Categories > Original > Horror > The Road Trip

Part 2: Arrest

by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

a simple traffic stop turns complicated

Category: Horror - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Horror,Sci-fi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2008-10-25 - Updated: 2008-10-25 - 3255 words - Complete

by Scott Springer

The sign read EYRIE.

I remember that night as we both stood there for way too long, just staring through the fog at that sign. We went back to the car and checked the road map, just to be sure. But there was no “Eyrie” to be found anywhere.

Mark whipped his flashlight back at the road sign.

“Maybe we made a wrong turn somewhere,” he suggested. But I could tell from the sound of his voice that he didn’t believe that any more than I did. He scanned the map himself in the dim glow of the overhead light. “Weird… There’s no Eyrie anywhere?”

“You can’t find it either?” I asked, not liking the feel of this. The swirling mist that obscured much of the surrounding desert just didn’t belong in this climate.

“Hmm… You know, I was reading a while ago that New Mexico decided to change the road maps. Maybe Eyrie didn’t make the cut. It sounds pretty small.”

“Yeah, that must be it.” That sounded like a plausible explanation, so I agreed with him. I wanted to agree; this fog, and now this sign, had started me thinking about the sorts of tales you could easily spook yourself with out in the middle of nowhere late at night like this.

We jumped back into Mark’s beat-up station wagon, a sixteenth-birthday present from his father. We jokingly called it the Woody, and a few of our friends’ parents were appalled by the name— which we, amazingly enough, hadn’t even thought of— until we pointed out the phony wood paneling on the sides. Like in one of those old Beach Boys songs.

The headlights were on the whole time, but neither of us cared; this road trip had been a disaster from the first stop. The Woody had managed to break down every 500 miles on the mile. The air conditioning refused to work once we reached the desert. We had run out of gas once, and had to push the car almost six miles to the nearest town.

And now we were lost.

Looking back, I knew there was something wrong with this whole scene, but I didn’t want to say anything because I was sure Mark would think I was nuts. Odd, given that we’ve been friends since grade school, and I was also equally certain that he could sense it, too. It felt strange at that moment to remember our graduation only days before.

We drove on in silence, keeping our growing disquiet to ourselves. I still remember the time we went camping last summer, telling spooky stories until we were both too scared to go out of the tent, even to take a leak.

I doubt either of us was sure if we should be embarrassed or afraid. I mean, we had been on a couple road trips before, but nothing quite this ambitious. Still, I know I at least thought we were accomplished enough to handle a three-day drive without too many problems. It bothered me that a simple wrong turn could steer us this far off course.

The sign said 86 miles to Eyrie, and 111 to Cove— yet another town that we couldn’t find on our map— and over much of that distance, I almost suggested several times that we go back to the last town and continue in the morning. To this day, I wish we had, though I’m not sure it would have made much difference. I think we were already in over our heads, but I didn’t think so then, and neither did my friend, since he drove on anyway.

Asleep at the wheel… that’s the best way I can come up with to explain it. We grabbed dinner in a town called Moriarty— which at least was actually on our map— and ate as we cruised down the highway, listening to our favorite mix tapes. Mark’s stereo had been our faithful companion on this journey, in spite of the rest of the Woody trying to fall apart under our asses. I have no clue when I first noticed the fog that had increasingly thickened after twilight, but now I felt lost, more so than the word itself can express. Now there was only the road, and we crept along with seemingly nothing beyond the headlights’ beams.

It really seemed that night that we could have driven right off the face of the earth, and I believe we did, in a way.

I don’t know how long we rode on in contemplative silence, the night seemed to go on forever.

Neither of us had bothered to restart the tape, so each of us was left to our own foreboding thoughts. I know I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Part of me wanted to tell spooky stories again— the only trouble was I was already as spooked as I had been that one night— but I also wanted to make light of the situation somehow. I was sure this was just another of those times when I had managed to give myself the hoodoos, and Mark and I would have a good laugh about it tomorrow.

Then again, at times like that I’ve always managed to convince myself that this time it was for real, that this time the everyday world I knew would start to unravel, and something vast and mysterious would unfold around me.

The main thing that struck me was that I couldn’t remember the last time a car had passed us in either direction, and that only served to add more to my growing sense of foreboding. I remembered telling myself, Well duh, who would be driving in this? Us. And to me, it felt like we were the last people on earth.

Mark made me jump when he finally spoke, saying, “Man, I don’t know if I can keep my eyes open much longer. What say we stop at this Eyrie place and see if they have a damn motel?”

I nodded my agreement. I knew what he meant; as eerie as it was out here, with everything drifting in out of the fog, it was also so quiet. At times I was almost certain this was a dream, and I was going to wake up to find that Mark had been driving all this time in silent boredom. Even when he turned the tape deck back on, it couldn’t quite drown out the underlying quiet.

A quiet that was finally shattered by the flashing lights that rushed out of the mists swallowing the highway behind us. Mark later told me he was so startled that he nearly hit the gas. That probably would have been a bad thing, but on top of what happened next, I don’t really see how it could have made things that much worse. I remember feeling an inexplicable need to be anywhere else but here at that moment.

Mark seemed to cruise for a moment or two in indecision, then he slowed down even more and pulled over.

I thought, Well, at least we can’t get busted for speeding. According to the speedometer, we had scarcely gone over 30 in this foggy weather. But as the Highway Patrol cruiser drifted by and halted right in front of us, I almost told Mark to punch it; all the alarms in the back of my mind were telling me this was bad news.

Mark was already fumbling for his registration papers as I watched the door open. When I saw the car visibly rise on its suspension, I expected a hulking brute of a state trooper, with a stern Southern sneer and dark glasses… but what I got had to be the very living stereotype of the fat police man.

The first thing he did after squeezing himself out of his car was hitch up his pants. Or at least he tried to. It was an admirable effort, and under other circumstances, I would have had to try harder to not laugh my ass off, but there was something about all this that just wasn’t funny.

I cracked my window as the stout cop leaned back into his car for something. In that moment, I wasn’t sure if I should lock my door, or be prepared to make a break for it, hell, Homer Simpson could outrun this pig! I had my window open all day— the only A/C we had— but it quickly cooled off after dark. That, and for some reason I just didn’t want that fog getting inside the car.

But in his haste to get his papers in order, Mark had neglected to stop the tape, and so as the highway cop talked on his CB, his words were drowned out by Zack de la Rocha’s fiery lyrical admonition to Know Your Enemy, and I couldn't make out a word he said. Though on the plus side, he didn’t haul out a shotgun, as I was half afraid he would. I still don’t get it— I’ve been pulled aside by officers before, but it had never felt this nerve-wracking.

He did pull out a flashlight, and the first thing he did with it was shine it right in our faces as he ambled over. His face became a growing scowl as he shifted the light down, and got a better view of the Woody and its host of opinionated bumper stickers with every step. He spent a long moment fish-eying what I suspect was Mark’s Bad Religion “cross-buster” sticker, among others.

Not even a “License and Registration” or a “Did You Know You Were…” speech from this guy.

“Turn that crap off, boy!” was the first thing he said to Mark, and I was glad it was him that jerk was talking to, because I was totally on edge by then. Though in the end I doubt it would have really mattered, Mark’s natural sense of diplomacy hadn’t failed him. He calmly reached over and killed the tape deck.

Now the silence was all too complete.

“Montana, eh?” the patrolman remarked as Mark offered him his driver’s license. “Seems like you’re a long way from home, boys.”

“We’re on vacation,” Mark told him. Though he kept a conversational tone, I could sense he too was getting nothing but bad vibes from this cop. “My uncle lives in Fort Sumner, and we’re coming down to stay for a couple weeks.”

“Well, that’s not a problem,” the cop said, “but I don’t think a couple kids like you should be out this late. ’Specially not in such bad weather.”

“Yeah,” said Mark, “actually, we were thinking about turning in for the night when we get to Eyrie. Do you know how much farther it is?”

The moment I heard him speak that name, I knew somehow it was a bad idea, but I had no time to warn him. Sure enough, no sooner had my friend finished speaking than an inexplicable look crossed the officer’s face, flickering too quickly through too many emotions for me to read, but underneath them all was fear. And I’m pretty sure I was the first to notice that he had put a strip of black tape over his badge number.

“Come again?” he asked, and this only made my memory of the signpost stand out even more sharply in my mind.

“Eyrie,” Mark repeated, and I winced, wishing there was some way to tell him not to do that. “That’s the next town, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what kind of stunt you’re trying to pull, kid, but you better knock it off now.”

He kept Mark’s license and shuffled back over to his car. Where he again got on the horn and started talking to someone.

I found a napkin from the burger joint we ate at in Moriarty, and fished a pen out of Mark’s glove compartment. Then I got out of the Woody, stepping out in front of it. If I couldn’t get a badge number, I was sure as hell going to take down his license and car numbers. I felt an overwhelming need for proof, I was sure whatever happened next was going to be hard for others to swallow.

Apparently, Mark also felt something was wrong, because he also got out.

“Hey, you two!” shouted the officer as he leaned back out of his vehicle. “Get back in your car! I didn’t say you could get out!”

“You didn’t say we couldn’t, either,” Mark calmly pointed out, and stretched his legs as I started scribbling down numbers.

I was also trying to commit them to memory because I was honestly afraid Officer Fatso was about to come over here and take my pen.

As I had feared, he started over in my direction, demanding, “Just what do you think you’re doing, boy?”

“Just taking notes, officer,” was all I could come up with, the old adage Know your enemy still echoing in my mind.

“There’ll be no need for that,” he told us, “because you’re comin’ back to Moriarty to spend the night.”

“But we’re trying to get to Uncle Larry’s by tomorrow,” Mark protested, for the first time starting to show just how much this guy was getting to him. Or maybe he had finally noticed the cop’s badge, as I had.

Somehow, over the course of that ill-fated argument, I had made my way over to Mark’s side, not wanting him to face this creepy cop alone.

“You’re gonna have to spend the night in Moriarty, boys,” he told us, and he stared hard at Mark, as if he was trying to stare him down somehow in some bizarre contest of wills, “then we’ll call your parents.”

I could tell my friend, as persuasive as he could ordinarily be, was having trouble holding out against the cop’s forceful gaze, and I tried to back him up, saying, “Officer, we haven’t done anything wrong. Just let us get to Eyrie, and we promise we’ll stop for—”

“Dammit, boy!” thundered the cop, who by now was turning positively livid, “There’s no such place as Eyrie!”

“But the sign back there said…”

To his day I don’t know why I brought it back up. I knew it seemed to mess with this guy on some level. My best guess is that if he had acted more rationally, we probably would have quietly gone along with him, to where and to what end I don’t know.

But pressing the issue could’ve been a mistake, for although it allowed us to see just how unstable he had somehow become, now the cop was also really pissed. He lunged at me, screaming, “I’ll teach you some respect, you little punk!”

Unfortunately, I had studied Karate for a couple years, and my training kicked in with as little warning as that fat highway cop’s attack. Perhaps if I hadn’t seen that ham-fisted haymaker coming from a mile away, things might have happened very differently. But I sidestepped him before I knew what I was doing. Even as I moved, I thought, oh shit! don’t hit him you’ll go to jail if you hit him!

I managed not to swing at him, but the damage was already done; everything was happening so fast. But the sound of breaking glass told me things had just gone from bad to worse. Before I even turned to face him, I knew he had just put his fist through the window, and I found a half-second in which to wonder at how old that model must be not to have tempered glass. I heard him scream a litany of his choicest words as he jerked his lacerated hand back.

I was trying to find the words to apologize to him— for dodging his unprovoked attack, of all things— when he turned and fixed me with a look of blazing hate, screaming incoherently.

And with that, he again telegraphed me long-distance with his other fist. And again I acted purely on instinct, shifting my center to avoid a second attack. This time, I had to pull a punch just a split second before I threw it.

I watched in horror as the cop’s fist smashed into the Woody’s doorframe with a wet crunch that sounded like breaking fried chicken bones.

All I knew was that things were getting way out of hand, and I couldn’t figure out how to stop it. This had quickly turned into one of those places in life where one cannot wholly account for ones actions. I know part of it was simple self-preservation. And perhaps part of it was also simple self-respect that drove me in this twisted confrontation, that on some level I showed a little pride in my fighting skills. That dammit, I didn’t train with Master Al for three years just to get bitch-smacked by some old man who was so fat he could hardly waddle. For all I know, he may once have been a great athlete… about thirty years and a hundred pounds ago. In that second I pitied him, but also knew he was a serious threat, of an inexplicable nature, and that I had to do what I did.

Once he had made his move, I was left with no other choice.

I watched warily as the cop staggered back, cursing and screeching, and everything he was doing to himself was getting us in deeper and deeper trouble. I was afraid that next he was going to somehow manage to draw his sidearm, and I had no idea how the hell I was supposed to defend against that. But that was when he paused in mid rant, clutching his chest with one bloody hand.

All this time, Mark had jumped back and watched in unabashed horror, and now I joined him as the highway cop bellowed and howled. His jowls shook as he stumbled back to his cruiser. Only to stagger and collapse on the hood, bottoming out the suspension to the point that the bumper nearly touched the asphalt!

It was then, as the officer lay gasping on the hood of his own ride, that Mark finally regained his mobility and rushed to help him. For my part, I ran over to the cruiser and picked up the CB mic. While Mark tried to piece together what he remembered of CPR, I shouted, “Officer down! Officer down! Send an ambulance to Highway 40! Near Eyrie! I think he’s having a heart attack! We need help!”

I don’t remember how long I screamed into the mic, but no matter which way I tuned it, I was only answered with silence.

“Who the fuck was he talking to!?” I demanded, throwing down the mic in abject frustration.

“It’s too late, man,” Mark told me in the most somber voice I ever remember him using, as well as a term I’d never heard anyone use outside of really bad hospital dramas, “he’s dead. I’m pretty sure it was cardiac arrest.”
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