Adventure of Writing
His right hand is tense upon the butt of the stainless steel .357 magnum. His voice quavers, "Hold both your hands out of the car where I can see them. SLOWLY."
I comply. SLOWLY.
He steps out from behind the door of his cruiser idling twenty feet to the rear of my car and approaches more closely, crouching slightly to reduce his target profile and to peer into my vehicle. He assesses the tools of my trade: "Radios, scanners, binoculars - I need to see your identification."
The thirty-four-year old black-uniformed, black-lensed police officer for the city of Indio, California, perspiring in the 105° heat of midday, adjusts his touch on the holstered revolver; I offer, "My identification is in that black bag on the passenger seat."
A nervous pause; a anxious chuckle; he stoops nearer and with his left hand lifts his sunglasses. He notes the position of the bag. "Why does it have to be way over there?", his querulous nerves modulating his voice. "OK; Get it SLOWLY."
I obey. SLOWLY.
"Why are you here? Are you aware that a burglary is in process on board that train directly in front of you?"
"I'm researching an article I'm writing on the Southern Pacific Railroad and no sir, I wasn't."
Another minute of tense, terse inquiry ends with "WAIT HERE"; the patrolman passes beyond his cruiser to interrogate two other transients also loitering in the Indio railroad yard.
Half-an-hour passes: I study the confines of my vehicle, watch the sweat on my arms evaporate. At long last he returns, his hand no longer at ready against those curved, polished cherrywood grips. "Relax, Mr. Adams - you have no need to worry. BUT, I have a question for you: what are the names of the two streets immediately north and south of your residence?"
I consider this for a moment: how would he know if I lie? Why is he asking me this when he just told me to relax? Perhaps his dispatcher has a map of Los Angeles and this question is to trip up those who have false ID. What if I were from Bakersfield? Surely they don't have maps of all the world at hand. I think of old World War II movies where the American soldier, suspecting the loyalty of a detainee, asks silly questions about the Yankees' World Series averages, knowing that true Americans know everything about baseball.
I answer him correctly. He smiles. He explains, "I grew up three blocks from you."
The tension is gone; we suddenly inquire about mutual acquaintances, old friends, histories. I explain my interest in the railroad and my desire to publish. He apologizes for the detainment, wishes me to enjoy my stay in Indio, bids me farewell, and most importantly, doesn't throw me off railroad property.
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