There’s urgency. They’re after me. I know it. I feel it, without feeling. It’s a part of the circumstances with which I allowed myself to become entangled. Those below, want me. I’ve escaped. But I know it can be short lived. I take the clothes and run outside. There’s the path to the road that we had driven to get here, but believe my needs are against following all reason and sense of propriety. So I run the opposite direction, toward the trees behind the house and barn that I’m now certain are mere constructs to hide the facility below.
Entering the tree line, I move like the hunted captive I am. Limping, exhausted, a wounded animal, escaping the hunters. Moving through the brush, it’s only a dozen yards before coming upon a creek. I rapidly strip off my clothes and jump in. Using the sand from the bottom, I scrub myself clean. As quickly as possible, I dry myself and dress. No shoes, so I put on the same old ones that I know hold some of my own piss.
Tossing the old clothes and towel into the creek to float downstream, I take off again. Away from the facility. Anywhere. I’m in the dark, now in broad daylight. The forest becomes another of my enemies. And saviors. Any that follow, are presented with the same hazards. I run. Brambles, ferns, forests of mushrooms, avoiding the occasional path. Following an unknown direction. Using instinct. As I believe I should have weeks ago. That hindsight thing.
A clearing, a farmhouse. I’m cautious. Several old trucks sit off to the side. Farm trucks, I have hope the keys will be in one. I look around, no one in sight. I struggle over to the first. Keys are dangling. Once inside, I realize the ignition is on off, no starter position. What? The truck is old, I look on the floorboard and there’s a fourth pedal by the gas. I depress it, and the truck cranks and coughs, gasping a horrific and noisy death on my first try. Wait, my memory takes over and I look on the dash for a choke knob. It’s there, pulling it out for another try. Success! Jamming it into second, I drop the clutch and roar off down the bumpy road to freedom.
Well, fifty feet to another gravel road. Thinking about the directions, I had run east. To the north, that not so nice part of town we had driven through. The perfect place for me to blend in, to become invisible. To learn, gather what I would need for my return home. There is no real knowledge as to where I am. I know we had exited the train station and driven south and west, past the Pentagon. I recognized that building. We had only driven fifteen, maybe twenty miles outside the capital into a more rural area, with farms. Now, turning north, I blast along the gravel road at close to twenty miles an hour. The motor coughing and sputtering. Criminy, the choke. I push it back in and the truck motor immediately smooths out and speeds up. To forty. It’s an old truck. If I think about it, that’s fine. Don't want to draw attention to myself.
Before dressing, I had taken my wallet out of the soiled pants and now look in it. Counting the bills, one hand on the steering wheel, the other thumbing through the money. Seventeen dollars. It smells of piss. Lunch, two days and I haven’t eaten, I’m hungry. I remember a diner, that's where I head, I can watch the road from there and monitor comings and goings.
At some point I know that Mac, Sergey and Ivan, plus whoever else is in the facility at this time, will get the door open and search the garage. Turning off the garage lights indicated awareness of how far I was, that I had made it out the locked doors. In all probability Ivan could just rip the doors off their hinges and they would then initiate pursuit. Hopefully in the wrong direction. In all, it had taken me less than twenty minutes to make it to the truck at the farmhouse. And another five to make it to the outskirts of the town.
Getting to what I believe is the main road we had driven previously, I turn left and drive until I can see the diner. Parking nearby, I cross the street and walk in. Warning signs all over, my skin prickles. The place is half filled. Most of those sitting at tables and booths are suited or in business attire. A few farmer types at the counter, the rest, not in any way casual. I wait for a moment, there are no warnings, no alarms, no exclamations of sudden knowledge of my having entered and been discovered. It’s business as usual, no telltale feelings of anything out of the ordinary. A late lunch for all.
I realize that this close to the capital there are probably a lot of people living near here that work either for the government or with any number of hangers-on groups that occupy the capital at any given time. Staffers, assistants and lobbyists. Those wanting things, those trying to avoid them and many just collecting a paycheck. They dress nice. Relaxing, I walk over to the counter and sit where I can watch the road. The counter waitress approaches with a menu. I tell her coffee and that big slam thing they had introduced a couple years back as a tribute to slugger Hank Aaron. Over easy, bacon, whole wheat and coffee. So far no one’s feelings jump out at me, no excitement of discovery, Just an ordinary diner with working stiffs. I feel I’m home free.
As my coffee cup is being filled, I see a string of those same black Lincoln town cars slow on the road behind me, then turn down the same road that I had been driven just two forgotten days ago. Five of them, all in a line. This time I look, three have US Government plates on them. The others, Virginia. In reality, I have no idea what that means. However, the bigger question becomes one of desire. Do I want to know? Or do I just want more than anything to find my way back to Arizona and continue my life there the way I had lived it for some time now.
In my twenty-eight years, I spent over ten years as a drunk, pleasured over a thousand women, and even before my escape, I owned very little; a backpack, maybe five sets of clothes and a book by Richard Brautigan. Poems. Given to me by my first love, a young girl, my best high school friend. She bit me on my shoulder. There are still scars to remind me of that encounter. The scars, a pee soaked wallet and tennis shoes are all I have left of that past.
My life sucks. It’s taken a stranger, Mr. MacGyver, to point that out to me. Now he’s Mac, and for all I can tell, a traitor to his country. My country. God dammit, I might not be much, but I’m an American. Just four weeks ago I was unhappy. Now, I know more about myself, my gift and the world than I ever thought possible. Some of it I like, some pisses me off.
My breakfast arrives. Eggs and hash browns fried in that horrific buttery flavored fake stuff. The bacon, flaccid and undercooked. The toast comes with margarine. It’s a curse to be a super taster and know all that stuff. I’m hungry, I eat it all. More coffee and time to reflect on a course of action. What do I want to do? There’s only one course of action open to me.
There’s knowing what’s right, and thinking that you know what’s right for you. I want to return to my old life. And yet, I know I can’t do that. My old life is a dream, of sadness, sex and unfulfilled hopes. It might be right for me, but it’s not in any way right. I know what I have to do. There are government vehicles at the facility. Real government people. I have no idea how far the corruption goes in the little organization that so far I have been introduced into. My belief isn’t that I can be wrong. Right or wrong, I have a gut feeling. Deja vue? Whichever it is, I finally need to pay attention and act on what I know is right. I have to go back. I have to take a stand. I have to expose what I know is corruption. It’s right. I need to do this, to be free.
Getting up I pull out a five and two singles, placing them under the edge of the plate, I go to leave. As I get to the door I see the woman behind the bar pick up the bills and sniff them. Oh well, not a lot I can do about the smell. Leaving the diner, my mind is made up. I walk to the old truck.
This time, starting the truck is a breeze. Checking for traffic, there is none. I take off and drive down that same road I had been driven two days previous. I drive slower, less dust. A mile down the road and the flashing lights and siren startle me. Not what I expect.
I pull over, hope that he’s just in a hurry and needs to pass. No such luck. He pulls up behind me. I stop, turn off the motor, open the door and walk over to the end of the pickup. Waiting, I lean against the back of the bed. It takes a minute, the sheriff gets out of his patrol car and walks up close to me. He has a hand on his gun. Never a good sign.
“Hey there young fella. Watcha doin with old Ben’s truck?” He asks. Not yet ready to declare me a thief. Uncertainty. He waits for me.
“You know Ben?” I ask as nonchalant as I can exude. “Helping out. Ben’s my second cousin, I’m just here doing some stuff for him.” And I leave it there.
“Didn’t know Ben had any other family.”
“Ya didn’t. Hunh.” Play dumb. Let him attack before trying anything.
“Nope, known old Ben all my life. He never talked bout family. I think Idda known bout you. Ben talks a lot. Cain’t recall nothin.” Now that doubt starts to creep into him.
“Yeah, probly not. My Ma is like sister to his brother’s first wife Angie. That makes us kin sort of. Anyway he said I could stay a bit.” His doubt sort of starts to fade. “They ain’t talked for years. Ben sort a didn’t want much to do with Ma and me after the divorce.”
Nodding a bit, that doubt is fading fast. Shit, now curiosity pervades his mind. “Yeah, Ben talked bout a brother. Been a long time. What’s his name?”
SHIT! I had to guess. Ben, what name would a family give another child. “Bob.”
“Yeah, now I member. Bob, he talked bout him long time ago. Shit boy. That was a long time ago. So’s why you here?”
There’s no reason on earth why I should lie about this, so I don’t, sort of. “Ah, broke up with my wife. She kicked me out. I drunk a lot. Ma sent me here to dry out, think bout life.”
Again that nodding. I’m in. He believes. “Yeah. I got a divorce. Drank a bit. Takes time. Ben’s a good guy. Say howdy from Ted.” And with that he takes his hand off the pistol handle and turns to leave. Then he turns to face me, extending his hand as if to shake it, he says to me. “Well, nice to meet ya. What’s your name?”
As I shake the proffered hand, I’m oblivious to the man’s feelings. I believe I’m free and clear. It’s done. I’m out of trouble. Then I feel it. Too late as he snaps the cuff on my wrist. Grasping that arm he spins me around and pulls it up high, causing unbearable pain. Reaching past me he grabs my other arm and pulls it behind me to affix the matching side of the hand cuffs to that wrist. I’m done. He’s good. He had to have prior knowledge of my gift. Now with my hands locked behind me, I have few options. He turns me around and looks me in the eye. “Ben called in the stolen truck just minutes after you took off with it. Mac done tole me to look out for ya.”
And there it is, caught. Not by my stupidity with continuing to drive the stolen truck, but by the scourge of my patriotism, the former Mr. MacGyver. Mac. I need more information. “So does Mac know Ben well?”
The sheriff stops, he thinks about that a moment. It’s my opportunity. I jump up and flip my cuffed hands under my legs, they’re now in front of me. I move my hands toward the sheriff’s face. Placing both hands on his cheeks, the startled man’s face softens as I give him my feelings of safety and calm. Smiling at me now, I gently tell him, “Pull the keys out of your pocket and unlock the cuffs.”
Gently, slowly, he complies. With my hands free, I now take the revolver from his holster and slide it into my back pocket. Still smiling, I gently tell him. “Now is the time to remember Ben. He’s a good friend. You’re going to keep looking for his truck. You haven’t found it yet. You need to go to the diner and have some fried eggs and bacon.” With all my energy, I implant in his mind the taste of eggs and bacon. He slowly turns and walks to his patrol car and gets in. That’s really only worked one time before. I had to be touching the person for them to receive. I’m exhausted. Doing that takes every ounce of energy I have. I turn to go back to the truck to finish the drive and rest. There, behind me, parked on the opposite side of the gravel road, are two black Lincoln town cars.
As the sheriff turns his patrol car around, I stand stock still staring at the cars. The doors open and two men get out. One is Mac. The other, I know. just not sure who it is. They both walk over to me. The man holds out his hand to shake mine. “Hi. I’m Walter Mondale.”