He was young and blond with close-cropped hair, and he wore a sleeveless tee shirt despite the chilly evening. He offered her his free hand, but she hesitated, one hand on the door handle, the other on the side of the cab. The man smiled and she smelled his breath. “C’mon in, honey. You can sit right here between us.”
“Yeah,” the driver said. “We’ll take a lady like you anywhere you want to go!” He was muscular and sweaty.
“I was, uh, just wondering how far it is to Mount Prospect,” Vicki said. There was way she’d ride with these two.
“You know good and well where it is,” the passenger said. “You had your thumb out there, honey. Now, where to?”
“Nowhere,” she said and began to step back down.
“No you don’t, sweetie,” the young man said, and he pushed the door wide open Vicki hung from the handle and dangled high off the ground. He pulled the door back toward him, and Vicki had to act. The last thing she wanted was to get close enough for him to reach her. She let go and to the ground.
“Thanks anyway,” she called out, toward the back of the truck as the door shut. But she knew that was not going to satisfy the truckers when the door opened again the man bounded out, sloshing his beer can as he did.
Vicki slipped in the gravel and tried to run, her heart thundering. She was no match for a man that size. As she desperately prayed she realized how stupid she had been to take off on her own. What had she been thinking?
The man was gaining on her when another truck rolled off the side of the road, the skidding tires kicking up dust. Vicki found next to the passenger door of that vehicle as it flew open. Now what?
She was relieved to see this driver was alone and older, probably in his sixties, big, barrel-chested, and with a week’s growth of white whiskers. His smile disarmed her.
“You ought to be careful, hitchikin’ by yourself these days, little lady,” he said.
“Can you help me?” she said.
“What’s the trouble?”
She pointed behind her, but when she turned, the young man had turned tail and was climbing back into the other truck. Taking no chances, Vicki leaped aboard the new truck.
“Where you going?” the old trucker said.
“Michigan,” she said, noticing a leather cross dangling from the CB radio mounted above the dash.
“I can get you as far as Michigan City, Indiana,” he said. “How’ll that be?”
“An answer to prayer,” she said.
The old man was shifting into one gear after the other every few feet, getting back up to speed as he pulled back onto the road. When he finally had the rig in the right lane and rolling with the heavy traffic, he cocked his head and stared at Vicki.
“Did you say that just to get next to me, ‘cause you saw the cross? Or are you really a woman of prayer?”
“I am now,” she said.
He chuckled and turned his gaze back at the road. “Aren’t we all?” he said. “Call me Deacon.”