Dusk was falling outside. The last rays of the sun were splayed over the far yard. Trent still wasn’t home.
Kelly looked at herself in the mirror once more. She turned and had a look at her backside. As always, she figured she could stand to lose the weight she’d put in in the past year, but Trent should appreciate the way the dress hugged all of her curves. He always told her she was sexy, no matter how bad she felt.
She turned frontwards again. The neckline of the dress plunged far lower than she had ever let Marissa get away with, but to hell with those worries. Trent would love it, and the dress was starting to make her feel like the woman he married.
"Twenty years," she whispered to herself. It was hard to believe. Twenty years, two kids, a well-paying job for her husband, and finally, this dream house, large enough to house them all and then some, just five miles out of the city, with only the distant noises of the highway to break the placidity of country life. This was what they’d worked for, and finally, it was theirs.
If only that well-paying job didn’t keep him so long in the city so often. "Don’t they know it’s your anniversary?" she muttered again, for what seemed the thousandth time. She had hoped Aerodyne, Inc. would let him off early today so that they could have their evening together as planned. But no, Trent was still chained to his desk, filling out his end of day reports.
I’m almost finished, came the last text. Just fifteen more reports to go, and they’re short ones. Fifteen reports, and then taking the train to the last station, then the drive home. It would be over an hour before she saw him.
She checked her hair quickly, and then went downstairs, where Marissa and Kevin were waiting for their rides.
"Wow, Mom, holy boobs!" said Marissa as her mother walked into the living room.
"Oh, hush," she said. "It’s all for your father. You two won’t have to see this for long, anyway." She grabbed a sweater out of the closet and threw it on. No reason for the kids to see that much of her.
"So, you can wear a sexy dress for Dad, but I can’t wear one for school dances?" Marissa quirked an eyebrow at her mother.
"You’re fifteen, kiddo," smiled Kelly. "Talk to me when you’re forty-three and a wife for twenty years. Besides, I don’t think you’ve got much room to talk in those shorts."
Marissa rolled her eyes. She was going to be riding tonight with her friend Cindy, who had a car, to a party in her back yard. She had promised there was no booze there, and that Cindy’s parents would be home, but her microshorts and discreet croptop, which Kelly still felt was too revealing for her age, bespoke a wilder time than her daughter would have her believe.
Kevin failed to notice any of the conversation, his eyes glued to the window. He was going for a sleep-over at Nick’s house and could hardly wait. "When’s Nick’s dad getting here?" she asked him.
Kevin reluctantly turned away from the window. "Umm...five, I think." He turned back around. It was already a quarter past.
"Well, hopefully he’s here, soon," said Kelly. "What about you, Marissa? When did you expect Cindy?"
"Closer to six," said Marissa. "Don’t worry. I’ll be gone before Dad’s home."
The sound of an engine came from outside. "He’s here!" said Kevin, jumping up. Then he paused, and looked outside again. "Oh, wait, never mind. That’s not his truck. I don’t know who that is. Must be for you, Marissa."
He sat back down. Just then the phone rang. Kelly answered it.
"Hey, it’s Eddie," said the voice of Nick’s father. "Sorry, we’re really behind. Our youngest suddenly started throwing up, so we may be up to an hour late."
"Oh, it’s okay," said Kelly. "He’s really anxious to go, but he’s a big kid. He can wait."
"Thanks for understanding," said Eddie. "We’re still gonna order pizza, so if he eats before I get there just...I dunno, make it a snack, or something."
"Sure," she said. They said their goodbyes, and hung up.
"That’s not Cindy’s car," said Marissa. "I don’t know that guy. Must have pulled over to make a phone call or something."
A tinge of worry passed through Kelly. They’d only been in this house for the past year, but no one had ever just driven into their driveway unexpectedly like this. It was one of the reasons she liked being out of the city.
"Who..." she walked toward the living room window. An old truck, old enough that it seemed mostly rust, sat idling in their driveway, black smoke belching from its exhaust. The gleam of the setting sun obscured the windshield, and she couldn’t make out the driver’s features, but she definitely didn’t recognize the truck.
Marissa took another look. "Weird. He’s just sitting there. Do you know him, Mom?"
"No," she said. "Maybe he’s checking a map?" The figure in the driver’s seat appeared to be sitting completely still, even as the truck shook slightly with the vibrations of its old, choking motor. She stared harder, trying to see through the sun glare to the face behind the glass. From the shoulders down, he was perfectly clear, but above that, she could see nothing.
She turned from the window. "Let’s just ignore him, kids," she said. "He’ll go away eventually." Even as she said the words she felt uncertain. Something about the way he was just sitting, letting his engine run, was starting to set her nerves on edge. Hurry home, Trent.
As if in answer, her cell phone buzzed. "Hey, honey," said Trent. "I just finished. I’m heading for the train station now."
"Okay, that’s great," she said. "There’s a strange truck in our front yard. He’s just sitting there with his engine on. Were you expecting anyone tonight?"
"Ah, no, and that’s a little odd," said Trent, a note of concern in his voice. "Has he said anything to you?"
"He hasn’t even gotten out. I can’t really see him. He’s just sitting there. He’s been here for about five minutes or so now."
"Okay, well, don’t let him in the house. Don’t go outside until he’s gone. I don’t like the sound of this."
"Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning on it. But please get here as soon as you can."
"I will, sweetie. Nothing’s ruining tonight for us. Not even that guy. I love you."
"I love you too." She put the phone down and sat on the couch. She could still hear the idling engine outside. What could he possibly be doing out there? She sat still and willed him to go away.
Suddenly, she heard his engine rev. She leapt from the couch much faster than she had planned. The truck was still in the same spot, but he was punching on his gas. His engine roared threateningly.
"Okay, what the actual fuck?" asked Marissa from the chair by the window.
"Language, please," said Kelly. "He must be having engine trouble. That’s gotta be it."
"Doesn’t sound like that engine’s in trouble to me," said Marissa.
"Mom," said Kevin, sounding a little worried. "I...I don’t like the way he looks."
"What do you mean?" she asked. "You can’t even..." But looking again, she could see what he meant. Dark was coming on, and the glare from the setting sun was no longer obscuring the windshield of the old truck. She still couldn’t see his face, swathed now in dark shadow, but somehow she could tell he was looking straight at them. At her. Fading light illuminated his eyes for a moment. They looked wide and staring, and reflected the light back. He’s wearing glasses. Of course, he had to be, but she still felt jumpy just looking at the driver, his truck still bobbing from the old engine. Again, she thought at him Just go away. Go away and leave us alone. His engine revved again, and Kelly threw herself back from the window. She stifled the scream that had been building, and only a small cry escaped her throat. She waited five heartbeats, then took out her cell phone.
Please hurry, she texted to Trent. He’s not leaving, and I think he’s trying to scare us.
No reply. He was probably not in a place with good service.
Kelly tried to think. Somehow, waiting another forty-five minutes for Trent and the kids’ rides didn’t seem to be such a good idea anymore. There was only one option, that she could see. In the back yard, parked in a garage that was a good thirty-foot dash from the house, was parked their second car. It wasn’t insured at the moment, but there should be some gas left in the tank, and at the moment, Kelly considered the lack of insurance a secondary concern. The keys were hanging on the coat hook by the back door.
Slowly, Kelly walked toward the front door and locked it. "Kids," she said. "Put on your shoes and wait by the back door. When I say so, we’re going to head for the sedan."
"Can we drive the sedan?" asked Marissa.
"Who is he?" asked Kevin at the same time.
"Yes, we can, because I say so," she told Marissa. "And I’m not sure. He’s probably drunk, and just trying to scare us. But for now, I’m going to take you two to your friends’ houses and then I’m going to meet your dad on the road." And if he isn’t gone by then, I’m calling 911. A voice in her head told her that she should call it now, but she was already concerned that the children were too frightened. There wasn’t a need to call yet. All they had to do was get to the sedan, and then they should be safe.
I’ll meet you on the road in the sedan, she texted Trent. He’s not going away. His lack of response was starting to get under her skin. She put on the heels she had intended to wear and walked toward the back door. The children were already there. She took the keys down and opened the back door, twisting the lock closed. The kids darted out before she could tell them to wait, but she quickly shut the door and strode after them.
From the front lawn, she heard the engine roar, and within seconds, the old truck came shooting around the side of the house and parked, idling, just before the garage. Kelly’s heart froze in her chest. It was taking all her willpower not to scream. God, how did he know?
She grabbed both kids by the shoulders and pulled them against her. The driver revved the engine again. She wanted to turn and run, but she couldn’t resist trying to see his face through the glass. She could tell he was leaning forward, and thought she could see a smile on his face. He revved again.
"Back in the house!" she said. "Now!"
She turned and tried to open the back door, but the knob wouldn’t budge. I locked it! Why would I lock it? She went for her keys, which were still in her hand, but realized she had mixed up the two key rings. Frantically, she searched for the house key.
From behind, she heard the engine gun again, and the truck lurched forward about a foot. She thought she could hear low, murderous laughter over the noise of the engine. She searched harder. How hard can it be to find a stupid house key?
Another rev, another lurch forward. More laughter. Kevin screamed. "I’ve almost got it!" she said.
"Well, hurry!" shouted Marissa. The engine revved again. Finally, Kelly found the right key and pushed open the back door. "Inside! Run!" she yelled, practically pushing them through the door. The truck wasn’t lurching forward anymore. As in the front yard, he was only sitting there, watching them, as she closed the back door.
No sooner had she closed it than she heard his engine rev again. Please let him be leaving. He’s had his fun.
"Who the hell is he?" Marissa was asking. "What does he want? Why us? What’s going on? How did he know we were in the back?"
"I don’t know, sweetie," breathed Kelly. "All we can do is hope he’s g..."
"He’s back in the front!" cried Kevin. Kelly felt tears on her face. She ran to the front window, and saw that her son was right. In the darkness, the truck sat, growl of the engine continuous, his headlights on and shining in her face.
He lurched for the house again. Kelly knew for certain now that a twisted, killer’s smile was on his face. She lost all sense of propriety. She forgot about the cell phone in her hand, about the very idea of 911. All she knew was the world of terror this sinister shadow was visiting on her family. She opened the front door.
"Mom!" she barely heard Marissa. "What are you doing?"
Kelly walked onto the front porch. The headlights shone, and she could see nothing else, could hear only the engine of that old, noisy truck. And the laughter of its driver.
"What do you want from us?" she shouted. "We don’t even know you!"
Laughter. And the rev of his engine. She saw the driver’s face between the twin glows of his headlights, now fully illuminated. Oh, god, it can’t be...
Trent was driving through the dark in a blind panic. About three minutes before his train reached the last station where his car was parked, a series of messages had come through to his phone at once. His wife, begging him to come home, and then saying she was taking the kids to the sedan and would meet him on the road home.
She had not been on the road home, and he had received no texts or calls after that. Surely she had circled back and saw that he was gone. He would get a message any second now telling him that the danger was over.
The house was dark, but he was relieved to see no truck in the front driveway. The kids were at their friends’ house, while his wife would surely be in their room, making sure she still looked good for tonight.
Three shapes lay on the ground before the house. His headlights briefly shown on them. No...
He leapt from his car and ran to them, falling to his knees before the bodies.