Early in his career, a favorite colleague of mine suffered an injustice behind the lens so remarkable, so excruciating, my eyes water every time I think about it. Fifteen years have passed since the incident. Even back then, Danny Spillane considered himself a news-veteran, but the truth was he was a scrawny redhead with a heavy lens and a cute partner by the name of Cindy Farmer. Together the duo worked every kind of story there was, but the one Danny might like to forget the most happened one summer night somewhere here in the Piedmont.
They’d ridden in the back of the Highway Patrol car all night, tagging along with a no-nonsense state trooper as he enforced the newly enhanced DUI laws. But the going was slow. All night long they’d stopped speeders and litterbugs, but had yet to come across anyone who’d imbibed and decided to drive. That was until late in the evening, when a faded Buick Riviera made an awkward lane change and caught the attention of the straight faced sergeant.
“He’s 10-55..” the gravely voice declared from the front seat.
“Really?” Danny said, exchanging glances with Cindy. “How can you tell?”
“I been doing this a long time…” The trooper’s voice trailed off as he fell in behind the beat-up Riviera and flipped on his roof lights. Up ahead the driver’s silhouette didn’t flinch as the blue strobes bathed his hulking shoulders in unnatural light. Instead he flipped his right turn signal and wheeled his rumbling sedan into a dusty trailer park. The trooper followed, parking close behind the driver before grabbing his Smokey-Bear hat and leaving Danny and Cindy in the backseat. Bracing his lens on the back of the driver’s seat, Danny squinted into the viewfinder and rolled tape. Through his earpiece, he could hear the trooper’s voice through the wireless microphone attached to his state-issued clip-on tie.
“Sir, how much we have to drink tonight?”, the trooper’s voice crackled in Danny’s ear.
“Yeah, I had a few drinks,” came the slurred reply, “ but I’m home, dude, I’m s-s-safe.”
Danny could hear the trooper chuckle under his breath. “Sir, this ain’t baseball, and you ain’t safe. I’m gonna need you to step out of the car.”
With that Danny shuffled around in the backseat for a better shot. By the time he brought the parked Riviera into frame, Trooper Straight-face had the much taller man cuffed and stretched across the old Buick’s hood. Danny and Cindy high-fived each other at the last-minute bounty, relieved they’d finally scored what they’d ridden around all night looking for. But their grins turned to grimaces as their pilot and host force-marched a very large, very drunk, very pissed-off redneck toward the front passenger door of the very car they were sitting in.
Next time: Low Blow...
UPDATE! No matter how I wrinkle my forehead, the details of the above story's second and third act currently eludes me. OOPSIE! After the holidays, I'll gather with Danny over some fine Country Bar-B-Cue and hash out the particulars. Serves me right for rushing a half-sketched tale into print, er blog, er, whatever...