Richard Laymon’s commercial debut. Published in the November 1970 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, this flash-fiction style story concerns an unnamed young man hitchhiking along a desert road. An unnamed young woman picks him up. To discuss more, I must spoil the story.
The prose has Laymon’s voice. Short sentences. Dialog and action. And abrupt violence.
This will be a good way to remember her, the young man thought as he crashed the shovel down on her head.
At first read, the story plays like an EC Comics tale. A woman picks up a young man, he kills her and steals her car only to get a flat tire. A passing police officer offers assistance. The young man plays it cool, but when he opens the truck to retrieve the spare tire, he—and the police officer—discover the dead woman’s husband’s body.
But the story invites deeper reflection. Why pick up the young man? Did she intend to frame him for the killing? Had the murder thrilled her and wanted another taste? Was she punishing herself? And what of the young man? What led him to that desert road? Laymon offers no answers, inviting us to fill in the larger story.