Eddie reached across the cab of the eighteen wheeler and grabbed the thermos of coffee. It had been several hours since he had stopped for a break and the monotony of the road was becoming mesmerizing. He knew he was pushing it and although he was still within his 14 hours of on duty time, he was well over the 11 hours of driving time authorized. And, he was beginning to feel it. He had been a long haul driver for many years and knew all the signs of fatigue, be it the stiffness in his body or the realization that he had traveled many miles and didn’t remember any of them. He opened the thermos and poured what was left of the now lukewarm liquid. It was about 8:00 PM and he knew he had to stop for the night.
This was a new route for Eddie. He had traveled across the states many times before, but this was the first time he found himself dropping down into New Mexico and Arizona. He usually was much further north, hauling through Wyoming and the Dakotas. He had departed Fort Smith AR early this morning and was now somewhere outside of Las Cruces NM heading west of Rt70. The area was very remote and sparsely populated. Unfortunately, his rig did not have a sleeper cab, so just pulling over for the night was not an option. He kept pressing on, scouring the horizon for any sign of a motel. It was almost nine before he saw the sign with the flickering neon “Sandy’s Place” sign emblazoned on the darkening night sky. He began braking and, as he pulled closer, he saw that it appeared to be only a restaurant and bar, but it was also the only game in town, so he decided to stop anyway.
As he pulled into the dusty parking lot, he noted a sign near the front door that said “cabins available”. Eddie was struck by his good fortune. The place wasn’t much, but it appeared to be everything he needed. Stepping down from the cab, he noted that, with the exception of a vintage pickup truck parked behind the main building, his was the only vehicle in the lot.
As he approached the building, he could hear the faint sound of a jukebox with Patsy Kline singing “I Fall To Pieces”. Swinging open the front door, he was met by the dim light of the tavern and the smell of cooking grease, tobacco, and stale beer. The place appeared to be empty. He called “hello, anyone here”? After a couple of minutes, the doors to the kitchen swung open and a rather large fellow in a tee shirt and a dirty apron entered.
“Can I help you” he said in a low gravely voice.
Eddie approached the bar and slid onto a stool. “Can you fix me up with a burger and a beer?” he asked.
Without a word, the man walked behind the bar, grabbed a long neck out of a cooler and popped the top. “You wanna glass” he growled?
Grabbing his beer, Eddie got up and idly wandered around the room, looking at the pictures on the wall. Many were photographs that had been taken in the bar and most had the same woman in them. She was young with long dark hair, Her eyes drew you in and her smile made you want to know her. She was a beauty. To break the silence, he walked over to the jukebox and looked at the selections. They hadn’t been updated for a long time as the music available was all circa late 1900’s. So he inserted a coin and just stabbed at a number and started to go back to the bar when he heard it. “You walk by and I fall to pieces” flowing through the air. As he slid back onto his stool, he mused briefly about the coincidence of having selected the same song, but was quickly distracted by the greasy burger and fries that the man placed in front of him.
Between bites Eddie asked the man jokingly “is it always this busy?
A face, totally devoid of humor stared back at him. Finally, the man said. “Not much happening since Sandy left”.
“Was Sandy the owner” Eddie queried?
“We both were. Sandy was my wife. That’s her in most of the pictures on the wall” he said, looking around the room. “She loved to party” he continued. “She was the reason the place was popular. Everyone loved Sandy” he said a little wistfully.
Eddie noted the man had a somewhat distant look in his eyes, like he was trying to recapture a piece of the past. He decided to change the subject. “I might be interested in one of them cabins out there. How much for a night”?
The man said “I don’t rent them anymore. There’s no electricity out there but there are still beds. If you don’t mind the inconvenience, I’ll let you stay in one. You can pay me what you think it was worth in the morning”.
“I’ll take you up on that” Eddie said. “I’ll grab a quick breakfast first thing and we can settle up then”.
The man walked down to the other end of the bar, grabbed a key and looked at it. “This one fits the second one on the left” he said, sliding it across the bar to Eddie.
Eddie finished his beer and went back to his rig, grabbed his travel bag and a flashlight from the cab, and walked around behind the roadhouse. There were six cabins and he easily found the one that was his. Entering the single room, he found everything covered with layers of dust. He grabbed the blanket off the bed, stepped outside, and shook it. Deciding to remain dressed, he removed his boots and swung his body onto the bed. The fatigue of the day quickly overcame him and he began to drift off to sleep. Then he heard it. The same Patsy Kline song he had heard earlier and what sounded to him like a woman crying faintly. He sat up and listened further, but all was silent. “Strange” Eddie thought. “Guess my imagination is playing tricks” He laid back down and was soon asleep.
The first thing Eddie saw was the bright morning sun streaming through the cobwebbed window of the cabin. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was already 7:30. Swinging quickly out of bed, he put on his boots, gathered his things and walked back out to his truck. Turning toward the building and seeing it in the light of day, he observed how ramshackle it really was. It looked like nothing had been done to it in years. He grabbed the front door only to find it was locked. He tried to look through the glass into the shadowy dimness. There were no lights or signs of activity. In fact, there were no signs of life at all. If he didn’t know better, he would have sworn the place was abandoned.
Eddie pulled his wallet from his pocket, removed a $20 bill, and slid it under the door and returned to his truck. Swinging into the cab, Eddie decided to pull on into Las Cruces, grab some breakfast and fuel up. He had a long day ahead of him. He stopped at the first truck stop he found and fueled up the rig before washing up and sitting down for breakfast. He was hungrily tucking into some bacon and eggs when another trucker entered and sat down beside him.
“Out of hours” the man inquired?
“No” Eddie replied. “Just starting. I laid over out at Sandy’s Place last night. Rented one of their cabins”.
“The driver laughed and said “Sure you did.
Eddie met the gaze of the other trucker. “What’s so funny” he inquired.
That place hasn’t been open for twenty odd years”.
“You must be wrong” he said. I stayed there last night”.
Still chuckling, the driver said “I doubt that. Back in the nineties it was a real busy roadhouse. A gal named Sandy and her husband run it. She was a real looker and loved to flirt with all the men. But her husband was a jealous guy and had a mean temper. It seems that Sandy took a liking to a biker that frequented the place. Whenever he would show up, she would always play “I Fall To Pieces” on the jukebox because they couldn’t be together. Her husband watched them like a hawk. Rumor was that Sandy was planning to run off with the biker and that got back to her husband. One night, he caught them together out behind the bar. In a rage, he killed them both and buried them under one of the cabins. He’s doing life up in Otero County Prison”.