He was wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, and well-worn Red Wing work boots -- clothes that would do. He got a powerful Mag flashlight out of the front closet and put on a wool-lined Carhartt jacket. Then, seeing that she had crossed her forearms and was rubbing her upper arms with her palms, he said, "You're welcome to stay here and warm up while I go check it out."
She shook her head. "That's okay."
"You want a coat?"
"That's okay," she said again. "I've got one down there. I didn't think it was this cold."
Monks switched on the flashlight, illuminating their path down the gravel drive toward the county road. The woods were still. A few brave tree frogs emitted hopeful croaks in the chilly damp air, trying to strike up the usual evening chorus, but apparently most of their comrades were bedded down in amphibean comfort, exercising selective deafness.
"I can't promise I can do this," Monks warned. "Is there somebody around here who could come pick you up?"
She didn't live nearby, then, and wasn't visiting someone who did. He wondered what she was doing on a narrow, out-of-the-way road that ran from noplace to noplace else. Probably she was just lost.
"Do you know where the jack and spare are?" he asked.
"Do you have an owner's manual?"
"I'm not sure."
His lips twisted wryly. There was nothing like traveling prepared. But he reminded himself that at her age he had been pretty feckless, too.
"We might have to call a tow truck," he said.
She nodded, still clasping herself.
Monks thought about trying to keep up small talk, but it seemed clear that she wanted to get this done and get out of here. He could hardly blame her. He probably seemed harmless, but he was still a strange man that she was alone with, in a lonely place. And given the age gap, she was doubtless bored to tears, just on general principles.
"By the way, my name's Carroll," he said.
He left it at that.
When they reached the road, the canopy of foliage overhead parted, revealing a streak of sky. But clouds had thickened into a solid cover during the afternoon, obscuring the little daylight that was left.
"It's down that way," Marguerite said, pointing to the right. They walked in that direction, Monks searching with the flashlight's beam until it glimmered off the chrome bumper of a vehicle that was pulled into a turnout.
He almost groaned. It was one of those huge, bloated SUVs, a Yukon or Expedition or something on that order, and brand new. He had unconsciously pictured her driving something small and sassy. But this monster, as his friend Emil Zukich was fond of saying, was as heavy as a dead preacher. That was going to make it tricky and maybe dangerous to jack up, working off the soft and uneven dirt surface of the turnoutassuming he could even figure out how to operate the jack and find the proper lifting point. For all he knew, the system might be computer-operated. He had a heavy-duty bumper jack in his Bronco, but he wasn't at all sure that bumpers on the newer vehicles were designed to handle that kind of weight.
"How about taking a look in the glove box," he told her. "If there's an owner's manual, that might be where it is."
She walked to the front passenger door. Monks flashed the light beam on the tires. The two that he could see, on the driver's side, looked fine. The flat must be on the other side, although the SUV didn't look like it was listing.
He started to walk around it. The flashlight's traveling beam caught something pale and round insidea face. Monks was surprised again. He had assumed that she was alone.
Then he realized that she had disappeared.
A second later, what his eyes had told him caught up to his brain. He flicked the flashlight beam back to the face inside the SUV. It was a young man's, pale and tense, staring at him.
From Revolution No. 9 by Neil McMahon. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.
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