Mr. Grindle lived on the opposite edge of the Old Town and his destination (according to my FLYT driver app) just over a mile away. When I pulled up to the curb, I spied a silver-haired man in his fifties. When he turned to lock the door I knew why he’d called a car – his left leg was completely encased in a plaster cast. His breath bellowed in front of him while he huffed and puffed down the walk to the car (the cold air made him look like a dragon). I felt the previous week’s masterclass of levering people into and out of the Princess would come in handy here (a VW Rabbit, no matter how cute – is not the car of choice for those with old or broken bones).
Mr. Grindle (chuckling): “Nice hat.”
Me (touching me head, I’d forgotten about my chauffeur’s cap – I smiled): “My regulars like it.”
Mr. Grindle (smiling and skating over his hat snark): “Thanks for the ride. I can’t drive until this cast comes off and I have to attend this dinner.”
Me (opening the passenger side door): “No problem. I am glad to drive you, though I won’t be available later.”
Talking became technical for a moment while I helped Mr. Grindle translate the laws of physics into practical application which allowed him to fit comfortably to the Princess’s passenger seat. I hustled to the driver’s side (after stowing his crutches in the back) while he settled in for the short ride.
Me (puffing a bit): “So how’d you hurt your leg?”
Mr. Grindle (shaking his head and laughing at himself): “A rake jumped under my feet. I got tangled up and fell hard on my leg. Wish it was from something more interesting than that. Makes me sound like an old man.”
Me (quietly laughing with him while tapping my phone for directions): “Accidents are invariably silly or mundane. Remember when the President choked on a pretzel? With the Secret Service all around? No one ever comes off sounding like Fred Astaire.”
Mr. Grindle: “I suppose. Maybe I can make something better up?”
Not needing my encouragement, Mr. Grindle started entertaining various less plausible, but far more amusing scenarios to explain his current state. My attention diverted from the funny fabrications when an electric current arced across my toes. Startled I looked up and caught a reflection in my review mirror – a woman in her early twenties sat amongst the kitsch in my backseat staring at Mr. Grindle.
The Woman: “He murdered me you know.”
Mr. Grindle: “I do need to get to the dinner by seven thirty, so if we could get going….”
His words broke through her rather stunning declaration (and my stinging toes).
Me (turning the car over): “No problem, sir.”
Keeping my eyes fixed on the road, my hands in the ten and two position.
Me: “So how long will you be there?”
The Woman: “Forever. He buried me deep.”
Mr. Grindle: “The dinner is only suppose to last until nine.”
Me (changing plans): “Would you like me to wait for you?”
The Woman: “I waited but no one ever found me.”
Mr. Grindle (surprised): “I thought you said you would be unavailable later.”
Me (thinking on the fly): “A couple of hours isn’t very long. Plus you can make a quick escape if you need to.”
The Woman: “I tried to escape, but he shot me in the back.”
Mr. Grindle: “If it isn’t any trouble, it would be nice not to have to wait.”
Me: “No trouble at all, I can read in the car as easily as at home.”
The Woman: “I didn’t know he meant trouble when I found him in camp.”
Mr. Grindle (shifting in his seat, trying to get into his coat pocket – I think): “Do I need to do anything in FLYT…”
Me: “No, I will take care of it.”
The Woman: “He took care of everything, no one ever suspected.”
The ride ended almost as soon as the conversation did – I thanked whatever god who heeded my prayer (I didn’t care which). The Woman fell silent when we did, her focus on Mr. Grindle – much like when a cat catches you in a staring contest – never wavered. To my profound relief she never notice my furtive glances in her direction. I pulled into the driveway Mr. Grindle pointed out and helped him unfold from a sitting to an upright position – while assuring him all he had to do was call when he was ready to leave.
When I got back into the car The Woman was gone.