The voice crackled on the CB. “Spotted that blue Buick, license number TULS4U that the police are looking for. I’m at mile marker 65. He’s riding in the hammer lane. I’m coming up beside him.”
Red waited. He was three miles ahead of Bunny. He smiled, glad the traffic was light.
“There’s a kid in the passenger seat. Blonde hair, looks to be about the size of my 6-year-old. Driver sped past me when I got beside him.”
“Copy that, Bunny. Stay close. Farmer, where are you? Got your cell phone?
“Yeah, Red. I’ll call the cops. I’m right behind Bunny. Big Dog’s coming up behind me.”
Red adjusted his sun visor for the lowering crimson ball of light. They had about two hours to stop this guy before it got dark.
“Red, the state patrol’s on its way, coming from Lexington and Elizabethtown. We need to keep that guy on the parkway.”
“I know, Farmer,” Red said, remembering his own little girl back home in St. Louis. He could imagine the pain and fright this little girl’s parents must be feeling. Why hadn’t he gotten his cell phone fixed before he’d left home? He really needed to hear Libby’s voice right now. She called him to say her prayers each night.
Red pulled across the upcoming off-ramp, making it impossible for anyone to exit. The blue car flew by, followed by Bunny in his sleek Volvo; Farmer, in his older Mack; and Big Dog, running a new Peterbilt.
“Quick thinking, Red,” said Farmer. “Wonder where this guy’s headed. Wish this old Mack had more horses. These hills give me fits. Don’t know if I can keep up.”
“Try your best,” Red said, pulling his rig back onto the parkway. His Freightliner growled as he geared up. He watched Bunny try to pull around the Buick as they went downhill.
Suddenly, Bunny zigzagged. “That guy’s got a shotgun! I’m OK, but I think he hit my air. My air pressure’s dropping. Whoa! My breaks just locked. I’m gone.” Bunny skillfully guided his skidding rig to the side of the road and put his four-ways on. He gave a “good luck” sign as Red passed by.
“This is the Blue Buick talking. Now you all listen. Me and my little girl are going home to Memphis. You tell your friends and the cops to let us alone or somebody dies. You got that?”
Dead silence followed.
Red flipped to Channel 25, his and Farmer’s standby channel. “Farmer, you there? Let the state patrol know what’s going on and get help for Bunny. I’m coming around you so I can see this guy.”
“Already calling, Red. Guess all your police stories left some kind of impression.” Red had been a Missouri state patrolman for 15 years before an injury ended his career.
“Well, 10 years of friendship hasn’t been all wasted then,” returned Red. “But be careful around this guy. I wouldn’t want to have to tell Libby her godfather was going to miss her sixth birthday. I wonder how well this guy knows the area. We need to find a way to communicate with the other drivers.”
Flipping back to Channel 19, Red asked, “Hey, Blue Buick, that was pretty smart of you to be listening on the CB. Didn’t mean to leave you out of our conversation. You travel this way a lot?”
“Yes. I’m a tool salesman for the Ohio-Kentucky-Tennessee area. Sometimes I take my daughter with me on trips in the summer. We have fun – don’t we, Melissa?”
“Please, Mister, my name is Karey. Can I go back to my Mommy now?”
Red and the others were quiet when they heard Karey’s voice. The Blue Buick raced up the next hill.
As Red topped the hill, he spotted a police helicopter approaching from the direction of Lexington. Red knew the Blue Buick had to be stopped before hitting Elizabethtown traffic.
“Red, come get me,” Farmer said as they both changed channels. “The police want to set up a stop sticks trap, but we need to notify the others to stay back or we’ll all be buying new tires. I told them about you. They asked if you could keep a conversation going with the guy to keep him preoccupied until he’s hit the trap. It’s being set up at mile marker 12.”
Just then, a Kentucky State Patrol car slipped between Farmer and Big Dog. The Blue Buick was a mile ahead now and 34 miles from Elizabethtown.
Red remembered another time, another car chase. His best friend’s son had been used as a hostage after a foiled bank robbery. Red pursued the robbers to the Missouri Aubuchon Road off 370 just outside St. Louis. The robbers pulled into the path of an oncoming semi. The trucker tried to swerve but hit them. They careened off the road and flipped, throwing the boy from the car. The two robbers had been trapped in the car. Red was trying to rescue one of the robbers when the car exploded, severely burning Red. One robber lived to go to trial, but the little boy died. Red quit the force shortly afterward. He had been driving semi with Farmer’s company the last five years. He didn’t know if he could go though that again.
“Farmer, signal Big Dog to go to Channel 25 when Blue gets over this next hill.”
When Blue was out of sight, Farmer signaled a two-five out his window as he spoke into the CB. “Hey, Big Dog. Can you see me up here?”
“Yeah, Man, I’m coming up and over.”
“Big Dog, go around me. I can’t keep up, and you may need to pull up beside Red so that guy in the Buick can’t back up. There won’t be any traffic coming on the highway. The police have blocked the last entrance ramps between here and Elizabethtown. Just keep your eyes on Red and use this channel if he signals a change. I’ll stay in touch with the cops.” With that, Farmer backed down, and Big Dog pulled past him with his 550 Cat engine purring.
“Mr. Blue Buick,” Red said, back on channel 19, “that’s a mighty pretty little girl. You take her with you often?
“Yeah. Her mom died a year ago, and she lives with my sister when I’m on the road.”
“That must be hard. Sorry, man. How did your wife die?” Red asked, passing mile marker 30.
“We were taking a family vacation. It got real foggy as we neared Nashville, and we ended up in a 30-car pileup. My wife was killed and my little girl severely injured. I stayed with her day and night. They said she wouldn’t make it, but I prayed and promised God I would be a better Dad.”
“Sounds like you are doing just that. How often do you take her with you now?”
Red waited for the man to answer, watching the mile markers fly by. They were going 70 miles per hour. He really wanted to slow the man down before he hit those spikes.
“How about I treat you and your little girl to a snack at that little restaurant just north of the next exit here. I have a little girl just about Melissa’s age, and I know they like ice cream. You can get some coffee to help you stay awake. Where are you planning to stop for the night?”
The Blue Buick eased up a little as he answered. “Don’t think we’ll have time for a snack, but I appreciate your asking. Melissa does like ice cream – chocolate, right honey? Oh, she’s crying. It’s been a long day. Me and her aunt had a fight before we left.”
As the trailing police cruiser passed them, Big Dog pulled up by Red. They were nearing mile marker 15. Just three miles with the sun at ground level. The Blue Buick was less than a mile ahead. As Red started to ascend the last hill, he whispered a prayer for protection for Karey and the man in the Blue Buick.
The semis slowed down as they reached the top of the hill. They didn’t see anything unusual ahead, but they knew the trap was set and the police were close by. They heard the sound of tires popping as the Blue Buick swerved. Police appeared out of nowhere, yanking both doors of the car open simultaneously. One grabbed the girl and another the man.
Fifty miles down the road, Red’s CB crackled. “Hey, Red, you O.K.?” Farmer called.
“Yeah,” said Red pensively.
“Just got off the phone with the State Patrol. They said the little girl is fine and back with her mother. The kidnapper is in protective custody until they can get a psychological review. It seems his daughter died three months after the accident