Breakdown

Annie Tucker was cruising along US-1 in the no-man’s land between Jacksonville and Daytona Beach, Florida. Her ML430 cruised effortlessly at 75 MPH with the sunroof open and Tom Petty blasting on the stereo. She loved her new Mercedes and all its toys. She watched the GPS navigation display on the dashboard – the arrow pointing south, showing she was about ten miles from St. Augustine, the country’s oldest city. It was past midnight. She hoped to make Daytona Beach and find a hotel with a vacancy. As Tom Petty stopped singing about an American Girl and Bruce Springsteen began belting out Thunder Road, the GPS blinked off. She just had time to wonder what was wrong when the lights flickered on and off several times, then stopped completely, along with Bruce. “Shit!” she screamed as she pulled off the road. She hit the emergency flashers. Nothing. “Shit!” she yelled again. She grabbed her cell phone and flipped open the cover. No Service. “Dammit!” She turned off the engine and got out, walking around to the shoulder and away from the car, hoping to get at least one bar, but there was nothing. The only thing she could do, she decided, was to make it to the next town without lights and call for service in the morning. She got back in the car and turned the key. Nothing happened. “Oh, God, no,” she whispered, trying again. Nothing. It was completely dead. She was trying the cell phone again when she saw a headlight in her mirror. She hopped out and stood behind her car waving her arms in the moonlight. When it got a little closer, she heard the roar of the engine just as she realized it was only a single headlight. She didn’t have to think long about an encounter with some biker out on a dark highway. She got back in and hit the door lock button – nothing happened. She reached around and hit the manual lock just as the motorcycle pulled up behind her. She watched in the mirror as a man got off the bike. He wasn’t wearing a helmet, just a bandana wrapped around his bald head. He looked as big as a mountain as he approached her from the driver’s side. “Hey, lady, got a problem?” “No. I’m fine. Thanks” He pulled off dark glasses and looked at her with smiling, yet cold, eyes. He said, “I thought I saw you waving.” “No, just stretching my legs for a minute. I’m fine. Thanks, anyway.” She tried to smile, but it felt more like a grimace. The man was huge, his muscular torso straining at the black t-shirt under the leather vest. The vest covered with patches and pins, a silver cross dangling from his right ear. “Lady, if you’re broke down, I’d be happy to give you a ride,” he said, “no helmet law in Florida. Just hop on back and I’ll take care of you. There’s a little roadhouse up the highway a bit. You make a call; I’ll buy you a beer. The name’s Jax.” “No, really, I’m fine. Just resting a minute and I’ll be on my way.” She held up her cell phone. “I just stopped to call my boyfriend. He lives close by.” “Yeah, whatever. Not many people take this road at night with the Interstate so close, but if you say you’re okay, I’ll be scootin’ down the road. You change your mind, I’ll be at the bar, about two miles down on the left.” With that, he turned and walked back toward his motorcycle. Annie gave a yelp as he slapped the side of her car. When he reached his bike, he hiked one leg over and put his sunglasses back on. With a push of the starter, the bike roared to life. As he passed, he tossed a casual wave with this left hand and she could see a patch on the back of this vest – Southern Cruisers. A few seconds later, his taillight disappeared over the rise. Annie realized she had been holding her breath as she let out a sigh. This was followed by fear as she remembered she was still in the same predicament. Getting out of the car, she tried the phone again – nothing. She thought briefly about walking somewhere. But where? There wasn’t likely to be cell service this far from the interstate until she got close to St. Augustine. She hadn’t passed anything since a crossroads about five miles back. Walking to the bar didn’t seem any smarter than getting on that bike. No choice but to wait for another car. The truckers all stuck to I75 off somewhere to the west. Why the hell did she decide to take ‘the scenic route?’ About fifteen minutes later, she saw the lights of a car coming from behind her. She waited until it got closer. It was definitely a car with one person in it, so she stepped out into the road again and waved. As the car came to a stop behind her, she saw it was a man in an old Volvo. “Miss, are you having a problem?” the man asked as he came around the front of his car. “Yes, please. My car died and my cell phone won’t work. I need to call for service or get a tow truck.” The man pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and glanced at it briefly. “I’m not getting service either. I can give you a lift into St. Augustine, if that will help. My name’s Chuck.” he said, smiling pleasantly. She thought for only a second, what choice did she have? The man was slim with a neat haircut, wearing a sports-coat over a dress shirt and jeans. He stood back a respectful distance, letting her decide. “Thank you very much. Let me grab my purse and lock up.” She walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. She got her purse off of the floorboard. She was just about to reach for the key when she heard the man’s cell phone ring. She started to turn back toward him and say, “Hey, I thought you said –“ She didn’t get any further as the man clubbed her under the chin with his fist. She dropped her purse as her head banged back into the door’s window. “No. Please. I just –“ “Shut-up lady.” The man’s hand clamped over her mouth and forced her back against the door. “Not a word.” He flipped open his phone, “Yeah?” Yeah, I’m on the way, but I got sidetracked.” He leered at her. “I stopped for a little package I think you’ll like. We’re going to have us some fun tonight. I’ll be there in about a half hour.” He flipped the phone shut and stuck it in his pocket. Then he brought his hand up around her throat while he let go of her mouth with the other one. “We can do this easy or hard. We walk back and get in my car. I’ll wrap a little duct tape around your wrists and you can ride in the front. Or I can truss you up like a turkey and stuff you in the trunk. Your call.” “Wh-where are you taking me?” “We’re going to visit some friends of mine. They’re going to love you. We’ll all have a real good time.” “I’ll go quiet. Please don’t put me in the trunk. Let me get my purse.” “That’s a good girl. Nice and easy, grab it and let’s go.” She bent down to get her purse. As she started to stand up, she straightened her knees with all the force she could and sprang at the man. He was caught off guard, and stumbled back a step. It was enough for her to swing the purse with all her might and slam it into the side of his head. Before he could react, she was around the car door, running up the side of the road. She hadn’t gone far when she felt him catch up with her. He grabbed the back of her neck and shoved forward, causing her to lose her balance and fall. Her knees and palms were scraped and bloody as she tried to rise. Before she could get up, he had her by the back of the head and slammed her forehead down. “Well, missy, I guess you’ll be riding in the trunk after all.” He slammed her head into the ground again. She couldn’t hear anything as first a buzz, then a roar sounded in her head. She felt her body rise as he lifted her to her feet and started walking her back with a grip on her neck and arm. “Don’t say anything or I’ll snap your neck.” She realized then that she could hear and the roaring was real. She tried to turn her head, but he had her in a vise-like grip and propelled her forward as the roar got louder. As they neared his car, a dozen motorcycles came thundering up and stopped, surrounding them and both cars. She thought her nightmare would never end as the engines shut down and they got off their Harleys. Were these bikers Chuck’s ‘friends’, or was she about going from bad to worse? The huge, bald brute that had stopped before got off his bike and walked over. “Lady, you don’t look so good. Is this the boyfriend you was talking about?” “That’s right, I’m her boyfriend,” said Chuck, “We’re just having a little spat. No problem. Everything’s okay. I’m going to take her back home so we can kiss and make up. Isn’t that right, sweetie?” The man nodded her head with the grip on her neck. One of the other bikers, a small grizzly haired man with more grey than black in his mane, walked over with her purse. “Found this over yonder,” he said, handing it to the one called Jax. Opening it up, Jax pulled out her wallet and looked at her license. “What’s your girlfriends name, Sport?” he asked and grinned at Chuck, who was holding Annie by the neck and arm. “Look guys, you don’t understand. This isn’t any of your business. If you’ll excuse us, I’m going to take my girlfriend home.” the man said and started toward his car again. Jax glanced right and four bikers spread out between the Volvo and Chuck. He stopped and turned back. “No. You don’t understand,” said Jax, “we ride this highway. We’re sorta like the sheriffs around here, and this looks like a damsel in distress. Don’t it boys?” Some of the bikers laughed – some just stared, a cold smile on their faces. Annie began crying. She hadn’t cried yet, but now she was being fought over by a maniac and a gang of bikers. Jax looked to his left, “Doc, take the lady back to her car and see what you can do with her. “No, please. Can’t you all just leave me alone?” The one called Doc, grabbed a bag off his bike and started toward Annie and her captor. Doc was short with a huge gut. His hair was long, but bald on top. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, and looked like a demented Ben Franklin. As he approached the pair, Chuck said, “Now, look-“ That was all he got out. Doc shifted his bag over his left shoulder and shot out with a straight right arm, catching the man in the neck. She felt both hands leave her body as the man stumbled backwards, a gurgling sound coming from him. In almost the same motion, Doc’s right arm cradled her shoulders and began gently moving her toward her car. As they got to her passenger side, he set her in the seat and took the bag off his shoulder. “Settle down, girlie. I really am a doctor. Was anyway. Forty-Third Medical Group. Got my training a long time ago in a little paradise in Southeast Asia. All those boys are Vets and they’ll fix your ‘boyfriend.’” He began taking gauze and antiseptic out of his bag and handed her a tissue, “Clean up your face and quit blubbering. We ain’t gonna hurt you.” “He’s not my boyfriend, he- “She jerked as she heard a howl like a wounded animal. “Easy,” said Doc, as he began cleaning dirt and blood from her scraped knees. “That’s just the boys educatin’ that feller. We knew he weren’t your boyfriend. Jax got to the tavern, said there was a lady broke down back a piece and got a few of us together to come see if we could help.” She heard her driver’s door open and someone reached in and popped the hood. She looked around and saw two more of the bikers under her hood with flashlights. The noises from the Volvo had stopped. Doc finished cleaning and bandaging her wounds and helped her back up. He held her elbow gently and walked with her back toward the Volvo. Jax was standing in front of it looking at the car. “That’s good enough, boys. The State Patrol will come along after while and take care of our friend here.” She looked at the car and saw Chuck stretched out on top, his clothes stripped to his underwear and his body duct-taped to the hood. His head thrashed from side to side trying to scream through the tape across his mouth. Just then, she heard her engine turn over and start. The two bikers who were looking under the hood walked back toward Annie. “Had a bare wire in your battery cable. Shorted out the ‘lectric system. We wrapped a little duct-tape around that, too. Should get you by ‘til you can get service.” The one talking looked at the Volvo and grinned. “Duct-tape, good for just ‘bout anything.” This time, she joined the laughter, the adrenaline draining from her body. “Well,” said Jax, handing her purse back, “we got your car started and Doc’s patched you up. I guess you’re good to go. We need to get outta here before the law turns up. They might have an objection to the way we handled that clown back there.” She took a card out of her purse and handed it to Jax. “If the police ask anything about what happened here, you have them call me. But before I go, I owe you an apology. How about we run down to that roadhouse you mentioned and I’ll by a couple of rounds of beers?” “You hear that boys? Saddle up, ladies buying!” With even more noise than before, the bikers all jumped on their bikes, revved the throttles, and roared south back down the highway. Annie got in and followed at a slower pace, vowing never to travel off the Interstate again.

Breakdown

dbvirago

Dunwoody, United States

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