For preview purposes only; final product may differ
Author: T. X. Brooks
Translator: Adrian S. Mei
Editor: Slept Ar. Mei
A lone wolf prowling in the dark yet invisible by day, he entices the appetite of depraved souls with the promise of blood.
The Killer of Killers
Love him or hate him, the FBI didn’t know what to do with the serial killer who only targeted other serial killers.
“Bottom line is he’s doing our job without taking a cent from the government. And he never misses! I mean, can we hire the guy?”
“I’ll stop you right there. He’s doing this for fun, not justice. At the end of the day, he’s no different from those other psychos. He takes lives and enjoys doing so. One of these days, I’ll put him in shackles, too.”
But he didn’t care about all the chatter surrounding his work. He believed in an eye for an eye and answered to no higher power.
He called himself…
The Green Cleaner.
Roy glanced at the head unit, its bluish screen telling him it was quarter to one.
Exposed by the car’s high beams, the interstate extended ahead for what seemed like forever, flanked on either side by a gloomy landscape whose leafy residents left only fleeting shadows across his vision. Had it not been for the white road markings zipping past, he could have sworn the car wasn’t moving at all.
It was quiet. Too quiet. Bothered, he turned a dial on the head unit—nothing. Must have been broken.
He was about to hum for his own entertainment when a figure suddenly appeared in front of his windshield. The brake pads screeched, and Roy was violently whipped around in his seat. He’d spun the wheel far too suddenly. The momentum made his world spin, but luckily, the car was still standing on all fours.
The culprit of the near accident was now in full view before the headlights: a burly, dark-skinned man wearing a hooded T-shirt printed with a mess of lines and shapes. At first, it looked like an abstract oil painting, but upon further inspection, it was a gang of limbless skeletons. However tasteless it might have been, Roy thought it was no match for the appalling mess that was his jeans overrun with metallic chains and accessories.
The man hopped over, leaned up against the car window and knocked.
Wary, Roy rolled down the window by a few inches.
“You know how dangerous that was?” His voice was shaking with anger. “If you’re trying to end it all, could you at least pick another car? She’s nearly been totaled three times. One more time and it’s the junkyard for her!”
The man flashed his pearly whites from under his hood. “If I hadn’t stood there, your li’l Volkswagen wudda whished right pas’ me. Just like the others.”
That’s because you were standing on a road with no lights in the middle of the night like a chocolate bean dunked in a bottle of cola.
Of course, Roy’s good manners wouldn’t have let him say that out loud.
“Can I help you?” he asked as calmly as he could.
“Hell yeah, I need help. I need all the help in the goddamn world! I got kicked outta my own car by a bunch of drunken assholes so wasted they thought it be funny to make off with my ride! How much ya wanna bet I gonna find it in a ditch or completely smashed in some trees? Just like my last fuckin’ ride! Sons of bitches...”
Frowning, Roy wished his window could have the function of bleeping out profanities. Clearly, this loudmouth wasn’t that much better of a person than his “asshole” friends. At that moment, all he wanted to do was step on the gas and get out of there, but the man was sharp enough to pick up on it.
“Whoa, hey, man. C’mon. There’s only been like two cars in the last hour, and I ain’t gon’ walk the whole night in the middle of nowhere. C’mon, man, lemme hitch a ride with ya. I gon’ get off when we get to a gas station or a motel or somethin’.”
Roy could see how tall and muscular the man was under his top. After a moment’s hesitation, he unlocked the car.
“Thank god!” The man opened the door and jumped into the passenger seat. He stuck out his right fist, which was heavily adorned by rings with skulls and snakes, toward the driver. “Kieran.”
“Lee.” Roy reciprocated the fist bump.
“Chinese? Or Korean?”
Kieran turned to examine the driver. Twenty-three, give or take. Clean, symmetrical face gently framed by a shaggy medium-length cut. Plain T-shirt and pants. Just another fresh-faced college kid.
“ABC,” Roy replied with a light smile and averted eye contact.
As expected of model minorities! Kieran grinned as he mocked silently.
The engine rumbled back to life and brought the car up to eighty miles per hour, which was well over the interstate limit. Kieran wondered if the driver felt compelled to drive so fast because he was uneasy, perhaps even scared, by his presence. Excitement bubbled up from within Kieran, and he broke the short silence.
“Must be borin’ drivin’ through the night all by yourself.”
“Nothing I can do about it. A man’s gotta work.”
“Not e’erybody thinks like that. There been less and less cars goin’ through this interstate ’cause of the—” Kieran mimed slitting his throat and stuck out his tongue. “Ya heard about that?”
Roy bit his lip, looking a bit restless. “It’s all over the news,” he said lightly so as not to incite something. “They call him the Freeway Killer.”
“What a lame ass name, ‘Freeway Killer.’ Now, me and my homies call ’im the Oregon Nightmare. He’s really somethin’, I tell ya! He pretends to be a traveler who needs help and tries to hitch a ride late at night. Then, next day, some poor kind-hearted bastard gon’ be found hung upside down from a tree beside the freeway, wrists slashed, torso sliced open…”
As Kieran’s voice sank lower and lower, he leaned toward the driver to get a better look at his reaction. Roy still had his eyes on the road, no turbulence visible on his face, but his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down revealing his agitation, or perhaps fear.
Satisfied at this sight, Kieran continued the topic that he apparently loved. “Four people been sacrificed so far, and the po-po ain’t got a fuckin’ clue who he is. Absolute genius, if ya ask me!”
“What do you mean… sacrifice?” Roy glanced over at the large Black man sitting in his passenger seat. Chunks of muscle bulged visibly underneath his T-shirt, especially his biceps that were twice the size of his own. A tattoo peeked out from his collar, but it mostly stayed hidden behind clothes like an evil beast biding its time to strike.
Kieran could tell his chauffeur had forced a response even though he clearly didn’t enjoy dwelling on the topic. Maybe it was due to his upbringing, or it was the nerves talking. The latter possibility only evoked more enthusiasm in the hitchhiker.
“First, he ties ’em to a tree upside down by the ankles before lettin’ out their blood and field dressin’ them, y’know, like when ya huntin’. Then he paints an inverted pentagram right under the body and writes the name of the victim in the middle. Basically, it’s one of those satanic rituals they call Black Mass.”
Roy was trying to keep his thoughts on the road but couldn’t help retorting. “I don’t remember reading that in the papers. Actually, it sounds like somethin’ straight out of a cheap horror flick.”
Kieran chuckled. “How they gon’ know the details when they never witnessed the real thing?”
Out of nowhere, Roy slammed the brakes, forcing the tires to shriek desperately as they scraped against the asphalt. Since Kieran hadn’t fastened his seat belt, his head smashed against the roof of the car.
“The fuck, man! Whatchu do that for!”
“There’s a car broken down up ahead. Don’t you see the couple waving there?”
A new black Volvo was parked on the shoulder. Its driver was a blonde man in his thirties dressed in an expensive-looking dark gray suit. The suitcase in his hand marked him as a poised white-collar worker in some high-rise business center in downtown Portland.
“Hi, I’m Alden.” The man eagerly reached out a hand toward Roy, who had gotten out of the car. Then he introduced the young woman beside him. “This is Jessica. We met about three hours ago. She wanted to hitch a ride with me to Crescent, but we both ended up stuck here.”
“What’s the problem?” Roy gestured at the Volvo. “Fixable?”
Alden shook his head. “I think there’s a problem with the gas gauge. It showed I had enough gas in the tank, so I ended up passing two gas stops without filling up.”
“It’s about… a little over thirty minutes till the next one. I could try towing it behind me?”
Unwilling to abandon his new purchase for the night, Alden readily accepted the offer and kindly asked his companion’s opinion.
“Dun ma’er,” she slurred through a piece of chewing gum and shrugged. “A ride’s a ride.”
A cute girl by any means, Jessica had a beautiful head of brown curls, somewhat dry skin and dark circles under her eye that peeked through her foundation, giving her a constant look of sleeplessness.
After taking out tow cables from the trunk, Roy secured the hooks onto either car and set off. Now with two more passengers in the back, he no longer felt so lonely. Kieran even stopped with the creepy topic from earlier, leaving him in a better mood just focused on driving at a slow and steady pace.
The three men engaged in meaningless chit-chat while Jessica kept rubbing her eyes and yawning, slumped over on Alden. Roy noticed that the man scooted toward the door as if to avoid physical contact with the woman despite her sizable, perky bust. The sleepy beauty wasn’t happy with that either. She leaned even closer to him and was now practically lying on his lap.
That was when Roy read embarrassment, annoyance and a hint of genuine disgust on Alden’s face. He wanted to giggle, but their eyes met in the rear-view mirror. The man’s piercing blue eyes were the same shade as a cloudless sky. Roy averted his gaze the next moment. He didn’t want to pry, whether that was out of politeness or because of his personality.
Forty minutes later, they arrived at a small gas station. The employee didn’t look exactly pleased to have been woken up.
“You guys gonna drive all night?” grunted the young man as he went about filling their tanks.
“No way. I’m pooped. I’ll be out like a light once my head touches a pillow,” replied Roy, rubbing his sore shoulders. “Is there a motel around here? I wanna get some shut-eye.”
The employee took their payment and pointed haphazardly up the road.
“There, ’cross the road. Rainbow Inn,” he said before going back inside.
Roy turned to his passengers. “What do you guys think?”
Kieran rushed to voice his opinion. “I don’t wanna travel at night.”
Alden wasn’t so sure. He looked back at his car that had a full tank. Jessica had already moved back to the Volvo and was fast asleep in the backseat. He sighed inaudibly.
“Fine, I’ll come with you and hit the road in the morning. I can’t just leave the girl like that.”
Thus, Rainbow Inn saw four guests arrive at the lobby in the middle of the night. The owner started filling out the registration behind the counter in her pajamas.
“Y’all travelin’ together?” she slurred. “Two rooms oughta be enough. Got two beds each.”
“No, we’d like four rooms, please. We’re… not friends. I’m just giving them a lift.”
“We only got two. The others are still being reno’d.” The woman stopped writing and glared at him with sleepy eyes. “Missy here—” She pointed at the drowsy Jessica with her pen. “—isn’t being kidnapped, is she?”
“No, no, no!” Alden clarified. “She’s just sleepy.”
He hastily unhooked Jessica’s arms from his body and tried to shake her awake.
“Looks to me like she’s high as a kite,” the owner commented nonchalantly.
Jessica’s wavy locks swung side to side as she shook her head, regaining a bit more awareness.
“I’m not high!” she griped in a shrill voice. “I just drank a bit… a teensy bit! Last time I checked, adults over twenty-one are allowed to drink!”
Breaking out in giggles, she reached out a hand decorated with black nail polish and tapped the counter.
“You got anything to drink here?” She leaned forward, batting her dark lashes. “Y’know, the good stuff.”
Groaning, Alden rubbed his forehead. He pulled the tipsy Jessica back. “Two rooms is fine. She’ll take one. The three of us can make do with the other.”
Jessica clung onto Alden’s arm, practically hanging off of him.
“Us two in one room. They get the other,” she corrected him in a drowsy sing-song voice. “Oh, yeah! We’ll do it from the front, and they’ll do it from the back.”
Having just taken a sip from a juice can he had bought at the vending machine, Roy spewed everything out and began coughing. Even more flustered, Alden swiped the key off the counter and dragged the inebriated singing woman toward the corresponding room.
“All right, shush, Jessica. Good girl, shh. Quiet now… Shut up. I said, shut up!”
As Kieran watched them leave, he made a regretful face. “Love to be in that room with her. Betcha she a feisty one in bed. The kind that gon’ suck your balls dry.”
Feigning ignorance, Roy took the key and found their room for the night.
The small room felt cramped with two single beds, a closet, a round coffee table and an armchair. The walls were covered by lusterless wallpaper. The only saving grace was the clean, tidy bedding. As Kieran followed him into the room, his bulky figure made the room feel even smaller and suffocating.
Roy sat down on the bed by the window. His body was telling him to sprawl out on the mattress and sleep like a log for several hours, but the other person’s presence kept his nerves high-strung.
The person in question was unbothered by the discomfort he created, as if his satisfaction originated in the anxiety of those around him. He paced around the room humming some strange, disconcerting tune while stripping down to his underpants.
Goodness! The gym rat was inked from head to toe, like a statue covered by tasteless graffiti. Roy was seriously considering going to sleep in the car when there was a tiny knock on the door. He opened it to find Alden standing there with a relaxed smile about his lips.
“Room for one more?”
“Ya left that chick alone?! Ya outta your goddamn mind, man! Hell, don’t tell me you’re a faggot.” Irritated, Kieran threw himself on the bed and yanked the sheets over himself. “Fuck outta here.”
“Don’t mind him. He’s just jealous.” Roy motioned the blonde man to come in with a tilt of the head. “The bed’s too small, but you’re welcome to sleep in the chair.”