With one eye on the ribbon of highway and one eye on her phone, Quinn looked if her favorite true crime podcast had dropped its latest episode. Score! She thought and hit the accelerator as the spooky theme song filled her speakers.
“Hey cats and kittens this is your prince of primal fear, Spring Heeled Jack, here to get to the roots of what scares us all. In this week’s Serial Chiller I’m exploring four urban legends involving cars so let’s pop the trunk, kick back, and get started after this message from my wonderful sponsor Home Safe. Shouldn’t your home be HomeSafe safe…”
Quinn stretched in the driver’s seat. The idea of driving cross country was more fun than actually driving cross country. It was supposed to be an adventure, Girls’ Night/Road Trip, Quinn and Jen’s Excellent Adventure. Then Jenna got cold feet. At least the traffic had thinned out, Quinn thought humming the HomeSafe jingle.
“The Killer in the Back Seat was first published as a legend in 1965 but the tale is much older, a cautionary tale for women driving alone. This boogie man first appeared with the arrival of …”
Chugging a large iced coffee, Quinn pumped her gas. The station was nearly empty except for a creepy white van with a flat tire and a nondescript SUV. The gas station attendant was ogling her through the convenience store window. She had taken the smaller highways and backroads in hopes there would be cool neon signs, kitschy diners with sassy waitresses, giant balls of string, anything exciting. Quinn looked up and the attendant was flicking his tongue at her. Her face flushed and she slammed the nozzle back on the pump.
“This old chestnut is a favorite around campfires in some telling it an escaped prisoner bent on murder in other versions it is a deranged runaway mental patient but what about that hook…”
Slowing her car a little, Quinn checked her phone for the thirtieth time. The SUV behind her slowed too. No text from Jen, no missed calls either, she threw her phone and it slid into the stupid space between the console and passenger seat. She turned to the backseat to reach for it swerving into the opposite lane. The scream of a truck horn shook her heart and she swerved out off oncoming traffic. A row of angry drivers in the other lane honked and shouted. Mashing down the gas, Quinn screamed and honked back.
“…I’ve always wondered what would have happened if the boyfriend never got out of the car. I’m not victim bashing but as the Morbid chicks always say fresh air is for dead people.”
Quinn’s stomach rumbled. She fished in her Hot Cheetos bag for crumbs. A battered road sign proclaimed Dr. Hooker’s All-Nite Gator Farm & Waffle House exit 13. Quinn laughed to herself and headed for adventure. Dr. Hooker was closed, more than closed it looked as if the restaurant had been set on fire, bulldozed, and then set on fire again. It was dark. Her map app had been recalculating for fifteen minutes. And Quinn had to pee. Badly. She maneuvered a quick K turn and hurried out of the empty parking lot. Quinn remembered passing a rest stop. In a switchback, a SUV waited patiently. Quinn sped past the switchback focused on her destination. The piercing glow of high beams filled her rear view mirror.
“In cars, in trains, in horse drawn carriages the disappearing passenger is a frequent yet elusive recurring character. I guess there is just something about traveling long distances that make people afraid of disapppearing . Good night murderinos. This is Spring Heeled Jack and I will catch you next week if you don’t catch me first.”