The Hero - Robyn Carr

One

Devon McAllister walked down a tree-lined back road, not really sure where she was but certain that she was far away from the family compound. She felt safe enough that she no longer took cover when she heard a vehicle approach. She’d been walking for at least eight hours and saw the first rays of light coming over the mountains behind her. This reassured her that she was traveling west, toward the coast. She carried her three-year-old daughter, Mercy, and a backpack stuffed with a few items of clothing and forty dollars that had been given to her by the kindhearted stranger who had given her a ride.

She was exhausted but would not stop to rest until she reached Highway 101. Every so often she would put Mercy down and hold her hand, but that made the walking unbearably slow. When she heard a vehicle, she just kept her head down, staring at the ground.

It was a truck—it drove past them, but then it stopped up ahead. It was cranberry-red and old, but in mint condition. A man got out and yelled to her. “Miss? Need a ride?”

She walked toward the vehicle. “Am I close to Highway 101?” she asked.

“I’m going that way. I’m on my way to work,” he said. “I can give you a lift.”

He was an older guy. He wore a red, white and blue ball cap and his cheeks and chin were stubbled in places that he’d missed with his razor. Though it was June, he wore a jacket. The early morning was misty, which told her she must be in a valley near the Pacific. “Where are you headed?” Devon asked.

“Thunder Point,” he said. “It’s a very small town on the coast in Coos County. I work at a beach bar and I open the place in time for breakfast. Been there a few years now. It’s mostly fishing towns around there.”

Well, she’d gotten out of Douglas County, but she wasn’t sure where Coos County was. She didn’t know where anything was—she rarely left the compound and had never been to any of the small coastal towns. Still, she knew that Highway 101 stretched as far north and south as she needed to get. Highway 5 was bigger and closer to the compound and if anyone was looking for a couple of runaways hitching rides, they’d probably start there. “How close to 101 is your town?”

“Plenty close. Want me to drop you there?”

She walked toward the truck. “Thanks,” she said. “You’re sure?”

“No trouble,” he said.

She put her backpack in the truck bed. Holding Mercy on her lap, she buckled them in together. She kept her head down, her hands tucked between her knees.

“Name’s Rawley Goode,” he said. She said nothing. “You got a name?”

“Devon,” Devon said. She shouldn’t use her real name. What if someone came poking around, asking if anyone had seen a woman named Devon? But she was almost too tired to lie. Not to mention nervous. At least she hadn’t said Sister Devon.

“Well, you’re not an escaped convict, are you, Devon?” he asked.

She looked at him. “Is there a prison around here?”

He smiled. “Just kidding,” he said. “Where you headed?”

For lack of a better answer she said, “Seattle. Eventually.”

He whistled. “You’re a long ways from there. What brings you to this old back road?”

She shrugged. “It’s where I was dropped off, but I’m heading for 101.”

“You hitchin’ rides?”

She nodded. Her ride over the mountain had been planned, but was kept secret. “Yes, 101 will have more traffic,” she said.

“Unless the police see you. Then it could get complicated.”

“I’ll watch.”

Devon wasn’t really headed to