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By: Wayne Brown
As I sit here on the porch in my chair now gazing out across the idle farm fields, it all seems rather surreal to me…as if it never happened. Most folks don’t believe that it did but I know different. I was there; I lived it. I saw it with my own eyes and I experienced it first-hand. I know that it happened. I just don’t know why.
I was driving from Alabama to Texas, heading for a job in the oil patch out west of Odessa, Texas. It was a Saturday night and I was crossing through the delta country of eastern Louisiana. I had just pulled my 1965 black Corvette into a truck stop off Interstate 20 to refuel and grab a bite to eat. With both the tank and my stomach registering full, I pulled back out onto the Interstate highway heading westbound once again. I had a lot of miles ahead of me before I would see Odessa, Texas located some five hours west of Fort Worth.
I almost did not see her at first. She was standing on the shoulder of the westbound lane with her thumb out. I topped a rise in the road formed by a highway overpass. The headlights of the Corvette gave me a quick glimpse of her as I topped the rise of the road. I remember thinking to myself, “What the hell would a woman be doing out hitch-hiking on a Saturday night…or any night for that matter?” I quickly pulled to the shoulder and slowly backed the car down to where she stood. She walked down to the car, bent down and looked into the passenger window which I had just rolled down.
“Are you offering me a ride, mister?” She asked smiling, then she added, “Or are you just curious?” I smiled back and motioned for her to get into the car.
She was in her late 20’s, possibly early 30’s age-wise with long legs and dark straight hair. Her eyes almost shined in the dim light of the evening. No doubt she was a pretty hot number…a blind man could have seen that. It made me wonder all the more what she was doing out here on the side of the road.
“You got car trouble?” I asked. “Can I offer you a ride somewhere to get help?” I added.
She only smiled and replied, “I really don’t have car trouble. It's more of a case of man-trouble I guess you could say. I was on a date to a little dance club up the road a ways and things didn’t go well. I decided to walk home. I guess I misjudged the distance but by that time it was too late. So I did the only thing left to do, I hitch-hiked.”
“Sounds like a plan to me” I replied with a smile. “Now where can I take you?” I asked.
“I live in a small town about three more exits west here on the Interstate. It’s not far off the road if you would be so kind as to drop me there.” She said pointing in a westerly direction toward the windshield of the car.
“No problem, let’s get headed that way and get you home,” I replied jamming the Corvette into gear and gunning it back into the westbound lane of the Interstate.
We rode along quietly for a while with the silence only broken by the low volume of the music from the radio and the roar of the side exhausts of the Corvette. The silence seemed to suit her needs so I just kept my mouth shut and drove the car.
“By the way, my name is Jake, Jake Hanson,” I said and glanced her way with a smile.
“Julie, you can call me Julie” She replied. “That’s what my friends call me and you are surely my friend now after giving me a lift home,” She added smiling back.
Julie pointed to a sign on the shoulder marking an exit off the Interstate. There was no mention of a town name but the sign did indicate that there was gas, food, and lodging available. I took the exit and she motioned for me to head southbound at the bottom of the ramp. She did not waste any words when simple motions could suffice to get the message across. This was no “Chatty Cathy” by any stretch of the imagination.
“What is the name of this town where you live?” I asked trying to stimulate a bit of conversation as we drove the dark two-lane stretch of highway.
“Oh, it’s really not much of a town; more like a place where roads cross. There’s a store and gas station, a little motel, and a tavern of sorts. My daddy owns all of them. Folks call it a lot of things, but we, my daddy and I, call it Perdition,” She replied cutting her eyes at me and pursing her lips a bit. “It’s just me and my daddy living there. We have a simple man called ‘Rafe” who works for my daddy and stays at the motel…that’s all there is,” She added.
I could see a glow of lights just over the horizon and figured that we must be getting close to this place she had described. I found myself wondering how a pretty girl like this could spend most of her life in the swamps of Louisiana. For all the pretty girls in the world there seemed to be a whole lot more that few had ever seen and this apparently was one of them.
“There it is,” Julie said as we topped the hill on the two lane road. “Just pull over right here and you can let me out and be on your way,” She added.
“You want me to let you out here on the side of the road?” I asked. “Why not let me drive you down to the store. After all, I have come this far, I might as well go all the way.” I added motioning toward the lights of the store.
“Oh, that’s probably not a good idea,” She shot back quickly. “My daddy doesn’t like me getting about with strangers and that simple man, Rafe, has a bit of shine on me so he could get jealous. He might want to hurt you.” She warned as she looked at me sternly. “Just pull over like I asked” She added.
“No way” I replied, “I am going all the way to the door and there’s not arguing,” I added.
“Suit yourself, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you” She said and shrugged her shoulders. She was noticeably irritated at me for ignoring her requests. I pulled the car into the small parking lot of the little store and gas station on the west side of the road intersections and turned off the engine. We sat in silence for a couple of minutes without saying a word.
The door of the store swung open and a rather large muscular man stepped out of it into the parking lot.
“That’ Rafe, he’s the simple man I told you that helps my daddy around here. He’s not going to like me being with you but don’t say anything. I’ll handle it. He’s got a temper and he is strong as an ox,” Julie said quickly as Rafe approached the passenger side of the Corvette. I nodded my understanding in her direction as the big ox leaned down to the window.
“Miss Julie, yo’ daddy ain’t gonna be too happy with you for runnin’ off like that. He’s gonna be even madder because you done took up with some feller here. I spec’ you had better send this man down the road right now,” Rafe said pointing a finger at me.
“Now just hold on, Rafe. This gentleman was nice enough to offer me a ride home so just be nice to him. Where is my daddy, anyway?” Julie said peering up at Rafe standing by the car.
“He’s over yonder at the tavern, Miss Julie, havin’ himself a bite of supper,” Rafe replied. “He left me in charge here at the store and I think this feller needs to get on down the road right now,” Rafe added stomping a foot on the pavement. I sat in my seat hoping this “simple man” was not planning on getting physical with me.
“Okay, Rafe, we’ll just go on over and talk to daddy about it. You just keep watchin’ the store and I might just come back over here and talk to you after while,” Julie said as she smiled up at him. At the same time, she motioned for me to start the car and drive across to the south side of the intersection to a building surrounded by cars. On the front was a blue neon sign with red letters reading “Mr. L’s Tavern”. I started the engine and pulled the transmission into gear anxious to put some distance between me and Rafe.
As we pulled away I heard Rafe yell, “I’d like that Miss Julie”!
I parked the car on the side of the building at “Mr. L’s”. Julie and I got out and began to walk toward the front door. After having crossed paths with Rafe, I was not relishing the idea of dealing with her daddy if he was of the same mindset. I began to think that it might have been a good idea to have just agreed with Julie and let her out of the car up the road. Well, whatever, it was too late now.
As soon as I pulled the door open, it was easy to tell that a party was going on inside. The music was country and it was a bit loud. A few couples were two-stepping their way around the sawdust covered dance floor. Others were sitting at tables or at the bar enjoying their favorite brew. A lone man sat in a dimly-lit back corner at a table. He was dressed in a black suit, black shirt that was buttoned all the way to his neck. A black fedora lay near him on the table. He was totally engaged in eating what appeared to be a very rare sirloin steak.
Julie motioned me in the direction of the man and said, “There’s my daddy, let’s go over there.” We quickly headed off in that direction.As we approached, the man looked up from his meal. He appeared to be in his early sixties with salt and pepper black hair and a neatly trimmed moustache to match.
“My little Julie, I’ve been wondering where you were, honey. You were here when I went to the store but gone when I came back. I was getting worried,” the man said all the time eyeing me with a cold stare and a stern face.
“Oh daddy, I just had to run a little errand, that’s all. You shouldn’t worry, you know that I’ll be okay,” Julie replied while wrapping her arms over her daddy’s shoulder. It was easy to see that she could mold and shape this man as necessary.
“Now I want you to meet this man who was nice enough to give me a ride,” Julie added and pointed toward me. “Daddy, this is Jake, uh, uh Jake, uh,” Julie stammered forgetting my last name.
“Hanson, last name’s Hanson” I quickly added and extended my hand. The old man just ignored the offer for a handshake and nodded in my direction.
“Well, sit down and tell me what you have been up to,” the old man said motioning to the empty chairs at the table.
“I must go powder my nose first, daddy. I will leave Jake here to visit with you until I get back,” She said and then left for the restroom with a without awaiting a reply. I took a chair across the table from the old man and waited for him to speak.
“Well, what kind of man-whore are you, boy?” the old man said looking right through me with his cold eyes. “What intent do you have picking up my daughter right here under my nose? I’d say that takes a lot of gall. Folks round these parts don’t do that to L.M. Dickens,” pointing a finger to his chest as he identified himself.
“Look, Mr. Dickens, I am not trying to do anything with your daughter. I simply offered her a ride home. I am on my way to a job in Odessa, Texas and really need to get on the road. Now, if that is what you would like, I can leave right now,” I offered.
“That won’t be necessary, son,” Dickens replied. “Besides, I can tell that Julie would be a bit disappointed if you just disappeared. Now I suggest you get yourself something to eat and drink. We’ll put you up at the motel for the night in exchange for your kindness to my daughter and then you can get a fresh start first thing in the morning,” He added.
“I don’t know; I am really short on time” I stuttered.
“Nonsense!” He retorted. “Now you are staying as our guest and that’s the last word. No one argues with L.M Dickens,” He added as he pointed that index finger at himself once more. By this time Julie was approaching the table and quickly took a chair. Her mere presence set the old man to smiling and he suddenly became a rather charming host telling Julie of his plans for my stay at the motel.
Julie and I ordered food from the kitchen and a round of drinks. The old man made some excuse about it being time to get back over to the store. He told us to stay there and enjoy ourselves for a while. Just prior to departing the table, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a room key with a large black plastic tag on it.
“Here is the key to your room. It’s 9A. I think you will find it easy to locate over there at our little motel. I hope you enjoy your stay with us, Mr. Hanson and thank you for looking out for my daughter,” He said staring straight into my eyes. With a nod, he adjusted his fedora hat and headed for the door.
Julie and I continued our meal and then enjoyed a few drinks and some light conversation. We even danced a few times once the liquor kicked in and relaxed me a bit. She was a charming and highly attractive young woman. No doubt, one that I would think about settling down with in another place in time. But the reality of the moment was that I needed to be on my way to Lubbock by early morning. So, at best, this looked to be just an enjoyable evening for me.
Time slowly passed as we talked over drinks in the back corner. Julie talked about her desire to leave this place; to get away from her father’s hovering and control; to get beyond the lust of the Rafe, the simple one. I sipped the vodka martini and stirred the olive with a tooth pick as I stared into the sweating glass at the clear ice floating there.
“Look,” I said, “If you really want to leave this place, you can go west with me. That will get you some distance and a head start. Maybe you can work it out from there. I honestly don’t know where I am going with this job I am headed to work. I am just taking things as they come for the moment. Come if you want. I plan on pulling out about 4 AM.”
She smiled and stared into her drink for a bit. “I would really like that, Jake. I think I could get use to hanging with you. But we would have to be very careful as my daddy will be checking my room through the night and of course Rafe stays at the motel. If they caught us trying to slip away together, things could get ugly for you in ways you cannot imagine.”
“Oh, I’ve dealt with a few tough guys. I’ll admit that I would hate to tangle with ol’ Rafe without some equalizer. Surely we can manage to get away with alerting anyone. I am game to try it if you are,” I said staring back at her and waiting for a reply.
“Rafe’s not the one you ultimately need to worry about. My daddy may look a bit old but there’s more to him than you might notice. I would hate for you to find that out like some have in the past. This would not be the first time that I have tried to leave and have them interfere,” She cautioned as she lifted her glass for the final swallow. “Still, all things considered, I am willing to risk it if you are. Now, I have to get over to the house before daddy starts to suspect something is going on. I suggest you go to your room and get some rest. Tomorrow morning, at 4 AM, I will meet you on the porch in front of this place”. I’ll have my bag and we can skedaddle out west!” She added smiling a wide grin at me.
As I unlocked the door on room 9A, I glanced about noticing that my car was the only one in the motel parking lot. There were no lights about either with the exception of a dim light showing through the curtains on a room at the very end of the L-shaped motel. I made a mental note that this must be the room that was home to Rafe. Thinking about that and his seeming dislike for me, I walked out to the car and pulled a small club out which I kept behind the driver seat. The club is a small bat often referred to as a “tire-billy” because so many truckers use one to bump their tires for air checks. I figured having it close might make me sleep a little better. The clock on the nightstand indicated 11PM. It was time to turn in and get a few winks before that early get up at 3 AM to prepare for departure.
Although the bed in the small room was rather comfortable, I slept fitfully. At times, I heard thunder off in the distance. The alarm on the nightstand began to ring precisely at 3 AM. I rolled out of the bed still tired from my previous night of activities and little sleep. Regardless, it was time to get moving and get this plan into action. I stepped into the bathroom and grabbed a shower to wake me up a bit. I passed on shaving opting to let my face rest.
I heard the first loud clap of thunder just as I was opening the door of the room to move my bag to the car. Lightning flashed brightly and it was quickly followed by a downpour of rain. As I stepped out on to the covered walk area, I glanced toward Rafe’s room. Sure enough, the dim light was still showing through the curtain. Maybe Rafe was afraid of the dark I thought to myself laughing inwardly a bit. I quickly open the car and tossed my bag in the compartment behind the seats, then circled to the driver’s side and got in. The rain was heavy and already I was soaked in spots.
I started up the ‘Vette and drove around the motel then across the highway to the parking lot at “Mr. L’s”. Julie was standing with her bag in the shadows down at one end of the porch which masked the front of the joint. I could see that her hair was damp from the rain and she stood with arms wrapped about her in anxious anticipation of this departure. I got out of the car and quickly ran over to grab her bag and move it into area behind the seats. I folded the driver’s seat forward and was wrestling the bag into the space when I heard Rafe’s voice.
“Miss Julie, what are you doing out on a night like this. You know your daddy would not like it especially with this feller here hangin’ about. You had better come go with me now,” Rafe said as he walked up out of nowhere in the rain and started making his way toward Julie upon the porch.
“Now, Rafe, you just need to mind your own business and go back to your room,” Julie said with apprehension in her voice. “I have some things to attend to and I should return shortly should my daddy ask,” She added.
“No Miss Julie, you don’t need to attend to nothing. You are going with me and right now! And this feller here, well, he can git on down the road and quick if he wants to keep living,” Rafe said continuing to walk toward Julie as he motioned in my direction.
I saw the end of the tire-billy sticking out of my night bag. Before I could think about it, I slid it out and turned toward Rafe. I quickly moved up behind him as his full attention was now focused on gaining control of Julie. Without thinking, I brought the billy down hard on the back of his head. His legs began to fold but he did not immediately go down. As he began to turn back toward me, I instinctively hit him again square between the eyes with the billy. Blood exploded in all directions with the second blow and Rafe crumbled to the floor of the porch with a moan.
I reached out for Julie’s hand and yelled, “Let’s go! Let’s get moving!”
We jumped into the Corvette with the rain now being driven by a strong wind. It was coming down with such force each raindrop would sting the skin as it made contact. With Julie in the car, I quickly climbed into the driver’s side and fired up the engine. As I depressed the clutch to put the transmission in gear, I flipped on the headlight switch. There was an extremely loud clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning jolted a light stanchion in the parking exploding the circuitry and igniting a fire in the light ballasts. What a hell of a morning to be making a getaway I thought to myself as the rain pelted the windshield.
It was then that I saw him standing straight away in my headlight beams. He was standing there in front of the car in his black suit with the black fedora cocked to one side on his head. The wind did not whip his clothing. The rain did not appear to touch him as he stood staring straight at Julie and me in the car.
“Get out of the car and come to me, Julie,” The old man said. “Get out now so I may teach this man-whore a lesson that he shall never forget,” he added more firmly. Julie was shaking her head back and forth indicating that she would not get out of the car.
“Drive!” She yelled to me, “Drive!”
Instinctively I gunned the engine and released the clutch running straight toward the old man standing there in our way in the parking lot. Suddenly, he was gone as we careened into the highway from the parking lot and began to speed away. The gas station then exploded on our right in brilliant orange and yellow flames, seconds later the motel went up in a similar fashion followed quickly by the disintegration of “Mr. L’s”. I was driving like a madman dodging all the falling debris mixed with the driving rain. Lightning continued to strike the ground all around us. Chaos is the best word I can think of to describe what was going on.
Suddenly, the lights just went out. By that I mean, the Corvette just exploded all around us and we were flying through the air like the debris of the explosions we had just witnessed. At that point everything went to black and I remember nothing else.
I awoke in a hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana some two years to the day later. I had been in a coma so they say for all that time. I awoke to find that I was partially paralyzed from the waist down. The doctors told me that I might regain my ability to walk in time but no one could really tell for sure. It would be in God’s hands.
It seems a deputy sheriff found me lying on the side of the road and called for emergency services. After I regained consciousness, I told them my story and all about my experiences there in the town of Perdition. They laughed. You see, according to them, there is no “Perdition” in Louisiana and there never has been anything at that intersection of two roads except the corners of some farm fields. Not only did they laugh, they told me that my memory would probably come back in time and then I could tell them what really happened to me.
On my last day in the hospital, I awoke from my sleep with a start. There standing over my bed was the old man all dressed in his familiar black suit and shirt with the cocked fedora riding stylishly on his head.
“Hello again, Mr. Hanson. I hope you feel somewhat rested now after that little sleep you experienced. You are quite lucky to be alive at all you know. Thanks to my daughter, you are and will remain so if you follow my instructions. I have made a promise to my daughter that I will harm you no further in exchange for her promise to me that she will not attempt to leave me again. I have also promised her that in due time you will walk again but only when you have made up your mind that pursuing my daughter is a futile venture.”
“For now, Mr. Hanson, you need to leave this hospital, go back home and get on with your life and forget that you ever saw me or my daughter. Should you elect not to pursue that path, then you shall incur the wrath of Lucifer Mephistopheles Dickens. Or possibly you know me better as the 'Prince of Darkness', the archangel of the Lord."
"Regardless of how you know me Mr. Hanson, be assured that I am real and I do exist. Had I not made a promise to my lovely daughter, I would fold your soul up under my arm and walk out of here with it leaving a lifeless corpse to be discovered in natural death here on the bed. Be assured that I can do that and will do that just as I blew you out of that speeding car on that stormy morning. Now I bid you good day, Mr. Hanson.” With that he turned and walked from the room.
That was two years ago. Since then, I have been living on a farm with my sister and brother-in-law in rural Alabama. I sit out here on the porch in my wheel chair most every morning and gaze over the fields. I think about Perdition. I think about Julie. And I think about my life and where it might be headed. If all I have experienced is indeed true, then I may be the only man who has danced with the devil’s daughter and lived to tell about it. One day, I hope to be able to dance once again.
© Copyright WBrown2010. All Rights Reserved.
© 2010 Wayne Brown