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The Wave on a Cool Fall Afternoon
Tommy Hopkins sat quietly in the
passenger seat of the County Sheriffs
Department Caprice Classic RMP. He looked
past the tiny red lights and green display on the
radar setup and the computer screen mounted
centrally on the dashboard and out through the
windshield into the gathering twilight. Across
the two-lane blacktop, he could see the trunks of
pine trees marching off into the darkness. Red
and yellow flashing lights from the RMP and tow
truck chased themselves through the columns of
the forest. The cars engine was
running and the heat coming out of the floor
vents felt good. God, it felt so good to
finally have all these people around!
He shivered, but not due to cold.
He was wearing a hooded red sweatshirt under a
shearling lined denim jacket, his feet shod with
sturdy steel-toed thinsulate lined boots. His
quick afternoon outing made him shiver -- well,
the memories at least.
The drivers side door swung
open abruptly, jolting Tommy from his inner
musings. Whoa son, relax.
He looked up at the New York State Trooper
bending over to gaze into the car. He was
mid-forties in vintage, strongly built,
like a well-preserved ex-military man. His
eyes looked kind. Tommy never thought
hed think that any Troopers eyes
could look kind. They never had in the
My names Trooper
Brinton, but you can call me Fred, if youd
like. That was another first
for Tommy, the call me Fred from the
Law. Before he could even really get that
thought together, Brinton once again was talking.
That your bike over there?
Yeah, uh, uh... Fred.
It felt strange calling this guy Fred. Come
on, Tommy, lets take a ride in my car down
to the diner and get some coffee. I want
you to tell me everything that happened.
I think I can tell you some things about what
happened to you that you dont even
Tommy reluctantly opened the door
and stepped into the brisk fall air. He
followed Brinton to an unmarked vehicle and got
in the passenger side. Brinton maneuvered
the car through the knot of vehicles at the scene
made up of tow trucks, an ambulance, an EMT wagon
from the Fire Department, and a small group of
onlookers. His bike sat in some kind
folks front yard about twenty-five yards
back down the road.
As soon as theyd cleared the
obstacles, Brinton began to talk.
That bike of yours back there, that did
give me a bad turn. Tommy looked
blankly at him. He saw the bewildered look
on his face, smiled, gazed back through the
windshield and continued. Ive
seen a bike just like that
Now what the hell is that
supposed to mean? Tommy thought.
Brinton fell silent as they skimmed the pavement
down out of the hills and into Indian Lake.
After what hed been through,
Tommy was amazed that the diners windows
were steamed up, there were lights on, and people
were leading normal lives inside. He
figured with the events of the afternoon that
hed witnessed and gone through, nobody
could still just cheerfully exist. Everyone
must know what hed been through.
They went inside and sat down at a
corner table. Before Tommy could make a
sound, the Trooper ordered them two cups of
coffee. He normally didnt drink
coffee, but he would have drunk turpentine at
this moment, just from the joy of being among
real people, happy people, normal people.
Yeah, Ive seen a bike
just like yours before. And that helmet
hanging off the mirror! That was just the
icing on the cake. Brinton spoke,
then stared down Into his cup.
Tommy bristled. What do you
mean by all this bike just like that
and that helmet stuff. Ive
never seen you, or been stopped by you, or been
in any kind of real trouble with that bike.
Tommy was feeling just a bit better now -- enough
to start feeling a bit belligerent again. Hed
had a bad day too! Bad day, HA! He
had had the mother of all bad days!
Slow down, son I didnt
mean to imply that it was your bike, or your
helmet. Ive just seen ones like
em before. It wasnt in the best
of circumstances and it was a good number of
years ago -- probably before you were even
riding. But like I said, I think that
I can explain quite a bit to you.
You see, back in nineteen
eighty-four, there was a fellow, just a boy
really, from over yonder in Old Forge.
His people owned a big farm out there. They
didnt have terrific luck with the land, but
they managed to hang on to the place and keep
going. Anyway, the boy, Luke was his name,
had always been a troubled kid -- and a lack of
proper education didnt help much either.
His parents didnt send him to school as
often as they should have because they needed him
to help on the land.
Back in town, Bobby Spencer
worked in the Stewarts Shop by nights and
went to college by day. He used to cruise
around (and fly around, I wrote him a few
citations) on a 500 Interceptor just like yours.
He even had an Arai helmet, painted bright yellow
with a black stripe just like yours. He
said he had painted it after some guy he saw
racing in a video in some place in England.
[Joey Dunlops Isle of Man video perhaps?
-- Ed.] Anyhow, thats what
made me get goose bumps when I saw your ride, and
Bobby met a girl at college, I
forget her name -- it isnt really important
-- she would drive over from Glens Falls to
visit him while he was at work. She was a
cute kid. She really liked Bobby, I think.
Well, one night, Luke drove his mother down to
town for something or another in their old, beat
up Ford truck, this big green nasty looking
F-350, all rust and baling wire.
The girlfriend was sitting in
a booth reading one of those tabloid muck-sheets,
waiting for Bobby to get off. Luke cast
more than an appreciating eye at the young lady.
She looked up at him, then looked back down.
Lukes mother had seen the little tableau
played out. She is a sharp-tongued old
buzzard at best. But she didnt want
Luke falling for no girlies; you know and take
him away from the farm. She said something
like Luke boy, you aint got no right
lookin at a smart young lady like that.
She got her eye on pretty little Bobby over
yonder. She dont want no ignorant
farm boy like you. You leave her to the
educated gentleman. She said all this
as much as an insult to Bobby as to Luke. She
didnt like anybody she thought was better
than her and her kinfolk.
Luke didnt like to be
made to look foolish in front of a girl.
It bothered him even more to be made to look
foolish in front of Bobby. He didnt
see the comments as an insult to himself;
hed been shamed in front of his mama.
Luke was in a fine rage. He stormed out of
the shop and into the truck, his mother in tow,
and blasted back out to the farm.
Well our Luke cooked and
steamed to himself and got all worked up about
how Bobby had insulted him. It churned in
his gut until that November.
Ill never forget that
afternoon. I dont know what I could
have done different. It could have been an
accident pure and simple. Maybe.
There might have been no vehicular contact.
Maybe. There may have been no malice involved.
Maybe. But I didnt think
so. It just seemed way too coincidental.
Maybe I should have spoken my mind, but you have
to understand, there was no proof. NO
proof of ANYTHING! Brinton
was almost shouting. The little cluster of
people at the counter stopped talking, turned
around and stared.
Tommy almost jumped back in his
seat, seeing the pain and vehemence on
Brintons face. He didnt know
where this story was going, or what it had to do
with him, but he figured this guys got a
gun, but at least hes buying the coffee
-- I guess I dont have anywhere better to
go right at the moment.
Brinton took a pull at his cup and
pushed his fingers back through his hair. His
face relaxed a bit. He exhaled loudly then
continued. The call came in around
four oclock, just like today. Vehicular
accident, personal injuries, Route 28 five miles
west of Indian Lake. When I got to the
scene, Bobbys Interceptor was in about five
pieces, a few on the road, a few in the woods.
Bobby, God help him, was lying across a tree
branch about eight feet up. He was quite
dead. Lukes truck was parked just
past a cross road about a hundred feet back from
the crash scene. He told us all that he had
stopped at the stop sign, seen that the road was
clear and had then begun to swing out onto the
pavement. He said the bike just came flying
around the corner. He said the bike swerved
to avoid him and lost control.
I knew thered been bad
blood on Lukes part against Bobby.
Nevertheless, there was no paint or blood on his
truck. There were no witnesses. There
was just no real, hard evidence of foul play.
This has been bothering me for years.
Brinton slouched back in his seat.
You know who that was in that truck
today? Tommys eyes said no.
Well, you almost had the distinct
displeasure of meeting Luke Gorey. He
leaned forward on his elbows and said Why
dont you fill me in on what happened out
It was Tommys turn to arrange
his thoughts now. He listened to the clink
of pots and dishes from the kitchen and looked
through the windows into the pitch darkness.
I was heading over from
Boonville on Route 28. It was a nice fall
afternoon and I thought Id get one last
ride in before I put the bike away for the
season. (By the way, I bought the bike used
from a dealership over east of Amsterdam two
years ago.) I passed a truck sitting at an
intersection. I wouldnt have
even noticed it except that it was so beat up.
He swung out behind me just as I passed. I
was moving along at a good clip, so I didnt
see him for a while. Anyhow, as I was riding, I
became aware of this truck getting closer and
closer to me. I guess he was about a
hundred fifty yards behind me when I started to
notice. I sped up, so did the truck. There
were bits of patchy frost and dampness on the
road. I almost lost the front end on a
couple of corners. I couldnt get away
from this guy. He just got closer and
I was starting to get that
sick, scared feeling in my belly. I was
shaking on the handlebars. Just when I
thought he must be about to run me over, I heard
this huge roar of another bike coming up FAST from
behind the truck. I saw its headlight in
the mirror coming around the side of the truck.
I also saw the driver of the truck turn his head
towards the bike. The bike fell in behind
me and ahead of the truck. I looked
forward. The next thing I know, the truck
is rolling end over end behind me.
Again, I hear the roar of that
bikes exhaust flying up from behind. As
it passed, I saw it was another Interceptor.
He waved and just jetted. I dont know
how he did it, those roads were really slick.
Its like he didnt even touch the
ground. I stopped. I turned around
and went back to the wreck. You saw that
guy. I never want to see anything like that
again! The look on his face -- what was
left of it...
Brinton sighed and leaned back.
Thats just what I thought. Old
Luke must have seen that bike of yours, and that
helmet of yours and gone off the deep end. He
probably thought he was taking care of Bobby
Well, Im lucky Im
still alive. Ive got that other biker
to thank for that. I wonder who he
was. They both fell silent for a moment.
Finally Brinton spoke.
Beats me, kid. But whoever he was, he
must have startled Luke. Luke lost control,
and the result, we all saw. That saved your
bacon. Well, finish up your coffee
and Ill run you back to your bike. You
must have had enough for one afternoon.
They left the diner and drove back
out Route 28 in silence. When they got to
Tommys bike, Brinton pulled up onto
the grass and shut the car off. They both
got out and stood looking at Tommys bike.
Brinton could smell the soft but pungent smell of
burning leaves somewhere in the darkness. A
slight fog was materializing on the roadway.
Brinton broke the silence
Where did you get that helmet? Oh,
my cousin found it at a garage sale. He
replied. Id just love to
know who that other biker was on the road this
At that moment, far off in the
hills, carried by that thick, foggy air, they
heard that mournful wail of a revving sportbike
echoing through the landscape. You
couldnt rightly tell from which direction
it came or where it was going. Brinton felt
that numb, cold feeling all along the base of his
skull and the hairs all stood straight up on the
back of his neck. I know, he
Harry G. Pellegrin
READ THE PRESS
is Published by Bedside Books, an imprint of
American Book Publishing.
2003 Harry G. Pellegrin
God We Trust
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