Trial of Conscience
Huge drops of rain splattered against the windshield and were quickly swept away by the wiper blades.The sky was black and although it wasn't even noon, it looked more like midnight. Fidgeting in her seat, Sydney eyed the eighteen-wheeler directly in front of them. The open-topped trailer was filled with stalks of freshly cut sugar cane.The tarpaulin that was supposed to be tightly covering it flapped wildly in the wind, allowing the stalks to stick out everywhere. Being stuck behind what looked like an overgrown pincushion going twenty miles per hour in pouring down rain on a two-lane winding country road was not where she wanted to be.
But she didn't really know where she did want to be. I should be happy. Elated even. This is the first victory we've had in the Dolese case. We won. I don't have to testify. But all I can think about is that phone call from the Doleses. I know that's going to come and then I'll have to say goodbye to Evin.
Sydney sighed and glanced to her left and watched Evin for a few seconds. This sucks. I feel like I'm waiting for an execution. My own.Another sigh. This is really not how I want to spend the rest of today. And she's not very happy.
For the last twenty minutes, they had been stuck on a two-lane road behind not one, but a convoy of five eighteen-wheelers hauling sugar cane. The BMW drifted a little over into the other lane as Evin tried to see if there was any chance of passing the big trucks. All she could see was the curve of the road, the line of eighteen-wheelers and double yellow lines.
"God damn it!"
"Do you think the trucks will turn off soon?"
"How the hell am I supposed to know that?" Evin snapped.
It took all of Sydney's willpower not to snap back. "I...don't know."
Moran, you're such a jerk. "I'm sor...Whoa!"
The car swerved as Evin tried to avoid a stalk of sugar cane that had worked loose from the truck ahead of them. Sydney reacted instinctively, ducking and raising her arms as it hit the windshield with a thud. The windshield wipers battled with it momentarily before it flew off.
"Son of a bitch! Do I need to tell you how much I hate this?"
Sydney's heart managed to remove itself from her throat. "No, honey. You don't."
"That was a rhetorical question, Sydney."
"Evin, do you want to fight? Because personally, I don't. I didn't sleep well. I'm tired. My feet got soaking wet when we ran from the courthouse to the car and I have probably one day left to be with you before I can't see you for I don't know how long and I'm spending it hoping we don't get into a wreck." Sydney paused. "Well, do you?"
"Uh...." Evin wasn't quite sure if she should answer. Part of her really wanted to say yes. She was tense and on edge and not at all sure why. Of course, there were the obvious reasons but she had already gone through those and there was still something she couldn't quite put her finger on, leaving her feeling unsettled. A good verbal sparring match seemed like just the thing to let off some steam. "No."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes...sure...yes, I'm sure."
"How are you feeling?"
"Feeling?" I should have said I wanted to fight. Fighting is a much better 'f' word than feeling."I'm fine."
"Who are you plotting to kill?"
"You look like you want to kill somebody."
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don't."
"How can you say you don't?You can't see yourself."
"I don't need to see myself. I know what I look like." 'And you sound like a deranged two-year old' the little voice chirped. Shut up! "Look, I just know, all right?"
Sydney mumbled under her breath, "Could have fooled me."
Looks like we're gonna fight anyway. "What's the matter, Syd?"
"Sydney, don't tell me 'nothing.' I know there's something wrong."
Indignant, Sydney replied, "Oh, let me get this straight. I ask you what's wrong and it's perfectly fine for you to tell me 'nothing' but when you ask me what's wrong and I say 'nothing' then that's unacceptable. Is that the way it is or am I missing something?"
"Is that a 'no, Sydney, you're not missing anything' or a 'no, Sydney, that's not the way it is'?"
Here we go. Evin felt her head start to pound. "I thought you didn't want to fight."
"I don't." Sydney's voice rose. "So which one is it?"
Sydney's jaw dropped as she stared at Evin. Some of their fights had been pretty intense but neither of them had ever resorted to cursing the other. For a moment, she wanted to cry. Then she got really angry.
"How dare you call me an asshole!"
"Not you, Syd. The idiot in the truck behind us. He's riding my bumper. He's the asshole, not you." Evin glanced in the rearview mirror. "Jesus, Syd...do you really think I'd call you an asshole?"
"You have your seat belt on, right?"
"Yeah." Sydney half turned and looked through the rear window. All she could see was bright headlights, the chrome of the grill and bumper and the maroon hood of a pick-up truck. "My God, he's so close."
Evin tapped her brakes twice, hoping that would cause him to back off. The driver of the pickup seemed to have gotten the message as the distance between the pickup truck and the BMW lengthened.
Sydney turned back around in her seat."I'm sorry, honey. I really don't think you'd call me names. I...just don't know what's wrong with me. I woke up in this mood where I don't know if I want to cry or to fight. Seems like fighting is winning out right now."
"It's okay, Syd."
"I...." Sydney stopped and instinctively leaned back against the door as the truck tried to pass them and swerved dangerously close to Evin's side of the car.
"Son of a bitch!" Evin swerved and the truck fell in behind them. Evin glared at the truck and its driver through her rearview mirror. "I hate this fucking place. It's got to be the pollution from these chemical plants that makes all these fuckers so crazy."
Sydney could feel the blood pounding in her veins. "That was close." She half-turned in her seat and looked out the back window. "It's that same idiot from before."
We're all frustrated at being stuck behind these trucks, buddy. Have some patience. Believe me, you don't want to deal with me right now. "If I ever say that we should go for a drive in the country, remind me of this, will ya?"
"I will. I think he's going to try to pass again."
Winding bayou road, going slower than molasses, crazy man in a truck behind me...gee, I'm having fun now. 'Slow down and let him pass you.' That was my plan. Now shut up.
"Evin, let him pass."
"That was my plan, Sydney." For a split second, she wondered if the little voice in her head was Sydney's voice.
Evin eased her foot off the gas and the BMW started to slow. The truck came around the driver's side and as it reached a position even with Evin's door, it swerved once again towards the BMW. Evin swerved away again and started to brake. The truck slowed with her and stayed even with the car.
"I thought you were going to let him pass."
"I was. He's...not now, Sydney," she barked as both hands gripped the wheel firmly.
The truck swerved again and the BMW swerved in response.
"He's trying to run us off the road!"
"I know, Sydney."
"What are we going to do?"
Try not to get killed. "Dial 911. Can you see a license plate?"
Sydney reached for the cellular phone as the truck slowed and fell in behind them again. "No. Where are we?"
Hell. "Going east about maybe twenty miles from the courthouse." Evin looked around, taking stock of their situation. Not a lot of choices here. Shoulders are soft, road's winding, big truck in front, and a maniac behind me. Fucking great! To the left, one bank of the river loomed and to the right, empty, muddy fields. Evin eased out partially into the other lane to see if they could pass the trucks. Fuck!No way. The car moved back into their lane. Another glance in her rearview mirror and she could see the truck moving closer, riding her bumper. I'm gonna kill this bastard.
"Yes...yes, I'm in a car.My name?....My name is Sydney Parker." Her voice wavered slightly as she spoke to the 911 operator."There's a man in a pickup truck.He's driving erratically...trying to run us off the road....Green BMW. We're about twenty miles from the courthouse going south....Yes....well, we were stuck...are stuck behind...anyway, he first rode our bumper, then he tried to pass and he swerved when he was next to us then he fell behind us and well, we really didn't think much of it.Then he tried to pass again and this time, he tried to run into us twice and now he's riding our bumper....Maroon truck...No, no license plate.It's a man driving....I can't really see....Yes ma'am, we'll be looking for them." Sydney put the phone down. "She's sending the available police cars this way, but it will take a little while."
Got to get around these trucks. Evin maneuvered the BMW back over the center line to see if they could pass. A curve up ahead made her mind up for her. Damn it! Her eyes flicked to the rearview mirror as the car started to move back into the lane and that's when she felt the impact.
The BMW lurched forward and started to fishtail. Evin struggled to keep the car under control. Sydney swallowed a scream as the back of the eighteen-wheeler they had been following came within inches of her door. The car started to straighten out.
The sound of an engine revving pierced the air and a thought raced through Evin's mind. He's trying again. It was...shocking. There was no time to think about it as another rush of adrenalin surged through her body. Her mind came up with three choices.Go left, go right or slam on the brakes. Slam on the brakes didn't really seem like much of an option. Going right would put them square in the middle of a muddy field where the car would surely get stuck. Left and try to get around the eighteen-wheeler in front. At least there aren't any cars coming the opposite way right now. Not that I can see past the curve ahead.Her foot slammed down on the gas pedal. Let's see if all that money I paid for this car was worth it.
The BMW shot forward as a strangled murmur came from Sydney."He missed." It was almost drowned out by the skidding sound of the pickup's tires as the driver slammed his brakes on to avoid plowing into the rear of the eighteen-wheeler. The BMW ducked in between two of the eighteen-wheelers as they approached the curve. The driver of the eighteen-wheeler she cut in front of blew his horn.
"He's crazy!"Sydney half-turned again, watching out the back for any sign of the pick-up.
Evin wanted to ask who - the driver of the pickup or the eighteen-wheeler who blew the horn - but she figured it really didn't matter. Can't just sit here. Got to get around these other trucks. The BMW drifted into the other lane. Good, no oncoming traffic. She figured she could make it past two more of the trucks before the next curve in the bend appeared and obscured her view of oncoming traffic, so she punched the accelerator.
A glance in the rearview mirror confirmed Sydney's statement. Oh, buddy, you've pissed me off now. "Hang on , Syd." It'll be tight, but I can pass number three before the curve and he won't have time to. He'll have to get back in the other lane. The car sped up and as she passed the third truck, she braked and slipped in between the first two trucks. One more to go.
Evin checked her side mirror and was stunned to see that the maroon pickup had not retreated into its lane but had chosen to stay in the lane and was gaining ground toward them. Either I take a chance of a head-on collision or I sit. There was no choice, really. I sit.
"Where are the police?"
"Don't know." No distant sounds of sirens came to her ears."Syd, when we get around this curve...."
She didn't get a chance to finish the sentence as the pickup drew even with the BMW. The pickup swerved hard and there was no choice this time as the BMW was forced off the road and shot into the muddy field. The car spun several times and slid sideways before coming to a stop in the mud.
It seemed so strange to Evin - how far removed you could feel when things were happening around you. It always did. She was aware of the scenery spinning around her as the car made a path through the field. Her arm had automatically gone up in front of Sydney, pinning Sydney to the seat.
When the car stopped spinning, she checked Sydney up and down. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah...yeah...fine. My head's still spinning, but...I'm, okay. You look okay. Are you?"
"Yeah, Syd. I'm fine...fine."
"He's...." Sydney looked around. Several of the eighteen-wheelers had stopped and the drivers were getting out of their cabs, but there was no sign of the maroon truck."He's...gone."
Evin stared out the windshield as the wiper blades continued to swipe lazily at the drops of rain. The distant wail of a siren could be heard. I...could literally kill someone right now.
Sydney looked down at her hands. They were shaking slightly."Honey, you sure you're okay?"
"But...." Sydney wasn't quite sure Evin was telling the truth. She wasn't worried about her physically, because as car crashes go, it had really been okay. A few bumps, some spinning and sliding, but she doubted if the car was damaged very much. It was the look on Evin's face that had her worried.
"I'm just really angry, Syd," Evin answered quietly. "That's all."
"I...." Sydney stopped and stared. I've never seen her like this before.
A ringing sound broke the silence. Evin looked down at the console where her cell phone lay. She picked the phone up, flipped it open and looked at the screen, recognizing the number as the one for the cell phone she had left with the Doleses. Rolling down her window, she tossed the phone out, nodding in satisfaction as it made a plop in the mud.