Prologue:  Outlaw Mind

June 1973

I am the violent intercourse of time and circumstance.
--Cadillac Dave

Facing death is something everybody has to do but nobody likes to think about. Then it’s staring you right in the face, and you have to deal with it then and there, and no way to put it off.

That’s when you have to have your mind right, or you just can’t handle it.

When I came down the high mountain off of Wolf Creek Pass, the rain had stopped and the sun was blazing low in the western sky, forcing me to pull down the visor to break the glare. My ears popped hard as I dropped down the steep west side of the southern Colorado Rockies on U.S. Highway 160 and headed towards Durango. I still had a long way to go before I’d feel safe.

I’d split up with Bruce and the girls earlier that morning at the big resort hotel in Walsenburg, after I’d kicked the little black-headed chick out of the bed and made her cry. I was in what Bruce used to call a foul mood. He should talk, being the one that liked to hurt people so much, especially girls.

Anyway, they were headed back East the long way, going through Chicago first, and then back down to Atlanta. We’d talk again in a week.

At Cortez I turned right, heading west on U.S. 666 toward Utah, with maybe an hour left before dark. The wide platinum-colored hood of the Coupe de Ville stretched out in front of me like a long phallic rocket, and the sun glinted on the wreath of the Cadillac crest. I liked that. Seeing the crest sticking up so proud and classy out there in front, I mean.

I was rolling along about 75 down the long, straight slope just before the highway bottomed out into another long flat, when I came up hard behind an old rattle-trap flatbed truck with tall sideboards, heaped high with loose hay that kept blowing off and skittering back across the pavement like desert tumbleweeds. He was only going about 35 or 40, the best I could gauge, so I just eased on around him on the left without ever slowing down. I set the cruise control on 85, the big Caddy rolling low and sleek and smooth with no strain.

My best guess was that the Utah line was only an hour or so ahead, maybe less, and it would be dark by then. I figured that if I hit U.S. 191 and followed it through the Painted Desert, through Moab and then on up through Price to Provo, that would put me pretty much home free into Salt Lake City by midnight, and from there all my options would be open.

I fumbled for a joint from the cigarette pack stuffed under the carpet beside the driver’s seat, but wished I had a snort of coke instead. That’s when I spotted the Smokey Bear ahead, coming on fast, meeting me in the left lane. 

I braked the big car but not too hard so the nose wouldn’t dive down, and hoped he didn’t have his radar on. Back in 1973 when all this was happening, they didn’t run their radar guns all the time like they do today.

I had dropped down to around 60 as we passed each other, and I saw him shoot me a hard stare in that brief instant. I knew what his Dudley Do-Right cop mind was most likely thinking: Young hippie guy, long hair, expensive car – that means big question mark.

So I wasn’t surprised to see his brake lights come on just a few seconds later. I watched in my rear-view mirror as he made a U-turn in the highway a few hundred yards behind me, and started coming fast, flipping on his red and blue bubble gum machine. Back then they hadn’t gone to all blue lights, like now. I remember.

I shoved the joint back into the pack and crammed it up under the carpet, keeping my big boat steady between the lines so as not to give him any extra excuses. As if he needed any. The Caddy was a nice ride, but there was no way it was going to outrun his police Ford. I reached under the center armrest and pulled out the six-inch .357 magnum, and laid it in my lap. It was long and hard and black on top of my faded jeans.

It was a blue steel Smith with red target sights and a double action slick as butter, a really sweet gun. I’d bought it in Albuquerque two days earlier, out of an ad in the newspaper, after all that other bad stuff had gone down in Tucson. Shot it in the desert yesterday, and it was fine. We’d sent one of the girls into a sporting goods store for ammo, so I was loaded with 125-grain hollow-point Super-Vels. The other matching piece — the dude had had two of them, $400 for the pair, which was my good luck — was in a leather bag in the trunk, with what was left of the money.

I fondled the wooden pistol handle with my right hand and felt for the trigger and watched in the rearview mirror as the flashing lights kept gaining on me, slowly at first and then faster as he picked up speed. He was still about 300 yards back, with only the lumbering hay truck between us. He’d be on me in about two minutes, I figured, if he kept coming at that rate. Then he’d be dead.

I hated that it had come to this. Really. It wasn’t something I had ever wanted. But now it was him or me, and I wasn’t going back. They weren’t going to cage me up like an animal any more, and make me work on the road in chains, and feed me beans and cornbread and rice pudding, and have some queer guard running his hands between my legs, saying, “Lemme feel that pecker!” like sick old Alfie Leonard out at Silverdale.

Live free or die. Wasn’t that one of our famous mottos from the American Revolution? Well, it was mine now. And maybe I would die. That was the most likely outcome, and I knew it.

I figured I could probably take this first guy down, with the element of surprise being on my side, and buy myself a few minutes of time. But I knew that he would already have me on the radio, with the tag number and car description, and some passing driver would see the cruiser with its lights flashing, and the trooper’s body in the road all bloody and dead, and they’d call it in.

Then they’d all be after me hot and heavy like a pack of wolves, which is what they reminded me of anyhow, chasing me through the desert in the dark. That’s what happens if you kill a cop. The highest level of heat possible. Instantaneously.

My mind played out the scene in advance. I couldn’t stay on the highway for more than a few minutes, which was the only main road to Salt Lake, because they’d be all over it, setting up roadblocks and checking every car. So I’d have to hit the dirt roads as soon as possible, probably before I could get into Utah. They’d have deputies running the roads in both states within half an hour. Then they’d bring in the helicopter and the SWAT team. But it would be dark by then, which would be in my favor.

Too bad the Cadillac wasn’t a tough four-wheel-drive Scout, like the pot smugglers in El Paso used, and then I could take it cross-country and maybe throw them off until morning, and at least have a fighting chance to get away. As it was, trying that would only get my big lead-ass car stuck in the sand, so I’d have to just drive the dirt roads into the desert, running in the moonlight without lights so they wouldn’t spot me from the chopper, and get ahead as far as I could. Hopefully to some red rock outcropping or canyon or someplace where I could hide the car.

If I could make it into the rocks before they spotted me, and if they didn’t find the car for long enough, maybe I could get a good lead on them and my trail would be cold before they could bring in the dogs. I could head deep into the badlands and try to throw them off, and maybe my road map would help me locate a town later. But this was desolate terrain, and it was June. I had no water, just a couple of Snickers bars in my bag. The odds weren’t looking too good for me.

Besides, pretty soon they would have tracking teams and scouting parties out all over the place, and probably some Indian guide who could sniff out a dead campfire three days old. Even if by some miracle I dodged the snakes and scorpions and made it to any kind of civilization, the home folks there would already be on the lookout with shotguns, just like the old farmers always were up on the Plateau when somebody ran off from the prison and managed to get away from the dogs. They’d just truss ‘em up like hogs and haul ‘em in the back of a pickup truck to turn ‘em in for the reward. Only here they’d probably be scared and shoot first, since a cop had been killed and all.

No, the odds weren’t looking too good at all.

I could see myself holed up high in the red rocks in the scorching sun, with no water and just two pistols, surrounded by a SWAT team with snipers and long rifles, and the helicopter hovering overhead and some prick on a bullhorn yelling, “Lay down your weapons and come out with your hands in the air! This is your FINAL warning!”

And I’d be tired and sweating, all beat down, knowing that if I stood up they’d probably just shoot me down anyway, like they did Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. Which by the way just happens to be very real, in case you didn’t know. “He made a sudden move,” is what they’d say, and they’d all back each other up. That’s the way cops do, especially when you’re known as somebody who won’t take their bullshit.

That’s the way it was with good old Leon Payne back in Chattanooga, after he beat the royal crap out of bullyboy Cotton Brown on the parking lot outside of that Sports Page nightclub. Took Cotton’s gun away from him and pistol-whipped him with it, Leon did, and left him shackled to his police car with his own handcuffs. They had a manhunt all over town for Leon, until he finally holed up in his lawyer’s house on the bluff over the river and only surrendered after the newspaper and TV people were already there. Otherwise they’d have wasted poor Leon, I know it.

I confess I laughed out loud when I saw the pictures in the newspaper, with Cotton’s face all bruised black and blue and stitches across his nose and his eyes black and swollen shut. Served the fat-assed punk right, is what I say. Little Leon, just a welterweight on my Golden Gloves boxing team, and big Cotton, a swaggering 250-pound former tackle who thought he was so tough and liked to push people around. Somebody sure needed to take that blustering bully down.

That’s just the kind of asshole that lots of times gets to be a cop, you know. Somebody that wants to carry a badge and gun and intimidate people. “Too lazy to work and too scared to steal, so they get a cop job,” that’s what badass Dan Scott used to say back in the old Hamilton County Jail. Which was a real hellhole, but that’s another story for later.

I thought about old Dan Scott and what he would do, if he were in my place now. He was just a country boy from Soddy-Daisy who had graduated from stealing cars to armed robbery, even knocking over a few banks, it was rumored on the street. But mostly he hit liquor stores and poker games, to hear him tell it, because that’s where the most cash money was without bringing in the FBI. So Dan and his brother Bouncer would put on ski masks or pull nylon stockings over their faces and heist those kinds of places.

“You gotta get your nuts up before you throw down on somebody,” Dan used to philosophize there in the jail cell while we were playing seven-card stud. “You got to be ready to pull the trigger if they make one false move. Otherwise you’ll get your fuckin’ ass blowed off. This kinda shit’s serious … serious as a heart attack.”

 

I’d never pulled any armed robberies, only a few small-time burglaries. You know, just TVs and window air conditioners and outboard motors that you could steal off of boats parked in somebody’s yard — the kind of quick-moving stuff that Treadway down at the drive-through beer store window would pay you hard cash for at 20 cents on the dollar. True, I had gone into a couple of houses and apartments that Cool-Daddy Johnny Wallis set up for me, but I didn’t like that action much. If the people woke up, I might have had to hurt them, and I didn’t want to hurt anybody. If they didn’t shoot me first.

Like that time, five years earlier, when I was trying to steal the TVs out of the electronics repair shop beside the road, down across the Georgia line beside Lake Winnipesaukee. I was up there on the porch with my little tool pouch, working in the dark real quiet like, taking the hinges off the door.

There was no ADT tape on the windows, but I saw some little microphone-looking things up in the corner of the ceiling. Still, no alarms went off when the nuts from the hinges fell off the backside of the door onto the floor inside. So I thought everything was pretty cool, and I just about had the door off when I heard a faint crunch, ever so soft, in the driveway gravel behind me.

I’d have to say good reactions saved my life that time. I never even looked over my shoulder, just lurched to the left and dove over the edge of the wooden porch into the deep ditch that ran beside the road. I heard a thunderous blast and the buckshot crashed into the corner of the building, spraying me with flying wood chips as I started running down the ditch line, they same way I’d sneaked up earlier, scattering tools everywhere. I judged it to be a 12-gauge, fired from not more than 20 feet away, based on my prior experience with shotguns up on the Plateau.

Less than a minute, and I had made it back to my rusted-out 4-door ’57 Chevy and high-tailed it down the dark road with no lights. Another minute, and I was out of Georgia and back across the line into Tennessee, and then I turned the headlights on but stayed on the back roads until I was way on the other side of town.

As I drove, I realized that those modern sonic-technology microphones must have sent a silent alarm up to the shopkeeper’s house at the top of the long dark driveway. So he just sneaked on down with his shotgun, fully intending to blow me away. Never even said word one, just started blasting.

I sure was lucky that time.

 

But it didn’t look like I was going to be so lucky this time. I could see myself sweating in those hot red rocks, blasting away at the chopper with my two matching .357s while the snipers lined me up in their scopes.

Sorta like James Cagney in that old gangster flick where he’s standing on top of some kind of storage silo as it goes up in flames, yelling, “Look at me, Ma, I’m on top of the world.” I really didn’t want to go down blazing like Jimmy Cagney, but I couldn’t see any other way out.

It was ironic, I thought, that at the tender young age of 24, I should come to such an ignominious death out here in the badlands of southern Utah, where the old-time outlaws used to hole up in rocky strongholds to escape the pursuing posses. But today I didn’t have a hole-in-the-wall gang to run to for refuge.

Old Dan Scott would have liked that Old West outlaw scene, though. He used to answer the cops who arrested him that his name was Jesse James and his brother was Frank. At least that’s how he told the story back in the jail. But maybe he was bluffing — who knows?

Would old Dan Scott really have had the balls to gun down the trooper, if he were in my place? I had to think he probably would have.

But then to really understand, you actually had to be IN my place.

You had to have your head settled in a place where the outlaw desperado mentality has fully taken hold in your mind … not as some romantic notion from a movie, but as an ingrained fugitive way of life.

I’m talking about a state of mind where you saw and defined yourself as an outlaw — hunted, alienated from everything normal civilized people believed in and from all the ridiculous rules they lived by. Because you knew instinctively when you were in that place of total defiance, that they would not — could not — allow you to continue to exist. They either had to break your will or destroy you.

That’s what they finally did to Cool Hand Luke, you know. They killed him because they knew they couldn’t break him.

By then, in June of 1973, I had already long since settled it in my mind that they weren’t going to break me. I had escaped from that hated county workhouse a year and a half before, and I had no intention of going back voluntarily.

Live free or die. Lots of people liked to mouth such macho mottoes.

How many really lived them?

 

I can’t record, right now, everything that happened after that. I’ll try to get in what you need to know, though, just in case you want to try to understand how it all went down. At least you’ll have some basic facts, that way.

Mine was a life filled with mistakes and failures and crimes, driven by poetry and passion and impossible goals.

I am the violent intercourse of time and circumstance.

That’s from a poem I wrote a long time ago, when I was just a teenage rebel kid. Before I was officially an outlaw … but then maybe I was always an outlaw in my mind. Wanting to be some kind of hero, but always winding up on the fringe, living way outside the boundaries.

And if my thought dreams could be seen

They’d probably put my head in a guillotine …

Bob Dylan said that. He said a lot that applied to me, all along the way.

You see, I knew I was an outlaw, but never considered myself a criminal. The same way the uptown Atlanta hookers in Buckhead always used to freely admit that they were prostitutes, but hotly deny that they were whores. I guess it’s all in the definitions of how you see yourself.

Of course, I knew full well how the law and polite society saw me. To them I was just a common criminal, and a dangerous one. I was the kind of subversive menace that they needed to eliminate, for the common good.

Yes, I knew what they thought of me. They told me all the time. Even the TV commercials carried the subtle subconscious message: when Mr. Clean’s big hand swept across the screen and wiped out that dirty word “GRIME,” it was a kind of free-associative metaphor subliminally conditioning and programming the general public to approve of the government’s campaign to wipe out “CRIME.”

Really. Think about it.

 

By that day in June of 1973 when I was driving the big Coupe de Ville across the Rockies on my way to Utah, hoping to make Salt Lake City by midnight, I had been escaped from the workhouse back home for almost a year and a half. During that time the outlaw mentality had firmly taken hold of my consciousness.

As a fugitive flying under the radar, I had established wholesale supply connections with marijuana smugglers in Texas and Arizona, and I had built up a distribution network that included Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky, and reached even into California at times. Along the way I had been busted twice — both times in Tucson, under different names.

First that time at the airport when they searched my bags because of an alleged phoned-in bomb threat, and that’s how they found those few joints and tiny white-cross-benz speed pills rolled up inside my socks. Like they were looking for a bomb in my socks. Like there was really a bomb threat at all.

Now this time, less than a year later, under another borrowed name from back in Tennessee. I just knew that somebody at that jail was going to recognize me, and connect me with the other guy who never showed up for the airport drug charges. But nobody did, they let me go, and here I was on the road again.

My fake IDs always held up until the FBI fingerprint analysis came back from Washington — which in those days usually took about a week. By that time I would have posted a cash bond and be long gone. It got expensive, but I was still free.

But every time it happened, the heat on me got more intense. The longer you remained a fugitive, the more heat you got. I could feel it now, scalding.

As I watched the red and blue lights coming closer in my rearview mirror, I was pretty sure that by now they probably knew who I was back in Tucson. It had been almost exactly a week ago that the Pima County cops had pulled over my new shiny red Cadillac Eldorado on those bogus traffic charges, and confiscated all our cash and hauled Bruce and me off to jail, even though they had nothing solid to charge us with.

There was something over $37,000 in the trunk that night: 25 grand in hundreds, rubber banded into five stacks of $5,000 each, and $3,000 more in 20s in thousand-dollar stacks, all neatly stuffed together in the zippered pouch inside my soft leather suitcase; and the rest of the money in assorted bundles of 10s and 5s in a brown paper sack, folded up inside another smaller overnight bag. That was our spending money, you know.

The cops only reported finding the $28,000. They flat out stole the $9,000 in small change.

So much for that foolish high school essay of mine, the one that won the statewide Law Day contest. “Respect the Law, It Respects You,” that was what I wrote about, back when I was young and ignorant. Sure was a bad joke now.

 

Even with the big name Mafia lawyer that I managed to hire, a notorious Jew named Ben Lazarro, it had taken us a full day and a half to get out of jail on bond, what with everybody who wanted to question us.

Agents from the FBI, DEA, IRS — they all came around to see us at the jail.

They kept Bruce and me in different cells, so we couldn’t talk to each other, and then questioned us separately. That’s so they could try to bluff us.

“Your buddy’s already told us everything,” they would say. “So why don’t you just get it off your chest, too? That’ll make this whole thing easier on everybody.”

Like we’re some kind of morons or something, who don’t know what to say.

“I don’t know why you’re holding me here. I’ve done nothing wrong. I want to call a lawyer.” That’s all I’d tell them. Over and over, like a broken record, or some parroted TM mantra.

That made them really mad, especially the lanky, gray-suited IRS nerd who desperately wanted to know whose money it was and where it came from. He just couldn’t stand it that neither one of us would claim it outright.

“I’ll have to talk to my lawyer before I can make any statements about anything,” I would deadpan. Totally noncommittal, and perfectly legal.

Infuriating to a cop whose intimidation tactics wouldn’t work.

They would have loved to rough us up, but they couldn’t, because with the money involved and the Cadillac and all, and the Mafia lawyer whose name I kept on dropping now and again, they were pretty sure we were connected, at least enough that there would be some pretty bad publicity if they stepped too far over the line. Besides, they had no real case against us, which they also knew perfectly well. They were just fishing, hoping we would say something stupid.

I was pretty sure Bruce wouldn’t break. You never really know in a situation like that, until you actually go through it, but of course we both knew the drill:

“Why are you holding me? What am I charged with? I have nothing to say. I want to call a lawyer.” Or something similar along those lines.

Eventually, if you did it long enough, they’d give up and let you call a lawyer, and then you were home free — as long as you kept your mouth shut and didn’t say something stupid to one of the undercover narks they’d run into the cellblock with you, to buddy up when you were off guard and try to get you to talk too freely or brag too much. That scam generally worked best with people who were basically straight-johns but had just messed up some way for the first time and got thrown into jail. They’d convict themselves with their own mouths the very first day.

Bruce and I both knew better than that.

No comment. Not guilty. I want to call my lawyer.

But all the agents still had to give it their best shot, sitting across the table from us in their worn wrinkled gray suits or their gaudy plaid sport coats and those skinny little neckties and white JC Penney short-sleeved perma-pressed shirts with the wet armpits and tacky too-tight polyester pants, in the brightly lit interrogation room with the one-way windows all around that the detective observers could watch through from outside.

Bruce told me later they’d even lied and told him I had bonded out and left him there to fend for himself … but if he would snitch on me they’d take good care of him. But Bruce was no snitch. He despised cops too much. I’ll give him that, at least.

 

We finally got out of jail the afternoon of the second day, after a preliminary hearing on what eventually became aggravated assault charges.

Aggravated assault! What a crock of crap that was. Some lying punk from that swanky cowboy steak house out in the foothills — probably the same one who called the cops on us in the first place — had signed an affidavit saying we pointed pistols at him in the parking lot.

When all the time it was him and his redneck cowboy buddies that were setting up to rob us, plain as day. If Bruce hadn’t gotten some cover over behind a pickup truck and leveled his .380 across the hood, so I could get across the open parking space to the Eldorado for my Browning, who knows what the cowboy over by the wood fence with the long-barreled Colt .45 revolver would have done?

We would have just disappeared in the desert, most likely. The girls, too. Stuff like that happened out there, in those days, more than people know. Especially to unsuspecting free-love hippies from back East who came to town with wads of cash in the springtime, gullibly looking to cop some dope months after all of last-year’s weed was long gone. Like lambs to the slaughter, so to speak.

That’s what that old Blue Oyster Cult song, The Last Days of May, was all about, in case you didn’t know.

I already knew all about that. I just didn’t expect to run into it at a public restaurant like that steak house in the foothills.

Of course, you had to admit that it was the way Bruce acted that had brought it all down on us in the first place. Flashing that wad of hundreds around the table, being rude to the clumsy waitress, showing off on the dance floor, flaunting our classy-looking Atlanta party girls in their face. Bruce had a way of pissing people off, with his tall thin Rod Stewart-like good looks and long straight white-blond hair and flashy rock-star glitter clothes and snarling badass attitude.

Cowboy Bob, who eventually arranged for the bondsman to bail us out, told us later that we never should have gone out to eat and dance at that steak joint in the first place, because the owner and his roughneck nephews were known rip-offs. They were always on the lookout for out-of-town suckers from back East, like us.

I guess this time, those cowboy heist artists must’ve decided that if they couldn’t rob us, they could at least bust us. Which is what they did, whenever we tried to drive away a few minutes later. They probably split the missing cash with their cop buddies, as I figured it all out later.

But of course we didn’t know any of that when we went out there to the foothills to eat a juicy steak dinner and dance with our party girls. To us it just seemed like a quiet, secluded place, well off the beaten path, where we could unwind in peace before our planned coke deal went down the next day.

That would have been my very first coke buy, as coincidence might have it, and a whole new entrepreneurial adventure was about to begin, set up by my solid Mexican connection. But that big deal bit the dust, obviously, when the cops grabbed our cash and locked us up on the phony assault charges.

Looking back, it seems like that sort of thing happened to me at just about every transitional time in my career as a drug dealer, and even beyond. At every crucial juncture, just when I was about to move up to the next level, to something bigger and better, something majorly bad would happen to thwart it. Then I’d have to fight extra hard to overcome it in order to go on. It was like a pattern that I could only see later, when I looked back on it. Funny, huh?

Anyway, when we finally got through at court, after the Mafia lawyer entered our “Not Guilty” pleas and got our bonds set, the bored-looking judge released us. The girls were there, looking sharp and classy as ever, to pick us up in the bright red Eldorado.

Our good luck — we still had the car. I’d bought it just the day before the bust, from that Mafia guy up in Phoenix, and it still had an open Wisconsin title from some pseudo-legit lease-car company called Wheels of Wisconsin.

So the tall redhead Linda, Bruce’s girlfriend, had claimed it, just like we told her to do if anything bad ever happened. Since she had the notarized title in her purse, they couldn’t say a word to justify taking it away from her. You know that had to have really steamed that IRS dude in the drab gray suit.

The girls drove us over to the Mafia lawyer’s house, where they’d already been visiting over the past day or so, and we went over the facts of the case with Lazarro. While we were there the telephone rang, somebody asking for me — or for my current alias, to be more precise. Turns out it was the local counterculture rock radio station calling, with some hippie DJ wanting to interview me live on the air.

News about our bust had already been on the TV and in the newspaper, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what we most likely had the money for. The old heads down at the radio station wanted to get my comments about the heavy-handed police tactics of the cops who’d grabbed our cash. To expose how the fascist pigs were trying to crush the Youth Revolution, you know.

I would gladly have told them what I thought, but Lazarro snagged the phone. “My clients have no comment at the moment. Thank you.” And he hung up. A dapper, expensively dressed Jewish guy who looked to be in his late 50s, and notoriously well connected with Mafia clients, he clearly had no interest in propagandizing for the Green Movement.

 

Then we drove out to north Tucson to meet Cowboy Bob near the base of Mount Lemmon, and he loaned us another $500 to leave town on. Then we picked up the platinum colored Coupe de Ville at a local motel where it had been parked for two days, unnoticed and untouched. We headed out after dark in a two-car Cadillac convoy, with the girls driving the now-red-hot Eldorado and Bruce and me following discreetly in the still unidentified coupe.

It took us another day to drive across the mountains, following state highway 77 north through Oracle and Globe, then picking up 60 east of Phoenix and taking it on out through Show Low and Edgar and down into New Mexico. In Socorro we waited for two days in a seedy motel just off of I-25 for Mike McTavish, my driver who was coming back from Atlanta, to meet us with more money.

Mike’s girlfriend had relayed my emergency message when he called home and he had diverted his route to Socorro. Mike finally showed up in the white Chevy Impala transport car, sweating and grinning, with his eyes dilated wide and wired to the max from the yellow Desoxyn pills he was popping like candy. He had 45 grand in cash to deliver, which gave me a lot more flexibility out on the road.

Then we had spent another day and night in Albuquerque, buying the guns out of the newspaper ads and then getting the new Cadillac for Bruce to drive back East, since the Eldorado that had started the whole mess was way too hot for me to handle now, and he was worried that the old coupe might have been spotted at the motel back in Tucson. So I bought him the custom chocolate-metallic Biarritz coupe, with a white padded landau top and chrome front end, from the Cadillac dealer in Albuquerque.

We agreed that the cost was coming out of his money later.

We spent the next night at the fancy resort hotel in Walsenberg, Colorado, which is where I got so mad the next morning and kicked my pretty brunette party chick out of bed for under-performance. Which really was uncalled for, I freely admit, being as how both of those girls had stood up so cool and classy under all the heat back in Tucson.

But like I said, I was in a pretty foul mood that morning.

That’s when we finally split up, with me heading west in the old Cadillac coupe — which was in fact only last year’s model, a ’72 and still really sharp looking. I figured it likely would hold up for me as far as Salt Lake City, and I could switch it out for something else there.

 

By now, though, it had been almost a week since the near-shootout at the steakhouse, and the FBI had most likely matched my prints already. So all those FBI and DEA and IRS agents down in Tucson were kicking themselves in the ass and blaming each other for letting me — a notorious escaped fugitive and known large-scale drug dealer — just waltz right out of their fancy high-security jail smack-dab under their noses, for the second time in less than a year.

Knowing they did that, after they had all sat right across the table from me, eyeball to eyeball, and tried without success to grill me for two straight days. No, those sterling law enforcement officers probably wouldn’t be very happy campers right about now.

All of which posed two big questions for me.

First, had they put out an All Points Bulletin in the surrounding states yet? It had been a week, and here I was still barely one state away, just up in southern Colorado, and still running under the same bogus ID that they’d surely made by now. If they had an APB out and I got pulled over using my present alias, I would have just had a bad day.

Second, had they identified the second Cadillac that had been parked at Bruce’s motel back in Tucson? That’s the car I was driving now, which is why I figured the state trooper had looked me over so hard and turned around so quick, right after he passed me.

This scenario would complicate things even more, because it meant that when he finally pulled up behind me, I would no longer have the vital element of surprise on my side. He wouldn’t be thinking that he was pulling over some hippie speeding suspect, but rather an escaped fugitive who was known to be armed and should be considered dangerous. That’s what the all police reports said, anyway.

Which meant he’d be on edge, ready to shoot first and ask questions later.

All of that, then, added up to one simple choice for me:

Either I had to be prepared to surrender within the next two minutes, thus ending my outlaw career and going back to jail — most likely for many years, this time . . .

Or else I had to be ready to fight, if I expected to stay free, even for one more hour. If I chose that option, I would almost certainly kill, and then be killed. I knew that. Yet that is exactly what I did choose.

You may not understand that. But like I said, you had to BE there to really understand. You had to be able to get inside of where my head was at right then.

In that moment, I had my nuts up.

I watched in the rearview mirror as the big police Ford surged forward faster, drawing nearer, closing the gap between us more quickly now.

You wouldn’t have thought that all the stuff I have just told you could have flashed through my mind so rapidly, in just that brief minute or so. But it did, if not completely consciously, at least on some deeper, more visceral level.

I was just so intensely aware of all of those things, and of where I alone was uniquely positioned at that moment in time and eternity.

I am the violent intercourse of time and circumstance.

Less than 30 seconds left now, as the state patrol cruiser charged hard up on the tail of the lumbering hay truck behind me. Any moment, and he would be bolting around the truck on the left, closing in on me.

I am the violent intercourse …

My right palm was sweaty, and I wiped it on my jeans, feeling for the trigger again. Now is the time, it’s now or never.

Live free or die …

I could see the flashing lights again, pulsing past the left-hand side of the old hay truck. Which slowly limped off to the side of the highway, stirring up clouds of dry dust.

The police cruiser followed, pulling up close behind the truck, stopping on the gravel shoulder with his red and blue lights still flashing.

The trooper got out and walked forward toward the truck, adjusting his Smoky Bear hat, as the truck driver climbed down from the cab scratching his head.

Suddenly I flashed on reality. The cop wasn’t coming after me, after all. He was just pulling over the hay truck.

He didn’t even know that I was a fugitive wanted in all 50 states.

So he didn’t have to die. Or didn’t have to kill me. Or both.

That’s how it was that I didn’t shoot the Colorado highway patrol cop that fateful June day in 1973. But I had meant to, and I believe I would have. I was that deep into my outlaw state of mind.

Maybe that’s how Billy Bonney used to think, when he roamed those same barren badlands almost a hundred years before. Maybe he had cultivated the same kind of outlaw mind, before Pat Garret sneaked up and shot him from the shadows. Who really knows?

I began to breathe again as the big Cadillac sailed smoothly down the highway, leaving death behind, skirting around the edge of the violent intercourse of time and circumstance, and rolling relentlessly on into Utah and whatever destiny lay beyond.