Risk of Ruin — Chapter Two

RISK of RUIN — CHAPTER TWO

He wasn’t a flying saucer nut, nor was he investigating crackpot government conspiracy theories. His concerns with politics had never stretched further than thinking the government ought to decriminalize pot and repeal the motorcycle helmet laws. He had no business being in Area 51. He knew that.

But there he was, slowly awakening to the cool night air with an aching head, a stabbing pain in his back, and a confusing immobility. He looked at the beat-up sign nailed to a wooden post some ten to twelve feet in front of him.

 

WARNING

Restricted Area

It is unlawful to enter this area
without the permission of
the Installation Commander.

Sec. 21 Internal Security Act of 1960, 50 USC 797

USE OF DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED

 

He read the warning twice before he remembered how he’d gotten to where he was, somewhere between a major life catastrophe and deep shit. He didn’t know exactly how much trouble he was in, but he knew it was more than he could afford. The state trooper’s car was maybe twenty feet away, the headlights not quite pointing at him, but in his general direction, illuminating the dusty desert scrub. The engine was running, but where was the trooper? The driver’s side door was wide open. With the headlights glaring in his direction, he couldn’t see inside the vehicle, but he had a feeling the trooper wasn’t inside it. He could smell the exhaust fumes. That car had been sitting there idling for some time. He wondered how long he’d been unconscious. The last thing he needed was trouble with the police. Cops never took kindly to him. A throbbing pain was developing just to the right side of the crown of his head. He’d taken a really good whack. He saw the beam of a flashlight waving in the distance off to his right, maybe a hundred yards away, maybe more. When he attempted to turn his head to better see the light that was bobbing and weaving erratically, like an insect searching for a place to land, a different stabbing pain, deeper inside his head, stopped him. But even in his semi-conscious state, he knew what was happening.

The cop was looking for Stacy.

From the way the beam was moving, the trooper was obviously facing away from him and moving even farther away. That was good. That would buy him some time.

His inability to sit up straight and the pulsing knot on his head were just starting to make sense. Ah, yes … he remembered now … the cop had knocked him in the head with his baton and, he surmised, handcuffed him. The jabbing pain between his shoulder blades told him he was handcuffed to his own bike. He had a Swedish-style chopper frame with a long stretch, and the way the knuckle cover was jabbing his ribs, he figured he must be cuffed to the down tubes.

It slowly came back to him …

They were tearing down Highway 375 with the trooper in pursuit. Speeding. That’s all it was. Speeding. He remembered glancing at his speedometer, midway between 85 and 90 mph. Normally, he’d just pull over and take the goddamn ticket. But he didn’t figure Stacy’s phony ID would hold up, especially with the cops actively looking for her. He wouldn’t even be in this godforsaken desert if it wasn’t for Stacy’s problems with the law.

“Cut her loose,” Clance advised him just a few hours earlier. “Otherwise, your ass is fried.” Why didn’t he listen to Clance? Why didn’t he listen to himself?

It’s not hard to lose a cop car if you’re on a bike in the city. If the traffic’s heavy, you can cruise between lanes, weave in and out between cars, turn around and drive the wrong way down the shoulder, even escape on the sidewalk if need be. If he doesn’t have your plate number yet, fuck him. And Bart always kept his license plate smeared with grease and just enough dirt to ensure illegibility at anything less than about ten feet. But out on the open highway, it’s just a speed test, and with Stacy riding bitch and all of their stuff crammed into the saddlebags, he couldn’t chance trying to outrun the trooper. He had to outmaneuver him.

So he pulled off the highway onto the desert terrain. The trooper slowed to a crawl on the road, trying to decide if he should attempt to chase him through the thick brush and cactus. Bart cut his headlamp to make it more difficult for the cop to see him. A thin sliver of moon provided enough light for Bart to see a few yards ahead of him, but he also had to slow down. If he could just get far enough into the scrub, the cop wouldn’t see him at all. Then the cop’s spotlight hit him. Fuck!

As he put distance between them, he was praying the cop would give up, just call the feds and report a crazy biker in Area 51. He was already planning an escape route once he got out of spotlight range, cutting west through the desert about 50 miles to come out on Highway 95 on the other side of the restricted area. There wasn’t much out there but empty desert—other than the Nellis Air Force Base Bombing Range, which, he hoped, wasn’t in active use at the time. Surely they’d assume he’d try to get back to Highway 375. Who’d expect a chopped Harley to try negotiating 50 miles of rough desert terrain in the darkness of night? With a helicopter, they’d have no trouble finding him. But they wouldn’t send a helicopter, not for some piss-ass biker who was just speeding.

Then he saw the trooper’s headlights turn in his direction after he’d gotten a hundred-yard jump on him. Persistent sonofabitch.

Unfortunately, a Harley isn’t a dirt bike, so this was slow going. It was also pretty dark, despite the waxing crescent moon hanging low in the eastern sky. He was doing his best to avoid ruts, cactus, tumbleweed, large rocks … He went on for quite a ways with the cop not quite keeping pace. He knew that without Stacy on the bike, he could definitely lose the cop. It was time to lose the baggage.

“Look, Stacy, you’re going to have to make a run for it. I’ll shake this jerk and come back for you.”

“No way, Bart! You’re losing him! Don’t stop now!”

He pulled to a stop. “Get off the fucking bike! I’m going that way.” He pointed. “I want you to run that way!” He pointed in the opposite direction. There was no time for an argument. “Now! He’ll follow the bike. Trust me.”

“That cop wants to kill you, Bart!”

He felt her arms tighten around his midsection. Jesus fucking Christ.

“He wants to write a speeding ticket. Now it’s evading arrest. Much more serious. I can’t let him catch me! Get off the bike!”

“But he turned his siren off. He turned his flashers off. He’s crazy!”

“He doesn’t need a siren off-road. Look, I’ll come back for you after I ditch this asshole. Just stay low after you get out there a ways. He’ll never find you.”

“But he’s going to kill you!”

“Well, if he catches me with you on the bike, you’ll be kissing mommy and daddy hello tomorrow morning.”

That was the threat that hit home. She slid off the bike and with a “You better not leave me out there,” she took off running.

Wondering if that would be the last time he ever saw her, Bart turned his headlamp back on to make it easy for the cop to see him as he took off in the opposite direction. Just as he’d thought, the cop car turned to pursue him. The trooper was definitely picking up speed as he got the hang of negotiating the desert foliage, but Bart knew he could outrun him now. No contest. He couldn’t go too fast right away or the cop might decide to give up on him and go after Stacy. He had to give her some slim chance of getting away. So, he led him on for a while, letting him keep up, giving him some hope while he was giving Stacy time to disappear. He figured she’d probably head for the highway and stick her thumb out. He was envisioning a half-dozen more troopers converging on the area. Surely the cop had radioed for assistance by now. Was there any chance they wouldn’t find Stacy? The whole situation was fucked up. But even if they did catch her, if he could get away, he knew she wouldn’t rat him out and she wasn’t in nearly the trouble he’d be in if he were caught.

He hadn’t traveled much more than a mile or so, slowly putting more distance between him and the cop, when he came to a dirt road and saw that Area 51 warning sign. He sure didn’t want to get onto a road, so he cut across it and smack! He dumped his bike. He didn’t know what he’d hit. A rock? A ditch? A cactus root? He went flying off the seat and by the time he got up and managed to get the bike upright, the trooper was there, out of his car with his gun drawn, and all Bart could do was reach his hands up and pray the bastard didn’t shoot.

What could he say to the cop? What the hell was he doing in Area 51 at three a.m.? The truth? That he was just trying to entertain Stacy?

They were making the trip from Reno to Vegas and she just had to see Area 51. Had to see it! Had to see it! How could he have let her talk him into it?

“Please, Bart, we have to see the Extraterrestrial Highway!” She showed him the map in a guide book she’d picked up at a gas station convenience store in Sparks before they’d left. Damn if there wasn’t a stretch of road out in the desert wilderness called the Extraterrestrial Highway. Is that the official fucking name? Now his ass was going to be dragged to jail, and who knew what would become of her? If they somehow managed to find her—and that was a pretty good bet since they got him—he was really up piss river. Harboring a runaway sixteen-year-old girl isn’t just a speeding ticket. Was there any way he could talk his way out of this?

But the trooper didn’t ask any questions. He simply said, very calmly, “Remove your helmet and drop it.”

Bart did as told, then again raised his hands. But despite the fact that he was standing there with his hands in the air, the cop pulled out his night stick and whacked him on the head. Then, apparently, he’d handcuffed him to the frame of his bike so he could go after Stacy on foot. It occurred to Bart that this brainless nitwit of a cop must have an IQ about half his age. You’d think he’d at least drive back toward the area where Bart had dropped her to cover a good portion of the territory a bit quicker than going it on foot. And why the hell wasn’t he waiting for reinforcements?

As he was remembering how he got into this jam, it occurred to him that he had about thirty-two thousand dollars in cash in one of his saddlebags and ten thousand or so in the other. How could he have been so stupid? If he was making a run from Vegas to Reno with an underage girl and a shitload of unexplained cash, why in God’s fucking name was he speeding?

Three things were going against him. First, the girl. That would not sit well with the authorities, no matter how he tried to explain it. Second, the money. There was just too much of it. He could probably kiss that goodbye. And third, those gorgeous tattoos of Satan on his forearm, his chest, his back, even one of his calves. Of course, the first one they’d see would be the reversed pentagram on the back of his left hand with the name S-A-T-A-N spelled out in the five points of the star.

Although his ninth-grade IQ test gave him a score of 165, he was now trying to decide where he ranked among the severely retarded. In the 1940s, the American Psychiatric Association determined that the official classification of someone with an IQ below 30 was “idiot.” An IQ of at least 30 but lower than 50 was officially an “imbecile.” And with an IQ of at least 50 but less than 70, you were a “moron.” A lot of people think that idiots, imbeciles and morons are all equally stupid, when in fact, in a room full of idiots and imbeciles, the moron is a mental wizard.

He decided to stop thinking about Stacy, the money in the saddle bags, and his classification as a mental deficient, and buckle down to the business at hand. Satan, help me. Into your hands I place my fate. He had to free himself from the handcuffs before the cop returned, and only if he returned with Stacy would he have to come up with some kind of an explanation for what the fuck he was doing out in the middle of nowhere at three a.m. with a runaway teenage brat. He asked himself the question he always asked himself when faced with any dilemma:

What would Satan do?

Gee, your honor, I saw her hitchhiking and it looked awfully dangerous for an innocent young girl to be out there alone in the desert with all the rattlers and rapists, so I was trying to do my duty as an upright citizen and give her a lift to the nearest phone booth where she could call mommy and daddy whom she misses so much.

©2012 Arnold Snyder

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