The car was still freezing, and the interior light was casting shadows rather than illumination. Jill rubbed her hands together and rummaged through her bag. Where were her gloves?

There was a sudden, sharp knock at the window. Jill gasped an explosion of frosty breath and spun in her seat. A figure bent looking in at her as best he could through clouded glass. He waved and smiled encouraging her to put the window down.

Jill opened it just a bit. She wasn’t taking any chances.

“Hi. I...I’m sorry if I startled you. It’s just...the mall’s closed and I can’t get my car to start. You’re the first person I’ve seen in forty minutes.” He pulled his shoulders up to his ears, hunched against the cold. “You wouldn’t happen to have a phone I could borrow? To call a tow truck?”

Jill shook her head. “Sorry, I don’t. I think I’m the only person alive without a cell phone.” She raised an eyebrow at him.

“Dead battery.” The stranger held the phone up for a second and quickly stuffed it back into his pocket. He pivoted slightly, hesitant to stay, hesitant to leave. “Well, sorry to bother you.”

He walked a few steps toward the expanse of empty parking spaces. Jill put the window down a little further. “Wait,” she called. He turned back, expectation on his face. She sighed. “Are you alone?”

“Yeah.” The stranger jogged back toward the car, his hands still shoved deep into his pockets. “Yeah, I’m alone.”

Jill took a moment to study him. He was an average guy – average size, average looks. Safe, she thought.

“What’s your name?”

“Danny.” He reached an arm in through the window and shook her hand.

“I’m Jill. I’ll give you a ride to the garage. Don’t want to see you stuck.”

Danny moved around the car and opened the passenger door.

“One second.” Jill held up a hand to stop him. She took her bag from the passenger seat and placed it on the floor behind her.

Danny settled into the seat. “That’s a huge purse. “

“I keep my whole life in there.” Jill smiled and pulled away from the parking lot. “It goes where I go.”

“That’s very practical. You know, you shouldn’t keep your purse on the passenger seat though. It’s too easy for someone to just reach in and grab it.”

Jill pulled onto the highway. “I’m not really worried about that. It’s way too heavy for someone to grab in a hurry.” She stole a quick glance at Danny, her smile wavered. His expression was solemn.

“Well...” Jill licked her lips. He was watching her, and it was making her nervous. “I’m careful about taking risks. I just don’t worry about every little thing.” She turned her face to the side window, watched darkness, trees, and more darkness rush by.

“I really don’t think you’re that careful at all.” Danny kept watching her as she turned left, and right along the route. “You shop until the mall closes, walk to your car in the darkest part of the parking lot, and not only do you roll down your window for a stranger, you offer him a ride. You don’t even have a phone for emergencies.”

“I wasn’t shopping –”

“The world’s a dangerous place.” Danny tapped his fingers against his lips. “I’m sorry.” In an instant his whole expression changed. He was smiling now, friendly. “Here you are going out of your way to give me a ride, and I’m giving you a lecture on safety.”

Jill let out a whooshing breath. “You were starting to scare me there for a moment. Going all ominous.”

He laughed. “Cold must have gone to my brain. It’s not my place to tell you what to do.”

He was watching her again.

“Well you did have a point though,” Jill shifted a little to face him, tried to keep her voice light. “It is...”

A faint noise punctured the silence. Jill stopped cold.

Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr.

A cell phone.

Jill slammed on the brake and yanked the keys from the ignition. In an instant she was out of the car.

Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr.

Danny shifted in his seat, still watching.

Jill moved slowly, her eyes fixed on her passenger. With great caution she opened the back door and reached inside. She watched as Danny’s expression changed from confusion to irritation, and finally to fear.

“I thought you said you didn’t have a cell phone.”

Jill flipped the phone open. “Sorry, I’ll have to call you back.” She snapped it shut again, and with Danny’s attention on the phone in her right hand, her left hand shot forward and zapped him with the stun gun.

She removed the big bag from the backseat. Knife kit, duct tape, and plastic bags were all stacked and ready.

Jill rubbed her hands together. Now, if only she could find her gloves.

"The Passenger"
Copyright: © 2010 Laurita Miller

Laurita Miller is stranded on a rocky island in the North Atlantic. She enjoys writing in the dark and walking through revolving doors. Her work has been featured at Gloom Cupboard, Six Sentences, Flashes in the Dark, and will appear in several anthologies, including the upcoming Harbinger*33 and Elements of Horror. Here is her blog: .


  1. Wonderfully scary piece! You really had me frightened of Danny. His expression going from friendly to ominous made me think, "Uh-uh".

    Very good misdirection.

    Really liked how you used the image of gloves to begin and end your story!

  2. I enjoyed the hell out of this. The way you handled the end was chilling.

  3. You had me with Danny. I was getting the creeps and then you twisted it just right. Enjoyed this very much.

    Kathleen Gilbert

  4. I saw it from a distance though the execution and suspense were pulling me in. I guess he's not too careful either eh?? very cleverly crafted.

  5. Great twist, Laurita, and extra kudos for coming full circle with the gloves. Nice, suspenseful writing.

  6. I agree with Micael in the fact that you could sense what was coming about half way through when Danny stopped being serious and Jill relaxed. As Marisa and Laura noted, the start/finish with the gloves was great. Well done, Laurita!

  7. Laurita, cold, dark, strangers...just my kind of story. I enjoyed the characters and the telling of the story. You did a wonderful job of both!!!

  8. Way to go turning the tables! Loved it. And yay the gloves :)

  9. that one was starting to give me the willies... glad you flipped the switch on it...

  10. Very well written, Laurita. And what an ending!

  11. Excellent story. It's true you should always be wary of strangers. It's just good to know which one is the stranger...

  12. I didn't see the ending coming! That was just creepy good! That twist was excellent.

    Your writing was so well-paced and suspenseful with just the right details. Loved it!