The blonde behind the wheel smiled. “Thanks. Just got it a few months ago,” she said, sliding out of the driver’s seat and reaching for the gas pump. The girl decided he looked safe enough in his pink polo shirt and jeans. After all, he was driving a Pontiac. A grey Pontiac at that, and one that had seen better days.
Safe, she thought, definitely safe. And not bad looking, with his ice blue eyes and tanned skin, a shock of blonde hair falling across his brow. He had the thick, bullish neck of an athlete gone to seed, an effect emphasized by his white Titleist ball cap.
Little did she know Mr. Safe had been tailing her since he spotted her license plate speeding past him on highway 54 west of Ft. Scott. Grey Pontiacs, after all, were practically invisible.
Curtis couldn’t believe his luck.
Ever since Avery had run out on him outside of Jeff City with no money and no ride, nothing to pay his way but the little diamond ring on his bedside table, life went from bad to worse. His dealer came looking for cash, and in its absence he and his buddies decided to take his payment from Curtis’ flesh. And the ring as well.
Curtis spent a week in hospital with no means to pay the bill, and eventually threw himself on the mercy of his folks. They had vowed to have nothing to do with him until he gave up the drugs, but seeing him broken and bruised in the hospital had brought on a change of heart. He returned to the adoring center of his family, entered rehab, and played nice for long enough to land a job improving the golf swing of the octogenarians at The Club.
Dad was happy. Mom was happy. Curtis was bored.
In his boredom, he fixated on a certain piece of fluff who had robbed him blind and left him for dead in a seedy roadside dive.
Come to think of it, his game had suffered from the moment he picked her up at the Waffle House in Eureka Springs and whisked her away to the white-shirted glamour that was professional golf. He took her from nothing, and how did she repay him? By ruining his career and ripping him off.
He called her mother and sister, but they had closed ranks. They gave up nothing, and were, in fact, pretty rude about the whole business. Like Avery Jackson had nothing to answer for. Hey, he was the injured party, here, didn’t they know that? His only reply had been the click of a phone call ending, and all subsequent calls being sent straight to voicemail.
Avery had, for all sakes and purposes, completely vanished from the planet.
Until today, when the black Dodge overtook him on highway 54. He was en route to a tournament in Wichita… but Curtis decided, having seen Avery’s car, on a slight detour.
He smiled at the pretty blonde. “Where ya headed,” he asked mildly, unscrewing his gas cap.
“Back home,” she replied. “Just returning from summer term at MSU.”
He nodded. “Good school,” he said. “Went a couple years there myself. What year you in?”
“Cool.” He weathered the awkward silence that often attends the meeting of strangers, then pressed on. “Hey – they serve food here?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I was just about to get a taco inside. I’m starving!”
Curtis smiled broadly. “Me too!”
He stood behind her in line at the Taco Bell, close enough to be friendly, but not too close. Curtis loved open people. They were a veritable gold mine of unsolicited information. All it took were a few well placed questions, and they opened like Pandora’s box: “So, where ya call home, then?”
It turned out the girl, whose name was Molly, was from a little place in western Kansas called Amos. The car? Oh, her parents had bought her car from a dealer there a few months back. Got a great deal on it, too.
“Amos, Kansas, huh? Never heard of the place,” he said, smiling to himself and taking a long draw on his straw.
Molly laughed. “Hardly anyone has,” she agreed.
Curtis stood and stretched. “Well, Miss Molly, I guess I better hit the road.” He slanted her a sly grin, adding, “I got a tournament to make tomorrow.”
Molly took the bait. “A tournament? Really? What kind of tournament?”
“Golf,” he replied, “I’m a pro golfer.” So, it wasn’t precisely the truth, but who wanted to split hairs over it, anyway?
Her brown eyes widened. “For real?”
This was almost too easy. “For real,” he assured her, winking as he reached for his to-go cup.
“Wow, that’s so cool!” she exclaimed, placing an impulsive hand on his arm. “Have you ever met Tiger Woods?”
Curtis looked down at the small hand, at the gesture of familiarity he neither felt nor appreciated, and his smile hardened ever-so slightly. He balled his fist in reflex, partially crushing his cup in the process. “Whoa! Guess I don’t know my own strength,” he laughed and busied himself replacing the lid that had popped loose.
Was it her eyes? Her hair? In that moment, Molly reminded him so much of Avery, he felt he was going to be sick on the spot. He shrugged, forcing himself to sound casual. “Sure,” he replied with a smoothness that belied his immediate and shocking degree of rage. “Hey… you old enough to drink, Miss Molly?”
Removing her hand from his arm, Molly flushed. “W-why do you want to know?” She laughed, but her gaze slid to the left, registering her unease.
Suddenly, little miss open was closing up like a flower in winter. Amused, Curtis leaned in and whispered, “Hey, Miss Molly, whaddya say we grab a six-pack of Bud and talk about Tiger Woods? There’s a park across the road…” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Molly gasped, and dropped all pretense of amiability. She gave him a tight smile. “No thanks,” she said coldly, sliding off her chair and gathering up her bag and keys. “I have a long drive ahead. But thanks for the offer… Curt was it?” She looked at him hard, trying to memorize his features in a glance. Just in case she was ever called to testify…
“The very same,” he replied with his most charming smile, tipping his hat to her in a mock salute.
She frowned and made for the door, flushed with mortification at her own stupidity. Keeping a wary eye on him through the store window, Molly fired up the Charger and peeled out in a cloud of dust, heading west. “What a weirdo!” she hissed, adjusting the radio with a shaky hand. “Golf pro, huh? I just bet you are…” Molly checked her rear view mirror, chilled by the overwhelming sense she had just made a fast escape from something… ugly.
Curtis watched the little bird fly and took another long draw on his Pepsi before tossing it in the garbage. Her loss, he figured, shrugging off the rejection and heading for the beer cooler. But he’d be seeing her in a day or two anyhow…
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