...Teeth chattering, I dropped 20 feet off the second floor roof and onto the frozen ground, rolling forward with the fall to avoid injury.
Ten minutes later I was a mile away and running through the shadows when the sound of police sirens began to fill the air. On the edge of Clinton, Illinois I was faced with the first of many of many obstacles: a bold waist deep creek. With a brisk wind and 16-degree air temperature, I was ill prepared to cross the creek in my thin prison clothes and canvas slippers. But the choice was to return to the light of town with its increasing volume of police sirens or to cross the creek and seek refuge in the relative safety of darkness beyond the river.
Knowing the danger of becoming wet in 16-degree weather, I turned and studied my back trail. I have always had a problem going backwards. Backing up meant lost ground. It didn't matter if it was a chess game or a country drive. I hated to back up. But now I gave serious consideration to doing just that.
As I studied the lights and shadows of Clinton I could not ignore the pressure of the growing sound of converging police cruisers. Where were they all going? To the jail, to surround the building? Or were they trying to choke off all possible exits to the small town? Whatever their immediate strategy, time was on their side. Whatever the current police presence, it would steadily double thru the night. By morning evolving into a fully developed manhunt lead by the United State's Marshals Service's impressive fugitive squad.
As I considered my situation, it became clear to me that I would be safe through the night. I could elude them under cover of darkness regardless of which route I took. But come morning they would throw every available resource--state and federal--into my capture.
As is often the case in problem solving, the real problem is often not the immediate. My real problem was not the police cars I could see converging from every direction. My real problem was the approaching daylight eight hours away.
For several minutes I tried to consider the mind of my pursuers. What would they think that I would do? Steal a car, jump a train, hide out in town, or trek across open country. I realized it didn't matter which route they thought I might take.
They would cover them all. So I changed my thinking to consider what they would eliminate as something I would not do. Again my attention turned to the creek. The creek had stopped me. There was no part of me that wanted to cross that creek. No sane person would. The last thing the authorities would think that I would do is cross any body of water in 16-degree weather. Thus the creek represented the most unlikely route I would take.
The water was cold beyond description. It was a pain so great as to make breathing difficult. The water was only three feet deep, but the force of its flow against my leg brought it up past my waist. Slowly, careful not to fall, I made my way through the water.
On the opposite bank, my clothes froze on contact with the night air. If it were possible, it seemed colder out of the water than in. My body wanted to quit, to lie down and curl up in a fetal ball. But my mind brought up the picture of tiny Cierra, held in my cupped hands. It was all the inspiration needed. For the first time in my life I was doing something so important that pain could not be factored. I could not--I would not quit. With stiff robot like steps, I moved forward and made slow progress deeper into the dark of a massive frozen field.
With each step the odds shifted to my favor. As the sounds of pursuit faded behind me I knew the next challenge would be to survive the night. It would be no small feat. To take my mind off the growing pain from my frozen body I reminded myself why I was racing the morning across a frozen field so far from home. Again I thought of Cierra and I pushed my foot into the next step...