Killer on the Road


From the YouTube video of the Doors’ performance of “Riders on the Storm.”

“I hate everybody’s guts,” he said as the Priest watched him being strapped in, “and everybody hates mine.”

“May God have mercy on your soul, Billy.”

“Even God hates me Father, so you can go screw yourself.”

Father James Buchanan looked over at the Warden who shook his head. Then he turned to the executioner whose name the Priest preferred not to know. They and the two prison guards filed out leaving William Edward “Billy” Cook Jr. alone to his fate.

Rafael Moody, the executioner, closed the hatch to San Quentin State Prison’s gas chamber.  Then he tightened the door handle making sure the seal was airtight. Father Buchanan took his place back in the gallery with the others. God had given him a mission inside these prison walls but certainly this was the most heart wrenching part of it.

Buchanan looked over at Warden Anthony Barnett who was staring impassively through the gas chamber’s windows at a still defiant Cook.

Two years before on 30 December 1950, Cook began his “career” as a spree killer which would result in the shooting deaths of six people including three children, ages three, five, and seven. However, he had been sentenced to death in California last year for the murder of a traveling salesman from Seattle named Robert Dewey.

The Priest looked back and saw the executioner manipulate the gas chamber’s mechanism, dropping the pellets of potassium cyanide into a container of sulfuric acid underneath the condemned man’s chair. Cook was sweating, probably because he knew he was about to die, but since he didn’t seem to care about that, it could have been because the temperature inside the chamber was at least 80 degrees F.

Moody spoke into a microphone so Cook could hear him on the speakers mounted inside the chamber. “Just take a few deep breaths. It’ll go quicker that way.”

The gas was visible to everyone including Cook who opened his mouth and sucked in the lethal fumes. When Father Buchanan was about to witness his first execution, he was told that ideally, the condemned would quietly become unconscious and then expire. More often than not though, the men went into convulsions, drooled or vomited, and released their waste as they died.

Minutes passed. Finally Cook stopped moving. Moody activated the fans to purge the chamber with normal air and then neutralized any remnant cyanide with anhydrous ammonia. The Father didn’t have to remain but he did. Billy Cook had never lived a decent or dignified life, but he would make sure in death, his body would be handled that way.

He stood as the chamber’s door was opened by the executioner so other men could release the corpse from the chair and remove the body. Cook’s clothes could still contain pockets of cyanide gas, so they had to be careful. Buchanan could only imagine Cook’s demented glee should his departing spirit learn he had claimed another victim from beyond the veil of death.

“May God have mercy on your soul,” the Priest muttered under his breath, convinced that the God of justice had forever consigned the soul of William Cook Jr. to Hell.

“Wake up, Billy.”

The woman’s voice roused him but when he opened his eyes, Billy Cook found he was already standing. “Where the hell am I? Why ain’t I dead?”

“You are, my dear boy. You are quite dead, I assure you.”

It had been pitch black a moment before, so dark in fact that Billy thought he’d gone blind. But now, things were going from black to a dull grey, like a thick fog. Maybe it was fog because he felt really cold. He looked down and saw he was naked. He looked up again and saw her.

Not much scared Billy but he shivered when he looked at her. She was naked like he was, but she had a big snake wrapped around her. It wasn’t squeezing or hurting her. She wore it like clothes and was rubbing its head like it was a pet. She was the best looking woman he’d ever seen dressed or undressed. Her hair was red like fire and eyes clear blue like a mountain stream. She had the most amazing curves but as beautiful and as sexy as she was, the woman still gave him the creeps. Maybe it was the snake.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I am Lilith, though I doubt that name means anything to you.”

“Uh…where are we? Why are we naked? What do you want?”

“I want you, Billy. More specifically, I have a job for you.”

“Screw you, bitch. If I ain’t dead and I ain’t in the joint, I’m leaving. Kiss my ass good-bye, doll.”

Then she opened her mouth and hissed like the snake twisting around her. Her eyes turned dead black and twin fangs gleamed by a light he couldn’t see. The cold became freezing and his legs stopped working. Billy collapsed and tried to puke but he had nothing in him.

“Impudent wretch. You’ll do exactly as you are told. Just because you are dead doesn’t mean you are beyond suffering, Billy.”

By now, he had pulled himself into a fetal ball and spoke between chattering teeth. “What…ever you say…Ma’am.”

He started to feel warmer or maybe he just didn’t mind the cold so much anymore.

gas chamber

“Lost ending” from the 1944 film “Double Indemnity.”

“Now get up, Billy.” Before, her voice sounded pleasant, even lyrical, but now she was issuing harsh commands. The killer quickly got to his feet again.

“So, Ma’am. What do you want?”

Billy figured he’d play for time until he figured out what was going on. The last thing he remembered was strapped down in the gas chamber with the cyanide all around him. The bastard talking to him told him to take deep breaths. For a second he thought about holding his breath as long as possible just to give him one last “screw you,” but then he figured death was what he’d been waiting for all along, so he inhaled as much as he could.

And then he was here, wherever here was.

“I want you to kill people, Billy. Remember, you hate everyone and everyone hates you.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I bet even you hate me.”

“It doesn’t matter, Billy. What matters is you get to stay out of Hell as long as you do what you’re told. That should be easy for you since you like killing.”

“But you said I was dead. How can I kill anyone?”

“I’ll pick out a likely host for you, Billy. Someone unsavory but without the drive or desire to kill. Then you enter him and do anything you want.”

“Like possession. Like them demons Jesus was always casting out.” Billy’s Mom died when he was five and his no good Dad abandoned him and his brothers and sisters in an abandoned mine. He never lasted in foster care so he grew up in reformatory where they made the boys listen to a Preacher man every Sunday. That was about as close to Jesus as he ever got.

“Yes and do not use that name, Billy.”

He felt a tickle at the back of his throat and then he started choking. If he was dead then he couldn’t die, but that meant she could choke him forever if she wanted, like a lifetime of needing air and never getting any.

Then it was over.

“Now, Billy…” She walked towards him, her hips moving seductively, a slight smile on her lips. He remembered the fangs and didn’t take to getting near her big snake, but then he felt his thing get big and hard.

“Whatcha gonna do?”

She grasped him and pressed her body close to his. She was freezing cold like he was. Her arms wrapped around him. She was too strong. He couldn’t break away. The snake was wrapped around them both. Lilith kissed him, driving her tongue into his mouth, down his throat, like her tongue was the snake. He was choking again, terrified, like he was back in the gas chamber.

Then he was someone else and he was holding a gun. Billy wasn’t Billy anymore, at least not exactly. He was possessing some young punk who was knocking over a gas station. Only one attendant there at night and the thief had just hit him over the head with his gun, knocking him out.

Billy emptied the cash register and stuffed the cash in his pockets. He saw the keys to the attendant’s car on the counter and grabbed them. He was about to leave when he heard the guy on the floor moan. Name tag on the shirt said “Tucker.”

The killer pointed the revolver at the name tag and pulled the trigger over and over until the gun was empty and red covered the whole front of Tucker’s shirt.

That was only the first victim. Spree killer Sylvester Hogan would murder eleven and injure two others before he was gunned down by Sheriff’s deputies in a remote county in east Texas. Hogan was dead and gone, but that just meant Billy had to find someone else to use. Then he could kill again and again, use up that host, and then keep on going, maybe forever.

Forever making his own personal river of blood.

Father James Buchanan woke up soaked in sweat. He’d had the dream again and was ashamed at his erection. Lilith was terrifying but she was also exceedingly beautiful and seductive.

He’d given in to that sort of temptation only once in his life and that’s when he was sixteen, before he’d made his decision to enter the Priesthood. She was a sweet and kind girl named Marie. His mother had just died and she came over to his house to console him while his Dad was out. He was ashamed afterward and they never talked about it again.

He still had those feelings occasionally and chastised himself with a hair shirt and self-flogging. This had been the third night this week the dream had tortured him, but this time it was different. He knew he had to leave San Quentin. His mission here was through. Father Buchanan had been given a different calling by God. There was an impure spirit roaming the world, possessing young men and making them kill.

The Priest had to find him and stop him. Once and for all, Billy Cook had to be sent to Hell.

I wrote this for the Song Lyric Sunday Theme for 1/14/18 hosted by Helen Vahdati. The idea it to take a word or phrase, look up song lyrics containing the phrase, and post those lyrics on her blog.

I prefer to write stories, so obviously this is a little different.

The phrase for this past Sunday is natural disasters.

I looked up different types of natural disasters and after a lyrics search, came up with “storm”.

That lead me to Riders on the Storm performed by the American band “The Doors” and released in 1971. These lyrics were the basis for my story:

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Jim Morrison, during an interview discussing the song, mentioned spree killer Billy Cook in passing. Click that link to find out more, but I included most of his history in my story.

Cook was executed on 12 December 1952 as I described above, and although I did look up some of the details regarding the use of San Quentin’s gas chamber, I had to make some stuff up, too. Except for Cook and the name of one of his victims, everyone else mentioned in the story is fictitious.

When he was arrested, Cook said “I hate everybody’s guts and everybody hates mine,” but any other dialog in my story is made up.

The demon Lilith has a rich history in the mythology of a number of cultures and is believed to be an actual being, at least by some. She made a convenient figure to guide Billy’s dark soul to do evil beyond death.

I didn’t want to leave the story hanging with a seemingly immortal spirit roaming the Earth killing again and again, so I brought Father Buchanan back at the end with the mission of finding Billy and perhaps exorcising him.

Here’s the YouTube video of the Doors performing Riders on the Storm.

Here are the lyrics:

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Girl ya gotta love your man
Girl ya gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah


Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm

3 thoughts on “Killer on the Road

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