As Teddy left Marie’s office to return to the main floor Walter, her husband, pulled into the call center parking lot. The wind screamed around the Ford F-350 super duty, rocking it from side to side, as he carefully guided the truck through the snow piling up in the parking lot. He didn’t really like driving this beast of a truck but was comforted by its ability to plow through even the highest snowdrifts he had so far encountered. He would have preferred his Altima, but knew it would never have gotten him as far as Marie’s truck had. And she was counting on him to pick her up so she wouldn’t be stuck at work.
They had been together for over ten years now. Having met at a call center in Dallas where Walter had been a supervisor. But that job hadn’t lasted too long, not after he met Marie who had been brought in to turn that particular center around and make it profitable once again. At the time he had been seeing a young girl who worked on a different team but when Marie arrived it was love at first sight.
Wrapped in the warm interior of the truck as the storm raged outside, with Metallica on the radio, he pulled up to the front door as Marie darted out and came around to the driver’s side.
“I’ll drive,” Marie said as she opened the door. Walter was more than willing to comply and slid from behind the wheel, climbing over the console between the seats to settle into the passenger seat as Marie got in behind the wheel.
“Did you have any trouble getting here?” Marie said.
“Are you kidding? With this tank?” Walter said as he leaned across the console to give Marie a small peck on the cheek. “I made lasagna this morning, I know how much you like it.”
“You’re too good for me.” Marie said as she dropped the shift lever into drive and eased away from the curb.
“And don’t you forget it either.” Walter said as he settled back into his seat. Then he leaned forward. Was someone out there? He had only caught sight of them for an instant, and he hesitated, questioning if he had really seen what he thought he saw.
They started across the lot towards the entrance, the truck rocking back and forth as the wind swirled around it, the snow driven this way and that in patterns reminiscent of a flock of birds preparing for the long flight south. Like the curtains on a theaters stage they parted before them to reveal a lone figure standing in the center of the entrance.
“What the hell?” Marie said as she eased the beast of a truck to a stop not ten feet away from the figure.
Walter noted how the stranger was dressed, assuming it was a he, wearing a long canvas riding jacket that was sweat stained and dirty, the hem ending well below the knee. Beneath the collar a filthy red scarf was wrapped around the lower portion of the stranger’s face. A battered leather hat completed the image. He, she, it? Looked like they had just ridden in from the range, back from a cattle drive, and as the stranger approached Walter was suddenly overcome by the desire to flee.
“Don’t let them in the truck.” He said to Marie.
“What? Why? What’s wrong with you? It’s freezing out there. They’re probably lost and if we don’t help who will?”
“I just have a bad feeling about this. Don’t let them in, please.”
“What could they possibly do to us?” Marie said as she slipped the truck into park and the stranger came around to her side. She motioned for them to get into the back seat.
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