Pam woke into a frenzied, blurry state of semiconsciousness. Her cordless phone was ringing with that chirping sound right by her head. She’d forgotten to replace it in its cradle the night before, and fortunately there was enough power left in the handset to support the incoming call. She rubbed the crust from her face before finally opening her eyes, searching for some clarity at 3 a.m. Even in this foggy, groggy state, Pam could feel something of a hangover; and that was saying something, since she didn’t have so much as one drink the night before.
Eventually, she was able to focus on the inch-tall digital images of the alarm clock while wondering: Who the hell is calling at this hour?
And then she thought, Whoever it is, it better be important . . . like an earthquake, a missile strike, or the sky better be falling.
The dream was a good one this time, thank God. She had been sitting under a hair dryer, reading the front page of today’s Washington Post. The wash and set was a quickie job, something Pam always praised her hairdresser for.
“Congratulations, girlfriend,” Jenny was saying to her, already aware of the story in the Post. “You’re making the street safer for all of us. I just wish I could do more to show you my appreciation.” Jenny was always taking simple beauty shop talk to some other level, making Pam’s position with the Drug Enforcement Agency seem so sensational. And as usual, Pam would be left at a loss for words. Or on the other hand, she’d try to find some hidden meaning behind people’s comments—no matter who it was. In this case, Pam wondered if Jenny was making a pass at her.
I just wish I could do more to show you my appreciation . . .
Pam shook the idea from her mind, hating herself for always trying to second-guess people. Always looking for the lie, or the ulterior motive. Just like a cop, she told herself.
“That’s okay, Jen. It’s what I get paid for,” Pam answered, hardly looking up from the headline story, an exaggerated account of the recent DEA sweep in Seattle, Washington. The story told of . . .
“. . . the largest bust in Seattle’s history . . . a ring of 57 persons, including some housewives, 6 police officers and the County Clerk . . . the street value of the cocaine seized amounted to over $25 million,” the paper read.
“Yeah, but . . . it’s, like, so dangerous,” Jenny exclaimed in a low, breathy tone.
“Well,” said Pam, with her clever eye meeting Jenny’s pensive expression, “to tell you the truth . . .” She lowered her voice, as if to reveal the world’s biggest secret. “. . . a lot of what I do, how I survive? It’s dependent on my hair.”
Jenny’s head and neck cranked back a couple of inches. Her eyes focused on Pam with a tough-as-nails inquiry, knowing that those words couldn’t be true.
But Pam went on lying.
“Yeah, really, because you keep this golden crown of mine so sharp . . . so fascinating to look at . . . and the bad guys just lose it. They lose their minds. Really. Then . . . out of nowhere, bip-bap-boom . . .” Pam’s teeth and cheeks produced a sound (as best she could) to simulate the noise that handcuffs make. At the same time, she took the opportunity to reach out from under the newspaper. She clasped her fingers around Jenny’s wrist, pretending to shackle her.
The moment caught Jenny off guard, and the idea of this somehow seemed very intense, very real when coupled with Pam’s steel gaze.
“Stop playin’,” exclaimed Jenny, suddenly getting both nervous and serious as she softly removed Pam’s human handcuff.
“Okay, I will. Only if you hurry up and get me out of here.”
Pam had been thinking up these things while sleeping peacefully, alone, and she was about to take it to another level—an alternate scenario where Jenny actually did have something else in mind . . . that so-called appreciation she’d spoken of was somehow making Pam’s dreams warmer, wetter . . . something that was making her sleep an experience as opposed to her body’s daily routine.
That’s when the damned phone rang. She was still too dazed to know if this was a disappointment or not; still too foggy to wonder how she got to thinking such things in the first place.
Brown, it’s Sal. Shake it off, dear. We’ve got issues.” Issues, Pam considered, as she wiped the remaining residue from her eyes. “Issues” meant DEA business. Besides, it was never personal if Sal Goldridge (Chief Investigator/DEA) called, and especially at this hour.
“Wow. And to think I was gonna put in for that vacation. Maybe try and tan my body a little?” The way Pam said it was as though that was such a foreign idea . . . to relax and feed her body some sun.
“A wha—? Brown, you’re dreaming. Wake up, this is serious.”
“Okay, okay. I’m up.”
“Seattle was good for the Agency, Brown. Real good. But we’re on a roll. We don’t want to lose momentum now.”
“I guess not. So what’s up, Chief?”
“About an hour ago FHP pulled over an eighteen-wheeler . . .”
Pam was indeed wide awake now, with her mental motors crankin’. “Florida Highway Patrol,” she finally responded.
“That’s right. Bell Glade. And Brown?”
“Yes, I’m listening, Chief.”
“They think they stopped over five hundred kilos.”
“Five . . . hundred . . . kilos?” Pam’s staccato response came just as she sat up, her one leg folded in front of her while the other draped over the edge of the bed.
“That’s what I said. Found it buried in the front end of a load of corn.”
“Dogs?” Pam assumed.
“Well, there were dogs, but it was highway patrol officers who made the stop and search.”
“Don’t tell me—another illegal search.”
“It’s possible. It’s a long story. But the thing now is, they’ve got the driver—calls himself Big Slim. Aaanyway, he’s being held in their lil’ pokey down there. Lord only knows what kinda lawyer’s gonna show up or when . . .”
“You don’t have to say another word, Chief. I got the picture. I’m already half-dressed . . .” Pam was moving through her bedroom, a brewing storm, with no bra and red satin panties. She threw on a fresh wife-beater that she had laid out for her usual, but now postponed, morning run on the treadmill.
“Is the Gulf on the tarmac?” Pam was speaking of the Gulf Stream jet; the tarmac was a runway at Ronald Reagan Airport.
“It’s probably quicker to take a chopper from VA.” VA meant Quantico, Virginia, where the community of federal law enforcement agencies called the Pentagon home.
Pam eventually got a chance to exhale before she asked, “What time will they be here?” She was already anticipating her boss and his every move.
“Sometimes I’m scared to think with you around, Agent Brown. It’s as if you can read my mind.”
“Mmm-hmm . . .” she replied, wondering if he was just buttering her up; that second-guessing sensibility again.
“Sure,” said Pam, already knowing the inevitable. She could even picture the motorcade with two armored SUVs speeding along Pennsylvania Avenue. Silent, spinning lights, that blip of a police siren every now and then at the intersections. “Orders?”
“The usual, Brown. Squeeze him. See if we can’t get a lead on the source. This could be big.”
“Yeah-yeah, every operation could be big, Chief, as long as Sam tells on Harry, and Harry tells on Frank, and Frank tells on Espinoza . . . and so on and so on.”
“Well, you’re the best I’ve got out there in the field, Brown.”
Pam lip-synched the Chief’s words to herself, since she’d heard those very words so many times before. Then she cut in. “Heard it all before, Chief. Don’t you worry, I’ll be on the chopper and in Bell Glade before Mister Slim has a chance to scribble graffiti on the jailhouse wall.”
When would he ever stop treating her like his daughter? Pam wondered as she pushed and pulled the toothbrush across her teeth, creating her very own visual scenario on the mirror before her. She could see beyond her sharp political facial features; that button nose, dimpled chin, high cheekbones, and otherwise captivating green eyes that folks swore would get her some heavy-duty elected position . . . past her proud, blond crown that (some people claimed) seemed to command a room full of attention. This wasn’t the time to ask her mirror the usual questions . . . that whole “mirror, mirror on the wall” bit, wondering why someone as beautiful as she wasn’t married off and burdened with a family by the age of thirty-six. If Pam was on her own time, right this moment, she might raise a middle finger at the mirror, cursing that goddamned biological clock.
Copyright © 2000 by Relentless Aaron. All rights reserved.