The Escaped Man-- C.T. Platt (2017)

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        The rain was falling heavily. It was like driving through a thick curtain of water. He eased off the accelerator a little. Had to be careful on wild nights like this. The last thing you want is to have an accident or a breakdown. You just want to be at home on these stormy nights. The "thwack-thwack" of the windscreen wipers was hypnotic. He stared out into the glow of the headlights. The rain sounded like white noise interference as it battered the car. He was reminded of the opening scenes of various Hitchcock films.

      Through the wash of the rain he spotted a figure at the side of the road.
The person wore a green parka and had his thumb jerked out. Why on Earth would anyone be hitchhiking tonight? Surely you would just stay put until the morning. They must have been in a rush to get wherever they were going. He signalled down and pulled over. The hitchhiker climbed in. He shut the door quickly, glad to be out of the rain. He pulled his hood back and sighed. He had to be in his mid-twenties, he had wild red hair and a thick beard.

     "Awful night, eh?" Said the driver. The hitchhiker held his gaze for a long moment.

     "Yes. Yes it is."

     The driver pulled out and continued through the storm. The hitcher craned his around and gazed into the blackness behind them. The driver looked at him.

     "You okay?"

The hitcher simply nodded.  They drove on in silence for a while. The BBC radio phone-in blared from the car's speakers, filling in for conversation. They listened to the radio and their own thoughts as they moved on.

     "Where are you headed?" Asked the driver.

     "North." The hitcher pointed in the direction he spoke of.

     "Are you traveling to visit friends?"

     "Hmph."

     The driver couldn't tell if that was a yes or a no. He adjusted his tie nervously. The hitcher stared at him in his suit and tie. The hitcher seemed scruffy in comparison, dressed in his weathered green parka and a Pink Floyd T-shirt.

"Do you work around here," asked the hitcher.

"Yes," said the driver. "I was stuck late at the office. You know how it is."

"No. Not really."

Again they drifted into silence.
The talk radio show carried on as they drove through the wind and rain. The hitcher shifted in his seat and stared out the windscreen.

"No music?" The hitcher asked.

"What?"

"Is there no music we could listen to?"

"I-I'm not really a music fan. I like the talk radio shows."

The hitcher's eyes glazed over for a moment. Then he spoke.

"I like listening to music. It calms me down."

The driver said nothing. Several miles later, there was a news bulletin on the radio. The reporter tried to remain professional as she read the announcement.

"We are getting reports that a man has escaped from a Manchester psychiatric institution. The man is said to be psychopathic and is said to have a history of murder."

The hitcher jabbed a finger at the button on the radio panel. Tinny pop music blared out from the speakers. The driver stared, at his passenger, his question unasked.

"I hate the news," said the hitcher. "It's so depressing, it brings me down. There is never any good news, is there?"

The driver did not speak.

"Don't worry, I'm probably not the killer," the hitcher said, fidgeting with his coat.

"No?" Said the driver. "I mean, no, of course you're not."

They drove on, listening to the crappy pop music and the overexcited radio DJ's. The rain pounded on the car.

"What do you do for a living?" Asked the driver. The hitcher was quiet for a moment. Then he grinned.

"I'm a writer."

"Really? How interesting. Have you had anything published?"

"No, as of yet I am an undiscovered artist."

"I'm sure you will make it. What are you working on right now?"

"A book."

"....yes?"

"It's about a brutal serial killer."

The driver did not speak. He flicked the talk radio station back on. A man was rambling on with himself about the change in days his trash bins were emptied.

"Where can I drop you?" Asked the driver. The hitcher said nothing. When the driver glanced round, he found his passenger had his eyes closed. He was either asleep, or feignong slumber. They drove on through the storm down the snaking lanes. An hour later, the storm still raged. The hitcher look out the window, the driver steered carefully in silence.

Another news bulletin came on the radio.

"We're getting more information on the escaped patient. The killer's name is Simon Hughes. He escaped from the Green Pastures Institute earlier this evening. He is extremely dangerous and completely unpredictable. Hughes made his escape by changing from his hospital-issue uniform into business attire to masquerade as one of the medical staff. He then stole a car and drove off."

The hitcher turned to the driver.

"What did you say your name was?"

"My name is Simon."

The hitcher stared in shock. Simon grinned. The headlights of a passing sedan glinted off the knife blade in Simon's hand.

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