The cop was lucky. He had been one word away from dying. Divine Fury. Chapter 57
April 23, 2013
A VG Serial: Divine Fury
Sunday, June 13, 2004
IT WAS DUSK when Walberg returned to San Francisco over the Bay Bridge. He’d thought briefly about stopping after running the reporter off the mountain curve, taking the Beretta and making sure he was dead. But there was nowhere to pull over and blocking traffic while he was scrambling up and down the mountainside didn’t seem very smart. Anyway, even if he had survived the fall, Walberg was pretty sure the reporter had a broken bone or two. He should be out of commission long enough.
This would be his second night in the city. The previous night he had driven around until he found a poorer district, one where a rich homeowner wouldn’t call the cops because a beat-up minivan and its strange-looking driver was parking overnight without a permit. He finally settled on the Mission – the part of town filled with cheap Mexican restaurants, small groceries and run-down apartment houses. His dinner was a plate of pork tacos, rice, refried beans and a coffee with extra sugar.
He had arranged the seats so he could roll out his sleeping bag on the floor of the van and slept well until the sun hit him in the face. He pulled on his jeans before opening the tailgate. As he put on his boots while sitting in the rear with his feet hanging out the back, he saw there were already a lot of people out. Most were Hispanic and several stared at him as they walked past. Walberg figured he’d have to find somewhere else the next night. He stood out too much here. It was a tough neighborhood. He’d eventually tangle with someone on the street here. Maybe someone would try to rob him. They would get a knife in the gut or a few bullets in the face before he gave them a dime. But he was trying to stay below the radar for now, not start a street war.
This time, he picked out an area in what appeared to be the old industrial part of San Francisco. He could see a freeway and some tall office buildings in the distance. But the street where he parked held mostly warehouses, a couple of garages and a small bar.
In the middle of the night, Walberg heard tapping on the window. He opened his eyes. A flashlight shone brightly through the side window and into his face. He put his hand up to block the light and rolled over face down. After a few seconds, he heard tapping again. This time, it was louder and more insistent.
“Sir! Sir!” a guy was saying. “You need to get up and open the door.”
Now, Walberg was fully awake. A cop. That was the last person he wanted to see. In his mind, he went through the weaponry in the van. The Beretta was under the driver’s seat. The rifle was in a case in the back. The C-4 and bomb-making equipment were in a duffle in the back. His knife was in his main clothes bag. Fortunately, the back was a mess, particularly with the sleeping bag spread out. If the cop stayed out of the car, he should be okay.
Walberg pulled himself out of the bag and pulled on his jeans. He scrambled over the seats and opened the front door on the street side where the cop was standing. He stepped out wearing socks. He was in bright light. The car behind him – it must be the cop’s car – had the headlights on. The cop had graying hair and a gut that looked as if he’d had donuts every breakfast for the past 20 years. A name tag on his shirt read: “F. Henry.” He moved back a step and gave Walberg a close look, up and down. Walberg guessed he was checking for anything obviously wrong – the bulge of a gun, a hypodermic falling out of his pocket or anything like that.
“Can I see some ID?” said Officer Henry. Walberg’s license was in his jeans. But as his head cleared of the deep sleep he’d just left, Walberg realized his predicament. He was unarmed and standing in the street in his socks. He wanted to be able to reach the Beretta, just in case.
“It’s in the car,” he told the cop, nodding toward the front.
“Okay,” said Officer Henry.
Walberg opened the driver’s door and sat behind the wheel. He closed the door without asking and then made a show of going through the glove compartment.
“Where the hell is it?” he said through a crack in the window. Then, he started searching around the front seat – the console, the door pockets, the floor. When he felt under the driver’s seat, he located the Beretta and pulled it out so he could find the handle quickly if he needed it. Finally, Walberg felt the back of his jeans, pulled out his wallet, and extracted his Montana driver’s license. He gave the cop a palms up “how dumb” shrug and stuck the license through the window.
Officer Henry seemed slightly amused when he took the license and walked back to his car. Walberg found his keys, put them in the ignition and turned on the battery. He lowered the driver’s window all the way down. He found the Beretta, took off the safety and held it down in the shadows between the front seats.
He heard the cop’s footsteps as he walked back to the van. He stopped at the door and put his left hand on it. His fingers gripped the bottom of the window opening and Walberg could see his gold wedding band sparkling where the light hit it. Officer Henry bent down and put his head almost inside as he looked around the interior.
Walberg adjusted his grip on the Beretta. If the cop asked him to get out of the car again or wanted to see anything inside, that was it. The fat stupid slob would take one, two or three in the face where the vest he wore wouldn’t do him any good at all.
“Mister Walberg,” said Henry. The cop raised his right hand toward the side window. Did he have his gun out already? Walberg twisted his torso toward Henry, shifting his legs left and pulling his gun hand so it still was hidden by his right thigh. He moved it past the steering wheel and close to the door panel so he could flip it to window height in an instant.
Then, the cop’s right hand was in the window. Clasped between his thumb and forefinger was the driver’s license. Walberg hesitated, then took it with his left hand.
“There’s no parking here after one in the morning,” Henry said. “You’ll have to try somewhere else.”
After a pause, Walberg said, “Okay.”
“All right, then,” said the cop. “Have a nice visit.” He touched his head with his finger in a little salute and then walked back to his car.
In another four hours, Officer Henry would be heading home to Santa Rosa, an hour’s drive away. He wouldn’t be on duty again for another three days. By then, he’d be hard-pressed to remember any details from the encounter with the out-of-town visitor in the green minivan or distinguish the stop from the hundreds of others he’d made in the past 18 years.
Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
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