Ignoring the scratches and tears accumulating on his hands and arms, Neal continues to move forward, pushing the branches out of his way, running as fast as his legs will carry him. The ground is uneven, dusty and loose, and he stumbles and trips, but doesn’t stop. There’s someone ahead of him in the distance and he catches glimpses every so often: the heel of a black leather boot, the starchy cuff of a blue shirt, the glimmer of something metallic.
He tries to run faster, but his legs are too short and he can’t yet keep up, so he imagines a face. Sometimes it is like his own, with delicate features that promise to strengthen and bright blue eyes, the ones that always prompt the woman in the grocery store to tell him he has an honest look. Sometimes the face looks a little like Costner in The Untouchables, the line of the mouth firm and serious, the kind that is to be trusted, unable to be swayed or influenced. Occasionally, when he’s angry at the world, when he feels slighted and bereft, it’s Newman in ‘The Sundance Kid, a wicked, knowing sparkle behind the eyes, a devious smile playing on the lips.
He hears a shout and wants to pick up his speed, but he has reached the steep rocky incline now and his sneakers are too old and worn to give him any real traction on the slick surface. He picks his way down carefully, patiently, the way he knows the man would have done before him.
Finally, Neal bursts through the last of the thick shrubs and out onto the brown, sun burnt grass, stumbling from the momentum. As he squints into the bright sunlight, he can no longer see the figure of the man ahead of him, but he can see the two robbers making their way down the dusty, deserted road, laughing as they go. Perhaps the man trusted him to handle it from here, Neal thinks, or maybe there was another, more important case to solve somewhere else.
He pushes on, knowing exactly where the robbers will hide; they have played this game before.