Their names aren't Thelma and Louise but they might as well be, because the tale of Rose Marie Turford and Joyce Carolyn Stevens is the stuff of a Hollywood road movie.
Last sighted in the small town of St. Agathe, Quebec, the two women on America's most-wanted list are being chased across North America by a bail bondsman and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.Their crime? They lure men to motels, tie them up and steal their money.
Turford, who was married with three children, and Stevens met when both were working at a psychiatric hospital in Houston. Turford was a 37-year-old registered nurse and Stevens a 31-year-old aide.
Their friendship grew and Stevens moved in with Turford and her family. But during several of years of suburban life, Stevens started to come home with tattoos, bruises and even gunshot wounds. She blamed a man called Avery, a man she said was dominating her life and forcing her into crime.
No one has seen Avery, although Rose's lawyer believes that he exists and that he terrified the women into working for him in the Southwest.
Stevens and Turford would meet a man through a dating agency or a small personal ad. He would be taken to a hotel and, when naked and handcuffed to the bed, they would walk out with his money and his credit cards. They accrued $250,000, police believe.
One investigator said: "They were about the best I've seen at this kind of crime."
Houston police believe life is imitating art. Turford and Stevens, they say, want to be "Thelma and Louise." The pair drove through Texas, and their reach went as far as Nevada. After being arrested in March, they were bailed for $250,000 each. And they kept on driving.
But the bail bondsman, Clement Romeo, got in his car and started to drive, too. He's after the money he put up for the bail. His hunt, following tips that they've been recognized as nuns and as strippers, has taken him across the United States and into Canada.
The names of places in which Turford and Stevens have been spotted read like a gazetteer, from the Rockies to Ontario - where Turford's parents live, and refuse to discuss their daughter - and lately in Quebec.
In the mountains beyond Montreal, Turford and Stevens settled for a few days at the small resort town of St. Agathe. There Turford sought breakfast at a synagogue and municipal police took her to hospital because she appeared tired and depressed. They didn't know she was wanted, and Turford and Stevens hit the road again.
The Mounties do have a warrant for the women's arrest and are working in conjunction with U.S. authorities, but they're cagey about discussing their investigation. As far as the Mounties know, the women have committed no crimes in Canada.
Romeo is more willing to talk, however, for if Turford and Stevens aren't arrested soon, he loses his $500,000. He's been on their trail for four months, and now he reckons he's only a week or so behind them.
He said he's "intrigued" by the pair. "I think I know more about them than their parents do," he said. "I have had to learn about the way they think, what they do and why they have done what they have done.
"The reality is that these two ladies are doing crazy things. They started out for fun, but it has all got over their head."
But even Romeo has been bitten by the Hollywood bug. Unable to avoid the metaphor, he, too, refers to "Thelma and Louise": "They have not killed anyone, not blown up a tanker truck and not driven over a cliff, though," he noted.
Romeo won't say whether he believes there really is an Avery in the women's life. Some of Stevens' early wounds could have been self-inflicted, he said, but he doubts whether the 31-year-old is bright enough to have taken the crime spree to the level it has reached without some guidance.