Authors: Joseph Nassise
I had a minute, maybe two, before the link between us dissolved and his sight returned. I needed to make the most of it.
“Dmitri!” I yelled, never taking my gaze off of Hendricks.
“I got her,” came the immediate reply, and I didn’t wait for anything more. He’d know what to do.
Scrambling out of the car, I rushed the cop like an NFL lineman intent on sacking the quarterback.
He was partially turned away from me when I slammed into him, the momentum of my charge lifting him completely off the ground only to slam back down against it a moment later with my weight atop him. The link between us surged back into place the minute I touched him again. I used full advantage of it to be certain he wasn’t going to be getting back up again any time soon.
As Hendricks’s hand went for the gun at his side, I rose up, straddled him, and punched him sharply in the face. When that didn’t do the trick and he continued to struggle beneath me, I did it again.
Okay, so Muhammad Ali I’m not. But by the time I let that fourth punch fly, the cop was lying unconscious beneath me. Breathing heavily from the exertion, I let the link between us die and my own sight return. The train roared through my head and I knew I was going to pay for my actions later when the energy drain caught up with me, but right now I had a job to do.
The whole fight had lasted only a few minutes, yet the fear and adrenaline pouring through my system were going to leave me shaking and exhausted before long. We weren’t out of the woods yet, though, and so I staggered to my feet and stumbled back to the car.
Denise’s screaming had stopped, but that didn’t mean things were back to normal. Far from it. Dmitri had wrapped his arms around her from the rear seat, holding her in place, but she was still bucking and shaking like a bronco, trying to break his hold on her. Her eyes had rolled up in her head, showing only the whites in an eerie mimicry of my own eyes, and she was emitting a strange keening sound that made me think of nothing more than strangled kittens.
“Do something!” Dmitri grunted.
If I didn’t do something soon, she was going to hurt herself, perhaps severely.
I’d never dealt with anyone having a fit before and I wasn’t sure what to do. I just knew I had to do
. So I slid into the car, grabbed her shoulders just above where Dmitri held her secured, and tried to get her to wake up by gently shaking her.
I might as well have tried cleaning the Augean stables with a toothbrush, for all the good it did me. I tried again, shaking her a bit harder and calling her name, with no better results.
Officer Hendricks wasn’t going to stay unconscious forever. I hadn’t hit him that hard, by any stretch. Knowing time was of the essence, I reverted to more extreme measures with Denise.
I slapped her.
Just once, but hard enough that I winced when I did it.
Hard or not, it did the trick. One minute she was struggling to break free of Dmitri’s hold on her, and the next she slumped against him, all of her energy spent. It was like turning off a light switch.
That was good enough for me.
It was time we got the hell out of there.
A glance out the window to my right showed me Hendricks still lying unmoving by the side of the road right where I’d left him. He was near enough to the road that a passing car would easily see him, but not close enough that he’d get hit by a careless motorist, so I was reasonably comfortable with leaving him there unconscious.
I sure as hell wasn’t going to bring him with us. Assaulting a cop was one thing. I didn’t need to add kidnapping to my list of felonies, thank you very much.
“Hold on to her,” I told Dmitri and waited for his grunt of acknowledgment.
When I got it, I started the car and threw it into drive, stomping on the accelerator. The tires spun in the dirt and gravel, and then we shot forward, bouncing up over the edge of the asphalt and out onto the highway.
As soon as we were underway, I killed the headlights. I could see better with them off, so I took full advantage of that fact now, racing away from the scene down the deserted road.
The Charger responded as if it had been made for this kind of adventure, the engine purring with the increased rpms and the wheels hugging every curve of the blacktop. As I drove I frantically tried to figure out my next move.
Denise seemed to be doing okay; her breathing was steady, and when I put my fingers against her throat I found that her heart rate was fairly normal. A few quick glances told me she wasn’t bleeding anywhere, which was a relief. As near as I could tell she’d come through the experience without injury, at least physically. She was still unconscious, and I had no idea when she was going to come out of it, but for now maybe that was for the best. Her body had been through a significant shock and had apparently shut down to protect her from what she’d been through. Some decent rest was probably the best thing for her.
With my fears allayed in that regard, I could turn my attention to our next step. We were in trouble; that was certainly clear. Once Hendricks woke up, he was sure to report what had happened. That would bring every cop in the surrounding area down on our heads.
It would also make him look like a bungling idiot.
That thought drew me up short. Hendricks seemed to get off on that power and authority shtick; the thing with the flashlight was a perfect example. Reporting that he’d been overwhelmed in the midst of a routine traffic stop would be humiliating. Having to explain how I’d managed to get out of the car and knock him unconscious when he was armed and I wasn’t would be even worse.
So maybe he wouldn’t report it at all.
No, I thought. He’d report it, he just wouldn’t tell the truth. He’d make up some bullshit story, something that would not only allow him to keep his image as a tough guy but that might even enhance it a bit. The incident would go from a routine traffic stop to a confrontation with criminals intent on plugging him full of bullet holes.
Which would make us not just fugitives, but armed and dangerous ones to boot.
Just what we needed.
I tried to remember if he’d just glanced at the license and registration papers or if he had read them carefully. If it was the former, he wouldn’t have much to go on. The license was a fake and wouldn’t help him at all, except to indicate that I had something to hide, and that had become obvious by the way I’d reacted during the traffic stop. No, it was the car’s registration papers I was worried about. If he’d gotten a good look at them, the police would know the Charger was registered to Denise. That would be enough to drag her into this mess on a level she hadn’t had to deal with previously, and she’d be labeled a fugitive just like me.
This trip had started out poorly and was quickly going from bad to worse. Given that we were still some five hundred miles away from New Orleans, that didn’t bode well for what we could expect when we reached our destination.
I stuck to the highway at first, wanting to put as much distance between us and Officer Hendricks as physically possible. We couldn’t outrun the police radios but we could make it more difficult for the cops to find us by widening the search area. Getting as far south as quickly as I could was the best way of achieving that.
The next fifty miles were tense, to say the least. I kept waiting for lights to flash in my rearview mirror and for a voice over a loudspeaker to tell me to pull over. Or, even worse, to see a helicopter floating over our heads while trying to force us off the road. Thankfully, none of that happened.
By the time I hit the state line and crossed into Georgia, I was starting to breathe a bit easier. We’d left one jurisdiction behind and moved into another, which meant any pursuit would have to go through an entirely new set of channels. If they hadn’t tied the three of us to the events in Boston back in the fall, we were probably home free at this point.
“I think it’s time we got off the highway,” Dmitri said, and I agreed. I took the next exit and kept to the back roads, steadily working my way southwest as I kept my eye out for a place to hunker down for the rest of the night. It didn’t take long: about ten minutes after leaving the highway behind, I came upon the Happy Acre Motel. The sign out front said
and there were a dozen or more vehicles in the parking lot.
I parked away from the office on the far side of the motel lot, since I didn’t want the clerk looking out the window and seeing me get out of the Charger. Having a blind man behind the wheel unnerved people, I’d discovered.
Denise had slept like the dead through the ride, without twitching or groaning even once. Nor did she stir when I shut off the engine. Now that I had a chance to think about it, I realized it was kind of creepy, actually, and I took a minute to be sure she was still breathing. Thankfully, she was.
Dmitri started to get out of the car in order to get us a room, but I stopped him.
“Let me do it,” I told him.
“You’re blind, Hunt. The clerk’s gonna remember that.”
“Yeah, that’s the point. No one is looking for a blind guy. And besides, that’s all they see, my blindness. They don’t notice any of the other details. But if you go in there, she’ll remember you pretty easily. It’s not like you blend in all that well, ya know?”
It was true. There weren’t that many men his size on the road to begin with, and if Hendricks had gotten a decent look at him it wouldn’t be hard to put two and two together.
“Besides,” I told him, “if Denise starts thrashing around again, I’m not strong enough to hold her.”
He knew I was right and reluctantly agreed.
“Yell if you get into trouble,” he told me and I nodded in agreement.
I got out of the car and waited for Dmitri to pass me my cane from the floor of the rear seat. Now came the hard part. Getting a room without making the clerk too suspicious. If a BOLO, or “be on the lookout,” had been issued with our descriptions, walking into that lobby could spell trouble. Of course, that was still preferable to sleeping in the car, especially after the day we’d had, so I decided on the lesser of two evils and headed for the front door, a story already forming in my head as my cane tapped the asphalt in front of me.
The lights coming from the lobby windows messed up my sight, and by the time I opened the front door I was once again drowning in a sea of white. A little bell sounded as I came in and a voice spoke from somewhere in the back room.
“Be right with you.”
I marched up to the counter, pulled some cash from my pocket, and laid it on the counter under one hand where it would clearly be seen.
“Good evening, sir, how can I … Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were blind.”
What do you say to something like that? “Gee, I didn’t either?” Or maybe, “Bully for you?” I mean, seriously, that’s got to be one of the most useless statements in a situation like this and yet I hear it all the time. I just didn’t get it.
I decided the best course of action was to ignore it. “I’d like a room with two double beds, please. And one away from the street, as I’d like to sleep in late.”
“Of course. No problem at all.”
She was nervous; I could hear it in her voice. I was hoping that would mean that she wouldn’t ask too many questions. I could hear her clacking away on her keyboard as she looked for a room that met my specifications.
“Ah, here we go. I can put you in room 27, which is around the other side of the building, away from the street. Would that be all right?”
“Very good. All I need is some photo ID and a major credit card, and I…”
I cut her off. “I left my wallet in the truck that gave me a ride. I’ve got cash, that’s all. Is that going to be a problem?”
I put a bit of irritation in that last sentence, as if all I ever got was a hassle from people like her. The angry handicapped guy wasn’t the only card in my deck, but right now it seemed like the one that was going to produce the results I wanted as quickly as possible.
As expected, she got flustered at my tone and backpedaled. “Ah, no. No problem at all. I’ll just make a note on the record.”
She busied herself with getting some paperwork together—I could hear it rustling between us—and then she set it down on the counter in front of me.
“If you would just sign…”
Her voice trailed off again.
I didn’t say anything, just stared in her direction from behind my sunglasses, waiting to see what she would do. If she left the form where it was, I’d simply sign it with a false signature, but my preference was to not have to sign anything at all.
She swallowed. “Ah … I don’t think we really need a signature. That’s fine.”
The paperwork disappeared.
Score one for me. No one wanted to inconvenience the blind guy, it seemed.
She handed me my key, told me that a couple of local places delivered if I was hungry, and let me know that checkout time was noon the next day. I thanked her and left before she changed her mind about that paperwork.
I returned to the car, gave my eyes a minute to adjust, and then drove around the motel and parked directly in front of our room. I was pleased to see that the lights in the adjacent rooms were off. For the moment we were alone and unobserved.
We didn’t waste any time. I got out and unlocked the door to our room, while Dmitri carried Denise in from the car. Laying her on one of the beds, he slipped off her shoes while I got her out of her coat. After that it was simply a matter of pulling the covers up to keep her from getting a chill.
I stared down at her for a long moment, wondering what was to come, and then decided that the question was far too big to deal with at this time of night. Instead, I took a hot shower, washing the dirt out of my hair and picking small rocks and bits of debris out of the cuts on the knuckles of my right hand, cuts I’d apparently gotten in my tussle with Officer Hendricks. Though necessary, the cleaning started them bleeding all over again, so I wrapped a washcloth around my hand and knotted it in place with my teeth.