6 min read
Traffic Stop

by William Thomas

Fucking perfect. Detective Frank Abegnard looks up from the freshly scratched paint where he's been trying to jab his fucking key into the fucking lock on his fucking car. Like his first time with Ruth Anne, a thousand centuries ago. But we are not going there...

     Lieutenant Limp Dick (as he’s known behind his back) comes puffing up, lugging an extra 40 pounds like a sack of radioactive playground dirt. Abegnale doesn’t need the reminder. His own idiot daughter’s with those Greenpeace crazies over in Fuk-u-shima.

     The head detective half-turns to hide the abused door. He is not in what you would want to call a super great mood. Slap annoyance on top of big trouble, slather on some shame and rage, garnish with the beginnings of lifelong remorse and unemployment — and you got yourself a genu-ine gourmet shiteroo sandwich on wry…

     “Frank, I just heard,” gasps Lieutenant Larry Delacorte, slamming to a halt inside garlic-for-lunch range. “You did the right thing. Everybody knows that. Except those I.A. assholes who can't wait to get in your face and on your case.”

     “You don't even know what happened, LD.”

     “Sure I do. It's all over the station. How you stopped this guy, and he pulled…”

     Detective Frank Abegnard wearily holds up a hand. Surrendering to yet another unwanted conversation, he figures he might as well practice his story. Seeing as how his first attempt didn't go over that great with the captain...

     “I’m heading south over on fifth,” he recounts. “Near 17th and that Wal-Mart. Looks like a mothership?"

     LD nods like a chimp in the zoo eyeing a chocolate banana.

     “I spot this brand-spanking-new Beamer just ahead of me, weaving in its lane. I put on the flashers and he signals and pulls over.”

     The about-to-be-former head detective looks round to make sure his audience isn't growing. Not that it matters. Within an hour, whatever he tells Limp Dick will be all over the precinct. Unsuitably embellished, of course, with accumulated commentary included as free bonus extras.

     “The driver isn't a white guy. Maybe East Indian or Paki or 'bleached Iranian'. Like that. Not a visitor. Not an illegal. But a ‘murcan. You can always tell. That unstated arrogance: 'I belong not to the tribe on the hill, but the tribe that owns the fucking hill.’ You take my meaning.”

     “Sure.” LD is hanging onto every word like he's recording through his uniform cam. Which he, of course, is.

     “Turn that fucking thing off.”

     LD waves a hand. Click. “It's off, Frank. Sorry. Sometimes I forget.”

     And sometimes I’m Marilyn Monroe. “Like I was saying, this guy's clothes go with the car. Real nice suit. Tie. Understated, so you know it cost a mint. Expensive haircut that didn't come from a bowl and blunt scissors. If he'd been white, you wouldna looked twice. But a not white guy set up like that, you have to wonder. ‘Specially on a weekend.”

     “You're right. Don't make no sense.”

     “‘Can I help you, officer?’ he says, all innocent-like. Not, ‘What's the problem, officer?’ Not, ‘Did I do something wrong, officer?' Not, ‘Don’t shoot, I surrender!’ This dude is a popsicle in January."

     “'cept it's August.” LD is on the ball.

     “So right away I'm thinking somethin' stinks around here. And it ain't my deodorant.”

     “Booze? Drugs?”

     “I’m comin’ to that. I get my sniffer out, wave it around like I’m trying to find the right channel. It reads clean for alcohol, narcotics and pot. Maybe a twitch for Xanax. Which would explain why this stop ain't fidgety. I stow it and drop one paw onto my hand-cannon, all in the same move. There's somethin' bout this whole setup that doesn't feel right. At all.

     “Good thinking.”

     “Procedure. So, I tell him about all the lane changin’ without actual lane changin'. But pret' near. ‘You mean I was driving erratically, officer?’ Before I can smack him upside the head, he says, ‘I am sorry, officer. I was just looking for a address’.”

     “Where?” I says.

     “If I knew where it was, I wouldn't be looking for it, would I?” he says.

     “You tryin' to be a smart ass?” I says to him. “Or were you born that way?”  

     “I didn't mean it like that,” he says back.

     “I'm thinkin' I’m just about done with this comedy routine. He musta seen I'm 'bout to order him out of his ve-hicle, which nobody likes to do, right? Leave the security of their car. Because by the time both feet hit pavement, it feels like you're already on your way to lockup. He whips his right hand into this suit jacket and pulls out — starts to pull out... That's when I shot him: BAMMM!”

     LD jumps back. Grins sheepishly. “Jesus, Fra…”

     “It wasn't like on the range wearing ear protectors. The sound in that car was like the Earth collidin' with the moon. My ears are still ringing…”

     “There ain't no sound in space, Frank. Earth hits the moon, you wouldn't hear a thing. It's because there's this vacuum. All them outer space battles and explosions Hollywood spends billions to make ‘authentic’ should really take place in total silence. But who wants to pay twenty-six bucks for a fuckin’ silent war movie, am I right?”

     “You want to hear this, or not?”

     “I heard enough. Some slick homey draws down on you and you plug him first. What was he packing?”

     “A piece of paper.”

     Delacorte considers the most likely remaining offense that merits lethal force. “With an address on it.”

     “Now I know why you finally made detective.”

     “So, what address?”

     "Forensics is trying to figure that out. You ever see what explosively ejected brain matter does to a Post-It note?”

     “You shot him in the head? What was his story? I mean, before that.”

     The head detective expertly flips open his notebook, like he’s seen on all those cop shows. And frowns. His own scrawl is nearly illegible.

     “His wife says he'd just called her to say he decided, since he was in the neighborhood, to pick up some papers from a client. Seeing as how his office was closed for the weekend. But that wasn’t his original intention.”

     “Here it comes,” says LD, smiling for the first time. “Motive.”

     “Turns out this big shot attorney was going for ice cream. Which far as I know, ain't exactly a crime. Long as you pay for it. And probably not even then. This guy looks like he coulda bought the whole goddamn fucking Dairy Queen franchise. At least before I parked one in his ear."

     “Damn, Frank. No wonder you sound stressed. You shot a big shot. And he's not even white.”

     “That's when I heard the little girl crying.”


     “In the backseat. His daughter. Maybe three. She starts screaming like one of those Iraqi kids in the car my guys shot to cheese at a checkpoint we was ordered to set up in their own neighborhood, while this family was out visitin' grandma.”

     “Stop right there.”

     “How were they supposed to know that just driving home down a familiar street made them look like suicide bombers? How were we supposed to know that sticking up your hand, palm out, to get them to stop means ‘come on ahead’ in raghead? When the M60 stopped firing, their old Datsun looked like a colander oozing blood and body parts.”

     “Jesus, Frank. This sounds like déjà voodoo all over again.”

     This little girl was expecting ice cream. She hadn't got up that morning thinking her daddy's brains was gonna get splattered all over her face like at some fucking U.S. Gyrene roadblock in downtown Baghdad!"
“Shit, Frank. Was she hurt?”

     “Not a scratch. Not unless bein' psych-logically fucked up for life counts as bein' ‘hurt’.”

     LD was lapping it up. “God, Frank. This brings it all back. You must feel like shit.” He grins and catches himself. Switches quickly to a frown.

     “No, I feel great, LD. Top of the fuckin’ planet. Everything's so damn ducky, I think I'll grab a couple burgers and a six-pack of Johnny Walker on the way home and have me a party with the wife.”

     “Gun and badge?” LD doesn't do irony.

     “You got it. Suspended without pay or parachute.”

     “When's the hearing?”

     “Preliminary's tomorrow. By his time mañana, guy's wife and family and this whole damn city will be screamin’ for my head.”

     “That's nuts.”

     “Them, too.”

     “You for sure qualify for trauma counseling with that hot brunette down in…"

     “I waved it. What’s she supposed to say, ‘You all right’?”

     “But you didn't know. What were you supposed to do? Wait ‘til he sticks a .357 in your gob? Then say, ‘Pardon me, sir. I would appreciate it if you didn't poke that thing in my teeth. And I would 'specially be grateful if you didn't fucking pull the fucking trigger’.”


     Yes? That means every cop in this city is already dead. Or might as well be.”

     “Now you're getting it.”

     “Somebody pulls a weapon on us and we're just supposed to…"

     “Wasn't a 'weapon', LD. It was a piece of paper.”



     “So. He’s dead.”

     “What do you think?”

     “What about the car?”

     “The what?”

     “Any damage to the Beamer?”

     “You mean like for the police auction?”

     “Well, yeah. I guess. A little.”

     “We didn't seize the goddamn car, LD. He didn't commit no crime. His family'll get it back when the hearing's over and I've been fucked. Though not as fucked as that dead daddy.”

     “Does Ruth know yet?”

     “Oh, sure. I called her right away with the good news: 'Guess what, honey? Your old man just shot some little girl's dad dead, right in front of her. What say we go out and celebrate. Then come home, tear off each other's clothes — mine are a little bloodstained, anyway – and have wild sex!"

     “Geez, detective. You don't have to get on my case. I didn't shoot the bastard. You're gonna be fine. You know that. Internal Affairs won't dare go after you and send the message that us cops can't defend ourselves in a fucking war zone.”

     “You just said I was gonna get ‘fried’.”

     “Yeah, well. I got a little emotional there. You may come out a little crunchy. But you ain't gonna lose your badge. Cops always get off. We have to. Or all we got left is the barbarians ownin' the streets. And every one of them armed to the yin-yang.”

     “LD, I'd surely love to stand here jawing with you for another hour or two. But I need to get in my car — this here one I'm leaning on — and drive to home on hell. I mean drive to hell — you get what I mean.”    

     “Sure, detective.” LD holds up both hands. “Get goin’. And, hey, have yourself a great evening, hear?”

Photo Captions:

What did I do? -Shutterstock.com