Summer of The I-40 Killer Chpt 2

He was sitting in the back if the van whittling but not creating anything, long thin strips curling off a piece of wood until it all lay in a heap on the ground under his dangling Converse high tops.  Pale and shirtless in dirty faded jeans, oblivious to the stifling heat, calmly slowly peeling.  

He’d spend hours like that, or sharpening his knives, listening to recordings of tribal drums, eerie chanting or squealing bag pipes.  And he’d taken to staring across the courtyard at my back door while he did.  He was unemployed, as far as I could tell, though he came and went in the middle of the night.  I’d hear the Chevy chug to life and the crunch of gravel as he left the lot to return at no predictable interval. 

When I drank my coffee in the morning, he was watching.   When I turned out the lights to go to bed, he knew.  When I left to make my drops he saw me.   When the boss came by, he’d be out there.   I felt like he was waiting for something.  It was suffocating.

His female companion seemed normal by comparison, but I figured there had to be something wrong with her, living with a guy like him.  She was plain, but not ugly, more unadorned, dressed like a refugee from a thrift shop.  She wore her thick dark hair pulled back, kept her head down so the bangs hid her eyes as she walked to and from the corner grocery down the block while he sat in the back of the van peeling or sharpening.  Neither of them wore wedding bands or showed any sign of affection.  For the most part, they seemed to ignore each other. 

There wasn’t a thing about either one of them that didn’t give me the creeps, and I am not one given to such feelings.  I am the scary people.  I do what needs to be done and I don’t waste any time feeling bad about it.  But I know when something isn’t right.  I’d have been dead or in jail a long time ago if I didn’t.  

I was starting to wonder if he was a cop.  I took the long way everywhere with one eye glued to the rear view mirror.  I studied the faces of everyone who crossed my path, on the street, in stores, at the local greasy spoon, to see if any of them appeared a little too interested. 

Nothing.  I had nightmares about being busted, or worse.

I turned away from the screen door and got another Lone Star out of the fridge.  Watching this freak watch me was taking up too much of my time.  I had other things to concentrate on.  I settled in front of the TV, eased the nine out of the back of my pants and laid it on the cushion beside me.  My favorite show was on.  The fugitive count down had begun.  It had been a while since I’d seen anyone I knew on one of these shows, but I always watched, just in case.  This time I was unprepared for what I saw.

It was a sketch, a man and a woman, one dark, one fair.  They were traveling in a white Chevy van.  It wasn’t a good likeness of either one of them, but his cold dead eyes were unmistakable.  They called him the I-40 Killer, preying on small town bar flies and truck stop whores. 

I spilled my beer.  Strike two.

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