Michael pulled his hoodie tighter around his face. A car was following him, he was sure of it. It was a little pale blue hatchback, a granny car with a dodgy fan belt by the sound of it, not the ominous quiet running black limo with black tinted windows that was supposed to follow lone walkers down darkened alleyways, but it made him nervous all the same. He fingered the switchblade in his pocket and walked faster, hunching over into the rain.

The car drew level with him and the passenger window slid down with a faint squeal.

“Do you want a lift?”

Michael stepped back from the curb. He’d seen the driver around, a thin woman in late middle age with grey-streaked straight dark hair. She liked to hang around the parks and overpasses, talking to the homeless kids, sometimes handing out money or food, all the time staring around with big, haunted looking dark brown eyes. Not a churchy do-gooder type—they always worked in pairs. Possibly an undercover cop, or more likely a guilt-ridden mother looking for her own runaway child. He dithered on the footpath, trying to second-guess what she wanted from him, what he could get from her, and what would be the cost.

“Are you hungry? You want to go get something to eat?”

It could be some kind of set up. But he was hungry. He was almost always hungry. He was also cold and wet. And she was a lone, unarmed, slightly built woman. He looked around, stepped from foot to foot and jiggled the switchblade.

“Yeah,” he said, quietly, almost to himself, then louder, “Yeah. Yeah, OK.”

Once inside the car, the woman held out her hand. “I’m Susan.”

“Michael,” he mumbled, shaking her hand awkwardly.

“I’ve seen you at the park, Michael,” she said. “It must be very difficult for you, so young, living the way you do, no family…”

“You a cop or something?” His hand tightened on the door handle. The car had begun to pull away from the curb, but if he jumped out now he might still escape without serious injury.

“No, nothing like that. I’m just…it worries me, seeing all these beautiful young people out on the street with nobody to care for them.”

So, that was her angle. Michael knew her type, but they were almost always men trolling for a bit of young rough. He looked at her more closely and shrugged. Could be worse.

As if reading his mind. Susan reached out and stroked the leg of his jeans.

“You’re soaking wet,” she said. “You’ll get sick if you sit in those clothes for too long. I don’t live far from here—you could take a bath while I wash and dry them for you.”

“I wouldn’t want to put you out…”

“It’s no trouble,” she said, far too quickly. “No trouble at all.”

Bingo. Hasn’t been five minutes and already she’s talking about getting me naked. He smiled and settled back to enjoy the ride.

Complete story available in the print edition of Big Pulp Winter 2010



Tracie McBride is a New Zealander who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. Her work has appeared in over 50 print and electronic publications, including Pulp.Net, Coyote Wild, Abyss and Apex, Space & Time, Sniplits, Electric Velocipede, and Big Pulp. In 2007, Tracie won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent, and she currently serves as vice president of the writer’s co-operative Dark Continents Publishing. Her blog can be found at traciemcbridewriter.wordpress.com/.

For more of Tracie's work,
visit her Big Pulp author page


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Big Pulp Winter 2010:
Ted Bundy's Beetle

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