“How the hell did this happen?” I yelled to myself in the dark.
Another small “blink-and-you-miss” town flew by the window, with just one house to be seen.
I tried to blink away the tiredness in my eyes, realising my husband’s life depended on me staying awake. My eyes felt gritty and sore from staring at the road for four hours, and I had a long way to go.
As I drove through the night, I thought back to how this had all started.
I didn’t have a lot of friends but the ones I did have were very loyal.
The girls went shopping together, they had weekly coffee days together, and met up for a game night once a week, with their husbands.
They usually played poker, or uno and sometimes monopoly.
Some nights just didn’t turn out how they were supposed to and a few went home in a bad mood after some disagreements, but most times they went home happy.
Last night was a very unhappy night.
The poker game seemed to be going well until her friend Macy’s husband, John, lost the plot, big time.
They all knew he was schizophrenic, but he took tablets which kept him stable and usually, very likeable.
He had upped the stakes to fifty dollars which had made them all gasp as the usual was twenty.
They were all quite happy to win a hundred- and- sixty dollars for the night, but John had never won, not once in two years which seemed a bit odd, but that was just the luck of the draw.
They had all agreed, “just this once, never again, for John’s sake.” They said.
As the game drew to a close I could see the perspiration breaking out on John’s forehead. I knew I had a winning hand, but I wanted him to win, just this once.
Before I had the chance to throw in my cards, John suddenly stood up, threw his cards at me, violently tipped the table over sending the cards, money and glasses flying, then grabbed me by the throat.
“What are you doing!” his wife yelled, along with everyone else.
As they came toward him he produced a gun from inside his shirt.
“Stay back or this bitch will die!”
“You are the reason I never win this game.” “I know you hate me Mary, and I know you have this game rigged, so that I never win!”
“That’s not true John!” I squeaked. I was quickly running out of air and was starting to black out, when mercifully he dropped me on the floor.
Macy tried to talk to him, reminding him he must have forgotten to take his pills, and that was why he was so disoriented. She produced his bottle of pills and offered it to him.
“Shut your mouth!” he yelled. “I have known for years you have all had it in for me, well now we will see who wins!”
“Mary and I are going to have a race, but the stakes are a little bit higher.”
John grabbed Mary’s husband Geoff. “You are going to be my hostage in this race.”
John told Mary he was going to race her to Melbourne, only using the back roads and no stops. He said if she went onto a main road, he would shoot Geoff, if she stopped he would shoot Geoff, and if he beat her there, he would shoot Geoff.
“You, tie Geoff up with that cord!” “If any one of you calls the Police he is dead.”
“John please don’t do this, you only feel like this because you forgot your pills!” Macy pleaded.
“Stop talking!” “You are not getting out of this one!” “You are all responsible for what happens to John.” “You can decide if he lives or dies.” “The first time I see a Police car, he’s dead!”
With that he herded John and me outside. “You have seven hours to reach Melbourne, and I am giving you a thirty minute start.” “When we reach the end of the main road, you can fill up at the servo, then go.”
He pushed John into the passenger side of his four-wheel-drive, then looked back at the others standing near the front door.
“Remember what I said, I have the Police on my radio, so I will know if you call them.”
Macy begged again. “John, please, I love you, please don’t do this!” John ignored her, went around and jumped into the car.
I slid into my own car, it wasn’t a four wheel drive, but it was fairly new so I had confidence I could beat him to the Petrol Station at the entrance to the Melbourne freeway, anyway I didn’t have any choice but to try.
So here I was, four hours into the drive, and he hadn’t caught up to me.
I looked at the dashboard, it was getting on for 2am and I had been awake since 6am yesterday. I dragged out a small bottle of water pulled the top off with one hand, splashed some into my palm then wiped it across my face. I had to stay awake. I turned the radio up louder and put down the window.
Thankfully there weren’t many cars on the back roads, so I could keep up my speed, though I had to be careful not to get caught by radar.
With one hour to go, I had both front windows down and the music blaring as I sped through the darkness towards my goal.
Suddenly the music stopped playing. There was an important news update.
I screeched to a halt, with pebbles flying and dust whirling around the car.
There had been an accident, a bad accident on the back road to Melbourne.
My blood ran cold as the announcer described the four wheel drive, and the man tied up in the passenger seat.
He went on to say the driver was dead at the scene and the passenger had been taken to the local Hospital with minor injuries.
I sat there not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Poor Macy had lost her husband, but mine was safe in Hospital.
I drove to the Hospital where I found out the driver had lost control while checking his radio and slammed sideways into a tree, killing him instantly.
I sat beside my husband’s bed and held his hand until he awoke several hours later. He hugged me with tears in his eyes, thankful he had lived to see another day.
We are still friends with Macy and the others, but now we stay away from any gambling nights.
Now we enjoy a movie night every week instead, it’s much safer.