Maggie knew she had no business driving in her condition. She had such an amazingly low tolerance for alcohol that consumption of one glass of merlot lowered her IQ, played havoc with her libido, and generally resulted in calamity equivalent to a roadrunner cartoon. Only a desperate situation could get her behind a wheel in her current state of inebriation. This qualified. Tonight she had a heck of a lot more to deal with than dreadful driving along an empty desert back road. Like where the hell she was going to find an espresso and some panties in the middle of the night?
And what to do about the dead lover in her trunk.
“Someone should just drop an anvil on my head.” She began to choke up. Without warning, tears further blurred her already bleary vision and she veered onto the shoulder and sideswiped a road sign. The impact tore off the side mirror and threw her car into a spin. She steered frantically left, then right, finally screeching to a halt in the middle of the road pointing in the direction from where she’d just escaped.
“Blessed Lord! What in the name of heaven are you doing now?” A transparent middle-aged man, dressed in a vintage black suit, a wide black and gray striped tie, and a rakish fedora leaned forward from the backseat and grabbed the headrest of the passenger seat.
Damn him! This was not what she needed right now.
The ghost of a departed grandfather was a minor inconvenience compared to the newly dead, even if the deceased had been lurking around for decades. Preacher Johnny had been following her around since she discovered him underneath the velvet-draped table that supported his coffin when she was five. Sometimes she didn’t see him for years, but any little crisis and there he was offering the kind of advice she had no time or inclination to take, especially since he usually wanted to take a moment to pray before she did anything.
Still, now that she thought about it, a prayer might not be such a bad idea.
Always eager for a holy task, using his best pulpit voice, Preacher Johnny began, “Let’s take a moment and bow our heads…”
“Let’s not,” Maggie snapped, realizing it was going to take more than a prayer to get her out of the bag of shit she was in. It would take a full-on, old-testament miracle.
“I have to get this car out of the middle of the road before we both become road kill.” She turned toward him to tell him to scram, but as was his annoying habit, he’d already vanished.
Maggie cranked the car until it started, and in spite of the shakes she was still experiencing, executed a perfect three-point turn so she was headed back toward where the sun would rise in a few short hours. Pulling over to the side of the road, she slowed to park next to the sign that had halted her headlong flight. Tears rose again. Okay, she probably just needed to cry and get it over with.
She climbed out of the car, tugged the too-short skirt down over her bare bottom and walked toward the signpost, carefully avoiding the darkly quiet trunk. The headlights shot two long funnels of light into the darkness, highlighting the scrub brush, revealing her broken side view mirror in the gravel, and throwing her silhouette in a long scary shadow across the pavement. She shivered. Damned icy desert air.
The cold would help preserve her cargo. She stared up at the sign: Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America. She doubted if the person who came up with that slogan had any idea just how lonely. She grabbed the bent signpost, pressed her forehead against the cold metal, and finally let herself have the cry she so sorely needed. Not gentle, lady-like weeping, but great sputtering, snotty, soul-deep sobs.
“Merciful heaven, what next?” she whispered. Dang it, she even swore as if Preacher Johnny was listening.
“You know you’ve outdone yourself this time!”
She jumped. Guess he was listening. She bit back a few far more blasphemous words as he continued his lecture.
“Remember that time the whole family wouldn’t speak to you for almost three months? Even that wasn’t as bad as this.” He’d followed her from the car, ever ready with an ongoing commentary on her behavior.
“Please, just don’t,” her protest was a bit shaky. But he continued, his voice gathering more volume as if he were working up to an altar call. “Never trouble with the “law.” I reckon even your cousin the county sheriff back home won’t be much use in getting you out of this scrape. Maybe we should revisit the prayer option.”
“Enough, “ she snapped, even more pissed because he was right. She turned to him and gestured toward the car. “The middle of the desert, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the road, not a great place for a prayer meeting. Until you’ve got something truly useful to offer, go sit in the backseat.”
Surprisingly, he faded. Seconds later he reappeared and waved at her from the rear side window, then leaned back so all she could see was the shadowy silhouette of a man in a fedora from profile.
“Ahhhh!” She rolled her eyes and a kaleidoscopic wave of dizziness spun the world. She grabbed at the metal signpost to keep from falling.
Steadying herself with a deep breath of sagebrush and desert night, she held on tight.
Damn, she had to do something about her “situation”. The dry sandy soil looked remarkably hard. She walked out a few yards from the car and scuffed at the dirt with her ridiculous hoochie-mama shoes, meant for frolics in the bedroom, not a desperate getaway. The stiletto heel might work as a digging tool, but dawn would definitely arrive before she had a hole deep enough to bury a squirrel, let alone Dominic’s muscled, and quite naked, body.
Oh God! His beautiful hot body. Well, no longer quite so hot. In fact, getting colder by the minute. She desperately needed a plan. She always operated better if she had some rough idea of her next move. Even if it was a stupid silly rotten plan, she needed some kind of decision and direction. But first, what she really needed to do was throw up.
It didn’t help. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she craved something to drink and definitely something non-alcoholic. She blamed her insane behavior tonight on the absinthe.
This was supposed to be it—the last time they would see each other. They’d both promised the affair had to stop. It was his damned fault, all of it. She stomped back to the car and almost turned her ankle when she tripped over the mangled mirror. Damn him. Always requesting she don shorter and shorter skirts and higher and higher heels. She was too old to be dressed this way.
She’d wanted something extraordinary to go with the champagne, the feast, and the sexy clothes she’d gathered for their rendezvous, something fun and exotic to lighten the poignancy and to make their “last time” special. The damned absinthe had to be shipped from France, since it was illegal to purchase in the States at the time she ordered the herbal alcoholic concoction online. $200 bucks for the bottle! Why that was more than she’d paid for the Perrier Joet.
Ah, the myth and the mystery of absinthe. Always a sucker for a good story, she’d read aloud to him. The tale featured a poor Frenchman at the beginning of the 19th century who had been prosecuted for murder most heinous, induced by overindulgence in the green drink and the influence of the evil green fairy it supposedly evoked. She glanced at the trunk and winced. She hadn’t expected history to repeat itself.
Okay, back to a plan. She took a deep breath. First priority was to put some miles between her and the scene of the crime, and second, find a safe place to dispose of the “evidence”. She choked back a new onslaught of tears and brushed aside the images that kept seeping into her ever-more-sober mind. She slung the side-view mirror into the passenger seat along with the rest of their possessions that she’d grabbed from the motel room and stuffed into a pillowcase. Climbing back in the car, she yanked her hem down to mid thigh. Her true first priority had to be a change of clothes. This tight red Fredericks of Hollywood number with no panty line was far too sleazy for daylight. She needed to shop.
And screw the espresso, even truck stop coffee would do. She tore off the stilettos, tossed them on the growing pile in the seat beside her, put the car in gear, and headed east. When in doubt head toward home, or what was left of her childhood home. At least the abandoned well—at the end of a seldom-used dirt road—was on inherited property so far out in the boondocks that even blue tick hounds and hunters never wandered that far.
From the backseat, in a falsetto voice, Preacher Johnny began to sing, “…forever forever you stay in my mind and I say a little prayer for you, I say…”
Thanks for reading. DG
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