The body must have tumbled and rolled at least six times in the yard of the house across the street. The SUV hit the brick mailbox tossing bricks in the air, into the street, and into my front yard.
The mailbox and the bricks that remained attached landed five to seven feet from the edge of my neighbor’s driveway⎯in the middle of their yard⎯headed in the direction the blue or black truck was moving away.
The body must have been that of the driver trying to hang on, trying to keep their truck from being stolen. Or maybe the person driving was trying to keep the truck from being stolen.
If so he or she did a hell of a job to shake a thief, but they had to know they’d never make that u-turn clean in a driving rainstorm in our cul de sac. And yet...the SUV is gone and as far as I could tell in a driving rainstorm with minimal damage.
I was just getting ready to sit down and finish writing the last chapter of my book. And I can see everything in the cul de sac from my window. The LED headlights looked like lightning streaking across. The truck colliding with the mailbox created the thunder sending tremors through the foundation of our homes.
The text came in the next moment: “What was that?”
“Somebody hit your mailbox.”
“They did what?’
“Hit your mailbox and kept going?”
“You probably can’t see it through the trees, but your mailbox is in the middle of your yard.”
“The bottom...your foundation is scattered in the street. A handful of bricks landed in my yard.”
“Where’s the truck?”
“Long gone...as far as I can tell.”
‘Okay, found my boots...heading to the front yard.”
“I already called the police. They should be here in minutes,” I said.
I would have been outside in a flash any other time but due to an injury, I can’t get around like I’d like to. The 911 operator tells me to stay inside and let the police handle the situation. “I can see the body from my bedroom window,” I tell the operator. “I can’t let it lie there.”
I know full well by the time I get to the crime scene⎯which is what our cul de sac and the rest of the street will become as soon as the yellow tape is wrapped around the stop sign and row of spruce pine at the beginning of our street⎯the police will have solved the crime and the person lying in my neighbor’s front yard will have made a full recovery.
I jest. I will make it to the door by the time the police arrive. They will have to wait a minute as I make my way down the stairs.
“It was a black SUV with tinted windows," I continue. The 911 operator informs me to be prepared to retell what I saw to the police officers when they arrive.
“Did you hear a gunshot?” they inquired. My neighbor, then the uniformed police, then the detectives. A man and a woman uniform officers. A man and a woman plainclothes officers. Even the EMT’s...a man and a woman. If I didn’t know any better I might believe someone was trying to matchmake. I let that go. “I’m sorry officers, detectives, agents"⎯my house is full of different types of law enforcement⎯"I tend to digress in my later years."
I pause and recall the moment. “Ladies and gentlemen: I can say equivocally I did not hear a gunshot. My neighbor said she saw blood, but she didn’t determine it was because this person had been shot. And what is this officer’s name?” I ask. “We would like to start a Go Fund Me account.”
The officers froze, looked at me then looked at one another. “We have no information on the victim,” the woman in plain clothes smiled and said to me. “Mr. James, I have a few more questions for you,” she continued as the cavalry exited my house.
Mr. James thank you for your help. We will drop by to check on you in the following days,” the cavalry stated not in unison.
“Mr. James,” the plainclothes officer said. “Did you happen to see the driver?”
“I recall the moment and simply shake my head. “No. It’s early afternoon. As you can see. And the skies are so dark you would think it was winter’s early evening, detective. It was raining much harder than now. The only discrepancy would be the color of the SUV.”
“You claim it was black?” asked plain clothed.
“Yes. But it could have been dark blue.” She made quick taps on her phone...moved on.
“Did you happen to catch a silhouette of the driver? Man? Woman? Short hair? Long hair? Big? Thin?”
“The tint prevented even a description of silhouette,” I said. “On a brighter day detective, the darkest tint won’t conceal whoever’s behind it when the light hits at the right angle.”
“You were at your window, Mr. James when the SUV sped down this street?”
“To see how you saw it unfold may I take a look through the window you were sitting?"
“Yes. Up these stairs, a quick right, then the second stairs will take you to my writing room.”
Plainclothes was up the stairs in a flash taking the steps two at a time. I could hear her jog all the way. Every footfall reverberating through the house. I could tell running was second nature to her. More than a requisite for the job. I hear a favorite pastime in her steps. I will run like that again. A severe ankle sprain took time to get over when I was twenty. Forty years later it hasn’t changed.
“Nice view Mr. James. You saw the SUV enter the cul de sac were you able to see the driver through the windshield?”
“It was fast⎯my peripheral vision took notice of the light streaking into the cul de sac first. My mind caught up a moment later. The LED headlights and fog lamps were so bright I would have had trouble seeing in the windshield on a sunny day. The driver was pushing the truck at a pretty good clip. When it hit the mailbox...that pile of bricks...cemented together...it was thunder. The vibration shook the sill of the window I was looking through. You got a good picture of the end result riding in here.”
Plainclothed nodded, said, “Yes we did.”
“Detective, uh, agent. The bottom half of that mailbox was strewn across our street and into my yard like popsicle sticks. The truck that hit it...if I had to swear under oath was a Tahoe. Baseball, hot dog, apple pie⎯Chevrolet. The government’s choice. I call 911 any other time and we get the county police. Two cars at most. Within a matter of minutes today we’ve got the state bureau of investigation, the county police, the FBI and whoever you’re with.”
“Remy La Russa,” she says shaking my hand. “NSA.”
“Oh. You’re one of Harry Truman’s troopers,” I said. “Who, or what is lying in my neighbor’s yard” She smiles and tilts her head. “Who was driving that truck?” I ask.
“We’ll be in touch, Mr. James.”
“What about the reward money?”
She asks, “For identifying the driver or catching the driver?”
“Both,” I reply.
“Until next time Mr. James.”
I stand in the doorway. The cul de sac looks as if someone stepped in an ant bed of law enforcement. And they're none too happy. The crime scene floodlights come on to coincide with the arrival of the news trucks. The guy in my front yard was breathing when they put him in the ambulance,” my neighbor texted me.