On a two lane county road near Williamsport, the skies that had been dark and threatening for hours finally erupted in a violent explosion of lightning and thunder cracks. The road turned slick, the wind kicked up unexpectedly, and it was nearly impossible to see anything through the rain. Even harder handling the power of the big block Chevy Bel Air. It was the kind of car that wasn’t so easy to drive, but Archer was starting to feel comfortable behind the wheel. By the time he got back to New Jersey he would know everything about that car.
He kept his eyes on the road while he fiddled with the radio. In between bursts of static, Eddie Cochran sang about “the summertime blues” while the wipers slapped the rain off the windshield.
Archer liked that steady, rhythmic beat – the sound helped drown out the noise in his head.
He thought again about the nice young couple he met at the rest stop near the Pennsylvania State line. They were from some small town in Western Kentucky, Illinois, or Ohio – just another name and a dot on the map to him. No idea where it was or how far they had to travel until their paths crossed, and it wasn’t like he could ask them about it now. Archer couldn’t remember exactly what they told him – he hadn’t paid that much attention to what they had to say. Just enough to keep the conversation going and pass the time.
For a little while.
You need a distraction, he thought. Something that breaks the monotony of the road.
Doug had been the quiet one. Right from the start he hadn’t said much and barely made a sound the whole time. But Kate was another story – she kept going on and on long after Archer had lost interest in either one of them. She just wouldn’t shut up. Her voice had a way of crawling under your skin and getting inside your head, and it was miles before the sound finally faded from memory.
The storm showed no sign of letting up and the drive became difficult. Archer finally pulled into a small bar tucked beneath a highway overpass to shake off the rain and kill some time.
There were only a handful of people inside – locals leaning into the bar, working shots and beers, while others huddled around a pool table playing eight ball. Nobody paid attention to him as he slid onto a bar stool and ordered a Jack Daniels. The bartender – somebody called him Sean – slid the glass across the mahogany and walked to the end of the bar without a word. Elvis blasted from a corner jukebox while the redhead at the bar dipped a shoulder and swayed to the song. Something about the way she ran a finger slowly along the rim of her glass before carefully bringing it to her lips and sucking away the salt held Archer’s attention. Quietly sipping his whiskey, he chanced a smile when she glanced his way, but she simply flipped the hair off her face and turned away from his stare.
She downed what was left of her drink and gathered her things, smiling to the bartender and the people around her. By the time she started saying her good-byes, Archer had already pictured the feel of his hands against her skin, the smell of her breath on his face, and the way her voice would sound when he held her close.
He tossed a twenty on the bar, slipped his fingers around the switchblade in his coat pocket, and headed outside to wait. Maybe this one wouldn’t scream so loud when he carved her up, he thought. Not like that couple from the Midwest. Killing them had been hard, especially since he had never done two at the same time. Once he gutted Doug it took forever to muffle Kate’s screams while he ripped the blade across her throat again and again.
Even longer for the light to go out of her eyes.
The two of them were still under a blood-soaked blanket in the back of the car, but Archer figured the Chevy’s trunk would be big enough to hold another body when he got done with the redhead.
At least until he got back to New Jersey.