Part XXV: Hunted
ENCRYPTION: 1024 BIT
THIS IS VERY URGENT. MELCHIZEDEK IS IN GREAT DANGER. I'VE RECEIVED AN ANONYMOUS TIP FROM MI6. HE HAS BEEN ARRESTED AND IS BEING HELD IN OK AWAITING. THE SIGINT DEPT HAS INTERCEPTED A MESSAGE THAT 2 HIT TEAMS ARE BEING POSITIONED TO ASSASSINATE HIM. ONE IS IN THE JAIL ITSELF AND IF THAT DOESN'T SUCCEED THERE IS A SNIPER TEAM TO TAKE HIM ON HIS WAY TO THE AIRPORT AFTER HE IS EXTRADITED. WE NEED TO GET IN CONTACT WITH HIM AND WARN HIM IMMEDIATELY AND GUARANTEE HIS SAFETY.
"You seem to be taking this well. That's good. If you stay cool, there's a good chance I can get you out of here. These people are about as dangerous as they come, but they ain't as smart as they think they are. One thing they didn't take into account is we got family around here. See, I knew you was family the minute I saw you. And you picked a good alias. Not too many would admit to believing the old stories, but the old folks especially would talk about things that had happened, not in front of just anybody of course. In fact if one'd say too much in front of the younger folks th' other'd give em a look and they would shut right up. But after a while, if they thought you could keep a secret they'd talk about the family, and about the heir. Afterwards they'd be sorry they said anything and make you swear not to tell anyone. But all the old folks knew. I reckon it's the family business that brings you out here, maybe you're even the one. I know you're running, but you're chasing something too. So here's the plan, old Earl Whitlow, he's a Glazier on his mother's side, they still got people living in the Township. He's in charge of the maintenance crew at night. They trust him here. And Earl knows me, we got to talking last time I was in here, turns out our grannies was cousins, both named Eunice. They met when our people came from California for a Glaizer reunion they held every summer in the Township. Ever since they wrote to each other regular. Earl will help cuz you're family too.
The timing is going to be real important. This thing is supposed to go down in the exercise yard at noon when the guard's shift changes, but we need to get out early, they let some of the older ones like me out early to walk around the perimeter before it gets crowded. There is a locked door next to the basketball courts that opens to a storage area. Then there's another locked door that opens to a corridor. Earl will leave em open but you gotta lock em behind you. If you go right and follow the corridor to the end there's a loading dock. There's a huge bin full of dirty laundry. Dive into that as quick as you can and cover yourself. They'll load it on the laundry truck with a fork lift so no one will notice the extra weight. The bin gets tied off to slats on the side of the truck, and it has a half gate in back so you aren't sealed in. After he picks up here at 10:00, he gets breakfast at the truckstop on the highway out of town. From there you have two choices. You can try to get a ride with a trucker. But I have a feeling you ain't gonna get much of a head start. The other choice is to cut through the scrub out back and then down the hill to the rail yard. You can pick any direction. For reasons I'll explain in a minute, I hope you go West, but you need to go in the last direction they'd expect you to.
The one favor I'll ask you is to read this letter here when you get somewhere safe. I gave you as much cash as I could, try to save it for emergencies. There's another letter in with it for Michaela. What ever you do don't lose it or let anyone take it. It tells you how to get in touch with her and it has half of the signal that she'll answer. I'll tell you the other half just before you go. I need you to find her and help end this thing. We've been up against the same people or at least they're all in it together."
"What exactly do you think 'it' is?"
"To understand you have to know what was at stake. Innocence is one of the most powerful things there is. They made war on the innocence of my generation. For some it was Vietnam, for others it was the drugs. For most it was the damn TV. They also took the destiny that was there for us and switched it with one they made, like a changling baby. And those they couldn't change, well, you've heard all the fairy tales. They were chased off into the forest, put in high towers or under a spell. Don't ask me to tell you who they really are, it don't matter, they can call themselves one thing today and another tomorrow. Somehow just when we thought we'd won and were going to live happily ever after, they got in and took over. But the worst part is we saw the enemy and it was us."
Arlie leaned close and whispered in Melchizedek's ear. He nodded.
"Ok, they're coming. You're gonna do this."
They did two laps around the yard. Arlie adopted an unhurried casualness that helped Melchizedek calm his jitters. Arlie seemed to be waiting for the yard to fill up enough that Melchizedek's sudden disappearance wouldn't stand out. After the third lap they veered along the basketball court which was still empty and around the side of the building. "Go, I'll make sure no one is following you. Make sure you lock the door behind you. Quick now, good luck."
He slipped through unnoticed and made sure it clicked shut behind him. He made his way quietly past the cleaning supplies and equipment and cautiously opened the door. He immediately heard voices and eased it shut again. He strained to get a sense of the direction of the conversation. They seemed to move away in the direction of the loading dock that was also his destination. From Arlie's description of the layout of the building, if anyone was facing his direction he would be in clear view when he opened the door. Until the two lounging on the loading dock moved along he was trapped. Arlie had warned him he only had about a 40 minute window before the laundry truck left. As he searched the room for another way out he peered out the single window. It was barred, but it had a view of the employee parking lot beyond the dock. Clusters of kitchen and laundry workers waited beneath the window, apparently for transportation. He stood on a plastic barrel of liquid floor wax to get a better view of the outside area. There was a rack of clean uniforms against one of the walls. He began searching through them until he found one that fit reasonably well.
As he had when he posed as the Dutch professor and later as the doctor travelling to a conference, he found some acting techniques that he had learned of from a former girlfriend to be useful in handling the stress and strain of being someone he was not. He "centered himself" in the character of an unskilled laborer who was a recent refugee of an Eastern European country. If challenged he would plead his ignorance in his meager supply of English phrases and quail as one who still remembered the helplessness of living in a Kafkesque dictatorship. He opened the door and shuffled down the hall with the weariness of one barely surviving on 2 full time jobs. One whose paltry paychecks were eaten up by wire transfers overseas at outrageous fees that keep three generations from starvation for another week. He entered the loading dock and let his head shoulders and limbs be dragged down by years of imagined toil, avoiding eye contact. He didn't see any sign through his peripheral vision that the two men talking took any notice of him, his role protected him like a cloak of invisibility. He tottered down the stairs and rounded the corner to join the group waiting for their ride. Even with his slouch, he towered over most of the workers, so he hunkered down with his back to the wall and pretended to nod off. A van eventually pulled up. Roughly half of the people began to line up to pay the driver. Fortunately both the kitchen and laundry workers had his same white uniform, so someone working in one area would assume he worked in the other. There were also some in blue scrubs who seemed to be medical orderlies. He approached one timorously, "Which bus? Please?" "Moos-koo-gee" "Thank you" That would be close enough to the bus station and railyard.
He was squeezed against the side of the door by a large Woman with food stains on her uniform as the van was packed to bursting. Still sweating from the kitchen, she enveloped him in her humid local climate. After the last person had wedged themselves in and all the passengers had to exhale at the same time so the door would close, the driver got in. The tires scraped against the inside of the wheel wells with every bump in the road. He worried briefly that this would cause a blowout before they got to Muskogee. But now that he had done all he could and his fate was out of his hands, the tension bled out of him. Even the sound of approaching sirens couldn't prevent his descent into sleep.
Trooper Nikki Swagger knew that every second lost since she was notified of the escape increased the chances that he would get away clean. If she could get to the most likely points out of the county first she stood a good chance of finding him. One advantage was her ability to identify him immediately. She had already checked the bus station and left instructions to call the State Police if someone fitting the book thief's description showed up. Next was the truck stop. Fortunately a fugitive warning had been broadcast over the CB channels and the truckers could be counted on to cooperate. She did a quick pass around the diner and service areas. Another trooper would be along soon and she wanted to check out a hunch she had. She traveled a few hundred yards down the road and stopped at the top of a buff that overlooked the railyard. There was a path between the truckstop and the railyard. Only short scrub pine and sickly oak grew in the sandy soil but there was fair cover except for a few clearings. Nikki shifted her gaze between the bare places along the trail and was eventually rewarded by the sight of tall figure in white making his way quickly through the exposed areas. She put the cruiser in gear, as she was in plain sight as well. There was a locked gate where the utility road began, she would have to be quick with the bolt cutters she kept in the trunk. She estimated that the diesel engine sounds and clashing of the rail cars would cover the sound of her tires on the gravel, and she would be able to travel fast enough to get to the rail yard a little ahead of the fleeing book thief.
The road wasn't as well maintained as she would have liked. It was barely suitable for the 4x4 pickups that Conrail used and the State takes a dim view of troopers tearing out the undercarriage of their vehicles. Still she used the noise of the long horn blast of an engine getting underway to mask the roar of her final acceleration as the cruiser burst into the level clearing of the yard. She had caught Glazier dashing for the accelerating train. She blocked him and her Glock 9mm was in her hand as she sprang from the vehicle. He veered off and ran for the cover of some derelict tank car.
"You drop now Mr Glazier, or I will drop you!", she bellowed. It was daddy's Marine DI voice, and as always, it worked.
He pulled up short and tipped forward into the dust.
She wasn't gentle this time. He winced when she kicked his feet apart, and again when she had his hands handcuffed behind his back in a double joint lock and hauled him up hard. She used the excruciating strain on his shoulder ligaments to keep him on the tips of his toes all the way back to the cruiser. She got him into the cruiser more or less by sweeping his legs out and throwing him in. She didn't seem to mind that his head grazed the top of the rear door on the way in. He left his leg out of the car a bit too long and made sure he got it out of the way the second time the door slammed. She was slightly out of breathe as she got behind the wheel. As she radioed in she watched him in the rear view mirror as he struggled to control the trembling that had started with his legs.
Finally she spoke. "Well Mr Glazier it looks like you might be our guest longer than you planned. If the murder charge sticks, that is..."
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