“Pretty much the same every year,” Jim Ellison grunted in reply. He carefully watched the streets around him as he drove them home. “You’ve just never seen it from this side of the fence.”
“I guess,” Blair admitted, remembering other New Years’ Eves when he flitted from party to party while Jim worked at the station. He suddenly chuckled. “Although you gotta admit that guy who was so drunk he kept seeing little green aliens was funny.”
“Attention all units. Report of a DUI in the vicinity of Lakehurst and Main. Silver Toyota Camry. Year unknown. Partial license number David Two Five.”
“Great. Just great.” Jim clenched his jaw. “Another idiot.”
“We’re just two blocks from there,” Blair pointed out.
Jim nodded as he saw a car swerve into the far lane as it turned onto Main. “And there he is.” He flipped the switch activating his lights and siren and sped up. “Call it in, Chief.”
While Blair relayed their position over the radio, Jim concentrated on the car ahead of them. Then he saw two patrol cars stop nose-to-nose to block the street ahead of them. The driver of the weaving car slammed on the brakes causing the car to slide against the curb. He finally came to a halt a few feet from the parked patrol cars.
“Moron!” Jim slammed the truck into park and got out.
“Uh…Jim…” Blair hastily followed his partner.
The driver of the parked car opened his door and stumbled into the street. “Wha..the HELL is this, huh? You…you…got nothin’ better to do than har’ss pe..peple?”
“You’re under arrest, sir, for DUI.” Jim spun the man around and put him against his car. As he put the man’s hands on the top of the car, he winced at the odor of liquor from the other man’s mouth.
“Hey! I’m just goin’ home! Right down there. Can see my place, you know. I’ll walk.”
When the man tried to stand upright, Jim leaned against him as one of the patrol officers cuffed him. “I’m afraid not, sir. These officers will lock up your car and transport you downtown.”
“Ya can’t do…this! I got rights!”
Suddenly Jim spun the man around to face him. “And other people have the right to drive on these streets and get home without getting killed by some idiot moron who…”
Jim glanced to his right and saw Blair standing next to him.
“It’s done. They’ll take him in, and we can go home,” Blair quietly spoke.
Jim jerked his head in acknowledgement and allowed the patrol officers to walk the arrested man to one of their cars. “Make sure his car is secure,” he ordered.
“We will, Detective.”
“Just one more fool who thinks he can drive drunk ‘cause he’s only going a couple of blocks!” Jim angrily muttered as he walked back to his truck, ignoring Blair who trotted to keep up with him. “Idiots think nobody else is on the road, and they’ve got the right to drink as much as they please!” He slammed his open hand on the hood of his truck. “What makes somebody think they should get behind the wheel of a car when they’re drunk?!”
“Or incredibly angry?” Blair softly asked.
Jim whirled around to find Blair standing next to him, holding out his hand. Both men stared at each other in silence for several seconds. Then Jim looked beyond Blair to watch the patrol cars leaving the scene. Silently, he handed the keys to Blair and walked around the truck to the passenger side.
Blair got into the truck and waited in silence.
Jim leaned back and looked out the passenger door window. He finally began speaking in a soft voice. “It was my junior year of high school. I’d made quarterback and was pretty much a shoe-in to be quarterback in my senior year. The previous quarterback was Peter Grant. He was a couple of years ahead of me and was on the team at Rainier. I was at a New Years’ Eve party and saw him. We talked about football and stuff. How I’d better not screw up the team he’d been successful leading…that sorta stuff. Then he left saying he had to get his younger brother and sister from a ‘kiddie’s party’….that’s how he put it.”
Blair took a deep breath, waiting for the end of the story.
“They were on their way home when a drunk driver crossed the center line and hit them dead-on,” Jim tonelessly continued. “Peter was killed instantly, and his kid sister died the next day. His little brother was paralyzed from the waist down.”
“God, Jim, I’m sorry.”
“Drunk driver had a concussion and a couple of busted ribs.” Jim’s voice shook with emotion. “Said he’d just been celebrating and was heading home…just a couple of blocks from the last party.”
Blair wiped the tears from his cheeks. “I don’t know what to say, man.”
“Nothing to say, Chief.” Jim shook his head. “Nothing to say at all.” He finally glanced over at his best friend. “You okay to drive?”
Blair slowly shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. Maybe we’d better walk.”
Jim nodded equally slowly. “It’s only about six blocks or so.”
Silently the two men got out of the truck and locked the doors. They slowly walked away, comfortable in their decision that this time they should park and walk away.
In Memoriam – Peter and Susan, December 1971. Killed by a drunk driver on New Years’ Eve who drifted over the center lane and struck their car head on.
In Memoriam – Thomas, August 2003. Killed in a head-on collision by a driver who was speeding and enraged over a confrontation at his place of employment.
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