The heat prickled the back of Jessica’s neck, and coiled the hair at her temples into little curls. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be much longer. This wasn’t really a busy road. There were trees, bushes and fields on both sides of it, but not many houses, and no businesses. It was hard to say how long she’d have to put up with the sweat and the bugs before someone came along. Wait – was that dark blue Acura slowing down? Yes, it was! Finally! Jessica waved her arms frantically.
Phil saw the young woman staring ruefully at her car’s engine. It wasn’t safe, being stranded by the side of the road. Especially if you were a woman. And it looked as though she was going to be there for a while. He slowed down a little to get a closer look at what was going on. When the woman saw him, she waved to get his attention. She didn’t look hurt, just upset and frustrated. Her engine must have died or something. Whatever it was, she was stuck. He slowed down more and pulled his Acura to a stop behind her Honda. Then he rolled his window down a little and called out, ‘You OK?’
‘Thank God you stopped!’ Jessica stepped closer to the Acura’s window. ‘I stopped to make a call, and I couldn’t start my car again. I think its battery died. Do you by any chance have some jumper cables?’ She brushed the damp hair out of her eyes and watched the driver anxiously. He looked clean and seemed friendly enough. Maybe this would work out.
After a moment, the driver nodded. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I have some cables. Let me turn my car around so we’re nose to nose. By the way, I’m Phil.’
Jessica nodded. ‘I really appreciate this, Phil!’ she said. She walked back towards her car as he started the Acura’s engine and slowly turned the car around. Roadside gravel crunched under the wheels as he made a tight, careful U-turn. Fortunately, traffic wasn’t a problem as he jockeyed the car into position.
Travis stood less than sixty feet away from where the two people were fiddling around with the cars. He was hidden behind some bushes, waiting until the right moment. The man got out of the Acura. Step One. Travis watched as he pulled a set of jumper cables out of the back of his car. He carried them over to the Honda, and the two drivers talked for a moment. No, not quite time yet. It was tempting, though. He was going to have to teach himself to be more patient. It was better to wait. Timing was everything. Do anything at the wrong moment, and you were finished.
Within a few moments, the cables were attached. ‘Let me check the connections real quick,’ Phil said.
Jessica nodded, ‘OK.’
He turned towards his car and started to bend over the battery.
Now! Travis’ brain screamed. He rushed out from behind the tree and sprinted towards the Acura. Jessica screamed and ran behind her car as the hammer hit Phil in the head. He staggered a moment, and then collapsed onto the ground.
Travis glanced around and went through Phil’s pockets, pulling out a wallet and a telephone. He stuffed them into his own jacket pockets and looked around again. Then, he opened up the Acura’s doors. Bingo! A laptop in the front passenger seat. He grabbed the computer and slammed the door shut with the end of his jacket. He unhooked the jumper cables from the two car batteries, tossing them on the ground near the Acura. After another look to be sure nobody was paying attention, he called out, ‘Let’s go.’
Jessica came out from behind the Honda, hopped into the driver’s seat and effortlessly started the motor. Travis jumped into the passenger seat as the car pulled away. He glanced into the rearview mirror and watched the blue Acura and the man on the ground beside it grow smaller.
‘Let’s get back to the hotel,’ Travis said after a minute or two. ‘Then tomorrow we hit the other side of town.’
‘Sounds good,’ Jessica agreed ‘What’d we get?’
‘A laptop, a phone.’ Travis opened Phil’s wallet and rifled through it. ‘Fifty bucks and a couple of credit cards in here. Not too shabby.’
‘You didn’t hit him too hard, did you?’
‘Nah, he’ll have a hell of a headache when he wakes up, but he ought to be OK.’
‘Yeah, I’m sure. And there’s nothing we can do about it, anyway. You want to wait around and get the cops involved?’
Jessica shook her head. ‘No, it’s just…Why’d you have to use a hammer? What if he’s dead?’
‘Stop worrying, OK? I didn’t hit him that hard. He’ll be fine. And we got some decent stuff.’
Jessica looked over at Travis and gave him a sideways smile. ‘Yeah, guess we did. You know, you’re pretty good at this for just starting out.’
‘You aint seen nothing.’