Day Two of my week-long introduction to my new thriller, THE LONELY MILE, from StoneHouse Ink, brings Chapter Two:
Martin Krall was a ghost. He was a wraith. He was legendary. He haunted Interstate 90, its ribbons of pavement winding their way through the mostly rural towns and thickly forested hills of western Massachusetts and eastern New York. He was invisible, ethereal, terrifying. In the mental movie playing nonstop inside Martin Krall’s head, he saw himself as omnipotent, invincible, taking what he wanted when he wanted it. The mere mortals populating the surrounding areas were powerless to stop him and afraid to try.
Today, what Martin Krall wanted was a girl. A teenage girl, specifically, closer in age to twenty than ten. Someone developed, with curves. Martin was not into the nasty stuff that so many of his contemporaries were hung up on, the guys who took young children and did disgusting things with them. He never understood the urge to enjoy a child in that way and was thankful he was more advanced than that. More evolved.
He pulled his aging, white, cargo truck—it was practically invisible, like a raggedy street person sleeping in a cardboard box, ignored by the passers-by—off I-90 and onto the access ramp leading to the massive parking lot of the interstate rest area. He passed a sign on the right directing the big eighteen-wheel tractor-trailers to “Keep right here.” Those gigantic dinosaurs merited their own special place in the lot. Martin slowed as he drove past and then eased into the second right turn, the one leading to the parking area for normal-sized vehicles.
He cruised the access lane, scanning the rows of parked cars and trucks as he eased past, finally selecting a parking spot three rows from the entrance to the travelers’ plaza and shutting the engine down. It knocked and bucked for a couple of seconds, as if disagreeing with Martin’s decision, and then gave up. Martin made a mental note to get the old piece of crap tuned up soon. He couldn’t really afford the expense, but on the other hand, he didn’t want to risk getting stuck somewhere like this with a vehicle that wouldn’t start. That sort of disaster could land him on death row.
The authorities had been chasing Martin for years, ever since the first kidnapping way back, more than three years ago now, but they had never come close to catching him. Martin was confident they never would, despite the fact that he always used the same five-hundred-mile stretch of highway as his hunting ground. He was smart, and, much more importantly, he was careful.
So many of the men who shared his particular predilection made the mistake of getting careless or resorting to boastful, showboating tactics that invariably led to their downfall. Things like taunting the police with cutesy notes or ill-advised telephone calls, or leaving behind little “calling cards” for the media, as if they thrived on the attention and notoriety.
Martin wondered what these idiots were thinking when they did such self-destructive things, virtually ensuring themselves an appointment with a lethal injection, all in the name of notoriety. Of cheap self-promotion.
Martin hated publicity. He would have preferred that the public never learn of his existence, although by now that dream was nothing more than the most baseless sort of wishful thinking. Somewhere around the third kidnapping, a clever television news reporter hung a nickname on Martin, a nickname that stuck to him like vacuum wrap and forever removed his cloak of anonymity.
Martin Krall was “The I-90 Killer.”
He stepped out of the cab onto the parking lot, the searing midday heat softening the pavement and radiating off it, warming his legs beneath his jeans and causing a sheen of sweat to break out on his forehead. Martin slammed the driver’s side door, leaving it unlocked, and turned toward the plaza entrance. It would be foolish to lock the truck; it was a work truck, with no remote control locks, and Martin knew he might be leaving in a hurry, hopefully with a new playmate in tow. Plus, he was a ghost and his truck was as invisible as he—who would pay the least bit of attention to a nondescript, beat-up old box truck adrift in a sea of shiny, much newer vehicles?
Things slowed as they always did when Martin was hunting, seeming to move at half-speed as he strode purposefully toward the glass double doors of the travelers’ plaza. Families with children of varying ages jostled Martin as he walked, some moving, as he was, toward the rest area, and some away from it and back to their cars, refreshed and ready to hit the highway. They all looked to Martin like they were walking underwater, their movements almost painfully slow and exaggerated. Martin assumed this strange phenomenon, a sensation he experienced every time he hunted, was a function of his heightened sense of awareness, of his advanced, predatory instincts.
All of the travelers were potential victims, although they didn’t know it, and none saw him or were even aware of his presence among them; he was a lion stalking among oblivious sheep. It made sense, though. Martin Krall was a ghost—invisible, ethereal and terrifying. The sheep instinctively seemed to move away as he approached, the Red Sea parting for Moses, mothers holding their children’s hands a little tighter without even realizing they were doing it.
Martin felt incredibly alive and hyper-aware. Today was a special day. Today Martin Krall would add another victim to his collection.
Chapte Three to follow tomorrow!
THE LONELY MILE can be ordered at http://www.allanleverone.com/, or at
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-lonley-mile-allan-leverone/1104328433