Jeremy ran for all he was worth and rounded the corner onto a darkened street and kept going. He could hear the shouts of his pursuers but they seemed farther away now. They hadn’t been behind him when he dared look as he turned the corner so he hoped they might not realize where he had gone.
His lungs felt like they were on fire and he knew he wasn’t going to get much further without a rest stop. The street was pitch black, there being no street lights, but he could just barely make out an open gate on a picket fence so he ran into the yard, closed the gate behind him and hid in the bushes.
As he crouched on the ground breathing hard and staring through the fence he heard the sound of his pursuers getting louder. Soon three of them came jogging along the path right past him.
As he waited they came back along the street, walking now, searching for him. He listened to their footsteps receding as they headed for the main street and he breathed a sigh of relief. It was then that he heard the sound of a throat being cleared behind him. His heart skipped a beat.
“Looks like you’ve given them the slip.”
He turned and faced a woman of indeterminate age wearing a worn housecoat as she let out a high-pitched cackle. He tried to speak but his mouth was bone dry and he only managed an unintelligible croak.
“Come on inside boy and I’ll give you something to quench your thirst.”
She turned and walked up the path to the open front door without a look back. Tired and thirsty he followed her inside. She led him to the kitchen and told him to take a seat.
“Would you like a soda or some water? I’ve got juice too.”
“Some water would be fine.”
She poured his a glass of ice water from the fridge and sat down opposite him. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you around here before.”
“No, I’m not from around here. I was hitchhiking and got a ride with this guy. He gave me the creeps so when we stopped in this town for gas I just walked away while he was inside paying.”
She was staring at him hard. “I see. How did the Harris boys and their gang happen to be chasing you through town in the dead of night?”
“You know them?”
The woman chuckled. “You might say. So what happened?”
“Well, I couldn’t hitch a ride out of town so I went into a bar to have a beer and decide what to do. One of those guys asked me if I wanted to play pool. Things got ugly when I refused to play for money.”
She threw her head back and guffawed. “Oh, those boys. I reckon you’re lucky you gave them the slip. They’re a nasty piece of work, they are.”
Jeremy asked to use the bathroom and while he was in there he heard her talking on the phone. He went to door and pressed his ear against it.
“…Yeah, that’s right. Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered…”
He couldn’t make out the rest. He heard her hang up and when he went back out she was at the kitchen table.
“So young man. I don’t believe you’ll be able to leave town tonight. I have a spare room. You’re welcome to stay here.”
He was at a loss for what to do. She was probably right; he wouldn’t get any further before tomorrow and he didn’t fancy looking for a place to bed down for the night not knowing where his pursuers were. On the other hand the woman had made a call while he was in the bathroom and he didn’t know what that was about.
She could see he was thinking hard. “Come on son, you’re safe here. You’re not going anywhere.”
He picked up his bag and let her lead him to the spare bedroom.
Part 2 Tomorrow