The Passenger - Lisa Lutz Page 0,1

and Dr. Mike offered to give me an adjustment in the back office. It didn’t go as planned.

I couldn’t trouble Carol at this hour. I’d wake her kids. Maybe I’d send her a postcard from the road.

My chiropractor worked out of an office on the first floor of his three-story Queen Anne–style house in the nice part of town. The smart thing to do was to get out now, run during those precious hours when the world thought Frank was still in it. But I had few real connections to this world, and Dr. Mike was one of them.

I drove Frank’s Chevy truck to Dr. Mike’s house and took the key from under the rock. I unlocked the door and entered his bedroom. Dr. Mike made a purring sound when he was in a deep sleep, just like a Siamese cat I had as a child. He kind of moved like one, too. He always stretched his lanky limbs upon waking, alternating between slow and deliberate, and fast and sharp. I took off my clothes and climbed into bed next to him.

Dr. Mike woke up, wrapping his arms around me.

“Do you need an adjustment?” he said.

“Uh-huh.”

That was our little joke. He kissed my neck and then my lips and he turned onto his back, waiting for me to start. That was his thing; we never did it unless it was my decision. I had started it, I’d continue it, and today I was ending it.

Dr. Mike and I were never a great love story. He was the place I went to when I wanted to forget. When I was with Dr. Mike I forgot about Frank, I forgot about running from the law, I forgot about who I used to be.

When we were done, Mike was massaging the kinks out of my back and trying to straighten out my spine.

“You’re completely out of alignment. Did something happen? Did you do something you shouldn’t have?”

“Probably,” I said.

Dr. Mike turned me over on my back and said, “Something has changed.”

“It’s about time, isn’t it?”

I’d felt like a speck of dust frozen in an ice cube for far too long. I should have done something about this life I had long before Dead Frank made me do something.

I looked at the clock; it was just past midnight. Time to leave. I got dressed quickly.

Dr. Mike studied me with a professional regard. “This is the end, isn’t it?”

I don’t know how he knew, but he did. There was no point in answering the question.

“In the next few days, you might hear some things about me. I just want you to know that they’re not true. Later, it’s possible you’ll hear more things about me. Most of them won’t be true either,” I said.

I kissed him good-bye for the last time.

I DROVE thirty miles before I gassed up the truck. I had one ATM card and one credit card and withdrew the $200 maximum for each. I drove another twenty miles to the next fuel stop, got a strong cup of coffee, and withdrew another two hundred on each card. Frank had always been stingy with our money. I had one credit card and a small bank account and neither provided sufficient funds to set you up, if you decided to take an extended vacation. I made one more stop at a Quick Mart, got another four hundred dollars, and dropped the cards in the Dumpster out back. I had $2,400 and a Chevy truck that I’d have to lose before long. I should have been tucking money away from the moment I got the key to the cash register. I should have known this day would come.

The truck smelled like my husband—my ex-husband? Or was I a widow? I’d have to decide. I guess I could have never married. Either way, I drove with the windows open, trying to lose the scent of Frank.

I merged onto I-39 South, leaving Wisconsin behind. I drove through Illinois for some time until I saw a sign for I-80, which I knew would take me somewhere. I had no destination in mind, so I headed west, mostly because I didn’t feel like squinting against the morning light. And I planned on driving through dawn.

I hadn’t brought music for the drive, so I was stuck with local radio and preachers all night long. I hooked onto a station while speeding along the rolling hills of Iowa. It was too dark to see the denuded trees and murky snow marring