They had been driving on the same two-lane, straight shot of a road for hours, and Corrie was more than certain they weren’t in Kansas anymore. Of course, given the lack of road signs, it was hard for one to tell. Not a single landmark nor mile marker had graced the monotonous landscape for seemingly the last hundred miles. On either side of the highway, there were only cornfields--tall, tall stalks of corn that spanned to both corners of the horizon line.
Corrie could remember when the mere sight of a cornfield would have made her cringe.
When she truly thought about it, Corrie realized that the Medicine Creek incident--yes, incident, that was what she preferred to call it--had not been that long ago. Just short of two years had passed since the killings, since the terror in that small town had finally come to an end. She, herself, was grateful for having--narrowly--escaped that hellhole town with her life.
Where thanks were concerned, Corrie owed her very life to the man who sat beside her, reclining in the passenger seat of the Rolls Royce. Had it not been for Aloysius Pendergast, Corrie might well have met her end in that pit with it, that monstrosity--the devil, with the face of a child.
They’d passed only briefly through Medicine Creek along the way, not stopping, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake. It was better that way, Corrie thought. The town was just as she’d remembered: the same shithole in the wall. Nothing had changed. She was relieved to put it far behind, to see the last of the shoddy, old buildings shrinking into the distance of her rearview mirror.
And so they continued on, a silver bullet heading down the highway in a direction only God himself knew, heading toward Destination Unknown.
Come to think of it, Corrie realized, the FBI agent hadn’t given her as much as an inkling as to where they were headed. And as usual, Pendergast wasn’t talking.
She peered in his direction, unsurprised to see him still leaned back in the seat, eyes closed behind a pair of dark shades. She turned her attention back to the road ahead, glancing at the speedometer as she did. She was pushing eighty-five, and Pendergast had not said a word. That he entrusted her behind the wheel was the highest form of compliment Corrie had received in her entire life. That car was worth more money than she would ever be worth in five lifetimes.
The next time Corrie looked over at Pendergast, he was sitting up, gazing with intent eyes of pale azure over the frames of his Aviators.
“Hey,” said Corrie, with a little half-smile. “Have a nice, peaceful meditation, or, you know, whatever it is that you do when you get all quiet and introspective like you do?”
“Quiet and introspective,” repeated Pendergast, “or whatever it is that I do.” A tinge of mild amusement mingled with his honeyed New Orleans dialect. “I suppose that’s a way of putting it.”
“I don’t suppose you’d want to let me in on where we’re going, would you?”
“Destination,” Pendergast replied matter-of-factly, “is irrelevant. It is the journey itself, my dear Miss Swanson, that accounts for the most.” Corrie considered this a moment, before replying.
“You know, you think about things way too much.” She regarded him with a smile, purple pigtails whipping in the wind. “And, seriously, I swear I wouldn’t be the slightest bit offended if you called me Corrie. It’s not as if we’re on official business or anything.” She paused, mulling the thought over. “Are we on official business?”
“At the moment, no.” Pendergast replied coolly. Corrie couldn’t help but to wonder what the hell that was supposed to mean; with Pendergast, one could never be too sure.
“Would you mind taking over the wheel, Agent Pendergast? I think I might be getting road hypnosis, here.”
“By all means.”
Corrie pulled the Rolls carefully, painstakingly to the shoulder of the road and killed the engine. She hopped out of the driver’s seat and stretched to the sky, then joined Pendergast at the rear of the car.
He was leaning against the back bumper of the car, one hand casually on a hip, staring reflectively back in the direction they’d come. A long moment passed before Pendergast spoke. “A wise man once said, Miss Swanson, that the road behind you is not of importance. What is, is the road ahead. Where you’re going. Not where you’ve been.” Corrie nodded silently, processing, considering. Yep. Definitely thinks way too much.
They stood in silence, the only sound the steady drone of insects harmonizing in the fields beneath the summer sun.
“Shall we resume, Miss Swanson?”
“Sure. I’m just along for the ride.”
They took their places then, Pendergast in the driver’s seat, and Corrie beside him. The Rolls started with a throaty purr and they were on their way, shooting back onto the highway. “You know, Agent Pendergast,” Corrie ventured, “I’m not entirely sure I’ve thanked you enough for saving my life.”
“How many times must I tell you, Miss Swanson, that you’re absolutely welcome?”
“Probably as many times as I have to tell you to call me Corrie.”
Her hand came to rest atop his on the gear shift, and she leaned into him, her head finding a comfortable place against his shoulder.
The sun was high in the endless sky, and Pendergast raised his eyes to the horizon ahead. As he did, the smallest of smiles graced his features.
Their journey, as it were, was just beginning.