at first rob was not too concerned about being fired from his job at the stop here.
he was not sure about his eligibility for unemployment under state law.
he decided he would look into it in a couple of days.
first he wanted to enjoy his new freedom. he had not had a real vacation since high school.
rob wanted to use his new found time to do a little research into being a vigilante and tracking down serial killers, satanists, and other evildoers.
he also took a couple of books out of the library entitled “how to write a thriller” and “how to write a romance novel”. he thought he might earn some money writing one or the other, he had not decided which. he had never actually read a romance novel. he had read some of ruth’s thrillers but his own preferred reading was true crime books.
all this sounded good inside rob’s own brain, but ruth was having none of it.
she wanted rob to show a little more gumption and proactiveness.
ruth’s first idea was for rob to call mrs peters back and beg for his job back, blame hutch for everything - say that hutch had put the porno in rob’s car and rob didn’t know anything about it, - and swear that he,rob, would never look at such stuff and that he was as disgusted as she was ,etc.
rob was lying on the couch reading a book by ann rule. he pretended to consider ruth’s suggestion.
“if i was going to do that i would have called her right away.”
“tell her you were too confused and bewildered to call. tell her anything. it can’t hurt to call.”
“um - maybe she will tell the police i am harassing her.” good one, rob thought to himself.
“shit, i didn’t think of that.” ruth hesitated. “then you should start right away applying for unemployment.”
“i’ll look into it.” rob stuck his face in his book.
“i already have looked into it,” ruth told him. “you were employed long enough, and you made enough. and it wasn’t your fault you were let go.”
“it wasn’t ?” rob looked up. “they will probably will say it was.”
“it wasn’t your fault, it was your asshole friend’s fault! besides, you didn’t break any law. you didn’t even get arrested.”
“i’ll look into it. i don’t feel like it right now.”
“do it now! after i go to work. which reminds me, i got to get going.” ruth took her bag off the table . “and remember, it was all dickhead’s fault. oh, and don’t forget, i don’t want him coming over here any more. his vibes fuck the whole place up.”
hutch had come over a couple of times since rob was fired, apologizing profusely, almost crying. rob had ended up consoling him more than he consoled rob.
“he’s all right, “ rob said. “he was trying to apologize.”
“no, he is not all right! he’s a fucking creep! he’s probably a child molester!”
“you think everybody is a child molester.”
“well, they are! don’t you watch television? we’ll discuss this later, i got to run.”
“he’s just lonely.”
“lonely! that’s just another word for child molester! if he's so lonely why didn't he try to get a girl friend instead of watching that crap!"
"he told me. he fantasizes that the actors in the movies are his friends."
"in porn movies? why doesn't he watch real movies or tv shows, and fantasize about jennifer lawrence or taylor swift or kim kardashian like a normal healthy human being?"
"he told me that too. because he doesn't have to share them with so many people."
"bullshit. he's just a pervert. perverts have all the answers. like liberals. and don’t let him in here if he comes over, i mean it.”
“what am i going to do,” rob mumbled, “put a shotgun in his face? we don’t have a shotgun. ”
but ruth was out the door and gone.
rob sighed and let his book drop to the floor. he decided to at least look at the unemployment website, just so he could tell ruth he did.
and then he would do some more scouting for a likely candidate to start his career as a vigilante on.
he still had not decided whether to tell his plans to hutch and invite him in on them.
rob lay on the couch for a few more minutes.
the doorbell rang.
he figured it was hutch, who had probably been lurking outside waiting for ruth to leave.
he had never seen any indication that they were, and neither of them seemed to have any friends or acquaintances except each other, but thinking they might be dealers and that he might catch them gave him something to dream about and think about.
of course, there were many others, persons who hung out in the doughnut shops and fast food establishments in his territory, some of whom were much more likely suspects, that he also had his eye on.
and, he wanted to impress his new partner, melanie. what better way than to break up a drug ring?
and act like it was something he did every night.
melanie didn’t talk all that much. she especially did not talk much about herself, except when asked a direct question, like about where she went to high school.
lucas did not ask her many questions. lucas was not particularly interested in other people, except as possible objects of harassment.
melanie was a police person like himself. not the first female cop he had encountered, though the first he had been partnered with. so he started out as a perfect gentleman with her. at first he made an attempt to not even use four letter words around her, but quickly realized she could not care less and even used them herself.
she occasionally made what seemed like strange observations to him. he gradually began to suspect she was a liberal and might even be - a feminist.
lucas hated feminists though he had never met one. but he did not really know much about them, except that they were bitches and that they burned their bras. what else did they do? give their husbands or boy friends a load of shit? but if they were feminists they wouldn’t be married or have boy friends to begin with, would they?
maybe they marched around in the streets in gangs and beat men up and burned down buildings, but lucas had never actually heard of such things. maybe in new york or san francisco, but not in nebraska or wyoming.
melanie was polite enough to him - almost friendly sometimes, and her ordinary sized boobs didn’t sag too much so he figured she must be wearing a bra.
one night lucas pulled a weaving car over. the driver, a middle aged man who produced i d showing he was from omaha, was obviously drunk, but did not give them any lip - none at all. he was a white man who looked like he could afford a lawyer. he agreed to pull over and sleep it off.
lucas thought that he had handled the affair in a most professional manner, and drove away feeling pleased with himself, hoping melanie had also been impressed.
so he was astonished to hear her say, when they had gone a half mile down the highway, “what a sexist pig that guy was.”
he was astonished that she would say such a thing. and especially astonished to hear the word “sexist” which he had never heard before except on television or as a joke and a few times in a courtroom.
lucas finally said, “what was so sexist pig about him?”
“the way he was looking at me the whole time.”
lucas laughed. “i don’t think he was seeing much of anything. he was just trying to focus his eyes.”
“yeah, focus them on my tits.”
lucas was tempted to say, “then he must have been focusing awful hard, because there is not much to see.” harassing people had made him a master of quick comebacks like that. but he didn’t say anything except “maybe”.
later that morning around seven o’clock they pulled into the stop-here.
rob was just coming out the door, as his shift had ended. he was carrying a small paper bag.
rob nodded to lucas and melanie as he went over to his car. he opened the trunk and tossed the paper bag into it.
drugs! lucas thought immediately. rob had been pretty casual about the way he had tossed the bag into the trunk.
maybe a little too casual? but why lock it in the trunk at all, if it was just something harmless, like some red bull or little debbie’s snacks? or one of those sandwiches in their plastic wrappers? hmmm?
lucas made a decision. he knew he needed “probable cause” to search rob’s car, but he could come up with something if he found anything. and rob was so easy-going he was sure he would just laugh it off if there was nothing, and not go running for a lawyer.
“stay here,” lucas told melanie, as she started to get out of the car.
“we are going to follow our pal rob. i told you i thought he was dealing drugs. “
“yeah, you did mention that.” melanie did not sound too enthusiastic. she closed the door.
lucas gave rob two minutes and then followed him.
rob was a careful driver, especially for a young man his age, and lucas quickly overtook him and pulled him over.
at first rob did not realize lucas was in fact pulling him over and not just waving hello, and when he finally stopped he laughed when lucas got out of the squad car and approached him.
“what’s up?” rob asked. “have i got a broken tail light or something? “
but lucas did not laugh or smile back. “why don’t you get out and open your trunk, rob?”
rob looked blank. “sure. i don’t know what you think is in there.”
lucas then rattled off rob’s rights so fast rob couldn’t understand a word he was saying.
melanie got out of the car too and stood behind lucas, blinking in the morning sun and looking mildly puzzled.
rob popped the trunk and got out. lucas waited for him to lift the trunk all the way up.
the trunk held a spare tire and a jack and a toolbox. and pushed into the back, some paper bags like the one rob had just thrown in.
lucas pointed to the new paper bag. “what’s that?”
“just some stuff hutch gave me.”
“what kind of stuff?”
“dvds. we trade them. i give him some of the stuff i buy, he gives me what he buys.”
lucas reached in and took the paper bag just as rob was reaching for it. he opened it - there were three dvds in it and he took them out.
lucas gave his big laugh - the one like you saw in the movies and that he had practiced. “look at this shit, will you?” he asked melanie.
“i don’t really like it,” rob explained. “i just take it to be nice. i give him stuff and he gives me this.”
“ha, ha! that’s pathetic, rob!” lucas guffawed. “that’s got to win the nobel prize for pathetic excuses.” he handed the dvds to melanie, who had come forward.
melanie shuffled the three dvds in her hands. they were labeled “black boners #31”, “world’s hairiest asses # 8”, and “milf piss party #22”. all three had in bold letters “4 hours” across the top .
“i always knew you were a fag, rob,” said lucas.
melanie frowned slightly at this, and asked rob, “and what do give your friend in exchange?”
“mostly true crime stuff.”
“um - i just gave him a 3-disc set about “searching for jack the ripper.”
“it’s all legal,” said rob. “i think. he buys it on line with his credit card.”
“i’m sure. we were looking for something else,” melanie told rob, with a glance at lucas. “what’s in the toolbox?”
“tools. want me to open it?”
rob opened it. there were just a few tools in it. lucas ran his hand through the box.
“what’s in those?” melanie pointed to the bags in the back of the trunk.
“more of the same,” rob told her. “see, i don’t even look at it, just throw it in here. after a while, i take it to the dump.”
lucas reached in and grabbed the other bags. he handed one to melanie,
she quickly looked through the dvds in it. “your friend has catholic tastes,” she told rob.
“uh - i think protestants probably look at it too,” rob told her. “maybe even jews.”
“and muslims,” lucas added. “you show this shit to a muslim he’d probably go apeshit and start cutting people’s heads off.”
“it’s all legal,” rob added again.
melanie turned to lucas. “do you think we are going to find what we were looking for?”
lucas had already realized there were surely no drugs to be found in rob’s car. “probably not.” he said.
melanie looked at the dvds and considered. “maybe we should confiscate this stuff, have someone check it out and see if their any minors in any of it. “
“hey, thats an idea!” lucas agreed. but then he started thinking about what a hassle it would be, and that they had had no real reason to stop rob in the first place. “ah, fuck it. look at this shit. i don’t see any kids, do you?“
he started shuffling through the dvds from the bags. most of the covers featured hairy men in nazi-biker regalia with their dicks hanging out. others featured “milfs” and “grannies” and “chubbies”.
“we might as well at least search him, and look in the glove compartment,” melanie told lucas.
“go ahead,” rob said. “let’s get it over with.”
they didn’t find anything.
but lucas didn’t want to let rob off easy, or to look weak. he glared at rob. “what about mrs peters?”
“what about her?”
“you think she has any idea what a sick pervert she has working for her? maybe she should know about this.”
rob shrugged. “do what you got to do.”
rob closed the trunk and got back in the car and drove off.
later that morning lucas called mrs peters and described to her in detail what he had found in rob’s car.
and that afternoon mrs peters left a message on rob’s phone that he was fired.
lucas brown had always wanted to be a highway patrolman.
ever since he was old enough to be sat up in front of a television to watch “cops” on fox tv.
as soon as he was old enough to be asked - and in lucas’s world children were asked at a very early age, more because it was a conventional conversational gambit with a child than because anybody was really interested - he would answer promptly and loudly - “a cop!” or “on the highway patrol!”
lucas had a loud voice. he was socially awkward in many other ways as well, and was the object of other children’s humor.
but he was big and strong and ready to use his fists. since he could not hit girls, this meant he was more comfortable among boys, although he had no real friends.
he had an older brother, jed, who ignored him and a older sister, florence, who was profoundly embarrassed by him.
his parents were busy people and paid little attention to any of the three children. when lucas was ten, his mother disappeared and the father paid less attention to the children than ever.
lucas never wavered in his dream of being a highway patrolman, and after graduating from high school he became one.
life was good. his dream had come true, and how many people could say the same?
being a cop was not as exciting as tv had made it out to be.
but as lucas had grown up he had gradually realized it would probably not be, so he was not totally surprised.
it was actually pretty boring, but what job would not be?
that was life, and life was boring. what could you do?
you could fuck with people for a while, and then you died.
lucas hated a lot of things - almost all of his fellow humans, for one reason or another - but what he hated most of all was people who didn’t work - both rich assholes who were born with money and bums on welfare.
lucas preferred the night shifts, and after a few years he was allowed to work almost all the time at night.
it just felt more like being a real cop, like he had always dreamed of, to cruise the dark highways.
he also found from experience that people were more nervous at night, less likely to mouth off about their rights, and easier to bully and harass.
something about being all alone on the dark highway, with a big, mean cop like lucas.
not that lucas was a bad guy. his favorite expression was “i’m not a bad guy.” he used it, with the same wide-eyed expression, on anybody who showed the least sign of discomfort at being fucked with.
lucas worked mostly alone. after he had been on the force himself for a couple of years, sometimes he would be asked to show a new cop the ropes for a week or so, but mostly he rode alone.
lucas tried to keep his weight down. so when he took breaks during the night he stayed away from places like mcdonalds or doughnut shops where he could sit down and be tempted to stuff his face with massive doses of sugar and starch - which he would then have to work off when his shift was over, instead of sleeping peacefully or watching tv.
he preferred little convenience stores where he could just lean on the counter with a paper cup of coffee and munch on something healthy and nutritious like beet jerky.
little convenience stores like the stop-here. where he made the acquaintance of rob rogers.
lucas did not think much of rob. he was a white man, but not much of one in lucas’s estimation. lucas suspected him of being a fag, or even a liberal.
lucas would try to draw rob out - actually sort of interrogate him - on the issues of the day that lucas took an interest in.
lucas would say something like, “what do you think about these fucking feminists?” or “how about these assholes who want to take people’s guns away?” and rob would just shrug and say something like, “not much, i guess”, or "yeah, that's fucked up".
these were not adequate responses, so far as lucas was concerned.
rob never shared with lucas his dreams of being a vigilante, being afraid that lucas would laugh at him.
lucas probably would have laughed, but would also given him a few points for at least wanting to act like a man.
rob was on six nights a week. on wednesday, his night off, his place was taken by trevor, an old man and a vietnam vet - at least he said he was, though sometimes lucas suspected he was full of shit - who was a much more receptive audience for lucas’s observations.
in time, lucas also made the acquaintance of hutch. he didn’t like him. even though hutch enthusiastically responded to lucas’s thoughts on guns, feminists, and whatever, lucas just didn’t trust him. he thought he was a sneaky, weaselly little cocksucker, no better than a bum on welfare, even though he did have a job.
lucas was asked to break in a new officer - a young woman named melanie. lucas was a little surprised he had never been paired up with a woman before. even though in real life there were not nearly as many women cops as in movies and tv - where it seemed two thirds of the cops and even the detectives were female - they did exist. so what could you do?
melanie was not much to look at, and the last thing lucas wanted was to get “involved” with her, but she was still a human female and he was determined to impress her.
hutch was about thirty years old and was a night watchman at a farming implements warehouse a couple of miles down highway 80 past the stop-here.
his shift was from nine at night until five in the morning, and almost every night when he got off he would drop into the stop-here to shoot the shit with rob. and sometimes even buy something - usually a can of red bull or a large cup of black coffee. or a pack of beef jerky.
hutch had a heavily scarred face that was covered by a black beard almost up to his eyes. this and his crooked teeth made him look - and to be told by many of his fellow humans that he looked - like a werewolf.
he drove one of the last original volkswagen bugs on the road, which he had inherited from his stepmother, and was kind of sensitive about it.
“i ain’t no fucking hippie,” he assured anyone who became aware of his vehicle. “look, it’s painted an ordinary blue. and you don’t see no fucking peace signs or flowers or peace symbols on it, do you?”
a lot of people did not even know what he was talking about, and just nodded.
at five in the morning the stop-here was usually deserted, and hutch and rob would have long conversations with hutch doing most of the talking.
unlike rob, who had almost no interest in the subject, hutch’s main subject of conversation was sex - actually porno.
he could talk at length about different porn stars, different “eras” of porn, different directors and their different styles, and “the state of the industry” - straight and gay, even though “i ain’t no faggot. i’m totally against it.”
hutch had another obsession - feminists. he had never actually known any feminists, and would have been as astonished to actually meet one as he would have been to meet a zombie or a martian.
his knowledge of feminism was derived from the newspapers and television - especially fox news. and what he knew disturbed him profoundly and inspired passionate denunciations, which sometimes disconcerted customers who walked into the stop-here.
if rob could get a word in, he usually talked about the true crime books he read, or about murders and shootings prominent in the news.
rob was tempted to describe his fantasies of becoming a vigilante and tracking down killers, but something about hutch held him back.
rob’s dreams had advanced to the point where he mused on recruiting a “crew” of like-minded individuals to track down killers who had escaped justice. but… hutch just did not seem right.
and hutch might even laugh at him.
at six o’clock customers usually started coming in. six to seven was by far the busiest time of rob’s shift, and he very often stayed beyond seven, because his relief had not shown up, or sometimes he would stay a little late to help out if it got really busy.
he hoped mrs peters knew about that and appreciated it.
when rob was busy, hutch would usually hang around and wait for rob and they would go out to the parking lot together.
hutch would keep talking beside their cars, until rob could finally get away. rob would cringe when someone else waked by when hutch was talking in his loud voice about some really colossal dick or really hairy pussy he had seen the other night.
a crisis occurred. rob was ringing up the sale of a six-pack of diet coke one morning when he saw hutch slip a pack of mallo-cups into his pocket.
rob was too shocked to say anything, even later in the parking lot, but he confronted hutch the next night as soon as they were alone, and told him as emphatically as he could that such behavior was totally unacceptable.
hutch made no attempt to defend himself, but was profusely apologetic. he dd not actually shed tears, but came close. he swore “on his mother’s grave” - rob vaguely remembered hutch saying he never knew his mother or knew if she were dead or alive - and promised, absolutely fucking promised, my brother, that it would never happen again.
after this rob and hutch actually got a little closer, and rob considered telling hutch about his dream.
hutch suggested that they trade things - some of hutch’s dvds for rob’s true crime books or documentary dvds.
rob was not enthusiastic but went along with the suggestion to be friendly. he also thought giving hutch the true crime material might make him more interested in it. to the point that he might even become a useful confederate.
rob did not want to watch the porno, or even take it home where ruth might see it.
hutch’s dvds began piling up in the trunk of rob’s car.