“You don’t thank someone who is about to kill you,” His right arm stretched across my lap, between my book-laden daypack and torso, yanking shut the door of his baby blue VW Beetle. What’s with the black leather gloves on this warm January afternoon? I felt the acceleration at the same time I heard the door lock click.
“You’re kidding, right? I’m just a grad student looking for a ride to the gates of the university.” The gates were about two miles from the School of Theology where my classes were held. It was the Canadian students who had clued us in to hitchhiking. Thumbing a lift was the usual way students went to the class buildings inside the campus.
“It’s your fault. Look at you, just standing there like that. You deserve to die.” What did this man with the long, single black, bushy eyebrow, frown deepening the furrows on his forehead, see when he looked at me? He was completely dressed in black. I wore worn navy blue leather waffle stomper boots, faded bell bottom jeans with a self-embroidered vine of greenery and flowers dropping from the side seam of my lower right pant leg and angling left at the hemline--just above the embroidered Jn 3:16. My jacket covered my flannel shirt. Provocative?
“Jesus loves you and Jesus loves me. He will not let you kill me.” I moved my daypack just a bit so that my right hand, gripping the door handle was hidden from his view. I tried to work up the courage to pull the handle and throw myself out of the speeding car, figuring whatever got broken in the escape could be fixed.
“You are just like all the rest of them. You are evil just as they were evil but they aren’t evil anymore.” At this point he was well into his description of just what he would do before he killed me. His speech was robotic, with a low, menacing growl. I feared he would hear the loud pounding of my racing heart. Had he looked at me for more than those quick glimpses every now and then as he raved on, he would have seen the throbbing pulse in my neck. I was ready to pull the door handle but, alas, my hand would not move; it was frozen in place.
“Sir, I don’t know why you are so upset with me but I can tell you, for sure, Jesus is not going to let you do those things to me. He loves you too much for that.” Is it possible for a person to be frozen with fear, yet confident enough not to even tremble when speaking? Yes, because that is exactly what was happening right there and then.
“Your Jesus is not going to save you. I will turn right at the light, at the end of that street I will enter the university’s undeveloped field and take you to the place where I killed the others. It is your fault because you were just standing there, waiting for me.” The sound of the turn signal verified his plan and indicated we were coming up on the corner. If I was going to throw myself out, I had better get to it! Still, my right hand gripped the handle but my arm would not move. As is my usual practice when stressed, I began singing softly of the Lord’s great love. It’s an automatic response, not at all intentional.
“Shut up! Shut up!” the killer shouted. I hadn’t realized that I was singing. Suddenly, the plan of escape opened before me like a rainbow in the dark clouds. I’d never seen a traffic jam at the corner because of the stop light but, this one mid-afternoon the lights had gone out. The traffic was jammed with no one knowing what to do next. Cars were inching out cautiously, first one side and then the next. The killer had to slow his vehicle to keep from hitting the car in front of us.
Now! I told myself and pulled with all my strength on the door handle. The car had not come to a full stop when I lunged out so I stumbled but did not fall. I was free of the car. Standing on the sidewalk next to the street, shaking like a leaf in my worn, blue boots, I released the breath I’d been holding. Just then the traffic lights returned and the line of vehicles next to me moved. The baby blue VW, right turn signal still blinking, moved on straight ahead and away from me.
Keeping my eyes locked on the retreating vehicle, I began to run. I ran home as fast as I could, fearing that the man in black would circle around and come back for me. Barreling through the kitchen door, a startled Mrs. Grant looked up from the sink. “Sojourner! What’s wrong? You look like you’ve had a terrible scare.”
“You can say that again! You’re not gonna believe what just happened to me.” Through trembling lips, I described the entire ordeal. “It was weird, because I wasn’t really afraid until just now as I tell you the story. Should I Call the RCMP’s, or what should I do?”
Mrs. Grant pointed to a chair, and set a steaming cup of tea before me. “Oh, how simply dreadful! Well, dear, you needn’t phone the RCMP’s. They are very acquainted with this man and all the description you’ve just given. He’s actually killed five students in just the manner you’ve recounted. They just can’t catch him. If you don’t have the license plate number, your description is the same as all the other witnesses who saw the girls getting into his car. I don’t know of any who survived the ordeal, though, so you’ve been very fortunate.”
In retrospect, I probably should have reported the episode, but I took her word for it and just went to my room. The evilness in that man had robbed me of that beautiful day; I stayed inside, afraid to leave the house. In fact, I never again left home, without a diligent eye out for the baby-blue VW.
Regardless of Cheryl’s prompting to return to the thumbing line, I refused to go, preferring to take the bus. Never again did I hitchhike anywhere. I had learned my lesson and just could not think of ever putting myself in such a vulnerable position again. It was this one point on which I could not be moved that convinced Cheryl that this horrendous experience had really happened. After all, I was the one who insisted we thumb a lift to class in the first place. Now, she couldn’t get me to even talk about it as an option. Never again!
For the remainder of the school year, I feared going anywhere, constantly looking over my shoulder for the VW. God had, indeed, delivered me out of the hand of this serial killer that sunny day in January, but it took much longer to be healed of the fear it birthed deep inside of me.
Years later, while walking down a street hundreds of miles from this city, I caught a glimpse of a baby-blue VW rounding the corner at an intersection ahead. I froze, clenching my fists so tightly that my fingernails dug into my palms. Wait a minute, I mentally barked at myself, you have nothing to fear; just don’t get into the car, if it stops. God delivered you the last time; now, use your head and just keep walking. For once, I listened to the sound advice I was giving myself, relaxing my fists.
Exactly! Had I not voluntarily sat in that car, the whole ordeal would never have happened. That driver had no control over me now, unless I let his past actions and words take hold of me. I refused to do that and kept walking.
Of course, it was not the man in black, but a young woman, totally unaware of the struggle the presence of her cute little Beetle had brought to me on that Eastern Montana street. It was over, really over; God had delivered me, and God had healed me. I would not re-visit this experience, except to tell of God’s marvelous provision. The failed stop light caused the traffic jam, providing a way of escape from my horrible mistake. How grateful I am that God has His eye upon us every minute of every day!
****Blessed be the name of the Lord forever!***