In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Al Bruno III
Thursday November 7th 1996
Sane women, Isobel thought, don't behave like this.
She scrunched down in the driver's seat of her Honda Civic and rolled cautiously through the night-shrouded suburb.
This is real trust here, She mused. The foundation of a truly stable relationship.
At the intersection she turned right onto Marriner Boulevard. The dashboard clock read One-Fifteen AM. She slowed to a crawl and switched off the Civic's headlights. The Bitch's house was half a block away. Darkness sprawled in the gulf between the streetlights.
Don't let him be there. She prayed over and over again. Please don't let him be there. Please let me be wrong.
She slowed to a stop in front of the Bitch’s house. Isobel groaned and banged her head lightly against the steering wheel.
There was Nick’s black Camaro parked in the driveway.
The two-timing bastard loved that car, he’d restored every inch of it. Isobel had a tire iron in the Civic’s trunk. It would be so easy to just retrieve it and go to town- and if Nick and the Bitch came running out to stop her?
Her only question would be who to brain first.
For a moment Isobel actually had the car door open, but in the end she just shifted into first and drove away. When she was sure she was far enough away she switched the headlights back on.
The radio cheerfully informed her that the National Weather Service was promising another week of Indian Summer for all of Albany and it’s surrounding counties. A single sob escaped from Isobel's lips, the road blurred and slipped back into focus as she fought back tears. The thought occurred to her that she could just drive away; leave this whole stinking mess of a life behind her. Just drive until her Civic or her ATM card gave out. There had to be something more out there than this.
She passed a sign but didn't bother to read the words. It didn't matter, she knew it was just telling her that the entrance ramp to the Northway was coming up.
Again and again the question surfaced- why did Nick keep going back to that bitch?
Was she smarter? Dumber? Was she wild in bed? Was she a screamer? Did she do it with the lights on?
Isobel swerved on to the entrance ramp. The Northway was more empty and dark than she'd ever remembered it. The tears finally overcame her, they rolled down her cheeks and over her lips. Isobel scowled at the taste, so much like blood. Over the last few years she’d seen her dreams fall away one by one. What would replace them? Would anything?
A figure ran out into the road in front of her, his arms flailing wildly.
Isobel slammed both feet onto the brakes and swerved for the middle lane. There was a flash of images and sounds; tires squealing, the song on the radio, her own breathless cry, the sickening feeling of her Honda Civic going up on two wheels and then settling back down again.
Fear soured the taste of her spit, she forced herself to relax her grip on the wheel and put the car in park. Another moment passed before Isobel realized she'd been holding her breath. She let the bad air out in a long nasal sigh only to have it catch in her throat again.
He staggered up to her car, the headlights underlit his features. At first all she could focus on was the whites of his eyes. “Please help me!” he looked crazed, his clothes were caked with mud and sweat.
What do I do now? With a flick of a switch she locked the car's automatic doors- just in case. Then Isobel put on her hazard lights, for her safety and his. She cursed herself for leaving her cell phone at home. Hadn’t she gotten it for emergencies? Wasn't this an emergency?
What do I do now?
Stay in your car. Drive away. That's what you do.
"Please!" He was hammering on her window now, each blow leaving dark handprints that she prayed were just mud.
I can see the headlines now- PROMISING YOUNG ARTIST DISAPPEARS, NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN.
Actually, I was never all that promising.
She scanned the blackness behind her for any signs of oncoming traffic. It was all clear, unnervingly so in fact.
What am I going to do?
Isobel looked back to him, really looking at him. This was no escaped lunatic, or fugitive in prison orange. He was her height with ruddy features and ragged looking red hair. He didn't look the least bit threatening, only desperate and afraid.
"Where is your car?" she asked. "Are you hurt?"
"I need to get out of here. Please! I'm in trouble."
"What kind of trouble?"
"There's no time! We have to go now before they find us."
The voice of reason started howling as she unlocked the passenger side door. He got in, locked the door and shuddered with relief. "Thank you."
"Where are you going?"
"Anywhere. Just anywhere."
Shrugging Isobel put the car in drive and glanced into the rearview mirror.
Two pale figures stared back at her. One of them smashed a hand through the back windshield with impossible ease.
The stranger was screaming in her ear "Go! Go now!"
The speedometer flew up to seventy. The Honda Civic sped away with a squeal of its tires.