Valleri Smithson was startled when she heard the wail of the police siren and saw the flashing lights in her rear view mirror. She knew she wasn't speeding as she slowly drove down Main Street so she had no idea what she could have done wrong to warrant being pulled over. This was the absolute last thing Valleri needed in her life right now.
She pulled her car to a stop on the side of the street and she watched through the side mirror of her car. Nothing happened for a few minutes and Valleri could see that the cop was on the radio in his car, most likely running her (out of state New York) plates to make sure she wasn't already wanted by the law or otherwise a danger to society.
Valleri let out a long heavy sigh wondering what else could go wrong. She glanced around her car, cluttered with suitcases, boxes and crates on the backseat and floor, the front passenger seat covered with coffee cups and muffin wrappers from her long ride. Her entire life was a mess.
Finally, the door to the SUV opened and she watched as the cop in question stepped out of the black and white SUV with Mt. Griffin Police Dept. written on its side door. He wasn't dressed in the traditional blue police uniform though. The cop was wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a flannel shirt underneath a black leather jacket. A blue ball cap was on his head with 'Chief' written in white lettering over the bill and she saw something shining on his shirt in the afternoon sun. She guessed it was his badge.
Valarie watched the law enforcement official approach and she held her breath not knowing what to expect. She let down her window half way but avoided eye contact with the officer, staring straight ahead in a near zombie state, overwhelmed by the latest disaster in her life.
The car was still running and her heater was on, even though it was a relatively mild February day for New England.
"License and Registration, please," the officer requested.
Valleri reached over and pulled the registration out of the glove box and she fished her license out of her wallet, handing both documents to the officer through the window.
"Who's Chris Tenney?" The cop asked, examining the registration.
"My ex-boyfriend," Valleri explained. "This is his car."
"Did you know that you're driving with an expired registration?" The cop asked.
"Oh no!" Valleri exclaimed with surprise. "You mean it's out of date?" She was clearly flustered. "Is that why you pulled me over?"
"No, I pulled you over for going the wrong way on a one way street," he told her.
"What?" She asked, red faced.
"They made Becker Lane one way a couple of years ago," he revealed. "You're not the first. I know it's only twenty yards long and is really nothing but an alleyway but it's still one way."
"I'm sorry, Officer, I didn't notice the signs, I guess," Valleri admitted. "I've been a little distracted."
"You must have gone into Michaelson's Candy Store," the officer remarked.
"A gift for my mother," Valleri revealed.
"I can let you go with a warning on the one way, but I'm going to have to impound the car," he said.
"You can't!" Valleri protested.
"You can't drive a car with expired plates," the officer informed her.
"But what am I supposed to do?" Valleri groaned, trying not to cry.
"I'll give you a ride to your mother's house," the cop informed her. "Grab what you need from your car. I'll have it towed to Jake's until you get the paperwork straightened out."
Just when Valleri thought her spirits couldn't get any lower. The flashing lights of the police vehicle in her rear view mirror was starting to give her a headache. What next? How much worse could it get? Why in the hell didn't Chris keep up with the registration? Valleri slumped in her seat in despair, resting her forehead against the steering wheel.
"I can't take any more bad news," Valleri mumbled.
"Cheer up, Monkee, it will be okay."
Valleri lifted her head up off the steering wheel and stared at the officer through the side window. Only one person in her life ever called her Monkee – after the musical group who sang the song Valleri which is how her mother spelled the name on Valleri's birth certificate instead of the more common Valerie.
"Wally?" She asked with disbelief.
"Police Chief Cook, believe it or not," he grinned. "I didn't recognize your name at first. Smithson instead of Cameron. But Valleri is hard to miss."
"Smithson's my married name even though I'm divorced," she sighed.
"So, you're coming home?" He asked, gesturing to all the clutter in her car.
"My boyfriend broke up with me just after Christmas and I lost my job last week," Valleri revealed. "No way can I afford the rent in the city. I'm on my way home to stay with my mother even though she doesn't know it yet. I figured the candy would be my opening salvo."
"No wonder you're upset," Wally said with sympathy.
"The first thing she's going to say when I walk through the door is that I'm thirty-eight years old with a biological clock about to expire like my registration and how in the hell am I going to have a kid if I can't even keep a man," Valleri bemoaned. "And she'll call me a ditz for getting my car towed."
"It's not your car," Wally reminded her.
"Maybe you should have Jake tow it back to New York," Valleri said. "Let me be a martyr."
"Let me be your Saint," Wally told her. "I'll help you with what you need out of the car and then I'll radio in the tow."
Valleri stared at him through the window. "I suppose I have no pride left," she realized.
Wally handed her the license and registration back through the window. She closed the glass and turned off the car engine, taking her pocket book and stepping out of the car. She opened the back door and took her most important suitcase and a smaller duffle bag.
Wally took both of them from her clutches and when their fingers touched they both felt a charge of emotional energy pass between them. Wally walked her to the police vehicle, placing her luggage in the backseat and escorting Valleri around to the passenger side helping her to the cab. She handed him the keys to her car.
The Chief got in behind the wheel and radioed in to dispatch to come have the car towed.
"There's only three of us on the force full time," he told Valleri when he placed the microphone back in its holder.
"Weren't you a cop for Halloween one year?" Valleri tried to recall.
"Fifth grade," Wally grinned.
"I guess your dream came true," Valleri said with a sigh, glancing out the window with the realization that none of hers had.
"I joined the Army out of high school," he explained. "Military Police. Did ten years, got out, came back here, replaced Bert Manley who was retiring, and then replaced Chief Tenney when he got a job with the Greenville department a couple of years ago."
"You look good as Chief," Valleri smiled
"You look good period," Wally let her know, studying his passenger with an intensity she wasn't used to, causing her to blush but she smiled her appreciation considering she hadn't been feeling all that great about herself lately.
"You won't get in trouble for letting me off on the one way, will you?" She asked.
"Chief's prerogative," Wally grinned. "Rank brings privilege. But I can't risk having you get in accident with an illegal vehicle on the road so sorry about the tow."
"I have an otherwise spotless driving record," Valleri said.
"Actually, you got a speeding ticket in college," Wally reminded her.
"Oh My God, that's right!" She laughed. "I forgot all about that!"
The tow truck from Jake's arrived. Wally climbed out of the vehicle and handed the truck driver the keys to the car before returning to the police car.
"My mother's going to love seeing me being brought home by the Police," Valleri sighed as Wally started up the car.
He drove the car toward her mother's house on Mountain Road but then he surprised Valleri by turning off on Mountain Trail."
"Where are you going?" Valleri asked with confusion. "You know where my mother lives."
"You really don't want to go to your mother's house do you?" Wally asked knowingly.
"Then where are you taking me?" Valleri asked raised eyebrows.
"You look like you could use a good strong cup of coffee," Wally grinned.
"The diner is the other way."
Wally pulled the car into a dirt driveway that led down to a cabin in the woods by the river.
"This is my house," he let her know when he parked the police vehicle in front of the wooden log cabin.