Brummler hit his lights and floored it when he saw the wall of traffic up ahead. He left his siren off.
There wasn’t an emergency. He just didn’t feel like waiting with all the other normies, sitting in their cars with their zombified stares.
All four lanes were full so he sneaked over into the far left lane and then onto the shoulder between the white line and the four-foot cement wall. He kept a good 30 mph pace and his right tires hummed on the rumble strip. Cars rushed beside him, nearly at a standstill. If someone opened their driver door they would get creamed.
People’s heads turned when he hurtled into their peripheral vision, and a few of them turned their wheels to the right and inched over even though there was nowhere to go.
The suburban beat was a breeze — not like the horror stories people had down in Detroit and Ypsi and up in Pontiac and Flint. Brummler mostly dealt with fender benders, petty break-ins and the occasional domestic dispute. Eighty percent of the people out here were just society’s drones, working their lives away in offices towards a possible retirement and raising their kids to do the exact same thing. Almost none of them had ever been in a real fight, and as a result most were absolutely terrified of any sort of pain. Their allegiance to comfort and the status quo made them the easiest people to deal with in the business. They occasionally got entitled and snippy, especially a lot of the women who were used to getting what they wanted by bitching at their husbands, but that was generally the worst of it. The real assholes — the millionaire business owners and corporate executives who thought they were the masters of the universe — Brummler almost never had to deal with. His job was the mushy middle of society and he liked it that way. He showed up, did his beat, put up with people’s shit, cracked jokes when they were needed, got hard-assed when it was needed, wrote tickets, and mostly sat and drove around.
A lot of the guys on the force were jumpier now that the news had whipped up all this drama over cops shooting people, but that was mostly sensationalism — rookies or noodlebacks who panicked at the slightest hint of real danger. Their own damn fault. Most guys knew what they were doing, followed the protocol and kept themselves out of trouble. And unless you were in a notoriously shitty area, people probably weren’t going to fuck with you.
Being a cop was an awful lot like being the parent of an especially dumb and reckless child. Every problem people had became Brummler’s problem. He didn’t mind it for the most part— most people were whimpering and apologetic and easily deferential to his gun and badge — but it got old.
Once he’d been talking to an Iraq War vet at a truck stop off 53 and he’d happened to see a minivan pulling out of a parking spot with the right sliding door wide open.
The vet, whose name Brummler hadn’t even gotten at that point, saw Brummler looking and turned and saw for himself.
“Why is that door open?” Brummler mumbled. He could already see how the next five minutes would play out.
“I could never do your job, man,” said the vet. “I got my fill of that babysitting shit in the suck.”
There was a kid who looked about five or six crouching in a combat stance on the captain’s chair, his arms out for balance and a cheeky, insubordinate grin on his face. He looked like he was trying to use the chair as a surfboard. Brummler could see the parents in the front — both overweight and flabby, the mom juggling a fat bag of McDonald’s and a tray of drinks and the dad yelling, probably at the kid to sit down and close the door. They were in a hurry, not thinking.
Despite his attempts to get his kid to sit still, the dad didn’t stop and the kid lost his balance as the dad went to turn, and sure enough, out he tumbled onto the asphalt.
“And there… we… go…” said Brummler, watching the kid fall. The kid had toppled out, headfirst, smacked his head and somersaulted away from the wheels, fortunately.
Brummler sighed and calmly walked over, radioing in the incident like he was ordering a coffee. The kid was injured, but Brummler could tell he’d be fine as soon as he sat up and rubbed the trickle of blood on his forehead and looked at his hand in astonishment, as if it was smeared with liquid gold. The parents were way more hysterical than the kid, slamming on the brakes and stopping traffic to come out and screech and screech at their offspring’s totally minor head wound. The kid’s siblings shared their brother’s astonishment at the trickle of blood. It was actually kind of cute.
Brummler had spent the next hour there, as the parents insisted on calling an ambulance. He ended up missing the ball game that evening, all because the kid was fucking around.
He’d only pulled his gun once, on a snot-nosed teenager who’d had the audacity to jump out of the new Corvette he was driving and give him shit about pulling him over for doing fifty in a twenty-five residential neighborhood zone, yelling something about, “Do you know who the fuck I am?” Brummler had calmly opened his door, drawn and aimed through the open window frame and yelled for the kid to put both his fucking hands on the roof of his vehicle NOW.
The kid’s face had gone white once he’d looked down Brummler’s barrel and he’d fallen to this knees and pissed himself, all the hubris leaking out of him through his bladder. The kid’s dad had turned out to be one of the aforementioned millionaire business owners but the higher-ups had handled all that. Brummler didn’t even get cited.
Brummler smiled at the memory behind his aviators. The traffic was thinning out up ahead.
People wanted to believe they were special enough to do whatever their hearts desired while expecting everyone else to follow the rules. If they had real money they could buy their special status, but those folks were harder and harder to find nowadays. Everyone was struggling in some way, no matter what level they were on.
It was for this reason that little things like throwing on his flashers and skipping around a clog of rush hour traffic made Brummler know he’d made the right decision when he’d signed up for the Academy at the age of 22.
The lines of cars finally loosened up when the freeway did a three-way split into 83 South, 338 E and 9 N. Cars revved and dodged and merged and weaved in and out with each other, everyone jockeying for their space, everyone the center of their own little universe.
They were a mindless swarm. And they only way out was to go up. Up and over. Or, in Brummler’s case, around.
Brummler saw an opening, swerved into the left lane, turned his lights off and hit the accelerator.