Hilda had never been in a body she couldn’t control before. Large, masculine hands gripped a steering wheel she’d never touched and peered out a dirty windshield she’d never seen.
The street lay before her, words she didn’t understand emblazoned in neon on the buildings. It took a few moments before she realized the words were characters—Chinese? Or maybe Japanese? Or neither.
She glanced up in the rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of her own face staring back. The peel-and-stick gems she used as part of her strip act glittered under the streetlamps the car passed. Strange they had chosen this image of her to hide the Driver’s identity.
Silence had filled the car when Hilda stepped into the Driver’s mind and the sudden blare of Frank Sinatra’s voice singing, “Fly Me to the Moon,” made her jump. She wanted to turn it down, but the hands wouldn’t obey her.
“Ms. Claussen?” a voice said within her mind. She jumped again.
“Please, stop resisting the body. As I told you before you entered the process, you’re a passenger, nothing more.”
“Oh…yes. Sorry, Dr. Ames.”
“I know you’re used to the usual mind patch experience where you control the bodies you enter, but this is different. Do you remember what I told you? All illegal activities are conducted on a passive level—”
“To eliminate culpability. Yes, I remember, doctor.”
“Do you remember the other thing I told you?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t. I’m sorry.”
“You must not struggle against the body. The more you resist, the more you’ll harm your own brain. You could cause a stroke.”
“I’m sorry, doctor. I won’t resist.”
“When the time comes, I’ll allow you to feel everything your driver does. Please, be patient until then.”
The car turned into an alley and the Driver braked to a halt. Sinatra’s voice ceased to sing when he pulled the keys from the ignition. He climbed out of the car, hurried to the trunk, and unlocked it.
An array of weapons—Guns, bats, knives, brass knuckles, and blackjacks—lay on display beneath the trunk’s amber light. The Driver paused.
“Ms. Claussen?” Dr. Ames said. “He would like to know what weapon you’d like him to use.”
“I want a knife,” Hilda said. “The biggest one he has. The son-of-a-bitch who killed my mother did it with a knife.”
The Driver chose a large knife with a broad blade and wooden handle.
“Is this one satisfactory?” Dr. Ames asked.
The Driver shoved the knife into a sheath on his belt. He pulled on a pair of gloves, closed the trunk and headed for the apartment building on the right.
The service entrance door swung open on silent hinges. It hadn’t been locked. Hilda watched as the driver ascended the dark stairway, making his way to the second floor. He paused before apartment 2B and knocked.
If Hilda had been in her own body, she would have been shaking by now. The man who had killed her mother lay just beyond the wooden door. She couldn’t wait to see the look on his face.
“Who is it?” a voice called.
“I’m from Maintenance, Mr. Chan,” the Driver replied in his electronically altered voice. “I’m here to fix your sink.”
“It’s about time,” Chan said. The door opened and a balding man in a white tank-top peered out. “It’s been blocked all morning.”
The Driver entered the dimly lit room and shut the door behind him.
“This way,” Chan said. “The bathroom is here.”
Hate swelled within Hilda’s heart. She wanted to cut him there, strike him down as he had her mother, but the Driver wouldn’t pull the knife.
The bald man him them through the cramped apartment. When they reached the bathroom, the Driver pulled the knife from the sheath. A thrill raced through Hilda’s mind. At last, she had him. At last, her mother would be avenged.
“I want to feel it, Dr. Ames!” she cried. “Let me feel what it’s like to bury a blade in his gut.”
Chan turned when he reached the doorway of the bathroom. When he caught sight of the knife, a myriad of emotions shifted over his face. Surprise and fear stood foremost. When the blade plunged into Chan’s belly, Hilda savored the agony she read in his face.
The iron scent of blood filled her nostrils, followed by the odor of urine and feces. A warm spray spread over her skin and a few drops spread across her lips. She tasted the salt on her tongue. Crimson spread over the floor and the walls. The color reminded her of the single red rose left beside her mother’s corpse, the calling card of the man she now attacked.
A song filled her ears.
“Fly me to the moon,” the Driver sang as he slashed. “Let me play among the stars.”
The bald man fell to the floor and the driver leaped upon him. The knife cut deep, slicing Chan’s cheeks and nose, rendering his face unrecognizable. The driver grew more gleeful, his singing louder.
He wouldn’t stop.
Hilda tried to close her eyes, tried to pull back, but couldn’t. The more she tried, the worse the carnage became.
“Dr. Ames!” she cried. “Dr. Ames, get me out! Make it stop!”
“Ms. Claussen, you must stop resisting. We’ll have you out in a moment.”
“I don’t want to see anymore! I don’t want to feel it!”
As though her words had reached him, the driver rose from the body. He stood there panting for several minutes.
Then, he entered the bathroom. Hilda glimpsed her own bejeweled face in the mirror, only the gems had changed into spots of blood.
Slick soap coated her hands. Water warmed them. When the Driver reached into his inner pocket and carefully withdrew what lay inside, she felt that too.
The thorns pricked her fingers.