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Pulled Over
By Dan Learn

he day began just like any other for Mary: get up, supervise her three children during breakfast, help her husband stay coordinated enough to make it to work, and then do the same for herself. Being a devoted mother and wife certainly wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding, and it had grown on her.

Her commute to work was as routine as sunset and sunrise. Despite living in suburbia, she didn’t suffer the daily commute to the city, like nearly everyone else she knew. No, her travel was largely over back roads, a 15 minute jog to the next town. It was a very relaxing, quiet journey, and, oddly enough, something Mary looked forward to five days a week.

Later in the day, with the hours winding down to evening, work had finished for the day. Mary left the building and headed towards her mid-size car, a point of pride for her at not completely fitting the “soccer mom” definition: despite living in a suburb, working full-time, and caring for her own small family, she didn’t drive a large vehicle, wasn’t very materialistic, and tried hard not to splurge on the modern excesses.

The road home was, as per usual, virtually traffic free. The sun cast rays of light between the trees, almost guiding travellers to their destinations.

Several minutes into the drive, Mary noticed a dark silhouette in the distance. Getting closer, the shape became more familiar. Parked perpendicular to the roadway, in a small clearing used by utility companies, was a police cruiser.

Parked perpendicular to the roadway, in a small clearing used by utility companies, was a police cruiser.
Crime was nearly non-existent in the area, so police presence wasn’t overwhelming. They made the odd appearance, kept law and order in check.

Mary rolled past the shaded cruiser without much thought, and continued on her drive, forgetting the car almost as quickly as she had passed it.

A moment later, glancing in her mirror, Mary noticed that same familiar shape, causing her to look again. Now focused on the shadow in her rearview, she noticed the police car approaching quickly. It slowed when it reached her, and kept her pace.

Mary thought nothing of this. She imagined there was a certain level of boredom amongst law enforcement in the area; there was only so much visiting with the forest one person could do, before it was time to move on.

In an instant that thought disappeared.

A series of flashing red lights now engulfed the mirrors on Mary’s car. It gave her a minor shock, and, presuming the officer was responding to a call in some far off place, she slowed the car and moved to the shoulder of the road.

To her surprise, the cruiser slowed, too. It also took the shoulder, and that’s when Mary realized the flashing red lights were not for anyone else – they were coming after her.

Her car now at a stop, Mary sighed, part contempt, part relief. She didn’t know why the relief; what was this all about?

The plethora of lights behind her ceased, and was replaced with a series of less distracting warning lights. Although the new lights didn’t attract as much attention, they were embarrassing nonetheless.

After what seemed an eternity, a grey figure emerged from the patrol car, a book of some sort in hand, and walked with a certain confidence to Mary’s open window.

Expecting to see a hardened face, Mary was surprised when a young man leaned over to the window.

She immediately sized up her predator: slim, crew cut, not overly tall, but certainly above average. His name tag read “Davis”, and he didn’t appear to be much older than she remembered herself upon graduating high school. Had it really been that long ago?

“Good evening, ma’am,” Davis greeted her. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

Honestly, Mary didn’t. “No…” she trailed off. “I’m wearing my seat belt, and my licence tags are valid.”

“Good evening, ma’am,” Davis greeted her. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“Well, yes, you do have all of that.” He gave a smile, one which Mary found oddly placed. “I pulled you over because you were travelling a little fast, too fast for this road.”

Too fast? Speeding? No, not me! Mary’s mind began to race, and she couldn’t believe that she, of all people, was in trouble for speeding.

“Are you sure? How fast could I have been going?”

“You were on the radar as travelling 67, and this is a 50 zone. That’s quite a bit over.”

“67? I don’t know… I don’t usually drive like that; I’m usually pretty good about this sort of thing.”

“Well, not this time. May I see your licence and registration?”

Licence and registration? Now Mary felt like a criminal. They asked for the licence and registration of the bad guys, not her. Drunk drivers, racers, reckless drivers who never should’ve been given a licence; but not her.

Without a word, she rifled through her purse, under the watchful eye of Officer Davis. Only now did she truly realize how much she carried in her purse; worst of all, her driver’s licence was buried at the bottom.

Officer Davis had all the patience in the world. Despite his young age and youthful appearance, he’d had a very full career in the years since he first started on the force. Another busy working mother, frustrated already by the pursuit of happiness, and now doubly nervous about being reminded of casual mistakes everyone makes, was nothing new to him. He treated it that way.

He thanked Mary for the small slips of paper, and returned to his patrol car.

Mary sat in the driver’s seat, very anxious. She was overwhelmed by the visuals: the flashing lights, the dying sun, the colours of the trees. To add to it, the silence bothered her in a way she never thought possible: no cars, no engines running, no children playing. Even the birds seemed muted.

She glanced in her rearview mirror. Officer Davis didn’t seem to be moving much in his car, and that worried her. What was he doing back there? Why hadn’t he returned? What was taking so long?

The questions dogged her, more with each passing second that the police officer didn’t come back.

A dozen eternities passed, and finally the driver’s side door to the patrol car opened.

As Mary watched, Officer Davis stepped out, returning to her car in much the same manner as the first visit. It was the oddest sense of déjà vu she’d ever experienced.

“But…” she protested, gathered her thoughts, ran through her mind for any excuse which might save her.
Again, the officer leaned towards the window.

“Here’s your licence and registration back.”

Mary took them apprehensively, and wondered what was next.

“I see that you have no prior traffic violations, and that’s something to be proud of. But, on the other hand, you were travelling much faster that you’re supposed to.”

“But…” she protested, gathered her thoughts, ran through her mind for any excuse which might save her. “I drive this road every day. I’m not usually like this, I swear, I don’t know what could’ve caused me to do this!”

“Ma’am, I understand this is very routine, and that’s where problems can arise.” He shifted his gaze to the road for a second, then square at Mary again. He’d put on his mirrored sunglasses now, and the experience became ever more intimidating.

He picked up the lecture again. “We all get sloppy with our driving habits over time: speeding, rolling stops, all sorts of little things. But those add up. This road you drive every day also happens to carry several bus loads of kids every day, too. Believe me, its best you smarten up now, before you do something you’ll regret.”

Mary’s mood changed. She was starting to feel impatient, even offended. This character seemed to enjoy rambling about perfect driving, and she was a bit perturbed at being scolded by someone so many years junior to her.

She felt the courage to ask something. “Is… is that it?” Wow, it came out so much harsher than she’d planned.

“Almost.” Just then, the pad of tickets re-emerged, and after a few short scribbles, Officer Davis removed the first slip.

“This is your copy. Unfortunately, going as fast as you were, it’s a real stretch to give out only a warning.” Mary felt the metaphoric plunge of the knife into her chest.

“The ticket has the details: violation, location, the fine…” He pointed to them with his finger. “There’s information on the reverse as well. The fine is due in 14 days; after the 14 days, it goes up. Ultimately, if unpaid, your licence and vehicle registration will be revoked. You can pay in person at either the courthouse or nearest police station; the addresses are listed at the bottom.”

The words, both from the officer’s mouth and those on the ticket, were distant. Mary’s mind wandered to any of a thousand random thoughts.

She watched the shape get smaller and smaller, and finally disappear around a bend. Officer Davis had now gone back to his daily routine.
What would she tell her husband? Would her insurance go up? Did anyone see her?

She returned to reality just in time to get the conclusion of the scolding.

“Slow down, stay safe, and be careful out there.” Officer Davis now stood his full height, and returned to his car.

Mary, still partially stunned, stared in her mirror, half in a trance, as the red flashing lights went out, the cruiser started, and slowly rolled past her.

She watched the shape get smaller and smaller, and finally disappear around a bend. Officer Davis had now gone back to his daily routine.

Mary sat. Her hands started to tremble slightly, something that hadn’t happened in a long time. She tossed her driver’s licence into the open purse beside her, and cast the yellow ticket onto the passenger seat.

It stared at her like an ugly monster, a reminder of her past sin. She grabbed it again, and buried it in her purse, out of sight and out of mind.

In a few minutes, her composure regained, Mary started the car. She slowly rolled back onto the road, and accelerated at a horribly slow rate, scared to rev the engine after her experience.

She gradually settled back into her drive home, albeit at a slower pace.

When she had almost put the incident behind her, she rounded a bend in the road, and an oddly familiar scene replayed itself.

There, in the distance, was the shape.

Mary’s heart raced, until her eyes told her not to worry – the shape was opposite to the last sighting, on the other side of the road. Her next look was at the speedometer.

Speed in check, she felt a quiet sense of confidence, and rolled past the shape with only a trace of fear.

She glanced in her mirror, and wanted to laugh. She’d lost the first round, and very badly. But the second round, small as it was, was definitely hers.

A small truck rushed past her in the opposite direction, jolting Mary back into reality. She didn’t notice the specifics of the vehicle, but it seemed too close to her own, and too quick.

She glanced in the mirror for a second look. What she saw scared her all over again.

There, behind her, the small truck continued down the road. It passed a familiar point.

The shape moved.

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