“Watch the car,” said Andrew as he opened the door.
“I got the dog.” JR slid the crate behind him and put it onto the ground, Annie’s sweater, in the dry cleaner bag, still attached to it.
“Thank you,” she said.
“Shut up!” snapped the cop. “No talking.”
Annie gazed at him, exactly her height, five-feet eight, and in the continual circling of the red roof light, beat after beat, she glimpsed sideburns that extended to the bottom of his ear, and youth, alone in his patrol car but not alone for long; two more cars pulled up in front of her car, their red lights circling, beat after beat, and then simultaneously, one cop stepped out of each car, pulling on his hat, turning back to them, again as if in a dance, and this the chorus.
Only Chloe “talked,” in a soft whimper, as nervous, and as hungry, as any of them.
Each cop assigned himself to one potential perp. Annie and Andrew showed a driver’s license. The cop shone his flashlight into their faces, to make absolutely sure the photo matched, and then took the license back to his car. JR gave Sideburns a piece of paper.
“I don’t drive. Here’s my last pay stub. Last week. New York Harvest.”
“Worthless.” Sideburns, a head shorter than JR, crumpled it.
“Has my address on it. Last four numbers of my social.”
JR didn’t whine. He kept his speaking tone natural and showed no signs of bolting. Andrew breathed out in relief, wishing mightily that they had stayed on the main road. Here the street was darker, running alongside a sort of wooded DMZ where the high-schoolers smoked dope.
On the other hand, the street was narrower here, and drivers slowed to pass them. Just as a cop ordered Annie to open the car trunk, Andrew saw Steve drive by in his white Explorer; he took in Steve’s surprised frown.
Then Andrew attended to the car, his mind working overtime as to what they would do if the cops dropped drugs into the trunk, or the interior. Annie’s record was spotless, but his cover would be blown and who knew what JR did last week.
This cop, the tallest of the three, was being cool, not touching anything, ordering Annie to empty the trunk. She took the opportunity to pull Chloe’s crate out of the street, in back of the car next to Andrew, during the instant that Sideburns ordered her not to. Too late; she was now emptying the trunk, placing each item next to the crate.
Annie kept car stuff—Windex, paper towels, Chloe’s extra leash and plastic bags—in a framed, standup bag, which she now removed. In a second stand-up bag she kept her portable file of Observers.
The five men stood and watched for fifteen minutes as Annie removed things from the car, and then from the bags, and Chloe from her crate so that the tall cop could turn it upside down and shake it viciously; the dog bed fell onto the ground and Chloe’s yellow tennis ball rolled into the road.
“Stand back!” Sideburns snapped. Andrew and JR moved back exactly one step and then, within minutes, inched up again, watching, as the cop shone a huge flashlight into and onto everything.
In her fatigue Annie observed that the cops had been transformed into theater artists, in costume, and this event a performance piece, lit by three red strobe lights, in which you took every single thing out of the car, and then out of its container, and then out of your purse and your pockets; you named it and examined it, to try to ascertain what your story was.
And during all of it, the emptying of the glove box, the sifting through the newspapers, half of which had her byline on the front page, Annie was aware that if she were separated from Andrew she would know he could take care of himself, but they would have to rip Chloe from her arms. With that she picked up the dog and held her, resting her chin on the smooth triangle of Chloe’s head.
Out of the corner of his eye, Andrew had been watching the traffic until he saw the white Explorer again, returning to cruise slowly by the scene and then, having turned yet again, parking in back of Sideburns’s car.
One of the cops—they were all white, but otherwise the darkness, their hats, obscured a lot of detail—walked back to Steve and spoke with him briefly before returning. “Phone call,” he said.
“Tell him to make it somewhere else,” said Sideburns, and at that moment another car—Car 1—pulled in neatly, between Sideburns and Steve.
Well, thought Andrew. This chief that everyone gossiped about. I haven’t finished my research, Chief, but once I do, I want to talk to you.
Well, thought Annie. This meant that half of Schuyler’s police force was assembled right here. Either Wendy will defend me to the death, or fire me.
Shit, thought JR. Black man’s the police chief and it’s still a shithole, should put a spell on the whole damn town, but somebody already did.
Copyright (c) Debby Mayer