Mystery and Crime Fiction posted October 12, 2017


Excellent
Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Killing a cop is only the beginning...

Traffic Stop

by teols2016


The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.
Crack! His aim was good and the trooper fell back, one hand attempting to reach the hole in his neck ... perhaps stem the tide already staining his gray uniform a deep crimson. Doug thought he might have struck the man's Adam's Apple dead-on.

He couldn't worry about any of this. He understood what his actions meant. No one who arrived at the scene, whenever that might be, would want to listen to what he had to say. He'd be lucky if they took him in alive. He had to leave.

It wasn't like there was anything he could do for the trooper anyway. The man was lying dead on the side of the highway, the hand that had been going for his own throat now lying outstretched over his shoulder, the fingers relaxed and slightly curled. His cap, knocked off during his fall, lay a few feet away, his neat dark hair exposed under the moonlight, contrasting with his light complexion, which was already taking on that grayish tinge consequent of the lack of flowing blood.

Doug pressed on the accelerator. As he maneuvered the car back onto the far-right lane of the highway, he stashed his revolver back between his seat and the console ... easy to reach again if he needed it. For now, it needed to stay out of sight and he needed to drive. Thank God the open fields on either side of the road were not equipped with cameras or occupied by witnesses.

He soon reached the exchange and switched over to a county highway that took him towards Shoshoni. Buildings began appearing on either side as he drove, but he wasn't worried. It was almost 11:00. Who would notice him driving by this late at night? And if anyone did see him, how would they connect his not-unusual presence with the shooting ten miles back?

Doug's mind drifted back to that trooper. He never intended to kill him. He never even intended to pull out his gun. But when the cop walked up to his window and Doug got a good look at him, he had no choice. After all, there hadn't been any good reason for the trooper to pull him over in the first place.

The stop was what brought it all together in his mind. He'd had his suspicions for the past four months, ever since he discovered his brake line had been cut. The last half hour confirmed everything. Doug knew what he had to do next. He needed to get home.

* * *

Wyoming Highway Patrol Sergeant Kevin Lorince studied the body of Trooper Dennis Stigsson. He'd been to scenes like this before, but this was the first time he was assigned to lead the investigation into a fellow lawman's murder.

He studied the gaping wound in the man's neck as a technician from the Freemont County Coroner's Office explained how the assailant's bullet partially-severed the Jugular Vein, causing Trooper Stigsson to bleed out in minutes on the highway. By the time the passing motorists came upon him, it was too late.

Sargent Lorince noted the trooper's weapon was still holstered. He never even got a chance to undo the retention strap. What happened? An ambush? There'd been a few of those around the country and anyone with a badge considered the possibility.

"What you got?" Sargent Lorince asked a nearby crime scene technician, who was examining the ground with a flashlight and magnifier.

"Tire treads," the technician replied. "Look like a pretty common model at first glance. Might get more in the lab, but I think this will only help once you've got a suspect's car to compare it to. We'll photograph and document everything."

"Shell casings?"

"Nope. Either there were none or the shooter took them with him."

Sargent Lorince sighed. Of course, there would be no eyewitnesses. The closest they had was the couple driving home from a family reunion in Montana. Heck, the almost forty crime scene technicians, Wyoming Highway patrol personnel, and Freemont County Sherriff's deputies was probably the most traffic this highway saw all year. The nearest town, Shoshoni, had a population around 650 residents. It was possible the shooter lived there, but it was just as possible he just kept going on this stretch of road to anywhere else.

Sargent Lorince stepped away from the body and the tire treads, heading towards a nearby cruiser. Wyoming Highway Patrol Captain Lewis Ide stood there, surveying the scene. He'd gained a few pounds since taking on this command position and his belt threatened the need to be moved to the next notch. He no longer left the office much, but when a cop was killed, everyone came out.

"Anything?" the captain now asked in his deep voice. Despite his extra weight, he could still be an authoritative and imposing figure. Everyone knew he wanted this case solved.

"Not much," Sargent Lorince reported. "I think our best option is making an appeal to the public. Maybe we'll get lucky and someone saw something."

"Do we know what he was doing here?" Captain Ide asked. "Was he conducting a traffic stop?"

"I asked around. No one who was patrolling this district overheard him calling it in ... definitely no call for back-up until the civilians came on the line."

Both men knew that, given Wyoming's vast rural landscape and agency's employment of a little over two hundred troopers, it wasn't unusual for a lone trooper to be on his own. But for Trooper Stigsson not to call anything in, via radio or cell phone, was beyond unusual. Everyone was getting great reception here. Heck, the couple who used the radio to report an officer down were heard with little static interference.

"Anyone going to inform his next of kin?" Sargent Lorince asked, wanting to steer away from the mystery of the trooper's actions.

"I'll head back to the barracks soon to put together a notification team," Captain Ide said. "I think he listed his brother as his next of kin."

* * *

Kimberly was surprised when Doug burst into the house, wild-eyed, holding his gun. He was breathing heavily and sweating even more. Kimberly had not anticipated her night going like this.

"Doug?! What's wrong?"

"We gotta go," Doug said, his voice urgent. "We gotta go. Now."

Kimberly looked down at her pajamas and slippers. She had not expected this.

"Doug, what is going on?"

"Stop asking questions," Doug demanded, agitated. "Listen to me. We gotta get away ... away from here. Pack a few things. We'll drive to Casper tonight, stay at a hotel, and figure things out from there."

"Tonight?" Kimberly asked. "Casper? What?"

Doug raised the gun.

"I killed a man, Kim. I shot a cop. He's dead. They're coming for me."

Kimberly gasped, her hands flying to her mouth. Her whole body was shaking. Doug studied her.

"Forget packing. We gotta go. Come on."

Lowering his gun again, He grabbed her arm and began pulling.

"Ow! Doug, you're hurting me."

She stumbled to keep up as he rushed out of the house, still clutching her forearm.

* * *

The drive was silent. Doug stared ahead, both hands on the wheel and his gun in his lap. Kimberly sat in the passenger seat, her arms wrapped around her folded-up legs as she considered what was happening.

"Where are we going?" she finally asked. Casper was an hour and a half from Shoshoni and the fastest route there was US Highway 20, which they would have reached by now. But they were staying on the rural roads around their town.

Then, Kimberly realized she recognized these roads. It hadn't dawned on her earlier because of how terrified she was. But now she knew where they were. She glanced at Doug, whose face remained expressionless.

"Doug?" she tried.

* * *

The property used to be one of the largest farms in the area, but that had been decades ago. Most of the land had been sold and the one remaining non-residential structure, the barn, had been converted into a multi-car garage. The farmhouse itself had been fixed up by its most recent owner to serve as both an office and a home. Stigsson Insurance, the sign by the mailbox proclaimed, "Secure your life with us.

Doug didn't even glance at the sign as he turned into the driveway. Kimberly looked at it and her heart raced. She didn't even try to talk to him now. She couldn't even form words thanks to her shock.

Doug pulled the car up by the walkway where visiting clients were encouraged to park. He glared at the barn about a hundred yards away, a black, hulking form looming in the darkness.

"Come on," he said, grabbing his gun and whirling on Kimberly.

She didn't move or speak as he got out of the car. As he hurried around to get her, she hit the switch for the electronic lock, but nothing happened. He'd disabled the locks. He knew a lot about cars, so it would have been easy for him to do. He'd thought of everything.

She stared, helpless as he yanked the door open and grabbed her arm again. The first time had left a nasty bruise, one that would surely get him thrown in jail for abuse. But she now feared never being able to tell anyone he'd done that.

She only whimpered as he dragged her down the walkway and up the front steps of the farmhouse. Letting her go, he shoved her towards the front door.

"Get him to answer," he hissed, stepping back into the shadows.

Knowing she had no choice, Kimberly knocked loudly on the front door. For some reason, no one ever thought to install a doorbell.

The couple waited in silence. Though she could hardly see him, Kimberly knew Doug had his gun raised. A minute or so went by with no sign of life inside the house.

"He's home," Doug said with certainty. "Try again."

Kimberly knocked again, trying to be louder this time while also attempting to conceive a way to survive this whole thing. She gasped when she saw lights coming on inside the house, knowing things could only get worse.

* * *

Clutching his rifle, Jordan Stigsson approached the front door. Selling life insurance wasn't a business not expected to pose a threat to his own safety and he wasn't expecting visitors at nearly midnight. Who was here now?

He peeked through the blinds which he never liked but never got around to changing since moving in two years ago. What was it with lace anyway?

His sneak peek told Jordan it was Kimberly standing on his front porch. Though happy to see her, he was confused. Why had she come here tonight? She seemed agitated and wasn't wearing a jacket. It was a cool October night, fall having arrived in Wyoming. He ought to let her in and find out why she'd come.

Jordan set his rifle down on a table by the door and pulled back the chain, something else he'd never gotten rid of despite finding no real use for it. He then unlocked and opened the door.

"Kim."

He pulled her into his arms. God, she was cold.

"What are you doing here? I thought ..."

He stopped as Doug stepped out of the shadows, his gun raised.

"Doug?"

Jordan quickly released Kimberly.

"Hey, Jordan," Doug said with a smile. "How've you been?"

Jordan knew the question was rhetorical. He also knew his rifle was just out of arm's reach, lying on the table near the door. He glanced towards it.

"Don't try," Doug advised, gesturing with his own gun-wielding hand.

Jordan looked back at Kimberly.

"What is going on?"

In response, Kimberly could only whimper.

"Let's all come inside and talk about it," Doug suggested, taking turns aiming at each of them.

* * *

"Hey!" a technician called. "Got something strange here."

Wanting to account for every possibility, Sargent Lorince had assigned the man to search Trooper Stigsson's cruiser, though it was extremely unlikely the shooter would have gone near it. He had his own car and was probably still driving it. But, the Sargent's thoroughness seemed to be justified as the technician showed him a thin metal cylinder in a plastic evidence bag.

"Is that a gun barrel?" Sargant Lorince asked, sure he recognized the object.

"Looks like it," the technician replied. "Kind of worn but definitely the type that would fit the pistols your department issues to all troopers."

Sargent Lorince nodded. The coroner had taken Trooper Stigsson's body, but his weapon had been given to another trooper to be logged as evidence, though everyone doubted it would be needed given it hadn't been fired. Sargent Lorince located the trooper and asked to see the weapon.

"Sure," the trooper said, handing over the plastic bag. "But even I'm sure it wasn't recently fired. That barrel looks pretty new."

Examining the pistol, Sargent Lorince agreed. The barrel did look new. Why would Trooper Stigsson keep his old one around, especially while on duty?

* * *

Doing his best to comply with Doug's demands for no sudden movements, Jordan suggested they go to his home office and sit down. He had a pistol hidden in his top drawer and hoped to get to it.

But Doug insisted they go upstairs to the insurance salesman's bedroom. Entering the house, he grabbed Jordan's rifle from the table to further uneven the odds. Having no choice, Jordan and Kimberly agreed.

Jordan had a gun rack in his bedroom. That was where he'd gotten the rifle. But unlike the drawer in his desk, he could never access these weapons without Doug noticing. He also knew that entering the bedroom would put a stamp on his death warrant. Still, Doug was armed, in control of himself and the situation, and was likely to fire at any hint of resistance. Jordan had to comply and led the way up the stairs.

They entered the bedroom and Doug nodded at what he saw, not expressing any surprise. Hanging on the walls were several photos of Jordan and Kimberly, showing them together at various locations a man selling life insurance wouldn't take his clients. Many of the shots were taken in restaurants, but at least two were from some sort of dancing events and a few were from carnivals or maybe a state fair. The backgrounds indicated various seasons, making it clear this had been going on for a while.

"I don't recognize any of these places," Doug remarked. "Guess you decided to be smart and keep it well out of Shoshoni."

Jordan and Kimberly both looked pale.

"We wanted to tell you," Kimberly said in a weak voice. "We've ben trying to figure out how."

Doug nodded, adjusting his aim so his gun was pointing at Jordan's crotch.

"I suppose your brother was the messenger? Or was he the executioner?"

Kimberly and Jordan became paler.

"I know it was you two who cut my brake line a few months back. Don't bother trying to deny it. I had a hunch something was going on before then, but that stunt made it more for me. Seeing your brother coming towards my car tonight cemented everything. You were never going to tell me. He was going to kill me so you could collect the life insurance and be together."

"He killed Dennis," Kimberly said.

Jordan looked ready to vomit.

"How cou ... could you? He w ... wa ... was just doing his job."

Doug laughed.

"His job is not calling his dispatcher to report what he was doing before walking towards my car? I've towed cars all over this county, remember? First thing I always had to do was call in my location, no matter what. You're telling me the cops don't have that kind of policy?"

Jordan and Kimberly didn't have an answer and weren't sure one was expected.

"If he didn't want me seeing him not call his dispatcher, he should have turned off his headlights," Doug said. He moved the gun so he was aiming at Kimberly.

"Of course, your faces make it clear I'm not off the mark on all this. And we haven't even talked about the coincidence of him pulling me over. And, remember the brake line. You might have gotten away with this had you not tried that first."

Jordan sighed, defeated.

"What are you going to do?"

His voice was feeble, practically pleading to live.

Doug gripped his gun tighter, gritting his teeth.

* * *

The notification team consisted of Captain Ide, the department chaplain, Reverent Brian Hinton, two other troopers, and Freemont County Sherriff Thomas Madasu. They drove in three cars, turning onto the long driveway in a single line that snaked up towards the farmhouse. They heard the gunfire and the screaming as they were climbing out of their vehicles.

"Go!" Captain Ide shouted.

One of the troopers reported shots fired as he and his partner led the charge down the walkway, up the front steps, and into the house, not reacting to the fact the front door was unlocked. They heard more gunfire upstairs and hurried up the steps, Captain Ide and Sherriff Madasu behind them. Captain Ide worked hard to keep going despite already being out of breath.

They burst in through the only open door to find themselves in a bedroom. A man and woman were on the ground, both bleeding badly, large red puddles already surrounding the bodies. The troopers moved to assist them while Sherriff Madasu moved in towards the armed man still standing. Elected sheriff the previous year, he was not long-removed from the field.

"Two choices," he announced, his pistol raised. "Twelve jurors or six pallbearers. It's up to you."

The man stared back at him, his own gun raised. Someone shouted to call for an ambulance.

* * *

Sargent Lorince entered the partitioned recovery area to find Jordan Stigsson awake and seemingly coherent.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

"Okay, I guess," Jordan replied in a groggy voice. "They've got me on some good drugs."

"You're a lucky man. You took two shots in the lung and live to tell about it. Not many can share in that experience, especially in a rural area like this."

This wasn't an exaggeration. By the time the medivac helicopter arrived to take the wounded to a hospital in Casper, Kimberly Denton was already dead, having taken two shots to the chest and one to her head.

"I'm sorry about your brother," Sargent Lorince continued. "Tonight's scenario was not how we want families to find out about something like that."

"That's all right, I suppose," Jordan said.

Sargent Lorince pulled a chair over to the gurney and sat down.

"The shooter's name is Douglas Denton. He's a local mechanic and county bus driver. Preliminary ballistics tests link his gun to your brother's shooting as well as to what happened at your home. He's requested an attorney and is refusing to answer any more questions, but it doesn't look good for him."

Jordan let out a long sigh, sure this wasn't over.

"We do need to clear up a few things," Sargent Lorince continued. "It's an awful big coincidence that all this happened on one night. We need to understand why it happened."

"Why does it matter?" Jordan asked. "He killed Dennis and Kim."

"Even he isn't denying that. But the circumstances surrounding these shootings could determine a few things, including whether he ever sees life outside prison walls again or if he dies on a prison gurney."

"Option B," Jordan said, trying to smile. It didn't work and he stopped trying when he noticed Sargent Lorince's firm expression.

"Do you remember what he said when he was arrested at the scene?" the Sargent asked.

"Not a clue," Jordan replied.

"'Look around. They did this to me. All you need is in this room.' What do you suppose that means?"

Jordan weakly shook his head, sure any sound out of his mouth would give him away.

"We saw the photos," Sargent Lorince said.

Jordan remained silent, considering whether to refuse to answer anything else on the grounds of physical discomfort. After all, he had been shot and almost died.

"I would like to be blunt," Sargent Lorince said. "Were you sleeping with his wife? And, I would be more fascinated to learn how your brother ties into all that."

Jordan didn't speak.

"We found a second gun barrel in your brother's cruiser. Why would he have that, especially since he had no other spare gun parts? Sounds like he didn't want some bullets being matched to his weapon."

Jordan shook his head again, still certain his voice would betray him.

"How about the fact he never called in his location when he pulled over Douglas Denton?" Sargent Lorince asked. "I gotta say ... this all looks odd to us. We could use some clarification."

Jordan considered the situation. Kim was dead. Sending Doug to his death wouldn't bring her back, though it would put him behind bars as well.

He recalled the time he was questioned about an insurance scheme the Wells brothers, two local gun dealers, tried to pull. He wasn't implicated in that, mainly because he had nothing to do with it. He recalled the prosecutor filing serious charges against both brothers in part because they refused to cooperate.

Remembering this, he considered what charges he could face. Conspiracy was obvious. Could he perhaps face charges for Dennis's and Kim's deaths because they died because of his plan? Jordan took a deep breath, his decision made.

"I've got quite a story to tell you, Officer. You ready to hear it?"

He had only himself to save.


The Wrong Move writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a story where your character made the wrong choice and must deal with the repercussions.


How many wrong moves are there? Honestly, I've never been great with keeping count.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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