The torrents moved faster as the river narrowed. The water was rocky and foamy downstream. The rapids tossed Joseph about, pulled him over sharp rocks, and submerged him at times. He was very shaken up from the jump off the bridge, and his body ached all over, but his right arm especially, throbbed with pain. He was certain that it was broken, and that made it extremely difficult for him to swim.
The river banks were overgrown with thick tall roots of grasses. Beyond the grasses was a lush forest with mature trees. Joseph looked hopeful as the water washed him by. All he needed to do now was to get close to the banks, but his aching arm and the rushing waters proved to be a challenge. The silvery glow of the moon glistened in the night sky, and threw shadows of the trees across the river. Joseph tried tirelessly to grab onto the rocks as the current carried him downstream.
He noticed a dark mountain like mass in the middle of the water, but the moon’s light was faint over that part of the river because of some large trees that hung over it. The torrents pushed him directly into the dark figure.
He knew that most likely it was a rock, and tried to swim away from it to avoid slamming into it. He started to panic as the figure seemed to draw him closer, but there was no escaping it. His head bobbed on top of the water, and the white foamy waters covered him. Then he came up again panicking even more, he slammed into the rock, his entire body quaked with pain.
The water pressed his chest up against the rock, wrapping his entire body around it like a scarf. He was exhausted, and for a split second he experience firsthand what fear really was. He imagined that he would die. This river was proving to be his master. It took control and was allowing him no chance to break free. He pushed his chin up, and filled his lungs with air. He then clung to the rock with his left arm, and slid his body around to the side of the rock facing the bank.
The waters rushed by rapidly splashing against his face. It took every ounce of strength he had to hold on to that rock. He looked over his shoulder to the bank, estimating the distance between him and land. He managed to twist around so that his back was against the rock. He positioned his feet on the rock, and aimed for the low limb of a tree hanging over the water. With every ounce of strength he had left, he launched himself at the limb, but he got caught in the currents again.
He sank then resurfaced. He was weak and breathless. His body floated along the banks like a buoy, but he was too tired to even try to move.
The torrents pushed him down stream. The water was calmer but he lost the will to fight any more, even if he wanted to he didn’t have the strength to. Suddenly he bumped into something soggy. Joseph washed up onto the bank where a sort of peninsula extended out into the river just a few feet. Realizing his chance at salvation, he grabbed on to a root of grass, but the weight of his body pulled the grass from its place in the soft mixture of silt and mud. He quickly reached for another root of tall grass and hauled himself to the bank.
The roots of the grass melted away from the mud, splashed into the water, waded around the little bump of land, and washed downstream.
He rolled over unto his back. His head dropped back as he lay there looking up at the night sky, panting and shivering. The grass felt like a wet prickly sponge beneath him. The cold night air felt like sharp knives piercing his skin. He closed his eyes and sighed hard. His thoughts faded to blackness, and the sounds of the night grew faint.
The barking of dogs in the distance woke Joseph from his slumber. The dim light of dawn and the sting of the dank morning air stirred him awake. He sat up straight and looked around to try and place which direction the sounds were coming from. His arm was swollen and it hurt even more than it did before.
He listened carefully as the sounds got closer, and then the distinct sound of helicopter blades in the distance came next. He closed his eyes tight and shook his head to clear away the blurriness. He shakily got to his feet and sprinted into the covers of the trees. Joseph held the swollen arm to his chest and dashed through the forest weaving and swerving to avoid colliding into the trees. He came to a cleared area where some trees had been cut down. His labored breathing and pounding heart drowned out the sounds of his hunters as he stopped to catch his breath.
Feeling disoriented, confused and on the brink of passing out, Joseph searched the sky to find the chopper that was nearing. The chase was on, and once again he was the prize. He started to run again. He tripped and stumbled over the roots of a tree and fell to the ground. His arm hit the ground first. His screams echoed through the trees and sent the birds flying from their nests.
The dogs picked up the sounds, and barked with fervor and moved toward the sound. Joseph got back to his feet staggering, and started running again. He came to a large smooth rock sitting amid some trees that had a foot path going through. He crouched down beside the rock, and leaned against it with his chin on his chest. He could feel the blood coursing through his body, and thought of giving up haunted him.
“Turning myself in would lead to medical treatment…and imprisonment. I’m not going back. There’s no way I’m going back.” A broken arm would heal, but he would never get back the time he’d loose from being in prison. Instantly his hope was restored as the sound of a car going by caressed his ears. He was close to a road. He dug for the few ounces of strength he had left and got to his feet. The path led to a road that was bordered on each side with forest, he watched as the car continued down the road. Suddenly, the sound of the helicopter came from behind him. He ran back into the covers of woods and watched as the chopper flew across the sky and disappeared in the distance.
The sounds of the dogs got closer. He looked behind him anxiously, and then at the road impatiently. The sound of a truck coming up the road drew him from the protection of the forest. He staggered into the road holding his arm against his body as the truck gradually got nearer, finally stopping just a few feet before him.
Richard and I were taken to the police station in Northridge; my boys were loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital. We spent the night at the precinct. We tried explaining to the cops on the way to the precinct what had really happened, but processed us anyway. There was mention of dangerous and reckless driving among other things. They held me in a small cell situated in a corner of the large room that opened up off the entrance; it was crowded with grey metal desks stacked with neglected paper work. The chief’s office was on the far end on of the room. I kept my eyes fixed on it, and paced the floor. I had no clue what was happening with my kids, and the heavy thought that Joseph might still be out there stuck with me. I watched the door impatiently, bit my nails, and then paced the floor some more.
Early that morning, the chief was in I recognized his ridiculous moustache before he could close the door behind him and from the way he looked at me, I could tell that he recognized me too. He walked to his office. A young officer got up and walked after him like a timid cat. He shouldered off his jacket and sat in his big chair.
“What’s the damage?” he asked, and turned away.
“She was involved the car chase on the highway yesterday chief. We have the man that was driving the car too, he’s in a holding cell down the hall.” The young officer answered proudly.
“What’s happening with that search party, did they find him yet?” he yelled across the room. The officer stood up from his desk with a sheet of paper in his hand, ready to give a full update.
“No sir nothing yet, no sign of him....,” before he could continue, the chief turned back into his office and slammed the door. Squeezing my cheeks through the bars I listened closely.
“Are you talking about Joseph Tanner, there’s a search for him?”
“Yeah there is, what about him.” The officer looked up from his work and stared at me.
“He’s my ex-husband, is he still alive? We were chasing after him yesterday. He took my kids.” He got up from his desk and went to the chief’s office. The chief came out and walked over to the cell with a polite smile on his face and put both hands on his hips.
“You know this Tanner guy?” He gestured with his head to the young officer who came over with a bunch of keys. He spoke as he placed the key in the lock. “I remember you came in here a while back saying something about this guy.” He slid the bars back, and signaled for me to follow him.
I followed him excitedly, hoping that there was some progress and that this might finally be dealt with. He went to his desk and turned through the pages of a file that was on it, and then plopped down in his chair. I stood at the door watching him until he asked me to come in and have a seat. I was in no mood to sit and chat with this man, but then I recalled how Richard’s attitude got him nowhere with these guys, so I pulled out the chair and sat down.
He skipped through the document numerous times, pausing on a page momentarily, and then skipped through it again. It seemed to me that he had no idea what he was doing or supposed to do. I was getting irritated and impatient, but somehow I was able to keep my cool. He closed the file jacket, clasped both hands on the desk, and leaned forward.
“So what can you tell us about this Joseph Tanner?”
“He’s my ex husband. I came here a few days ago. I told you he escaped from a mental institution, and you assured me that you were doing everything you can to capture him.”
“That’s right you did, yes, I remember.” He sat back in his chair, cleared his throat, and tried to look professional. “We are doing all we can to apprehend Mr. Tanner. We launched a search party early this morning canvassing the entire area surrounding the river, we haven’t found anything yet, but we’ve got men on the ground and a chopper in the air, so if he’s floating around in that river we will find him.” My heart battered my ribcage as soon as he stopped talking.
“Did they search the entire area? He must be out there somewhere you absolutely have to find him!”I said rising from the chair, thumping my palms down on the desk, and looked him in the eyes. He leaned in and spoke with a calm yet forceful tone that humbled me, as if he was saying to me: sit down and don’t tell me How to do my job.
“I have to get to them right now before he does.”
“Where are your children, mam?” he questioned. He sighed and rocked back in the chair.
“I think they are still at the hospital. They were taken away in an ambulance after the accident.”
“The kids from the accident are yours? They’re still at the hospital, there’s no need to worry, they’ll be ok,” he spoke with the least of concern.
“You have no idea what he’s capable of. We have had to move three times in the past four years to get away from him. He’s dangerous. He broke out so he could find us. He put my best friend in the hospital, kidnapped my kids, and held a gun to his own son’s head. I have to get to my kids before he does.”
“There’s still no need to panic though, we’re not even sure this guy’s alive. And we’ve got men at the hospital looking out for any sign of him.”
“You’re not sure he’s dead either.” I said.
Jaden and his brother were kept at the hospital overnight. They had no serious injuries, thought they were shaken up from the whole ordeal. The other nurses took good care of them for me, despite the fact that we hardly got along at work. We checked on Helen to see how she was doing. They had to operate to reduce swelling in her brain, but she was stable and conscious when we visited her. The doctor warned that we could only stay for a short time because she needed to rest.
My heart sank to the floor when I saw her. She was almost unrecognizable. Her face was swollen and black with bruises. We went and sat at her bedside. I touched her hand gently and spoke softly to her and let her know that I was happy she was going to be ok. And apologize for getting her into this mess. Just then, the doctor appeared at the door to tell us that we could not stay any longer.
“Mommy is Uncle Henry going to be ok too?” Junior asked as he took my hand.
“I don’t know, sweetie. We just have to wait and see.” My mind wandered for a while. I’d almost forgotten that Henry was taken to the hospital too.
“We could go see if he okay right now. He’s here.” Jaden pitched in.
“Uncle Henry saved us mommy, he woke up when we were in the van. Me and Jaden untied him and he stopped daddy from taking us away.” His wide eyes were filled with excitement as he told me the heroic tale of how Henry saved their lives. I asked Maria at the reception desk about Henry, she told me where he was. He was all right. He had a few cuts and bruises, and a minor concussion from being hit on the head too many times, but he was a tough cookie, and he was very happy to see that the kids were okay.
I left the hospital feeling guilty about Helen and Henry’s injuries. If they were not trying to help me, then they wouldn’t have gotten hurt. I had no idea what next. Running now seemed like the most cowardice thing to do. This maniac put my friends in the hospital and threatened my kids one too many times. I had to do something. But, I was scared and I had not the slightest idea where to begin or what to do. I didn’t want to go back my apartment because there was the chance that he was there waiting for me and the kids.
My sister offered to come and stay with us for a while, but with Joseph still on the loose, there was no way I was going to let her end up in the hospital too. Joseph was ruthless and I just couldn’t live with myself if she got hurt. I decided to see if Richard would help me again. I took the kids with me to the station, but when we got there, Richard was released. The chief let him go with a strong warning. I was nervous and scared to, but I mustered up the courage and called him. I thought that he would turn his back on me after all that he’d been through because of me, but he was more than willing to offer any help he could. I asked the chief to have someone escort me back to my apartment so I could pick up some things. We needed a place to stay, but Helen’s place was not an option since Joseph knew where she lived. So I accepted Richard’s invitation to stay with him until I found another place.