The lights of a dozen or more highway patrol and ambulances and fire trucks kaleidoscope through the misted pre-dawn window as Kaufman is flagged aside and directed to park the cruiser over 500 yards from the scene. He obliges with an odd salute. Soon he works his way toward the commotion, but is kept at arms length by a cacophony of overwhelmed deputies and confused officers from a stalled Toyota Prius just off the freeway roll out. A generic vehicle: some indeterminate shade of grey that daylight couldn’t even reveal. Under the Texas night stars and the colored emergency lights, the car lacks any innate color completely. Sucked dry of it all. Kaufman’s best guess, someone’s mother had died.
As he slips past a news crew that has already made camp, Kaufman can’t help but wonder why so many responders for a Toyota? Must have called every department in, and they’re all plenty grumpy, so there’s lots of chatter. Questions and nonsense and everybody’s in the dark. It’s not until he manages to reach the tail of the Prius, when he gets his first look inside, that he spots the figure hunched over the wheel. A big guy, wisps of white hair raised high, static electricity from the looks of it. Maybe the guy was frightened to death? Either way, Kaufman was wrong. This wasn’t someone’s mother. It was someone’s father.
“Can I help here, or am I just takin’ up space?” he asks nobody in particular. There’s no answer in the confusion.
More fire trucks and ambulances linger along the sidelines while the uniforms vehemently circle the vehicle. Just why nobody has begun on the door starts to eat Kaufman. He reaches for the handle, wrist grabbed tight by a Rookie clearly just out of the academy who finally feels like he has some clout, “orders come down direct.”
Kaufman peeks inside, “anybody check if he’s still breathin’?”
The Rookie doesn’t even look.
Kaufman raises up, knowing the chances of getting any information from this guy – iffy at best. “Don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ like this here’s a birthday party and we all are just standin’ around the cake. Candles burnin’, drippin’ down wax and all.”
The headlights from several more patrol cars rake across the Rookie’s face, stealing his eyes for a moment and Kaufman takes the opportunity to shimmy toward a mobile command station that’s nearly prepped. Cables run across the highway, tapped into a power line nearly a quarter mile from the accident site. A quick circle and Kaufman finds a safe spot to linger. A nice vantage point for the car, and easy listening to the group of commanders and lieutenants. At least Kaufman thinks he recognizes their ranks since they’re the ones who let loose that the driver of the Prius was indeed a father. And a husband. What was a surprise to Kaufman though: the driver of the colorless Prius, with hair standing up like a wild child, was the richest man in Texas.