Mandy was driving too fast on the narrow, two-lane blacktop that wound through the Northern Arizona landscape. She was tired, woozy from too much wine the night before at the Best Western Canyonlands in Moab, Utah.
She was desperate to get to Scottsdale where her former husband, Mark, was in intensive care. A friend had tipped her off that Star, Mark’s new trophy wife, had rushed him to the hospital. Mark was critical and Mandy did not have the new version of Mark’s will. Mandy feared she was zeroed out of her former husband’s latest testament.
Tightening her grip on the steering wheel of her white Lexus SUV, she pulled the visor down with her right hand as the sun was low to the east, often blinding as she sped through the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. She nervously searched for a gas station or a convenience store as she desperately wanted a cigarette, a habit she had kicked ten years ago. But all she saw were the crimson mesas and sandstone towers in the distance. Turing her attention to the road, she was suddenly aware she was up to 90 mph and the road swerved. With a gasp, Mandy yanked the steering wheel to the right.
Settled at a safe 65 mph, Mandy breathed easier. The strong desire for a smoke was gone. To her surprise, off to the right she saw a lone figure standing on the side of the road with his right arm out, signaling for a ride. Normally Mandy would have sped by and left the hitchhiker in her dust. But on this trip she needed company and pondered the tall figure as she slowed on the empty desert road. He had long brown hair and beard, even a staff. She smiled as she envisioned a prophet. Trusting her instinct she pulled off on the side of the road, watching in the mirror as the stranger walked to her car and opened the rear door. He tossed in his walking stick and backpack, and then got in the front, peering at Mandy with deep-set brown eyes.
She asked where he was going and the man just pointed ahead where the road undulated like a black snake, then slowly climbed into the red, sandstone buttes that define Monument Valley. Mandy nodded, strangely at ease with her silent rider. She slowly pulled onto the road and smiled as they both stared at the beauty of the empty desert and the valley of rocks on the horizon.
In a flash they were climbing the rise that ran between two sandstone formations standing as sentinels. As they came over the rise, Mandy gasped and put her right hand to her throat.
The hitchhiker put his left hand on her shoulder and pointed with his right hand. “Behold.” He said.
The state trooper stepped back as the tow-truck driver attached a chain to the wrecked Lexus. They watched as the emergency vehicle roared off toward Moab, even though it was too late for the patient.
“A petite blonde, a real looker, but banged up.” The tow-truck driver commented. “Paramedic said it looked like a broken neck. She must have come around the curve too fast and then overcorrected to the right, flying off the butte.”
The state trooper shook his head as he stared at the totaled SUV. “Why such a hurry?” He muttered.