When last we left our intrepid fake traffic counters and erstwhile private detectives (me and the Jim Rockford-wannabe), the subject of their insurance fraud surveillance was driving toward them. Would he confront them? Would he run them over with his truck? Would he shoot them? The tension was so thick you could cut it with a blood-rusted switchblade. Now, back to the action.
We got our pictures of the insurance fraudster in action, but then suddenly the guy jumped spryly into his truck, turned it over and pulled out onto the street, coming in our direction.
Now, understand, when he drove past us, he would be the very first car that we as traffic counters would have had the opportunity to count in more than 90 minutes. There’s no way he would buy this. We began to panic. Too late! He was on us, signal on, and began his turn around our corner. We looked at him. He looked at us.
So now we could rule out rocket scientist as the job he was playing hooky from.
We didn’t know how long he’d be gone, and in any case we had tons of pics of him lifting and throwing logs, cinder blocks and other items that your typical work-disabled individual doesn’t toss around. We knew he owned a rental property in a nearby neighborhood, so we decided to go by the house and look for additional evidence, such as a hand-built stone pyramid.
We rolled into a mid-sized neighborhood in the Trans Am and pulled to a stop in front of a nondescript rancher. Rockford got out his camera and began snapping. After a few seconds, a little old lady came out of a nearby house and began walking toward us. Rockford stowed the camera as she approached.
“What are you doing?” the old woman asked in a suspicious tone.
The key to being a good private eye is to be cool under pressure and be able to smoothly talk your way out of any situation.
Then there was Rockford.
When the old woman asked who we were, my partner panicked, threw Trans Am in reverse and floored it. We rocketed backward through tire smoke, and as Rockford executed a respectable reverse moonshiner’s turn, I caught a glimpse of the old woman dashing with surprising speed toward her car. Then Rockford dropped the Trans Am into drive and I lost sight of the woman as my head snapped sideways and back into my headrest.
However, in his panic, Rockford took a wrong turn, and we barreled deeper into the subdivision instead of toward the interstate. As we screeched around corners at nearly three times the speed limit, I pulled my head off the headrest to look behind us. Amazingly, the old woman was 50 yards behind us in her late-model Oldsmobile and closing, taking advantage of her local knowledge of the neighborhood.
Despite his best driving, such as it was, Rockford could not shake The Little Old Lady from Emporia, who was driving like she’d done her share of moonshine runs. Meanwhile, Rockford was burying us deeper in the subdivision.
With Granny now just 30 yards behind us, Rockford yanked the Trans Am down a street to our right, only to be confronted by… a cul de sac. Not hesitating a second, he whipped the wheel around, but the old woman skidded sideways to a halt at the street entrance, blocking our exit, and jumped out of her car.
As the old woman stalked toward us, Rockford yelled over to me, “Give me my gun!”
I looked at the man, dumbfounded.
“My gun! Give me my gun! It’s under your seat!”
“Are you out of your mind?” I sputtered.
“Give me my gun!” he repeated.
“HELL NO I’M NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU YOUR GUN!”
“What in God’s name is the matter with you two?” The old woman was on us now, looking down through the open t-top with her arms folded, with a more than disapproving look on her face.
“Uh, we were… we are…,” Rockford stammered. “We’re taking pictures of houses for a real estate agent.”
Why he was lying at this point, I have no idea.
“Then why did you run from me??” the woman asked logically.
“I don’t know,” Rockford said, face reddening. “We didn’t know what you wanted.”
“I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU WERE DOING,” yelled the old lady.
“I’m sorry,” Rockford said. “I’m really sorry.”
“Get the hell out of here, and if I ever see you again I’m calling the cops,” she said, then stomped back to her car and drove off.
The ride back up I-95 to Richmond was as quiet as you’d imagine.
That was my last field op, and that was fine with me. I spent the rest of the summer entering data into a huge computer and untangling long lists of alleged accident victims. As far as I know, Rockford’s activities were also curtailed. But if you ever see a guy in Trans Am with a t-top and a huge fire-breathing bird on the hood taking pictures of houses in your neighborhood… don’t ask him what he’s doing..