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GOODNIGHT, SAN FRANCISCO
By H. P. Oliver
2014 HPO Productions
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3:00 a.m.--Sunday--June 6, 1937
In the wee small hours, California Highway One north of Half Moon Bay is about as desolate as it gets. The narrow, twisting road was etched from sheer cliff faces that towered above me on the right and dropped away a hundred feet to the Pacific Ocean on my left.
A soggy wool blanket of San Francisco's famous fog hung a few feet above the roadway, obscuring the stars and dribbling tiny spots of mist on my windshield. My headlights bored through the gap between road and fog, drilling an endless tunnel through the darkness.
So far as I could tell, there were only two other cars on the entire planet that night-actually, one car and a produce truck. They'd flashed by, one after the other, heading south just past Moss Beach. Their headlights glared in my eyes and made the road seem even narrower, but half an hour later, I was wishing for more signs of life just to help keep my drooping eyelids from slamming shut altogether. It was the wrong thing to wish for.
She appeared suddenly out of the fog on the opposite side of the road. Only, she wasn't in a car. This gal was smack dab in the middle of the southbound lane and running for all she was worth. She wore a white dress and no coat, and that was about all I had time to take in before she was gone and I was alone in the endless tunnel again.
I shook my head in disbelief and stared into the rear view mirror. A vague white blur in the glass contradicted my absolute certainty that I was seeing things, but it took a few more seconds for my drowsy brain to hatch the idea that a woman running down this desolate stretch of road at three in the morning might need some help.
We'd passed each other near the bottom of a long uphill grade, and I was almost to the top before I found a place to turn around. It was one of those wide spots on the right shoulder where slow trucks and timid drivers are supposed to pull over and let the accumulated traffic behind them go by.
I pulled off and cranked the steering wheel around, but as I let out the clutch, a pair of brilliant lights topped the hill a hundred feet further up the road. I slammed the brake pedal to the floor and a large, dark Lincoln Zephyr flashed through my headlights. A big man wearing a hat was hunched over the wheel as if he were concentrating on the road ahead. I hoped to hell he was concentrating, because at that speed, the woman at the bottom of the hill would appear in his headlights without any warning, giving him precious little time to avoid hitting her.
Loose gravel spattered against the underside of my Ford coupe' as I stomped on the throttle and sped off in pursuit of the Lincoln. For a moment I had the absurd notion that I might be able to catch the guy and slow him down, but his taillights were fading into the darkness much too quickly. My eyes were fixed on those two vague pinpoints of pink light as I accelerated down the hill. I willed them to grow larger. Instead, they suddenly veered to the left. He'd seen the woman and swerved to miss her!
In the same instant something white flashed through the air to the left of the Lincoln's taillights. I screamed at my windshield, "You son of a bitch!" Of course, the driver of the Lincoln couldn't hear me. He couldn't even see me in his rear view mirror anymore. He was already around the bend beyond the bottom of the grade.
A sick feeling heated up my gut as I slowed to look for her body. There was no question about it. The guy in the Lincoln hadn't swerved to avoid the woman; he'd gone out of his way to hit her.