Kathryn Lynch

Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch

Photo of policemen searching.

As the rain increased, rivulets of water made their way down dirt walls and across the the Old Lady's neck where she lay face down in the ditch. The temperature had dropped, so the water was cold enough to revive her to consciousness.

She lay there for a few moments, without moving, assessing the circumstances in which she found herself. She was in a wooded area, location unknown. She was badly injured. No memories of how she got there presented themselves, so she reasoned that she might have been involved in a serious car accident. The problem with that analysis was that she could hear no passing traffic. When she raised her head to look around, she could see no hint of a road.

The Old Lady had spent her working life solving the problems of others. She would now have to solve her own predicament, dragging herself to an area where help was available. She might have to spend a night in the woods if help had not been found. She knew that weather, her injuries, and her age might combine to end her life, but that would happen only while she was trying to get some help. Lying in a ditch waiting to die was not the answer.

So it was, that the Old Lady began the attempt to extricate herself from her dirt prison. The pain was excruciating. As she rose to her knees, it became apparent that one of her legs was badly broken. She grabbed a small tree nearby and with great effort, after several attempts, was able to roll out of the ditch. She lay there gasping for breath for a long time.

He drove carefully. The Old Bag's car was a perfect cover because no one knew he had it. This part of the escape he could not plan ahead of time because he did not know what lay outside the prison grounds.

For months he had prepared to make his move. The job at the infirmary was a perfect opportunity to obtain what he needed. After a serious fight in the yard, both cons and corrections officers had been brought in. During their examinations, he had hidden an Officer's shirt and pants. When the Officer was transported to the hospital, the shirt and pants had been forgotten.

Weeks had passed. On a bright sunny afternoon, he went out to the yard as scheduled. No one recognized him, for he had given himself a crew cut the night before with a razor he had carefully hidden. The new "Officer" wandered on the fringes of the prisoner groups, appearing to concern himself with his duty of security.

In the middle of a baseball game, he slipped into the trees. Unknown to many, there was no fence. Security at the prison depended on the security of the buildings. As he made his way, his progress was impeded by large fallen redwood stumps, heavy underbrush, and blackberries more tangled and obstructing than any barbed wire.

After about 30 yards he reached a clearing, and as luck would have it, a private road. He walked in the direction away from the busy street. The trailer stood alone off the road, a car parked outside. Grabbing a pipe from a pile of fencing materials, he knocked at the door. An old woman, seeing his uniform, opened it without hesitation.

He had obtained her car keys and had beaten the Old Bag senseless. If she wasn't dead, she would be soon, for he had dragged her to the trunk of the car and tossed her in a wooded area on his way out of town. He would leave no witnesses behind.

The Old Lady did not know which way to drag herself. She chose a direction where the trees appeared to be thinner because more sunlight penetrated the area. Perhaps a road lay in the clearing. Her progress was measured inches at a time, every move marked by cries of pain and a gasping intake of breath.

After several hours she had moved only a few yards. Discouraged, her hopes of survival began to slip away. No one knew where she was. She would die from her injuries, and some young buck hunter would find her bones, months from now, in the Spring.

She remembered that a Corrections Officer had come to the door. He had struck her many times. The reasons for the beating were unclear, for she could think of nothing she had done to warrant this kind of response from the authorities.

In spite of her willingness to go on, the Old Lady was overcome with fatigue. She slept, mercifully dulling the pain.

Tom Maynard, the Chief Enforcement Officer at the prison, was furious. No one had ever before escaped from the maximum security section of the prison, and it had happened on his watch! He mobilized search dogs and recalled all off-duty corrections officers to participate in the search, along with the local police, the sheriffs, and the Highway Patrol.

The bloodhounds were shown pieces of the prisoner's blanket to trigger a pursuit smell. Keepers and dogs fanned out into the neighborhoods surrounding the prison. They arrived in short order at the Old Lady's trailer. The absence of the owner, as well as her car, gave the pursuers a good idea how the prisoner had left the area.

Keepers loaded the hounds into their transport van and drove down the highway, stopping every two or three miles to allow the dogs to smell their surroundings. At the fourth stop they whiffed the air, threw their heads back and began to bay. Releasing the dogs and drawing their weapons, the men proceeded cautiously into the forest.

The Old Lady drifted in and out of consciousness. Once she thought she heard her dogs barking, but that would mean she was at home. As her head began to clear, she was surprised to see a large bloodhound sitting nearby, his sad eyes surveying her quietly. Two more hounds paced about the area, drooling and barking. She could hear men yelling and approaching her location. For the first time the Old Lady began to hope that she would be rescued.

The road wound through the mountains, forcing him to slow down. He was careful to obey the speed limit. When he found himself behind a "poker", he refrained from honking his horn, following too closely, or passing where it was not allowed. There would be no second chances because he was an escapee and he had killed the Old Bag for her car.

The gas gauge was running low. He pulled over at a rest stop where he removed the badge and used the razor to strip away the symbols of authority on his clothing. Now he resembled the many blue collar workers in the area.

There was a city about 40 miles ahead. He would go into the bathroom of a fast food joint, beat the first dude who came in, and take his money. Then he could gas up and be on his way to L.A. to be with his Home Boys. They would never catch him once he got there.

Maynard and the dog handlers entered the woods carefully. The pitiful figure of the Old Lady lay visible in the distance and he cursed at this evidence of indifference-to-life that the dogs had found. However, to his surprise the Old Lady was alive, babbling incoherently. He placed a call to the medics for assistance, and joined the dogs in the transport van as it continued its drive South.

He had almost reached the city when, checking the rear view mirror, he saw the helicopter quickly approaching his location. Damn! They had spotted him! He would have to hide in the woods, without a weapon, without supplies, and without warm clothing. Pulling over at a turnout, he ran into the trees and out of sight.

Epilogue: The Old Lady was transported to the medical center in a nearby city. She remained there for almost a month, suffering from a broken leg, a broken pelvis, and two breaks in one of her arms. Operations to insert pins in her old bones were necessary to make them heal properly. Cuts on her head and shoulders needed stitches. She was covered with bruises and bug bites--unrecognizable, even to her close relatives.

The medivac helicopter transporting the Old Lady to the hospital was the one which had frightened the fugitive and drove him to hide in the woods. The police helicopter had been grounded for months due to lack of funds in the bad economy.

When the prison van finally pulled into the turnout, the dogs howled in unison. They were released into the nearby trees where they located the prisoner, who surrendered without a fight. In addition to the time he was already serving, he now had additional sentences of 10 years for attempted murder, 2 years for grand theft auto, and 6 years for escape, running consecutively.

The Old Lady went home. Relishing the opportunity to rest in her favorite chair, she still had aches which reminded her daily of her brush with death.

These days she was much more cautious.

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