly to the Caddy’s left flank and took a moment to note the two burly men who inhabited its front seat, and to study the tag.

At first he thought it was the antique car variety that the state could be cajoled into issuing for any car more than twenty-five years old, if the owner filled out a form and wrote a small check.

“Damn,” Tobin muttered, before keying his mic, reading out the tag number and adding, as he prepared to step out of his car, that dispatch was unlikely to find a record of it, despite its apparently local provenance.

The reason was simple although Tobin was sure the explanation would be more complex. The tag itself was ancient, an original from the early sixties with Dec and 62 decals stuck to its upper corners. It made sense only in that the Caddy, judging by its low tailfins, also appeared to be a ‘62, and it looked not a day older than its pristine tags, the big car’s pale paint and white vinyl roof looking dealer fresh. The two big men in the front seat had been speaking in quite an animated fashion, with regular pointing in various directions and shoulder shrugs punctuating their conversation. Tobin hesitated and on a hunch asked dispatch if there had been any calls from Sustainably Yours within the past few minutes. When he was told there had not been he stepped out and strode toward the baby blue enigma.

The Caddy promptly peeled away, fishtailing and leaving ten yards of S-shaped rubber on the road and the acrid smell of rubber smoke in the air. Tobin sprinted back to the Charger and as he slammed it into gear and floored the throttle, once again keyed his mic, letting dispatch know that a pursuit had begun and restating a description of the car and its beefy passengers. He also requested assistance. He kept a running monologue as his prey wove its way toward the edge of the city, setting an impressive pace that reminded Tobin why Cadillacs were once called the standard of the world, automotively speaking. Tobin would gain around the turns and the Caddy would make up some ground on the straights, despite the Charger’s hemi V-8. It slowed only once, as it approached the new junior high, which was known as such only to distinguish it from the old one, which dated from the early fifties rather than the former’s mid-eighties pedigree. Help was now close by, he was told, with one of Tobin’s colleagues more or less paralleling their route and another ahead, laying back to see what the rabbit would do next.

It was on a narrow two-way that bisected a quiet residential neighborhood that Tobin began to think the chase would soon be coming to a close. The Caddy was showing no sign of slowing or changing direction and yet up ahead, in less than a hundred yards, was the T-intersection with Main Road, which ran alongside the interstate. Tobin and his brethren made plans to put an end to it there.

Except the Caddy didn’t slow as it approached the intersection with Main. Neither of its brake lights even flickered.

“This is over folks,” he announced over the radio. “He can’t make that turn and he’ll never stop before he runs up that rocky berm and hits the concrete side of the interstate. Someone call rescue, it’s gonna be ugly.”

Tobin pretty much stood on his brake pedal and the Charger awesomely bled off speed, coming to a controlled halt just as the Caddy should have transformed itself into a very large, very awesome fireball.

Only it just kept going, or at least it didn’t stop. And it didn’t run up the incline of the berm and into a concrete abutment. It just wasn’t there anymore.

“Where’s your guy?” came over Tobin’s radio as each of the nearby patrol cars came to stops not far from his unit.

“Jesus, you see that?” was his response.

“See what, Sarge?” someone answered. “I just came onto Main. I didn’t see a thing.”

“He didn’t pass me,” came another voice.

Dispatch was also asking for an update.

“Standby,” Tobin told them.

He got out of the Charger, stared ahead at the shadowy side of the interstate and then looked around at the light flow of traffic, which began curling past the other two marked units, now parked nearby, their powerful roof lights the only things that could be mistaken for a blaze. Both officers got out of their cars and Tobin walked to them.

“What the fuck, Sarge?” one asked.

“Couldn’t’ve said it better myself,” Tobin replied softly. “Son-of-a-bitch must’ve been doing at least eighty-five when he crossed Main.”

“Yeah, well, then, what, ah, happened to him?” one of the officers asked, staring across the way. “A fucking Corvette couldn’t have made that turn, let alone an old Caddy.”

“Dash cam,” Tobin muttered as he took off running toward his car.

The Charger was less than three months old and had the latest digital system the city had sprung for. The tiny camera was mounted directly to the windshield and the playback unit, about the size of an iPad Mini, was clipped to the visor. Tobin slid into the driver’s seat, flipped down the passenger side visor and fumbled for the playback setting that would get him the last ten minutes of playback. His two compatriots had joined him and watched in silence as footage of Tobin’s unit driving slowly down Restaurant Row began to unfold.

They saw the man Tobin had seen running out of Sustainably Yours and lunging for the Caddy.

They saw the Caddy peel out, run the red light and speed up, commencing the chase.

They saw it stop and listened to Tobin’s colloquy with dispatch.

They watched as the Caddy took off, and the chase continued.

And they saw the Caddy simply disappear as it crossed Main.

“Jesus.”

“Holy shit.”

They were back at the precinct an hour later, gathered together in the briefing room as the video was played back again, this time on a much larger screen. The door to the room was locked and now the three officers were joined by the duty sergeant and their captain. When the playback ended, their reactions were more or less the same soft utterances as before. Then there was silence. It was several minutes before the captain broke it.

“You two also saw this, right?” he asked, looking at Tobin’s two fellows. “Live, I mean?”

One of the cops shook his head.

“I had just turned onto Main and all I saw was Sarge’s car nose into the intersection,” one replied. “Otherwise, maybe a blur, though I wouldn’t even swear to that.”

“But no Caddy?”

The policeman shook his head.

“And you?” the captain asked, turning to the other cop.

“I was in the area maybe ten, fifteen seconds earlier,” she replied. “No Caddy. I don’t know about a blur. Maybe, maybe not.”

There was another pause and it was the captain who again broke the silence.

“When was the interstate built?” he asked of no one in particular.

“It opened in ’72, sometime in the summer,” the duty sergeant, by far the oldest member of the group, replied. “My dad took me to the ceremony. Mayor was there and everything.”

“So they probably started in on it in, what, maybe ’70?”

“Something like that.”

“And the new junior high?” the captain wondered.

“Eighty-six,” Tobin, suddenly feeling very tired, answered. “Mine was the first class after it opened, seemed exciting at the time. Why are you asking about it, and the interstate?”

The captain turned and set his gaze on Tobin.

“Tell me this, sergeant,” he said. “Since you’re old enough to remember when the new junior high opened, I’m guessing there’s a chance you might remember what happened at the Italian Inn maybe two years before that. You know, old fashioned spaghetti house, same location as where Sustainably Yours is now.”

It was a moment before Tobin replied.

“I was there that night, the night you mean,” he finally said, his stare a thousand yards away, “having dinner with my parents and my brother. We’d just ordered when this guy came in, older guy, maybe my dad’s age, dressed in a suit and hat, takes out a gun, walks up to the owner and shoots him, twice in the head, then walks out.”

“You remember the car he got into?” the captain asked.

“I never saw what happened after, after the shots, my dad had us all under the table in like a second.”

“But you heard what kind it was, laterr, right?”

Tobin kept staring off into the distance.

“A Caddy,” he said, barely audibly.

“A baby blue, 1962 Cadillac Couple de Ville with a white vinyl roof and white stripe tires,” the captain said.

Then he read out the tag number Tobin had reported to dispatch and that had been clear in the video.

Tobin leaned forward, refocused his gaze on the floor.

“Here’s what I think,” he said, not looking at anyone, “although please don’t ask me why or how or anything else. The Caddy driver hesitated at the new junior high because it was the only place where the roads have changed since ’62 and it confused him for a moment.”

“So he must’ve been seeing the old road when it crossed Main, not the T-intersection and the interstate,” the captain said. “Is that it?”

Tobin stood and leaned back against the closest wall.

“Something like that, I suppose,” he said. “And thank God for dashcam video. Otherwise you’d all think I was crazy, right?”

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