Patrick loved this time of year. The Fall leaves burst forth in all their glory. It was the one season Patrick enjoyed being a salesman for the small software company. These were the days he could not believe he got paid to do his job. Most people had to wait for the weekend to see the colors and the vistas he now enjoyed from the comfort of the interstate winding its way north into the cold mountains above.
Patrick’s euphoria shattered into pieces with the honk of a horn. He quickly checked his mirrors and saw a sportscar tailgating him. Surely something was wrong. Anyone could pass in the left lane, and there were no other cars on the road near them. Patrick looked down at his dash. Everything appeared to be alright. No engine errors or trunk open alerts. The tired pressures showed green. Again the car honked its horn.
Patrick began to slow down and check his mirrors. He wanted to be sure he could pull off if something were unexpectedly hanging from the car. The other driver honked again, but this time held his horn down. He swung the sports car into the left lane and gave Patrick the bird as he whizzed by him, and then attempted to cut Patrick off.
How the car had missed his Patrick had no idea. The sports car sped off, and Patrick wracked his brain in an attempt to understand what had just happened. He could not recall cutting anyone off. In fact, he had been cruising down the road at the speed limit for at least the last hour and had only seen two cars, both of which had passed him.
Patrick tried to relax when the sports car drove out of site 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. Patrick crossed the state line, and the road narrowed and became more winding. Many of the curves were blind, and Patrick dropped his speed down to 60mph.
He did not have time to react when he turned a half blind half curve and saw a man in the middle of the lane with a pistol. Two instincts had kicked in, one of self-preservation, and one to preserve all life. The car could not swerve before the two sides could resolve their conflict, and Patrick hit the man. His brakes had fought to stop the car’s momentum during his internal battle. The nose of the car was almost touching the ground when the man’s body came sliding over the middle of the hood and crashed into the windshield.
The sudden stop caused the body to slide back to the pavement again. Patrick sat there for a moment, not sure what had just happened. All he could see was a mosaic through his shattered windshield. OnStar alerted him, and he asked for an ambulance. The police and EMTs were on their way. Patrick got out and began to get his bearings. The man was lying in front of his car. The pistol sat several dozen feet off to the side of the road and behind the vehicle.
The stranger appeared unconscious, and Patrick feared he might be dead. He looked behind his car. His momentum had carried him far enough he would be out of immediate danger. Patrick reached back into his open door and turned on his hazards and closed the door. The accident was like a bad dream, but he knew he was not dreaming. A moan came from the direction of the body and Patrick rushed over.
“You win.” the man whispered through his moan. “You can have her.”
Patrick 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.
Patrick slid his hand under the strangers head and gently rolled him on his side so he could breathe easier. “Sir, I don’t even 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.” If the man had the power, Patrick was sure he would have yelled.
“Sir, my name is Patrick, 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. Patrick had not even noticed the siren or lights. Two policemen hopped over the center barrier. One came towards Patrick, and the other hurried up towards the curve, likely to avoid another accident.
The officer knelt down next to Patrick. “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.” Patrick began to weep.
The office put his arm around Patrick’s shoulder. “It isn’t your fault sir.” The officer got up, and Patrick could hear him radio his partner to hold traffic back while he searched for the weapon. Patrick stood and finally looked at his wounded black Buick. The car’s grill and hood had light damage, but his windscreen sat in shambles, shattered and pushed in from the weight of the poor dead man on the road.
The officer walked back to Patrick 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.?”
Patrick felt lost. He understood what was happening, but was not sure how to react. “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 some stupid stuff they normally would never do. I decided a long time ago that it’s better to forgive and move on.”