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A Strange World - Part 6

See the headline: Mad killer strikes again. One more down, one more to go! How many more will die?




Joseph Harding’s ‘65 Mustang is parked in front of a typical "No-Tell Motel,” with its typical neon sign, flickering drearily. Joe’s room is tucked away in a quiet corner of the dilapidated building.


JOE: is sprawled out on the bed, flat on his back, asleep. Jill, kneeling down next to him, scrutinizes him with her dark, penetrating eyes.

JILL: Wake up, Joe. Get up.

Shaking him gently, he opens his eyes, groggily.

JOE: What? What’s going on?

Slowly, Joe rises, and, as he walks to the television, Jill moves with him like a shadow.

JOE: (still half asleep) What channel?

He turns the TV on.

JILL: Don’t worry about it, Joe. You’re already on the right channel.

Joe then plops down into a ragged chair in front of the set, and Jill sits on the armrest next him. The picture tube comes to life, and a handsome NEWSCASTER materializes on the screen.

NEWSCASTER: The body of another hitch-hiking victim was discovered early this morning just outside the city limits. Police have confirmed that twenty-three year old Darrell Rickman is the fifth such victim in this disturbing series of senseless slayings. Officials say: Ballistics took no time at all in determining that the thirty-eight caliber slug, which killed the young man, was in fact fired from the same weapon used in the previous four shootings. Here today with us in the studio is the man assigned to, once and for all, solve this baffling case: Detective Harold Callahan.

CALLAHAN nods grimly, uncomfortable under the bright studio lights. Joe perks up, rising to his feet. Jill smiles at his reaction.

CALLAHAN (awkwardly): Greetings everyone. It deeply saddens me to have to make a personal appearance like this, but something has to be done about these killings and it must be done quickly. The lives of innocent people are hanging in the balance. As of this moment, there is still no explanation for this senseless, yet apparently systematic, slaughter ... other than the possible exception of the mere publicity in doing so.

JOE (grinning maniacally): Yes!

JILL: God, he’s clever. Don’t you think, Joe?

The detective reaches for a glass of water, raising it to his lips and sipping awkwardly.

JOE (grunting): He’s just an old fool! He’s got nothing on me!

JILL (squealing with delight): Ooooo, that’s the spirit, Joe!

CALLAHAN (clearing his throat again): What we do know is this: in every case, the victims were obviously hitch-hiking, as indicated by the type of baggage found by each of the bodies. That’s why I’m here to warn everyone to avoid hitch-hiking beyond city limits until further notice. Please, do not take this warning lightly; do not disregard it. Your cooperation can only save lives.

JILL (suddenly annoyed): Joe, he’s trying to ruin this thing for you. What are you going to do?

Story Continues Below
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Story Continues From Above

But Joe, still gazing intensely at Callahan’s image, doesn’t answer her.

CALLAHAN: I promise you all that it will only be a matter of time until this person, or persons, are brought to justice for these crimes. I solemnly pledge that I will do everything in my power to bring it to pass. Thank you and good night.

Joe turns off the TV.

JOE (growling): So that old ham thinks he knows me. Who does he think he is, Sergeant Friday? I’ll show them who runs this show! Not some decrepit, over-the-hill cop trying to rescue his career at my expense!

JILL: What are you going to do?

JOE: I don’t know yet. Give me some time to think, will you?

He starts to pace about the room.

JOE (CONT’D): But no one’s going to catch me, that’s for sure. I’ll show them. I’ll defy them all, and I’ll go down in history doing it. I’m already in all the news. Eat your heart out Jack the Ripper.

JILL: Think, Joe. You’ve got to do something, something that will really get them shaking in their boots!

Joe stops his pacing and turns to Jill.

JILL (CONT’D): What if you came up with a gimmick to make you bigger than life? You know, something like Zorro leaving his “Z” whenever he came around. Say you came up with your own signature, like with each new victim, they also found a note that said: “One more down, one more to go.” Now that might really freak them out. You could even call this detective guy at the TV station. What’s his name?

JOE: Detective Callahan.

JILL: Yeah, call this detective guy at the TV studio and challenge him direct. Word might get out. You know the media would really jump on something like that! You’d have the whole city in a panic overnight. Joe, you’d be an instant celebrity!

Jill waves her outstretched hand, trying to mimic a headline.

JILL (CONT’D): Mad killer strikes again. One more down, one more to go! How many more will die?

Instantly, Joe steps to the telephone.

JILL (CONT’D): What are you doing?

JOE: What do you think I’m doing? I’m calling the studio!

Jill smiles slyly.


Detective Callahan walks thoughtfully through the studio. A POLICE OFFICER approaches him, holding a sheet of paper. He hands it to the detective.

OFFICER: This is for you, sir.

CALLAHAN: Now what?

OFFICER: More news on the hitch-hiking killer. Apparently they’ve discovered a match on some of the tire tracks at each of the murder sites.

CALLAHAN: You don’t say.

The detective studies the print-out with much more interest as he starts to read it out loud.

CALLAHAN (CONT’D): To date, only one set of tire tracks have been found at every murder site: most likely a Ford, standard issue, sixty-five to sixty-eight. Hmmm ... you don’t say.


VOICE (O.S.): Detective Harold Callahan, You’re wanted on line one of the blue house phone.

As if by reflex, the detective starts immediately off to the phone, still looking down at the print-out sheet as he goes, leaving the officer just standing there.

CALLAHAN (half to himself, half to the officer): If this is correct, we’ve got our first real lead on this son of a bitch...

To the blue phone, Callahan picks it up.

CALLAHAN (CONT’D) (cheerfully): Callahan here. Can I help you?

But the voice that replies on the other end is not so friendly. In fact, it is downright malicious.

JOE: Oh, you can help me, all right. In fact, you more than anybody can help me right now.

The expression on Callahan’s face reverts to its original stony grimness.

CALLAHAN: Who the hell is this?

JOE: Who the hell do you think it is? It’s me, that’s who — the one you’re looking for.

There is a long silence.

CALLAHAN: How do I know it’s really you?

JOE: Funny you should ask me that. You could say it’s even why I called. I thought it was about time I introduced myself — first, to you, then when it’s time, to the whole world.

CALLAHAN: Forgive me if I seem unimpressed with your melodramatics, but would you just answer the question. How do I know you’re really the one I’m looking for?

JOE: Don’t underestimate me, old man!

Callahan flinches.

JOE (CONT’D): You’ll find out soon enough. You’ll know I was telling you the truth. From now on, in every victim’s pocket you’ll find a note, and so you’ll know it was me, I’m going to tell you ahead of time what it’ll say. It’s going to say: “One more down, one more to go.” That’s all: “One more down, one more to go.” Let’s say it’ll be my unique signature from now on. Got it, Mister Detective? What do you think about that?

CALLAHAN (suddenly enraged): I’m going to get you, you maniac! That’s what I think!

JOE: You’ll get no one!

CALLAHAN: That’s where you’re wrong, punk! I’ve got a computer profile on you that practically tells me what kind of car you drive. It’s only a matter of time before I know what kind of toilet paper you use! Sooner or later, I’m going to get you! One way or another, it’s going to happen. You’ll get what’s coming to you! And you know it. You’re nothing special.

JOE: Shut up! You’ll see! You’ll all see!

CALLAHAN (then calmer, suddenly incredulous): Why are you doing this? What are you trying to accomplish?

JOE: Never mind. It’s none of your business.

CALLAHAN: Think again, slimeball. You’ve made it my business ... Still, I just can’t for the life of me figure something out about you.

JOE: Oh, really? And what’s that?

CALLAHAN: Why exactly are you killing only guys who beat their wives? It really escapes me as to how you can possibly be pulling this one off. I mean, really, how in the hell do you do it?

But Joe is suddenly a man without an answer, looking as if he were just drained of all his emotions. The detective waits for his reply, but there is only the CLICK of the phone being hung up in his ear, then DIAL TONE. For several moments, Callahan stands there, holding the phone, and finally, he slams it down onto its cradle.

CALLAHAN (CONT’D): Damn it! Here’s to the day when you and I finally meet, face to face—you freakin' maniac!


Joe slowly turns to Jill, who watches with great anticipation. But his expression no longer reflects the vigor of a moment ago, and Jill, too, gets serious upon seeing the change in him.

JILL (suspiciously): What’s wrong, dear?

He stares at her for several moments, then Jill gets perturbed with his scrutinizing gaze.

JILL (CONT’D): Joe, what is going on?

JOE (slowly): Well ... let’s just say that the spark of inspiration you passed on to me was not the only thing that fell from out of the blue.

JILL: What are you talking about?

JOE (first to Jill): What I’m saying is: It has suddenly become very apparent that maybe I’m doing somebody else’s dirty work for them.

JILL: What are you talking about?

JOE: But I’m not going to stop now.

JILL: I wish you would tell me what you’re carrying on about.

JOE: I guess revenge is something I could never have seen coming! (grinning snidely): Then again, you could never have anticipated the bumbling Detective Callahan tipping me off to your little scheme, either.

JILL (her voice suddenly full of venom): Well, then go ahead and spit it out, Joe. Tell me you’ve finally figured out we’re both in on this thing together ... in more ways than one. You didn’t really think I was just in it for your benefit, did you? Just whatever you do, don’t tell me you’re suddenly feeling sorry for what you’ve done, just because you found out these guys actually had it coming. They all got exactly what they deserved!

Obviously pleased with himself over his discovery and apparently oblivious to Jill for the moment, Joe sits back down in front of the TV and leans back, amazed. Still, he does not talk to her so much as he talks about her.

JOE: God ... you were always so intense, Jill. So tough to figure out.

JILL (just as suddenly, she sweetens her tone): What are you going to do now, Joe? You’re going to keep going, aren’t you?

JOE: Of course I am. History will not deny me this. And neither will you.

She moves to Joe, turning on all her charm.

JILL: Yes, Joe. Of course, you’ll keep going...

Kneeling at his feet, she smiles warmly up at him.

JILL (CONT’D): I mean, what do you care about who you took out, right? Really, I didn’t think you’d mind, Joe. Honest. Just don’t stop now. You know we’ve come too far for that.

She lays her head gently down on his knee.

JILL (CONT’D): Yes, Joe. You’ll keep going, and I’ll keep helping you. Just like before. Just you and me. And no more tricks, Joe. I promise.

JOE (still more or less to himself): Always so intense, so difficult to keep in line.

Taking hold of his hand, she squeezes it.

JILL: Never mind that now, Joe. This is all that matters now.

JOE (mournfully): I envied your strength. That’s why I hurt you. I loved you ... I hated you.

JILL: Don’t talk about that now, Joe. Keep your mind clear. Think only about what you’re going to do tomorrow.

JOE: When it comes right down to it ... I think I loved killing you most of all.

JILL (coolly): Yes, Joe, I know. But now you will never hurt me like that again. Not ever.

She gently strokes his hand.

So ends this Act of A STRANGE WORLD. To read more, please click on one of the following links:

Read the Next Act of Driven to see how a little man with a grandiose plan reached for a twisted dream of immortality, but instead...

Read the Previous Act of Driven to learn how some people are driven to greatness, some to degradation, and some are just driven.

Read Snow Madness to meet a man searching for that most sought after prize, power, until one day power dispensed a lesson of its own.

Read The Mirror Man to see that a guardian angel still has a lot to learn about his real subject matter: the human race.

Read A Strange World from the Beginning, to see how we seek the truth, like strangers in a strange land, then when we least expect it, truth finds us.