Short Stories

Death On The Roadway

Paul loved this time of year. The fall leaves burst forth in all their glory. He could scarcely believe he got paid to do his job. Nobody’s office had views like his. Paul adjusted his left hand on the steering wheel and stretched out his free arm to the empty passenger seat.

Paul’s euphoria fell away at the sound of a car horn. He quickly checked his mirrors and saw a sports car tailgating him. Something must be wrong. Anyone could pass in the left lane, and there were no other cars on the road near them. Paul looked down at his dash. Everything appeared to be alright. No engine light or trunk open alerts. The tire pressures showed green. Again the car honked its horn.

Paul began to slow down and checked his mirrors. The other driver honked again, but this time held his horn down. He swung the sports car into the left lane and saluted Paul with one finger as he whizzed by him. The stranger jerked his car back right in an attempt to cut Paul off.

How the driver missed hitting him, Paul had no idea. The sports car sped off, and Paul wracked his brain in an attempt to understand what had just happened. He could not recall cutting anyone off. Two other drivers had passed him earlier. Up until this point, his drive had been void of any drama.

Paul tried to relax as the sports car drove out of sight around the next curve. His cruise control brought the car back up to speed, and he settled in once more to enjoy the leaves. The scene soon turned from a quilt-work of yellows, reds, and orange to gray near the crest of the summit. Paul crossed the state line, and the road narrowed and became a series of blind curves.

An armed man in the middle of the lane appeared as the road snaked right. Tires squealed, the nose of the car dove towards the asphalt, and Paul hit the gunman. The man’s body came careening over the middle of the hood, crashed into the windshield, and slid forward over the front of the car.

All Paul could see was a mosaic through the shattered glass. On Star alerted him, and he asked for an ambulance. The police and EMTs were on their way. Paul got out and began to get his bearings. The man was lying on the pavement. The pistol sat several feet off on the side of the road.

The body laid unnaturally obtuse and was unconscious. Paul feared he might be dead. He reached back into his opened door and turned on his hazards before closing his it. The accident was like a bad dream, but he knew he was not dreaming. A moan came from the direction of the body, and Paul rushed over.

“You win.” the man whispered through his moan. “You can have her.”

Paul was perplexed. “Have who? Why did you try to shoot me?”

“You’ve been sleeping with my wife. I know all about it.” The stranger coughed up a small amount of blood and appeared to be straining to breathe.

Paul slid his hand under the stranger’s head and gently rolled him on his side so he could breathe easier. “Sir, I don’t know you or your wife.”

The injured man attempted to raise himself up but did not have the strength. “Don’t lie to me, John.”

“My name is Paul, not John. Just hang in there, help is already on the way.”

The dying man muttered, “You’re not John?” and then stopped breathing. A Highway Patrolman had just pulled up on the other side of the median. Paul did not notice the siren or lights. Two policemen hopped over the center barrier. One came towards Paul, and the other hurried around the curve, likely to alert other drivers.

The officer knelt down next to Paul. “What happened?”

“He thought I was somebody else. He was standing on the road when I came around the corner. I didn’t have time to stop. He had a gun. I think he was going to shoot me.” Paul began to weep.

The officer put his arm around Paul’s shoulder. “Do you have the weapon?”

Paul pointed towards the side of the road.

The officer got up, and Paul could hear him radio his partner to hold traffic back while he searched for the weapon. Paul stood and finally looked at his wounded black Buick. The car’s grille and hood had light damage, but his windscreen sat in shambles.

The officer walked back to Paul with the pistol inside his handkerchief. “I found the weapon, sir. I need to get your statement, and we’ll get you a tow truck. The next city is forty miles up the road. Would you like me to help you make arrangements to get your car fixed and a place to stay.?”

Paul gave a slow nod and mumbled, “I could use the help, thanks. What would make anyone this crazy? If she didn’t love him, why would he try to kill John, and put himself in the middle of the highway to do it?”

The officer shook his head. “I don’t know, sir. I see a lot of things in my job. Anger and jealousy can make people do things they would normally never do. I decided a long time ago that it’s better to forgive than bottle up all that hate.”

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