Thanks to the Hip and Knee doctor for editing assistance.
It was like waking up from a bad dream, but a little worse. Even though I didn't have a blindfold on, I couldn't see anything. I was all crunched up and lying on my side. My hands were tied together in front of me with something that was cutting into my wrists. It was sharper and less bulky than rope. My feet were also fastened together, but I couldn't tell anything more than that, since I still had my work boots on. It didn't take a genius to figure out that I was in a car trunk. My brain was working overtime with no results. I had a headache and the back of my neck hurt like hell.
Struggling just made me uncomfortable. There was nothing that I could do. I wasn't gagged, but there didn't seem to be any good reason to yell. The car rumbled across several sets of railroad tracks that bounced me around a bit so that my head and elbow slammed into something hard. Hell, I was in a car trunk, so it could be anything. After a second set of railroad tracks, I could feel the car turn onto a gravel road.
It was rougher than the asphalt and quite a lot noisier. I slid to the back of the trunk as the car started up an incline. My brain started working. Where were there gravy roads going uphill in the area? Nothing was clicking and I was coming up with no answers. It only took a few more minutes for the road to turn from gravel to totally rough. It wasn't a road anymore; it was a trail.
Everything was hurting now. Each rock in the road caused another bruise somewhere as I got bumped around. And then it was all quiet. The car had stopped and the engine was turned off. My body was crushed against the rear of the trunk. I was no longer trying to figure out where I was. Now I was just thinking about what was going to happen next.
My mind was functioning at full capacity, but it didn't seem to be prudent to let that fact be known. I waited silently while I heard the trunk latch pop open and the drivers' door open and close. That was followed by another door. Were there two of them? I opened my eyes enough to see the dim light coming in through the cracked trunk lid. It wasn't electric light, but something more natural.
The trunk lid popped up suddenly and I was greeted with the glare of a flashlight directly into my face. My eyes squinted in reaction to the brightness, so I was no longer going to be able to fake unresponsiveness. I tried to turn my head away from the light as my eyes adjusted. It didn't work.
"Okay asshole. Out of the trunk."
I immediately determined that whoever this guy was, he wasn't a friend. I struggled a little, but was not able to lift myself enough to get clear of my mini-prison.
"You're joking right? There is no way I can get out of here trussed up like this."
My eyes still hadn't adjusted to the surroundings because of the constant light in my face. I heard my host make a few grunts mixed with some mild cuss words as he cut the plastic straps holding my feet together. With an unceremonious fling, he had my legs over the back of the car almost to the ground. He backed up some and shined the light towards my feet.
As I got out of the car, I noticed that there was only one guy. A shovel was propped up against the side of the car. I quickly assumed that it had been in the back seat of the car. He was a big brute; over 6 feet and at least 250 pounds. I had seen him before, but couldn't recall where. He had the flashlight in his left hand and a revolver in his right. It looked like a .38 police special; not hefty enough to be a .357.
Big brute pointed the flashlight to the uphill side of the road where a chain was stretched across a side road. I recognized it. It was a fire trail that led up to the top of Neversink Mountain toward the ranger station. I glance over my shoulder and was now looking at the city lights. You could see the whole town from up here and at night it was beautiful. The fire trail up to the top was not open to the public.
I was standing on a mountain road with my hands tied in front of me and a gun pointed at my back. I was trying to figure out what I had done to piss this guy off, but came up empty. He clicked off the flashlight and now all we had was the light of the moon. That was the warm luminescence that I had seen coming through the crack in the trunk lid.
Big brute stuck the flashlight into his jacket pocket and picked up the shovel. He waved the gun towards me and grunted out one word; "Move."
The moonlight was bright enough to easily walk up the fire trail. Every once in a while, a cloud or some tree cover would make things darker, but never enough to stop us from walking. It was all uphill and it was all rough. My mind wandered from my predicament as I found myself trying to figure out how the park people got their vehicles up this damn road. Big brute kept tripping over the rocks in the trail and every time it was followed with a curse word. Interesting that he was big, but clumsy. At some spots, fallen leaves made the trail surface slippery which seemed to annoy my host even more.
"Stop!" That sudden command was followed with another. "Move!" The flashlight was back on and shining to the right. There was a flat spot of sorts dead ahead; as flat as could be expected considering the terrain on the mountain. It was only a few feet until we came to the hole in the ground.
Things became a little clearer now. I had a pretty good idea what was in store for me, but still didn't know why. It was a crappy hole. It wasn't square and it was only about 4 feet deep at one end and maybe two feet at the other. The shallow end had a big rock in the middle of it. What kind of an idiot would decide to dig a grave on the rockiest hill in the whole damn county? Not only was it rock, but it was granite. There were hundreds of coal silt flats in the area that would have been really easy to dig in.
Big brute was holding the flashlight and the shovel in his left hand and the gun in his right. He motioned for me to get closer to the hole and I decided that this was not a good idea. There had to be an alternative. He was right behind me as I inched forward. Just as I got the feeling that I was about to get shoved, I bent over, turned, and rushed at him. I was trying to get behind him somewhat so that I could do the pushing.
My plans were ruined by an extremely loud gunshot and a searing pain in the right side of my chest. The son-of-a-bitch shot me as he fell into the hole. I didn't fall down. I just sort of sat on my ass quite hard. I did notice that trying to breath was not a good idea. What the hell was the alternative? While I was lamenting my bad fortune, I noticed that big brute was cussing and moaning at the same time. It looked like I was successful in getting him into the hole instead of me. In great pain, I leaned over and surveyed the bottom of my intended resting place.
My adversary had apparently broken his ankle when he fell into my grave. He was holding his right foot and sort of rocking back and forth. The flashlight was lying on the ground beside him, which put an eerie glow on the inside of the pit.
It was an opportunity, but an opportunity to do what? There was no way that I could run anywhere with the hole in my chest. I could barely breath, let alone go walk. On the good side, there was no way that he could chase me with a bad ankle. I assumed that it was broken. It might have been just sprained. He still had the gun down there somewhere. That was not good.
Since the gun now appeared to be my biggest problem, I felt that I had to do something about it. The struggle to get to my feet caused me to cough up an awful lot of blood. It filled my mouth and ran down my chin. I was breathing in short gasps. There was no way in hell that I could even think of taking a deep breath. I hesitated at the edge of the opening for just a moment and then leapt in, feet first right at his head. I was glad I still had my work boots on. My left foot hit directly on big brute's head, but the right boot landed on his neck. I heard a loud crack and ended up lying on top of him.
It hurt like the dickens. It hurt when I moved and it hurt when I coughed, and I was coughing a lot. The flashlight was close by so it was the first thing that I grabbed. Big brute was quiet. He wasn't cursing or moaning anymore. I shined the light on his face. There was no reaction. I didn't actually check for a pulse, but I assumed that I had either killed him or rendered him unconscious. Either way, it was good.
The light also clearly showed the bright red blood that I had spewed all over big brute and myself. I knew what the bright color meant; I had a hole in my lung. If I didn't get help soon, I would drown in my own blood.
I grabbed the gun that was lying beside the flashlight and then rummaged though big brute's pockets until I found my cell phone plus another throw-away cell phone. Getting out of the hole was easier then I thought it would be. I just stepped up from his body to the big rock on the end and then to solid ground.
It was only a few feet back to the trail. I sat with my back to one of the Sassafras trees that dotted the hill, and took out my cell phone.
"911! What's your emergency?"
"Hi. I am up on the Neversink Mountain fire trail and I need help."
"Sir. That area is restricted. Access is for park personnel only." She sounded young and as if she was trying her best to be professional.
"I know that, you dimwit. I have been shot and I have a dead man lying on the ground beside me. I need an ambulance and some police. I don't need a lecture about personal property regulations."
There was a short pause on the other end of the line.
"Sir. An EMT unit has been dispatched to your location. I am also notifying the local and county police. Please do not turn off your cell phone. It will help us locate you. Sir? Sir? Are you there? Are you all right?"
"No damn it. I am not all right. I have been shot. I am going to put the phone down now."
Well that little episode ended up with me having another little coughing fit. Most of the liquid coming out of my mouth ran down the front of my jacket. There was no doubt in my mind that it was more bright red blood. I made a conscious effort to try and breathe at a regular steady rate which was a difficult task considering the pain. My eyes seemed to be blurring up and I could also tell that I was sweating like crazy. The cool night air seemed cold when it hit the damp skin.
I had a choice of wallowing in my pain and misery or trying to figure out what the hell was going on. This guy went to a lot of effort. There had to be a good reason for what he did. It wasn't random; it was planned. Why did he have a disposable cell phone? I took his phone from my pocket and looked at it for a long time. It was going to provide all of the answers. Somebody else was involved, and the cell phone log would tell me who. Now was not the best time to check out the phone. I was too groggy and too unstable. I carefully placed it back into my jacket pocket.
I was just starting to think about the other people who might possibly be interested in my demise, when I heard the sirens in the distance. Who had a grudge or who might profit if I disappeared? If it was for insurance purposes, big brute would not be trying to hide my corpse. They needed a body to collect death benefits. It had to be something else, but what? The sirens got louder. I didn't know how much time had actually passed, but they seemed to be responding better than I expected.
The flashing lights were popping in and out between the trees as the vehicle made its way up the hill. I was hoping that it would be the medical personnel first. I shined the flashlight down the trail and I could see big brute's car about 100 yards away. If I could see the car then the police and medics could see me. Two minutes later, the EMT unit became visible. The last thing that I remembered was dropping the flashlight.
I woke up with a headache. My eyes were still shut, but my head hurt like hell. I was trying to push all the mental cobwebs aside and figure out where I was when I decided that it might be quicker if I looked around. As soon as I squinted a little, I knew the answer, and breathed a mental sigh of relief. The mint green walls were the first thing I noticed, but that was followed by the hospital smell. The right side of my chest hurt when I inhaled. That brought me back to reality really quickly.
I remembered the shooting, the mountain, and the ride in the car trunk. It wasn't a dream. It was all real, but that didn't make it good. I was thirsty as all hell, but my mouth felt like crap. When I tried to move my hand to my mouth, I realized that I had an IV or some type of tube attached to it. I wouldn't have been able to touch my mouth anyhow, because there was a plastic mask over my face. It was breathing for me, or at least helping me breathe.
"Dad! You're awake. Welcome back. Welcome to the real world."
Turning my head toward the voice, I squinted and saw my son, Brian. "What the hell are you doing here? Why aren't you in school?" Brian was a senior at Penn State and I didn't want him missing classes, especially with the tuition I was paying to keep him there.
"It's okay. I needed a break. I got a week off. Relax."
I did a quick survey of the room. It was small and it didn't look as if I was sharing it with anyone else. There were no flowers, thank God, but there were three Mylar balloons floating around the ceiling in one corner. I finished my look-around and looked back at the balloons. "Where did they come from?"
Brian gave a little laugh and smiled. "They came from the Oompa Loompa. She stops in here twice a day and brings one in each time."
I tried to laugh, but had to cut it short. "Who the hell is the Oompa Loompa?"
"Don't know dad. I never saw her before. She is about five feet tall and just as wide. Wears a blue uniform. I thought at first she was some kind of peppermint girl, or whatever they call them."
"You mean a candy striper?"
"Yeah. I guess."