Drafting–Colton & Sandy head to NYC

“I’ve got to call my sister.” Sandy said as he exited the tiny bath, shirtless and rolling on deodorant, cursing to himself why there was no cell service. “Plus, I’m tired of cooking.”

Since late Tuesday afternoon Sandy and Colton had been off the grid, parked at camping spot #70 inside Black Moshannon State Park just west of Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. It was now Wednesday afternoon and the two were restless as hell.

“It was your idea, not mine, to come to this god-forsaken place.” Colton declared, reclining on the rear couch. Tuesday afternoon, while the pair drove east on I-90 Sandy had suggested they spend a couple of days where he and his parents had come when he was seven years old. He could still remember the week him, his sister, and his parents had spent exploring the 3,480 acres that comprised the Pennsylvania state park. But, there had been another reason, one just as important, at least to Sandy: he wanted Millie and Molly, especially Molly, to have a peaceful Christmas together in their new home. Of course, Sandy hadn’t mentioned this to Colton.

Sandy slipped on a Chicago Bears sweatshirt, and a jacket from the tiny closet. “Let’s go to Philipsburg and let me make my call. We can eat while we’re there.”

“Like something in that tiny town will be open.” Colton said, slipping on his boots and standing.

Ten minutes later, when passing Philipsburg Elementary School on State Highway 504, Sandy noticed he had cell service. He clicked on the Google icon and typed, “restaurants in Philipsburg open on Christmas.” RJ’s Pub & Grill was the second one listed. He pressed the link. “Looks like a good spot on 9th street.” Sandy held his phone out to Colton who was fiddling with his own cell. Sandy clicked on the address link and activated Google Maps. He then dialed his sister.

“I’m not interested in turkey and dressing or sweet potato pie.” Colton said, reading a series of texts he’d received since they’d parked at Black Moshannon.

“Hey sis. Merry Christmas. Hold on.” Sandy covered the receiver and described to Colton the chicken fajita wrap RJ’s had on special from opening at 3:00 PM until 6:00 when the Logyard Beer on tap party started.

“That’ll work,” was Colton’s reply.

“Sis, sorry about that. How’s your day?” Although Sandy and Sarah weren’t close they were compelled to keep the promise they’d made their late mother—to talk every Christmas.

“Blessed. And you?” Sarah started to ask how Pop’s place was working out but wasn’t truly interested in anything her little brother would say.

“Listen Sarah, I wanted you to know I’ve messed up my checking account and will be setting up another one in a few days. Don’t transfer any money to my old account.”

This wasn’t a surprise to Sarah. Sandy couldn’t point a broom handle straight ahead. “Overdraw again?” She could ask a dozen questions if she cared but couldn’t wash away the many memories of Sandy draining their mother’s bank account over the last few years of her life.

“Turn right on 322.” Sandy said pointing to a large “Welcome to Philipsburg” sign touting two of the town’s historic landmarks: the Union “Old Mud” Church, completed in 1842, and the Simler House, the oldest known structure in Philipsburg.

Colton made the right turn and was thankful his finances were in good shape, unlike Sandy’s. He’d had no trouble setting up a new account at Republic Bank of Chicago, but they wouldn’t work with Sandy since his credit score was so low. He’d begged for some of Mildred’s money to use but Colton had refused.
For the next five miles Sandy and Sarah’s conversation devolved into an argument. The only thing Colton could surmise from the one voice he was hearing was Sandy still believed he should be paid something for caring for their mother the last few months of her life.

“Take the next left.” Sandy said as they approached 9th Street.

Colton pulled into a near-full parking lot outside RJ’s Bar and Grill. It wasn’t quite 2:30. “Oh boy, I guess a lot of folks didn’t want to cook on Christmas.”

It turned out the parking lot served not only RJ’s but two other restaurants: Hogs Galore and Main Won, the first, a barbecue joint; the second served Asian and Chinese dishes.

Inside RJ’s, the crowd consisted of four older men sitting at the bar; all overweight. A teenager-looking girl whisked Sandy and Colton to a table for two in a back corner next to the building’s front windows. “Not much demand for chicken fajita wraps,” Colton remarked, but acknowledging RJ’s didn’t officially open until 3:00.

Both men ordered today’s special and Wildcat Hollow beers. Sandy asked, “how’s your plan coming?” So far, all his partner had said was ‘he was thinking about how to handle the situation once we knock on Millie’s door.’

“You have less than a day. If we leave early tomorrow we should be there by noon, so you better think of something.” Sandy paused and stared at his phone, contemplating whether to send a text to Sarah just to make sure she didn’t forget his request. “And, it better not include kidnapping.”

After departing Perrysburg yesterday, Sandy had researched the address Ray and his wife had given them. The easy part was determining the location. There was no doubt, Millie and Molly lived in Queens, New York, in an apartment building known as The Allendale. According to Google, it’s a pre-war co-op building in Queens’s Jackson Heights neighborhood. The building contains 48 units and rises 6 stories. Sandy had learned a co-op was cooperative housing, which is a type of homeownership, a building jointly owned by a corporation made up of its inhabitants. Neither Colton or Sandy could imagine how Millie could afford to purchase an apartment. The only logical thing either could fathom was someone had given or loaned her the money.

Colton concluded he might as well share with Sandy the first phase of the plan he’d mentally constructed. “The second Millie opens the door, I’m going to apologize for everything bad I’ve ever done to her, including surprising her in New York City. Then, I’m going to do my best to humbly request she return to Chicago with us and give a statement to DA Hooks.”

The waitress delivered their food and drinks and invited them to attend RJ’s half-price beer night starting at 6:oo PM. “Thanks.” Sandy said, waiting until the tight-jeaned teenager walked away. “Even if Millie returns to Chicago and meets with the DA, you won’t be there to know what she tells him.”

Colton took a bite of his fajita and said with a mouthful: “I don’t see that as a problem since Molly will be with us.” Colton knew the first phase of his plan involved a little coercion but at least it wasn’t violent. That would come later, but only if necessary.

“So much for your ‘humble request.’ And what about the outstanding arrest warrants?” Sandy covered his fries with ketchup.

Colton doubted his first phase plan would work but he believed they had to try. “I’m hoping our attorneys can persuade the DA and the Judge to withdraw them, maybe they can throw in a good excuse. How about, we thought the hearing was next Monday; we just got our dates wrong?”

Sandy downed half his bottle of Wildcat Hollow beer. “Oh yea, that’ll work.”

“Well what else can we do?” There was no way Colton could share what he strongly believed. His response was his way to throw the issue back on Sandy. There was no way Millie’s statement would be enough to stop the trial. To Colton, that lion’s den was inevitable, and the only thing that would change that nightmare was the disappearance of Gina Patton. Of course, even her absence might not stop the trial. His attorney had told Colton that the admissibility of evidence was strictly up to Judge Stewart and even if he was wrong, the only way to attack the ruling was an appeal. Colton imagined sitting in prison for months before an appeals court would even consider the issue. The bottom line, what Colton wouldn’t share, was that his and Sandy’s crimes most likely had destined them to a life on the run. What this necessarily included, at least to Colton’s twisted mind, was that Sandy would become a liability at some point and have to be eliminated.”

Sandy pondered his response and finally said, “everything we’ve done, attacking the two students and killing Ellen in the fire we set, killing Mildred, and what we’re planning on doing, virtually kidnapping Millie and Molly, not to mention missing court, is simply guaranteeing we’re going to prison.” He pushed back his plate. “I’ve lost my appetite.” Colton cleaned his plate and ordered another fajita while Sandy stared through the window at the parking lot.

After leaving RJ’s, Colton drove them back to Spot #70 at Black Moshannon State Park. Neither spoke to the other the rest of the day.

It was 8:00 AM Friday morning before Colton and Sandy headed to New York City. The stomach bug, food poisoning, or whatever it was had struck eight hours after they’d left RJ’s. According to Sandy’s research, their sickness was likely Norovirus, contracted from the teenage waitress who’d handled their plates. Whatever it was, the vomiting, diarrhea, and listlessness had lasted until midnight last night. Seven hours of sleep was welcome.

Colton stopped to fill up the van where Pennsylvania Route 99 intersected with I-80. When he returned from the convenience store with two coffees Sandy relayed troubling news. “We made the papers. Well, at least the online version of the Chicago Tribune. The asshole Andrew Spivey’s like a dog after a bone.”

Staying silent to think was a common habit Colton had learned years ago. Although he frequently let his emotions dictate, today he realized it wouldn’t do any good to cuss and threaten the persistent journalist. He waited until the van was at seventy-miles per hour before responding. “Well, what did he write?”

Sandy sipped coffee and reread the short article titled, “Have you seen these two men?” “Spivey repeats his earlier story about us missing the hearing but apparently the guy’s been spying on us.”

“Why do you say that?” Colton asked, slowing the van and resetting the cruise to sixty-four miles per hour.

“He checked your garbage can, or somebody did and told him about it. He writes, ‘Last Friday, two men matching Colton Atwood and Sanford Brown’s descriptions entered Atwood’s house on Princeton Avenue. They exited less than an hour later and tossed two stuffed bags into the garbage can at the street. After the men drove away in a dark grey Sprinter van, this writer’s assistant searched the bags. One bag contained cold-to-the-touch items likely removed from a refrigerator. Things like: half-filled ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and pickle jars, left-over pizza, unopened bags of salad mix, and, an out-of-date gallon of milk. The other bag contained an assortment of old clothes, and files filled with several years worth of water, gas, and electric bills. The bills were all in the name of Millie Anderson.’”

“Shit. Now the world knows we’re in this damn van.” Colton said, banging his fist on the steering wheel.

“Listen to Spivey’s final paragraph. ‘These facts strongly indicate all former members of 7925 Princeton Avenue are now on the run, along with Atwood’s friend Sanford Brown. The two men are running from the law. The bigger question is why Millie Anderson and her twelve year old daughter are running? Are they running from the two men? Are the two men running after Millie and her daughter? Whatever the question, one thing’s for sure, there are outstanding arrest warrants for both men. If you see them, or know anything about this situation, call me, Andrew Spivey, at 1-800-4583-7198.’”

Colton drove ten minutes before speaking. “We’re probably safe until Mildred’s body is discovered, or her neighbor … what’s her name?”

“Alice, Alice Landers.” Sandy replied.

“Or, until Alice puts two and two together and concludes both Mildred and her van are missing. That’s when she’ll call the police. Damn, we intended to call Alice and replay one of Mildred’s recordings.” It wasn’t that Colton had forgotten, but he’d concluded Sandy’s idea was dumb as fuck. There’s no way the neighbor would believe it was Mildred calling.

Sandy tried to imagine what would make Alice suspicious, even if she didn’t hear from Mildred. “Here’s a thought. I’d bet Alice will eventually call Mildred on her cell. We still have it. So, when Alice calls, I could answer playing like I’m Mason.”

“Who’s Mason?”

“Mildred’s son. Dumbass, we’ve talked about him. I could make up some excuse why she couldn’t come to the phone. She’s asleep, or she’s not feeling well. I could tell her we’re in Montana or Arizona or someplace.”

“Won’t work. Not for long. Eventually, Alice will get suspicious and we’re toast, or headed there.” Colton knew what they had to do: ditch the van. At the latest, get rid of it soon after they arrive in New York City. “We’ll trade vehicles before we head back to Chicago with Millie and Molly. Maybe we can find a car-crusher place.”

Sandy grabbed his cell from the console and searched Google. “That’s a bust, at least in Pennsylvania. You have to have a title to scrap a vehicle or sell it to a salvage yard.”

“Good work. Maybe we’ll just hide it like we did my RAM.” Colton said and Sandy groaned. He closed his eyes and pictured him and Colton driving their lives into an ever narrowing funnel already past the point of choosing to turn around.

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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