Music crooning softly, Samuel Walters continued his journey west. The truck headlights slicing through the darkness of the cool, summer night. His left arm hung out the window. Right thumb tapping the steering wheel in time with the old rock ‘n’ roll.
He drove this road every night on his way home from work. And he enjoyed every second of it. Typically, he was the only driver at this time.
The beat up work truck rose and fell with the road as it moved with the uneven land.
One particular dip took him through a blanket of fog. His hand outstretched to feel as much of the cooler air as possible. He smiled. Once the truck emerged out the other side, he checked the rear view mirror. Glanced over his shoulder. “Did we pick up any hitchhikers?”
Nothing answered him save for the tires crunching on the worn asphalt.
This had gone on for a year and continued for another month. Windows down, arm slung out, music playing, enjoying life. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then he drove through the dip filled with fog. Checked the rear view mirror again and looked over his shoulder at the bed of the pick-up. “Did we pick up any hitchhikers?”
Samuel glanced at the passenger seat. Staring down the ghostly barrel of a 1930s Tommy Gun. He couldn’t help but smile.
The apparition tried pressing the gun at the driver. Frowned when it phased through him. “I need ya to take me somewhere.”
His foot came off the pedal so he wouldn’t miss any possible turns. “Anywhere you like.”
“Gang’s held up at the Thompson Cemetery. They’re supposed to be puttin’ holes in a guy who crossed us. Take me there, and I’ll let ya walk another day.”
“Sure thing, Boss.” Samuel made a left at the next intersection. Wove through the country roads with the ghost riding shotgun. Dropped the passenger off at the cemetery. Shook his head when the ethereal gangster phased through the mausoleum.
The next few nights proved uneventful. Then he picked up the ghost of an 1800s woman who wanted to visit the orchard. The following night was the ghost of a lady from the 1950s who babbled about window shopping. The next night found him hauling the spirits of a family in the bed of his pick-up, taking them back to their farm. Then the spook of a fisherman who demanded to be driven to the lake.
On and on, it went. Every single night.
Even when the weather didn’t allow for natural fog, there would always be a cloud of it at the bottom of the seventh–and deepest–dip on his way home. Many of the apparitions returned for pleasant chatter, recalling how they died. Some, he helped to their final resting place.
But the ever-present one was the mobster named Charlie. Charlie never had a lot to say, and he always wanted to be taken to the Thompson Cemetery.
It had been six months since Samuel Walters first picked up Charlie. And when Charlie entered the truck tonight, Samuel came to a stop in the middle of the road.
The ghost turned to him, his form flickering. “Why ain’t you takin’ me to the cemetery?”
Samuel sighed. “None of the other phantoms repeat the same request over and over. Yet, you do. That mausoleum isn’t your final resting place, is it? And don’t go on about that gang of yours, because I know they’ve already passed on.”
Charlie remained quiet for some time. “Why weren’t you scared of me when I first appeared to you?”
He shrugged. “I’m an easy-going kinda guy. But you’re not evading this. Tell me what’s going on, so I can help you find peace.”
The apparition flickered some more, going in and out of focus. “The gang isn’t held up there. It’s someone else. My girl, Loraine. Her spirit left a long time ago, but I still like to visit her.”
Samuel softened. “Then why don’t you be with her?”
“I can’t. My body is at the bottom of the lake. They thought I stole some money, so they tied a bag of bricks on me. Let me sink to the bottom. I never took any money.”
He put the truck back in drive. Headed to his house. “Then let’s get you back. So you can be with Loraine.”
Once at his home, he went into action, hitching up his boat and grabbing the materials required. The night was still young, and he had more than enough time to exhume a body. It was the only time he was thankful he lived alone. That way, he wouldn’t disturb anyone in the middle of the night.
The old pick-up was driven like it hadn’t been driven in years. The john boat in tow. But he made it to the lake in record time. Once the boat was in the water, Charlie guided the still-living to the part where his body was dumped all those years ago.
It didn’t take long for Samuel to bag the remains and haul them into the boat. Nor to hitch it back up. The trash bag of soaked bones rattled around in the truck bed as the pair traveled to Thompson Cemetery in silence.
And it was actually Samuel who placed the remains in an available space next to Loraine’s coffin, while Charlie remained in the truck. When the living man returned, the ghost hovered. “It’s done?”
“Go be with your girl, Boss.”
The ethereal mobster flickered for a few moments. Nodded his thanks and phased through the mausoleum.
Samuel Walters couldn’t help but smile. He knew it was the last time he’d see Charlie. But he was pleased the spirit finally found rest. His trusty pick-up carried him home. With music playing low and windows rolled down. Waiting until the next night when he could escort another ghost around town.