The weird has been out and about lately.
Wednesday night, my wife is home and staying up late, as is her habit. She sits at her computer reading and doing things she didn’t get to do while her friend was here visiting. I went to bed at my usual hour of ten, but generally don’t fall asleep (or stay asleep) for more than ninety minutes. This time I must have drifted in and out of Morpheus’s embrace until about 11:30PM.
At around 2AM my wife came into the room to wake me. I jumped.
“There’s someone trying to get in the house!” she said in a strained whisper.
“Whuh?…huh? Get in?”
“Yes! Someone’s trying to open the door and come in!”
An adrenaline surge hit me and I tried to sit up. (No mean feat.) My wife is pressing on my shoulders. I roll back onto the bed like a turtle rocking back on its shell, arms and legs waving. I curse something at her unintelligibly, and manage to shove her aside and stumble to the living room. I’m sure she’s mistaken, it’s someone trying to get into the apartment next door, or just the wind, or—
Bang! Thump! POUNDPOUNDPOUND! My heart spiked and I froze.
“You’re in your underwear!” my wife said somewhere behind me. I wanted to turn around and say “Don’t worry, they’re clean.” But they weren’t.
“Wh-who i-is it?” I said, and desperately tried to make my voice sound harsher, meaner, aggressive. It so didn’t work.
“It’s Margaret!” a voice said. “Let me in!”
She didn’t sound drunk. Not slurring her words, not incoherent, just a little confused. “Christopher?”
A wash of relief flooded over me. “No,” I said into the still-bolted and locked door, “no. There’s no Christopher here.”
“What?! Let me in!”
“I said there’s NO CHRISTOPHER HERE!”
Silence. Only the drumming rain outside.
“I’m so sorry.” The voice was meek, subdued.
I didn’t know what to say.
“I said I’m SORRY!” she spat and I jumped.
“It’s okay! Uh…good night.”
Rain. I looked through the peep hole but my eyesight’s too poor to know if I saw her trudge into the spring rain or not. All I did know was the house was quiet again. I went to check on my daughter, happily playing her computer game with her headphones on and laughing. At 2:10A. I hugged her and kissed her head. I looked at my wife.
“Next time, will you call the police please?”
“Oh, well… I thought… I mean, I just…” She shrugged. I kissed her. “Sorry.”
I went to bed. And I don’t know if I slept well that night. But it didn’t end there.
So today, I had a relatively slow day at work. What I haven’t had a chance to tell you all is, I got the hateful yucky part of my job – the part someone else is supposed to be doing at this point – under control. In fact, it’s under so much control, when I leave at night there are no warranty claim requests active. None. There are a total of six (6) emails in the inbox period. Some require research. Some require effort and time. But I can do that now because the others are addressed every day as they come in. And I did this ALONE. No one helped me. Not really. Am I proud? Oh yeah, you know I am.
Anyway, my boss had to leave today. His wife got ill and he took the day and spent it at home after about 9AM. So I sat in my office, minding my warranty claims inbox and putzing with other stuff. At five, I left for home. Traffic, but not too bad. Most people have extended their holiday weekend I think, so it wasn’t as bad as it’s been other days.
As I’m making my approach to a northbound road home, and only about six or seven miles from home, there’s a cop sitting in the middle of the road, making everyone go around him. I’m in the median (it’s only a painted one) because traffic generally backs up pretty far. But this cop in the median, pointed at me, makes me get back into the left lane, go around him and say, “Why don’t you MOVE for us working stiffs trying to get home, you a$$hole?” as I pass him. What do I care? The car’s loud, he can’t hear me over traffic.
A couple seconds after I stop a few other cars stop behind me and the cop roars backward into the traffic and gets into the turn lane.
No, he couldn’t have heard me. Right?
I make the arrow and get going. Cop is about three cars back. He makes the light too.
I’m pegged at exactly the speed limit. There’s a big gap in front of me as the cars ahead speed carefree on their way. There’s a huge gap behind me as the cars back there peg the speed limit too and watch their rearview mirrors.
Suddenly the cop puts on his lights and roars into the oncoming lane and passes the cars in front of him. He’s right behind me now and barreling toward me. No lights, but he’s closing.
I gave my head a resigned shake. An instant later, on go the lights. I’m popped.
It takes him a few minutes while he’s muttering into his radio back there. “Sure, whatever, dickhead. I’ve got aaaaaaall night, right?”
I pull my license out of my wallet, get my title and insurance card ready. Still waiting. Finally – finally – he gets out of his prowl and heads toward me. I put on arm on the seat back next to me and the other hangs out the window so he can see ‘em both. I know how this works with these jerks around here.
“Good afternoon, sir,” he says in a clear, softer than I expected voice.
“Good afternoon,” I reply and show him I’m ready with my documents.
“The reason I stopped you, Mr. DarcKnyt – there’s no traffic violation, but someone with your name and your birthdate – and I’m not saying someone is using your identity – but there’s a warrant out for your arrest.”
“I – wait, whuh?”
He nodded. “Have you ever been arrested, sir?”
“Uh…” my memories crashed to the fore of my brain in a tsunami of bad times, “…well, I got arrested when I first came to Illinois because of an improperly displayed license plate. I got taken down and fingerprinted and –”
He gave a dismissive wave. “No, that’s nothing. What about for a domestic disturbance? Assault?”
“No! N-no! Never!”
“The warrant is for Boondocks County. Have you ever been in Boondocks County?”
My brain scrambles, a five-alarm klaxon sounding internally. No! Nothing! Uh… yeah. I don’t think so. “Um… where IS Boondocks County?”
He laughed, a genuine belly laugh that wrinkled the skin around his eyes. “Do you have your license and insurance? I’ll just run those for you and I’m sure it’ll be clean and we’ll get you on your way.”
“Oh, sure,” I said, and handed him my documents.
“Thank you, Mr. DarcKnyt. I’m sure it’ll only be a few moments and we’ll have you on your way.”
Yeah, you said that already. On my way where? Jail?
He walked back to his cruiser and I tried to remain calm. It was easy for the first three minutes or so. Then things got tense. I tried not to look nervous, tried not to look back at him. After two more minutes I was almost a wreck. He finally came back and had a tiny scrap of note paper in his hand.
“Mr. DarcKnyt, I took some notes here – have you ever lived in Algae? Because the warrant is actually out of Algae, Illinois.”
My heart spiked again. I thought my sphincter let go. “Um…yes. Yes I did. Was the address 345 Maple?”
“No,” he said right away. “How about Governor Street?”
“Governor?” My brain fought for recollection. “No, not there.” I don’t think I was lying.
“Well, just to be sure, can you give me the last four digits of your social?”
I gave them.
He shook his head. “No, it’s someone else.” He handed me my papers. “And there’s nothing in Algae? With your wife?”
I bit back the urge to joke, If that bitch called the cops on me I’m kickin’ her ever-loving ass when I get home.
“Well,” I said, “she had some trouble with her ex-husband being a jerk over custody. But that’s all resolved and she’s not…”
“But between you and your wife? Nothing?”
“Oh, no. Nothing.” He stood there a moment. “Do you need to call her while I wait and ask her independent of me? To get it straight from her, I mean?”
His grin broadened. “Oh, no, that’s fine. None of the identifiers match. It’s just someone with the same name and same birthdate who happened to live in Algae too.”
“Oh, that’s weird,” I said as a chill raced down my spine. “Really weird.”
“Well, if the police ask you at all just say Pond County stopped you and you’re clear.”
He thumped the window frame of the car. “Well, have a nice evening sir.”
Like I can do that knowing some clown’s out there beating his wife and using my name? “Thanks, you too.”
But later, after I got home and explained everything to my wife, a cop pulled up in our parking lot and gave my car a once-over. He sat there for a couple of minutes then went on his way, circled the parking lot and as I stepped outside to explain how I’d been cleared already, he roared passed me without even looking. Not even a glance.
So we’ll see.
How’s it by you?