BJ Condike

BJ Condike

Published On: September 21, 20194 min readCategories: Mystery & Crime

The desert horizon shimmered like it tends to do in mid-August. I had been patrolling I-15 all day, stopping revelers between LA and Vegas. The aviation sunglasses and Smokey Bear hat shaded my face, but they failed to relieve the headache. It was one of those pains that lodged behind your eyes, a cold pain aggravated by bright light and movement, a steely tautness that stiffened your neck and back. I needed a cigarette, and a drink.

The assignment was patrolling, but it was more like racing. I had just chased down a red Corvette, and parked my Crown Vic on the shoulder, lights flashing. The ‘Vette’s plates said, “RED HOT.” The computer indicated the car wasn’t stolen, but I approached it with caution. The drone of passing cars increased in pitch as they flew closer, and then dropped off in a Doppler fade as they disappeared down the highway. The late afternoon sun baked into my black uniform.

“License and registration, please,” I said.

“What’s the problem?” The kid’s Hawaiian shirt must have been too loud for him to hear me, as he made no move for his license. His eyes were bright, and red-rimmed.

“What’s your name, son?” I bent over, peering across him into the low-slung sports car. A teen-aged girl in the front passenger seat ignored me, thumbs dancing on her cellphone.

“Buck. Buck Travis.” He glared at me. “And I’m not your son.” He was probably right. His fair skin and curly blonde locks contrasted with my swarthy coloring and straight black hair.

“Well, Mr. Travis, apparently you didn’t hear me. I’d like to see your license and registration.” An eighteen-wheeler thundered past, causing the ground to tremble and the ‘Vette to sway back and forth. A cloud of hot grit and dust pelted my face and made me squint.

“Really? Do you know who I am? Travis—as in Travis Industries? My dad is Tony Travis, you know? He owns half of Henderson.” Buck Travis had an edge to his voice, a serrated edge that was used to cutting through red tape, long lines, and bullshit rules. His tone implied that he had no time to deal with a Hispanic cop, even if he was Highway Patrol.

“That may be so, Mr. Travis, but we’re not in Henderson, and I still need to see your license and registration.”

“Oh, I get it, Officer—Martinez,” he said, peering at my nametag, his voice dripping with politeness. He reached into his designer jeans and pulled out a fat shiny wallet and extended it through the window. Rings on his hand glinted in the sunlight.

“Please, sir”, I said, not touching it, “remove your license from the wallet and hand it to me.”

Buck Travis muttered to himself, extracted his license, and stuck it out toward me, along with something else.

“Is that your registration?”

“Uh, no. Just a little something for you.” He flashed the corner of a $100 bill and grinned.

I could feel my lips thinning as my jaws clenched. “Take that back now and I’ll forget about it. Your license and registration, please.” I rested one hand on my holster.

Travis grumbled and reached over to the glove compartment. “Tiffany, move your legs. Now!” His movements were herky-jerky, as if he’d had too much Red Bull, and maybe something stronger.

“Okay, okay!” she snapped, raising her knees up to her chin. Her black flouncy miniskirt fell in the process, revealing an acre of skin. There were no tan lines as far as I could see, and I could see everywhere.

Travis punched the compartment door, and it dropped open, exposing a jumble of paper and a chrome-plated revolver.

I pulled out my Glock and pointed it at the driver. “Stop! Hold it! Hold it right there!”

Buck froze.

Tiffany shrieked, “Bucky! Bucky what’s wrong?”

“Put your hands on the wheel,” I said, “real slow like. Good. Now Miss Tiffany, be so kind as to close the glove compartment—and don’t touch that gun.”

Miss Tiffany whimpered, but fumbled the door closed with a snap, yanking her hand away as if from a venomous snake.

I had the girl exit the car and close the door. I wasn’t worried she might have a weapon. I had seen nothing concealed beneath her skirt, and the flimsy tank top over her slender figure showed no place to hide anything.

I got Mr. Bucky out of the car, cuffed him, and bundled them both into the back of my cruiser. Bucky began an obscenity-laced tirade against police in general, and me in particular. Neither his rant nor the ostentatious diamond stud on his earlobe succeeded in impressing me.

The license for Lawrence Reginald Travis said he was 19 years old, and lived in Henderson, Nevada. The registration I pulled from the glove box showed that his father, Anthony Reginald Travis, lived at the same address, and owned the 2016 Chevy Corvette Stingray. The driver had no outstanding warrants.

I couldn’t hold Bucky on the revolver, since no license was required in Nevada. He would have done better, though, not to have cursed me, and not to have insulted my mother. And then there was the matter of the attempted bribe. Without those things I might not have searched his car and found the stash of blow, and the open bottle of tequila. Regardless, I couldn’t forgive his traveling one hundred and twenty-five miles an hour in a seventy-five mile an hour zone. Mr. Bucky’s boyish looks would be popular at the Clark County Detention Center.

This would annoy my sergeant to no end. He hated VIP arrests, and he would upbraid me for collaring yet another privileged brat. It meant more time in court for me, and less time on patrol. He would task me with the extra paperwork, and with dealing with the obnoxious family and their high-priced lawyers. And I still had my headache.

I needed a cigarette, and a drink.

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  1. Paul Spano September 30, 2019 at 12:39 am

    Loved the straightforward dialog and vivid descriptions. The story grabbed my interest from the start and kept me wondering where it was going, right up to the end. The pretentious teenager and the unassuming Highway Patrolman is a very entertaining mix of personalities. Headache is a fast-moving and entertaining story. I really enjoyed it!

  2. BJ Condike September 30, 2019 at 1:40 am

    Thanks, Paul! I wrote most of these stories for contests with rigid maximum word counts (e.g., 1,000 or 1,500 words). It’s always a challenge to write a cohesive story in such a small space.

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