All Is Bright (9)

A Christmas Eve story in 24 installments


Officer Reggie Pearson has been driving around downtown since 3:00 in the afternoon, along the same twenty streets, past the same buildings, past the same scattered parked cars. Every other cop in the precinct is home with their families, but as a rookie Officer Pearson drew the short straw—was given the short straw, as she thinks of it—and had to work on the holiday, even though downtown is nearly deserted. For a while now she has sensed, without any hard evidence, that being the only woman officer in the precinct held her even deeper down in the hierarchy. Still, she knows she had to start somewhere. Her dad and older brothers are cops, back in the town where she grew up. The force is the family business. There were no openings on the force back home, though, which is what brought her here.

Though she understands and accepts the hierarchy—but only the rookie part, and not the woman part—and the requirement to work on Christmas Eve, she wishes she had something to do other than drive around in circles. She even finds herself longing to ticket someone, just to relieve her boredom. 

At 8:45, almost six hours into her endless shift, she is driving down Osborn for the twentieth time when she glances in the rearview mirror and sees, two blocks behind, a dark Buick sedan rush through the intersection at Chapman. Without a radar reading she can’t tell if the car is speeding—though she suspects it is, maybe five or ten over the limit—and the stoplight on Osborn was still red when the car cleared the intersection, so at most the car ran a yellow. But maybe it’s driving erratically, she thinks, and she might still get something on the driver.

She accelerates to forty, turns right on Jessup and again on Jordan Street, but she doesn’t reach Chapman until after the car has already crossed the bridge, and she can only see its taillights as they disappear over the top of the hill. The west side is a different precinct, and without a clear violation, by regulation she isn’t allowed to pursue him. Pursue the car, she corrects herself, though she is convinced that the driver is a man.

She returns to her regular route—Osborn, Jessup, Central, Chapman and every side street—but after four more circuits she has grown weary and needs a break. In the warm months, April to October, for a break she would park the car and walk, like an old-time cop, but not in cold like this. Even inside the squad car, with the engine having run for hours, she still feels chilly. She is allowed regular breaks, but yet another regulation states that breaks can only be taken within the precinct, on the rationale that on-duty officers must be present at all times if needed. 

On any other night this wouldn’t be a problem, as there are many places she could go—a few of them her regular spots—but tonight, her first Christmas Eve on the force, her hours of driving tell her that there is only one place. She feels a sudden, almost overwhelming urge a scorching hot cup of coffee, and someone to talk to, and steers the car onto Chapman and toward the Marquette Diner.