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A Hint Of History


Every day, when he arrives at work, Herb parks his sand-or-maybe-it’s-gold-colored Impala in the same lot, in the same row, in the same space. And there it remains until hours later Herb leaves in it all by his lonesome, presumably to go home. Maybe that’s an overstatement -- there are episodic deviations -- but it does seem to be the general rule. So much so, that whenever I’m not around, eyes and ears for me don’t bother mentioning his or his car’s presence at JADE; the information is axiomatic.

But on this particular night I am around and Herb’s vehicle is predictably and neatly tucked inside its stock three white lines. Herb himself is in the 965 office. All of the other Drug Enforcement fellows and their rides are absent. It’s dark, and quiet.

As far as I know the Task Force has no plans of making a drug bust or anything later but I’m keyed up almost as much as if they do.

In less than an hour I’m supposed to meet with my very favorite JADE source. I mischievously call him Boomslang, which, because he incorrectly thinks other people are as smart as him, makes him extremely paranoid someone will figure out who he is. It’s not been beneath him to implore earnestly that I don’t write the anonym down, and it’s not been beyond me to be dismissive of him about it. I comply with every-single-thing else he asks of me so, hush!

Herb comes out of the Ix building carrying his trusty briefcase and strolls by me in my car. He doesn’t exhibit quintessential law enforcement attributes but I’m versed with his background. His can of whoop ass is as full as the rest of the JADE guys’.

Herb is the only Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement member left whose home address I haven’t yet confirmed. The place I’m almost for sure must be where he lives is not more than a few miles away.

I get to thinking a good way to burn up some time and this wild energy! energy! energy! in me would be to tail Herb. So I do. Only…

He isn’t going to the location I assumed he would. Not even in the same direction.

I follow him on various familiar streets before the two of us eventually merge onto the Interstate. I don’t know why -- could be wishful thinking -- but I take it for granted we aren’t going far. Huh-uh. We travel so long down I-64 I start looping the refrain from that song by The Who in my head. For miles and miles and miles and miles… I watch the numbers on the clock grow higher.

I get to thinking I’m going to mess up meeting with my spy and, bent on that not happening, plan to get off at the next exit, dropping Herb, and reverse direction. Only…

Forever passes with nary a turnaround to be found. Not even one of those pretentious “Authorized Vehicles Only” places.

Herb and I have been cruising at a moderate speed this whole way. I know how much time it’s taken to get us here where we are, therefore I know how much time it’s going to take to get me back where we were. In other words I’m sorely aware that even if I go all out race-car-driver, if I don’t get spun around in the next couple of minutes I’ll miss Boomslang. Aside from the fact that I overall adore the man, what we go through to manage these get-togethers of ours would make one hell of a plot line for Mission: Impossible. Zealously I plaster the gas pedal to the carpet.

All of a sudden I’m going so much faster than Herb, it looks like he isn’t moving. Exactly like one of those painted white dashes on the highway, he is. As I overtake him I narrowly slice back into the lane he’s in. No sooner do I do this that an exit ramp appears. I shoot up it like Rocky Hardcore about to hurdle an airplane. In the mirror, through the nocturnal air behind me I notice Herb’s blinker. He’s taking this exit too. I muse whether he’s purposely coming after me or does he often travel this road?

On his way up the incline, Herb’s signal goes out then flashes on again. He intends to turn right. Having neglected to get the exit number, I turn right, as Herb will, and scan for any road signs to tell me something about my surroundings and where this run of asphalt leads. I don’t want the trip to be an entire waste but since the green lights of the clock promise that’s exactly what it’s going to be, I resort to busting a U-ie in the middle of the vacant street. As I bolt from the environs, I unenthusiastically watch Herb wend by on the opposite side to I know not where. I use aspirations of “next time” to make peace with the abortion.

With few seconds to spare I arrive back and upon seeing him standing there on the sidewalk, hands crossed on biceps, looking all tough and authoritative-like, I uncharacteristically fling my arms around my very favorite JADE source and my failure with Herb evanesces.