The First Ride is Free
Cloe owed it to her infant son and lethargic boyfriend to pick up a night job. How else would they survive? Certainly not with her retail job where the pay was minuscule relative to her new expenses. Her prayers were answered by a mobile app which secured her a job driving strangers around. How easy is that?
She had been sitting in front of an apartment building for about ten minutes waiting for her first customer.
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 man threw himself into the back seat. He was tall, dressed in all black and welding a black duffle bag.
“They’re coming! Drive!” he exclaimed.
“I’m sorry?” Cloe asked, confused and shaken by the excitement that radiated from the man behind her.
“Drive or I will pump your head full of 9 millimeter rounds!”
The horridness in his tone along with the cold metal that was shoved into the back of her head set off alarms.
This guy has a gun and he can kill me, she thought, Drive girl! Drive!
The command from her brain to get her foot to press the accelerator got lost somewhere between her racing heart and uncontrollable shaking. She sat dumbstruck and confused.
“Lady, drive or I will kill you,” the man threatened through his gritting teeth as he pushed the gun into her head, making her shudder with fear.
His demand was more intense than before. She could hear the they he must have been referring to. Sirens. Lots of them.
Are those sirens for him?
“If the police get here and we are not moved, I am going to go to jail happy that I murdered you. So, if you want to live, drive. Now!” the man said.
Cloe finally pushed the accelerator forcing the car to move.
“Faster,” the man said. His voice shuddered a bit as if he was in pain?
“Make a right,” he said as he made noises that sounded like ripping paper in the backseat.
At this point, the metal that pierced her scalp had been removed. She snuck a look in the rear-view mirror to see the face of her assailant but failed because he was wearing a ski mask. She did, however, get a glimpse at what was keeping both his hands occupied as he frantically wrapped his arm with gauze and tape that became drenched in blood from the wound he was tending.
With her focus on her passenger, she missed the turn.
“What are you doing?! I said right you fu-“
He didn’t get to finish his insult because the sirens had caught up and were right behind them.
“This is the police. Pull over or you will be resisting arrest,” blurted through the speakers from one of the vehicles in pursuit.
I should stop and let the police deal with this guy. Well worth the risk, right? she thought.
The passenger in her backseat must’ve read her thoughts because he returned the cold metal to its place at the back of her head.
“If you stop, I will blow your brains out. Keep driving,” the man demanded.
“Where!” she shrieked, more annoyed than scared.
“Straight until I tell you where to go. Now, faster.”
Since she didn’t want to die, she drove faster. Who the hell was this guy? Could he really kill her? Why was he dressed like a spy out of an action movie?
“Get on the highway,” he said.
“Are you insane? We cou-“ Cloe stopped when she heard the gun make a clicking noise. He pushed the gun deeper (if that’s possible) into her head.
“I said get on the highway,” he said, eerily calm that time.
“Now drive faster or I swear you will not live to regret not following simple directions,” he hissed.
Cloe complied, shaking out of her mind nonetheless. She was more so 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 the accelerator pedal. She had to be going 100 miles per hour. More? She wasn’t sure. 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 cold metal 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-passenger door window at the police, who were returning the favor. Some of the bullets from the police cars behind them riddled the outside of her vehicle, evidenced by a series of staccato ping- ping- ping noises.
“What are you doing? Why are you shooting at them?! It’s just making things worse!” she yelled.
The man ignored her, which wasn’t surprising.
Cloe was sure she was going to die, whether it was from the strange man in the back seat, the frustrated police officers who were now under attack or the barricade of police cars in the distance.
“Holy shit!” she yelled.
“Cut across the highway! Take the woods! Take the woods!” the man yelled as he reloaded his weapon.
Without thinking, Cloe swung her car into the left, middle, and right lane, meeting the greenery of the woods that ornamented the side of the road. Her car ripped through the flat land, tearing shrubs and tree branches in its wake. The further they got away from the highway, the darker it had gotten, leaving the headlights as Cloe’s only means of navigation.
“Faster!” the man yelled.
“I don’t want to hit a-“
Cloe’s reasoning was cut short when the vehicle’s front end met with the trunk of an oak tree. The utterly loud sound of crushing metal made her cringe as her face was on its way to impelling into the steering wheel before the air bag met her halfway giving way to a stunning white flash. The glass from the windshield and windows shattered, leaving beads of glass to litter the inside of the vehicle, some of which pierced her face and arms. The thud from the impact was set on replay in Cloe’s mind as she couldn’t decide if she was alive or dead.
After a few seconds, Cloe surveyed her well-being by turning her head as she groaned in agony. Though her neck was stiff and pain struck her like lightening to the earth, she was relieved that she could move.
The driver side door swung open introducing her to a slew of police officers who pulled her from her 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 dizziness brought on by the impact, making it hard to answer the questions the police were asking. Eventually they gave up and conversed amongst themselves.
“The ambulance is on its way,” she heard one of them say.
“Send her off and then question her the first opportunity you get,” said another. “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.”
“You mean 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 yet.”
Cloe’s mysterious passenger disappeared into the woods, leaving the police to find him and her in a decrepit state. Who was that guy and why were the police chasing him? Did she just help this man escape the clutches of law, again?
Struck with realization and dazed from the accident, Cloe couldn’t help but to snicker softly which gradually manifested into a hearty laugh. Though laughing made her lungs expel whatever oxygen was left and intensified every ache in her body, she simply couldn’t help it.
“Ma’am?” asked the detective who was now crouched over her.
Cloe glanced up at him, causing the blood from her facial wounds to leak over into her eyes. In her desperate attempt to bat away the oozing red liquid by blinking, she muttered through her hysterics, “I hope he gives me a good review.”