Non-stop To Nowhere
Copyright 14/10/2014 by Raymond Daley
She’d said her name was Maggie. “Maggie May McClain.”
“A bit like the song!” I’d quipped.
Only she hadn’t heard of it.
I wasn’t sure how that was possible for a girl of her age, eighteen or thereabouts, I’d assumed. The song had been all over the radio and television the previous year. I supposed that it wasn’t important, at the time. Only it had been.
Or it was now.
“Where did you first see her, sir?” asked the young policeman.
“Call me Allan. Allan Walsh.” I’d shook his hand, a nice firm grip. You could trust a grip like that.
I first saw her at the service station, nursing a cup of coffee. She looked cold, constantly wrapping her hands around the cup to get them warm. She looked lonely too, and afraid. I’d seen her leave, but I was on a rest stop myself. A wee and an a tea. Sandwich for ‘ron too. I met her again as I was pulling out though, standing on the slip-road.
I’d rolled down the window to speak to her. “Where are you going?” I’d asked her.
She’d just got her thumb out. Some hitchers carry signs. She didn’t.
“As far as you’re going on this road?” she’d said.
“That’s only a few more miles. Ten at the most.” I’d said to her.
She’d just smiled and said, “That’s ten miles closer to home then!”
“I remember opening the passenger door and helping her inside, I offered her my hand, by way of assistance. She wasn’t very tall and it was quite a big step up, for her. She felt warm, but only just. And I could smell her perfume. Like lilies.” I said.
“Did she say much?” asked the young policeman.
“Not really,” I said. “She said she’d never seen a truck as big as mine. I told it was new that month. I wasn’t supposed to pick up hitchers but I was glad of the company, to be honest. She seemed nice enough, her outfit seemed a tad old-fashioned but I assumed she was a student, low on funds.
That ten miles just flew right by, I let her out just after the slip-road. Her hand was a lot warmer when I helped her down. I even recall her saying how muddy it was at the road side. I had said to her that I didn’t feel right leaving her there in the middle of nowhere, so late at night, but she said she’d soon get another ride from there. So off I went.”
“And when did you turn around, sir?” asked the policeman.
“About five minutes down the road. The guilt of leaving her there in the dark was just too much to bear. I thought she’d still be there, with there being so little traffic at that time of night.” I said.
“And she was gone when you got back?” asked the policeman.
“Yes officer. I even got out and looked around. But the strange thing was, despite her saying it was so muddy? I couldn’t find any footprints. I could see the tyre mark where the truck had stopped. But nothing else. At all. Like she’d never even been there.” I said.
“And that was yesterday? Sunday, right?” asked the policeman.
I nodded. “Yes officer. Why?”
“Because I looked that name up, sir. Her clothes weren’t old. They were the height of fashion. When she was killed in 1958. That particular part of the motorway used to be the old A-road. She was hitch-hiking, until she was hit by a truck driver who’d fallen asleep. She was killed instantly. He survived the crash.”
I looked at him. “But I held her hand! I talked to her. She was as real as you or I!”
“Yet she died in 1958. I’m afraid that you picked up a ghost, Mister Walsh!”
“So when did he come in and report this, Constable Meek?”
“Yesterday Sergeant. Monday.”
“And he gave you this as his vehicle registration?”
“Yes Sergeant. I saw it on the front myself. A bright red Scammel. I even thought to myself ‘You don’t see those very often!’. It was parked right outside. I even walked him back to the truck sir. Shook his hand before he got inside.”
“Oh.” said the Sergeant.
Meek looked at him. “Is there a problem with the report, Sergeant?”
“I looked up the registration on this vehicle. Your Mister Walsh died in a crash in 1972. A head-on collision in thick fog. You took a statement from a ghost, Constable Meek!”
“He was as real as you or I Sergeant! He sat right in that seat. I even had to tell him to stop smoking, he was most upset about that!”
“Well the fact remains that you took a statement from a man who’s been dead for almost forty years!”
“I just thought he was trying to be a good Samaritan, reporting a missing hitch-hiker. So what should I do with this statement?” asked Constable Meek.
“File it under B?” suggested the Sergeant.
“B sir?” asked Meek.
“For bin! And forget we ever had this conversation, okay Constable Meek?”
“So when did you discipline him, Sergeant?”
“Yesterday sir. Tuesday.”
“And you said his name was Constable Meek?”
“Yes sir. He seemed extremely green, even for a rookie.”
“We don’t have a Constable Meek at this station, Sergeant. I know all the men who work here. I even asked admin. Funny thing there. They said there was another police station on this site before this one, only it burnt down in 1980. The only fatality was a newly posted Constable.”
“Don’t tell me sir. His name was Meek? I’ll see myself out.”
Authors Notes:- I wanted to write a semi horror piece but for some reason I had Inception on the brain. The third story written during week 42 of my Year Of Living Bradbury. Subbed to freeze frame fiction, 20th Feb 2015. Rejected 3rd mar 2015