Crime Fiction

We all leave Fargo in different directions. I stow the parcel under the bench seat in my old Plymouth Reliant. The kind of car no-one wants to be seen in.

The lads prefer souped-up muscle. The kind the cops can’t resist pulling over to show who’s boss. It works every time. Hot-rods are cop catnip. I’ve seen it happen. They glare at the ‘rods and flick the lights and sirens switch. Search the cars with nothing in them.

They are blind to my sad little granny’s car. Too slow, too anodyne. It might have something to do the grey wig and granny hat I keep in the glove compartment. Maybe not.

I head south, then west, then south and west again, cruising the ND rectangles. Just in case. Heavy grey clouds in every direction. One in particular looks powerful. High, wide, livid with intent, ready to jump and jive. I crawl through Bismark, hit the 94 westbound, then it unloads its ocean of rain, its violence of lightning. Noise and light litter the landscape, as much as I can see.

I turn off onto the 25 north, less traffic, just another farm-boy heading north. Then there’s a figure with its thumb held out. I slow as I pass. I’m not picking up a man, no matter how bad the weather. It’s a woman though. In heavy rain like this! I pull up.

She opens the back door, throws in her small rucksack, jumps in, slams the door.

“Oh god I am so wet.”

The voice is husky, European. Maybe Dutch. Her hair is wet string, eyes Van Gogh blue.

“What are you doing?” I say. “You should’ve been under cover. A bridge. Anything.” 

“Yeah, well.”

“Where are headed?” I mean, no-one is going anywhere on this road.

She shrugs. Not a talker then. Hey ho. I’m doing my good deed for the day.

“I’m very tired. Do you mind if I sleep?” she says.

“Help yourself. I’m Zac anyway.”

I think she says her name or maybe she is coughing up phlegm. Harry? Lies down and doesn’t move. She could hold a knife to my throat easy from there. I shrug. Whatever.

Maybe an hour later on those long, flat, ugly North Dakota roads that never head in the direction you want to go, I pull into a gas station in Center. ND is cruel in any season. The thunderstorm passed and now it’s only sleeting and blowing – wet, cold, miserable. I hunker into my jacket and gas up. Fingers freezing down to the bones.

Go in to pay.

“It’s bad out there,” the heavy woman at the counter says. Rings it up. I nod, I pay.

“That someone in your car?” she says. I look in the same direction. The girl has sat up.

“Oh yeah. Hitchhiker. She was sleeping.”

“She’s not Dutch?”

“Huh? Why d’ya say that?”

“News report. Police want to speak to a Dutch woman about a murder in Bismark. Son of a big businessman – some construction company bigwig. Knife in the back.”

“Knife in the back? I better watch out, eh?” I smile. She doesn’t.

As I leave, she says again: “Is she Dutch?” I ignore her. Slip into the driver’s seat. Dutch girl is looking around, checking.

“Still lousy weather, but this is North Dakota,” I say as I ease the old Plymouth out into the rain. “Dakota is Sioux for ‘lousy weather’.”

She doesn’t get it. Dutch aren’t renowned for their sense of humor. She leans forward, rests her chin on her folded arms on the top of the bench seat. It’s not a new car.

She sighs. “Did she say anything?”

“The woman in there?”


I nod. “The police looking for you then?”


“She’s bound to call them, tell them my plates.”

She sighs. “He bought my friend a drink at a bar while I was in the toilet. Must have slipped her some rohypnol or quaaludes. I came out and she was gone. He couldn’t even wait. On his back seat out in the car park. Like a butcher at a carcass. I was so angry.”

“Well you sure crossed a line….”

“Well, so did he, and he deserved it…”

“I never said he didn’t.”

That compound sound of rain hitting a metal roof and tyres riding wet blacktop. The smell of wet hair and clothes.

“How’s your friend?” I say.

“Messed up.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Like real messed up. You can’t imagine.”

“I’ll try not to.”

“Why would you bet?”

“It’s an idiom.”

“English idioms are my downfall.”

“No, knives used in anger are your downfall.”

She sighs. 

“What are you going to do?” she says. Anxious.

I don’t answer. This is a new situation for me, and I’ve dealt with a few. The wipers slap away the icy wet rain.

She sighs again. “Do what you like. I can’t take much more.”

I pull over to the side of the road. Think a bit. Pull a map out of the glove compartment. Wish I still smoked.

She sits back, slumped. I start the motor and turn the Reliant around and head back through Center. We get lucky – there’s a rig parked at the gas station sucking diesel so the snitch can’t see us driving in the opposite direction.

A few miles down the road I turn left off the 25, north, up 36th Avenue SW and luck again works for us. We are maybe three hundred yards from the turnoff when I see in the rear vision two police cars hurtling along the 25 towards Center, lights ablaze.

We take back roads up to Hensler, cross old Missou and stop outside Washburn. I call my buddy Ralph in Roche Percee, Saskatchewan.

“The time has come Ralph baby.”

In a tree-lined parking bay I switch the plates and use a stick to push the stolen ones down deep into a small swamp. She watches me, a little stunned. I WhatsApp the boys in Medicine Hole to say I won’t be joining them in Sidney and I’ll ship them the parcel from Washburn. I wasn’t looking forward to crossing the state line with that load anyway. The abusive replies start hammering back in. I turn off the phone. 

Ralph meets us on the dirt road. Short explanation. No details. He leads her into the scrub. She looks back at me anxiously, turns and follows him.

I get through the Portal border crossing no problems. Drive down the Canadian back roads to another dirt road meeting place. She has a great smile. When I get out of the car she runs up and gives me a huge hug. I could get used to that.

Gerrie is a good mother. I’m still working on my Dutch. Those growly Gs, the way the Dutch pronounce them, they get me every time.

We often discuss what we’ll say to the kids when they ask how we met. 

July 31, 2023 20:13

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Drew M
00:22 Aug 10, 2023

Nicely done. The reader is held in uncertainty ... the story could really go so many different directions. I didn't see the "how we met" ending coming!


Lyle Closs
07:18 Aug 11, 2023

Thanks Drew - comments always welcome, especially positive ones :-)


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Juley Harvey
22:41 Aug 09, 2023

Really engaging; good use of dialogue and setting. Felt like I was along for the ride. Fun ending!


Lyle Closs
07:18 Aug 11, 2023

Thanks Juley - so glad you enjoyed it.


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Herman W Clarke
09:21 Aug 06, 2023

Great story Lyle! Gripping all the way through.


Lyle Closs
06:37 Aug 07, 2023

Thanks Herman - glad you enjoyed it.


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