Cat and Mouse

A typical Thursday afternoon, I drove the car home with my 10-year-old daughter singing to the rhythm and rhymes of Trolls’ soundtrack. She insisted on singing duet-style with her role as Anna Kendrick, leaving me with the tenor portion of Justin Timberlake. If it was a romance song, I’d have to think twice, but this was just good old fun for our hour-long drive back to Ogden.

Throughout the freeway entrances and exits, the carpool and the merges, driving can seem like such a chore sometimes. One time of allowing my mind to drift could mean an extra five or ten minutes of time–the difference of rush hour traffic or not. And our last ditch from carpool lane to exit almost rises simultaneously, so I need to remain prepared. This particular day, I felt like I could conquer the world. My day had flowed like milk in a cup.

As the exit drew near, I noticed a black VW sedan directly behind me. It’d been further back for quite a while but drew closer as my exit neared. If I were to suddenly stop, or even not so suddenly, I’d have to entertain another passenger in my car. I hated this but knew my exit was a short time off, so I figured he’d have to wait a few more seconds.

Still, I waited with eager anticipation for the solid white line running up the right side of my car to change to a pattern of ellipses. My window of opportunity of making my exit was small. I checked my right mirror ensuring the right lanes were clear enough I could scoot quickly. When the dots started, I turned my wheel right and craned around to check for a clear path once again. The sedan had crossed the solid line and was alongside my gas tank. My hands closed on the wheel and I swerved back left toward the wall running alongside the driver’s door. Quick thinking prevented me from hitting the wall as my hands corrected the movement.

Checking again, I could see my way was clear clean across the freeway and moved my car across. “Geez, that was close, wasn’t it?” My daughter had stopped her cheerful song and her big blue eyes were wide in anticipation.

“Yeah, a little too close,” I replied.

I stole a glance at the sedan as my car leaned right off the exit. The other driver smiled sarcastically as if he’d won some sort of battle. I rolled my eyes and shook my head, casually delivering the “New York salute.” He wasn’t even supposed to be in the carpool lane. The world is full of “exceptional” people, isn’t it?I couldn’t wait to get home. The longest part of my day was always the drive. But then again, it was really the only time I had to bond with my daughter. By the time I get home, I need to work on the cleanup from the morning, make dinner, eat dinner, shower, complete my schoolwork, help the kids with theirs, prepare my lesson plans for the next day, and catch up on everyone’s daily events in about three hours. I typically relish the hour-long drive home with one sweet and curious girl.

I couldn’t wait to get home. The longest part of my day was always the drive. But then again, it was really the only time I had to bond with my daughter. By the time I get home, I need to work on the cleanup from the morning, make dinner, eat dinner, shower, complete my schoolwork, help the kids with theirs, prepare my lesson plans for the next day, and catch up on everyone’s daily events in about three hours. I typically relish the hour-long drive home with one sweet and curious girl.

The two exit lanes gradually join up with another highway exit as the amusement park of Lagoon reminds me it’s always there and waiting. My daughter always presses her face to the window and allows onlookers into her mind of imagination. I feel as if the next time we go she’ll already be bored while she gets her stamp. But today, I’m glad she’s a bit distracted because the black VW has sensed his upper hand against a woman and a child and decided to join us.

My car merged with the other highway with a speed limit of 55. I pulled across three lanes to the left, sped up to about 70 so I could leave the freak behind, but he followed. Changing to the center lane, I slowed to the rate of surrounding traffic. There he was again. I suspected this wasn’t a coincidence any longer. I moved all the way to the right side, and he followed again. Aware I was conscious of his movements now, the game of cat and mouse continued. He was having a good time and probably had no pressing events to come home to — a nice way to kill time, but he was getting bored with me. Creeping up on my bumper, he flashed his headlights at me a couple of times. Brake check. He slowed for a second and then rode up again. A second brake check and I slowed down to 40 mph. There was no one in the lane to my left, but he was enjoying this too much to pass. My fuel light flashed notifying me I was almost out of gas.

I asked my daughter to hand me my phone. “But you shouldn’t text and drive,” she reminded me, and my mind briefly reflected on my bumper sticker stating as much.

“I’m not going to text,” I reassured her as she reached down, grabbed my phone from the side pocket of my purse and handed it to me. Like a hawk, she carefully watched to make sure I was telling the truth. Her eyes narrowed as she watched me dial the phone.

“Why are you calling 9-1-1?”

“Oh, there’s some freak following us and he won’t pass. Every time I change lanes, he follows. Watch.” I sped up and changed lanes. He followed again.

My phone wasn’t audibly ringing, so I stole a glance at it and verified I had a connection. I did, but it got no answer. After waiting for what seemed an eternity, I sped up to 90 mph and crossed over to the fast lane, hoping to get pulled over by a concerned officer. No such luck, but my new friend thoroughly enjoyed the blood-pumping speed. My daughter squeezed hard against her seat, no Troll song escaping her lips, and her eyes were glued to the side view mirror. “What does he want?” she asked.

“I have no idea,” I answered and shrugged. “I imagine we’re his Thursday night entertainment.”

“Can’t someone else be his entertainment?”

I changed lanes, hung up the phone, and slowed down in the center lane again. But now we were down to two lanes with me in the right lane. I kept a sharp eye out for a police cruiser but couldn’t find any. Shaking my head, I dialed again and got the same response. Am I in a bad area? I wondered. Could their system be down? No, that’s preposterous. I hung up again.

Here we were in Ogden, my fuel light was blinking red, and the jerk was still chewing at my bumper. I tried to make out his license plate, but with the rear windows tinted, I couldn’t see anything other than he had the creative design of the Utah arches. “Nikki, read his license plate off to me,” I demanded, and I dialed 9-1-1 for the third time. Our street was coming up and she craned around in her seat beneath her seatbelt. “I can’t see it.”

“You need to climb into the back seat, honey.” The screen on my phone had an icon that continuously blinked but still had no sound. Maybe it was a safety precaution for those who might be hiding… still, I had no idea if I was even connected.

Nikki climbed into the back seat and I swerved into the turn lane as the light blinked yellow. I slowed until it was red and gunned it through. I imagined him laughing as he followed me through the red light. My gas light continued blinking as I continued past our street to the next four-way stop. “Do you see his plate?”

“Yeah, I think it says something like…”

“No,” growing agitated, I gritted my teeth and slowly replied, “Okay, Nikki, ‘I think’ and ‘something like’ aren’t good enough descriptions. I need to know exactly what is on his license plate so the police can find him. Okay?”

“Fine.” She turned back, leaning over the seat and I turned right. I changed lanes after the following intersection, and he continued following all the way to Riverdale Road, which was its usual busy three-lane each direction highway. The department finally answered. “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?” I described the situation to the man on the other end of the phone who instructed me to turn left at the light.

“I’m going to the Riverdale Police Department, right?” I asked. When he confirmed that’s where I was going, I informed him that was my intention too. The leach followed us all the way through the left turn on 700 West where the police department’s street was, right after a car lot with a small strip mall containing a music store and several little stores. When I saw the big, green sign with the police department information, I pulled into the left turn lane and he followed. I turned and could see him hesitating before he made a U-turn at that point. I could feel his energy heighten, even from where I was, and knew he wasn’t gone.

I passed a police car driving up toward the station and pulled over. The three-starred officer got out, another in a truck joined us, and requested I pull into the station lot and wait. He jumped into his car and the truck followed me, parking beside me. He asked me a few questions and then asked what I wanted from the police force. I was dumbstruck for a moment as the word “protection” rang through my head. I asked him if he could follow me at a safe distance to Costco to fuel up. I told him if he was back far enough, perhaps the guy would follow me. He agreed and off we went.

Officer Trent Thompson followed directly behind me all the way to the station.

I jumped out and got gas while he approached me with a pen and paper to take my information down. When I finished, he again met with me to notify me that they found the man. He was at a music store where he worked and it only seemed he was following me. I stood, mouth agape at what I was hearing. I was nothing short of astounded.

When we drive anywhere, my little girl insists on sitting in the back where she scrunches down in the seat, peeking between the front seats into the mirror. She searches for the black VW sedan so she can warn me in time. My hopes are that the next time I see him, she isn’t with me at all, only Smith & Wesson. Then we’ll have a better idea of who the cat is.

 

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