If you think about it, few people get to see more of the bizarre, unruly and twisted than police officers. They stop people who have drugs in their pants, guns in the glove box and heads in the back seat. If you've ever been pulled over and wondered why the cop seemed so unsympathetic, it's probably because they've seen far too many disturbing things to be impressed with your situation.
Being out of the academy just six months, John was one of those patrol cops who gets to sit on a side road with a radar gun and earn money for his local government in the form of traffic fines. Still, six months is enough to see a good share of the odd and unpleasant. So when he spotted the Miata doing fifty in a thirty-five, he halfway expected some kind of lame excuse and possibly inexplicable oddity.
As soon as the speeding driver saw the flashing lights, he pulled right over, and John pulled up behind him. He frowned a little - with the top up, he could not see the driver at all. For all he knew, the driver might be loading a shotgun and snorting a speedball in the front seat. So he did as he always did, and approached with caution.
As John walked up to the door, he noticed a few things that started to set off alarms. Now that he could see the driver, he could also see that the man was wearing hospital scrubs - and they were covered in blood. John unsnapped his holster and put his hand on his gun, and as he came close enough to see the man, he also noticed the gory knife thrown casually onto the passenger seat. And yet the driver had his hands firmly on the wheel, obviously not carrying a weapon or posing a threat. He was, however, wearing a brilliant, rainbow-colored wig.
One problem with pulling over a Miata is that the car is extraordinarily low to the ground. John couldn't see the man's face at all, just the enormous, garish hairpiece. The knife and the obvious blood on the driver's clothing was enough to raise an internal alarm, but the wig was just plain bizarre. So he bent down, one hand still on the butt of his gun, to get a look at the man's face.
He was wearing a red clown nose.
The man still hadn't moved his hands, so John didn't feel an immediate need to draw his gun, but he did want an explanation, and he wanted it in a hurry.
"Sir, what in God's name have you been doing?"
John had seen that deer-in-the-headlights look a hundred times if he had seen it once, but he still didn't exactly expect it from a man covered in blood and wearing a clown wig.
"I'm sorry, officer, I was changing the radio station and didn't realize how fast I was going."
John shook his head. "I'm a little more concerned about the blood and the knife!"
John could see realization of his appearance dawn on the man's face. It was as if, right up until this second, the man had no idea he was covered in blood and dressed like a clown.
"Oh! Oh no! No! It's not real! It's - I mean, it's fake! It's just ketchup!"
John's eyes narrowed. "And why would you have ketchup all over yourself, and a butcher knife on the seat?"
"My costume! I'm an insane clown surgeon!"
It was John's turn to realize what he had missed - today was Halloween. With no kids in his house, and no real reason to keep the date in mind, John had completely forgotten. Suddenly the man didn't seem nearly as threatening. He took his hand away from his gun.
"So where are you heading in such a hurry, sir?"
The man looked sheepish. "I work for a medical supply company. We decided to dress up for Halloween. I just didn't realize how fast I was going until I saw you."
John shook his head again, half amazed at the bizarre costume and half surprised that he had so thoroughly forgotten the date. "Wait here," he said, and headed back to his cruiser.
John looked up the license, found a squeaky clean record, and chuckled to himself as he wrote out a warning. He walked back to the Miata and handed the driver the slip of paper.
"I'm giving you a warning because you're wearing the first costume I've seen today, and I had completely forgotten it was Halloween. You pay a little more attention and drive safe, now."
The man's nervous face broke into a grin. "Will do, officer. Absolutely."
John stopped several more costumed speeders that day, and by the end of his shift, he knew that he would never forget Halloween again.