Fictionalizing the News is a writing exercise I set myself where I search the local news for an interesting but relatively minor piece of news and use it as a basis for a short story. I do not in any way purport to tell the truth of what happened, this story and the characters in it are entirely fictional. This installment of Fictionalizing is based on this article and I call it The Car Chase.
Spring had yet to arrive to Örebro, this morning it was overcast and a couple of degrees below freezing. Lars turned up his coat collar to shield himself from the cold and started walking towards the ICA supermarket a couple of blocks away. He muttered under his breath as he walked, angry at himself for forgetting to buy breakfast but there was nothing else he could do about it. As he was passing the central station a thought struck him, there was sure to be a Pressbyrån kiosk in the station concourse; he could buy himself a coffee and an overpriced sandwich, then sort out breakfast for the coming week later in the day. He veered off his original course and headed back towards the station building.
As he got closer he noticed a Volvo estate car with the Trafikverket logo on the side, parked just in front of the entrance. As he was passing it he happened to cast a glance through the window and saw what looked like the keys sitting in the ignition. He stopped in his tracks, stepped back a couple of paces so he was right next to the driver side door then, trying to act casual like he was checking his image in the reflection, he peered in through the window. The keys were indeed in the ignition. The though struck him like lightning, no one would notice if just got in the car and drove away. It would be so easy, almost like the perfect crime. The car was owned by the state too so it’s not like anyone would care. He didn’t know why he wanted to do it, he didn’t need a car, he had no reason to take it, he just felt like it in the moment. No, he wasn’t a criminal, he couldn’t do something like that, why would he even think of it? He willed himself away and started walking towards the station doors.
Just as he was setting foot on the top step of the stairs leading up to the station the feeling overpowered him again. It wasn’t a rational thought, just a powerful, almost animalistic need for something new, something different; he just knew that making use of the opportunity given to him by whoever left the keys in the ignition would fulfill that need. Without a second thought on the criminal nature of what he was about to do, all focus on the task in hand, he headed back down the steps. He looked around to see if anybody would spot him then stepped up to the driver side door and reached for the handle. There was the familiar cla-clack sound as the lock released and the door slid open. He paused for a moment then swung the door open, leaped into the drivers seat, started the engine and drove off.
Inside the station two Trafikverket workers, who were just finishing up their work, heard a car take off with a roaring start. Looking out the glass doors to see what was going on, they were surprised to see their car exiting the station car park, turning left into the street then accelerating away. “What the hell!” one of them blurted out. “Shit, that’s our car.” The other responded. “God damn it,” the first one continued, “I must have left the keys in the ignition. Quick, call the cops.” The second worker pulled out his phone and punched in 112. “SOS alarm, what can I help you with” came the calm voice on the other end of the line. “Hello, yes our car has been stolen, we just saw it being driven off by someone.” “OK,” the calm voice replied, “where are you and what direction did the car drive off in?” “We are at Örebro central station, the car drove north on Östra Bangatan” “And can you give me a description of the car,” the voice continued. “It’s a white Volvo V70 with the Trafikverket logo on the sides, the registration number is AFG – 146.” “One moment please,” the voice replied. A minute passed and then the voice came back “OK, the police have been alerted and will be tracking down the vehicle. Can I have your name?” “My name is Magnus Karlsson” he replied. “OK Magnus, please stay where you are, the police will be there shortly to take your statement,” with that the call ended. Magnus turned to his colleague, “OK, the police are tracking down our car, hopefully they can find it.” “Alright, what now?” his colleague asked. “Unfortunately we have to wait here for the police to come take our statement,” Magnus replied. “Well damn, that’s our day ruined,” his colleague grumbled.
Lars was barely out of the city when he saw flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror. For a moment he thought about stopping – it would be better to give up right away than lead the cops on a chase – but that was overridden by the instinct to run, and he pushed down on the gas pedal. The blue lights behind him kept up as he accelerated and seemed to intensify in strength. Casting another glance in the mirror he notice there were now two police cars following him. “Shit,” he mumbled to himself and kept accelerating. He followed the country road at a high pace, snow covered fields and groves of bare, gray trees and the occasional farm house flashing by outside the window. Shortly before Lindesberg the road entered a forested area, the trees just a couple meters off the side of the road. Just as he was coming around a bend he spotted a set of blue lights behind some trees just by the side of the road and a thin black ribbon cutting across the road surface. He quickly surveyed the situation, noted the wide shoulder and gentle slope down to the ditch, hit the brakes then yanked on the wheel, making the car swerve to the right, barely missing the spike strip. The car tracked two wheels through the dead grass on the side of the road for a couple of meters before he steered it back onto the asphalt then hit the accelerator again.
A couple of minutes later he came to a fork in the road. Hoping he could ditch the police he veered to the right, taking the road heading northwest. He was beginning to think he had lost them when the blue lights appeared in his rear view mirror again; apparently he wasn’t going to get rid of them that easily. He would have to do something more drastic, but what? He started scouring the sides of the road for a suitable side road, if he was quick enough on the turn he might be able to lose them in the forest. A few minutes passed but none of the roads were quite small enough or hidden enough to work. As he sat there his eyes fell on the fire extinguisher mounted on the center console. That might be just the thing he needed. He loosened the straps holding it in place and rolled down the window then slowed the car down a bit, letting the cops catch up. In one motion, he grabbed the fire extinguisher and lobbed it out the window, hoping it would hit the pursuing car but it just hit the asphalt and bounced away without doing any damage.
“Damn it!” he muttered under his breath then pushed the gas pedal to the floor. “OK,” he though to himself, “that failed, but it should work, if I can just find something else to throw.” Looking around he spotted a chainsaw on the floor behind the passenger seat. When the road straightened out enough, he reached behind him and pulled it up onto the center console. It was too heavy to throw, but if if he could drop it right in front of the cop car’s wheels he could immobilize them. He lifted the chainsaw onto his lap, the blade resting on the edge of the open window, then steered the car onto the hard shoulder. Since there was no apparent reason to move to the right, the police car stayed in the middle of the lane. “Perfect,” he thought, “time to give the cops a little surprise.” He slowed a little and when he judged that the police where close enough he stepped hard on the brakes and dumped the chainsaw out the window, then gunned the engine.
As he pulled away he heard the screech of tires and in the rear view mirror he could see the patrol car swerving wildly around the obstacle. “Lucky bastards!” he blurted, then started looking for something else to throw. He couldn’t see anything but a metallic jangling told him there must be a toolbox or something on the floor behind him. Keeping one eye on the road he started to rummage around behind him, trying to get a hold of whatever it was. He could just feel it, a plastic box of some kind, but was unable to reach the handle. While reaching for the box he had inadvertently let up on the accelerator and he could soon hear the sirens getting closer. He looked up just in time to see the cop car parked on the side of the road, a short distance ahead. He swerved out onto the hard shoulder be it wasn’t enough; there were two load bangs as the left side tires blew out when passing over the spike strip and the car started sliding wildly, the rear end swinging out to the right. Furiously pawing the steering wheel he just managed to get the car pointing the right direction and back on track.
With two tires gone the car kept skidding from side to side and he had to keep wrestling with it to keep it going in the direction he wanted. There was nothing he could do now but keep going and hope the cops would give up, if he took his hand off the wheel for even a second the car would go careening into the ditch. He carried on in this fashion for another twenty minutes or so with the police constantly on his tail. Just north of Fagersta he spotted another patrol car by the side of the road. Considering the state the car was in he didn’t dare try any fancy maneuvers to avoid the spike strip. Instead he kept the car as steady as he could while passing over it and when the heard the two bangs of the remaining tires blowing out he knew it was all over. He eased off the throttle and let the car coast to a halt by the side of the road. He felt a strange sense of relief as two police officers came to arrest him.