I might have told Eve a little bit of a lie. I have driven a couple times before. Once on a motorcycle for all of about three blocks before taking a fall on a sharp turn and once in my dad’s old pickup truck when I was six, sitting on his lap. Yet, even with my wealth of experience, I felt nervous climbing behind the wheel of this tank of a vehicle. I quickly find my anxiety to be completely unwarranted.
Since the sun is setting, I’m feeling mighty comfy in my captain’s chair. And it’s exciting to feel the wind blow through my hair as I travel at high speed. Quite a bit different than going it on foot.
Both Eve and The Geek warn me against driving too fast, since traveling at full speed, especially on the rough terrain, would up our gas consumption greatly and give us less time in the fast lane. I agreed to listen to them after allowing logic to set in, not wanting to have to stop anywhere short of our goal of the Nebraska border.
But now we are on the interstate and the road is so smooth. I can almost feel the engine begging me to feed it more fuel as the yellow lines stretch off into the distance.
“Alright, Cy, I’m gonna climb in back and catch a little shut eye,” Eve says as she unbuckles her seat belt. “Remember, if you see any lights in the distance, wake me up and we’ll switch.” She climbs in back as I give her a nod of understanding. I look at her over my shoulder and watch her curl up into a tight ball, holding her knees to her chest. It looks uncomfortable.
After the adrenaline rush caused by the activity in the tunnel, I was worried I would lose steam and be well on my way to the land of dreams. However, getting behind the wheel and feeling the power of the road in my hands puts that adrenal gland right back into action. Having only three hours until I switch with Eve seems unfair.
I slip on my headphones and press play. Highway to Hell by AC/DC. The Geek really knows how to pick them. Within seconds I find myself singing along before realizing I had someone’s rest to be concerned with. Another glance over my shoulder shows she is still out cold, so I figure I’m safe and go back to rocking out.
As the road stretches on, so do the minutes. The previous excitement is replaced with two eyes that droop while images of Eve bounce through my mind. The yellow line curves and bends in ways which shouldn’t be possible as my head nods in exhaustion. I turn up the music and take a deep breath of the fresh air as it brushes against my face. Anything to help me keep my eyes open. I fall into a rhythm without too much trouble and The Geek keeps the music upbeat enough to keep me moving.
Images of Eve flutter through my mind. Her smile, the way she bounces when she runs, how she looked that day so long ago in the canyon. This goes on for a while before I even notice it’s happening. Why? I mean, a few days ago I was perfectly happy being alone. Heck, even just yesterday I was ready to ditch her at every possible chance. Right now, at this very moment, I’m having a hard time thinking of spending any more time without her.
There’s just something about having a companion, a partner in crime who is actually out on the road with me. And even worse to admit is the fact that she’s actually making me move faster. Don’t tell her, or The Geek, this, but I’m really glad she’s here.
Suddenly the Jeep starts bouncing, causing me to jump into action. It had begun drifting toward the ditch while I drifted toward dreamland. I regain my composure and return my attention to the road.
Time continues to pass slowly. The Geek seems to have taken note of it as well, since Slow Ride by Foghat starts playing in my ears. I had assumed he’d be asleep already. Maybe he planned on it being slow by now and lined this song up ahead of time.
An hour into my shift and I’ve already made the decision to never drive again. At least with running you’re doing something. All I’m doing here is sitting on my butt listening to music. I might as well be The Geek.
And it’s so quiet. Frighteningly quiet. I haven’t seen a single car or identity checkpoint since I started driving. Even though Eve said there could be up to 100 miles between them, I still think I should have seen something by now.
I have passed a few checkpoints which were closed for the night, but those are hardly of any interest to a man stuck staring off into the distance.
Another hour down and still nothing. I begin to wonder if this is normal or if I should be worried. I mean why would we have these amazingly long stretches of roadway if they don’t actually get any use? I want to ask Eve if this is out of the ordinary, but remember my promise to let her sleep. I’m sure it’s nothing. It’s just boring.
I think I see lights off in the distance. Yeah, there’s definitely something out there. I press on the pedal Eve had said was the brake and pull to the shoulder. The Jeep lurches forward and goes quiet as I hit the dirt. Eve jumps up in her seat.
“Checkpoint up ahead?” she asks groggily, her immediate alarm replaced by a fogged mind.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“How long have I been out?”
“About two and a half hours.”
“Perfect, not much less than we had planned. How much gas we got left?”
“Quarter of a tank.”
“Awesome. Give me a sec to wake up, okay?”
“Sure thing.” I climb over into the passenger seat as she rubs the sleep from her eyes.
“How’d the drive go? See anything I should know about?”
“Nothing. No cars or anything.”
“Hmm. . . That’s weird. I mean, most traffic happens during the day, but with how long you’ve been driving, well. . .” she pauses for a moment. I can see her mind working through something. “Let’s just hope it means nothing.” She hops into the driver’s seat and looks over at me. “Now, get under the seat and be as quiet as possible. If something fishy is going on, we don’t want them getting suspicious.”
“You got it.” I pull up the back seat and look at the space I’m to be crammed into. It’s going to be a tight squeeze. I manage to fold myself up enough to fit, although very uncomfortably. “Um, a little help?” I ask.
Eve closes the seat on top of me. I hear the engine come back to life and we rumble forward. I wouldn’t like going through a checkpoint on a good day, but with everyone already out to get me, being crammed helplessly into this seat is making me even more nervous.
Eve drives up to the checkpoint slowly. I hear the brakes squeak loudly as we come to a stop. It’s quiet. Outside of the idling engine, which is admittedly loud, I don’t hear anything.
I don’t like it.
Eve finally breaks the silence by honking the horn. Something crashes to the ground in the distance. I don’t know too much about checkpoints other than to avoid them at all costs, but if I had to guess, someone had fallen asleep on the job.
Footsteps near the vehicle.
“Good evening, officer,” I hear Eve say cheerfully.
“Miss,” he says shortly.
“Slow evening, huh? Haven’t seen much for traffic on the road.”
“Yeah, I guess the gov’ment has cut back on all non-essential travel while looking for the rebel fugitive.”
“Oh, yeah, I heard something about that. Haven’t caught him yet?”
“Don’t think so. Course, we don’t get much for updates on that sort of thing out here.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“So, what ya transporting this evening?”
“Nothing,” Eve says. She sounds so calm and collected. I like to think of myself as cool under pressure, but I’m not even talking to the guy and I can’t keep myself from shaking the Jeep apart. “Just heading home. Shipped a crate of medical supplies out to, uh, well darnit, I already forgot the name of the town.”
“Rawlins?” the guard offers. A cramp builds in my left leg. A tight spot like this is not a very good location for someone who’s been running all day.
“Ah, yeah, Rawlins. Sorry, been a long night.”
“Where you heading to now?”
“Back home to Cheyenne.” The pain is growing quickly.
“Ah, I love Cheyenne. Great Frontier Days this year, right?”
“Oh yeah, never miss ’em.”
“Well, you’ve got quite the drive ahead of you then.”
“Yes, sir. Hoping to be able to get there before too long. Been a long day.”
“Well, I don’t want to keep you. Your paperwork all checks out. I’ve still gotta clear it with the head office, but I don’t see any reason why you need to hang out for that. Have a safe drive.”
“Thanks, you have a good night.” A muscle spasm causes my cramped leg to kick the wall of my confined quarters. I hear something clatter to the ground and then nothing, outside of the engine idling.
“If it ain’t one thing with these Jeeps it’s another, am I right?” the man laughs.
“You got that right,” Eve laughs nervously.
“Here, let me nab that for you.” Footsteps lead to just outside where I’m sitting. Through a crack between the seat and its base, I’m able to see the man bend over next to the Jeep. I stop breathing. He stands and has a piece of metal in his hands. I’m not sure what he’s holding but I feel it hit the seat on top of me as Eve throws it in the back.
“Thanks, see ya.”
The engine revs up and we move forward. Eve may have been playing it cool with the guard, but I notice she’s driving off much faster than necessary.
“Stay down,” she says.
The Geek is yelling over my headphones. I had been so focused on what was going on outside the vehicle; I didn’t even think The Geek might have something to say. I slip my headphones back over my ears.
“What’s going on out there?” I ask.
“They’ve got a checkpoint trap up ahead,” The Geek says. “This one’s just to make you feel comfortable. There’s a ton of SPs hiding in the ditch not too far off.”
“So, what does that mean?” I feel helpless.
“That means,” I hear Eve yell back to me. “They expected us to take a risk like this.”
“So?” I say, peeking my head out from under the seat. “Can’t you just sweet talk them like you did with the guy at the checkpoint?”
“If they’re up ahead, there’s no chance they’ll let us through without a thorough search. I’m guessing that’s why the streets have been empty too. You heard what the guard said, right? No non-essential travel.”
“Yeah, pretty much,” Eve says solemnly.
“We’ve gotta have something we can do, right? Geek?”
“I’ve got nothing, Cyrus. At this point we either keep driving and hope something magical happens or pull off the road and try hoofing it from here.”
“And if we pull off,” Eve adds, “they’ll know we’re hiding something.”
“I think you guys are forgetting the always available third option.” I say, rather giddily.
“What’s that?” The Geek and Eve ask almost in unison.
I sit up in the seat and smile a big toothy grin just to add extra emphasis to the crazy that is my idea. “We plow right on through, no stopping.”
“What?” The Geek asks.
“Well, Cyrus’ idea isn’t completely crazy.”
“Um, yes it is,” The Geek says incredulously. “If you plow through a SP checkpoint, they’ll be on you like a bunch of badgers. It’s suicide.”
“Right,” I laugh. “Look, we’ve got another 150 miles to the border, right?”
“Yeah, that’s why it’s crazy. You don’t even have enough gas in the tank to last that long.”
“Actually,” Eve adds positively, “the gas tank dealie is right here on the driver’s side. Cyrus should be able to refill us pretty easily while we go.”
“Fine, but that still doesn’t answer the real question. How are you going to deal with the SPs for the next 3 hours as you make your way to the border without actually being caught?”
“I’m sure we’ll figure something out,” I laugh.
“That’s not an answer, Cyrus,” The Geek scolds.
“Look, Geek, you said it yourself, whether we go off road or stay and play nice, we’re going to get stopped by the SPs, right?”
“Yeah,” The Geek responds uneasily.
“Which means we’re going to be caught no matter what we do, right?”
“I don’t see any other outcome.”
“But, if we plow through the roadblock, or whatever is up ahead, there’s a slightly better chance that we actually get away, right?”
“Less than slightly better at best.”
“But better,” I grin. I look over at Eve and she returns the smile while speeding up. Once we hit the roadblock, we’ll want to be going as fast as we can to keep ahead of whatever they’ve got waiting.
I slip my headphones on as I climb up into the passenger seat. Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi. “Cause I’m an outlaw,” I scream at the top of my lungs. This is shaping up to be a great night.
Go to Chapter Seventeen