Authors: Barbara Meyers
For Danielle and Cody
Hayley Lynn Christopher
Raymond Matthew Braddock
Were United in Holy Matrimony
At Good Shepherd Chapel
On the Sixth of April, Two Thousand and Thirteen
Trey Christopher dropped the cream-colored card embossed with swirling pink roses back on the passenger seat. He’d stopped for a fast food meal on the road, but why he’d thought it’d be a good idea to sort through the pile of mail while he ate, he had no idea.
He stared at the half-eaten grilled chicken sandwich in his hand and realized he no longer had any appetite. He shoved it back in the paper bag it came in and set it aside. He glanced at Hayley’s wedding announcement once more before burying it under a stack of magazines and bills.
He put the car in gear and headed back onto the highway. He had another few hours of driving before he reached his grandparents’ place outside Edna Falls, North Carolina. He’d hoped to arrive before nightfall, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen. He wasn’t sure he wanted to negotiate the curving lane to their place in the dark, but he’d have no choice.
Hayley was married to someone else. They’d been divorced for over two years. Things had not been good between them for a couple of years before that. All of which was his own damn fault.
He glanced in the rearview mirror and turned up the sound system another notch. Too bad he couldn’t drown out his own thoughts.
Hayley had adopted her stepsister’s little boy and now she was married to Ray, who probably treated her the way she deserved to be treated. With love and respect.
Pity party. Table for one.
The words from his drug counselor at Mooring Pines popped into his head. Brad had warned him not to get too down on himself. Part of the process for a recovering addict was not only to ask forgiveness from those he’d hurt, but also to learn to forgive himself.
He turned the stereo up another notch until the car was vibrating from the bass pouring through the speakers.
Trey’s mood turned from sour to foul by the time he reached the outskirts of Edna Falls, population 2,973. He’d fought his way through a thunderstorm fifty miles back, his knee ached like a sonofabitch and he had to pee. Badly. As in a half hour ago. He’d decided he could hold it until he got to the house.
He ignored the sign posted inside the town limits. He wondered if old Charlie Langston was still on the job as Edna Falls’s senior man on the two-man police force. Charlie was a typical easygoing country boy, but he could be counted on to break up the occasional teen drinking party. He’d escort the unfortunate home and have “a word” with their parents. That’s all it took for him to keep the peace. He rarely made an actual arrest or handed out citations for any infraction.
Good old Charlie. Trey had been one of those less than fortunate teenagers who’d been escorted home in an inebriated state. His parents grounded him for a month each time. His father gave him the silent treatment for at least a week. His mother baked him chocolate chip cookies and rubbed his back in sympathy every time she walked by.
Red and blue lights swirled in his rearview mirror and rapidly became bigger and brighter. A siren sounded a couple of times in warning with that “bwap bwap” sound.
Trey pulled off onto the soft shoulder of the road. His low beams illuminated the
Leaving Edna Falls Town Limits
sign fifty feet away. He swore as he reached across to the glove box to find his registration. His bladder reminded him that it was full. Very, very full.
He opened the car door. The cop car had stopped behind him with its high beams on and the colored lights still rotating. He had reached into his back pocket for his wallet and started toward the patrol vehicle when the door popped open and a cop Trey didn’t recognize got out. The cop held out a hand in warning. “Whoa, now. Stop right there. Put your hands out where I can see them.”
The cop had his other hand on the butt of his sidearm. Trey did as he was told. “I was going to get my wallet,” he said. “Figured you’d want to see my driver’s license.”
“Uh-huh. Now turn slowly and place your hands down flat on the hood there.” He gestured toward the cruiser.
The cop raised his voice as if he were addressing a rather slow child or a senior citizen with a hearing deficiency. “I said, ‘turn slowly and place your hands—’”
“I heard you,” Trey said. “But I couldn’t believe you said it. Is this an episode of
“No, sir. Please do as you’ve been instructed. I should warn you, I’m equipped with a taser as well as other means to bring you under control if you do not voluntarily abide by my commands.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Trey stared at the cop, who was decked out in what looked like a legitimate Henderson County deputy’s uniform, complete with a cap that bore the county logo instead of the Town of Edna Falls official seal.
“Sir? Do I need to call for backup? Or are you going to place your hands flat on the hood of the vehicle like I asked?”
“Backup? You have that here? When did Edna Falls join the twenty-first century?”
“Sir. Place your hands flat on the hood of the vehicle. Now,” the cop barked.
“All right, all right. Don’t get your boxers in a knot.”
Trey did as he’d been told, feeling ten kinds of foolish doing it. The only saving grace was that there wasn’t anybody around to see it. “My wallet’s in my back right pocket,” he informed the cop, who was slowly making his way closer. “My license is in the front.”
“We’ll get to that. Legs apart.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Trey turned to look at the guy over his shoulder. “You’re going to
me before you give me a damn speeding ticket?”
“Sir. Please do as you’re told. We don’t want any trouble here.”
“Then why are you making it? How about if you forget you even saw me doing sixty in a thirty-five? Better yet, how about you take out my wallet, check my driver’s license? Maybe there’s some way we can reach an agreement and make this all go away. How does that sound?”
“Are you attempting to bribe a sheriff’s deputy, sir?”
“I never actually said—”
Trey suddenly found himself facedown on the hood of the patrol car. The cop grabbed his left wrist first, then his right, forcing them back behind him. “What the?” He heard a metallic clasping noise. “Are you fucking
me? You’re handcuffing me?” Trey sputtered in outrage. Even knowing it would be better to shut his mouth and cooperate, he wasn’t going to do it.
“Do you do this to all your traffic stops?” he asked. “Especially the cute young things who can’t read a speed limit sign? What do they do? ‘Oh, Officer, I’m so sorry’. Do they bat their eyelashes at you while you throw the cuffs on them? Huh? Do they spread their legs first time they’re told, so the big, strong cop can subdue them?”
“Spread your legs,” the cop grated out.
The cop kicked Trey’s left foot and then his right one, effectively separating them. Trey grunted in surprise as his right knee, forced to move without warning, sent an extrastrong pain message to his unmedicated brain receptors.
“Asshole,” Trey murmured into the hood of his car.
“Deputy Spoley, to you. Do you have anything on your person or in your pockets I need to know about? Drugs, paraphernalia, needles, anything that’s likely to injure me?”
Only my fists
, Trey thought. Not that they were of much use at the moment. “No,” he answered dully. God, he needed to pee. Being bent over the hood of the car wasn’t helping matters. He’d have stopped before if it hadn’t poured rain and if his knee didn’t object every time he got out of the car.
After an uncomfortably thorough pat-down, Trey felt his wallet being removed from his pocket. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the high and mighty Trey Christopher. Or should I say burned-out, over the hill, drug addict Trey Christopher? Edna Falls’ golden boy. Come back home all rusted out.”
“Can I stand up now?” Trey asked. Deputy Spoley still had his palm firmly planted between Trey’s shoulder blades, effectively keeping him in place.
“Certainly.” Spoley stepped back. “I don’t imagine you’re a flight risk. Not with that knee of yours.”
Spoley gave Trey a smug little smile which made Trey almost certain Spoley had known who he was
he’d kicked his legs apart. His knee began an entirely new round of throbbing, but at least it distracted him slightly from his insistent bladder. He needed to get out of there, get to the house and ice the knee, or else tomorrow he’d barely be able to walk.
“You got something specific against me, Deputy Spoley?” The cop’s name niggled at his memory. Trey felt certain he should know what kind of history he had with the guy, but at the moment he couldn’t place him.
“I might. Then again, I might not. But I’ll share something with you my daddy used to say: Be nice to the people you meet on your way up the ladder. You might be meeting them on your way back down.”
“Write me the ticket and spare me the sermons, would you?”
“Have you consumed any alcohol this evening, sir?”
Spoley stepped closer and sniffed the air. He was a couple inches shorter than Trey, which put his nose on a level slightly below Trey’s mouth. “I’ll have to ask you to take a breathalyzer exam, sir.”
Below the handcuffs, Trey flexed his fists. “Yeah. Sure. Whatever.”
“Wait here,” Spoley instructed. From the trunk of his vehicle he removed a portable breathalyzer unit.
He offered a large, straw-like mechanism to Trey. Trey got a bad feeling. He tilted his head back. “I haven’t been drinking. I’m not taking a portable breathalyzer test.”
“Refusing to do so is certainly your right, Mr. Christopher.
“You want to arrest me for DUI, do it. Haul me in and test me there.”
Spoley stared him down for a few seconds and then shrugged as if it didn’t make any difference to him. But Trey got the distinct impression it did.
“If you wouldn’t mind taking a seat next to your car.” Spoley indicated the shoulder. “I have some paperwork to do.”
“Hey, look.” Trey tried for a friendly tone, and even he could tell he hadn’t quite made it. “Can you take the cuffs off? We both know I’m not going anywhere. Hell, take my keys and hang on to my wallet while you’re at it as insurance.”
Spoley nodded once as if he knew he’d gone above and beyond the call of duty for a routine traffic stop. Trey turned around and Spoley released the cuffs. Trey rubbed at his wrists and glanced around at the surroundings he could see from the car lights. There were no houses nearby. Not one car had passed them since they’d stopped. Beyond the pool of light around their cars was pitch black.
“You mind if I go over there and take a leak?” He indicated a small clump of bushes about twenty-five feet away. “I gotta pee like a sonofabitch.”
Spoley looked at him as if considering his request and the possible ramifications of his answer. Finally he said, “Sure. Go ahead.”
Trey limped behind the bushes and unzipped his fly, nearly groaning in relief. He peed for what felt like five minutes before zipping up and making his way back to the cars. He leaned against the driver’s side of the hood and did his best to keep the majority of his weight off his bad knee. What was next, he wondered. A cane? A walker? He was barely into his thirties, but most mornings he felt like an old man before he even got out of bed.
He waited for Spoley to finish. And waited. And waited. And waited.
The guy was enjoying messing with him a little too much. Trey renewed his silent vow to pay Spoley back at the first opportunity.
As Trey was about to approach the patrol car and ask what was taking so long, Spoley opened his door and got out. He strode toward Trey with a spring in his step.
“Here’s your license and registration, Mr. Christopher.” He handed the documents back to Trey, and Trey shoved them in his front pocket, anxious to get going. He stifled a yawn.