The Passenger: Part 2

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Overdrive contributing blogger Wendy Parker‘s annual piece of Halloween fiction concludes here. Follow this link to the first part of the story. It ended with an impending confrontation between flatbedder Rupert, who’s been rear-ended (while broken down on the side of the highway) by Cuss, a killer with a dead body in the car that Rupert has only had a suspicion of, but a particularly clear and certain one, to this point …


Rupert knew there was no signal before he picked up the phone to dial 911, so it didn’t matter much when it slipped from his sweaty hands before he could even swipe the lock screen open. He was bent over fumbling for it when he felt the weight on his sideboard. He whirled around to slam the lock down as Cuss hauled himself up to the window. Rupert was so close he could feel the vibrations on his face when Cuss slapped the glass.

“Hey man! You’re going to get into a lot of trouble for this wreck!” Cuss yelled. “You didn’t have safety cones out or anything. I’m giving you a chance to unhook the trailer and leave. I won’t say nothin’.”

The same weird smile and wheedling tone from earlier made Rupert know without a doubt that if he exited the cab, this guy was going to try to kill him.

“No man, that’s not how it works. That’s my trailer. I can’t leave it, we’ve got to call someone. Your girlfriend needs help. Just go back to your car and let me get someone out here.”

The weird smile disintegrated into a twisted snarl.

“It can’t be like that, trucker. We can’t call anyone. I’ve already helped her more than anyone ever did. She’s the passenger, I’m taking her to rest.”

He slapped the window again and jumped off the side of the truck. Rupert quickly moved to the shotgun seat and locked the door. He grabbed the CB mic.

“Break one nine! Anybody got a copy? Break!”

Static confirmed his fears that he really was in B.F.E., with no phone signal or radio copy close. He had no idea what to do, other than try to pull off the car and leave the scene, for his own safety. He sure as hell wasn’t getting out to unhook the trailer, and unless the car was really jammed up, the old truck could probably muster up enough torque to pull itself off. He slid back across to the driver’s seat and fired her up, checking the mirrors out of pure muscle memory, from years of driving for a living. He noticed the driver dragging his passenger out of the wrecked car. He knew she was dead, and he knew the wreck wasn’t what killed her. The best thing he could do for her now was to get the hell out of there and send someone back to collect her remains. He jammed the old Freightliner in gear and gave her the pedal. The car drug along for a few feet, then tore loose and rocked to a stop. Rupert was free, and the last thing he saw was the outline of the driver, reflected in hazy red tail lights, as he carried his passenger off into the dense, Alabama woods.

Fifteen miles didn’t seem like enough space for Rupert to put between him and the weirdness of the accident, but it was as far as he was willing to go with the blown trailer tire and a full load of sod. The fish camp had lights and a big lot, and Rupert was relieved to see two bars on his phone, noting at least some form of civilization, even if it was just a cell tower. The restaurant had been closed for hours, there were no cars in the lot, and Rupert was happy for the space, though he would have felt a lot safer if there had been people around. He checked again, to make sure the doors were locked, and took a minute to calm down before he called for roadside service.

Talking to another human being that he was sure wasn’t trying to kill him helped Rupert assess the situation. He knew he would have to call the law and report the accident, but he wanted to make sure he had his story straight. It sounded so crazy, he didn’t believe it himself. He sat for a few minutes, mulling over his options.

As for Cuss, he wasn’t going to miss another opportunity. The trucker had already ruined his plans for the passenger, and he wasn’t going to ruin anything else. The tow truck driver stopping at the accident scene had been a blessing. Cuss knew his mission was still divine, even if he had to unexpectedly take the service guy as a passenger himself. He considered it collateral damage, just like the trucker would be.

Rupert realized about three seconds too late what was happening. The service truck came at him, and he was able to squeeze himself into the space between the cab and catwalk before the vehicle impacted the side of his truck and trailer, trapping him. He was stuck, and he was scared. Rupert was a big guy, but he had never been a fighter, and he was on the very edge of panic when he remembered he had his trusty tire thumper in his hand. He had taken it with him to inspect the trailer, and for whatever reason, he hadn’t dropped it when he fled for his life to the tight space.

Cuss was out of the mangled truck quickly, a little worse for the wear. He hadn’t bothered putting a seatbelt on himself, too busy worrying about strapping the newly dead passenger in properly. The recoil from impact had caused his head to snap back, and he had bitten the end of his tongue off. He charged across the ruined hood to Rupert, blood running in rivulets from his weird smile.

“I told you, trucker, we can’t leave it like this.”

Rupert waited what seemed like an eternity for the bloody weirdo to get close enough to swing the tire thumper, and the sick crunch it made when connecting with Cuss’s head indicated he had waited long enough. Cuss crumpled and fell off the hood, to the ground. Rupert didn’t know if he was dead, but he wasn’t taking any chances. He wriggled his way out of the trap, and ran to the safety of his cab and called the police.

As dawn broke, Rupert was able to fully see the wreckage of the service truck and realized just how lucky he’d been. Alabama law enforcement had a lot of questions about two accident scenes and three dead bodies, so an officer asked Rupert to sit in his cruiser while they waited for the coroner. Rupert was exhausted, he just wanted the whole thing to be over. He gladly sank into the soft seat and rested his head on the window. He was surprised to hear XM Radio. He never thought about cops listening to music while they ride. He was feeling close to normal, and almost dozed off, until he heard the song…

I am the passenger, and I ride and I ride and I ride…”

And, Rupert realized, he’d never be normal again.

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