I opened my eyes. It had been pitch dark when I closed them and the daylight surprised me. With the sleeve of my coat I had to wipe the fog off the window to make out the trooper rapping on it.
“You okay in there?”
“Cold but yeah. The car died on us.”
I followed his gaze to my left. Seth was gone from behind the wheel. I twisted my head around and he wasn’t in the backseat either.
“He was here when I dozed off.”
The trooper straightened up and glanced around. In the frozen fields stretching away from the road toward Canada, nothing but stubble was in sight.
“Let me see your license.”
“I don’t drive.”
“Some other ID then.”
All I had in my wallet was my draft card, which he was a long time studying.
“You’re pretty far from home. Where you headed?”
“You in school there?”
“My brother is.”
“All right. Stay put while I run your name.”
I was telling myself to get a grip—that they couldn’t possibly be after me yet—when he returned from his cruiser.
“I called for a tow, but the truck can’t get here for a while, so come on, I’ll drop you in town at the garage.”
“What about my brother?”
“My guess is we’ll pass him on the way.”
He was right. We’d gone maybe a mile when I saw Seth trudging along the shoulder. Because I was in the caged back of the cruiser, he thought I was under arrest.
In the drafty garage on Main Street, it was barely warmer than outside. The vending machine was on the fritz and the only thing to sit on was a backless bench. An out-of-date pinup calendar was stuck to the cinder-block wall opposite the bench, next to a poster on which the flag was flapping over an injunction to love it or leave it. When the car finally showed up, the garageman laughed at the shape it was in and didn’t even bother to raise the hood.
“Tell you what. I’ll take it off your hands for scrap and knock off half the towing charge.”
As it happened, the Greyhound station was just down the street. A bus for Montreal was leaving in half an hour and he waited with me till it started boarding.
“Sorry I couldn’t get you there.”
“You sure you really want to do this?”
I heaved my duffel bag into the baggage compartment.
“No way I’m buying it for those bastards.”
STEPHEN BAILY is the author of three novels, ten plays, and short stories that have appeared in some twenty-five journals. His novel “Markus Klyner, MD, FBI” is available as a Kindle e-book at https://www.amazon.com/Markus-Klyner-FBI-Stephen-Baily-ebook/dp/B006QAM7Q8
*featured image courtesy of Brian Michael Barbeito*