Ann checked her watch. She expected Mark
in a few minutes. In back, Sheila and Orrin slung comments at each other. Ann arose to go out the side door by the pool.
The mysterious flyer still hung on the wall near the grill. She noticed Vince and Sheila in the TV room and a brief motion
at the door near the grill as Orrin left. Vince paused with a pool cue and acknowledged Ann on the far side of the restaurant
preparing to exit.
"Goodbye, Ann," Vince would momentarily
be alone with Sheila. "See you tomorrow."
"Goodnight," Ann pushed on the aluminum
and glass door to the pool. She would go home and check the internet for news stories out of Victorville about a woman's
body found in the desert.
In Las Vegas, the afternoon passed uneventfully
at the dishwashing machine for James. He worked hard and sweated. Carol arrived with a cartload of dirty dishes.
"Adams," she commented, "moved you from
the pots; eh?"
"He said the pots could wait until the
evening shift since Ronny quit."
Carol made a point out of going around
a tall, metal section of shelves to glimpse the pot sink.
"James, that's the most I've seen any
washer knock them down since I've been here. Often at this time of the afternoon dirty pots are stacked to the ceiling."
"I like to work, Carol."
"It looks like you do," she assisted James
in removing the dirty dishes from the cart so he could rinse them and send them in racks through the machine.
"James," Adams wore a white shirt and
tie denoting him as a restaurant manager. He arrived from the same entrance as Carol when she brought dirty dishes. "James,
are you going to quit like your friend Ronny?"
"No way. I like to work."
"Good. Tomorrow, wear the uniform pants
with your shirt. You can get slip resistant shoes at Walmart for fifteen bucks."
Adams did not wait for a reply. He headed
in the direction of a food preparation area where a dozen cooks labored.
An hour later, both James and Carol approached
the rear parking lot. Carol would give James a ride to the front lot where he had parked early that morning with Ronny.
James carried a pair of black and white checkered dish washer pants, a spare white shirt, and the t-shirt he had been wearing
when he arrived.
"Carol," he said. "One pair of pants
and two shirts means I will need to wash my clothes three times a week."
"That's exactly what it means, James."
Carol's car was clean and new, an economical
model for which she paid $175 per month with four years yet to go.
"Carol, it's a nice car."
"Show me where you parked. The lots are
extensive out front."
Carol pushed a button and windows smoothly
rolled down. She lit a cigarette. The smoke and hot, lazy afternoon air in the car soothed James. Lethargy gripped him,
and he wanted to sleep. The cigarette smoke smelled pleasant.
James identified his car, the primer paint
colored, old muscle car. He bid Carol goodbye until tomorrow. He deposited his clothes on the passenger's seat and rolled
down the windows. It was so hot that a scent of plastic car seats and nylon carpet sweltered in the air. He started the
muscle car and proceeded out onto the Las Vegas strip. He knew his wad of cash now held $479. With the good employment he
had found, James figured he could go out tonight. He wanted to see the girl, Melanie, at the topless club. Also, James needed
to call his mother and let her know he was doing well. James prided himself on how good a worker he was and the successful
nature of his day.
Large, casino hotels had been built past
the congested, traditional section of Las Vegas strip. Hence, as James headed in, at 4:30pm, he noticed a long, bright space
of open road. Cars congregated far ahead at a traffic light; behind, cars arrived fast in back of James, but a free space
existed where he could accelerate. Also, he happened to catch a yellow light and pushed on the gas pedal to make it through
the intersection before the yellow turned to red. Immediately, at the entrance of a store's parking lot, a sleek Las Vegas
police cruiser maneuvered and took notice of James. The flashing lights came on.
James slowed. He understood the situation.
His dad had been a military man. James felt respect for someone like the cop attempting to keep order in the city. James
complied and pulled to a stop.
It was not his fault about the yellow
light. Other cars driving aggressively had seemed to propel James forward. He felt self conscious about people witnessing
his interaction with the officer. If James needed to get a ticket, he could understand that. Everyone had a duty to support
the law. He took out his driver's license and held it ready. The police officer wore a clean, creased uniform that appeared
as if he had not sweated all day. He accepted the driver's license while shifting his stance to study the cluttered rear
seat of the muscle car.
"Do you have insurance," the police officer
used two fingers, index and thumb, to clamp the edges of the driver's license from its sides as if to minimize contact with
the stiff, laminated card. "Texas, eh?"
"Yes," James was a good citizen. He proudly
handed forth his automobile insurance card.
The police officer bundled the license
and the insurance card together and appeared to not be interested in them.
"What is in the rear seat?"
"Just some stuff. I've moved here from
"Is there any alcohol or drugs in the
"No," James sensed anxiety in his mid
section which spread to his fingers. His left foot nervously tapped on the floorboard. James was not stupid. The old, primer
painted car revealed a citizen of meager means, so this cop assumed James drank or took drugs.
"You say you moved here."
"Wait here a minute," the cop went to
the meticulously painted patrol car with its efficient, flashing lights noticeable even in the bright afternoon sun of May.
The police officer had impressed James
as aloof or curt. James believed he deserved as much respect as anyone else. The car was old and not yet restored. When
painted and various parts were brought up to par, the vehicle would be comparable to any other on this street. James noticed
he felt hot in the driver's seat. The cop returned.
"Here you go," he handed James the driver's
license and insurance card. "Also, this."
It was a clipboard with a ticket for failure
to stop at a red light. It needed to be signed: $130.
"Well," he took a ballpoint pen from the
officer, "I was keeping up with the flow of traffic."
"Be more careful next time," the cop took
the pen and clipboard.
"I just finished my first day of work,"
James sought to relate that he was a good citizen. He mentioned the name of the famous, prestigious resort where he worked
in the kitchen for Adams.
"Ok," the cop handed James a copy of the
traffic ticket. "Hold on a minute," the officer rapidly scribbled something then returned the clipboard to James. "Sign
"What is this?"
"A fix it ticket. If you change your
driver's license and car registration to Nevada, you don't have to pay the fine."
James complied. The expense of being
stopped here on his first day of work would significantly deplete his paycheck. As the cop paused to complete the paperwork,
James thought about the bayonet between two boxes on the back seat. The cop left, and James started the old, muscle car to
continue along the Las Vegas strip towards downtown.
His father had been a military man. James
felt a kinship to the police officer doing a good job in Las Vegas. However, the strong man had disdained James perhaps because
the old, primer colored muscle car appeared to be junk. The cop had treated James rudely. He intended to change his drivers
license and plates tomorrow. He would also get the slip resistant shoes that Adams had demanded. However, James was not
happy about the general rudeness of people he was meeting. James wanted to be good and do the right thing. He expected appreciation
for his efforts. He was glad the cop had not looked amid the boxes in the rear seat. The bayonet might have caused problems.
Lester relaxed on his porch in his easy
chair. Based on an internet search earlier, Lester knew the desert temperature had reached 102 degrees. He thought about
Jimmy’s accident five days ago and the dead body discovered in the desert this morning. He thought about the increased
business for the Cactus Motel and the seething anger chief Robert now nurtured. Lester decided to fill and light his pipe.
It was a marijuana time of the afternoon.
Ann entered. Spike greeted her. Ann
noticed Lester on the porch so she turned to the spare bedroom that held the computer desk. She pushed a button to get the
computer started then went to the bedroom to remove her shoes and socks. She also shed her shirt and bra then put her shirt
back on. Ann wanted to relax.
Lester gently inhaled marijuana. He used
headphones on a long cord to listen to a rock and roll CD from the 1970s. No radio station signals could be received this
far out in the desert, but the CD collection sufficed. As teenagers, Lester's brother (Vince's dad who now lived in Victorville)
had gravitated to music television and commercial music. Lester opted for an earlier, traditional rock and roll. Dozens
of the CD collection had actually come from ones owned by Lester's dad before he died.
"All the people are friends,
We live together; we work together
We will never sell out a brother
for money or the man,"
Lester appreciated the old style rock
and roll lyrics non-existent in today's corporate music. The song arose from simple, straight forward musicians playing electric
guitars, drums, and a piano. It was late afternoon; the desert would exist under a powerful sun for several more hours.
Marijuana allowed Lester's thoughts to meander. The old billboard posts needed painting; Mark could finish it. Lester could
seek Ann at her computer and consult about dinner; many times Lester cooked the meal. He inhaled one more large breath of
marijuana smoke, enjoyed the music on his headphones, and from the shaded, screened porch watched the bright expanse of desert
Ann waited at the computer and contended
with numerous pop ups and computer programs seeking to dominate her screen. She knew Lester got annoyed at these attempts
by "money grubbers" as he called them to control the computer. On the other hand, Ann appreciated the idea of advertising.
She hoped she could somehow use the internet to promote the Cactus Motel and draw customers. Were her flyers at the truck
stop working? Why had six rooms been rented on two consecutive nights? Ann maneuvered her mouse to click open email. She
encountered a long list of advertisements but saw two familiar names -- her mother and her sister in law, the woman who was
married to Lester's brother in Victorville. This was Vince's mother.
"Yes," Ann replied to the email from Victorville,
"we heard the news about the woman's body. It was along the old highway two miles west of Cactus Motel."
Ann decided she wanted to include upbeat
news, so she added another paragraph to the email.
"Vince continues to do well. He cooked
all day in the restaurant. Also, the native american boy, Jimmy, age 15, is recovering from a leg fracture."
Ann did not mention the concept that she
and Lester had considered all week, that chief Robert was fasting and seething with pent up rage for the driver who had escaped
in the direction of Los Angeles. She then attended to her mother's email. Ann recounted the news about the corpse, affirmed
that Cactus Motel was safe and not affected, and added that Jimmy would be OK after his accident of five days ago. Then,
Ann added an encouraging paragraph to the email.
"Business increased this week at the Cactus
Motel. We rented six rooms on two consecutive nights. I think my advertising efforts are effective."
Ann deleted a final line -- Lester is
thinking about getting a windmill -- because including that in the email to mom might allow criticism of Lester's tendency
to think and plan to excess which frustrated friends and relatives and allowed them to rejoin -- when is he going to stop
talking about it and do it?"
Ann sent the email. She chose a dozen
advertisements from the email list to delete, and she would return here in a little while to continue and read the ads that
interested her. She arose to check on Lester.
In the restaurant, Sheila cleaned the
drink counter. Vince sat in the TV room using the remote. Like most people, he cared to see news about the corpse found
nearby. What sort of a maniac could do such a thing? Through the opened door, although Vince could not see Sheila at the
drink station, he sensed her as she quietly worked. Her normal jabs at Orrin took on an ominous meaning with the gruesome
police matter at hand. They all had watched enough Corpse Patrol to know that a meek, white male frequently could build up
anger and become passive aggressive. Sometimes, such behavior resulted in violent outbursts.
At the sofa in the lobby, Mark read the
novel, Sexy Women. Jacqueline's husband was playing a Sunday morning round of golf so the pool boy, a lusty mexican with
a naturally bare chest, had snuck to the house to make love to Jacqueline. Mark had seen this story numerous times on television
dramas and situation comedies. Nevertheless, the author of Sexy Women intimately described details that allowed Mark to increase
his knowledge of such antics. The novel was giving Mark a perspective he never could have gotten in real life. While reading,
he heard a car arrive out front and vibrations arose on the two wooden steps. One of the glass and aluminum doors moved.
It was the highway patrol officer, William, and he carried a manila folder.
“Hello,” he said.
The restaurant would still be open a few
more hours, although Mark rarely saw the wiry old patrol man at this time.
“Hi,” Mark leaned forward
in an alert manner to show respect, but he did not get up. His finger in the paperback novel reserved the page he had been
“Mark,” said William. “The
police sketch artist did a drawing of the woman found in the desert. I would like to show you the sketch and see if you recognize
“Ok,” Mark stood up.
William opened the folder to give Mark
a look. Sheila advanced tentative steps through the archway to the restaurant. William realized that a sketch of the man
in the white mini van could have been made by Mark going to the police station. Could the hit and run driver of five days
ago be connected to the corpse? William understood that this case would take a lot of work.
Sheila and Vince looked at the sketch.
Nobody recognized the woman. Vince mentioned that Orrin’s camera had captured some sort of indistinct figure at 2:30am
near Orrin’s car. William glanced at the odd flyer hanging near the grill area, but William dismissed the shadow as
“Ok,” William wanted to end
his day. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he bid goodnight to the three young people. Outside, he hesitated near
his patrol car. He could walk through the gate by the pool and knock on Lester’s door. William could finish the day
by showing the sketch to Lester and Ann. Instead, William decided to continue in the morning when he came for breakfast.
Ann and Lester would be working then.
Lester studied the marijuana in its plastic
bag. He had smoked half of it. If he smoked less frequently, perhaps a week or two could pass before the tow truck driver,
Randy, would need to bring more. Lester noticed Ann in the kitchen so he went to join her. She brought from the refrigerator
a couple of frozen chicken pot pies.
“How is this,” she offered.
“Good,” Lester reached for
bread and a jar of peanut butter. “Are we out of potato chips?”
“Sorry. Yes, I’ll get them
tomorrow night at Walmart.”
“Do you feel weird about giving
that guy, John Synd, a ride?”
“No. He seems like a nice guy.
With the dead woman in the desert, you know it would be good to have a companion.”
“I agree; it couldn‘t hurt,”
Lester completed his peanut butter sandwich and took a bite. He moved for beer in the refrigerator. “Can I have two
“Sure,” Ann agreed. “Honey,
we had six rooms last night. The truck driver, Mr Jones, left but the black man in the old minivan checked in. We will have
six rooms tonight.”
“If we have six tomorrow night,
that will be 666, the number of Satan.”
Ann recognized that marijuana influenced
“The profit is $300 a day for the
rooms, Lester. With the restaurant, we are in the black.”
The hot, late afternoon desert air baked
the parking lot behind the restaurant/front desk building and the fifteen motel rooms. The two employee mobile homes stood
side by side with Vince, Sheila, and Mark still at work. Only Orrin occupied his room. The large kitchen knife rested on
his desk next to the computer. Orrin paid attention to the internet and was curious about Heather. In a little while she
would be home from the truck stop. He knew her last name, so he might be able to find Heather on one of the popular chat
sites. She lived with her parents in a house not far from the truck stop. Orrin leaned to the side and stretched to peer
out the blinds. The parking lot would be bright for another hour or two. The corpse found down the road, the sudden influx
of motel guests, and the image on the camera all portended trouble. He could grip the knife and thrust it forward if he needed
to defend himself. His legs pushed back the desk chair as Orrin stood completely up in his bedroom. He now gripped the knife.
He parried and imagined a dangerous intruder. Orrin maneuvered fast and the mobile home shook with his rapid foot movements
and vicious stabbing motions.
He stood at a service counter, and Elliot
Morphson's luxury sedan waited outside the tire store, a place of four noisy, opened garage bays. A burly man handled a pink
invoice describing the cost of the labor and the expensive tire. Elliot had been talked into buying a new spare tire, also.
The burly man stood more than a dozen inches taller than the barber from New York.
"Three hundred and fifty two dollars even,"
the tire man moved the pink sheet with broad, sloppy movements. "I need you to sign by the x. It means you were satisfied
with the work."
"Of course," Elliot would not insult this
oaf. Life had to be like this at times. Part of Elliot's mind considered that he had been robbed; but, nonetheless, Elliot
could get back on the road and have one less thing to worry about. "Ok, sure," Elliot laid a credit card on the counter.
The oaf had already diverted to other business by answering a phone call.
"Hold on a minute," he said into the phone.
He swiped the credit card, returned it to the counter, and handed a receipt for Elliot to sign. "There's an added fee of
$13 for disposal of used tires so that's $365."
Elliot swallowed anger. It was just the
way business worked these days. Cheesy money grubbing. No wonder people got mad. Still, he felt happy outside in the bright
afternoon to enter and start his dark, luxury sedan. He drove to a fast food restaurant, entered the drive through lane,
and emerged back to the interstate while enjoying a large cheeseburger and french fry meal. He normally never ate in his
car, but he relished a sense of freedom, of vacation, and of no need to contend with that moron Hector back at the barber
shop in New York. Life was good. Elliot hated the huge, wet cup and straw that had come with the meal. Only morons drank
from such a cup, so he took a long drink and then tossed the heavy object out the window. He reminded himself about the ticket
he had received in Las Vegas two nights ago. That had been bad luck. Now, he sped east towards the Cactus Motel. It would
take two hours to get there, and it was already 6:30pm.
In Las Vegas, the sun was still high.
James parked the old, muscle car near his hotel. The parking lot sweltered, and nearby pedestrian ways were clogged with
lightly dressed tourists. Having found a job, James felt happy. He intended to work and build up money. His mother never
would have predicted such success for James. All he needed to do now was meet a girl. The front pocket of his jeans held
enough cash for him to live in the rented room for a few weeks.
He locked his car. He admired the vehicle.
It was low, wide, and powerful. American made. The Texas license plate accentuated the vehicle’s rogue appearance.
He walked with a purpose to go inside and cool down prior to venturing out for his second night in Las Vegas.
Paul Omner saw the truck stop on the interstate
highway. He turned onto the side road that led ½ mile to the Cactus Motel. He drove past the semi-truck parked across the
street from the restaurant/front desk building. At the motel rooms, a parking space existed in front of the Omner room.
On one side, a nondescript sedan with Massachusetts license plates parked in front of that room, and on the other side was
an old minivan with Georgia plates.
“Daddy,” both Oliver and Beth,
nine and eleven, acted in a method of greeting the psychopath they had learned years ago. Both children ran to hug Paul Omner.
“Honey,” said Sally. “Can
you get ice?”
“I’ll be right back. Come
“It’s hot out here, Daddy,”
Beth skipped ahead.
“It’s a desert,” Paul
perceived that the truck driver might be in the rear compartment of the extended cab of his truck. “It’s that
side door,” he instructed Oliver and Beth to go past the end of the motel rooms, cross the driveway of the rear parking
lot, and enter a glass door that led down a short hall behind the front desk area. As the group arrived in the restaurant,
Oliver looked to Paul for guidance but Beth passed through the restaurant and veered into the opened door of a recreation
Vince enjoyed the quiet, late afternoon
as he and Sheila worked in the restaurant. He heard Paul Omner and the two children enter. Sheila invited the man and the
boy to the rear kitchen because she noticed the plastic ice bucket in Oliver’s hand.
“It’s here,” she pointed
to the large, stainless steel ice machine that was close to the rear door near the kitchen often used by Orrin. “And
here’s the scoop.”
Vince continued to line up a pool shot.
He ignored the eleven year old girl who had eaten lunch earlier with her mom and brother. Now, she went to the DVD shelf
and found a DVD she had put aside earlier. Beth carried the DVD out through the restaurant to the rear, kitchen area.
“Harry Monkey,” she stated.
At the large ice machine, little brother
Oliver worked to fill a plastic, half gallon bucket. Paul Omner nodded at Beth to assign consent. Yes, the family could
watch the Harry Monkey movie. This was the first one, somewhat old, but Paul Omner could tolerate this Harry Monkey DVD.
Beth smiled and waited for her brother
and dad. Idly, she touched a drawer handle in the kitchen. Beth pulled open the drawer and several large knives of various
sizes slid forward on the drawer’s formica base.
“Daddy,” said Beth. “Look.”
“Do not touch those, Beth,”
said Paul Omner. “Let’s go.”
The desert sun began to wane as Mrs Omner
waited in the motel room for her family to return. Next door, the old minivan identified the room where murderer Myron still
slept after a mid afternoon’s bout of drinking. In the room on the other side of the Omner family room, denoted by
a sedan from Boston with Massachusetts license plates, serial killer John Synd with the FBI moniker The Photographer laid
restless on his bed imagining sex with Ann. He loved how during her one hour break this morning she had changed shirts.
John noticed things like that. The front desk woman was clean. This time, instead of his annual obsession, John would take
control and kill by choice. He would break his pattern.
Ann lived in a mobile home visible past
the chain link fence of the pool. When John Synd ate in the restaurant and she was not working, he requested a table looking
out the plate glass windows towards Ann’s mobile home. John thought about this as he lay on the bed in his motel room.
It was late afternoon. Shortly, John intended to arise, clean up, and go eat dinner.
Fifteen years ago, John Synd had begun
killing once a year in the Boston area. Sometimes, John Synd enjoyed two a year. He laid on his bed and contemplated how
years progressed. At what age would he no longer physically crave sex? He was forty years old. The first time John had
raped and strangled a woman, the pleasure of killing enthralled him. Yes, that made it so no one would ever catch him, but
John Synd never suspected he would relish the act of murder.
John Synd lay half awake preparing to
go to dinner. He hoped to see Ann, but John also favored Sheila. John needed batteries for his camera. If Ann was going
to be John's last murder, he certainly needed an after picture. Therefore, he needed batteries. The opportunity arose while
in the store. Ann and her husband had been talking about Ann going to Victorville tomorrow for shopping. Lester would stay
home. John Synd, The Photographer serial killer whom the FBI would be seeking nationally, could ride with Ann. They would
be driving late, 9pm by the time they got back to the Cactus Motel. Would John Synd feel ok about being alone on the desert
highway in the dark, Lester and Ann wondered. The region could be desolate.
At 7pm during the late afternoon in May,
FBI officers Jenkins and McCarthy each approached Las Vegas from the east. Traffic was moderate, and they had no idea about
the location of the other agent. They conversed on cell phones.
"My office called," McCarthy meant the
Boston FBI office. "Sophie took four hundred dollars from an ATM in Las Vegas yesterday, but nobody can find out where she
stayed last night."
"I contacted the credit card company myself,"
said Jenkins. "Elliot Morphson has not yet checked in anywhere. Two nights ago, he stayed in Las Vegas but since then nobody
McCarthy pulled down the visor because
the desert sunlight baked his windshield as he drove west.
"My guy, The Photographer, whom I still
don't know the name of, and your guy..."
"Elliot Morphson," said Jenkins.
"...The Barber. And now," continued McCarthy
into his cell phone as he approached Las Vegas, "and now, Sophie, the Manchester Mankiller. Do profilers know what is causing
"I don't know," said Jenkins. "But the
national news is on it. When I called the credit card company to get Elliot Morphson's records, the office people were enthralled
with the case."
"The power of TV fame grabs them," said
"They referred to Morphson by his serial
killer name, The Barber."
"What's your next move," McCarthy noticed
that traffic was increasing on the interstate heading into Las Vegas.
"They pulled Elliot Morphson's credit
cards," said Jenkins. "All recent expenses were studied. No luck. One guy told me that rarely, but it does occur, a motel
might not be in the system. In that case, the paperwork would not be available for a week."
"The Photographer has been killing one
woman a year in Boston," said McCarthy. "Fifteen years. Over twenty women raped and killed. He sent a postcard to Corpse
Patrol in Los Angeles."
"The postcard was from Las Vegas. Now,
the TV crew will be out here tomorrow to meet me at my hotel."
"Good for you," Jenkins recalled the sexy
TV woman he had met for his interview about The Barber. "Are you in one of the large, casino hotels?"
"It was a random choice," McCarthy related
the name of the place he was staying.
"The TV people should thank you, or The
Photographer, for affording them a Las Vegas trip."
Elliot Morphson passed the well lighted
truck stop. He continued and neglected the side turn to the Cactus Motel. The sun had gone down, and Elliot did not feel
like going in yet. He continued, although not fast, on the busy interstate heading towards Las Vegas.
In a restless manner, Elliot pushed buttons
on his FM radio. In this remote region, only three channels came in. He heard stupid, minority based commercials which he
hated. Over the years, back east, discussions about race relations had impressed The Barber; still, he knew that minorities
were dirty and ungroomed. Then, a commercial for a Japanese car company came on. He pushed a different channel. He moved
in an angry fashion. Elliot was proud that he owned an expensive, American made luxury car, paid for with hard work at Hector's
Hair and good credit. He was a patriot. He did not need grubby, low class people or foreign cars ruining his life.
"We are animals," it was a talk radio
"And," a contrary voice spoke, "you say
there is no god. Just people attacking one another in the streets."
"You said no god. But I agree, I will
not stake my fortunes on some unseen spirit."
"No spirits. No ghosts..."
"Certainly not. Ghosts? That's dumb."
"Ok. Nothing more than a physical, animal
life. Dog eat dog."
Elliot Morphson enjoyed the radio, talk
program. If there was a god, he knew hell would be a consequence. The Barber believed he was mentally ill. It was an obsession.
He was not stupid. He knew the way people talked. Most of all, religions would hate Elliot Morphson's habit of grooming
blonde women. Nevertheless, all activities were sins. Overeating was a sin. Smoking and drinking were sins. The government
killed thousands of people in wars or let them starve or die of diseases due to not being able to afford health care. Why
should Elliot Morphson be singled out and described as evil more than anyone else on this rotten planet. Life was cruel.
The world was a jungle.
A small car on the shoulder looked like
something a woman would drive; Elliot removed his foot from the gas. The parked car had Massachusetts license plates. Oddly,
realizing it would be pointless to continue driving in the strenuous traffic, Elliot happened to maneuver onto the side road
a short distance further along, and this was the area where he had left the body yesterday.
It irked Elliot that he had raped and
killed only two days ago but now his mind contemplated looking for another blonde to groom.
Elliot Morphson had never seen any of
the dead after he had left them. Now, with no cars or lights visible, the night became darker. Small, desert bushes could
cause Elliot to trip; but currently, there was enough light to see. He was curious. He parked where he had been stopped
when meeting the tow truck yesterday. Elliot's heart beat fast, he walked from the car, and he accustomed his eyes to the
dark. He moved towards the small gully hidden from the road. It was dark. He paused; for some reason he felt fear even
though there was nobody out here to harm Elliot. He listened. The wind was slight. He heard no sounds of animals. Then,
one hundred feet ahead, a movement shimmered in the darkness. The height of the shadow-like figure was equal to Elliot's.
The shadow possessed the form of a human against the almost indistinguishable hues of the night time desert scenery.
Elliot stood motionless. If the person
had not yet seen Elliot's silhouette, staying absolutely still would advantage Elliot. The man must have been up to no good
since he was out here in the dark a half mile from the interstate. Maybe it had something to do with that sedan stopped on
the highway. Or, the guy was homeless. A desert dweller, living on this hard, dry ground, would be mean. He could murder
Had it been an illusion? The desert was
a place of mirages, right? But this was night. No. Definitely there was a figure lurking near the body. Adrenalin screamed
in his veins but silence caused the ominous setting to be fearful. Elliot stiffly, quietly held himself rigid. The calm,
beautiful desert impressed Elliot. Normally, he would have relished such a temperate night.
Now Elliot used every sense to monitor
the darkness. He heard no footsteps. Whoever had been there in the dark had departed. Elliot retreated without going to
see the blonde woman from yesterday. He made it to his car and felt relief when it started. He drove towards faint lights
ahead, the Cactus Motel.
When John Synd woke up, he realized he
had made a mistake by falling back asleep. Luckily, although dark, the restaurant would still be open. John could visit
with the pretty waitress, read the book he had purchased about the Manitou, and enjoy a nice dinner. He liked this remote
John Synd loved photography. His mother
had inspired John. He was born in Boston, an only child. Often, in John's mind, various histories reviewed themselves.
What had caused him to become a serial killer? He loved photography. That happy hobby was positive. His mom had inspired
John before she died. Coincidentally, a camera his mom bought him for his birthday when eighteen took the final picture of
his mother. He took the photograph the morning of the day she died. Then, John Synd, the man who later became a respectable
husband, father of two, and excellent friend/employee of Brent in Boston, killed his mother. He had strangled the life out
of her ugly face. Oddly, no police suspected John. An unknown burglar was thought to have killed Mrs Synd fifteen years
ago. That murder had been long forgotten by the legal system. Poor, hapless John Synd, age 18, needed compassion from the
neighborhood. He seemed slow and vulnerable. He carried a camera, an item his mother had given John for his eighteenth birthday.
He needed help. Where would he work? How could he live? Fortunately, John Synd's friend Brent owned seventy rental houses
in the Boston area.
Many years of raping and killing whenever
he got the urge, that was John's happiness. There had been odd, weird instances when he almost got caught. Sometimes, he
considered confessing. No. John would stop. He would break the habit.
Fifteen years ago, John appreciated the
camera his mother had given him. It could store pictures and download those images to a computer. This had been prior to
cameras being in many cell phones. Maybe because John had never opted for such a cell phone camera he had maintained his
freedom. For some reason, cops were finding it hard to trace The Photographer. John Synd emailed a picture of each girl
to the local police. These pictures were in the locations of the murders just prior to the murders. After a few years, some
police departments linked the murders, but John Synd had not achieved the notoriety he hoped for.
John Synd kept one record of all the girls
he had raped and killed over the years in the Boston area. On his personal, laptop computer which he normally kept locked
in his work van, John Synd possessed the only images of the murders (everywhere else such as the camera they were deleted.).
When not at work, in the trunk of his
normal car which John never let his wife drive, he kept items no other person should touch. His golf clubs were there. The
small, digital camera which currently had no pictures stored in it and needed AAA batteries was locked in the trunk of John
Synd's car. Now, he wore only his jeans as he quickly went from the motel room's door to the car to get his laptop computer.
Whoever had invented computers had done the world a service, John knew. He took the item into his motel room, locked the
door, and turned on the laptop computer to enjoy looking at pictures of the twenty women The Photographer had murdered.
John thought about Ann. He masturbated.
He then turned off the computer, cleaned up, got dressed, and went to the trunk of his car to lock away the laptop. He returned
briefly to the motel room to pick up The Manitou book. John Synd could enjoy a meal at the restaurant. He entered by the
side door that led down a hallway to the restaurant. He saw Vince in the recreation room. The young man played pool and
"Hi," said Sheila. "Are you hungry?"
"A cheeseburger and fries will be fine,"
John Synd laughed to himself because this innocent, young blonde would never know he had just masturbated.
"Actually," John Synd continued, "I'm
interested in Corpse Patrol."
"Yes," said Sheila. "The new episode
comes on at nine. Are you drinking root beer?"
"Yes," John Synd took a middle table with
a view towards the opened door of the recreation room..
"Hi," Vince came forth to efficiently
move towards the grill area. He enjoyed working.
"Hello," John Synd's hand rested on the
book on the tabletop near his place setting. The young man obviously wanted to have sex with the pretty, blonde waitress,
thought John. the guy was a typical, stupid jerk always thinking about sex, John believed.
Sheila remembered the man with the book,
one of the sudden upsurge of Cactus Motel guests, liked root beer since he drank it at lunch. If Orrin wanted to break up,
fine. She and Vince could maybe find jobs in Las Vegas. Sheila exemplified the traits of a professional waitress. She took
an interest in her customer.
"Here you go," she set the cold glass
of root beer on the table.
"Thank you," John Synd would stop his
habit of raping and killing. Ann would be the last.
Mark watched the front of the building
by the main entrance from 4pm until midnight. He liked Ann and Lester. Mark understood the three others, Orrin, Sheila,
and Vince. Mark continued to rest in an easy chair and read the novel -- The Sexy Women. Soon, he expected he would have
enough money saved to move to Las Vegas, find a place to rent, and start living a real life. For now, this employment at
the quiet Cactus Motel suited his purpose. The three others were younger than Mark. They were frivolous, in his opinion.
Right now, Orrin was likely in his mobile home playing a computer game. Vince and Sheila were in the restaurant and Mark
had heard a customer come in at the side door near the recreation room.
John Synd knew there was a guy up front.
The Cactus Motel seemed busy for such an out of the way place. Still, John enjoyed staying here. It was therapeutic. Tomorrow
night, he would drive with Ann to Victorville to get batteries for his small, digital camera. That would be fun. Right now,
he rested and read his book. At 9pm, Corpse Patrol would obviously need to announce that a serial killer, The Photographer,
had sent the TV station a postcard from Las Vegas.
Indian spirits were natural, said the
book. The landscape, whether forest or desert, mountain or valley, contained numerous types of life. Nothing existed independently
of anything else. A bird would eat a bug, a wolf would eat a bird. John Synd did not even think about it previously, but
the United States had lions. On an educational TV show, John had seen the United States mountain lion, but it looked different
than the African one with its mane. According to the book, each animal possessed a spirit. Other living entities such as
plants also held spirits. The earth was a spiritual world and Indians recognized these spirits. The Manitou was an overall
spirit, a presence among all things.
Elliot Morphson disliked the gritty feeling
due to a day spent at the tire store. He calmed himself after the terrible, negative event of seeing some shadowy figure
out there near the Las Vegas girl's body from yesterday. Elliot took a shower, dried himself, and put on fresh clothes.
He was wide awake, so he wanted to take a walk and see what was occurring at the restaurant. He took a neat, black vest from
a hanger where two others also hung. Grooming mattered, Elliot believed. That stupid, nagging bitch, his mother back in
New York at least had impressed the importance of grooming in Elliot Morphson. She had been correct about that, he thought.
He combed his hair and slid the long, metal comb into a pocket on the front of the barber's vest. He went out. There were
a number of cars parked in front of rooms. He noted his powerful, late model luxury car, a couple of family style vehicles,
and a junky old van with South Carolina license plates. Elliot disdained that van since it belonged to the nasty black guy
witnessed earlier stumbling around drunk. These simple people did not deserve to have such a rotten person here. Elliot
glanced towards the dark road in the direction of the woman groomed yesterday. Then, he turned to go to the restaurant.
He entered by the front, wooden steps. Across the street, a beautiful, large semi-type truck existed. Elliot Morphson did
not know why a large truck like that was called semi, but he knew that people called it that.
Charlie laid on the bed in the living
area of the truck. His head rested near a small window. He saw Elliot Morphson at the entrance across the street. Jerk.
That idiot dressed in a weird manner. Nobody wore a vest. That man appeared like a barber whom Charlie's dad would have
taken Charlie to as a kid. Stupid. Charlie wished the beautiful woman, Ann, would come out. It was only 9pm. She might
walk her dog or something. Charlie would love to see her. While watching Elliot Morphson, Charlie pushed a mute button for
the porno DVD being even though such an act was not actually necessary.
"Good evening," Mark stood up and put
aside The Sexy Women.
"Hello," Elliot paused. "I'm not too
late for the restaurant; am I?"
"Almost," said Mark, "it closes at nine.
But we are happy to have you. I cannot remember the last time we had six rooms rented." He wondered if the cute girl, Sophie,
was back yet. Possibly, she had driven to Las Vegas for sightseeing but her room was rented for tonight.
Vince had returned to the pool table in
the recreation room. The guy with the book enjoyed his hamburger. Sheila worked the television remote because a new episode
of Corpse Patrol would come on in a minute. Then, they all heard Mark talking to the character that wore the barber outfit.
The man arrived, and Sheila went to attend to him.
"Welcome," she said.
"I'm not hungry," Elliot Morphson was
slightly taller than the beautiful, blonde woman. "Only a cup of coffee for me."
"Yes, sir," Sheila allowed the man to
take a seat at a table near the windows.
The pool area was dark and this created
a mirror-like reflection of The Barber. He enjoyed how he appeared. The jerk with the book at a center table near the door
to the recreation room was slovenly, in Elliot's opinion. The man was a brute. The waitress would favor someone like Elliot.
The waitress brought the cup of coffee.
"Here you go," Sheila smiled.
The cook, a young man who could also use
improvement in his personal appearance and hair could be seen in the recreation room. Elliot Morphson heard a ball from the
pool table thunk into one of the pockets. Elliot offered a five dollar bill to the waitress.
"There you go," he said. "Does that cover
"That's more than enough."
"Keep the change."
"Thank you," Sheila promptly turned to
head for the rear door near the kitchen. "Vince, I'll be back in a few minutes."
Sheila appreciated the five dollar bill.
The cup of coffee would add $1.45 to the cash register for Ann and Lester. The tip for Sheila was $3.55. That constituted
a Las Vegas style tip. Eventually, she and Vince could get an apartment or even a house in Las Vegas. Currently, as Sheila
went out into the parking lot, Her eyes quickly assessed Orrin's car in its place outside this room on that end of the mobile
home. On impulse, two mornings ago, Sheila had done the deed -- she had lightly scraped the key to the restaurant along Orrin's
car door. She regretted it, but they were no longer a couple. He needed to move on. Sheila worried that Orrin could be
passive aggressive as she had learned by watching TV. An ex-boyfriend might pretend to be friendly and polite but secretly
be harboring anger and hate. Sheila would take a break in her end of the mobile home. Then, she would return to the restaurant
to join Vince in the recreation room for a pool game and television.
Orrin heard Sheila enter and go into the
hallway bathroom. He did not hate her, but he needed to think. What should his next move be? The cashier at the truck stop,
Heather, or even a job at the truck stop or at the casino hotel at Stateline, Nevada. Yes, Orrin had options. He felt sad
to break up; he felt afraid to have to move and change jobs, but there existed some sort of hope or future for Orrin. He
stood up briefly from his computer game to peer out the blinds. Who was that shadowy figure on the motion detector camera
from late last night? Orrin returned to his game and glanced at the kitchen knife which rested on the table.
John Synd enjoyed the hamburger and fries.
The television show, Corpse Patrol could be heard coming on the TV in the recreation room. Vince moved to the doorway to
address the guy eating the hamburger.
"Here comes the new episode of Corpse
Patrol," Vince noted.
"Thanks," John Synd actually did not hate
the young guy. This was the west. John wanted to learn how people thought out here. "I can hear it from here."
Elliot Morphson sipped coffee. Would
the blonde come back? These two were idiots. The Barber had actually been portrayed on Corpse Patrol six months ago. Elliot
Morphson felt proud and laughed to himself. He could re-locate to Las Vegas and bring his mother out from New York. Elliot
Morphson would thrive among fools such as these.
"Tonight," said the TV, "on Corpse Patrol:
The Freeway Shooter. On the east coast, one of the most heavily traveled freeways in the United States, a sniper has killed
John Synd left a remnant of bun and a
couple of cold french fries to get up and enter the recreation room.
"That's right," a beautiful, woman reporter
held a microphone and could be seen standing next to a freeway.
"I'm Ralph Peters in the studio," said
a TV reporter at a desk with TV monitors on a wall behind him. "And Paulette Vera is on location as we spend the next half
hour live looking for the Freeway Shooter."
"You know," Vince continued to hold his
pool cue and idly shoot balls, "it amazes me that they can be certain enough serial killers will be active to make new shows."
"Shhh," John Synd was concerned.
"Ok," Vince might have busted the pool
cue over the rude bastard's head. "Ok, man."
The TV show prided itself on its live
format. Therefore, the top story should have been the postcard from Las Vegas. Where was the postcard? The Photographer
had killed a girl in Kansas, yesterday, thought John Synd. Why were they focused on The Freeway Shooter?
"This," said the woman reporter, "is particularly
frightening because we all drive. Suppose he moves to another location."
"Yes," the TV host in the studio, Ralph
Peters, added, "it appears this is a new type of serial killer. As time progresses, civilization expands, these maniacs become
"I agree," as Paulette Vera held her microphone
and stood outside with a freeway in the background, wind moved the attractive material of her dress. "I agree, Ralph."
John Synd disliked this. Vince suspended
his pool game to see a contorted face, repressed anger, almost insanity appearing on this weird guy.
"Idiots," said John Synd. "They act like
this Freeway Shooter is modern. He's the latest thing."
"Well," placated Vince. He noticed the
customer with the coffee now arose and carried the cup to be visible through the opened door of the recreation room.
John Synd thought about the idea that
his digital camera was fifteen years old, his methods outdated. He would never be recognized nationally. Or, if he could
murder Ann tomorrow night he could stop and reform himself. Later, in his old age, maybe John Synd could write a book or
"Well," said Vince, "we can change the
channel. Basketball is on."
Elliot Morphson sipped the last of his
coffee and set the cup down.
"Thanks, I've got to go," he dared to
step in the direction of the rear door by the kitchen, the one the blonde waitress had used. Would they notice his odd choice
of exit? Maybe she was in her employee mobile home right at this moment brushing her hair.
The Paul Omner room enjoyed a typical
evening. Paul and Sally were propped up on one bed in the direction of the old TV with its DVD player. Beth and Oliver were
in a similar posture on their bed. The family had brought a supply of potato chips, sodas, and beer (for dad), and they now
partook of those treats. Sally Omner accepted this lifestyle as not too bad. The children had a good life. However, Paul
acted like he again wanted to slip a sleeping pill into the children's sodas so they would quiet down. Sally took the position
that every night was too much. Paul worked hard more than forty hours a week at the small coffee franchise in Milwaukee.
He understood business. A practical nature in business and in life profited a person. Paul molested a boy once in awhile
and then killed the boy because that fit the plan. Paul Omner could not allow a boy to live and tell the police.
Myron had passed out drunk earlier. Now,
he woke up. He knew it was too late to eat, 9:10pm. But if they were still in the restaurant, maybe they would prepare a
hamburger or something simple. It was a small business. Myron had worked in restaurants previously. He decided he would
hurry and see if he could get in. He dressed, stuck his gun tightly into his belt at his stomach, and hung a loose shirt
over the weapon. Myron liked to kill people, but he had never shot a bunch of people at once. That could be an experience
to look forward to. He quickly left the room.
Elliot Morphson hesitated while he watched
the blinds, lights on in those rooms, at each end of the mobile home where Orrin and Sheila lived. She had left abruptly
at 9pm, but he thought she was coming back to the restaurant. He thought she was merely taking a break. At that moment,
on one end, blinds moved and it was obvious someone was looking out. Elliot did not move, however there existed a light on
the building here by this rear door to the restaurant.
The person peeping from that room abated,
the slightly ajar slats of the blind closed, and Elliot Morphson retreated towards the front of the building. The black man,
Myron quickly walked along the front of the motel rooms. All he wanted was a hamburger. Two bottles of gin purchased earlier
at the truck stop still existed in his room. He consulted his watch. 9:10pm. A stupid jerk came from the side parking area
near two mobile homes in back. Myron should have killed the weirdly dressed man, some freak in a white shirt, black vest,
and with barber's utensils protruding from a pocket.
"Hello," Elliot Morphson was startled.
Why would such a hateful man be in this peaceful desert? Elliot recalled the shadow seen earlier out by the corpse.
"Hello," Myron continued past. He went
up the wooden steps. He noticed the fancy truck across the narrow, old highway. The brutish truck driver obviously was in
the sleeping cab which appeared posh. Asshole. Myron could kill someone like that as well. He entered the lobby of the
old, Cactus Motel. A young guy with a book stood up.
"Good evening," Mark wondered why there
were suddenly so many guests.
"Can I eat?" Myron walked past the young
man and did not wait for a reply.
On the TV in the recreation room, prior
to a commercial, a phone number flashed on the screen.
"Call this number if you have information
about the Freeway Shooter."
John Synd resented this. A phone number.
However, his postcard definitely stating he was The Photographer, wanted in several states and who had murdered two days ago
in Kansas, had been ignored.
"Change the channel," said John Synd.
"Put the TV on basketball."
"Can I eat," Myron saw the two men in
the recreation room; he saw a plate and crumpled napkin on a table, obviously a recently finished meal. No waitress was present.
"Closed," said Vince.
Even though it was May, basketball was
on the TV.
"Basketball," Myron considered shooting
Vince and John Synd, also Mark. Who would hear the gunfire? "Basketball makes black men look like clowns. Grown men bouncing
a ball. They should ride unicycles and juggle."
"You could eat at the truck stop," Vince
hoped the aggressive black guy would leave.
"Don't worry about it," Myron ruefully
considered the way his old van appeared compared to the newer vehicles parked in front of the motel rooms. He departed.
After work, in the rented room in Las
Vegas, James had taken a shower and had laid down for a brief nap. He awoke groggily and noticed dark tinges in the corners
of the room. He saw the clock -- 9:25pm. James got up quickly. He turned on the TV and began scrolling through channels.
As each image flashed, James became conscious of female anatomy. Here a smiling face. Next, flesh from a woman's torso,
legs, or arms. Many colors and styles of hair. James wanted to meet a girl, he wanted to make love, but he felt a slight
fear whenever he contemplated any women he might like.
James wanted to buy a cell phone. He
believed he could do that at Walmart in the morning prior to work. Now, he wanted to drive out onto the Las Vegas Strip and
see what was going on. The old, primer colored muscle car joined traffic maneuvering in the direction of famous attractions.
Although girls could be seen in other cars or on the sidewalk, many had boyfriends or were committed to the groups. To James,
nobody seemed open to meeting him. He felt alienated.
He repeated the trek of last night along
the crowded, interesting Las Vegas Strip filled with tourists. He desired more than mere sightseeing; something was missing
from this experience. James lacked fulfillment. There needed to be more than a job washing dishes and a life paying rent.
He ate at the fast food restaurant from last night. A grubby crowd existed at midnight. James did not see the two emaciated
girls from last night. He drove across railroad tracks and became attracted to an ornate edifice: a topless club. Cheap
cement painted white had been molded into statues like James would have seen in a history book carved in ancient times out
of marble. The female statues possessed carved robes that hung free to expose breasts. He parked, showed his Texas driver's
license at the door, and entered.
"Hello, honey," a beautiful woman immediately
greeted him to lead him into the club. Heavy noise infused everything. The place was packed. Throughout the crowd, beautiful
girls in various costumes moved to wait on customers. Three small, uplifted platforms with spotlights comprised stages, and
topless women danced there. James relaxed. He loved this.
"Beer," he offered a five dollar bill
to a girl as he took a seat at a small, round table.
"Hello," a girl the approximate age of
James possessed large, round breasts hanging tightly in a lacy costume. "I'm Olivia."
"James," he followed her lead as she offered
a hand to shake. Her warm, soft hand excited and comforted James amid the distractions, flashing lights, and noise. "I found
a job today," he mentioned the casino hotel where he worked. Certainly, this nice girl would have heard of the place on the
Las Vegas Strip.
"That's good," the girl leaned back as
the waitress reached to place a can of beer on the table in front of James. She quickly turned in a manner suggesting she
"My change," James gripped the cold can
of beer. "Does this cost five dollars?"
"She'll be back," Olivia noted. "What
about you? Have you been here before?"
"Where are you from," James did not know
how to converse.
"Of course," Olivia stood up close to
James. "I grew up in Las Vegas. I could dance right here next to your table for twenty dollars. Would you like that?"
"Sure," hesitant, James complied in order
to go along with the spirit of the evening. "I have a bit of extra money now that I have a job."
"Extra money is nice," Olivia began to
gyrate. She accepted a twenty dollar bill from James. She lifted her flimsy shirt and pulled it off over her head. Her
breasts, now naked, impressed James. "Do you like what you see," she asked.
This sexual situation might allow James
to get in the mood. He had successfully moved from home, found a place to live, gotten a job, and now James could meet a
girlfriend. That would impress his mother.
He thought something odd. All this was
somewhat frivolous. What could he accomplish here? Life was hard. The bayonet in the car meant more about life than any
of this. If Olivia considered James to be a fool, just someone to be cheated out of money, he could show her how manly and
strong he could be. If she was outside, alone with James, he would be the boss. He finished the can of beer.
"I got a good job today," James bragged.
“That’s hot,” Olivia’s
naked breasts were an inch from his face. “Where do you work?”
“It’s temporary at a large
casino hotel on the Strip. But if I get hired steady, I’ll have to make my four hundred and fifty dollars last until
“Do you have four hundred and fifty
“I could take you in the back room
for four hundred.”
Suddenly, James tensed and became cold.
This girl knew he was having a tough time making ends meet. He had explained it to her. He might get hired full time washing
dishes at the casino hotel. Until he got his paycheck, James needed to live on $450. Yet, this girl only cared that she
could take James into the back room for $400. This angered him.
“What,” he enjoyed her naked
body near his face, “What would we do in the back room?”
“Plenty,” she gently swayed.
Momentarily, she glanced up as if at the cashier’s cage or the front door. James looked up at her.
“You are nice,” James might
wait for her outside. If she saw his father’s bayonet, this woman would treat James with respect.
“You are nice,” the woman
looked down at James. Her body was close to his, and her long, dark hair formed a channel on either side of their faces in
the dim topless club.
A dark, quiet night lingered at
the Cactus Motel. Restless, Elliot Morphson did not enter his room; he loitered at the far end of the fifteen motel rooms.
The small, desolate highway reminded The Barber of the body out there. The angry black man came from the direction of the
restaurant, got into his old mini van, and attempted to start it. Elliot recoiled due to the man’s cursing during three
attempts before the vehicle started. He drove to the intersection near the small gift shop and turned towards the main interstate.