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Mike sneaked his eyes to the speedometer. Thirty miles per hour. The eyes moved to the left to catch a glimpse of the gas. Half a tank.
Mike lifted his eyes to gaze upon the road as he felt a headache coming on. He expected it. The snow, wind, and the amount of concentration he was exerting was beginning to take its toll. If it wasn't for the adrenaline, exhaustion would have overcome the body by now.
A flash in the rear view mirror caught his attention. "No", he whispered out loud sensing his own fear in his voice.
The truck inched closer. Mike desperately wanted to push the Camry faster. Having lived in the rugged Wyoming winters had taught him to take it easy. Impatience heightened the cause of accidents.
Mike shifted his body to gain a more comfortable position. With a six foot four frame, that was near impossible in a compact. A glimpse at the mirror sent a shiver up that frame. The truck was gaining. Mike guessed that it had four-wheel drive and the driver was also used to treacherous conditions.
With the secret that Mike had he knew that the Organization would send only their best.
Mike decided to push the Toyota to thirty-five. The wind seemed to push harder against the car like a giant hand taking cheap shots to the passenger side of the car. The knuckles were turning whiter.
The bounce of lights in the rear view alerted Mike that the truck was gaining. For the first time in over two hours real fear came over Mike. He was still fifteen minutes from the safety of the city lights.
Should he push it to forty?
The howling of the wind screamed its anger at a man daring to push the limits of the storm. Mike pushed down on the gas pedal; a determination replaced the fear as a hue of light barely seen arched in the horizon.
"I'm only minutes away. I can make it," Mike said with a mixture of hope and uncertainty.
The glare in the rear view became constant. Mike strived to ignore it while focusing on the lines. Focus on the lines.
The light disappeared only to be replaced with a new noise. Mike recognized a diesel engine, even above the driving wind. The truck came alongside. His imagination created images. But he chose to focus on the lines. The lines became a comfort. A necessary distraction.
The Organization wanted his research. The same research that had taken Mike away from his friends, family, and teaching for the last three years and also took him around the world. What he discovered, what he learned he knew would change the world. It changed him. Everything he thought about the world, beliefs, his values, changed. So convinced was he in this, that he was willing to risk his life, to protect this research.
Why else would he be driving over a hundred miles in a blizzard in the middle of the night?
The howling wind and relative silence in the car allowed him to reflect On the last three years. He knew he had hurt people, especially his daughter Cathy. He hoped and prayed that she would one day understand.
To protect her and his research there was his best friend. He could be trusted with information. Mike thought, I have trusted the man with my life.
Twenty more miles.
As if sensing an unspoken urgency, the wind seemed to pick up power. The gust fist-slammed into the Camry with boxer-like punches. Mike felt his arms becoming sore by trying to maintain a straight direction and manhandling the vehicle.
Despite the freezing temperatures outside Mike felt sweat. The adrenaline pumping keeping Mike alert.
Fight or flight? Mike thought about it. "I am doing both." Fighting for the truth. Fighting for what is right? Flight? It was definetly survival. Nothing more that the survival instinct kicking up from the depths of man's ancestoral being. The animal instinct in every human bursting like a pentup geyser.
Mike glanced up at the rear view mirror. "What are they doing? They can't be going that fast on purpose. Can they?" Mike decided to chance it and picked up the speed knowing this road like the back of his hand. He drove it often as he taught classes in Casper as well as the University of Wyoming. He hoped that finally, after all these years, this knowledge would serve him well.
Fifteen more miles.
A desperation settled in the bones. "Don't panic. Stay cool," he thought to himself. "I am almost there." But with desperation also comes reflection. He thought of what Cathy had to go through the last three years. He knew it was his fault for their relationship to have weakened, to be become broken. There was no excuse given today's vast array of technology to communicate from emails to video calls. He didn't write or call. The research, and her, needed to be protected. Now, without any reason, he was rushing to her. Now he realized he should have included her but the father's instinct of protection was strong. So strong that it clouded out common sense.
He knew that sending all his research to his friend was right. It would be protected and he would honor Mike's request. But, just in case, he desperately wanted to deliver the research to Cathy. He hoped. For the first time in his life he allowed his work to interfere with family and friends. But this work was bigger than all of them. Cathy will learn that quickly.
Ten more miles.
The headlights became a permament fixture in the rearview mirror. The lights seemed to be growing by the minute, sending a rectangular glare right across Mike's face. Loosening his right hand he adjusted the mirror. The wind sending a blow into the side of the car. In milliseconds the hand gripped the steering wheel, regaining control that momentarily lost. Mike knew who trailed behind him. A group, that works alongside dictators and businesses, to protect their own interests and their own version of the truth. Mike learned a hard truth about a year ago; it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. And it made protecting the truth difficult.
He duplicated all his research and sent it to another group. A group committed to truth seeking and protecting.
The lights were close. Mike knew that the brights were on high beam on purpose. The drive was a nightmare for concentration. The hypnotic snow, pounding wind, late hour, and the vehicle hunting him down. Mike knew he had to do something and fast if he was going to survive through the night.
Grabbing his cell phone and tightening his left hand grip on the wheel, Mike used his righth and to text Cathy. She was a night owl. Maybe not this late but Mike was hopeful. He also texted the group he sent his research to. Finally, he dialed 911. He hoped the operator was savvy enough to figure how to trace the phone to his location. Having done all that he needed to do there was only one thing left to do.
Five more miles.
Mike imagined the headlights were also working out of desperation as they not only picked up speed but also closed the gap. Now, the cab was blindly bright.
Focus. White line. Yellow dotted line. Stay in the lines.
Mike would have began swerving except the visibility was so bad that he wasn't sure if there would be a car coming in the other direction.
This didn't bother the vehicle behind him. Suddenly it aligned next to him. The blinding light was gone only to be replaced with a black Yukon on his left side. Mike dared a glance to his left. Windows were shaded so discerning any person was impossible.
Focus. White line. Yellow dotted line. Stay in the lines.
Mike thought a massive gust of wind hit. It sent him to the shoulder of the road. A vibration rattled through the Camry and Mike struggled to keep the vehicle on the road.
That was no wind.
He then knew what slammed into him. The survival instinct reached a new high, adrenaline was rushing and a determinated and more focus Mike took stock of his situation.
Three more miles.
Mike thought he could see city lights ahead but right at this present moment the lights seemed a thousand miles away.
The two vehicles were now bashing against each other and the wind. Mike's shoulders ached as he spent the last three hours battling nature. The adrenaline helped as it coursed throughout his body. Mike was fired up and ready for battle.
"They will not win," he yelled determinedly in the car.
Both vehicles recklessly bashed against each other. Mike took a peek to his left side. This time the window was down and an Asian man was smiling at him. The moment seemed surreal. Mike didn't hear the blast of the gun over the wind but he felt the impact.
A fiery hot flash flared throughout Mike's left shoulder. The moment the shoulder got hit Mike's strength to control the vehicle also left him. Passenger side tires rumbled down the vibrate strip and Mike was soon no longer on the road. A mile marker bent over but not without first leaving its mark on the front grill.
Mike no longer faced the direction he was going on the highway. But somehow he continued moving, anyplace better than waiting for the yahoos in the Yukon.
Wyoming is famous for its drifts. After going fifty yards the Camry hit one of those drifts and was halfway buried.
He had one last chance of survival. He turned off his lights and vehicle. The Yukon would have to turn around and try to locate Mike. He knew the wind and blowing snow would cover enough of the tire tracks in a short amount of time. Yukon would be just as blind and facing the same conditions as he was.
So he waited. First five minutes. Then another five more.
Mike felt the temperature drop exponientially in the next five minutes. He didn't feel the wind directly but he was feeling the cold the wind brought. With shooting pains throughout his body he reached into the back seat to grab one of the winter blankets he packed. He had heard of enough stories of tourists and new residents to the state who had gotten themselves trapped in a blizzard. So confident were they in their driving skills that they didn't pack essential supplies; extra food, blankets, coats, and winter gear, a cell phone. Cell phone! Mike reached into the passenger seat for his phone. "Time to call 911 again."
"911. How can I help you?"
"I have been shot and I was run off the highway. Please send someone."
"Where are you at sir?"
Good question thought Mike. "I'm not sure. I am about one to two miles away from Casper on Highway 43. I am on the right side of the highway. Please hurry."
Mike was sure of the silence on the other end of the line. "Okay sir, I am trying to find someone to go out there but the conditions are extremely difficult for all emergency crews and vehicles. The highway was closed three hours ago. Did you not get that information?"
"Great," thought Mike, "No crews and no traffic." "I did but I had an emergency bigger than the blizzard." Bigger than the blizzard? She must think I am an idiot," Mike thought.
The operator getting more difficult to hear as the blizzard wrecked havoc on communications Mike surmised. He flipped closed the cell phone and waited some more. He guessed he had only a few minutes. With the cold and wind mixing it up outside and the heater off it would not take long for the heat to escape and be replaced with subzero temeratures.
He looked around the vehicle and noticed that's now creeped in. Good. Snow can provide insulation from the temperatures. As time passed so too the worry of his pursuers. The new fright became a realization as he looked down and saw blood continuing to flow from his shirt.
There was no way he was getting to a doctor anytime soon. Mike tried to apply pressure but after a few minutes it didn't matter. Flashes of light began to dance behind the eyes interspersed with black spells. Mike felt his breathing become heavier. Labored. Slower. Time had crawled to a stop inside the Camry.
After fifteen minutes Mike felt his life slipping away. He imagined that nobody would come and find him for days, maybe weeks with the snow covering his vehicle. He focused his thoughts into prayers.
A prayer for his daughter Cathy; that she would first forgive him and that she would understand. That she will seek out the truth in her life. For his friend, his dearest in the world, that he would have courage. A smile crept over Mike's face, a final prayer, that his research will change the world.
As his lips turned blue and with eyes closing Mike Jurkovich eased into the arms of death.
Four days later the wind shifted the snow and highway crews recognized a vehicle about seventy-five yards off the road.
Sgt. Sampont brushed aside the snow and peeked inside. The scene nothing less than disturbing. A man, frozen to death, with blood frozen onhis right hand. The eyes were shut giving him a content look. Brushing aside the rest of the snow on the windshield there didn't seem to be anything out of place except the broken glass from the driver's window. After many years of seeing drunk hunters shoot at vehicles it was easy for Sgt. Sampont to recognize how the glass ended up inside the vehicle.
He was also pretty sure where the bullet landed.
Examining the vehicle he spotted a box on the passenger seat with a name on it.
Sampont's first reaction was that the frozen man was John. "Nothing is at it seems," he thought. Was the man delivering it? Stealing it?
Sampont trounced back through the knee highs now to his patrol car. He radioed in what he saw and made a request for a tow truck. Going to his trunk he pulled out a survival shovel.
The crisp hit his lungs. Having grown up in Wyoming he thanked God for the weather. It made a person tough. So many times he had seen people move to the high plains and live out the western dream. It only took the first winter to send them packing somewhere else. Sampont was thankful for the lack of wind. The first time in three days without it and the sky radiated a sharp, light blue.
As Sampont set to digging out the driver's side he kept glancing back to his car and the highway. Trained to always be alert, See the unsual, Sampont hoped that this was the only weird thing to happen today.
During the next twenty minutes he made good progress. On a glance to the patrol car he thought he saw something unusual. A Yukon, black, kept driving by. There was an exit ramp two miles down the road. Once in awhile, during an accident, some people would drive by multiple times to catch glimpses of the morbid scenes of car crashes. But this wasn't a morbid scene, at least from the highway.
Sampont decided to be more alert for this. "Could be nothing," he thought.
In another ten minutes the door was ready to be opened. He pulled on the handle. Locked. Again, nothing is ever easy. Sampont pulled out his camera to take a picture of the window before he punched his stick in and break out the rest of the glass. As he prepared the camera he glanced back to the highway.
A black Yukon drove by again. With the camera ready he pointed to the highway and snapped. The Yukon picked up speed and headed north. By this time the tow truck and another highway patrol showed up. A minute later the ambulance parked on the highway.
"Hopefully the boys back at the lab should be able to pull out the license number on that Yukon," Mike hoped.
After the man was loaded into the ambulance Sampont had to decide about the box.
The Wyoming wind picked up after the crews had left the crash sight. The Wyoming day had returned to normal.
The wind whistled from the north making the plane descent rocky at best. John Bush hated plane rides, especially turbulent ones. When the wheels screeched to a slowing pace at Casper International Airport John left out a breath of relief. He made it a purpose of sitting near the front to exit the plane quickly.
Claustrophobia is a terrible weakness. It left him paralyzed during football games when under a pile of defensive lineman. When the captain finished his spiel of temperatures, local times, and exiting procedures John reached for his buckle. Freedom waited within seconds.
Two days ago a phone call roused him from his sleep and drew him to Casper. Mike Jurkovich was a dear friend and colleague in the field of archeology and history. It was because of Mike that John became interested in Native American artifacts, history, and culture. The call from Mike's daughter informed him that Mike passed away. Shot and left for dead along the highway.
Excerpted from THE DINOSAUR CONSPIRACY by MATTHEW COLEMAN Copyright © 2013 by Matthew Coleman. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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