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Authors: Greg F. Gifune

Midnight Solitaire (6 page)

BOOK: Midnight Solitaire
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Greer grips the wheel tight, closes her eyes and waits for the horrific sound of impact.

It never comes.

She opens her eyes. The other car has stopped within a few feet of the Audi, the lights pouring into her car and making it impossible for her to make out much else. After a moment the car reverses then pulls over onto the side of the road. Heart pounding, Greer does the same.

Did I hit the man in the road? Christ, I must have, he was right—

A sudden pounding on her window startles her back to the present. She looks up, sees a young man in a long raincoat and black knit hat standing next to her car—evidently the driver of the second vehicle—talking to her, but between the glass and the pouring rain, Greer can’t make out a word he says. He doesn’t appear angry, more concerned and confused.

She lowers the window a little and says, “I’m so sorry, are you OK?”

“Yeah,” the man says. “Are you?”

“I think so, yes. I…”

“I was behind you. Why did you slam your brakes on like that?”

Trembling, she wipes at the corners of her mouth with her thumb and index finger. “There was a man, a—”

“I almost ran right into you.”

“A man in the road—I—I think I hit him.”

“A man?” he asks as if he no longer understands the language Greer’s speaking. “In the road?”

“Yes, he—he walked right out in front of me. Didn’t you see him?”

The man turns and looks out at the highway. He takes a few steps away from the car then comes back. “There’s no one there, lady.”

“I’m telling you, I saw a man, I—he—there was a man in the road.”

He moves around to the front of her car, inspects it then returns. “Lady, there’s no damage to your car at all. Trust me, if you hit somebody you’d have all sorts of frontend damage. There’s nothing, not even a scratch.”

“OK, all right, fine.” She waves at him dismissively.

The man stares at her. There is something hard about him, tough, and yet he seems genuinely concerned. He glances at a set of headlights moving through the darkness from the direction they’re both headed then looks back at her. “You sure you’re all right?”

Greer nods. “I’m just tired, I—with the storm and all, I—again, I’m sorry.”

“Hey, no harm no foul.” He shrugs and smiles. “Dark stormy night like this, mind can play all kinds of tricks on you. Be careful. Have a good night.”

Greer shields her eyes from the oncoming headlights. He should flag that car down, she thinks, tell him not to bother and that he might as well turn around now. “You too. Thanks.”

She closes the window and offers a final smile, but as the lights pass the man is suddenly gone, swept away into the night in the blink of an eye.

More screeching tires, and she looks to her rearview, squinting in an attempt to see through the rain.

A white van has stopped several feet behind her in the middle of the road. It slowly begins to circle back.

Lying in the road between her position and the van is the man in the raincoat and knit hat, facedown, half his body in the breakdown lane, the other half in the road.

“Oh my God!” Greer opens the door and nearly falls out onto the pavement. Scrambling back to her feet, she slips her way to the rear of the Audi and leans against it. The man is not moving. “Oh—Oh my God!”

The van that struck him rolls slowly toward them.

Greer runs to the man, crouches down and touches the center of his back. He’s breathing. “Can you hear me?” she calls out above the din of the storm.

“Bastard hit me,” he moans, barely conscious.

“Stay still and try not to move, OK? I’ll get help, there’s—it’ll be all right, help’s on the way.”

She stands, waves at the van to hurry. But it just keeps creeping slowly towards them, headlights illuminating the rain, which has now become an icy slush. The hell with this ass, she thinks. She runs back to her car, leans in and snatches her cell from the passenger seat.

The van comes to a stop in the middle of the road. A man steps out.

Greer’s mouth falls open but nothing comes out. No scream. Nothing. She can’t even exhale. The same man in the duster she’s seen all night—at the burning car and in the road just now—stands in the rain not ten feet from her, an enormous knife in his hand.

Before she can fully comprehend what’s taken place, the man is standing right next to her. The rain pools and drips from his hat, his eyes concealed in shadows and night. He reaches out, takes the phone from her hand and crushes it effortlessly, like one might crumple a scrap of paper. Greer stands paralyzed in terror as he opens his palm then leans in and blows as if to disperse ash from his hand. The pieces of phone fly away with the wind as he slowly brings his other hand closer, running the tip of the knife blade up toward Greer’s throat.

“Who are you?” she manages, gasping for air.

He cocks his head slightly, but says nothing.

“What do you want?”

The man leans close, as if to sniff her, and then answers in a quiet but gravelly, inhuman voice. “Everything inside you.”

“Motherfucker,” someone says over the man’s shoulder, the speech slurred and weak, barely audible above the wind and rain. “Motherfucker!”

The man in the raincoat and knit hat struggles to all fours, but when he tries to stand he topples back over onto his back and lies still on the side of the road like an overturned turtle.

The knife brings Greer back to the monstrosity before her. Although the pressure of it against the base of her throat is horrifying, she will not simply stand there and let this man kill her. She will fight with everything she has to—

Suddenly the man steps back, spooked. He looks to the road over her shoulder and a low growl similar to that of a feline emanates from deep in his throat. With a sneer, he leaves her. The duster billows in the wind and kicks up the smell of death as he returns to the van and drives off in the direction of the blockade.

Shaking uncontrollably, Greer looks back over her shoulder. Headlights leading the way, a small vintage-style car pulls over on the other side of the road. An older man in a black suit emerges. Without saying a word, and seemingly oblivious to the rain, he crosses the street, quickly checks over the man in the raincoat, then helps him up into a sitting position. The man is clearly dazed and a bit bloodied, but doesn’t appear to be as severely injured as Greer initially suspected. The man in the suit helps him to his feet and back across the street to his car. Once he has him in the passenger seat, he walks back over to Greer, his face expressionless. “Do you want to live?”

Greer wipes rain from her eyes, certain she’s lost her mind. “Wha-what?”

“Do you want to live?”


“Then listen very carefully to me and do exactly as I say. If we stay out here in the open we’ll die. There’s a motel just up the road. It’s not ideal but it’s all we’ve got, so that’s where we need to be. Get in your car and follow me. Do it now.”

“That man, he—”

He turns on his heels and strides back across the lanes to his car.

Shivering and soaked, Greer hurries through the rain to the Audi as the Bel Air whips around and accelerates into the night.




There, in the freezing downfall, the lighted sign of the Moonlight Road Motor Inn cuts the thick rain. Behind it, in the office, dim lights burn. The front desk is unmanned. Adjacent to the main building, the units sit dark, surreal and dreamlike, a mirage amidst miles of empty highway and night without end.

Greer pulls in alongside the Bel Air. Still trembling, she gets out and watches the road for signs of the van. The man in the suit gets out of the Bel Air, moves around to the other side and helps the man in the raincoat from his seat. Though bruised and hobbled with a bit of a limp, he looks to be all right.

“Did you call for help?” she asks frantically.

“I don’t have a cell.”

“You don’t—who doesn’t have a cell in this day and age?”

He glares at her with the bluest eyes she’s ever seen.

Greer halfheartedly points at the man in the raincoat. “Are you all right?”

“The van just clipped me,” he says. “Got lucky.”

“Do you have a phone? We need to call the police.”

He shakes his head. “It’s back in my car.”

“Well there must be one in the motel.”

“Phones and his car are the least of our worries,” the older man says, propping the man in the raincoat against the side of the car. “Trust me.”

“That man almost killed us. We need to call for help right now.”

“He was here, which means the phone lines have already been cut.”

“How do you know he was here?”

He points to the glass front door to the office. “That’s his mark.”

Greer looks to the door. An inverted cross perhaps a foot long, inside a circle and with what appears to be hastily-drawn depictions of a small heart, club, spade and diamond decorating either side of it has been painted on the glass about halfway down the door. “Is that blood?”

“What else would it be?” He moves around to the trunk and pops it. “Right now we’ve got more important things to focus on than getting to a phone. We’ll be lucky if we live the night.”

“What is going on?” Greer wanders closer to the office. When he offers no response she says, “He won’t get far headed in the direction he took off in. The road’s flooded, washed out. He’s headed straight for a roadblock.”

“That means he’ll be turning around and coming back this way just like we did,” the man in the raincoat says.

“But there’s a policeman there,” Greer reminds him, “and a couple state workers, they—”

“For their sake I hope they’re gone by the time he gets there.” The older man removes a large nylon bag from the trunk. “If not, they’re already dead.”

“Then let’s drive back the way we came until we find help or a—”

“I just came from that direction. Heavy snow’s falling back there and it’s coming this way fast. We’re trapped.” He gazes out at the road, almost lovingly. “And so is he.”

“Who is he?”

“The Devil. And now he knows your name.” He looks at Greer, as if for the first time. “We need to move. Enough questions.”

“Oh, well excuse me if I’m not accustomed to—”

“Well you better get accustomed to it.” The man walks past her toward the office. “Now move your ass or that’s all they’ll find out here come morning.”

Taken aback but still too confused and frightened to argue with him, Greer cautiously approaches the man in the raincoat. “Are you OK to walk?”

“Yeah,” he says, “just a little banged up.”

“Did he tell you anything?”

“I don’t know any more than you do, lady.”

“Greer,” she says, offering her hand.

“Luke.” He accepts it. “You’re shaking.”

“I’m scared to death.”

“Can’t blame you on that one.” He releases her hand and pushes away from the car with a muffled grunt. “Not sure I like the look of this place. Maybe you’re right and we should take our chances on the road.”

“Not with a blizzard coming in. All those miles of isolated highway, it’d be suicide. We’d die out there.”

The older man stops at the office door, drops the nylon bag then reaches into his jacket pocket and removes a small suede pouch with a drawstring. He mumbles something the others can’t hear then reaches into the pouch and tosses a handful of what appears to be salt against the mark on the door. Despite the rain, the blood drawing remains intact due to an overhanging ledge above the door, so the man reaches out, and using his forearm, smudges it until it’s nothing more than a swath of blood on glass.

Greer hugs herself in the cold rain. “What the hell is he doing?”

“No clue.”

Bells over the door to the office jingle above the rain. They watch the man slip inside. “He just came out of nowhere.”

“So did the other guy,” Luke says.

“And for some reason, him showing up when he did saved us back there.” Greer shivers, tries to dislodge memories of the nightmare in the duster pressing the knife against her throat. “Obviously he knows a lot more about what’s going on than he’s telling us.”

“Let’s get out of this rain and find out what we can.”

Together, they walk to the office.

At least it’s warmer and dry inside, but as they enter it’s clear something terrible has happened here, something violent. Several sheets of paper covered in text, many marked up with red pen, lay scattered across the floor, and what’s left of a laptop is in pieces behind the front desk. A knapsack lies on a small couch just inside the front door, contents emptied onto the cushions and floor.

The door to the office behind the front desk is open and hanging on a single hinge, torn free of the other, and a small worn army jacket hangs on the back of the desk chair inside the office, but there are no signs of its owner or any employees for that matter. A small adjacent bathroom is also empty.

Luke leans against the front desk, still favoring his leg. “What’s going on?” he asks the man in the black suit. “What was that you threw against the door?”

BOOK: Midnight Solitaire
8.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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