In Night Driver, a nervous driver is pitted against a truck-driving serial killer. Heavily pregnant English woman Frannie is facing a crisis. Her marriage is failing, her German language skills are hopeless and she feels like a fish out of water in North Germany. The solution to her problems is to learn to drive so she can cope when her baby is born. After passing her driving test she drives at three am to gain experience on the empty streets. When she encounters a Polish motorcyclist looking for his missing sister, she becomes sucked into a world of shady nightclubs, autobahn sex workers and organ trafficking. After she's crossed serial killing truck driver Stigelegger, there's no turning back. A most unlikely heroine, this nervous driver is forced to night-drive in order to find out the truth. This fast-paced thriller takes place mostly at night.
Imagine Tom's Midnight Garden as a road movie with a serial killer thrown in. Entering this secret world is a dangerous place. But when crime is an occupation, each character, no matter what they've done must ask themselves how far they are prepared to go. And Frannie, trapped in a failing marriage has to find her freedom. The German characters are loosely based on Fritz Haarmann, Germany's most famous serial killer. He was executed in 1925 for the deaths of twenty-four young men. Night Driver shows his network of friends which include his lover, Hans Grans, who in turn had three girlfriends who worked as sex workers for him. Night Driver re-imagines the dynamics of these relationships in a modern setting where crime is even bigger business.
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 rough-boned 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; beer’s 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 thighs.
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 glowed crimson.
‘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.
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