This one’s for Pete, who provided me with nearly all of this year’s prompts. Pete loves Steffie, for some reason. Oh, and I found this year’s Story A Day May badge, so here it is.
Steffie in the Straw
by Marian Allen
Steffie loved driving through small towns at night. Empty. Moonlit. Peaceful. Grandpa, who had had a funny expression for everything, had said small towns rolled up their sidewalks at sundown. Mom would have said it looked like the zombie apocalypse. Dad would have said it looked like a movie set. Steffie just enjoyed the moment.
But, small towns being, naturally, small, she was back in the country all too soon and thoughts of work reclaimed her mind. She turned off the state road onto a county one and slowed down, not certain what was a shadow and what was a pothole.
She was startled to see a car nosing out of an even more local road but was able to brake before they collided. This was not a good time for an accident!
The driver clicked on the high beams, flooding her with light.
She cursed and threw an arm over her eyes, willing her pupils to readjust. Luckily, she hadn’t been looking directly at the headlights, so her night vision returned as soon as the other car’s driver turned the beams back down.
The other car’s door opened, and the figure of a man crossed the light. His worn and faded jeans were the kind bought at boutiques by “people with more money than sense” (Grandpa again). He crossed Steffie’s lights, leaned down, and rapped on her window, making a rolling-down motion.
Steffie shook her head No.
His smile was probably charming by daylight or candlelight, but sinister in the unnatural glare from two cars meeting on a back road after dark.
He pointed in the direction Steffie had been driving and said, loud enough to be heard through the window, “Road’s out. I’ll back up and you follow me.”
He didn’t wait for agreement, but went to his car and backed up.
Steffie turned onto the gravel and followed, marveling at the nerve of somebody who would drive it backward by moonlight.
The gravel left the woods and spread out in front of a ramshackle barn, then continued, but the man angled his car as he backed to block the way.
This time, he didn’t rap on her window. This time, he aimed a gun through the glass.
“Come on out,” he commanded, stepping back so she could open the door.
When she slid out, hands pressed to her waist, he looked her up and down and flashed that charming smile again.
“Two in one night,” he said. “And they say you can’t go home again.” He gestured toward the barn with his gun. “This way, Milady.”
The gaps in the roof let enough moonlight in to show stalls with boards torn off, a pile of old ash surrounded by beer bottles, drifts and bales of moldering hay, and a pitchfork with the tines painted red. An owl hooted in the rafters. Probably mice in here. Probably cats after the mice, too, which would account for the stench of urine and feces.
Two in one night. Not red paint on those tines, then.
Steffie made her voice tremble as she asked, “How do you know about this place?”
“Local boy makes good,” he said. “This was my family’s place, when I was the geeky farm kid everybody made fun of. I came back tonight to finish some business with the Prom Queen. The real one, not the substitutes I’ve been making do with. Take off your clothes.”
He didn’t see the knife come out of her belt, didn’t see it flash in the moonlight as it crossed his throat. He looked startled as Steffie side-stepped, and didn’t realize she was expertly evading the path his spurting blood would take.
Steffie dropped her knife.
She opened her trunk and hauled the dead woman out of it and into the barn. She wiped her prints from the knife and curled the dead woman’s fingers around the hilt.
It was frustrating and completely unfair that a rotten traitor like May Morrison should get credit for ridding the world of a man who was apparently a serial killer, slitting his throat even as he crushed her windpipe. But, in the world of espionage, one makes do with what one has.
MY PROMPTS TODAY: An old owl, a moonlit night, and a pile of hay….