A curtain of water slammed into the windshield, obscuring her view. The high beam headlights pierced the blackness like a knife. “Oh well,” she thought, “God will keep me safe like He’s done in the past.” Most didn’t travel the poorly lit road after sunset, but she had taken this route home from the church many times. At fifty-five, the fear of driving had not caught up with her as it had many of her friends.
The windshield wipers worked at maximum speed, but visibility was limited. She slowed down to 50 miles per hour. The headlight beam reflected an object ahead of her, on the shoulder of the road. Slowing even more to get a better view, she saw the back of a person walking along the side of the road.
Caressing the silver cross that hung around her neck, she turned on her signal indicator and pulled over under the next street light. She adjusted her rear view mirror. Though she expected it, the knock on the window startled her.
Rolling down the window, she asked, “Do you need a ride? I’m going as far as the next town.”
A husky voice emanated from the hooded figure. “Yeah, I would appreciate a ride.”
The stranger opened the door. His clothing stuck to his sinewy frame like cellophane wrapping. Removing his hood revealed a tangled mass of black curls. His eyes were the color of topaz. Before they pulled off, she reached in the backseat and pulled a towel from her bag.
“My church took our youth group to the lake today. Here, I think you could use this. I know how I feel when I get caught in the rain.”
He took the towel. A slight grin crossed his face but he remained silent.
“My name is Catherine Johnson, but everyone calls me Caty. I’ve lived in these parts all of my life. Practically grew up in the Beulah Freewill Baptist Church. What’s your name?”
Relaxing against the seat, he let out a sigh. “My name is Luther. I’m just passing through on my way to Florida.” His fingers ran through the curly mane as he stared out the window.
“I’m glad I saw you. No one should be out in this weather. Are you hungry? I have a cooler with leftovers from the cookout. It’s only burgers and hotdogs, but you’re welcome to it.”
Luther turned and felt around the backseat for the cooler. Something shiny caught her eye, but she couldn’t look away from the road. When he turned around, Luther held two burgers and a soda.
“I found a soda, too,” he said between bites.
“God says we are to practice hospitality. You are welcome to it.”
Luther positioned himself so he faced Caty. “Do you have any family—children or husband, I mean?”
Caty’s smile faltered. “My husband passed away six months ago.” She touched the silver cross. “I have my children, though. Two still live at home. If I wasn’t driving, I’d show you pictures. I keep some in my wallet.”
“Is your purse on the floor somewhere?” His eyes narrowed, giving him the appearance of a panther.
She chuckled to herself. “It’s in the trunk. I used to carry it in the front seat, but I would look in it when I was supposed to be watching the road.”
Streetlights appeared every few feet as they approached the town of Georgetown, South Carolina. She pulled onto the lot of a small service station. “I hope this is okay. There’s a motel down the street.” She popped the trunk. “Sit here for just a minute.”
Retrieving the purse, she pulled out her wallet and got back in the car. “Here are the pictures of my children.” She pressed something into the palm of his left hand. “And, this is for you. Be safe, Luther.”
He opened his hand to find a crumpled twenty dollar bill. He smirked when he got out. As she backed up, he knocked on her windshield. She rolled down the window and Luther leaned in.
“I’m glad you turned out to be such a nice Christian lady, Catherine. When I got in, I had already decided to kill you and steal your car. Your God has saved your life tonight.”
He disappeared into the rainy darkness. Caty sat in her car, unable to move, stroking the silver cross around her neck.
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