Home > See Me(7)

See Me(7)
Author: Nicholas Sparks

Up ahead, a car with storage racks across the roof was halfway off the road at a cockeyed angle, its hazards flashing. The trunk stood propped open to the elements. As the Camaro slowed, Colin felt the rear fishtail slightly before the tires caught again. He merged into the oncoming lane to give the car a wide berth, thinking that the guy couldn’t have picked a worse time and place to break down. Not only was the storm limiting visibility, but drunks like the ones back at the diner would be setting out for home right about now, and he could imagine one of them taking the corner too fast and plowing into the back of the car.

Not good, he thought. It was definitely an accident waiting to happen, but at the same time, it wasn’t his business. It wasn’t his job to rescue strangers, and he probably wouldn’t be much help anyway. He understood the engine in his car, but only because the Camaro was older than he was; modern engines had more in common with computers. Besides, the driver had no doubt already called for help.

As he rolled slowly past the stopped car, however, he noticed the rear tire was flat and behind the trunk, a woman – soaked to the bone in jeans and a short-sleeved blouse – was struggling to remove the spare tire from its compartment. Lightning flashed, a long series of flickering camera strobes that captured her mascara-streaked distress. In that instant, he realized that her dark hair and wide-set eyes reminded him of one of the girls in his classes, and his shoulders slumped.

A girl? Why did it have to be a girl in trouble out here? For all he knew, it was the girl in his class, and he couldn’t very well pretend he hadn’t noticed that she needed help. He really didn’t need this right now, but what choice did he have?

With a sigh, he pulled over to the side of the road, leaving some distance between her car and his. He turned on his hazards and grabbed his jacket from the backseat. By then the rain was coming down in sheets, instantly soaking him as he exited, like the diagonal spray of an outdoor shower. Running a hand through his hair, he took a deep breath and then started toward her car, calculating how quickly he could change the tire and be on the road again.

“Need a hand?” he called.

Surprising him, she didn’t say anything. Instead, staring at him with stricken eyes, she let go of the tire and began slowly backing away.



In the past, when she’d worked in the Mecklenburg County district attorney’s office, Maria Sanchez had been in the courtroom with any number of criminals, some of whom had been charged with the kinds of violent crimes that kept her awake at night. She’d had nightmares about various cases and had been threatened by a sociopath, but the simple fact was that she’d never been quite as frightened back then as she felt right now on this deserted stretch as that car, driven by that guy, suddenly pulled to the side of the road.

It didn’t matter that she was twenty-eight, or that she’d graduated summa cum laude from UNC Chapel Hill, or that she’d gone to law school at Duke. It didn’t matter that she’d been a rising star in the district attorney’s office before finding other work at one of the best legal firms in Wilmington, or that until that moment, she’d always had a pretty good handle on her emotions. As soon as he stepped out of the car, all those truths went out the window and the only thing she could think was that she was a young woman all alone in the middle of nowhere. When he began to walk toward her, panic flooded through her. I’m going to die out here, she suddenly realized, and no one’s ever going to find my body.

Moments earlier, when his car had slowly drifted past hers, she’d seen him staring at her – almost leering, like he was sizing her up – and her first thought was that he’d been wearing a mask, which was terrifying enough, but way less scary than the sudden realization that she’d actually seen his face. It was bruised on both sides; one eye was swollen shut, the other one bright red and bloody. She was pretty sure that even more blood was dripping down his forehead, and it had been all she could do not to start screaming. But for whatever reason, not a sound escaped her. For the love of God, she remembered thinking as soon as he’d passed, please keep going. Whatever you do, please don’t stop.

But obviously God hadn’t been listening. Why would God intervene to keep her from ending up dead in a ditch out in the middle of nowhere? He wouldn’t. Instead, He’d decided to have the guy pull over, and now a man with a mangled face was gliding toward her like something out of a low-budget horror film. Or prison, from which he’d just escaped, because the guy was positively ripped, and wasn’t that what prisoners did? Lift weights all the time? His haircut was severe, almost military style – the signature of one of the gangs in prison she’d heard about? The ratty black concert T-shirt didn’t help, nor did the torn-up jeans, and the way he was holding his jacket freaked her out. In this storm, why wasn’t he wearing it? Maybe he was using it to hide…

A knife.

Or, God forbid, a gun…

A squeak escaped her throat and her mind began racing through options as she tried to figure out what to do. Toss the tire at him? She couldn’t even get the thing out of the trunk. Scream for help? There was no one nearby, not a single car had passed in the last ten minutes, and she’d left her cell phone God knows where or she wouldn’t have been trying to change the tire in the first place. Run? Maybe, but the liquid ease with which he moved suggested he’d easily catch her. The only thing she could do was get back into the car and lock the doors, but he was already right there, and there was no way to get past him…

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