The car was an old four door Fury III, a huge vehicle that had definitely seen better days. It had evidently spent most of its life in saltier climes than the desert it now struggled through, if the condition of the old gold-colored body was anything to go by. Most of its underside and lower paneling was rusted away and holes in the floor allowed exhaust fumes to enter the car, making the driver nauseous.
The car also seemed as sick as the driver, shuddering and shivering as it made a top speed of only 25mph. There was a grinding sound from someplace and if the engine pushed too hard the transmission slipped.
Back in the 70's this was a car full of power, but now its driver wondered if it had the ability to get over the next hill.
As the road climbed yet another rise the car began to shudder again. Charlotte Lowe, a dark-haired woman in her middle twenties, dressed in jeans and a soiled blue T-shirt, silently urged the vehicle on, not wanting to get stranded in this unforgiving country. She had come almost a thousand miles in this car, and only had another hundred to go. But she knew deep down that the car didn't have another hundred miles in it. An amateur mechanic, she knew the sound a car made as it died.
The shuddering got worse, the transmission slipping quite a bit, and the hill in front of her seemed insurmountable. Crying, Charlotte banged on the steering wheel in frustration and pulled the car over before it died. She was at her wits end and was dead tired after having driven so far nonstop. Yet she couldn't sleep, not yet.
She shut off the engine and got out, stepping into the late afternoon heat that coated the landscape like a thick blanket. Charlotte knew the heat was getting to her and wished for some water. But she had none, having emptied the last of it into the radiator of the car fifty miles back.
Yet it felt better outside of the car, and the young woman walked over to a rock and sat down on it. Licking her lips, she stared back the way she had come, searching the empty road which disappeared into the hazy distance. She wondered if she had come far enough; if after a thousand miles, it was safe for her to stop. She doubted it, but her options were limited at this point. She knew she had to continue to flee.
So thinking, she looked at her car and sighed. It would be a while
before the engine cooled in this heat, but it seemed to run better that way
and letting it sit for awhile seemed the best bet for now. But she
had to find some shade, and maybe some water, or she would cook.
Charlotte looked around. At this point the road passed through a cut in the hill, climbing at a gentler grade than the hill did. Rock walls and big boulders fenced in the road on both sides, but there were plenty of gaps in the rocks that a person could get through.
Charlotte figured that any shade would be better than none, so she headed for the nearest gap and squeezed through.
The crevice wound back and forth, an enclosed path almost like a cave. Narrow, there was no place where a person could rest comfortably, so Charlotte went on. She had a brief concern about leaving her car behind, but then figured there was no one out here to steal it. Who would want a piece of shit like that anyway? There was nothing inside it to take either. She had gotten away with literally just the clothes on her back and a few wadded bills in one pocket that she'd spent on gas.
If it wasn't for the fact that she needed it to get out of here, she would have welcomed someone stealing it from her. It wasn't like it was her car anyway, it had just been handy. Her thoughts continued in this vein until she heard trickling. She stopped and listened, a smile slowly crossing her face.
Water, it was running water.
The going got tighter as Charlotte moved further into the passage between the rock walls, but she was determined to find the water that tantalized her with its sound. She licked her dry lips and dreamt about sticking her face into it.
At one point, while carefully pushing through a very tight point, she felt her shirt catch and rip. Once free, she saw that one side had torn at the hem almost all the way up to her armpit. Charlotte was annoyed. Except for the jean jacket that she had left in the car, she had nothing else to wear that would cover her up top. She thought about going back for the jacket, but the heat and the close-sounding water made her decide otherwise. She had to press on.
She moved carefully, aware of how her left side now seemed bare. It was an odd feeling, but as she came around a corner she forgot all about it.
She had found the water, and it was better than she had hoped for.
The passage opened up into a wash maybe fifteen feet wide, surrounded by smooth stone with a number of other cracks and crevices in them. One of them had a trickle of water running through it and the water fell maybe three feet into a pool about the size of a large hot tub. From the state of the walls, Charlotte figured that this pool must have formed over thousands of years, the water slowly wearing away the rock. In any case, it was here and she needed it.
Getting to it was another problem though. The opening she stood at was about five feet above the surface of the pool and the sides were pretty steep. Charlotte felt she could jump into it easily enough, but standing at the side was out.
She was just about to do that when she took a look at her clothes. They were filthy, and Charlotte didn't want to contaminate her only source of water with them. The water looked crystal clear and it would be a shame if she muddied it up.
"Oh hell," she croaked, looking around. There was no one to be seen. In fact, she was very well shielded from the desert on all sides. No one was here to see her.
Shrugging, Charlotte pulled off her torn shirt and began undoing the laces on her shoes. As her clothes came off her pale body was revealed. Slightly overweight, almost flabby in some spots, it didn't look like the body of someone used to the outdoors. Charlotte didn't care, no one was around to see her anyway. Yet she paused before pulling off her panties, looking about once more to make sure she was alone.
It felt strange to be standing there naked, and she thought that she had never been nude outside before. She wasn't sure she liked it, yet she couldn't deny that she already felt better in the heat without her hot, sticky clothes. She knew she would feel even better in the water, and without any hesitation she jumped in.
The water was warm, which surprised her, yet it felt very good to her dehydrated body. She drank her fill and ducked under as best she could, enjoying the moment and the feel of the water on her nude body. She laughed, feeling better for the first time in over a month, and lay back, letting the water support her.
Closing her eyes against the shaft of sunlight that bathed the pool, she
looked quite beautiful floating there, her long dark hair splayed out in
the water, her conical breasts poking above the surface. It was a sight
that would have captured any man's attention.
But there were no men there, just Charlotte, who floated over to one side of the pool and relaxed. The warm water soothed her aches and quenched her thirst, and as she lay there she fell asleep.
She woke, maybe an hour later, although without a watch she couldn't tell. But she could see that the sun had moved on, hitting one side of the pool rather than the whole thing.
Feeling pretty relaxed, Charlotte took one more drink before moving over to where she had come in. She figured that by now the car must have cooled enough to try. It was time to go.
But there was a problem. The sides of the pool were smoother than Charlotte had banked on, and she was unable to find purchase. The crevice she had come through was five feet above her head, yet the highest she could manage to reach was maybe two or three.
Frustrated, and a little scared, the nude young woman kept leaping and climbing. But other than scraping up her knee a little, she simply couldn't reach her target.
"Oh this is fucking great," she said to herself, eying the ledge where she'd left her clothes. They were all out of reach and Charlotte was beginning to feel like a wasp in a wasp trap. Scared, and now a little angry at herself, she looked around to see if she could get out anywhere else. Several of the other openings were lower down, and a couple looked well within reach.
She thought the might be able to work her way around to her clothes, but once out of the water she saw that the sides of the open space above the water were just too smooth. No way was she going to get to her clothes from in here.
"Shit!" she exclaimed a few times.
She looked into the darkness of the crevice where she stood and wondered how long it was. She was beginning to think that her only chance was to follow it to the other end, or at least to a place where she could climb out. Then she would head for the road and come back in the way she had come before.
It seemed a workable plan but what she hated about it was that she would be doing the whole thing naked. Nudity was not her thing usually, but it looked like she had no choice.
So with a sigh, Charlotte turned away from her clothes and headed naked
into the darkness.
It was not an easy journey. Here the rock had not been worn smooth by ages of passing water, and without clothes she felt every bump. She had to work her way very carefully, twisting and turning her body in order to get through some of the tighter spots. Her feet hurt from the rough ground, and more than once her breasts or her hips got pushed hard into something rough. She had to go quite a way before seeing a place where she could climb out, and once free of the confines of the crevice Charlotte could see that she was lost.
Standing on the hillside in the blazing evening sun, Charlotte couldn't
see the road; she couldn't see much of anything really. Like a landscape
from a Road Runner cartoon, boulders and rock formations dominated the
landscape, giving it an other-worldly look.
Charlotte was very self-conscious about her nudity at that moment, but even feeling the way she did she would have been happy to have spotted something man-made. Instead, there was nothing, so Charlotte decided to head uphill. She hoped that she might have a better view at the top.
The going, out in the open, was little better than in the crevice. The ground was very rough on her virgin feet, and while her body wasn't being scraped up anymore, she could feel the sun cooking her exposed skin. She knew that cover from the sun was essential and that the sooner she found her car and got back to her clothes, the better. But even walking as quickly as she could, it took her almost a half hour to get to the road. Only this wasn't the road she was looking for.
The highway she'd been driving on had been paved. But this road was nothing but worn dirt and looked almost unused. Yet it was going the right way from the look of it, and the edges were sandy and easier on her poor feet. Charlotte decided to follow it.
As she walked she continued to look about nervously, aware of her nudity again. Roads meant people, and despite her earlier enthusiasm she didn't know if she wanted to be found in this condition.
It took another twenty minutes of walking before she came to the highway,
and in the fading light she could tell she was on the wrong side of the hill.
She would have to follow the paved road over the hill to the other side.
Yet Charlotte now felt a little hope, her quest nearly at an end. As
she started out though, she saw an old road sign lying flat on the ground.
Made out of well-weathered wood, the sign had an arrow on it and above it
"Temperance, Population 250, 3 miles".
Charlotte wondered if that was still true, but figured from the condition of the road that the town had to be a ghost town by now, a relic of the west.
She made good time on the highway, the concrete warm yet smooth under her bare feet, and she was just thinking that her troubles might be over when she crested the hill and saw her car.
She stopped still and felt her blood turn cold, because parked in front of it was a black Lincoln Continental. Charlotte knew that car, knew it very well, and she was scared. She wondered how the hell they had found her and what the hell she was supposed to do now! A thousand miles she had gone to escape them and it turned out they had only been a few hours behind her all the time.
Feeling chilled and suddenly realizing how exposed she was, Charlotte headed for the side of the road and some cover. She kept the cars in sight though and looked carefully for her pursuers. As she ducked behind a boulder and looked around one side, she could see two of them. One stood by the black car, on guard from the look of it, while the other went through her car, searching. He came out with her jacket and showed it to the other guy.
"Shit," Charlotte said, feeling her nudity yet again.
The two men looked up and down the highway and one of them raised something to his mouth. It was too far away for Charlotte to see what it was, but she heard a low crackle of static right behind her.
Whirling around she saw a third man only ten feet away in the act of sneaking
up on her.
They locked eyes and then the guy yelled "Shit!" as he reached for the radio on his belt and made a leap for her.
Charlotte screamed and made a run for it. But the rough ground slowed her down. She only just made the highway before her pursuer caught up with her. Charlotte felt his hands grasping her naked body and managed to break free, but this left her trapped between him and the two men at her car.
She knew these men and did not want to be caught again, but naked in the middle of nowhere she didn't really stand a chance. Charlotte was quickly surrounded before being caught and brought to the ground. Naked, it was a rough landing, and as she struggled to get free her arms were brought behind her and connected with a set of handcuffs.
"Hey, girly! Thought you could get away from us, huh?" questioned one of the men.
"Fuck you, Moose!" Charlotte said with feeling.
"Maybe I will, girly. You're certainly dressed for it!" he replied, making the other men laugh.
Charlotte screamed as she was hauled to her feet by her hair and shuddered as the three men took a moment to grope her naked body. Then she was marched along the highway toward the cars where a fourth man came hurrying up from the other end of the highway.
The men were laughing and insulting her, wondering why she had been running about the desert naked but really not caring much about it, so they weren't as careful as they should have been.
Charlotte, who at that point was desperate beyond measure, saw an opening as they got to the black Lincoln and she took it.
The man called Moose let go of Charlotte's hair in order to throw her into the open trunk, and at that moment Charlotte turned and kicked him in the nuts.
The other guys laughed as Charlotte began to run, figuring on an easy chase, for after all how hard would it be to catch a naked and bound woman in the desert? But Charlotte actually had a plan and by the time the men saw it, it was too late.
"STOP HER!" yelled Moose in falsetto, and the three other men began to move.
But Charlotte had already reached the rock wall and ran along it until she came to the crack in its side.
She slipped through and frantically began making her way along it. It was much harder going with her hands stuck behind her but fear fueled her flight and she hardly felt the walls against her naked skin. She could hear a couple of the guys coming through after her and she knew she had to hurry.
Then came the really tight spots and Charlotte began to feel a little safer. She could barely push through some of those spots in just her skin, there was no way the bigger men would be able to follow her.
She heard them screaming her name; insulting her, threatening her, trying to scare her. Charlotte was plenty scared but she knew she had them now. They could never reach her here. All she had to do was to get out without them seeing her.
She collapsed against a side wall and tried to figure out her options.
Above and behind her the men kept on looking for her, talking to each other via their radios. But the sun was dropping quickly now and continuing on in the dark would have been futile.
Moose, who could only now stand without too much pain, was pissed.
The girl had led them on a merry chase and now just when they thought they
had her, she was gone. He looked at the sky and got on the radio, ordering
his men back. He figured that out there alone, naked and handcuffed,
the girl would be dead of exposure in a day or two. There was nothing
around for fifty miles, no towns, no ranches, no secret government installations,
There would be no one for her to ask for help, she was as good as dead. That meant her options were non-existent. If she was smart, she would have to come back to the highway. Moose figured that she might gamble on being picked up by another traveler. Well, he wasn't going to give her that option. The desert was a really big place, but he reckoned he still had her trapped. His orders had been to bring her back alive, and he planned on doing just that. She was of no use dead.
As the three other men joined him, one of them carrying a small bundle of clothes that he had found, Moose finished a little job he had done to her car. The gas tank had only a little fuel left in it, but there had been enough for his purpose, and he lit the rag he had stuffed in the filler. The four men watched as the Fury caught fire and started to burn, destroying both the car and the little radio transmitter that had allowed them to find Charlotte in the first place; then Moose gave his orders.
Two men were to stay behind, out of sight. They were to find places where they could watch all the highway for traffic. Any vehicles slowing to a stop could be seen for miles, so if the girl was picked up they would know about it. Moose planned on heading for the nearest town and calling for reinforcements. It would take a lot more people than just the four of them to really make this area secure, but then Moose didn't think it would be too hard to catch Charlotte. How far could a naked and bound woman go?
Charlotte, in the darkness of her hiding place, didn't see her car burn.
It was too dark to move but she had stopped in a relatively comfy spot.
So the naked young woman lay curled up on her side, her wrists locked behind