The following day Nancy played hookey from work–study, stole thirty dollars from her mom’s tip-money coffee can, and hotwired their neighbor’s Ford F-Series truck.
Shit, eighth of a tank, she thought.
Outside town she filled it and ate at the drive-through. Four hours later with the needle on empty the truck lurched and stopped. She thumbed a ride with a lady who drove her to a diner. Nancy drank bitter coffee and after trip to the ladies stood on the highway, thumb out. A faded blue Biscayne stopped up the shoulder. Hoping he wouldn’t be creepy, Nancy appraised him through the passenger window. Maybe forty with a Fu Manchu, he wore a broken straw hat and ripped denim jacket. She climbed in, hiding her open buck knife by her right thigh. Fu Manchu reached over and took the blade away.
“I’m going to Denton,” Nancy said
After an hour, he tossed her knife back, saying he had to turn off outside Denton. The big man ordered her out.
Flying down the state highway in Rusty’s Econoline, Denton’s six-man high school football team hooted when they spotted the girl waving her arms. Rusty jumped onto the blacktop. Nancy panicked when she saw the other heads in the dome light. She cut Rusty through the sleeve of his letter jacket, dropping the knife, punched him several times, and raked her nails across his face. Rusty cold-cocked her, dragging her across the shoulder and into the ditch. None of the guys ever talked about it after that night.
The following evening an older couple found her—empty pockets, no purse. The medical examiner, Denton’s only doc, put the girl’s age at 20; poor dental care, one eye swollen shut. She’d lain on a buck knife with two sets of prints and on it. Full rigor had set in.
“Cause of death?”
“Inconclusive. She put up a fight, anyway.”
The sheriff and doc had their noses out of joint. State cops on the way—jurisdictional crap.
“Okay,” the trooper said, “state ME finished his preliminary report; both sets of prints from the knife are in the system. Girl’s got skin under her nails. Justin Shipley’s a bad boy; five years in Chino. We’ll reel him in.”
“Nancy Martin, eighteen, single pot bust. Contacted the mother, no interest there.”
Later the EMT taped Justin’s cuts. They should’ve been sutured.
The trooper leered at him. “So why’d you do it?”
Justin’s tats crawled up his neck. “You’re the cops; you tell me.”
“You know we’ll find your skin under that girl’s nails.”
“Don’t I get a lawyer?”
Five days later they learned it was someone else’s skin—he wasn’t in the system.