I woke up next to Henry in the back of a windowless van. He was still unconscious, and bound hands and feet with duct tape. No one else was in the van, there were a few empty vases, and some potted flowers along with one of Mr. Campbell’s daffy old sweaters. Some left over Chinese food was sitting in a corner, which was stinking up the van making breathing a challenge. I managed to get up onto my knees and looked out the windshield. The white paneled garage door stood like a great wall in front of me; we were still parked in Cassidy’s driveway.
I reached my fingers into my back pocket and brought out the little knife. I handled it carefully to open it, and bent my wrist and began to cut the tape. I was interrupted by a car that pulled into the driveway and parked next to the van. I stopped and listened intently, one of the doors closed, and a man began to speak.
“Okay, you guys stay here. I’m going to have a word with your aunt.”
“Richard!” I tried to yell, forgetting that my mouth was still taped. I worked quickly to free myself and jumped over to the passenger seat, and banged at the window. But Richard was already at the door. Joseph answered the door. Richard turned around and saw me at the van window. He glanced back at Joseph, and then began to walk away. Joseph immediately caught up with what was happening. He reached under his jacket and pulled out a gun.
Richard backed away cautiously while keeping his gaze fixed on Joseph. Unexpectedly, he lunged at Joseph and grabbed the arm with the gun; their bodies locked together as they wrestled for the weapon. I came out of the vehicle, and moved slowly toward them. My heart sunk when I saw the gun get sandwiched between their chests as they wrestled, and then an explosion rattled the air. Richard tumbled back and fell; I was almost by his side when he began to raise himself up.
“I’m all right.” He assured me while standing to his feet, and then Junior’s voice captured my attention. Joseph made his way to the car, and ordered the boys out. He forced Jaden into the van. Junior kicked and screamed in his arms as he stuffed him in next, and slid the door shut.
Richard and I moved off in unison, but were stopped in our tracks as the gun was aimed directly at us. There was no doubt in either of our minds that he would pull the trigger. He kept the gun aimed at us, and then hopped into the van and backed out the driveway quickly and pointed the van down the street and sped off.
Richard hopped into his GMC terrain, without a prompt. I followed his lead and got in on the passenger’s side. I said nothing, and even if I did, it wouldn’t have been received. His facial expression alone told me what he was thinking. There were a few kids riding skate boards and bikes in the street, they scurried out of the way as Joseph gunned the van down the stretch of suburban road. Richard followed, mimicking every horrifying movement like a man possessed. Richard’s determination seemed like a personal vendetta rather than an effort to rescue the kids.
Joseph whipped the van around the last corner out of Northridge, almost tipping it over. Near the highway, a few cop cars were staking out. We caught their attention, suddenly I heard sirens wailing behind us. Richard, however, didn’t look back or even consult the rear view mirror. He griped the steering wheel tighter and floored the pedal.
As we got farther on the highway the traffic got thicker. His teeth gritted in anger as he effortlessly over took each car. We caught up with Joseph in the blink of an eye. Richard pulled the car up to the side of the van, but Joseph glanced at us through the window, and then slammed the van into the side of the car.
He forced us up against traffic barrier. Even though I was the one holding the wheel, I felt the weight of the van crushing the SUV against the guard rail. Richard tried hard to get us back on the road but Joseph was relentless. The cops wasted no time in trying to end the chase, one of them pulled up next to the van. They ordered Joseph to pull over but he turned his attention to forcing them off the road. Repeatedly he slammed the van into the cop car. It swerved then went into a spin and slammed into another car.
That bought us enough time to get back behind the van. I heard the engine revving higher and higher until, the black SUV slammed straight into the back of the van.
“My kids!” I screamed. Richard seemed to forget that the kids were still in tow and Henry who might still be unconscious. He tried to go around the van, but oncoming traffic prevented him. Finally an opportunity presented, and he managed to bring the car around the side of the van, and then slammed the tail end of it, and caused the van to swerve a bit, but it steadied again. The second attempt saw success. The van spun out of control and came to a stop as the back end slammed into the vehicle before it.
I started to feel a slight bit of relief as it seemed the chase had finally ended.
Suddenly, the engine roared to life the tires screeched as Joseph stormed down the road, and made the turn for the bridge leading to Northridge. Richard followed relentlessly, and so did the cops.
The bridge had four lanes of traffic a three foot high concrete wall separated the lanes. The sky across the horizon glowed orange as the sun began to set.
The traffic was moving fast, but the sea of cars made it almost impossible to overtake. The van was one car ahead of us, and my anxiety built as the possibility that Joseph might escape with my kids haunted me.
Then the van swayed across the road, and sent cars crouching onto the shoulder to avoid collision. Richard tried to follow them closely, but it was difficult to overtake. We were falling behind in the line, and I began to lose hope as the van moved ahead of us. Then it began to swerve wildly across the road. It slammed into several cars creating a buildup of traffic on the highway. The tires screeched quietly as the van slammed against the traffic barrier wall. It steadied, and then slammed against it again, the metals grinding against the wall, sent golden sparks flying into the air.
Suddenly, the left front end of the van slammed into the wall, and sent the van into a spin. The tires screeched and smoke rose from the asphalt as the van spun out of control, and then came to a screeching halt facing us. I was relieved that it finally stopped. The sirens behind us stopped too, and only then did Richard glance behind to see what was happening.
He got out of the car quickly, but before he could move, a voice came from a megaphone.
He was instructed to stay where he was standing, while I was instructed to get out of the car slowly and put my hands on my head, we were both instructed to walk to the back of the car, and put our hands on the trunk. I complied, and waited to see what would happen next. Over my shoulder I saw police officers snaking through the jumbled cars and rushing toward us.
Soon the rhythmic pitter-patter of footsteps were behind me. My hands were pulled from the trunk of the car, and brought down to my lower back, with the cold grip of metal encircling my wrists as the handcuffs chirped closed.
We were both read our rights as an officer escorted us to the back of cruiser. I took a few hesitant steps, and then looked over my shoulder at the van in the road. I twisted around, and almost came free from his clutch, but he got me back under control. Richard, on the other hand, fought back every step of the way,
“We didn’t do anything, let me go!” He yelled defensively, he pulled and pushed at the two officers that escorted him. Soon, they had him chest down on the ground. Then, everyone was motionless. Silence took over the air as the commotion from the van grabbed everyone’s attention. The back doors on the van flew open, and Joseph came out hauling Jaden backward arm draped around his neck and holding a gun at him, using him as a shield.
A few cops moved toward him, but were stopped dead in their tracks with their hands frozen at their hips as the gun was aimed at them.
“Stay back. All of you, I’ll shoot I mean it don’t come any closer or I’ll shoot!” he warned. He ordered the cops to put their weapons on the ground, but his command was ignored. Joseph fired a shot in the air, and those who came out of their cars ducked in panic. The cops tried to reason with Joseph, but he would have none of it. He dragged Jaden back, and moved over to the guard rail of the bridge.
He aimed the gun at the police, who were still ignoring his threats, taking small steps to get closer to him. He peeked over the railing, and then aimed at the cops again. Joseph examined the rail again, pulling Jaden back with him. I watched helplessly from the back of the police car as Joseph pushed Jaden forward, then effortlessly scaled the rail, and jumped feet first into the dark choppy waters below.