Before you judge me, please know, that i do know it is dangerous to pick up a hitchhiker. I am perfectly capable of making good decisions. So I have ONE flaw. One weakness.. I like to help people.
It was raining. I saw him standing out in the rain along the highway, thumb out, trying to find someone willing to give him a break from the rain. This is normal weather for southwestern Pennsylvania.
"Get in!" I yelled out the window as i slowed to a stop. The man threw his backpack in the backseat and then jumped up front with me.
"Thanks," he muttered.. He was a little bigger and bulkier than me, though that could be layers of clothes. A graying beard in bad need of a trim. Dark eyes and scraggly black hair. He smelled like a wet dog and stale cigarettes. My mother would not be happy if I told her about this, i thought. But i gotta be true to who I am, right?
"Where you headed?" The standard question.
"Doesnt matter." No eye contact. Barely a thank you. Maybe this was a mistake. No! This is what we are here for. I ask not to be judged, and here i was, judging him right from the start.
"You got a name?" I asked.
"Look," I said, "I don't know how far you are going, but I am driving all the way to Illinois, so if you are planning on going that far, we may as well get to know each other a little, right?" Truth be told, I was pretty nervous. I've done this many times, you would think it wouldn't bother me. But something...
My thoughts were interrupted by this guy finally saying something, "I'm Vincent, and Illinois sounds fine."
"Well, nice to meet you, I'm Charles." There was a very dark feeling in the car. Eerie, even. Usually people were friendlier and grateful for the lift. This felt like the right thing to do, though.
"Sooo, got any family?" I awkwardly asked..
"Nope." Vincent replied, not looking away from the road.
"So, you just going across the country or something?" I inquired, trying to get an idea with who I had in my little Ford Focus.
Vincent looked a little annoyed, then finally spoke up.
"I have no home, no family, and no destination. I just want to get away from here."
Great, i thought, this guy is a criminal or something. I wonder whats in his bag..A gun? A human head? My imagination was going a little crazy, but you never know.. he WAS being pretty dark and mysterious.
"No problem," I said, trying to sound relaxed..
We drove in silence for about 30 minutes, just listening to the wiper blades and low music on my radio.
Then, all of a sudden, the radio said something about a string of murders that had been being committed over the past few months..
Of course, I thought. Of course this would come on the radio while im in the car driving this hitchhiker around. I knew the story very well, my mother and I had been following it closely. Which is exactly why she discouraged me picking anyone up. Its been happening in our area. Brutal murders. Carved up chests. A serial killer. No leads. Wonderful!
It was getting late, dark, and the rain didn't help. I kept up conversation here and there, making small talk, but really didn't get much outta him. Then this.
"You mind pulling over at the next rest area? I need a restroom." Vincent asked.
"I can do that." I said. Meanwhile, my whole insides were shaking. Maybe i could ditch him here.. I thought, maybe i could take a peak in his bag while he was in the restroom. This was feeling more and more dangerous. But has to be done. Maybe I will end up making this world a better place. Everyone daydreams of being a hero, right?
I saw a sign for the rest stop, 2 miles ahead..
The dark and malevolent feeling was practically oozing out of the car. I shuddered. Here we go, I thought.
I put my blinker on and pulled off into a poorly lit parking lot. Most rest stops were full of cars and big service plazas with lots of witnesses. This wasn't like that at all. There was no restaurant. There wasn't even a gas station. It was a restroom and vending machines. This is just absolutely perfect, i thought.
"Be right back." Vincent jumped out of the car and went into what was probably a very disgusting restroom.
Now's my chance, i thought. He had left his bag. Should I actually open it? The urge was overwhelming. I had to. I quickly reached back and grabbed it the second Vincent was out of sight, and pulled it up in my lap.
I unzipped the bag, heart racing. Some clothes, some snack food, dirty magazine, and that was about it. Whew! Ok, no big deal. I threw it back in the backseat. I knew i had nothing to worry about. Even though we were the only ones here, i wasn't worried. I'm a big boy. I headed toward the restroom. After all, i have to obey my body, and get some relief, too!
Just as i approached the restroom, i could hear him using the paper towel dispenser and decided to wait around the corner as he came out. Sure, maybe I was being too careful, but i figured i could spy a little, and make sure he wasn't shooting up or anything.
He opened the door and everything changed. The malevolence was overwhelming, the darkness eternal, as i felt the knife go deep into his throat. I watched his confused eyes go dead. It felt so good to help him.
I dragged his lifeless body around to the dumpster and began carving his chest up, like I always do. I have to.
I put myself at risk of being caught once again, but what choice do I have. This happens every time. It is dangerous to pick up a hitchhiker. Don't judge me. I have to.