40

The Highwayman stood alone beside his old combine harvester. His house was destroyed, but that hardly mattered.

They took my home eighty years ago.

Now his only home was the highway.

The kid in the thresher was dead and diced and of no more use. Three more intruders remained. Having possessed Ethan, the Highwayman now knew who they were: Trevor and Dakota and—

Claire.

Claire was something special.

She looks just like her mother.

With a tilt of his head, the Highwayman summoned the Revenant. He heard the familiar roar as it emerged from the void beyond the darkness. The Highwayman stood waiting, his back to the ghost car. He raised his arms in front of him, as if gripping an invisible steering wheel. The Revenant drove into the Highwayman’s back. The hood of the car passed through him. The steering wheel passed through him. It settled into his waiting hands as the driver’s seat caught and cradled him.

The Highwayman took control, and returned to Blood Alley.

Claire’s hands trembled on the steering wheel. She was shaken by what had just happened. The house was demolished. The car was smashed. But they were alive.

And Ethan’s dead.

She fought back the press of tears. She was driving now, and had to stay strong. Claire saw a pair of headlights in her rearview mirror.

The Highwayman.

The car behind her looked real—sleek and black and dangerous—but all the ghosts on Blood Alley looked real.

She accelerated, and the headlights dropped into the distance.

From the back seat Dakota said with a quivering voice, “You killed him.”

Trevor moved back to calm his sister. “Dakota—”

“Ethan’s dead, and she… she…”

“It wasn’t Ethan who attacked us,” he said. “It was the Highwayman. He made Ethan do those things.”

“Liar!” Dakota screamed.

Claire said, “Dakota, I’m so sorry.”

“Shut up! Shut up! I hate you!”

Claire felt sharp blows to the back of her head. Dakota was hitting her. A burst of white light filled Claire’s vision and she struggled to stay on the road. The Hummer swerved to the rocky shoulder.

Trevor grabbed Dakota and held her back.

Claire corrected the wheel, and returned to the pavement. She checked the mirror. The ghost car was far behind.

Dakota sobbed into Trevor’s chest.

“We have to find an exit,” he said.

“No exit,” Claire said. “The only way off Blood Alley is through it.”

She saw a semi truck ahead, parked beside the road. Its cargo was a load of live chickens.

Trevor shouted, “Claire, look!”

“I see it.”

The road flew under her. She didn’t slow down.

“Pull over,” Trevor told her.

“No time.”

“He has a radio. We can call out on the CB.”

Risky.

Claire eased off the accelerator as she drove past, and glanced at the cab of the truck. She didn’t see a driver.

“Okay.”

She hit the brakes.

The car skidded and fishtailed.

Trevor yelled, “Foot off the brake!”

She took her foot off, and managed to regain control. Then slowed to a stop.

“Hurry,” she said. “He’s right behind us.”

Trevor opened the door and jumped out.

When he reached the cab of the semi truck, Trevor stepped up onto the running board and grabbed the hand rails. The truck rocked slightly. The chicken cargo squawked. Trevor peered in the window but saw no one in the seat. He gave the door handle a pull. It was locked.

Something moved inside the cab—a person in the sleeper berth behind the seat. Trevor tapped on the window glass. The man sat up and stared at Trevor. The truck driver’s hair was a mess. He had hammer in one hand.

Trevor said, “Hey! You got a CB?”

The driver stared at Trevor a moment, then waved him away. “Step down.”

Trevor jumped down from the running board.

The cab door opened. The man looked out. He wore a coffee-stained wife-beater and a frown. “What’s that you say?”

“Radio! You got a radio?”

The Hummer’s horn blared a warning.

“What’s the trouble?” the truck driver asked.

Trevor saw the demon-looking headlights racing toward him. It had to be the Highwayman, driving some ghost car.

He shouted to the truck driver, “Police! Call the police. My sister’s hurt. Her boyfriend was killed. Back at that farmhouse.”

“Stay there.”

The truck driver turned on the CB and grabbed the handset.

The ghost car was coming on fast, aiming straight for the semi truck.

The Hummer backed toward Trevor, weaving left and right. Claire was having some trouble with reverse.

Easy, Claire.

The trucker spoke into his CB radio. “…ten-thirty-three. Over.” He turned to Trevor. “What’s your name, kid?” He held out the handset for Trevor to speak.

Trevor stepped back onto the running board, and spoke loudly to whoever was on the line. “Trevor. Trevor Watson. We need help!”

The Highwayman drove his car straight into the back of the semi truck, through the cargo container. Headlights passed through rows and rows of live chickens. Birds flapped and squawked as the ghost car raced through.

The phantom vehicle penetrated the cab, then disappeared. Trevor saw the Highwayman enter the truck driver’s body. The man’s scream became a death-rattle laugh. The possessed driver turned to Trevor. His eyes glowed green.

He grabbed Trevor by the throat, wrapped the CB cord around Trevor’s neck, and pulled it tight as a noose.

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