Pickup on County Route 15


Garry Packard sat mutely, inwardly sighing between mouthfuls, while his partner, Don Haggerty, complained to a waitress about his burger. Having worked together for the last nine years, Packard had grown used to the man’s tetchiness, but that didn’t mean he had grown to like it. Fortunately, for Packard, his partner would be retiring at the end of the month.

Sure, he would miss Haggerty—somewhat—but nobody at the Penn Yan Police Department would exactly pine for the guy once he was gone. Thirty years in the same job was a long time. Packard’s sympathies went out to those on the force who had known his partner longer than he had.

A call about an abandoned Pickup out on County Route 15 came through, interrupting the animated discussion. The two cops left the diner fairly quickly, Haggerty not bothering to leave a tip. Packard was relieved to get out of there and back to the squad car. He made heavy use of the accelerator along Route 15, and it didn’t take him long to find the deserted vehicle—a Ford Lobo. When he pulled up behind it, it seemed like just another routine call.

They both approached the Pickup, slowly rather than cautiously, one either side of it. Peering through the driver’s side window, Packard noticed a mass of heavy-duty coiled rope and a large toolbox on the back seat.

He was still staring through the window when he heard Haggerty pulling at the door handle on the passenger side. The door swung open.

“That was easy work,” muttered Haggerty, exhibiting a rare smile.

He climbed inside and began searching the glove compartment, eventually emerging with the vehicle’s registration and insurance documents. “It’s registered to Manuel Gonzalez,” he announced.

Packard gave a satisfied nod. “That’s one mystery solved. I’ll check the trunk.”

Packard moved to the rear of the vehicle, while his partner continued to search the inside of the car. Throwing open the trunk, he gazed suspiciously at a large camouflage jacket, a considerable bulge beneath it. He shifted the coat to one side, exclaiming: “Whoa! Geez!”

Haggerty didn’t wait for an invitation to look. He moved briskly to where Packard stood, the stunned look on Packard’s face impressing him. When he looked inside the trunk, witnessing what Packard saw, he looked even more impressed. The camouflage jacket had been pulled back to reveal a massive collection of firearms. Tens of handguns and rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition crowded the trunk.

“You ever see a guy go hunting with this sort of gear?” muttered Packard with a quick glance to Haggerty.

Haggerty didn’t look up. “Just what is this bastard hunting?” he said, still staring, narrow-eyed, at the bounty of weapons.

The snap of brushwood brought their attention to a short, squat man emerging from woodland off in the distance. Neither cop said a word to each other. They both moved away from the Pickup.

Packard called out to the stranger. His intention was to question the man.

His startled reaction to seeing the cops searching the trunk of the Pickup persuaded Packard and Haggerty that this was Manuel Gonzalez. The stranger answered Packard’s yell by reaching inside his coat and drawing a pistol—a Ruger LCP. Shots exploded from his fist, lifting Haggerty off his feet and projecting him across the road, slamming him down hard on his back. He didn’t get up to return fire.

The sudden burst of scampering limbs propelled Gonzalez away from Packard, who gave chase. Packard’s lumbering stride didn’t close the gap between them. Panting heavily, he drew a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm from his holster and sent two shots whistling over Gonzalez’s head.

Gonzalez whirled around and, still on the run, returned two shots of his own. Breathless and in motion, his aim was slightly off

Packard, who was now standing still, lowered his aim and sent two more bullets toward Gonzalez. They found their mark, evidenced by Gonzalez plummeting to the ground, face-first.

Packard approached him at a run, pistol trained on the fallen man, finger poised for action. His anxiety was abated moments later, when he saw Gonzalez’s hideously twisted figure. It was clear the man was dead, and his story had died with him.

~ fin ~

Hector S. Koburn’s work has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His recent stories can be found in the magazines Shotgun Honey and Lowestoft Chronicle.