Today’s Prompt: He was stopped at a red light when an old woman opened his passenger door and got in.
It was the mother of all traffic jams. Harold had been glad when five o’clock finally rolled around that Friday afternoon. He needed the weekend. Actually he needed more than a weekend. He needed about 2 months on a deserted beach with nothing but a hut, plenty of food and gallons of sweet tea.
He was enjoying the vision of his restful beach when the passenger door of his car opened and a total stranger got in.
She was an old woman, primly dressed. She sported a tiny pillbox hat with pink flowers and netting that covered her forehead. Her small white-gloved hands clutched a matching patent leather handbag.
“Excuse me, young man,” she said, “I know it’s perfectly rude of me to get into your car, but I am in trouble and I need your help.”
Harold didn’t know what to say.
“My name is Mrs. Tildy Manchester,” she said. “and I’m being followed by two men who mean to do me harm. I would very much appreciate it if you could drive me to 31 W. Charles Street. I will be safe there.”
Harold shook his head as if doing so would help him think more clearly.
Traffic began moving and horns began honking angrily behind him. Harold glanced in his rear view mirror and saw two men running down the sidewalk toward them.
“Stop!” They shouted, pointing at his car.
Instinctively Harold stepped on the gas pedal.
“Maam, if you’re in trouble, we should call the police.”
“Yes, of course, but first we must be sure we have lost those two thugs. Turn right here,” she said.
Harold obediently made a right hand turn.
Now he was beginning to feel quite gallant. He would rescue the fair damsel in distress…well, the fair grandmotherly damsel in distress, then he would ride away like a knight on his white steed off into the sunset…a beautiful beach sunset.
“Look out!” cried Mrs. Manchester.
It was too late; Harold had run into the back of a New York taxicab. The irate cabbie jumped from his car with fury in his eyes.
To Harold’s surprise, the old woman was out of the car and face to face with the cabbie before he could even get past the taxi’s smashed bumper.
When Harold approached them, he saw the old woman slip a handful of bills into the cabbie’s hand. He grinned and returned to the driver’s seat of his cab.
Harold flipped open his cell phone to call the police and report the accident, but before he could dial, he looked up and saw the same two thugs jumping out of a sedan four cars behind them. Mrs. Manchester grabbed him by the arm, pushed him into the open door of the taxi and crawled in behind him.
The taxi driver made a sharp left-hand turn and hit the gas so hard that it threw Harold against the door. His head banged into the window, leaving a nasty bump Blood trickled down his temple. Tildy Manchester attended to his injury, wiping the blood away with a dainty, lace-edged handkerchief while the cabbie continued through the maze of traffic and city streets at breakneck speed.
They finally came to a halt at 31 W. Charles Street. It was a pawnshop with big dice spinning above the door. Mrs. Manchester leaned across Harold’s lap and opened the door.
“Time for us to get out, young man,” she said, giving Harold a little shove.
They exited the taxi, which sped off, leaving them standing on the sidewalk, dazed and confused. Well, Harold was dazed and confused. The old woman seemed just fine.
“You wait right here,” she said and disappeared into the pawnshop.
Harold was still trying to clear his head when a black sedan screeched to a halt in front of him. The two men who had been chasing the Mrs. Manchester jumped from the car and tackled Harold. They slapped handcuffs on him, and then asked where the she was.
Harold nodded his throbbing head toward the pawnshop.
One of the men went into the pawnshop while the other read Harold his Miranda rights.
Harold tried to explain what had happened, but his words fell on deaf ears.
The other man stepped out of the pawnshop, shaking his head. “She’s not in there…must have slipped out the back door. Probably had another driver waiting for her in the alley.” he said.
“Well, at least we got this one,” said the other. He gave Harold a shove toward the sedan and said, “You’re going away for a long time, son.”
“Yeah, you’re getting an all expenses paid vacation in the slammer,” the other man laughed as he opened the back door of the sedan and put Harold inside.
Harold found out at the trial that Mrs. Tildy Manchester was better known as Mean Mama Manchester, jewel thief, bank robber and ringmaster of a notorious gang from the Bronx. She continues to elude the police.
Harold faced trial, but was cleared of all charges.
The day he was found not guilty, he drove straight to the airport (with his car doors locked) and bought a plane ticket to Tahiti. He hasn’t been seen since.
(Copyright © 2009 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)