1995 Janice considered her options as she sped along Highway 26 towards the Pacific Ocean. The highway had a sub-title of Sunset Highway Forest Wayside as it wound through the small mountains of the Coast Range. Janice always laughed to herself when she saw the signs. They were supposed to evoke some kind of scenic beauty provided by the State Transportation Department, but she didn't trust anyone with the initials STD. She knew what they really meant, she thought to herself, and it didn't take any special powers to figure it out. It was merely a highway they cut through the forest as a way to get to the trees. They chopped so many down you could now see the sunset.
"God, don't get me started," she said out loud, to no one in particular.
Granite turned his head towards her for a moment, then returned to staring out the front of the car. He knew that she wasn't talking to him, because her voice wasn't in that special tone that humans reserved for their pets. He also could sense, even smell, how upset she was. She had been upset all day, and the smell of fear and anger had been almost overwhelming to him.
He knew it wasn't because of anything he had done. Granite had been a good dog for as long as he could remember, except for running after the car. But he could tell she wasn't upset about that. He would of known if he had been a bad dog. Bad dogs got tied to a rope on the side of the garage, not allowed to go in the car and sit in the front seat.
He could also sense that she was going to whatever upset her so much. The smell of fear wasn't as strong, but the odor of anger was almost frightening to him. He knew to be on his best behavior. He also knew that he had to be with his master, to protect her, like a good dog.
Janice pulled off the side of the road, and turned up a little gravel driveway. She stopped the car and looked as far as she could up the driveway that turned into the small trees and up the hillside. There were no signs of habitation or regular usage, so she turned off the ignition and reached into the glove box for her emergency roll of toilet paper.
She got out off the car, leaving the door open for the dog, and immediately squatted down to relieve herself. Granite jumped out behind her and started to sniff out the perimeter around the car and up the driveway.
"Don't go too far Granite," she shouted.
Goddamn beer, she thought to herself. Give me tequila any day. It may destroy your liver at warp speed, but at least when you die and they do an autopsy you won't have stretch marks on your bladder. When she was finished she walked back to the car and found Granite already inside, ready to go.
"Granite, you amaze me. Any other day and I'd have been calling you for fifteen minutes," she said as she reached past him and exchanged the toilet paper for a map of Oregon. "Good dog."
She sat back in her seat and unfolded the map across the steering wheel. Her immediate goal was to get to Astoria and the toll bridge across the Columbia River and into Washington State. There were several ways to do that, but all of them seemed made of windy single lane highways through wide spots in the road with names like Tophill, Vinemaple, and Mist. She decided to stick with the familiar and just take Highway 26 to 101, then head up along the coast through Seaside and Sunset Beach. During the summer that would have cost her a lot of time in traffic, but on a rainy Friday in January, it shouldn't be too bad. Besides, she thought to herself, maybe a spin by the ocean would relax her.
She reached behind the back seat and grabbed another Bud Light out of the paper bag, popping the top of the aluminum can before she even had it in front of her. She took a swallow and fired up the Nissan, dropped the transmission into reverse, and backed onto the empty highway.
Eddie watched as the single engine Cessna wobbled and bounced across the airfield towards the north end of the runway. He was still fuming about Sara leaving, but was amazed how quickly his desire for her was beginning to wane. There would be plenty of secretaries in short skirts and wannabes in heat when he got to Washington D.C., he reminded himself. The toughest part would be deciding which one he wanted to bone first. He chuckled at the thought and popped a few more rivets out of the wing.
Besides, he had a lot of loose ends to tie up this afternoon, and having Sara around would have only made things more difficult. Still, a tight pussy was a terrible thing to waste. Or was that supposed to be a mind is a terrible thing to waste? He chuckled again. When it comes to women, it's the same difference, right? He popped a few more rivets in the tail section.
God, this is easy, he thought to himself. Great fun. He envisioned himself as some kind of scorned lover in a field of daisies, picking off a petal at a time. She loves me; tink goes the rivet. She loves me not; tink goes another rivet. She loves me; tink. She loves me not; tink. He could do this forever, and he imagined it would take at least a couple of days at this rate to pop every rivet in the plane. But he didn't have forever, which reminded him, just where in the hell was Jonathan anyway?
Maybe it was better that he wasn't here to distract him right at the moment, he considered. He was going to have to be popping rivets at an Olympic pace here pretty soon, if Mangione ever decided to take off that is. Suddenly, like a child building his first model and running out of patience, he found himself just wanting to get it over with.
"Come on Joe, you little son of a bitch, let's get this show on the road. I've got bigger fish to fry."
Almost as if he had willed it, the Cessna turned around at the end of the runway and instantly began to gather speed for take-off. As it sped by him, he lowered his umbrella and blew Sara a kiss. Then he lowered his head in concentration and closed his eyes, blowing out an entire row of rivets running down the rudder of the plane.
"Have a nice flight, you two." Eddie said to no one but himself.
Joe kept the speed up as turned the plane around at the end of the airfield. He didn't stop like he normally did, to do a final check of the aircraft before taking off. It was against his better judgment and years of training, but the field was just too soft. Instead, he pushed the throttle up a little higher and guided the plane down the center of what had once been a well-kept runway. A quick look at the instrument panel showed him all the gauges were reading normal, and that was going to have to do for now. He leaned over and shouted over the engine noise to Sara.
"Here we go, next stop, hot coffee and a real runway in Ilwaco."
Sara just nodded in agreement, holding on tightly to her seat belt as the Skylane began to gather speed. She looked out her side window as the plane bounced along the grassy runway. Eddie was standing out in front of the hangar in the rain, umbrella at his side.
"What do you make of that?" shouted Sara, nodding towards the hangar.
Joe had his hands full keeping the plane headed straight down the runway with the winds coming from the side, but took a quick glance out her window anyway.
"What can I say?" he asked, as he returned to business, pushing the throttle to full take off power. "Eddie's crazy as a loon."
Sara looked across the field to Eddie, just in time to see him blow her a kiss. She assumed it was for her. There definitely wasn't any love lost between Eddie and Joe. She quickly turned her head around to the front of the plane, wanting to avoid Eddie's sight. Just what in the hell was that about?
She turned back around again, this time to find Eddie with his head down, still not moving. God, you'd think he was at someone's funeral or something, she thought to herself.
At that moment, the Cessna hit a large clump of blown down grass and lifted off into the air momentarily. They still didn't have enough speed to maintain flight, and the plane dropped back to the ground, causing Sara to let out a little scream. She turned to face the front windshield, too embarrassed to look at Joe, not realizing that he was concentrating too hard to have even noticed much.
The plane bounced once again, coming down softer this time.
"Come on baby, come on," coaxed Joe, as the Cessna jumped a third time.
Sara tensed up, waiting for the expected bump that never came.
"Airborne!" shouted Joe, as he brought the plane up gently. Unlike the take-off in Olympia, he traded altitude for airspeed, gaining just enough height to safely clear the trees at the end of the airstrip. He left the landing gear down, letting the rain and wind clean the mud and grass off. He planned on leaving them down until he reached Ilwaco. It would slow them down some, but he wanted to do a thorough inspection before he cycled them again, not wanting to take a chance on the gear locking in the up position.
Joe glanced over at Sara, who seemed to be holding her own, considering. He leveled the plane out, and dropped the throttle down a little. No sense in gaining too much altitude, Ilwaco was just a few minutes away by air. He leaned over towards Sara.
"Yeah, fine. Glad to be out of there in one piece," she said.
"Sorry I screamed back there," apologized Sara. "I guess that bump just caught me off guard."
"Saved me from having to do it. I was just as surprised as you were, let me tell you."
"You ever get afraid, Joe. I mean really afraid?"
"A lot, when I was younger anyways. Fear's like a drug, you build up a tolerance after awhile if you keep doing it enough."
"Eddie scares me," she said.
"Welcome to the club. Having a fear of Eddie sounds like a healthy thing to me," Joe replied, glancing at Sara. He thought to himself for a moment, scanning the instruments.
"You're quite fond of Jonathan, aren't you?" asked Joe.
"Does it show?" she replied, looking back at him.
"A little. Does he know?”
"Jonathan? I doubt it," she said sarcastically. "All he ever thinks about is his stupid politics."
"Doesn't surprise me. Men are always the last to ones to figure out this romance business. Love's a four letter word to most of us, something that's gonna end up getting our balls clamped in a vise. It's not that we don't care, it's just that we don't have the skills to cope."
"You ever fall in love, Joe?" asked Janice.
"Me? No. Don't know too many women that would want to take me on. Too much extra baggage," said Joe sadly, then he put on a friendly smile.
"Besides. I've got the sex drive of a teenager, don't like to shave everyday, and have never met a woman who could cook up a better marinara sauce than my mama."
"Joe, there's got to be a million women out there looking for a man like you," Sara returned with a warm smile.
"You keep talking like that, little missy, and Jonathan will have to wake up and smell the roses pretty quick. Otherwise some hot shot pilot is going to come along and swoop his girl off to the Bahamas," joked Joe. "How's your marinara sauce?"
"Can't cook for shit!" replied Sara.
"Too bad," said Joe. "Should have known it would take something along the lines of one of those fancy airline pilots to snag the likes of you. Some ex-Air Force puke with a nice suit and a lots of gold braid, Porche in the driveway and ambitions of being a senator. See how you are?"
Sara started to blush, not knowing what to say.
"Look Sara, if it means anything to you, when we get to Ilwaco I'll make the phone calls. But I'm going to stay on this thing myself, too."
"Oh Joe, would you? I mean, you know him; you've seen him. I've got some money stashed away, I'll pay you whatever you're…"
Joe cut her off quickly.
"Look, Sara, you keep your money. Don't get me wrong, I don't do charity work, and I'm not one of those people with a Good Samaritan sticker on the bumper of their motor home. But I don't have to stand for little assholes like Eddie, shitting on everyone they come in contact with, just because they think they have the right. If I ever get that little shit by the balls though, I'll squeeze them extra hard once, just for you.
"This is between me and Eddie now. People like you and Jonathan don't have any business dealin' with the likes of that scum," said Joe flatly. Then he smiled again.
"Besides, I've already had my rabies shots this year."
"Joe, you're the greatest," Sara said with all her heart and soul.
"Yeah, me and Mohammed Ali get that all of the time. But we still like hearing it," Joe said with an ever wider smile.
Suddenly the plane swerved sickly to one side, and then slowly back again as Joe fought the controls. Sara looked at Joe, and could see that his smile had been replaced with a grimace of real concern.
"Joe, what's wrong?" asked Sara.
"I don't know yet!" snapped Joe, as the plane began rocking left and right.
Sara looked out of her window past the wing and towards the ground as the plane banked sharply to her side. It was then that the right aileron broke free of the rear spar. It flapped in the wind for a second, held only to the plane by a couple of cables, and then fell clear of the aircraft. Sara screamed again.
"Joe! Joe! Did you see that?" she yelled, pushing on his shoulder with her open hand.
"Yeah, I saw it," he shouted, fighting to keep the plane in some kind of level flight. "The whole damn plane seems to be breaking up!"
He looked out his side window and saw a skin panel starting to flap in the wind. He stared in amazement at the rows of empty rivet holes along the underside of the wing. How in the hell?
He quickly brought his mind back to the problem at hand, namely being to get this deteriorating piece of aluminum back on the ground with it's occupants in one piece. Even with one aileron gone, he didn't think he should be having such a hard time keeping the plane in a relatively straight line. He quickly turned around to look out the back window, and his fears were instantly confirmed. The tail rudder was falling apart before his eyes; he knew it too would be soon gone.
His first instinct was to grab the radio and call in a mayday, but he didn't dare take his hands off of the controls. A plane without ailerons could be dealt with. A plane without a rudder could be dealt with too. Either loss would take an experienced pilot to cope, but if he lost both, the ability to turn would cease to exist, and they would be at the mercy of the winds.
He decided to start nudging the plane towards the right, out to sea. To the left, the calmer Willapa Bay would have been a better choice, but he didn't know if the rudder would hold out that long. Crashing uncontrollably into a bunch of trees wasn't an option he wanted to consider.
"Sara," he shouted with authority, "I need you to work the radio!"
Sara was as afraid as she had ever been in her life. Being a secretary just didn't prepare a person for days like this, she had been thinking to herself as her life began to flash before her. She didn't want to die like this, any way but this.
"Sara!" yelled Joe again at the top of his lungs.
"What?" she screamed back.
"You're going to have to work the radio for me. Pick up the headset on the dash and I'll tell you what to do. Now, Godammit!"
"Okay, okay," she yelled back, reaching for the headphone-like unit that she had seen Joe use before.
She grabbed the headset with both hands and began to put it on her head when a searing pain shot through her hands. She let out a scream and dropped the microphone onto the floor.
"What's wrong?" shouted Joe.
Sara turned over her hand, and both could see the blisters beginning to form between the patches of melted black plastic that were sticking to her palm.
"It's too hot to hold!" yelled Sara.
Joe glanced down at the radio component in the dashboard, and saw smoke beginning to rise from the panel.
"Shit!" he yelled himself. "This is crazy!"
He dropped the throttle again, wanting to lose altitude without having to actually maneuver the plane and put any more stress on the failing parts. Luckily they weren't more than five hundred feet above the ground. The bad news was, that was four hundred and ninety-nine feet more than he wanted if he had to fall out of the sky.
Eddie looked up as the Cessna was still bouncing down the runway, trying to gain enough speed to stay airborne. At first he thought that maybe he had overdone his dismantling, which would have been a disappointment, to say the least. A bent prop and some bruised foreheads wasn't exactly what he had in mind for those two. He unwillingly found himself rooting right along with Joe and Sara for the little plane to lift off in one piece.
On the third big bounce it did take off, and Eddie waited for it to clear the trees before he went back to chipping away at its control surfaces. He worked at as fast a pace as his newly recharged power would let him, but found it harder to accomplish the task as the sound of the plane started to fade away. He had always known that there was a limit to the range at which he could perform physical acts of destruction. He just wasn't sure what that range was, since it seemed to increase on a daily basis lately. He could still see the plane, although it was too small to tell its color anymore, and it seemed to be flying along just fine. Damn it all to hell!
He decided to concentrate on just one section of the plane, the right wing aileron as it turned out to be, although he didn't know the part by name. He disintegrated the rivets as fast as he could imagine them, until there was nothing left for him to picture. It was then that he realized that the part was no longer on the airplane. That boosted his spirits somewhat, although he was starting to fear that the two might actually get out of range before he could finish the job. He knew that Joe was an experienced combat pilot, and if he didn't finish the job off right and be quick about it, Joe could probably bring it down in one piece.
He remembered seeing the radio in the middle of the control panel, and he quickly shifted his attention to the microphone. Within seconds he knew he had melted it to a point of uselessness. Just as the speck of black that Eddie had been watching was about to fade from his sight, he saw it start to turn slowly towards the ocean.
He changed his focus of attack to the tail section, and gave it all that he had left. A searing pain shot through his head as if someone was driving railroad spikes into his temples. His vision began to darken, so he closed his eyes and tried to ignore the distraction. Brilliant spots of lights started to explode across the inside of his red eyelids as the pain intensified past all thresholds he had known before, but he kept on going. He could no longer focus on any particular row of rivets or part of the airplane, so he just began to mentally claw away at what he thought must be the tail. His knees began to get weak, and nausea set in, yet still he struggled to inflict any act of random destruction that he could.
Finally, he could take no more. He crumpled into a heap on the gravel driveway. He knew he couldn't afford to be found this way, or stay this way for long, but he was too weak to get up. He reached out slowly for the umbrella that had fallen by his feet, and pulled it over his upper body and head. At least it blocked the wind and rain somewhat. It was all that he could do for the moment, so he laid his head on his arms and closed his eyes, wishing that the terrible pain in his head would go away.
Janice was speeding along Highway 26 and had just crossed the Nehalem River when the pain hit her. She involuntarily dropped her beer can onto the floor of the car, and swerved to a stop on the side of the road. She knew right away that she was having another Eddie attack, as she bent over the stick shift and began to vomit. Granite began barking, as she watched the beer she threw up mix with the spilled beer on the passenger side of the floor. The stomach spasms were so strong that she found herself paralyzed, bent over and unable to even raise her head.
She watched as bits of garbage that had been on the carpet floated to the top of the pool of beer. A gum wrapper; some pine needles; and oddly enough, a few sesame seeds. At first she thought she was hallucinating, but then she remembered the Whopper she had shared with Granite a week ago. Usually the pain would quickly subside, but this time it only intensified, bringing tears to her eyes. Now the puddle of beer was only a kaleidoscope of swirling pastels, and it reminded her of staring into the clouds on a windy day. She tried blinking the tears away, but that only changed the patterns, as if she had twisted the ring on the kaleidoscope.
This went on for about a minute, and then the stomach pain nearly stopped completely, only to be replaced with a crushing headache. There was a ringing in her ears that made it hard for her to hear Granite yelping. There was another sound, but she couldn't quite make it out, and then it went away. It quickly came again. It was a loud crunching sound followed by some talking, but it was too garbled for her to understand. This time she recognized what it was, a CB radio, and her heart almost stopped. Granite was going crazy and he gouged his nails through her clothes and into her back as he climbed across her into the back seat of the car. She fought to get up on one arm, and look out the rear view mirror. Her worst fears were confirmed.
Sitting a few yards behind her car was an Oregon State Patrol car, with his blue and yellow lights flashing. The nausea returned. The officer was already out of his car, and when he saw her head come up, he began to come closer.
"Fuck!" she cursed. "Just what I need right now."
She turned around and did her best to sit up straight in her seat. It was a lame attempt at best. She looked down at the floor and saw the puddle of beer. Her nose was so full of mucus that she couldn't smell a thing, but she had no doubts that the patrolman wouldn't be suffering with the same handicap. Her heart began to pound as her body went into fight-or-flight mode, sending an overabundance of adrenaline into her bloodstream.
'Face it Janice, you're screwed,' she thought to herself.
She watched in her side mirror as the officer approached her car, casually unclipping the restraining strap on his holster. God, he's young enough to be my son, she thought. She turned and yelled at Granite to be quiet, but it did little to stop him. She turned around and quickly rolled down her window just before the officer got up to her car, hoping for a little fresh air to displace the smell of the beer. Then she remembered the empties lying in the back of her car. Instantly she knew it was hopeless.
"Good afternoon, ma'am. What seems to be the problem?" he asked in a way that caused her to imagine him sitting in front of a mirror and practicing until he got the tone just right.
"I don't know what came over me," she started. "I just suddenly felt sick and had to pull over."
"I see. Have you had anything to drink today, ma'am?" he asked with that same monotone politeness.
"A couple of beers, that's all," she replied, hoping that for some reason the gods would be kind to her today.
"Are those beer cans in the back seat the ones you're referring too?"
She was done for, no doubt about it. The only luck she would have today would be the kind that she made herself. But she needed time to think. She went through the motions of looking into the back of the car. The dog was still growling, but had somehow realized that barking wasn't exactly what her master needed right now.
"Granite, you calm down," she said, trying to do anything to keep the officer from being more of a problem than she knew he was going to be already. She turned around to face the patrolman.
"No," she lied. "Those are some old ones I forgot about from when I was at the park with the dog the other day."
"I'll need to see your driver's license and registration."
"You're not going to believe this, but my car got broken into the other day, and they stole my purse. It had my wallet and registration in it," she said, feeling totally ridiculous, adding, "I was going to check on different auto insurance later that day."
"I see," he said, obviously not buying her story. "Wait right here."
Janice watched in her rear view mirror as the officer walked back toward his patrol car. She knew she had to act fast, before he got a chance to call in her plates, if he hadn't already. She opened the car door and stumbled out of the car, shutting the door before Granite could get out. The patrolman stopped in his tracks, turning around as he heard the door slam, reaching for his weapon as he did.
Janice walked towards him, leaning on the side of the car as she went, Granite barking away from inside.
"I don't . . . feel so good," she stuttered. "I think I'm having some kind of a heart attack, or something."
She fell across the back of the trunk, with her head facing the officer, but with her eyes not quite closed. She watched him as she began to slowly slip down the side of the car towards the ground. He took his hand off of his gun and ran towards her, not feeling threatened enough to be more cautious and make his radio call first. It would turn out to be a mistake he would never make again.
He caught Janice under the shoulders just before her knees hit the ground, pulling her up so he could drag her to the back of the Nissan. As he spread his legs to sit her down, he felt her become tense, but couldn't react fast enough to block her rapid knee to his groin. He doubled over in pain as she rammed her right palm into his nose, snapping his head back. When he fell forward again she chopped him in the throat with her left hand, causing him to go into a breathing spasm.
He fell off her legs to one side, and landed on the ground by the corner of her car. His blue eyes were wide with shock as his hat was knocked into the road. He quickly recovered his senses and reached for his service revolver. Janice had jumped up by then, and beat him to the draw by grinding her heel into the back of his hand. He howled in pain, which wasn't uncommon for someone who had just had several bones in the back of their hand fractured.
She swiftly kicked him in the crotch again, much harder this time since she had the full swing of her leg in effect. He rolled on his side and drew into a little ball, clutching at his manhood. She reached down and pulled the .38 from his holster. A quick inspection of the weapon showed her the safety was already off.
"Keep your face in the dirt, and I won't have to kill you," she shouted, looking up and down the road for traffic. There was no one to be seen, but she knew that couldn't last for long at this time of day.
"Please don't shoot me, lady," he protested. "I got two kids, I'll do anything you say."
Janice felt horrible for what she had done, but she didn't have time for sympathy right now. She knew that Eddie was up to his tricks again, and every second might count. She also knew she couldn't afford to have the combined forces of the Oregon and Washington State Patrol out looking for her. Murder wasn't an option either, so she opted for fantasy with a side order of positive reinforcement.
"Look man, I ain't got time for this shit right now," she barked. "So listen up, I'm only going to say things once. Do exactly as I say, and you'll get to tuck your kids in tonight. Fuck up, and you'll be leaving this world short a couple of kidneys. Let's start with you putting your hands behind your head where I can see them."
"Whatever you say, just don't shoot me," he pleaded, and did as he was told.
"Okay, just shut up and stay still!" yelled Janice, as she looked around at her present surroundings. She knew that she would have to do something to keep this guy under wraps for a few hours. And it wouldn't be in her best interests to leave an empty police car sitting by side of the highway either. She hastily formulated a plan.
"Where's your handcuffs?" she asked.
"There in that pouch on my belt, just to the . . ."
"Never mind, I see them." She reached down and pulled out the heavy chrome handcuffs. "Put your hands down behind your back, I'm sure you know the drill."
He did as instructed and she soon was finished locking the cuffs.
"Now get up," she said, as she walked in front of him, pointing the gun at his chest. She bent down at the knees and picked up his hat, and motioned him back to his cruiser.
"Walk backwards to your car, driver's side," she shouted, motioning with the pistol. She was becoming increasingly glad for the times she had gotten stoned and watched 'Cops' and all the other police shows on TV.
"Keep going," she said firmly. He felt his way around the front of the big sedan and down the side of the car. When he was almost to the rear of the car she told him to stop and turn away from her. She opened up the front door of the police car and pulled his keys out of the ignition. Thirty seconds later she had opened the rear passenger door and forced him to get inside and lay on the vinyl covered seat. She shut the door, and then got into the driver's seat. She threw his hat on the seat next to her.
"How do I turn off these damn lights?" she demanded.
"It's labeled there, on the dash," came his muffled reply through the glass protector panel. Janice quickly found it and turned off the flashing lights. Much better, she thought to herself. She put the keys in the ignition and fired up the engine, dropped the transmission into Drive and slowly pulled out past her Sentra. She saw Granite trying to launch himself through her car window as he watched her drive by.
She drove up the road about a hundred yards until she found another turn off. It was just what the doctor ordered, with faded No Hunting and Private Property signs nailed to the trees. By the length of the grass standing between the tire tracks, it looked like it hadn't been used in months. She turned up the muddy drive and went almost a half a mile before the road came to a dead end in a small clearing. There were several tree stumps around, and a small stack of old weathered split wood in one corner of the clearing. Someone might have had plans for this place, but they were obviously moving pretty slowly if they did.
She got out, opened the back door, and ordered the officer to stay still as she pulled his wallet out of his pants pocket. She went through it until she found his driver's license, noticing a picture of him and a lovely girl she imagined to be his wife. There were more pictures of two very small boys.
"So you're Larry Lee Jackson, of Hillsboro I see," said Janice.
"Yeah," he grunted back, finding it hard to talk with a swollen nose and lying face down with his hands behind his back.
"These pictures of your wife and kids?"
"Yeah. Look lady, if it's money you want, there's a couple of hundred dollar bills that I keep tucked up under my credit cards for emergencies."
"Look Larry, we don't have a use for much of anything humanoid on my planet, especially money," she started.
"Your planet?" asked Jackson incredulously.
"That's right. Now I'm sure you think that I'm some kind of whacked out drunk and prone to delusions of grandeur, but the truth is, I was on my way to Manzanita to get picked up."
"Picked up?" asked Larry.
"That's right. Picked up. Beamed up, if you like. But that's not exactly how we do it, unfortunately. Although I have to admit I've picked up a taste for your beer, I really can't handle this thing you call driving. But that's a story I don't have time to get into right now, Larry. You see, I'm on a very tight time schedule, and you've made it even tighter. That's left me in a dilemma. Namely, what am I going to do with you? We don't believe in unnecessary killing; on the other hand, we can't afford to have our departure to be interfered with. Do you see where I'm coming from, Larry?"
"Yeah, sure, I guess. Look, I didn't see anything lady, all right? I'll do what ever you say…"
Janice cut him off. "I'd like to believe you, Larry, but what would we do about your radio?"
"What do you mean," asked the officer quickly.
"Well, you must have made a call into your controller before you pulled me over," she said, fishing for answers.
"No! I didn't, I swear. I didn't pull you over lady. You were already on the side of the road. I thought you were an abandoned vehicle until I saw the dog and your head pop up."
"Too bad I can't take that chance Larry," she said, as she reached down and grabbed his impeccably shined black shoes and pulled his legs out of the car far enough to touch the ground.
"Stand up," she ordered, as she grabbed his collar to help pull him to his feet. He did as she instructed.
"Spread your feet wide, and lean against the car. That's it. Now, I'm going to unlock these cuffs, but if you do anything stupid, you're going to make my decision extremely easy. Do you understand me, Larry?"
"Yes," he said, leaning forward on the cruiser and spreading his legs. He hadn't been in this position since he had practiced with his partner at the academy.
Janice asked him where he kept the key and then proceeded to unlock the cuffs.
"Okay Larry, turn to your left and walk over to that big stump by the wood pile. Don't look back, just walk."
Larry began to panic, wondering if this would end up being the part where she shot him in the back. He started walking toward the stump. But why had she even bothered to undo the cuffs if that was the case? Who ever he was dealing with, had it together too much to be drunk, but he couldn't even begin to believe that shit about being from another planet. One thing was for sure, he should have made a radio call, and if he got out of this alive, he would catch hell for being so stupid.
"Stop there, Larry." He did.
"Look lady, you've got to believe me. I didn't make any radio call. I should have, but I didn't. That's the truth," he pleaded.
"Larry, you know what? I think I believe you," Janice said as she watched the young man heave a sigh of relief.
"But I don't think you believe me," said Janice, "and that might make you want to do something stupid when I leave; and I need to leave right away Larry."
"If you say you're an alien, you're an alien," he said, knowing he didn't sound very believable, even to himself.
"Spare me, Larry," she said, finding herself getting into the role. She didn't want to have to hurt the officer any more, but she did find that part of her was enjoying having the shoe on the other foot. She had been hassled many times by the cops in her earlier years with Randy, usually over nothing more serious than looking like a hippie.
"I want you to grab that rock down by your feet, Larry, and hold in it your hand."
It was a stone actually, about the size of a large potato, but he bent over and picked it up in his left hand. He usually would have used his right hand, but it was pretty much out of commission after getting smashed by his alien high-jacker’s foot.
"Hold it out to your side Larry. Is it cold and wet?" she asked.
God, this woman is definitely in need of some serious help, thought Larry, but he answered her as calmly as he could.
"Yes. It is."
"Standby for a reality check, Larry," said Janice, as she concentrated on the rock, quickly heating it up to almost two hundred degrees. It was one of her favorite exercises, as she called them. She practiced it every time she was alone and wanted to fire up the charcoals in her Weber.
"Shit!" yelled Larry, as he dropped the rock onto the ground, where it lay sizzling in the wet grass. He looked at his hand. Blisters were already starting to form on his palm and finger tips. He started to turn toward Janice with a look of disbelief, but she stopped him.
"Turn back around, Larry, and look at the rock. The show's not over yet." She concentrated on the rock some more, and lifted it off the ground and gently sat it back down on the stump a few feet away.
"And now for the grand finale!" she shouted as she heated the rock back up to the point the wood around it caught fire, then, if as on queue, the rock exploded.
"Jesus Christ!" exclaimed Jackson, as he ducked to avoid the fragments of exploding rock.
"Different planet, but I can assure you that it’s quite real also," said Janice, feeling that she had probably made a believer out of Larry. Now for the finishing touches, and she could get back to her original plan.
"Now I want you to think about something, Larry. Think about it real hard. If I can do that to a rock, imagine what I could do to your balls, and those little raisins that will someday be your son's balls. Scary thought, isn't it? But that's exactly what will happen if you don't just decide to let this all go like it never happened. No radio calls, no reports, no sightings of aliens. Just go out and finish your shift, and chalk it all up to having a bad donut day. In other words, you forget about me, and I'll forget about you. Deal?"
"Best deal I've had all day," said the relieved, but hurting, young patrol officer.
"Good!" said Janice, just as glad to see this come to a relatively happy ending.
"Now unbuckle your Batman utility belt, drop it on the ground, and kick off your shoes. Make it snappy Larry, I ain't got all millennium."
He did as he was told, and she walked over and picked them up, keeping the gun trained on him as she did.
"I'm going to leave these in your car, with everything else," she said as she backed up towards the cruiser. "It'll be at the end of the road when you walk out. You just stand there for a few minutes and think about what I've told you, and by then I should be gone."
She got in the car, and started up the engine. Then she rolled down the window and yelled out to the shoeless man in the Oregon State Patrol uniform. "Oh, and Larry! Have a nice day!"
She turned the car around in the clearing and headed back down the muddy road to the main highway. She was pretty sure that she had convinced Larry to give up any hope of tracking her down. If not, at least she had bought some valuable time. By the time she had pulled up near the highway where she planned to leave the police car, she had come down from her adrenaline high.
She spotted Larry's lunch box laying on the floor of the passenger side, and decided to play Goldilocks while still in fantasy mode. With all that had happened in the last half an hour, Janice realized that she was starving. She opened the box, and checked out the two sandwiches inside. Ham and cheese, that'll work, she thought to herself. Ooh, a Snickers Bar and an orange, my kind of guy. He can have the coffee, or what ever it was, she thought as she looked at the Thermos in the top of the lunch box. He'll probably be pretty cold by the time he walks down that Oregon Trail of a road in his stocking feet, in the rain.
She got of the cruiser, walked down the rest of the drive to the main highway, and started jogging for her car. She was relieved to see that there wasn't an entire S.W.A.T. team around her Nissan, and Granite was barking at her through the front window. She quickly got in and hugged the dog. He rewarded her lavishing her with his big wet tongue.
"Cut it out, Granite. I'm glad to see you too, okay? Yeah, you're a good dog; now settle down. Here, I brought you something. Ham and cheese sandwich, no lettuce, you're favorite. Compliments of the Oregon State Patrol."
She pulled a sandwich out of the plastic zip-lock bag, and split it between them. Then she reached in the bag behind her seat and pulled out a sweatshirt and used it to sop up the mess on her floor. She threw it and the empty beer cans out of the car then pulled back onto Highway 26. She looked at her watch. It was ten 'till three. Damn! She had lost almost forty-five minutes. Of course, if she wouldn't have taken things into her own hands, she would have needed the rest of the day to get out of jail. Plus they would also have confiscated her car. She decided to count her blessings, and resolved herself to stay within the speed limits to avoid any more unwanted run-ins with the law.
She gave Granite the other sandwich, and then wolfed down the candy bar herself. She was starting to feel better, and decided to have another Bud Lite. They were getting a little on the warm side, but after the first sip, she decided they had never tasted better.
"Hair of the dog, right Granite?"
He glanced up at her with that 'don't bother me, can't you see I'm eating' look. She reached over and patted him on the head lightly, understanding his meaning exactly.
"You know Granite, we make a good team. I don't like to eat, and you don't like to drink. We were made for each other."
Granite turned to lick her hand once, then went back to his sandwich.
Larry Jackson stood in his wet stocking feet and watched as the alien from who knows where drove off with his cruiser, his gun, and his shoes.
"Shit!" he finally exclaimed to himself once the car was out of sight.
He walked over to the stump where Janice had performed her exploding rock trick. The rain had put out the fire, but steam was still rising from the burned spot where the rock had sat. He looked at the palm of his left hand, now covered with blisters. He was soaking wet and still had a half a mile to walk out. More if she had lied about leaving his car at the end of the driveway.
"How in the hell am I going to explain all of this?" he said to himself as he started walking gingerly down the road.
His thin black dress socks did little to cushion his feet as he headed back to the highway, and running was out of the question. It was almost fifteen minutes before he turned a bend in the driveway and saw his patrol car sitting there, air in all of the tires, seemingly in one piece. He had envisioned several different scenarios while he walked. One of them included having all of the windows broken and the seats slashed. Another had him trying to explain how his service revolver and shotgun had disappeared, but a quick inspection inside the car proved that nothing was missing. Even his wallet was lying on the seat next to his pistol. He quickly thumbed through it, and decided that everything was still there, including the hidden hundred dollar bills.
The keys were still in the ignition, so he tried starting the engine, half expecting something to be wrong. It turned over right away. He quickly turned the heater on at full blast and placed his frozen wet feet next to the vent under dash. He reached down to grab the radio microphone, but thought better of it. Having your gun taken away from you, getting hog-tied with your own cuffs, and having your squad car driven off by a stranger would effectively end his promotions through the ranks for years. Having it done by a woman would make him the laughing stock of the division. Telling them that it was an alien would get him kicked off the force.
He decided the woman was right, he should just forget about her. He knew that he could never do that, but he could keep it a secret, not to be shared with anyone, even his wife. If he was lucky, he could get back to his house and grab a fresh uniform before she got home from work, and be back at the station for his scheduled change of shift. He looked at his face in the rear view mirror. Maybe the swelling in his nose would even go down by then, but he doubted it. She had popped him pretty good. That was going to be hard to explain, along with his burnt and broken hands. But it could have been worse, he reminded himself. At least he was still among the living, still had his job, and last but not least, his gonads were still intact.
He quickly put his shoes on, and then got out of the car so he could put on the heavy belt and holster. When he had everything back in place, he opened his lunch box to pour himself a cup of coffee, and saw that everything besides was gone.
"Guess she developed a taste for ham and cheese, too," he muttered to himself, as he shakily poured himself some coffee.
A minute later he was back on the highway heading east towards Portland, glad to see that her car was gone from the side of the road. He doubted he would have stopped even if it had still been there. As a matter of fact, he didn't plan on stopping anyone for the rest of his shift. Better yet, the rest of the month, he decided. Maybe the wife was right. It might be time to start thinking about another line of work. There were too many crazies out there.
"Hell, too many aliens," he added out loud, hoping he was speaking to no one but himself.