Allen Fuller saw the girl up ahead, just as he was shifting up but by the time he passed her he was already slowing the truck down.He eased the big rig to the shoulder of the entrance ramp to I-35 and came to a complete stop.
He watched her in the mirror.
Even from fifty yards back and the fading light of day, he could tell she was a looker. She tucked her long brown hair behind a near and put a hand on her hip. She didn’t move though, just stared.
Then finally, she adjusted the shoulder strap of her duffel bag and started towards the truck.
Watching her come, he’d always thought that there’s nothing better than a girl in a cowboy hat.
Her boots were worn and not for show, the faded jeans had a little rip in one knee. Her denim shirt was rolled up to the elbows and she had the walk of a ranch girl. Hard to describe that walk but it has its own slow,easy gait. Along with a touch of swagger. A little toughie, he grinned.
And she was short. Probably only went about a hundred and ten pounds or so. Damn cute and damn young. Maybe twenty. Maybe.
Then she stopped, about ten feet from the back end of the trailer and Fuller was afraid she was going to change her mind.
He rolled down the window and stuck his head out. “You comin’ or not? I gotta get goin’ here. On a tight schedule darlin’.”
Sitting back in the seat, his eyes slid back to the big mirror on the door. She disappeared behind the trailer and a moment later the passenger door opened. She stepped up on the running board, giving him a solemn look.
“Yes ma’am?” he offered his best smile.
“Where you headed sir?”
He looked at that fresh, tanned face. Those pale blue eyes. His heart skipped then did a slow roll. “Small load in Austin, then up to Cowtown to drop the rest.”
She looked down.
He waited, staring at the top of her hat and hoping. It had been so long since the last one.
Looking up again she said, “Okay. Fort Worth is where I’m headed.”
“Then let’s go girl.”
They pulled off and merged onto the interstate. Miles went by without much conversation at all. The sky had gone totally dark now and Fuller had too. The urge was too strong.
He smiled at the green dash lights. Green means go.
“What’s your name darlin’?”
“I’m Kat, short for Kathleen.”
“Born in Fort Worth?” he asked. His eyes wandered to her denim shirt first, down to her jeans and then back up again.
She gave him a tight, nervous smile. “Yessir. Born and raised.”
“Shouldn’t be hitchhiking.”
“You’re lucky girl.”
“How’s that?” She asked, watching his eyes continue to float over her.
“Lucky I ain’t some crazy ass serial killer”, he lied with a soft laugh. “Yup…lucky all I’m gonna do is roll you around back there.” Fuller thumbed back at the sleeper compartment behind him.
Their eyes locked. Then he looked back to the road.
She didn’t say anything. Didn’t know what to say.
“Just think of it as cab fare darlin’.” He reached over and stroked her arm.
“Shhh now. You’ll like it.” His voice was low and thick.
“Mister…please don’t do this”, she whispered pushing herself against the passenger door.
He put his blinker on and she saw a rest stop coming up.
The door locks clacked. He had a cold, blank expression now. “I got an override on the locks sweetheart, don’t even bother.”
There was only three cars and one parked semi. He parked in the last place before cars got back onto the interstate. Fuller shut the truck down, killed the lights and then grabbed at her, snatching one wrist with an iron grip.
If it wasn’t for the heavy traffic noise, somebody might have heard her scream.
They also might have heard the muffled gunshot and if someone would have been looking, they might have seen the gun flash inside the cab. Then two more quick flashes.
Ten minutes later, a girl with a duffel bag on her shoulder walked down to the end of the ramp. A slow, easy walk. With a little swagger to it.