Marion Lionel didn’t see the sign in her rear-view mirror that said “Welcome to Demeter’s Landing Pop. 1750”. She was concentrated intensely ahead on the dark and winding road out of town. Ahead of her was another sign that said “Next Service 83 Miles”. Lionel figured that she had about two hours before they sent someone after her. She inhaled deeply through clenched teeth and dropped her right toe slightly as she exited a corner.
She was approaching the next one when she felt a brief drop in power. He eyes flashed to the tachometer just in time to see it plummet to zero. The sudden silence distracted her and if the car hadn’t already begun to slow on its own, she would have been in the ditch. Lionel guided it to the side of the highway and pounded the steering wheel as the vehicle coasted to a halt.
“No! No no no!” she screamed at the black rock wall at the side of the narrow road. She slammed the gearshift into park and tried to start the engine again. There was no indication of life. She popped the hood and tried to see if there was anything amiss, but as far as she could ascertain, there was nothing she could do.
She sat back down in the driver’s seat and closed the door. She couldn’t help but glance at the briefcase on the floor beside her. Although it was cold outside, Marion began to sweat. She threw open the door again and scrambled around the front of the car to the passenger side. She wretched open that door and snatched the briefcase. She looked furtively down the road in both directions, then crossed to the other side. She hopped the gully and made her way several lengths into the sandy scrub. She immediately began to dig with her hands until she had a hole just deep enough to throw the case in. But she didn’t have time to cover it.
She heard the faint sound of a motor. She jerked her head up and looked for the source. She saw a pair of headlights crest the top of a hill in the distance. They were coming towards her. Abandoning the case, she ran back to her car and took several slow breaths to calm herself down. She checked the mirror to see that she hadn’t gotten any telltale dirt on her face.
The other car drew closer. Lionel recognized it as Mrs. Perkin’s. Its headlights caught Lionel’s car and Mrs. Perkin slowed to a stop. Lionel tried to remember if Mrs. Perkin’s name was Linda, Lydia, or Laura. She cursed herself. She’d memorized all 1750 names for this very purpose.
Mrs. Perkin leaned out her window and called to Lionel. “Are you ok, Dearie? Do you need a ride back to town?”
Lionel didn’t have a choice. She managed to conjure a smile and accepted. She got into Mrs. Perkin’s care with one last look toward the briefcase. She hoped Mrs. Perkin wouldn’t recognize her.
“It’s a good thing I came along, isn’t it?” Mrs. Perkin asked Lionel.
“It is,” Lionel replied. “I’m glad someone else is out here tonight. I thought everyone would be back in town at the grand opening.”
“Oh, I don’t go in for any of that fancy new stuff. To be honest, I thought it was a big waste of money. But what do I know. I’m just a little old lady.”
Lionel adjusted her seatbelt nervously. “Thanks for the ride,” she said.
They drove on in silence for a few minutes. Lionel began to play out scenarios in her head. Here was another car, but she couldn’t bring herself to steal it and have to deal with Mrs. Perkin. She resolved to try to get dropped off somewhere on the outskirts of town and trust her grifter’s luck find another car there.
Mrs. Perkin broke the silence. “Where did do you live Miss. Hill? It’s the blue building, isn’t it?” she asked Lionel. Then she answered her own question. “Yes, that’s right. You moved in last March.”
Lionel swallowed hard. Perhaps her luck wasn’t as good as she needed it to be. Mrs. Perkin knew who she was.
Mrs. Perkin mistook Lionel’s unease for sadness. “Don’t worry, Trudy darling, your car will be okay. I’ll get my son take care of it in the morning.”
Lionel could do nothing but look out the window as she was carried back to town. She’d be taken care of, all right. They’d all take care of her.
Probably with stones.