The Harleys were loud but fast, and Pierre, Margritte, and Olivier were rocketing across the flat desert country of eastern Colorado. They were heading south and planned to pass into New Mexico within about five hours. The Rocky Mountains were to the west, and the young people were amazed at how tall they seemed to be. They were snow-covered, and they seemed to go on forever, both north and south. This really was a big country!
The rumbling engines seemed to make enough noise to be heard in Denver. Olivier held onto Margritte for dear life, and Margritte piloted the heavy bike skillfully. She had become an expert on motorcycle riding in the Bulgarian secret service school! Riding the motorcycles was exciting and fairly comfortable, and it gave all of them a sense of freedom and safety. And to be flying along in the Great Plains of America, without a person in sight — what an experience!
They were glad to be on the road and far from the Bulgarian thugs, but Pierre was a little concerned. They were still almost 500 miles from Shiprock, according to the gas station map he had bought, and a lot could go wrong along the way. They would need to stop somewhere to spend the night — it was already 2 in the afternoon, and there were thunder clouds ahead. And since he had sent the telegram to the retired French soldier, Drunken Jack, and asked him to meet them at the train station in Albuquerque, they could not plan to go straight to Shiprock. If only he had known more about the geography of the American Southwest when he made that plan! On paper Albuquerque and Shiprock looked close together. But now that they were on the road, he knew it was many hours to Albuquerque, and at least as long from Albuquerque to Shiprock. Many things could go wrong, and there were always the crafty Bulgarians to worry about!
The sun was beginning to set behind the mountains, and the air was turning cool. They would need to find a place to sleep — they couldn’t keep riding in the dark safely. And going into a roadside motel seemed risky, since the Bulgarians had been able to track them so easily. Would they have access to motel records somehow? It seemed better for them to find a place to camp for the night. Fortunately Pierre had brought some light camping equipment — a tarpaulin, a very light sleeping bag, a cook kit, and a few other odds and ends, and he was sure that Margritte would be well equipped as well. Olivier — he was not so sure, but with their jackets they would all be warm enough. Seeing a dirt road ahead, he waived his hand to Margritte and they steered their heavy bikes off the two-lane highway onto this deserted country road leading, apparently, into the mountains. All they needed was a little shelter where they could rig the tarp for protection, and they would be fine.
When they climbed a low hill, they saw a stand of cottonwood trees ahead. From his time in Africa Pierre knew that trees in dry land usually meant water, so he steered his bike off the road towards the cottonwoods. Sure enough, there was a shallow stream of cold, clear mountain water with the trees growing along both sides. All three of the adventurers were happy to find a place to rest and to stretch a bit — they were tired from their time on the road. But it was comfortable under the trees, and the air was pleasant. They still had some food in their backpacks which made a nice light meal, and the water in the stream was cold, clear, and clean. By now it was late, the stars were brilliant overhead, and all was peaceful — right up until they heard the sound of two trucks on the highway about a mile over the hill. The Bulgarians were back!
Now they would need all their wits and experience to escape their pursuers, and frankly, it looked very doubtful. But this is where the experience of Africa and Algeria came in to be useful. Pierre had had several adventures in Africa, and he knew how easy it was to travel cross country in desert land. And Olivier’s father had told him many stories about the Bedouins in eastern Algeria when they seemed able to vanish into the desert at night. The trick was to be silent and stealthy. So here is what they did. They knew they could not start their motorcycles. The Bulgarians would be walking quietly down the dirt road to surprise them. So they put another few sticks on their campfire and Pierre took out an old tape recorder from his pack. It had a recording of about an hour’s conversation the three had had back in Snakehide about how worried they were about the Bulgarians. He set the tape machine to play, and they took their packs and slipped into the darkness away from the road. Using all the skills of silent movement that all three had practiced in other times in their young lives, they moved into the dark away from the dirt road and then headed east towards the highway. In about twenty minutes they found the highway and they heard Bulgarian voices yelling in the distance. Margritte translated: “They must be here somewhere, the fire is burning and their motorcycles are still here. We’ll find them! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!”
But the Bulgarians were wrong. As soon as the three young people reached the road they turned north and ran towards the trucks. Sure enough, the Bulgarians had left the trucks unguarded. Margritte quickly disabled one truck (she had learned a lot about machines in her spy training), and she used some of her spy tricks to start the ignition on the second truck. With a roar and with Pierre behind the wheel, they pulled into the center of the highway and took off driving fast due south towards New Mexico.
The highway was long and boring in the deep night darkness, but every hour they drove they realized that the Bulgarians were falling further and further behind. Then Olivier said suddenly, “The bikes! They will follow us on the motorcycles!” Margritte had a curious smile on her face, and she shook her pack lightly with a metallic rattle. Then she pulled two handfuls of wires and cables out of her pack and said, “I thought we might need these wires more than they would, so I stripped the motorcycles of all their electrical wires as we left. No one will be riding a motorcycle until they can get to a town.”
This adventure was becoming a bit too exciting, Pierre thought to himself. Always in the past he had managed to stay a few steps ahead of the enemy. But now his foes seemed to anticipate his every move. Would they also know that their destination was Albuquerque, not Shiprock? Only time would tell. But tonight they were safe, and by dawn they would be at the railway station in Albuquerque. With any luck they would meet Drunken Jack there, they would have a much-deserved hot breakfast, and they would be ready for the final stage of their efforts to deny the secret of the acoustic bomb to the crafty Bulgarians! Perhaps finally they would get the advantage on their enemies!