Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chapter Thirty-Four

Deb looked in her rearview mirror every other second.  She shivered with fear and exhaustion.  Tonka snored.  Moira’s head bobbed as she slept.  Their slumber left Deb to her thoughts – which were not good.
She felt overwhelming loss over her father, guilt about not arriving home one minute earlier, anger at whomever did this, and fear.  Absolute fear.
She was pushing the RV hard down Interstate 70 West.  She had bought No-Doz and a huge coffee.  She used to push herself with caffeine when she was a young intern.  Now the same substance racked her with the shakes. 
Every car, every truck that followed her on the open stretches of highway became a shadow stalking them.  She tried to push the thoughts from her mind but didn't succeed.
She pulled in at a truck stop and fueled the beast at 5:37 a.m., shooting glances around at the faces of the other drivers. One in particular seemed to be watching her.  As she topped the tank he kept looking over at her.  She felt inside her bag for the Springfield pistol.
She locked the RV door, confident Tonka could watch Moira.  She walked inside to pay and saw the man follow.  Inside, she got in line as fast as she could. 
An old lady counted out exact change to the cashier.  Come on already!
Deb moved up one position as the manager opened another register.
WHAM!  A crash thundered through the truck stop.  An embarrassed beer deliveryman shouted,  “My bad!” as cans of beer rolled across the floor. One can spun on its side, venting beer.  Deb's heart raced.
As she shuffled up to pay and handed her card to the manager, her heart settled a bit.  She accepted her card back and turned toward the door.
“I’ve been watching you,” said the man from outside.  Deb jumped.
“Uh …” Deb stammered as she reached inside her bag and gripped the pistol.
“You’re mighty pretty.  What say we spend a little time in that RV of yours?”  He had really bad breath.
“Excuse me?” Deb blurted.  “Are you hitting on me?”
He hitched his pants with a small swagger.  “Man's got needs.  I been on the road long time now and I saw you eyeballing me out there by them pumps.  Figure you got needs, too.”  He slid a greasy toothpick from behind his ear and placed it in the corner of his mouth.  He rotated the pick with his lips while sporting his eyebrows in invitation.
Deb started laughing.  “Oh my God. You are hitting on me!”  Thank God!”  She began to horse whinny in laughter.  Her entire body convulsed.
The man stared at her as if he was watching someone have an epileptic fit.
“Oh thank God you're just hitting on me!” Deb said over and over as she wiped her nose with her sleeve.  She clutched her side as the exertion nearly doubled her over with a stitch.  The man’s confusion turned to disgust and he fled the store.
Deb slowly gathered herself and walked back to the RV. She kept chuckling as she walked and was surprised to find both Tonka and Moira still sound asleep on entering the cab.
She started the engine, still chuckling, and headed back out onto the Interstate.  She merged into early-morning traffic and guided the machine into a middle lane.  Every now and then she laughed to herself again.
Then she checked her rearview mirror and her heart sank.  A police car, a state trooper's,  pulled in behind her. Its bubble-gum lights were revolving and the officer motioned her to pull over.
Her hands shook as she complied and edged through traffic to the shoulder.
She placed the vehicle in park and watched the trooper get out and walk to her window.
Her hands continued to shake as she fumbled in her wallet for ID.  She realized she had an unlicensed pistol in her bag but it was too late to do anything as the trooper tapped on the glass next to her shoulder.
She rolled down her window and tried to make her trembling less obvious as she handed her license out.

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