Luther Bastian Devereux kicked the tourist one more time. Devereux still held the switchblade with which he had cut the man’s Achilles tendons in one hand as the toe of his tan cowboy boot collided with two of the man’s ribs.
The tourist crawled in pain on the hot desert beneath him, spinning around in circles unable to stand because of his injuries or even see due to the twice rapped pillowcase Devereux had placed over his head.
“Spinning in circles cause you can’t see, Kimosabe?”, asked Devereux.
Devereux bent down and grabbed the man by the shoulders.
“Hold still and I’ll get this off you”, he said removing the pillowcase forcefully.
The man fell on his side, “Please”, he muttered through parched lips, “Please”.
“Please isn’t a sentence”, Devereux mocked, “Please what?”
“Please let me go. You said you’d let me go if I told you what hotel I was staying at”, he cried, the man’s face still covered with cuts from a full day of Devereux’s tortures.
Devereux kicked the man in the side again, and this time cracking ribs.
“Why are we recapping the day’s events, Kimosabe?”, said Devereux, “You told me you are staying at the Motel 7 on route 454, in room 28, where your girlfriend waits for me. Or should I say waits for you? See I used your cellphone to text her back and forth. She’s supposed to wait for you in somethin’ sexy she’s got saved for a special occasion, and you’re supposed to come in, with the lights off, and ravage her. Don’t worry, bud. It’s all gonna go down as planned. I’m gonna stand in for you though. And after I’m gonna drive your girl out here, to meet up with you. Now as far as letting you go, I have already done that. You, Kimosabe, are not held down, tied up, or handcuffed. You are a free man”.
“YOU SWORE YOU WOULDN’T KILL ME!”, the man cried.
“I’m not”, said Devereux, “I have laid my final hand on you already, and will visit you with no more of my weapons or implements. I shall molest you no further, Kimosabe. You are a free bird…. Oh… I mean… if your wounds kill you… If the hear or the desert kill you… then that’s between you and them… Not that it matters, but, we’re about a good three miles in from the highway… Good luck walkin’ it , or crawlin’… personally, I’ll be driving outta here. I gotta go meet your girl, uh, Daisy was it? Yeah, Daisy, so, I’m gonna need to motor Kimosabe”.
Devereux made for the car. In a sense, what he had said was true. Though his direct actions had ended 17 lives, Luther Bastian Devereux had never felt the life drain out of a man or woman as he strangled them to death, nor had he slit a throat, or shot someone with a gun. His weapon of choice, aside from the knick-knacks used in the preliminary preparation of his prey, was the desert. He could honestly say that everyone of his victims was alive the last time he saw them.
Devereux removed the black sport coat he wore over his black tank top , that went with his black jeans and was contrasted only by his oddly tan cowboy boots. He threw the coat in the back seat, and with his raised his sinewy arm to wipe his red mussed hair from his cool steel blue eyes. He regarded himself in the mirror, and gritted his perfectly aligned but badly yellowed teeth. He threw the a/c on full blast in the car and swigged down half the 2 liter of bottled water the man had had with him when he had accepted a ride from Devereux. Devereux thought pouring the water out into the sand in front of the man would be a nice finishing touch, so he got back out of the car and was even beginning to form his first quip to the man, when he could hardly believe what he saw. The man was crawling on his knees, leaning his upper body into the largest prairie wolf anyone had ever seen. The thing was closer in size to a pony than a normal coyote. The creature was taking careful, calculated steps, so the weakened man would not lose its balance on its back, and was leading the man in the correct direction of the highway.
“Get”, said Devereux throwing the bottle at the prairie wolf. The bottle landed near the thing and it paid no regard. The creature kept pulling his weakened passenger. Devereux knew that even the strongest man was no match for an animal, and so he went to the glovebox where he kept the revolver which was usually used only for intimidation.
He fired a shot at the creature. It didn’t even react. Devereux got within a few feet of it and fired once more, twice more, point blank into the thing’s skull. It stared at him for a moment, and if it was possible for a canine to convey disgust with its face, that’s what would have been seen in the creature’s gaze.
Finally, if he couldn’t stop the train, he’d ruin the cargo. He aimed straight for the head of the man the coyote was carrying, and fired. In an instant the man’s brains were splattered onto the desert floor and the fur on the giant prairie wolf’s back. The animal let the man go, and circled around to him. It opened its mouth, and slobbered a huge ball of spittle onto the dead man, then, it began to push sand onto him with its front paw.
Now it regarded Devereux. It charged at him and Devereux fired at it again. As before, there was no effect. The animal lept at Devereux and pinned him to the ground. It put its muzzle to his throat, and to his surprise, only sniffed him. Now he watched in horror as it adopted a posture he had only ever before seen in a dog that was about to hump something, and, as the midday sun blocked out Devereux’s vision, the thing was turned into a silhouette.
Then it did something which was not what he was expecting. It peed on him. Soaked him with its urine as if he’d been out in a downpour. And as soon as it seemed convinced Devereux was wet enough, it leapt of him and charged off to the horizon.
Devereux sat there for a moment, bewildered. Then reality set in and he knew he’d best be making his way out of here. This was now most definitely a crime scene.
Devereux kicked the car door before he got in. He liked being in total control of these situations, and the animal had caused him to lose all control.
“This is my goddamned desert, you stupid fuckin’ coyote!”, he said with rage.
He was so angry, that he failed to notice the rather salient fact that he was bone dry, and didn’t stink to high heavens. He was dry even too quickly for the desert heat and aridness to account for.
His mind went back to Daisy, in room 28 who would be waiting for him at the Motel 7 on route 454. He checked that he still had the man’s hotel room key, and he did. He made his way back to the highway via the landmarks that he knew, and in twenty miles time he had connected to 454. His stomach growled at him and reminded him even serial killers needed to eat, and along with their twisted bloodlusts, were still subject to all the other hungers which the rest of humanity was.
The only option between here and the hotel would be Tessie’s. It was a combination diner, rest stop, and gas station, and it was the only place for 50 miles in either direction. Its only neighbors closer than that were a series of abandoned strip mines and an abandoned Creationism theme park which was abandoned after its proprietor was arrested for fraud before he could even get it off the ground.
Devereux had time. He needed a few hours before daisy would be ready for him. He had sent her a few more texts on the drive, which consisted of concocted reasons he couldn’t speak to her and could only text, as well as a few well placed reminders to ensure the plan he had in mind to ensnare his next victim went off without a hitch.
Devereux didn’t want any more surprises today.
He entered Tessie’s and ignored the “Please wait for hostess to seat you “ sign and plopped down in a booth whose seats were lined with red cracked vinyl.
In a few moments an old man, who was most definitely not Tessie, came up to him.
“Do you need to see a menu?’, the old man asked.
“Western Omelet’, said Devereux.
“We don’t have a Western Omelet”, said the old man.
“New plan… New plan”, said Devereux, “Creamed chipped beef and grits then. Side a’ melted butter and black coffee”.
Devereux watched the old man retreat back to the lunch counter and was not even aware another figure had strided up to his table.
“Wow, grits! I knew I smelled something in here that was for me”, said a nasal voice, ‘How desert-y. Or are grits southern?”.
Devereux looked up and saw a skinny man, skinny save for a still somehow having a remarkably dangling beer gut, who stood about 6’-2”. The man had thick lensed Buddy Holly glasses, a big nose and buck teeth. He wore badly worn white converse sneakers, and black t-shirt with a logo of a man climbing a mountain in the desert which was emblazoned with the words “The Desert Rocks!’, and crisp blue jeans that looked like they were from the 1980’s but were probably still so fresh because the man had only worn jeans a few times in his life since them. He had graying hair that had receded back over the dome of his head, and was pressed by sweat and grease into a half comb over. The look was completed by a fanny pack, which despite its name the man wore at his crotch, with the outline of a coyote and rainbow cursive letters which spelled the word “Coyote!”, with a superfluous exclamation point at the end. The man couldn’t have had tourist written all over him better if it was tattooed on his forehead. He had obviously picked up the fanny pack and T-shirt somewhere within the last day.
Devereux was already repelling the man with a death scowl, and one of his inner impulses was already preparing some rather nasty words, when it was restrained on its trip to his larynx by a rather cooler impulse.
‘Wait’, it said inside his head, ‘wait, wait wait. This man is the most perfect pawn in our game yet. We can play with him, and still get to daisy on time! But we gotta put on the friendly face to real him in. Friendly face will work on him like a dream”
“Grits are about everywhere except back North”, Devereux replied to the man’s earlier comment now beaming a smile with his yellow teeth, “Why don’t you sit down, and I’ll show you the proper way to eat grits”.
The man took a seat across from Devereux.
“Gosh, that sure is nice of you, Mister…”, said tourist.
“Devereux”, said the killer extending his hand, “Luther Bastian Devereux. And you are?”
“The Trickster”, said the man, “You’re Luther and I’m the Trickster. Maybe we should go team up against Batman and Superman”. He excitedly accented his horrible pun by raising his fists in the air.
“Heh”, Devereux tried to smile at the man’s joke, “I’m pretty sure Batman fights the Joker, not the Trickster, and Superman’s rival is Lex Luthor, not Luther. Just call me Devereux”.
“You can call me Bob”, said the man.
“What are you doing out here, Bob?”, asked Devereux.
“Looking for a ride out of here at the moment, Mr. Devereux”, said Bob.
“Well”, said Devereux, “I’ll tell you what, Bob. You seem like you can make interesting conversation. And everybody knows interesting conversation makes a drive go faster. Where you headed?”.
“Gosh, you mean you could give me a ride. Well, Mr. Devereux, I gotta make it to Maitland County Hospital by the end of the night, down the other end of 454”.
“I’m headed down that way myself? You gotta friend there? Family? Nothing serious I hope”, said Devereux.
“Oh, I got a buddy there, but, he’s gonna be just fine, Mr. Devereux. If you gave me a lift that’d be swell! Tell you what, I’ll pay for the grits then”, Bob beamed.
“I knew I liked you Bob, from the moment I set eyes on you”.
Devereux and Bob ate their grits, and Devereux made several comments about the proper Texan way to eat them versus the Louisiana way, and complimented Bob on what a great Texan style grits eater he was for a first timer.
“You sure you never ate grits Texas style before?”, asked Devereux jokingly, “You seem like a Texas style champ. Are you fibbing to me?”.
“Oh, I‘d never lie to you, Mr. Devereux”, said Bob.
He even laughed at Bob’s butchered pop culture jokes, one of which involved referring to Britney Spears as Cathy Speer, and another entailing the Fonz mistakenly being called Funzee.
When they got in the car Devereux was relieved that Bob asked to fiddle with the radio, and sang along, horribly he might add, to things he found which he liked. This spared Devereux from having to make further small talk with Bob, until they could get further away from Tessie’s and Devereux could find an excuse to pull onto one of the side roads that weaved in and out of the old strip mines. As Bob managed to actually rape music, despite it not being a tangible thing, Devereux looked ahead spying for the perfect entry point to the old service roads.
Devereux started pumping the gas with irregular surges to make the car lurch.
“Damn it!”, Devereux feigned.
Bob turned the radio down.
“Oh no”, said Bob, “Is the car okay?”.
“I’m sure it’s nothing”, said Devereux, “We better pull off the main road though while I check her out. Trucks can come up here so fast, and being that there is no shoulder, it could be real trouble for us if we got hit from behind”.
“Gosh”, said Bob.
They were now headed down the old service road, brush and desert on the driver’s side of them and the terraced ridges of the old strip mine on their left. Devereux let the car run naturally for a moment.
“Well”, said Devereux pretending to be surprised, “She seems to be running fine now. Let me take her up to speed for a sec’ so we can make sure we past any trouble before we get back on the highway”.
This was all of course a rouse to get them farther away from the main highway.
When he felt they had reached sufficient distance in, Devereux stopped the car.
“Is the car okay, Mr. Devereux?”, asked Bob.
“She’s just fine. You shouldn’t be worried about her”, said Devereux.
Devereux leaned over the glovebox, his head near Bob’s lap.
“Pardon me”, said Devereux, “I’m not trying to get friendly with you. Just need something outta here”.
He stealthily removed the gun from the glovebox and when he was seated back on his side of the car, aimed it at Bob, who seemed bewildered.
“Get outta the car!”, Devereux growled.
“Gosh”, said Bob, “It’s hot out there. I don’t know if I want too”.
Devereux looked at him with surprise. Did this man think this was a game? Was he impaired in some way.
“Get outta the car, Bob, or I’m gonna blow your fucking brains out”, said Devereux.
“Like I said”, repeated Bob still quite calm, “It’s hot out there. In here it’s nice and air conditioned”.
Devereux knew he couldn’t shoot the man, or the game would end prematurely and there would be a mess in his car that the cleaning supplies he kept in the trunk wouldn’t be able to take care of. He decided to switch weapons to the switchblade he had cut his earlier victim’s heels with.
A good flesh wound from his trusty knife should send a message even into Bob’s thick skull.
Devereux was a wiry but powerful man. With full force he pushed the blade down into the meat of Bob’s thigh. In an instant Devereux pulled back his own bloodied wrist and hand. Bob was unharmed. His jeans weren’t even ripped. The blade had pushed its way out of Devereux’s hand and cut him badly. Bob may as well have been made of granite.
“Gosh, Mr. Devereux”, said Bob. Maybe we both need some air. Maybe we should step out of the car”.
Bob got out of the car and strode to the edge of the strip mine.
“Wow”, said Bob, “Quite a view!”, shouting back to the still seated Devereux who was tending to his wound.
Devereux regained his strength and flew out of the driver side and ran around the car toward Bob. With his unwounded hand he aimed a solid fist for the back of Bob’s head, and broke several bones as it was again like hitting granite.
He fell backward with pain. Devereux clenched his eyes tightly shut, and when he opened them it seemed Bob had moved so that he was not standing facing the precipce into the old terraced mine, but had his back to the flat desert side of the road and was looking at Devereux.
“Jeez, Mr. Devereux, you look hurt!”, said Bob.
“You son of a bitch!”, said Devereux.
Devereux charged at the man full force, intending to tackle Bob to the ground and beat the life from him. But instead he went through Bob…
…and tumbling down the angled slope of the open strip mine which should have been on the other side of the road.
When Devereux came too, he felt more pain than he thought was possible. He tried to move his neck, and heard a crunchy, cracking sound like the breaking of a boiled lobster’s outer shell before a seafood lover devours it.
Luther Bastian Devereux beheld his own body, or what was left of it. His black sport coat and t-shirt had been bleached gray by several days in the sun, and, where his t-shirt ripped, the skin over his rib cage was like thin white leather. In several places his ribcage plainly showed through. He could not see most of his legs, as his badly mangled body was twisted into a shape that did not permit it. He did spy on a lower ledge an upright standing black cowboy boot with a human tibia and fibula poking out of it which were cracked and bleach white. The pain was matched only by the thirst. Devereux was drier and thirstier than he thought possible.
Bob was standing there.
“Wow, Mr. Devereux”, said Bob, “You look terrible”.
Devereux tried to speak, but only a wheezing whistle came from somewhere below his Adam’s apple.
“Oh, sorry”, said Bob, “Try to talk now. You’ll be able to. At least, for a few minutes”.
“You bastard!”, said Devereux, “What did you do to me?”.
“Me?”, said Bob innocently, “I didn’t do anything to you Mr. Devereux. You did this all to yourself. Well, and the desert. It did some of this to you too. And the evaporation, and the vultures and maggots. Like you always told your victims. The only thing I did is keep you from dying, in spite of it all. Like I kept that fellow from dying the day we met. Daisy’s boyfriend? He was the one I went to visit in the hospital. Oh, he’s fine now. He was released weeks ago. It’s been weeks since your fall Mr. Devereux”.
“No, no, no”, said Devereux, “He’s dead. I blew his brains out. And I’m alive. He’s dead and I’m alive”,
“Oh, gosh, no. I let you see his brains get blown out. It was, well, I guess you’d call it a mirage. But I carried him outta that desert. And I got him to the hospital. But you are right that you’re alive Mr. Devereux. Unnaturally alive, but you are and will always be alive”, said Bob.
“WHHYYYY?”, cried Devereux.
“Well, sheesh, I mean, that one’s as plain as the nose on your face… or the nose that was on your face. You should be glad we don’t have a mirror. You’re an evil son of a bitch who tortured people for pleasure, Mr. Devereux. And despite the bad rap I get, I love people. Hell, I stole fire from the Gods and gave it to people, and so Zeus chained me to a rock and I had my liver pecked out by a bird every day. Only since I’m immortal it would grow right back. That’s how I know how much pain you’re in. I’ve been through it myself. Of course, Hercules freed me eventually”, chuckled Bob, “And sadly for you, Mr. Devereux, no one is ever going to free you from this”.
“W-H-H-AT ARE YOU?”, cried Devereux.
“I told you what I am when we sat down for grits”, smiled Bob.
“You fucking said you’re name was Bob”, said a hysterical Devereux.
“I said you could call me Bob. I never said my name was Bob”, said Bob, “I told you I’d never lie to you. And I never did. My name was Bob in that diner to you, it was Prometheus in ancient Greece, Loki in Norse country, Anansi in Africa, Raven way up north, and around here…. You grew up in Texas, so I know you know the Native Americans called me Coyote. Heck, my fanny pack even had a picture of a Coyote and my the word written on it. And if that wasn’t plain enough for you, I introduced myself to you plain as day. I told you you were Luther, which you are. And I told you I am the Trickster. I never lied to you Mr. Devereux, I showed you lots of illusions, but I never lied to you”.
“Just kill me”, said Devereux.
“Oh, Heavens no”, said Bob, “Never, ever, ever, ever, will I kill you. The desert will try, as will the vultures and will of course time…. Time will want you dead. And it may torture you, but… Time owes me a favor… so of all the things it might do to you…. I’ll make sure you never die”.
Bob undid whatever he did that let Devereux speak. And now the Trickster god adopted the shape Devereux first saw him in and that was the form he was known as in these lands. The great Coyote once again urinated on the serial killer, but this moisture brought the living shriveled cadaver no release from the intense dryness.
“Oh, and by the way”, said Bob’s voice through the Coyote form which still lifted its leg to mark Devereux’s remains, “You were wrong, Mr. Devereux my Kimosbe. This is my desert’.