What are the odds on that?
Howard Jackson was a careful man. He had to be to have gotten away with his twenty-seven murders to date. Today he was hoping to add number twenty-eight to the tally. The young man sitting alone at the table in the service station diner looked a promising candidate. Howard estimated him to be in his late teens, or at most, his early twenties. He doubted if the young man had enough money for another coffee, having watched him nurse the one he had for over an hour. It wouldn’t be long before one of the staff insisted he buys another or be on his way. With the rain now pelting down outside, Howard was optimistic, knowing the weary hitch-hiker wouldn’t relish the prospect of walking however far to the next rest-stop. He had a knack for spotting the most vulnerable and trusting ones.
“Another coffee or something? Howard asked, having strolled over to the young man.
“They’ll be asking you to leave otherwise,” he added by way of reassurance.
“Uh? Oh right. Yeah, thanks, mister.” This was going to be so easy, Howard thought to himself.
“So, how far you going? I’m driving south if that’s any help?”
“Yeah, sure would be … and thanks for the coffee too. I was dreading having to start walking in this weather to wherever the next truck-stop is.”
Howard and the young man drank up and made their way to Howard’s car in the customer parking lot.
“Grab yourself a candy bar or a soda from the glove compartment if you want?”
“A soda would be good. And you? You having one too?”
“Nah, I’m good thanks, I had enough in the diner.”
With the rain at full pelt, Howard was driving slower than he usually would. The young man continued to sip at his soda. An hour into the journey, the young man looked like he was nodding off. Howard pulled into a layby, confident the sedative had done its job.
Howard had long since discovered strangers were more ready to accept food and drink from a stranger in their car if it was in a sealed container or wrapper like a soda can or candy bar. The screw cap soda cans were of his own design, practically indistinguishable from the real thing, and the candy bars had each been injected with a liberal dose of etorphine, a powerful animal tranquiliser. Administering it via a soda or candy bar reduced the speed with which it took effect, but it was a safer alternative to risking the recipient putting up a fight if Howard failed to inject the drug at the first attempt. Howard hadn’t forgotten the one that got away, his only failure some six years previous when the sixteen-year-old intended victim hadn’t accepted either the soda or a candy bar and escaped after managing to block the etorphine-filled syringe with his rucksack. From that day on, Howard made it a rule not to proceed if the victim didn’t accept one of the drug-filled sodas or candy bars.
With his intended victim seemingly fast asleep, Howard got out of his car to retrieve certain items from the trunk: a length of rope chord, some industrial strength duct-tape, and a surgical scalpel. As expected, the young man still appeared completely out of it – Etorphine was a thousand times more potent than even morphine. With that in mind, Howard felt quite confident it was safe to proceed. He intended to strip his victim naked, and then use the rope and duct-tape to fully restrain and gag him. And then there would be Howard’s favourite part, a brutal assault and mutilation of the vilest kind of the victim’s lifeless body. First though, he reached down to begin unbuckling the young man’s jeans. What followed was most definitely not part of the plan that had succeeded on 27 previous occasions …
“Not this time, mother fucker!” the young man said, ramming a solid uppercut under Howard’s chin before dragging him out through the adjacent car door. Though not as effective as Howard’s etorphine-filled soda can, not that the young man had actually drunk any of it, the upper-cut had stunned his would-be killer sufficiently for the young man to quickly bind and gag the weaker and older Howard with the minimum of fuss or resistance. Oddly, the tone of his voice wasn’t loud, angry, or the outraged sort you might expect from someone unexpectedly finding themselves in that situation. If anything, it was eerily calm and controlled, much like the way he went about slitting Howard’s throat before dumping his body in the trunk of the would-be killer’s own car, sending both to a watery grave several hours’ drive later.
Oh, he’d been careful alright, but just a little too careful this time … it never occurred to Howard that someone else might have similar thoughts on their mind, and the same obsession with not getting caught. After all, what were the odds of a highway-driving serial killer picking up his opposite number among the waifs and strays of the hitch-hikers?
The twenty-two-year-old young man had been killing the likes of Howard along the highway from the age of seventeen, barely a year after hitching his first ride at the tender age of sixteen. It was Howard’s attempt at adding the young man to his tally of victims six years before that had set the young hitch-hiker on his path of seeking out and slaughtering men like Howard … Howard’s fate had been sealed the moment he’d been recognised in the diner … by the one that got away.
For more stories like this and a whole host of other genres besides, stay tuned for … Flashbulb Moments, scheduled for late 2019 …