My eyes were growing heavy. The pain was receding. I was going back to those long rides home from St. Cloud.
Then the scene changed to nightmare.
There had been one ride I had missed. I had stayed with friends that night so I wouldn’t miss an important baseball game. My parents and my sister Sharon had gone to St. Cloud to see a movie. Coming home, my father lost control of the car. It plowed into a ditch and caught fire. Father had escaped, taking Sharon with him. My mother had never made it out.
That night had been the end of my childhood. My father had been driving drunk. Again. While the matter was still under investigation, he took his jeep and canoe and went north. To Canada, I suppose. We never saw him again.
Now that memory caught me unaware, sliding in on the moist Mediterranean wind. I was shaking and one sob broke out, almost like a hiccough. I cut it off. This was a pain I didn’t share with anyone; not even Raven; not even Will.
Raven looked back over the seat and said, “Are you all right?”
“Sure. I just hit my hand when I moved.”
She turned forward again. I stared out the back window at the anonymous car headlights, which might be enemies, probably were strangers, and certainly were not friends.
# # #
We drove through Martigues, the “Venice of France”. It was supposed to be a lovely village, but at 2 AM, who could tell. The flat sheen of Barre Lagoon was like a dull mirror in the moonlight off to the right. The opposite side was a modernistic nightmare of shipping and industrial silhouettes.
Will said, “Are you sure this is wise, or necessary? I feel like a fool.”
“Are you thinking about what you will tell your boss?”
“Well, yes; frankly, I am.”
“Tell him you put us both on the train for Paris, but I wasn’t willing to travel directly out of Marseille and insisted that you drive us to Nimes instead. Tell them that I was afraid Davis and his buddy would sneak on the train with us if we left from the St. Charles station. Every word will be true.”
The main line from Paris follows the valley of the Rhone southward to Avignon where it splits. One branch goes east through Marseille and on toward Italy. The other branch goes west through Nimes and on to Spain. We were crossing from one branch to the other before heading north.
“Where are you really going?”
“We haven’t discussed it. I have an immediate destination in mind, but I won’t tell you. Then you can say with a clear conscience that you don’t know.”
“Great! I’m sure they will understand your thinking if they ever hear the full story.”
I didn’t like the bitterness in Will’s voice, or the way he had so easily and quickly slipped into the habit of referring all decisions to his superiors. I said, “There is no reason for them to ever hear it.”
We passed through Arles, crossed the Rhone, and bored northwestward through the darkness. Raven was asleep and I was beginning to drift off. I pulled the clip, emptied the chamber, placed the loose cartridge back in the clip, replaced the clip, lowered the hammer and locked the safety. Then I slept. more tomorrow