The chase was on. Last time I looked, I counted four men in blue running behind me. We’re on a train. How many more could there possibly be? They’re gonna try to corner me. It’s the only way to catch me. Unless I’m stupid enough to jump off this moving bullet, that is.
I glanced over my shoulder again. The fat one stopped briefly to lean against a seat, heaving as he worked to catch his breath. The man with the handlebar mustache pulled out his truncheon, tapping each and every chair by the aisle as he walked by, looking first left then right. Almost as if he expected me to have some hidden accomplice waiting to ambush him just after he passed. He looked ready to beat the hell out of me the first chance he got, too, but the lanky one with the deer-in-the-headlights look hung back behind the one with the baton, slightly unsure of himself. I figured he must’ve been new to the police force. Probably his first time seeing any real action. He wouldn’t know what to do if he caught me, though he also seemed like he could be overly zealous, too, if given a chance.
How I noticed all of that, I’ll never know. It’s like my mind was in hyperactive overdrive. Somehow every small detail of the big picture etched itself inside my brain. But I couldn’t think about what any of it meant for more than a second. The fourth man was nearly on my heels. He was young. Must’ve been an athlete because he was nimble as well as fast. His only goal seemed to be to tackle me. I managed to pick up my pace, but I wasn’t going to lose him like that. Through one car. Out the door. Into the next. Sooner or later, I’d run out of train and then what?
I ran through two more cars before risking one last backward glance, just in time to see the man on my heels bite the dust. Down he went, his entire body hitting the ground with such force I swear I could hear bones breaking as he landed on his wrists, whiplash causing his face to slam into the floor next. I’d have cringed more than I did if I’d had time, but it appeared that only the fat guy had any interest in helping his bloody-nosed buddy up off the floor before he became a sudden rug for the fifth cop I hadn’t noticed before.
That left three of them still on my trail. I had to think fast as I stepped out the next door, so, up the ladder, I went. I swear, my heart beat louder than the sudden clatter of metal against metal as we sped down the tracks. Or was that my heart making that awful clackety-clack sound? Chuga-chuga-chug. Chuga-chuga-chug. Chuga-Chuga-chug. I could feel the rhythm inside the pulse of my neck, my ears, and my temples. For a second, I thought maybe my head might explode from the pressure of my blood pumping so hard and fast. Not to mention, the world whizzing by made my eyes temporarily untrustworthy. I shook my head, willing the blur in both my eyes and mind to clear.
Oh shit! I hit the deck, almost realizing too late that the blurry black blob in the distance was the mouth of a tunnel. Okay, a moment to breathe. No one could follow me up here while I’m plastered to the roof. Scratch that. Breathing might be a bad idea. I was an inch or two away from being scalped, skinned alive, and then probably left for wolf food when my body rolled off in the next quick turn. Why am I suddenly feeling claustrophobic? And then just as suddenly, it was over. I scrambled to my feet.
“There he is!”
I heard someone shout those words and I looked back to see a man’s head coming up the ladder. I couldn’t see whose, but it didn’t matter. Just as quickly as the head appeared, it ducked back down the ladder. And I dropped my belly to the floor for yet another tunnel. Damn, these mountains. They twisted and turned too much.
What’re my options? Keep running and slamming to the ground every few minutes or less. Maybe the cops couldn’t keep their footing and one or all of them would fall off before they caught up to me. Hell, who’m I kidding? I could die that way just as easily. Of course, I could go back down into the train cars. Maybe hide. No. No, that won’t work either. Damn my luck. I shouldn’t even be here now. I didn’t commit the crime they think I did.
But that’s what happens when you trust a crooked liar. Come away with me, baby, he said. It’ll all be okay, baby, he said. We’ll change our identities and disguise ourselves. No one has the right to keep us apart. No one. Not ever. Except, falling in love with him was the worst thing I could’ve ever done. How was I to know he was a wanted serial killer? Huh, I’m only sixteen. How was I to know that? But I should’ve! Devilish good looks be damned. False promises be damned. I was just a scapegoat on the lam.
I was better off a homeless orphan. Before I met Jim, I had plans to leave the foster system. After all, it certainly wasn’t doing me any favors. But Jim promised me love, he promised me a future, and he promised me financial security. I craved all those things more than my better judgment, I guess. Consequences be damned, too. He made me dress like a man and get a haircut like a man. Oh my god, no time for regrets, girl. Get yourself together. Now! Or you will die. We’re talking about a fate worse than jail. Jim’s people are mobbish cult-like people. They are everywhere, including jail. As long as you’re alive, you’ll never be free. Not even in jail.
My whole body shook with the weight of it all. Maybe this was a fate worse than death. I could give up now. The cops think I murdered Jim in cold blood and his people are certain I did. I didn’t, though. In fact, it wasn’t me that murdered him at all. Still, I can’t say I’m sorry it happened. I am sorry, however, for watching from behind a closet door as Jim murdered the woman he’d just raped. Too bad her boyfriend came home and caught him literally red-handed. That was the end of Jim. Unfortunately, it was also the end of her boyfriend. He tried to kill me, too, when he realized I was there. It was probably an adrenaline and fear reaction on his part. On my part, it was definitely a mixture of the two. I had to defend myself. I hit him over the head with the heaviest object I could find in the closet. I don’t even know what it was, but it gave me time to run. I haven’t looked back since. Well, except to see the policemen bringing karma to my ass.
Karma is a funny thing, though. Maybe it was bestowed upon the right people, especially Jim. And me? I’m finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. The tunnel is widening. Room to wiggle at last. I grabbed hold of the rocks and hung on tight, the blood running down the gashes in my hands oddly comforting. I kicked my feet up to hold on as well. An upside-down crouch. As soon as the end of the train sped under my ass, I’ll get down and run.