An Irregular Prowl

This story was originally written as part of Chuck Wendig’s “Irregular Creatures” flash fiction challenge.

An Irregular Prowl

Jimmy Ward noticed the police cruiser’s flashing lights in his rear view mirror before he heard the siren. He reached for the item on the passenger seat and shoved it underneath without taking his eyes off the road, then dutifully pulled off to the side. He lowered the car window, rested his elbow on the sill and attempted to appear calm, despite the adrenalin that had been running through his veins since the night before.

The cop took his time making his way to Jimmy’s car. When he bent forward and peered through the window, Jimmy noticed an angry purplish scar running down the left side of his face, stretching from temple to mouth. His nametag read “BRADLEY.”

“License, registration, and insurance, please,” Bradley said.

Jimmy removed his sunglasses and looked the cop in the eye, but said nothing.

From a young age, Jimmy knew he was special. All it took was a look in the mirror to see that. His otherwise ordinary face featured one dark brown eye and one translucent blue eye. His mother called him her ‘irregular creature,’ and while the nickname seemed rather unkind for a boy of six, he embraced it.

His gaze took adults and children aback and he’d learned to use their discomfort to his advantage. He’d spent a lifetime getting over on people; coaxing girls to sleep with him, getting out of tickets, convincing teachers to give him better grades than he deserved. Once, he even talked his way out of an arrest when he was caught stealing a bike from a rack near the beach. His talents had improved since then, but he still relied on his strange looks to keep as many steps ahead of others as he could.

Now, as Bradley stared at him with small, squinty eyes, Jimmy waited for the slight hesitation that always happened when someone saw him for the first time. But Bradley’s pause lasted longer than most; so long that Jimmy’s confidence waned. He thought about the item under the seat and squirmed.

“Is there a problem, Officer?” Jimmy asked.

“You neglected to stop for pedestrians at the crosswalk,” Bradley said.

Pedestrians, Jimmy thought. What pedestrians? He hadn’t seen them, but even so, it seemed like a dickish reason to pull someone over. He felt for his wallet in his back pocket, but it wasn’t there.

After a moment of panic, he remembered he’d put in his backpack when he’d left home the night before. Relieved, He turned and reached toward the back seat.

Officer Bradley stiffened and moved his hand to his holster.

“What are you doing?”

“It’s in my backpack,” Jimmy said. Bradley watched as Jimmy felt around for the backpack, but the back seat was empty.

Where the fuck was it? He realized what must’ve happened, and felt the blood drain from his face. He must’ve forgotten the backpack at the scene last night. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“I left the backpack at home,” he said. “My license is in it.”

Bradley scowled. “Registration?”

Jimmy opened the glove compartment and picked through it. He knew the document was also in his wallet, but thought the search would buy him time to think about what to do.

Jimmy’s penchant for manipulation had evolved over the years into a career as a small time con man. When times were lean, he resorted to hot prowling, enjoying the rush he got when he entered houses he knew to be occupied better than breaking into empty residences. Armed with an eye for small, valuable items he could easily transport in his backpack, he got in and out quickly, never leaving a trace. He could make a lot of quick cash, but knowing the increased danger of arrest, he’d been careful not to make it a habit.

But last night, everything had fallen apart.

He’d prowled a neighborhood unencumbered by pesky streetlights. He peeked into rear windows, searching for just the right place. In one house, a young woman stood in a bedroom with her back to the window, perusing a bookshelf. She selected a book and left, and Jimmy took his chance. He opened the unlocked window and dropped his backpack on the floor. He climbed in himself just as the woman re-entered the room.

She grabbed a perfume bottle from the bedside table and hurled it at him. He raised a hand to block it and ran toward her, catching her by the arm as she tried to run away. A moment later, she stumbled down the hall screaming while he remained in the same place, holding a piece of flesh-colored plastic.

Jimmy had a direct view of the front door, and he saw the woman as she skidded toward it, one arm waving wildly in the air while her stump just hung there. She opened the door and ran, yelling, into the street. With no time to spare, Jimmy escaped through the window and sprinted through the neighbor’s backyard. He ran to relative safety, still gripping the plastic arm.

With Officer Bradley growing impatient, Jimmy knew he had to act fast. If the police had his backpack, they knew his identity. He closed the glove compartment and shrugged.

“Must be in my backpack too.”

“Step out of the car, sir,” Bradley said.

Jimmy sighed and made like he was about to do as he was told. Instead, he started the car and pulled out onto the busy street, knocking Bradley over and grazing an oncoming car. Breaks squealed and horns honked, but Jimmy just stepped on the gas and drove.

Hours later, a near-empty gas tank forced him to stop on a lonely stretch of highway leading to a town he’d never heard of. He felt under the passenger seat and pulled out the prosthetic arm. He examined it, wondering if he could sell it and make some cash.

Nah. He lowered the window, heaved it out into the darkness, and left to find a gas station.

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