Lightning arced across the darkening sky, followed by a deep rumble of thunder. A sharp gust of wind buffeted against the side of the silver Porsche Boxster, but Tim McGee barely noticed. His mind was occupied with the series of events that had happened over the past few days, a string of unfortunate occurrences which had culminated in tragedy.
Tim barely managed to keep his vehicle within the sets of lines that bordered the edge and marked the middle of the winding stretch of blacktop as the winds increased and the clouds grew heavier with the impending storm. Another bright flash of lightning pulled him from his dark thoughts and he raised his foot slightly from the gas pedal, allowing the car to slow in anticipation of the deluge that was rapidly approaching. It was then that he noticed, about a hundred yards ahead, another car pulled off on the side of the road. He could just make out the owner, standing next to the disabled vehicle, their posturing indicating a definite need for assistance.
Deciding that he could at least try to help someone, despite his failure to do so earlier in the day, he applied the brake and shifted down, bringing the car to a halt just behind the other vehicle. He positioned his car so the headlights provided illumination, climbed out of the driver’s seat and cautiously approached the driver of the other car.
“Need some help?” he asked. The other driver, a petite, dark-haired young woman, eyed him warily before responding.
“Do you know how to change a flat? I tried calling Triple A, but I can’t get a signal out here.”
Tim pulled out his own phone and was surprised to find that he could not get a signal, either. “Sure, I can change it for you. Is your spare in good enough shape to get you to a service station?”
“I guess. I’ve never used it before, and the car is only a couple of years old.”
“Should be fine, then. Do you have a jack in your car as well?”
“I think there’s one in the trunk with the spare.” She pulled out her key fob, clicked the remote, and Tim saw the trunk pop open. He walked over and lifted the lid before checking inside for the spare, which he found under the trunk floor. He twisted the cap on the bolt holding it in place and pulled it from the well with a grunt. It was heavier than he expected. He retrieved the jack and set to work raising the car and loosening the lug nuts. He looked up at the woman, saw that she was watching him intently, and gave her a reassuring smile.
“Don’t worry, I’ve done this before. I’m Tim, by the way.”
“Kaylee. How long do you think it will take? I really don’t like the look of those clouds.”
“Not long.” He finished loosening the last lug and pulled the damaged tire off the bolts, then quickly replaced it with the spare, urged on by the rumbles of thunder that seemed to be getting closer by the second. He put the lugs back in place and tightened them before releasing the jack and lowering the car until the spare rested on the road. He then gave each lug a few more twists with the tire iron until they were sufficiently tight, then rose and rolled the tire back to the trunk. He put it in the well, secured it, and put the flooring back into place.
“All done. Just in time, too,” he added as the first large drops of rain splattered against the car.
“No problem. Drive carefully.”
Tim turned and started to walk back to his car, wincing as an incredibly loud crack of thunder sounded behind him, closely followed by a second, and he felt something slam into his back. He barely had time to register the sudden burning pain before his knees buckled beneath him and he fell face first onto the gravel shoulder. A second point of pain soon made itself known and he tried to scream as an intense wave of agony washed over him, but he was unable to drawn a breath to do so. As he lay helpless on the side of the road, he felt something slip into his coat pocket, only to withdraw a second later. A few moments later, he registered the sound of a car door slamming shut, followed by the rumble of an engine and the squeal of tires as the car pulled away, leaving him alone in his torment. As consciousness faded, only one thought penetrated the encroaching blackness.
The clouds opened and the torrent was unleashed, soaking the prone figure and diluting the streams of thick red liquid that flowed from his body. In a nearby pine tree, sheltered from the storm, three small, black figures watched the desolate scene. There was no trace of emotion in their dark, shining eyes.