Chapter Four

The nightmare was finally over. It would be impossible to ever portray the literal hell that I had just gone through. I had been through a battle. A battle against weather, hunger, dehydration, briars, Angola guards, bloodhounds, helicopters, rattlesnakes, mosquitoes, fire ants, loneliness, and fear. It was finally over. I had won, and it felt great to be home. I thanked the kind lady for the ride.

No one was home, and the house was locked. I went around back and climbed in through an unlocked window. My first stop was the refrigerator. Food! Real food! Leftover barbecued chicken. It was great, simply delicious! I poured a glass of milk. It was the first drink that I had taken from a glass in two months; necessity had become luxury -oh yes, the conveniences of home.

I walked into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror for the first time in months. I stared at a morbid man in that mirror. I looked awful. I had a long harsh beard and long ratty hair.

My eyes were drawn back deep into my skull. I looked like a skeleton. My face and arms were scarred from running through blackjack vines and briars. Briars were still lodged in my face and hands. I was filthy. My hands and teeth were stained from the berries. My lips, tongue, and hands were literally blue. My appearance was bad, but I had survived it. I was alive.

I took a bath, the first soap and shampoo bath that I had taken in 56 days. It was almost as good as that barbecued chicken, maybe better. I brushed my teeth. My lips and hands were still stained, but I was clean.

I searched the house and found a fresh set of clothes. They were very loose fitting; I was really thin. I also found a pair of Indian moccasins. I put them on. They fit well and were quiet. I wanted to be as quiet as possible; I was still plenty scared. I found a $100 bill in my mother’s dresser and took it. I found a bottle of vodka in the kitchen and fixed a drink to calm me. I was completely nervous; the adrenaline had been flowing since early morning when I first came out of the woods. That drink calmed me a little, so I mixed another one. I wanted to get high. I searched the house again. I thought that my mother might have a joint stashed somewhere. I couldn’t find one. I mixed another drink. Where can I get a joint?

I continued to drink. Surely there must be some weed in this house. But where? And then it dawned on me. The attic. I stored pounds and pounds of marijuana in the attic during high school, certainly there would be some up there. I searched the attic, and sure enough, I was able to scrape up enough dope for a couple of joints. I got high.

I contemplated my next move. I should probably take the vodka and hit the woods again. No, my body is much too weak. I need to get out of town! I have the money I stole I could take the bus. Wait. Someone is at the door. It was my mother. She walked into the kitchen.

“Hey!”

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” She was startled.

“Mom, it’s me. Ricky!”

“Well, I’m glad you told me. Ricky, you look awful! Where have you been? How did you get in this house?”

I did look awful. I was high, drunk, scared, and weak. My mother was terribly afraid of me. The word around town was that I was armed and dangerous. I could look at her and tell that she was afraid.

“ I told you not to come here.”

“Mom, I need your help. I’ve got to get out of here.”

“Why me, Lord?’’

“Mom, you’ve got to help me.”

She didn’t have a choice. She had to help me; she had to get me out of her house. We began discussing my options. She suggested that I go to Seattle, Washington. Her sister lived there. We started making plans: she would drive me to another town and put me on a bus. It was all set. We would leave at dark.

As we sat talking, my mother’s boyfriend walked in. George was not my favorite person. In fact, I couldn’t stand him. He didn’t like me very much either. I had beaten him up on several occasions. He would never take my Dad’s place. George had learned not to mess with me.

“Oh my God! Ricky? Is that you?”

“Of course it’s me. Now shut your mouth! I don’t want to hear a word out of you.”

George was plenty scared! I heard that my picture was on flyers posted all around town. My name was the current news “Ricky Sinclair, armed

and dangerous.” George was afraid. My mother was afraid. They wanted me out of their house.

I never had a killing instinct in my whole life. I thank God for that. If I had one, it would have surfaced then. I felt like a hunted animal. My own family was afraid of me. It was truly me against the world. I couldn’t even trust my own family. I wasn’t armed, except for that old cat food can top. I wasn’t dangerous to the point of killing, but I was desperate.

George soon ran out of cigarettes. He told my mother that he was going to run to the store and get another pack.

“No!” I exclaimed. “No one leaves this house until I’m out of town.”

George pleaded, “Please Ricky. I really need some cigarettes.”

For some reason-I’m not sure why-I decided to let him go.

“OK! To the store and right back. Five minutes. Do you understand?”

“Yeah! Thanks Ricky.”

He was gone for what seemed to be an eter- nity. The minutes ticked by. I knew I shouldn’t

have trusted him. What was he doing?

Finally, after about 30 minutes, he returned. And right behind him, a swat team. No, it couldn’t be. I had been through so much. I was almost free! But there they were, squad cars screaming in, with George right up front. Within seconds the house was completely surrounded. I could see them from every window: men in camouflage with M16 rifles, men with shotguns, state police, local police, and George. Did George rat on me? Who cares? It doesn’t matter now. What can I do to escape?

They yelled with a megaphone, “OK! We know you’re in there! We’ve got you surrounded! Come out with your hands up!”

I ran through the house. Where can I hide? They’ll be crashing through the door any minute! I tried to climb into the dryer. I was too large. Where? I ran into the hall, reached up, pulled the attic door down, and then yelled at my mother.

“Close this door behind me!”

She did. The attic was dark. I crawled over to a corner and hid. The police crashed through the front door. The search was on.

“We know you’re in here! We’ll find you!”

They searched the house for about 20 minutes. They knew I was there. Finally, from the hall, one of them yelled, “Up there!”

My luck had just run out. I was terrified. The attic door opened, and the light from the hall began shining into the darkness. Then came the sound of that brave cop on those steps. It must have taken plenty of guts to climb into that dark attic to get me. He knew that I was up there. What if I had a gun? He didn’t know that I was un- armed. That’s guts. Within minutes his flashlight was shining in my face.

“I see you! Come on out. Don’t try anything foolish!”

He handcuffed me. I was at the end of my rope. They were very upset with me, and with good reason; I had really put them through it.

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