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The Back Seat

May 4, 2013

Richard glanced at his fuel gauge; he was very nearly empty. It was a wet and gloomy day, the rain poured relentlessly onto his windshield. He’d been driving for the past hour to his new home in a beautiful little town. It was a place he had desperately sought out these last few years; a place where he could get away from the chaos and danger that the city puked out and infected its citizens with. So he just packed up and went, putting everything he owned into the boot of his car; not much as it turned out, and drove away. A new start, a new life, it couldn’t get better than that. The petrol station was coming up, he could also use this opportunity to grab a sandwich and maybe some other treats whilst he was there; he made the turn. Safe from the rain but now under threat from a fiery death, he stopped the car and stepped out to the smell of the petrol and diesel fumes that laced the air. After his car got the benefit of an energy break, he approached the shop to pay the bill; he stopped at the newspaper stand. The headlines were about the discovery of the ninth figure in the Workshop Wanders; the sub section mentioned some sports player refusing to apologise for badmouthing a TV host. He took one and entered the shop.

Bill watched as the man entered the shop, he noticed his pause at the newspaper stand and wandered if he should have moved closer then. No, would have been too early, he thought to himself. Besides there’s no hurry, I have plenty of time, just need to wait till he’s at the counter. Just another silly man who left his car door unlocked, only a few people ever do that but it’s good for me, very good. Right he’s there! Time to move…

Richard felt his legs rediscover themselves as he walked up to the counter; he smiled at the good-looking girl on the other side. She smiled back noncommittally and greeted him with “you need a bag for these?” After he’d paid and had what felt like the shortest conversation in the world, Richard walked back to his car. He smiled to himself at the thought of the counter girl, he knew it was a longshot but he could have sworn she had given him a good vibe, just at that moment when he had turned away. Oh well he thought, it was just one of those things. He stepped back into his car and drove out of the station. It was still raining but he felt relaxed, he decided not to turn on the radio and instead just chose to listen to the pattering of the water and the muffled squeaking of the wind-shield wipers. He could smell the cheese salad sandwich from the bag on the seat next to him, and after a few moments took one hand off the steering wheel to grab it. When it rested safely in his lap he quickly replaced his hand on the wheel to steady the car. He then proceeded to remove a sandwich when a voice came from the behind him that made him nearly jolt the car into the barrier.

“Smells good, may I have one?” Bill said to the man on the front after grabbing the small handle above him. He had anticipated the sudden jerk of the car; it always pays to be prepared. “Careful” he added smugly, trying to cause as much discomfort to the man as possible. He needed him to fear him, to make him know that he must do what he’s told, or he’ll find himself become just another newspaper article.  “Who the fuck are you?! What the hell are you doing back there?!” The man in front yelled, trying to keep the car straight whilst looking over his shoulder at the stranger. The stranger produced some kind of weapon that he deliberately kept hidden and moved it up to the gap under the headrest; the small metal pillars framed the man’s neck like an elegant picture frame. The stranger gently pressed the point of the pencil into the man’s flesh; just enough so he would know that this was a very serious situation. God I love doing this, that moment when they know they’re in trouble, that moment they piss themselves with fear. “You can call me Bill” the stranger said finally, holding the knife firmly in the driver’s neck. “What’s yours? Please tell me your real one; I’ll know if you’re lying” They always believe that line, but then again the pencil helps so it kinda renders the whole thing a bit pointless… “Richard” the driver said quietly, now a little calmer. He kept his head faced forward and concentrated on the road, though, as the stranger would have guessed, it wouldn’t be entirely on the road.

Richard kept his head straight; he could feel the sharp point almost digging right into the middle of his neck. He thought about jerking the car to one side to try to disarm Bill – as he had called himself- then slam the breaks on. But it was too risky, what if he moved the car the wrong way and he got paralysed? It might cause him to crash the car and end up dying in some horrific fiery explosion. There had to be a way out of this situation, he just needed to buy some time. The silence went on for a little longer; the hum of the car and the rain patter was the only piece of music that played. The windscreen wipers continued to contribute their own little tune to the mix. Bill broke it first; he spoke with a smug but careful tone. “I take it this is your first time? Don’t worry it’s not going to be a huge operation, I just need a lift and I can’t drive.” Richard felt the bag on his lap be snatched and taken into the back and, after a lot of rustling and tearing noises, he could hear Bill devour what had once been his lunch. “This is nice, I always find that there’s not a lot of sandwiches at those places that I actually want to eat, y’know? It’s usually this or a BLT, maybe a cheap cheese and onion”.  The last few words were muffled by the sound of the final piece being chewed to oblivion; Richard glanced up at rear-view mirror. Although he could only see Bill’s upper body and head, the man had quite a distinctive look. Dark brown eyes hid his intent with effective optical and mental camouflage, with a darkly handsome film star bone structure similar to that of Cillian Murphy. He didn’t look like a carjacker at all thought Richard. His hair was a bit scruffy but it seemed to fit with his overall style. From his upper body Richard could see the beginning of an open brown jacket, and underneath a plain black t-shirt, or at least he assumed it was fully black.

Bill noticed the glance Richard gave him. Probably trying to get a description, something he could tell the police to help them catch up with me when this is all over. That isn’t going to happen; unfortunately you’re not a huge part of my plans Richard. You’re just a taxi driver, someone to use to help me get away from my troubles. He contemplated whether or not to push the pencil just a little further into the guy’s neck, just to give him a tiny bit more incentive to play along. No, think he gets the idea, besides I might slip up and he could end up feeling the wooden texture… He thought of the moments before he had approached the petrol station, the feeling of success and liberation. He moved his hand into his pocket and felt the plastic bag with the souvenirs, the first of hopefully many mementos to come in his new found career. He wandered if Richard would try to make small talk, and in some strange way, he wanted him to. Bill took a better look at his surroundings; he shifted slightly to make himself more comfortable, which was difficult because of the boxes and loose clutter that wedged him in on both sides. He thought back to when he had managed to get into the car at the station, the clutter was easy moved, just some small dust covered boxes and dirty sheets. But before Richard had gotten back to his car he had to rearrange them back into place, which had trapped him in. Now when I need to get out this stuff’s gonna be falling out the car and that might draw unwanted attention. To his left were two boxes plied on top of each other, they just about reached the height of the passenger seat’s head rest. No room there.

Richard took another glance up at the rear-view mirror. He wandered if he should say anything, maybe ask his name, or more appropriately where they were meant to be headed. He ran these thoughts through his head, trying to come up with the least dangerous conversational subject. When none came, he let the silence fill the void. It was at least three minutes before Bill, by chance or inevitability, started speaking. But it wasn’t to Richard to whom he was speaking, Bill had taken a phone call, and when he spoke, it was a voice of slight enthusiasm.  Richard tried listening to his conversation to almost no avail. The sounds of the car engine combined with the tires running along an old stretch of road did nothing but muffle and unbalance the voices. The rainy music continued to beat its drum on the outside. “Hey, listen, I…… today that I wouldn’t have thought I…… before. It turned out to be pretty straight forward…… couldn’t hang around their any longer, I’ll…… soon.”  A smile appeared on Bill’s face, it lasted for short while as he listened to the caller.  “I’ve ….you need; it’s all…..care of”. He saw Bill take a bag out of his pocket and rest it on his lap. “Yeah I……of help, hopefully he won’t……. me over or crash the……. car”. He saw Bill glance at him through the rear-view mirror then return to the phone.  Richard tried his best not to react to that remark; maybe he’ll think I can’t hear him over the car noise. Which was half true, but Bill may not like that some of his words had reached his ear. He caught the end of the phone call not by sound, but by lip movement where he thought he caught a “Bye Bye” from the mouth shape. When Bill had put the phone down and out of site, he refrained from asking any questions about the caller to avoid any more sharp pains in his neck; he had to keep him calm.

Bill felt a little over heated; an increase in temperature had enhanced the stuffy aroma of the car’s interior. It was starting to make him feel queasy. I gotta get this jacket off. Quickly he took off the jacket and looked around for somewhere to put it, all the while keeping his eye on Richard. The yellow dust was everywhere, so he stuffed it underneath himself for the time being. He sat back now, more relaxed and in control; but incredibly bored. It was going to be a long while before he would need to instruct Richard on the turns that needed to be made. On the front passenger seat he noticed the newspaper Richard had bought at the station. “Hay, pass me that paper next to you. Slowly, though” He said.

Richard was uncomfortable with Bill’s request, but for different reasons than the man in the back would have suspected. He knew it was going to happen at some point during the journey. Slowly, he reached across to the passenger seat, whilst keeping one steady hand on the wheel. He gripped the newspaper and the plastic tube in such a way that he could hand Bill the paper without him noticing he had something hidden underneath. Slowly, as he moved it closer towards Bill, he used thumb to manoeuvre the tube to fit long ways down his arm. Bill snatched the paper like a whip striking a poor man’s back, but thankfully, did not notice the object get safely into Richards possession.

Bill unfolded the paper and immediately read the headline, which read: NINTH VICTIM DISCOVERED IN WORKSHOP MURDERS HORROR. As he began to read the column, a voice broke the silence. “Thought I should let you know, I couldn’t believe my luck when you decided to slip into my car; do you know how much trouble you’ve saved me?” Bill looked up in confusion. What? What the hell is the guy talking about? But it wasn’t just the sudden admission which alarmed him. The car had slowed and there was no other vehicle in sight. Richard spoke again “I’m sure you can appreciate how difficult it was to act surprised when you tried to scare me”. “What the…” but before he had finished his sentence, his hand touched something metal that poked out from in between the sheets at his side.  He slowly pulled it out. Staring at him was claw hammer. It was then he realized what the yellow dust was and what it meant. Without warning or hesitation, the man in front swiped his left arm, now free from the steering wheel, straight at Bill’s right thigh. He saw go in at an angle, he saw the thumb press hard down on the top. In shock and unable to even hold the pencil anymore, he felt himself losing consciousness second by second. The bag he cradled fell forward, the medication supplies spilled out into the floor. He could hear Richards voice in the distance: “You should feel honoured; you’ll be the first to see my new workshop. Just relax, we’ll be there soon”.

The car drove off, the rain had stopped.

Copyright: Kcorym

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From → a. Short Stories

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