The patrolman walking toward our car on that vacant, early morning highway in Illinois was at least six feet tall, with thick shoulders and muscled arms that looked like they belonged to a heavyweight boxer. He wore a brown ranger hat that matched his short-sleeve uniform and had on reflector sunglasses that made it impossible to see his eyes.
“How you doin’ officer?” he asked, flashing a warm smile.
“Do you know how fast you were going?” the patrolman barked.
“I know I was going a little fast,” Dad offered in an apologetic tone.
“Seventy-five miles an hour. That’s twenty miles over the speed limit.”
“Was I really going that fast? I’m sorry, officer. I didn’t realize it.” Dad was smiling and trying to act congenial but I could tell he was nervous. He gripped the steering wheel with both hands and his knuckles were turning white.
“Let me see your driver’s license and registration.”
Dad pulled his wallet from his back pocket, fumbled for his driver’s license and handed it to scowling patrolman.
“Ingrid, will you look in there and see if you can find the registration for me?” he asked, motioning toward the glove compartment.
I opened it and frantically began shoving around the mass of papers, knowing intuitively that I wasn’t going to find it.
Dad turned back to the patrolman.
“I guess I’m not really sure where the registration is, but the car is registered and we definitely have insurance.” Dad offered him another sincere, apologetic smile.
“Stay put,” the officer barked. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Dad watched in the rear view mirror as the patrolman walked back to his car. His hands were still on the steering wheel and I noticed that his right hand was shaking. I had never seen him scared before, and it was scaring me.
A couple weeks earlier, he had told me there was a warrant out for his arrest. He said that one of his ex-sales guys had bounced a $10,000 check with his signature on it at a bank in Texas and charges had been filed. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Dad liked to refer to himself as a `creative financier’ and often floated checks to get through tough times.
He laughed as he told me about the warrant.
“You know I got the golden tongue, Ingrid. Nobody’s going to do nothing to me. Plus I didn’t do anything wrong. Those banks have plenty of money and I’m going to pay it back when I get the chance.”
At least five minutes lapsed. Dad didn’t speak; he just kept glancing at the rear view mirror.
“Oh shit!” he yelled suddenly. His face, normally a ruddy complexion, had turned chalk colored. Before I could respond, I saw the patrolman at Dad’s door. Then I saw his gun, pointed only a few inches from Dad’s head.
“Get your arms in the air and keep your hands where I can see them! And don’t make any sudden moves!”
We both threw up our arms and kept our bodies frozen. I was too scared to breathe. The cop yanked the car door open with one hand while keeping the gun trained on Dad. He grabbed Dad by his left arm, yanked him out of the car and pulled him around to the back, where he threw him face down against the trunk.
I stayed frozen in my seat, watching in what seemed like slow motion as he slammed Dad against the trunk a second time and pulled out handcuffs, which he clamped down on Dad’s wrists. I felt tears streaming down my face and heard a strange howling noise coming from inside me.
Dad lay bent over the trunk, his face smashed against the steel. The patrolman frisked him and pulled his wallet from his back pocket. He spent a minute combing through our tool money, about $1,300—mostly in $10s and $20s.
“Looks like a lot of money to be carrying around on you.”
He said this more like an accusation than a statement.
“What’s this?” he asked seconds later, pulling out an ID card from Dad’s wallet.
“Jerry Jones, huh? What other names do you go by?”
“I had that made up as a joke,” I heard Dad say, his face still smashed against the trunk.
“Shut up!” the officer snarled.
I watched as he pushed Dad toward his patrol car and locked him in the back seat. Then he was at my window.
“How old are you?” he barked.
“Let me see your driver’s license.”
I couldn’t stop my hand from trembling as I reached for the card. Mascara streamed down the front of my face and smeared as I wiped my eyes.
The officer grabbed it out of my hand. He stared hard and then laughed.
“Are you sure this is you?” he sneered as he tossed it back into my lap.
“So you live in Utah?” he continued, motioning toward my driver’s license.
I nodded my head.
“Do you have a way to get back there?”
“No,” I managed between sobs.
“Well, we are probably going to end up extraditing your Dad to Texas so I don’t know what we are going to do with you.”
He paused for a moment. He frowned, and then spoke.
“Normally we would impound the car, but since you can drive, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to follow me back to the police station and we can figure out what to do with you from there.”
A fresh round of sobs had taken over and I was crying too hard to speak. I nodded my head again in response.
“Sure you are in a condition to drive?” he asked.
The patrolman walked back to his car. I crawled over into Dad’s seat and adjusted it forward as far as it would go. Still sobbing, I turned the key in the ignition, pulled out behind the squad car and concentrated on the tail lights in front of me – willing myself to ignore the desperate loneliness and fear swirling inside me.