The cops claim Colt has “vaporized,” “vanished,” and “ran like lightning.” When the posse does close in, he allegedly rustles luxury cars, boats, and even planes.
The Latest on Colt
Read breaking news on the search for Colt on Bob Friel's blog, outlawsandoutcasts.
With only some 4,000 full-timers on Orcas, we're all at most one degree away from each other. Residents include ex-CEOs of chemical companies and defense contractors, millionaire Microsofties who optioned out in their thirties, Hollywood glitterati, an Apollo astronaut, and even The Far Side's Gary Larson. And then there's the rest of us: retirees, a working middle class of small-business people, organic farmers, contractors, and cabinetmakers, and an eclectic mix of wood-carvers, potters, painters, musicians, and writers. Many struggle to cling to an island where the cost of living reflects its isolation. The cool Salish Sea, filled with killer whales, giant octopus, and Steller sea lions, acts as a moat, keeping the world at bay, but every single thing must be imported except fresh air, the spectacular outdoor lifestyle, and whatever you can find at the farmers' market. It's worth it, though: It's that wonderful. This is the kind of place where, B.C. before Colt ignition keys lived in the car's cupholder and very few of us locked our homes.
This past summer's crime wave appeared limited to Eastsound, Orcas's zero-traffic-light and one-cow town. (The cow's name is April and she lives at the top of Enchanted Forest Road.) Madrona Point, the Lummi Indian burial ground where Colt secretly camped, is a thickly wooded peninsula dangling below town, conveniently located just steps away from all the shopping. Eastsound was easy pickings for Colt, and since it lies half an island away from the rural cabin where my wife, Sandi, and I live, Colt was the furthest thing from my mind on this August 22, when I woke to a noise at 3 A.M
All manner of deer, raccoons, mink, otters, owls, and other critters rustle around here at night, but none had ever moved lumber. The sound of wood clacking also roused our dog, a Leonberger named Murphy, and he padded heavily into the bedroom, snuffed at the window screen, and raised his hackles. The first rain we'd had in more than a month plinked off the metal roof, and the thought of pulling on shoes and a rain shell, finding a flashlight, and stumbling around under the cabin which perches at the edge of a rocky cliff seemed way too exhausting, especially since this was probably just a deer bombed on fermented huckleberries. The following night, again around 3 A.M, I woke to the eerie sensation of someone staring at me in the pitch blackness of the bedroom. Murphy was on alert at the window again, hackles raised. I sat up and listened but couldn't hear anything except the rain.
The next day, I learned that during those two nights someone had broken into a B&B, a restaurant, a marina, and a dock store all within a mile or so of our place. When I realized that the dense woods surrounding our cabin connected directly to all of those spots, my hackles went up, too. That's also when Sandi started talking about putting up curtains while we turned the cabin upside down looking for our one house key.
Usually, life on our little island remains so blissfully devoid of what a city dweller would call "action" that our hormone-charged teens call it "Orcatraz." Before Colt, we read the sheriff's log for its Lake Wobegon like entertainment. My favorite entry from this past summer: On August 3, "an 83-year-old Eastsound woman reported...one pair of fur-lined moccasins...and three almost-new pair of beige women's underwear were stolen from an unlocked old fruit-packing barn."
The last time an Orcas crime was even considered newsworthy for the mainland papers was 22 months ago, when a numbnut who'd drifted ashore for a while decided to punish the "rich, white people" of the island for the death of Luna the killer whale (who'd swum into a tugboat's propeller 185 miles north of Orcas, up in Canada). He jumped a fence at a power station and, fully protected by Playtex kitchen gloves, tried to cut a high-voltage line with a pole saw. When a lineman got to the scene, the vigilante's pants were still smoking. No matter how delusional, though, at least that guy had a message, something Colt has yet to feel the need to offer.
"Jesse James and other outlaws weren't celebrated just because they were criminals," says professor Graham Seal, author of The Outlaw Legend: A Cultural Tradition in Britain, America and Australia. "They were seen to embody a spirit of defiance and protest, allowing the dispossessed to strike a vicarious blow against their oppressors." Seal says that Colt "sure sounds like an outlaw legend in the making," especially considering his elusiveness, style, and growing number of supporters. So who's living vicariously through Colt? So far, he's a blank screen, ready for projection. Rebelling against the government, the cops, your parents? Colt's got you covered.
The only hint of a motive I can dig up is a note Colt wrote to his mom after the Camano Island deputies found one of his campsites, filled with stolen merchandise. His dog, Melanie, was at the camp, and the police took her. "The cops wanna play, hu!?" Colt wrote. "It's war! Tell them that."