Night driver by guest author Marcelle Perks
Heavily pregnant Frannie is facing a crisis. An English woman living in Germany, her marriage is failing, her language skills are hopeless, and she feels like a fish out of water in a foreign country.
In a positive effort to tackle her problems she learns to drive so she can cope when her baby is born and build a sense of independence. After passing her driving test she drives in the early hours of the morning to gain experience on the eerily empty streets.
But when she encounters a Polish motorcyclist looking for his missing sister, she becomes sucked into a terrifying world of shady nightclubs, autobahn prostitutes and organ trafficking. And when she crosses serial-killing truck driver Stigelegger, there’s no turning back.
A most unlikely heroine, this nervous Night Driver must stay one step ahead of her pursuer on the darkest of roads in order to survive.
Marcelle Perks is a British author and journalist living in Germany. She specializes in writing sexually-themed guide books, but also writes short stories. As a film journalist, she has contributed to such publications as British Horror Cinema, Fangoria, The Guardian and Kamera. Night Driver is her thrilling debut novel.
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When Lars was in his lorry it did not feel like work. Driving for
him was nothing more than reflex. He was a tall man, but, inside
his cab, the extra height of the lorry went to his head. He liked it
best when he had all the weight of a full load hooked up to the
gears. He used the truck’s massive bulk to frighten other drivers
and the berth of his cab to pick up men.
For a gay man, he was relatively old; already forty, with a beer
belly. Still, Lars was good at attracting young’uns. His shaved head
gave him a tough, odd-looking baby face. His deep brown eyes
looked as though they were always misbehaving.
He could have done many jobs but driving suited him. When
he was on the Autobahn he could cruise along on autopilot. It gave
him hours of time to fantasise. And, when he was rolling on the
road, there was only one thing on his mind.
Lars obsessed about young men’s flesh the way other people
salivated over cars. He saw people as falling into rough types. His
favourite, Type I, was naturally fair and practically hairless (or at
least on the chest and stomach). He liked their skin to have a rosy
hue so that if you pushed at it with a fingernail it would flush. Type
II was Irish-looking, with black hair and light eyes, but the skin
tone was still milky with little hair. Then there were the roughboned
types from farming stock, and the lean, lanky Northern
breeds. The dark, hairy ones he left. They were a turn-off, and if
his little man couldn’t get hard then there was no point.
The one he loved was Hans, a dark blond. He gave Hans every
cent he earned while the good-for-nothing was out doing God
knew what. Without him the boy would be nothing.
He was feeling lucky. He pulled into a rest stop. There was just
a stand selling hot sausages, and a toilet. The bare basics for a
hunting ground. He stepped out to take a cigarette, every part of
him focused on the other patrons.
A couple were rowing outside their car. The girl, flabby, boringly
dressed, was being loud about something. Lars drowned her out.
Her boyfriend was about eighteen, far too good for her. Type II,
slender. He was inhaling a cigarette as if he’d only just got the hang
of it. Lars bought a sausage to get closer to them. He made his
face look affable, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. His sharp
white teeth sank into the meat. Their voices got louder. Lars could
hardly breathe; if anyone had looked, they would have seen that
his knees were quivering.
‘Get there yourself, then!’ The girl flounced off and jumped
into in her red car, squealing out of the car park. The boy held his
hands out in the air. Then he stumbled over in the direction of the
booth, all big eyes and hunched shoulders.
Lars just gave him a friendly nod when he bought a beer. He
didn’t have to start anything; the boy took one look at his warm
eyes and that was it. Some of them even called him Onkel.
‘Second time she’s done that,’ the boy said, looking down at the
floor. He carried on slugging at his beer.
‘Mmm,’ agreed Lars, affably, as if everywhere he went he saw
the same thing happening.
‘Are you going Hannover way, by any chance?’ said the boy.
‘Yeah, as it happens,’ said Lars.
‘Can I get a ride?’
Lars nodded his head. He enjoyed this bit: being the thoroughly
normal guy doing another guy a favour. When they’d finished, he
opened the door of the cab for the youngster.
‘Thanks, I’m in a bit of a fix!’ the boy said, pink in the face.
‘I’ve got a drop-off at the Moonlights Club,’ Lars said, casually
wiping his mouth. ‘You can jump out at Pferdeturmkreuzung or
you can walk from the club to the train station.’
The young man blinked a lot. His face was mulling it all over.
‘Fags are in there; beers under the seat in the cooler,’ said Lars
as if he’d been expecting company. His face was open, natural.
He was neither handsome nor ugly, but he smiled so much that
people opened up, especially when they wanted something.
‘That’s the third time Vera’s left me,’ said the boy.
‘Oh,’ said Lars, stroking the handle of his gear stick. ‘And who
might you be?’
‘Peter,’ the boy said, his cheeks still flushed a brilliant pink. He
was a blusher. Lars loved to see blood suffusing under the skin.
‘If you like, I can get you into the club. My mate is part-owner.
There’ll be plenty of Veras there,’ said Lars. His tongue darted
energetically over his lips. He had to push his body further down
in the seat to hide his erection.
‘Really?’ said Peter, his young face caught in a half-smile.
‘Sure, just say the word.’ Lars beamed at Peter again. But his
smile was clearly just a shade too eager…
‘You know, I’ll get out at Pferdeturmkreuzung,’ Peter said, not
so sure suddenly.
Lars laughed as if he didn’t have a care in the world. ‘Jawohl.’
From then on, he drove like a crazy man. He jabbed his foot
down and turned the lorry abruptly out of the slow lane into the
middle one. A car had to shoot into the fast lane to avoid him. Lars
knew the full spatial length of his vehicle and drove erratically in
and out of lanes, scattering motorists like ants. It felt as if all the
raw vibrations of the truck were being pounded through his inner
Peter’s flush had spread to his neck. His lower lip shivered. For
some reason he looked down at the gear stick and noticed Lars’s
hard-on. He squeezed his eyes shut. He shouldn’t have got in the
truck and he knew it.
The high pitch of a mobile phone broke the tension. Lars
answered, taking both hands off the wheel to do so. Peter’s face
‘Another one?’ Lars said. ‘Now, right this minute?’ His voice
wavered, like a child disappointed at not getting his favourite ice
cream. ‘If you could just give me half an hour.’
The person on the other end answered and Lars frowned at the
response, his fat stomach flapped over his jeans. Whatever he was
doing now, this looked like work.
Peter’s expression was frozen like a wounded animal. Perhaps
he thought that if he was quiet and still enough, the truck driver
might forget he was there.
‘KONZENTRIEREN!’ shouted Heinrich directly in Frannie’s face.
She couldn’t even look at him, dared not take her eyes off the busy
road. The other vehicles continually changed lanes, slid off on slip
lanes or overtook each other. She was terrified she would drive
into the back of someone who had abruptly changed lane, or that
someone would ram her from behind. The B6 had a speed limit
of a hundred and twenty kilometres per hour. It was way quicker
than her comfort zone of below seventy. Driving faster was both
physically harder, and also mentally: she had to react quickly at
this insane speed to the numerous traffic lights waiting to catch
To make things worse, it started raining.
Heinrich shouted a word she didn’t know. He must mean the
bloody windscreen wipers. Her panicked fingers blindly pressed
buttons, but she got the indicators instead. Shit! She hated fussing
with any extras: lights, wipers, indicators; didn’t even know
where the horn was. Keeping the car in forward motion was hard
enough. She was gripping the wheel so hard that it was hot. The
rain pattered down remorselessly. Temperatures inside the car
started to rise.
To Lars the truck was an extension of his personality. When he
was calm he drove solidly. When his mind was torn up, everything
became erratic. When Peter had said he didn’t want to join him
at the club, he had driven like a two-year-old. He rumbled up to
the next traffic lights as if he didn’t know what a red light was. He
hit the brakes sharply at the last minute, working up a sweat. The
smell of him crept into the cab. Peter looked as though, if he had
to endure much more of this, he was going to be sick.
A little grey Volkswagen emblazoned with ‘Heinrich’s Driving
School’ was crawling in the slow lane in front of him. Lars grinned
to himself. He pushed down his foot on the accelerator, feeling
his body thrum to the extra vibrating movement of the truck. The
learner driver was driving as slowly as she dared. He didn’t have
any tolerance for learners. He drove to within a few centimetres of
her bumper. See how she found that! He laughed out loud. The car
tried to speed out of danger and then was abruptly braked back.
The instructor was obviously insisting on the speed limit. From
the frantic head movements of the passenger and driver, a row
was in full swing.
The car signalled left and moved to the next lane. Lars did the
same, squeezing in behind in hot pursuit. The instructor turned
his head to look back at him and Lars nodded affably. Never
look pissed off when you want to frighten somebody. If they’re
confused you scare ’em worse. The learner driver went back into
the slow lane. Lars once again followed them, forcing two cars to
hastily brake. A horn hooted. He was really playing them.
Lars laughed to himself. He went on tailgating the little car. Peter
groaned. His mouth made lots of swallowing noises. The learner
driver’s movements were becoming more and more frantic. In a
minute she was going to shoot through a red light. The cab echoed
with the sound of Lars’s maniacal laughter.
Frannie couldn’t think straight. All she wanted was to get away
from the goddamn truck. Her thick blonde hair kept falling into
her eyes. This bloody truck driver was practically leaning on her
bumper! She just wanted to put as much distance between them as
possible. Shit. The light had just gone red. The car was already over
the line; she had to go for it anyway.
‘Nein!’ There was a screech as Heinrich performed an emergency
Frannie’s head was jerked forward. She could feel the vibrations
down into her solar plexus. She screamed. It was as if something
deep inside her had been wrenched. Oh, my God, the baby!
Frannie’s hand immediately went to her stomach. Her middle had
absorbed the jerking motion like a punch. She had to resist the
urge to go and yank the driver out of his cab and give him what
for. She couldn’t believe this was happening. The car was clearly
marked as a driving school vehicle. Everything started to get dark;
she remembered what the nurse with the pink hair had said on her
pre-natal course and tried to slow down her breathing. Her every
thought was concentrated on keeping the baby safe.
Heinrich was too shocked to carry on shouting. He’d written
down the licence number of the truck and looked as though he
was thinking about what to do with it.
She pushed on the hazard lights and forced her way out of the
door. ‘I can’t…’ she said, oblivious to the honking cars that minded
very much that she was holding up the traffic on the B6. She had to
breathe. No longer cared what anyone thought. She took in huge
gulps of fresh air as the rain battered down her fringe and stood
there trying not to look eight months pregnant.
‘I drive.’ Heinrich leapt round into the driver’s seat.
She got back in the car. The green traffic light had been on for
some time and the car leapt forward to escape the angry motorists
who were lining up and gesticulating.
‘Baby OK?’ He was trying to speak English.
‘Not sure,’ she said, waggling her head. Her stomach had swelled
into a dull zone of discomfort.
As Heinrich drove, he kept glancing at her. Something warm
trickled down her leg, soaking her dress. At first, she thought she
had wet herself, but it was much worse. Heinrich saw the blood
before she did. Her white dress showed up every trickle of it.
‘Shall I take you to the hospital?’ said Heinrich, pulling over, his
face creased in concern. He had turned from adversary to support
in minutes and it made Frannie want to weep with gratitude.
‘No, they have no records for the pregnancy,’ she said, her hand
holding her stomach. ‘My gynaecologist is just around the corner.’
She showed him her doctor’s card for the address and Heinrich
seemed to understand.
She tried to think positive, but it was hard to suppress the tears
that kept forming, however hard she blinked. She had to learn to
drive in order to function in the sticks, but she hadn’t anticipated
anything like this would happen. How often did your driving
instructor forcibly perform an emergency stop? Her hand shook
as she took her mobile out of her handbag to call Kurt.
‘We go there, now,’ Heinrich said, as concerned as if he were
the baby’s father. He put his foot down and drove as if he had a
flashing blue light.
Publication Day: 2nd August 2018
Publisher: Urbane Publications
Category: Fiction, Genre: Thriller / Crime / Psychological