As April McKenna rounded the bend in her small car before passing through a tiny town, a good looking, big man with short, reddish brown hair stepped into the street and stuck out his thumb.
“Yeah, right, Mr. Serial Killer, like I’m going to give you a ride,” she said aloud to herself, speeding up to pass him quickly but unable to direct her gaze away from his.
She averted her eyes quickly, trying to concentrate on sorting out her life. Driving the back roads from Willow Falls, NY to San Francisco gave April time to think. She finished her MBA and was heading back for an internship in her father’s company, prelude to a staid, boring, corporate life. She was restless…restlessness quickly turned to unhappiness. April didn’t want to go back…didn’t want to live her father’s life. She wanted to break out, but didn’t know how, always been the good girl, doing the right thing, what was expected of her.
With her mind occupied, she was driving on automatic pilot and didn’t see the glass scattered in the road. Her tire lasted another half mile before it blew. She pulled onto a muddy shoulder and got out of the car. She rummaged around in the car trunk having no idea where the spare tire or the jack were or how to use them if she found them. You're supposed to hang something white on the door handle when you need help. April returned to the car, took off her white panties, the only white object she had and hung them on the door handle to indicate she needed help, closed the door and waited.
The lonely country road had few houses but acre after acre of green fields, bursting with ripe crops. In the distance she could barely make out a farmhouse. The tall corn stalks of late July blocked her car from view by the house. After half an hour with no car coming by, April worried she would be spending the night in her car. Then she saw him in the rear view mirror. It was Mr. Serial Killer, coming around the bend, heading straight for her car. She felt panic rise in her chest as she locked all the doors and hunkered down, forgetting her panties blowing in the gentle breeze on the door handle.
He walked up to the car and knocked on the window, startling April, who jumped. When she turned to look at him, he was smiling at her.
“Flat?” He asked.
“Pop the trunk,” he said.
Can’t you get inside the car through the trunk? He could attack me…
“Take it easy. I’m not a serial killer. Want to help you change your tire,” he called to her.
April popped the trunk as she realized she had no choice.
“Are these yours?” he asked, plucking her panties off the door handle and holding them up to the car window.
April turned several shades of red, opened the car window and grabbed the panties from him. He laughed, shook his head and headed for the trunk, while she struggled to put the panties back on while remaining in the front seat.
“Easier to jack up the car if you’re not sitting there,” he called to her.
She got out of the car and perched on a large rock nearby to watch him, hugging her knees to her chest.
“Rusty,” he said, extending his hand after taking off his backpack.
“April,” she said nodding to him, looking at his hand with distaste.
“Oh, yeah, sorry, greasy,” he said, wiping his hand on his jeans.
He worked for forty five minutes jacking up the car then changing the tire. April watched him with interest. As he began to sweat, he removed his tee shirt. April stared at his strong chest covered with reddish hair, feeling a desire to touch it. His arm muscles worked as he attached the jack and began to pump it up, moving the car higher and higher. He was tall, about six foot four inches, broad and strong. He had an easy grin he shot at her from time to time.
“What’s a beautiful woman like you doing stranded out here? Where you headed?” He asked, looking her over with appreciation.
“San Francisco. You?” She said, blushing slightly under his gaze.
“I’ve got a week to get to Allentown for a job. At the rate I’m going, it will take me a week to walk it,” he said working the jack on the tire lugs.
“Why kind of job?”
“Driving a truck to New York City and back. It pays well.”
“You going to live in Allentown?”
“Of course. Where are you coming from?”
“Got my MBA from Kensington State University. Heading home.”
“Going back to a job?”
“Uh…an internship. But I don’t want to. I’m not sure what I want to do.”
“After all that time with college and graduate school and you still don’t know what you want to do? Heck…a lot of money down the drain.”
“Education doesn’t always tell you what you want to do in life.”
“True enough. Still going home, eh?”
“Car’s ready. You should replace the dead tire because if this one blows, you’re out of luck,” he pointed out, putting his shirt back on.
“Thanks. Get in.”
“You giving me a ride?”
“I promise not to strangle and murder you…but I might kiss you,” he said.
“Thanks for fixing the tire. I’m taking you all the way to Allentown,” she said.
“No way! You are? Fantastic.”
“The least I can do…it’s not far out of my way and…I’m in no hurry.”
“Up for a little adventure?” He asked her with a wicked grin on his face.
“Let’s get some dinner. There’s a diner down the road a ways and I’m buying,” he said, holding the door open for her.
She smiled up at him as he closed the car door.
April opened her eyes and sat up. She was in the backseat of a car. Terrible pain tore through her midsection as she sat up.
“You’re up?” the woman driving the car said.
“Where am I?”
“Heading toward Pine Grove. I’m Sunny Foster, your mom’s friend. I picked you up at the hospital an hour ago?”
April’s head was fuzzy. She lay back down on the seat and closed her eyes; her dreams began. She saw her car with Rusty behind the wheel. She was walking…no running toward the car. There was a click then an explosion. Debris was airborne, then a plastic garbage can came flying at her. She put up her arms to fend it off, but the force of the can slamming into her arms turned them into weapons, breaking one rib and bruising two more. The can knocked her on the ground where her head hit hard…she lost consciousness.
Rusty! Rusty’s dead. Yeah, Rusty’s dead. April’s eyes fluttered open again for a few seconds then closed.