[Note: This is Chapter 4 of Crandall Against the Grain. The whole story can be found by clicking here.]
If only there were some way to move my knee, Crandall thought. Only this time, it wasn’t even vaguely funny.
The leaden weight of Shinott’s body pressed down on him, pinning him against the shattered window glass, whose shards were held in place by the laminating. Crandall struggled to breathe, and in frustration began to push on Shinott’s shoulder. He wriggled, stretched, strained, and finally worked his torso up a little. He felt disrespectful as he manhandled the body of the man who had rescued him into the footwell under the dash. He paused to suck in a full breath before working on his legs.
After its brief and bumpy off-road adventure, the cab had landed facing away from the interstate. So all Crandall could see through the windshield was the orangey glow of the burning helicopter and, soon, the flashing lights of Oregon State Police cars. That, and beyond the stream, about two dozen sheep gathered in a circle, looking scared even beyond sheep standards. A Border Collie, front legs spread wide to stabilize him in his outrage, barked wildly from the other side of the stream in which the cab had come to rest.
Crandall put his hands on Shinott firmly and pushed upward in an effort to get his legs out. Just as he was working his feet free, he heard running on the splattery mud and the clanking sound of someone climbing up the chassis. A flat-brim-hatted head looked in.
“Ho. Lee. Shit.” The trooper, a young one, paused, mouth hanging open. “Is he…?”
“Yes, he’s dead. Had a heart attack while that helicopter was trying to blow us off the road,” Crandall said. He was rubbing his hips, trying to get some feeling back into them.
“GET. Your goddamned hands in the air.”
“Son.” Oh. Bad idea. Crandall raised his hands. “Trooper. I don’t have a weapon. I’m a U.S. Mars…”
“You’re jackSHIT until I get you out of there and frisk you. DELANEY! BACKUP NOW!” He hopped down from the truck window.
“O.K. O.K. Yes,” said Crandall. “Whatthefuckever.”
“Alright,” the trooper said. “Climb out, and I better see BOTH your fucking hands first.”
Crandall looked at the face of Shinott, now peaceful. He quickly found the man’s wallet, memorized the address on his drivers license, and slid the card back into its slot. As he was shoving the wallet back into the pocket of Shinott’s denim jacket, he saw a photo sticking out. Shinott, a woman, two teenage boys. Posed shot in front of one of those frosty studio backgrounds. Everyone in Sunday clothes. Smiling.
He took the photo, put it carefully into his own jeans pocket, and replaced the wallet on Shinott. Then Crandall climbed out of the truck, and stopped when he had gotten out to the waist. Seven, count ’em, seven state troopers, Glocks drawn and leveled at Crandall. And the frantic Border Collie.
“Come down SUPERFUCKINGSLOW and STAND STILL on the ground.”
Wearily, Crandall did. The first trooper cuffed him and shoved him toward the cars.
Interesting day, Crandall thought. Coffee with Camilla, the fireman who wasn’t, a forceful invitation to ride in a trunk into rural Oregon, chased by an attack helicopter that only succeeded in killing the poor man who rescued him from his hosts for the trunk ride. And now walked through the mud like he was the criminal. Banner day. And where the hell was Camilla? Alive? Dead? Hostage?
They walked by the trailer, which had a giant crimp in the middle thanks to its encounter with the high-tension line tower. Crandall saw the disembodied arm of the copter pilot next to what could only be eggs, spilled out of Shinott’s load, cooked solid yellow in the mud from the heat of the copter crash. With the trooper’s hands on the cuffs behind his back, Crandall doubled over and vomited in a puddle. — Adam Barr
Copyright 2012 Adam Barr