Molly lives in rural Indiana where she works as a freelance writer and author. While she mainly dabbles in the science fiction and horror genre, she has also been known to write children's stories, the occasional quirky greeting card verse and some questionable poetry. Visit her website www.authormallman.blogspot.com to learn more about current and upcoming writing projects as well as book release dates.
East of Omaha
Headlights illuminated about a quarter mile of the never-ending highway. Doug yawned. He slapped his face in an attempt to stay awake. As drove on he noticed a figure moving alongside the road ahead.
“A damned hitchhiker,” he said to himself. The car sped past. Doug glanced in his rearview mirror and saw the dark figure jumping and waving his arms, his middle finger gesturing on each hand.
Dough slammed on the breaks and squealed his tires as he sped backward. The hitchhiker jumped to the side of the road.
The stranger opened the passenger door. “You could’ve killed me.”
Doug snickered. “I’m going as far as Illinois if you want a ride.”
The stranger slid into the seat. “Name is Roy, and I’ll take what I can get.”
Doug sped off before Roy could shut the door. He glanced at his passenger from the corner of his eye, noticing a patch of dried blood on his pinky. He reached down and reassuringly patted the 9 mm Beretta under his seat.
Roy turned up the radio. “You mind? I love this song.”
Doug shook his head.
“On a long lonesome highway, east of Omaha…” He mumbled through some of the words. “Good song, very fitting.”
Doug reached over and turned it down. “I didn’t say you could sing.”
“K, sorry…man, you havin’ a bad night or what?” Roy slid a cigarette pack out of coat pocket. “You mind?”
“No, just crack the window a bit.”
While lighting his cigarette, Roy noticed the dried blood on his hand. “Yeah, got in a fight last night. Worked the guy over pur-tee good.”
“I saw the blood.” Doug rolled his window down.
“What’d you do? I’m a roofer.” Roy took a drag off his cigarette and flicked the ashes out the window. “I plan on findin’ me some work when I get settled somewhere again.”
Doug sat silently, his eyes on the road.
“Yep, that girl I was fightin’ over, nothing but trouble. All women are ya know.” Roy leaned up against the door and folded his arms, yawning. A knife peeked out of his jacket pocket.
Doug caught a glimpse of it in his peripheral vision.
“I’m stopping up ahead to take a leak.” Doug pulled into a gas station. When he opened the car door the dome light shone on a gun handle under his seat. Roy rubbed his jacket pocket feeling for his knife.
Damn, a gun! That's not part of my plan.
Doug got back into the driver’s seat and sped off, keeping his eyes on the road. “I’m from Omaha, heading for Chicago.” He felt around under his seat. “I don’t like nosey people asking me questions, so that’s about all you need to know.
Roy put his hand on his knife. His heart raced. “Sur…Sure, I can ride quietly.”
Doug’s hand stopped, and he brought up a flask. Driving with his knees his opened and took a sip. “You wanna swig?” he asked, wiping off his lips.
Roy slipped his hand off the knife and took the flask. “Sure.”
The old rusted Chevy Caprice rolled on. The two men sat in silence. Roy pretended to be asleep while revising his plan because a gun was not part of it. I gotta get that gun out’a his reach. He opened his left eye just enough to see what Doug was doing. Street lights lit the dark night. We must in a town. He heard the turn signal clicking and felt the car move into a parking space. A cool breeze blew in as Doug opened the door, bringing with it the smell of gasoline. He waited for Doug to go inside to pay before reaching under the seat. Grabbing the gun, he quickly tucked it down the back of his pants. He covered it with his coat, leaned back against the door and closed his eyes.
Roy felt the car moving. They were on the road again. He remained silent with his eyes closed, waiting for his chance to put his plan into action. Every few minutes he opened his left eye, just enough to get an idea where they may be.
Shifting in his seat, he turned his face toward the window, waiting until they returned to a long, dark highway before pulling out the gun
Roy woke abruptly. He looked around, confused. Damn, I actually fell asleep. “Where are we,” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
“Out in the middle of nowhere, I suppose.”
Roy watched for a good spot to pull over. He took out a cigarette to calm his nerves as he waited. And when cornfields were all he could see, he decided they’d gone far enough. He slipped his hand behind him. His sweaty palm braced the gun handle.
“Pull over up ahead in that wooded area. He stuck the gun against Doug’s right temple.
“Beads of sweat formed on Doug’s head. “What’s your problem, man? “
“Don’t talk, just do as I tell ya.”
“Take it easy, I’m pulling over right now.” Doug stopped the car about a mile off the highway behind a cornfield and put the car in park.
Roy’s hand trembled as he tightened his grip on the gun. “Okay, this is what’s gonna happen.” He licked his dry lips and looked around, his hands shaking. “You take your ID out of your pocket, real slow now. Give it to me and take mine.”
The two men exchanged billfolds.
“Now real slowly get out and when I tell ya, we’ll start walking toward the cornfield. “
Doug slid out of the driver’s seat and stood up.
Roy slid out behind him and stuck the gun in his back. “Start walking.”
“You gonna kill me?” Doug asked, walking with his hands in the air.
“That’s the plan.” Roy shoved the gun deeper into Doug’s back.
“What the hell for?”
“Didn’t you notice that we look alike—I did.” His voice trembled and his eyes shifted at every sound” When I saw you at that truck stop back yonder, I noticed we looked similar, sorta like brothers or something. The beards, the mustache, the dark eyes and hair color. Why we could pass for each other easily and that’s why I picked you. “
Doug stopped. “That blood wasn’t from a fight was it?”
“No. I had to kill the slut. She was messin’ round with my brother, so I killed ‘em both. Left both their bodies to rot back in Nebraska. You see, it won’t take ‘em long to link the murders to me, so now I’m you.”
Doug spun around and kicked Roy behind the knee. As Roy fell, the gun fired, grazing Doug’s head.
Roy jumped up and tried to shoot again, nothing. “Junk gun is jammed or something.” He used the butt to knock Doug on the head.
Doug fell to the ground, silent.
Roy ran to the car, tossed the gun under the seat and sped away. He drove until he reached a gas station. Doug had a duffle bag in the backseat of his car. Roy rummaged through it, moving items around until he found a change of clothes. He used the sink in the gas station bathroom to clean up before changing and renting a motel room to get some rest.
Doug woke the next morning face down in the dewy grass, with his head throbbing. Rubbing the back of his head, congealed blood stuck to his fingers. The world spun as he stumbled toward the highway to flag down a car.
A small gray, pickup skidded to a stop. A man jumped out. “Oh dear lord, what happened? “ He patted his shoulder. “Here, lean on me.” The man helped Doug into the passenger seat. “Hang on there, buddy. I’m taking you to the hospital. “
Roy woke the next morning and jumped into the rusty old Caprice. He found a map in the glove box and spread it out in the seat beside him. Where to? Maybe Ohio? He went to get a cup of coffee and a pack of cigarettes before starting off for Ohio. Roy turned up the radio and sang loudly as he drove, keeping the window down and enjoying the fresh air. He drove on for about three hours before noticing a roadblock ahead of him. Looking to the left and the right, Roy saw no side roads. He slowed and idled up to the officer.
“License and registration please.” The officer looked around in the car.
“Sure. “ He slid Doug’s license out of the billfold and took the registration from under the visor.
The officer took the information and went back to his car. A few minutes later cops surrounded Roy’s car.
A voice sounded through a megaphone. “Get out slowly and get down on the ground. “ Roy looked around. It didn’t work, they know it’s me. How the hell? He opened the car door and spread out, face down on the road. Cops swarmed around.
One of them cuffed him.
“It’s Doug Trenton alright and he’s got a gun.” An officer slid a pencil through the trigger guard and held it up.
“We need forensics out here,” called another officer, “there’s a bag in the back seat…full of evidence.
The cops took Roy down to the station and booked him for murder.
Doug made it to the emergency room. He had a concussion and lost some blood, but he was going to live. The cops entered his room a few hours later. “Roy Dwyer? We got a court order for your DNA.”
“For what?” Doug asked.
“We found the bodies, Roy—your brother and Sara Gribbons. She fought back hard. We’ve collected DNA from under her fingernails.”
Doug smirked. “Sure, take it. I ain’t done nothin’." He opened his mouth.
Roy sat in a small interrogation room. A detective sat across from him. “So, we finally caught up with the Valley Ridge Mangler. I knew it was only a matter of time. “He leaned forward and spread several pictures across the table in front of him. “You ready to give a confession?”
“I didn’t kill any of those people.” Roy’s stomach churned as he looked at the crime photos that lay in front of him. “I would never to that to anyone.” He looked away.
“Come on, Doug. We got your DNA. We’ve got the duffle bag from your trunk with your victims DNA on it. We’ve collected fibers that match that the carpet in your car so stop jerkin’ us around and confess. “
“No, I won’t. “ Beads of sweat formed on Roy’s face. “You got the wrong guy, I’m not Doug. I—“He stopped. I can’t tell them I killed Doug.
“We’re going for the death penalty unless you confess…then it’s life in prison without parole. It’s up to.”
Doug was released from the hospital and taken into custody for murder but was later released when DNA evidence didn’t match what the police had collected at the scene, and there was no other evidence linking him to the murders. Doug was a free man.
The court appointed Roy an attorney, Jim Lawson. He sat down with Roy and listened to his story.
Roy's voice shook as he told the story. "I didn't kill and carve up all those folks in that photo, but I did kill my brother and girlfriend…I didn't set out to ya, know."
Jim nodded. "Go on."
"I heard the two were messin' round behind my back, so I followed 'em to the river bank. They were lying on the hood of the car, kissin'. Makin' me sick." He hands trembled as he lit a cigarette. Smoke escaped through his nose as he continued. "I really didn't go to kill anyone, but I got so mad, ya know. I picked up a big rock and bashed my brother's head." Roy stared at the table and flicked his ashes. Tears filled his eyes. "Well, Sara she started screamin' and I tried to get her shut up, so I could tell her it was a mistake." He looked up at Jim and wiped his eyes and nose. "I didn't mean to kill her, but she just wouldn't shut up."
Jim nodded. "So, how does all this tie you to Doug?"
"I had a plan to find a guy who looked like me, steal his identity and start over. It was Doug, and I shot at him, and the last time I seen 'em he was layin' face down in the dirt."
“So, you’re claiming it’s a case of mistaken identity?”
Roy let out a deep sigh, leaned back in the chair and raised his hand to the sky. “Lord yes. I stole the guy’s wallet and tried to pass myself off as him. I may’ve committed some sort of second-degree murder, but I sure the hell ain’t your mangler fella. “
Roy and Jim met with the police and they agreed to take Roy’s DNA and compare it to the mangler’s victims. While waiting for the results, a handcuffed and shackled Roy was escorted to the dark highway east of Omaha where he left Doug’s body. “It should be right here.” He spun around, looking frantically for any sign of Doug. “I’m sure of it, ‘cause I remember that knotted tree over yonder, the headlights shined right on it.”
The officers searched the area. One shouted, “Over here.” They all ran over, and he pointed down in the leaves at a spent shell casing and blood.
“Okay, so far your story is checking out, ‘cept a dead man can get up and wander off, so where’s Trenton?”
Rob shook his head. “I…I don’t know. “
The DNA sample didn’t match the sample from the mangler’s victims, but cops did link Roy to the two murders in Kansas, where he was, extradited, tried and convicted.
About six months into his life sentence, Roy got a letter from Doug. It read: Sorry ‘bout your luck, but thanks to you, life’s good on the outside, and I perfected your plan, and Doug no longer exists."