On Wednesday, my wife left town for a business trip. OWIF is what she left in her wake.
I hit the gas pedal as hard as I could and jerked the steering wheel to the right as the truck plowed into the back of the Oldsmobile. The driver meant to run into me, that’s for sure, and I wanted to make sure that he didn’t also run through me.
The truck slammed into my back left as I turned the car rightward as fast as I could. I glanced at the speedometer on my dashboard at the moment of impact. 87 miles per hour. If I hadn’t been worried about turning into a pancake on I-90 I’d have been impressed at how fast that bastard managed to get a semi to move.
After the initial crush and pop and metal on metal squealing, I felt the car turn and the rear end circle around; the semi steamed past, air brakes hissing and whining as the driver watched us, his prey, recede in his side mirror. The Oldsmobile stopped facing into oncoming traffic, had there been any oncoming traffic, and the truck wheezed and shuddered past until coming to a halt under an overpass.
I sat there, staring the wrong way down the highway, for what felt like ten minutes but what was probably more like 2 seconds before the kid screamed, “He’s coming!”
The driver had gotten out about 150 yards down the road, the momentum of his truck carrying him too far down the road for his liking and still way, way too close to us for my liking. I looked down at the dashboard; every possible warning light was flashing. The car and I, united in distress, needed to get moving.
I took my foot off the brake. I didn’t remember braking, I didn’t remember anything, and the only thought in my head was that the tall man was running straight at us, one arm up in the air. I punched the accelerator as hard as I could and the rear wheels spun and spun until enough rubber had been burned into the asphalt to overcome our inertia, the tires gripped the road, and we took off.
In the rearview mirror I saw pieces of metal and plastic fly off the end of the car, like a ticker tape parade for a championship sports team, except the only person there was the tall man, and I saw him hiss and curse something that was the opposite of a celebration.
The car was limping, the rear left wheel making a gawd-awful noise with each rotation. We needed to get off the road, and we were still facing the wrong way.
I spun the car 175 degrees onto the exit ramp at Peterson. There were, mercifully, few cars on the street and I turned into an alley behind a bagel and bialy shop, some restaurants, and a Greek furniture store. After a half block, I stopped.
“Where are we?” the girl asked.
“In an alley, in the rain, driving a busted car and being chased by a killer. But, other than that, you know, mostly safe.”
I jumped out of the car and looked at the trunk, crunched and ruined. The pins holding it shut had come loose, and the mass of paper towels and energy bars I kept there for emergencies had fallen out.
I heard the sound of sirens race down the highway in the direction of the semi, and I opened the driver’s door and looked at the little girl huddled into the passenger seat. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Echo. My name is Echo,” she said.
“Echo, I’m Mark. I don’t know whats going on, but we’ve got a problem because I only know two people on earth who’d help me hide a kid without asking too many questions. One of them is in Atlanta, and the other one is an insane asshole.”
She looked around at the alley, grey and dark red and slick with rain. The place smelled like a Chinese restaurant was dumping its garbage into the storm drain on the pavement, and most weekdays that was exactly what was going on. Pieces of broken chairs were piled up against the walls of the alley and a garbage dumpster stood next to the chairs, its doors missing and its belly gathering rain. “What are we going to do, then?”she said.
I pointed at the grey loading bay behind the furniture store. “We’re going to ask the insane asshole for help.”
[end of part 3]