Un-Connected, page 1
A novel by Noah Rea
On the Run
Rebecca screamed. Then I heard sounds of fighting, things being broken. I ran to the den. What I saw hit me in the gut.
Blood was everywhere. Rebecca lay on the floor, my letter opener sticking out of her chest. I sobbed, but I had to help her. Kneeling over her, I pulled out the letter opener and took a small blanket off the sofa to apply pressure. I looked her in the eye. “I love you. Stay with me!”
I saw horror on her face. She couldn’t breathe. She mouthed “I love you.” And then she passed out.
I still tried to stop the bleeding, despite her lifeless eyes. The lump in my throat grew so big it was about to choke me. I couldn’t breathe. My hands were shaking, then my whole body. I cried out, “Oh God help me. Help her be OK.” My heart hammered as though it would come out of my chest.
Desperate sadness washed over me and I felt like I was drowning.
Then I heard someone on the steps. Fear shot through me. There were two steps on the stairs creaking. I froze. They would kill me. Maybe if I gave them what they wanted, then they wouldn’t. But why did they stab Rebecca? No, they would kill me. They were coming back to the den.
My car. I had to escape. My arms and legs felt heavy and stiff. I felt I couldn’t move, but I ran. I couldn’t breathe. I sneaked through the garage door hoping they wouldn't hear me. I hit the garage door button. The door opened so loudly I just about passed out.
When I got in the car, I locked the doors, started the engine, and threw it into gear. I stomped the Porsche. If I could just make it to the street, they probably couldn't catch me.
As I turned onto the street, I heard the loud piercing sound of gunshots behind me and glass breaking around me. I ducked down, my foot about to force the accelerator through the floor. I made it two blocks to the first stop sign and turned almost without slowing down. Just before I got out of sight, I looked back and saw a large black SUV moving out of the shadows toward me. But I was gone. I didn’t see them again…for a while.
I drove madly for a long time not really thinking about where I was going. Now the fear was subsiding. A sad and hopeless feeling swept over me. I began to cry.
Then I remembered I had to call for an ambulance. I regained my composure enough to see if I had gotten my cell phone. It sat in the extra cup holder, where I usually put in when I was in a hurry. How did it get there from the den?
I grabbed it and dialed 911. Before they could say anything, I started pleading for an ambulance.
The operator told me to slow down and give him the address.
“My wife has been stabbed by invaders,” I said. “They’re trying to kill me. I've escaped in my car. Please get an ambulance there now. Please save her. They won’t have much time. She's in really bad shape. She's really hurt. Please tell them to hurry.”
The desk sergeant came on and asked where I was. I didn’t know. He told me to find a safe place and pull over. He'd send a patrol car to get me.
Sometimes in life we call the shots and decide what happens next. Sometimes we don’t. I began to have a talk with myself. I was afraid. Why would someone want to kill us?
My head was about to explode. I was so hopeless. My life ended. All I wanted to do was cry. But I couldn’t, and my hands shook uncontrollably. I had never been like this before. The lump in my throat still threatened to choke me. An ache had invaded my stomach and chest, and it was bigger than me. The worst thing I could image had just happened. Now what?
OK, maybe I could help Rebecca. I could go back to the house. The black SUV was gone. But the killers in the black SUV weren’t trying to rob me. If so, they wouldn't have tried to follow me. They would have stayed at the house.
They were trying to kill me. Why? Nobody hated us that we knew of. Just a few people wouldn’t buy our lunch, but nobody would want to kill us... Yes, somebody did.
I decided to go back to the house to take care of Rebecca and turn myself in. I'd be safe once the police came. It was probably the best thing. Then I could find out about Rebecca and the ambulance. I turned back toward the house, but I took a different route, having made a big circle. I called 911 again and the sergeant answered. I interrupted him to ask about the ambulance. “Are they there yet?”
"Yes, they just got there.”
“OK, please tell them to save her. They must revive her.”
“Mr. Raines,” he said, “they will do everything they can.”
It seemed so strange, but when he said my name, it surprised me. Was that my name? Yes, now I remembered. “Ben” Bentley Raines. It sounded so alien, so unfamiliar… Everything was so surreal. This surely was a bad dream. Rebecca was surely OK. I was surely not in my car with blood all over my pants legs and splattered on my shirt…but I was.
“Mr. Raines, where are you?” the sergeant yelled.
“Sir, I’m lost. I don’t know how to find myself. Please give me a minute. How is my wife?”
“She didn’t make it.”
Time stood still. I barely knew who I was. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t hear. I was driving but I couldn’t see where I was going. I was drowning.
I just drove very slowly in silence. I didn’t really see or hear anything. The car was barely moving.
“Where are you? Give me a location.” My phone was lying in the passenger seat. “You need to answer some questions!” The sergeant raised his voice with each sentence.
Fear stole my words. I ended the call and pulled off the road. I just sat there crying.
After a while, I realized something else was wrong. I shouldn’t go back to answer questions. Why did I feel this way? I’d never run from the police before. Didn’t I just need to explain what happened? No, now I was afraid of the police. What was going on? Why was I feeling this?
I needed time to think. My life was over. I couldn’t believe what I was thinking. Could it really be? Rebecca was gone. My freedom may be gone too. My job would be gone. How could this be?
OK, what did I know? I was in my car. I had blood...Rebecca’s blood...on my pants legs and shirt.
I had my cell and wallet and some cash and credit cards. I didn’t have a clue where I was. OK, yes I did. I was in Virginia. Not a lot of information, but it was something.
I drove slowly down a street I had never seen before. I needed a place to hide and think. Then I saw something that might work. It was a mostly residential street with a few small businesses here and there. I saw a little fast food chicken place with a brick wall behind it on one side. I pulled in to get a better look. The wall actually was a kind of brick lattice. It hid the dumpster, which had enough room in front of it for my small car. So I backed in and got where I had the best view possible through the holes in the brick wall. Good. I could see and probably not be seen.
In time the police would figure out I was innocent, so all I had to do was turn myself in, and it would all work out. … Or maybe not.
I’d always had more street smarts than most. I could see cons coming. For years I’d helped people who panhandled, but I’d never given them money. They usually told a sad story and just needed a little help. And you could tell how much life had beaten them down by how much they asked for.
Some people asked me to loan or give them thousands of dollars and others asked for change, but the saddest request I had ever had was from a dirty, smelly man who needed twelve cents. Yes, twelve cents. That broke my heart. None of them got any money, but they did get all the food they wanted. One guy was even ingenious enough to ask if he could get a second meal for later.
Usually when there was something wrong in a relationship or business deal, I could sense it before I’d known all
As they say, “Your first impressions are usually right!” Mine usually were.
So now my instincts told me not to turn myself in, at least not yet. I can’t believe I’m considering this. I am a law-abiding citizen. But I’m contemplating being a fugitive. Me, on the run? Not being myself? Hiding from the law and people I love and those who know me? Can I do that? What will I gain by not turning myself in? What can I accomplish? I don’t know anything about criminal defense. I don’t know anything about criminal investigation. I couldn’t find those black SUV guys if I had to. Did I want to? They were trying to kill me!
I didn’t know if they were local or out of state. I wouldn’t even know what state to start in let alone what city or part of a city. I was so helpless. What would I gain if I turned myself in? I didn’t know. I knew the guys in the black SUV killed my wife. I knew I needed to prove it, but how? And where would I even start. If I turned myself in and I couldn’t prove they did it, then I might be locked up for a long, long time. I might even get the death penalty. I was so scared and freezing cold, even though the thermometer said seventy-five degrees. My stomach churned. I had the worst headache.
I needed more information. People often make mistakes because they make decisions without all the facts. My accountant mind began to get things organized, but with my grief and exhaustion, I struggled just to think. Did I have all the information? I had no information. I didn’t know what the police knew or what they intended or who the black SUV people were. What about my parents, her parents, our friends?
Should I call them now? Not in the night. Maybe I’d call them when they were awake. What if their phones were bugged?
Could the police or black SUV people trace my phone signal? I turned off my cell and put it on the charger. I was so tired I wanted to sleep, but no chance of that. They’ll search for my car. Safer to travel at night and sleep during the day.
It was still dark. I pulled out and drove and drove until I began to get a little sleepy. I spotted a cheapie motel, where I hoped they wouldn’t ask for a driver’s license if I paid cash. They didn’t. Soon I was at the back of the motel in a quiet place away from the road where I could partially hide my car. The man at the counter asked what happened to my shirt and jeans. Since the blood was now dark brown, I told him it was mud. He was behind thick glass so I was sure he couldn’t smell it was blood. He seemed to be satisfied. I told him I had waded through the mud and briars to get a hub cover when it flew off my wheel. He gave me an old T-shirt he said was too big for him anyway and had just been washed.
I wasn’t in the room long before I fell asleep. I didn’t realize it of course until I woke up. I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but all the emotion and energy had drained out of me. I was so sad I wanted to cry, but for some reason I couldn’t.
The sun was well up in the sky when I awoke. The phone book in the drawer told me I was in North Carolina. I was off I-95 far enough that I didn’t expect much traffic. That was one thing I was right about.
I turned on the TV and tried to wash my shirt and jeans in the tub with the little shampoo pack and dry them with the hair dryer. Flipping channels, I found a station with the news. The anchor covered the usual things about new bills in congress, the fighting in Syria and Egypt, government spending and taxes, and who said this and who said that, but it really didn’t mean anything in the long run. Most news was shallow except for those poor people in Syria and Egypt. Lots of them were getting killed. Lots of them refugees.
And then the story came on. There had been a murder in Fairfax. There had been no sign of forced entry. Her husband was a person of interest. They showed a bad old picture of him. They didn’t tell how she died just that she was dead at the scene.
Later the police said Lyn had a gun in her hand, and they had the letter opener used to kill her. It looked like a domestic situation to all the defense and prosecuting attorney talking heads they interviewed on their split TV screen.
I started to cry. She was gone. I was on the run. The police and the black SUV people were in a race to see who could get me first. One would lock me up forever or maybe they would both kill me.
It took me a while to pull myself together. When I drove out of the parking lot, I saw only two other cars parked by rooms at the front. I took a side road, driving away from the main road to the next block. Then I turned so it was less likely anyone in the motel would see me. I didn’t want to drive during the day, but the night clerk might recognize my picture when he awoke and saw the TV.
Now I needed a disguise. I stopped at a rest stop and tried to peer into the trash cans without drawing attention. I needed at least a hat. I had sunglasses, but I might want to get some bigger ones. I wouldn’t be shaving for sure. Maybe I should color my hair. I needed clothes. On a picnic table way behind the back parking lot, I found a floppy short brimmed hat that was too small for me.
Getting out, walking, and finding the hat helped me feel a little better. I checked myself in a mirror and found if I cocked the hat back a little, then it didn’t look as small. But if I cocked it back too far, it showed too much of my face. This gave me a little confidence that I could go somewhere that had security cameras and not be too easily recognized.
The rest stop had a small gift shop. It had some highlight hair stuff I knew nothing about but thought it might help. I found a cowboy hat that actually fit me. I found a sweat suit that was close enough to my size. That stuff was pricey, but I was in no position to fuss about it. While I paid with my credit card, I got the largest cash advance they would let me have. Then I went to the bathroom and changed into the sweat suit and threw away the bloodstained slacks and shirt. I wanted to take more time to read the directions on the hair stuff, so didn’t want to use it yet. I was a real fashion statement with $500 shoes, a sweat suit, and a cowboy hat. I knew it would draw more attention than I wanted, but it was my best option. At least no one could tell who I was. They might remember the badly dressed man at the rest stop, but few would guess my identity.
When I walked out of the restroom, I saw a black SUV come flying off the interstate and into the parking lot. Seeing it sent a chill of fear up my spine. I turned around and walked out the back of the building, working my way to the car and staying out of their sight as much as I could. They were driving slowly now. The windows were so dark I couldn’t even see through the windshield let alone a side window. I guess that’s what made the SUV stand out. It was so very black and the windows were so dark it just looked menacing. They were neither the police nor my friends.
I got to the car without their seeing me and waited until I could tell where they would go. I was hoping they’d go to the back parking lot as I had done. Then the curve in the parking lot would hide me while I slipped out. When they slowly pulled toward the back, I was out of sight enough that I could pull out of my parking space and head to the exit without being seen. So I pulled out. I was not in a hurry, so if they saw me they would not be suspicious. I was about to pull on the entrance ramp back onto the interstate when I saw two patrol cars sail into the rest stop. Their lights flashed but no sirens blared.
The SUV backed into a parking space. I took off. Then it hit me. They all showed up within five to ten minutes at most from the time I used my credit card. While I was surprised the police could trace the transaction so quickly, now I was certain the black SUV people could too. They could respond faster than the police. Now I was really scared. These are the people who killed Rebecca. What in the world did they want with us…? With me? Except to kill me!
One thing I knew for sure. I couldn’t clear myself if I were locked up. And since they knew my car and were probably looking for it, I had to find another way to travel. Nothing would do me any good if those black SUV killers caught me. I wished I had an old four-door sedan or better, a station wagon or minivan. I needed stuff that wasn’t anything like me. Not
OK, I was traveling. Could I stop somewhere? No, not really. I hadn’t wanted to drive in the daytime, but now that I was, I wanted to put some miles behind me. I looked too much like the guy on TV who killed his wife. I just about started to cry and then pushed the emotion away. No, I wanted to live, and I wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself. So I’m a traveler for now. Not running, just traveling. Who did I think I was kidding?
Since I’d been an adult, I’d traveled well, staying in nice hotels and eating in nice restaurants. Some said I lived large. I couldn’t see it, but I didn’t care. Now I needed to be different and find different wheels. This car was going to get me killed. I needed to move on the cheap. Besides, I had no idea how long my money would hold out or how long they would leave my bank accounts alone and let me use the credit cards. For now, they probably would leave it alone, so they would have pointers to where I bought stuff and they could track me. But I knew it wouldn’t last forever.
I was driving slowly down I-95, staying in the right lane trying to stay hidden in a cluster of cars that were moving together. Then the left lane opened up, and a semi tractor and trailer nearly blew us all off the road. That was it. It was so different from me. I had never been in a semi before. No one would even think about my being in one of those.
OK, how could I talk someone into giving me a ride? It didn’t sound easy. I’ve never talked to a trucker before. Could I talk to one? How different were they? I had a college degree, and I bet few of them did. I shouldn’t mention higher education. But they probably were married or had been.
They might not think well of accountants, so I’d better not mention my occupation. I didn’t do tax work for the public, but I knew a lot about taxes as a CPA would. But to a trucker, a bookkeeper might be someone always harassing them about paperwork or taxes. They wouldn’t like someone who was always talking to them about how much money they owed. They probably didn’t like the one they had to talk to when their paycheck wasn’t right, especially if there was too much taken out. OK, I convinced myself bookkeeping would not be part of the conversation.