Eddie had his doubts about the girl from the start. She caught his eye first thing as he maneuvered his massive eighteen wheeler through the obstacle course of idling trucks. Impossible to miss her really. The way she held her slight frame in such a manner that all but screamed love for sale. No, scratch that. It was more like love for rent. By the hour most likely. But something about her struck him as off. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
She leaned up against one of the pillars supporting the precariously sagging awning that covered the doorway to the all-night diner. Each time a semi so much as looked like it might slow down she threw out less than subtle hints that she was ready to party. If the price was right. A quick blow of a kiss from her gloss slathered lips. Her soft bare shoulders cocked back ever so slightly to accentuate what little she had in the way of breasts. Occasionally hiking up her already too revealing skirt to quash any suspicions that she might be wearing underpants.
She glowed in the steady downpour like a modern day Venus de Milo. Only this one was clad in a babydoll top and knee high ‘fuck me daddy’ boots. She also possessed both of her arms, but otherwise she was just like that sexy statue in the artsy magazines they always left sitting around in the waiting room of dentist offices and hotel lobbies.
He wanted her so badly that he could taste it.
Rolling to a stop, Eddie licked his lips and wrapped his stubby digits tightly around the wheel. Already he was counting the cash in his wallet without even taking it out of his pocket. He and that little firecracker were gonna get real familiar before the night was over. Just as soon as he got himself a bite to eat. Man cannot live on road whore alone.
He passed by her on his way into the diner. Close enough to almost taste her on his tongue. A curious pairing of cheap perfume and the clove cigarette she shielded from the rain beckoned the most primal regions of his frontal lobe. It mingled with the diesel stench of the busy parking lot and hung in the air over her like a garish halo. Something about the way she smelled conjured childhood memories that aroused him and infuriated him all at the same time.
He felt her eyes trailing him through the doorway and that nagging gut feeling of uncertainty rose up once again. Predatory instincts honed by two decades of experience told him to leave this one alone. He settled into an empty booth by the window, one that allowed him to watch her without being too conspicuous. If she noticed him staring at her it didn’t seem to bother her. She paid him no mind as she nursed her cigarette against the damp wind. Playing hard to get only made him want her all the more.
She was not your run of the mill lot lizard by any stretch. Young, passably pretty and clean. As a general rule, three qualities that the majority of the girls working the truck stop circuit usually lacked. Young he could deal with. The idea of bedding down with jail bait had never bothered him before. Good hygiene was also not a problem. Rolling in the sleeper cab of his rig with a girl who didn’t smell like she kept dead fish in her pocket would be a welcomed change. Being pretty, however, might just be the deal breaker.
He had nothing against pretty women. In fact he loved them and everything about them. What he didn’t love was going to jail. A girl as pretty as that one, peddling her ass at a rundown truck stop in the middle of nowhere, was either a fledgling junkie or a cop. Having all her teeth most likely put her into the latter category. Cops tend to have better dental plans than dopeheads.
At odds with himself, Eddie rested his chin on his palms and sighed. The predator in him wanted nothing more to spend a few hours alone with that precious little gem. He would make her bleed from holes in her young little body that she didn’t even know existed. On the other hand, the rational side of him screamed for him to just eat his damn supper and drive the hell away. He was like a coyote standing over a baited trap. Knowing full well that the consequences far outweighed the reward, yet salivating over the meager scraps of meat just the same.
Suddenly he realized that he was not alone. He was so engrossed with the view outside that he didn’t see the waitress until she was standing directly over him. His hands instinctively drew in toward his body, narrowly missing the empty coffee cup in front of him. A chirping gasp escaped his lips as he placed a hand over his heart and muttered, “Jesus. Where’d you come from?”
The waitress ignored his question and glanced over his shoulder toward the entrance. She smacked her chewing gum with the back of her teeth a couple of times and rolled her eyes. She strategically twisted a lock of her over-treated blonde hair with her left hand. A habit she developed early on to let the decent looking fellas know that she was single and up for grabs. Twenty years of waiting tables and four divorces later, the gesture was as natural as breathing.
“Honey, you don’t want no part of that one.”
“That so?” Eddie responded.
He backed away until the name tag pinned above her left breast went from blurry to readable. It read JANICE but to him she looked more like that mouthy waitress from a television show he used to watch in the early eighties. It was based on an older movie. He liked the show but the movie sucked. Only the one on the idiot box was a redhead instead of a peroxide blonde like Janice and the chick in the film. The name of the show slipped his mind, but he distinctly remembered the waitress’s name was Flo.
“Mhmm,” the waitress assured him with an exaggerated nod as she filled his cup from the pot in her hand. The one that wasn’t advertising the wedding band that did not exist. “Oh yeah, sweetie. She’s been working this lot non-stop for almost a week. Climbing in with anybody who rolls in on eighteen tires and a cab big enough to lay down in. It’s like she made a bet with her ass and her ass lost.”
He was quickly beginning to change his mind about the comparison between the waitress standing in front of him and the one on the television show. Flo was feisty and quick-witted. Janice was nothing more than an aging plate pusher, burdened by her own lack of self-esteem. Bent on loathing anyone younger and prettier than her.
At least she was able to unknowingly put to rest his most pressing concern. A girl who worked herself that hard in the lot was definitely not a cop.
“Thanks for the heads up there, Janice.”
“No worries, sugar. Just hate seeing a good looking fella like yourself get mixed up with the likes of her.” She nodded once again. This time toward the rain-soaked girl beneath the awning. Not a hair on her head so much as moved as she did so. Eddie guessed that it must have taken at least half a can of hairspray to achieve that effect. “You ready to order or do you need a few minutes yet?”
“Nah, I’m ready,” Eddie replied, without even looking at the menu. The food in greasy spoons like this place were basically always the same crap anyhow. “I’ll have the open-faced roast beef and a side of slaw.”
“Coming right up, hon.” She started for the kitchen to put in his order, shaking all that was left to be desired of her middle-aged backside as she went. The sideways grin on her face couldn’t hide the fact that she knew damn well he noticed.
“Hey, Janice,” he called out.
Satisfied that she still had it in her, she put on her best man-catching smile and turned around. Slowly, so as to not appear too needy. Men never appreciated desperation. At least not until around the third or fourth date. “Yeah, babe? What else can I get you?”
“Order me up a couple burgers while you’re at it. Make ’em to go.”
Janice shot a knowing glance in the direction the girl outside and felt the smile melt from her own mouth. She bit her lip and silently hoped that every calorie in those burgers found their way to that skinny little lot lizard’s thighs by the time she was in her twenties.
“Darlin’, if it’s a midnight snack you’re after, my shift ends in about an hour,” Janice purred. Her gaze shifted from the window back to Eddie. Lashes too long and full to be genuine fanned the skillfully concealed crow’s feet peeking out from under the makeup pancaked on her face. Again the barren ring finger found its way into the picture. A brief cameo appearance to underscore the earnestness of the invitation.
“The burgers will do just fine.”
Janice threw another hateful glance toward the wet slut outside before storming away in a huff. “Suit yourself, asshole,” she muttered under her breath. “Can’t say I didn’t warn yam.”
Eddie ate his meal in relative silence after thwarting off a few more attempts by the waitress to capture his undivided attention. By the end she basically gave him the cold shoulder and left him to eat and stare out the window. He paid for his food with cash, leaving a nominal tip. Neither too little nor too much, so as to draw as little attention to himself as possible. Little eye contact and no dialogue was exchanged as he collected his to-go bag and headed for the door.
With any luck the waitress would barely remember what he looked like by the time her shift was finished. Hopefully his face would be the last thing that came to mind if and when anyone bothered to ask questions. Inquiries concerning the disappearance of some pretty little road whore that she considered nothing more than competition with an unfair advantage.
The girl accepted the food without so much as a thank you. She also never once questioned the motives for his generosity. Eddie smiled and watched her eat, admiring every inch of her innocent beauty. He anxiously thumbed the edge of his wallet through his jeans. After a brief assessment of the starving Lolita he quickly estimated how much it would take to lure her into the cab of his truck.
As it turned out the girl made the first move. She promised him the best hour of his life for less than half the money he had planned to offer her. He took her by the hand and led her to his waiting rig, feeling like he had just won the jackpot in the sex offender lottery. Only he intended to get a full refund on the price of his ticket, just as soon as he finished enjoying the grand prize.
The girl wasted no time navigating her way past the front seats and making herself right at home in the sleeper section of the cab. Before Eddie could get his door shut she was already out of her wet shirt and fumbling for the buttons that held her skirt in place. It took everything in him to refrain from taking her right then and there.
“Whoa. Hold on there, tiger. Let’s back up a bit and get to know each other first.”
The girl stopped what she was doing, peering over her breasts to locate the row of buttons in the meager lighting of the sleeper area. Her eyes narrowed as the focused on Eddie as if he had just spoken to her in a foreign language. She sat on the edge of the mattress and shrugged. “Get to know each other how?”
“Well for starters we don’t even know each other’s names yet.”
“Does it really matter?”
“It does to me,” Eddie offered her the cash they had previously negotiated upon along with the most comforting smile he could muster. A deceivingly benign expression that promised nothing but peace, love and bubblegum. Not once did it foretell the agony and torment that he so deeply wished to inflict upon her perfect little body.
The girl quickly made the money vanish into the folds of her handbag. It wasn’t a sizable bag by any means, but from the looks of the bulging seams it appeared to contain the entire sum of her worldly possessions. She wrinkled up her sparsely freckled nose and thought for a moment. “Name’s Carissa. What’s yours?”
“My name’s John,” Eddie lied without a shred of hesitation. Killing came easy for him, so lying was pretty much second-nature. He studied the pretty young thing perched on the end of his mattress. She stared back at him, bare-chested and stoic. It was impossible to read in those vacant baby blues whether or not she believed him.
“Mind if I use one of these towels back here to dry my hair out? I feel like a drowned rat. Probably look like one too.”
“Help yourself.” Eddie framed the cramped confines of the cab with a wave of his hand. “Mi casa es su casa.” The notion that she would be leaving her scent on something that belonged to him kindled a spark of excitement that started at the base of his skull and ended between his legs. A little memento that he could cherish long after she was gone. Eddie released the brake and quietly shifted the rig into gear. His eyes darted back and forth between the exit to the parking lot and his latest conquest in the rear view.
It wasn’t until Carissa lifted the towel from the back of her head that she noticed that they were moving. She let the towel fall to her lap and instinctively clutched at her handbag. Her widening eyes zeroed in on the door handle just beyond her reach. For a split second Eddie feared that he had shown his hand too soon and the girl might make a run for it. “Hey, what gives?”
“Don’t worry,” He assured her. “We’re just gonna find us a place a little more private. I sorta pissed off that waitress in there and the last thing we need is for her to call the cops on us while we’re… well you know. Doing our business.”
The girl relaxed a bit and settled back on the bed. The bag remained pressed against the bare belly like a shield, but her eyes softened back to their previously indifferent state. She climbed to her knees and peered through the tiny window above the sleeper. In the distance, beyond the endless rows of idling semis was the slowly fading view of the diner. The unmistakable silhouette of the waitress could be seen systematically flitting about from table to table. A bleach blonde shark trolling for the next potential suitor to sink her cheaply veneered teeth into.
“Yeah, that bitch already threatened to call the sheriff on me three times this week. She’s just jealous ’cause she can’t even give that old dried up puss away.”
“Yep,” Eddied agreed. “That’s why we’re gonna cruise on down the road a few miles. Find us a nice quiet place to park and not have to worry about her or the local po-po. So just sit back and let daddy do the drivin’, sweetheart.”
“Alright, daddy,” Carissa cooed softly, attempting to come off sounding seductively chic. The lack of patina in her teenage voice left her short of the mark. She cleared her throat and for good measure added, “Take me there.”
“Don’t have to ask me twice, darlin’. We’re on our way.”
Eddie glanced up and studied the angelic face framed in the rear view mirror. A minute earlier she was panicky and ready to bail on him. Now that pretty little smile beamed from ear to ear without a worry in the world. He grinned and slammed through the gears, building distance between them and civilization. The semi-flaccid lump in his jeans stirred to life as his half-naked passenger settled in for the ride.
Some folks subscribed to the idea that the hunt was as important, if not more important, that the kill itself. That wasn’t his style. He’d just as soon keep his quarry blind to the fact that they were being led to the slaughter. They always put up enough of a fight in the end when they caught that first glimpse of their own blood on his hands. No sense in edging them into it too soon, before he had complete control of the outcome.
He already had just the perfect place picked out. It was a few miles further out in the middle of nowhere than the truck stop was. Close enough to the main road that a big rig wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, yet rural enough to provide a convenient place to hide the product of his soon to be uncorked aggressions. When all was said and done the records from his logbook would indicate that he had never strayed from Interstate 80, which was over fifty miles away. In a few hours no one would ever know that he was even there.
They were nearly there when Carissa poked her head between the seats and shook her partially dried hair in his face. Her softly sculpted chin jutted forward as she cocked her head to one side, revealing a single earring dangling from her left lobe. A silver hoop with a gaudy cartoonish frog suspended in the middle. She leaned in further to give Eddie a closer look. “You like?”
“Where the fuck did you find that?” Eddie demanded, nearly swerving off of the narrow country road. He eased off on the pedal and furiously downshifted until they came to a teeth-rattling stop. He spun around in his seat and grabbed Carissa by the nape of the neck. “Take it out now!”
Carissa twisted out of his grasp and rubbed her neck with one hand. With the other she popped the clasp loose and pulled the earring free. “Jeez, calm down. Don’t have a coronary. You said to make myself at home, didn’t you?”
“I was talking about the bed and the towel. Not inviting you to start rummaging through all my personal shit.”
“Here, it’s out.” The shiny multicolored frog twinkled in the glow of the dashboard as she held it up. “What’s the big deal? Is it your mother’s or something?”
Eddie plucked it from her hand and stuffed it into his front shirt pocket. “No it’s not my damn mother’s. Do you think my mother would wear some cheap crap like that in her ears?”
“Maybe.” Carissa shrugged her shoulders defiantly. “How the hell should I know? I don’t even know your mom?”
He felt the red hot flush of anger building up in his temples. It spread quickly into the outer edges of his ears and upper jaw. Hold it in, he told himself. Little bitch won’t think she’s so smart when she’s laying in a ditch, bleeding from every orifice in her body. “Well, smart ass. Would your mother wear something like that?”
Again with the shoulders she replied, “Well, asshole, I don’t know my mom either.”
“Just stay the hell out of my things and get into bed,” Eddie snarled. Refraining from grabbing her by neck again and choking the life out of her was getting harder by the second. “I’m gonna step outside for a piss and then we’re gonna do what we came out here to do.”
The girl plopped back onto the mattress and let out an exasperated sigh. “Whatever. Knock yourself out.”
Eddie opened the door and climbed out. His boots sunk into the spongy wet gravel of the shoulder as he walked the length of the trailer, back to a bridge spanning the width of a narrow creek. It seemed as good of a place as any to take a leak. The torrent of water threatening to breach its low banks would surely wash any trace of him miles downstream. He unzipped his fly and relaxed the muscles in his abdomen, hoping that his bladder would follow suit. After a few seconds of impatiently cursing the unreliable nature of his road worn kidneys the much anticipated sensation of release finally came.
As the last few squirts of his dwindling stream dribbled over the railing Eddie arched his head back and stared up at the darkening night sky. A full moon hung above him, intermittently blanketed by the endlessly rolling thunderclouds coming in from the north. Not that it mattered much to him either way. He never did take much stock in that astrology crap. The only purpose he saw that it served was to show that the respite from the heavy rains was going to be short-lived.
He smiled as he zipped himself up, welcoming the approaching storm. All the better to clean the slate of the sins he was about to commit. On his way back to the cab the theme song from that old television show suddenly popped into his head. He couldn’t remember the words to it any more than he could recall the name of the show, but it didn’t stop him from softly humming the catchy tune as he opened the door pulled himself up.
Surprisingly the girl had at least managed to follow one of his orders. He was greeted by the sight of her submissively laying back on the bed with her knees spread apart. Rather than shedding the skirt she simply hiked it up over her waist, presenting the goods that he had already paid for front and center. Her head was propped up slightly with her hands buried on either side of the pillow.
Eddie wasted no time pulling his jeans down to his ankles and maneuvering in between the seats. He had no qualms about giving her an obligatory roll on the hay before he proceeded to snuff her torch for good. Nothing would be more fulfilling than to systematically break her down one hole at a time, but first he would show her a good time. Before the real fun started. That stunt she pulled with the earring alone was going to cost her more than she could imagine.
He climbed onto the mattress and then it hit him. Just like that, the elusive shred of useless knowledge popped into his brain. Here he was ready to get his rocks off and the name that had been on the tip of his tongue since he first laid eyes on the truck stop waitress finally came to him.
“Alice!” he blurted out before realizing that he was speaking out loud.
“Huh?” The girl furled her brow and gave him a curious stare.
“Alice,” he repeated. “The TV show. I’ve been trying to remember it all night. Back at the diner… The waitress… Well never mind… You’re probably too young to…”
“That was my sister’s name, you murdering bastard!”
His mind barely had time to register the faint hint of recognition, the subtle resemblance between Carissa and some forgotten ghost from his past. It was the last thing he saw before the payload of pepper spray blasted him in the face. A stream with so much force behind it that his right eyelid folded inside out. He turned to avoid a direct shot to the left eye, but not fast enough to escape the ensuing raw fire it unleashed. Searing pain radiated into the very core of his sockets. He tried to claw it away, only succeeding in making it all that much more unbearable.
Eddie lashed out blindly at the mattress. His fists pounded the spot beneath him where the girl had laid on her back just moments before. Somehow she had slipped out from under him after she rendered his eyes to nothing more than useless orbs of throbbing heat. Regardless, his fingers slashed through the empty air in hopes of connecting with flesh and returning some of the hurt to its rightful owner.
“You little bitch,” he growled through a mouthful of mucous. The pepper spray had sent his membranes into overdrive. “I’m gonna kill you!”
Eyes clenched tight against the relentless burn, he soon realized that finding his range was nothing short of impossible. His outstretched palms groped every square inch of his immediate surroundings, but little bitch was nowhere to be found. Then he heard the distinct crackling sound coming from the front of the cab. He turned his head to follow it. If his nose had not been so packed full of mace he would have smelled the odor of ozone in the air. He would have at least had time to brace for the nearly one million volts from the stun gun about to be pressed against his neck.
The coldness was the first thing he felt when he came to. It chilled him right to the bone and contrasted sharply with the lingering burn that remained in every niche of his face. His teeth chattered involuntarily as he shivered from the loss of body heat. Every other sensation was secondary to the frigid numbness. The wetness, the intense pressure in his chest and on the back of his neck. They were undeniably there, but only as a distant backdrop to the overwhelming cold.
At first he thought he might be having a heart attack. Smoking two packs a day along with a steady diet of truck stop cuisine had always left that prospect wide open. He tried to lift an arm to his chest but it wouldn’t budge. It was as if it were pinned down to his side. He attempted to move the other arm with equally unsuccessful results. He wiggled his fingers just to see if they still worked and quickly realized that both hands were securely bound behind his back.
“What the hell?” he muttered.
A splashing of water erupted nearby. He craned his neck forward to see but found his line of vision blocked by a cinder block sized rock teetering on his chest. The whooshing sound became more rapid as it got closer. Only then did he understand them for what they were. Footsteps in the water. That meant he was in the water as well.
“I wouldn’t move around too much if I was you, mister,” the girl said as she stood over him. “Your head comes off that rock and you’ll go under for sure. Be a shame to lose you before I even get done building my project.”
Then she was out of sight once again. Her underwater steps propelled her downstream. Eddie strained to listen past the water flowing over his ears. Despite the roiling creek and the steady drum of the storm he could still hear her panting as she picked away at the steep bank. He didn’t need to be able to see to know that the makeshift rock dam she was constructing would eventually cause the water on his side to rise up. It would only be a matter of minutes before it surpassed his mouth and nose.
“Carissa, please don’t do this!” he cried out. Even in his most panicked moment it pained him to have to plead with her. Some filthy little road whore that nobody gave two shits about and he was begging to her. It just wasn’t right.
She waded back to him, breathing heavy with exhaustion. She leaned over him with a smirk on her face that chilled him deeper to the core than any amount of autumn creek water could. “Did I hear you say please?”
“Y-yes. Please,” he cried. The higher the creek climbed up the side of his neck the easier it was to make that word sound sincere. “I said please.”
“That’s what I thought,” she replied. “Did my sister say please before you killed her? Before you left her in that ditch to die alone?”
“No… I don’t know.” Eddie wanted to shake his head but was mindful of the rising water level. “Look, I can get you money if that’s what you want. Just let me go and I’ll get it for you. Nobody has to know anything about this. Just let me go and…”
“Did she?” Carissa bent forward and pressed down on the rock on his chest. “Did she say please before you killed her?”
“I didn’t know your sister,” he lied. “Why do you think I had anything to do with your sister?”
She pulled the earring from his shirt pocket and held it in front of his face. “Because I made this for her birthday a month before she ran away, asshole. That’s how I know. And saying please didn’t do her one damn bit of good, did it? So what do you think your chances are?”
Eddie didn’t bother to respond. No use in giving her the satisfaction of hearing him beg any more. Little bitch wouldn’t squeeze one more please out of him if she tried. He didn’t even bother to flinch when she kicked the rock out from beneath his head. He simply struggled for as long as he could to remain above water. Only when he was good and ready to give up the struggle did he let himself settle below the surface.
As he sucked in that fatal lung full of liquid he smiled and thought about Flo. The one from the show not the movie. The movie sucked. That catchy little phrase she spouted off on every episode was right there, on the edge of his brain. He closed his eyes and was gone before it could come to him.