Vanishing hitchhiker stories are almost as old as the wheel, which may be why they have as many twists as old country roads.
I wish I could say it was a dark and stormy night, but it was actually very clear, and not really all that dark because there was a large full moon overhead that lit the carpet of mist that hung over the English countryside. I was in the back of a taxi being driven by Big Dave. Big Dave drove for a local cab company that carried students back and forth between the manor where I lived and the nearby town of Grantham. It was Harlaxton Manor, by the way, which appears in several films, including the 1999 film The Haunting, but that’s another story.
Big Dave, who was called that because he took up the entire front of the cab, usually had a story to tell, like the time he went for a swim in the fountain in Trafalgar Square at midnight, fully clothed—in December, or the time he was bitten by the only poisonous snake in Britain. This particular night, though, he was unusually quiet. I said, “It’s lovely out tonight.”
“Yer,” said Dave. “Reminds me of when I lived in Cornwall. Ever been to the coast down there?”
I hadn’t. “What’s it like?”
“Pretty. Lots of ruins. Lots of history down in Cornwall, there is. Strange thing happened to me there on a night like this too.”
I leaned forward. “Go on.”
“I was drivin’ down an empty stretch of road, a lot like this one, and see this bloke walkin’ almost in the middle of it. I swerved around him and stopped. Somethin’ might be wrong with him, I thought, so I opened the car and offered him a ride. He got in. Didn’t say much. I asked where he was goin’ and he said just down the road a bit. I thought that was odd. No houses around that I could see. So we drove on a bit and up ahead I could see this little church, a little place I must’ve passed a hundred times and never seen anyone in it. And that’s when he said, ‘Here it is.’ I started to slow down and he said, ‘Ta for the ride, I’ve got something for you.’ I thought, that’s torn it, I’ve picked up a lunatic and he’s gonna kill me. I pulled over in front of the house and was about to punch him or run for it when I felt somethin’ stick in my ribs.”
He took a deep breath.
“What was it?” I asked.
“I thought it was a piece of paper. I unrolled it and it was a fiver. I looked up and he was gone.”
“He paid you for the ride and then he disappeared.”
“So the money was real?”
Dave shrugged. “Dunno. It disappeared too.”
“Yer. I went down the pub after that and had a few pints and when I left the money was all gone.”
Then he laughed so hard the cab shook the rest of the way.
Even knowing what to expect, I still got sucked in. Good one.
That’s the fun thing about vanishing hitchhiker stories: the journey is always more fun than the destination.
I loved where you went here, Chris.
I’m glad we’re both going the same way.