Let me explain why I was late.
I was still on the Braxton County side of Route 5 heading toward Glenville when I saw this old Toyota pickup on the roadside with hazards on and the hood up. I normally wouldn’t have stopped except for this tiny little blonde shivering in a ripped blue winter coat. We all know I’m not supposed to, but I couldn’t leave her out there cold and alone on the last week of December, right? The truck had paper plates, so I figured it was just a breakdown.
Yes, it was the middle of the night and, yes, I was a little thirsty, but that isn’t the point.
I parked behind the truck, left my lights on, and walked up to her. She was five-nothing, twenty-ish, and slight; I’m average but I still felt twice her size. Her eyes looked huge as she looked up to me, heavy night makeup and all. No tears, though.
“Are you okay?” I asked. “Do you need me to call someone?”
“You shouldn’t have,” she said, sounding both shocked and angry. “Look at you. Why the hell would you stop? You don’t know us.”
“Us” turned out to include a beastly broad-shouldered guy with a face-full of black fur who thought he was sneaking up, and by sneaking I meant stamping around like a buck. He’d come down the hill behind my Kia Soul, opened the driver’s door and switched off my headlights.
So, yeah: trap.
“We’ll need those keys in your pocket, too,” the man said. I turned my back on the woman and stared him down, catching him poking around in my purse. He was about the size of Travis but looked more like evil Travis, standing and staring like he dared me to do something.
“And if I tell you to put my purse back and walk away?” I kept my tone even with maybe a hint of sarcasm. He didn’t look sure he was ready for a reaction like that.
“Would you prefer a hole in your spine?” the woman said behind me, cocking the hammer back on what sounded like a good-sized revolver and poking my back with it. I didn’t feel like having a hole in my coat any more than hiding bodies, but I wasn’t letting them get away with it, either. When I didn’t immediately react, she added, “It ain’t worth your life, lady. Why the hell did you stop?”
As I felt her hand plunge into my coat pocket to fish for my key fob, Evil Travis stepped toward me. Decision time: if I stepped aside as the trigger was pulled, he’d get a gut shot instead of me and it’d serve him right, but I also didn’t feel like filing a police report. Instead, I waited for an opportunity. When she found the fob, Evil Travis grinned.
“Who loves ya, baby?” she asked, tossing my keys toward him.
“You do, Buffy,” he replied, doing his worst Elvis impersonation as he reached out to catch them…
But this Vampire wasn’t going to be robbed by a blonde named Buffy.
As the guy started to get back into my vehicle, Buffy put her free hand on my shoulder, presumably to guide me somewhere while keeping me at gunpoint. As she touched me, I quick-grabbed her wrist and yanked her around faster than she had any hope of avoiding. Her hand cannon didn’t go off as I slammed her back against the ground; the weapon was a .38 Special — Kelly Jean owned one. I took it without resistance.
Evil Travis froze when he saw I had the gun, but seeing me empty the bullets into my hand emboldened him to rush me. I admit I couldn’t resist inflicting him with a good pistol whip when he lunged; it must have made him feel small. When he recovered and turned toward me again, I stopped him with a single word.
My pint-sized nemesis, on the other hand, gasped for air; I’d knocked the wind out of her. I waited as she recovered, something that clearly made her antsy along with Huck’s sudden compliance. She probably wondered why wasn’t I beating her ass down or running away. Short answer: I had questions.
“What did you do to Huck?” Buffy finally gasped.
“He’ll live. Why are you two out here rolling travelers after midnight? Is this even your truck?”
She nodded. “What… what did you–”
“He’ll be fine. Why are you doing this?”
Buffy eyeballed me. I guess she couldn’t get past the idea I was even asking about them. “We’re going to Florida to start over. To be together.”
I remembered it being a small town right over the West Virginia border, plus they were too old to be runaways. “Why are you robbing people? Have you ever done this before?”
“Huck’s dad cut off his credit card. We can’t buy food or gas.” Buffy looked at Huck. “Are you calling the cops? We weren’t going to hurt you, I swear.”
Said the woman who pulled a loaded gun on me and tried to steal my Soul. “Where in Florida?”
“Jacksonville.” She looked hard at me. “You’re so calm about this. Were you really going to help us? Women don’t do that — never when they’re alone.”
“Give me your driver’s licenses.” As I took pics of them with my phone, I noticed there was no cell signal; they’d picked a dead spot on a curve in case someone tried to call for help. Maybe not so dumb.
I commanded Huck to face the hillside, watching Buffy looking horrified at his zombie-like compliance while I snagged some money from my purse. “Look at me, Buffy.” She did. “I’m buying your gun for three hundred dollars. You and Huck are driving straight to Florida except for gassing up and eating. I know folks in law enforcement, and if I even think you didn’t go to Jacksonville, I’ll tell them everything you tried with me including giving them your gun. Are we good?” I returned their IDs to her along with the promised cash.
She looked both shocked and confused. “Why? After all this you’re still going to help us? Who are you?”
“Everyone should get a second chance,” I said before vamping out: black eyes and full fangs while lifting her chin with the tip of my taloned finger. “Also, the Mountain State is under my protection and I want you out of it. If I ever see either of you here again, I’ll bury you alive and paint ‘Here Lies Buffy’ on your headstone in Huck’s blood. Got me?”
“Yes, ma’am.” At least she was polite.
I told Huck to sleep for an hour before forgetting everything that happened back at the road after I got there, so only Buffy would know. I watched her turn their truck around and followed them back to I-79 to ensure they turned south before I came home.
In our training room under the Longevity Studies Building, Eric, Cole, and Travis looked appalled.
“That’s where you were?” Eric asked. “You’re not supposed to stop out there except in an emergency. That’s your rule.”
“It was an emergency,” I replied, still exhilarated over the entire incident. “Or I thought it was. It was seven degrees out there.”
“Plus you should have called us,” Cole added.
“Without a cell signal? I think I mentioned that.” I couldn’t believe they didn’t get it. “And?”
Eric wasn’t buying it. “And not one other car passed by on that road while a gun was being waved at you?”
Travis looked devastated. “Evil Travis? You think I’m evil?”
“I said he ‘looked like’ an evil you. You guys are all missing the point…”
Cole smirked. “That only a fool would give a couple of thieves three hundred bucks?” All three nodded at that. “Where’s the gun?”
“I gave it to Kelly Jean. You think I’m making this up?”
“Show us the license pictures,” Travis added. “I want to see what this fake-me really looks like.”
“Seriously, guys! Think about it: I met Buffy the Vampire Slayer and lived to tell the tale! Where are my props?”
Happy New Year, guys.
Take your power seriously. Keep each other safe. Be indomitable.