“Baker Three-Five, foot chase!” Joshua “Country” Tumblewhite hollered into his shoulder mic and broke into a run. The driver of the car he’d stopped had a good lead, but the young deputy had an extra fifteen inches to each stride and an enthusiasm for the chase that would have done a foxhound proud.
“Heading north from the Shell station on Fighaven,” he said, broadcasting the driver’s direction of travel to all the responding units. In the near distance, a police siren roared to life. Country smiled. He had him.
It wasn’t the driver’s first time running from the police. He never looked back, not once, but made a straight sprint for the nearby woodline. The sound of the siren so close it could have been a starter pistol for the way the little man accelerated. He planted one foot on the dilapidated fence separating the gas station parking lot from the undeveloped easement and vaulted full-speed into the woods.
Country was only a few steps behind but had to slow down to climb the fence. He carried twenty-five pounds of gear and probably forty pounds more muscle than his quarry, and while that might come in handy once he finally caught the little man, it was hell on a young deputy’s parkour abilities.
Once on the other side of the fence, his focus went immediately to the runner. The ground dropped away in a steep decline dotted with new-growth pines, and the landscape was doing the runner no favors. The little man slipped and slid down the embankment, falling and crashing into tree after tree. Country’d hunted and played in woods like these since he was knee-high to a duck, and wisely made a slower, more deliberate descent.
“Baker Three-Five, my runner’s a Hispanic male, five-five, wearing a red cap, red jacket, and blue jeans. Go ahead and roll EMS and save me a place in line at the jail.”
The dispatcher repeated back the suspect description, but Country tuned it out and focused on the little man tumbling through the underbrush. “Hey, you stupid sonofabitch, stop before you break your damn neck!”
The driver crashed in a heap of flaying limbs where the ground finally leveled out. Country thought he had him there, but the little man bounced up like he’d landed on a trampoline and instantly took off again at a dead run. A twisting creek, really more of a muddy drainage ditch, bisected the easement. The driver cleared the torpid water in a single leap and started scrambling his way up the embankment on the other side. Only a few feet behind him, Country attempted to bound the ditch with slightly less momentum and significantly less success. One boot landed safely on flat, dry rock while the other sank into the creek bed up to the ankle.
“Sonofabitch,” Country cursed aloud. He clawed and crawled his way out of the ditch and started up the embankment. For just a moment, he thought maybe his waterproof Danners had lived up to their reputation, but then he felt the damp mud oozing down to his toes. The rotten stink of the muck followed him up the hill.
Ahead, the driver clawed his way through the pine needles, slipping two feet back for every five feet he gained. Country leveraged himself up the hill, latching onto exposed roots and saplings and heaved his giant frame methodically forward.
“Well, hell,” he panted when it became clear that despite his tenacity and confidence, Country was not going to catch his suspect. His heart sank, the stink of failure somehow worse than that of the putrid mud in his boot. No cop, especially not a shiny new deputy, liked losing a foot pursuit. He paused in his climb as the driver disappeared over the crest of the hill.
“Baker Three-Five, suspect’s coming out of the woods still heading north,” he said into his radio. Country got his bearings and reluctantly added, “He’s getting away from me. Looks like he’s gonna be running by the construction site across from the Walmart on Hastings.”
“Copy,” the reply came back from dispatch. “All units in the area, respond to the 6000 block of Hastings. Suspect is a Hispanic male, approximately five feet, five inches in height and wearing a red cap, red jacket, and blue jeans.”
Country restarted his climb as multiple units replied. Up ahead, he heard a chorus of sirens and the frantic barking of a K9 still in its truck. Country smiled, hope returning like a wind at his back. Oh no, he though, you ain’t got away yet, you sonofabitch.