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Last Fare

by Tim Britto

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


I woke up a day later in St. Luke’s Hospital. I had a broken leg, a broken arm, three cracked ribs, a mild concussion, and several cuts and bruises spread out over my body. I was told the guy in the other car simply hadn’t seen the red light before he hit me and had walked away from the accident without a scratch.

My first visitor was my supervisor. He brought a small bottle of Jack Daniel’s even though I wasn’t supposed to drink. He also told me that my car was ruined beyond repair, but insurance would take care of it. The car was already on its way to a scrap yard, and a new one would be waiting for me when I was healed. I told him I was glad about the insurance, but I didn’t think I’d be returning to the taxi company. He nodded his head in understanding, told me to put him down for a reference.

My second visitor was much less pleasant. Detective Rogerio walked in just after I’d finished my lunch. He waited until the nurse took the tray away and then studied me.

“How you feeling, Lou?”

“Fine, thanks.”

“Good, then maybe you’re up to answering my questions. Truthfully, this time.”

“Jesus H. Christ. You don’t give up, do you? Aren’t there actual crimes being committed right now? Do you really have nothing better to do than harass me because of a hunch you have? I have news for you, Detective: I’ve done nothing wrong. You have no evidence of me doing anything wrong, and you won’t find any, because I’m one of the good guys.

“Now I’ve answered your questions. I’m sorry you don’t like my answers, but that’s all you’re gonna get from me. I suggest the next time you try to speak with me you have a warrant because if you continue to harass me, I’ll contact your superiors, as well as any newspaper that’ll take my call, and inform them that the police enjoy wasting taxpayer money by harassing innocent citizens. I’ll tie your ass up with a lawsuit from now until your sad, lonely, little retirement party!”

Detective Rogerio was surprised by my outburst, and I can’t say I blame him. It surprised me, too. He studied me for another minute before nodding his head and walking out without another word.

I knew that wasn’t the end of things with him, though. Mentioning reporters reminded me of the interview I promised Ian White the night they arrested Kyle. I hadn’t really planned on calling him, but I thought he may be able to help me with my detective problem. I didn’t have his card with me. I called his paper, and they got me in touch with him. I gave him a brief rundown of what had happened. I left out the part about my mirror.

Ian was happy I called. He came that same day and the three following it. Talking tired me out so our interview took a while. The story he ended up writing was really good; it made me look like a cross between Captain America and Sherlock Holmes. But the biggest favor Ian did for me occurred during our second interview.

Detective Rogerio waited almost a day and a half before returning to my hospital room. When he did, I was explaining to Ian how I’d been mistakenly arrested the day after I’d helped arrest a murderer. I smiled when I saw the Detective, and he stopped in his tracks.

“Speaking of whom, here comes Detective Rogerio, the guy who arrested me and who continues to harass me. He has no evidence and, I’m sure, many actual criminals to pursue for the people of this city. But he decides to spend his time asking me the same questions over and over again.”

Ian turned to look at the detective who was obviously considering fleeing. Ian spoke before he could move. “Is that true, Detective Rogerio?” Ian said as he stood up. He was a chubby guy with thick glasses and a soft voice. “Are you harassing this man even though he’s been released from police custody and is now hospitalized?” I swear the good Detective looked scared of Ian for a second. To his credit, he got over his fear in a hurry. “I’m following up on leads. And an accident doesn’t excuse anyone from felony acts.”

Ian pressed on. “So, you have evidence of this man’s wrongdoing?” He would’ve made a hell of a lawyer.

“I have some evidence and” — Rogerio paused — “years of experience as a detective.”

Ian stepped towards him. “Then it is true: you’re harassing this man for no other reason than a hunch. I’m not sure that’s what my readers expect from the NYPD, Detective.”

“Your readers expect us to catch criminals, all criminals, and not just the ones who are obviously guilty. Now, you two seem to be in the middle of something, so I’ll come back later.” And then he finally escaped.

Ian looked at me with a smile. “My readers love reading about abuses of power. I wouldn’t expect the police to be giving you any further trouble once my article goes to print.”

He was right. Detective Rogerio never questioned me again. I later learned he had a history of badgering witnesses and was on the wrong end of more than one lawsuit. When Ian started questioning his captain, Detective Rogerio was immediately taken off the Kyle Fuller case and ordered to stay away from me. I even received a letter of thanks from the police department concerning my help in catching Kyle.

I saw the Detective when I was released from the hospital. He just watched me from a distance, not even trying to hide. But that was the last time I saw him, and I have nothing but good things to say about my experiences with the police since.

My final visit occurred three days before I was released. At first, I thought I was dreaming when I saw Lauren’s concerned face looking down at me. I’d just woken up from a nap and took a minute to shake the sleep from my mind.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Lou. I didn’t mean to wake you up. You were talking in your sleep, and I was trying to make out what you were saying.”

“Oh, no, that’s OK. I needed to wake up anyway.”

“Good. How are you? The doctors said you should be going home soon.”

“Yeah, another few days they told me. Then I have a few weeks of being stuck in a wheelchair and more physical therapy than I want to contemplate right now.”

“I’m so sorry, Lou.”

“I’m just being dramatic. It probably looks worse than it is. I’ve already started weaning off the pain meds. That first week was pretty tough, but I’m getting there.”

“Glad to hear it.” She seemed unsure of herself. I suggested she grab a seat. She pulled a chair up close to the bed.

“Thanks for coming to see me, Lauren. It really means a lot.”

“Of course, sorry I took so long to get here. It’s just... I was pretty rocked when they took you out of that restaurant in handcuffs.”

“Yeah, that’s not normally how I want a first date to go.”

“Oh no?” She smiled. “I assumed you were going for the bad boy routine and just overshot your mark.”

I was ecstatic to see the fear gone from her eyes. “Well, I know ladies like a rebel.”

“That we do. But seriously, what happened with the cops and all that? I mean one day you’re a hero and the next you’re a criminal.”

“I know; it was pretty crazy for me, too. What happened was...” I paused for a moment and looked at her. She was leaning forward. Her eyes were fixed on me, and she was eager for an explanation. I could have lied, sometimes I still think I should have. But I really liked her. I would even say I loved her, but I don’t want to sound all cheesy. I didn’t want to start off whatever we had with a lie.

“Well, this is gonna sound crazy, but hear me out. I noticed, about two months before the accident, that I could see people. I mean, see their true selves, in my rearview mirror.”

Lauren listened attentively. When I was done, she sat back and took several long, slow breaths.

“I’m not crazy, Lauren,” I finally said when she hadn’t spoken for a while.

“That was my first thought,” she replied with a smile, “but now I’m not so sure. I believe there are things out there that cannot be explained: ghosts, Bigfoot, the Kardashians... But this mirror trick, this is a lot to take in.”

“I know.”

“Now that the car is wrecked, do you think the magic is gone?”

“I’m not sure. But I don’t plan on driving a taxi anymore, regardless.”

“What are you gonna do instead?”

“I haven’t decided. I have a little saved up. I’ll think about it for a while.”

“Well these past two months, real or not, would make a great story.”

She was right. I’m not sure this will ever get published, but I’m not worried about that. I’ve felt good writing it, and it hasn’t scared Lauren away. I haven’t seen anything odd in any mirrors lately, but the magic isn’t all gone. There are times when Lauren pushes my wheelchair down the street, and I can see our reflections in storefront windows.

Her reflection glows. Mine dances.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Britto

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