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New York Dave and the Serial Killers(conversation at the 1860’s Hardshell Bar & Cafe, Soulard)

I’d heard a few of these strange stories before, some involving ghosts on the open road and one doozy about selling his 1955 Jaguar to post bail, but this new one was practically an outrage. It went like this:

New York Dave was hitchhiking from Las Lunas, New Mexico, to some other town when this lady picked him up. The lady called herself Jessie, and she brought him to her father’s house in Truth or Consequence.

Dave describes the big wooden sign outside the house: Park Ranger, David Ray, it read. That was the father. They let Dave stay with them for two days, until he found a cozy little place on a beach near a manmade lake somewhere in the desert. When he finally read in the paper that these two had been accomplices in a stretch of serial murders, Dave contacted the FBI and they sent over a limo.

“Did these people seem normal to you?”

“Well, you know,” Dave says philosophically, “wherever you go, people are different.”

Too true. You could establish a collection of travel books based on that very sentiment. But not everybody has a room behind a locked door where the various torture devices are kept; not everybody feeds the eviscerated insides of their victims to a pack of wild dogs in the desert. Not everybody has a book written about their exploits called Slow Death -- a book Dave can’t finish reading because “it’s hard to read that the guy gutted his victims in the bathtub when I’d taken showers in there before.”

Okay. But the day before, Dave had gotten a ride from some other guy, who kept driving down abandoned desert roads and raving nonsense about someone he called King.

“I was telling Jessie about this crazy motherfucker who picked me up between Moriarty and Santa Fe, “ Dave says. “I thought he was gonna kill me. She laughed about it. Little did I know.”