This is a story we used to tell around the campfire when I was a Boy Scout. It’s been around so long many versions have been published. This is mine.
“Hello, Heidi. My, don’t you look hot tonight!”
Jason had been looking forward to this Saturday night for a long time. Yes, Heidi was hot, the hottest girl in high school. For this, he had washed the car, cleaned out the inside, put on the new shirt he had gotten for his birthday, and liberally splashed on the most expensive cologne he could afford.
And speaking of afford, he had been saving for this date for almost a month. How many lawns had he mowed to get this bankroll? He tried not to think about it. No, he was concentrating on “The Plan,” carefully crafted all week. Dinner at a nice sit-down restaurant with waitress service (no fast food for Heidi!), then that new movie everyone was talking about. Finally, the crowning touch: a nice, slow drive to that secluded spot by the river, the gravel bypass that was hidden from the road.
How far would he get? Granted, it was a first date. But Jason had been laying the groundwork for tonight for a long time. “Wow, Heidi, that really is a cute dress!” “Hey Heidi, what did you do to your hair? It looks great!” So when Heidi dropped her latest boyfriend (as she was inclined to do periodically. Why? Who knows?) Jason was ready to move. He knew her routine. He would always pass her between English and Biology. Asking her out was simply a matter of timing. Then there were the rumors: Heidi was popular for good reason. Jason couldn’t help but be optimistic.
“Good evening, Mrs. Johnson. Is Heidi ready?”
“Oh, you must be Jason. I believe so, but let me check.”
“Thank you. Please tell her to take her time.” Take as long as you want, Heidi. Just so we make it to the river sometime tonight.
Heidi did seem impressed with the restaurant. “Oh, they have pork chops. I love those!” Unfortunately, it was one of the most expensive items on the menu, but that was okay. Tonight, it was anything for Heidi. At least a slim girl like this wouldn’t want dessert… “Split a brownie? Of course,” Jason replied with a forced smile.
And she said she was really looking forward to seeing this film. She should. It was the latest chick flick, a story of lost love and missed opportunities, but with a happy ending. Not normally Jason’s cup of tea; not enough action and skin. He soothed himself with hogging the popcorn and dreaming of his own happy ending.
As the credits rolled and the lights came up, Jason reflexively handed Heidi a tissue (he’d tried to think of everything), looked into her teary eyes, and asked “Wasn’t that nice?”
“Oh, yes!” Heidi enthused as she dabbed at her eyes, then blew her nose. Handing the now-soggy tissue back to him as they walked out, she began her critique. “I was really impressed with the patience Brad had. I didn’t think guys would wait that long.” (They were back to the car.)
Jason shrugged. “It depends on the girl.” (He helped her into her seat, then walked around and slid into the driver’s seat.) “I sure would wait for the right girl.” (He started the car, turned on the lights, and they pulled away.)
“But there were other guys in the picture. How did he know she would come back to him?”
“Heidi, sometimes you just have to take that chance.” (He turned on the radio to some easy listening as he drove out of town.)
“Yes, I guess so. But they were so young! I’m not sure what I want yet. I just can’t see myself in that position.”
“True, it is tough to imagine when you’re in high school. But they had graduated, so they were a bit older.” (The headlights found the hidden gravel road and he turned onto it.)
“That’s right, but still, at that ….” At this point she noticed the change in road composition and looked around. “Where are we going?”
Jason smiled at her and hoped he wasn’t grinning. “Oh, this is a spot where we can talk and no one will bother us.” He tried to make isolation sound like a virtue.
Apparently it did. “Oh.” She flashed him a nice, mellow smile as he turned the engine and lights off, tweaked the radio up, and subtly leaned toward her.
She started talking again, but he was no longer listening. As the soft music filled the car and the still night enveloped them, he leaned toward her a bit more, his right hand extended on the seat back, fingertips gently caressing her right shoulder as his left hand was on his thigh, an inch away from her left knee. He gave her a look of concerned interest as he leaned toward her a bit more, his left hand moving to caress the fabric of her dress, the fingers of his right hand enveloping her shoulder….
Suddenly the music stopped. Two heads jerked toward the radio as an urgent voice cut through the air.
“We interrupt this program for an important news bulletin. Knuckles McGee has escaped from Medville State Prison.”
Heidi’s eyes widened and her hand moved to her open mouth. “Oh, how horrible!” She shot a worried glace toward Jason. “Why, that’s not far from here.”
“Knuckles is a violent psychopath,” the urgent voice continued. “He had been sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the murder of the Bobbsey twins.”
Heidi’s eyes got even wider. “I remember that!”
“All people in Henderson County should be on alert. Knuckles should be considered armed and very dangerous. He can be easily identified by the artificial metal hook he has for a left hand. If you see him, call the police immediately. We now resume our regular programming.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry,” Jason said airily. “Henderson County is pretty big and we’re in a far corner of it….” He stopped and studied Heidi’s face. She was on the verge of tears.
“Jason, I’m worried. I really think we should go home,” she pleaded.
“Go home? Heidi, do you realize how unlikely it is that he would be around here? Please, let’s not panic,” Jason exclaimed as his voice rose to the edge of panic.
“No, no, what if he is? He was serving life for a vicious double murder. I don’t want to be on the same planet with him!”
“Same…” Jason tried not to laugh, but he did anyway. “Heidi, let’s be reasonable. The odds of him being around here a very small. Besides…” He tried to chuckle lightly, “remember that you’re with me.”
“What was that?” Heidi’s eyes were like saucers. “Did you hear that?”
“No, I didn’t hear any…”
“Well, I did!” Tears were streaming down her face and she was practically shouting. “Jason Smith, I demand you take me home. Now!”
Jason didn’t reply. He simply gritted his teeth and turned the key. As the engine roared to life, he cursed under his breath, and his right foot jammed on the gas. The tires spun briefly in the gravel, then the car lurched forward through the inky blackness, accelerating rapidly down the lane and back onto the roadway.
They rode home in silence. How many lawns had he mowed to get the money for this evening? That’s all he could think about. And what had it gotten him? Some happy ending, eh? He never wanted to see a pork chop for the rest of his life.
He had regained his composure by the time they arrived at her house. It had been the fastest return on record, but now he was back under control.
Not that Heidi seemed to appreciate it. As soon as the car came to a stop, she was opening the door.
“Thank you, Jason,” she began in a proper, formal tone, turning back toward him as she closed the door. Then she froze, a look of pure horror crossing her face.
“You’re wel…” Then he studied her expression. “What is it, Heidi?”
Her mouth opened, but no words came out. She stood as if a statue, eyes wide, mouth agape.
“Heidi, what’s wrong?”
She simply pointed at the door handle. “Uh, uh” was all she could say.
Curious, Jason got out from behind the wheel and walked around the hood to see for himself. When he looked at the door handle, he froze, too.
Dangling from the handle of the passenger-side door was a simple metal hook, with a flat plate six inches back from the curve, and a metal rod extending another three inches beyond. On the rod were twisted, crimson pieces of human flesh.