Thursday, December 22, 2011

Part V: The Zodiac Killer is born. Self esteem in 1968. Good fishermen don’t steal from the dead.

There’s a gate here, but it’s not the original. Sturdy steel, clad in chipped yellow paint, it serves as the latest in a decades-old succession of useless structures designed to warn you that someone wants you to go back the way you came, but doesn’t feel strongly enough to do something serious about it. If you climb over the gate, or squeeze between its horizontal bars, or go around it to the left or the right (be careful of small dead mammals and used condoms and nails and rusty sheet metal screws and broken glass, and ticks who wait and wait, desperately clinging to the ends of quivering stalks on the off-chance that you’ll be their one true blood meal)--if you keep going and take this road, well then, you’re probably a damned idiot and I shouldn’t care what mess you find yourself in. I’ll warn you anyway, though, because I cannot bear to see a person run afoul of badness.

The road is made of dirt and gravel, and it runs south from the little turn-out on Lake Herman Road where Zodiac claimed his first victims in the cold waning minutes of Autumn in 1968. There are many stories about what might wait for you down this road, and most of them are as authentic as Carol Doda’s breasts. That is, they contain a lot of artificial filling, but are held in place by just enough truth to get the job done. It is within this zone of jiggling, fleshy semi-reality that we must complete our examination of Zodiac’s motives for his heinous acts. This little dirt road on the outskirts of Benicia is a good place to do it, but first you have to get here.

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We pick up the thread of the non-redacted and empirically deficient Zodiac Killer profile and pseudo-history where we left it: August 30, 1968. Zodiac was on that day some 43 crow-flyin’ miles to the northeast, enduring a blistering 106 degree afternoon mowing his cousin’s lawn-bowling court under an unforgiving Sacramento sun. It was the only work he could get after breaking nearly all of his fingers in a martial arts zydeco competition the month before. Before the day was out, Zodiac would adopt his now famous moniker for the first time, and to this day his cousin Biff wonders if perhaps he was the one who unwittingly set the whole thing in motion.

Zodiac left the River City determined to lighten his mood. Cousin Biff's self esteem was always sore, like it had just finished passing a stool of large caliber and insufficient moisture content. Biff never acknowledged this, since no one in 1968 even knew what self esteem was. On this occasion, he’d taken that permanently negative head-state and turned it on Zodiac, castigating him repeatedly for his unfamiliarity with power lawnmowers. Zodiac had been raised on the high plains of the Dakotas and knew only of the scythe and the goat as methods of grass management. He endured Biff’s taunts for as long as he could, then made as if to kill him with his boning knife. Biff fled to the neighbors’, and Zodiac took his car, a fine, ten year old glossy black Cadillac.

Zodiac drove that car in a style of
wild, anti-cognitive abandon, later  employed by Charlie Sheen as he piloted the craft that carried his boss, Mike Huckabee, to little country grocery stores and juke joints all across the south. This whip was a mighty fine automobile, and its twin dorsal fins cleaved the hot, dry air like glistening machetes slicing through beef jerky. Speeding south on Franklin toward the county line, he thought he just might outrace his demons for good this time.

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Rio Vista Bridge
Arriving in Rio Vista (a better town than Petaluma), Zodiac sought relief from the heat. He pulled off the main road and found a shady spot under the bridge just inside the city limits. A hobo named Bob approached and offered some advice: Stay out of the old part of town, because the police chief was an inveterate gambler who was always looking for vagrants to lock up, stealing their cash to place bets on the dog fights in Paintersville. Zodiac told the old bum he wasn’t a vagrant, and Bob replied that a vagrant was anyone the chief wanted him to be. He said this while picking at his scalp, and I am moved at this time to reflect that many luckless people seem to do their best thinking while using their sharp, unclipped nails to gently tweeze hemophages from their heads. I figure it must have something to do with patience, the time to exercise that patience, and the bitter beauty of self discovery so often rendered inaccessible to polite society. That’s a load of crap and you know it.

Bob’s home was under the Highway 12 bridge on the banks of the deceptively languid Sacramento. He had an old pink lawn chair and some fishing equipment and a good view of the river.

What he didn’t have anymore was his .38, having lost it on a bet with some bikers from Cordelia. Zodiac took advantage of the opportunity, putting four slugs from his grandpop’s Army Colt right into Bob’s smooth forehead. Damn, but didn’t that old man have an unnaturally smooth forehead before he got shot.

Afterward, Zodiac took Bob’s fishing rod over to the pier and caught a few undersized stripers, which he kept to eat later. Unbothered by the  conscience he didn’t have, he saw no difference between killing a harmless old man, breaking fish and game laws, and indexing the dominance hierarchy of gulls as they quarreled over bits of tuna sandwiches tossed skyward by a screaming mob of first graders shepherded by two harried teachers.

Given the choice, would you lead a simple existence under a bridge, free to fish for whatever swims beneath the streaking traffic above, beholden to no one, or would you keep accumulating useless things and sunbathing in the glowing accolades of your fair-weather friends for your ultimately insignificant contributions to society? Bob tossed all that aside, voluntarily. It’s a powerfully tempting thought sometimes, to just shuck it all and take up residence near a pier jutting into a fabled waterway, offering opinions to all who pass regardless of their political or religious affiliation, wearing a red boatman’s cap and calling boisterously to those rich bastards floating by on their mahogany or fiberglass-hulled dick-replacements. Warning them to tell the rest of their tax-dodging, hand-washing brethren that in the end they’re nothing more than maggot shit and rich fertile loam, same as everyone else. If I were to adopt the Way of the Hobo, I’d tell those property-grabbing bastards they don’t know how to kick-start a recalcitrant mule, let alone a V-twin motorcycle. I’d challenge ‘em to go ahead and stop that boat, and ahoy there you sons o’ bitches hop on up here and I’ll show you what real life can do to a man’s face. Pull yourself on up here, you pinched-face pikers.
I dare you.


Zodiac became Zodiac when he killed Bob and found an old, wrinkled horoscope in the dead man’s back pocket: “You will see a mountain, cloak a visage, master the photovoltaic arts, quarter a circle, and eat a mango.”

© Pseudocognitive

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