Kathy’s aging blue sedan eased its way into the broken pavement of the equally aged Chevron station. She idled slowly, dangerously near sputtering, into the parking space closest to the doorway and turned down the radio that was tuned to her favorite jazz station. She took a deep breath in. Glancing around quickly to examine her surroundings without drawing suspicion, she first noticed that the one attempt at a security camera was dangling by a sole wire, looking like a sad, silly eyeball hanging on by its last nerve. There was a small group of men gathered around the back of the building, drifters she assumed. She’d heard they were common in this area. The light above the double glass doors flickered occasionally and there was a tall and slender man behind the counter. He had a mop of light brown hair and his bright blue Chevron polo looked freshly washed. He appeared unassuming and brought Kathy some much needed comfort. She released the air that had been trapped in her lungs, her breath lingering in the cold morning air.
She killed the engine and opened her door, making sure to click the car’s lock button as she did. Her short heels clacked quickly against the concrete as she made her way to the store’s entrance. The glass door greeted her with clanging bells as she pulled the handle shut behind her. The attendant’s eyes had been glued to her since she’d pulled into the parking lot and they stayed trained on her as she moved around the store.
She headed straight for her necessities, careful as always not to touch anything else. Chevron’s most expensive bottle of wine, a corkscrew and a small container of bleach were all she needed.
“Just these, please,” Kathy said to the attendant in as chipper a tone as she could muster.
“$19.68,” he said. His eyes had yet to stray from her since she had entered.
The doors clanged once more as a new patron entered the store. Kathy glanced nonchalantly over her shoulder, recognizing the faded brown coat of one of the men from behind the store. But just as she saw him, the doors clanged again and he was gone.
Turning back to the counter, she reached in her small purse for her wallet, pulling out the exact change from its organized folds. She handed it to him and used the time he spent putting the money into the register to get a better look at him. “HARRY” his name tag said in slightly askew letters. He didn’t seem to be harbouring any secret weapons behind the counter, only a small television set that must have been older than he was displaying a staticky version of the morning news. The store’s radio came to life with the voice of “91.7: Your Classical and Jazz Station,” informing the radio waves that it was officially 5am.
“Hey, um, ma’am” he said, fumbling around for his words amongst her receipt.
“Oh, please don’t call me ma’am,” Kathy replied. “Makes me feel like my mother.” She laughed nervously as he placed her items in a bag.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. “I just wanted to… well I wanted to warn you.”
“Yes. I don’t mean to scare you but this just isn’t the best part of town. Drifters hang around out back watching for rides. They get into trouble, with drugs and the like. It’s just not a good crowd around here this time of night, you know?”
“Well, you’re here, aren’t you? You seem decent enough.”“Well, yes ma’— yes. But there’s no telling who’s out to get you out there. I’m just saying you ought to be careful, that’s all.”
“Well, if that’s all,” she said firmly, grabbing her bag in the crook of her elbow. She turned quickly on her clacking heels and headed towards the clanging bells of the door.
“Just promise me you’ll be careful,” he called out behind her.
“If it will make you feel better, Harry, then I promise.”
With that she headed back to her car, being sure to hold Harry’s gaze as she lowered herself into the front seat and dramatically pushed the car’s lock button. That button only locked one door, but Harry didn’t know that. She unpacked her small plastic bag and put everything in its designated place. The wine bottle lay in the passenger seat, the cork facing her just in case. The corkscrew was placed in the center console and the bleach went into the glove compartment. With all in order, she cranked the sputtering engine, turned the radio back on, and pulled out of the station. In her rearview mirror she could see Harry moving towards the doors, appearing a little less unassuming than before, but she simply rolled her eyes at him as she drove off. She watched as the flickering lights of the Chevron disappeared into the darkness behind her.
Not even a full movement later, Kathy noticed a car come speeding up behind her on the dark road. She hadn’t seen anyone else on this road for hours.
What in the world? Kathy thought.
It was still pretty early and much of this small town wouldn’t be awake for hours, let alone speeding along behind her on this narrow two-lane road. Driving beside the broken yellow lines, she decided to simply ignore this lunatic and continue to go about her own business.
She turned the radio up, letting the sounds of the orchestra drown out the world. Her head swayed along with the music. She even considered rolling down the windows but thought better of it when she remembered the chilly temperature. She coasted down a smooth hill, releasing her cares and anxieties into the music as she did.
Her bliss ended as quickly as it had come when those speeding headlights reappeared at the top of the hill behind her.
Oh, for Pete’s sake.
The lights were gaining on her significantly now and, in true numbskull fashion, they had decided to switch on the high beams. She would have expected such behavior in a busy city, but she came out to remote towns like this one to avoid those maniacs. Light flooded the old sedan’s small interior, causing her to subconsciously pull down the sun visor. The visor’s mirror made her jump and she blinked rapidly as she promptly flipped it back up.
If that’s how you’re going to play it, she thought, then that’s just how we’re all going to play it.
With the high beams still blinding her, Kathy pushed her clacky heel against the gas pedal. 55, 65, 75. She pushed her little car to nearly 4000 RPMs attempting to leave her pursuant in the dust. Flying down another hill, it seemed as if she might have lost him. She smiled to herself as her attention returned to the tunes of the radio.
The two lanes soon turned into spirals, their sections curving and rounding around one another in corkscrew-like patterns. As Kathy leaned into the end of the first curve, the beams of her pursuant appeared at the beginning.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
She glanced down at her speedometer.
Shoot! she exclaimed to herself.
In her relaxed state, she’d unknowingly slowed down. The headlights grew ever closer, so close now that she could see that it was a truck, the red paint faded even in the dim reflection in her mirror. The driver’s face remained invisible, shadowed by the headlights. The truck maintained its increasing advance, nearly tapping Kathy’s bumper before turning on its high beams once again.
Oh, come on!
Kicking her shoes off for maximum efficiency, she pushed the pedal as far to the ground as she could. 75, 85, 95. The blue sedan raced around the bends with an agility no one would have thought possible. She whipped the steering wheel into a sort of frenzy, sending everything in the car bashing from side to side with loud thuds.
“JUST GO AROUND!” she yelled out her window behind her, waving her arm in instruction and silently hoping that it was just some idiot kid out for a joyride. The truck ignored her and continued its pursuit toward her bumper.
Her frustration was clear, though she could feel her insides beginning to make the shift towards anxiety. This truck could have passed her miles ago, should have passed her miles ago.
As the RPMs climbed, Kathy felt the car begin to sputter and shake. Her fingers tightened and her whole body tensed as she attempted to reassure the sedan back into its former ease.
“Oh, good Lord!” she exclaimed. With one hand still gripped tightly around the steering wheel, she reached into the center console to grab the corkscrew stored there, readying herself for whatever might come next. Her father had taught her how to defend herself and she certainly knew how to slash a tire if she needed to.
“Come on, baby. Come on! You can do it,” she coaxed, but nonetheless the car began to sputter to a halt. Defeated, she pulled onto the dark shoulder. Without even needing to look up, she saw the high beams of the truck follow her onto the side of the road.
Before the truck had even come to a full stop, the driver’s door flung open and a tall and slender figure jumped out. Kathy gripped the corkscrew tightly in her hand.
“STOP! STOP!” Harry yelled, running towards Kathy’s car.
“Harry?” Kathy asked, slowly slipping her heels back on and getting out of her car.
“There’s someone in your backseat! I think he wants to kill you! Please, you have to stop!”
“Oh, Harry. Don’t be silly,” Kathy replied.
“No, I saw him! That’s why I kept turning on my high beams. I was trying to warn you and maybe stop him from hurting you!”
“Oh, Harry. Don’t be silly,” Kathy said. “No one is trying to kill me.”
“I saw him!” Harry yelled, his breath nearly running out.
“Oh, Harry,” Kathy said as she approached him slowly, her heels clacking against the shoulder’s cracked pavement. Harry’s breath slowed a bit as she drew nearer, a false calm overtaking him.
“There was no need for you to follow me.” She continued her slow approach.
“You silly, silly man. Far too decent for your own good,” she said with a laugh. “I ought to kiss you for how decent you are,” she smiled.
Harry smiled back, his breath nearly returned to normal. Soon the two were standing so close that their noses were almost touching.
“Oh, Harry, Harry, Harry,” she said. Her once smiling face turned malicious in an instant. She revealed the corkscrew concealed in her hand. In that same instant, she lodged it in Harry’s silly, decent neck. As he sputtered, Kathy planted a soft kiss on his lips.
“Oh, Harry,” she said.
Harry’s knees buckled beneath him and he fell to the ground, his hands attempting to contain the blood that was surging from the spiraled hole in his throat.
Kathy began to work quickly before too much blood could pool on the ground and create an obvious scene. She walked gracefully to her trunk, her heels clacking out the smooth rhythm of her steps. She lifted the lid to see the inside perfectly lined with the thick tarp she had picked up at a gas station a few towns back. She reached in to better crease the corners, running her palms over the plastic as if it were a satin bed sheet.
She lifted Harry’s limp body over her shoulders and gently hoisted him inside. She paused to look down at his stunned, sputtering face one more time before closing the lid.
Oh, Harry, she said to herself.
Turning quickly on her heels, she went to the passenger side of the blue sedan where a rag and small container of bleach awaited her. She carefully wiped every silly, decent drop of Harry off of the corkscrew. After returning her cleaning supplies to their rightful place, she took her recently purchased bottle of wine and used her freshly cleaned instrument to remove its cork. She raised the bottle to her nose, taking in a long sniff of the dry red wine before taking a long swig. It smelled and tasted just as cheap as it was but she was growing used to it. She carried the bottle to the back of the car and carefully sprinkled the liquid over any trace of Harry’s blood.
Then, with her now shiny corkscrew and fresh beverage in tow, she walked toward the still running truck. She climbed into the driver’s seat, taking a swift swig of wine as she did and dimmed those incessant high beams. Next, she killed the engine, being sure to leave the keys in the ignition so as to not raise any further suspicion. Her next step was her favorite. She hopped gracefully from the cabin and, walking around to the back right tire, thrust her shiny corkscrew into the rubber, the sinking of the tire inflating her.
Walking back to the old blue sedan, Kathy settled herself comfortably into her seat. She readjusted her mirror so that she could see the back floorboard. There across the aging floor mats was a faded brown coat filled with the limp figure of a man. His head was bleeding from bashing around the side of the car with a loud thud.
Kathy cranked her no longer sputtering engine, pressed and held the car’s lock button, locking all four doors, and turned the radio up. She let the sounds of the orchestra drown out the world. Her head swayed along with the music.
A Kate Wood is a senior Writing and Linguistics major with a minor in Anthropology who hails from the beautiful city of Rome, GA. She is the current Editor-in-Chief for the University Honors Program as well as a Writing Intern for the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority. In her free time she loves spending time with the people she loves, hanging out with dogs, trivia of all kinds, and all things The Office.