Dad's face turned chalk colored. Before I could respond, I saw the patrolman at Dad's door. Then I saw his gun, pointed only a few inches from Dad's head.
The patrolman walking toward our car on that vacant, early morning highway in Illinois was at least six feet tall, with thick shoulders and muscled arms that looked like they belonged to a heavyweight boxer. He wore a brown ranger hat that matched his short-sleeve uniform and had on reflector sunglasses that made it impossible to see his eyes.
Dad rolled down his window.
“How you doin’ officer?” he asked, flashing a warm smile.
“Do you know how fast you were going?” the patrolman barked. “Seventy-five miles an hour. That’s twenty miles over the speed limit.”
“Was I really going that fast? I’m sorry, officer. I didn’t realize it.” Dad was smiling and trying to act congenial but I could tell he was nervous. He gripped the steering wheel with both hands and his knuckles were turning white.
“Let me see your driver’s license and registration.”
Dad pulled his wallet from his back pocket, fumbled for his driver’s license and handed it to scowling patrolman.
“Ingrid, will you look in there and see if you can find the registration for me?” he asked, motioning toward the glove compartment.
I opened it and frantically began shoving around the mass of papers, knowing that I wasn’t going to find it.
Dad turned back to the patrolman.
“I guess I’m not really sure where the registration is, but the car is registered and we definitely have insurance.” Dad offered him another sincere, apologetic smile.
“Stay put,” the officer barked. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
Dad watched in the rear view mirror as the patrolman walked back to his car. His hands were still on the steering wheel and I noticed that his right hand was shaking. I had never
seen him scared before, and it was scaring me.
A couple weeks earlier, he had told me there was a warrant out for his arrest. He said that one of his ex-sales guys had bounced a $10,000 check with his signature on it at a bank in Texas and charges had been filed. It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Dad liked to refer to himself as a `creative financier’ and often floated checks to get through tough times.
He laughed as he told me about the warrant.
“You know I got the golden tongue, Ingrid. Nobody’s going to
do nothing to me. Plus I didn’t do anything wrong. Those banks have plenty of money and I’m going to pay it back when I get the chance.”
At least five minutes lapsed. Dad didn’t speak; he just kept glancing at the rear view mirror.
“Oh shit!” he yelled suddenly. His face, normally a ruddy complexion, had turned chalk colored. Before I could respond, I saw the patrolman at Dad’s door. Then I saw his gun, pointed only a few inches from Dad’s head.
"Get your arms in the air and keep your hands where I can see them! And don’t make any sudden moves!”
We both threw up our arms and kept our bodies frozen. I was too scared to breathe. The cop yanked the car door open with one hand while keeping the gun trained on Dad. He grabbed Dad by his left arm, yanked him out of the car and pulled him around to the back, where he threw him face down against the trunk.
I stayed frozen in my seat, watching in what seemed like slow motion as he slammed Dad against the trunk a second time and pulled out handcuffs, which he clamped down on Dad’s wrists. I felt tears streaming down my face and heard a strange howling noise coming from inside me.
Dad lay bent over the trunk, his face smashed against the steel. The patrolman frisked him and pulled his wallet from his back pocket. He spent a minute combing through our tool money, about $1,300—mostly $10s and $20s.
“Looks like a lot of money to be carrying around on you," he said in an accusing tone.
“What’s this?” he asked seconds later, pulling out an ID card from Dad’s wallet.
“Jerry Jones, huh? What other names do you go by?”
"I had that made up as a joke," I heard Dad say, his face still smashed against the trunk.
“Shut up!” the officer snarled.
I watched him shove Dad toward his patrol car. My sixteen-year-old-world came to a stop.
Arrested is an excerpt from HIPPIE BOY: A DAUGHTER'S MEMOIR, a true story about a girl who escapes her abusive Mormon stepfather by joining her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond -- until his arrest forces her to take charge of her life. My agent is currently shopping the book to publishers. For more info, visit: www.hippieboybook.com