Accelerating to 60 miles per hour after whipping around the corner in a residential area, police lights flashing and sirens blaring close behind him, and he was having the time of his life.
He’d never felt so alive. No, that was a lie. He had the same feeling the last time this happened, a couple months ago. In fact, before he went to prison, he’d experienced the feeling on a regular basis. It was a perk that balanced the occupational hazard of jail time. And he loved it.
The pull of gravity that forced his chest into the seat belt as he abruptly decelerated. The squeal of the tires as he rounded the corner. The satisfying clicking his brain when he downshifted from forth to second gear, tapping the brakes and stomping on the gas pedal at the right moment, shooting down the next street from a near-standstill position to 30 miles per hour almost instantaneously; shifting into fourth gear; 40 miles per hour. The smell of the transmission being overworked. All this made him smile.
Drive it like you stole it, as they say. And he did. Because it was.
He tried to eliminate distractions as best he could. The windows were rolled up and the music was on full blast to muffle the noise of a siren. The rearview mirror had been flipped around, facing the windshield to remove the urge he had to stare into it, watching the cop cars trail after him.
A cigarette burned in his right hand, the ashes falling into his lap every time he took a drag. It was down to the filter,so he blindly fumbled with the pack on the passenger seat, removed a fresh one, and lit it with the butt of the previous one. Chain-smoking was a routine ritual that held a highly prioritized position in his auto-theft repertoire; it brought him peace and, oddly enough, lowered his heart-rate.
If it wasn’t for the police car chasing him, he’d seem like any other driver on the streets who might occasionally express their road rage through an aggravated driving style. Speeding through stop signs perfectly timings of running the red lights, narrowly missing children that were playing in the street, all were part of the experience.
Acquired skills like these were what separated him from the joyriding amateurs heard about in newspapers; the ones that get caught or sideswipe another car killing the other driver. He’s been caught before, but never has anyone become hurt because of a miscalculation on his part.
From the passenger seat his phone rang. He turned down the music- gaze still glued to the road - and plucked the cell phone off the passenger seat, where it had been strategically placed within reach, next to the cigarette pack. It was his parole officer.
I probably shouldn’t answer this.
After clearing his throat, he answered.
“It’s Josianne, your paroles officer. I’m calling to remind you that you need to come in today before 4:30 for your appointment. You were late last week and I need to be somewhere at 5 so I need you to be there by 4:30 or I’ll have to sanction you.”
The digital clock on the dashboard showed that it was only 10:30 a.m.
Plenty of time. "Not a problem. Already spoke to my boss, and he’s sending out a break flagger to relieve me so I can make it on time.”
He must’ve slowed down while on the phone because when he looked to the right to check for traffic before running another stop sign, he saw the hood of a police cruiser.
“Also, I see that-...wait, are those police sirens?”
“Yup. Police chase just passed our traffic cones. I gotta get back to work. See ya at 4:30.” He hung up, threw the phone on the passenger seat, shifted into neutral, and hit the brakes.
He squealed to a stop just before the intersection. The cruiser kept going and the moment it cleared the length of of the car he was driving,he shifted, hit the gas and peeled out, turning right,nearly clipped the cruiser’s tail-end. After executing the videogame-inspired maneuver with near perfect precision, he glanced down the road he’d come from and noticed that another cruiser had joined the chase. It was barreling down the road and would be at the intersection in a few seconds. Since the only traffic in his way was a light grey mini-van puttering along about a hundred feet down the road from him, he put the pedal to the metal, and by the time he switched lanes to pass, he was back up to 60 miles per hour.
He looked at the driver of the mini-van as he sped past and a wide-eyed, bleach-blonde teenage girl stared back at him. He waved. She didn’t return the gesture.
Kids these days.
Pulling back onto the right side of the road before going through the next intersection (the light was green this time, all systems go). He flipped the rear-view back around and saw that the second cruiser had barely turned the corner. A few more stop signs ran, a couple quick turns, and the sirens quieted.
Police chases gave him a ravenous appetite, so after he was a safe enough distance away from the opportunity to don his least favorite type of wrist accessory (handcuffs), he pulled into one of the many fast-food joints that littered the area. He went inside, ordered, got his food, and sat in a booth situated where he could keep an eye on his recently-acquired automobile. It was a 2015 black Honda Civic. New and shiny. Luck had been on his side when he came across it that morning.
He had been walking to the day labor place down the street (where recently released prisoners have the opportunity to become minimum-wage traffic flaggers) a place that was temporarily tolerable because the job satisfied the conditions of his parole agreement, when he saw the car pull up to the Santiago’s across the street from his building. The driver got out and went inside.
The smoke that continued to puff from the tailpipe grabbed his attention and without looking around so as not to appear suspicious, he slid inside the vehicle and calmly drove away. Good thing, too; rent was due, and standing in the middle of the road while cars sped close enough for the drivers to spit in your face, wasn’t paying outside the walls what they told us they were paying inside the walls.
So he’d headed south down Main Street, stopping at the red light after pulling away from Santiago’s. The closest place he could dump the car for cash only a few blocks away. Unfortunately, so was the police station- meaning officers around this particular area were plentiful; and, as luck would have it, he’d pulled out in front of a police cruiser.
He hadn’t been too worried since he’d just taken the car less than a minute before and he knew it had yet to have been reported stolen. Needless to say, he was genuinely surprised when the cop attempted to pull him over.
He thought about this as he finished his meal and decided to inspect the vehicle thoroughly before he took it for another spin. No sense in getting pulled over again, especially if it was for something trivial and easily fixable, like a license plate bulb that wasn’t working.
That’s probably it. Unless he saw me steal the damn thing. If that’s the case I can always pay rent with the royalties from appearing on America’s Dumbest Criminals.
Grinning from thoughts of his Plan B, he made his way to the trunk to check to see if his hunch was correct. Nothing appeared to be broken; both tail-lights seemed to be intact, as did the bulb above the license-Shit!
No wonder he tried to stop me. No license plate. Did I steal a car that was already stolen? Again?
It wasn’t unheard of. Sometimes cars were so easy to steal that he often wondered if they were set up specifically for that reason. He’d seen shows like “Bait Car”, where an unsuspecting car thief would stumble upon an easy “come-up” in the form of a running car with an owner nowhere to be found. They’d hop in,drive a few blocks, and then the car would simply shut off. The engine died, windows rolled up, doors would lock; thus trapping the would-be thief inside while the authorities took their sweet time catching up and apprehending the suspect.
Obviously, this scenario stinks of “entrapment”, but somehow it’s legal enough to be televised to the public. Also, the premise garnered a substantial amount of ratings- enough to secure a primetime spot. He enjoyed recognition just as much as the next guy, but no way was he going to catch his fifteen minutes of fame on a show like that.
Being one one his biggest fears, he’d passed up many chances to cash in on high-profile vehicles that seemed too good to be true.
His ego getting the best of him, he thought it was possible that this was indeed a bait car, and that he was so skilled at what he does that they had been unable to apprehend him. He knew that wasn’t likely, but the thought added a happy "smirkishness" to his current mood.
Evading the police had left him across town from the local chop shop,and not having a license plate, when factored in with the recent high-speed chase, made him wary of driving. He decided to park it somewhere, take anything of value now, and come back for the car later. He knew just the place. It was only a few blocks away. He got into the car and drove there without incident.
He pulled into a narrow parking lot situated between two apartment buildings. It was a twisty, long, and paved pathway that allowed him to stash cars away from the prying eyes of motorists travelling along 17th Avenue, and he affectionately called it, “G-Ride Alley”.
After parking, he searched the glove compartment, middle console, the back seat, and under both front seats. Nothing. There wasn’t even a registration card, insurance card, or car manual in the glove box.
With a shrug he got out and went back to the trunk.
Maybe I just stole a cartel drug mule car and the trunk is full of enough drug money that I can finally retire from this menial life of crime and enjoy a proper life of luxury. Only one way to find out...
He sighed. Sometimes being a criminal with an imagination was a curse. Plus, he watched too much damned T.V.
He opened the trunk and stared at the contents.
Well, it’s not cartel cash, but I’m betting that I’ll still get shot in the face for it.
He stared into the trunk, unblinking, as the sun glinted off a shiny pool of semi-coagulated blood that outlined the woman inside.
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