Cloe owed it to her infant son, Sean, and lackluster boyfriend, John, to pick up a night job. How else would they survive? Certainly, not with her retail job where the pay failed to cover her new expenses. Her prayers were answered by a mobile app which offered her a gig driving strangers around. How easy is that?
Uneasy, she fidgeted in the driver’s seat. Cloe hoped that being parked under the only street light in front of a brick apartment building would be enough to ease her nerves. The block was too peaceful for the booming city. The only disturbances came from humming crickets and the occasional flutter of litter rushing pass her high beams. The customer said to meet them here, she thought, so where the hell are they?
Before she could decide whether to leave or not, the back-passenger door slung open and a tall man dress all in black, wielding a duffle bag threw himself inside.
“They’re coming! Drive,” he croaked.
“I’m sorry?” Cloe asked, frowning.
“Drive or I will pump your head full of 9 millimeter rounds!”
Cloe’s heart dropped and shoulders jerked as the click-clack pierced her ears and the cold metal pushed the back of her head.
This guy has a gun and he can kill me, she thought, Drive girl! Drive!
The command from her brain to her foot got lost somewhere between her racing heart and uncontrollable shaking. She sat dumbstruck.
“Lady, drive or I will kill you,” the man threatened through his gritting teeth.
She shuddered and gasped as wailing sirens crushed the silent street, drowning out the pounded of her sprinting heart.
Finally, she pushed the accelerator, burning rubber.
“Faster,” he spat. His voice shuddered a bit as if he was in pain. “Make a right at the light.”
The metal that pierced her scalp had been removed and he began grunting and ripping paper.
She peeped into the rear-view mirror. She needed to see his face but couldn’t due to the ski mask. She could only make out the blood-drenched gauze and tape he was wrapping around his arm. She cringed and snapped her eyes away.
She missed the right turn.
“What are you doing?” he screamed. “I said right, you―”
He didn’t get to finish his insult as several patrol cars rushed up behind them.
“This is the police. Pull over or you will be resisting arrest,” boomed through speakers.
I should stop and let the police deal with this guy. Well worth the risk, right?
“If you stop, I will blow your brains out. Keep driving,” he hissed. The gun was digging into her head again.
“Where?” she shrieked, more annoyed than scared.
“Straight, until I tell you where to go. Now, faster.”
If she pulled over, he’d kill her and maybe go out in a storm of bullets. If she kept driving, she would have time to think of an escape. She drove faster.
“Get on the highway,” he said.
Cloe complied, shaking out of her mind nonetheless. She was more afraid of getting into a car accident than getting shot; the highway was a little more congested than the roads.
Her passenger must’ve noticed the same thing because he said, “Ride the left shoulder, now.”
Cloe got onto the left shoulder and floored it. She had to be going one hundred miles per hour. She was more concerned about the police cars (all six of them) chasing her, the dangerous mysterious man who was sitting behind her, and the gun pressed against her head.
How could this get any worse?
Before she could answer her rhetorical question, spurs of gun fire pierced her ears. For a second, she was sure the man decided to end her life, especially since the barrel wasn’t intertwined with her hair anymore. But there was no light, flashes, or anything. There was just the road and the loud pop-pop-pop of gunfire.
She looked in the rear-view mirror to see the man firing out the back window at the police, who were returning the favor. Some of the bullets pierced the outside of her vehicle. Her shoulders jumped with every staccato ping- ping- ping.
“What are you doing? Why are you shooting at them? It’s just making things worse,” Cloe yelled.
He kept shooting.
Cloe was sure she was going to die. She teared up. No way would John be able to take care of Sean alone. She’d wished she skipped the driving gig and went to school or got a trade. People with nine-to-fives didn’t deal with this: a strange man threatening to murder them, frustrated police officers chasing and shooting at them… or a barricade of police cars coming up in the distance.
“Holy shit,” she screamed.
“Cut across the highway! Take the woods!” he yelled. He was back inside the car, fumbling with his gun.
After glancing over a shoulder at traffic, Cloe swung her car into the left, middle, then right lane. The car crashed into the woods that hugged either side of the highway. They ripped through the flat land, tearing away shrubs and branches in their path.
The further they got away from the highway, the darker it got, leaving the headlights as Cloe’s only means of sight.
“Faster!” the man yelled.
“I don’t want to hit a―”
Too late. The scraping and crushing of metal and bark erupted around her. Cloe watched the steering wheel fly toward her before the air bag met her face, giving way to a stunning flash. The glass from the windshield and windows shattered, snagging her face, neck and arms. The thud from the impact replayed in a grotesque loop as she couldn’t decide if she was alive or dead.
The driver side door swung open introducing her to a slew of police officers. They pulled her from the mangled vehicle and laid her on her back in the grass several feet away. Though Cloe was in better shape than she anticipated, she was suffering from an unforgiving wooziness. It was hard to answer the questions the police officers were asking. Eventually they gave up and conversed amongst themselves.
“The ambulance is on its way,” she heard one of them say in a deep voice.
“Send her off and then question her the first opportunity you get,” said a woman. “As a matter of fact, stay there until the doctors say she can answer questions. We will probably be here all night looking for that asshole.”
“We lost him, again?”
“I’m afraid so. But we’ll find him.”
“Dammit! For months we’ve been chasing this guy! How the hell does he keep slipping away?”
“We’ll find him. Just watch her. Got it, detective?”
“Did you at least find the bag?”
“No, we haven’t found it. But this is a lot of forest and we’re getting more uniforms up here now. We’ll find it and him.”
Cloe’s mysterious passenger disappeared, leaving the police agitated and her, decrepit. Who was that guy and why were the police chasing him? Did she just help this man escape the clutches of law, again?
Cloe couldn’t help but to snicker softly. Then, against her body’s will, let out a hearty laugh. Her lungs expelled whatever oxygen was left, making her choke. Her limp motionless body aches intensified. But she couldn’t help it.
“Ma’am?” asked the detective who was now crouched over her.
Cloe glanced up at him causing blood from her gashes to leak over into her eyes. In her desperate attempt to blink away the thick crimson coating and failing to make out the detective’s face, she muttered, “I hope he gives me a good review.”