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Last Chance!

December 1, 2018

Entries for the the short story context must be received by Friday, so the due date is coming up fast!

If you haven’t already, please take ten minutes or so to read DashCam PlayBack and let me know which of the endings you prefer. The story is set out below with both the original and alternative endings.

You can reply through this blog or if you prefer e-mail me at

And thanks to those of you who’ve already responded!



DashCam PlayBack


David M Benson

c 2018 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 his patrol of a section of the city’s northwest quadrant, which had come to be 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 starting with tens, 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.


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, 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 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. Despite its pristine appearance, 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 spotless tags, the big car’s pale paint and white vinyl roof appearing dealer fresh. The two big men in the front seat had been speaking in an animated fashion, with regular finger jabs 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 black tire marks on the road and the acrid smell of burning rubber smoke in the air. Tobin sprinted back to the Charger and as he slammed it into gear and floored the gas, 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 ground around the turns and the Caddy would make up some of it on the straights, despite the Charger’s hemi V-8. The Caddy 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 late-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, but up ahead, in less than a hundred yards, was the T-intersection with Main Road, a four lane that ran alongside the interstate. Tobin and his brethren hastily cobbled together plans to put an end to things 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 be able to stop before he runs up that rocky berm and hits the concrete side of the interstate. Someone call rescue, this is gonna be ugly.”

Tobin pretty much stood on his brake pedal and the Charger rapidly 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 Charger.

“Jesus, you see that?” was Tobin’s 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 had begun 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 met Tobin next to his.

“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 said excitedly as he hauled open the door to 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 setting that would get him the last ten minutes of playback. His two compatriots opened the passenger door 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 from 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.


“Holy shit.”

They were back at the precinct fifteen minutes 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 moments 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 building it in, what, maybe ’70?”

“Something like that.”

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

“Eighty-eight,” 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 have heard about what happened at The Old Italian Inn, way back when. You know, old fashioned spaghetti house, same location as where Sustainably Yours is now.”

Tobin cleared his throat.

“I’m not old enough to remember it myself, of course,” he finally said, his stare a thousand yards away, “but I heard about it from my dad, any number of times, over the years. He was there that night, the night you mean, having dinner with my grandparents and his brother. They’d just ordered dinner when this guy came in, older guy, maybe my granddad’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.”

“Your dad happen to tell you about the car the shooter got into?” the captain asked.

Tobin kept staring off into the distance.

“A Caddy,” he said, barely audibly. “A new one.”

“A baby blue, 1962 Coupe de Ville with a white vinyl roof and white stripe tires to be exact,” the captain said. He read out the tag number Tobin had reported to dispatch and that had been clear in the video. “The car you saw, with the killer inside, which is impossible.”

Tobin leaned forward and refocused his gaze on his compatriots.

“I agree, it’s impossible,” he said. “On the other hand, we’ve got the whole thing on digital video.”

Silence enveloped the room except for the baritone creaking of years old leather utility belts and holsters.

“We’ve never gotten a call from that restaurant, Sustainably Yours, have we?” one of the other cops finally asked.

The desk sergeant shook his head.

“Not a peep,” he replied.

“Which must mean,” the captain said, “that this whole…episode…didn’t start, for us at least, until the killer came running out of the place.”

“What, so it was 1962 when he was inside the place and 2018 when he came out the door?” the male cop asked, “and 1962 again when they got to Main Street?”

“It wasn’t 2018, that’s for sure,” the other cop said, “or he’d’a hit the concrete abutment at the interstate.”

“So you’re saying he must’ve been seeing the old road when it crossed Main, not the T-intersection and the interstate,” the captain said, “which makes a seriously warped kind of sense but doesn’t explain a God damned thing and is God damn ridiculous on top of it.”

Tobin stood and leaned back against the closest wall.

“So, thank God for dashcam video,” he said. “Otherwise you’d all think I was crazy, right?”

“Maybe that’s the rational explanation,” the captain said, staring at Tobin.

“Wait, so you’re saying the rational explanation is that I’m crazy?” Tobin asked him.

The captain shrugged.

“There’s got to be one, right?” he said and gestured at the other two officers. “I mean, these two didn’t see anything, just a blur, or maybe a blur, or maybe not.”

Tobin hesitated.

“But what about the video?” he said. “You all saw that.”

The captain shrugged again.

“Well,” he said, “it sure looks like there was a cherry ’62 Caddy out there and that whoever its lucky owner is, he somehow got a hold of those old tags. Maybe that’s why he ran from you, maybe the car’s not registered at all and he’s not supposed to be driving it on the street.”

“But what about what happened at Main Street?” Tobin, staring at the captain incredulously, asked.

It got him another shrug from his boss.

“That dashcam,” he said, “it’s a new system, right? New systems have glitches.” Before Tobin could say anything in response, the captain added, “I’m going to have that system pulled out of your cruiser, sergeant, and have the IT boys give it a good going over. And if memory serves, I think you’re overdue for a vacation. I suggest a good, long one, starting now. The rest of us need to be getting back to work.”

Tobin could hear the muffled laughter as he walked down the hallway to the locker room. He changed into civvies and drove his Camaro home, taking a detour past Sustainably Yours on the way. The street was quiet and nearly bereft of parked cars, and the restaurant was closed.

A half glass of vodka and a Xanax got him to sleep and when he woke in the morning the malaise that had overtaken him at the captain’s meeting had lifted and he knew exactly what he needed to do.

The old house e lived in was a bequest from his grandparents, who had the foresight to die just as Tobin was getting divorced. There was an A-frame attic, reached through a glorified ladder that folded down from the foyer ceiling. Tobin extended the wooden stairway and climbed the narrow rungs, taking care not to bash his head in the musty room, whose greatest height was a foot shorter than Tobin. In one corner, among the rarely visited items, was a large, galvanized metal trunk. Tobin carefully made his way to it and snapped open the two latches. The suit, which is grandfather had worn to church and on special occasions, was folded neatly on top. Tobin gathered up its three pieces along with a starched white shirt, striped tie and black wingtip shoes and matching belt and slowly made his way downstairs.

In his bedroom he ditched his jeans and black tee and slipped on the white shirt, taking three tries in front of a mirror to properly tie the tie. The suit pants fit well enough, the belt providing the last quarter inch of snugness, and he could button the center button of the three button jacket. The shoes, pulled on over a pair of nearly sheer black socks, gave him no pain when he tried walking in them.

By the time he finished dressing it had grown dark outside, an anomaly that gave Tobin only the slightest of pause.

The house also had a rickety, single car garage out back, inside of which was another bequest, his grandfather’s Dawn Blue 1961 Impala, a two-door with contrasting white trim down the sides and whitewall tires. Tobin always took the old girl out for a short drive once a month, babying it, as his grandfather had. He made his way out to the garage, pulled the soft cover off the car, slid into the driver’s seat and started the old V-8 engine.

The car’s analog clock still works and its hands indicated 6:45. Tobin drove slowly toward downtown and when he reached the city’s northwest quadrant turned on the street known as restaurant row. A baby blue Cadillac, likely a ’62, was double parked outside Sustainably Yours.

Suddenly a large man in a boxy suit and gray fedora ran full speed from the front door of the restaurant and headlong into the Caddy. Before the passenger door was fully closed the big car peeled away from the curb not far in front of Tobin’s Impala and ran the red light at the corner.

Tobi glanced down at the dashboard clock as he accelerated after the Caddy.


The Caddy driver ignored the next red light, choosing instead a screeching right turn on red. Tobin followed but made the obligatory stop before turning, albeit a rolling one. The Caddy was hustling and Tobin struggled to keep it in sight as they made their way toward the edge of the city. The Caddy slowed only once, as it approached the new junior high, allowing Tobin to reclaim some of the distance between them.

They were soon on a narrow two-way that bisected a quiet residential neighborhood and the Caddy was showing no sign of slowing or changing direction. Up ahead, less than a hundred yards, was the T-intersection with Main Road and Tobin could just make out the rushing headlights of the cars charging down the interstate that paralleled Main.

Tobin’s wing-tipped right foot came off the gas pedal and hovered above the brake, but the Caddy just kept going. Tobin took a breath, pressed the gas pedal deep into the Impala’s carpeting and closed his eyes.

When he opened them the narrow street seemed darker and there were fewer houses, and the Caddy’s tail lights were all Tobin could make out ahead.




Tobin’s wing-tipped right foot came off the gas pedal and hovered above the brake, but the Caddy just kept going. Tobin took a breath, pressed the gas pedal deep into the Impala’s carpeting and closed his eyes.

When he opened them he was standing alone at the window of the gym at the new junior high school. He was a few minutes into a much needed break from basketball practice, the pot roast dinner his mother had fed him at five-thirty still making its presence known. It was past rush hour and only a few cars had gone past, but as he was about to turn away Tobin’s eye was caught by a new Cadillac speeding past, its pale paint washed out in the dimly lit street. He paused, waiting for the lights and siren of the police car he imagined such speed would have attracted but it didn’t materialize.

The basketball coach blew his whistle ending the break and as Tobin turned away from the window the red numbers of the digital scoreboard clock changed to 7:10.



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