Mark dutifully pulled his car up to the curb and checked his Super ride-share app. Seeing that the address was correct, he yawned as he drew his hand back through the thick tangles of his hair. He had made the mistake of staying up too late and now he was paying the price. Or rather, he had stayed up too early, as he drove nights for Super to make a living.
Once upon a time he had earned good money driving for Super. Early on the fairs had been generous and people had tipped well. After a lifetime of being subjugated by the taxi service, customers had been very appreciative of Super’s prompt service and drivers who got them there quickly rather than driving up the fairs by taking the long route. But as the years had passed, Super had incrementally cut their drivers out of the profit margins.
Matters had reached the point where Mark had found himself having to get inventive to make money. While the executives at Super would have probably canned him on the spot if they knew, Mark had begun also driving for Souper Bites. With a bit of forethought and planning, Mark had been able to tack on delivering meals destined for the same region where he was dropping off a customer. He did not always get the highest rating for the food deliveries, but the added income tacked on had put him back ahead again to the point where he was slowly adding money to his bank account and able to afford his car payments, not to mention the insurance.
A young, dark skinned man wearing a black hoodie and ripped jeans rapped on the passenger side window, startling Mark. Embarrassed at being snuck up on, Mark rolled the window down enough to say, “Mr. Cole?”
“Yeah,” answered the young man, who might have been old enough to drink legally. “Just call me Rufe, buddy. Mr. Cole is a prick.”
Chuckling, Mark unlocked the doors, letting Rufe decide whether he was going to ride shotgun or in the back. Thankfully, Rufe chose the back seat, which saved Mark the effort of rearranging the food order tucked away in one of those stay-warm delivery bags. In this case, the order was for six meals, which meant Mark probably would have had to get out and put it in the rear if needed.
“What’s that? Smells good,” Rufe commented seconds after they pulled out.
“Just dinner for the family,” Mark lied fluently as his Way-to-Go app began to announce directions in the voice of his favorite actress. So far that cover story had passed muster every time, except for the one occasion where Mark had delivered the same guy to a party where the food was being delivered. Thankfully that passenger had been so drunk and baked that Mark’s lie had passed without comment
“Is that McDuffery’s? Oh man, I would pay a hundred dollars for one of their burgers right now. I’m starving,” Rufe said.
“Yeah, I can’t do that. My girlfriend would pull out my short hairs. But there’s some snacks and bottled water behind the seat back there. Feel free to help yourself.” Mark had learned the hard way to up his budget for passenger amenities after starting to drive for Super. He had to admit, the tantalizing odors from his deliveries had also forced him to rethink his own food budget. The smells of fast food often made him ditch his available status to hit a drive-thru.
“Hey, thanks dude. Five stars for you!”
Breathing a mental sigh of relief, Mark smiled as he proceeded to drop Rufe off in the industrial district. From the looks of the neighborhood, he just assumed there was a pop-up rave going on in one of the abandoned facilities. Practically no buildings had lights on anymore in that area, thanks to the pandemic shutdowns. While Mark hated driving that area during the late hours due to the increased crime, the fairs and tips for that area were often double normal. ‘Nothing like someone drunk and on something for tipping,’ he thought to himself as he exchanged pleasantries with Rufe. When he checked the app he was pleased to find Rufe had been true to his word and had also provided a generous tip. Mark reciprocated, giving back five stars. He left the comments section blank, though. Too likely he might accidentally mention something that Rufe would think was not cool, like being driven to the industrial area. When it came to Super’s policies, they were already too willing to give up the files to the cops so as to not be stuck with high lawyer’s fees.
His Souper delivery was going to be a few minutes late, but unfortunately that was something the customer would have to live with. Mark had found that he could get away with being ten minutes late in general without them caring, so long as he handed over warm containers.
The driveway he pulled up to proved probably to be some old foreman’s office in an old construction trailer that probably was being squatted in illegally. He knew that the area was not zoned for housing. This made him nervous, as there could be dealers and users inside. However, so far he had not had any incidents. The fact that the porch light was not turned on made him hesitate.
He decided to take his trusty old flashlight with him. The particular model Mark carried sucked batteries dry super fast and was not rechargeable, but it possessed the heft to be used as a makeshift club. Before approaching the trailer he swept the light around to make sure no one was laying in ambush. Feeling slightly better when he saw no one and confident that he could sprint to the car and get away if anyone jumped out of the trailer, Mark approached and knocked. As an added precaution, he stood back to give himself a head start if needed.
The sound of footsteps inside alerted him. Someone had thrown heavy blankets over all of the windows, probably so that the cops would not see any lights on inside. Shifting nervously from foot-to-foot, he waited in between glances back to make sure no one had circled around to block him from his idling vehicle.
The door creaked like some prop from an old horror movie when it was finally pushed open several inches. No light came through as it just stood slightly ajar for several seconds. The hair on the back of his neck began to stand up when Mark began to hear the distinct sound of heavy breathing.
Clearing his throat, he said, “Souper Bites. I have an order for….” He paused to check the slip, “Jane Doe?”
What the eff – how could he have missed that? His heart began to beat loudly in his throat. If he had bothered to look at the client’s name Mark would have never accepted the delivery. This stank of a snatch and grab, or worse. If he survived tonight, Mark planned to call the dispatcher’s office to file a complaint. There was no way Super should have let this order go through.
The breathing paused, which made him almost bolt right there and then. Mark almost screamed when his phone chimed. Holding up one shaking hand with the phone while balancing the order awkwardly on one hip, he saw that ‘Jane’ had confirmed the delivery, given him five stars and had even added a ten dollar tip on top of the other ten dollars that had been registered during the order’s placement.
“Okay,” he said after swallowing hard. “Would you like for me to leave it on the porch, Ma’am?”
The door jangled his already unsteady nerves by creaking open another inch. A surprisingly slender hand stuck out, indicating for him to hand over the food.
With great trepidation, Mark controlled his breathing to hide his fear as he stepped back up on the rickety old porch made from one-by-fours placed over old cinder blocks. He decided that whomever was on the other side of the door was definitely a woman, and probably a good six inches or more shorter than him as he opened up the bag and began to parcel out the food one package after another. He saw no more of Jane as he passed the six bags to the hand, one after another. His imagination, however, dredged up images of her holding a knife or a gun with her other hand throughout the exchange.
Their interaction ended with the door slamming shut after the last bag had been accepted. The sound of a bolt being latched followed. Panting by then, Mark stood there for several seconds as he tried to keep his heart from beating so loudly as he listened for the sound of footsteps walking away from the door.
No such sound alerted him that Jane had walked away. Worse, he swore that he could feel her eye pressed up against the peephole, watching him.
Every experience in Mark’s life, from the bullies at the kindergarten playground up to that one time he had narrowly avoided being mugged his first night driving for Super told him to run. However, Jane had given him five stars and a generous tip. No matter how creepy this delivery had been, Mark found that he could not put off Jane by cutting and running rudely. He needed the repeat business too much. So he forced himself to walk away at a casual pace.
As he was getting ready to get back in his vehicle the Souper app jangled his already frayed nerves by chiming. Holding it up, he felt as if he were experiencing vertigo when he saw that Jane’s delivery review had been edited. His five stars had been lowered to two, and there was a notification that Jane had requested his tip be reversed. Worse still, the comments section read, ‘Driver was late and rude,’ and under the quick survey the, ‘I will not recommend Souper Bites to friends and coworkers,’ box had been checked.
It was too much. Mark yelled out wordlessly as he released all of his pent up fear and anxiety, then screamed a profanity at the trailer. He would never remember exactly what he called Jane, but he would later recall shouting, “You put me through all of this and steal my tip? You owe me twenty dollars!”
As he stood there, trembling in rage, without warning the door creaked open again.
Worried that Jane or someone else might be about to rush him, Mark held up his flashlight and clicked it back on.
Once again Jane’s hand was sticking out from the darkness within the house. While he could not tell how much, Mark could clearly see that she was holding several bills.
Mark had seen more than enough horror movies in his life and he could almost hear the climatic music in the background, building towards the moment when he foolishly took the bait and died. “Eff you! You shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you,” he shouted before shoving the warming bag in his car, diving in and driving away.
“I tell you, the entire thing was effed,” Mark complained before slurping away at his soda straw.
His best friend Dillon grinned at him from across the table. He and Dillon had been friends since they had been toddlers. Throughout their lives they had done everything together; school of course, little league baseball, then school sports. When they both had graduated they had even done two years together at the same college before the economic downturn killed both of their dreams of a college education. While nowadays Mark rarely saw Dillon due to work, they still regularly got together before work at their favorite fast food establishment to shoot the breeze and gripe about their jobs. Dillon still only worked for Super, but was quickly coming around to Mark’s idea about working for Souper Bites too.
“That is some crazy ess there,” Dillon said in between generous bites of his mega-burger. “You could have died man.”
“Oh, come on. I was careful.”
“No, dude, I don’t think you get it. You had a run in with the Hand Woman.”
Mark sat back, his forehead scrunching. “Please tell me this isn’t some lame joke about getting a hand-.”
Dillon broke out in laughter. “Seriously, dude, you need to pay more attention online. You really haven’t heard of the Hand Woman?”
“Please don’t tell me you’re talking about that urban legend website you subscribe to? That stuff is just a bunch of campfire stories that got put online.”
“No, no, no. Urban Legends does its research and rates each story for its truthful likelihood. Here, take a look. The Hand Woman has a 73% score, dude. That’s higher than sasquatch.” Dillon tapped on his smart phone before spinning it around on the bright red table they sat at.
Mark sighed. Dillon’s fascination with ghost hunting and other supernatural online content was one of the few things they disagreed on. While not a zealot, Dillon was religious, whereas Mark fancied himself above all of that and had not been to church since he was a kid. He humored his friend by glancing over the, ‘A+ Urban Legends,’ site Dillon kept bookmarked. There were in fact scores of sites that shared Urban Legends in their title, which was why this site included, ‘A+,’ to set themselves apart.
“The Hand Woman legend first appeared in 1994 in Juneau, Alaska? Dillon, what kind of crap is this? Alaska? While unsubstantiated by us, it appears that she resided in a local residence and regularly ordered from the local pizza establishment. Back then the Hand Woman merely scared delivery drivers by never speaking. All reports indicate that all anyone ever saw of the woman was her hand. In 1997 reports of her stopped in Juneau, but shortly thereafter began to appear in Seattle. In 1998 a local delivery driver went missing after reputedly delivering to her residence after getting upset about the tip….” He paused, not liking the correlation between the story and his own. Mark stopped reading out loud as his eyes scanned the lengthy article citing clusters of incidents that moved further east over the years. He didn’t want to believe, but at the same time he was a bit freaked out by the fact that reports of her would vanish within months in one city and begin to pop up in towns further east the next.
“This is bull,” he finally said without as much conviction as before. He slapped the phone back across the table to Dillon.
“My man, check out the sightings map. The last reports came from just two hundred miles west of here just last year and then stopped two months back. There was even a police raid on the apartment complex – three local delivery drivers had gone missing, and all of them had delivered to that place within the last week. If I were you, I’d get myself a gun and maybe skip town with Jaime for awhile.”
Mark sat back while crossing his arms and staring skeptically at his best friend. Normally he chocked up Dillon’s stories about the occult and the supernatural to being hogwash imagined by people seeking attention online; probably after getting drunk. He had to admit, though, that the stories he had scanned over all fit his experience. What was never said, though, was what happened to the people who went missing.
“Hey, I gotta get driving,” Dillon said as he scarfed down the last handful of fries. “You watch your back and stick to the safe zones. I don’t want to see your name added to the site, man. That would completely bum me out for at least a day.”
Mark smirked at Dillon’s lighthearted humor as he stood and clasped his friend’s hand. “Yeah, you too. You never know – the Hand Woman might get into my phone and look at my contacts,” he joked before they got going. Each of them had a full night ahead of them. Rent was due on the first, and it was almost the end of the month.
The calendar flipped over into October. This year was getting cooler more quickly and with that Mark had to warm up his trusty car before he could get to working. He was not lucky enough to have a remote that would start his vehicle from the comfort of his own house, which was a drag. While he was forced by Super to own a vehicle that was no more than five years old, Mark only technically met the guidelines. His was in fact a refurbished vehicle that probably had gotten totaled by the former owner the first day off the dealership lot. He had managed to get it for a steal from a car auction. However, many of the original features were not included. The car payments were still steep, but he’d have it paid off in half the time.
On the second day of the month he found himself staring at his driver’s side window and feeling sick to his stomach. There, plainly apparent on the frosted over glass was the detailed imprint of what looked like a woman’s slender hand. It looked almost as if whomever it was had put her hand on the frosted pane long enough for the rime to melt partially. He swore that he could even see partial fingerprints in the ice.
The day before when he had turned on the air to defrost his windshield he had discovered that the glass had been marred by what looked like hand smears.
He had passed that incident off as kids, but this was too much for him to handle. Just looking at the imprint brought back visions of the woman’s hand jutting out from the door, waving her money at him.
His first thought was to call the police, but what was he going to report? Hand prints on a window was just going to get him some eye rolls. Besides, how could she have possibly known where he lived? Mark could already hear the long litany of questions from the officer that would make Mark sound like he was being unnecessarily paranoid.
Inhaling deeply, he shuddered before taking his window scraper viciously to the hand imprint. He made sure before he took his first call for Super that there was absolutely nothing to remind him that it had been there.
Other than the fact that Dillon had been unavailable for their traditional pre-shift meal, the night proceeded as normal. By eleven pm Mark had put the incident behind him and was even doing slightly better with tips than normal. When his messenger app pinged he popped his phone up despite the fact he wasn’t supposed to while driving and saw that it was Dillon.
“Hey dude, wher did u say the Hand Woman lived gain?” he read.
Dillon’s question made Mark’s mind go blank. He read it again three times dumbly before crossing two lanes illegally to pull over. Breathing hard, he replied as best he could remember.
“Yeah, thot so lol. I just got a pickup frm there,” was Dillon’s reply to his text.
Mark just stared at the phone for a few minutes, not knowing what to think. Surely Dillon would not be so stupid as to pick up the woman? However, he reminded himself, Dillon was always fantasizing about going on a ghost hunt. His friend wanted desperately to believe in ghosts and other paranormal stuff.
Dillon also had his back seat separated from the front by a custom barrier that had been installed. It wasn’t as sturdy as the ones in police patrol cars, but it really didn’t have to be. Maybe a wrestler on meth could batter their way through with some effort, but by then Dillon would have probably driven the person to a police station.
Finally his fingers flicked over the display pad; “Be safe and let me know what she looks like.”
“Will do lol. Probably fugly if she hides her face rofl,” was what he got for a response.
Mark could not help but smile to himself as he read the text. Then he swore when he saw the time. He had wasted ten minutes and was late. He’d be lucky to get an average rating now.
Throughout the shift he texted Dillon again several times to ask how the pickup went. When Dillon didn’t answer he nervously shrugged it off. It really wasn’t unusual for either of them to be too busy driving to text. When at last he pulled into his driveway at five am he sent one last text reminding Dillon that he wanted details when they met to eat before proceeding inside to get some much needed sleep.
Hours later he heard his phone ping while up to use the bathroom. Sighing because he had forgotten to put it in privacy mode, Mark snatched it up from the nightstand. Before he could unlock it to adjust the settings he saw that it had been a text from Dillon. What he saw when he opened the app made him sit down on the bed and just stare.
It was just an emoji of a hand. There were probably thousands of hand emojis to choose from, but the one his friend had selected was holding dollar bills spread out like a fan.
Fingers flying, Mark opened up the messenger app and saw that Dillon had sent him well over two dozen messages. All of them were various hand emojis.
Mark stared at the phone for awhile while feeling his skin crawl. Mumbling underneath his breath, he finally texted back, “Ha ha asshole.”
He had barely replied before his phone pinged again. It showed him two emojis – one of a hand giving him the bird and the other of dollar bills.
Mark’s imagination ran wild, conjuring up scenes from a hundred horror movies. This could be all just a practical joke on Dillon’s part, except this was not his friend’s sense of humor. Dillon was not the type to prank his friends. There was the possibility that someone else had hacked Dillon’s phone or account. However, if that was the case, the hacker’s choice of emojis was frighteningly coincidental.
After several seconds Mark decided to try calling Dillon. His friend still possessed a landline due to the fact he lived with his elderly parents. After five rings his call went to voicemail. Disappointed, Mark left a message for Dillon to call him.
By the time he left for their usual pre-shift hangout Mark had left several messages and was feeling decidedly sick to his stomach from the mounting stress. Both of Dillon’s parents were practically shut-ins. He could not recall ever having had to leave a voicemail at their house, let alone seven.
When Dillon failed to show up a feeling of doom had settled like a cloud over his thoughts. By now he felt certain that something had happened. He returned to his car with his meal sitting in a takeout sack and completely untouched. For a time he just stared at the dashboard as his thoughts cycled around in a circle of incomprehension and fright.
“Oh my god, I’ve become like one of those crazy guys in one of those paranormal chat rooms,” he finally declared. “Dillon’s mom might have had another stroke, and he probably just lost his phone.” While he felt uneasy about the conclusion, it still seemed far more likely than Dillon having been the victim of some female serial killer from Alaska, of all places. Mark had seen enough documentaries on streaming platforms to know that women were a minority amongst serial killers, and the few that had existed preferred to poison their victims.
Quite conveniently his phone dinged. Seeing that it was his supervisor inquiring if he was ready to log in, Mark gave the affirmative. Having talked himself out of this entire scenario being the mythical Hand Woman at work, he quickly opened his other app, determined to drown himself in work so that he would forget.
Midnight came and went with little business. It was a Tuesday, which was the slowest day of the week. There were no sporting events on television, so people were not gathering, and most others were still getting over their hangovers from the weekend. The only reason he got any business at all was because so many other drivers took that night off.
At one am his phone pinged while he was napping at a rest stop. Fuzzy headed from too little sleep, Mark glanced at the Souper Eats screen and frowned. He had a food order from a Kelly Carr going to the industrial sector. Figuring it was some late-night security guard, he decided to accept even though there was no one traveling that direction. The night had been that slow.
As he picked up the order from McDuffery’s a feeling of deja vu began to overcome him. The order was for six people, just like the order he had delivered to Jane Doe. When he hopped back in his car, Mark studied the address before typing it into his Way-to-Go app. As he had thought, the directions lead right back to the same old construction trailer.
Heart pounding hard against his rib cage, Mark checked for messages from Dillon. There had been no activity since the last message, and the messenger app showed his friend to be logged off. ‘That means nothing,’ he told himself. ‘I’m sure Dillon just reported his account hacked and they shut it down while confirming. That’s all.’ Of course, that ignored the fact that his friend had made no attempt to contact Mark at all.
He wanted to stop there, but he had already accepted the delivery. There was no way out, really. Even if he lied to Souper Bites and said he had broken down, the company would require proof within three days. Mark was careful not to increase his employee file size so that no one would look further into him for fear they would discover he was driving for both branches of the mother company, which was against policy.
Choosing reluctantly to carry through with his responsibility, he set off. He decided that when he got there that he would put the food on the porch before notifying the customer over the app that their order had been delivered. While he had not used that method in months, it was still an allowed way to deliver due to the recent pandemic. Elderly people preferred it that way and assisted living facilities hadn’t allowed any other method. Mark did not really care if this Kelly Carr didn’t like it and gave him a one star review.
His mind played through scenarios as he closed the distance to the trailer. The company should have flagged the address for review. Since he hadn’t been notified of any result of their investigation, there was no way another delivery order going there should have been accepted. What was going on?
The industrial quarter was even darker than normal that night. The cloud cover was thick and colored an ugly shade of dark purple. There were no raves going on and so few of the factories there were operational that there was only the occasional working light. What little traffic Mark saw could be attributed to lonely security guards out doing their patrols. A feeling of dread began to build within him the closer he got to the old trailer. His hands began to sweat, which was never a good sign. He had to physically keep his breathing in check, afraid that he might hyperventilate. The anticipation was getting so bad that he physically lurched every time the normally soothing voice of his Way-to-Go app piped up.
By the time his car crept down the track towards his final destination he had muted the app. Mark had already plotted out in his mind where he would park so that he could keep his car headlights pointed at the front door. He was determined to drop off the food and leave without any nasty surprises.
The final old gravel path meandered liked a serpent and he began to catch glimpses of another vehicle already parked there. At first he took some solace from this. Maybe the woman had moved out and some teens had appropriated the old building for fun. But as he closed in the final hundred yards the car he saw began to look more and more familiar.
“Son of a….,” he whispered. It looked like Dillon’s car, although in the dark it was difficult to be certain. Dillon’s car was a dark shade of pearl grey, so in those conditions any number of similarly colored vehicles could have looked identical. Mark had never bothered to memorize Dillon’s license plate number, although he would most certainly have known if it belonged to his friend by the clutter on the dashboard and seats. As he pulled up Mark debated with himself just turning around and speeding away. It was getting to the point that he no longer cared how crazy the police thought Mark sounded. Something was definitely wrong.
He just sat there for a minute, his mind tangled between making the delivery and going over to check the car. Once again the trailer seemed to be completely dark. There had not even been any signs of someone peeking out briefly from behind the blankets used as curtains. If not for the single car parked there no one would have ever suspected that someone was inside.
His phone chimed, which caused him to come close to screaming in frustration. Hand shaking, he held it up to look at his messages. It was from his supervisor, who wanted to know his status. A glance at the clock function showed that Mark was over fifteen minutes late.
Fingers shaking, he sent back that he was outside the residence and that he had been delayed by traffic. Not caring whether or not the dispatcher believed him, he got himself in motion.
He swore he could hear his own heartbeat as he grabbed the food and walked towards the rickety porch. When he heard a sound to his left he swiveled around to point his flashlight so fast that he almost dropped the warming bag. A hare froze, paralyzed by the beam of light. “Stupid rabbit,” Mark almost sobbed before turning with great trepidation back towards the porch. Visions of a woman popping out of the darkness with a knife had flashed through his mind just seconds before.
It took too long for him to get the food out and placed on the porch. He could feel eyes boring into his shoulder blades from behind. Every tiny sound seemed magnified and could be attributed to the Hand Woman stalking up behind him. After several scares he finally got the food placed out well enough and beat a hasty retreat. Every instinct told him to just sprint towards his car and speed away.
So far no one had revealed themselves. Pausing midway back to his car, Mark studied the other vehicle. “Its not Dillon’s,” he muttered to himself. His voice did not sound convincing to him. Finally he slung the bag on his car hood before shining his flashlight around to carefully look for any ambushers. He even got down on his hand and knees to peer under both cars.
There was still no sign of anybody nearby. With one final glance back at the trailer to make sure the front door was still closed, Mark crept over to the mystery car.
As he approached Mark caught sight of a familiar looking cheap red notebook on the dashboard. Dillon used it to track his tips and to make notes on customers. “Oh god,” Mark said under his breath before telling himself that there were probably a thousand cars in the city with a similar notebook on the dashboard. Before he got any closer he focused his light on the interior. How many horror movies had he watched over the years where the killer somehow went unnoticed by crouching down in the back? When he saw no sign of anyone hiding he really did not feel any sense of relief. With the thick darkness all around he was constantly imagining the Hand Woman sneaking up.
Creeping in closer, his heart sank when he saw the typical clutter Dillon kept in his car. Rather than tucked away neatly in the side compartments all of his snacks, books and amenities for riders was strewn about as if someone had ransacked the car looking for something. Muttering under his breath, Mark swept the flashlight around the dashboard area and noticed two things.
The first was a wad of cash along with a folded over piece of red and yellow piece of paper shoved underneath the driver’s side windshield wiper.
The second was the clear impression of a woman’s hand left on the grime of the driver’s side window.
He spun, expecting her to spring out of the shadows with a carving knife just like in the movies, but he was still alone. Hand shaking, he reached for the piece of paper under the wiper blade.
As he had suspected, it was the menu for McDuffery’s. The paper looked like it had been wadded up and then smoothed out and was covered with the greasy, smeared stains of what he suspected to be her hand. In one corner, drawn in what looked to him like mustard, was a crude star.
“No,” he moaned, eyes tearing up. He recalled everything Dillon had told him about the urban legends surrounding the Hand Woman and knew that his friend was dead.
The car’s lights lit up and the car alarm blared loudly, making Mark jump and stumble away in fright. A slender, shadowy form stood up on the opposite of the car wearing some sort of dark dress or long coat, one of those dark cloth masks people had been wearing the past few years and possessing a mane of wild black hair. With the lights flashing Mark could only make out her outline, but he saw clearly when her pale bare right hand came up and slapped the hood loudly.
“Oh eff,” he said, panicking. Just like when he had delivered her food, he couldn’t see really anything of her and her other hand was hidden. Images of her suddenly raising a gun and shooting him shot through his brain as he turned and ran for his car. He slipped on the gravel, falling forward, and in the rush to scramble up to get away as quickly as possible he dropped his flashlight on the ground.
One glance back over his shoulder showed that she had vanished, if in fact Mark had not imagined her. He was so frightened that he didn’t even risk going back for the flashlight. Scrambling around his vehicle, in his haste he sprang into the driver’s seat and accidentally slammed the door on his left shin with an audible cracking sound.
He had closed the door with the insane strength brought on by adrenaline. Screaming, he had to reach down and pull his leg in with his hand, then jammed his thumb down repeatedly on the lock button. Leaning forward, he awkwardly grasped at his injured leg and felt a warm wetness soaking into his denim jeans.
“Oh crap – crap, crap, crap,” he swore in pain. He had never so much as sprained an ankle in his life. The pain was incredible and impossible for him to comprehend.
The sound of flesh slapping the passenger window made him lurch and scream again from terror when he saw her pale palm on the glass, and then from agony from trying to put weight on his injured leg. He screamed another profanity at her as he reached down to shift the car into drive. The Hand Woman appeared to be harbinger of death except for her hand, and in the moment he was willing to believe that she was in fact some murderous demon dredged up from some hell.
At least he hadn’t injured his driving leg. As he depressed the brake to shift gear he flinched as she clubbed something into the window hard enough to crack the safety glass. A glance showed him the lit up panel to a smart phone now in her hand. The screen was lit up with the Souper Eats app review page. While Mark could not read the actual text, he could see his profile picture at the top and the five stars for reviewing at the base, with all but one of them empty.
Sobbing, he shoved his car into reverse and hit the accelerator so hard that the wheels spun out, spraying gravel towards the trailer. If he could have, he would have run her over, but that was impossible. Spinning his car to get aimed at the gravel driveway, he hit a metal safety rod sticking up out of the ground, marring his bumper and compounding matters.
As he sped away his phone vibrated continuously because it was set on quiet mode. He didn’t bother looking because he knew what he would see, which was hand emojis sent from Dillon’s account.
Any thoughts of driving to the police station were destroyed just outside of the industrial quarter by red and blue flashing lights that appeared in his rear-view mirror. Looking down he saw that he was going sixty miles per hour in a thirty-five zone. Any relief he felt in the moment was destroyed by Mark jumping out of the car after pulling over. He had been so distraught that he had forgotten how the officer would react. Within seconds he found himself face down on the asphalt at the behest of the shouted orders of the mountain of a police officer pointing his service revolver at Mark. It didn’t help Mark that he continuously babbled about the Hand Woman and his missing friend, or the fact that by then shock from injuring his leg had set in.
In retrospect he realized that the officer had probably thought Mark was high on some drug like bath salts. That and his injury placed him up in the local emergency room where they tended to his leg while also doing a blood panel after the police secured a warrant.
Forty eight miserable hours later he was let go on bail Mark could not afford by a police department that was still waiting on the lab analysis of his blood work and seemed to have concluded that his story about a serial killer woman who lured delivery drivers to their death to be the delusion of a drug addict. Worse yet, Super had somehow found out about his arrest. How that had happened without Souper Bites also discovering it mystified Mark. The first voicemail Mark listened to on his phone after it was returned to him was his termination notice.
His state appointed attorney helped him get his car out of the impound. That was probably out of sympathy for him over his leg. The bone had broken cleanly and he had to wear a cast for the foreseeable future. Now, looking at his main source of income gone, along with both court and medical fees building up steadily, Mark was stressed out over his immediate future. Despite all of his hard work, he had been living paycheck to paycheck. Super’s policy that he had to have a new car that was only so many years old had crippled his ability to stow away money due to the high monthly car payments and insurance.
With all of the stress over his financial situation and the fact that he still wasn’t able to get a hold of Dillon, Mark just felt dismal. His first stop on the way home was to the liquor store for a six pack of beer. From there he swung my Dillon’s only to find no sign of his friend, then back to his lonely basement apartment.
The irony was not lost on him two beers into the six pack that he was forced to order food to be delivered. Even with the pain killers his leg hurt too much for him to drive, and besides, he was a lightweight when it came to drinking. After that he wanted to do nothing more than curl up on the couch and forget the rest of the world while watching the shows saved on the DVR.
Mark awoke ninety minutes later when his phone chimed in a familiar manner. Due to sleep insomnia he flailed around initially, believing he was out driving. He blinked in incomprehension at the screen when he saw the notification that his Super Eats order was being delivered. Yawning, he struggled up with the aid of his crutch. He thumbed through the screen to the driver’s review in preparation as he hobbled over to the door.
The driver knocking on the door made him lurch. He hadn’t heard anyone coming down the stairs. “Just a sec,” he mumbled as he juggled the phone and crutch awkwardly, then dropped the phone. Cursing, he unchained the door and repeated himself to the driver as he knelt to retrieve the phone.
As he managed to pluck the phone from the floor he finally noticed the name to his delivery driver: Kelly Carr. Where had he seen that name before?
The door thrust open, catching him on his injured leg and the crutch Mark had been leaning on. The shock of fresh pain hit him and he cried out as he toppled to the floor. It also cleared Mark’s mind and he recalled that Kelly Carr had been the name used by the Hand Woman on his last delivery to the old foreman’s trailer.
Mark whimpered and crawled backwards as best he could with his eyes locked on the cracked door. “No,” he whispered as her fingers curled around the door’s edge, gripping it. Flailing around awkwardly, he turned himself on his stomach and began to crawl away. Behind him the door creaked as she thrust it open and stepped inside.
Carlos was caught up in doing a guild run on the play system and so did not notice when his girlfriend Monica came back into the room with their food delivery. It was only when she reached out with a leg and shoved him to make room so that she could sit down on the sofa beside him that he realized their food had arrived. “Not cool, babe,” he grumbled when he saw his druid die messily on screen because he had been distracted for a crucial second.
“What’s not cool is this,” Monica replied, holding up her phone for him to see as he reached for the container of sweet and sour chicken he loved.
“What’s that?” Carlos said, not really caring. He had been playing all afternoon, and as usual hadn’t realized how hungry he had become. It took three tries from Monica to get his attention enough to make him actually look at her phone.
“Well that’s effed up,” he said around a mouthful of heavenly tasting chicken. The customer review screen showed that the driver had rated them two stars and said they hadn’t tipped.
“Tell me about it. And that’s not the half of it. That woman was wicked strange.”
“Yeah. She wouldn’t let me open the door more than I needed to for her to give me the order. All I ever saw of the bitch was her hand.”
Credit: N. Ravenel Bard
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