New Night Girl Needed at the Truck Stop.
I saw Charles with the waitress girl from the truck stop which was at the edge of our town at the traveling carnival and James was with her friend. We lived in a small town near Augusta, Georgia. Navy personnel were involved in some sort of top secret research project nearby. The girl from the truck stop worked the night shift in the café while her Navy husband did some kind on security gig out at the research project.
It was over a hundred miles to Charleston so it was unusual for a Navy wife to be working at our truck stop. I was even more surprised that she and her girlfriend were out with Charles and James at the carnival because she was on record saying her husband was a jealous man and trained to kill. The little traveling carnival had a few fried food stands, some rides and a hoochee-coochee show. I was a senior in high school and Charles was a young working married man while James was in college. It would be hard for Charles and James to sport these girls, young women actually, in their mid twenties, without word getting back to Charles’ wife. James didn’t care much what people thought about him, but Charles was usually more cautious with his womanizing. Both young men were well known for getting after some strange women when they had a chance.
I sometimes would sit in the truck stop watching for customers while one of the guys would take the sailor’s wife into the back where there were three sleeping rooms for the truck drivers. I was pretty sure when they took her to the back there was not any sleeping going on. Charles had a thing going on with her, but he wasn’t the only one. Obviously she was a somewhat loose and unstable girl; she had tried to slash her wrists at the truck stop one night. She did a poor job of slashing and there was no danger of her bleeding to death. She was just trying for attention someone said.
I went ahead and took in the carnival, which only took about five minutes, skipping the hoochee-coochee show, then went up to the truck stop for a cup of coffee and found out that the Navy wife had asked off that night and they had some substitute help there. The temp said that Charles and James and the two girls had stopped in earlier and then left in James’ car going towards the next town which was where the sailor and his wife lived in a rented single wide trailer lined up in a trailer park. It was about seventeen miles over there. Just being curious I took note of the situation. I had heard that the sailor made his wife work nights as he did so she would have less opportunity to run around on him which was what it seemed that she was doing that night.
Home to bed is where I went maybe by midnight but got up early, about daylight, planning to go fishing for a little while before going to work on my week end job. I drove up towards the end of the county where the pond was which happened to be in the same direction as the town where the sailor and his wife lived.
Just before I turned off to go to the pond, I saw a man running up the road with his shirt unbuttoned. I did a double take and saw it was Charles. I went to pick him up because he was running like there was no tomorrow. When I got him in the car he was as exhausted as I had ever seen anybody and practically colorless, white as Casper the Ghost. He had good reason to be since he had just run about fourteen miles without stopping, according to him, and he being a heavy smoker didn’t have the lungs for that and was out of shape physically as well. Only fear could empower him to make that run.
As Charles got his breath he told me where his had left his car the night before and asked me to take him there, filling me in as I drove.
When he and James took the girls back to the trailer, where apparently they had been picked up by some prearrangement, they split up and James took his girl to the one bedroom which was on one end of the trailer and Charles stayed with the sailor’s wife on the other end where there was what we would call a living room with a sofa. A single wide house trailer is only eight feet wide with walls one inch thick usually with a hall down or nearly down one side, and an outside door into the living room and an outside door into the hall down near the bedroom.
Charles and the sailor’s wife were doing what they do, taking their clothes off, getting intimate, and not expecting any interruptions any time soon. Charles told me that James and the other girl were up to the same thing down the hall. He would have known because people in single wide trailers can pretty much tell a lot about what others in there are doing.
Charles said something woke him in the night, maybe a car door; he quickly put on his pants and shoes and peeked out the window. The sailor was coming up to the door most unexpectedly carrying some long object. James’ car was parked there in his place right outside the door. Charles said, ”I grabbed my shirt and slipped down the hall and left as the sailor opened the living room door.” Apparently Charles opened and slipped out the door on the bedroom end at the same time the sailor came in the other end. Charles slipped on his shirt as he began to run hearing several blasts from what turned out to be a shotgun in the trailer.
Charles said,”I began to run and run, and run.” It was a mile and half on the four-lane road to the smaller road that turned towards our town. The smaller road ran alongside the government facility and Charles probably ran near where that sailor was supposed to be guarding the top secret project, whatever it was.
I believe to this day that Charles ran than that mile and a half and put some distance between the trailer and himself fast enough so that he didn’t meet up with any police or ambulances coming to that trailer. They would have come and gone back in the opposite direction from which Charles was fleeing on foot anyway. If someone told me Charles could run fourteen miles without stopping, I would have said they better have an ambulance follow him because he would fall out in a mile or two, but when Charles said he ran every step without stopping I believed him. He was a scared man and full of adrenalin. I learned later in the military that adrenalin would take you much further than you thought you could go.
“So what happened,” I asked Charles. He said “Man! I don’t know but that sailor shot that place up. Take me to my car and keep quiet about this.” So now about fifty years later I am thinking about this and deem it worthy of documenting, but of course I have changed the names.
Instead of going fishing, after I dropped Charles off and watched him drive towards his house, I rode over to where the trailer was to see if I could see any carnage. It would likely have been a couple hours or more then since the action occurred, probably somewhat longer if Charles had walked some of the way. You need to understand that this was a rural road through a remote area, and there was not much traffic in the early morning hours, and I would guess that Charles might lay low for minute if a vehicle came, that is until he recognized my car.
This is what I was able to gather from talking to some acquaintances in that other town that morning and it was verified later as James’ people began to fill in the blanks. Turns out that the sailor suspected his wife was up to no good that night and decided to take leave from his duty a little early. Had he been quieter he might have caught Charles on that couch with his wife. Best anybody could tell, he burst through the door and shot his naked wife a time or two with that shotgun. Naturally being disturbed by such loud noises, James and the other girl rousted up and into the hall to be met by a hail of gun fire which dropped both of them in the hall way.
The trailers were parked in a row about ten feet from each other side by side. The people in the next trailer would have been maybe ten or twelve feet from where the sailor shot his wife. Naturally the neighbors bailed out of the nearby trailers and began to investigate, meanwhile someone called the police. There was no 911 in those days but the city police from that town were close enough to hear the gunshots as they sat out by their station house enjoying the mild evening.
The sailor’s wife was dead at the scene; he was sitting on the steps smoking a cigarette when the law arrived. James and the other girl were badly wounded but alive lying in the hallway moaning. An ambulance took them to the closest hospital where they eventually recovered. James was somewhat of a local hero, having survived. The other girl went to who knows where. The Navy took the sailor to wherever they wanted him to be. It never came out that Charles was over there because James covered for him. The truck stop had to get a new night girl; then things pretty much went back to normal. I see Charles occasionally and he has never mentioned that evening to me since, neither did James have anything to say about it, but he joined the Army pretty quick. I guess when the small town law, the Navy and a top secret government project are involved, nobody asks many questions. The investigation was cursory. Everybody thought that the dead girl was pretty much a wacko anyway.
Bill Prince May 21, 2011 © All Rights Reserved