Sunday, March 4, 2012

Road to Edgar (3/3)

I don’t know what possessed me, but as I pulled out of the travel station, I made a right turn toward the town to follow him instead of a left to get back on the highway.  He did not see me follow him. Where was this guy going? He finally stopped at a bait and tackle shop. I pulled over and watched him. I waited for what seemed like an hour. Then, he came out with a buddy. They talked a bit and then the guy with the baseball cap, Dougie, got back in his pickup truck and went down the road. I continued to follow him.

I followed him through the main street of Edgar, worried that he’d spot me. With a population of 800, it wasn’t much of a main street. I recall seeing a realtor's office, a small grocery store, a Dairy Queen, and an auto repair shop. I wondered how people around here make a living. Later I would check the internet to discover that a sawmill in the area employed half the town. The fancy travel center off the highway exit was the only thriving business in Edgar.

I remained at such a distance from him that I lost him for a few tense minutes. I thought he was on to me and would appear in my rearview mirror at anytime. I finally spotted his truck up ahead, about a mile north of Edgar. He turned right onto a county road and eventually pulled into a lot with nothing but a large trailer and shed surrounded by woods.  I drove past and continued for a few miles before I turned around and found a nicely concealed spot to park, located kitty-corner to the residence. I watched him closely from behind a cluster of pine trees as he pulled some tools out of his truck, put them in a metal shed, and went inside the trailer.

Again, I need to clarify what I was doing. By this time the feeling of humiliation that this guy put me through had subsided. I was not stalking this person out of anger; rather, I was just curious, curious in a scientific way. I was an anthropologist observing strange behavior and trying to make sense of it. What kind of person was this who would walk up to someone and treat him so savagely?  Did a close call on the road merit such a brutal response?

Dougie appeared to live alone, or at least I saw no one else around. Here's when things took a strange twist.  I was about to leave, figuring that I could be arrested for trespassing.  Besides, it was cold.  Then something strange caught my eye.

After the asshole went inside his trailer I thought I saw movement behind the tool shed. Yes! Something was moving. I wasn’t imagining it. I couldn't really see this figure at first, but I could see its breath in the cold so I knew it was a living being and not merely something blowing in the wind. Was it a dog? A raccoon? I couldn’t be sure, for I was probably forty yards away, perched behind a tree on the other side of the county road.

My imagination got the better of me. The figure next to the shed appeared to be human. What was this person doing there? Is Dougie a sadistic psychopath who’s chained a hapless victim to torture him at whim? What I was witnessing seemed to confirm my worst fears about this guy: He’s not a thug; he’s a sexual sadist who tortures victims chained in his dungeon.  What was I do?  I needed to phone the police.

Things aren’t always what they seem at first glance. Just as I was about to call 911, I realized that the hunted was in fact the hunter. A man emerged from behind the shed wielding a metal pipe. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to make of this. I just watched in curiosity. This man knocked on the door and then hid behind it.

My God! I couldn’t take it any longer!  I felt helpless.  To my horror, when Dougie Boy opened the door of his trailer, the assailant swung around and lodged the pipe squarely into his stunned face, leaving a large gash on his forehead and blood squirting in all directions. There was a brief struggle, but the lethal blow had been delivered.  The assailant continued to shower him with repeated blows—47 to be exact.

My cellphone alarm woke me up at 6:35 am. It was a backup. True to form, the woman at the desk didn’t heed my request for a wake-up call.  Class starts at eight.  I had plenty of time to get there. I got little sleep last night and didn’t get very far in the grading, what with all the knocking and the voice. I’m now embarrassed that I had written about this experience. It appears that I was indeed imagining these things.  I've had too much stress lately.


Two sheriff’s deputies greeted me as I was walking through the lobby to the exit. One of them, a gangly fifty-year-old fellow with a deceptively polite demeanor, approached me.

“Mr. N_____?”

“I’m Dr. N_____. Yes. Can I help you, officers?”

“My apologies. I’m Deputy Reynolds and this is Deputy Cornell. We’re with the Maracon County Sheriff’s Department. We’d like to ask you some questions.”

“Oh? Ask away. I have nothing to hide.”

“Nothing to hide?” Deputy Reynolds noted my response.

After a couple of awkward seconds, I repeated impatiently, “Ask away!”

“You were…” he started.

“What’s this regarding?” I asked, albeit a bit belatedly.

“You were in the town of Edgar yesterday, correct?”

“Yes, yes I was.”

“Well, Dr. N_____, it’s about an individual who you saw in the Travel Center, a Douglas Butak.”

Whom,” I responded laconically.

“Excuse me?”

It’s about an individual WHOM you saw,” I explained.

“Yes, whom. Anyway, he’s been missing since yesterday and his parents are worried about him. So we’re conducting interviews with everyone whom…who he came across. Just routine.”

“It was who,” I corrected his effort. “What does this person like look?”

“A tall fellow in his late thirties.”  The deputy was looking at my bandaged finger with interest as he spoke

“Yes, yes. I remember him.”

“How did you hurt your finger?”


“Your finger.”

“Ah yes.  A paper cut, from grading papers all night.  I suppose it’s a fitting injury for a sedentary academic such as myself.”  I chuckled.

Police do not allow anyone to file a missing persons report on an adult who’s been missing less than twenty-four hours.  I suspect they were withholding information.  What did they know that they weren’t telling me?

“So would you be willing to come down to the station with us so we can ask you questions,” said the second deputy, an African American with a military bearing but equally polite, or well trained in politeness and what they call conflict management. I’m not ignorant about these things.

“Yes, I would mind. I have a class in,” I glanced at my watch, “twenty-five minutes.”

“Look, I want to help. I have about ten minutes to answer any question you have, and if you like, I could come to your office after my class this afternoon.

As I was speaking, it occurred to me that I knew exactly what happened to Douglas What’s-His-Name, but I feared the deputies would misconstrue such a disclosure of what I had witnessed yesterday afternoon, namely a horrifying murder. I wondered if I should bring to their attention the strange noises I heard, or imagined hearing, in Room 116 last night, but there couldn’t possibly be a connection and, again, it would only confuse issues. I didn’t want to get in the way of their investigation, so I didn’t tell them about the man I saw in the woods.  Strange to say, but a part of me wondered if I had been involved somehow.

Weeks have gone by since I recorded for you my eerie experiences that night at the hotel.  Those stupid sheriffs consider me a “person of interest.”  What do they know?  Nothing.  I’m just an academic trying to make a living after having been blackballed by Dupin faculty.  Still, I enjoy what I do, and teaching provides me an opportunity to read and write.

“Professor N?” A student raised her hand.  My class had been discussing the theme of vengeance and hate in Poe’s classic tale, “The Cask of Amontillado.”


“So you think murder is sometimes justified?”

“No, I’m not saying that.  What I’m saying is that we don’t know exactly what the ‘thousand injuries of Fortunato’ that the narrator had to endure were.  Clearly something set him off to throw Fortunato’s charred corpse in a makeshift hole.”

“You mean entomb alive in a wall?”


“In the story the narrator chains his victim and then…”

“Oh yes, of course.”

Another student raised his hand.  “What’s so funny, professor?”  He evidently wondered why I was smiling ear to ear.

“Funny?  Oh nothing.”