It was the fifth day in a row he had seen the same car drive by on the road outside his house. That would not be a big deal if he lived in a city or even a medium sized town, but he was on the border of two counties. The temperature had dropped so much over the last week they had declared a state of emergency which was a big deal in a state known for snow and ice and winters that lasted from October through March.
Mike Robbins sipped his hot chocolate slowly feeling the warmth of the liquid travel down into his belly. The big, black SUV drove slowly past again. He couldn’t see through the heavily tinted windows but he didn’t have to. He had a pretty good idea the type of person driving.
Finishing his beverage he walked to the kitchen and rinsed the cup, placing it in the dish drainer. Taking one last look around the kitchen he nodded in satisfaction. Then he swung the back pack onto his back and walked out the back door. The cold hit him immediately and he pulled the face mask down and slipped on his gloves with the hand warmers in the palms. Adjusting goggles over his eyes he took off toward the woods that bordered the back end of the property. He had made this hike many times although in warmer weather. He’d done it in rain, light snow, in the dark, and even when it was as hot as it got in that area. However this was the most challenging weather he’d faced and he could only hope he’d make it to the river before dark.
The St. John was no small river. It was icy cold this time of year. He had little chance of successfully making it across. He had less chance of surviving if the men caught him. As he grew older he found the freezing temperatures of the North were more than his bones could bear. He had grown weary of trudging sometimes impassable snowbound roads. If he made it through this time he would head south.
It was later in the day than he’d hoped when he reached the river outside of Fort Kent. Making his way to the fishing shack on the river he removed the combination lock and pushed open the door. It stuck slightly and he had to put extra energy which was rapidly deteriorating into shoving it open enough to squeeze through.
The boat was still there, gleaming in the growing twilight. Taking off his gloves he ran his hands over the smooth hull. Removing the backpack he pulled out the waterproof wallet that contained his American passport in the name of Michael Robbins. With great effort he flipped over the slightly rotten barrel that sat in the corner of the shack. Pulling a small collapsible shovel from the backpack he dug in the moist soil that still bore the imprint of the barrel. Shaking the dirt off the bag that had been buried he opened it and pulled out the waterproof envelopes that were inside. Looking through the various identity papers he chose Bill Horton. The photo closely matched his current appearance, a close beard and hair that reached his collar. Switching the driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, and credit cards with those of Michael Robbins, he proceeded to re-bury the bag. He considered destroying the other documents but there was always the chance he’s make it back this way someday and there were still two unused identities in the bag.
The twilight had deepened and the now Bill Horton briefly considered holing up in the shack over night. He couldn’t be certain they had not tracked him. Time was growing short. Straining, he pulled the boat to the edge of the river. Returning to the shack he gave one more look around. Everything looked completely normal. It was just an old fishing shack. Locking it up he went back to the boat and shoved it into the river, jumping in at the last moment. The tug of the current was strong and it took all his power to row out into the middle of the river. He allowed the current to carry him a few miles. Then he began to row strenuously to the Canadian side of the river.
There was no one on the river. It was freezing cold and dangerous to risk being upended wearing appropriate clothing to battle the cold. Reaching the far side he struggled to pull the boat up onto the bank and collapsed next to it breathing heavily. It was full dark now and the stars twinkled brightly in the night sky. It would be so easy to just lie on the cold ground and drift away.
Resisting the urge to close his eyes for just a few minutes the new Bill forced himself to his feet and leaving the boat where it sat he began the hike away from the river. In a few hours he should reach civilization and a hotel to stay in overnight. In the morning he would make his arrangements to reach the West Coast. Then he could book a flight back into the States and make his way south. Maybe this time they would not find him and he could finally have some peace.
Setting off toward distant lights he went over the story of Bill Horton, memorizing the basics and creating the details that would make Bill come alive. By the time he arrived at a small local motel he was Bill Horton. Michael Robbins was dead. Rest in peace.