Wednesday, July 19, 2017

DMI2017, Week 28: "Pit Stop" by John Floyd

Another week, and the Seven of Clubs is keeping me in the pages of Mississippi Noir, but honestly I feel like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch with it, so I'm good. (Bonus points for catching the reference there.)

And just for fun, here's a different take on the obligatory playing card image for this week:

This week's story, "Pit Stop," is told from the viewpoint of Anna McDowell, a young mother traveling with her two young children. They're on their way to Nashville to visit Anna's sister-in-law and they make a pit stop at a quickie mart. While there, they are accosted by a carjacker, but Anna has the wits and the self-defense skills to outsmart and overcome her attacker. The policeman who comes to get the information about the attack turns out to know Anna from years before, and he makes a cryptic remark: "Lightning can strike twice in the same place." Anna's daughter Deborah is intrigued by this remark and wants to know what it's about.

Anna tells a story about a Saturday during her college years, when she drove from Jackson, Mississippi to Starkville in order to attend a football game. She was traveling with her boyfriend Woody, but it was an uneasy trip because there was a serial killer (nicknamed the Night Stalker) on the loose. Worse, all the killings had taken place on the highway on which Anna and Woody were traveling. Before leaving Jackson, they see a policeman friend of theirs, Jack, who convinces them to take a hitchhiker named Mary with them. Mary turns out to be a nun (at least, she says she's a nun), and Anna is uneasy about this as well, because no one knows if the Night Stalker is a man or a woman. Maybe it's Mary...

During the trip the three of them happen to stop at the same quickie mart at which the story starts, and a series of unsettling events begins to take place. Mary suddenly disappears, but leaves behind a bracelet that she said she never took off. Woody tells Anna something that she knows is a lie, but is he purposely trying to lie, or just misinformed? Woody travels along this highway often for his job, and he's big and strong -- is he perhaps the Night Stalker?

I'm definitely not giving away any spoilers, but suffice it to say that this is a well-written story with lots of twists and turns. Of course Anna and Woody do meet up with the Night Stalker on their trip, and the explanation of who it is, is suitably satisfying. The story-within-a-story also gets wrapped up in a satisfactory way.

Rating: 5 stars, for the excellent writing and plotting.

Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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