“Need a ride?”
Jack, Brenda’s co-worker, stood to help her with her coat. She normally didn’t attend happy hour, but her boss had asked her to be more social.
“Oh…, thanks.” His offer surprised Brenda. She knew him only in passing. “I’m fine, I don’t live far.”
“Well, if you change your mind…” He smiled.
Brenda said her good-byes and headed out the door. As she stepped outside, a brisk wind whipped her hair into her face. Pulling her coat tighter, she wished she’d brought her gloves. Her clopping heels echoed on the deserted street. She heard a motor and turned to see Jack’s pick-up truck.
He lowered his window. “Are you sure you don’t want a ride? It’s pretty cold.”
“It is a bit colder than I realized,” she acquiesced. “Maybe I should.”
Jack hurried around to open her door. A gentleman, Brenda thought as she climbed in.
As they pulled away from the curb, Jack hit the door lock button. Brenda glanced down and felt panic washing over her as she realized her lock button and door handle were missing.
“Um, what happened to this door?” Brenda focused on keeping her voice friendly.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jack snarled.
Brenda stiffened. What’s happening?
Bewildered, she glanced at Jack. He was hunched forward, gripping the steering wheel as he accelerated. They sped past stores and restaurants, past her apartment building, heading away from town fast.
Brenda moved her hand slowly toward her purse. As her fingers closed around her cell phone, she eased it out, feeling for the numbers. She found what she thought was the 9-button and pressed, wincing as it beeped.
“What the…” Jack’s spittle sprayed her as he swore and grabbed the phone. He threw it out the window.
God, help me! Brenda prayed fervently. Keep me safe.
She blinked back tears, trying to stay calm. “Please, Jack, what’s going on? Where are you taking me?”
The horizon was black now. “You can’t do this, I work with you,” she pleaded.
Jack didn’t answer. Brenda prayed another silent plea, watching cornfields whiz past.
A flickering light in the distance caught her eye. “I… think I’m going to be sick!”
“No way am I that stupid,” Jack snapped. “Shut up, no more talking.”
“Jack, I’m serious.” Brenda gagged. “I’m about to puke. Unless you want vomit everywhere, you…”
The brakes squealed as she was slammed against the dashboard. “Don’t try anything,” he warned, unlocking his door and dragged her out with him. She pretended to retch, then jammed her elbow into his ribs and wrenched free, running. Jack’s shouts and feet felt close, but she didn’t check.
Brenda prayed for a miracle as she raced toward the light. Reaching it was her only thought as she pressed harder, even as Jack’s footsteps faded behind her.
Long minutes later, she neared the small, dark farmhouse with the single back porch light. She pounded on the front door, gasping for breath. “Help me, please!” she screamed. No reply. She tried the door. It was locked.
She ran to the back door, twisting the knob. It opened. She stepped in and quickly locked the door behind her. “Hello?” she called. “Please, I need help!” she said again. The only sound besides Brenda’s ragged breaths was the loud ticking of the kitchen clock.
Brenda saw stairs and took them two at a time. She followed the sounds of snoring to find an older man in the bed, shotgun propped against the wall.
“Sir, please, I need help,” Brenda tugged his sleeve, praying he wouldn’t shoot her.
The man bolted upright as he grabbed for the gun. “Who’s there?”
“Help! Someone’s trying to hurt me,” Brenda cried. “He’s coming!” she warned, as they heard pounding on the door.
The man hurried to the window, opening it as he aimed. A shot rang out. Jack yelped as he retreated back into the darkness.
Brenda collapsed, sobbing.
“Miss?” The man touched her shoulder. “He’s gone.”
He gently led her downstairs, helping her into a kitchen chair. “The Good Lord was looking out for you,” he told her, filling a teakettle at the sink.
“Yes…” Brenda stammered. “Thank God you were here.”
“Thank God for Greta’s accident,” he corrected her.
“I’m sorry?” Brenda looked up.
“My wife’s sister was in a wreck tonight.” The man looked thoughtful. “Only minor injuries, but my wife went out to check on her. That’s the only reason I left the porch light on and the door unlocked.”
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