Steve knew he shouldn't be driving. But he had to get home, it was
late and Susan would be waiting up for him. It had been a great
party, even if office Christmas parties weren't normally his cup of
tea.. or bourbon.
This year, though, he had let himself go. Boy, had he let himself
go. The life of the party! That was good ol' Steve! He knew he
shouldn't be driving, he was over the limit; well over the limit. He
was as drunk as a skunk. He giggled at the thought, drunk as a
skunk, that's you boyo! The car swerved, he corrected. See, he
told himself, in perfect control.
The car headlights scorched the tarmac ahead, a beacon racing ahead
of the car through the dark deserted streets. He took the back
streets, avoiding the police patrols on the freeway. Can't catch
me,, he sniggered, as the car flew through the night.
God, he hadn't felt so good in years... he was Superman.. no, he was
an astronaut hurtling through space, the street-lights flicking past
like meteor showers. The cats-eye reflectors on the lane dividers,
distant stars disappearing under his spaceship as it bravely
ventured where no man had been before. Whoops... reflectors
under the car? Hang on that means something. He tried to think.
A giant Mother Ship lumbered towards him, two bright landing lights
illuminating the dark space ahead of his racing beacons.
Shit! A truck! Wrong side of the road, you dummy. He
wrenched the steering wheel, and his car lurched back to the correct
side of the road. The pantec roared past, its horn blaring.
Alright, alright, I know.
Gotta concentrate. It's not a problem. The scare with the
truck only served to pump more adrenalin into his alcohol soaked
bloodstream. He put his foot down.
* * *
She was standing at the kerb, waiting to cross the road. She would
take a step, hesitate, and scurry back to the sidewalk. The traffic
was light, the street dark, and the downhill grade, although
reasonably straight towards the point where she waited to cross, was
never-the-less too great a temptation for most drivers where strict
adherence to the speed limit meant riding your brakes.
Steve crested the hill, and the car took off like a startled rabbit
on its downhill run. He saw her too late.. too late he hit the
brakes.. too late he realised the speed at which he was travelling..
too late. He saw her pretty party dress, white with blue ribbon, her
long blond hair tied in pig-tails with matching ribbon, her blue
eyes, wide, scared, her pretty eight-year-old face bathed in the
yellow glare of the headlights. What was she doing out here at
this time of night.. who was she? What..?
Her scream and the sickening thud, both hidden by the squeal of
brakes. Steve staggered from the car, and found her on the roadway
behind the car. He looked at the pretty party dress, white with red
ribbons twirling down the fabric to puddle on the asphalt. He looked
at the wide, pretty blue eyes staring, but unseeing, up at him.
Steve quickly glanced up and down the street, no traffic in either
direction. Across the street, a front porch light was suddenly
switched on. He didn't think, he ran. Back into the car and
screeched away into the night.
He wove his way homewards, ignoring the sirens he heard in the
distance travelling in the opposite direction. After he halted the
car in his driveway, he sat in the seat gripping the steering wheel
for a few minutes, shaking. Slowly he eased the car in to garage,
and then made his way quietly into the house. Susan was asleep as he
negotiated carefully into the bed beside her. He tossed for a while,
but the night's consumption of bourbon soon had him asleep.
Steve could feel her looking at him. He snapped open his eyes, and
there, at the end of bed, bathed in moonlight from the unshuttered
window, she stood, her party dress smeared with blood and with the
black oily grime of the roadway. Her eyes stared at him... pretty
blue eyes, pleading.
* * *
"You were late in last night," Susan observed as Steve unsteadily
navigated a passage to the breakfast table. He grunted some
incomprehensible reply as he picked up the morning newspaper from
beside his cereal bowl.
"That must have been some party," Susan continued as she stirred the
scrambled eggs atop the stove. "You shouldn't drink so much, you
know, Steve, it gives you nightmares."
Turning the pages of the morning paper, Steve mumbled an apology,
concentrating on manoeuvring the coffee cup to his lips. Suddenly
the cup dropped from his grip spilling its contents over the gingham
cloth as he tried to stifle a gasp.
"What is it, darling,?" Susan cried anxiously. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing.. it's nothing," he replied, slightly recovering his
composure. "I guess I've just got the shakes.. it's nothing."
He returned his attention to the article in the newspaper that had
jumped out at him: "Hit Run Driver Kills Young Girl. A speeding
hit-run driver killed a young girl late last night on Park
Boulevard. The young girl was identified as Angela Penumbra, aged 8.
Police are continuing their..." His eyes travelled to the
grainy photograph that accompanied the article. The pretty blonde
hair, the pretty blue eyes that stared at him from the page.
He dropped the paper and rushed ashen-faced from the room. Poor
dear, Susan thought, he really isn't used to drinking is he?
* * *
Showered and dressed for the office, he felt better as he kissed
Susan goodbye. She waved to him from the kitchen door as he entered
the garage. Shit! The car! he thought desperately. He checked the
front bumper, and the fenders and, oh no, there were the crumpled
indentations, the tell-tale evidence of last night's accident. He
screeched the car from the garage, squealing the tyres down the
driveway. Susan shook her head, wondering.
* * *
He threw the keys to the guy at the panel shop, "Look, just fix it.
Don't worry about a quote. Just fix it. Give us a call when it's
finished. It's the white Ford out the front." And he rushed from the
smash repairers into the street.
He wandered the streets for a while, debating whether to go to the
office. No, they can survive without me for one day. He passed the
local primary school... and there she was! Pretty blonde hair,
pretty white party dress smeared with blood and grime, her pretty
blue eyes staring at him from beyond the schoolyard fence.
He raced along the street, looking for the gateway entrance to the
yard. He turned through the gate, brushed underneath the overhanging
branches of the shade trees, rounded the schoolhouse, and pulled up
short as he entered the schoolyard.
It was empty. Not a soul in sight. He could hear the voices of the
teachers and the murmurings of the children wafting from the
classrooms. He studied again the empty schoolyard, and then with a
shake of his head he made his way to the street.
Steve crossed town, his mind troubled. He should really go to the
police. He should really confess. He should really get this burden
off his shoulders. It was obvious that his conscience wouldn't leave
him alone, and wouldn't cease projecting images of the dead girl
until he confessed. He passed some shops on the main street, his
reflection shimmering back at him from the display windows.
He stood before one shop window as he continued his internal
debate... and there she was! Reflected in the glass, standing to one
side, and slightly behind him. Her pretty blue eyes staring...
He turned quickly to catch her, but she was gone. The footpath
empty, save for a couple of idle window-shoppers a little way down
the street. That's it! he thought. I'll have to
confess. She won't leave me alone until I confess. I'll own up..
like a man.
And like a man, his first thought was to have his wife beside him
for moral support when he went to the police. He trudged to the
corner, and hopped the cross-town bus homewards.
* * *
"So that's the story, darling. I'm so sorry." He glanced up from
studying his grasped hands into the face of his wife.
"And you think you've been seeing this girl?" she asked, her mind
still racing to catch up with the whole tale.
"Well, yes. But I know it's only my mind playing tricks. You know,
with the guilt, I guess. I know it's not really Angela."
"Angela? You know her name?"
"It was in the paper." He dug the morning newspaper out from under
the kitchen bench. He turned the pages furiously. "It was here…
somewhere. Shit! Where's the story, I can't find it."
Disgustedly, he pitched the paper onto the floor, "It's in there
somewhere. Anyway, darling, it doesn't matter. I have to call the
Steve walked woodenly to the telephone, a man on the steps of the
gallows. Susan watched him pityingly. As he dialled she bent to
retrieve the newspaper from the floor, and spreading it out on the
kitchen table, she slowly and deliberately scanned each page.
"Well?" she asked anxiously as he returned and slumped onto the
"They didn't know what I was talking about." he replied, baffled.
"They said there haven't been any reports of any hit and runs.
They've never heard of an Angela Penumbra."
"Darling, I've just been right through this newspaper; there's
nothing in it about any accidents. No article anything like what you
said." She reached out to pat his hand. "You sure you just didn't
imagine it all. You sure that--"
She stopped abruptly as the telephone shrilled. They looked
worriedly deep into each other's eyes, and then Steve, taking a deep
breath, rose wearily to answer the ringing phone. As he talked into
the mouthpiece Susan watched him apprehensively.
He hung up and staggered back to his chair. Susan came around and
knelt beside him, her hands reaching out for his. "What is it? Who
was it, darling?"
"The guy from the smash repairers. I took the car in this morning. I
thought I could get the damage fixed before any one found out." He
noticed her wince, and the grip tighten on his hand, and hurried on.
"But he reckons he can't find anything wrong with the car. It's only
six months old, and there's not a dent on it! I don't understand,
Sue. I just don't understand it. It was so real. I know I hit her."
"As real as you seeing her everywhere you go?" She stretched up and
pecked him on the cheek. "Oh, darling, it was the drink. You're
simply not used to it, and your imagination got carried away with
you. I think you should go and have a nap. It's obvious there's no
Angela, and there was no accident. Go on, go have a lie down, I'll
bring you some--"
Again she halted at the abrupt ring of the telephone, but this time
she wasn't concerned. "It's probably your office wondering where you
are. I'll tell them you're feeling a little off colour," she said
brightly as she bounced to the phone.
As she began to talk into the mouthpiece, she suddenly looked
askance as she noticed Steve watching her. She turned her back, and
continued her whispered conversation facing the kitchen wall. Steve
could just make out bits of the murmured conversation.. "Yes... I
see... I understand... yes... yes... I'll tell him."
"Who was it?" he demanded the moment the handpiece was placed back
in its cradle. "What is it? What is going on?"
"It was the police, that sergeant you spoke with earlier. He said
there was an Angela Penumbra..."
"Oh, god no." he sobbed. "I knew it. I knew it."
She rushed to his side. "No, darling. You've got it wrong. There was
an Angela. She was killed in a hit-run accident ten years ago!"
"Ten years ago? I don't understand it. What's going on, Sue? I just
She squeezed a hug around his shoulders. "Oh, silly. Don't you see?
You must have read about it at the time, and last night when you
were drunk, and with your imagination running wild, you must have
dragged the story out of your memory."
He didn't feel totally convinced, but managed to mumble a "Guess
She continued, "Unfortunately, darling, the police said that they
want to talk to you about misleading information or creating a
nuisance or something for putting in your report. But I think
they'll understand when I explain it to them. Now you go and have
that lie down."
He had just managed to doze off when he felt it. There was someone
in the room. He opened his eyes, knowing who it was. She was there!
Watching him. The ribbons in her pretty blond hair trailed down
untidily to the shoulders of her pretty white dress. The dress
smudged with red splotches. Her pretty wide eyes now showing a
fading blue, as if the light was dimming, as if the life was leaving
them. Still, they stared at him.
Strangely he didn't feel afraid, and raised himself on one elbow to
return her gaze. He was about to speak when she suddenly turned and
began to walk away. She stopped, turned back towards him. She raised
her finger crookedly, and smiled as she beckoned him to follow. Then
she walked through the wall.
Steve rushed from the room, and passing Susan in the kitchen he
barely slowed down to shout to her, "I'm off. I'm going over to Park
Boulevard, maybe the answer to all this is there!"
"But, darling..." Susan called desperately after him. But he had
gone. Out the door, down the drive, along the street, and around the
corner to the main avenue bus stop.
By the time he had made his way across town to the Boulevard,
changing buses three times, and naturally missing all three
connections, it was getting dark. He didn't know what he hoped to
find when he got there... maybe some blood on the roadway... tyre
skid marks... anything.
He left the bus and walked along the footpath towards where he
thought he remembered hitting the girl. As he approached the spot he
was suddenly drawn to look across the road. There she was!
She was standing under the dull glow of a street light wearing her
pretty white party dress. It was snow white and clean, edged with
blue ribbons. Ribbons that matched the blue ribbons tied in her long
blond hair. She was glancing anxiously left and right up the street,
hesitatingly stepping off the kerb.
Steve looked up towards the crest of the hill as the lights from an
eighteen-wheeled semi-trailer breasted the crown. The truck's engine
scream was audible already, as it began its charge down the steep
incline. He looked quickly across the road.
Angela had left the footpath and was crossing the street towards
him. He opened his mouth to call to her. To warn her.
Then, she had halted in the middle of the road paralysed with fear.
She had noticed the truck accelerating towards her. He rushed
towards her. To grab her, to carry her to safety... to push her out
of the way.
The lights from the semi-trailer were dazzling, and it's engine now
a roar. He could feel the vibration of its pounding bulk on the
roadway, smell the hot oil and dieseline. He flung himself
desperately at Angela… and found that she had disappeared.
He grasped at the empty air as the truck roared on towards him.