It’s been a while. Stories have swirled through my head but never made it to the keyboard. It’s as if the virgin territory of my new study forebodes me. It’s time to break this cherry.
Light a cigarette, Joyce, and get going.
I was nineteen, and I was in love—not with a man, but with a voice. Lou Rawls owned it. It was his, but I embraced it.
Play him as I write.
When he came to Boston, I took every chance I could to listen to him. It was in a dark, dusty little joint in the underbelly of a building on Boylston Street. It was small and cozy. Probably not the venue for which he was hoping.
I had been able to get there for a few nights, but funds were running tight.
Wait—the music stopped:
Ahhhh—back to the story.
There was only one way I’d be able to get into Boston this night. I got on the highway and stuck out my thumb.
My first ride was a coupla jocular drunks. They sat in the front while I sat in the back. They scared the everlovin’ bejesus outta me. As they passed their jug back and forth (I declined to partake), they kept asking what I would do if someone pulled a knife on me while I was hitching. I expected to see a flash of steel at any moment.
(I could kiss those guys now.)
“I’d jump out of the car,” I said.
When we pulled into the parking lot of the Flamingo on Route 1, we said our goodbyes and I started breathing again. You guessed it—the building was pink, and a popular little destination for those looking to hook up. It was famous for the simple fact that there were phones on the table facilitating loving connections.
I strolled back to the highway and put my thumb back out there. An older gentleman stopped almost immediately. I felt lucky.
Let’s call him Charles. I never did ask his name.
Charles was friendly and conversant. He was on his way to Chelsea—he lived there with his elderly mother. He had a pleasant look about him; very disarming. I talked about myself—he listened and threw in snippets about himself.
I noticed Charles drove by his exit.
“Ooohhh you going to take me into Boston?” I asked.
He did not reply.
The rest of the way he was fairly quiet. I noticed nothing amiss. We were on Storrow drive—almost to my exit—when I heard him say, “Do you know what this is?”
I turned my head; saw his face and it. Above the neck, I knew I was looking at pure evil. His kind face had screwed up into this-this—thing. Lying across his lap, nestled in his left hand was a gun.
“A-a-a—gun,” I said.
“Get under the dashboard,” he said.
“The gun—I’m afraid,” I squeaked.
Something I had learned through my terrifying childhood wound through my mind.
It won’t help to beg. It won’t help to beg. It won’t help to beg…
I slid my way up against the door and snuck my hand onto the door-latch.
“Get over here,” he demanded.
“I can’t—the gun—I’m afraid,”
He grabbed the steering wheel with a couple of fingers holding the gun, reached out his right arm, and made as if to swoop me up against him. At that second, I lifted the handle and rolled myself out of a moving car on to the asphalt and into moving traffic. Death-by-car tasted more palatable than death-by-psychopath.
I slid for a while, protected by my leather midi coat and leather shoes—my Lou Rawls best. The asphalt did a bit of damage to my buttocks; one of my shoes scrapped off; my head had a goose egg, but otherwise, I was intact.
A VW Bug screeched short of mashing me into the pavement, but I could see only one vision in my head—the gun.
“Hehadagun. Hehadagun. Hehadagun…” I repeated over and over again to the couple who had emerged from the Bug to help me. The words rat-tat-tatted out of my mouth like ejections from a machine gun. A Police Cruiser swung in front of me, and I screamed, “There he goes!! Get him!!”
But the police were tasked with taking care of me first. I mourned that fact because I saw more victims in this man’s future.
They drove me to the hospital, and I was checked out. A detective came to collect me, but I couldn’t do a composite. I was focused on the fact that his face changed—just like my mother’s often did.
Ironically—my mother had saved my life.
Sometime later, I hesitantly told my mother she had done so.
“You saved my life, Mom. You taught me not to beg,” I said.
A pinch of amazement and confusion waved through me as I watched a sense of accomplishment spread through her face. Her face glowed with her grin. If I had been afraid of offending her, all that washed away. It would take years before I understood the rest.
There had been a serial killer roaming the highways, picking up hitchhiking girls, killing them, and burying them someplace in Rhode Island. I think we met. After I got away, He must have changed his tactics because no more girls traveling in that fashioned disappeared.
There’s one thing I know about psychopaths: They never, never stop.
Copyright 2018 Joyce Bowen