Fire in the Night Ch. 01

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As he crested a small hill, he felt the wheels of his motor home start to skid on the wet, slick surface of the road. Though his heartbeat accelerated, he calmly turned the wheel just slightly into the skid, then slowly eased the RV straight again. Taking a deep breath, he felt his heartbeat slowly return to normal. The storm outside had been raging earlier, but had now slowed to a light and steady rain, making driving conditions just miserable enough to require constant, alert attention. He reached over and turned off the radio (a woman apparently named ‘Fergie’ was explaining that she was indeed delicious, but not in fact promiscuous), squinting slightly at the road ahead. This lonely stretch of highway was deserted, though it was not that late at night. There had been nothing to see but trees for many miles, lining the highway as far as he could see.

Suddenly, his jaw dropped when he made out a figure in the darkness at the bottom of the hill, arm extended to indicate that he or she wanted a ride. ‘What crazy person would try to hitchhike at night in the middle of a storm like this?!’ he thought disbelievingly. He slowed carefully, leaning forward to peer through the windshield and assess the danger of picking up this stranger. As the RV approached, his headlights caught a copper glint in the curls that cascaded wildly from under the person’s emerald green poncho. He slowed further, worrying about a young girl caught in the middle of this storm, on a dark highway in the middle of upstate New York. ‘She is definitely crazy,’ he thought worriedly, but found his foot pressing harder on the brake. As he pulled over, he passed just in front of her and caught Escort Bayan Gaziantep an emerald shine from within her poncho — her eyes matched the deep green of her poncho, and the copper curls shone and flashed in the headlights like fire. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that kids can make stupid decisions these days, and he shouldn’t expect this stranger to be innocent or naïve just because she was a young woman. Reaching over to his glove compartment, he grabbed both his badge and his gun, tucking the gun into the back of his jeans and the badge into his jacket pocket. Putting the RV into park, he got up from the driver’s seat and headed out into the storm.

Rain splashed his face as he stepped out, and he turned to the right just as the stranger held up a cell phone and took a picture of him and the back of the RV.

Uncertain, he called out to her, “Need a ride?” Of course she needed a ride, but what the hell was the picture about?

She walked toward him quickly, but stopped about five feet away. It was too dark to see her features closely in the rainy night, but he thought she looked like a quite attractive young woman.

“I just sent a picture of your license plate and face to my best friend,” she explained. “Before I get into your motor home, I’m going to call her and give her your name, after you show me your driver’s license. I am then going to tell her where we are going and what route we are taking. I will set up a time to check in with her. If I am more than five minutes late in calling her at that time, she will call the police and give them your information. You would be arrested within 15 minutes if you try anything funny.” This speech was given in a matter-of-fact tone that suggested much rehearsal, practice, and fine-tuning. He was deeply impressed with her thorough approach to hitchhiking safely, though a trifle amused.

Flipping up his jacket hood to block the rain and grabbing his badge from his pocket, he replied, “If your friend wants to call the police, she could just give my cell a ring.” He flashed her his badge. “I should also warn you that I’m currently armed with a license to carry for my own protection, but I’m happy to give you a ride…especially given your meticulous preparation.”

In the dark night, he just barely saw her give a relieved smile as she dialed her friend.

“Hey, it’s me,” she said, her voice softer now, and more melodic. “Yeah, I got a ride. I know, it’s still raining. I will.” She paused, glancing up at him. “License?”

He quickly withdrew his wallet from his jeans and stepped forward to hand it to her. He caught another flash of emerald green from underneath the poncho hood, and felt his heart pound slightly. ‘I can’t wait to see those eyes up close; they must be beautiful,’ he thought distractedly.

“Jack Thompson,” the young girl read off to her friend. “California. I don’t know yet… Route 88, heading toward Pennsylvania. I’ll call you in an hour with more info, Mapquest the route. Love you. Bye.” She looked up at him expectantly. “Let’s get out of this rain, Jack.”

He felt his heart pound again when she said his name. Turning and heading back to the RV, he held open the door for her, but she shook her head. “I’d rather you go first, if you don’t mind,” she explained, her tone very matter-of-fact again.

He couldn’t get over how intelligent and organized she was, despite the apparent insanity of hitchhiking in this day and age. ‘She’s prepared for every situation, an expert at this game. How far has she come? Why is she hitchhiking? Where is she going?” His mind raced with questions, and he had to remind himself not to get too involved with a young woman who surely must be in some kind of trouble to be doing this.

Climbing the stairs into the RV, he first headed past the small kitchen to the tiny bathroom to get the young woman a towel. Returning to the kitchen area, he found her gazing around the RV, impressed.

“Nice ride,” she commented.

He didn’t respond. He had been stricken momentarily dumb when she’d pulled the hood of her poncho down. Her wet, wild curls were a deep, blood red from the rain, and he tried to imagine what color they would become when they dried. Her delicate features were small, feminine, and flawless. Porcelain skin was dusted with freckles across a tiny, upturned nose, making her look something like a pixie. And, of course, the emerald green eyes that had so captivated him earlier — they were big and beautiful, and had soft gold flecks in them, making them the most amazing eyes he had ever seen. Though the poncho hid most of her body from him, she was only a few inches over five feet, and he could tell from her features that she must be slender.

Mentally, he shook himself. ‘She can’t be much more than 20 — less than half your age,’ he told himself. ‘Do you really want to be one of those dirty old men who try to bed a woman half his age?’ As he moved closer to her to give her the towel, a small voice deep in his subconscious hoarsely whispered, ‘Yes.’

To be continued…

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