“Shit, not now, come on, come on, COME ON!”
Robin was exasperated her patience finally snapping. The classic nineteen sixty two MGA 1600 cc sports car had coughed and spluttered along every mile since she had driven out of the classic car auction.
The archaic car lurched forward again, this time backfiring and spitting out a mushroom of jet black smoke. She was thrown back then forward in the hard bucket seat, jarring every bone in her body and throwing her long blonde hair over her dejected face. But then the engine picked up again, it suddenly sounded good to her ears; it was going to be okay. Perhaps all it had needed was a good run, her heart beat a little easier. Her right foot eased down picking up some speed.
Until the sound of the sixteen hundred engine abruptly fell away. The motor tried to catch once more but died. She knew in her gut the car would not start again. In a tantrum of anger she turned the key left then right, over and over again until the skin on her thumb and index finger had become impregnated with the MGA logo. Robin fell forward wrapping her arms around the oversized wooden steering wheel, and then clasped her shaking hands together where they met. All she wanted to do was cry, what a mistake, what a terrible stubborn woman she was.
She sat back in the shallow and thin seat of the British sports car, her buttocks felt sore now; maybe this car was for show and not for driving. She intertwined her fingers and squeezed her hands tightly together; she rested her lips on to the back of her thumbs. Robin closed her eyes and prayed, she prayed hard asking her god to help her get home. She closed her eyes and prayed even harder asking forgiveness and promising faithfulness if only the engine would fire up.
Once more she twisted the key to the left hoping to hear the same deep purr from under the hood that she had loved at the Carmel auction house. What met her ears crushed her; the sound of metal on metal filled her head. The MGA now sounded like many fifty year olds, frail, broken and whiny. A pale white plume of smoke poured from the exhaust. The engine had blown, the head gasket was warped, and the classic car had become a piece of junk.
“Come on please just once please start, please start I won’t ask for any more favours ever again.”
But the MGA’s engine was totally dead, she felt so defeated so let down after trusting the auction master and his crew of beaming supportive mechanics who only an hour earlier had assured her this car would run forever, that was just before she handed over her cheque for thirty five thousand dollars.
Robin bowed her head, she was crushed, she rested her forehead against the large wooden rimmed steering wheel and started to sob. The tears poured freely down both of her hot flushed cheeks, her nose also involuntarily opened and discharged clear viscous streams to join the salty water from her eyes. Together the mix of her body excretions ran fluently down her face and dripped from her chin down onto the MGA embossed carpet below, she didn’t care, she just had to let go.
She knew she had made a mistake as soon as she had pulled out of the auction house. Her own eyes had seduced her, her fickle brain and her pride had pushed her on to say yes. Now here she sat in between Carmel and her home in San Francisco in a dead fifty year old car she had so irrationally fallen for.
The road up through Carmel Valley had become narrower and darker until now she sat alone in the pitch dark. She had spent the whole day at the car auction and had lost track of time. It wasn’t really that late it was only around eight pm but it was now very dark. Robin felt a chill in the air too; above her grey clouds were rolling in from the Pacific. It looked like rain was on the way.
She reached over and picked her bag up from the well-worn cracked red leather of the passenger seat and rummaged inside to get hold of her phone. Knowing she was going to have to trouble one or more of her friends on a Sunday night, she didn’t look forward to making the calls. It was at least an hour’s drive to where she had stopped if not more.
She pushed in the button on the base of her phone and waited however there was no response on the screen. She pushed it again and again until she twigged, the battery had gone. She had not used her phone all day but the power had already been low when she set of that morning to the Carmel Classic Auto Auction.
What a fool she had been what an absolute asshole she had made of herself, she had just wasted all her savings was this fate teaching her a lesson had her run of good fortune now run out?
Her situation had now become a crisis, a real crisis for Robin. She needed to calm herself down and think rationally. Someone would be along this road shortly, after all the auction had been crowded and most of the people there, like her, were heading back to San Francisco or at least up to Paolo Alto. Surely they would start passing her soon on their way back north.
She reached inside her bag again not really knowing what she was looking for. A shudder of anxiety coursed through her body, it suddenly dawned on her that it was so totally dark out here in Carmel Valley and she was alone. Robin thought she had passed a farmhouse or a store or something a few miles back but couldn’t be certain. Her concentration had been on keeping the vehicle moving forward not on the scenery. Her head was beginning to go off on different scenarios, some good, and some pretty bad.
The lights on the old car were weak; the battery was obviously decrepit too. Robin wasn’t a technical or mechanical person; the car just looked classy to her that had been the inspiration for her purchase. When she got in the car it just felt right.
She wasn’t dressed to spend the night in the open air, she wore a long sleeved red tee shirt and faded tight fitting denims; her only blessing was that she had chosen to wear flat shoes knowing she would be walking around a lot at the auction.
“Why oh why the hell did I do this?” She spoke out loud she didn’t know why but she wanted to get her frustration out.
She swung her body around to the right and using the edge of the windscreen pulled herself out of the low lying sports car. She had looked at the car on the auction website the previous night as she browsed the web in her apartment something about the car had drawn her in. She could not pin it down it just appealed to her, and she had become smitten. The pale blue paintwork, the graceful arc and lines of the body, something caught her heart.
Now her she was in the middle of nowhere, no food, no water, no mobile phone, and no map just the ancient piece of junk and her. Above the California sky was peppered with millions of stars, amazing her and deflected her attention for a few minutes. She hadn’t seen the night sky so clearly for years. However the dark clouds were now coming in fast from her left, it was going to pour down soon or at least become much colder.
And then it dawned on her, flashing into her fuzzy head she recalled that she had taken the wrong fork in the road. Instead of heading back towards the main road to San Francisco she had ventured further up the Carmel Valley to somewhere way beyond her grasp.
Her eyes were adjusting to the blackness of the cold night; she became aware that she was in a valley, a steep v-shaped valley. Water was bubbling somewhere pouring over rocks but she had no idea if it was left or right. Behind her to the left was a rolling meadow which she had driven through. Beyond it was the silhouette of another hill and beyond that another higher sharper slope, and then a wall of darkness.
On her right side the valley floor seemed to be covered in shrubs which became trees as the land rose up. The trees were dense as far as she could tell and the water noise now sounded like it came from somewhere down in that side of the valley. It was quiet, very quiet Robin could hear her own breathing; this place was becoming eerie and just a little frightening now.
What if a car did come by and was just a man or two men or more; what would she do. Robin was a big city girl she didn’t know or like the countryside. She didn’t trust anyone in the city so why should she trust anyone in the country. She walked around the MGA and then lashed out kicking hard and angrily at the back offside tyre.
“Fucking piece of junk!”
She started to well up again but the tears did not break over onto her cheek they just filled her eyes with water messing up her vision. She wiped her eyes with her long sleeves spreading her mascara out to the left and right of her cheeks. She sat on the back wing of the old English sports classic, the car body was solid but she hated this car now, already it had caused her so much trouble, how the hell was she going to get back home to San Francisco.
First thing on Monday morning she would be calling the auction house to get her money back. That money was going back into her bank never to be touched again this year. A noise came from the right; there was a swift rustle in the bushes. It freaked her out, it terrified her, her heart began to thump hard and fast, this was becoming a nightmare. Trembling she sat back down on the rear wing but Robin was jumpy and very afraid.
She lifted her feet up onto the rear chrome bumper resting her tired legs then she placed her elbows on her thighs and placed her heavy and throbbing head between the palms of her hands. If it was daylight she could at least see where she was or she could walk, but she made a decision, she was going to stay with the car in the dark. She would put up the canvas soft top lock the doors and try to get through the night.
Drizzle began to sweep up and through the valley.
“Ah just perfect, now it’s fucking raining”
She opened the boot of the MGA maybe there was water or a blanket, it was heavy to lift up the old car was solid. But there was nothing in there it was clean. She let the trunk lid drop and it echoed down and across the valley. Robin took her dead phone from her rear pocket and tried it one more time but it was futile, the phone was dead, it was just a piece of metal and plastic, another shitty piece of junk in her terrified hand.
“You in trouble lady?”
The detached voice spooked her out of her skin.
Robin jumped in sheer terror, she turned her head around in panic searching for the person who spoke, it was a man’s voice, her worst fear.
She peered through her blurry tear filled eyes to try and see who was there but in the dark cover of the deteriorating night it was hard to fully make out the presence of anyone. Robin’s fingers closed tight around her mobile phone, she held it rigid in her hand ready to use it as a weapon. It had little other use in any case.
Robin began to see the outline of an old man standing at the front of her MGA and smiling at her. She was petrified; it was her worst case scenario coming true. He looked like a weirdo, like someone from a scene out of ‘Deliverance’.
“Think your battery must have gone flat ma’am, these old cars aren’t worth spit unless you treat them like children, you got to massage their ego’s every day”
Robin’s mouth was dry, her legs were shaking, her heart pumped blood around her body like never before and she could not speak. She wasn’t aware of another vehicle so where did this old coot come from. He was unshaven, he looked decrepit and in the dark he looked so sleazy.
He moved towards her, she thought his evil eyes were focused on her breasts but he wanted the key of the car to try and help Robin get the antique vehicle going.
He stretched out his right hand.
Robin struck out with her mobile phone and caught the elderly man with a crashing blow above his left temple, a spurt of warm liquid hit Robin’s face the old man looked straight at her, his large blue eyes shocked and full of fear.
Robin lashed out again and sent the old man staggering sideways. He grabbed for the bonnet of the car but it was low to the ground. He could not get a hold of it; he stumbled and fell to his left catching the top of the low wire fence that ran along the edge of the road. The old man lost his balance; he was over eighty years old and had no chance to find stability.
Robin ran her fingers over the place the warm liquid had landed on her it was red and thick it was blood, the old man’s blood.
The old man’s head had been split open by the edge of the mobile phone as Robin had smashed it into him. Now to her right the kindly old man was toppling over, he completely lost his footing and tumbled head first over the fence. It seemed to be happening in super slow motion as Robin watched the old man’s face contort with confusion wondering why the young lady had lashed out at him.
Down he went his feet flying high into the dark night air then head first he tumbled over the fence, flailing his arms in vain he screamed out as he plummeted straight down into the gully below.
The jagged rocks the Carmel River had carved through over thousands of years could not be seen in the total blackout of the night but they were waiting below like a Venus Fly Trap for the old gentleman’s body.
The helpful old man lay dead, his body broken over a sharp edged rock. An expression of shock was frozen on the old boys face, his body now lifeless. The pitiful old soul who had survived Iwo Jima, the decorated elderly veteran well known for his altruistic deeds in the Carmel Valley, now lay stiff. A deep gash on his head was oozing blood; a red line ran down his wrinkled skin.
Robin called out to the old man she could only make out a profile on the rocks below, she ran in panic around the car not knowing what to do, Robin was now in total shock, she opened the heavy trunk of the old car again but there was nothing but a spare wheel, she let the trunk go and it smashed loudly back down metal whamming metal.
The car lurched as the heavy trunk closed and then it began to creep slightly forward, Robin threw her handbag messily into the passenger seat and leapt in behind the large wooden steering wheel, she frantically moved her own body backwards and forwards, the car began to smoothly move, there was a slight hill and the old MGA had caught some forward motion, Robin had an idea as the old weighty car gathered speed.
She pushed hard down on the stiff heavy clutch and shoved the chunky wooden topped gear lever around until she got second gear. She set her right foot above the accelerator pedal and waited, she was crying again, this time tears of confusion and fear.
Bang! She let go the clutch and pushed hard on the accelerator the MGA lurched forward snapping her head almost breaking the top two vertebrae in her neck. There was a very loud pop and the fifty year old vehicle roared into life.
The headlights burst into action illuminating the whole scene in front of Robin. Six pairs of alien green eyes instantly appeared from out of the gloom ahead of her, Robin screamed with fright as the MGA roared on passed the grazing cows, equally stunned by the sudden appearance of the blazing car lights.
Robin, tears streaming down both cheeks, her nose dribbling like an infant, pushed harder and harder on the accelerator pedal, the speedometer read eighty five miles per hour, she was now dangerously barreling along the narrow country road, her head full of the despairing eyes of the old man as he plunged to his death.
Robin could see a junction ahead of her; a green triangle came flashing into view as the brilliant headlights caught the luminous road sign. The white arrow pointed left the sign read Highway 101 five miles, she kept her foot hard down and swung the old car left, the car creaked and snapped but she was not slowing down.
A column of white oily smoke poured form the small exhaust pipe but she kept pushing. On the horizon she could see lights and automobiles plying left and right. Her face was a mess, her mind was in utter turmoil but she could now see a way out of her predicament.
With unbearable guilt eating at every microscopic piece of her body Robin wanted to stop, she wanted to admit her responsibility. Then again the downside could be substantial jail time, she had to get herself together, and she had to get her head straightened out.
She dared not to look in her rear view mirror she was so terrified she could not look back, press on, push on, get home she kept saying to herself over and over again.
Robin had just murdered a man, only she and the fifty year old MGA sports car knew the story, knew the secret of her action, she was terrorized with fear, with inner pain.
But Robin when she had rushed to judgment lashing out at wildly at the gentle old man had overlooked one thing.
She did not see the old man’s wife who stood in the shadows behind him and had been a witness to everything; the old woman was now dialing 911.