Mindless Rabid Fan
In the passenger seat, Alice sat tall, craning her neck this way and that, looking for an empty parking space. Her husband Ed gave his attention to negotiating the icy inter-sections and snow-chunked lanes of the mall parking lot. He was not in the best of humor.
"This mall must have five thousand parking spaces and every one of them filled with people like you who waited until the last minute to do their Christmas shopping."
Alice did not pause in her scanning. "Hey, can I help it if Marta Haynes decided to do a book signing the day before Christmas? I'll bet a lot of these other people are here for that, too."
Ed frowned. The Dodge Dynasty had hit a patch of ice and drifted perilously close to a Suburban parked in a spot plainly marked COMPACT. "I suppose you're going to buy one of those dumb books for yourself as well as your sister."
"They are not dumb books," Alice retorted. "They are best-selling murder mysteries."
Ed, who prided himself on reading nothing but non-fiction, gave a snort of disgust. "Only because of all you mindless rabid fans."
Grinning, Alice put up her hands in a gesture of surrender. "I confess. I'm a mindless rabid fan."
Ed would have commented on that, but his attention was diverted when he thought he saw a vacant parking space in the row across the intersection. He accelerated a little. Just as he reached the cross lane, a red Subaru cut in front of him, heading for the parking space, and Ed was forced to slam on the brakes. Grumbling, he resigned himself to yet another tour of the premises.
As Ed idled the car down the next lane, back-up lights suddenly flashed just ahead of him. The woman driver took a quick glance over her right shoulder, then backed the silver BMW directly into his path. He didn't have time to react before metal crunched metal.
Ed slapped one hand against the steering wheel. "What's wrong with that woman? She looked right at me."
The woman was faced forward now, and the man in the passenger seat shook his fist at her. He looked over his shoulder, his face contorted with anger. The way his mouth moved made it obvious he was not offering words of comfort.
Ed cut the ignition, got out and walked toward the sedan. The man stopped talking and turned his head away. The woman lowered the window on the driver's side.
She was thirtyish, and probably nice-looking on a day when her skin was not pasty white and her brown eyes so wide open that they dominated her face. Ed looked past her at the man, who continued to stare out the opposite window, neck muscles taut, jaws clenched.
When the woman handed her driver's license to Ed, her hands shook. One of those emotional types, he thought. Over-reacts to every little thing.
"I'd like the name of your insurance company, too," he said, and added, "Please," because he was beginning to feel a little sorry for her.
"Oh...yes." Her voice was thin, her words choked. "I think I have their card here somewhere." She fumbled through the compartments of her wallet and came up with the card. By this time, Ed had torn a deposit ticket out of his checkbook to scribble on. As he jotted down the information, she said "My phone number is 555-4357."
Ed handed the card and license back to her, wondering at the expression in her eyes. She looked like a spanked puppy begging forgiveness for a chewed-up slipper. He decided her husband must be a real jerk.
Ed walked back to the car, got in and handed the slip of paper to Alice. "She's really shook up. You'd think a little dent in the fender was a matter of life or death."
Alice glanced at the slip and frowned. She studied the information a moment longer, then looked up at the BMW. Her expression had changed from idle curiosity to disbelief. Then, to Ed's amazement, she muttered something about "not getting away with this," abruptly shoved open her door and hopped out. Eyes narrowed, mouth set in a determined line, she stomped behind their car and up along Ed's side, her intent clearly to confront the BMW's driver.
Dumbfounded at her reaction, Ed started to open the door as she came by. She pushed the door shut against him. "All she has to do is roll her eyes at you and whimper a little," she shouted, "and you back right off. Well, that won't work with me."
By this time, she had reached the driver's side of the BMW. She jerked the door open, reached in and grabbed the woman by the upper arm. Alice was a healthy fifty-two and had the strength of anger on her side as well.
The woman all but fell out of the car. She caught herself with her free hand on the car door. Speechless, she gaped at Alice, who thrust a firm hand under her elbow and propelled her along so swiftly that she was almost running.
Alice ranted on as she shoved the woman ahead of her toward the doors of the mall. "You ritzy-snitzy people think driving a BMW exempts you from the law. Well, it doesn't. We're reporting this right now."
Ed, who had once more stepped out of his car, walked toward the BMW. "Gosh, I'm sorry. I don't know what..."
The man's face was raspberry red, his eyes narrowed to slits. "Get your car out of the way!" he snarled. He had slid over into the driver's seat. The back-up lights flashed on again as he threw the BMW into reverse. Its right rear fender screeched against the Dodge's front end, but the big car shuddered left only a few inches.
Ed two-stepped out of the way. "Hey, watch it!" he yelled. The noise and shouting attracted the attention of the passersby and they drifted toward the accident scene. Strobe lights flashed red and blue and a siren growled from a nearby intersection.
The man leapt out of the car, shoved Ed aside and tore across the parking lot, zigzagging between the parked cars. Two police officers gave chase, one from the patrol car and one who had rushed out of the mall. Within minutes, they cornered and cuffed their man and dragged him off to the patrol car.
Ed was incredulous. Okay, so the guy was a real jerk, but all this fuss over a fender-bender?
He leaned against the front end of his car and watched with apprehension as the officer from the mall came up to him. "You must be Ed. Your wife said you'd be out here by the blue Dodge. We need statements from both of you."
"About a little thing like this?" Ed gestured to the point of impact between the two cars.
The officer gave Ed a puzzled look. "Your wife told us about how that guy was trying to kidnap the woman."
Oh, man, Ed thought. Alice has really done it, now. I knew she was reading too many murder mysteries.
While the patrol car left with the alleged offender slumped in the back seat, Ed followed the other officer into the mall. A small group of mall employees and curious shop-pers surrounded one of the benches in the entryway. As the onlookers made a path for him and the officer, Ed saw several women sitting on the bench. One was the woman from the BMW, still chalky-white and distraught, with mall personnel on either side trying to comfort her.
Alice was nowhere in sight.
Ed was in for yet another surprise as he listened to the officer question the BMW driver. She had deliberately caused the accident, to unnerve the man who was trying to abduct her. Alice had been right! The guy was a carjacker and kidnapper. But how had Alice figured that out?
Another officer joined them, saying that the woman's husband was on his way, and upon his arrival everyone involved in the incident was to go to the station. He looked at the people in the group.
"Where's the lady who reported it?"
The mall officer glanced around. "I don't see her." Then, as his gaze swept over the crowded aisle, he said, "Oh, here she comes, now."
Alice hurried toward them, looking a bit rattled. She clutched a shopping bag, which Ed noticed was about the size to contain a couple hardback novels. "I had to wait in line," she apologized to the officer as she sank down on the arm of the bench.
Ed went over to her. She must have read his expression as one of reproach, because she said, "There wasn't time to explain. I had to get her out of that car the fastest way possible, so I just used the old element of surprise."
He shook his head. "Alice, you never cease to amaze me." Then he leaned down close to her and whispered, "But just how did you know she was in trouble?"
"The phone number," she whispered back. "There is no 555 prefix. It's the one mystery writers use when they have to make up a phone number. And the numbers 4357 can spell H-E-L-P. Marta Haynes used that in one of her novels."
Alice nodded toward the BMW woman. "I'll bet she was here for the book signing, too." With a grin, she added, "Lucky, wasn't she, to run into another mindless rabid fan.
Ms. Frances Sonnabend was born in Portland, Oregon, but she has lived most of her life in Washington state. She has been writing for as long as she can remember, including humerous epic poems for office parties/functions and humerous memo/reminders. She's only started submitting for publication in recent years.
Her hobbies are reading, writing, sightseeing, and photography. Her favorite fiction authors are Mary Stewart, Stephen R. Lawhead, Cary James, Janny Wurts and David Eddings. She also reads extensively in non-fiction areas concerning medieval times, especially anything about Great Britain.
She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference and her short story/novel excerpts have placed in the top ten in their respective categories for five consecutive years in the PNWC contests.