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Another Jailhouse Story...

Sun, Jul 9th, 2000
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The Night of the Aga Kahn
By Neil HaugerudMonday, July 10, 2000

It was 2 a.m.- a deep black night. The moonless and starless sky offered no contrast to the everywhere white of the landscape. Our forward pro-gress was hampered by snowdrifts swiftly forming on the road and blinding whiteouts swirling in the 30 mile-per- hour bitter wind.

Five inches of new snow covered the narrow roadway where only farmsteads and wooded windbreaks in unsheltered areas offered a shadowy reality of place.It was the winter of 1961. We were in Sumner Township - one of the most sparsely settled areas of the county. Suddenly there it was - one of the strangest sights I had ever seen, outlined in our headlights. It was like a black and white TV screen, three dimensional, with poor reception, flashing on and off as the snow blew across the picture.

At first it appeared as if a black balloon, slightly compressed on each side, was suspended in the sea of white nearly six feet off the ground. Diagonally on either side of the black object, about three feet apart and three feet lower, were two black objects about the size of hands.

I applied the brakes and skidded to a stop, only three feet shy of the spooky apparition. Deputy Ron Turner, who had accompanied me, squinted and blinked his eyes -a puzzled look of disbelief on his face.

Ron wiped the frost from the windshield trying to get a better look, hampered by the windshield wipers furiously slapping at the driving snow.

"What the hell! Could that be her?" he said.

For me it appeared as if the balloon became an eerie black face suspended in the air and the black hands reached to brush the snow from the head. Then the head and the hands moved toward us.

Ron and I were responding to a call from a citizen of Sumner Township, who thought he might have seen a black person wandering in the blizzard and became too frightened to stop. There were no black people living in all of Fillmore County during this time.

Ron and I got out of the car. As I approached the figure it became apparent the apparition was a real person. Beneath the black face, with the collar turned up to the base of the chin, was an ankle length, pure white fur coat, The spiritual being was nearly 6 feet tall, had the facial features of a woman and limped as she walked towards us.

"What in the world are you doing out here in this blizzard?" I asked.

No answer.

"Who are you?"

No answer.

Ron and I ushered her silently to the back seat of the car. She gave no resistance and welcomed the shelter. Her limp was explainable from the fact that she was wearing one spike-heeled shoe - the other foot was shoeless. I turned on the dome light and asked Ron to keep an eye on her while I drove to a location where we wouldnt become snowbound in a snowdrift.

The woman brushed a thick coating of snow from her hair. Her face was fine featured her hair dark and long. She was a strikingly beautiful woman, maybe 25 years old. As the warmth in the car flooded over her she began to shake.

"Whats your name?" Ron asked.

No reply.

This woman just wasnt talking.

"Whats your name? Ron repeated.

We continued on until we came to a blacktop county road where the snowplow had recently cleared the road. I stopped the car and turned to question the woman. By then she had unbuttoned her fur coat. She was dressed in silk a filmy amber blouse and a dark mini-skirt. She wore patterned nylons on her long shapely legs. For the life of me I could not figure out what this woman was doing out in the middle of nowhere in a Minnesota blizzard.

"We need to know your name, where you live and how you got out here, " I said.

She flashed a broad, perfect white teeth smile, flipped her long hair with a shake of her head and said nothing.

I was trying to think of what to do with her. I certainly didnt want to take her to our jail, but thats the only place we had. I thought she must have a car stalled somewhere.

"Come on tell me your name," I begged.

"Aga," she responded curtly.

"Aga," I repeated. "Thats a different name."

"A-G-A," She said spelling out her name for us. "My last name is Kahn. Im the Aga Kahn."

Illustration by Maxxximum Madcap

With this I knew we had some kind of a nut case on our hands. I had read about both the Genghis Kahn, from early Chinese history and the Aga Kahn, a titled position assumed by the leader of the Ismails, a Muslim sect in the Middle East.

Of course, our new acquaintance, Aga, here was not The Aga Kahn. She insisted she did not have a car and could offer no explanation of how she happened to be walking along the road in the middle of a blinding blizzard. She also continued to insist she was the Aga Kahn, the rightful leader of all the Ismails.

Aga seemed nice enough, but I knew she needed help help that Fillmore County couldnt offer. We were as close to Rochester as my office in Preston so thinking that St. Marys Hospital might be a good place for Aga, we headed north.

When we walked into the emergency room at St. Marys all eyes were on Aga as she clicked along stoicly on her one high-heeled shoe. Every man and most of the women stopped and stared at this beautiful woman in the long white fur coat.

The admissions person was a middle-aged uniformed nurse. I explained our situation to her privately while Ron kept a watch over Aga.

"I can get someone from psychiatry to have a talk with her," the nurse said.

The man from psychiatry spoke briefly with us and then holding Aga by the arm, led her away. Ron and I retreated to the waiting room.

"What are we going to do with her after the shrink is through?" Ron asked.

"Good question," I said. "If we take her back to Preston we will have a bureaucratic nightmare no matter which way we turn: social services, probate court, the county attorney. Imagine having to explain this goofy situation that many times. Maybe she needs the kind of care one of the best medical facilities in the nation can offer."

Ron smiled and nodded towards the door. It looked like he had just come to the same conclusion that I had.

"Lets go," I said.

We didnt exactly sneak away but it didnt take us long to get out of the hospital either. We were soon back on the road and headed for home in the snowy night.

Sometimes, in the deep black night of winter when the frigid wind blows wild and snowdrifts cover the country roads, I think about that long ago night in Sumner Township. And I think about the Aga Kahn wandering alone out in that blizzard. It makes me wonder yet today where she came from and where in the world she thought she was going.

In my time as sheriff I dealt with many human situations; some tragic some humorous and some just downright incomprehensible.

I still cant help but wonder whatever became of the Aga Kahn.

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