I wrote this story back in 2007 and it was published in Barbara Custer’s magazine Night To Dawn, which is a small press print magazine. I think it was one of the first stories I actually got paid for as a writer. A token payment to be sure but it was still cool to actually get published in print and paid. The following verision has been edited for grammar/spelling but otherwise appears as it did in the magazine. Enjoy!
The Samaritan & The Sinner
by Kevin Hurtack
Originally appearing in Night To Dawn, Spring 2007
©Copyright 2014 Kevin Hurtack
When the girl appeared in the middle of the two lane mountain highway, Jake slammed on the brakes. Whether Fate or sheer luck played a part, he wasn’t certain, but his pick-up truck managed to stop a few inches from the stunned child.
“Holy shit,” he yelled while wiping late night fatigue from his eyes, “What are you doin’ in the middle of the damn road?”
The girl, who appeared to be no more than eight years old, seemed to plead for help with her large brown eyes.
Jake peered into the night for any signs of accidents, and saw a sedan off the road not far from where the girl stood.
“Hey, kid?” Jake said as he opened his truck door and stepped into the frigid weather, “Are you okay? Were you in an accident? Where are your parents? Are you alone out here?”
The child said nothing, and when a frigid wind rushed down from the near bye Colorado Rockies, she didn’t even shiver.
“Damn,” Jake said while making his way to her, “you must be in shock, girl. C’mon, you gotta get outta this cold, that sun dress you got on ain’t gonna help you.”
He walked up to her and offered his hand to her, but she refused to acknowledge it and continued to gaze ahead. Growling in frustration he grabbed the girl roughly by the forearm. Sluggishly the girl took a few steps forward, and followed Jake to his truck.
He opened the passenger side door for her and gave her a nudge, “Go ahead, kid, it’ll be warmer inside. I’ll be right back, I’m just gonna check out that car. Maybe your folks or someone is down there, too.”
The girl stood unnaturally still with her back to him and said, “Mother . . . car”
“What are you talking about? Your mother is in the car? She was driving?” he said.
“Mother. Car,” the girl said firmly as if those two words would explain everything.
He shook his head in confusion as the child slipped into the passenger’s seat and stared ahead blankly with her hands neatly folded on her lap. Jake assumed that her odd behavior was a result of shock. Before he closed the door he pulled an emergency blanket out from under the seat and wrapped it around the unresponsive girl.
“That should keep ya warm, you’re as cold as ice,” he said, “Just stay here and I’ll be right back. I’ll call for an ambulance too.”
The girl said nothing in return so Jake made his way toward the car. He pulled out his cell phone, but it made an annoying bleep, and displayed the message, Sorry, no service available in area. Jake shoved it back into his pocket, “50 bucks a month and it don’t work when I need it.”
When he approached the car he could see the front tire had blown out, and its shredded remains were strewn across the highway. Jake could just make out the silhouetted form of an adult hunched over the steering wheel. The late 1980’s model Chevy Caprice had no air bags making him grimace at the thought of what condition the driver might be in. He could see no one else in the car’s dark interior, but did notice that the passenger’s door was wide open. Every square inch of the trunk had been crudely hand painted with Crosses, and writings in a cryptic alphabet. He thought that it was an odd paint job, but of no real importance, and mumbled to himself “They’re probably just some friggin’ Mormons passing through.”
“Hey?” he said while approaching the driver’s side, “You alive in there? You the only one in there?”
From within he could hear a faint groaning, and for a moment he thought he saw the driver try to sit up. Jake wished that someone else would drive by to give him a hand with the situation. Yet the lack of traffic through the remote area didn’t surprise him, considering the late hour. He knew that he was the only hope these people had, and hoped that he’d be able to get them to a hospital quickly.
“Try not to move, buddy,” Jake said as he looked through the open window of the driver’s door, “you don’t wanta injure yourself anymore.”
A robust man wearing a dark gray wool trench coat and fedora leaned against the bloodstained steering wheel. Coagulated blood coated his face, and matted his short cropped hair. When the driver looked up Jake could see his nose and several teeth were broken.
The man’s speech came in short burst between shallow raspy gasps, “Help . . . me . . . not . . . much . . . time.”
Although Jake was by no means an expert he could tell that the man was in dire straits. “Look buddy, I hate to do this to you but I gotta go into town and get help. Idledale is about ten miles up the highway, but I swear I won’t be gone long.”
“No . . . don’t . . . the girl,” the man groaned between clenched teeth.
“Don’t sweat it, she’s with me, dude. I’ll drop her off at the police station, and they’ll take care of her. I’ll lead the ambulance back here,” he said while glancing back at his truck to see the girl still sitting inside the cab. “I’ll get you a blanket, it ain’t much but it may help with the shock. Anyone else with you? The little girl said something about her mother.”
The driver gurgled sickly and slouched against the steering wheel in response.
“Damn it, hang on man. Just hang on,” Jake said while heading back to his truck.
When he passed the car’s trunk he thought he heard a faint metallic scratching. He paused for a moment and listened again, but when it didn’t repeat he continued to his vehicle. He’d only taken a few steps when he clearly heard a furious scratching coming from within the trunk.
“What the fuck was that?” Jake said while walking back to the car. “Hey asshole, why the Hell is there noise comin’ from your trunk?”
Before the driver could respond an incoherent female voice came from within the confines of the car’s trunk. Jake immediately realized what the young girl’s words had meant. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest with a surge of adrenaline. As he started to sprint toward the driver’s side door, the man tried to start the car. The engine sputtered and squealed in protest, refusing to turn over.
“Where the Hell do you think you’re goin’, you son of a bitch?” Jake yelled.
The engine turned over, but quickly died when the man threw into gear. Wasting little time he tried to start the engine again. Fueled by adrenaline and rage, Jake leaped half way through the open window. Savagely he threw a punch which connected with the driver’s jaw. The man feebly tried to both start the car and push Jake out of the window. Using all his strength Jake threw several more punches at him, and finally knocked him out.
While he tried to catch his breath, something caught his attention. Newspaper clippings littered the passenger’s seat and the headlines read, Another Single Mother Missing, Search For Missing Woman Continues, and Colorado State Police Report Five Abductions Of Single Mothers In Past Two Months.
A battered canvas tool bag sat on the floor of the car, and despite the poor lighting Jake could see a crowbar and a small sledgehammer sticking out of it. He wasn’t positive but it appeared that both were splattered with dry blood.
“You sick bastard,” Jake said while pulling the trunk release lever, “Your gonna wish you’d died in this crash once the authorities get a hold of you.”
A sharp metallic sound came from the trunk after he released the latch, but when he tried to open it the trunk was jammed shut. Gripping the edge Jake tried to pull it open, but after several minutes of straining he stopped his fruitless attempts.
“Dammit, I gotta pry this open. Just hang on in there, I’ll be right back.”
From inside the trunk he could hear a faint throaty gasping along with more frantic scratching.
“You gotta calm down, there ain’t much air in there I reckon. I’ll be right back, just hold on!”
Jake rushed to the passenger’s side and grabbed the crowbar from the old tool bag. Ignoring the blood that coated it, he rushed back to the trunk, and with a muscle straining effort fueled by adrenaline he pried it open a quarter of the way. A pale hand slipped out of the trunk and waved about frantically at him, trying to clutch anything within reach.
Jake stumbled backwards in surprise, “Just hold on I almost got it!”
As he continued to work on the trunk, he heard the sound of the driver’s door opening followed by the sickly wet sound of flesh striking asphalt. Glancing in the direction of the noise, Jake saw the man struggling to pull himself up to his knees. Each movement made caused him intense pain, and he grunted hoarsely between clenched teeth. The driver struggled to lift his arm high enough to reach into his coat while glaring at Jake.
“Yo, what the fuck are you doin’?” Jake yelled.
When the driver crawled forward again pickup truck’s headlights illuminated him revealing his blood splattered priestly cassock and crucifix.
“The sinner must not be released!” said the man in a garbled voice while pulling a Ruger GP 100 pistol from his coat’s interior
“Oh shit!” Jake yelled in surprise when the man fired the .357 magnum at him.
The bullet whizzed past him grazing his shoulder, and dropping him to the ground. Jake’s wounded shoulder felt like it was on fire as he lay on the edge of the highway. The sweat that streamed down his face stung his eyes making it difficult to see, but he could hear the priest stumbling toward the trunk. Jake wiped the sweat from his eyes with one hand while using the other to snatch a baseball size rock from the edge of the highway. Crouching beside the car he peeked over the trunk and threw the rock with his good arm at the priest. Jake’s throw struck the man hard in the side of the head causing him to cry out sharply while falling to the ground. Not convinced the man was dead, Jake grabbed another rock. He cautiously made his way around to the front of the car and peered around the corner. He could see the priest laying spread eagle on the ground by the rear fender.
As quietly as he could Jake made his way closer to him and saw that the man still hung onto the pistol.
“Crazy bastard” he muttered while knocking the gun from the man’s hand.
Jake expected the priest to leap up and grab him by the throat like a B-movie villain, but after a few seconds nothing happened. Hesitantly, he searched for a pulse and with a surge of relief he found none.
Tossing the rock aside he stood up and walked back to the trunk. He could hear a panicked moaning coming from inside, so he leaned down to the opening and said, “Relax, it’s just me. The son-of-a-bitch is dead, now keep your head down while I pry this open further.”
Ignoring the agony of his wounded shoulder he pried the trunk open. Shock filled Jake when he saw that it contained a body in a bloodied burlap sack. Cryptic symbols, like those on the trunk, covered the sack and the occupant’s thin hand stuck out of a small tear in the bag.
“What the hell?” he said while leaning into the trunk and uniting the sack.
Curled up inside the sack was a young woman with pale skin and tangled blue black hair. Dark circles haloed her bloodshot brown eyes, and blue veins appeared on her flesh like cobwebs. She wore a simple black baby doll top and matching Capri pants. The clothing hung loosely off her almost skeletal frame. Despite her horrid appearance Jake could imagine that, when healthy , she’d been an attractive woman.
“Jesus,” he said while gently lifting her out of the trunk, “how long have you been in here?”
The woman whimpered and twisted in pain as the sack slipped off her, but didn’t answer Jake’s question. He did his best not to hold her too tightly as he carried back to his truck.
“Just hang on,” Jake said while opening the passenger side door, “I’ll get you guys to a hospital as soon as I can.”
A weary smile spread across the little girl’s face when he set the woman inside, “Mother! The Inquisitor did not take you.”
The woman said nothing, but slouched limply in the seat, her eyes rolling back into her head. Quickly, Jake got behind the steering wheel and sped down the highway.
“Okay, what the hell was that all about? How did you guys end up with that crazy bastard? What’s the Inquisitor?” he said while the woman leaned her head against his bloodied shoulder.
Neither passenger said anything, and when Jake glanced at them he saw the little girl holding her mother’s hand while whispering in her ear.
“Hey, what’s with all the whispering?” he said with a nervous laugh.
Jake felt unsure as to what they were up to, but returned his attention to the highway when they approached a sharp turn.
Before he could ask another question he felt a blinding pain in his wounded shoulder, and his own blood splattered against the windshield.
Jake turned to see the woman with her mouth planted firmly on his ruined shoulder. His crimson blood dribbled down her pale chin, and he could see her azure veins pulsing under her flesh. Behind her the little girl giggled sweetly while she held her mother’s long hair away from her face.
Jake could feel his arm start to grow numb, and darkness began to creep into the corner of his eyes. He slammed his foot down on the brake pedal, and the truck skidded onto the shoulder striking a barrier.
The woman glanced up at him with glowing golden eyes and flesh that had become flushed to the point of almost being pink. She wiped her bloodstained mouth with the back of her hand, “Yes, my child I think you are right about this one. He is a good choice.”
“W-what the fuck are you people?” he said, “I’m a good choice for what? Why the fuck did you bite me?”
The woman grinned sadistically, “We have many names, which do not matter now. Normally, I would kill those I feed upon, but you saved us from the Inquisitor. Something I could not do. You will be our servant.”
“Fuck you, I don’t wanta be your damn servant. You people are fucking sick in the head,” he said before throwing a punch at the woman.
With inhuman speed she caught his fist and squeezed it almost to the breaking point, “Resistance is folly, Jake. “It has already begun. You can feel it.”
He furrowed his brow, and cursed himself silently for not bringing the crowbar back with him. Jake’s thoughts of tossing the strangers out of this truck and high tailing out of there were shattered by a tingling sensation in his head. Goose flesh ran up his arms and he gasped in surprise as his wounded shoulder began to heal. In the matter of seconds it vanished without even the slightest hint of a scar. Before he could speak he heard the woman’s husky voice and it took him a moment to realize that she wasn’t speaking aloud, but inside his head.
You will take us to someplace safe during the daylight hours and watch over us. You will give your blood willingly to me, and I will let you live as a favor for saving me and my child. But don’t run from me, or your wounds shall return tenfold, Jake.
The sensation of the woman being inside his mind made Jake feel sick to his stomach. He tried to cast the woman out of his mind, but it only resulted in a fierce migraine followed by a trickle of blood from his left ear.
Jake wiped the blood away with a shaky hand, and stared at the woman, “Alright, alright I’ll do it. I know a place in the next town.”
“Good choice,” she said as he pulled the truck back onto the highway and headed to what would be the first of many sanctuaries from the Sun.