Matt’s parents invited me to spend last weekend at their beach house while he’s away. It’s more of a beach mansion really, way out past the New Suburb where all the real money lives. It was kind of them to think of me on my own and I must say it was lovely to get out of our empty flat but I always feel uneasy away from home. My worst fears were nearly realised too on Saturday evening.
I was driving back from the beach at about five thirty, I guess. The sun was still really hot, though getting a bit low and I decided to take the coast road to make the most of Matt’s car. It’s an old road but most of the traffic took the highway until the rich set started building here so local vehicle handling hasn’t been installed yet. I was cruising on manual, enjoying the feeling of controlling the sporty little coupe around the long sweeping curves above the sea cliff and sweeping past the occasional car coming the other way.
Out of the blue the telemetry alarm flashed up amber and buzzed alarmingly. A glance in the rear view screen showed a bright yellow two seater clinging to my tail, it’d come out of nowhere and must have been doing a hell of a speed around the last bend for me not to have noticed it before. The buzzing stepped up and a red warning flashed as the little car behind closed right up.
I tried to concentrate on the road ahead, twisting along the cliff top with the view around corners obscured by shrubs and trees, there was no way I was going to be intimidated into speeding up. Around the bend we came to a straighter section and the yellow car jinked out, then quickly back in again as two cars sped past the other way. It jinked in and out a few more times before sounding the horn long and hard – what the hell did they expect me to do?
I snatched few glances in the screen, the view swinging from side to side making it hard to see details as we carried on down the gracefully snaking road. I caught glimpses of long blond hair flying in the wind and tanned arms gesticulating, it looked like two girls. Probably some rich college bitches on holidays or, worse, some millionaire’s floozies on a night out. Before I could see more we reached a slightly longer S bend with nothing coming and the yellow sportster was past me in a roaring instant leaving a snatch of an expletive hanging in the air.
I breathed a sigh of relief as they passed then caught my breath immediately as their lights blazed red and swerved sharply. A big silver SUV rounded the corner ahead of them and swerved away but neither driver was quite quick enough. The bigger car caught the girls’ front wing and spun them around wildly to slide off the road and slam sideways in to a tree. The SUV also lost control and scraped down the crash barrier at the cliff top before swerving away across the wrong side of the road behind me. I was standing on the brake and, more by luck than judgement, came to rest in the middle of the road between the two other cars without a scratch.
I took a moment. The SUV had stalled facing the way it came and was now the object of some irate hooting from another passing motorist. At this signal the driver started the engine and pulled off the road leaving a trail of broken glass. I too pulled over and got out.
I was glad to see the two girls clambering out of the yellow sports car. No surprise to see they seemed to be a pair of typical spoiled rich kids; long tanned limbs, designer micro-shorts, platinum blond locks. Both groomed to perfection. In fact “pair” was just the word: was I seeing things or were they twins? They seemed to be helping each other out just fine so I turned to the other vehicle.
The SUV driver was climbing hesitantly out of her battered car. She looked around twenty years older than the two girls, late thirties perhaps but who can tell in these days of designer surgery? She wore a long summer dress, expensive like her car, and I had her pinned as a local rich wife from Matt’s parents’ social scene.
“Are you okay?”
“Sure honey, a bit shaken up is all.” She was already thumbing her ‘phone as she spoke and put it to her ear as she smiled weakly at me. “Police… Highway accident… Yes…” She rolled her eyes at me in exasperation as the teenagers headed towards us and began to give the details of the accident as they arrived. They were already shouting at me.
“You saw what happened, that bitch was in the middle of the road!! She shouldn’t have a licence, the old bitch. Probably drunk anyway! We’ll get you for this you old cow – you don’t know who our dad is!! Yeah, you’re screwed!” They both spoke, alternating the rapid fire delivery of their verbal abuse in a synchronised barrage of words. Close to I could see that they were indeed twins, identical in every detail behind their designer sunglasses. They were also both quite perfect to look at; buxom, athletic and tanned. It was shocking to see their delicately beautiful features curled around such unfeminine language. I’ll bet they can switch to saccharine sweetness just as easily when they need their dad’s support.
I tried to ask if they were okay but they were too busy talking to listen. They bitched about their car, the lady they’d nearly run off the road, that they’d be late and how it wasn’t their fault so I guessed they hadn’t suffered any lasting damage. The smarter woman finished her call and turned to the girls.
“How dare you! You were driving utterly recklessly, you could have killed somebody! Why didn’t you think? Now which one of you was driving?” The teenagers tried to give as good as they got but the SUV driver was clearly very angry indeed. She gave them a blistering telling off, putting down their comments with cutting remarks, never resorting to bad language or shouting them down but leaving them feeling suddenly rather childish and stupid. Beaten back by their opponent’s obvious advantage in vocabulary, intelligence, wit and style and basically outclassed, they retreated to their own car to sit and wait for the police, throwing back the same threats and jeers for want of anything better.
I waited until the police car pulled up since Mrs Cole, the older woman, had asked if I could give a statement. We chatted a bit; she was pretty much as I had guessed: a wealthy wife from the local rich set living a life of gym, tennis clubs and beauty spas by the look of her. She complained about the changes in the neighbourhood and the spoilt brats like those glaring at us from under their tree.
The traffic officer called us all together and was calmly professional as he got explanations all round. Mrs Cole was clear and insistent on her version of events, accusing the girls of driving recklessly and nearly causing a much more serious accident. The teenagers were loud and muddled but the officer wouldn’t be dazzled by their eye fluttering and confusion and managed to pin them down to something like a clear version of events. I just told my brief story how it was.
There was some confusion over driving licences, Mrs Cole didn’t agree with the girls on which one was driving so the officer scanned in both and checked off the details on his patrol car console, confirming names, contact details and current address. He handed back the cards and advised the girls to call home and arrange to be collected from the roadside and left them to chatter into their phone. He took the older woman’s licence once she fished it from her handbag and went through the same details while I fished out mine.
“Officer, I hope you’ll be able to take this lady’s statement too. I intend to press charges, this sort of behaviour simply cannot be allowed.”
“All the necessary details will be taken ma’am.” The officer handed back her licence and, as she put it back in her bag, reached behind her right ear and turned her off. The smart lady’s expression fixed in an instant and her head slumped down a little to stare sightlessly at the ground. The officer grasped the back of her neck and took her elbow to ease her back against the patrol car where he propped her. The bag fell from Mrs Cole’s stiff fingers and he picked it up and placed it on the car roof beside her.
“She’s just a fucking robot!!! Haha! How ‘bout that. Stupid fembot probably short circuited at the wheel! Who’d make an old robot? Who’d buy an old woman robot? She looks well over thirty! If I got a robot I’d want it young and sexy, like us! Yeah, stupid robot bitch!”
I waited awkwardly while the officer placed a call on his ‘phone, I was a bit shocked by his behaviour, even in Florida. I gazed for a moment at the motionless android woman, I knew now her trim figure and even complexion were thanks to no gyms or spas. “Excuse me officer… will you need my statement?” I sincerely hoped not and wanted to get away as soon as possible but felt I had to offer my licence.
“No ma’am, thank you. I can get a complete event log from this android here so there’ll be no need to keep you any longer. Have a nice day.” He turned his attention to the ‘phone and the last I heard on getting into my car was him discussing with Mr Cole for the collection of his property from the Police Pound after twenty four hours. I guessed he meant his wife, not his car.
I pulled away slowly and carefully. The rear view screen showed the Policeman unceremoniously stuffing Mrs Cole into the back seat of his patrol car - I got an impression of an unseemly length of white thigh as her summery dress rode up - and the teenage twins sitting on their bright yellow bonnet waiting to be collected.
As I rounded the corner I reached for the auto-driver, I suddenly didn’t feel safe behind the manual controls. I fumbled in my lap and was rewarded with a flash of vehicle data as I connected. I let go of the wheel and relaxed, guiding the car with perfect electronic precision. I was very shaken; I hadn’t realised quite how backward this state still was, a far cry from the big city. I shuddered at the thought of how close I’d come to personal disaster, my identity was plain to see on my licence card, even without scanning it for my serial number. There would have been no come back if Matt’s parents had been called to sign for his “property” from the pound, property they believed was their second daughter-in-law! I’m always uneasy away from home.