So far, so good. In fact, I had a brainstorm about halfway through South Dakota – what if I changed into my uniform? It’d break the description they had of me from court, and even though I wasn’t law enforcement, what cop is even going to pull over, much less question, a man in a federal ranger outfit?
Working around the handcuffs made things just a bit awkward, but I felt comfortable, almost confident again wearing my greens. I made it all the way into Minnesota without spotting a single trooper, then turned south down Highway 65 at Albert Lea. Corn, corn, corn, and more corn – but I didn’t care about corn, I cared about cops, and there were none to see.
As I entered the one-horse burg of Sheffield about midnight, I glanced at the gas gauge – damned near E. A couple lights were still on at a Casey’s gas station, but how to pay for it? My wallet had been tapped out back around Sioux Falls.
Parking up under the canopy, I noted that the pumps were still on. Quietly, I topped the tank, then nonchalantly strolled up to the door – there was no one around but me and the clerk, who I could see was busy counting the till. What passed for the town was asleep in bed. Would I get a better chance?
In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.
Throwing open the door, I dashed up to the counter – again tucking the other handcuff into my right hand. It had worked on the cop, hadn’t it? I invited the startled cashier to have a personal meeting with my steel-backed fist, and politely declining, he instead offered me my pick of the contents of the cash register as a parting gift. I grabbed a bunch of large bills and dashed out the door before he could think differently. The haul might just get me all the way to Mexico, if I’m careful with the go pedal.
As I sped south, a disquieting feeling came over me – the spark of conscience, the voice of reason again trying to punch a hole through my self-confident airs.
Did you just turn stupid? What are you doing? You can’t think you’ll get away with this, can you? Yeah, that sentence was bullshit, but didn’t your lawyer tell you he’d win on appeal? Two days ago, you’d never done anything worse than 50 in a 35. Now you’re a hunted fugitive, an escaped convict, an armed robber, and maybe a cop-killer? What the fuck happened to you?
I had no answer. At least, no good answer. Just two-lane blacktop ahead, stretching through endless cornfields barely visible in the pre-dawn dark. It was everything or nothing now – Mexico or the penitentiary.
So that’s how I happened to roll into Hampton, Iowa, round about half past 1. Yawning, I realized that I couldn’t safely drive much further, and a quick nap would clear my thoughts and reset my senses. Maybe this would even be the spot to hole up? Good a place as any, right? I’d decide in the morning.
Cruising slowly through streets empty of traffic, I spotted a secluded, tree-shaded alleyway just off the main drag, next to a well-kept, two-story building I figured for the town museum. No one would suspect anything there, especially in the wee hours. I pulled in, stopped the engine, and shut off the lights.
There were many questions roiling through my sleepy mind.
How the hell do I get across the border? How the fuck do I get these handcuffs off? What does that museum need with all the bars on their windows? Am I taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy? Please God, let the bailiff be alive?
I might find the answers here, I suppose. Daybreak will come soon enough. But for now, what’s the worst that can happen in a place like Hampton, Iowa?
To be continued …