The forest darkness was so dense it actually seemed to offer some slight resistance to the big vehicle’s movement. A thin rain began to fall and the distant flashes of light and thunder promised a far grander show to come. For the most part, the driver kept his eyes on me via the sizable rearview mirror, only periodically glancing back at the road for direction. The man was no newcomer to his “route,” and he was a very poor liar.
“So, tell me, how far north am I taking you?” He smiled when he spoke, as he no doubt took a great deal of enjoyment from the moments before he sprang his trap. The demonic glee of the man was nearly palpable, and while he was not necessarily a practitioner of art, he was most certainly artistic.
“Until I tell you to stop,” I said tersely. As much as the killer amused me, I was far more interested in creating a suitable silence for the reception of the coming storm.
“C’mon, I appreciate the fix and all, but I’m not drivin’ ya too far off my route.” His insistence at pretending to be a bus driver was commendable, but the noise of that ridiculously transparent effort caused me to refuse him an answer. He finally reciprocated my silence, but I could sense dark thoughts orbiting his mind like flies circling a corpse. A few minutes later he decided to make his killing move. I didn’t hold it against him— he was after all, a killer. He prefaced his attempt with a bit of spoken misdirection.
“Well, I guess I do owe ya a big favor, so I should probably give ya something fer yer troubles, right?” His massive, hairy hand left its perch upon the steering wheel and moved to a small set of buttons beneath the steering column. When nothing happened after he activated the hidden controls his eyes widened and flooded with fear. (It was the first time I was able to make out the whites of his miniature eyes.) After a few moments, the man cleared his throat and spoke again.
“So, what’s north?” His words were accompanied by an increase in his quite noticeable body odor. Mr. Grimes clearly had no head for operating at even the slightest disadvantage.
“My destination.” Again, I hoped for the smallest possible exchange, for if the man had truly given up on his effort to kill me, I wanted to be able to enjoy the coming thunderstorm. Unfortunately, my brevity didn’t deter him from further speech.
“Well, the only thing I know of that’s a-ways up north is New Victoria, and I know you can’t be wanting to go there.” After he realized I had no intention of responding, he added, “But what do I know, eh?”
I decided upon a new approach to achieve the silence I required. “You know that I am dangerous. You know that I’ve disabled your traps. You know that I might kill you. However, on the last count, should you take me where I desire to go, you will have nothing to worry about. Also, I would require that you remain quiet for the rest of our journey.”
The man increased the speed of his vehicle—a good way to keep me from moving to the front of the bus, and should he stop suddenly, a fine way to send me flying through the windshield. I kept my seat, watching the ravening storm stalk across the sky and drool lightning. Again, he transgressed against the silence.
“So, what? You got a gun, or sumthin? That some kinda weapon you’ve bin haulin’ around on yer back?” He was testing waters best left untried.
“Yer a big guy and all, but do you really think yer gonna just stare me inta compliance? What’s ta stop me from just comin’ back there?”
As I directed my gaze at him through the mirror, I knew his memory conducted my earlier glare to the other side of his eyes. My eyes now lived within Mr. Grimes, and he understood. After some quiet deliberation, he sloughed down into his dirty seat and took out a cigarette.
“Mind if I smoke along the way?”
“Roll down the window, please.”
“You got it, chief.”
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