Today at 6:45 PM I was driving north on Route 21 through Libertyville, Illinois when I was passed by a marked police cruiser. In itself, that isn’t at all unusual, but this squad was fully marked, “Sebastian County Sheriff.” Again, I initially thought Sebastian County was just one county in Illinois that I had never heard of. A glance at the license plate was the spice of the mystery, “Arkansas 463KEG,” a strange essence indeed.
I could not get a good look at the driver, he had white hair and I saw part of what looked like a uniform, but he was booking through traffic above the posted speed limit so I could not keep up. He drove by two local police cars and they either did not notice him or think anything was strange. I debated calling our sheriff’s office, but was not sure what to say; I have not had good experiences with them in the past on such inquiries.
I am not adept at dialing a cell phone while driving. My concerns about the Arkansas squad car did not constitute an emergency, so dialing 911 was out of the question. When I tried dialing the operator for assistance with getting through to our local sheriff’s non-emergency number, I got a touchtone menu, so that was no help to me while driving. Soon the mystery squad was out of my sight, so I decided against further action until I got home. Once there, I tried finding a number for the Illinois State Police dispatch, and could only find their administrative numbers. I decided the best course would be simply to call the Sebastian County Sheriff’s office and politely ask if they knew that one of their cruisers was this far north.
Their dispatcher had all of the expected southern charm, and she told me that one of their cruisers was in Chicago to pick up a prisoner for return to Arkansas. I told her that the squad was about 30 miles north of Chicago and was heading in the general direction of Wisconsin. She said not to worry, that the Deputy in the car had little sense of direction but eventually would figure it all out. Once I hung up the phone, I remembered that all of my southern relatives referred to all cities and towns in northern Illinois as “Chicago”; they found that much easier to remember than “Lake Zurich.” My guess now is that the Deputy was on course and heading toward the Lake County Jail in Waukegan to retrieve his prisoner.
In any case, there you have my tempest in a teapot, something strange that turned out to be nothing at all, but at least this time I know for sure.
James A. Zachary Jr.