Peter Tucker was beside himself with anger for not paying attention to the scenery around him. He had only traveled this same route out of Mesa, Arizona several dozen times in the past twenty years, but somehow, on this particular day, he found himself lost and heading in the wrong direction. It was only after he made a half dozen wrong turns that he realized that he was not at all where he thought he should be. As it was a mid-August evening and well past 7:45 pm, he knew that he would be driving in darkness and through a vast open prairie devoid of any civilization. It was now 2022 and the world was now full of “crazies”. It was no place for anyone to be driving alone in the dark. These back roads were the guarded sanctuaries for perverts, murderers, and thieves who often preyed on the unsuspecting and the unfortunate who haplessly stumbled their way. 

At his best estimation, he now needed to turn himself completely around and head south some 66 miles from Cleator, Arizona and then head toward Phoenix, AZ before taking the exit for State Route 93 to Bagdad. Once on State Route 93, it would be another three hours drive until he reached his 100-year-old potato farm. With the prospect of getting home very late, Peter applied a heavy foot to the gas pedal and his 2001 white Ford pickup’s tires spewed dry Arizona dust behind him as he sped along on this solitary dirt road.  

He hadn’t gone very far when his truck came over a hill with a blind curve and almost hit a disabled vehicle sitting on the side of the road. From his rear view mirror, he saw a pair of arms frantically waving for him to stop. 

His truck stopped with a great screech as his tires locked up in the dry Arizona dust. With a degree of caution, Peter backed his truck up to the stranger standing behind him. He spied his 12 gauge shotgun tucked away some distance underneath the back seat. It was primed and ready to go if needed. Standing behind him was a young female, maybe, 18-20 years old and wearing a red tank top and blue overalls. She had long brown hair which she had in a ponytail and was holding a tire iron in her left hand. 

“ Good evening to you miss, . . . can I be of any assistance?” Peter asked, after rolling down his front passenger side window and looking out toward her. 

At only five feet four inches tall and some 140 lbs, Peter was not an imposing figure, but his 42-year-old voice did resonate his tenacity well with the stranger outside his Ford pickup truck. He wore a dirty pair of blue jeans, and a sweaty green T-shirt after spending the entire day in the hot August sun. His dirty straw Cowboy hat also sat firmly toward the back of his head. As he now lived alone and never had any visitors, he had some four days of growth on his unshaven face. 

“Mister . . . I have been trying to change this tire for almost twenty minutes now and I can’t get the spare on. “ 

Peter could see how frantic this stranger had become and offered to provide whatever assistance he could. He got out of his truck with his flashlight to take a look. 

It only took him about thirty seconds to realize what was wrong as he disgustedly began to now shake his head. 

“Missy . . . it ain’t your tire that's the problem. . . . ya spun a wheel bearing on the right passenger side. “ 

It did not take long for Peter to point out the problem to this stranger and why her gold 2010 Mitsubishi Galant was dipping down so low on the right front end. 

“ Is there someone you can call ?” Peter asked, as he now knew this car was not going anywhere. 

The stranger seemed reluctant, or rather, unwilling to provide a reply to this inquiry. Peter became somewhat suspicious and pressed her further about this.

“This ain’t a good place to hang around . . . Certainly, there must be someone you can call?” 

Peter was now able to get a better look at the stranger before him. She had long blond hair and blue eyes and a fair complexion. She looked to be of either Scandinavian or Norwegian descent. She had a very trim figure and seemed extremely athletic. She paced back and forth in front of his truck’s headlights for a little while. 

“ Listen, sir, she started while clearing her throat, ‘Can you maybe drop me off somewhere and I can hire a tow? “ 

“Yeah, sure . . . but that would be 141 miles from here and in Phoenix? That’s quite a poke from here missy .“ 

“That’s fine mister . . . if you don’t mind.” 

With that, and without any hesitation, the stranger jumped into Peter’s truck while he climbed into the driver’s side and drove away. They traveled some six miles before Peter tried some small talk to break the ice. 

“ I’m Peter . . . . what’s your name?” 

“Sarah”, she said this while she stared out the front passenger side window and looked at the full moon and some of the bright stars which now paced their speeding truck. 

“Ya live around here, do you?” 

“Yeah, I live in a small trailer park just outside of Sedona with my parents. “ 

“You do, do you ?” 

Peter Tucker mulled this comment over for some time before he spoke again. He was puzzled over a few things from earlier and decided to proceed with caution here. 

“ Any reason why your parents were not available to pick you up . . . any reason why you chose not to call them?” 

Peter could see that he had made Sarah feel uncomfortable and did not want to press her any further. For whatever reason, her parents were not a viable option and that was that. 

After they had traveled another ten miles down the dark and lonely highway, Sarah broke the disturbing silence within this old and noisy truck. 

“To be honest with you . . . I am running away from my parents and was heading to Phoenix to enlist in the Army. It was their only car that broke down if you must know.”

Peter Tucker did not know what to say to that. He just remained silent and kept driving. 

“So why are you out so late, Peter? Sarah asked politely to change the subject. 

“Well, I had to go into Mesa to fetch a refurbished water pump from Whiteman’s Tractor Supply. Mine crapped out on me and now I have no running water to feed my horses, cattle and livestock. Honestly, I just made a wrong turn somewhere along the way and ended up running into you.” 

“I guess I owe you some thanks for getting lost . . . I don't know what I would have done if you did not come along.” 

“ The real irony is that I’ve done this route a thousand times in my sleep, but today I got lost!” 

They both chuckled for a moment as darkness invaded their laughter. Outside of the pale yellow glow of his truck’s dim headlights, there was nothing but darkness around them. There was also an eerie silence surrounding them as well. The kind of silence one hears, in the wilderness, moments before a stealthy predator pounces on its unsuspecting prey. Heavy ground fog had also rolled in which made this arduous journey that much more difficult before them. 

“You said earlier that this ain’t a safe place to hang out . . . why”s that? “ 

“There’s a criminal element here, that’s all. “ 

Peter Tucker did not want to get into this conversation or topic and desperately tried to find another. 

“So, if you don’t mind me asking . . . why do you want to leave your parents? Have they not been good to you? “ 

Sarah squirmed in the front passenger seat a little before she provided any reply to him. Peter could tell that the wounds ran very deep for whatever was now bothering her. 

“I mean, they put food on the table and give me a place to sleep but we ain’t much of a family. Do you understand what I’m saying? I can’t say that they’re mean, but they are not nice. I am more of their worker than a true family member.“ 

“That’s not good” Peter injected as she continued with her story. 

“It’s like I don’t belong there or something. I certainly don’t feel like I have anything in common with them either. “ 

“C’mon . . . you got to be exaggerating here a little . . . don’t you think?”

“No. I don’t!” 

“C’mon, maybe just a little ?” Peter beseechingly asked Sarah to see if she would soften up her position on this. 

“ I am short and slender and both my parents have dark hair, dark complexions and are very heavy. I have a fair complexion and they look like they are Turkish or Iranian. If I didn't know better I would think I was adopted or something. “ 

“Well, do you look like any of your siblings or any other relatives?”

“That’s the thing . . . I don’t have any siblings and I have never met any of my family's relatives ".


“Nope, never. “ 

It seemed that the more he heard about Sarah’s life; the more he wished he hadn’t. Peter stared out the front windshield and did not have anything further to say to her. 

“ What about you, Peter . . .do you have any children or any family?” 

Sarah could see some tears welling up behind Peter’s right eye and his now agitated face became tense. She did not know what to expect and turned away from him. 

“My wife, Janet, died two years ago from lung cancer. She had just turned forty years old. She was still so young looking and beautiful. We even shared the same birthday, April 14th, although I was born two years earlier. “

“And what about any children?”  

Peter did his best to control his emotions as his voice sounded shaky from time to time as he now spoke. 

“Well . . . Janet and I had a newborn girl back some 18 years ago. She was our little angel. Anyway, one day, our 1997 Ford Bronco broke down on State Route 89. I went to get some help and left Janet with our baby in the car. I must have walked some ten miles until I realized that it could not go any further and headed back. When I got back, I found Janet, in the front passenger seat, bound and gagged and our daughter had been taken from us. “

“OMG, how horrible!” 

“Yeah, some unmarked tow truck and an unknown driver came up to our disabled car and took our child and drove off. “ 

Peter reached past Sarah and reached into the glove box and pulled out a fading Polaroid snapshot of his child for Sarah to see. Sarah studied it for some time and admired the child in the faded photograph.

" We named her Jennifer after my wife’s sister. “ 

“ She is a breathtaking baby . . . I must say. “ 

“Why thanks, " Peter said, as he handed Sarah another faded photograph to look at. 

“As you can see, Jennifer has a bell shaped mole on the inside of her left armpit”, he continued as he tried to keep his eyes on the road ahead of him. 

Sarah became as white as a ghost and sat in the front passenger seat and appeared petrified which was evident in the way that her body now shook. 

“ What’s wrong, dear?” Peter blurted out in haste, with one eye on the road and the other on Sarah’s shocked face. 

Without uttering a single word, Sarah raised her left arm above her head and toward his direction. Peter nearly ran the truck into the adjacent ravine on the right side of the road as he observed the bell shaped mole on the inside of Sarah’s left armpit. 

“Let me guess . . . your father is a tow truck driver.” Peter angrily shouted to her as he centered the truck back on the dark highway. 

Sarah shook her head in the affirmative as she again looked out the front passenger side window. Although things now appeared somewhat awkward between them, they both seemed genuinely happy about the outcome of this chance encounter. 

“You wouldn’t mind if we made a slight detour to the Phoenix Police before we continued on our way, do you? “ 

“Absolutely, not!” Sarah said without any hesitation. 

What’s your last name, Peter ?” 


“Hmm, Jennifer Tucker. . . . I like the sound of that!.” 

Neither of them spoke during the remainder of the 100-mile trek to the Phoenix Police Station. Jennifer studied the fading photographs in her right-hand several times before she tucked them away into her rear overall pocket. A slight smile could be seen on her face as she now silently reflected upon the popular belief that “all roads do lead home”, and happily, even the back roads of Bagdad were no exception to this golden rule. 

August 01, 2023 15:41

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Russell Mickler
00:54 Aug 08, 2023

Hey Arthur - >> These back roads were the guarded sanctuaries for perverts, murderers, >> and thieves who often preyed on the unsuspecting and the unfortunate >> who haplessly stumbled their way. HA! Exactly what I was thinking about when I replied to this prompt ... I had a dry taste in my mouth reading the para about the SR 93, also something I did in this prompt ... I thought you set the setting well here. I liked the apprehension, the shotgun primed in the back ... I also liked their dialogue and the details you give to the characte...


Arthur McNamee
01:55 Aug 08, 2023

Thank you for the nice comments. I appreciate it very much.


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Kevin Logue
18:01 Aug 07, 2023

Fate it would seem made Peter take a few wrong turns on this fateful day. A nice story Arthur, flowed really well and kept me involved throughout. Great entry! Welcome to Reedsy, I look forward to reading more of your tales.


Arthur McNamee
21:33 Aug 07, 2023

Thank you for the nice comments. I appreciate it very much.


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Michelle Oliver
14:46 Aug 06, 2023

A long lost daughter is certainly unexpected. A lovely tale reuniting a family, with some great dialogue. I like how the hand of fate seemed to bring them together again. I enjoyed this story, thanks for sharing and welcome to reedsy.


Arthur McNamee
18:18 Aug 06, 2023

Thank you for this nice post. I'm a newbie and appreciate the positive feedback and welcome.


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Herman W Clarke
09:29 Aug 06, 2023

Really enjoyed reading this, I thought the dialogue was gripping and very well done.


Arthur McNamee
18:20 Aug 06, 2023

Thank you very much. It took me a little while to figure out how to reply to you. I am new on this site.


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