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For Dad

Jerry Doyle wiped the sweat from his

brow and sighed, silently cursing the
overpowering Nevada heat. He glanced
at the clock on his cassette player, which
read 9:24 p.m. in green digital numbers.
“Jesus Christ,” Jerry muttered to him-
self. “Almost 9:30 at night and it’s still
over a hundred degrees outside.”
The radio was off, and Jerry drove in
silence down Interstate 15, lost in the
sound of his tires scraping along the
highway. He reached into the breast
pocket of his blue collared shirt and
pulled a cigarette from the open soft pack
inside. He put the grit to his lips, then
thought against it.
“It’s too fucking hot to smoke,” he
said, barely noticing he was thinking out
loud. He set the unlit cigarette on the
empty passenger seat and wiped his
brow again. As he stared at the dark,
empty road ahead of him, he was taken
by the seclusion of this place. There was
no landscape around him, at least noth-
ing that he could see through the thick
blackness of the Nevada night, and no channel with mediocre announcers and
signs of life at all, save for a few scattered uninteresting topics of conversation. Still,
dots of light in the distance. anything was better than the dreadful
“You could be dead and not even silence he sat in, Jerry decided. He
know it is a place like this,” he thought reached for the radio dial to turn it on,
out loud, then laughed at himself, finally when something caught his attention in
noticing his vocalized thinking. the distance.
He was still about 50 miles from Las There was something moving on the
Vegas, and could not yet see the beacon of side of the road about 100 yards ahead.
lights that the city sent off. It was truly a Jerry slowed his vehicle down, squinting
magnificent sight to see on a road like in the dark to make out what the figure
this, where the vibrant colors of the Vegas was. However, he could not make the
lights clashed against the pitch blackness. form out, and feared that it might be an
The city almost looked like it was floating animal that would run in front of his car.
in the sky once it came into view, and no He slowed down even more, trying not to
matter how many times Jerry saw it, the rattle whatever it was. As he approached,
illusion still held its magic. he could see a little better and realized
Jerry wiped his brow again and that it was a person walking along the
glanced over at the seat next to him. The edge of the narrow road. His headlights
cigarette swayed slightly on the leather illuminated the figure as he drew closer,
interior as the car rumbled forward. and Jerry could see that it was a man with
Finally, Jerry’s boredom got the better of a large blue backpack slung over his
him and he grabbed the cigarette off the shoulders. As Jerry deciphered the form,
seat and put it to his lips. He pushed the the man stopped walking and turned
car cigarette lighter in and tapped his fin- around, noticing Jerry’s car. The man put
gers on the steering wheel absent-mind- his thumb in the air and stared into
edly as he waited for the device to heat. Jerry’s headlights, asking for a ride. As he
The lighter ejected itself with a loud click, continued to slow the vehicle, Jerry
and Jerry pulled it out of his console and debated whether or not to pick up the
lit his cigarette. As he inhaled, he reached hitchhiker.
to his left and rolled the window halfway What would anyone be doing out here
down. The air was thick and sticky, and this time of night? Jerry wondered.
the breeze seeping into the car offered no Although he found the situation strange,
relief from the stifling heat. He smoked he felt sorry for the man, and knew that if
his cigarette in silence, as if mesmerized he didn’t give him a lift, he could be stuck
by the whistling of the air through his out here for a very long time. As Jerry
window. Jerry wished to himself that he drew closer, he drifted off the side of the
had gotten a car with air conditioning, road toward the man, who smiled at the
then discarded the thought so as not to prospect of being picked up. Jerry pulled
torture himself with the thought of cool, the car to a stop about ten feet away from
refreshing air in his face. He took another the hitchhiker and reached across the pas-
drag from his cigarette and exhaled with senger seat to unlock the door. The man
a loud sigh, growing increasingly restless slung the backpack from his shoulders and
as he drove. He felt as if he had been in gripped it tight as he approached the
the car for days, even though it had been stopped vehicle. Jerry looked the stranger
less than a half hour, and he longed for over carefully, studying his face. He
anything to distract him from the dark- appeared to be about five years younger
ness and the heat. He glanced at the cas- than Jerry, putting him in his mid-20s. The
sette deck clock again -it was 9:26- and man had a thin black goatee and a warm
decided he could live with the radio, even smile that lit up his brown eyes. Jerry did-
though there was only one station that n’t sense any hint of danger in the hitch-
came in out here: a mediocre talk radio hiker, and wrote him off as a fellow travel-
er whose car had broken down. As the “Mind if I turn on the radio?” he
man opened the passenger door, Jerry hit asked warmly.
his cigarette again, eagerly anticipating the “It’s your car,” was the emotionless
company. The stranger climbed into the response from the passenger, who did not
seat, and Jerry turned to greet him. turn his head away from the window.
“Hey, guy, where ya headed?” Jerry Jerry reached down and switched on
inquired warmly. the radio. It was already tuned to the talk
The stranger was soft spoken in his radio station, and the announcer was
response, almost shy. “I should be fine if having a rather heated discussion with a
you can get me to Vegas. You passing caller. Jerry did not pay much attention to
through that way?” their conversation, but it was a relief to
“Yeah, no problem,” Jerry replied, have some sort of noise in the car. He
releasing his foot from the brake and put- glanced at his passenger, who still stared
ting the car into motion. “I was Vegas- out the side window. The man did not
bound myself,” he offered, opening up make a sound, and barely stirred, as if his
the conversation. mind was completely focused on the
But, the stranger still remained quiet, blackness outside of the vehicle. Jerry
offering only a simple “good” before wiped his brow again, then let his ciga-
turning his head the other way and gaz- rette fall from his fingers out the window,
ing vacantly out the passenger window. where it was swallowed by the dense
Jerry thought the stranger’s attitude night. He left the window cracked open,
was somewhat rude, but he shrugged it then focused his attention on the road
off. Figures, he thought to himself, I’m again. The radio droned on in the other-
sick of the silence, and I pick myself up a wise silent vehicle.
mute. Still, he was desperate for some “....thanks for your call,” the announc-
communication, so he tried to initiate er said as he hung up on the caller.
conversation once again. “Seriously, some people just don’t get it,
“You got a name, friend?” he asked. you know?” he continued. “All right,
“Mine’s Jerry.” then, moving on to more important
The stranger didn’t even look at Jerry things....You’re listening to KKBS, that’s
as he replied dryly, “my friends call me 94.5 on your FM dial. My name is Rick
D.C. That’ll do.” Carpenter, and I’ll be your voice until
“All right then, D.C.,” Jerry contin- about 12 o’clock tonight. Right now,
ued, dragging from his cigarette. “Can I unless your clock is wrong, you should
offer you a smoke?” know that it’s twenty to ten, which means
Still, the passenger did not look it’s time for news at 9:40.”
Jerry’s direction, and his response was Jerry glanced down at the clock,
unemotional. “No, those things kill you.” which read 9:37, then looked over at his
Jerry offered a half-hearted, insincere passenger again. The man still had not
chuckle. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He moved his gaze away from the window.
took another drag. “But we all die some- “Our top story tonight,” the
time, right?” announcer continued, “is the discovery
With this, the stranger finally looked of a badly mutilated body on the side of
at Jerry. His expression was cold. the road in Julgas County. A highway
“Yes, you’re absolutely right.” He patrol unit made the discovery at about
smiled slightly, then turned away 7:30 tonight, and police suspect that the
again, focusing on the blackness out- body is connected with twelve other
side his window. homicides that have occurred in the last
Jerry felt uneasy after the man’s three weeks. In a press conference
response, and it was silent for a moment. tonight, Sgt. Lance David revealed that
Finally, the tension became too thick, and one of the victim’s fingers had been sev-
Jerry struggled to regain his composure. ered at the knuckle, a now familiar
trademark of the man authorities had now.” He began to slow the vehicle, and
dubbed ‘The Digit Collector’.” pulled off to the side of the road. “You’re
Jerry had been listening to the bulletin better off finding another ride tonight,
closely. He was so focused that he did not all right, fella?”
see his passenger move, and was quite The stranger still looked at Jerry
startled to glance over and see the coldly, and he made no effort to get out
stranger staring at him. The man said of the vehicle.
nothing, but he wore a broad smile on his “Thank you,” the man said, sounding
face, revealing a set of clean, straight sincere. “It’s a lot easier when the car
teeth. The radio’s digital clock put an isn’t moving.”
eerie green pallor on the man’s face, and Jerry was becoming increasingly
he looked positively frightening in the agitated. “Look, man, cut this shit out
car’s dim interior light. He opened his and get the fuck out of my car. This
mouth and spoke very slowly, but his isn’t funny anymore, all right? Do
words were very clear. yourself a favor and get your shit and
“They’re talking about me again.” start walking, pal.”
Jerry was stunned by the stranger’s Still, the man made no motion to get
words, and he struggled for a response. out, but continued in his soft voice. “You
“Excuse me?” he finally managed. can beg if you want to. I enjoy that.”
“Listen,” hissed the stranger, as Rick “That’s it, man....” Jerry threatened.
Carpenter continued his broadcast. Then he was cut off.
“Police believe that one man is It all happened so quickly that Jerry
responsible for the crimes, which have had no chance to react. The stranger had
gripped highway travelers with fear in the thin, jagged knife out of his pocket
past weeks. The killer apparently hitches already, but it had been concealed in the
a ride with the victim, then dumps the darkness. With Jerry’s threat, the
body on the side of the road and takes stranger lunged across the vehicle and
their car, which is discarded further up thrust the blade into the side of Jerry’s
the road. Currently, police admit that they neck. Jerry froze in the middle of his sen-
have very few leads, and they are baffled tence as his throat began to fill with
by the senselessness of the crimes. The blood. The crimson fluid began to pour
identity of the victim has yet to be dis- from the wound, which the knife was
closed, but we’ll keep you updated on still embedded in. Jerry began to choke
this story as we learn more.” on the blood, his words replaced by gris-
Jerry glanced over at the stranger, ly gurgling sounds, and he twitched vio-
who was still staring at him with the lently. The stranger watched all of this,
same twisted grin on his face. “See? the smile never leaving his face. Blood
They were talking about me,” the began to flood from Jerry’s mouth as if
passenger said. he were vomiting, and the fluid ran
Jerry shook his head in disbelief. down his chin and mixed with the
“You’re not him,” he said, his face expres- steady stream coming from the knife
sionless, “you can’t be.” protruding from his throat. His gurgling
“Oh?” sneered the stranger, never los- got louder as he struggled for air, and his
ing his smile, “And why is that?” hands began to shake spastically. As
“You just don’t look like the type, Jerry twitched in the driver’s seat, his
that’s all,” Jerry retorted. vision began to blur, and soon, all he
“What did you expect me to look could see was white. He continued to
like?” inquired the passenger, his sneer struggle for breath, but it was a losing
still remaining. battle. It took less than a minute for his
“Look, man,” protested Jerry, “I final gasp to leave his body. He shud-
don’t know what you’re trying to pull dered once, then he was still, his eyes
here, but I think you’d better get out still gaping open in disbelief.
The stranger stared at the corpse for a place to leave it behind. He had done well,
moment, then, satisfied, he reached and he was very pleased with himself.
across the seat and pulled the knife out of Thomas wondered what it would be
what was left of Jerry’s throat. There was like to meet the “Collector,” to talk with
a final wave of flowing blood as the man him, to tell him what he had inspired
withdrew the blade, and the stream ran Thomas to do. No, Thomas shook his
onto his hand. He could feel the warm head, that would probably never hap-
wetness of Jerry’s blood on the knife han- pen. But, he could still pay homage to
dle, and he held the weapon in front of his hero; after all, he had done so well
his face, studying the fluid that covered tonight. So, as Thomas tolled down I-15,
both the blade and its grip. He smiled he began to think about the next time he
with satisfaction and turned to appraise would make a tribute, giddy with
the corpse next to him. excitement.
“It was nice to meet you, Jerry,” the man His concentration was broken
said coldly, the wicked smile returning to when he became aware of a pain in his
his face. back. He was too crowded in the dri-
ver ’s seat, and he reached down
••• beneath the chair to adjust the dis-
tance from the steering wheel. As he
He had done it. fumbled around blindly for the lever,
For weeks, Thomas had been study- his fingers brushed something else
ing the press accounts of “The Digit underneath the seat. Thomas felt
Collector’s” exploits. He didn’t know around in the dark, and quickly real-
what it was that had drawn him to the ized that the object was a small, rec-
case, but he had been enthralled with tangular box. He struggled for a grip
the murderer from the start, obsessively on it, and finally pulled the box from
gathering every piece of information he underneath the seat.
could on the grisly crimes. It was yes- Thomas reached above his head and
terday that he had decided to pay trib- flicked on the switch for the interior
ute to this unknown man that he light, struggling for a better look at the
admired by committing a copycat box. It almost looked like a cigar box,
crime. He had spent the day planning it but much smaller. He turned the prize in
to perfection, and now, as he drove his hand, wondering what old Jerry had
down Interstate 15 in Jerry Doyle’s hidden inside. Thomas’s curiosity was
former car, it was done. running rampant, and he decided to
He smiled at the thought of the killer pull over for a moment to examine his
hearing about the crime, and knowing discovery more completely. The box was
they weren’t responsible for it. Thomas of a nicely polished wood, and was very
wondered if the “Collector” would be pleasantly decorated. There were bright
pleased that he had committed a crime gold hinges holding the lid in place, and
using his M.O. What an honor that must an equally bright gold lock sealing it
be, to be such a proficient killer that oth- shut. Thomas tried the lock, but could
ers copy your work. not get it free. He turned off the car and
And Thomas had done it perfectly. He pulled the keys out of the ignition,
had left Jerry’s body on the side of the studying the ring for a key that might fit
road, but not before he used his knife to the box. Finally, after trying a few
disfigure the face, stalling the police in unsuccessfully, Thomas found the small
their efforts to identify the victim. He had key that fit the box lock, which unfas-
taken the right index finger, as “The Digit tened with a quick click. He was grin-
Collector” had done with his thirteen vic- ning like a child on Christmas morning
tims. And now he was driving the stolen as he opened the strange box, his antici-
car down the Interstate, looking for a pation growing by the second. He lifted
the lid slowly. The box was lined quite
elegantly with magenta fabric, giving it
an almost regal appearance. It looked
like something that a businessman
would have in his office as a show of
class. But, it was not the appearance of
the box that caused Thomas to drop it
on the seat next to him. His face was
pale as he struggled to comprehend it,
and he shot a glance to the passenger
seat to verify if his mind was playing
tricks on him.
The box had stayed open when
Thomas dropped it, and its contents were
scattered across the passenger seat. As he
put the car back into gear, he looked over
once more. Jerry Doyle’s car rumbled
down the Interstate with Thomas at the
wheel, its driver still shaking in disbelief.
As the car vibrated with motion, thir-
teen severed fingers lolled about across
the leather interior of the passenger seat.


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