A Loaded Question


First came the red and blue lights, followed by a surge of adrenalin in Eric’s heart. He could hear his own breath, shaking through his nose.


He gripped the steering wheel, hoping that the cruiser would fly right by him. Then the whoop whoop of the siren, that fucking cop wasn’t going anywhere.  He pulled over to the side of the highway and watched the luckier drivers fly past.

He waited for the cop to walk up to the car. He wanted a cigarette, but that seemed to him like a guilty move, a tip off, a cover up. He reached over and switched the radio on. Classic rock. He turned it up just a little.

“Good evening, sir.” The cop leaned into the window of the car. Typical cop. Stone faced, accusing, dumb-ass thinking he’s a hard-ass.

“Do you know why I pulled you over tonight?” Trick question.

“Well, I don’t think I was speeding, was I, Officer?” Eric answered. He didn’t like the sound of his own voice.

The officer smirked and shot the beam of his flashlight past Eric to the empty passenger seat. What is this dumbfuck looking for, thought Eric.

“I stopped you because you have a taillight out.”

Eric sent up a look of hurt surprise.

“Really? Damn it. I’ll get it fixed first thing in the morning.”

“Where you heading tonight?”

“Home, Daly City.” Keep it simple.

The officer took this in, weighed it.

“License and registration, please.”

Eric began to fumble with his overstuffed glove box, letting old tickets and napkins fall to the floorboards.

“Had anything to drink tonight, sir?”

“No, Officer, not a drop,” said Eric handing over his license and wrinkled registration. The officer held them, but kept looking at Eric. The cop walked back to his car, Eric watched him in the front seat of the cruiser, reading Eric’s whole life on the mounted monitor. It took forever; Cops loved this part.

“Step out of the car please.”

“Excuse me?”

“Take the keys out of the ignition and step out of the car.”


Inside the trunk, Paula struggled. She had no idea why Eric pulled over. She’d heard the siren, prayed it was for them. She was bound tight with duct tape, a sweaty sock stuffed deep into her mouth. After the tape, he hogtied her, roped her limbs onto the spool for the spare tire. It’d taken her twenty minutes just to bang her knee into the taillight. There was tape on her eyes, her whole head; there was no way of telling what was going on, all he’d left exposed were her two snotty nostrils. She thought she heard music, not a good sign, then, definitely a car door shutting. She rocked her body, she tried to scream, but all that came out was a moan. She was like an insect in a cocoon.


“Now follow my finger with your eyes, carefully.”

Eric followed.

“With your feet together, I want you to reach back and touch both index fingers to the tip of your nose.”

Eric touched his nose. It was easy, he was stone cold sober.

After a few more exercises the cop gave up.

“When was the last time you were arrested?”

Trick question, he’d already run Eric’s name.

“June, 2010, domestic violence,” recited Eric.

“Are you still together with your wife?”

A loaded question. Better make it good.

“No, we split up last year.” Eric paused, then said, “Marriage, that’s what’ll drive a man to drink.”

The Officer smiled for the first time, “Get that tail light fixed first thing tomorrow, and be careful driving home.”


In the trunk, Paula heard the door open and shut, could feel the motor start up. She could soon tell that they were back on the road. She figured she had about forty minutes left. She wished that she could just will her self to stop breathing now. Save the bastard the trouble, deny him the satisfaction.

~ fin ~

Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. He is the author of American Static (Down & Out Books), Hustle (Down & Out Books) and the novellas Piggyback (Snubnose Press) and Knuckleball (Shotgun Honey). He sat down with us for five questions about life, work, and how idle hands are the devil’s workshop.