Harold pulled off the freeway. He needed fuel.
“Where you headed, mister?” the elderly man said as he shoved a rusty nozzle into Harold’s fuel tank.
“As far as I can get,” Harold said. He didn’t think anyone would have had time to find the body, yet, but if he could get a few states between himself and what was left of Mr. Casey by nightfall, he was certain he’d get away clean. (It had worked last time.)
“Just looking to get lost, eh?” the old man said. He pushed a greasy, old ball cap higher up onto his head and opened one squinky, watery eye wide enough to scope Harold out from top to bottom.
“No, not really. On my way to visit family on the east coast. Just takin’ my time getting there,” Harold lied. Something about this old guy was starting to bug him.
“Got family out there myself,” the man laughed, a dry scratchy laugh.
Harold paced back and forth, glancing at the old man every few seconds, then pulled out his cell phone to check the time. Noon. He’d have to dump the phone soon and get a pay as you go. But for now, he didn’t want to travel without some kind of navigation.
“Okay, mister, she’s all filled up,” the old man said.
“So what’s the damage?” Harold asked. He opened up his car door and reached inside to grab his wallet from between the seats. As he stood back up and turned towards the old man, he barely had time to register a blur, when the wrench crashed down on his forehead.
Harold staggered, unsure what had happened, and the old man struck again, catching him on the side of the head and dropping Harold to the ground. Something smelled funny, for an instant, like electricity and burning salt, then the world went black.
The old man laughed again, that dry cough of a laugh. “I know a marked soul when I see one, mister, and you got ‘guilt’ written all over your face. Funny thing about the guilty ones, they tend not to leave much of a trail.” He cackled and grabbed Harold by the foot. Began dragging him towards the door of the gas station.
“Hey Lorraine! We got another car to get rid of!” the old man yelled. “You call your uncle, Sam, and tell him to come pick it up. I’ll go start lunch…”
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)