February 19th, 1955
Damon’s wife had taken the car, so I had been forced to dig out my old refurbished army bike with the sidecar. It was painfully cold to drive, the bitterly cold air stinging my face as we rode up Route 78 towards the Rodeo. It was being held just across the state line, which wasn’t too far away. Just far enough to make me regret never having bought a car.
It was getting good and dark by the time we pulled up to the abandoned airfield the event was being staged at. As we bumped down the pitted road that lead to the place, we could see all the headlights lighting up the night sky like a small city from a mile away. You could even hear the scream of those big hot rod engines over the rumble of my bike.
We had to park in a nearby field, but soon enough we had paid our money and were inside the Rodeo. It was a riot of color and sound, almost as different from the gray city I called home as night is from day. There were endless numbers of drag races down the length of the long runways of the air field, seemingly starting every couple of minutes. There were carnival type booths, with games for lovers and kids, and even a stage had been erected in the doorway of one of the old hangars.
It was overwhelming at first, but after a few minutes it felt strangely like home. It was frenetic, alive, pulsing with a beat unlike anything I had felt before. It was like rock-n-roll made flesh.
“Joe?!” came a cry from behind me.
I turned, and there was Christina.
She ran over to me, catching me in a huge hug. “I can’t believe you came all this way to see us play!”
I had no idea what she was talking about, but was not about to reveal that. “Eh, you know how it is,” I muttered into the top of her head.
She released me. “I had thought you were mad at me. And I don’t know, maybe you were. When I didn’t see you, and you didn’t call…”
I’d like to come off a little sincere, but I couldn’t find the words right then. A kiss explains it all somehow.
She pulls back, a deep smile on her face. “Well hey, we have to finish setting up. But thanks again for coming. It means a lot.”
Did I feel a little guilty? I did. But not enough to let guilt ruin a good thing.
Beside me Damon laughed. “Some guys have all the luck.”
I gave a little smirk, and carried off down the row of games. There was the scent of something good smelling in the air, and my stomach grumbled. “Let’s track down some food, and then settle down for some real detective work, eh?”
Damon was ignoring me though, a troubled look on his face. I followed his gaze. There, hung on the side of a large tent was a banner. On it was a flame painted hot rod, so realistic it looked like it might drive right over us at any moment. Across the top it read:
“For the First Time in Four Years, the Return of the V8 Death Car!”
Damon had a grim look on his face. “Back for the first time in four years? Like, since the last time the Strangler struck?”
I saw the faces of all those dead girls. I felt as though I had their blood on my hands, like the memoirs of final stands. If I had just been a little better, they might be alive today.
Looking at the banner, I knew a chance for redemption was at hand.