Picking up the hitchhiker was a spur-of-the-moment thing. Quite unlike me, really; it takes a calm, clear head to do what I do. It’s rare that I rush into things. After all, it can be the difference between life and death.
The hitcher was ambling along the tree-lined avenue, thumb skyward, dressed in the universal, genderless uniform of jeans and hooded sweatshirt. Tall but slight, the steady, even gait and squared shoulders suggesting youth rather than age.
I pulled over. He leaned in, pulling down his hood as he did so – perhaps he thought I would find it intimidating - and named a town an hour’s drive away, more in hope than expectation.
He grinned broadly when I said that was where I was headed, carelessly threw his brown leather rucksack on the back seat and climbed in.
I’ll confess I’m disappointed it isn’t a woman; it would make things easier. But I’ll just have to plan my approach a bit more carefully, that’s all. I’ve always been flexible, adaptable. I’ve had to be. Anyway, he’s pleasant enough, chatty; a student, going home for the weekend, planning to catch up with some old mates.
The trees thin and the road narrows and twists as I drive towards the moors. The sun is low in the sky and it will be getting dark soon; there’s already a hint of autumn mist in the air. I picture myself dropping him off in the town centre. He’ll thank me; perhaps I’ll make a lame joke about not accepting lifts from strangers and he’ll laugh, waving as he saunters away.
Then again, the tools of my trade are in the boot. Carefully stowed, scrubbed clean, tried and tested. Rope, hammer, knife, spade. It would be a pity not to use them.
It’s a long drive; I‘ve got plenty of time to decide.