The trucker felt pity for Joseph the moment he saw him slumping in the road. Joseph limped to the door of the cab and climb in groaning. Gary was no coward. Over the years he’s seen a lot while on the road. This certainly was not the first time he’d picked up some stranger that seem to be having a bad day, no not at all and this probably wasn’t his last. He studied the man trying to figure him out.
There where types of hitch hikers, drifters, junkies and those were just trying to run away from a bad situation. But this man, this man was none of these. Family man, maybe. Yet he was torn up, dirty and broken, literally. Looking like he was attacked by a pack of wolves. Joseph breathed a sigh of relief after he was picked up.
“Thanks man I appreciate it,” he said to the driver. Gary looked at Joseph’s swollen arm.
“You’re welcome.” he said, raising a brow with suspicion. “Your arm looks pretty messed up, what happened, you break it or something?”
Joseph looked down at his arm, which was still throbbing with pain and turning a bluish color.
“I had a little accident,” he said, nailing a paper like smile on his face.
“A little accident? Looks like you were hit by a train.” Joseph stared out the window for a moment, and then looked at the man.
“It was a hit and run, some crazy guy was speeding down the road, he hit me and then just drove off.” He studied Joseph’s dirty, torn clothing and injured arm with disbelief. There’s no mud or grass on the road. The more he explained the more holes he poked into his story.
“So where you heading to? I can drop you off at the hospital.” It seemed that every ten seconds he looked at Joseph, each time trying to find another missing link.
“I’ll be okay, you can drop me off at the next gas station.” He stared straight out the windshield as he spoke. He could sense that the man was watching him and wanted really badly to do something about it. But his mouth was drying and his head felt like it was being slit open with an axe.
“You sure about that, you look like you need a doctor.”
“I’m fine, just leave me at the next gas station!” he said irritably.
“Calm down man, I’m just trying to help.” Gary slowly reached under his seat and got out his revolver. There were times when he’d had to use it in the past and he wasn’t afraid to use it again.
The cab was really quiet for a couple of miles, As soon as this man leaves this cab, I’m calling the cops, he thought to himself. The closest hospital was about fifteen miles away, and Joseph felt worse with each passing moment. His lips were chalk white and cracked as a dirt road in summer.
The trucker realized that he wasn’t doing well, and offered him some water. He was nodding off into unconsciousness when Gary patted him on the cheek. Joseph responded weakly, and took the liter bottle of water and drank. He almost finished it.
“Hold on man, the hospital is just up the road you can make it.” He put the accelerator to the floor, pushing the semi to the limit. When they got to the hospital, Joseph was half conscious. The truck driver got out of the cab and went in to get help. A few minutes later Joseph was strapped to a stretcher and wheeled into the ER.
It was a busy shift for the staff as one bloody body after another was rushed in. There was a terrible accident in town, and it seemed that all the doctors had their hands full. No one was able to talk to him right away thought he wanted so badly to talk to one of the doctors about this mysterious man. He waited for some time, but things took a while to cool down and he was on a schedule so he left. After he went back to the truck, he picked up the phone to call the police, but his heart sank with pity. That guy must have been through enough, whatever he was going through, he could sort it out on his own, he thought to himself. He closed the cell and drove off.
An x-ray confirmed a hairline fracture of his right humerus and several bruised ribs. They hooked him up to some intravenous fluid, and cast his fractured arm. He fell asleep a few minutes after he was put on the IV. By late evening, he finished four bags of fluid. He was feeling even more pain when he woke up than before he came to the hospital. His head was pulsing, and the arm seemed to hurt even more with the cast. Joseph woke up to a pleasant voice. A nurse was standing over him.
“How do you feel?” she asked with the most care and concern he had ever gotten in his life.
“Like crap,” he said forcing his eyes open. she smiled politely, and handed him some pills.
“Here take these for the pain. Looks like you took a nasty hit, but you’ll live. Eat and get some more rest. The doctor will talk to you later.”
“Is it okay if I use the phone to call my family? They don’t know what happened, and they’re probably wondering where I am.” He nodded to the phone on the little table beside his bed.
“I could call them for you.”
“Thanks, but you’ve already been so kind. I’ll tell them what’s going on.” She smiled at him, and closed the door softly as she left the room. He called Cassidy, and told her what happened. He didn’t tell her everything over the phone, just where he was and that he needed fresh clothes.
Cassidy arrived at the hospital with the clothes that her brother asked for. She brought a baseball cap and some sun glasses so he could leave without being recognized. He was delighted to see Cassidy. That half baked story he fed the doctor would not hold up, and he knew that they suspected something. Cassidy’s eyes darted around as she walked down the corridor to her brother’s room, carrying the little bag with the clothes that he had asked her to bring.
She wore a beautiful blonde lace wig convincingly with shades and dark clothing. This wasn’t normal for her, but she too had to be real careful about how she was going around. She too was now a wanted woman, not only for aiding her fugitive brother, but for causing her dear husbands injuries.
She was feeling the sting of her actions and new that she had crossed a line that was impossible to go back over. Joseph had taken things too far, this was not how it was supposed to go down. She wanted nothing more than to tell him that this was it, that she was not going to help him anymore. But Joseph was never the kind of person who liked to hear no. She had a strange sense of obligation to him, and didn’t want to disappoint him. But his actions had put her in deep hot water. She fled from her quiet suburban home and a comfortable life, and was now on the run. She approached the door hesitantly. She wondered for a minute, if turning around and giving herself up would prevent the situation from spiraling further out of control. But then Joseph would be all alone with no one to turn to for help. She thought out loud. Cassidy opened the door and went in to see her brother with a crisp white cast on his arm.
I’ll confront him about the whole thing once the time is right. She promised herself.
Cassidy took him to a small motel on the outskirts of the town to rest until they came up with a feasible plan. He was more determined than ever to get his kids and take revenge on Karen. There could be no more mistakes. This time he was going to do things right.
He looked at his sister, his only family, she’ll help me. She has to. She’s weak he thought to himself. He’s always been since they were kids and well into her adult years. She could do nothing without him, she needed him and he would always be there for her as long as she could get him out of trouble. She had money, friends in high places and respect for him. This would be easy. She would have to give him money to get out of the country with his kids and who knew maybe even get her friends in the legal world to knock down some of the charges if it ever came to that, it wouldn’t be the first. Time was not on his side and neither was the world, he was ready to get a move on before it was too late. Sitting at the mini bar he smiled as his thoughts comforted him.
Cassidy watched her brother throw back one shot after another until he had downed an entire bottle of whisky. She was scared to confront him but she knew what needed to be done. He had not said one word to her since they left the hospital. He didn’t even explain how he ended up there in the first place, and now was her chance. The effects of the alcohol were setting in. He was calm and relaxed. She called his name softly, and he responded with a look.
“What happened back at Horizon? The news said you attacked a man, he’s in pretty bad shape Joseph. He might not make it.” She said softly. He turned in his chair and looked at her
“I did what I had to do sis, they wouldn’t have let me just walk out of there.”
“I know that Joseph, but you didn’t have to hurt him…”
“Didn’t have to hurt him huh? I didn’t see you coming up with any bright ideas. What did you expect me to do?”
“Couldn’t you have thought of something else? I always do what you ask, and this time things are going too far. You need to stop this before anyone else gat’s hurt.”
“All this, coming from a woman who knocked her husband unconscious to help her fugitive brother! Tell me sis, how do you feel sitting here with me and not with your husband?” He walked over to her and yelled in her face, he took a step back and saw the tears welling up in her eyes. Joseph was never the type to say ‘I’m sorry,’ but he knew that his comment hurt her. He gave her a look and she knew what it meant. She watched him as he walked to one of the beds, lie down, and fell asleep. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she sat in the chair. His words cut deep. She was in no position to judge him after what she did back in her basement. She too had crossed the line, and there was no turning back. Henry was the love of her life, her friend and confidant for their entire seven year marriage. She wasn’t the easiest person to be with, and she knew that, but Henry loved her regardless.
“He wouldn’t take me back after all that I’ve done. And why should he, I don’t deserve him.”
She thought about how patient he’d been with her; he stood by her through every turbulent moment of their marriage. Joseph though, her only brother, had always been there for her their entire childhood after their mother abandoned them to the care of their abusive alcoholic father. They’d always stuck together as a family no matter what, the three of them were always there for each other. But somehow their older sibling, Susan, was immune to Joseph’s “charm.” She never submitted to him. She never saw him as a protective figure in their lives.
To Susan, Joseph was just as bossy and arrogant as their father. By his late teens, Joseph was just as abusive as their father and drank just as much. Susan severed all ties with Joseph after he was locked up, and now she was the only person left that he could depend on. She went over to the mini bar and poured herself a shot. She sat by the window and as she tossed it back, she let the very thought of seeing Henry again fade from her mind.
Reality slapped her in the face, and she realized that she had let her loyalty to her brother tear her marriage apart and ruin the life that she had worked so hard to build. There was no way she could undo the damage, but she reasoned that she could even the score if she helped her brother get his children back. Then she could move on with her life, and leave Joseph to sort out his affairs on his own.
A few weeks at Richard’s proved to be intolerable. Not for us, but for Richard. He was an avid fan of football, and collected many priceless memorabilia of the game. He didn’t have kids of his own, and had no clue how to relate to them. They never complained that he was rude or unkind, but Junior took a liking to the fancy stuff and caused chaos at the apartment. He tried to grin and bear it, but I could see him die a little more each time something was broken.
Getting my own place was the only way to stop his pain, and at least they would have their own room until we could leave.
Helen was out of the hospital, and was doing well. The children and I went over to spend time with her as often as we could, and help her out around the house. She was as strong and tenacious as ever. She insisted that her sister went back home after only a few days. Helen was always an independent free spirit who never liked being waited on anyway. Her brush with Joseph didn’t make her any less determined to help me. She suggested that I change my identity until we were able to move. He had found us easy enough, so I heeded her advice and took some practical measures.
There was still no word on Joseph, and the police had no clue where he was hiding. Cassidy conveniently disappeared too after her lawyer bailed her out. The police had arrested and charged her for assault and harboring a fugitive, but she skipped town. I had no idea why Joseph took so long to come after me and the kids, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Getting our names changed alone wouldn’t keep him away so I cut my hair and changed the color.
The boys had to change schools because Cassidy knew which school they attended, and I was afraid she would help Joseph to get to them. I had to quit my job at the hospital, and took up a position as a school nurse close to Jaden and Junior’s new school. This was all temporary until all the paper work was done and we could move to Dominica. Things went well for about two months. There were no reports of sighting of either Josephs or Cassidy in the news, but I never dropped my guard. They were still out there somewhere, so most days I wore sun glasses when I went out. Paranoia took over my life. After what Cassidy had said in her basement, I constantly felt like we were being watched.
I was at work when Sharon called me all bubbly and smiles one day to tell me that she was preparing the guest room for the kids, and that they were converting the garage into a bedroom for me. She could barely speak from all the excitement she was feeling, but we had to go through the process to find work for me and obtaining the necessary permit before I would be allowed to move into the country permanently.
Dominica is a small island with a small population. Two thirds of the island is forest, it’s the last place anyone would look for me and the kids. Sharon’s husband was a native of the country, so she got her citizenship through their marriage. She went to Dominica on a vacation from work, and fell in love and married a year before Joseph and I got divorced.
Her husband owns a janitorial company that he refused to part with, so she moved there. One of the hospitals that he had a contract with had openings for nurses. He personally recommended me to the administrator, and she agreed to consider me for one of the spots. I got the invitation to work in Dominica for six months, this made me and the kids eligible for residency there.
Helen took us to lunch the next day to celebrate our freedom. We stuffed our faces and reminisced about the good times in Northridge.
Jaden reminded me that every time we moved, we packed our stuff in boxes and that it might not be a good method for traveling on an airplane. We took the kids to get new suitcases, but Junior was exhausted and fussy, and needed to use the bathroom every ten minutes. I was in line to pay for our new luggage sets, so I asked Helen to take him. They were gone for quite some time. We waited outside the store for Helen and Junior to return. She came back with Junior sobbing on her shoulder. She said that after he used the bathroom, he challenged her to a race back. He took a head start, but when she caught up to him, he was hiding behind a large vase in a corner. He told her that his father was watching him. We took them home to rest. They were exhausted after a long day out.
“He’s waiting for the right time to make his move. I know it. I’m sick and tired of running, we’ve come too far. I can’t let him take my kids.” Helen sat down next to me and held my hand.
“We’ll do this together; you have friends, Karen I’m here for you.” Her voice was calm and reassuring. I found solace in her words. We filled Richard in on the situation, and he came over to stay with us. We were up late discussing ways how we could deal with the situation. Richard suggested that we called the police and let them deal with it, since they were already looking for him. But Helen was convinced that they would not just take a six year old boy’s word that he saw Joseph at the mall. Richard seemed uneasy, and kept going to the window.
“What are you looking at?” Helen asked. “There’s a car parked across the street. One guy sitting in it, he’s been there since I got here.” We were going to join him at the window to see what he was talking about, but he stopped us.
“Both of you don’t come at the same time. I think he’s watching us.”
“That’s it we need to call the cops before this gets out of hand.” Richard drew back from the window and paced the floor.
“And say what Richard?” That there’s a car park on the street? That’s not illegal.”
“This is not a joke. This guy is dangerous. We need to end this before it goes too far.”
“It went far enough when that psycho took her kids. We can’t call the cops now that’s exactly what he is expecting us to do. We need to catch him at his own game.”
“And what game is that? You know what I’ve heard enough. Karen, the best thing to do right now is go to the police and let them deal with this.”
“What happened to you Richard? A few months ago, you would go to hell and back to help Karen get as far away from this guy as possible. Now all you want o do is run and hide. I’m starting to think that I was wrong about you.”
“Stop it both of you. The last thing we need right now is to fall apart. I need both of you, especially now, so let’s put our heads together and figure this out.”
“I agree.” He said walking over to the phone on the kitchen counter. “I suggest that we call the cops and report the suspicious activity.”
“Or, we could use this to our advantage and lure Joseph into a trap and then the cops get involved.”
There were so many times that the police failed to protect us from Joseph that at this point, I didn’t feel that they would be of much help. What we needed was to get him out of the picture. Luring him into a trap so that the police could arrest him sounded more appealing. Now that he was wanted on many charges, if they did got their hands on him he was looking at a considerable amount of jail time.
“I think we should go with Helen’s plan. It sounds like it could work.”
“I can’t believe you actually want to go along with this. It’s a suicide mission. She’s insane you can’t possibly think this will work.”
“We’ve been running for way too long. This needs to end now. Joseph is clever, the cops won’t get anywhere near him, he’s expecting me to call them it’s what I’ve always done.”
Richard reluctantly agreed to go along with Helen’s plan, in which his only role was to pick up the kids and drop them off at school then pick them up from school and take them back home safely each day until we were ready to leave.