Lance could not believe his eyes when he saw an older white ford pick-up truck pull over. The heat was sweltering and the sun had been blazing down on him for hours. Still he was not for sure if it was real. The last two times a vehicle stopped the drivers waited until he got close to the door and then took off. Lance realized that this was because he was dirty and hadn't shaved in over a week and most likely looked like a serial killer that hitched hiked through the Mohave desert only to find his prey.
Lance approached the vehicle and reached out for the door handle. He was relieved when the door opened and the big bushy man told him to hop on in. " The name's Bill Rutherford, where you headed"? The driver asked Lance. " I am headed to California, or as close to it as I can get." Lance replied in a exhausted voice.
The journey had been long and miserable for Lance every since he had left Colorado Springs. He was on a mission to figure out what life was about after loosing everything he had ever cared for. Lance was a young twenty two year old widow and a former student at the University of Colorado. Before everything happened, life was going good for Lance and his wife Maxine. Maxine was a stunning young lady with short auburn hair and a cheerful smile that would brighten up anyone's day.
The couple had known each other every since grade school and then started dating in high school. After graduating high school the two learned they were going to have a baby, so It was decided they would marry and continue with their plans to attend college and raise their child together.
The sun that the old ford truck had been chasing was slowly disappearing beyond the horizon. The humming sound of the motor helped lance relax while his mind drifted back to a time that wasn't long ago. It was a time of happiness, hope , and excitement that filled this family of three with love and joy.
"How could you let this happen lord"? Lance thought to himself. "What did I do to deserve this"?
Lance was hoping that Bill, the driver would not see the tears that were falling down his face. The pain and anguish would not let go of Lance, it would just hang around him like a fog that sat upon a lake in the spring time morning air. Although he tried not to let his thoughts visit the past, Lance's mind drifted back to the day that changed his life forever.
It had been a mild summer morning that day when Lance left for work. He had kissed Maxine goodbye and told her that he would pick some pizza up for dinner on his way home later. Lance then told Maxine to tell little Jimmy, their six month old baby boy, that daddy loved him. After Lance had left, Maxine grabbed the dirty laundry out of the hamper in the bathroom and went down stairs to the basement to do the laundry. While loading the washer Maxine heard an upstairs door open and shut. Thinking this was Lance coming back after something he had forgotten she trotted up the stairs to meet him in the Kitchen. When Maxine entered the kitchen she spotted a man rummaging through the kitchen drawers. " Can I help you" Maxine asked the man in a shaky voice. Without answering, the man grabbed a knife out of one of the drawers and quickly turned around. After seeing that he was much bigger and stronger than his soon to be victim, he charged for her. Maxine screamed as she ran towards the back room where her toddler was sleeping. Maxine made it to the room and locked the door but it would do no good. The man busted right through the door and grabbed her.
It was later discovered that the man had raped Maxine. She had defensive wounds on her hands showing that she must have fought off her attacker with everything she had. After having his way with Maxine the man finished rummaging through the house. He then would take what ever he could find of value and then light the house on fire, killing both Maxine and the child. That night Lance would return to what used to be his home only to see an army of police and fire fighters swarming the scene. They had questioned him as if he was a suspect about what he might have known about the fire or the deaths. Lance could not even speak after finding out about the fate of his family. Lance felt like someone had just took a ball bat and hit him in the stomach, knocking the wind right out of him. He wanted to scream at the investigating officer that was drilling him for knowledge of something he did not know anything about. He was hoping it was all just a real bad dream but soon realized it wasn't a dream after they put him in the back seat of a squad car. It would take several hours for the police to realize that Lance had nothing to do with the crime. With a short apology and a ride back to his car , the police let Lance go.
"Where are you from"? the driver asked Lance. Not wanting to be rude Lance snapped out of his thoughts and told the man he was from Colorado Springs. Lance wasn't really wanting to carry on a conversation but at the same time he knew it would be much more polite to at least answer a few questions and maybe indulge in small talk, if any thing it would help get his mind back to the present. "Where are you headed"? Lance asked the driver.
"I am headed out west to try and help some young troubled teenagers". Bill replied " You seem like you have a lot on your mind friend, we have nothing but miles and miles of asphalt so if you need to talk about it, I am all ears." Bill offered.
"I wouldn't know where to start" Lance said as he leaned up and stretched his arms.
Something was different, Lance never wanted to talk about what happened before, but now he had the urge to tell his story. He was ready to release the hurt that had been built up inside for so long. It would take the better part of the night but Lance went on to tell his story to this complete stranger.
Bill asked Lance if he had prayed to god for help getting through this dark time in his life. He also told him about how he had leaned on god after someone crossed the yellow line and killed his wife about five years ago.
"Prayer goes along way my friend and having faith can bring anyone to the light, even in their darkest hour." Bill explained.
As the sun began to rise the two decided to stop at the next place they seen. It would be a run down gas station that still had a café in service. There were two gas pumps that looked like they were from the seventies and a small garage that didn't look like it was in use any longer. Bill pulled in and parked next to the big window of the café that faced the parking lot. From inside the truck they could see two people inside eating breakfast. There was a larger man with a flannel shirt on and had a beard that reached his chest. The other man was a thin man that had round wire glasses that sat on a long thin nose.
" I want to thank you for taking the time to hear my story. I blamed god for all my misfortune, but now I think I understand better ". Lance told Bill as they got out of the Truck.
The two walked in and sat down at a booth next to the big window. After no one came to their table, Lance got up and walked to the counter and asked in a loud voice if anyone was there. A skinny older women dressed in a pink uniform that had a apron tied around it came out from the kitchen area. The lady apologized that she was taking biscuits out of the oven and didn't hear him come in. Lance told her that it was no big deal and asked if he could get a cup of coffee for him and his friend. The lady told him that she would bring it right out in a moment.
The dinner itself wasn't very big. There were three tables and four booths crammed in a small area just beyond the counter. The place looked as if it hadn't been updated since the late seventies.
Lance went back to his seat and told Bill that he had ordered them both a cup of coffee. "I am gonna go wash my face and freshen up a bit ", Lance told Bill.
After a few moments later Lance came out of the bathroom and noticed the waitress bringing the coffee to their table. He met her at his booth and told her he would have the special of two eggs , ham and some hash browns. "I will come back when your friend gets back and take both of your orders at the same time" the waitress replied as she set the two cups of coffee down on the table. Lance didn't realize when he sat down that his friend was gone. He looked out the window and noticed the white ford truck was also gone.
After looking around the dinner, Lance spotted the two truckers that had been eating their breakfast when he and Bill walked in. "Did the man I came in here with say where he was going"? Lance asked.
The two men stopped eating and raised their heads. The Larger of the two was holding a piece of toast in one hand and a fork with eggs on it in the other. " Sir you didn't come in here with anyone". the man said as his posture never changed still holding everything in mid air.
" That's not true, we came in just a few minutes ago", " We parked right there in front of this window" Lance said as he pointed to the large window facing the parking lot.
"Sir are you feeling alright"? asked the smaller gentleman. " You came in here alone, we would of seen a vehicle park there if there had been one".
Lance was confused as to why these people were lying. "I am not crazy, I am telling you that I just walked in here with a large bushy man named Bill"!
Silence quickly filled the room. Lance did not know what to say, he just sat there wandering what had happened to his friend.
After a few minutes the waitress walked back behind the counter and continued with her daily routine while the two truckers finished up their meal. After the two men paid there tab and left , Lance noticed a newspaper they left behind. Lance got up and retrieved the paper and decided that he would sip on his coffee and read the local news.
After reading the front, Lance turned the page and immediately recognized the white truck pictured upside down in a dried up creek bed. As he read the article his hair on his neck and arms stood straight up. It read: The driver, Bill Rutherford was a traveling missionary heading to California to visit a boys home that housed troubled teenagers. A witness that had been driving behind the white truck stated that Bill turned his wheel sharp to avoid hitting a hitch hiker along the Mohave Desert highway. The witness had stopped to help but it would be to late, the man had died on impact. The odd thing was that the hitch hiker was no where in sight after the wreck...