An hour slid by while I waited there, and then another hour, but not one vehicle stopped for me. In fact, no cars went south at all, though an occasional one rumbled by on the other side of the road. Two times, drivers headed north stopped and gestured for me to get in. Did they think I was confused and standing on the wrong side of the street? Or maybe they thought I wouldn’t care which direction I went, as long as it went out of Crossroads.
Just as well, I decided. Time to have it out with Bill.
I shouldered my pack and headed back to the Clean Linen.
I found him on the porch, sipping coffee and reading my articles in the paper. “Mornin’,” he said.
“I couldn’t find a ride,” I said, watching him closely.
“I know,” he answered, now gulping his coffee to get it down before it went cold.
“What’s really going on, Bill? What are you running from?”
He stared at me. “What am I running from? What are you running from?”
“I’m not the one running. Remember the bullets in Portland? Bang bang?” I paced across the porch. Back and forth.
“Oh really? Really? Is that right?” Bill’s voice, normally low and measured, had gone up and gotten louder suddenly. “You lit out of Seattle in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes you were wearing. No bag. No money or credit cards or ID. You gave me a fake name and never explained what your problem was, but it must’ve been a big one.”
Now it was my turn to stare. “I…I didn’t…” My mind reeled. Fake name?
“I helped you out, didn’t I? I know better than to ask too many questions. I know a person in serious trouble when I see one. Not my first time in this rodeo for sure. But I brought you to a safe house and got you some gear. We’ve been okay here, right? I did what I could,” Bill was standing up now. “Don’t you think you owe me the truth?”
I stepped down off the porch. I needed to get away. I needed to think this through.
My cell phone buzzed in my pocket and I held it to my ear without speaking.
“Jodi? Jodi, you there?” Linda, the editor at the paper. “I need you to get down to Main. There’s been a crash. Get pictures.”
Already knowing the answer, I had to ask. “A crash on which side of the road?”
“Southbound,” she said impatiently. “You’ll see it. Get down there.”