The air was cool for a summer night. A light haze, almost like a fog, rolled into the valley. The air stood almost completely still – yet it almost seemed to have some kind of bite in it – as if it were ready to strike; the way a viper strikes when it feels threatened. And it was humid – downright uncomfortably humid; creating a light mist. The full moon was out and the stars were brighter than ever. The night sky shone through the fog and the mist and the cruel air illuminating everything. The heavens and the earth seemed closer than ever. It was as if the earth and stars were reaching out for a comforting embrace in a time of complete sorrow and terror.
It was on this night that Jake Shire found himself driving home after a relaxing day at the lake. Jake always liked to take the backwoods roads to get anywhere; didn’t care for dealing with traffic, even just a little. Give him an old, country road and let them truckers take the highway as he liked to say. And so he found one of his favorite farm roads once he passed a relatively small town called Tulare. It was a rough and unkempt road but it got him to his home in Hanford just fine. At this time of night he wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck behind a tractor either – that was a common problem on these types of roads in central California. The road had probably never been repaved and thus had been slowly falling into ruin since the day it was first laid down. Pot holes and chunks of loose asphalt paved the way. The spotted, yellow line in the middle of the road was faint and could hardly be seen in the mist.
Corn fields lay on one side of the road and dairies were on the other. The stalks of corn weren’t very high as it was still some time until harvest. The agriculture fields like this in the area provided pleasant homes for rats, mice, snakes, and many other creatures. A rat emerged from the field to the right side of the road and slowly and cautiously moved towards the road and the dairy on the other side. It stopped right before it stepped onto the broken pavement. Looking up, it sniffed the cool air attempting to detect a threatening predator of some kind. Even he was fascinated by the night sky that seemed so bright that evening. Fear struck the small creature and he almost darted back into the field from which it came. But it regained its courage and began moving back towards the road.
The rat moved slowly across the asphalt. It hadn’t quite make it to the center when Jake’s headlights shone further up the road. The small rodent froze upon this peculiar sight. The lights grew bigger and he could feel something large approaching. The old road seemed to shake underneath its small paws. In the last possible moment, the rat ran forward to the dairy on the other side. The front tires of the approaching vehicle barely missed him.
Jake never noticed the small rodent that he had almost killed. He struggled enough to keep his eyes on the old road hoping to see lights from Hanford begin to appear through the mist. The hour was late and he was growing so very tired. He knew he’d still be tired come Monday but it was days like the one he’d just had that made life worth living. Days where you could relax and simply exist. But now, the only place Jake wanted to exist was in his nice, warm bed. Home couldn’t have been more than five minutes away. The small town that he had called home for his entire lifetime would be coming into view at any moment.
The radio was playing an old country western tune that most people Jake’s age had never heard of by a singer they couldn’t care less about. Most people his age would take pop and rap over good old country music. As he was driving, he felt himself drifting into a sleep, jerking his head up every now and again just to see the next line in the road in front of him. The fact that he was slightly drunk didn’t help matters much. He kept trying to whistle to the tune in order to keep himself awake. He wasn’t worried though. As well as he knew the area, he could probably drive home from here in his sleep if he had to. That’s at least what he was trying to tell himself.
His head slowly began to droop down and his eyes were starting to close. Then, he caught himself jerking his head up quickly with a gasp. He quickly noticed a wrecked sports car on the right side of the road that caught his attention. He let his foot off the throttle to take a look. The car had run straight into a power pole and was easily totaled. He turned his attention back in front of him. A woman standing in the middle of the road shined bright in his headlights. Caught off guard, he had just enough time to slam on the brakes and turn the wheel sharply to the left. The rear of his pickup swung to the right, spinning the truck sideways. The sound of tires squealing filled the night air. As the truck skid by, one wouldn’t have been able to stick a piece of tissue between the rear bumper of the pickup and the woman.
The truck came to a halt. Jake swore as he tried to gain a sense of what had happened and where he was. He felt as if he were trying to wake up after a nightmare. But this was no dream. The truck had slid off to the shoulder of the road. He hadn’t heard a bump so he was pretty sure he hadn’t made contact with the woman. Looking in his rearview mirror, he vaguely saw the outline of the woman in the moonlight. Jake sighed with frustration as he killed the engine and opened the door of his truck.
Trying to hide his frustration, he stepped out and onto the wet pavement. The woman was looking at him as a deer looks into headlights. He noticed that the woman was probably only about twenty years old and she was actually fairly attractive. The bright moon and stars reflected off her golden hair and sparkled in her blue eyes. She was wearing what appeared to be a relatively expensive blue dress and high heels. Jake once again noticed the sports car on the other side of the road; once beautiful and surely valuable – now wrecked and worthless. It had to have belonged to the woman.
“Ya’ll okay?” Jake asked trying to override his anger with concern.
She just shrugged, hardly embarrassed, before asking in a very slurred speech “Can I get a ride back into town?” There was no doubt that she was way past drunk.
At first, giving her a ride home didn’t sound like such a bad idea; she was, after all, a very attractive, young woman. He chuckled at the thought. But any attraction was instantly lost when she leaned over and vomited all over herself. The stench of alcohol and who knows what else filled the summer night air. Jake took a step back and swore, trying not to throw up himself.
The young woman now had the vomit all over her dress but was too drunk to really notice or care. She burped and then excused herself before laughing hysterically and asking over again, “Do you think I can have a ride back to …” she stopped to burp and giggle again, “town,” she concluded.
He hesitated before stepping back and saying “I don’t think I can do that.” He was trying to sound as if he sincerely cared as he began moving towards his pickup. “Ya’ll better stay out of the road though.” He turned to go back to his truck but then stopped himself. He knew he couldn’t just leave this woman out here – even if she was a pathetic drunk. He turned back towards the woman. “I’ll tell ya what; I’ll call for someone to pick you up right here.” He pulled out his cell phone and prepared to dial.
The woman swore, “Don’t call the cops” She slurred then laughed again. “See” She said pointing back to her once nice car, almost falling over as she did so. “They won’t like that.” She laughed. “I’m just a little drunk. I don’t know if you noticed.”
“Well, I’m gonna go then. ‘Spose ya can do whatcha want.” Jake said putting his phone away and began walking towards his truck. He just wanted to get home.
“Wait!” She yelled stumbling over towards him. “What about my ride?”
Jake had just gotten back to the door of his pickup. He sighed and turned around, “Dang it, gurl!”
When she caught up with him she tripped over her own feet and fell into him, pressing her vomit covered dress against him. He almost threw up from the odor.
Jake swore, “What’s the matter with ya?” He pushed her away.
“Don’t leave me here.” She pleaded. She wasn’t laughing any more. Tears were beginning to fill her eyes and cover her cheeks as her desperation shined through.
Jake swore again and looked at his shirt and jeans noticing traces of vomit on them. “Git out of here!” He yelled at her and tried again to step inside his truck.
She lunged at him again, this time more violently, knocking him over onto the damp pavement. She then began climbing into the truck.
Pulling himself off the pavement, Jake grabbed her by the waist trying to stop her from getting inside. “Git!” he screamed at her.
She screamed bloody murder as he pulled her out of the truck. She was kicking and screaming and Jake had a hard time pulling her out.
“Git outta here!” He yelled harsher this time as he let her go, shoving her violently towards the ground.
The deadly sound of bone colliding with asphalt filled the night. Time seemed as if to stop as the woman and the pavement met. The sound of her skull slamming into the pavement filled the air and seemed to echo as if it could have been heard miles away. Every sound that had once filled the night seemed to cease. Not even the sound of insects in the fields could be heard. The only sound was the haunting echo of bone and asphalt colliding.
As her body rolled over from the force of the impact, the ruby red blood could be seen on the wet pavement where the back of her head had collided with the ground. It seemed to glow in the darkness of the night, making it the only visible thing. Her face, once smiling and giggling, was now cold and dark. Her eyes that once sparkled from the glow of the moon were now as lifeless as those painted on dolls for children to play with. Blood could be seen in her golden hair All signs of life were gone.
He didn’t know how to respond to what had just happened. His breath ceased as if he were the one to lose his life in that moment. He couldn’t get past the fact that the blood he witnessed before him was due to the work of his hands. But it was in self defense, he tried to convince himself. He was protecting what was rightfully his. But did that make what had happened right?
The horror of what would follow haunted him. He looked for approaching vehicles – expecting the police to pull up and arrest him for his crime. There was nobody approaching. The question now lay before him, should he admit to what he had done? Should he call for help and hope he would be seen as innocent? The reality that there was no way that he would escape the consequences of what had just happened began to sink in. He could never tell another soul what he had done. So he left her. He left her dead body, her blood, and he would attempt to leave any memory he had of her. He would put it behind him, never speak of it again. Never speak of the blood on his hands. And so he climbed into his truck and drove away. It would be as if it had never happened.
The smell of liquor filled the room. Broken bottles of glass covered the stained and mildewed floor. Flies consumed a half eaten sandwich lying on the carpet. The apartment was dirty; it hadn’t been dusted for a year. The smell of rotting food, mold, and alcohol would have made the vilest of vermin uncomfortable.
A man sat in his recliner, a half a bottle of whiskey in his hand. He took a drink and looked at the calendar on the wall. A bunch of X’s marked the calendar except for one day, that day. A year had passed since the incident on the road. With each day the realization grew clearer: When that woman had died, he had died with her.
Since the events of that dreadful night, he had learned the woman’s name: Kathy Meyers. He had researched all he could about the short life that she had lived, which wasn’t hard to do in a small town. She was twenty-one at the time of her death. Just a few years prior, she had graduated the top of her high school class. She couldn’t afford to go off to college even with scholarships, so she ended up working in a local diner, and later at a bar. No one had been brought to trial for her murder, but for all intents and purposes, the case was closed. There weren’t any leads to a suspect.
For the man in the recliner, the past year had been a living hell. He had tortured himself with the thought of turning himself in; hoping people would understand what had happened, but he couldn’t. He hid the skeleton in his closet and locked it up as if it were his very soul. Which was why he was sitting where he was, in that rotten apartment not fit for vermin, drinking the whiskey like there was no tomorrow. And it didn’t matter, he told himself, because he was already dead.
He belched and laughed, much like Kathy had done the night that she had died. He laughed again at the thought as he pulled himself out of his recliner. As he walked into the kitchen, cockroaches scattered for cover. He grabbed his car keys that had been ensnared in a spider web on the counter and walked out the back door into his garage.
Before climbing into his truck, he dropped the half bottle of whiskey on the garage floor, smashing the bottle and spilling its contents over the concrete. He just laughed as his bare feet walked over the glass cutting deep into the bottom of his soles. He climbed into the truck leaving blood stains on the floor board and accelerator. He opened the garage door as he turned the key. The engine roared to life. He pulled out and onto the road. His destination: that old country road, the road where Kathy Meyer’s life had tragically ended on that horrible night, one year prior.
It was about midnight when the police arrived at the scene. On a road just outside of town a pickup truck had collided with a family sedan. The truck had run a stop sign and t-boned the other vehicle. The driver of the tuck had obviously been drunk. He died in the incident. His body was thrown out the front windshield as he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
The sedan was found a good distance from the intersection. The hit had been high-speed and severe. The car had contained a family of three: a mom, a dad, and a one-year-old child. They had been returning from a family vacation at the lake. None of them made it through the impact.
In the home of the one who drove the pickup, the police found numerous articles about the Meyers murder that had occurred a year prior. One year exactly since the incident. They re-opened the investigation and the evidence led them to believe that Jake Shire had been the culprit. His sin was exposed in all its shame but not until after taking another 3 innocent lives. For consumed him, it did, the sin of his past. And no matter how hard he had tried to run, it had caught up to him and eventually cost him his life, as well as the lives of others. And that skeleton that he had hid so desperately in his closet was now his own.