My wife and I were just headed home from dinner with her parents when I experienced the novelist's equivalent of deja vu. We were driving along a dark rural lane when up ahead in our headlights we saw an SUV on its side off the road. It had swerved, slid across the snow-covered asphalt, flipped over, and come to rest against several trees.
We were first on the scene. I took my Maglite out of the back of my car—the same arm-length flashlight Mike Bowditch uses in my books—and scrambled down into the woods. I shined the light through the windshield but saw no one. The keys were still in the ignition, and there were a handful of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans scattered around the interior. The hood of the white Nissan Pathfinder was still warm. The crash couldn't have happened more than a few minutes before we arrived.
My wife borrowed my cell phone and called the police. While we waited, I followed a series of footsteps in the slush down the road until I saw the blue lights of a responding Camden cruiser. Then I wandered back to give a statement.
I would have liked to stick around to see what the cops turned up. In all likelihood it was a drunk who'd hightailed it out of there before the police showed up to administer a sobriety test. The officers ran the plates while we were giving our statements. The owner of the vehicle lives two towns over, we heard. It's a cold night, and I'm not sure how far he'll be able to run.
The situation, of course, strongly resembles the opening to my novel Trespasser. In my book Mike Bowditch punishes himself for not searching for the missing driver at a crash scene very much like the one I discovered. I'm hopeful that I'll read the outcome of this incident in the newspaper in the next few days, but it's not a given.
As a writer, I had the power to create a satisfying resolution to the mystery my game warden stumbled upon. In real life, we don't always know how these things turn out. I'm having a hard time reconciling myself to that idea tonight.