Babs stared in surprise
as the car zipped by, going well over the posted speed
limit. On top of that, the vehicle’s rear taillight was
out. Calling in the violations, she pulled onto the road
and went after the subject.
She followed the car for
nearly a quarter of a mile before it finally pulled
over, almost teetering into the drainage ditch. Babs
radioed in as she checked the plates. The car was
registered to a Jennie Michelle Carmichael. Place of
residence was a good twenty or so miles from here. Babs
called in for backup, then exited her cruiser.
The cold wind hit her
like a fist as she walked up to the driver’s side
window. She knocked on the glass. “Hello! Deputy Sheriff
Mero with the Westing County Sheriff’s Department. May I
see your driver’s license and proof of insurance,
The moment the window
rolled down, she smelled it, and she mentally rolled her
eyes. There was no need to call for a K9 to come check
for narcotics. There was ample evidence in what was
coming out of the vehicle to give her probable cause for
a search, whether the driver gave permission or not.
A woman squinted at her.
“I don’t have my license with me.”
“How about proof of
“It’s at home.”
“You know the law says
you have to keep proof of insurance either on you or in
the car at all times,” Babs reminded her as she withdrew
her notepad from her pocket. “Can you give me your name
and date of birth, please?”
“Why? Why are you
harassing me?” The woman was evasive, which was
“I just need to
double check to make sure you’re the registered owner of
“It’s my car,” the young
“That’s what I need to
verify, ma’am.” Babs kept her voice low and her tone
even. It was already evident the driver wasn’t one
hundred percent in control. Worse, she was becoming
The woman continued to
glare at her, lips pressed together in defiance. Pulling
her flashlight from her belt, Babs turned it on and
shone it inside the car’s interior. A baby seat and toys
lay on the back seat.
Little warning flags
began to flutter. It was nearly nine p.m. Where were the
Unless they’re with her
mother, or their father. Or maybe she only gets them
Any number of scenarios were
possible, but something about this whole thing didn’t
sit well with her.
Don’t push it until backup
She checked the interior
again and smiled. “I see you got kids. How many?”
“None of your fucking
business. Can I go now?”
Babs sighed. “Not yet.
The reason I stopped you is because you were traveling
over the posted speed limit. And because you have a
“My taillight’s gone
because some asshole on a motorcycle took a sledgehammer
Babs stiffened. “Are
you…are you saying you were attacked?”
“Yeah! Not ten minutes
ago! Why don’t you go after him, instead of harassing
people like me?”
Motorcycle? Sledgehammer? Her mind refused to
acknowledge the possibility.
No. No, it can’t be.
MO was almost identical to what had happened to
Bedamaker last night. Was the man in red back?
“Did you happen to get a
good look at him?” Babs questioned.
“Hell, yeah, I did! Some guy looking like Santa Claus
came up behind me and smashed my taillight! What are you
Some guy looking like Santa
At that moment, the
guy’s voice came back to her, along with his comment.
“At least he won’t be beating
up his old woman and kid anymore.”
A totally irrational thought came to her. What if the
guy in red
for her to be there
when he confronted Bedamaker? What if the guy
for her to pull over
this woman, for whatever reason, and took out the
taillight to make certain Babs had a good excuse to do
Her eyes involuntarily locked onto the car seat again,
setting off the little red flags once more. A flash of
light behind her signaled that her backup had arrived.
Babs waited until Joelson walked up before putting her
hand on the car’s door handle.
“Ma’am, please step out of the vehicle.”
“Please step out of the vehicle.”
Regardless, Babs managed to open the door, and together
she and Joelson wrestled the woman out of the car,
pressing her up against the trunk to snap on the cuffs.
“I’m placing you under arrest for failure to identify.
Mirandize her, would you? Then see if you can get an ID
on her,” she asked her partner. Joelson gave a nod and
guided the woman over to his vehicle.
Diving into the front seat, Babs grabbed the woman’s
purse. There was no driver’s license, no credit cards.
Nothing that would give a hint as to the suspect’s name
or address. Just a couple of twenties and some loose
change. The glove box was equally un-giving.
On the other hand, the center console was a treasure
trove of drug paraphernalia, plus half a cookie of crack
Joelson saw her triumphant smile as she straightened up.
“What did you find?”
She held up a pipe and the sealed sandwich bag.
“Christmas presents! How about you?”
He showed her the portable fingerprint scanner. “We got
a hit. She’s got priors. Her name’s Jennie Michelle
Carmichael. She lives off Portobello Drive.”
“Portobello Drive?” Babs frowned. “Sort of a long way
from home this time of night.”
“Yeah. Well, if she was heading out to the smokehouse to
score, it makes sense,” he reasoned, and gestured at her
find. “That’s quite a score for a busted taillight.”
“Because some asshole on a
motorcycle took a sledgehammer to it!”
The words rang in
her ears again. She laughed lightly. “Some days you win.
Some days you lose.”
For the umpteenth time, her gaze fell on the car seat.
“Call in and have a local do a welfare check at that
address, would you?”
“Will do.” He didn’t ask why. If any of them ever made
that sort of request, there had to be a damn good reason
Babs glanced around at the surrounding
countryside. It was as dark as it was silent. “If you’re
out there somewhere, I’d like to have a long talk with
you, Mr. I’m Not Santa. Now you got me damn interested
in hearing your side of the story.”