Soft and insistent, the rain pelted in a pitter-patter of motion upon the windshield of the officer's patrol car, one that blended into the dark night. The rain had cast an eerie gray shadow over the world that night, which the windshield wipers of the car did nothing to diminish. The thick, blocky digital numbers of the clock on the dash glowed brightly in the blackness, reading 1:35 A.M. He hadn't realized it had gotten so late.
All was quiet, all was still, but the officer did sigh as he lifted his Styrofoam cup to his lips. His coffee was no longer warm, and he could taste the bitter grounds with every sip. Still he drank it, because there were still four and a half hours before his shift was over and he needed to stay awake.
Cars whizzed past him in a storm of noise and lights, and a small device fixed to the dash recorded the speed of each indiscriminately. Fifty-five; sixty. Sixty-five; seventy, and even upwards of eighty or ninety miles an hour. The limit was only sixty-five, but he was tired and had already pulled over four that night. Lulled to complacency by the rhythmic beat of the wiper blades, he merely watched them as they went, their headlights piercing through the misty veil of rain. His heartbeat slowed, and drifted until his shift was nearly over.
He was awoken a few hours later by the throaty growl of his police scanner, which jerked him to attention more effectively than a whip crack. It was only a routine message, the style of which he had heard so often before, and it did not even pertain to him, highway patrol as he was. All the same, it served as a reminder that he was on the job, and so the next time a car passed by, traveling faster than the posted limit, he flashed his lights and followed after.
A few moments later, the driver he had been trailing must have spotted the beacons of terror in his or her rearview mirror, for the car began to pull over immediately, slowing down gradually to an uneasy stop. The officer waited just a moment, checking to make sure everything was in order, and then slipped on his windbreaker, zipping it securely shut over his starched shirt beneath. He stepped out of the patrol car and shut the door, lifting up his hood after he was certain his uniform was clearly visible.
The window of the other car lowered as he approached, and as he gazed into the front seat he saw that the perpetrator was a young woman; a teenager no older than sixteen or seventeen. She looked absolutely terrified, and her hands moved shakily as she scrambled to pull her license out of her purse and her proof of insurance out of the glove box. The sight made him want to sigh, more out of bitterness than anything. He could remember a time when officers of the law had been respected, not feared or hated.
Gently, he asked her if she was alright, and learned that it was her first time to be pulled over. She had been coming home from a study group, she said, and that she had wanted to get home before the weather became worse. Watching her—and checking her pupils for any sign of substance abuse in the process—he wanted to let her off, and to reassure her that nothing was wrong. She had only been traveling at sixty-eight, a very minor offense, and he had surely ignored many speeders going ninety or more during the time he had spent sleeping. But, she had broken the law, however slight, and he wrote her a ticket anyway. It was not justice, but it was law, and officers were duty-bound to uphold it. Dimly he wondered, as he processed her ticket, when such a distinction had been made between two concepts that should have been permanently intertwined.