Time to Kill
And who’s the little girl?
Never mind the girl…
The Wuester Police Officer
Aside from the cruiser’s humming engine doing its work under the hood, the rest of the drive is good and silent. Hubert perks up a little bit when Maxwell pulls into the plaza, and by the time they stop in front of the garage doors Jim is one step short of frothing at the mouth. He goes to undo his seatbelt, realizes he never put it on in the first place, then opens the door and slides out.
“Thanks for the ride, Chief,” Jim says with one hand on the door. “Don’t know how I’d get to work without ya.”
“Don’t mention it, Jim,” Maxwell says. “It was my fault your cruiser needed the work, anyway.”
Jim puts on some confusion. “How d’ya figure? Way I see it it was the n–… the Earthen folks’ fault. They didn’t need to hit the gas when I pulled out my gun, they could’a just taken what was comin’ to ‘em.”
Maxwell stares heavily at Jim Hubert. Then, “Well, let’s just be thankful they didn’t do too much damage.”
“Like I did to them,” Jim says with a grand ol’ smile. He waits a moment for Maxwell to affirm his efforts, but the chief does no such thing. “So uh, I’m’a grab a coffee real quick, you want? My treat.”
“No, thanks,” Maxwell says, waiting for Jim to close the passenger-side door. “I need to get to the station. You got the second shift, remember.”
“Oh I remember, Chief,” Jim says, making a circle with his index finger and thumb. “I don’t think I possibly could forget. Vern, on the other han–”
“Good,” nods Maxwell, nipping it at the bud, “good. Now, if you don’t mind, Jim…”
“I need to get to the station, Jim.”
“Oh, right.” Jim closes the cruiser’s door and waves goodbye. “Thanks again for the ride, Chief!”
Whether Chief hears him or not, he pulls away and disappears down Cannonball Road. Jim stops waving a few seconds after the car leaves his sight, then ambles directly over to the little coffee hut next to the garage. The mechanics prob’ly won’t be finished with his cruiser until at least ten o’clock, maybe even eleven. He’s got time to kill.
The coffee hut – a charming little spot called The Coffee Hut – is as charming as it is little. At least, Jim thinks so. It’s not very spacious, only has tables enough to sit eight customers so long as they come in two groups of four, but there are no cracks in the tile and funny little posters are hangin’ on the walls. One of ‘em has a branch covered in little red and yellow bulbs; Jim’s not sure what they are, but they look like some kind of weird grapes. There’s a caption, too. Reads We’ve bean expecting you. Jim doesn’t really get the joke, at all, but that’s all right. He figures he can still laugh along with the folks who do. Not like they’d be able to tell the difference anyway.
Jim walks up to the counter and smiles at the little barista. She’s got a nice little uniform, black slacks and a yellow shirt with a brow–… Earthen apron. ‘I wonder if her apron will disappear when we fell Rock tonight.’ Jim certainly wouldn’t mind if it did. He wouldn’t mind if the rest of her clothing disappeared too, but she won’t be on the boat with them when Rock fells so he supposes it wouldn’t make a difference.
The barista smiles back at the cop like her training tells her to – her home training, not that provided by The Coffee Hut. He orders a decaf coffee, black like her apron, and she’s genuinely confused by the remark but then she gets the joke. Then she turns around so she can stop fake-smiling at the Wuester police officer, the very Wuester police officer as far as she can tell, and takes her sweet time preparing his excruciatingly simply order.
After taking a good look at the little barista’s ass – the little barista’s fifteen-year-old ass, not that Jim knows, but would it make a difference? Who knows – Jim turns around and stares out the big front windows on either side of the glass door just in time to see a police cruiser pull into the parking lot.
‘Hey, I guess Chief changed his mind on that coffee!’
Jim is suddenly excited. Maybe Chief changed his mind on the whole respect thing, too. He spins around to tell the barista he’ll be right back, looks at her ass again, forgets what he was going to say, and then simply walks out of The Coffee Hut. When the barista comes back to the counter, lured there by the sound of the door opening and closing, she isn’t unpleased to find The Coffee Hut empty. She shrugs, puts the cup’a’Joe on the counter, and steps into the back to dick around on her smart phone for a few.
As Officer Hubert is walking across the lot to the one parking spot basked in sunlight where the police cruiser parked, he gets to watch a civilian vehicle pull into the plaza and then immediately drive right back onto the road. ‘Probably scared of me,’ Jim rationalizes. ‘Pussy.’ He walks up to the cruiser and prepares to open the door for Chief, but then he sees who’s driving the cruiser. Then, he grumbles, “Speaking of pussies…”
“Well a good morning to you too, Jim,” says Officer Vern VanDunk, stepping slowly out of his cruiser. “What are you doing here? They finish your car early?”
“Nah, Chief gave me a ride,” Jim says with a smug kind of satisfaction in his voice, that of a twerp telling his friends that he got a popular girl to pick up a pencil off the ground for him in school so now they’re pretty much dating.
“Oh, well that was nice of him,” says Vern. “So, what, you’re just go’n’a hang out here all morning?”
“Yep! I don’t have a patrol shift today on account’a my whip, and it’s not like anybody else offered me a ride here. What, am I go’n’a walk?”
“I would have gladly given you a ride, Jim.”
“Yeah, but Chief offered.” Jim folds his arms. “Besides, I don’t really wan’a be in a car with you unless I have to, VanDunk. Yesterday was plenty enough.”
Vern agrees wholeheartedly, but he doesn’t say as much. “All right, wel–”
“So how you feelin’ about tonight, Vern ol’ pal?” Jim asks, as to not let Vern walk away from the cruiser. “You ready to put ‘er down?”
“Let’s not, Jim,” Vern says, walking away from the cruiser. “Come on, I’ll buy you a coffee.”
“I already bought one,” Jim says, then gets an idea. “Say, you have the first shift at Maxwell’s place, right?”
“Yeah, I’m supposed to be there in an hour or so.” Vern pauses then and turns around. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I was just thinkin’… why don’t we trade shifts?”
Vern bares his teeth, then conceals them and asks, “Why do you want to trade shifts with me, Jim?”
“Come on, VanDunk! I have the day off and no car, I’m stuck here in this little plaza with jack shit to do!”
“What about your coffee?” Vern asks, looking up as a flock of birds flies by overhead.
“I don’t even want it anymore,” Jim Hubert sneers. “We’re cops, Vern, it’s them against us. Are you with me or out to get me?”
Vern rolls his eyes. “Fine. Keys are in the car, go nuts. Just be back before ten, a’ight? I don’t wan’a be late for the little girl.”
“Please,” Jim says, already halfway in Vern’s cruiser. “I doubt she’ll be expecting you. I doubt she even knows how to tell time, tell y’the truth.”
Vern is not at all surprised that Jim doubts the little girl’s ability to tell time. “All right, well… I’ll be here, Jim.”
“I know you will,” Jim says, then shuts the door. Then he opens it back up and pokes his head over the cruiser’s roof like a prairie dog out of a burrow. “Hey, what are you go’n’a do for the next few hours, just hang out here?”
After fighting the urge to just keep on walking, Vern drags his heels to a pause and turns around. “If you must know, Jim, I’m meeting someone here.”
“Someone, huh?” Hubert asks suspiciously. “A’ight, Verny ol’ boy. A’ight. You tell faggoty Tad I said howdy.” Jim then disappears back into the cruiser and slams the door before he can hear Vern’s squeal of a reply. “You got him good, Jim. Oh yeah. You got him real good.”
Officer Jim Hubert, dressed up in his police uniform even though he doesn’t have a patrol shift today (a fact that nobody questions because everybody ‘round these parts knows Jim Hubert and what Jim Hubert is about), drives out of the plaza in Vern VanDunk’s cruiser. Vern watches him leave with some glee, then walks into The Coffee Hut and orders a latte from the kid working behind the counter.
Hello Commons, this has been the third subchapter of the third chapter of Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox, a novel about a man who likes to eavesdrop on his neighbors.
Under the Hood: The Imprisonment of Jonathan Knox is the second book in the W-2222 series, a series of books which take place in Universe W-2222.
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