A Police Car With Heart
Last week my 1997 green unmarked Crown Victoria had engine trouble. This car has a history. Back in her good old days she belonged to the police chief and was the only unmarked vehicle in our department. Our Chief has since moved on to a new unmarked SUV. As the only detective I inherited Esperanza. Yes, I named her. She’s old, sadly lacking a hub cap, has various dents and scratches, but she chugs along. Unmarked or not, the entire town knows this car. People wave at me as I drive by. Esperanza leaks a little oil and needs to be babied. She doesn’t like it when I leave my police radio on over the weekend and proves it when she refuses to start on Monday mornings. You might think this is going too far, but I’ve left that radio on for five days without driving her and then been called out for an emergency. She started right up. She’s dependable when she needs to be. She’s never broken down when getting me to a call.
I gripe and complain about having the oldest car in our fleet, but the bottom line is Esperanza and I have seen and done things together that make us a special team. We found a two year old baby one day walking on the road wearing only a diaper in the freezing rain. Esperanza’s bells and whistles calmed the baby down as the little girl played with the light and siren buttons. Esperanza drove me to my first homicide and kept her lights flashing, keeping curious onlookers back for nine hours. She took me to the scene of a young boy who was cutting wood and chopped half his foot off. Esperanza and I were the first to arrive and she stood by as I stanched the bleeding. She still carries the blood stains in the driver’s seat from my bloody uniform.
So a week ago, after leaving a call, Esperanza faltered. It came out of nowhere. We slowly crept to the garage for repair. We barely made it. We have an officer on medical leave and I was dropped off at his house to pick up his marked squad car. The next morning I went on duty and made a loop through town. In the middle of our busiest road a large brown pit bull was dodging cars. I love big dogs and I own a Rottweiler, but I’m not dumb. I rolled down my window saying, “Hi baby are you a good boy?” With his tail wagging he came running. I stepped out and opened the back door of my loaner vehicle. As the pit bull flew past me and jumped inside I smelled a terrible odor. Mr. Pit Bull had been skunked. The smell was overpowering, but it was too late. While choking and gagging, my eyes burning, I drove to our kennels and impounded the dog. I then drove to the station trying to figure out what to do. We have cloth seats not plastic like some city departments. I left the windows down knowing it would do little good. I parked in my normal spot and went inside.
In my office, my phone message light was blinking. It was the garage mechanic. I called him back. Esperanza was running perfectly. The mechanic told me he was stumped, he couldn’t find anything wrong with her. He told me it must be an intermittent problem. I quickly jumped into my reeking loaner, with a secretary following me, and dropped the smelly car back at the injured officer’s house. I was then driven to the garage to pick up Esperanza. She smelled wonderful. I didn’t tell the mechanic, but I had already figured out the problem. Esperanza does not like skunks and she knows my borrowed vehicle belongs to an officer who gets too much enjoyment from practical jokes. Boy, I love this car.
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