Deadly Vacation


 It was the change of the day, October 6, and the fog was beginning to thicken on the stretch of road between Snohomish and Monroe.  Custodians of the night, Officers Millin and Jarvis, had just come on shift, at midnight.  They were cruising at a moderate speed, eyes and ears tuned to anything suspicious.  It had been a slow and uneventful evening the previous shift.  They were chatting about nothing in particular, laughing at nothing particularly funny, when they became aware of bright lights racing up behind them.
 “What the---“ Officer Millin said, turning just in time to see the car accelerate past them.  As the car completed the pass, it nicked the left front fender panel of the cruiser, causing Officer Millin to  swerve slightly before regaining control.  His hand found the switch to the siren, activating it instantly, but by then the car was heading into another universe.
 “We’ll never catch him,” his partner remarked.
 “Wanna make a bet?” Officer Millin replied, his right foot pouncing on the accelerator, the instant surge of power throwing both officers back against the seat.  Then they were off, their car cutting into the fog like the bulk of a speeding locomotive.  “Call it in,” Millin told Jarvis.
 “Call what in?” Jarvis asked, incredulous.
 The two men looked at each other.  Then Millin’s eyes went back to the road.  “Jesus, he must be doing at least 90!  And in this fog!”  His hands tightened on the wheel.  “What’s he got, a death wish?”
 “Maybe it’s Charles Bronson,” Jarvis said, trying to inject some humor into the situation.
 “Very funny,” Millin couldn’t help laughing, but most of his attention was on the road in front of him.  Fear was beginning to tie up his stomach.  He was starting to feel vulnerable, mainly because he couldn’t see what was ahead of him.  What if I hit someone, he worried to himself, knowing full well that it could happen.  And then, just as the thought occurred to him, the worry became a real one.
 The fog parted and lifted, revealing what was underneath---taillights.  “Shit!” Millin stepped on the brakes, causing the car to swerve dangerously toward the shoulder.  In less than a second, he had the cruiser under control, barely missing the car in front of him.  Instinctively, he knew it wasn’t the one they were after, so he steered around it, briefly wondering where the other car had gone.
 “Do you see him anywhere?” he asked his partner, his eyes scanning the fields around them.
 “No,” came the answer.  “Do you?”
 “No,” Millin shook his head.
 “Slow down a little,” Jarvis requested.  “I can’t see a thing.” The fog had come back.
 “Where the hell is he?” Millin asked, leaning forward to peer into the fog.  It had become so thick, he had slowed to almost a crawl.
 “It’s like he just disappeared into the fog,” Jarvis mused, his head turned toward the shoulder.
 “Impossible,” Millin remarked, looking around, seeing nothing.
 “Tell me about it,” Jarvis said, his hand reaching for the mic.  Keying it, he started to speak.  “Ten-oh-one to dispatch.”
 “Go ahead 10-01.”
 “Shh, quiet,” Millin said, as he opened his mouth to reply.
 “Just a moment, dispatch,” Jarvis said into the mic, then turned to his partner.  “What is it?”
 “Do you hear that?” Millin asked, his voice urgent.
 Jarvis listened for a moment, then nodded.  “It’s him.”
 Millin nodded, too.  “Yeah, but where is he?”
 He was beginning to turn his head, when he saw them, and they were the last things he would ever see.  Headlights, suddenly switched on inches from his door, coming fast. 
 “Oh, Shit!” Millin barely had time to scream; Jarvis didn’t, as the other car slammed into the cruiser.  The force of the impact sent the cruiser sliding across the road and onto the shoulder. The tires caught a ridge on the edge of an embankment, causing the car to go up and over.  Officer Millin was dead before it rolled the first time.
 “Ten-oh-one, what is your status?” the radio squawked, as the car came to rest on the lightbar.  But no one was there to answer it.

 Caralyn Stewart was on vacation.  She was driving east on highway 2, near Monroe, Washington, on that fateful October morning.  She was traveling about 60 miles per hour, when a car started to pass her, going very fast.  Just as the vehicle passed, she glanced out her window and observed two white males in the front seat of the car, but no one else.  The car passed, continued on its way.  Cara wondered where the cops were.
 About one minute later, she was startled to see flashing lights in her rear-view mirror.  But they weren’t after her.  She pulled off to the shoulder to let them pass, noticing that there were two male officers in the car.  They must be after the other car, Cara thought to herself.  “I hope they catch him,” she said out loud.  She pulled back onto the road, and continued on her way, checking her speed. 
 About four minutes later, she observed the speeding car passing her again, going west this time, but didn’t see the police car.  She was curious, but only for a moment.  She continued driving up the road, putting the speeding car out of her mind, not realizing they had pulled off the road somewhere behind her. 
 About two miles later, Cara instinctively slowed her car, her eyes catching a glimpse of something familiar glowing from the side of the road.  Sirens?  But she couldn’t see them.  Where are they?
 She pulled to the shoulder and stopped the car.  She got out of the car, walked to the edge of the shoulder, peered down the embankment into the dark, and gasped at what she saw.  Or thought she saw?  Not sure, she went back to her car, unlocked the trunk, and withdrew the flashlight she kept for emergencies, never thinking she’d ever have to use it.  She then walked back to the embankment, turned on the flashlight, and shined it down into the abyss.  The beam caught the outline of a vehicle, and as she realized what kind of vehicle it was, her stomach sank.  She took a step back, lowered the light, wrestled with her emotions.  She was in a situation that a lot of people probably would not like to be in.
 There were only two things she could do.  She could stay and investigate, or she could leave.  She really didn’t want to do either one, but the decision had to be made.  She was scared.  Taking a deep breath, she took a step forward.
 The embankment was rather steep, so she had to take it slowly.  She stumbled more than once on the way down.  Finally, she reached the bottom. 
 The cruiser lay a few feet away, but Cara wished it wasn’t there at all.  She paused, listening.
 “Hello!” she called, searching for a response.  “Are you okay?”  Please, she prayed, let them be okay.  Please don’t let me find what I’m afraid I’ll find.  “Hello?”  She took a step toward the vehicle; paused again.  She shined the flashlight where she thought the window was, bent down, peered in to see.  Just as she got close enough to see, the light caught the tattered face of one of the Officers.
 Crying out, Cara fell backward, losing her balance, and nearly dropped the flashlight.  She forced herself to get up.  Why would his face be tattered? She wondered, and where was the other officer?  Maybe he was thrown clear of the vehicle, she thought, sweeping the nearby bushes with the light.  He’s got to be here somewhere.  She heard him before she saw him; a low, painful sound from over there somewhere.  She walked toward the sound, no more prepared for finding him than she had been to find his partner.
 “Hello?” And then, she found him.
 She dropped to the ground beside him, played the light over his face and body.  His uniform was soaked with blood.  He didn’t look good at all.  In fact, he looked to be very bad.  He was conscious and in a lot of pain. 
 “Can you talk?” she asked him.
 She heard the noise at the exact same moment he did.  Both their heads turned at the same time.
 “Put out the light,” he whispered to her, his face wincing with the pain of the effort.  “And be very quiet.”
 She turned off the flashlight.  She didn’t speak.  She almost forgot to breathe.
 “Get down,” Cara heard him whisper again.  She sank down low into the surrounding grass.  The silence crushed down on them for what seemed like hours, then they heard someone speak.  A man.  Far away.  Maybe from the top of the embankment.
 “Is he dead?” 
 Then Cara jerked as she heard what sounded like a gunshot.  She had a hard time reminding herself not to scream.  The officer had jerked beside her, too.  She looked over at him.  His eyes were closed.  Had he died?  Then, slowly, his eyes opened and Cara sighed in relief.
 “He is now!” Another voice from much closer, just beyond the bushes.  “Where’s the other one?”  The same voice, more to himself than to his friend.  “Yoo hoo!  Officer!  Come out, come out, wherever you are!” A step.  Another step. 
 Cara felt the officer tense beside her.
 “I know you’re out there, little boy blue!”  Another step, then a pause.  “And your little girlfriend, too,” the voice mused.  “I smell a cat!”  Then he laughed, and Cara believed it was the most terrifying sound she had ever heard.
 “Somebody’s comin’, man!”  The voice from far away.  “Let’s go!” 
 “I know she’s out here!” the shooter called back.
 “Okay,” the other said back.  “She ain’t goin’ nowhere.  We’ll get her another time!  Let’s go!”
 The shooter snickered.  “Yeah.  Did you hear that, baby?  Don’t call us.  We’ll call you!”  Receding footsteps, a labored ascent, the sound of car doors slamming, burning rubber on the get-away, then silence.
 Cara lay there unable to move.  She was frozen with fear.  Her own breathing had become labored and fast.  She couldn't seem to calm herself down.  Then a noise, someone talking, burst into her subconscious.  Cara was afraid the man had returned, then she realized it was the police radio.  The radio was still working in the police car.
 "Radio---" a weak voice spoke beside her.  "Call---help---"
 Cara understood.  He wanted  her to use the radio to call for help.  Of course.  She moved with a purpose, then remembered the bloody body hanging upside down in the driver's seat.  She would have to reach across the body to get to the radio.  Or worse, she might even have to crawl into the car.  Cara paused, turning to the man beside her.  "I can't.  Your partner---"
 "Please---" he begged her.  "Please---only hope."
 She knew she had to do it.  She just didn't know if she was strong enough.  Or brave enough.  She looked down at the officer, felt the intensity of his pain, and made the right decision.  She lifted herself high enough to peek over the bushes, reassuring herself it was safe.  Then she ran to the cruiser.  She went to the passenger side first, to see if she could get to the radio from there, but she couldn't. 
 "That figures," she said out loud, and the sound of her own voice seemed to calm her a little.  She walked around to the driver's side, but she still couldn't bring herself to go for the radio.  You must, her inner voice said.  The officer needs help.  The voice on the radio  continued to reach out, wanting to know their status.  Taking a deep breath, she leaned into the car, across the body, and grabbed the mic.  She tried to ignore the body behind her.  She tried to pretend it wasn't real, just a Hallowe'en prank, a dummy with ketchup poured all over his body for blood, and that any second now, he would open his eyes, smile and say "Boo!".  If only pretending was easier.
 Cara spoke into the mic.  "Uh, hello?  Hello, are you still there?"
 "Yes," the voice responded.  "Who are you?"
 "My name is Cara. There's been an accident."
 "Are the officers involved?" the voice wanted to know.
 "Yes.  I think one of the officers is dead.  The other one is pretty bad.  I don't know how to help him.  He needs a doctor."
 "Okay, Cara.  Stay on the radio.  Help is on the way.  Do you know where you are?"
 "Somewhere on Highway 2."
 "East or West?"
 "West.  No, east."
 "Are you sure?"
 "Yes. East. Toward Monroe." 
 "Do you know the milemarker?"
 "No.  We're down an embankment.  It's hard to see from the road, but my car---"
 "What color is your car, Cara?"
 "What? It's red.  My car is red. I have to get back to him now.  He's hurt."
 "No, Cara, don't leave the radio.  Cara?"  But Cara was already back with the officer.
 His condition was deteriorating rapidly, and Cara didn't know what to do for him.  She wanted to make him more comfortable, but she didn't know how.  Out of compassion, she lifted his head, placed it gently on her lap, and held him.  Wanting to know his name, she looked down at his nameplate, but couldn't read it for the blood.  Reaching down, she wiped the blood away until she could just make out the name.  "Well, Officer Jarvis," she said, reading the name, "everything's going to be okay.  Your friends are on the way.  An ambulance too."  She actually smiled down at him.  "Don't worry.  I won't leave you.  I'll stay with you until they get here, okay?"
 He managed a weak smile, or was it a grimace of pain?  She couldn't tell.  "Partner--" he rasped.
 Cara stroked his hair, as a mother would to soothe a worried child.  "I know.  I'm so sorry about your partner."
 The officer started to shake in her arms, and knowing why, Cara held him closer, her gentle voice soothing him.  It was the least she could do.

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Novel / Novella
writing Authorgirl50BG
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mystery, suspense