Cars were sometimes stolen in Provincetown, reported missing, and spotted in Wellfleet, and chases ensued. They were very stimulating affairs. Speaking of a highspeed chase, Paul said, “If it’s a long chase I get nervous. The longer they are, the more scared you get, but the more persistent you get. You think, That son of a bitch, he ain’t no different from me. I’m going to get him. You don’t think about your life at the time. Every now and then it will flash through your mind and you will think, What the hell am I doing? Am I crazy? But you keep going, you keep driving because there’s something pushing you, you started something and you got to finish it. Even if I don’t write that son of a bitch up, just to say that I stopped him, that he didn’t get away, is enough.”
Joe told me about a chase that involved him and two cars stolen from the same man.
“It was Sunday morning,” he said, “midnight-to-eight, and I had just been up to the coffee shop and had a cup of java and I’m driving along Route Six, half asleep, waiting for the shift to end, and bang, out they come, Will Colgan’s truck and his Monte Carlo, out the driveway like a bastard. The truck sees me and goes screeeech, and does a complete turn-around right in the middle of Route Six, and heads up the road towards Eastham with the Monte Carlo right after him. I knew the truck was stolen as soon as it came out of the driveway, but I thought Will was in the Monte Carlo chasing the guy who stole his truck. So I’m trying to see who it is at the wheel, and I went right by him because I had the speed, and it’s not Will. And then right about that time the dispatcher’s on, and she says he called and said both his cars were stolen. So I said, ‘Well, you can’t do that in my town, asshole,’ and I zing up beside the Monte Carlo, and he went off the road into the gift shop parking lot that’s just past Will’s driveway. I’m chasing the truck down the road, and I call three-seven-six, the county radio shack, to get in touch with Eastham. Jock, the guy who works midnight-to-eights down there, was on. He says, ‘A thousand good mornings,’ like he always does, and here I am at ninety miles an hour chasing this goddam truck and I say, ‘Three-seven-six, emergency, this is Charlie One.’ ‘Thousand good mornings to you,’ he says. ‘Hey, Jock! I’m chasing a car up Route Six towards Eastham, advise Eastham cruiser.’ And he says, ‘Okay.’ So he calls them and they’re waiting as we go through the traffic lights. They’re way off to the side of the road. I guess they have a policy there: if they’re coming through, get the hell out of the way ’cause they’ll kill you. And this crazy son of a bitch is really going. What he does is he lets me catch up to him, and then he slams on his brakes, and I’d have to slam my brakes on too. So he did this two times, and I got the drift, you know, so I eased back and let him go. Then what the crazy bastard does is he goes into the other lane, the northbound lane, and he’s forcing traffic into my lane, so I have to swing around and get on the other side too. I’m sweating blood by now. If I’d had any smarts at all, because Orleans was already notified and they were waiting at the traffic circle, I would have backed off and said that’s it. Lights off, siren off, and just continued down the road until I see him racked up against a tree, or he gets stopped at the rotary. But pride, you know.
“So Jock comes on the radio and he says, ‘How’re you doing?’ And I say, ‘I’m almost at the rotary, Jock,’ and he says, ‘Let’s hope he doesn’t know it’s there.’ And he didn’t know it was there, either. He comes up to it at full tilt and I get up on his tail and start pushing. He can’t stop now because he’s got the rotary coming. He doesn’t know it’s there, but he sees the woods in the middle of it and he knows something’s wrong. If he had stopped then, we would have smacked. But he went right up over the edge” — there are some stones that form a kind of curb to the inside of the rotary — “hit the grade right on at about sixty-five. Almost flipped, but he straightened out. And I didn’t time it right either because I went up over the goddam thing too. Blew the tire right out of the cruiser. When he hit, though, his door opened and his butt flew out, and he’s holding on to the wheel, sitting out in the air and trying to drive the truck. So he lets go and goes rolling in the grass, and I went right across the grass and back out onto the road. And I’m savage, Sunday morning, blew the tire out of the car. So I grab my gun and go running across the grass. Hold it right there, you son of a bitch! and, Jesus, next thing I know he’s into the roughage there in the middle of the rotary. So we call up and get the dog.
“By this time there’s cops everywhere from Brewster and Orleans. There’s a state trooper there, too. The dog officer shows up, I go over to my cruiser and get on the loudspeaker. Now what I didn’t know was we’d woken up everyone at the motel overlooking the rotary with the siren. All the people were out on the balconies in their pajamas and bathrobes, watching us yelling and running around and carrying on like fools. So I get on the loudspeaker. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘this is the police.’ Like he didn’t know. ‘C’mon out of there.’ He’s not coming out. So the dog goes in, and we trail after him. The trooper’s in there, and it’s muddy as hell, it’s a marsh, you know, and as soon as we got in it we sank right up to our knees. Well, the trooper’s bullshit — spit-shine boots and all that. ‘If I catch that miserable son of a bitch,’ he said, ‘I’ll put a bullet through his head.’ So he wanders off with another cop, and I go another way, and I find the guy laying up in a bush, all scratched because he had no shirt. I said, ‘You’re under arrest.’ ‘What for?’ ‘For stealing a car.’ ‘I didn’t steal no car. I been here all night. Got drunk and come in here and slept.’ I walked him across the road up into the cruiser and suddenly everyone up there in the balconies at the motel breaks into applause.”
Excerpted from Midnights: A Year With the Wellfleet Police by Alec Wilkinson. Copyright 1982 by Alec Wilkinson. Reprinted with permission from Godine.