As this was turning into a regular blizzard by now, complete with high winds, Richard only managed to get the car up to 85 before backing off for fear of running us off the road. We continued south a few miles until we noticed the fuel gauge was now showing slightly below “E”.
Richard turned into a farmyard to turn around, but it was quickly apparent that nobody lived there, as the snow drifts from previous storms had no tracks through them, and we promptly got stuck in one of the drifts. Well this was a pickle. Out in the middle of nowhere, stuck in a stolen car.
I got out and tried to push the car backward, and then forward, to no avail. The Trans Am was in fact known for being able to get stuck on flat ground with just a dusting of snow, and here we were in a bona fide drift. After several minutes of attempts, I finally hit upon the idea (out of desperation) to push the car sideways on the rear quarter panel, and this miraculously worked on the first attempt.
Richard was so relieved, he let me drive the car back to Mandan. I was now ready to park the car in Melissa’s driveway and be done with it, but Richard wanted to drive around just a bit more. “Do you have any change on you?” he asked.
“Yeah. No a lot, but some.”
“So do I. Look, we need gas, but we can’t go into a gas station and pay with a handful of change. We need to go to Super Valu and echange it for dollar bills.”
When we returned to Mandan, we passed a patrol car sitting on the roadside just inside city limits, and this time I said nothing, as I knew I’d get called paranoid again, but we both saw it there. As it did not follow us however, I relaxed somewhat.
We pulled over to count our change. We had a total between us of $1.31. Enough for a gallon.
We headed for the Super Valu store to exchange it for a dollar bill so as not to look suspicious at the gas station.
As I pulled the car into the Super Valu parking lot, I noticed several police cars were by amazing coincidence, also pulling into that same parking lot, each using a different entrance, including one right behind us.
“What is this?” I said cluelessly. "Some kind of fucking convention?"
For the first time, Richard began to look paranoid. "Um…I think it’s for us."
I parked the car, left it running, and we got out and casually began walking to the front door of the store, even as the police cars began to surround us.
The first car stopped to one side of us, the driver stepped out and said, “Say, boys…?”
“Pretend you don’t hear him,” I hissed, as we were just entering the store doors at the time.
The moment we entered the store, we broke into a full sprint for the back of the store. I vaguely remember passing a few employees along the way. We reached the back of the store, and looked around for an exit. I quickly spotted a door that was marked “Employees Only”, and burst through it, Richard close behind me.
We were in the stock room. We ran around until we spotted a door marked “Exit”, and slammed though it and into an alley. To our left, we saw several police officers just rounding the corner of the building at a trot. We shot straight ahead, through a used car lot where I banged my shins on a car bumper (which hurt but did not slow me down), went through the car lot, and found ourselves hurtling across Main Street, not looking either way for traffic, and down a slight incline onto the railroad tracks, which ran parallel to Main Street.
I was out of breath by then, and began to slow down, thinking maybe we had lost them when we had gone over the rise. Suddenly, a spotlight hit us, and a voice boomed, “Hey you! Police! Freeze!”
I froze, afraid I would get shot.
Richard however, who was behind me at the time, zoomed ahead past me at such a rate of speed that I couldn’t believe it. Richard was maybe 5’4" tall, and had short, stubby legs. Whereas I was 5’10", had long legs, and was the fastest guy on our track team at school. And once I decided I might as well run along with him, I discovered I could not keep up with him. The sight of the flurry of his legs kicking up all that snow as he moved far ahead of me, his hands in blade-mode, and his head tilted back, for some reason made me start laughing.
Until I heard cursing from behind us, and glanced quickly back to see 5 or 6 cops also sprinting, and not that far behind us. And leading them all was none other than the man himself, Chief Hugo Ternes. A man feared by every teenager that ever lived in that town.
I quit laughing, and doubled down on my sprint. Hugo Ternes was a long-legged fucker though, and I could sense he was gaining on us.
I saw Richard was heading for the dirt abutment that led up to an overpass that crossed the train yard. Richard reached it, and climbed it. When I got there, however, I found that it was quite steep, and covered with snow and ice, and I kept sliding back down. I heard a loud grunt below me, looked and saw Chief Ternes reaching for my leg, and somehow, I miraculously climbed almost instantly to the road above.
I climbed over the railing, and slammed into the rear quarter panel of a patrol car that was stopped there with its doors opening. I went around the back of the car and down the hill on the other side. Richard was just ahead of me, arms and legs flailing as he ran toward a residential street on the south side of town. Somehow, I caught up with him, and we weren’t saying anything to each other.
But I was ready to collapse. I could go no further. I tried to tell him this, but no words came out. He kept going straight down the sidewalk, while I turned right into someone’s yard, ran along the side of a house, nearly got bit by a small dog barking at me (fortunately he was tied up), and wound up trapped in their back yard. A three-foot wire fence surrounded the back part of the yard. Now normally, a 3-foot fence would have been no problem, but I was too exhausted to climb anything higher than a curb at that point.
So I went as far as I could to the back of the yard. There was a small shed there against the alley. I went along the shed until I hit the wire fence that ran parallel to the alley, and collapsed into a snow bank alongside the fence, with my back against the side of the shed. I could no longer move. At all. Worse, it was still snowing, my coat was open, it was very cold, and I was freezing. I noticed that the dog had stopped barking. I had to throw up, but when I did, nothing came up. I dry-heaved for a few minutes, and then that nausea passed. From where I lay, I could see one end of the alley, and the street beyond. Every few minutes, a police car would pass by. At one point, one of those cars very slowly passed with its search light aimed down the alley, the light hit me square in the eyes, blinding me, the car continued on a few feet, then the car stopped, backed up, the light hit me again, and all I could do was close my eyes.
When I again opened my eyes, the police car was turning into the alley, and coming slowly my way. I was puzzled that its searchlight was still scanning to the sides of the alley. I figured the game was up.
The car stopped right beside me, the only thing between the car and I being that thin wire fence. All four doors of the car opened, four men got out, and I closed my eyes, fully prepared to be dragged to my feet by my coat collar.
Instead, I heard a voice. Chief Hugo Ternes. “Those fuckers are probably still running. You, go that way, you go that way, and you come with me in the car.” I didn’t dare open my eyes, but I could hear the footsteps crunching in the snow as one of them ran directly in front of me, back along the same way I had come, but in the next yard. The little dog barked at him too. I heard two car doors slam, then the car continued down the alley, and I was alone again. When the dog again quit barking, things were surreally silent.
I lay there for another fifteen minutes, trying to get enough strength to just stand up.
During that time, I saw Richard pop into the alley from the other direction, about a hundred feet in front of me. He hissed, “Mark! Mark!” Then a police officer on foot also popped into the alley further down, spotted him, and Richard said, “Shit!” and disappeared back the way he had come, the cop in hot pursuit. I remember being amazed that he had not been caught yet. I began to think we had a feeble chance of getting out of this.