Connie had been so devastated when she saw on TV that Kate actually was the hostage, that she was temporarily unable to cope with the reality of the situation. But gradually, she began to get back to her less than normal self. "Oh, Lord, what'll I do?" she kept asking herself.
It wasn't as if she had never had experience with dealing with bizarre situations, yet it never failed to amaze her, the depths of the troubles she and Kate could get themselves into.
There was a thunderous knock on the door, which completed waking her up to reality.
"Who is it?"
"Just me!" Mrs. Ludley's strident voice was for once, most welcome. It sounded almost angelic to the Connie at this moment. She opened the door cautiously. "Is your sister at home?"
"Oh. Mrs. Ludley," and Connie began crying all over again. "She's been kidnapped!" "There. There, child," she tried to sooth her Connie's brow. Her hands felt like sandpaper. "I thought that girl looked like her when I seen th' eve-nin news just now."
"Oh, Mrs. Ludley. What'll we do"
"Peers to me th' first thing you belong t'do is notify th' police that it's your sister that robber's got with him."
"You're right, of course," and she dried her eyes on her blouse sleeve as she followed her landlady to the telephone.
The police took all of the information as Connie dictated it, then told her that they were certain her sister and her abductor were on the bus headed for Lubbock. "And we'll have our men waiting there at the station for them. You have nothing to worry about."
"Easy for you to say," Connie moaned as she hung up the receiver.
"Wanna come in with me and set a spell? I'm gonna watch Matlock." Mrs. Ludley was being so sweet, Connie thought
"Oh, could I please?" Connie was so relieved to have someone to talk with.
They went into the parlor and watched the weekly program together. It surely did look better in color. Even Don Knotts!
"Dry Gulch," the bus driver announced as he came to a stop and opened the door of the bus.
"Let's go," the robber commanded.
"But this isn't Lubbock."
"Boy, you're sharp as a tack! Now, move?"
Kate stumbled forward. She had been asleep and now she moved as though she were still in a dream. "There's not even a bus station!" she moaned.
"That store serves as a bus terminal," their driver said, overhearing her remark.
The store was a rough unpainted structure fronted by two Sinclair gasoline pumps of the 1940's variety. It may have been painted at one time, but all of the color was now faded from view. Kate started walking toward it.
"Hey, where do you think you're goin'?" he asked her.
"Well, if it's the bus station there has to be a john, and I still gotta gobad!"
"Just hold it---come on!"
Kate gave herself up in disgust and followed her captor as he walked jauntily down the
street of the little ghost town. Other than the "bus station, there was a saloon and a big frame building with a sign that read, "Eugene's Emporium", which must serve as haberdasher and butcher and grocer and Lord knows what else in this little God-forsaken burg. They were all similarly lacking in paint. The bank robber opened the door of a pickup truck that was standing unoccupied in front of the station and said, "Get in."
"But that's not your truck!"
Then she realized how foolish her remark had been. This man was a desperate bank robber. He had ribbed a bank, and was holding her hostage. What would "borrow" a truck matter to him? Wearily she crawled in and slammed the door shut.
"And don't try anything like jumpin' out that door, neither!"
That was the farthest thing from Kate's mind. She watched with keen interest as he stooped and pulled two wires from the underside of the dashboard. He certainly did have a good build. His muscles fairly rippled beneath the vinyl of his black windbreaker. It still continued to make its little rustling sound whenever he moved. What on earth was he doing that for? As he touched the two wires together, a spark flew into the air and the truck engine started with a roar. Kate hoped against hope that the owner of the pickup would come roaring out of the saloon, but, alas, such was not to be.
It was growing quite dark by now, and soon it would be totally pitch-black night. Stars were already beginning to twinkle overhead as the truck created a cloud of dust on the unpaved street of Dry Gulch. Kate felt totally miserable. She was hungry and she had to go to the john in the worst possible way!
"Hell's bells!" the kidnapper said suddenly. "This damn thing's purt-near outa gas
"Well, you can always go back and get some."
"Yeah, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" He started driving down the road and eventually entered the highway leading to Lubbock. "We might just as well stayed on the bus, if you're headed for Lubbock," Kate observed
"We're not headed for Lubbock, Bird Brain, I'm just lookin' fer a car or truck t'git some gas out of."
They were passing through the desolation of the surrounding countryside by now. After a few minutes of this quiet driving, the truck gave a mournful cough and the engine died.
"Well, that's it. Git out. We gotta walk."
"I can't walk. I'm tired and hungry and I've still gotta go t'the bathroom."
"Well. We can solve one of yer problems, at least. Go chonder behind that cactus an' do your job.
"You have to be out of your mind!"
"You can't have t'go very bad, or you'd jump at th' chance!"
"Well---all right. But don't you look!"
"Don't flatter yourself. And don't get any bright ideas about runnin' off, cause these parts are just ful of rattle snakes."
That certainly did not make for a tranquil respite, but at last she had some temporary relief! Then she began speculating what the robber's bladder was made of. Probably cast iron: and stolen cast iron at that!
She walked back to the road. He was nowhere in sight. Then, as if in answer to her question, he came out of the darkness from the opposite side of the road.
"Down this way," he directed her.
Connie's wedgies were too large for her feet, with the result that she kept turning her ankles. As it grew darker, it also grew progressively colder. The old raincoat gave her little warmth; and she was brutally hungry. She had nothing since a meager breakfast of coffee and half a stale doughnut. That seemed eons ago, She was thoroughly miserable.
"Look! There's lights"
She glanced ahead, almost in a stupor. The only reason she had any interest in the fact that they had spotted a house so quickly was that she might be able to sit down soon.
"Say, mister, what's your name anyway?"
"You can call me Dave, why?"
"Well, I can't go on calling you 'Hey, you.'"
"Why not? I hope you don't think I'm dumb enough to give you my real name."
"Well, I'll tell you mine. It's Kate Quaker."
"What kind ova dumb-ass name is that, anyhow?"
'It's my real honest-t-goodness name, that's what it is!" She replied hotly.
"Ok, then, Miss Kate Quaker, you stand right here and keep a sharp lookout while I circle around the' house t'see if they's a truck or a car."
"What do I do if someone comes outa th' house?"
"Gimme a whistle."
"What if I can't whistle?"
"You sure as hell better whistle!"
"Aw right, awready, I can whistle. I was jest kiddin' you."
"It ain't funny."
He left her there, all alone in the blackness. Even though he was not exactly what you'd call a friend, he was all she had, and now, without him, she felt terrified. He had been gone what seemed ages when she felt something slithering across her toes in Connie's wedgies. It was a rattler, for sure. She let out a blood-curdling shriek. Instantly the light on the front porch came on and a man with a rifle came out and peered into the night, trying to see where the sound had come from. He was bare footed and clad only in a pair of faded overalls.
At about the same time, Dave came from behind the house with a bucket full of gasoline in his hands. Taking Kate by the hand, he literally dragged her from the scene.
'Who's that out thar'?" the farmer demanded.
In answer to his query he heard only the sound of two pairs of feet running down the dirt road.
Kate felt as if her chest would burst wide open as she gasped for air. "Oh, please stop! I can't go any farther."
"That was real cute back there," Dave growled now; "yellin' so's you could get that guy out there t'shoot me!"
"I screamed because a rattle snake ran across my toes, I'll have you know!"
Dave continued tugging at her arm. It felt as if it would come out of its socket eventually if he continued to do so. Meanwhile, most of the precious gasoline was sloshing out of the bucket and onto the ground as they ran towards the truck.
"You'd have been better off stealin' the car," Kate managed to get out now.
"There was no car."
"Well, then, their truck. It certainly would beat what we have now!"
"Didn't have no truck neither. But I don't fancy tryin' t'get away from the cops in a John Deere tractor."
`All of a sudden the absolute idiocy of the situation hit Kate so hard that she burst out laughing.
"What's so damn funny?"
"You are! I can just see you driving us down Route 62 in the tractor as the police closed in on us!"
They had reached the truck and Dave had to cope with the problem of pouring what little gasoline left in the bucket into the gastank of the truck.
"You're wasting most of it," Kate said calmly.
"You know a better way?"
"Well, you might try rollin' up that magazine on the front seat and using that as a funnel."
"OK, run and git it
Kate didn't exactly run, but she did manage to get to the cab of the truck, reach for the old Life
Magazine and begin to roll it up before Dave snatched it angrily from her hands.
"Grandma was slow!" he exploded.
"Yeah, and so're you and molasses in January!"
"Hey! This really works!" he was amazed that she was able to tell him anything that he didn't already know. "Come on---le's go!"
Back she crawled into the truck. It took some doing to get the thing started after its being b one dry, but eventually the engine coughed, sputtered and finally began to run smoothly.
"Where we headed?"
"Halfacres," he said moodily, "Not that it's any of your business."
"What in the world's in Halfacres?"
"Well, unless I miss my guess, a gas station."
"I seen a sign back there that said it's five miles and you'd just better hope we got enough juice to git us there!"
Kate immediately began praying as hard as she knew how, "Please, dear Lord, don't make me have to walk any more tonight!"
She attempted to survey the b lack landscape as they drove along into the night. Hopeless. Then, out of the gloom she began to discern a neon sign. It was a service station!
Dave drove under the metal awning and an attendant came out wiping his hands on a greasy rag. ":Yeah?" he said.
"Fill 'er up."
"Y'all from around here?" the man wanted to talk.
"Yeah," Dave lied.
"I never been t'Lubbock."
Kate could not believe that anyone could live this close to a big town and never had been there!
Dave kept his eyes averted as the man continued to pump fuel into the thirsty tank.
"That comes to fourteen dollars and sixty-nine cents."
Dave handed him a twenty-dollar bill and got back into the truck.
"Hey, wait'll I git your change---"
"Keep it," Dave shouted as he roared out back towards the highway.
Andy, the attendant, went back into the station shaking his head at his good fortune. People around these parts didn't often tip at all, let alone that much of a tip.
`"We interrupt this program to bring you the following special news bulletin," a voice said from the television which he had left blaring forth as he waited on Dave and Kate.
Pictures of the pair he had just waited on were flashed on the screen along with the story of the bank robbery and the request that anyone having any knowledge of their whereabouts contact the nearest policed station.
Andy did what he felt any law-abiding, self-respecting citizen should do: he dialed the local sheriff (who just happened to be his cousin) and gave him the information, "Which way was they headin', Andy?" the sheriff asked.
"Looked t'me like they was headed back ta-wards Sixty-two," Andy replied, "but I cain't be sure."
"OK, Cuz, we'll git right on it!" And he hung up the phone with dire misgivings. Why in the hell did this have to happen to him, when he was all alone and not one single deputy was available if he needed help, His sorry assed cousin, Andy would just get in the way. No, he'd just have to do this all by his own self!
"Uh-oh!" Kate said a few minutes later when she happened to look back and said a blue light flashing, "I think you better pull over!"
"Well, you ain't me!" Dave said angrily as he floor-boarded the accelerator. The old truck lurched forward menacingly, but it was just not up to the task Dave had demanded of it. Soon the sheriff's car was pullin' alongside and a voice came booming over the loud speaker: "Pull over!"
Dave continued to ignore the law and pumped at the gas pedal furiously.
"Pull over, now!" and the sheriff pulled in front of the truck, forcing Dave off the highway. The truck bumped along over extremely rough terrain. All those lonely miles of empty, flat wasteland they had passed, and he had to pick the one spot that was littered with rocks and boulders!
The truck ran snack into one of the larger boulders, breaking both headlights and giving Kate quite a considerable shaking up. They were plunged into inky blackness. Dave backed the truck up and started again, trying to avoid the big rocks. But it was futile. With a sickening thud and a bone jarring crash, the truck came finally to rest at what had to be the great-grand daddy of all boulders.
The sheriff's car lights were directly behind them. "Git outa th' truck, an' keep your arms up-hands above your heads." As the voice boomed from the loud speaker, Dave tried to think what he could try next.
Before she really had time to think, Kate found herself out of the truck with Dave's arm around her and with the familiar piece of steel in her ribs. "This is so romantic," she said sarcastically,
"You try anything funny, an' I'm gonna plug this broad" Dave threatened. Kate felt her heart turning cartwheels.
` "Now, just a minute," the sheriff drawled.
"Just back away from the car, an' don't try anything cute, or I'm warnin' you1'
"No, Sheriff, don't try anything cute, or otherwise," Kate pleaded for her life.
So the sheriff had to step aside and watch as Dave and Kate drove away in his official police car. But he was not unduly distressed, because he knew these parts like the back of his hand, and he knew, also, that the old Hobson ranch was less than a mile away. He began walking with determination in the direction of Hobson's now, and within fifteen minutes was borrowing the telephone to call the authorities in Lubbock. Finding a marked police vehicle was a piece of cake for their well-equipped rangers and it was a matter of a few hours before Dave was apprehended and Kate rescued.
"Oh, Darling, I've been worried to death," Connie was jabbering when Kate was finally safe at the police station where Mrs. Ludley had driven the elder Quaker to get her kidnapped sister.
"Oh, I'm all right. It really wasn't all that bad." Kate was looking a trifle wistfully, as Dave was taken away in a squad car. Most of the money had been recovered, except for the cost of the bus tickets and gasoline. The truck was returned to its owner, a little the worse for having come in contact with that boulder, but the insurance covered that. Kate had, all in all, rather enjoyed her interlude from her usually hum-drum existence, and would not even discuss pressing charges against him. Dave really had a great body, and he really had not been such a bad guy to her. Given different circumstances, she might even have fallen in love with him.
"Let's go get some groceries, I'm starved!"
"But Kate, we still haven't got any money. That is, unless you got the check cashed before that horrible creature abducted you."
'He was not horrible!"
"Never mind," Mrs. Ludley said, feeling very motherly, "I got some right good collard greens an howg jowls back at th' house, an' yer as welcomed t'em as rain in August."
"Manna from heaven!" the sisters crooned with delight.