by Martin Zeigler
"Sit anywhere you like, hon,"
the waitress said, and so Lena chose a booth away from the windows.
The waitress followed her with a menu
and a glass of ice water. "Prime rib is our special tonight."
Lena looked up from the table. She
didn't know how to say she'd spent most of the money on a motel room, and a
good part of the rest on gas, before ditching the car in the woods somewhere.
"You okay?" the waitress said.
"Your eye says different."
Without thinking, Lena touched her
fingertips to her cheekbone, knowing if she pressed any harder, it would hurt.
The waitress said, "My name's
Betsy. Same as my name tag. What's yours?"
Lena brought her hand down to the table,
fidgeted with the menu.
"You can give me any name, hon,"
Betsy said, smiling. "Just something to call you by."
"Lena. Lena Kellbrecht."
"Kellbrecht? As in Kellbrecht Autos?"
"Dirk Kellbrecht sure has the run
of things over there, in Herrett County, don't he? Police. Fire. Likes to get
his way, and he don't even hold office."
"I suppose," Lena said.
Betsy looked Lena in the eye. "He
do that to you?"
Before Lena could deny it, she found
Betsy kneeled down at the table, rested
hand on Lena's wrist. To Lena, the warmth and gentleness seemed almost foreign.
"I know a couple," Betsy said.
"They're good people. Help you out, if you don't know where to turn. They
live a ways away, but I can drive you. I'll be closing in an hour. Where you
Lena hesitated, then named the motel and
the room number.
"You get yourself packed. I'll pick
you up and bring along some grub. We'll have us a good drive. You like
Dirk liked country, but Lena didn't
mention it. She didn't have to.
"That's okay," Betsy said.
"I've got all kinds of music. Or we can talk. Or just sit quiet."
"This couple, Lena. They'll find
you someplace safe."
The crunch of gravel outside drew Lena to
the window. She inched aside the curtain. Under the outside lights, a car was
parked sideways. Betsy was at the wheel, looking straight ahead, not to her
left at Lena's room.
Lena shut the room's door, circled
around the car to the passenger side. Something seemed off, but she climbed in
The waitress turned to Lena, and Lena
gasped. "Oh, God, Betsy. What happened?"
Betsy looked at Lena, then shifted her
gaze ever so slightly to the passenger door. Lena went for the handle. A harsh
cough from the back seat startled her, and she froze.
The cough became a voice. "That's
right, Ms. Kellbrecht. Hold still. There, that's better."
Betsy spoke in vague vowels, spittle
dripping down her chin.
The back seat voice said, "Your
friend Betsy here's now the quiet type, on account of her jaw's broke."
The voice let this sink in, then went
on. "Your hubby, as you know, likes cars. But maybe what you don't know is,
he likes to keep them. It's why he puts tracking devices in the ones he owns.
My pal Mitch is driving back the Caddy. Me, I stayed behind, took Mitch's car
for a little spin. Came across the greasy spoon down the road. Showed Betsy
Another cough. "She didn't tell me anything
at first, but later she wrote down everything."
Now Lena turned, risked glancing at the
man in back. He looked like none of Dirk's friends, and yet all of them.
"She needs to be taken to emergency," Lena said.
"What she needs is to take us back
to Herrett County. Your hubby misses you. I'm sure he'll want to catch up. And he
might have a kind word or two for Betsy here."
Zeigler writes short fiction, primarily mystery, science fiction, and horror.
His stories have been published in a number of small-press journals, both in
print and online. His most recent publications can be found in the journal The Weird
and Whatnot, and in the horror
anthology Strange Stories, Volume I,
edited by Daniel Cureton. Besides writing, Marty enjoys watching movies,
playing the piano, and going for long walks. He makes his home in the Pacific