Ah, Texas, he thought. It was the right move to get in the car and drive to SouthEast Texas. He’d planned to follow the coast to see what he could see all the way to Brownsville. Somewhere about halfway, he stopped at a town called Port Lavaca. Not a very big town, he thought. It has possibilities. He drove back and forth through the town to get a feel for it.
As darkness fell, he checked into The Waves Motel at the edge of town. The lone woman at the registration desk asked if he had a reservation. The man looked out the window and saw only three cars parked outside for over thirty rooms. No, he said. He’d had a last-minute change of plans. The blonde-haired woman looked at his registration card for a moment, sniffed and then opened her registration book. After a moment she said that there was a room available because of a cancellation, but it was a double. Would that be alright? The man laughed and said that would be fine. She took his money, filed his card and passed over the key to his room. The maroon plastic diamond attached to the key had the number seven embossed into it. He thanked the woman and drove his car down several doors and parked in front of his room. He took his one bag out of the trunk and into the room.
The morning sky was crystal blue and already hot. The man had slept late on purpose. All the driving he’d done yesterday had worn him out. Driving in the humid Texas heat made him sweat like a pig. His shirt stuck to the back of the seat when he sweat like that. He left the air conditioner running in his room and walked to the lobby for a cup of coffee. Whoever was at the desk should be able to tell him where to find a good breakfast.
The coffee was bitter and several hours old, but he drank it anyway. And he had to wait to speak to the older woman at the registration desk. A tall heavy-set man with a cowboy hat and a rumpled suit was arguing with her about a room. The man was obviously bullying the woman and he didn’t like it. He tapped the man hard on the back and asked him to lower his voice. The tall man spun around and started to get in his face. He told him to mind his own business and shut up. Not to be bullied himself, he stood his ground even though the other man was six inches taller and at least thirty pounds heavier. He got up nose to nose and asked the tall man if he wanted to step outside and talk about it. The tall man looked closer at the shorter man and saw that he wasn’t going to go away and he wasn’t afraid of him one little bit. The tall man suddenly made a change in temperament, he apologized for raising his voice to the woman. The shorter man just stood there and said nothing but stared hard at him. The tall man backed off and turned to leave. He walked out in a huff but was watching to be sure the shorter man didn’t follow him out. He got into his convertible and drove away.
The older woman told him about her favorite restaurant in town. He had to drive around a little until he found it but she was right. Home cooking at it’s best. He thought he might come back here for dinner, later tonight, when he read the other menu stuck between the sugar shaker and the napkin holder. Country-style steak sounded great to him and they offered lots of vegetables too. He thanked the older woman when he got back to the Motel. Then he asked her to direct him to a laundromat. He had a suitcase full of dirty clothes. She laughed and told him there was one just down the street from the Motel. He thanked her and left.Even though it was just down the street, he drove his car over to the laundromat and washed his clothes. As he looked out the window waiting for the dryer to finish it’s cycle, he saw the tall man’s convertible parked beside a building where the driver could see the Motel office. He was watching the office covertly. The man in the laundromat kept an eye on the other man in the car.
A few minutes later, the older woman from the Motel went off duty, got into a Volkswagen beetle and drove away. As the man in the laundromat watched, the tall man in the convertible pulled out in traffic one car behind the woman. He appeared to be following her.
The man heard a buzz from the dryer that told him his time was up. The dryer rolled to a stop and the man checked his laundry. It was dry enough. He got a rolling basket and brought his laundry to a table, folded his clothes and then brought them out to his car. The man put the laundry back in his room and found that the maid had cleaned his room while he was gone and had shut off the air conditioner. He turned it back on and left the hot room to drive around for a while. He found out later that the food was as good as it sounded on the menu.
The next morning, a new woman was at the desk when he went in to get his coffee. The coffee was freshly made and he enjoyed the taste of it. His curiousity was aroused and he asked the new girl about the older woman who ran the desk the day before. The girl behind the desk said,”Didn’t you hear? She was found dead last night outside a chain grocery store. Her body was found around the back near the delivery dock by one of the delivery truck drivers.” The man said that he hadn’t heard anything about it.He went out to get a bite to eat. The news of her death dominated his thoughts all through breakfast. Did the tall man who followed her have anything to do with it, he thought? Best to let the Police handle it, he concluded. He planned to drive out to the small park at the center of town today and read the paperback he’d bought. He was starting to enjoy this small town.
He parked his car and walked about a half block to the center of the park. A bronze statue of a man on a horse dominated the concrete circle in the park. He picked a bench in the shade and sat down to read. Several hours later, he had to move to another bench. The sun had moved and he was getting hot. He moved to the opposite side of the circle now that it was in the shade. As he sat down to read again, he happened to see the tall man’s convertible. He recognized the tall man’s cowboy hat as the man watched a woman through the glass windows of a discount dollar store. He couldn’t see the other man in the park watching him. The man in the park wasn’t reading anymore. By the time the sun had moved around again, the man was bored of watching the tall man watch the woman. He walked back to his car and drove off to get lunch at a fast-food restaurant.
The next day, he bought a morning paper and saw a small headline on the front page telling about the death of a woman who worked in a discount store near the park. He knew that the tall man watching the woman in that store had probably killed her. It seemed likely. He knew he had to confront the man about it. He resolved to find him.
Later that same evening about dusk, the man was driving around town and happened to see the tall man’s convertible parked at a cheap motel several miles from where he was staying. He parked his car down the street and watched the convertible. Sure enough, about an hour after dark, the tall man left his room and drove away toward the town restaurant district. As he stopped at a traffic light, the other man pulled up behind him at the light. When the light changed, the tall man drove on, passing through a darkly lit section of town that was undeveloped. The man behind honked his horn several times and flashed his lights. The tall man pulled over, followed by the other man.
When the tall man saw who he was, he got very loud and wanted to know why he honked his horn. He lightly touched the pistol in his pocket and faced the smaller man. The smaller man asked him straight out if he killed those two girls. The tall man stared at him for a few seconds and then looked around to see if there was anyone around who could see them. He saw no one. Then, reaching a decision, he smiled a wide grin and admitted to the man that, yes, he was the one who did the murders. He started to make a move to pull the revolver out of his pocket to shoot the other man, but the barrel stuck in the side of his pocket and wouldn’t pull out.
The other man didn’t wait for him. He took the stun gun in his left hand and shocked the tall man on the neck. The powerful little device immediately disabled the tall man. He collapsed on the hood of his car. The other man stunned him several more times to be sure he didn’t move. He opened the hood of the convertible and dragged the tall man up and over the front of the car. He placed the tall man’s hand on a spark plug wire that he pulled loose. When he had everything set up, he flipped the switch on his stun gun to the highest setting. He poured water on the tall man’s collar to make the electrical contact better. He shocked the tall man three more times. Then he cranked the engine of the convertible and let it run, the spark plug wire was continually shocking the tall man. The other man checked his pulse and made sure the tall man was dead. Then he got in his car and backed it away from the convertible. He came back with a small branch from a nearby tree and ruffled his tracks in the slight breeze. He stepped back to take a picture of his handiwork with the polaroid camera he had in the suitcase he carried. He took one from both sides to make sure he got the best view. He put the photos with the dozens of others he had in the suitcase. This one would make a fine addition, he thought He drove back in the dark to check out of the Motel. If he drove fast, he should make Rockport, Texas before ten, he thought.
Most of the time, we barely know anything about the people who stand next to us at the supermarket or anywhere else. Who knows how often we may have stood next to a murderer? Don’t look too closely. You may attract attention. JH