Riding the Rap

Chapter One

Ocala Police picked up Dale Crowe Junior for weaving, two o’clock in the morning, crossing the center line and having a busted taillight. Then while Dale was blowing a point-one-nine they put his name and date of birth into the national crime computer and learned he was a fugitive felon, wanted on a three-year-old charge of Unlawful Flight to Avoid Incarceration. A few days later Raylan Givens, with the Marshals Service, came up from Palm Beach County to take Dale back and the Ocala Police wondered about Raylan.

How come if he was a federal officer and Dale Crowe Junior was wanted on a state charge…He told them he was with FAST, the Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team, assigned to the Sheriff’s Office in West Palm. And that was pretty much all this marshal said. They wondered too, since he was alone, how he’d be able to drive and keep an eye on his prisoner. Dale Crowe Junior had been convicted of a third-degree five-year felony, Battery of a Police Officer, and was looking at additional time on the fugitive warrant. Dale Junior might feel he had nothing to lose on this trip south. He was a rangy kid with the build of a college athlete, bigger than this marshal in his blue suit and cowboy boots—the marshal calm though, not appearing to be the least apprehensive. He said the West Palm strike team was shorthanded at the moment, the reason he was alone, but believed he would manage.

And when he put his hat on and drove off with Dale Junior-in the confiscated two-year-old Cadillac he was using, a dark blue one, an Ocala officer said, “He believes he’ll manage…”

Another officer said, “Don’t you know who that is? He’s the one the Mafia guy drew on last winter in Miami Beach, the two of them sitting at the same table, and this marshal shot him dead. Yeah, Raylan Givens. It was in the paper.”

This marshal not sounding like the usual hard-ass lawman; Dale Junior was glad of that. He said, “I had a Caddy myself one time, till I sold it for parts and went to work at Disney’s. You know what I tried out for? Play Goofy. Mickey Mouse’s friend? Only you had to water-ski and I couldn’t get the hang of it. Sir, I like to mention that these three years since I took off ? I been clean. I never even left the state of Florida all that time, not wanting to be too far away from my folks, my old mom and dad, except I never did get to see them.”

The marshal, Raylan Givens, said, “If you’re gonna talk I’ll put you in the trunk and I’ll drive.”

So neither of them said another word until they were south of Orlando on the Turnpike, 160 miles to West Palm, Dale Junior staring straight ahead at the highway, flat and straight through Florida scrub, boring, holding it right around sixty so as to make the trip last, give him time to think of a move he might try on the marshal. The man didn’t appear to be much to handle, had a slim build and looked like a farmer—sounded like one, too—forty years old or so; he sat against his door, seat belt fastened, turned somewhat this way. He had on one of those business cowboy hats, but broken in; it looked good on him, the way he wore it cocked low on his eyes.

Dale Junior would feel him staring, though when he glanced over the marshal was usually looking out at the road or the countryside, patient, taking the ride as it came. Dale Junior decided to start feeling him out.

“Can I say something?”

The marshal was looking at him now.

“What’s that?”

“There’s a service plaza coming up. I wouldn’t mind stopping, get something to eat?”

The man shook his head and Dale Junior made a face, giving the marshal an expression of pain.

“I couldn’t eat that jail food they give you. Some kind of potatoes and imitation eggs cold as ice.” He waited as long as he could, almost a minute, and said, “I don’t see why we can’t talk some. Pass the time.”

The marshal said, “I don’t care to hear any sad stories, all the bad luck and bum deals life’s handed you.

Dale Junior showed him a frown. “Don’t it mean anything I got nothing on my sheet the past three years, that I’ve been clean all that time?”

The marshal said, “Not to me it doesn’t. Son, you’re none of my business.”

Dale Junior shook his head, giving himself a beat look now, without hope. He said, “I’ll tell you, I thought more’n once, of giving myself up. You know why?”

The marshal waited, not helping any.

“So I could see my folks. So I’d know they was okay. I didn’t dare write, knowing the mails would be

watched.” When the marshal didn’t comment Dale Junior said, “They do that, don’t they?”


“Watch the mails?”

“I doubt it.”

Dale Junior said, “Oh, well,” paused and said, “My old dad lost one of his legs, had it bit off by a alligator this time he’s fishing the rim canal, by Lake Okeechobee? I sure wish I could see him before we get to Gun Club. That’s where we’re going, huh, the Gun Club jail?”