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Finally we lost him. We pulled over to let our pulses and the heat gauge subside, and mulled over our grand adventure. “My house….” Belatedly, the fog cleared from my callow brain and I realized what should have been obvious from the start: He thought I was a would-be burglar casing his house. It was all a big misunderstanding. We should go back and straighten things out, I said. Apologize and explain. Peace and love.
We returned to the cul-de-sac and pulled in front of a house with a dark sedan in the driveway. Lights went on in the top floor, and a head appeared in the window. Neil stepped out, waved his arms and started to explain. Then everything exploded. The guy who’d pursued us burst from the front door and swung at me as I stepped from the car. I grabbed his arms and yelled at him to stop and listen.
The moment seemed to freeze, then broke again. “They’ve got a gun!” Neil shouted. I can picture a black barrel pointing from that upper window, but that may be suggestion; I doubt I had time to look up. I pushed the Italian Zimmerman away and slammed the door. Neil flew like a trick rider into the driver’s seat. A blast went off, and something like pebbles ratted on the pavement and tatted on the car's chassis. Neil turned the key and popped the gears, and we roared off. Zimmerman paisan threw himself on the car trunk and fell off in perfect movie style.
We raced around the roundabout to Neil’s place, near my original destination. No one had followed us. We parked the car behind the house, ducked inside, and again took stock: This is getting serious. “They’re going to be watching for you,” said Neil.
What to do? Let’s call the police! Then we can go straighten things out without getting shot. Peace, love, law and order!
A half-hour later, two world-weary Boston Police officers stood at the door. One looked like Officer Bill Gannon on "Dragnet." They entered and began sniffing the air — “Is that marijuana?” and scanning the windowsills for plants. I showed them my Turkish Specials cigarettes. Neil and I explained what had happened.
“So what do you want us to do about it?” the other cop (who did not look like Jack Webb) asked.
"Well, we thought you might go over with us so we can straighten things out and make sure no one gets hurt, " I said. They exchanged a “Can you believe this guy?” look. I’ll never forget the lead officer’s reply.
“What do you think we are, peacemakers? We’re police officers. If you want to press charges against him, you can, but all he has to do is kick in his basement door and say you broke into his house, and he’s got a better case against you."
“And what makes you think they shot at you?”
Neil and I had both heard something — birdshot? rock salt? — peppering the underside of the car. The officers grudgingly consented to step out back. One cast a flashlight over the body of the car. Nothing. They didn’t look under it.
Enough said. The cops left, and I proceeded to my original destination. Still awash in adrenaline, I stayed up late with my friends, telling this story and many others. Finally, in the pre-dawn gray, I shuffled back home, almost too tired to stand. As I neared the cul-de-sac, a utility truck loaded with tanks and toolboxes pulled out of it, and stopped suddenly. Two men stepped out — the pursuer and a bigger guy with gray hair — and marched toward me, shoulders hunched and fists clenched. I had to get past them to get home.
What perfect timing, I thought. Here I am, dead on my feet and about to get stomped over the same stupid misunderstanding. I couldn’t help it: I started laughing, loud, at the ridiculousness of it all.
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