Chapter Three: Big Trouble Now
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I guessed that they were still back at the pond, and that when they got to where the smoker had been, he’d catch grief for letting me slip past him. All I could do was run as fast as I could through the darkness. But that was not very fast. I ran into saplings, into low branches, and into fallen limbs. I fell frequently on uneven ground, tripped over unseen objects, and had my face and arms torn and bleeding from brambles and thorns. My stomach was empty and seemingly starting to devour itself. My muscles were cramping from dehydration. But I had a burst of adrenaline from the dogs. I knew I had to find some way out, soon, or I would be dead.
I came upon another road, running perpendicular to my path. I hoped that the perimeter around where they thought I had been was not this far out. I took a right and started jogging down the road, away from the general direction of the house and pond. I estimated I was a couple miles away from that road by now, and I wanted to put more distance between it. But my jogging ended quickly. I had to walk. I was too out of shape.
Up ahead I saw light through the trees. I slowed, fearing it was another law man, until I saw that it was a house. I came out of the woods and found that it was an old farm; the land surrounding it was open. I knew that the owners must know by now that a fugitive was on the loose. Being subtle would not work.
I snuck up as close to the house as possible and tried looking in the windows. But after circling the house, I saw that all of the shades in the windows on the first floor of the house were drawn. Light snuck out from the sides but there was not much room to see into the house. I had no idea how many people were inside. I temporarily thought about trying to hot wire one of there cars. But I had no clue how to do it. I snuck into a nearby tin building, in what appeared to be a tool shed or storage and work area. I knew I had maybe ten or fifteen minutes, if that, before the dogs, men and helicopter were on me. I was desperate. I felt around on both sides of the door, found a switch, and a bare light bulb over head came on. As I quickly closed the door it made an ungodly creaking.
In what seemed like forever, but what was really only about a minute I surveyed the room, took in as many details as possible, and made my plan. I grabbed a propane blow-torch, the tool used to start it, and a five gallon tank of gas. I turned off the light and headed back to the house. I doused the ground along the side of the house with gas, while trying to get only a little on the house, then I lit the torch, and then I put the torch to the gas. WHHHHHOOOOOOM! I had lit a fire about ten feet long close alongside of the house.
I ran to that front corner of the house and yelled “Fire! Fire! Everybody out of the house! Fire!” At first I heard nothing, and feared that everybody was asleep, or that nobody was inside. I was afraid that the house would burn down. Then I heard noises from inside. I yelled again: “Fire! Get out! Your house is on fire!” A dog inside was going nuts, barking. An old man came out on his porch with a shotgun. I was standing far enough off in the shadows that he could not see much of me.
“Mister, I was driving by when I saw flames coming from the side of your house! Get everybody out and get me a fire extinguisher so I can put it out!”
He looked in my direction, obviously not trusting me. He couldn’t see around the corner to see the flames, but it was obvious from the flickering light that indeed his house might be on fire. He yelled over his shoulder to wife for her to get out and ran back inside. In seconds he came back out, still holding the shotgun but also lugging two fire extinguishers. His wife was close behind.
“Hurry old timer! Give me one!” He did and I ran ahead of him, back to the fire, hopefully in time to save his house. It was an older house, made of wood. I had put most of the gasoline near the house, not right on it. Even so, some of the house was already on fire, the flames were climbing up the wall. I fumbled with the extinguisher, unable to make it discharge. The old man started working his before I finally removed the safety. Finally, between the two of us, we got the flames under control. His wife helped out with a bucket that she filled with water and doused on the flames a couple of times. We worked in silence until all the fire was gone.
Then I reluctantly pulled my gun. By then, I don’t even think they could see what I was doing. The area had been brilliant with light one minute, and the next totally dark, and my eyes were not adjusted yet. I knew approximately where he had leaned the shotgun against the house. I went there and grabbed it, just as he was saying, “I don’t know how to thank you mister.” I cocked my gun in response.
“I do. I need to borrow your car. Come on, back inside.”
“What? What’s going on?”
“I’m the guy the police are looking for. I didn’t do anything wrong. But if they catch me they will kill me. I need your car. Now.” I really felt bad. I didn’t want to harm him or his wife. They looked to be in their seventies, and seemed really nice. But I had to escape. I quickly herded them inside. There dog was just an old mutt who merely sniffed me while wagging his tail. Once they saw my cuts and bruises and torn clothes, the smeared blood and especially my gun and the desperate look in my eyes, it was not difficult to get them to obey me. The old man grabbed his keys and we got in the car and left.
I crouched in the back, with the old man driving and his wife in the front seat. I had them drive away from the house, and the pond, away from the place where my friends had likely been killed. And away from the trooper that I had killed.
The old man didn’t talk much, but he did say matter-of-factly that his wife had called 911 and reported a house fire before they first came outside. I didn’t care. My trackers would discover what happened even if the fire department hadn’t been called. I made him keep on back roads, and told him to generally head west. And I tried to convince both of them that I meant them no harm, although neither seemed too worried. I briefly explained what happened. I didn’t mention shooting the trooper; I blamed it all on my friends.
Finally the old woman spoke up, “Your friends didn’t set fire to our house, and then kidnap us at gun point.” Her husband shushed her, but not with much conviction. Because we both knew she was right.
Chapter Four: On the road again
After about an hour of putting distance between my troubles at about 45 m.p.h., I finally had the old man pull over on some old country road in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. I had them both get out. I thought about killing them both, but only for a second. Disgust at myself for even thinking that thought almost overwhelmed me.
“I’m sorry old timer, but I’m going to have to make you both walk from here. Hopefully it won’t be far, and that will buy me some time to get the hell away from here. I promise I’ll leave your car somewhere that it will be found, safe and sound. I’m sorry I have to do this.” No reply.
As an afterthought, I asked if he had any money. “Nope.” So I quickly drove away. I passed a house not half a mile up the road. I hoped that they walked back the way we had come from instead of forward. The nearest house the opposite direction was over a mile, and I needed the extra time.
I drove in silence for miles. Whenever I came to a turn in the road, I kept to the one that appeared more deserted. And all things being equal, I tried to head west. I passed over I-95 and stopped at a truck stop and got gas. I filled it up with my credit card, in what I realized was probably the last time I could do that. I got some fast food from a burger take-out window, and kept my face in the shade as much as possible. I kept a rag over my face and one of the farmer’s caps pulled down on my head, and pretended to be having a coughing fit so they couldn’t see me. The bored young cashier could have cared less.
I kept driving into the early morning hours. I was exhausted, sore, scared, and a little numb. I had never broken the law since I had been a teenager. I had never been arrested. Now I was running for my life. All I had was a vague plan to head towards western Virginia and travel only at night. I knew by now that law enforcement everywhere would be looking for this car and my face.
After driving for hours, I noticed that the sky was becoming lighter behind me. I looked for a place to sleep during the day. I pulled into a small lane that was just two ruts of clay with grass in between. It seemed out in the middle of nowhere, and the little drive did not appear to be well-used. But when I got to the end of it, a frame of a house appeared. Somebody was building a cabin on what appeared to be a good sized river. I high-tailed it out of there, even though it was unlikely that workers would appear on Sunday.
I found another little drive; it looked like a lane for tractors. I drove through a field, no houses in sight. The field wended around with a creek on one side and a forest on the other. At the rear a small portion of the field was out of sight from the road, hidden from view by some of the forest. I drove as far off the field as possible and shut her off.
I broke off some branches and tried to break up the outline of what I could now see was a navy blue older model Buick LeSabre. I had not even bothered to notice before then. Satisfied with my work, I grabbed an old over coat out of the trunk and trudged off into the woods to sleep, exhausted.
It was hard to sleep. I woke up with a start several times. Once when a crow flew near and cawed. Another when a squirrel rustled the leaves ten feet away. The sweat bees found me and bit me during the short times that I was asleep. I was so far back that I could not even hear vehicles go by on the road that lead here. The sound of the cicadas lulled me to sleep again. Finally I was dead to the world.
When I awoke with a start, it was obviously late afternoon. I listened intently, trying to discern what had awakened me. I heard a noise, the sound of an engine, but could not tell what it was or where it was coming from. It grew louder. Coming from the field. I snuck over towards the field, but still keeping distance from the car. When I got close enough to see into the field I saw a tractor pulling a wagon with some kids on the back. Great, just what I needed.
From where I was I could see that the car, fortunately, was parked down in a low area, and the people in the tractor probably could not see it from where they were out in the field. I sat frozen, unsure what to do. And I had to piss. Bad! When the tractor and trailer neared the back of the field, it had to turn one way or the other or run into a fence. Just my luck, it turned towards where the car was. The tractor started making a counter-clockwise turn. If they were at 12:00, the car was located at about 8:00, and they were shadowing the outside of the fence, and were headed right for it. I snuck back into the woods and started to take a leak. I could hold it no more. When I suddenly realized that I left my gun where I had been sleeping.
I ran back to where I thought I had been sleeping. Everything looked the same. I couldn’t find where it was that I had slept all day. I had sweat dripping off me, but suddenly it felt cold. I started running around in circles, small at first, larger and larger. I would have felt foolish if I wasn’t so scared. I stopped, exhausted. Just then the tractor engine shut off, about in the direction of the old man’s car. I started running again, widening my circle more, frantically searching with my eyes in all directions. After making a racket for what seemed like minutes, thrashing through the dry fallen leaves, breaking twigs and branches as I ran, I finally stumbled upon my gun, right where I left it. I was soaked with sweat, dirty, unkempt and scared.
Then I said “To hell with it” and started walking toward the car. The last few feet before I got to the field where I thought the car was were filled with blackberry bushes. I got scraped, cut and caught. In a rush, I often went through when I should have gone around them. Finally, after one last push, I broke free and into the field, about twenty-five yards away from the car, and several gawking on-lookers.
There were several kids in their teens and somebody’s grandfather. I had my pistol in my hand but made sure that I held it down towards the ground. I walked right up to the tractor, which was out in the field a ways from the car that they were all standing around.
“Old Timer, I’m not going to hurt anybody. But I have to disable your tractor so that you have to walk back. I apologize, but I can’t have you calling the police until I have a head start in getting out of here.” I started pulling off spark plug wires and stuffing them in my belt, all the while glancing to see what everybody was doing. They all just stood there, incredulous.
I strode over to the car. This must have scared the kids a little. They started walking backwards, away from me and the car. The old farmer just stood there, too old to be scared.
“I’ll drop these off just before I reach the road, in the path where you can find them. I apologize for the inconvenience. I don’t mean anybody any harm, Sir.”
He just kind of scowled and spit tobacco juice off to the side, then wiped his scruffy chin with the back of his hand. He looked like he had already sized me up and came to the same conclusion. Though he must have been pushing eighty, I still would not have wanted to tangle with him. I got enough of the branches off my car to open the door, when I heard a phone ring. One of the girls, a redhead of about fourteen whipped out her cell phone.
“DON’T ANSWER THAT!”
She was so startled, she dropped the phone. She looked at me like I was crazy, and started backing up from the phone. It kept ringing. I strode over and scooped it up.
“Everybody else, give me your phones.” Silence. They all just kept looking at me. “NOW!” I bellowed. Out of nowhere two more phones were produced.
“I’m not stealing them. I’ll leave them out by the road, too. I just can’t have you calling the cops too soon. They think I murdered a state trooper. I did not murder him. I shot him in self-defense.” I stopped, realizing that everybody stopped listening once they heard “murdered.” The kids backed away faster, the old man looked at me more intently, ready to pounce if I so much as tried anything towards any of the kids. I put my gun back in my holster to show him that I meant no harm and walked towards the car, altering my path a bit so as not to get too close to him.
I got in the old blue LeSabre and got the hell out of Dodge.