Tin Soldiers and Nixon’s Coming

At 1:43 a.m. on the morning of March 18, 2012, Jennie Mae Elquart’s loathing of police officers blossomed into fully formed hatred.

Jennie Mae’s youngest son, Nixon, erupted from his mother’s womb during a late-night traffic stop on a flooded highway. After Nixon’s good health and stability had been confirmed at the hospital a few hours later, Jennie Mae received a ticket for speeding and learned she would be charged with child endangerment, thanks to her excessive speed on a dark, rain-swept highway—Jennie Mae’s condition and extenuating circumstances notwithstanding. Officer Conway Sluck explained he felt little empathy for her in the matter.

“I can’t let you off just because you were having a baby, ma’am. You know how many mothers have their babies every day without endangering the lives of others? It would be unfair to them to let it slide fer you. And, besides, driving like that could have been deadly for the tyke; you could have had an accident.  Let this be a lesson for you.”

Jennie Mae’s eyes widened and her face contorted into a snarl as Officer Sluck, standing at her bedside, handed her the ticket. Her shouts and screams at the policeman brought several nurses to the room, almost instantly. One of them, Grace Mewshaw, sneered at him as she ushered Sluck out of the room.

Two days later, Officer Sluck’s body was found face down in a seasonal stream near his house. All the evidence pointed to a tragic accident; it looked like he simply slipped on an exposed root, and then slid part-way down the muddy stream bed, before tumbling face-first into the water, slamming his head onto a submerged rock.  And that would have been it, except that Glance Creighton, the head of the sheriff’s criminal investigation unit, decided to look at Sluck’s daily activities reports and came across the following notation from March 18:

Subject Elquart became verbally combative after I handed her the ticket and informed her of the child endangerment charge. She shouted ‘You are the stupidest excuse for a cop this county has ever seen! I ought to rip your balls off you and shove them in your mouth! If there’s any justice in the world, you’re going to end up dead in a ditch, you asshole!’

I informed subject that her temper was doing her no good and, further, that if she touched me I would arrest her for assault on a peace officer. Though her verbal abuse abated, it appeared to this officer that her anger did not.”

Sluck’s report made no mention that Jennie Mae Elquart had spent the previous nine hours in painful labor at home and had finally decided the only way she could save her own, and her baby’s, life was to drive herself to the hospital. Nor did his report make note of the fact that, at the hospital, Jennie Mae had been given strong painkillers, nor that she had a history of violent reactions to the medications administered to her. His report made no mention of those things because he did not know. He knew only that he stopped a pregnant woman driving recklessly on a dark, wet highway and that she gave birth on the scene. And he believed her decision to drive placed her baby in danger.

Creighton made logical assumptions, of course. And he deftly shared details of his investigation into the matter with his maternal uncle, Calvin Schlunger, a senior deputy. Schlunger reported right back to the sheriff, whose campaign for re-election was just getting underway. The sheriff conferred with the district attorney—whose own campaign announcement was just days away—about the matter.

Whether the decision to pursue murder charges against Jennie Mae was politically based may never be known. The timing, alone, convinced Lana Schlunger, Calvin’s estranged wife, there was more at work than concern for public safety.

Lana shared her suspicions with her closest friend. “Grace, I just don’t think this whole case against Jennie Mae passes the smell test! I mean, she was half-delirious with pain when that cop stopped her and then she got pumped up with painkillers that made her crazy. Why would a woman who had just gone through that experience decide, two days later, to kill the cop who stopped her? Not only why, but how?! Two day after delivering a baby!”

Grace Mewshaw calmly listened to Lana’s tirade. When she spoke, her response was soft and quiet, a barely audible whisper. “She didn’t kill the cop, I am sure of that. Best to just let this play out for awhile, though, honey. Don’t get involved with something that’s driven by politics. It’ll eat you alive. If things don’t settle down pretty quick…if they don’t drop the charges against Jennie Mae…I’ll get involved.”

“What do you mean you’ll get involved? What can you do about this?”

“It’s too convoluted to explain. But you don’t need to worry, honey. This is going to work itself out, I promise you that.”

Shortly thereafter, Mica Comal slipped out of his coffin and, grabbing a cane from the rack, ambled toward the front door. Episcopalia, the blind woman from Costa Rica, stopped him at the door of the church. “¿Tienes un corazon blanco?”

The last paragraph doesn’t belong with this story—perhaps it belongs with no story at all—but I like it there, anyway. This thing could develop into a paranormal fantasy, with the right mix of alcohol, hashish, and prescription medications.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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