The Good Samaritan
by Heather Wardell
Caroline drove down the highway, exasperated and exhausted. She must have missed a turn-off a while back, because the interviewer had told her she'd spend no more than an hour on this stretch of the journey and it had been at least twice that. She needed this job so badly, and being late for the interview was definitely not the kind of impression she'd wanted to make. At long last, sweet relief - a service station came into view over a hill.
Caroline pulled the well-travelled white Corvette to a stop in an empty area of the parking lot. She hated parking near other cars; she was always afraid someone could be hiding there. Her friends called her paranoid for always checking her back seat before she got in, but she always retorted that it was caution, not paranoia. She closed the car door gently, checked that it was locked, and headed for the gas station.
The attendant gave her directions; sure enough, she'd missed her exit. Quick washroom break, and Caroline headed back to the car, clutching a fresh Coke.
A frail voice startled Caroline just as she unlocked her car. She spun around.
"Sorry, dear, I didn't mean to frighten you. Did you drop this?"
The tiny woman held out a bank card. Caroline's bank card.
"Oh! I'd have been in so much trouble! Thank you so much for."
"Oh, my dear, don't thank me. I'm just glad I managed to catch you."
The woman had reached Caroline's side, and Caroline took the card gratefully and stuffed it into her pocket. The woman raised an eyebrow, and Caroline flushed. She smiled sheepishly, got quickly into her car and drove away, not wanting to hear the old woman's opinion of her organizational skills.
Feeling at least somewhat refreshed, she was soon cruising down the highway once again.
Glancing in the rear-view mirror, Caroline saw a frantically waving man in the car behind her, pointing alternately at her car and the road-side shoulder. She tried to ignore him but he persisted, his thinning grey hair mussed and his eyes wild.
She sped up, hoping to lose him, but to no avail. His gestures were becoming more frenzied now, and she began to feel afraid. She reached for her cell phone, which she always kept on the front seat near her, but couldn't find it while still keeping her eyes on the road. Had it fallen on the floor?
The man was nearly hysterical now. He was pointing into the backseat of his car, then at her car, and then again at the side of the road. When she looked back at him again, he drew a finger across his throat in a slashing motion, and pointed desperately at his own backseat once again.
Suddenly, it hit her. Was he saying that there was someone in her backseat? She hadn't seen anything in her rear-view mirror. Trying to be subtle, she adjusted the mirror to reflect her car's interior, and sure enough, there was a body crouched down on the floor of her car.
She stifled a gasp, not wanting to let the intruder know that she was aware of his presence. Her body felt frozen but her mind was racing. Do I pull over? What should I do?
A narrow forest road came into view over a hill, and she jerked the steering wheel sharply. Almost before she'd stopped, she threw open the car door and ran back toward the highway, meeting her anonymous savior on the way.
"Oh, thank you, thank you! I had no idea there was anyone there!"
"I know, that's why I kept trying to tell you. It's all OK now, don't worry."
The man smoothed his thinning hair and wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulder. Caroline tried to pull away.
"But shouldn't we get out of here? He'll. . . oh my God, he's coming out of my car!"
A small but powerfully built man was indeed coming towards them, vicious-looking knife at the ready. Caroline tried to run, but the man's arm restrained her.
"I told you, I've got everything under control. Heya, Frank. It worked just like you said it would."
Heather Wardell is a freelance writer specializing in technology. She loves flash fiction for the precision of its word choices and the spark she gets from reading a particularly great story. In her spare time, she is an elementary school teacher. Her web site is at http://www.heatherwardell.com/