"If we don't grab this Maclay chick, the sheriff'll hit the roof," the younger deputy muttered as they pulled their squad car in front of the rural diner.
"Relax," the sergeant said. "We'll get 'er. Did they say what they want her for?"
"Naw. Who cares?" The two deputies got out and stepped into the diner. It was fairly typical: a counter with stools in front, a few booths, the smell of frying grease and burning coffee, a matronly waitress scooting around obstacles, human and otherwise, to serve the three or four customers. A small TV bolted to an overhead rack was blaring the usual banal garbage to the patrons. A old pinball machine reposed next to the door.
Almost at once, the sergeant spotted their quarry: a young blond woman, medium build although a bit on the thin side (nice rack, though, the young deputy thought with a leer), wearing a denim jacket that had seen better days, and a pair of jeans and sneakers likewise. A scuffed vinyl duffel bag reposed on the stool next to where she sat, polishing off a platter of ham and eggs, mopping up the last of the egg with a hunk of toast as if knowing this might be the last meal she might enjoy for a while.
The waitress stepped in front of them, momentarily blocking the deputies' view of the Maclay girl. "Can I get you boys anything?"
"No, thanks, ma'm."
Tara spotted the deputies as soon as they came into the diner. Her heart sank, but she was determined not to let her stop eating. It had been a few days since she had eaten as hearty a meal as this; she kept her eyes on the TV and her hands on the counter.
A dog food commercial came on. Tara thought she recognized the blonde actress even before the announcer said, "So, ask Buffy Summers what makes her puppy go WHOOPSIE-DAISY" as the dog jumped into her arms. "Dog tummies love Dog Yummies," intoned the jingle singers, before the waitress snapped the box off.
Hell, maybe they weren't here for her; they could have stopped to have a cup of coffee -- which they just said they didn't want, as she just heard them say, and even out of the corner of her eye she could see them camped out by the door. Sighing heavily, Tara resolved to end this one way or the other. Dropping a bill by her plate and not waiting for the change that she could actually use, not swimming in cash as she was, she picked up her duffel bag and headed to the door.
The sergeant neatly intercepted her. "Good morning, miss." All professional courtesy. Not good. The younger one had circled behind her.
"Good morning," Tara replied, flashing her best smile.
With barely a change of expression, the sergeant rushed her, grabbing her arms and forcing her against the pinball machine. The deputy yanked the duffel bag off her shoulder and plunked it down on the table of an empty booth.
"Tara Maclay," the sergeant intoned, as he handcuffed her wrists together in front of her. The other deputy started going through her bag, looking for God knew what. "You're under arrest. You have the right to remain--"
That was as far as he got before Tara's elbow, fueled by calories, fear and bad experience, slammed into his diaphragm, temporarily robbing him of the ability to breathe. Her clenched fists slammed into the side of his head less than a second later.
The young deputy had been distracted by his search through Tara's stuff, so it took him half a second to realize that the situation was rapidly spiraling out of hand. "Hold it!" he screeched, clawing for his sidearm. Before he could draw it, however, Tara had already launched her right foot straight to his family jewels. All thoughts of training and duty went out of his head as his nervous system turned to hot sludge.
She thought of going for her bag, but it was on the far side of the deputy, who was still standing, albeit unsteadily. Plus, the sergeant, kneeling by the door, was already recovering. Evade! her mind screamed. With scarcely a glance back at her collection of possessions, Tara ran for the kitchen, and the back door. She had already burst through it by the time the other patrons, and the cook, had the presence of mind to follow her.
She emerged into a backyard, with clotheslines off to the right, where washed tablecloths and aprons hung to dry. She ducked underneath them at a dead run, thinking Cover! Cover! Behind her, she could hear the shouts of the deputies, expecting bullets to whistle by her.
Tara ran through trees at the edge of the lot. Not slowing a wit, she leaped over a low fence and rolled down a small hill where livestock mooed in alarm at their unexpected visitor. Getting up with a little tricky with her hands cuffed, but she was soon running again, into a thicker corpse of woods, dodging branches as best she could, trying not to leave an obvious trail.
Rolling down another small hill, she managed to land on her feet...and ran smack into two telephone lineman making repairs, one atop a pole, the other just hitting the ground. She tried to dodge around them, but the second one moved in front of her, while the one up top called out, "Hey, you cops! She's over here!"
Great. Civilians doing their civic duty.
The lineman growled menacingly at her. "Now just stand there like a good girl, okay? Don't try anything; I give you fair warning, I was a Marine in Korea."
"Really?" Tara replied brightly. "So was my dad!" And without a second's delay, she grabbed the lineman's shirt, threw herself backward, and planted her foot in his gut. Surprised, he flew right over her. Tara kept hold of him, and let his momentum carry her over so that he was on his back, with her squarely on top of him. A quick jab to his throat, followed by a double-fist to his jaw, and he was effectively out of the fight.
Tara glared at the other lineman, who had been coming down to help, now scrambling up to the top of the pole as if his butt caught fire. Looking quickly around, she spotted a tool bag. Grabbing it, she ran off, ignoring the other lineman crying out for the cops.
Minutes later, she rifled through the bag, pulling out a pair of bolt cutters that, at that moment, might have come from the gods. Setting it on a nearby stump, she placed the chain of her handcuffs in the jaws of the bolt cutters. Balancing carefully, using her weight to close the handles, Tara snapped the chain binding her wrists...and was free.
Tara kept to the wooded areas for a while, listening for signs of pursuit. So far, nothing. Her heart lightened momentarily, having given the police the slip, until she realized that she was still a wanted fugitive, now having added Assaulting Peace Officers and Resisting Arrest to her resume. Plus, she left her bag behind, with all the clothes she owned except for the ones of her back. She had a little money in her pocket, but not enough to sustain her for long, nor very many prospects of earning any more, at least legally.
With a conscious effort, she pushed such thoughts out of her mind, as she moved out of the woods to a small road, which led to a bridge over a river. Tara planned to hitch a ride to the next town, conscious that she was more visible, and vulnerable, on an open road. She didn't see many other options however.
She was halfway across the bridge when she heard a car roll onto the wooden boards behind her. She turned, dreading to see a police car, but please to see--
The car looked really old. No, not old, it was in good condition, but the style of car was way out of date. It looked like something from an old black-and-white movie; Jimmy Cagney should be riding shotgun, blazing away with a Tommy gun and yelling "Top'a the world, Ma!" or something like that.
Tara stuck out her thumb. The car went on by, hardly slowing down. Tara barely had time to be disappointed when the car stopped, about a quarter of the way from the other side of the river. Gleefully, she trotted up to the car and opened the passenger door.
"Thanks, I didn't think you saw me," she said gratefully. She barely had time to register that the driver was a young blond woman, about her height, when she was shoved toward the still open door.
"What the hell are you doing?" the driver screeched at her, shoving and kicking Tara out the door. Tara fell to the wooden slats, surprised. If she didn't want me in the car, why'd she stop? she wondered, not having the time or the breath to ask.
The car roared off, the suddenly-closing door almost clipping Tara's head in the process. The antique auto raced across to the embankment, then spun around, and heading back onto the bridge...heading directly for Tara. Now what? Tara thought with mounting alarm. It sure as hell looked like the loony was heading right for her. There seemed no reason for it, but Tara was not inclined at that moment to be calm and rational.
The gooks've spotted us! Squad down! her mind screamed, in the voice of a long-dead corporal. She could still remember his young face as his lungs were blown out his back...
She shook her head. Now was not the time for a flashback. Viet Nam was several years in the past, and she had to deal with the here and now. She looked around, considering her options. Her eye felt on a couple of discarded bolts near the side of the wooden slats. With the car bearing down on her, she had little time to think of anything more clever.
Throwing back her arm, Tara let the bolt fly towards the windshield, then dived to her right, grabbing onto a support girder. She almost missed it, which would have precipitated a forty-foot fall to the water below. As it was, she had to scramble for a foothold, taking her eyes off the car for a few seconds.
By the time she was back safely on the bridge, Tara could not see any sign of the car. It couldn't have gone away that quick, she thought. Did it go over... She didn't remember hearing a splash, but then she had been rather busy avoiding a swim of her own. She walked over to the other edge and looked down at the water. Sure enough, there was an expanding circle of foam and a small trail of bubbles.
Oh no. Her heart sank again, and blood pounded in her ears. I didn't mean...I was just trying to keep from getting killed...again. Tara was so preoccupied that she missed the thrumming of the helicopter until it was right on top of her.
Startled, she stepped back. The helicopter hovered less than five yards away, over the site where the car had gone into the river. The pilot and most of the others in the chopper were looking towards the water, except...
There was a young woman in the chopper, right next to a -- for a second she thought the strange contraption to be some kind of machine gun, but after a few seconds she recognized it as a movie camera. The woman had short red hair and piercing green eyes. Eyes that stared at Tara in confusion, puzzlement and a host of other things Tara could not know.
Fascinated, but frightened, Tara turned and ran from those eyes as fast as she could.