I pulled back onto the two-lane black top, quickly bringing the big Harley engine up to speed. Jenna followed in the Buick close behind. It was a pretty nice out for one a.m. in mid-September; cool enough to keep the bugs down, but warm enough to not feel the chill in my leather coat, goggles, and riding gloves. I was cruising about seventy, thinking about how much I loved riding and how free I felt, as we came up on the town of Barnsdall. It was so small and quiet that I didn’t even see the dim lights of the little hamlet until I was almost in it.
My first feeling was of relief. Alright motel and gas, but as we wound our way into town and the highway turned into Main Street, it was obvious that the little community closed up shop when the sun went down. I didn’t see a soul, or any lights on, other than a few glowing street lamps most of the way through town. We had passed a couple of service stations, but they were as dark as the rest of the businesses and I didn’t see any signs of a motel anywhere.
The main street ended in a ‘T’. To my surprise, across the road on a fairly well-lit, derelict parking lot was twelve or thirteen high-school-age kids. They were just hanging out, partying, sitting on the parked cars and folded-down tailgates of their pick-up trucks. The complete contrast to the rest of the town caught me a little off guard. When I turned the corner, I steered over to the parking lot to ask directions from one of the youngsters. I got all the way around the curve and was pulling over when I spotted the brown and white county sheriff’s car sitting in the shadows across the street. He was, apparently, keeping an eye on the youthful get-together. I tried to ignore it and act as though I had no concerns whether there was a cop watching or not. When I stopped to ask one of the teens if there was a motel or open gas station in town, Jenna pulled the car up beside me.
The youngster indicated that there wasn’t anything available at that time of night. He pulled his John Deere hat off and ran his fingers back through his blond hair while he was thinking. “There might be an open motel in Pawhuska, ten miles on down the road,” he said. Then, spitting a brown stream of tobacco juice on the curb, the kid went on to tell me that would be the closest gas station, as well.
Thanking him, I asked Jenna what her gas gauge read. Worry drew her brows together and she replied that the needle was now hitting the little post that held it. “We’ll make it,” I assured her. Without looking over at the cop, I warned: “Drive very carefully.” Then I pulled back out into the road.
Honestly, I wasn’t that nervous. I’m a good rider and the way we stopped and asked directions should have just made us look like late night travelers. Besides, after riding so far with the cool breeze in my face, I was as clear headed as I could be under the circumstances. However, I stayed extra alert and was careful as I rode to the stop sign at the next inter-section. Under the red octagon was also a road sign pointing motorists towards Pawhuska. I stopped, hit my blinkers and pulled out smoothly heading down the highway with the borough ending as abruptly as it began.
I cranked my bike up to the highway’s speed limit, quickly putting some space between myself and that county cruiser back in that parking lot. I checked my mirror to see that Jenna wasn’t having any problems either. She was a hundred yards behind and I watched her pick up speed leaving the town. All of a sudden, the sheriff’s car appeared behind her and hit his red and blue lights. My heart took a jolt. I can’t describe the feelings that those damned lights send through a person, especially if you are bound for jail.
Thinking that they were pulling her over and knowing that she was riding dirty, I cranked my throttle all the way back and shot off like a rocket, trying to draw the cop’s attention. He immediately abandoned Jenna and came after me. Most Harley’s aren’t really built for speed. The low gear ratio did allow me to accelerate from sixty to a hundred miles per hour almost instantly. However, only having five gears impeded any hopes for speed over one-twenty or so, in spite of the 1450 c.c.m. engine. It wasn’t long and the county car was right behind me, even coming up beside me now and then.
I pulled the gun from my waist band and was considering shooting one of the tires of the cruiser when I saw a frightened female face staring out at me from the passenger window. A male cop was clearly in the driver’s seat, but the female passenger was dressed as a civilian. I realized at the speeds we were going, a tire blowing out could be fatal to the occupants of the car. Determined not to be taken, but unsure of what to do, I stuck the pistol under my leg and focused on losing the officer on the winding and hilly two-lane, rural highway.
A hundred and twenty miles an hour in the dark, takes up most, if not all, of your attention. My heart was racing just as fast as the pistons in the v-twin. The black ribbon of road was rolling up under me so fast that the yellow dashed lines appeared solid, while the air I was blasting through stretched the skin of my face into a mask of pure concentration and threatened to blow me off the back of my bike. My universe was cut down to the flashing lights in my rear-view mirrors and only reached ahead of me as far as the arch of my headlight beam. I was vaguely aware of the dark, blurry shapes of trees, fences and the occasional turn off that led into the sable velvet of the night. The world flashed by like a fast-moving, video-race game after you’ve hit the nitrous button. The moon was out, but just enough to give off a soft glow that added to the affect.
I had gained a little ground on the cop behind me, but I knew, unless I did something drastic, that I would not be able to outpace him enough to lose him. My mind was desperately grasping for ideas. I crested a hill and ‘in the blink of an eye’, I spotted at the bottom a dirt road that led off to the north. I jammed my right foot down on my rear brake and squeezed my front hand brake with all of my grip; effectively locking up the wheels of the big bike.
My reasoning for wanting to take to a dirt road was born out of sheer desperation. It occurred to me that even though I would have to slow down myself, I may be able to kick up enough dirt and dust that my pursuer’s vision would be impaired to the point where he would have to slow down even more than me. Not to mention, if it didn’t end well for me, I would be off of the main road and away from where Jenna would have to witness it.
All that streaked across my mind, and my decision was made. My body reacted within a millisecond of my glimpsing the turn-off. My wheels locked up. I slid a good forty or fifty feet down the hill, trying to decelerate enough to make the turn. It was very close, but I was just going too fast as I topped the hill. I skidded right on past the mouth of the dirt artery and into the dew-covered grass of a bar ditch.
I could hear the cop slamming on his brakes behind me, trying to slow down too. Now in the ditch, I abandoned braking and tried to throttle my way back up onto the highway; fishtailing back and forth in the muddy grass. When I’d almost reached the shoulder of the road again, I hit a soft patch of soil and my front wheel went out from under me. I’m not sure how fast I was going at that point, but it propelled me over the handlebars and onto the grassy shoulder of the highway. I rolled a couple of times and landed on a knee. There was no time to wonder if I was hurt or not. My mind was focused on the screeching of the officer’s tires as he was sliding to a stop behind my wrecked motorcycle…
Where the fuck was my gun?
I assumed it had come with me as I arched through the air. Not wanting to leave it behind, I frantically drug my hands through the grass trying to locate it; giving the deputy time to exit the cruiser and throw down on me with his sidearm.
“Stop! Put your hands in the air!” he yelled. The stocky, dark-headed officer was aiming his pistol at me in a two-fisted stance from behind the protection of his open squad car door.
Realizing that the search for my firearm was futile, I finally acknowledged the frightened sheriff, who was continually and alternately ordering me to: “Freeze!”, “Stop!” or “Get on the ground!” He claimed later that I reached into my leather coat like I was reaching for a gun. I don’t remember all that. What I do remember was thinking about what I had told Jenna just the night before. Standing there facing that scared, shaking, officer; the type most likely to kill you, in my opinion – and his gun, I realized how much I’d meant what I had said to her. This officer probably was going to shoot me, but that was the only way he was going to stop me. I braced myself for it. I’ve said before, I turn a little kamikaze when my back is up against the wall and God has watched out for me more times than I can count.
I raised my hands, but kept moving across the road to the south. Frustrated, the mounty continued yelling orders at me; informing me of his intent to fire if I didn’t comply. I grimaced as I ignored them and kept moving, daring him to pull the trigger, expecting the impact of his bullets at any moment. When they didn’t come, I turned and ran through the other bar ditch I’d been approaching. As I dived over the barbed wire fence, I tucked and rolled back to my feet and within three steps I was enveloped by the welcoming blanket of the night.
Three more steps – and the earth disappeared from underneath me…
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