He noticed the siren before the lights.
It took a second to pick out the red and blue against the orange sunset, and every muscle in his body tensed. Knuckles turning white on the wheel, he slowly steered over, pressing the brakes. Then he reached into the center console for his paperwork. He rolled the window down.
He was surprised when he caught sight of her in the side mirror, long and tall and blonde. Even under the sunglasses he could see the suggestion of a strong face, beautiful but stern. He knew if someone a little meaner were here, someone like Sam Hess, they might have something to say about her: probably some unkind gossip about lesbians or whatnot. He knew it was perfectly reasonable for a strong woman to be straight; why on earth else would Pearl be with him?
“Oh hi there,” the woman chirped, leaning down toward his window. “Can I see your license and your registration, please?” She smiled, seeming almost genuinely friendly, and he tried not to let his guard down.
“Here you go,” he offered, turning over the paperwork.
She glanced at it quickly, reading it fast. He couldn’t see her eyes under the mirrored shades, but something told him she was actually reading the paperwork.
“Oh, you’re from Bemidji? I hear it’s a lovely town this time of year.”
He could see where this was going. “I was going down to the Mall of America to get a gift certificate for my fiancée,” he volunteered.
She tipped her head down, blonde hair suddenly reflecting the setting sun. “Oh? Is that right, Mr. Nygaard?”
He nodded quickly, trying to reign himself in even as his head bobbed too quickly. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Now why are you so nervous?” She slid her glasses down, looking over them with cool blue eyes. “You haven’t got anything to hide, do ya?”
He could feel his hands sliding against the steering wheel, suddenly wet with perspiration. “No, no I haven’t. But I must have done something wrong because you pulled me over.”
She suddenly leaned back a little, smirking. “Is that so? Well, Mr. Nygaard, what do you think you did wrong?”
“Um…” He looked at the speedometer, trying to remember if he’d done anything. “I… I don’t know…”
“You don’t know your headlight is out?” He could hear the laughter in her voice.
He looked down at his feet between the spokes of the wheel. “My fiancée and my brother both said I’m just imagining it. They said one side’s brighter than the other, on account of drivers coming the other way.”
She grinned. “Well, ya, but what if you’re right and they’re wrong? You don’t need anybody’s permission to check it yourself, Mr. Nygaard.” Then the grin turned into a smile, warm. “You have a safe trip home, and get that fixed tomorrow.” She rested her palm briefly on the door, then walked away.
Lester sighed with relief.