Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Vanishing Runner, Miles City, Montana

They headed out from Grand Junction, Colorado early in the morning on a 900 mile drive to Williston, N. D. That is where the oil was flowing and a man could make $1,000 a day, or so Luke and Ray fancied.
            Luke was medium height with a round, balding head and long black sideburns. He was edgy and his small brown eyes darted to and fro. Ray was tall, wide shouldered and his face was sharp angles, his straw-colored hair always in disarray. Ray had a mustache and a goatee, which gave him an incongruous aristocratic air.
            Driving non-stop across Wyoming they finally collapsed in Miles City, Montana. Wisely, Luke and Ray knew they should get clean and sober clean up. So far it had been a trip of jug wine and crack cocaine.
            Taking lunch in the Main Street Grinder, they were startled when a stranger slid into the booth next to Ray. He was dressed in a night rider cowboy hat and wearing a walnut-colored range duster. 
            “You boys want to make ten-thousand dollars apiece?” The stranger asked.
             Luke and Ray took a breath. They were close to Williston, oil territory, so the offer made sense as it was probably a oil-related job. They quickly agreed, but then the stranger told them they had to kidnap a woman, a runner, and bring her to his place outside of Miles City. Struggling out of their drug-induced hangover and stupor, Luke and Ray pondered the deal, hesitating, but then they agreed. Better to hit Williston with a stash.
            The stranger gave them the woman’s picture, explaining she was special and he needed to study her, an experiment or two. He offered that the early morning was the best time to grab her, as she jogged outside of Miles City.
            The next morning Luke and Ray prowled the area where the man said they could find the woman. Sure enough, she was there running at a fast pace. Tall and slender in a sweat shirt and black tights, a ball cap low over her face she was the only figure on the deserted street. They drove past her, and then stopped suddenly stopped and Luke threw the back door of the Grand Marquis open and the woman slammed into it.
            Luke pulled the startled woman into the back of the car and Ray accelerated, taking a sharp right which slammed shut the back door of the big sedan. The woman fought like a tiger, surprising Luke and he had to put the hold on her. Ray drove at a moderate speed and headed to the stranger’s rendezvous location which was outside of town.
            When the violent struggling in the back finally stopped, Ray turned and glanced in the back seat. Luke was cradling the woman. She was dead.
 Ray went back to his driving and shrugged to no one. The man did not say she had to be alive.
            They found the house which was set alone on a rise in the prairie, an elegant gabled Victorian with fading white paint in need of work. Ray drove around back, as directed and he helped Luke walk the limp woman onto the back porch. 
            The door opened and the stranger appeared dressed in his hat and long coat. He took one look and sighed. “So you killed her.” He said.
            Luke started to protest, but Ray shook his head. No need to explain.
            They walked the woman in and laid her on a couch and looked furtively around the large, dusty living room. The stranger looked down at the woman and touched her neck.
            “Well, this is better than nothing.” The man said, looking at Luke and Ray. “But it means you will have to come with us. We will need to study you too. I hope you don’t mind. We’re going somewhere close, parallel actually.”
            At a gesture from the stranger, a fissure appeared in the oak floor and the panels parted, revealing steps into the darkness. He directed them to take the woman and carry her down the steps. Luke and Ray abjectly obeyed and the four of them descended into the fissure, past the gloom and into the bright light beyond.
            Today the Miles Mansion sits empty, a property now owned by the local bank. Luke and Ray never made it to Williston, but no one cares.
            And the runner is still missing.


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