Rachel drove in silence along the thin black top road between two tiny nameless villages. The darkness closed in around her. Not even any houses. She shivered, despite the warm air blowing thru the air vents, remembering the scary stories she had been told as a child - what happens to little girls who wondered out at night by themselves.
She was still about 2 hours away from Cuxhaven, her final destination before leaving Germany. Occasionally, a pair of headlights would zip past her on the wrong side of the road. It still disoriented her, but she was so consumed with other thoughts, she hardly noticed.
The car, if you could call it that, a tiny nondescript Volkswagen, hummed to her a nameless, toneless tune. In America, this would have been be one of those circus cars all the clowns fell out of. She winced inwardly. The circus. The circus was what had gotten her into this mess. No, that wasn't fair. Hatred, Fear had gotten her into this mess. She glanced to her left and saw a mass of slumbering humanity under a dull green afghan in the cramped back seat. She was starting to worry. He should have been awake by now. She touched him lightly, while still keeping her eyes on the road. His chest rose and fell slightly. A sure signal he was still out cold. Thru the afghan, she could feel the cruel-looking metal collar that was around his neck. It was hidden under the afghan and she was just as glad for that. It hurt her just to look at it. It hurt her more to know that she was the reason he was wearing it. It looked like some kind of Star-Trek inspired dog collar. She had tried her best to get it off, but her stolen keys wouldn't budge the lock. "It's for his own protection"...those words sounded in her head and she gripped the stirring wheel tighter, her peripheral vision blurring with tears.
In her rear view mirror, a sight that slapped her back to the present and made her blood run cold, flashed in her eyes. The police car's strobe lights and siren warranted no argument. She pulled to the side of the road and got a temporary license out of her purse and waited. She was so scared, her breath hurt in her lungs and her hands went numb. 'I'm just a tourist, I'm just a tourist, I'm just a tourist' she kept repeating to herself. Maybe if she believed that, the officer would too. She reached behind her and pulled the green cover over black curly hair and a stray three-fingered hand. 'I'm just a tourist...'
"Guten Abend." Rachel said as pleasantly as she could. "What seems to be the problem officer?" She smiled and hoped her southern drawl was as adorable to him as it had been to other Germans who begged her to "talk" for them. Hell, for that matter, she just hoped the cop spoke a little English. Because she was sure she spoke even less German.
"Guten Abend." He said, much more fluently she had. "Did you know your taillight in out?" The words were thick with German gravel, but understandable.
'I'm just a tourist'..."No sir, I had no idea. This isn't my car; I rented it in Frankfurt."
"May I see your driver's permit, please?" She handed it to him quickly, hopefully not too quickly. 'I'm just a tourist; I'm just a tourist." She also handed him her rental agreement. She pretended it was the bitter cold that made her hands tremble.
"Yes, Kim Grant" She smiled. Well, she was sure it was somebody's name. Just not hers.
There was a pregnant pause while the officer studied her and the license.
'I'm just a tourist. I'm just a tourist. I'm just a tourist."
Finally, he handed her permit back. "Whose back there?" He shined his light into the back seat, illuminating the lump under the afghan.
"My husband. Apparently, German beer is just a little too much for him." She laughed gamely, trying to keep her voice level as panic rose in her throat, threatening to strangle the breath out of her.
After a 2 second eternity, he backed away from the car and nodded slightly. "Let the rental company know about that taillight. Haben Sie eine gute Nacht"
"You have a good night too, officer. Vielen Dank" She rolled up her window, shutting out the freezing cold and the fear that had threatened to undo her. If he had wanted to see who was under the cover... She shivered, but not because of the frigid air outside.
As she put her blinker on and cautiously re-entered the abandoned road, she mind started to drift back in time. Back to when the trouble all started. To the day she set foot back inside the big top of the Munich Circus...
Haben Sie einen guten Abend..."Have a good evening."