The Writers Voice
About the Book:
Man's Laughter: Anatomy of a Manhunt: A Novel of Betrayal and Brutality Richard Lee Fulgham In 1976 a man driving a sports car was stopped by a Georgia State Trooper at three in the morning on an old highway between Atlanta and Columbus. The trooper was shot dead and the driver fled on foot into the Great Pine Woods. A few hours later a manhunt was launched. A manhunt—that most terrifying of adventures for both the hunters and the pursued. This is the story of the man who fled the scene so boldly and so foolishly, the manhunt with its clockwork precision, and the men who took weapons into the forest when the prey was finally at bay. It is necessarily an appalling story told in ghastly detail and intimate horror—because it was a manhunt. It is necessarily vicious and bloody—because it is true. I know. I was there.— Richard Lee Fulgham ISBN: 1-4137-1734-9, 139 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 (PA: AHBC, 2004)
Ex-police photographer. BA from U. of GA. MA from U. of KY.
Spent Vietnam era onboard USS RALEIGH LPD-1 as ship's photographer. Work
history: snake keeper at Atlanta Zoo; Forest Towerman; common laborer; police
photographer, factory worker, freelance magazine writer (sold dozens of articles
to national "slick" magazines e.g. "Sports Afield"), journalist/photogrpaher for
county newspaper in SW VA; author "Appalachian Genesis", "LION: Nietzsche Contra
Christ" and "The Embracing Woods" via traditional presses. One
PublishAmerica novel entitled: "Man's Laughter: Anatomy of a Manhunt" (I
know this is not a real credit, but they did a very professional job for me.
I have no complaints against them.) For a living, I am now a paraeducator
at a school for handicapped children - building up good kharma, you know.
I also created and run an online bookstore & publishing company at
SAMPLE TWO CHAPTERS
In 1976 a man driving a sports car was stopped by a Georgia State Trooper at three in the morning on an old highway between Atlanta and Columbus. The trooper was shot dead and the driver fled on foot into the Great Pine Woods. A few hours later a manhunt was launched. A manhunt—that most terrifying of adventures for both the hunters and the pursued. This is the story of the man who fled the scene so boldly and so foolishly, the manhunt with its clockwork precision, and the men who took weapons into the forest when the prey was finally at bay. It is necessarily an appalling story told in ghastly detail and intimate horror—because it was a manhunt. It is necessarily vicious and bloody—because it is true. I know. I was there. — Richard Lee Fulgham
Cruising at eighty . . . it's a black Georgia morning and I'm going to make it . . . Atlanta only an hour now . . . I'll get there. The Sprite, the bug-eyed Sprite, Robinson said it'd do eighty . . . never have believed that. Car's twenty years old. I was twelve when it was new, all green and dashing, people letting its top down, then back up, sticking in the plastic windows and pulling them out again. Godda Mighty, an Austin Healey! The Sprite, the bug-eyed Sprite, every horny freshman's dream. I wonder who's more wasted now, me or the car?
One thing for certain, I'll make it to Atlanta, I'll collect, I'll keep the Sprite. It's risky, this kind of trick, but at my age you got to take the chances, big chances . . . or you're dead, done, washed up . . . you got the chances to take and you take them, that's what life is about. But there's little to fear at 2 a.m. I just keep cruising on and on, deeper into the midnight road, humming, thinking, tapping my foot to a tune . . . a tune, so strange, coming back to me after twenty years . . . "It is the evening of the dead . . . ."
I shake my head. No use thinking about death! Who wrote that song anyway? The Stones? Yeah . . . the Stones. What else they do? Oh yeah . . . "Hey! You! Offa my cloud!" If I'm going to sing to myself, might as be something appropriate. It's true enough . . . other people climbing on my cloud all the time . . . day in., day out, never any peace, do this, do that, you got to eat, you got to sleep, you got to drive, drive, drive, Man, I want them -- every mother's son -- to get offa my cloud. That's why I take these jobs. Nobody on my ass, chewing me out, waiting for me to screw up.
A little taste of danger, but so what? I'm caught, what are they going to do? Execute me? Shove me in prison? Nah . . . probation maybe, sixty days at most. But don' think about that, Jackson, just keep on driving. I don't like this cold lump between my legs, but the Sprite's glove compartment . . . it's way too small. I should have brought the Browning 25 instead of this canon.
A car coming . . . you never know . . . I brake a bit, bring her down to 75, to 70, to 65, 60, 55, 45 . . . there, even if it's the law, they won't bother, they won't notice. Should have left the top up. Looks too suspicious. Nothing warm about a Georgia December. But I'll tell you, there's something wrong with my metabolism, I burn too hot, I sweat all the time. Nerves maybe, I don't know. Can't stand the heat. Slightest warm spell and I'm collapsing! Can't get too cold for me . . . I always keep the top down, even when it's cold, like tonight, when it's sleeting, pellets of hail, needles of ice. I like it. Makes my lungs open up. I can breathe, but it looks weird, especially to cops. And I look weird, too . . . hair flying, mouth gasping for air, eyes watering, huddled up in the open cockpit of the Sprite.
It's them all right. The cops . . . they stare at me as I pass so slow, so nice, smiling at them, nodding. "Good morning, sir!" Goddamn it . . . sure enough, they're turning around . . . coming back . . . a hassle . . . Jesus, the sweat! I'm sweating again! Drenched.
State Troopers, nothing better to do. Let's scare that jerk in the sports car. Oh ho ho! Real funny. But I'll tell you, it's no laughing matter. Not with my cargo. My 500 White Horses, My 3000 Yellow Jackets. My heroin. My speed.
They're right up on my bumper, kissing my ass, trying to scare me . . . I speed up to 60, 65 . . . don't want them thinking I'm drunk and afraid. Pretend to be normal, that's my motto. But Christ, the sweat! Pouring off my face! Hard to play it cool with my nervous system snarled up like this. Think I caught Malaria in Jamaica. Or maybe the Jungle Clap. Something, that's for sure. Every time . . . the slightest worry and I'm soaked through.
The Troopers stick with me, checking me out first, trying to make me run, enjoying the chase . . . they'd better hope they don't catch this scorpion, they don't know . . . I'm carrying a sting . . . I'm venomous. Hard to be cool with my brain on fire. My hot cargo. Robinson told me not to worry, probation, maybe sixty days. But really! 500 White Horses, enough to turn on downtown Atlanta . . . if I get there. Now it's going through my mind, "What's the reality of the situation?" Reality? Fool! The reality is ten years to life. If it was pot . . . that'd be one thing. But Horse, that's another . . . that's Smack! That's what the iron door would sound like as they locked me up forever: Smack!
I'm sweating worse . . . worrying . . . its all back there on the floor in big mayonnaise jars. My hands, shaking bad . . . head trembling . . . never thought they'd stop me but here they are . . . right on my ass. Why won't they split, leave me alone, get off my cloud? But I'm starting to panic. Why won't they make their move? Cruising a few inches from my bumper. Making me sweat, on purpose, cruel mother-fuckers, grown high school bullies out for some fun . . . that's all . . . but armed to the teeth! Heroes! Bet they're laughing . . . my legs are tightening . . . the cold lump between my legs is getting colder . . .there! At last! Blue twirling lights! Now!
The decision has been made. I don't think . . .I pull to the left, then to the right, them right behind. The siren wails howling in fury, hideous and determined. I yank the emergency brake, hard, harder! Neat trick, easy too . . . the rear wheels lock, the Sprite spins. I'm scared out of my wits! It spits twice as the bawling cruiser whines by, caught flat-footed, like idiots, rookies. I nearly tip over . . . talk about sweating! But heading the opposite direction, I gun her . . . 60, 70, 80 . . . . No rearview mirror, only a half-dollar metal disk on the fender, But I can see the blue lights in back of me, trying to turn around, stuck halfway in the road, backing a few inches, cutting left, then forward a few inches . . . by the time they make it, I'm cresting the hill. heading back towards Columbus, got to find a dirt road. I'll never outrun them. I've got one liter, they've got 387 cubic inches! No back roads, no houses, just deep woods covered with kudzu vines . . . spooky.
They're on me again in no time, not fooling around now, siren, lights, roaring engine . . . I can hear shouts from the cruiser . . . . "Pull over! Pull over!" Oh my God) it's no use. They start tapping the Sprite, hard, harder, knocking me against the steering wheel, Whaap! I try to do my spinning trick again but they're wise now, won't let me into the other lane, slamming against me, Whaap! Whaap! It's making me see blazing fires in my skull. A jar breaks and little yellow capsules come cascading over the floor, under the seats, they're everywhere, 3000 of them. I'm losing it . . .drenched, sobbing, blinded by scalding beads of sweat rolling down my brow . . . . They gun the motor and get alongside, pushing me off the road.
I wave at them frantically okay, okay, let me stop this thing! I brake and they screech to a stop in front of me, their cruiser blocking both lanes. Their spotlight is right on me, I'm blind, but I can hear someone walking, I can hear him unbuckle his holster, I can hear a radio crackling. I can't think, I can't talk, I can't respond, I don't know what to do. My eyes are adjusting, Now I see him, a big no-necked bastard, sunglasses at night. Cowboy hat and huge revolver . . . beer gut and flabby ass . . . . He stops ten feet away and tells me not to move. His voice is too calm, too under control.
He knows I'm helpless and he loves it. But my head! It's aching and swelling inside. Suddenly I realize he's alone. I'd have sworn there were two! But no, I can see inside the cruiser. It's empty, light on, radio chattering, engine rumbling, but empty, empty. One to one, he don't look so big and bad, so mean and cruel. He's scared too, I bet. He looks me over, I'm ridiculous, filthy, wet, freaked out, my eyes bugging like the Sprite's. He's not scared. He laughs a dirty, rotten, sneering laugh. He's got this one right where he wants him.
I know the type . . . a dumb wife, three snot-nosed kids, a brick house in the suburbs, respected in the community, ex-marine, fought in 'Nam, medals, a classic good guy . . . a jerk. Got nothing better to do than bully people like me, we scrounges, we scum of the earth. "Keep both hands where I can see them," he's saving, like he has a right to give me orders, But I admit it, I'm scared . . . my head is throbbing, exploding, a bright yellow color flashes behind my eyes, a roaring sound fills my ears . . . . He's holding a big stick, four feet of iron wood with a lead handle . . . he's thumping it on his thigh . . . .
Why does he just stand there like a statue? He's studying me top to bottom in the glare. He stands out, a black shape, a hulk, huge, threatening, waiting, thumping that stick. I know he's going to beat me to death. Troopers are known for that. Pick out the weak ones, no connections, no way to press charges. I can't let him do it . . . . My mouth! My upper palate is made of silver and ivory, 3000 dollars! He'll smash it with his stick. And my head. It's already been busted twice. In D.C. they hit me with a rifle butt. At the Pentagon. No reason. I was just sitting there drinking Sly Fox, on acid -- I admit -- but peaceful, it was a peaceful rally . . . peaceful my ass! Bam!
Since then, I tell you . . . I sweat, my ears ring, I get dizzy, have spells. They hit me again in 1975. Drunk driving in Columbus, Georgia . . . spent a night bleeding, singing the Columbus Stockade Blues. Now this bastard . . . he's going to hit me again, I know it. He's waiting for me to resist, to complain, to whisper under my breath. He doesn't move . . . he's playing with me. I try to play it cool, but I'm trembling bad, sweating, blind and deaf, zoned right out. All I'm aware of is my own fear.
My mistake -- know it now -- was taking three Jackets. I'm strung out .
. . no good under pressure . . . he's thumping that stick. He'll see the
capsules! He'll know! No need for a warrant when he can see them all over the
floor. I'll never make it to the station. But he's moving. Closer, closer,
rumbling deep in his chest, growling, thumping his leg. Oh my God, he's coming.
A stick! He doesn't know. . . he doesn't realize. . . . I'm packing. I'm ready for him. My mind blots out everything except that stick. . . . there's a snake head carved on the end . . . lead on the other end. My hand drops and lifts my secret, my 357 Ruger -- my beautiful gun, black mahogany grips. No time to think, to moralize. . . b'whaam! I don't stick around to see. . . I'm gunning it! I'm off and running . . . .
All that muscle and fat and fancy uniform was no armor. I hear the slug hit him. Sounds like thumping a watermelon, thuck! Hard shell then squishy stuff. He stops still in his tracks. He looks as if his feelings have been hurt. He balances a moment then falls on his back, his eyes still open. I hit something vital! The bull is down. They can butcher him tomorrow. Give me the ears! Steaks and rump-roast! Lots of fat! Oh ho ho! Tomorrow they can scrape his brains off the asphalt with a spatula.
But my head, throbbing! Now what? I've gone half a mile when when it hits me . . . killed a trooper. I've committed suicide. I'm a dead man, sure as God. A manhunt at dawn. Helicopters, dogs, shotguns, National Guard, a thousand Troopers. They'll find the Sprite, moving or not. . . have me pegged in no time. . . they'll get to Robinson, beat him senseless for knowing me . . . . Poor Robinson! Didn't he know I'm a mental case? I have these spells . . . since the Pentagon. . . I tell you, I'm not well . . . these spells, head swelling, odd sounds, sweating . . . .
I have blanks in my mind . . . but no time for this! Time to run. Not drive, they'll catch me for sure. Run, on two legs, fast, anywhere, away . . . Canada, yes, Canada . . . I'll run there through the woods!
The car, though, got to ditch the Sprite. Anywhere . . . under the kudzu, might give me an extra day or two, maybe three. First thing, I drive right into the woods, into a patch of vines. So hot! Sweating! But my mind is cold enough. It's clearing up now. I yank off the tags . . . I'll take them with me . . . I tug at the vines until they loosen and give in . . . I cover the car.
But I can't see much in the nightmare blackness of this Georgia woods. Can't waste time. Can't make sure the car is hidden. Leave it! Crossing the road, I run deep into the pines and keep running. Pine needles whip my face raw . . . I'm bleeding . . . thorns tear at my ankles as I force my way through . . . can't stop for anything . . . not now . . . suicide . . . I'm a dead man . . . a Ghost who talks. A song pops in my head . . . "You got to run run run like the wind . . . ."
The Old Manchester Highway -- running parallel to the New
Manchester Highway -- is only for those who prefer scenery to speed. Both
connect Atlanta to Columbus, but the newer one offers only a green blur on both
sides as your car speeds from point A to point B along an uninterrupted slab of
concrete slicing through the woods in a straight line. The older one,
however, meanders through mountains of pine forest as far as the eye can see.
Most people prefer the big new artery because it’s so much quicker -- but a few
prefer the older one because they like the moody woods and time for meditation.
The older highway offers a strange journey through time and silence
. . . cutting like a tunnel through endless pines.
Also at night, the pines can be heard whispering odd secrets and
heady promises. They can be heard gossiping and plotting. Adventurers,
historians, rebels and lovers much prefer the romance of the old highway. They
crawl along, huddled together in their cars, enjoying their safe thrills and
facsimiles of fear.
So it was on the first night of the manhunt. When Peter Boker blasted Trooper James Shaw in the face that night, he mistakenly thought the road was deserted. When he ran, he assumed two things: first, it would be hours before the body was found, and second, he had been unobserved.
Neither of these was true. The victim was found within the hour and he had indeed been observed. So the inexorable machinery of the manhunt had begun the moment he ditched the Sprite. Though he was unlucky in this respect, he was lucky to have no conception of just how sealed was his destiny. An hourglass had been turned over the moment he’d shot James Shaw and the sands of time had immediately began to run out for Peter Boker. He’d might as well have use the big magnum on himself and be done with it.
A red 1966 Mustang had passed by just as he was plunging into the pine forest. Inside the car were two Columbus State University students and two student nurses. All four were wedged in the front seat, intoxicated and silly, jabbering about sports and laughing about sexual innuendos. Despite the lust in his heart and the black of the night, however, the driver noticed the Sprite. He also noticed the man pushing through the vines on the other side of the road. He noticed the deep tread marks leading through the blood-red clay of the shoulder. Slowing to a crawl, he wondered if he should stop. But he'd learned a little at college . . . enough to keep his nose clean. He pretended he’d seen nothing. It was safer that way. He was only eighteen but he was no fool.
But he had to reconsider a few moments later when the twirling lights of the dead Trooper's cruiser came into view. Some things could not be ignored. Pulling behind and stepping from the Mustang, he immediately saw the supine slab of flesh and gore sprawled in the dirt. Both nurses insisted on leaving at once. They had semi-finals in the morning and had no time to get involved in a killing. They didn't give a damn. They didn't want to discuss it. They were appalled and afraid and their words were harsh. The driver said it was their duty to call in on the Trooper's radio.
"Fuck you and your Goddamned duty !" he was told , "Let's go!"
This was from the oldest nurse, twenty- four, who had-made the mistake of getting involved once before. She knew the police machinery well, all too well. She’d reported a pusher once and been arrested herself for public intoxication. That's how they repaid you. If they got caught in the cops’ machinery, they'd be there all night. That is, if they didn't wind up in jail. She was wise, very wise. She understood everything at once. There was a dead man shot right in the face. A cop. That was bad enough. But her date -- the drunken kid with his crazy morality -- was underage. Beer cans all over the car. Vodka bottle under the seat. Eight sheets to the wind. "You're brilliant," she told him, "You're just brilliant."
Besides, she knew she wasn't a beautiful woman. If she was, there’d be no trouble. But she was gangly and had bones that stuck out all over. She had no calves and a flat ass. Her face had an upper lip like a rhinoceros. No, they might just lock her up on general principles. As she saw it-- and thought she knew -- it was a crime to be plain.
"Let's go," she repeated, "Wise up!"
But the driver refused to wise up. All he knew was a man had been brutally killed. Shot right in the face. What a mess. The second nurse, whose sodden mind was just grasping the situation, stuck her head out of the Mustang's window and vomited a thin black soup of beer, peanut butter cookies, four White Russians and a little piece of beef jerky two inches long. When she regained her breath, she whispered to her date that they just had to leave.
She was pretty wise, too. She'd miss her test and Mr. Billings would never believe her. He was looking for an excuse to fail her anyway. He was pissed off because she wouldn't put out for him. She could tell. They were all like that. That was why she was almost failing. If she’d be a slut like all the others-- every damn one of them -- she too would be pulling in A's and B's. So she had no choice but to get back and forget this ever happened. If she had learned one thing in her nineteen years, it was that you first of all had to look out for Number One. Getting involved in a cop killing was against her principles.
Ignoring both of them, the driver stumbled out of the car and approached the corpse. Still drunk, he was more amused than revolted. The Trooper's body was on its back with both arms flung out, as if he had been crucified in the mud. His face was no longer wearing sunglasses. Both eyes were wide open, surprised. He looked like someone had hurt his feelings. Yes, he was very hurt about something. Possibly the fact that his nose was gone.
Instead of a nose, there was only a deep black hole which seemed to go right through his head. It did, A sorrowful question was on his face. Both eyebrows were up and his mouth was slightly open, about to ask a question. A horrible question, no doubt. "What happened to my nose?" The tipsy student felt a wild impulse to giggle. . . then scream! Beneath the body's head was a speckled semi-fluid puddle of gore. It looked just like the pizza he’d wolfed down in Columbus. Double cheese, anchovies, suasage, green olives, black olives, red onions, red pimentos, chunks of hamburger. Yes, a pizza was leaking out of the cop's skull . . . a pizza. This was an interesting analogy, he thought. He pondered the image several minutes . . . but then his mind seemed to swim in growing confusion and fear. Suddenly he fled from the lights and into the woods, where he emptied his knotting guts.
As the four of them were sobering up, they heard the radio
talking to itself. "419?" it asked the space in the empty cruiser, "You
have a possible 10-52, juncture County Line Road and Flat Rock."
They stared at each other. They stared at the corpse. They stared at the radio. The bony nurse showed signs of hysteria. She was acting. In truth, she never let anything shock her into a dangerous mental apathy. This called for decisive action. Summing all her acting skills, she trembled and shook. Her eyes flooded and spilled. Her mouth formed a perfect "o". She wanted this to end and right now! A fit would do the trick. She would give them one more chance then throw a fit. It’d worked before and it’d work again. With a shivering whine, she asked, "Well, are we getting out of here or not?" When there was no answer, she threw her fit.
Falling to the ground, she began screaming, flinging her limbs around and rubbing her hair in the mud. She slobbered long strands of drool and shook her head, flinging them into the air and falling back on her breast. She blabbered and sucked her upper lip. They stared at her in fascination. She was really freaking out! They watched in great curiosity as she flopped and rolled her eyes and shouted obscenities at them. Gradually, as she had known, they began to wonder if she was epileptic. Had this triggered a seizure? What if she swallowed her tongue? Did anyone have a toothpick to stick through it? What if she burst a blood vessel? They weren't very imaginative but they had enough imagination to picture her dying right there with mud in her hair. That would look bad for all of them . . . hard to explain.
"Somebody better drive her back to Columbus," someone suggested. Logical conclusion and she was glad to hear it at last. Besides, the others weren't really the fools she thought. It was no place for a coward. They would be better off if she were gone when the cops found out, The Troopers were going to be furious enough without contending with an hysterical female. Screaming would only worsen things. Suddenly there was a great need in all of them to be rid of her. Coldly, the driver told her to get on her feet and get into the Mustang. She was glad it was over for her. With an embarrassed grin, she did as she was ordered . . . but took the precaution of throwing up one more time for effect. Then she lay down on the back seat. The remaining girl agreed to drive her back. They were both out of it, the ladies.
As they were turning around, the two boys clustered around the radio. It was still asking metallic questions of the void. It was now like a living creature, there to comfort them and give instructions. It was certainly more comforting than the cadaver, who had nothing at all to say. Both boys were sorry the beer had worn off. They could have used a drink right then. Sadly, they realized the girls had driven off with the fifth of vodka hidden under the seat. Both had a powerful need for some courage, even the liquid kind from bottles. As it was, their bowels were beginning to knot and ache. A burning fog had filled the hollow just above their stomachs. The acrid sensation of ammonia wafted up from their lungs and filled their noses with a choking gas. Fear had set in. Each second called for action, yet they had no brave conscience to prod them into movement, As if answering their need, the radio again crackled with a far-off, mechanical, female voice: "419? What's your 10-20? Repeat. What's your 10-20?"
Pulling himself together, the driver picked up the microphone, pushed the red button and tried to say, "This is an emergency." But his voice was gone. Dried up. His throat was made of wood. All that came from his lips was a gasping whistle. His eyes widened with surprise. Did that come out of me? He rubbed his hand over the damp cruiser and wiped some morning dew on his tongue. Again he tried the radio. "This is an emergency! One of your guys has been killed!" The words came this time but in a high-pitched scream. "Repeat," said the radio, "What's your 10-20?" Shivering with fear, the driver pushed the button again and said', "419 is dead. Your man has been shot dead. He’s laying in the dirt."
He couldn't have realized the electrifying effect of the word "shot" on the eight cruisers monitoring the radio. Had he been able to see, he would have seen all eight Troopers stop dead in their tracks, pull over and wait like infuriated animals. They were primed to the chase, already bursting at their collars. At the headquarters in Manchester, he would have seen a furious scramble for rifles, helmets, chemicals, bullet-proof vests, boots and black uniforms.
The radio snapped back, "What's your location?" Demanding. Urgent. Angry. The female voice had disappeared. Now it was a deep, furious, rumbling male voice. And ice cold, with a terrifying composure. "Your location," he whispered in that so threatening calm voice. "What's your location?"
"We're about ten miles North of Flat Rock Park," the driver answered, wondering if the girls had been right to split.
Even as he was answering, the eight cruisers were rushing toward him at awesome speeds. Within seconds he could hear the banshee wail of sirens. He could see the angry blue lights, blinking in synchronized fury. He was still holding the microphone when the first cruiser was on him, almost ramming the dead man's car. Before he could gather his wits, two Troopers were on him, guns drawn, slamming him down to earth, handcuffing him. His friend wasn't that lucky. He was clubbed to the ground. Chickens had a better chance against wolverines. The driver wanted to shout, "Not me! Not me!" But he was too shocked to open his mouth. A Trooper's boot was in the small of his neck. To move was to die. For a horrifying instant, he thought he might be executed on the spot.
His face was sideways in the mud. He heard a clicking sound as the revolver’s hammer was pulled back and cocked. Then he lost his mind for one crisp amber moment and believed it was he indeed who had shot the dead man. He felt the cold steel tip of a revolver jabbed against his neck. And he began to cry those strange tears of the innocent who nevertheless feel guilty.
As the Troopers arrived, they gathered around the body, quiet and slow, shaking their heads with a vicious finality. You could hear the gears shifting in their heads as they absorbed the reality of the shooting. They toyed with their huge cannons, as if wondering whether to use them on the messengers or not. Someone had to pay.
An ambulance howled as if wounded. It seemed in pain as it slid to a stop and discharged two paramedics and a doctor. They ran to the body with armfuls of equipment . . . then stood around like embarrassed school children. There wasn't much to be done for man with a hole blown through his head. One of the paramedics began trembling. But he needn't have been concerned. There was nothing to be done for this man. He was road kill. All they could do was cover him up with a sheet. The dead man's big boots stuck out.
One of the paramedics walked over to the handcuffed driver and asked if he were hurt. He couldn't answer. He was too frightened. Mixed up. The paramedic glanced at him curiously. "You hurt or what?" he asked. The driver looked at him. He saw a chubby, pink face with a peach-fuzz mustache. The guy was even younger than he --a pissant punk. But he could talk. That’s what mattered.
The driver tried to answer, "Tell them I ain't done nothing. I'm the one who reported this. I found him like that. Please do something for me. I'll give ya a joint." The paramedic winked, nodded, walked over to a Trooper, whispered something, and received a withering stare. Nonplussed, the paramedic returned to the hogtied driver and pretended to feel for broken bones. Actually, he was feeling him up. His plump little hands caressed the tied man’s rear end. His face blushed with passion and his breathing quicked. He stopped abruptly when found the promised joint in a back pocket, neatly hid it in his sleeve and ran back to the ambulance as if he needed some special instrument.
The boys were finally released when two Trooper vans pulled up, disgorging three bloodhounds, two heavily-armed SWAT teams and a dark-faced, heavy-set plainclothesman. A detective. As the man-hunters began to beat the bushes for clues, the detective helped the boys to their feet and removed the 'cuffs.
Though he wasn't kind, neither was he unkind. Ignoring the hostile muttering around him, he put both boys in a van and climbed in behind. The door was locked from the outside by a Trooper with a long golden tooth sticking out of his mouth like a yellow cigarette. The Trooper glared into the van for thirty long seconds,, rubbing his tongue against his fang. Afraid, the driver's friend pleaded with the detective, "Tell that guy we didn't do nothing! Tell 'em all! We didn't do anything but report a killing. That guy with the tooth -- he's gonna shoot us when we ain't done nothing."
"No one is threatening you," he was told. "You were just unlucky enough to find this. This whole scene is bad news for everybody, including you two. The murder of a civilian is one thing. But the murder of a cop is another. It doesn't matter what you say and it doesn't matter what I believe. This is a bad, bad situation and I'm sorry you're caught up in it. But here you are. And here you'll stay,"
"But we ain't done nothing!""
"Look." the detective continued, not unpatiently, "I'm not going to treat you like fools. This is serious business and we don't have time to mollycoddle a couple of kids. You want someone to thank you? Fine, we appreciate it. Personally, I'm sorry you got roughed up. But let me tell you something and you'd better listen up. You've opened up the gates of hell tonight. Somebody done sown the wind and has to reap the whirlwind. I know it wasn’t you two. But they don’t. Everybody’s a suspect right now. So I’m sorry but we're gonna hold you a while.” Neither boy wanted to hear this. They only wanted to get away. They'd never had pistols poked in their necks before and it had shaken them. They didn't care what the detective had to say. They'd had it. They were as eager to escape as Peter Boker had been two hours earlier. Two hours? Had all this taken place in two hours? They checked their watches simultaneously. They’d seen the shape running in the woods about three. Their watches read four forty-five. A lot had happened in a short time. Outside, the Troopers were still staring first at the body, then at them.
"Whoever did this," the detective said, "is already dead as Shaw out there.”
The detective seemed embarrassed and reluctant to continue. But he did. It was his job to always continue. "What I'm getting at is this,” he continued, “We'll have to place you under arrest for forty-eight hours. There's only one way to avoid this. You can place yourself under our protection voluntarily. You won't be put in jail. All you'll do is wait at headquarters until we've finished the job. Is that okay with you boys?"
"I was hoping you'd make it easy.
"All we did was report a murder. Why the hassle? We ain't done nothing against the law and you ain't got no right to hold us.
"The detective sighed. He'd been through this before. Of course they didn't understand. But how could he tell them the bare, awful truth of what was happening? He knew he could release them if he wanted to. He could give them a ride right back to Columbus and they'd dissolve into the night. But he also knew about the machine which had been activated. It was designed to neutralize potential threats. If the two kids talked to anyone -- especially the press -- the manhunt might end in failure. This couldn't be allowed to happen. A cop had been killed and at any cost his killer must be shown to the world with his head on a spear. Tiredly, the detective told them the truth.
I’m giving it to you from the hip, boys. A manhunt is a machine without a conscience. It only knows how to do its job. It's precise, scientific, and absolutely deadly. It works every time. Now, for our machine to work properly, we can't risk any dirt in the gears. That's what you’ve become: dirt in the gears. You say one wrong word to the wrong person and the machine blows up. You know we can't let that happen. So stay with us for forty-eight hours until the job is over. If you refuse, you're under arrest. I'm sorry but that's the way it is."
It began to dawn on the two boys. All this was heavy and too real. They looked out at the Troopers as they milled around in their anger. Their temper was human, not mechanical. But what if you took this temper and transformed it into energy to power a machine? No interference would be tolerated. Machines make no judgements. They make no distinctions between good and evil, innocent and guilty. They just grind on and grind on till the job is done and someone turns off the power. The manhunt machine wouldn’t differentiate between the boys who had brought the message and the man who had killed the cop – not if all were impeding the work required to do the job. The boys would be eliminated as impediments. The boys understood at once. They saw the whole picture. They didn’t need to hear more.
“Let’s go to the station,” one of them said; “I’m ready.”
Both boys had one mind. Twenty minutes later they were at the State Police headquarters in Manchester, sipping coffee, lounging in the waiting room, reading old copies of Esquire and Sports Afield. They didn’t talk to each other. And while they read, Peter Boker slogged through the piney woods while the manhunt machine prepared to track him down and deliver him unto his judges.
Teen Writings Submission Guidelines
Be sure to have a look at our
today to see what's