Francis squeezed her cell phone between her cheek and her shoulder as she steered the borrowed hatchback with both hands, aggressively cutting across the shoulder on every corner. She swore as the tires slipped on some gravel, but quickly corrected the wobble. “This thing drives like a brick,” she lamented to Griff.
“Mmhmm?” he responded, his knuckles white and his eyes fixed straight ahead to combat motion sickness. He was too scared to peek at the speedometer.
Someone answered Francis’s call, and she launched into rapid, clipped speech: “Decker, it’s Francis Petzschner. Have you been in contact with dispatch this morning? … Yeah, I’m just coming from there. The lady wasn’t exaggerating. We got hit hard. Three survivors, one’s in rough shape. We left him behind for the paramedics to handle. … Let them sort that mess out! We’re on a hot trail right now, following a green sedan, heading east on the 14. You have to route me through dispatch, get a westbound car to hop across and block them until we can catch up. … We don’t have visual; there’s a special with me who can track them within a two K range. … Let me check.” She looked over at Griff. “How close are we?”
“Um…” He tried to concentrate for a moment. “A little over a kilometre maybe? It’s hard to tell at this spee—whoa!” He ducked his head and covered his neck by reflex as Francis swung the car into the oncoming lanes to dart past a slow-moving vehicle that had just merged from an on-ramp. A screaming ambulance swooped around the bend coming straight towards them, and they tucked back into their own lane with inches to spare.
Francis swore again. “Well, we’re gaining,” she reported over the phone, “but we’re starting to hit some morning traffic as we get closer to Langford. … Okay, put me through.” She waited a moment, then began giving orders to someone: “Take two cars and make it look like a speed trap. Flag down every green car, but let the others through so things don’t get too jammed up. We don’t want to give them any warning that we’re onto them, or they might get spooked. If they leave the main road, my guy will know, though.” She nudged Griff and said, “Don’t take your mind’s eye off of them, eh?”
Griff nodded and shut out the world around him, doing his best to keep track of those three people inside the car they were following, separating out their warm bodies from the numerous others that were beginning to form up around them as the highway grew busier.
“Okay, good. Hold that position,” Francis continued. “We’re a minute or two out. Remember, every green car! And be careful; they may be dangerous. Keep this call open.” She put her phone in her lap and returned her full attention to the road, urging a bit more speed out of the whining, shuddering little hatchback. “They’ve got a couple of squad cars in place,” she told Griff. “They’ll slow everyone down just by being there, and as long as they don’t get overwhelmed with green cars and let our friends slip past, we should be able to pick them up nice and easy. Let me know when you notice some people parked on the shoulder, okay?”
It only took another 30 seconds before they were in range of the impromptu “speed trap”. Without losing his lock on the three people he was focussing on, Griff cast a quick mental glance at the stationary group. “There are five people on the shoulder I think,” he informed Francis, “or maybe six.”
“Four of them will be cops,” she said. “How close are our three?”
“Close,” said Griff. “There are quite a few cars around them. They’re all slowing down. Now they’re, uh…”
“They’re what? Are they getting pulled over?”
Griff frowned as he sensed the three people inside the green car flow smoothly past the waiting cops. “No, they… They just drove right past. But someone else is pulling over. And another one, too.”
Francis slammed her palm on the steering wheel. “You can’t be serious!” She slipped the hatchback around another car that was in their way and fumbled for her cell phone again. “They got through!” she yelled. “What happened?”
The cop on the other end raised his voice defensively, loud enough that even Griff could hear the reply: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’ve got every green car we’ve seen sitting on the shoulder, lady!”
“Obviously not,” Francis retorted, “unless you’re calling my partner and me liars.”
Griff glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Had she just called him her “partner”? How cool was that? He had no time to bask in the faint glow of earning a hardcore cop’s mild respect, though: their car was rounding a bend, and up ahead, through a thickening press of vehicles, they could see a couple of police cars off on the side of the highway, with several cars of different shapes and sizes, all painted in various shades of green, lined up at intervals behind them.
Francis laid on the hatchback’s horn, weaving through the traffic and skirting around a big semi, hardly touching the brakes at all. Griff’s head whirled.
“Look,” said the cop on the phone, “I don’t know how ‘special’ you two think you are, but I’m telling you, we’ve been—holy crap! Hold on a second.”
A siren blared to life as they shot past the “speed trap”, and one of the squad cars pulled out behind them.
With a weary sigh, Francis growled into her phone: “Cool your engines there, big guy. The blue hatchback is us.”
The squad car’s siren shut off abruptly.
Francis slammed her phone shut and tossed it onto the dashboard in disgust. “Up to us, kid,” she said. “Don’t let me lose them…”