The red, white, and blue lights shone through Jimmy's rear windshield, flashing along the car dashboard. He knew he hadn't been speeding, so wondered what aggravation approached to his left in the form of a burly local cop. The orange Southern California sun had begun its nightly descent.
"Good evening, Officer, what can I—"
"License and registration."
"Okay, what's the—"
"License and registration."
"Okay." Jimmy reached for his wallet and then into the glove compartment, and handed over his stuff. The Officer, whose name Jimmy could see to be Jones on the bronze tag pinned to his light blue uniform, took a long look over the identification cards, then walked in a full circle around the car and returned to its driver's side.
"You're registered in Pennsylvania, but you don't have a plate up front. I've seen Pennsylvania cars before and they have plates in the front and back, why don't you?"
"Sir, I've lived in Philadelphia my entire life, and I can assure you that Pennsylvania only issues a license plate for the back of a car, not the front and back." Jimmy wondered whether Officer Jones was ignorant or what else might be at play here. The answer came when Jones accepted Jimmy's explanation without further inquiry.
"Alright. What are you doing in California?"
"I'm living here for a few months, staying with friends."
"You'll have to get Cali plates, otherwise you're looking at steep fines."
This gave Jimmy pause. "But Officer, I just told you, I'll only be here a few months, then I'm going back to Philly."
"That's what they all say. Better register your car."
"Yes sir, I won't be staying more than a few months, but if that changes, I'll do it."
Jones glanced at a shiny steel case sitting on the back seat, one that looked as if it might be handcuffed to a high roller on his way into a casino. He asked, "What's in the case?"
"Do I really have to answer that question?" Jimmy asked, agitation getting the better of his senses.
The look on Jones' face told of disapproval. "Stay right where you are," he needlessly ordered Jimmy as he turned and marched back toward his squad car.
"Wait!" shouted Jimmy. "I was just kidding! I'll tell you what's in there, it's not even a big deal!" But Jones either ignored him or didn't hear him as cars and trucks flew past them on the freeway.
Twenty minutes later a second patrol car pulled up as the sun faded out of sight. Jones returned to Jimmy's car door, another Officer – Smith – by his side.
"Officer Jones, the case is just—"
"Silence! We'll see for ourselves."
Smith opened the back door and gently, slowly, carefully removed the case from the seat. He set it down on the car's trunk and opened it.
"Jonesy, come here and have a look."
As Jones obeyed, Jimmy sat and tapped his foot up and down in place. Minutes passed and he wondered what the policemen could possibly be discussing. Finally, they approached the driver's side window together. Smith spoke first. "Say, why didn't you tell Jonesy you're a poker player?"
"Huh? Oh, I wanted to tell him it's just a set of poker chips, but—"
"But you had to be a smartass instead, didn't you?" said Jones.
This time Jimmy kept his mouth shut. Smith said, "Anyhow, listen, Jonesy and I do security for some underground poker games on the side – everything from a few hundred dollar buy in to some big money." Baffled Jimmy accepted a business card from Officer Smith. "Give a call to that number on there," Smith continued, "and someone will give you the weekly schedule of games."
Jones handed Jimmy back his license and registration. "Have a nice night," he said, "you're free to go."
Shaking his head in disbelief, Jimmy drove away. When he arrived home without his set of poker chips, he assumed the cops had stolen it. But he just hadn't heard the thud his shiny silver case made when it fell from the trunk of his car as he sped off, splashing the freeway's shoulder with plastic chips and playing cards.