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Weigh Station

A Christmas ghost story.

J.C. Scharl is a senior editor at the European Conservative. Her poetry and criticism have appeared in the New Ohio Review, the Hopkins Review, the American Journal of Poetry, and other publications.

When the radio buzzed in a warning of a white-out storm coming down hard into central New Mexico, Jeff Paxton wished for the first time that he hadn’t destroyed the computer in the station. He wanted to see for himself the red line of the storm on the radar map, to decide from that whether to wait for O’Neill’s rig.

Just five minutes before, O’Neill had called in that he was approaching mile three hundred fifty-four. Jeff knew O’Neill, knew he was road-crazy; he wouldn’t pull over till the storm was impassible. He’d push through hell-for-leather to the weigh station. So Jeff would wait.

He pushed his things—a thermos half-full of coffee, a ham sandwich, a water bottle, and a windbreaker—into his backpack, so he could go as soon as he’d registered the rig. The black screen of the computer monitor gaped at him, an over-sized pupil peering into the room.

All the stations had moved over to computers years ago, but Jeff resented them. They ruined the pristine simplicity of station life. He’d seen them coming, and he’d been ready. He set himself to studying computers, like a general examining the enemy for weakness. He spent long evenings at the public library. On his days off he went to amateur computer tech conferences. It quickly became clear that the exteriors of the machines, while laughably frail, were not the solution. It was too easy to see where and how damage had occurred; the higher-ups would simply replace the thing with the injunction not to destroy it again. He began to study programming; he entered the belly of the beast.

After a very few months, Jeff Paxton could ruin a computer so deftly that only a skilled hacker would recognize the traces of human inference in the wreck. To anyone else, it would look like internet connectivity failure, hard drive crash, corrupted files, external viruses—all things Jeff Paxton could not be expected to know anything about. So computer after computer passed through the weigh station on northbound I-25 and mysteriously perished, until finally the department head decided that there was no point in trying any longer. The last monitor (a victim of Jeff’s experiments in self-destructive file processing) stared blankly into the station like the eye of a dead shark.

Already there was snow tapping on the window, the deep-freeze corn snow that was more like flecks of ice. Jeff shot a glance of the window to the south. The storm was coming on fast, shrouding the pallid fields in fog.

He shivered and, turning, screeched at the gruff face staring at him from the corner. A second later he relaxed; his own narrow, creased face, pulled tight like a paper bag around his dark eyes, looked out at him from the computer screen. He shook his head slowly. “Storm-crazy too,” he said, and his voice cracked. But he could not shake the feeling that, when he’d first turned, the face in the monitor was not his own, and when he turned away, it would not be his back reflected in the screen.

He crammed his arms into the puffed sleeves of his blue storm coat and sat, one eye on the screen, waiting for the rig. If it had been anyone else, he would not have waited. Boss Holden had radioed in from the big station at Las Cruces telling him to get up and go, and he had almost done it. Even now, if he left immediately he’d just make it to the offramp in Springer, and the Holiday Inn with a generator and refrigerators full of cream cheese and bagels. There’d probably even be some nervous mamacitas waiting out the storm on their way to or from a bad divorce in Albuquerque. It never mattered much which.

But it was O’Neill’s rig coming in, and so Jeff Paxton did not head to the old 4-Runner and pull out to Springer, just ahead of the teeth of the storm. Instead he pulled on his hat and gloves and stared out the window. A muscle beneath his eye twitched in time with the clenching of his jaw.

By now Boss Holden thought all the stations were cleared out. Jeff had been on the john with the boss radioed in; Holden probably thought he’d heard the warning and cleared out. That meant right now no one knew where he was, which in New Mexico during a white-out could easily turn into a bad situation. Jeff considered radioing in that he’d been delayed, just so someone knew, but on second thought decided it was too risky. Drew too much attention. Sloppy stuff like that was how people started asking questions, and questions were how deals went bad.

From far down the road, he heard the whistling of the real storm coming. The corn snow brushed the glass like the fur of a massive animal. It was gathering in a long, thickening line on the south side of every tiny bump in the ground, and whipped in wild streaks across the highway. No vehicles had passed since Boss Holden’s call except one rusty pickup. It startled Jeff, that pickup; he’d been looking out the window, not a car in sight, just a minute after the radio went silent, when suddenly there was a clatter and the back door slammed as if someone was leaving the station in a hurry. Then the pickup appeared in his peripheral vision, trundling out as if it had been parked in the back lot. When Jeff, picking up the heavy pistol he kept in plain sight, went to the back door to investigate, he found it locked tight, both the bolt and the knob. He returned to his chair just as the truck drove up the onramp and faded away into the blank north. For a moment he couldn’t shake the thought that O’Neill wasn’t coming.

If it was the old days, Jeff wouldn’t have even wondered. Back then, O’Neill played a pretty straight game: pick up drugs in El Paso, smuggle them up through New Mexico with a stop in Albuquerque, and make a last drop in Denver, where they went for a premium price. Jeff worked one of the weigh stations north of Albuquerque. It was a good spot; he got part of the profits from both the Albuquerque and the Denver sales, which worked out to about one-half of his annual salary per run. For a while it worked out great; Jeff sent all the cash in unmarked packages to Vivian, his ex-wife, for Donny’s college fund. Not that Vivian ever brought it up, and not that he ever asked about it.

Nobody was mixed up in any funny business back then; everybody knew their suppliers and their customers by name and face, and nobody ran around getting shot. But that was before the mangy man from Nogales showed up.

Jeff had about made up his mind that O’Neill, like the stinking rattlesnake he was, had pulled over and left him to freeze to death in the station when the radio came alive with a shriek. “God … damn it!” he gasped. He took a deep breath, clenched and loosened his fists and shrugged his shoulders; he hadn’t noticed how tense he’d gotten, waiting there hunched in the chair. The radio was still spitting static, but he could hear threads of O’Neill’s bullhorn of a voice on the other side. “Coming in … brakes … icy out here. Over…” The radio died.

Jeff sat still for a minute longer, then stood up and began pacing in the station. He had probably less than three minutes. At that moment he heard a soft scraping sound near the door. He listened. Nothing. The storm had become the promised white-out. He could see nothing outside the windows except a few feet of glazed ground. All around the wind shrieked like a thousand demented coyotes. “Just the storm,” he said aloud, but he checked that the pistol was loaded.

He’d already decided this was his last run. With the crackdowns along the I-25 corridor, it wasn’t worth it anymore. Donny was done with college and living somewhere in the Northwest, and Vivian married an auditor in Santa Cruz. She hadn’t left an address. And, though he didn’t like to admit it even to himself, the trouble on the last run had messed him up pretty badly.

O’Neill had acted like it was a normal run, but Jeff hated that unfamiliar sly face in the passenger seat before the rig was even fully on the scale.

“Who’s that?” he said as O’Neill climbed out of the rig on that icy, clear day, exactly one year ago.

“Never mind,” O’Neill said, reaching out to shake Jeff’s hand. Jeff looked at him stonily, hands at his side.

“I don’t work with men I don’t know,” Jeff said. The thin-faced man leered at him from the truck.

“Now, Paxton, no need to be like that,” O’Neill said. “He’s new; learning the ropes.”

“Which ropes?” Jeff asked.

“Take it from me: he’s going to get this thing to the next level. He knows the big wigs, the guys up top. He’s going to work magic with our numbers. Says he’s from Nogales, but he’s okay. He’s got papers.” O’Neill handed Jeff the cargo listing.

“I’m going to have to take a look inside,” Jeff said without looking at the list.

“That’s not in the deal.” O’Neill stepped between Jeff and the rig. The man in the passenger seat opened the door and climbed down.

“Maybe not, but it’s in my job description,” Jeff said doggedly. “They set up a new random check, and you came up. I got to say I took a look inside.” O’Neill’s hand was moving, casually, towards his hip. “Not worth the trouble, pal,” Jeff said. “I just got off the radio with the boss, and he wants me to call him up in ten minutes with a report. I don’t call in, he gets suspicious, and he’s got your number.” Jeff pointed to the number on the rig, indicating that he’d told Boss Holden what rig he was working on. None of this was true, but Jeff stared deadpan into O’Neill’s eyes, unblinking, until the bigger man’s hairy hand moved back down to his side.

“Okay, Paxton. You take a little look.” O’Neill waved at the man who was hovering beside the cab. “Abierto! Necesita mirar.” The man shot him a questioning look and O’Neill’s face turned purple. “Abierto, estupido!” The man went to the back and began fidgeting with the locks on the rig. Jeff went back to the station to get a clipboard, but while he was inside, he jammed the pistol in the back of his waistband and pulled the coat down over it.

When he came back, O’Neill was jabbering at the strange man in ugly Spanish while the man stood, his whole face blank, his posture slack, to all appearances completely uncomprehending. But when his eyes lighted on Jeff, they flashed with red fire.

In the rig everything seemed to be in order: a truckload of Coca-Cola from Juarez headed up to Denver. Jeff counted off the pallets, checked the numbers off the list O’Neill gave him, and finished in less than ten minutes. But the little man’s ugly face had irritated him, and he lingered over the last few pallets, enjoyed the rising anxiety on O’Neill’s face and the increasing sharpness of the Spanish words he spat at his companion. The whole time, the small man did not say a word, and his eyes did not leave Jeff.

Jeff checked off the last pallet from his list and was turning to give O’Neill his clearance (in exchange for his envelope of cash from the Albuquerque sales) when he heard something from behind the front pallet. He knew better than to rush over; instead, he casually began to re-inspect every pallet. Behind him, he heard O’Neill swear quietly. The little man hissed, “Cállate.” Jeff heard the little man step up into the back of the rig. “Señor?” he said officiously. “Es una problema? Is problem?” He drew near, and Jeff heard, faintly but distinctly, the schnick of a switchblade. Jeff’s gun was clearly visible in the waistband of his pants, and it was too many sudden movements away.

Jeff straightened slowly, as casually as he could. “Nope,” he said, pretending not to notice the little man standing immediately behind him. “Looks okay to me. I just gotta double check all this. Some guy missed a flat in Texas and there was a big stink about it. I have a feeling this isn’t a load you want any extra attention paid to when you get to Denver.” The little man obviously didn’t understand most of the words, but the meaning was clear: I’m on your side. Give me some space.

“Hey!” O’Neill shouted suddenly. “Get out of the truck and give him a minute. Jeff’s okay.” The little man hesitated, then obeyed, but before he climbed out of the truck he locked eyes with Jeff for a long moment. Again the red fire gleamed. The man gave Jeff a long grin, and every one of his teeth was black. Jeff struggled to suppress a shudder. “Caucion,” the man said, almost as if Jeff was a small child about to climb on a horse for the first time. “Be muy careful.”

By then Jeff knew what he would find. If he’d heard the noise and O’Neill had come up bellowing, it would have been an illegal, some unfortunate who thought these two would help him up to a better life in Estados Unidos, and O’Neill would have carried on with how tricky these bastards were getting and he had no idea and it wasn’t enough for them to get over the border into El Paso, they had to freeload all the way up to the middle of the country, and O’Neill would threaten to haul and him out and shoot up until Jeff raised his hand and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Then O’Neill would get back in the truck and drive away north, red-faced and still blustering, while the Mexican huddled in the back praying in his syllabic, sweet-sounding tongue: “Ave Maria, Dios te salve …” It had happened once before, though Jeff and O’Neill never spoke of it. But the presence of this other foul man, O’Neill’s rigid anxiety, the very tenor of the sound from the back of the truck… Jeff knew what he would find, and he knew that if he found it, the little devil man would kill him.

He climbed gingerly out of the truck and brushed his hands on his pants. “All right,” he said. “Sign here.” O’Neill snatched the clipboard greedily, as if Jeff might change his mind. He scribbled a signature and tossed the clipboard back, clapping his companion on the shoulder.

“Thanks, pal! See you next time we’re down this way.”

“Drive safe,” Jeff said, and turned to trudge back to the station. He felt the stranger’s narrow eyes on his back the whole way, and forced himself to walk nonchalantly. He heard O’Neill’s feet crunch on the gravel, and the driver door of the rig clicked open, then slammed shut.

As soon as the rig pulled out he was going to call it in, no matter what. Let O’Neill spill the whole deal, land them all in jail; he wouldn’t have anything else to do with it. Drugs was one thing—stupid rich kids frying their brains with Daddy’s money, he couldn’t care less. But Jeff Paxton was not a man to turn a blind eye to human trafficking.

The rig started up as he reached the door of the station, and he was surprised at the shock of relief he felt. His fingers, suddenly numb, refused to grasp the doorknob. He flexed them once or twice in the sharp, cold air when without warning, a voice at his elbow hissed, “Pardon, señor,” and the slight figure of the stranger slid past him to the door. “Por favor,” the man said, holding the door open to Jeff. The cruel finger of a gun barrel showed plainly in his jacket pocket. Jeff passed into the station, his mind blank. He paused in the doorway and looked over his shoulder at the rig, where O’Neill was looking determinedly out to the north. The man jabbed his side with the gun and Jeff went inside.

He crossed the room to stand in front of the desk, where he could see the stranger’s lean, crafty face reflected in the computer screen. It looked bilious there, bloated like the drowned man Jeff had seen once on the ranch as a boy, floating just below the surface of the dark monitor.

“Hables español, señor? Ah?” Jeff did speak Spanish, but he shook his head sullenly. “Ah, señor. See… una problema. A problem. Muy mal, this problem.” He nodded at the truck. “Ah… senor… tengo mucho dinero, comprendes?” With his other hand the man pulled from his pocket a wad of cash. “Money,” he said suddenly, clear as a bell with a soft Texas accent. “Too much money, see?” Jeff’s eyes didn’t leave the man’s face. “Someone must take this money, see?” The man pushed the wad towards Jeff. “Porque no, señor? Why not you?”

Jeff glanced at the money for half a second, and when his eyes returned to the man he saw again the flash of red, deep down like light shining through blood-filled water. Deliberately he sucked up his cheeks and, not moving his eyes from the man’s, spat on the wad of cash.

After that several things happened at once. Jeff went for his pistol, but the little man was too quick. A gunshot cracked, and Jeff fell forward on his face. He felt warm blood gush from his nose where it struck the floor, but before he blacked out he drew his gun and fired aimlessly. He heard the man cry out, then nothing more.

He barely remembered the next days, coming in and out of a fog of pain. He remembered trying over and over to call it in, tell Boss Holden to stop the rig, get the girl out of the back (he was sure it was a girl, he thought he saw her there in the fog of pain with him, a slight girl no older than fifteen with hair and eyes so dark that they blended in to the darkness haloing her). He remembered the pain getting less but the fog growing thicker for a long time (it must have been days, or months; he couldn’t say), until suddenly he woke up in the station. It was as if nothing had happened at all. His pickup was there, the computer, the radio buzzing occasionally from the outside; his very thermos and sandwich that he had every day of his life. The computer had been replaced, but it only took Jeff a few minutes to disable it again. Before he did, however, he read a news article that was up on the screen; apparently his random shot had caught the man in the back and killed him. The body had been found on the doorstep of the station.

Since then, Jeff had avoided company. He felt instinctively that things were unsteady within himself. Far from social in his best days, the shooting was the excuse he’d needed to withdraw completely. He didn’t have friends or family who came asking after him. Even the rig drivers didn’t seem to need to speak to him. They pulled up, waited while he did the readings and occasional inspections, and drove away without saying a word. He only returned to his house, four miles outside of town, occasionally. Everything he needed was at the weigh station. But the station itself felt different: at once homey and utterly strange. There were times where he felt like the station was slipping away around him like fast-moving water, but he put it down to the bullet wound that still ached in the chilly mornings. Sometimes he thought he heard footsteps, but when he turned there was no one there, though he often had a lingering feeling that he’d been just too late to glimpse a figure step around the corner and out through the door. Several times after dark, when he had all the lights on, a shadow fell over his desk, but when he looked up there was nothing to cast it. One day in the fall, when the weather was mild and the back door of the station was propped open, he’d turned and seen a hand grasping at the door frame—just a hand, nothing else, long and dark with pale nails, gripping casually. It was as if someone was standing just on the other side of the wall, talking easily to a neighbor, and would enter in a moment. Jeff, sick with horror, watched the hand for almost half an hour, and in all that time it did not move, not until a rig pulled in. Then it disappeared, and Jeff had difficulty convincing himself that it had ever been there. But he took care not to touch that part of the door frame.

So today, when the radio had crackled with the familiar voice of O’Neill reporting that he was fifty miles south of the station, Jeff’s jaw tightened. He hadn’t seen O’Neill since the shooting, and was a little surprised at the casualness of his voice. He reached to answer, but the radio crackled out before he could pick it up, and he didn’t care enough to call back. He’d see O’Neill soon enough, and God help him—help them all—if there was anything funny in that rig.

He was standing by the window, watching the exit, when it came. The rig reared out of the storm like the prow of a ship, throwing the wisps of wind and snow back on themselves. Then the storm closed around the rig and Jeff could see nothing until O’Neill’s huge form leapt down out of the truck, carrying something large and shapeless. He began to struggle towards the station. As he drew closer, Jeff could see even though the whipping snow that his face was slack with fear, fear not proportional to the danger of the storm. He seemed nearly dead with fear.

Jeff ran to the door and threw open the locks, then slid into a shadowy corner by the washroom. He tried to count the seconds with breaths, but he was having trouble regulating his breathing. He’d just made up his mind to slip back to the window for a look when O’Neill pounded once on the back door. Jeff’s heart leapt in his chest.

“Open up!” O’Neill bellowed over the wind. Jeff didn’t move. O’Neill pounded again, but with less force. “Come on, you idiot, open up!” Jeff stayed put. He heard O’Neill give a deep sob. “There’s no one there!” O’Neill cried, and just as Jeff tipped forward on his feet to step towards the door, it swung open quite suddenly, as if someone had pushed it, and O’Neill fell into the station.

It was just as Jeff thought: he was carrying a girl, a teenage girl wearing snow-soaked jeans, a sweat-shirt, and a fleecy vest. When O’Neill dropped her heavily on the floor in his fall, she scrambled away from him and crawled under the desk, where Jeff could hear her breathing so heavily that it sounded like sobs. O’Neill did not move for a few moments, and when he finally sat up, his face was wet with relieved tears.

Jeff let them sit there for a long time. He didn’t have a plan worked out, but they obviously weren’t going anywhere soon. O’Neill sat in the middle of the floor, his eyes glazed, his hands shaking. He seemed to be listening for something; any time there was a lull in the storm he stiffened. Once, Jeff’s leg twitched and brushed against the wall with a soft scratching noise, and O’Neill jumped to his feet, both hands held out in front of him as if warding off a blow. “It wasn’t me!” he screamed, his voice rattling in the silent room. The girl under the desk gave a small sob. When nothing happened, O’Neill collapsed heavily in Jeff’s chair at the desk and buried his face in his hands. After a while, Jeff saw that he was crying.

This was puzzling. In his nearly thirty years’ of hauling up and down the Rocky Mountains, surely O’Neill had surely seen worse conditions than these. Perhaps he was afraid that someone would find him there with the girl? But the chances of that seemed nearly nonexistent. And even that possibility didn’t explain the paralyzing terror that gripped the man, terror that seemed completely separate from both the girl and the storm, a terror that seemed to peer out at him from every shadowy corner and hiss at him in every gust of wind. Jeff knew that terror: it was the shock he felt every time he glimpsed his face in the computer screen and for a moment did not recognize it. It was the chill in his stomach when the door, which he had left locked, mysteriously creaked open, or the papers on the desk had been shuffled by hands other than his. It was the irrepressible, unnamable sick fear that lunged out at him from the small creaks in the bathroom, taps against the walls, tuneless humming from the ceiling of the room, the pale nails of the hand that all at once he knew with certainty he had really seen. And though just then he did not feel it, when he saw O’Neill’s fat back quivering, he knew what it was: a horror of death. Death clung to that room.

He couldn’t stand silently in the shadows any longer. He stepped into the lighted part of the room.

The girl saw him first and cried out. O’Neill leapt from the chair and whirled around, his hand going instinctively to his gun. But when he saw Jeff, his hand dropped to his side and his whole body sagged against the desk. “You … you …” he gasped.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Jeff said. “I waited for you.” He stepped closer. “They radioed in for me to go, but I didn’t.” O’Neill was shaking now, his face the color of putty. “I waited for you to come.”

“It wasn’t me,” O’Neill finally wrenched out, his voice a faint scream. “It was that little Mexican bastard who put it in you, I swear it wasn’t me! I told him to get in the truck, I told him you were square, but he didn’t believe me, he followed you in and shot you, even though I told him not to, I swear I told him not to!”

“I know what you did,” Jeff said. He pointed at the girl under the desk, who was staring at them both in complete confusion. It was clear that she didn’t understand most of what they were saying, but O’Neill’s fear had inspired a small hope in her eyes. She rolled her fingers over a tiny pink rosary bracelet and her lips moved around tiny sounds, and Jeff knew what she said: Dios te salve, Maria... “I know what you did, O’Neill.”

“I swear, it wasn’t my idea! I didn’t even know what it was until we got into New Mexico. I didn’t know what kind of stuff he ran, I thought it was the same stuff we’d always done. He picked them up on the streets in El Paso, after they got over the border. He told them it would be better up north and lured them into my rig, I swear I didn’t know until I was here!” O’Neill’s eyes flitted from Jeff’s face to the ceiling, his hand tensed, and Jeff knew that he was deciding whether to reach for the gun.

“Don’t,” Jeff said swiftly. O’Neill’s eyes fell onto his and his hand relaxed. Jeff took a step towards him, which cleared O’Neill’s view of the door. O’Neill’s eyes fell on the short, shadowy hallway leading to the door, and his face changed. His skin sagged, his mouth fell open, his eyes froze in their sockets, and from his horribly gaping mouth there came a scream, long and loud and coarse like the scream of a panther in the woods. He whipped out the gun and before Jeff could stop him, had fired three rounds into the shadowy hall towards the door. He didn’t stop screaming the whole time. Then the gun clicked, empty, and he threw it after the bullets towards the door. Jeff put both his hands on the big man’s chest and pushed him hard, as hard as he could, and O’Neill fell backwards across the desk. The scream stopped abruptly, and Jeff turned towards the door.

It was open, just a crack, even though O’Neill had locked it. And there on the doorframe was the hand, long and thin, nails gleaming in the dark. But this time, there was blood running from it down the doorframe. Already the little trickle was nearly to the floor.

Then there was more: an arm, a shoulder, a body looming up from the shadows; a grinning face, and a flash of red fire. The man stepped into the light.

“Hola, señores,” he said, and his voice was high and cold. His hand was covered in blood.

O’Neill looked nearly dead. Jeff was struggled to understand what was happening, struggling against the old feeling that the station was rushing past him, slipping off of him like chilly water, and against a sudden certainty that this was all still that day one year ago and that no time at all had passed, and he did not know what to do. Beneath the desk he heard the girl’s sobbing breath, soft and shaking. She had stopped praying. Without thinking he moved between the monster in the hallway and the girl, and the man—the dead man—gave a broken bark of laughter.

With that O’Neill’s nerve broke. He leaped up wildly and ran for the open door. The dead man leaned slightly to let him pass, but then whipped around and struck him hard on the back with the open palm of his bloody hand. O’Neill screamed and disappeared into the storm. The man turned back to Jeff.

“Ella es mia,” he said, pointing at the girl. “She is mine.” The girl stared at him in horror. Jeff shook his head.

“Leave her alone, you devil.” He spread out his arms, shielding the girl. The red-eyed man took another step.

“You cannot stop me,” he said, still smiling, and stepped closer. He had no gun, no weapon of any kind except his hands, but a fear like he’d never felt before crawled up Jeff’s chest and clutched his heart.

“For Christ’s sake, leave her alone!” he screamed, and lunged at the man. There was a horrible wrenching cry and a crunch, and his arms closed around nothingness. A blast of cold air caught Jeff full in the chest. He felt himself falling backwards, and wondered vaguely whether his head would hit the desk. He heard the girl screaming, and then everything went dark.

For a long time the room was silent except for the wailing of the storm outside, but even that died away gradually. At last the grinding sound of a snowplow pulled up outside the station, followed by the crunch of chains on the tires of a state trooper car. Two troopers got out and investigated the abandoned rig, then they entered the station through the door. They found a girl huddled under the desk, covered in a man’s thick blue jacket and nearly dead with cold and shock. There was no one else in the station.

They found O’Neill’s body half a mile away in a field, his leg broken from a bad fall into a ditch. He was frozen to death, and on the back of his coat was a bloody handprint.

They carried the girl carefully to the car and covered her with a blanket, then locked up the station. One of the troopers commented that this was the same station where the station manager was shot and killed not long before. “Killed the other guy before he bled out,” he said. “Must have been just about a year ago.”

Just before they left the weigh station, one of them cried out and pointed at the computer screen. “Thought I saw something,” he said sheepishly as his companion examined the dark monitor. As they drove away, he admitted that he thought he’d seen a face, a gaunt face with heavy wrinkles around the eyes. The face seemed to smile, then turn and disappear into the darkness.