oliver was not rich and famous, a prominent and respected citizen, or a regular guy.
but he promised his mother he would always try to be a good person.
after his mother’s death, oliver lived alone In the house he had grown up in.
oliver had never been able to find employment after his graduation from high school. he had no friends or relatives, nobody to give him “references”, and he did poorly in job interviews.
his mother had received some sort of pension from his dead father’s employers, but the pension ceased with her death. so oliver lived on the money his parents had saved - not on its interest, but on the money itself.
an amount of money which was being depleted rapidly.
oliver lived frugally. he had no vices. he did not smoke - his mother had been a passionate anti-smoker although his father had liked a good cigar and the effluvia of his smokes lingered in the house thirty years after his death. oliver had never had a drink of liquor in his life and had no idea how or where to procure drugs even if he had been inclined to try them.
oliver’s diet was mostly cereal in the morning, and vegetable soup at night.
when she was alive, his mother had mostly fed him campbell’s vegetable soup. oliver had consumed many thousands of cans of campbell’s vegetable soup in his lifetime.
in order to save a little money, oliver began making his own vegetable soup from a recipe in a cook book his mother had owned but never consulted. it was not as good as campbell’s vegetable soup.
once a week, on saturday morning, oliver treated himself to a jelly doughnut or a creampuff from the local bakery. but as his money dwindled, he began to consider forgoing this indulgence.
despite this spartan diet, oliver was somewhat fat and flabby. and had a generally unprepossessing appearance.
oliver was the sort of person who, in an earlier age, might have been taunted and had objects thrown at him by the local children. but there were few children in his neighborhood, and such as there were spent their days indoors.
most of them were under the constant supervision of adults. and even those that were not, were also indoors attached to televisions, computers, and play stations. so oliver was spared this particular form of indignity.
oliver had inherited an ancient ford mustang, which he had learned to maintain himself, but which he drove very slowly.
his chief abusers and adversaries on a daily basis were other drivers. the sound of horns blasting behind him was the soundtrack of his life.
over the years he was rear-ended numerous times, but was never in any other accident or one in which he was at fault.
oliver was not much of a reader. his mother had been an avid reader of mystery novels and thrillers, especially those of agatha christie and james patterson, and oliver would occasionally try to read these, but his attention would quickly wander.
he did read newspapers. he walked to a cvs every morning - no matter what the weather - and bought a copy of the omaha world-herald, and sometimes the local weekly or an “alternative” paper with a lot of personal ads.
he did not have cable tv or a computer of any sort or a smart phone.
like most 21st century humans, he received many unsolicited phone calls, mostly from telemarketers. unlike most 21st century humans, he always answered them, and if there was a live person on the other end, he would engage them, or attempt to engage them, in conversation, although he never gave them any money or bought anything. he never gave them his credit card information because he did not have a credit card or even a debit card. (once a month he withdrew cash from the bank at a teller’s window).
he spent long hours staring into space and daydreaming.
despite all this, which might strike the reader as amusing or pathetic, oliver was not without a certain restlessness of soul.
and he took seriously his dying mother’s admonition to be a good person.
from reading the newspapers, and watching documentaries on network tv, two subjects attracted oliver’s attention.
missing children. and serial killers.
one fateful afternoon oliver presented himself at the local police station.
a young woman in uniform was sitting at the front desk and politely asked what she could do for him.
oliver told her he would like to help the police in any way he could to find missing children.
the young woman looked at him alertly.
“have a seat, sir. i will see if one of the detectives is available to talk to you.”
she disappeared and came back in a few minutes with another young woman, this one in a suit.
the young woman in the suit walked over to where oliver was sitting alone on the bench.
oliver stood up.
the young woman tried to look friendly but her eyes were cold. she did not offer to shake oliver’s hand.
“good afternoon, sir. i am detective fletcher. will you come with me, please?”
rob figured it was hutch, who had probably been lurking outside waiting for ruth to leave.
rob was not really in the mood for hutch, but he got up off the couch.
when he opened the door it was indeed hutch, and he had a friend, or at least another person with him.
rob had never seen this person before.
looking at him, rob’s first thought was that he would have remembered if he had.
hutch was making introductions. in a somewhat formal manner, making little bows, like he must have seen in movies.
“rob, this is morley. morley, meet rob.”
at first rob thought morley was fifteen years old, then he thought he was about fifty, then he didn’t know what he was.
whatever he was, morley was dressed warmly, in a heavy coat with the collar turned up covering his face almost up to his thick glasses.
realizing that he was staring at morley in an impolite manner, rob invited morley and hutch in. he just hoped they would not stay too long.
what he really hoped that they would be long gone before ruth got back, but the way hutch could get going and talking on and on about something, you never knew.
and he didn’t want them making any kind of mess in the little living room, putting their feet up on the sofa and such.
rob went into the kitchen, and hutch and morley followed.
“i don’t have much to offer you guys,“ rob said, “but i’ll see what i can find.”
hutch pulled a big paper bag from behind his back and put it on the kitchen table, and said “no, this is my treat.”
rob looked inside the bag. it held two 40’s of king cobra malt liquor. he took one of them out.
hutch made himself at home sitting down at the kitchen table. morley looked around with a blank expression.
“have a seat,” rob told morley. “and you can take your coat off.”
“uh - thanks,” morley mumbled. he took his heavy coat off and hung it on the back of a chair. now he looked about twelve years old except for his gray skin.
rob held the 40 of king cobra in his hand. “um - it feels kind of warm.”
“real men drink their malt liquor warm, “ hutch told him. rob, as was often the case, could not tell if hutch was serious or kidding.
rob got up to get some glasses. “so, what can i do for you for you gentlemen today?” he asked.
“i thought you might be interested to meet morley,” hutch answered. “you know why?”
”no, why?” rob took three glasses out of the cupboard. two looked clean but the third was kind of dusty so he rinsed it off in the sink.
“you’ll never guess what morley is doing,” hutch continued. “go ahead, try and guess.”
with a glance at morley, who was sitting expressionless at the table, rob answered, “um - i can’t guess.”
“he’s writing a book!” hutch shouted triumphantly.
“oh… that’s …. that’s great.” rob put the three glasses on the table.
“and he’s writing the kind of book you like,” hutch said.
morley didn’t exactly blush, but he looked a little embarrassed by hutch’s enthusiasm. “i’m just writing it,” he mumbled to rob. “it doesn’t mean anybody will publish it.”
“yeah, but you are still writing it,” hutch assured him. “don’t sell yourself short, man, you’re writing a fucking book. i couldn’t write a fucking book if my life depended on it.”
rob pushed the bottle toward hutch and morley. “so - uh - what is it about?” he asked morley politely.
“it’s a true crime book,” hutch told him, when morley hesitated to answer. “like the ones you read.”
morley still did not say anything. hutch went on, as he started pouring the malt liquor, “and it’s about a case he’s solving himself!”
rob looked at morley. “is that right?”
“it’s about - about some murders that might be connected,” morley said hesitantly. “the police won’t commit themselves one way or another.”
“but we got a suspect, don’t we, bro?” hutch said. “a suspect right in our fucking sights.”
“is that so?” rob asked morley.
“i think a lot of things point to one person,” morley said carefully.
“and all this - is all this going on around here?” rob asked.
“all through nebraska and wyoming,” morley said. “maybe further afield. i’ll have to do some more digging.”
“the guy’s name is oliver carston,” said hutch. he took a big swig of the malt liquor. “oliver johnson carston. is that a fucking serial killer name or what? it’s even better than ‘john wayne gacy’ . with a name like that, he has to be a fucking serial killer.”
rob was getting interested in spite of himself.. “so what are you going to do if you get some more evidence.”
“we already got plenty of fucking evidence,” hutch put in.
“i think we need a little more to be sure,” morley smiled weakly. “maybe a lot more to be really sure.”
“but what will you do if you get more evidence?” rob asked. “are you going to kill the guy?”
“what?” morley looked shocked, and hutch looked blank.
“no, of course not,” morley stammered. “i’ll just write the book, try to get it published, and if the police read it, they can take it from there.”
rob realized that he had come close to revealing his own deepest fantasies to his two visitors. he laughed, to show he was just kidding. “but if you killed him, that would make the book more interesting, wouldn’t it?”
“i guess,” morley answered. he and hutch both laughed.
rob took a sip of the malt liquor. bleaagh. he was not much of a drinker, and he thought it was the most disgusting stuff he had ever tasted.
“well, tell me more,” rob told morley. he really was interested now.
he almost stopped worrying that ruth might come home early.