Lexi was back in the salt desert, headed toward Marjori, when she saw the blue lights on top of the white Saab pop on. She had figured it might happen; the cop was sitting behind a low rise in the desert, and by the time she saw him she knew that if he was radaring, he’d already gotten her and the Cadillac’s speedo was nailed a couple of ticks above 100.
She pulled obediently to the side to wait for him, and shut the big car off. With the radio and engine silenced, the desert’s quiet pressed in around her. Lexi had several moments to meditate upon the silence as the police Saab caught up and pulled in front of her. That was a difference between US and Solei police, she’d seen–the Ile du Soleil cops always pulled in front of you instead of behind.
The officer was young and clean-cut with high-sided black hair and broad shoulders. He looked incongruously like a really young Judd Nelson. Lexi smiled at him, but he didn’t return the gesture.
Hopefully the scowling cop wasn’t having a bad day. Would points acquired in Ile du Soleil get back to her insurance at home? Lexi rehearsed a couple of nice ice-breakers as the cop walked toward her car. Saying something nice and smiling was often a good way to get out of even a healthy ticket. Unless of course he was chasing her because of the thing at Carino Rhoades’ place, of course.
The police officer trumped anything she might have said by drawing his gun on her from twenty feet away. “Get out of the car!” he barked. Okay, maybe it did have something to do with the thing at Carino Rhoades’ place. “Get out of the car or I will shoot you!” he yelled.
Lexi was so shocked, annoyed and on some level offended that she gaped at the man in disbelief. She wouldn’t have been more surprised if he had peeled off his head and revealed himself to be Phyllis Diller. As she hesitated, he quickly closed the distance between them and rammed the gun into her face.
“Hands where I can see them!” he shouted, even though both of her hands were on the wheel. “Hands where I can see them! Get out! Out!” He sounded almost like he was yelling for the sheer joy of yelling, yelling because he could. With his free hand he opened the door. Lexi unbuckled her seatbelt so as not to get tangled up in it, and the cop dragged her onto her hands and knees into the road next to the car. She was kicked painfully in the tailbone, which sent her sprawling into the road itself, and Lexi looked back along the freeway she’d just driven, her cheek pressed against the hot pavement, as her hands were cuffed behind her back. She was glad no cars were coming.
She was yanked up, spun, and thrust belly-first against the side of the car. The cop screamed at her again, but his words spun around her head and she didn’t understand.
“I asked you for some identification!” he roared. “Legs apart! Apart!” He kicked her instep and she fell to her knees. With her hands cuffed, she couldn’t avoid hitting her chin on the Cadillac’s hood as she went down, and the cracking impact felt for a moment as though she’d shattered all of her teeth.
While she was recovering from that the cop dragged her back to her feet again. He patted her down roughly, swatting at her breasts hard enough to elicit a gasp of pain, then spun her so her back was to the car, took a step back into the road, and pointed the gun at her again.
Lexi blinked at him. She wished, hotly and for just a moment, that a semi truck would barrel past and squash him like an éclair on a sumo wrestler’s futon. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t a paintball gun pointed at her this time, and she was too conscious of being alone in the desert with a (possibly mentally unbalanced) cop. His gun was clearly doing the thinking, and there were no witnesses. He seized her arm, roughly, and led her forward to his car with one hand. The gun was pressed against the side of her neck, the barrel hot and scalding even though it hadn’t been fired, and he ground it against her harder when she tried to pull away. Don’t cry, she thought, feeling tears of fright well up in her eyes. Goddamn you don’t cry.
Lexi hated being roughhoused, but she had no choice for now. Impotent anger was rising quickly in her. Her father had taught her that it was perfectly okay to respond to violence with violence, or by turning the other cheek, or with treachery, anything so long as your response was a measured, conscious one and not simple acquiescence or blind lashing out, and she had tried to hew to that lesson. Lately she’d been mostly of the mood to respond in kind (hence her kneeing Mr. Goodman in the leaf) and the need to avenge the insult was burning hot and bright just now. Lexi looked around the car, hoping for some clue as to the cop’s identity, but there was nothing. The engine was off though. It was getting hot. Lexi hated hot. Cold she could deal with; hot made her lightheaded and grouchy and sticky, even if everyone said Ile du Soleil had a dry heat. It did nothing to improve her mood. Neither did the conspicuous lack of room in the Saab’s back seat. However, Officer Handgun was reminding her of Collie Entragian in Stephen King’s Desperation (which she had read on the flight to Ile du Soleil, incidentally), and that was enough to make her shut up.
The cop came back to the car and lowered himself into the driver’s seat. “You’re American. Is this your car?”
She was relieved that he was talking instead of shouting. It was probably a good time to refrain from being a bitch. “No. I borrowed it.”
“Do you have permission to be driving this car?” he asked.
Once again she was struck by the fact that he hadn’t asked who she was. “Of course I do.”
“May I see it?” His eyes met hers in the mirror.
“A letter of permission. It’s required in this country, you know.”
It was? “I don’t have an actual letter.”
Lexi turned around, looking out the back window. She felt helpless, and disliked it intensely. “I didn’t realize that was the case.”
“I’m sure you didn’t,” the cop said, completely unmoved but seeming to be enjoying himself. He hadn’t started the car, and it was stifling. He murmured into his headset, running the Cadillac’s plate number.
“Do I get a phone call?”
“No.” He was writing on a clipboard.
“What do you mean, no?”
“You’re not in America any more, mademoiselle. In case you hadn’t noticed.”
She bit off a snippish response. “Then how soon can I call the embassy?”
“After you’re processed.”
“You banged my face on the side of the car. I think my lip is bleeding.” It felt like it was puffing up, at the very least.
Lexi kicked the back of his seat, which was an incredibly dumb thing to do as it brought Officer Handgun right back to the fore. He spun in the seat and rammed the barrel of the gun right through the bars of the safety screen. “Get back!” he yelled. “Get back and get down!” Lexi shrank in the seat, trying and failing to find an escape from that huge black eye. The gun tracked her.
Just as suddenly, the cop relented, touching his earpiece. “Go ahead,” he said neutrally, no trace of the screaming, spit-spraying rage in his voice. “I understand,” he said finally. “Thank you.”
The cop put the gun away and slid out of the car, then let Lexi out and uncuffed her. “I apologize for the inconvenience,” he said. His eyes were unreadable, weirdly distant. “You’re free to go.”
Lexi frowned. “I think I missed part of this conversation.”
“Give my regards to Mr. Cassarell. And enjoy your time in Ile du Soleil,” Officer Handgun said, slipping back into his car. The Saab’s engine burbled to life, and the cop pulled away without another word.