Connie and Jess were almost impossible to convince, but for far different reasons. Connie was worried about leaving her son Jeffrey in the hands of her husband's care, and Jess just didn't feel up to being stuck in a car with the two of us for a four hour drive to a town that she had never heard of. But I finally convinced them, and we were off like a herd of turtles.
I really hate going on trips with Connie lately. We've been friends for almost ten years, and we used to travel all the time, but once she got married and had a baby things really changed. No matter how much fun she's having, in the back of her mind she always has to wonder if Andy was remembering bedtimes, if that flu virus was coming around, or about the hundreds of minor crisis that tend to crop up with kids. Also, I had lost my best partner for forays into singles bars.
Connie was already packed when I got there, but we were delayed almost half an hour while she double and triple checked to make sure that she had posted emergency numbers in strategic areas, which to me looked like pretty much any flat surface. It's amazing how many post-it notes you can waste when you really put your mind to it. I mean, if anything horrible happened to Jeffy, wouldn't Andy have the common sense to dial 911 without needing to check the number on the list? The man didn't get a medical degree without showing at least some intelligence. But it's not a good idea to try and reason with a fretful mother, as I've found that it only seems to make them more jumpy. Between us, Andy and I finally managed to coax her into the car.
It took even longer to get out of Jess' driveway, but that was mostly because it took us almost an hour to figure out how to fit all of her stuff into my tiny little Neon. Jess takes packing much more seriously than I do. I can live out of a duffel bag for a week without any problems, and Connie can do the same with only the addition of a small backpack, but Jess regards such 'rough' living as barbaric. Apparently looking less-than-coifed for a week is just one step away from eating with our hands and swearing off toilet paper.
My car is the car of a single person. Tiny, functional, and with Dunkin Donuts coffee cups everywhere. Clearly, though, my car was not the preferred vehicle for an extended car trip with friends. Well, actually Connie seemed pretty happy with the arrangement, but Jess wasn't as thrilled. She complained for an hour straight about having to sit next to the spell components. I've met witches with compunctions about certain ingredients before, but Jess has a true loathing for anything smelly or froggy. Personally I think that if she feels that way she should find another source of interest, since there really isn't anything in the Craft that isn't either smelly or froggy. Most are both. Call it an occupational hazard.
So I personally blame Jess' constant kvetching for the speeding. I mean, if she had been a nice and amicable backseat witch, why would I have been in a real hurry to get the drive over with? Just my luck that a cop pulled us over.
Once we saw the tell-tale flashing lights, I pulled over to the breakdown lane. We sat for five minutes waiting for the idiot to get out of his car and come over. In the backseat, Jess was snoozing contentedly. Connie had also gotten sick of the complaining, and so at the last pit-stop she had just 'accidentally' mixed up and bought a non-caffeinated coffee for Jess. Barely twenty minutes later, our little java-queen was out like a lightbulb.
The moment the patrolman climbed out of his little chariot, I knew we were in trouble. The ratty little man was so tense that I wondered how he didn't pull any muscles just walking the ten feet to the car, and to add to that he had glasses like Coke-bottles, was in the process of losing his hair, and was short. Women's intuition, divine knowledge, or just plain common sense, I knew that this was his first day out alone. Too add to this, my bet was that our ratty friend had self-esteem issues. As it turned out, I was right on both counts.
Things started going downhill immediately when he ordered me out of the car. I cooperated, but quickly balked when he ordered me to place my hands on the roof of my car so that he could frisk me.
I've never been accused of having my mouth firmly attached to my brain, and I proved it when I blurted out, "Sorry, I usually don't do that before the man at least buys me dinner."
Ratty's face turned such a disturbing shade of red that at first I was worried that he was having a seizure. No such luck, though. The little tyrant was offended, and ordered all of us out of the car while he checked our baggage for drugs.
I honestly don't know where he got the idea that we had drugs. From his position, he could only see me, and I really don't think that middle-class, middle-age, medium-all-around women wearing old sneakers, blue-jeans smeared with paint the same color as my living room, and a GAP white tee-shirt that belonged to an ex-boyfriend once (it was a birthday gift from me, and when he broke up with me I reclaimed it) are quite at the top of whatever list the authorities circulate of people that are likely to be hiding narcotics.
Connie managed to rouse Jess, and the two of them extricated themselves from my beloved Neon. I'm pretty sure that it was just his hurt pride that convinced Lt. Ratty to continue with his plan of searching the car. Connie is a tiny person who can be identified at a hundred yards as a mommy. She just has that certain mommying air around her that attracts lost children like a magnet. The saddest thing about that is she had that air even before she married Andy and had her son. At the wilder singles bars we would go to, the leches spent more time crying on her shoulder than hitting on her. It was truly pathetic, but luckily she's a people person who actually likes that kind of thing. She was dressed the same as I was, only with the exception that she was wearing her Harvard sweatshirt.
And once he got a good look at Jess, I'm still amazed his hurt pride didn't falter. Jess could give a second-grade teacher lessons in propriety. Even when we were going to spend the entire day in a car, she was wearing a knee-length skirt with a matching jacket over her blouse. She also has an icy glare that would've made my own second-grade teacher (a particularly intimidating nun who terrified eight-year-olds for almost thirty years before the archbishop finally ordered her to stop teaching) envious.
But our brave Ratty persevered, and it is just another indication for me that The Powers That Be have twisted sense of humor when the first jar he looked into happened to be the one with the rat eyes.
With a very shrill shriek, he dropped the jar, spilling rat eyes everywhere, and jumped back at least five feet. If he is the sort of cadet that the Sunnydale PD reutinely accepts, than I have no doubt that they couldn't locate Amy. In the meantime, explaining to the car cleaners how rat eyes got all over my backseat should be just joyous.
Even that tiny Nero's pride might've backed down if Connie and I had been able to stop laughing quickly. But as it was, we had to hold each other up. I can blame it on the stress factor of looking for my cousin's daughter. I wonder what her excuse was.
But the clincher was when Jess asked him, in a very biting tone of voice, "Are you trying to compensate for something with that nightstick there?" making certain that there was no doubt in his mind just what area she considered him lacking in.
Jess, like Connie, is a people person, but she has a bit of a malicious streak. She likes to stir the pot and see what happens, likes to find out what people's buttons are, and then push them all at the same time. Well, she found this guy's big red button on the first try. Nearly shaking with rage, the man arrested all three of us.
I guess some people need more stress management. Ratty's blood-pressure levels must be just this side of frightening.
Whoever maintains the cells in the police department really needs to find a new job calling. Because whoever it was, they must've left some religious fanatic with a knife at one point, because every square inch of that cell had tiny crosses carved into it.
Ben seemed to really take it in stride that he was going to have to bail all three of us out of the Sunnydale jail. As I said before, he's a smart man who knows when not to argue.