The Highway Angel (A Halloween Tale)

October 31, 2014

The highway patrol car put on its lights and pulled over to the side off Interstate 44 near Tulsa.  A fall cold front was tearing through Eastern Oklahoma.  The patrolmen were dispatched to a turn in the highway that was notorious for bad wrecks.  The wind was blowing hard and the windshield wipers were working furiously.  As Sergeant Shenahan was setting up the speed gun, the new officer, Baker, looked out the window at the rain swept median.  He saw five roadside memorials, of different ages, sizes and states of care, but the one that drew his attention was the smallest, a little white cross.  Hanging on the top was a small hoop, wrapped in gold glitter that looked like a halo.  On the ground near the cross was a small soaked, faded Teddy Bear, which had a curious, happy smile.

“This must really be dead man’s curve,” he remarked.  Sergeant Shenahan looked over at the young trainee, and said, “This is a place of many tragedies and many stories.”  “Is that a halo?” Baker asked.  The old sergeant smiled and said, “Have you heard of the Highway Angel?”  “They talked about that in training on Halloween, but I just thought that was a ghost story,” he responded.  “Well, my young friend, it is true.  You see, Highway Angel was the call handle of an old trucker.  He ran a bright yellow W-9 Kenworth with the words, ‘Highway Angel’ on the side topped by a halo.  We found his rig over there below the bridge 5 years ago.  Apparently, he came around the curve in heavy traffic in a storm, very much like this one.  He had a fatal heart attack while driving, but rather than crash into traffic, he was able to steer his rig off the road into that creek before he died.”

The terror she felt had never been greater…not even close.  She had hugged Katy as she packed her off to first grade just 8 hours ago.  As she waited for her to walk home from school that afternoon, the fear grew as the minutes passed.  After 45 minutes, she had called the police.  It was only 6 blocks to school and a nice neighborhood.  She knew that these things happened, but never dreamed it would happen to her Katy.  The police interviewed the children who were walking home from school with her and discovered that a white male, about age 35, with long hair and a beard had pulled up in an old red van, grabbed Katy, threw her in, and speed off towards the interstate.  She cried hysterically as she looked out the window into the storm from the police station waiting room.

John was 15 miles from his delivery destination in Tulsa with 30 minutes until his appointment time.  He had picked up his load in Atlanta two days ago, and figured he would have plenty of time to deliver.  However, the load started with the customer taking 6 hours to load his trailer.  Now John was into the crescendo of Atlanta rush hour traffic that put him 2 more hours behind.  He knew he would be driving hard from here on. He notified his dispatcher that when he accepted the load, he had plenty of time until delivery, but now it was going to be tight.  His dispatcher responded, “Just keep us updated.”

48 hours later, his tired eyes were straining to see through the rain as he moved down the interstate at a slow 50 mph.  From years of driving he knew that he had to be alert and careful…dead man’s curve was only ten miles up the road.  “Yes, it’s going to be tight,” he thought to himself.  Suddenly, he was passed by a red Ford van, doing 80 through the driving rain.  “Fool,” he thought, “as if we didn’t have enough problems out on the road.”  Then John heard a beep on his Quailcom.  He looked down and saw this message.

An AMBER alert 7961 has been received from NCMEC.

DATE –    Oct 30 11:18:04

TEXT –    AMBR ALRT:Tulsa OK VEH:99 Dk red Ford Econoline van TAG:TX BZ9L220 CHILD:8YOB/F 4’1 85 Bro/Blk SUSP:35YO W/M 6’1 250 Hair: Long Dark Beard CALL 7133083600

He shifted gears into the big hole and hit the accelerator.  “Yes, 911, I spotted your suspect, 10 miles west of Tulsa, driving about 80 and headed into dead man’s curve.”  “Stand By,” said the 911 dispatcher as she put the alert out.  Police cars from throughout the area were now speeding through the storm to dead man’s curve.

As John’s rig gained speed, he realized that it was going to be impossible to catch up with the red van.  Things were getting dangerous as the rain hit the windshield and he approached dead man’s curve.  Suddenly, he noticed the brake lights of the red van. It was swerving back and forth trying to get around another tractor-trailer that was blocking its way.  He couldn’t believe it.  The other rig was slowing the van down.

Officer Baker was just about to doze off when he heard Sergeant Shenahan’s gruff voice, “Look alive, we have a kidnapper in a red Ford van headed this way fast with an 8 year old girl as hostage.”  He looked out and saw a big yellow W-9 heading toward them, with a red van behind, desperately trying to pass.

Katy screamed in the back of the van as she hugged her Teddy bear.  She was tossed back and forth as the van shifted.  “Shut up,” said the man, “or this will go much worse for you.”  She bit her lip until it bled and hugged Teddy harder.  To her surprise, Katy felt someone hold her hand gently and put an arm around her.  This was not the mean man who grabbed her and hit her.  This was an older man with a kind smile.  “Don’t worry, Katy,” he said.  This was a nice man.  “Where did he come from?” Katy wondered.

Up ahead, John saw police lights stab their red swords through the rain.  He slowed down and kept his eye on the van.  As the van approach the curve he saw it losing control, careening sideways down the interstate.  The van went into the ditch, flipped and tumbled down toward the creek.  The other rig pulled over to the side of the road.  John pulled over, looked through the rain and exhaust and saw a yellow, W-9 Kenworth, which had a logo, “Highway Angel” on its doors with what looked like a halo.

Officer Shenahan and Baker drew their side arms and ran out of the car and down to the now burning red van sitting on its back.  “Not good,” said Baker, as he looked through the windows of the wreck.  But when he looked up, the Sergeant was smiling and pointing under the bridge.  There was Katy, dry as a bone, wrapped in a blanket and clutching her Teddy bear.  When he turned around towards the highway, there was only one rig parked by the side of the road.  The yellow KW was nowhere to be seen.

 

Copy write 2010, Tom Kretsinger, Jr.