Friday, February 13, 2009

Chased by a stranger at 2 a.m.

I left the Student Media Lab in the student union slightly before 2 a.m., ensuring the doors were locked before climbing onto my bike with three copies of the newest Lee Clarion along for the ride.

What would happen, I wondered, if for some odd reason I was abducted on my way home and all I had left was the three Lee Clarion newspapers? Perhaps, as I was sailing along the highway, I would throw pages of the papers out the car window, hints of my trail left behind for police to one day find.

As I turned off of Church Street, how little did I know that my fears would soon seem truer than I could ever believe.

While I passed the public library on my bike, I noticed a white car slowly pulling toward me, and as I came nearer, a window rolled down and a man gestured toward me.

"Hey," he shouted. "Can you tell me-"

I slowly sped up. If that makes any sense. You don't know who's on the roads at 2 a.m.

"Have a good night," I repled as I pedaled on, hoping that the lost stranger would find some other late-night straggler to ask directions/harass.

"Police!" came a final demand as I pedaled faster and faster, through the intersection leading to the dark way home.

Were they police, or was the obviously unmarked car the charade of a drunken imposter intent on abusing someone for the night?

Not a chance I planned on taking.

Should I lead him down the path to my home or instead turn along Ocoee St., maybe he'd give up, maybe I'd lose him, and if I needed to, I could bike to campus safety's office.

I made a sharp turn down the sidewalk of an empty Ocoee St., racing like never before, praying without realizing it.

In a minute I heard the car coming up behind me hurridly.

Still too far from campus safety to make it, I considered dropping my bike in the lawn of a neighborhood home and making a run for the back yard, the shadows, the trees.

In a second I careened off of the concrete, over a front walk and around a tree.

That's when I heard the sirens.

Heart beating, out of breath, I halted my ride to freedom. Imposter or not, I had to give up. I needed to give up.

I prayed: I believed. Lord, this isn't a bad guy. I'm trusting. I'm trusting in you. No matter what happens, I'll go through it. If I have to go down to a police station, I'll do it. I'm captive. To whoever he is, and to everything You are.

The car stopped. The man jumped out.

Only slightly aware of how the situation looked, I stood still as he approached me.

"Hands out of your pockets," he said. On impulse I lifted them into the air.

He began patting me down, backside, then front pockets. If he tried anything I'd run.

"Pick up your bike," he said. "Don't get on it; bring it to the car."

Then I noticed the array of flashing lights coming from his still plain vehicle.

"What are you doing out so late?" he asked. I explained, as calmly as I could.

I rolled my bike to the sidewalk, kicked up the stand at his request, and poured out words of apology until he stopped me, asking for identification.

"What's your name?" he asked. "I'm going to run a check on you."

"Harrison Keely." I took my student and state identification from my pocket to hand to him. "I thought you were-"

By now I became aware that my legs were shaking and wouldn't stay still, no matter how I tried to calm down.

"Where do you live?"

I told him.

"You shouldn't go off of the road," he said. "If I were a bad guy, you would want to stay in the light. They don't like the light."

He had a smile and reached out his hand to shake mine, two strangers meeting in someone's front lawn at two in the morning.

He gave his name, told me he was with the police department.

"Out looking for burglars," he said. "This part of Cleveland has had a theft problem. Especially around this time of night."

I asked him how many. He said around 30 thefts in the last week or so.

I had already forgotten his name. There goes any chance of looking him up.

He asked me my major. "Journalism," I said, before he proceeded to inquire whether I would stay in Cleveland after I graduated.

I told him no, that I figured I might return to D.C., and explained the story of my time there.

"You going to write good things about the cops in the newspaper in the future?" he asked, adding, "Since you know I'm not going to turn you in?"

How do you answer that question? Journalistic integrity and jail?

I don't know what I said, but I shook hands one more time, realized my legs had almost stopped shaking, and pedaled on home, praying, thanking God, and ready to tell the story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow!! that's crazy!! I'm glad he WAS a cop and not some crazy lunatic! glad you're okay Harrison! :)