Chapter 16: Partings
We got back to the flat spot off the dirt road where Kaitlyn had parked her car — a medium-blue Subaru Outback — without running into anyone. There were no other cars parked here, and there was no one on the road that we could see. “I dare you to drive back to town naked!” I challenged her.
“Only if you’ll ride your bike back naked,” she volleyed back.
That shut me down. “Doesn’t seem to be quite the same, but okay, I yield.” Reluctantly, we began to dress, her in the shorts and tee outfit she’d had on when she startled me yesterday, and me in the biking outfit I’d stuffed into the trunk bag after stripping it off at camp yesterday.
Kaitlyn looked a little awkward at our parting, but I said, “Don’t worry about leaving me behind. I love biking, and I’ve been looking forward to this ride ever since you said you came in this way.”
“Okay, if you say so.” Then, after a second, “Why don’t you call me Kate?”
“Because I like Kaitlyn better. It’s a beautiful name for a gorgeous woman.”
She smiled slowly, glowing. “So why don’t I call you Devindra, then?”
“That’s a label for my past life, which I’ve closed off in my head, inextensible. I was Devindra to my mother, to my schoolteachers, to my first boss, but that was all back in India, many years ago now. I’m happy here in the US, and part of getting that way was starting over fresh. Please call me Davie, my new American name, the one I use in my new American life.”
“You got it,” she said with a little nod of her cute head.
I realized I didn’t know where she lived. “Where will I pick you up tomorrow?”
She gave me her address, and I wrote it down on a Rhodia pad I carry in one of my cargo pockets, so I’ve always got it with me.
“Nerrrrrd!” she teased.
“You betcha,” I confirmed. “Hard-core.”
Then she said, “I’ll start off slow down this road so as not to choke you on my dust too badly,” she offered.
“Most gracious of you, Kaitlyn,” I grinned. “Goodbye! I’m already ready for tomorrow to be here, so I can see you again!”
She gave me a little frisson of her shoulders and a cute smile, then got into her Subaru and drove away, slowly at first, then flying down the desert, leaving a tall rooster tail of dust.
As I rode up to my house, I saw a police car parked nearby. And I just knew who I’d find inside.
I pulled up alongside and leaned down to the window, which was rolling down as I was rolling up, and greeted my guest, “Officer Poulsen, what brings you out to Chez Davie this fine evening?”
The persistent cop answered, “I see you’ve chosen bike shorts this evening, unlike at our last meeting.”
“Yes, orange ones,” I replied evenly.
“Lookit, I’ve been doing some investigating these past few days, and I think what happened the other night is that the drunk we hauled in that night kicked your bike over, chased you down, and you were forced to defend yourself. How am I doing, Mr. Bhat?”
I just shrugged.
“Did he…assault you in that alley in some way?” he asked.
I just raised an eyebrow and stayed mum.
“Agggh…this is hard to ask.” He looked really uncomfortable now. “Did he try to rape you?”
Aghast, I blurted, “By Ritchie’s beard, no! Why would you even ask that‽”
“Because I can’t see any other reason why you’d deny being attacked if an altercation did in fact take place.”
“Ah,” I said, relaxing, now understanding. “No, officer, I’m happy to report that my anal virginity is still intact.”
“I am most relieved to hear it, Mr. Bhat, because we had to let the guy go. You denied being the one whose bike he kicked over, and we could find no victim before we had to let him go, the time limit the law allows us to hold a suspect without charging him having run out. We could only charge him with public drunkenness and kick him loose with a court date. If we’d had a victim in hand and prepared to testify against him, we could have charged him with aggravated assault instead,” he said, raising an eyebrow and leaning towards me slightly, trying to make a point without outright accusing me of lying.
“I thank you for your concern, Officer Poulsen, but as you can see even more clearly tonight, I still have no road rash.”
He accepted my invitation and gave me a good look up and down. “Where were you tonight, Mr. Bhat?”
“Camping, out in the sticks,” I replied.
He looked over my gear and saw nothing inconsistent with this claim. Nothing but one: his eyes fastened on my mesh sack, clearly filled with trash.
“What in the world are you doing with that sack of trash?” he demanded.
“I found all of this out there. Litter deeply annoys me, so I picked this all up and brought it back with me. I can recycle some of it, and I’ll toss the rest. I was out in BLM land,” — as opposed to one of the several National Park Service holdings around here — “so there were no receptacles for me to drop it in out there,” I explained.
“You do that a lot?” the cop inquired.
“Picking up bagfuls of trash, no; today was a first for that. But camping around here, yes, frequently. It’s one of the main reasons I moved out here,” I replied, with utter sincerity.
He studied me. Between that bit of genuine sincerity, my clear denials of being a victim, and his disintegrating — if only he knew! — evidence, I think he decided right then that I was a citizen and no longer worth his scrutiny. I knew I could get myself back on his radar really quickly if I screwed up, so I resolved to be very careful in town from now on.
“Well, I’d just parked here to try and nab me some speeders,” the cop lied smoothly. “I haven’t gotten anyone in a good hour, so I think I’d better move along.”
“Sorry for the bad luck fishing,” I joked. “See you around, officer.”
“Good night, Mr. Bhat.”
He fired his cruiser up and moseyed back into town, right at the speed limit. They take that seriously around here.