There really was no reason he could think of….
For the police car behind him to be flashing its lights in the universal signal for ‘pull over’…. The siren was blaring too. They meant it, apparently, even if Josh didn’t know why. He pulled over, as ordered it seemed, when a wide enough spot in the road came available.
That wide spot was caused by the addition some twenty years ago of a culinary establishment known as ‘Frankies hot spot’ to the fine dining list. It catered to the occasional truck traffic every two lane interstate carries, as well as a short list of locals with cast iron stomachs and wishes for an early demise. It was not a busy place.
Nosed into the parking lot, Josh put his aging Honda in park before beginning the inevitable rummage for his registration and insurance cards. They never seemed to be where he thought they should be, but since he hadn’t been pulled over in nearly ten years it had never been a big issue. As Josh rolled his window down and turned, he asked “Hang on a second, I know I have them here some…….” And his voice trailed off as he came nose to muzzle with an officers weapon. His voice seemed to vanish as rapidly as his heart beat jumped, and the best he could manage at that point was “Hawaaa?”
“Hands on the wheel, up top where I can see them!” growled the officer. Josh barely registered this, still staring at the pistol aimed into his face.
“Don’t move, and just keep those hands where I can see them………”
Moments later, Joshua found himself on the ground, with his hands behind his back in handcuffs. He’d been patted down after he was cuffed on the ground, and his wallet had been taken from his pants pocket without a word. After the officer looked at his license for a moment, the wallet was dropped on the ground next to him, his driver’s license dumped next to it. Josh’s questions met with dead air, no response. He still had no idea why he’d been pulled over.
Behind him, and just at the edge of his vision when he turned his head on the gravel of the parking lot, he could see two officers at his car. One was standing next to it, shining a flashlight into the car, while the other was leaning in the passenger door. Every few moments the cop with the flashlight flashed it back at Josh, and then back to the inside of the car. The other officer had his own flashlight on inside the car, and sounded like he was softly cursing to himself.
After a few moments, he backed out of the car and slammed the passenger door.
The cop with the flashlight stood over Josh while the other officer went back to the police car, and stood by the opened passenger side door. The officer near Josh bent over behind him, and lifted his arms by the handcuffs, leaving Josh gasping in pain as his arms bent unnaturally backwards behind him. He felt the cuffs come off, and then the officer released his arms while stepping back a few steps at the same time. Josh lay gasping as the pain receded, and only after a few moments dared turn his head…. And then saw the man behind him was already back at the cruiser and both were getting in.
The police car spun its wheels only slightly in the gravel as it pulled out, the flashing light bar now turned off and dim. It sedately pulled back onto the two lane road and drove away, leaving Joshua as he sat up carefully, trying to favor his arms as they screamed at him over the mistreatment. He was utterly stunned… sitting there next to his car, it still running, and the driver side door still open. The gravel digging into his ass went unnoticed, as his mind tried to comprehend what had just happened.
He got up, slowly, and walked to his car. The glove box had spilled its guts across the floor, and was hanging open. He jacket was tossed into the backseat, inside out. Staring at the mess inside his car, Josh finally startled when he saw the ashtray broken from its mount and hanging by a wire, swinging slowly.
“Those bastards broke my ashtray!” Josh said. “My Fucking ashtray!” He yelled.
The broken ashtray was the detail that snapped Josh’s mind back into reality. Till then, it was just some impossible thing that was happening to someone else. As it all sunk in that it had really just taken place, he began putting the stuff back in his glove box. What the hell had just taken place?
As Josh put things in their places, he also grabbing his jacket off the back seat and put it on. He slid back into the driver’s seat, his hand automatically drifted under the seat to where he kept a pistol when he traveled, as he’d done for several years now. He always checked its placement, making sure it was in reach but still safely locked into the Blackhawk SERPA holster he’d wire tied to the underside of the seat.
His fingers met the empty holster. His eyes widened. His mind flashed into clarity, and he suddenly knew what it had all been about. His weapon was gone, stolen, without a word, by armed men who just happened to be wearing badges when they did it.
Josh sat back in his seat… breathing deeply. It was a thing taught him by his grandfather, to calm the body and prepare his mind for action. His grandfather had made Josh practice it till it became second nature and only a few breaths were enough to carry him past shock and into a furious mental barrage of possible ways he could react to the situation.
Each avenue was quickly… so very quickly…. exhausted. Joshua realized there was no one he could go to for justice. He had nothing. No proof, no witnesses, he hadn’t been arrested, nothing. Hell, he honestly could not remember the officer’s faces and never learned their names. All he’d seen was the muzzle of that gun in his face, and then the gravel of the park lot. What would he tell people? Who would believe him over the cops… especially when he couldn’t even say who they were?
Josh pulled into a spot in front of the diner without even shutting his car door on the way. He finally closed it, before he walked towards the front door of the diner.
He took his phone with him, and his wallet.
Sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee, Joshua laid the wallet in front of him, and looked at a photo carefully placed behind a clear plastic window inside, where he could see it every time he opened the wallet. His grandfather stared back at him, stern eyes made harder by the black and white image. Wearing an old fashioned hat, the kind older immigrants wore in the 1940’s and 50’s as they tried to blend into American culture. Still, the old man’s face bore clear witness to his German heritage, and also more than an average man’s share of battle scars.
Josh had been guided through much of his first fifteen years by his grandfather, as his parents worked hard to make a home. Not that the old man didn’t work hard as well, almost every day till he died at nearly 90, when Joshua was a young man. Away in college at the time, Josh and his grandfather exchanged letters weekly, the last coming one day before the old man died in his sleep.
The letters often spoke of the grandfather’s life as a young man in Europe, during the run up to World War II. The war, and what happened to his grandfather’s family, was a pillar in the foundation of Joshua’s upbringing.
It was those letters that burned through Josh’s mind as he thought of what had happened in the parking lot. The shame he felt… because he had trusted men with badges to be good, and not evil. The knowledge that they’d probably used their authority to run his plates, look into his private data, and find his concealed carry permit and the registration for his pistol. The simple and easy way they’d gathered him up and taken advantage of his trust. The way he’d let them just walk up and take him. All that was what his grandfather’s letters had talked about; how people had trusted authority… right up until it was too late, and the evil was revealed.
Josh opened his old fashioned cell phone, and looked at it for a while. He thumbed a key, and moved down the menu of contacts till he found the name he was looking for: ‘Steffan’. The name correlated to no one he knew personally, but someone his Grandfather had written him about. A man who had fought back against evil.
Joshua had placed the name, and its number, in his phone many months before. It didn’t link to anyone at all, but to a computer module and another type of computer regulated telephone linkage housed in a Northwest Virginia cell phone tower. Placing a call to the number would trigger a series of events, culminating in an unusual cell phone number being called. Calling that number was a nearly impossible sequence to hit by accident…. which was a very good thing indeed.
More than six months earlier, Joshua, who was particularly good at cutting edge electronics, had set up the system in the cell tower as part of an experimental signal optimization project he was working on for his post graduate work. The system held roughly 1.2 million such numbers in it, and each would cause a unique 20 digit phone number to be called. Of course, the cell telephone system did not recognize such numbers… at least they didn’t till Josh had installed his very special, and successful, modification. Most of what he had installed was exactly what his highly profitable university project said it was. Some…. Maybe 10%.... was something no one else knew about.
Joshua was staring into his grandfather’s eyes in the photograph as he pushed the two keys that activated the special speed dial on his cell phone. The signal went out to the nearest cell tower, and immediately vanished into the nationwide network, using pathways Josh’s software had set up as part of the optimization project.
The coded signal went through the system and eventually, in electrical terms, found its way to the processor in the cell tower Josh had installed. This took roughly twelve seconds, an eternity to the system, but in those twelve seconds the signal had been routed through a maze so circuitous no human would ever figure it out. Especially since part of it was driven by a random number sequence.
The processor in the tower, on receiving the signal, sent one of its own back as a fail-safe mechanism. Josh had thought it necessary until the system had proven itself. Since this was the first real life application of the system, he was expecting the return call. All he had to do…. all he did…. was answer his phone. That in itself was the return signal.
Seeing the sending unit pick up, the processor began going through its encrypted solid state memory drive and matching up numbers. Once done, it dialed the resulting special number, and sent it out on the cell system nationwide.
In the hollow part of the grip on Josh’s Glock pistol, the rather small electronic package sensed the signal, and as a result sent another of its own. This one was a just a small blip of voltage, but seemed more than enough to set off the blasting cap sealed into the surprisingly tiny charge of composition-four housed within the grip. The cap set off the explosive, which served quite nicely to destroy the pistol. In fact, it also managed to blow every window out of the vehicle, and kill the officer who had placed the stolen weapon into the duty bag alongside his seat. The other officer died a short time later… perhaps from blood loss, or perhaps from shock. Only the coroner would ever be able to guess.
The patrol car, not in flames, not even appearing damaged aside from the missing glass and somewhat bulged roof, sat alongside the road roughly twenty five miles from the diner where Joshua was. Josh never heard the sound of the explosion, yet he had perfect faith it had worked exactly as designed. He was good at his calling.
He didn’t smile as he slowly closed his wallet and put it in his pocket. He didn’t smile, but he almost thought his Grandfather did, in the way one soldier might to another.