Sarah adjusted her seatbelt and peered out through the rain-streaked windshield, the rain sheeting down, a silvery wall in their headlights.
"Thanks for driving me home," she said, glancing over at Harold. "I knew that battery was going--it sure picked a fine night to crap out on me."
"No problem," Harold replied with a chuckle, slowing down as he navigated a corner. "You gonna need a lift back into town in the morning?" Sarah reached up and wiped the condensation off her window while she considered. Harold was a nice guy--kind of quiet, kept to himself. He'd been working at the market for about a year, and all she knew about him what the didn't like dogs and he had a picture of an old woman taped inside his locker.
"Thanks," she said with a smile, "but I can get a ride with my neighbor. He has breakfast over at Flo's every morning."
"All right, then," Harold said. "But if you need to, you can call me. It's no trouble, really."
"Thank you, Harold, that's really--Watch out!"
Harold mashed the brake against the floor, the light pickup skidding over the wet pavement and lurching to a stop. The red horse jumped back, tossing its head and turning a circle in the middle of the road, its eyes ringed with white.
"What the f--" He closed his mouth and glanced over at Sarah, her hands pressed to the roof of the cab as she stared, wide-eyed out the windshield. "I mean, there's a horse in the road." Sarah lowered her arms and sat up in her seat, a frown creasing her brow.
"The poor thing," she said. "He looks terrified." He was beautiful, his coat a dark red, slicked and gleaming in the rain, his ebony man plastered to his regally arched neck. He stepped closer to the truck, looking in at them with his big, brown eyes, and then he wheeled around and galloped out of the road, vanishing into the darkness.
"It's going to cause a wreck," Harold said, slowly letting the truck creep forward. "You should call Animal Control--maybe they can catch it before it gets hit by a car."
"Good idea," Sarah said, still shaking as she turned in her seat and peered out the back window. She reached down for her purse, sitting on the floor between her feet, but then straightened up with a sigh. "I'll do it when I get home. Reception ends back at Cedar Creek Bridge."
"Doesn't that frighten you?" Harold asked, glancing over at her. "Driving this road every night by yourself, with no cell, especially with what's been going on up north?"
"You mean those murders?" Sarah pulled her jacket tighter around herself. "Yeah, it scares the hell out of me, but what am I supposed to do? I have to go to work. Steve won't give me different hours."
"You could move to town," Harold suggested with a single shoulder shrug.
"My father built that house," Sarah said, her voice barely loud enough to be heard over the driving rain and hissing wipers. "It's where I grew up. That's my driveway." She pointed ahead on the left, where blue reflectors caught the headlights. Harold slowed and turned down the drive, winding through the tall pines and cedars until the golden glow the porch light drew into view.
He didn't blame her for wanting to keep the house. It was big and rustic, like the pictures of hunting lodges in his big game magazines. He pulled up at the end of the front walk and started to shut off the engine.
"Thanks for the lift," Sarah said quickly as she opened the door of the truck. "I'll see you at work tomorrow." With her purse tucked under her arm and her shoulders hunched against the rain, she ran around the front of the little pickup and started up the walk.
Harold rolled down his window. "Make sure you lock your door," he said, ignoring the rain as it blew in, cold on his arm.
Sarah waved at him from the wide porch. "Those people were killed on empty roads, not in their homes," she said, tilting her purse to catch the light as she dug for her keys. "Drive careful."
"Will do," Harold replied. He waited until she had found her keys and opened the front door before rolling up the window and putting the truck back in drive. He watched her step inside and flip on a light, then slowly pulled away from the house. In the rear view mirror, he watched her through the three, floor to ceiling picture windows as she peeled off her wet jacket and dropped her purse on the sofa.
With a sigh and a shake of his head, he turned his attention back to the road and sped up. She was such a pretty, nice girl. He'd been trying to find the courage to ask her out since he started working at the market, but for whatever reason, he never could. This would have been a good time, but instead he had to bring up that serial killer, the one the police called the Animal because he tore the throats out of his victims.