PG-13 - mild language and mature themes
“You can't be serious.”
Officer Lentz is sitting in the darkness of his patrol car. Even now, well after the late summer sunset, he keeps the AC at full blast to keep the central California heat at bay. In full uniform, the AC usually keeps up, barely. He tries to limit his summer shifts to a single shirt change per day, mid shift. But ten minutes with the heat from his cell phone, and the heat from the conversation, has tipped the scales. He can feel the sweat on his ear and his cheek, and as he tries to formulate an answer to the woman's questions, he feels the first droplets roll from his armpits down the moguls of his rib cage.
“Hot, naked sluts, Jason? That's what you want? Hot, naked sluts?”
He'd been watching porn for years at home, since before they were married. In all of those years, he'd never left a session without clearing his search history.
In twelve years.
“I don't know what to tell you, Amy.”
“Tell me it isn't true. Tell me this is a bug, some computer virus, or that you got hacked. Tell me one of your friends is pranking you... one of your middle-school-minded, jobless, video-game-playing moron friends. Tell me...”
He switches ears. When the air hits the hot, sweaty place where the phone had been pressing, and Amy's voice trails off into a distant, indecipherable murmur as the phone switches ears, he enjoys two seconds of peace.
A car races by heading north. When it sees the patrol car, it slams on its brakes. The radar says 76 mph. 76 in a 55 zone is something officer Lentz would normally hit the lights for.
He looks down at the phone, then back to the car. The lights slowly disappear into the night.
“You get a pass, jackass,” he mumbles, placing the phone over his other ear.
“... without thinking my husband watches porn and jerks off one room away from his two-year-old daughter!”
Another car, more red hot brake lights. 75.
A drop of sweat licks its way down his spine.
“Amy, I'm working, we can talk about this tomorrow.”
The droplet glides across his lower back and soaks into the elastic band of his briefs.
“Oh Jesus, Jason, Jesus. Horny teen's ass slammed again and again. Jesus Christ, what...”
“Are you looking at my laptop right now? He asks.
Another car, no brake lights.
“Yes I'm on your laptop right now. It's our laptop, now. I'm going to keep looking through what you've been doing. You're going to show me everything you do on it from now on. This is terrifying, Jason. These girls are so young. There is no way they are all over 18.”
Another car, southbound. 72.
His free hand grips the steering wheel.
“I have to go,” he says.
“How long has this been going on?” Amy asks. She's starting to cry now.
“We'll talk about it later. Right now, I have to go.”
“How could you, Jason? I just... how could you do this?”
The road is dark in both directions. It is rare to see long stretches with no traffic, especially before midnight. There are no cars to chase, and for a brief moment Jason considers waiting for an actual speeding stop so he can hang up without lying to his wife.
He shakes his head and looks at himself in the rear view mirror. He has to laugh.
“Ok, hon, on a stop. I'm hanging up.”
She yells and tries to get him to stay on the phone but he finally commits. He puts the phone down and turns the now hot and sweaty cheek and ear toward the AC vents.
Yes, I watch porn on my computer, yes. Wow, well done, you caught me, one of the billions of men who watch porn.
If you only knew.
The radio chatter catches his ear. Code ten? He double checks his memory. It seems unlikely.
Is it possible that there has been an actual bomb threat?
He is paying attention now. His memory served him well, code ten means a bomb threat, and there has been a bomb threat at Buchanan High School. It's a strange threat to make at 10:30 on a Saturday night, but would still be more fun than traffic on the rural stretch of highway 41 north of Fresno. Almost anything would be better than this. Any officer who gets this duty knows why. Jason knows why he's here.
While concentrating on the communications about the bomb threat, Jason doesn't notice the headlights in his rear view mirror. It isn't until the roar of the car's engine gets within fifty feet and the building wave of chaotic noise washes over the patrol car that he notices the headlights at all. The wind force shakes the cruiser as the car speeds on. The radar gives its reading, a hot red 94 mph.
Jason hits the lights and calls it in.
Nearly all of the other speeding cars lit up their brake lights upon seeing the parked, idling cruiser ready to catch them. Most of the speeders had been going between 70 and 80 mph. By the time Jason got his lights on and his cruiser up over 60, the red BMW already had a quarter-mile lead. The brake lights never shined.
Jason pushes the pedal down and calls for assistance. Someone going almost 100 miles per hour might not want to stop and talk to a police officer. He gets an answer, affirmative, but being this far out of town means an ETA of up to fifteen minutes. He stays on the pedal.
He can tell he is gaining. The BMW's brake lights still haven't glowed their red warning, but the driver has obviously let off the accelerator and is trying to slow down.
“You messed up now,” Jason says. The roar of his own engine fills the cabin of the cruiser. All the frustration over being assigned to this nothing street slip away. The annoyance of knowing he was going to have to talk to his simple, nagging wife about internet porn gets lost in this new storm. He is on a chase, an actual high-speed chase. He might be about to pull over drug runners, or kidnappers with someone tied up in the trunk. They might be armed. They might stop their car and immediately open fire with machine guns. He quickly imagines a gun fight. He imagines taking the two men out while sustaining minor, yet heroic injuries. He imagines the commendation, the news stories, and the paid time off. He imagines using the heroism to his advantage.
What could Amy say after her hero husband saves a kidnapped girl from sex traffickers?
“Do you have any idea what I do out on these streets?” he yells at the windshield. “No, of course you don't, you're here living in the safety I provide you, in the air-conditioned comfort I provide you. I'm out here in high speed chases, being shot at by murderers and drug dealers, just so I can come home to your nagging and yapping. I'm making moves out here, I'm risking my life, and yeah, Amy, I build up a little stress catching bad guys and getting shot at and nearly dying out here, so when my wife doesn't want to have sex with me for two weeks, I watch porn and jerk off. I wouldn't have to do it if you would do what wives are supposed to do.”
Brake lights. The red glow rips Jason from his tirade and he hits his brakes hard. The car is slowing now, and it looks like they are pulling over carefully and safely.
And legally. Turn signal and all.
Jason relaxes his grip on the steering wheel. They've pulled over but no one is getting out of the car, no one is firing at him with an assault rifle or a twelve-gauge. He shines the spotlight in through the BMW's back window. There appear to be two passengers, a male driver and a female passenger. He waits, holding his breath. He doesn't hold his breath long. The rush of the chase jacked his heart rate up and he is suddenly panting, sucking in air to feed the muscles his brain thinks he might need for a fight or for flight. He catches himself, remembers his training. He notes the license plate on the BMW and takes three long control breaths.
Amy, I'd love to see you out here on these roads, chasing people down and upholding the law.
The MDT tells Jason the car is registered to a Miguel Duran. No warrants, no other moving violations.
This guy drives a red BMW M6 Coupe over 90 miles per hour and has a clean driving record?
Jason slides out of the car. He had been sweating in the car with the air conditioning turned up, now out in the heat he knows he will be soaking his undershirt. He's going to have to change shirts in half an hour or so, which means he'll have four shirts to wash when he gets home in the morning and he's pretty sure Amy isn't going to do it for him. More heat, more sweat, more work on these lonely back roads. And he's going to have to do this all for a couple of joy-riding, moron yuppies. It is obvious there won't be any shooting or rescuing from these two. They're just another set of rich entitled assholes that think they can drive their BMW as fast as they want because they're rich entitled assholes.
People like me are out here protecting the community from morons like this, and worse, and they're going to endanger lives on a joy ride because they're so very very important? Not today, not on this stretch of road.
I hope they try to bribe me.
I hope they mouth off and I get to arrest them.
I hope they resist arrest.
The BMW's taillights are still lit. The man in the driver's seat still has his foot on the brake and the car is still on. Aided by the cruiser's spotlight, Jason can see that the man is smiling at the woman in the passenger seat. As Jason gets to the rear bumper of the car, he can see that the woman is trying to keep from laughing. She is sputtering out of her mouth, her eyes shut in an attempt to shield her brain from something entirely too funny to handle right now. She is probably drunk, Jason thinks, or high.
“Please let them be high,” he mutters.
His flashlight is out. His shines it over the side view mirror, then to the steering wheel. Miguel Duran, if this is him, has his hands on the wheel. As Jason approaches he can hear music playing inside the car.
“Roll the window down and turn the car off, please,” Jason says.
A Latino man, maybe late twenties or early thirties, smiles back. Jason rolls the flashlight clockwise, telling the man to roll the window down. As it rolls down, the music escapes and blasts out into the hot California night. The driver is still gripping the steering wheel when Jason's flashlight shines across the dashboard and into the man's face. The driver is biting his lip and shaking his head in short, violent twitches. He is trying to get the woman beside him to stop laughing, but it isn't working.
“Cut the car off, sir!” Jason yells. “Now!”
“What?” the man yells, squinting into the glare of the flashlight.
Jason's hand goes to his gun. He would feel the sweat from his palms on the hardened plastic of his Glock 17, is he wasn't numb with adrenaline and rage. He wants a reason to pull it.
“Cut the car off, now!”
“Sorry officer,” the man says, pulling his hand away from his mouth just long enough to get the words out. After he says it, he turns the car off and slams his hand back over his lips, shushing whatever words are trying to blurt their way out.
The woman sputters again.
“Just so you both are aware, when a law-enforcement officer pulls you over, you should turn the car off immediately. When the officer walks up to your window, you should probably turn your music off, don't you think?”
The man nods, short rapid nods, eyes closed. His mouth is still covered but he nods and nods and nods.
“License and registration, sir,” Jason says, “and keep your hands where I can see them. Both of you.”
The woman doesn't look up. Her eyes are shut tight as she raises her hands over her head. They go up straight, like she is under arrest, but when her hands ram into the ceiling, she lets out a woop and then giggles again. Her hands stick to her hair and the driver tries to shush her, but joins her in giggling uncontrollably instead.
Jason isn't giggling. These two are obviously drunk or high or both, and he knows he won't have to ask too many questions before deeming them intoxicated enough for a sobriety check and a trip to the station. He thinks about making the cuffs a little too tight. He imagines forcing the man into his cruiser with maybe a little more force than is necessary. He thinks about escorting the woman by the waist, or maybe just below the waist. He can already imagine the feel of her ass as he pushes her along, the feel of her breasts as he turns her to sit in the cruiser beside the driver.
Maybe he will search her for drugs and weapons.
Maybe he will have to be extra thorough.
She could be hiding God knows what under that tight dress.
“I'm sorry, I am sorry, your honor. Oh yes, of course of course. I'm sorry.”
The car's engine goes quiet. All that is left is the clicking of the now cooling metal in the over-worked engine.
“I'm sorry, officer, I couldn't hear...”
“Keep your hands where I can see them unless I ask you to move them, understand?”
“Yes, yes, my friend, I understand.”
“Keep your hands on the wheel,” Jason says.
“Yes, yes sir, yes officer, I will keep them right here for you.”
With the man's accent it is hard to tell if his phrasing is strange because English is not his first language, or because he is drunk or high.
Or if he is mocking the whole exchange.
Jason doesn't like any of the options.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?” Jason asks. It is a stupid thing to ask, but Jason likes it, just likes the sound of it coming out of his mouth. He also enjoys the look on people's faces when they think about their answers. There is power in asking a question when the answer couldn't possibly be good enough.
The man hands Jason a driver's license: Miguel Duran, thirty-two years old, address in Fresno, California.
“I am sorry, officer, was I speeding?” he asks.
“Were you speeding? Unless the speed limit on this stretch of highway is ninety-four miles per hour then yes, I'd say you were speeding.”
Miguel's head droops. He lets out a low moan and shakes his head. The woman giggles again.
“I'm going to need your registration and proof of insurance, Mr. Duran.”
“Yes, of course, of course,” Miguel says, nodding. Even when he stops talking he is still nodding. “Lisa, can you...” Miguel points toward the glove compartment, “the registration, and...”
His voice stops, cut off suddenly by a burst of air from his nose that he tries to stop. But he can't stop it and a short giggle bursts from the back of his throat. The woman, Lisa, fails to fight back her giggles and she laughs toward the glove compartment.
“Is there something funny about this that I'm missing?” Jason asks, now shining the flashlight on Lisa's face.
“No, your honor,” Miguel says, biting down on his smile.
“You seem to think this is a game. Do I look like I'm playing games?”
“No, sir,” Lisa echoes. She has managed to find the registration and proof of insurance cards. As she hands them to Miguel, she puts her head down and folds her hands over her mouth.
“I don't think it's funny that you two are out here driving almost a hundred miles an hour while drunk or high or whatever you are. People die on this road every week. I get to help pull dead men, women, and children out of mangled steel cages every single week. Is that you? Is that who you are, Miguel?”
“Isn't it hot in that uniform out here?” Lisa asks. Miguel's hand goes to her thigh but she brushes it off. “It's probably all sweaty under there, huh?”
Jason steps back. His hand moves back to his pistol. His normal means for taking psychological control of a situation aren't working. He considers warning them again. He considers getting out the taser on the other side of his belt. He considers executing an arrest right now.
You want to play games with me?
“What, what? I was just thinking about how sweaty he must be.” Lisa ducks down so she can look up into Jason's eyes. “I like sweaty men,” she says, grinning.
“Stay here, don't leave the vehicle and don't start the vehicle. Do you understand?”
They both nod.
As Jason walks back to his cruiser, he can hear them let go of their stifled giggles. They both sputter their laughter out of tightly closed lips before sucking in enough air to let loose with full force laughter. Jason sighs relief as he closes his door into air-conditioned cool and quiet. He lets the air blow directly into his face, feels the sweatier areas cool more quickly.
Miguel Duran and Lisa whoever are driving the vehicle they own. Miguel has no warrants and no criminal history. Jason decides what he will do: he will write Miguel a ticket with the maximum fine. He will offer this news and if Miguel shows any kind of resistance, even the slightest sass or disregard for Jason's authority, Miguel will be arrested and will spend the night in lock-up.
Please give me a reason.
He writes the ticket. When he opens the cruiser door he can hear music. Miguel turned the car back on and they are listening to music. As Jason gets to the car, Miguel is rolling up the window.
Looks like you just gave me a reason.
Miguel and Lisa are both sitting up straight and staring out of the front windshield. They are both trying hard not to laugh. When Jason hits the driver-side window with his flashlight, they both look over at him. They look back and forth from him to each other, feigning their surprise that someone, especially a police officer, is standing at their car window.
Miguel rolls down the window.
“Good evening, officer, what seems to be the problem?”
Lisa loses it. She slumps against the passenger door and is laughing hard enough to be bouncing her head off of the window. Tears are streaming down her cheeks and she slaps blindly at Miguel's leg, punishing him for making her laugh so hard.
“You know,” Jason says, “I was going to simply write you a ticket – a big, expensive ticket – and then let you be on your way. I was trying to be nice. But you two don't seem to respond to nice. So maybe you'll respond to this.”
Jason removes the handcuffs from their holster on the back of his belt.
“Mr. Duran, keep your hands where I can see them and please step out of the car.”
Lisa's laughing continues.
“Oh, Miguel, uh oh, I think you're in trouble now,” she says.
“You think so?” Miguel asks.
“You're cruisin' for a bruisin'.”
This sets them both off again. Miguel's head goes forward and he laughs into the steering wheel and Lisa slumps back against her window.
“Step out of the car now or I'm going to taze you,” Jason says.
Miguel continues laughing. “Oh no, oh no, please... please, don't taze me bro!”
More laughter from Lisa.
Jason draws his sidearm and points it, two-handed, through the window at Miguel's face.
“Get out of the car!” he yells.
Lisa is still laughing. Miguel is smiling up at the pistol.
“Get out of the car, now!”
“Oh Jason. Oh sweet, sweet Jason,” Miguel says, wiping the tears from his eyes. “Mi pequeno.”
How does he know my name?
“I can't get out of the car just now.”
I didn't tell him my name.
In fact, I think you would prefer it if I stayed here.”
“My name to you is officer and you have three seconds to get out of the car and put your face on the ground!”
Miguel and Lisa stop laughing. They look at each other, lips tight, eyelids low, almost bored. Lisa slowly shakes her head and sighs.
Miguel turns: “Jason, you aren't going to arrest us tonight. I know that probably sounds strange as you are used to telling the people what they are doing and not the people telling you what are you doing? Yes, is this right? You are used to telling the people in cars to stop and to slow down. You are used to telling the people to put their hands up?”
“I said three seconds! Three...”
“You are used to being the boss, yes?”
“Used to your power?”
“Like with those little girls you visit?”
Jason's grip on the Glock loosens. The barrel dips. He hears a thunder rising from behind him, from beside him, booming in closer and closer. It's the storm in his chest. It is the thundering of his heart. He can feel every pump, each valve and chamber in his heart, the rush of blood in and the pressing of blood out. He can feel it pulsing up through his neck, thumping into the collar of his uniform. The collar is suddenly tight, tightening, and the vest is crushing him and his gear belt is squeezing the life from his legs and his is suddenly a hollow shell of the powerful policeman he was seconds ago. Over the ringing in his ears he is barely able to hear Miguel's next sentence:
“You are a man who enjoys saying things that people have to do.”
Who are you?
He steadies the gun.
“We know this. We understand this. This is a very common thing, we have found. I think it is very natural for you, a man, to feel this way. I think it is very natural for you to want to be the boss, to want to be a big boy. Jason Lentz wants to be a big boy, mi gran muchacho, yes? Right now, even though you have your uniform and your fancy belts and your car and your gun, you still don't feel like a big boy?”
The little girls. How could he know about the girls?
“You like to roar, yes? Roar, like eh, um... it is the, it is how you say leon? Leon?”
“Lion,” Lisa offers.
“Oh yes, the lion. Jason, you are like a lion. You have your big mane and your big teeth and your big roar, RAWR!” Miguel raises his hands and hooks his fingers into claws. “You are a big, scary lion, yes? Doesn't he look like a big, scary lion?”
“He does,” Lisa says, nodding, “very scary.”
“Very scary. We like you, Jason Lentz. We like scary men in their police uniforms. This is why you are not dead. This is why I don't cut off your legs and send them to your mother, Kathy. This is why I have not visited your wife Amy, or tu nina. What is your little girl's name, again?”
He knows me, he knows Amy, he knows Bethany.
“Bethany,” Lisa says, pulling a small picture from her bag.
“Oh yes, yes of course. Bethany,” Miguel says, smiling at the cute little girl in the picture. “She is very pretty, una hermosa nina.”
Jason grips the pistol tighter and steps forward. The barrel is in the car now, inches from Miguel's face. Miguel turns toward it and smiles.
“Do you know anything about lions, officer Jason Lentz?” Miguel asks, looking back at Bethany's picture. “Male lions, when they defeat the main lion of a pack, of a... pride, they do something very interesting with the little cubs. Do you know what they do with the little cubs?”
Miguel holds up the picture and tilts it back and forth, dancing Bethany around in front of the gun.
“I heard that the male lion will kill all of the little baby lions, the little cubs, in the whole pride. He will kill the babies so he can make all the babies. He wants the babies to be only his babies. Isn't that mean? Nature is very mean, sometimes.”
Miguel hands the picture back to Lisa.
“You are a strong young lion, officer Jason Lentz. You are strong but you are young and you don't understand the ways of this world. I must tell you that there are other lions out here, in the dark wild. There are other lions out here bigger then you, stronger than you. You know, with much sharper teeth and bigger claws. They are hungry, and I would guess that you don't want them to kill you and eat your pequeno cachorro de leon... your little lion cub.”
Jason steps back. He keeps his grip but points the pistol down at the ground.
“You are a man who likes little girls. You have found someone who can give you little girls, and yet here you are stopping people from driving too fast. You are young and silly, which is fine. But now you know. Now that I have told you how silly you are, you will listen to me. Are you listening, huh? Are you listening to me, officer Jason Lentz?”
I'll kill you. I'll kill you all!
“Jason!” Lisa yells, “Jason, Bethany would very much like you to listen, okay?”
“Thank you, Lisa, now I think he is listening. Jason... there will be times when I must tell you to do something. You will be told when it is necessary. You may be asked to act, and you may be asked to not act. You may be asked to stop others from acting. If you look at me now, you need to look into my eyes and tell me you will do all of the things I ask you. I know it will be hard to accept this new position. I know it will be hard to know you are not in control, but don't let it bother you. Accept this. Accept that we are in control. If you accept this and do as we ask, you can continue to do many of the things you like to do.”
Lisa holds out another picture. There is a young girl on a bed. The man in the picture has a very similar silhouette to Jason. She flips out another one. Jason's face is much clearer in this one.
“Not all of the things you like, however.”
“If you touch another little girl,” Lisa adds, “I will cut your throat. If you don't do what you are told, I will cut your wife's throat. I will watch her bleed out, gasping for air, whispering your name. Do you want your little girl to end up an orphan, to end up on the street? Do you want her to end up like these girls, sold from man to man? She would fetch a high price.”
Lisa is giggling again when she asks Jason if he understands.
Miguel continues: “It is a lot, yes? It is a lot to think about. Your whole life has changed in a few moments. This must be hard to deal with it. We understand. But you must deal with it. You have learned how life is. You are not a little boy anymore.”
Lisa puts Bethany's picture back in her bag.
“I'm bored,” she says.
Miguel shrugs. “Women, yes? Very hard to please, but even harder if you don't please them. You should do your job and then go home to your wife, officer Jason Lentz. You should go home and try to please her. You know what I think would please her? If she never knows any of the things we've talked about tonight. If you don't want to tell her about our conversation, then we won't have to tell her about your conversations with those little girls. Yes, what do you say, officer Jason Lentz?”
Jason is still holding the Glock. He can see his arms rise, he can see shots tearing through Miguel and Lisa. He can see the car burning on the side of the road. He can see himself driving home to Amy and Bethany and driving away, to another town, another state, another country.
He can also see Amy lying face down on their kitchen floor, face down in a pool of her own blood. He can see himself running to Bethany's room, running through the house screaming her name, unable to find her. He can see police lights and sirens coming for him, can see his courtroom, his prison cell, and the violent death that would come to him there.
Miguel turns the BMW on and the engine revs twice. He rolls the window up until there are only two or three inches left and stops.
“Have a good evening, officer Jason Lentz. Be good, little lion. Be good.”
The BMW drives away. Jason watches it go, watches the lights get closer together and smaller and smaller until finally, there is only dark highway before him. He could still go after them, but he doesn't. He could report this to detectives, or take it to the Chief of Police. As quickly as the thoughts come, they go. They don't merit a second thought. He knows they didn't merit a first thought.
He doesn't know how long he stands there watching. Other cars pass by occasionally, many of them speeding. That doesn't matter. Not anymore.
When he returns to his cruiser, he sits in the cool winds of the air-conditioning. He doesn't feel the air on his skin. He doesn't hear the calls from the station. He doesn't notice the flashlight tapping on his window. It's the back-up he called for, but it doesn't matter. He will not write any more speeding tickets tonight. He will not engage in a high speed chase or place anyone under arrest. He will return home to his wife, to his little girl, and never feel in control of his life again.