he was born in cleveland ohio and his family moved to muncie indiana when he was six years old.
his father’s name was john and his mother’s name was ruth.
rob had two siblings.
billy, a brother two years older, that he never liked much and who ignored him.
and sonia, a sister three years younger whom he always remembered fondly.
when rob was seven years old, his parents went their separate ways.
his dad, an often unemployed salesman, took billy and sonia and disappeared. rob never heard from them again, or heard about them.
ruth took rob and they moved to north platte nebraska,
ruth obtained employment at a burger king. she stayed with the company until she retired, and became night manager of a medium sized site on highway 80 which crossed the state of nebraska.
rob was an ordinary student at school. he was ignored by the other students, and hardly noticed by the teachers.
ruth and rob did not talk much. ruth mostly slept during the day and had no hobbies or interests.
when school was over for the day, rob sometimes went home to their apartment and watched television. he would watch whatever was on, and rarely changed channels, even when the number of channels greatly increased. he kept the sound very low so as not to disturb ruth as she slept, with the result that he often had little idea of what he was watching.
sometimes he read the thrillers and true crime books that ruth bought for herself.
his favorite books and tv shows were those that involved a good character tracking down and killing a bad character.
especially when the good person was not a police person or even a private detective but an ordinary citizen.
on other days rob would hang around the burger king where the more permanent employees knew him.
he would stand outside the restaurant and look down the highway.
usually to the west - to wyoming. to the east, to iowa, not so much.
“wyoming” sounded cold and bleak and filled with killers to be tracked down.
“iowa” sounded warm and yellow, filled with people watching television on sagging sofas and eating hot dogs and popcorn.
in his junior year of high school, rob made a friend of sorts.
andy jackson was a pale young man who was fascinated by serial killers. he owned hundreds of books about them and had pictures of some of the more famous ones on his bedroom walls.
rob was somewhat disconcerted by this and would mildly remind andy that he, rob, felt that the serial killers’ victims deserved a little sympathy too.
rob and andy spent afternoons in andy’s room listening to heavy metal and playing monopoly and chess, the rules of which andy taught rob.
andy was not a very good chess player but rob could not get the hang of the game at all and andy beat him every time, usually by quickly capturing his queen.
rob did better at monopoly, although andy cheated shamelessly.
the friendship came to an end when andy was arrested for exposing himself to a couple of nine year old girls.
andy’s mother hired a lawyer, who approached rob and asked if he would be a character witness at andy’s juvenile court hearing.
this did not sit well with ruth, who quickly squelched the idea, with an unusually animated outburst.
“are you shitting me? this is a lesson to you why you don’t want friends. friends are just people, and people are assholes. take it from me, i have known enough of them.”
andy was sentenced to a reformatory until his eighteenth birthday, at which time another hearing would be held to determine if was sexually dangerous.
rob went back to staring down the highway to wyoming and points even further west.
such as san francisco, which rob imagined from books and television as a dark inferno of satanists, serial killers, and transvestites, where the sun never shined.
rob was not an alpha male, and had no dealings with women or girls.
when he finally graduated from high school, rob got a job on the graveyard shift at the "stop-here", a small twenty-four hour convenience store and service station three miles mile down the highway towards wyoming.
he obtained a handgun license and regularly practiced shooting at a range.
he purchased a .32 as soon as he had enough money saved up and kept it under the counter of the convenience store. this despite the fact that the owner - a sixty-five year old woman named dora peters - specifically told him not to do so and “not to be a damn fool hero” if he were ever held up. rob was certain that mrs peters would never come to check up on him between ten thirty p m and seven in the morning.
this was the first time in his life rob had defied authority, and he liked the feeling.
rob looked forward to the night a desperado would challenge him.
he continued saving his money so that he could buy another gun that he could have on his person if a customer asked him to pump gas or if he had to step out of the store for some other reason.
after a few months on the job, no desperados had showed up.
and only a few shoplifters, although rob carefully watched everybody who came into the store.
he never pulled the gun on any of the shoplifters, as it might get back to mrs peters. he wanted to save the gun for when it really mattered.
things went on this way.
rob began to wonder if he would ever kill a bad guy.