Thursday, 24 October 2013

SHORT FICTION: The Hitch Nigel Ford.

                                                    The Hitch
                                                     Nigel David Ford
With eyes closed, the traveller enjoyed reliving memories of his last holiday when he had picked up two beautiful young girls along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. They had been hitching from Melbourne during their school break to meet up with some surfer boys they met the year before. Listening to their juvenile ravings about how cute these guys were had been made almost bearable by the skimpy bikinis and tight shorts they wore.
            Some young girls were oblivious to the effect they had on middle-aged men like him, and some weren’t. He was sure they had caught him admiring their nubile bodies more than once, and he was surer still, that they had behaved even more provocatively because he had. His video collection, hidden from his wife in a locked cupboard at home, didn’t excite him anywhere near as much as the live performance these two had put on.
            The temptation to pull off the main road and have his way with them had been hard to control, but he had rules about such things, so he had enjoyed the show and behaved himself. When he dropped them off at a beach near Torquay, they had blown him kisses and flashed their breasts at him. Some of those little vixens could provoke men to such naughty acts, but he wouldn’t risk it with two girls. One of his rules was, “Single hitchhikers only”.
            Roused from his memories by a waitress offering him a refill, the man opened his eyes and took a deep breath before nodding.
            As she poured from the jug she asked, ‘didn’t sleep well, eh Honey?’
            ‘Actually, I did,’ he answered, ‘I was just enjoying a moment when you came over.’
            ‘I hope I didn’t disturb you,’ she said automatically.
            He didn’t answer. She had moved on to refill other cups without waiting for any response. He considered himself pretty forgettable so he expected busy people like her to pay him little attention. Given his habits, he preferred it that way.
            Every year he travelled to different parts of the country on holidays from a mundane job and an even more mundane wife, always choosing the hottest time of summer. His wife didn’t like the heat, so he was able to leave her behind for those four weeks of the year and escape that whiney voice and her narrow and uninspired view of the world. Picking up pretty young hitchhikers wearing very revealing clothing made him forget all about her and helped him fantasise about being young and single again. What he sometimes did with them was the only fun he got to enjoy after 20 years of marriage to the most boring woman on the planet.
   Raising the newspaper and sipping on his coffee, his attention went back to the headline story about a murdered hitchhiker. He read that story twice before briefly glancing at other articles about self-promoting politicians, missing husbands and statistics on crime. He actually read the one about the missing husbands. He felt the number of sexy hitchhikers on the roads and the state of most marriages after years together could explain at least some of those missing men. He however, always went home to the wife after his little flings with hitchhikers.
            When his breakfast arrived, he left the main story face up on the folded newspaper beside his coffee. It gave him a chance to read it over while he enjoyed the “Trucker’s Big Breakfast”, which was available at almost every Roadhouse on major highways around the country. Truckers liked a good feed, as did he, so Truck Stops were his number one choice for meals and a pleasant aspect about road trips. His wife couldn’t cook to save her life.
            Half a dozen truckers sat at tables around the room enjoying that same breakfast. Most of their rigs were parked out the back of the roadhouse. Some had slept in them last night and others, like the traveller, had only pulled up long enough for a feed. They didn’t pay much attention to anyone but other truckers and the roadhouse employees who kept them on the road, which meant they weren’t paying attention to him, unless, of course, he did something stupid in his driving. He had a pair of CB and UHF radios set to the truckers’ channels and many times he’d heard them talking about some old fart who did something to upset one of them. Though they never paid attention to the drivers, they had memories like elephants when it came to the vehicles, so it paid to drive well if you didn’t want to attract their attention, which he didn’t.
 As he finished his meal the waitress refilled his cup and he went back to reading the paper. The picture of the murdered blonde girl reminded him of a girl he had seen hitching the day before. He closed his eyes and sighed.
            He had driven past the slim girl with the dirty blonde hair in the early afternoon. She had been wearing tight denim shorts and a pale blue tank top torn short at the ribs. Even though he had been overtaking, he hadn’t failed to notice the shapely body and long legs. Unfortunately, he had been travelling too fast to safely pull up in front of the other vehicle, so he had to continue on until he found a spot to turn around. By the time he returned to where this provocatively dressed hitchhiker had been, she was gone. Some other man had probably picked her up and gotten lucky in his place. She was just the kind of girl he liked to pick up. He was sure they craved the attention of men by dressing that way and they always got his, whether they realised it or not.
            He returned his attention to the newspaper with the small, indistinct picture of the victim. He knew it wasn’t the same girl. She had gone missing and been murdered nearly a week before. There had been another the week before her, too. The details about how these poor girls’ bodies had been found fascinated him. A bush walker hiking in the scrub had found this one and a couple of BMX riding teens had found the earlier girl.
            He read of the horror experienced by the hiker when he had found this latest victim. The chilling account made the man close his eyes, again and he let his mind drift back to the week before. He remembered it well. A smile came across his face as he recalled the pose he had left the girl in. Yes, it certainly would have been a ghastly scene for any other person to stumble upon. The traveller always left the bodies posed so that the full horror of their death was obvious to anyone who came across the killing site.
            The greater the gore, the greater the coverage such a murder got in the media. When victims’ bodies were found there would be front-page headlines in bold print and graphic televised news coverage supporting the old saying, “If it bleeds, it leads”. He was able to enjoy his deeds by watching news broadcasts and reading newspapers without becoming one of those stupid collectors.
            The traveller never took trophies. He was much smarter than that. He read books about serial killers who got caught because of this stupid habit of collecting trophies. Some of these clowns wouldn’t just take locks of their victims’ hair or watches, or whatever. Some of them kept photos and press clippings in scrapbooks like normal people kept family photo albums. There were chapters by Profilers who stated that the killers would have these trophies hidden somewhere to help them relive their shocking acts of depravity and, often, Police would search and find them, guaranteeing they were convicted of all their crimes.
            When he first started out, this serial killer swore he would never give the Police a chance of convicting him so easily. He took no trophies, behaved unobtrusively and dressed plainly. Had he been asked to describe himself, he would have replied, ‘average height, average build, brown hair and wearing glasses.’ It amused him to think that the description of a serial killer could be so unhelpful to Police. He smiled as he thought about the glasses. He didn’t need glasses. They were just a prop and he got a rush as he thought about how clever he was.
            Eventually, he did hope someone would write a book about his “unsolved crimes” and he could buy it like any other interested reader. Then he could add it to his library of books on other famous serial killers, but only he would know that book was about him.
            ‘Have you finished with the paper, mate?’ asked a female voice.
            He had been so deep into those thoughts that, when the question came, it startled him. When he opened his eyes to see the girl standing so close and looking straight at him he became uncomfortable. He couldn’t believe it. She was dressed in the same denim shorts and pale blue tank top from the day before. She was slim, long limbed and the provocative top accentuated her shapely chest and showed off a flat, well-defined belly. She was very pretty and she knew it. It took a moment to respond calmly.
            ‘I’m just going to read a little bit more and then its yours.’ He continued, ‘can you wait five minutes?’
            ‘Sure,’ she said bringing a coke up to her mouth and putting her lips to the straw. Her eyes held his as she drew on her drink and he forced himself to look away before the dark liquid reached those beautiful lips. He was sure she was flirting with him. This made him feel uncomfortable, not because she was so beautiful, but because it attracted the attention of every male in the roadhouse with a pulse and made him conspicuous by her proximity and the fact that she had spoken to him.
            As he turned his attention away from her he saw every trucker in the room smile knowingly at him and he quickly lowered his head and raised the newspaper to hide his face. He hadn’t really wanted to answer her, but not answering would have been more conspicuous. He was seething because, unfortunately for him, now that she had drawn so much attention to them both it meant she was safe from his murderous yearnings. He couldn’t very well pick her up and kill her after everyone had witnessed that memorable little interaction.
            When he finally offered the newspaper to the girl, he said, ‘I’ll just keep the crossword page if that’s okay. I like doing puzzles.’
            ‘No probs,’ replied the girl as she took the paper. ‘I’m not really into them, anyway.’
            He took a pen from his shirt pocket and started with the first clue. He had lied. He didn’t really like doing crosswords, but had used it as an excuse to stay longer to see if the girl would go with one of the truckers. She was by far the most beautiful prey he had spotted on any of his “holidays” and her provocative clothing and flirting was exactly what turned him on most. Even though he had ruled out picking her up because of all the attention she had brought on them, he still craved for her and occasionally closed his eyes and thought of her beautiful naked body and the heinous deeds he would have done.
            It was about 20 minutes later when she offered him his newspaper back.
            ‘No, you can keep it,’ he told her.
            ‘Can I bum a lift if you’re going soon?’ she asked with a flirty little smile.
            He answered as if he were a kind and caring grandfather, ‘you don’t hitchhike do you dear?’
            She said, ‘hell yeah, I hitchhike.'
            ‘Didn’t you read the story about that poor murdered girl,’ he asked her trying to sound sincere. ‘They said she was probably hitchhiking when it happened.’
            ‘I’m not scared. That’ll never happen to me,’ she declared.
            He tried to sound sagely as he advised her, ‘you should be careful. Its not always safe out there for pretty young girls like yourself.’
            ‘I can take care of myself,’ she bragged.
            He cautioned, ‘I’m sure you can young lady, but you should always be careful about whose car you get in. A bus is safer.’
            Brazenly she responded, ‘you could give me a lift. You look safe. You got a wedding ring on your finger and, pardon my saying, but you don’t look like you could hurt a fly.’
            The serial killer of young women smiled up at that pretty face. It was almost daring the monster inside to take her up on the request for a lift. He breathed out slowly. It was a way of controlling his racing pulse. He was so excited by this brash teenager and her arrogance that he had to consciously fight the urge to say yes.
            He asked innocently, ‘which way are you going?’
            She said sharply, ‘north.’
            ‘Well I’m going the other way,’ he answered. ‘I guess you’re out of luck. Maybe one of these truckers will give you a lift?’
            She answered with a sneer, ‘these guys. No way. You can’t trust truckers,’ she declared provocatively. ‘Its probably one of them that’s killing those girls.’
            All of the truckers had been glancing over, following parts of the conversation, especially when she asked for the lift, but now they turned away offended by her words. While every trucker there would have been on her like a seagull on a chip, she’d be lucky to get any of them to stop after saying that.
            The man thought it strange that a hitchhiker wouldn’t accept a lift from a trucker. He thought they were usually pretty safe. This was one opinionated and arrogant girl. It would have been a pleasure to get her alone in his car, but he couldn’t very well travel north now. He was pretty sure people would notice if his big four wheel drive wagon went in the opposite direction to the one he had declared so openly.

 He was conflicted inside. One part of him wanted her so badly he was seriously debating whether to risk it, while the other part cautioned not to be so foolish. His inner voice screamed, “That is how idiots get caught.” He knew he wouldn’t be driving north from this roadhouse. She would never know how close she’d come to a violent, tortured death.
            He watched the girl over the rim of his glasses whilst pretending to continue with his crossword. She grabbed a 600 ml bottle of coke from the fridge, paid for it, put that and the newspaper in her backpack and walked out. He kept glancing over the frame of his glasses as she walked across the fuelling area and across the wide grassed frontage. The roadhouse was set back a fair way from the road and there were a couple of trucks and semi trailers parked out front on this side of the road. The traveller observed her subtly as she disappeared between them.

He expected her to either stand there or start walking north with her thumb stuck out, but something strange happened. She appeared briefly from behind one of the trucks before he lost sight of her behind the trees. A quick flush of excitement ran through his body as he realized she was walking south. He quickly glanced around the restaurant. It didn’t appear that anyone else had noticed. He had to control himself. If he went too soon, people might remember, so he went back to the crossword again.
            After a short, but agonising wait he got up and left quietly. He had parked at the far end of the roadhouse away from other vehicles. He drove his vehicle slowly out to the road to head south. She was just standing there, about three hundred metres away as if she had been waiting for him. He had wanted her since he first saw her and he was aching now that she was so close. He thought his opportunity had passed when she made such a spectacle of herself flirting with him so openly, but fate and opportunity were with him. Everyone had heard them say they were going in opposite directions and he was certain none had seen her walking south. He just had to give way to this Ford station wagon towing a caravan and he could pick up his third and final victim for this holiday.
            ‘Damn. Damn. Damn.’ He was muttering to himself and seething with anger. The bloody van-towing wagon was pulling up. He hit the steering wheel several times and swore again. He would miss out on torturing this one and he was frustrated. Her arrogance and teasing manner had him so excited he was shaking. He checked himself in the rear view mirror and saw his face flushed bright red.
    Fate had stepped in and ebbed and flowed and played with his emotions terribly today. He had chosen her as his next victim when he first saw her, but he had to change his mind when twice she’d spoken to him. Asking for the newspaper was bad enough, but then asking for a lift with all those truckers smiling at him had caused him actual pain in his chest. All that attention was as powerful as a necklace of garlic to a werewolf and had protected her, but now this. How unfair. Only he knew how close she had come to a monstrous end.
            He let out several long slow breaths to calm himself. The caravan was already pulling away by the time he drove onto the highway. He was selecting second gear when he recognized the source of his frustration and anger still standing by the side of the road. She was waving for him to pick her up. He looked back toward the Roadhouse. No vehicles were leaving and the tree line was blocking anyone from seeing him pick up his beautiful prey. He smiled as he pulled alongside her. His luck had changed again, but in his favour this time. He was a lucky little serial killer today.
            ‘I thought you were going the other way,’ he said with a smile.
            ‘A girl can change her mind if she wants,’ she said smiling just as brightly back.
            He doubted her smile was for the same reason as his. His was with menace so extreme, there was no way for such a young girl to even dream it in her worst nightmare.
            ‘How far are you going?’ he asked casually.
            ‘I don’t know,’ she answered. ‘Why don’t you surprise me?’
            This was going very well and he smiled imagining some of the things he was going to do to her. That little top she was wearing was so provocative he couldn’t decide whether to use it to tie her hands or save it for the end and the constriction of her beautiful slender neck. He liked to use their own garments to kill them with. Their pretty little knickers were how he did the others, but this girl’s flimsy top was so inviting he had just now decided, that is what he would use this time.
            He smiled and said, ‘there’s a flask of bourbon in a bag behind your seat. Help yourself if you like.’
            ‘Sure,’ she answered, undoing the seatbelt and twisting around to search for the promised alcohol. ‘You want some, too?’ she asked.
            ‘Not now,’ he answered. ‘I’m driving, but a bit later when we’re further down the road and ready to stop, then I will.’
            He was enjoying the view of this nubile passenger leaning over the back of her seat. If the top had been revealing before, it was hiding nothing now. He wondered if she realized the view he was getting. Somehow, he thought she did. There was a hardness behind those eyes and she seemed too worldly for her age. He’d never seen such self-confidence and arrogance in a girl so young before, but it would be that arrogance that would trap her. He smiled when she took her first swig. There was some strong stuff in that bottle, and it wasn’t just alcohol.
            The traveller was catching the caravan and as he started overtaking, the newspaper appeared from the backpack between the girl’s legs. She opened it.       
            ‘Did you read about these men that left their wives and disappeared?’ she asked.
            He did recall that several had gone missing along this stretch of highway in the last month, but none of them were old or infirm so they had probably gone fishing or run away from horrible wives. He couldn’t understand what the fuss was about and he said so. Concentrating on overtaking at speed, he missed her facial reaction to his flippant response. It was a cold hard look.
            ‘Well, I think it’s terrible,’ she growled, glaring at him. She took another quick swig of bourbon. ‘These are married guys who’ve left their wives and done a runner. I think its disgusting.’
            There was a lot of passion in her voice, but he hadn’t picked up on it. He pulled back onto the left side of the highway before returning his attention to the conversation.
            ‘I thought the headline story about the murdered girl was more interesting,’ he said trying to steer the conversation back to what interested him.
            ‘Well, my husband ran off and left me,’ she said emphatically.
            This time, he didn’t miss the anger and said, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t even realize you were old enough to be married.’
            He had noticed her rings, but there were so many on her fingers, and even her thumbs, he had thought they were all junk jewellery.
            She seemed to be in no mood to continue a conversation and he was content to let her be. The lack of distraction allowed his imagination to roam while he drove. He reached his right hand down and smiled, reassured his knife was handy by his seat.
            After a while she pulled out a rolly packet and asked, ‘do you mind if I light up a joint?’
            ‘I don’t mind,’ he answered truthfully. Dope slowed people’s wits and made them easier to handle and he liked that.
            She offered the joint to him, but he waved it off. He didn’t want his wits dulled.
            ‘Why don’t you take lifts from Truckers? he asked, genuinely curious.
            She answered, ‘I don’t like getting into vehicles I can’t drive myself.’
            The answer raised the driver’s curiosity, but the girl offered no further explanation, despite his prompts. She just giggled and stared out her side window. He was happy to leave her be. She seemed too stoned to make much sense and they were nearing the destination he had scouted days earlier.
            Suddenly she demanded to know, ‘why haven’t you asked my name?’
            He just shrugged and barely gave her a glance. He didn’t like to ask their names, because that would mean they would ask for his and he wasn’t always prepared to give it. So many things could happen and if one of his hitchhikers managed to get away and knew his name, that would not be good. It was better not to exchange names until the point of no return, which he realised was right about now. They were only minutes from the site, she had swigged on the bourbon, smoked a joint and was beginning to slur her words, so he thought, what the hell.
            ‘My name is Barry. What’s yours?’
            ‘I’m Jenny.’
            Even then, the conversation seemed to stall so Barry said, ‘I need to pee. I’ll pull off a little bit up ahead.’
            Jenny stated matter-of-factly, ‘I need one, too.’
            The vehicle left the main road. When Barry reached the spot, far enough from the road that no-one would hear any screams, he pulled the four-wheel drive to a stop under a tree and got out. So did Jenny, moving quickly to the other side of the tree. The predator thought his prey was trying to escape, so he rushed around the vehicle, only to stop suddenly when he saw Jenny squatting with her back resting against the tree.
            ‘What are you? A filthy pervert, or something?’ she said accusingly.
            With his favourite knife in his right hand, Barry came around the tree to face the girl. Jenny’s eyes grew wide at the sight of the big blade. They all got that look when he first showed them the knife. It was part of the pleasure he enjoyed. It wasn’t about sex. It was about inflicting terror and seeing it in their eyes, but something wasn’t right. His prey was smiling and staring him straight in the eyes. She slowly pulled up her shorts.
            ‘This is a big knife and I’m going to give you the roughest time of your life. You’ll be screaming for me to stop.’
            She asked, ‘are you going to rape me?’
            As predator and prey faced off, the prey kept smiling. The predator hesitated. Barry knew it had been a mistake when Jenny pushed off the tree and lunged at him, striking him fiercely in the chest with both her fists. He was badly winded and knocked flat on his back into some bushes. When he tried to push himself up and forward out of the bush, he found his right elbow was wedged between two branches. This caused him to fall back again and he lost his grip on the knife. He had lost sight of her and felt panic when he realized that, in his haste to head off what he thought was a fleeing girl, he’d left his keys in the ignition. If she hopped in the four-wheel drive now she would escape and he was undone.
            Again, he pushed forward and got to his feet. His first thought was not for his knife, but his vehicle. He rushed immediately toward the driver’s side, but she wasn’t there. Movement to his right made him spin ninety degrees into a standing crouch with fists clenched ready for action. There was Jenny, not fleeing, as he had feared, but stood leaning against the passenger side of the vehicle with her backpack in her hand and smiling more wildly than before.
            ‘What?’ she demanded, half screaming and when he didn’t respond quickly enough, screamed louder, ‘aren’t you the freak killing girls? I tasted the drug cocktail in your bourbon,’ she accused. ‘I only pretended to drink.’
            Barry didn’t know how to respond. She knew he was a killer. She wasn’t scared. She wasn’t drugged. And, she wasn’t running away. He needed fear to be in their eyes, but that wasn’t fear in Jenny’s eyes, just rage. It scared and excited him at the same time and he hesitated again, unsure what to do.
            She growled in a low menacing voice, ‘what are you waiting for? Come and get me.’
            With that, Barry rushed toward this beautiful crazy girl. As he grabbed for her she suddenly twisted and fell to the ground. A sweep of her leg took his legs out and had him laying face down with his upper body pinned from behind by her legs. She was surprisingly strong. Barry felt a sharp pain on the inside of his right thigh near the groin before she kicked him over and leapt away. She must have bitten him. He propped himself up on an elbow. She was standing by the tree with blood on her hands.
            ‘You bitch,’ he spat. ‘You bit me.’
            She laughed loudly, confusing him. He looked down at his wounds. There was too much blood. When Barry looked up he saw the knife in her right hand. It had a short blade like a scalpel.
            She said, ‘I knew who you were when you kept talking about the dead girl. You’re so full of yourself you didn’t pick up on my story.’
            He was confused and asked, ‘what story?’
            He couldn’t see the wound, but he knew it was bad. He could feel his strength failing and he lay down on his back and breathed out deeply.
            She was standing, straddled over him with her knife at the ready. She asked in a whisper, ‘was I to be your third victim?’
            ‘Yes,’ he whispered back. He needed to know. ‘What story?’ he pleaded.
            ‘Your story was on the front page and mine was on page 5.’ She searched his face for
understanding, but when there was none, she continued, ‘the missing husbands. They’re mine.’

With his energy draining, he asked, ‘you mean…?’

‘Yeah. I’m a serial killer, too.’
            ‘You bit me.’
            ‘You idiot,’ she said with contempt. ‘I didn’t bite you.’ I slashed your femoral artery. You’re bleeding out as we speak.’ She laughed. ‘I don’t leave bodies lying around to give me away. That’s why I knew there were two serial killers in the same area at the same time and you didn’t.’ She laughed again and picked up her backpack. ‘I picked you before I pegged you as the other serial killer.’ A wry smile crossed her face and she leaned down over Barry and asked, ‘do you know why I don’t get lifts with Truckers?’

Barry had no strength left, so he only mouthed, ‘no.’
            ‘As I hinted before,’ she said matter-of-factly, ‘I can’t drive big rigs. How would I transport the pet food back to my dogs at home?’
            At first, Barry didn’t understand the “pet food” comment, until he saw Jenny take something out of her backpack. The last things he saw before losing consciousness was a cutting board and a butcher’s knife. The predator had become the prey and this new predator came prepared.

**First Prize in a 5,000 word short crime fiction story, The 2008 Geebung Murder Short Story Comp & was published in their anthology, "Murder Aplenty" in 2009 & the Crime Writers SA anthology, "The Killing Words" in 2010, both out of print.
You have permission to publish it in your Red Wolf Press online mag

Nigel Ford
Is a member of the Middleton Writers’ Group, Crime Writers SA and the Friendly Street Poets.
Nigel writes short and long stories, rhyming, non-rhyming and Japanese poetry, jokes, plays, comedy skits, short film scripts and anything else that takes his fancy when he can sit still long enough and concentrate. He WILL write at least one best selling novel in his lifetime or die trying.
He lives in Victor Harbor (South Australia’s Retirement Capital derogatorily referred to as God’s Waiting Room) and has been known to frequent (haunt) book launches, festival openings and it has even been said he would attend the opening of a bottle of beer on a nod and a wink.
            This man is a scurrilous, attention seeking, tattooed, Harley riding, flatulent, middle-aged, fat bastard wanna-be writer who tells bad jokes.


  1. Dont give up the day job Nigel, but Jack Kerouac would not have done better.

  2. Our first comment. Thank you Chris. I am sure Nigel will respond to that soon enough.