It was raining so hard that the determined droplets of water felt more like tiny stones being thrown from a heaven that I was doubtful even existed anymore. How could it? All that I had held as sacred and true was gone…forever.
I wasn’t sure how long I had been trudging up Cowell’s Lane, nor did I really care. Forever might have already come and gone, but I continued to drag myself forward with zombie-like precision. An eventual end would find me, preferably at the edge of a cliff. There was a poetic irony to the storm clouds that covered the light of the late summer moon and had I possessed an ounce of humanity as I fumbled my way through the darkness, I would have laughed at the poem.
Any familiarity I might have had for this route meant very little as I awkwardly stumbled into every water-filled crater of the old dirt road. Praying with each awkward step that the night would find day before I was lost to this darkness forever. Praying to a God that I hated. That I deplored for His blind eye and false promise. Nonetheless, hating in the darkness offered my mind much needed companionship.
A small glimpse of the moon’s illumination would have been a welcome release, but the abrasive light of a car’s high beams only burned my eyes. Wildly bobbing up and down on the pot-holed road, it was coming right at me with reckless intention. I almost didn’t move. I really didn’t want to… but I suppose the natural instinct for survival took over, and before I knew what had happened, I was face down on the side of the road, just before the first row of the mature cornfield. The sliding sound of tires on wet dirt was all it took to snap me out of my trance and bring me back around to the heart stopping fear my mind had successfully removed as I fled. They had found me.
Too scared to breathe, I let my face fall completely into the murky water of the irrigation ditch. The taste of mud and stagnant water threw my gag reflexes into overdrive as my mouth began to fill, making it painful to hold back a natural need to cough. The trench was no more than two-feet deep, hardly enough cover for even this dark night, but it was all I had. The car came to a final stop about twenty feet up the road although the engine still rumbled loudly, echoing through the miles of abandoned farmers fields. Footsteps followed and the growing sound of crunching dirt that came with every deliberate step threw me further into a paralysis that only true catatonia could induce.
“You sure you saw her?” A man spoke first. His voice was gruff, like someone who had smoked for too many years.
“Yeah, I’m sure. Keep lookin’.” This time it was a woman. She sounded cool, almost sultry. They didn’t speak with our southern accent, which oddly made me that much more uncomfortable
“She could be anywhere, Lorna. Maybe we should head back and grab the others.”
“NO!” The woman barked back. “I’m not going back without her. Go tell Frank to bring the car around. We can use the headlights.”
“Sure thing.” I could just about hear the man turn and pick up speed as he headed away from where we were. I was grateful that they hadn’t seen me beneath the flow of water just to their right, but that cover would be no match for the headlights of a car. I had to get away and fast if I was going to escape at all.
The driver had begun his navigation of the narrow lane, turning, reversing and repeating. It would take a car of that size a few attempts to maneuver around, so I had no choice but to make my move while I could still rely on the blanket of darkness to cloak me. There was a very good chance that the woman would be looking toward the beam of light that the headlights were throwing out over the cornfield and not the pitch black ditch I was being swallowed by, so I raised my head just enough to draw in a deep breath of air before allowing the rest of my body to follow.
The engine was loud, made even louder by the revving, so I would have the advantage of not only darkness, but also a cover for any noise I might make. I quietly and cautiously pulled myself from the stream of dirty water, clambering to my feet and pausing as I positioned myself into a squat that a sprinter would hover in just before the gun was fired. There might not have been direct light on me, but there was still a chance that any of them might catch a glimpse of the changing shape within the black night so I didn’t wait. With a quick glance over my left shoulder I could see the slight outline of a woman, and the position of the car, now almost completely turned around. One or two more forward and back movements and the driver would have his high beams directly on me, so I leapt. It was a small jump to the top of the ditch and maybe ten feet to the cornfield. The heavy rain and the car’s engine would have probably covered the sound of my movement, but for the loose rock that gave way as I scrambled to high ground. My reaction to the searing pain—as my left knee fell onto the jagged stone—was immediate and regrettable. I screamed.
“Smitty! Quick! She’s over here.” The woman hollered over to the others as I continued to pull myself up with ferocity. I don’t think it took me more than two strides to close the distance between the road and the welcome cover of the cornfield. I knew my knee was bleeding badly because there was a warmth to the moisture that had joined the rain, running down my shin.
“Hurry.” She continued to scream. The car was free, and rumbling closer with every step I took. My desperation to escape almost paralyzed me, but adrenalin founds its way back, kicking me to run faster. Running because you have nothing left to go back to changes everything, coupled with intense fear and one might be unstoppable. Time had no place now. I just ran.
This was like a dream; a nightmare and I couldn’t wake up. No, it was more like the morning after a nightmare when it takes you a few minutes to convince yourself it was only a dream and that none of it was real. I was trying to convince myself that none of it was real, but I couldn’t. My mind wouldn’t allow me forget what I had seen and I doubted it ever would. When I had woken up early that morning, it was just like any other early September morning…. full of promise. I was happy and ready for the beginning of my final week of last minute wedding planning. There was nothing I had wanted more than to marry him, the man I had loved since high school. We had endured the torture of being separated during a war that seemed to take most of our friends. Beautiful souls, lost. The wait was impossible, but I waited nonetheless. Inspired by the dream of our future, if only God would see His way to protect and guide him home to me. The very night he arrived back—to a hero’s welcome no less—was the night he proposed. He didn’t even have a ring yet, but I didn’t care. I would have been happy with a roughly cut strip of tin as long as he was the one to put it on my finger. It was all so perfect. Maybe it was too perfect.
Much like my trek up Cowell’s Lane, I had no idea how long I had been running for. Too scared to stop and catch my breath, yet knowing that the final plea from my lungs had just been sent. I had no choice now but to slow my pace if only to keep from collapsing. I moved along less furiously, but I still moved. The rain had begun to ease and the sky overhead was breaking up with the first hint of dawn.
The swaying green giant’s all fought over which one would be the next to reach out their arm and pull me off the uncertain path I was treading. With each additional step into my jungle prison, I struggled to convince myself that every new shadow coming to life with the rising sun wasn’t one of my pursuers waiting for a chance to offer me an unceremonious end. I knew that my ultimate destiny would eventually be found beneath the heavy hammer of finality but how I met that end… well, I wasn’t inclined to consider many options.
There was a faint trail of smoke making its way into the sky just beyond where I stood, likely from the chimney of one of the remote farmhouses that were scattered across these plains. I was out of options, tired and cold, so decided to take my chances and ran once again. Freedom and safety appeared to be getting closer with each thunderous step I took. There was more light coming through the wall of green that had been surrounding me for hours, which prompted me to slow my pace to a pensive walk. The brighter it became, the slower I stepped until there was only one row of corn separating me from my sanctuary. I drew in a deep breath and finally pushed through the last step of my earthly confinement.
This couldn’t be. It just couldn’t. Frozen with shock, brought on by seeing the car I had just escaped. The headlights still burned their way into the bright morning light. Five men and one woman were scattered around the green lawn of the old farmhouse, all pointing guns directly at me. This was it and every fiber of my being knew it.
“You silly girl. You really thought that running would do you any good?” The woman asked. I was right, she really did have a style and beauty that matched the cool voice I had heard echoing in the dark. Well dressed and clearly the one running the show, it was difficult not to be intimidated.
“Yeah, well you can’t blame a girl for trying.” I replied as dismissively as I could, considering just how many guns were on me.
“I can and will blame you, Cissy. What I would like to do is let my boys here take care of you the way you deserve, but I’m nothing if not civilized.” She sneered as she began to stroll towards me. I shifted my eyes from the men, back to her and then over to the farmhouse. Where was the farmer? Hiding, or locked away? She stopped when she was less than a foot from me and reached out to gruffly grab my arm.
“Cissy Ferguson, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law. Do you understand these rights?” She spat the words at me, turning me roughly and tightening the handcuffs well beyond the point of even slight comfort.
“Yeah. I got it.” Is all I said. She pushed me firmly towards the car, and into the back seat. My head caught the edge of the door as I fell into my seat, surprisingly relieved that it was over. Looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life would not have been a life. Funny, now that the chase was over, before it really began, I was ready.
The blood, which covered my blouse, was completely hidden by dried on mud. His blood. I pulled the trigger on any chance of joy my life might have known, even if it was going to have to be without him. I never understood how rage and jealously could prompt anyone to do such things, but here I was, locked in the back of a car, now one of those people who would be paraded over every newspaper for at least a week of sensationalist reporting. “Girl kills finance and her best friend after learning of their betrayal.”