Chelsea was a saleswoman. She worked for a medical equipment manufacturer to sell medical equipment to hospitals. She drove all over Los Angeles County five days a week. She was not the world's most law-abiding driver. When all the freeway lanes were at a dead stop, she would scoot along the emergency lane. She rarely met a stop sign at an empty intersection that she obeyed. She always slowed down enough to make sure the intersection was clear, and then zipped on through. She usually talked on her cell phone while driving. While driving and yakking, she would often drink a soda or eat a sandwich. Her hands, legs, and mouth were always busy while she was driving. She was born, she often bragged, to multitask.
Last night she had to show a customer how to operate a new device. The customer was a slow learner, so Chelsea ended up leaving the hospital half an hour later than she had planned. Then, of course, she got stuck in Friday evening rush hour. She was going to be late for her date, but the nearby mountains blocked her cell phone from calling Sebastian and telling him.
She was already irritated, and things seemed to be getting worse. Then all the traffic stopped. Chelsea drove immediately over to the emergency lane and continued driving along it. She was making good progress. She couldn't believe she was the only one in the emergency lane. Usually several cars would follow her lead. Then she saw the red flashing lights in her rearview mirror. The officer pulled her over and walked up alongside her car. He was young and good-looking. Chelsea felt better.
"Do you know why I pulled you over, ma'am?"
"Yes, officer. I'm illegally in the emergency lane."
"Is there a reason that you are in the emergency lane?"
"Officer, my boyfriend left me after he got me pregnant. I have constant morning sickness. I'm just trying to get to the nearest store to buy my medicine." She looked at him imploringly, with big, sweet, innocent eyes.
He looked at her for a long moment, then handed her license back.
"Okay, ma'am. Take the first exit you come to. I hope you'll be feeling better. I'm Anthony, by the way."
"Thank you so much, officer Anthony."
The officer walked back to his car and Chelsea drove on. This was the second time that excuse had worked for her. She had one more errand to do before she got home. She had to mail a package. She got to the mini-mall at 7 p.m. No parking was available, except for the handicapped space. Chelsea whipped right into it. She would only be a minute, she told herself. All she had to do was run into the mailbox store, get the package weighed, and pay the clerk.
There was no line in the store. Everything was done so quickly that she was whistling while she walked back out to her car. Then she stopped whistling. There was an envelope on the windshield. She opened it slowly. She knew what it was, but not how much it was. She screamed when she saw the amount. A dog started barking.
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