Filed under: Robert Gregory Browne
Late Friday night was usually the best time to find them. His victims.
Around about eleven-thirty, they’d be coming home off the Interstate, half drunk and lonely, playing their favorite I’m-down-and-out-and-feeling-blue song on the car stereo. Some of them smoked cigarettes–which he hated. Made his clothes stink.
Tuck would punish them for that.
This time, a guy in a beat-up, metallic blue Chevy Nova saw him with his thumb out and pulled over. Tuck had always thought that was a funny name for a car. No va. Down in Nogales it meant, “No go.”
He was half smiling at the thought when the guy rolled down his window. The last bars of an old, sad country tune escaped. “Where you headed?”
“Just up the road a bit.”
The guy was checking out his smile. “Something funny?”
“I like your car.”
The guy gave Tuck a look, but unlocked the passenger door anyway. Tuck climbed in, immediately sucking in the smell of one of those sickly sweet air fresheners mixed with the unmistakable odor of tequila. The heater was on and that was good, because, smell or no smell, he’d been freezing his ass off out on the roadside.
The guy hit the gas before he had a chance to strap himself in. “So what’s up the road? You live around here?”
Tuck clicked the buckle shut. “Nope.”
That one made Tuck laugh. “I haven’t had a girlfriend since high school. I’m more of a one night stand kinda guy.”
The driver nodded. “Same here.”
They were silent after that. Stayed that way for half a dozen miles along a stretch of empty road. There was no moon and, except for the headlights, the night was a black hole. Just like Tuck’s heart.
He only half-listened to the music, some generic cowboy crying about drinkin’ and cheatin’. It was just a wash of sound as far as he was concerned.
The driver finally said, “You hitchhike a lot?”
“Every Friday night,” he told him.
“Pretty dangerous. Lotta crazies out there.”
“Goes both ways,” Tuck said. “You never know who you’re picking up.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“Ever hear of the Highway Hacker?”
The driver nodded. “Who hasn’t? It’s all over the news.”
“Always uses a bowie knife. Gets his victims under his control, then hacks off their fingers, their toes, and slits their throat.” Tuck paused. “Takes the tongue, too. That’s something the news don’t tell you.”
“And you know this how?” the driver asked.
Tuck shrugged. “I know what I know.”
He was smiling again and the guy took his eyes off the road for a moment and squinted at him. “You trying to scare me or something?”
“The thought crossed my mind,” Tuck said. “Always helps with the control issues.”
He brought out the bowie knife he kept tucked in his belt.
The driver took one startled look at it, then let loose a laugh so loud it momentarily drowned out the music.
Tuck frowned. “What’s so funny?”
“I like your knife,” the driver said. “But I like this even better.”
Tuck let his gaze drop to the driver’s left hand, only to discover that he was holding a sawed-off twelve-gauge.
It had come out of nowhere.
Now it was the driver’s turn to smile. “You ever heard,” he said, “of the Interstate Shooter?”
That was when Tuck decided that maybe Friday nights weren’t so wonderful after all.
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