Feeding Them to the Lions Ch. 01byStardog Champion©
They had just passed mile marker 26. Not that any of the four girls in the speeding gray Jaguar paid any attention.
Heading north out of Daytona Beach earlier that morning, they were about five hours into their trip home from spring break, to Pennsylvania, where all four were students at Penn State. None of them had even noticed they'd crossed the state line from Georgia into South Carolina 20 minutes earlier, so not a one would have a good idea where they were exactly when Murphy's Law would inevitably kick in.
The four could have easily flown round trip from PA to Florida, but Renee Giperi had just got a new Jag as her 21st birthday present from her parents, and the thought of driving it down to spring break for the week was too good to pass up. After all, new cars never break down, especially high performance sports cars.
"Next time we stop, I need to get up in the front seat," Emily Weiss screeched from the back, the legs of her 5 foot 10 inch frame scrunched to ungodly proportions.
"She just wants to get away from Laura," Renee snapped from the driver's seat, seeing the sick look in her other friend's face in the rearview. "She looks like she's gonna hurl."
"Drinking is like exercise Laura...you can't play Miss Goody Twoshoes the whole trip watching out over the rest of us then cram all your fun into the last night," Renee sweety taunted the girl who usually acted as their designated Mommabird. "I'll roll down the window...dont get any on the paint job."
"I'm not giving up shotgun," the fourth girl of the group, Alish chimed in.
Redheaded, and certainly the most boisterous and sarcastic of the group of sorority sisters, she always seemed to have a snide take. "Emily, you rode everything else she could find all week at the beach...now you want to ride shotgun...aint happening."
As usual, the spacy 3rd year varsity volleyball player was caught offguard by Alisha's biting wit. She knew she'd probably slept with a few more guys than she had planned on in Daytona, but she wasn't the only one.
"I think you put a few miles on your tires too Alisha," Emily replied with surprising, gleeful vengence, bringing a crack of laughter from the other girls, including the sickly Laura tettering in the seat to her right.
Taking advantage of her rare comic timing, Emily leaned back and extended her legs diagonally forward into the front seat, plopping them down in Alisha's lap.
"That's better for now," Emily smirked.
Laughter spread occasionally through the car as the four drove on, reveling in stories from the past week, oblivious to their surroundings and the slowly rising temperature gauge in the dash. Renee tried her best to maintain her focus on the rural stretch of I-95 with all the hilarity that surrounded her, but the monotony of the landscape dulled her senses until she caught a whiff of the joint Alisha had lit beside her.
"Gimme," Renee blurted over to her giggly friend, her mind clearing quite nicely as soon as she inhaled the relief Alisha held up to her lips.
"Pass it back," Emily yelled from the backseat.
"Noooo," Laura gurgled, hating the smell of smoke anyway, even more in her sickly condition. "I will throw up if you pass that thing back here."
Emily simply leaned forward and took a drag from Alisha's hand before reclining back and exhaling straight down at Laura.
The weed mellowed the girls even more as they headed up the interstate and not surprisingly, it wasn't long before they started to get hungry.
"I want Denny's," Alisha spoke up, even though they were on such a desolate patch of highway, they hadn't passed an exit sign for nearly 15 minutes.
Laura's head now resting on Emily's shoulder as Renee sped on, the lush evergreen forest surrounding them provided a picturesque bracket as they passed around a couple of beers. The growing buzz from the weed and the beer combined with the steady hum of the cars speeding up the highway until Emily could feel herself drifting off. Doing her best not to disturb Laura who was already napping against her right arm, Emily's eyelids gradually lowered until they were mere slits.
Just before she closed them all the way however, a faint red glimmer on the dashboard caught her attention. Before she could even mouth up to Renee, "What's that light?", a stream of steam whistled out from under the hood of the Jaguar, covering the windshield.
"AHHHHHH," the three awake girls screamed in unison, waking Laura in the process.
Immediately swerving to pull over, a churning cascade of white vapor erupted from the gash in the car's radiator hose.
"Ho...ly...shit," Alisha's voice temporarily drowned out the sound of the antifreeze sizzling from the Jaguar's engine block.
The traffic rushing up the northbound lanes caused the small car to sway as the four pondered their sudden vulnerability.
"Who's got their cellphone?" Emily asked from the back, feeling sick with the embarrassment of having hers turned off a few days earlier for lack of payment.
"Remember, I lost mine at one of the bars the other night," Alisha added dryly, with more than a trace of exasperation.
By then, Renee had reached into her purse and grabbed hers. Before any of the other girls could get their hopes up however, a shrill "FUCK" shot from Renee's mouth.
"Battery's dead," she spat.
A collective wave of frustration washed through the car until Alisha, Emily and Renee turned to Laura, the girl of the bunch who always seemed to save the day.
"Mine's in my bag in the trunk," she said when she realized everyone's eyes were on her, bringing a hint of anticipation. "But...I haven't charged it for a few days either."
"UH...OH...," Emily groaned, slumping backwards in her seat.
"Where's the closest exit?" Laura asked, having been asleep until the breakdown.
The other three girls simply looked around at each other, too squeamish to admit none of them were really paying all that much attention.
"Well, four college girls shouldn't have too much trouble getting someone to stop and help," Emily noted, only to be abruptly countered by Alisha.
"Did you ever see 'Deliverance'?" she snapped. "You saw what they did to the guys in the movie...what do you think they would do to us!"
A steady flow of early afternoon traffic whizzed up the interstate as the four stared aimlessly out the windows.
"I'm sure a state trooper will have to pass us before long," Renee wondered aloud.
"Then we better toss these empty beer cans over in the ditch and do something about the weed in here before they do," Laura huffed and replied.
"Maybe a tow truck?" Alisha offered.
"Yeah...maybe the Duke Boys can save us." Emily cracked from the back.
"I'll settle for the first person with more teeth than tattoos," Renee said, tapping her thumb dejectedly on the steering wheel.
The continuous parade of vehicles briskly swept northward as the four girls sat, watching and waiting. Around 15 minutes after they'd pulled over, a nondescript school bus came into view, puttering along about 10 miles per hour slower than the rest of the rushing traffic. Emily and Laura were staring out the rear window and paid no attention to the yellow and black bus until it started slowing down and angling for the breakdown lane behind them.
"It looks like its gonna stop," Emily mouthed. "They have to have some sort of radio or cellphone on board."
"It doesn't look quite like a school bus," Alisha looked back and noted. "More like a church bus...or maybe its a commune of hippies."
"Or the Muppets," Renee joked.
The sound of the bus' tires crackling the gravel as it pulled off the road behind them sent a rush of relief and anticipation up each of the girls' spines. Still seated in the disabled Jaguar, none of them could see what was written on the side of the bus however.
"South Carolina Department of Corrections"
The driver of the bus noticed the broken down Jaguar from about a half mile away. The closer he got he could make out what looked to be 3 or 4 heads in the car.
"Pennsylvania plates," he said under his breath when he got close enough to see, causing one of the other prison guards sitting behind him to swivel forward.
The stench of sweat and toil filled the interior of the rickety bus as it rumbled down the highway, the four inmates shackled inside all unaware of the broken down car ahead, exhausted from their litter pickup detail 30 miles back.
"Looks like 3 or 4 girls," Dwayne, the 42 year old grizzled vet of the group spoke up from directly behind the driver.
"Yeah...a couple of young girls...PA plates...I bet they are on their way back from Spring Break," another of the guards named Steve said from across the aisle.
The other three guards seemed genuinely surprised when Corliss, the driver, actually slowed the bus down and turned to angle in behind the broken down car.
"You really stoppin'?" Steve said with a light chuckle.
"Oh God...this ain't a good idea ," Dwayne added with a mix of sarcasm and seriousness as he cast an eye back towards the fourth guard of the group, a baby faced newbie named Donny.
"Now Donny...you aren't seeing any of this...OK...you just keep both eyes on the four guys sitting in the back," Dwayne told the young guard in a tone of sober clarity.
"Must have been a radiator problem," Corliss guessed from the wispy trail of steam that drifted out from under the Jag's hood. "I wonder if they've already called for help?"
"Only one way to know for sure," Steve answered.
"CALM DOWN," Dwayne snapped back to the inmates when he noticed them begin to get antsy and rubberneck to see why they'd pulled over.
The four guards continued to talk amongst themselves for a few more seconds before finally deciding to send someone out to check on the girls.
"I'll go," Steve quickly offered.
"No...let's send Donny," Corliss joked from behind the wheel.
"No...Steve...you go," Dwayne said in a measured, fatherly tone. "See if they need any help."
"What the fuck's going on up there?" one of the captives piped up from the back.
"SHUT UP," Corliss snapped on cue. "We just pulled over for a second to see if someone needs some help...we'll be back on the road in a second."
The three guards remaining on the bus then turned their gaze out the large front window and watched as Steve approached the disabled sports car.
"You girls need some help?" Steve leaned down towards the driver's side window and asked, noting each of the girls fidgeted when they initially saw him and his uniform.
"...Oh...I'm not a cop...my name is Steve...I work for the state," he quickly interjected, trying to put the ladies at ease even though he thought it might be a little too soon to tell them he was a prison guard with a bus full of inmates parked several feet away.
Almost immediately Steve caught a whiff of marijuana coming from inside the car, but he didn't let on.
"We broke down about a half hour ago and none of us have cellphones that are working out here," Renee looked up at the man at the window and explained, a twinge of vulnerability and unease clear in her voice.
Steve surveyed the four girls' faces, trying to earn their trust.
"Our radio on the bus works...but technically we aren't supposed to stop for any reason," he offered. "There is a little town at the next exit about 10 miles up...there's a garage up there with a tow truck. That might be your best bet."
All four girls returned Steve's gaze, having no other option but to trust him stuck there in the middle of nowhere, each unaware of the other three guards leering on from the bus behind them.
It was then that Alisha sensed that Steve had noticed a couple of discarded blunts in the floorboard as the unmistakable smell of pot wafted freely through the opened window.
"Please don't call the cops," she begged from the passenger seat.
"God...don't worry," he said reassuringly, catalouging to memory the pile of beer bottles sitting in the ditch as he approached the car a few seconds earlier.
"Bet those empties belonged to you to," he correctly guessed.
Each of the girls cringed and slumped somewhat in their seat.
"If we're gonna get you up to the next exit, we better get a move on. If a state trooper hasn't come by yet, it wont be long...They will stop at every disabled vehicle and I sure wouldn't want him to stop and see everything I'm seeing," Steve scolded with warm kindness.
"You don't think there's any way of fixing what's wrong with the car here?" Emily asked from the back.
"You can pop the hood if you want...I'd be more than happy to look. I'm not a mechanic and we don't have any tools on board...truth is the way that steam is coming out, you've probably got a coolant system leak somewhere...maybe a busted hose and you'll blow the engine up trying to limp it any further up the highway. Hate to see that happen to such a nice car," he cautioned.
Steve watched as each of the girls tensed then deflated from his assessment and he stole a quick glance up to his co-workers watching and gave them a subtle nod.
The doors of the Jaguar slowly began to open and each of the girls stepped out into the already sweltering midday heat.
"Make sure you'll have your purses and anything valuable...thieves will pick you clean like buzzards around here before you can blink," the middle aged prison guard warned before shepherding the girls towards the bus, knowing deep down inside they didn't have a clue just what they were about to walk into.
"One more thing," Steve added calmly, stopping the girls in their tracks. "In case none of you have noticed yet, this is a South Carolina state prison bus. We've got four inmates onboard coming back from a cleanup job this morning. None of them are violent offenders and I have three other guards with me. Trust me...you wont even know they are there. Are you OK with that?"
"...Uh...I don't ...know," Laura started to mumble before Alisha defiantly overrode her.
"HELL NO THAT'S NOT ALRIGHT," the fiery redhead said, her voice plain over the rush of automobiles rushing by as the other three girls stood there dumbfounded.
"Are you sure you just cant radio the tow truck to come out here?" Renee wondered.
"Not without headquarters knowing we pulled over to stop...the second they hear we're stopped where we shouldn't be they'd have every trooper in the area bearing down on this spot." Steve sighed, leaving the ball squarely in the girls' court.
All four girls seemed to wince in their own special way as they stood in the shadow of the beat up, yellow and black bus, each of them with harrowing visions of the monsters waiting inside.
"A couple of us could just walk and the other two could wait behind," Laura spoke up, still fighting off the effects of her hangover.
The other three girls stared aimlessly up the highway imaging just how much fun that would be in the early spring southern humidity.
"The exhaust fumes would kill us by the time we got up there if a tractor trailer hadn't run us over first," Alisha groused. "Let's just get on the bus...10 minutes and we're up there. What's the worst they can do to us...stare and make a few comments. We get that all the time from the construction workers around campus. Besides...these guys have the guns."
"...All...right," Both Emily and Renee seemed to agree, leaving Laura, by far the most prudent and instinctive of the group, to shake her head and roll her sunken eyes.
With that, Steve motioned for Corliss to open the bus' door.
For the guards, getting the girls on the bus had, more or less, been about getting a cheap thrill. There were certainly other avenues they could have gone through to get the girls help for their broken down car, but watching each of them apprehensively step up onto the bus, they knew they'd have a story they could tell over their Friday Night poker table for the rest of their lives.
For the four Penn State students, it was anything but a cheap thrill. Having their car break down in the middle of nowhere on their way home from Spring Break was unwelcome enough. To then have a bus full of country hick prison guards pull over to help them while they were entrusted with the care of a handful of prisoners completely fucked everything up.
Each of the girls' hearts leapt into their throats when the bus' door screeched open, allowing them access inside. Immediately, they all wretched to varying degrees at the heavy smell of sweat and grime. It smelt almost like a male locker room as they fought the unsettling urge to peek back at the inmates sitting in the last two rows of the bus. Instead, each of the girls tried the best they could to make friendly eye contact with the four guards they'd suddenly put their lives in the hands of.
Still, it didn't take long for the wail of cat-calls and whistles to erupt from the back of the bus. A litany of "Holy Shit" and "Oh Baby" sizzled out of the inmates' mouths for several seconds as they came to life in their seats before the oldest of the guards, a calm and gentlemanly looking man with the name Dwayne on his nametag, yelled back for the prisoners to pipe down.
"We're doing these young ladies a little favor...they've had a slight delay. We're gonna take them up the road a little ways and drop them off at a garage. I'm telling each and every one of you right now...I don't want to hear so much as a peep out of any of you until we get there...understood!" Dwayne said and waited for each of the inmates to begrudgingly nod their head.
"Corliss...lets get this thing moving," he told the driver.
"Each of you sit up here in front," Dwayne turned to the girls and said.
"I grew up with three brothers...nothing they can say I aint already heard," Alisha bragged, trying to put on a brave front even though it was obvious all four girls were in a defensive mode as the bus bounced side to side re-entering the highway.
"There goes my brand new Jag," Renee thought to herself looking out the window as they passed her disabled birthday gift, wondering for just a moment if she'd ever see it again.
So much can change in 10 minutes.
Emily sat there helpless on the bus, her eyes tearing up, surrounded by two of her friends, three of the guards in addition to the four whispering and giggling inmates several rows behind her, knowing everything that had happened since they pulled away from Renee's broken down car had been her fault.
"This is bullshit," the lean, 5 foot 10 inch auburn haired 21 year old spat, to no response, even though it summed everything up perfectly.
When the guards had brought up the marijuana possession and drunk driving several minutes into their trip up the highway, it was Emily who had a scholarship at school to worry about. By far, she had the least affluent parents of all the girls, and after a sub par season on the court and a chilly relationship already with her coach, Emily had serious concerns she would be off the team, if not out of school completely, with a drug arrest on her record.
The conversation had started out innocently enough with the guy named Steve, who had come out to their car to offer his help, asked if they'd had a good time over Spring Break. Sometime soon after the driver, Corliss, asked if everything that happened at the beach was like those "Girls Gone Wild" videos. From there it quickly degenerated when several of the guards asked the girls bluntly just how many guys ( and girls) they'd fucked over the past week.
Uncomfortable enough with four convicted felons seated behind them, now the four girls had to face the fact that their 'protectors' were as equally depraved, and they were the ones who had the guns. The girls had been so nervous when they'd entered the bus, they hadn't realized Steve had slipped back off and quickly returned to Renee's broken down Jag, finding the bag of pot Alisha had hastily hidden underneath her seat.