Special Note: This is Part II of a four-part series. If you haven’t read Part I, please scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link “A Junkyard Horror Story” to start the tale from the beginning.
“Another day, another dollar,” I mutter to myself as I pick up the empty Mc Donald’s cup and toss it into the trash bag. Every day, I walk the yard picking up garbage. Why can’t these guys throw away their own trash?
I feel uneasy after yesterday’s news about Dave’s murder. Ernesto checked the yard this morning and reassured me that it’s safe, but I don’t really believe him. All I see are hundreds of places a killer can hide. The chicken skin on my arms whispers that I am right.
There are so many freakin’ cars! They are stacked in pairs, one on top of the other, forming corridors throughout the yard. The cars are constantly being shuffled around, so a clear passageway in the morning can become a dead end by afternoon. It’s an acre of ever-changing twists and turns.
A person can get lost in this labyrinth. I can’t count how many times I’ve searched for Ernesto out here, shouting his name into the wind, only to eventually give up and wait for him to resurface on his own.
As I approach the office, I hear Paulo’s voice bellowing out. Bill and John, our workers, are standing next to Paulo, hanging on his every word. Bill, dressed in a blue plaid shirt and jeans, is a foot taller than the rest of the guys in the room. The kid is only twenty and never talks much. John is shorter, wider, in his mid-fifties, and always smells of cigarettes. Ernesto is center stage behind the counter. Lorenzo is in his usual spot holding up the wall. I see Old Man Conroy in the mix. Conroy is in his late sixties and has been a mechanic for over forty years.
“Benjie did it again! That bastard got Bob. Stabbed him to death in his own shop! The cops still haven’t caught him,” Paulo shakes his head and stretches out his arms to show his disbelief. He continues on, “Benjie better hope that the cops catch him before I do. If I get my hands on him there’ll be nothing left for the police!”
Although none of us think Benjie has anything to fear from Paulo, we share his anger. I can’t believe it. Bob was one of our regulars. He called me every day asking for parts.
I feel shaky and lightheaded as I understand what this means. The police search didn’t scare Benjie away. He’s still here.
“You do realize that Bob’s place is on the corner, that’s only half a block away,” John points out as he looks at Ernesto.
I feel my heart in my throat. I didn’t know that Bob’s place was so close to ours. That’s too close. An uneasy silence takes over the room as we think about what that implies.
“I knew Benjie about ten years back before he went nuts,” Old Man Conroy breaks the silence. “We worked together at Jose’s Auto Repair shop, before Benjie bought his own place.” He pauses waiting to see if anyone wants to say anything, but we are silent as children listening to a ghost story. Old Man Conroy clears his throat and continues on.
“Quiet guy, real quiet. Kept to himself. But he got the work done and didn’t bother anyone. He had a real liking for the Snap-on tools. You know, the real expensive ones?” Conroy laughs as if remembering an image from the past, “Benjie’d be wearing torn up jeans and shoes with holes, but he had himself a nice set of tools.”
“Yeah, those are nice. I don’t keep any at the Junkyard. Tools are lost and stolen too easy here,” Ernesto jumps in.
Conroy nods in agreement and starts up again, “I remember when Big Fred tried to steal himself one of those beauties. Benjie caught him. Didn’t say a word. Just walked over and broke the big guy’s nose. Blood was sprouting everywhere. Maybe even broke a couple of teeth, I think. All it took was one punch,” Conroy shakes his head obviously still impressed even after all these years.
“I thought Fred would sue, but something about the crazy look in Benjie’s eyes made him think otherwise. A week later, Benjie quit the shop and bought himself his own place. I didn’t see him much after that, but shortly after the killing started,” Conroy pauses to look around the room catching our eyes. As if to say to us, it’s starting again, watch out.
“Who did he kill?” Paulo’s loud voice snaps us out of the story.
Conroy smirks and looks at Paulo, “Well, you’d think he’d kill the loud fat ones. You know the ones always interrupting and running their mouths off. But no, the scary thing about Benjie is that he’d kill anyone. Customers would stop by his shop and then never be heard of again. A fellow mechanic might get an unexpected visit from Benjie and be found dead the next day. Cops found one grandma stuffed in the trunk of her car, dead for three days and stinking, but the car was in good repair and washed clean.”
I watch the men in the room. I can see the guys shifting the weight of their feet, fidgeting, like most men do when their scared but afraid to show it.
“None of us felt safe until they caught him. No one suspected that quiet old Benjie was doing the killing. Never heard of a motive. It’s like he just woke up one day and decided to start killing,” Old Man Conroy finishes the story and starts to walk towards the door.
“Well, I’ll be heading out now. You won’t be seeing me for a few weeks. I have some vacation time saved up, and I’m thinking now is as good of a time as any to use it. Best of luck to you guys. Watch out for one another,” and with that Old Man Conroy walks out the door leaving us to chew on his words.
His words haunt me for most of the day. The guys are all in the yard. Bill and John are outside chatting and possibly working. Ernesto is showing off his 1950 Ford Deluxe to Paulo and Lorenzo.
The office is too quiet. There is nothing to distract me from Conroy’s story. I feel ready to jump out of my skin. I imagine Benjie sneaking up behind me ready to strike.
Even Miss Kitty is missing today. She usually hangs out in the office with me, but I haven’t seen her since breakfast. That’s it. I decide to go looking for her. I’ll drag her back in here with me to keep me company.
I try to feel for her location and only one thought comes to mind. The black van. It’s silly, but I decide to try my luck.
Spooky as ever, I find her sitting in on the hood of the van looking at me. She doesn’t hop down and run towards me like she normally would. No. She waits for me.
I’m scared. Even though I know that Officer Frank checked the yard yesterday and Ernesto looked around this morning, I have a bad feeling about the van. It feels wrong. But looking at Miss Kitty sitting on the hood, it’s almost as if she wants me to come to her.
I swallow my fear and decide to look inside the van myself. I’m not a wuss. Maybe seeing that there is no boogeyman hiding in there will settle my nerves.
My hands tremble as I grip the sliding door handle. I take a deep breath and ready myself to run if I see anyone. I slide the door open. Thank God, there is no one there. I breathe easier. I look around me instinctively to make sure there is no killer behind me like in the movies. But no, it’s just me and Miss Kitty.
As I’m ready to close the van door, a red and black object catches my eye. It’s a screw driver lying on the backseat. I recognize the signature handle. The red handle with two black stripes on the sides, a Snap-on screwdriver. My right-hand shakes as I pick it up. Miss Kitty meows and rubs up against my boots reminding me where I’m at.
“Let’s go, Miss Kitty,” I tell her, hoping she will understand. I walk quickly to where the guys are. I watch to make sure Miss Kitty is following me. My eyes dart everywhere praying I don’t see Benjie. I feel the panic racing through my body as I rush over to Ernesto gripping the screwdriver in my right-hand.
“Ernesto!” I call out as soon as he is in earshot. The guys look up at me, all of them; Ernesto, Bill, John, Lorenzo, and Paulo but then go back to talking amongst each other. Paulo being the loudest, of course.
“Ernesto,” I start to tell him as I reach his side, but he puts out a hand as if to tell me to wait so Paulo can finish talking.
Impatient, I decide I’m not waiting. “Look at what I found in the van!” I show him the screwdriver. He doesn’t react.
“It’s a Snap-on screwdriver!” I tell him. Still, no reaction.
“I found it in the black van. Miss Kitty has been acting strange lately. She’s been hanging out by the black van instead of with me, just staring at it. As if something was inside it. I took a look for myself and found this, a Snap-on screwdriver!” I hear my voice sounding high-pitched, not the calm tone I want to use.
The men look unimpressed, and Paulo starts talking again, “You should have Rodrigo paint it for you. He gives the lowest price.” I feel ready to scream at someone. How can they be so stupid!
I hold the screwdriver up high and speak more slowly so they can connect the dots, “Remember, Old Man Conroy said that Benjie liked Snap-on tools, right?”
“You think that belongs to Benjie?” Ernesto laughs and the others join in. “Anyone could have left that here. I think you’re just getting worked up because of Conroy’s story. Everyone tells lies around here. I bet he didn’t even know him!” The guys all nod and look at each other in agreement.
“I don’t think he was lying. I’ve been around a lot of liars, and have seen many here at the Junkyard,” I stare down the men around me. “I think he was telling us the truth. I have a bad feeling about this Ernesto, a really bad feeling about this!”
“Okay, I’ll check the yard again so you’ll feel better,” he kisses my cheek and Paulo starts talking again.
I walk away. I turn one last time to look at them huddled around the 1950 Ford. I think it will be a long time before he checks the yard, if ever. Yeah, I’ve worked the Junkyard long enough, I know when someone’s telling a lie.
“I’m heading home!” I call out to him. He might have tried to argue with me, but I didn’t stick around to listen. Why should I? They don’t listen to me.
I gather my stuff. Miss Kitty jumps up on the counter for one last snuggle.
“Don’t worry, Miss Kitty. I’ll be back. No one messes with my Junkyard,” I whisper into her ear and listen to her purr.
Stay tuned! Part III coming soon!
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