Elvis had no idea where the two dead hookers came from. He had never seen the two young girls before. He couldn't deny the facts. The car was his. The hookers were dead, and they were in his trunk. It was as simple as that. Right now as the hot afternoon sun baked everything in sight, Elvis Lee Lewis was hiding in the shade under some random back porch on Clayton Street. He was panting heavily after running from the cops for the past half hour. He was out of shape and the smoking didn't help. Speaking of smoking, he craved a Marlboro right now but in his frantic foot race from the police, he lost the pack he kept rolled up in his shirt sleeve.
Less than one hour ago he had been cruising down Lincoln Street in his hometown of Bloomington Illinois. He was on his way home from his job as a mechanic for Taylor's Tire and Auto on the west side of town. It was a blistering August day in 1982 . It was Friday and all Elvis (and his pelvis) could think about was getting home, taking a nice cool shower, picking up his girlfriend Cindy, and going out to Dawson Lake for her birthday. This had become an annual tradition with them and their close friends. Elvis and Cindy had been an item since their junior year at Bloomington High School. He had grown up a lot in the last few years and hoped they would get married soon.
Elvis installed a modern stereo in the blood red 1950 Ford Mercury his grandfather left him when he died three years ago. He had restored the car as his first real project after high school and spent a lot of time searching for as many original parts as he could find. His dad let him use the garage at work when he needed it, since it had a hydraulic lift, and got him any parts he came across at the junkyard. It was decked out with rear fender skirts and a chopped top just like the 50's bad ass gear heads would have done to it. The stereo needed to be modern so he could play his massive collection of 1950's music that he had. Elvis knew that people made fun of him and his family but he didn't care much at all. Some days he wished it was the 1950's all over again. A much simpler time.
With a name like Elvis Lee Lewis it was no surprise that he loved the 1950's. Well, his parents were mostly to blame for that. His father, Odell went by “Buddy” due to his obsession with Buddy Holly. He had an impressive 1950's record collection but his Buddy Holly memorabilia was considered one of the most extensive in the country. Every year on February 3rd Odell spent the day listening to only Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper in tribute to the fallen three on the anniversary of the plane crash that ended their lives far too soon. If he could, he would even take the day off work. His mother Daphne was also a huge fan of the era and loved to travel the Midwest with her husband to attend the cruise nights and stock car races during the summer season. She would shamelessly jump up and scream “go Big Daddy” when he rounded each turn. When Elvis was born, Odell wanted to name him Buddy but Daphne won out by naming him after her two favorite 50's crooners – Elvis Aaron Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Their house on Bunn Street was small and modest, adorned with 1950's collectibles of their music icons, but also old TV shows like Perry Mason and Maverick, St. Louis Cardinal stuff, vintage car models, and much more. They had a vintage jukebox in the living room that played nothing but 50's music. Odell sported a duck tail hair style and worked at the junk yard on Bunn Street, across the street from their house, where he tinkered with cars all day. His hands were permanently oil stained. He didn't make much money, but had full access to parts he needed for his own stock car that he raced on dirt tracks in nearby Fairbury, Farmer City, Canton, and Peoria throughout the spring and summer. He was also always in the middle of restoring at least two or three cars in their two-car garage. His mother had a poodle cut hairdo and wore vibrant colored dresses straight out of the 50's. So it's no wonder that little Elvis liked the 1950's as much as he did. It was in his blood.
He glanced down at his dashboard and was surprised his gas tank was nearly empty. Elvis decided to stop at the Freedom gas station near his parents' house where he lived in a small apartment above the garage. He paid rent and helped around the house so they didn't mind at all having their only child around in his 20's. All six of the pumps were busy but as Elvis pulled in, one of the cars drove away – giving him access to a spot to fuel up. He got out of the car, his lanky 6-foot frame clad in jeans and a white t-shirt. He changed out of his uniform at work. He put the gas nozzle into the Mercury, showing off his tattooed fingers that said “ROCK” on the right hand and “ROLL” on the left. His short sleeves were rolled up and displayed the ace of spades tattoo on his left forearm and the pair of dice on his right. He also loved to wear his hair in a duck tail, but when he was at work they required him to wear a ball cap to avoid getting his hair caught in a moving part of one of the cars he was working on. Most would look at Elvis with a bewildered amusement, but the Lewis family had been in Bloomington for a very long time, so they didn't give it much thought. He had his share of run-ins with the police as a teenager, but most of it was petty stuff that only made them bring him to his parents in a squad car. The kids in the neighborhood enjoyed watching the spectacle and hearing Odell give him the belt good when that happened.
After fueling up, Elvis went inside the Freedom gas station to pay and also to use the restroom. The colas he loved to drink by the bucket-full were catching up to him and he wondered if he would make it home without taking a piss while there. There was a long line at the counter, so he decided to use the bathroom first. It was a small one-man-show with a toilet that looked like it hadn't been cleaned for a year and a urinal that was perpetually running water into the disgusting pool of scum at the bottom. The smell of sour piss was strong and Elvis did the best he could to do his business and run water across his hands to make it feel like he washed them before shutting off the light and closing the door behind him.
As Elvis emerged from the restroom he could not believe his eyes. It was as if he was in a dream and he actually shook his head a couple times back and forth. What he saw before him was a completely different gas station than he saw less than two minutes before. There was none of the same merchandise displayed as was there before. They were replaced by old fashioned coolers with only Pepsi, Coca-Cola, 7-Up and Hires Root Beer. A small display of candy lined the small space under the counter. Two aisles of grocery items were there too and the store was immaculately clean. There was a black and white checkered ceramic tile floor and a large display of motor oil in old style containers like he had seen in his grandfather's garage growing up. Even the man behind the counter was different than the scruffy 30-year old cashier he saw moments before. He was much older with a military style haircut and some thick horn-rimmed glasses, similar to the ones that Buddy Holly used to wear. He was smoking a cigarette and staring at Elvis – like he had seen him before.
Elvis wanted to say something to the man, but he thought maybe someone was playing a joke on him, so he didn't want to look any more stupid than he already felt. Now there was no one else in line, like there had been a few minutes before. He took out his wallet and put a $20 down to pay for his gas. He was fixated on a calendar behind the counter that showed it was 1957! It definitely had the look of a gas station from the 50's but how was that possible?
“You already paid the gas jockey son,” the man said, pushing the bill back toward him.
“I did?” Elvis was surprised, since he knew he didn't pay anyone. He also wondered what the hell is a gas jockey?
The man nervously smiled back at him. Then looked down like he was trying to find something. Elvis stepped out of the gas station and into the bright summer afternoon sun.
As Elvis walked toward his car, he saw what he assumed was the mythical gas jockey the old man referred to, washing someone's windshield as the gas pump filled up their thank. Elvis had only seen that in movies. Even the gas pumps, now only two instead of the six that were there when he arrived, were the old style that he had only seen pictures of. The sign out front said the gas was only 44 cents a gallon! What the hell is going on? He stared at his car, which looked like someone had put a fresh coat of paint and wax on it while he was inside! The blood red paint job was glistening in the bright sunlight. It looked amazing!
Opening the door of his car he marveled at what he saw. The interior leather was pristine, like it had been in 1950. As he sat down behind the wheel, he immediately noticed the cool chrome skull on the floor shifter, wired to the headlights to glow when they came on! This was definitely not in his car before he went inside, but it looked so cool he couldn't believe it. That's when he noticed the radio. It was not the modern stereo he installed, but the original radio that came with the Mercury. He turned it on and thankfully on came the music he loved. Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley. Still, Elvis could not understand what was going on.
He began to look around and noticed that all the cars at the gas station and driving the streets were classics like his. He saw old Chevy, Pontiac, and Ford cars and trucks like he was at a cruise night somewhere. The houses in the neighborhood on Lincoln Street were also different. The kids that ran the streets wore clothes from the 1950's. Their hairstyles were from the 1950's. Elvis was shocked and wondered again if he had been dreaming. Could it be possible that he was somehow transported back to the 1950's? It had always been his dream, but now that it was his reality – it was disconcerting.
“What the hell?” he said out loud. He fired up a smoke and drove off leaving the time capsule of Freedom Oil behind. The massive big block engine of his tricked out Mercury roared.
Now Elvis wondered what he would find when he got home. His parents should still be there. His dad had a race tonight in Fairbury, but they would probably not be leaving for another hour or so. Maybe they could explain what was going on to him? Maybe he would awaken from the dream before he got home?
He barely drove two blocks before a police car sped up quickly behind him and then suddenly turned on their lights and siren. Elvis pulled over and put the car in park.
“Son-of-a-bitch!” he exclaimed, slamming his hand against the dashboard, not wanting to be late to pick up Cindy. She's going to be pissed off he thought.
His bony fingers nervously tapped the steering wheel as he saw not one but two cops exit the squad car. Both had .38 revolvers drawn! Elvis could feel his pulse quicken, not knowing why the cops would be approaching a simple speeding violation like this. He assumed that's what they were stopping him for.
Only a few feet from the car, one of the cops stopped and went into a crouch with his gun pointed at Elvis. The other cop was standing on the passenger side of the car, his gun also drawn.
“Get out of the car with your hands up!”
Elvis couldn't understand what was going on. He knew they must have him mistaken for someone else. He didn't think he did anything wrong at all. Not even speeding! Then he wondered if the old man at the Freedom called the cops saying he didn't pay for his gas. He knew he didn't pay, despite what the man behind the counter said.
As Elvis got out of the car, the cop closest to him grabbed him forcibly and shoved him up against the car. Careful of the paint job you fucker he thought.
“Grab the keys Tommy and let's open the trunk. I don't see anything in the back seat from where I'm standing.”
“What's going on man? I haven't done anything!” Elvis pleaded. Despite the fact it was Friday afternoon at a time when the roads were typically busy, it was eerily quiet. The cicadas were the only noise Elvis could hear right now. They were loud in the trees above.
“Just be quiet son,” said the cop who had him up against the car. His grip was incredibly strong.
The other cop took the keys out of the ignition and opened up the trunk. Elvis watched him as the massive trunk popped open.
“Oh Christ! Oh fuck! Sarge, come look!” His mouth was agape. He took a step back, putting a handkerchief up to his nose.
The Sergeant who had a hold on Elvis pulled him toward the rear of the car with the trunk wide open. Inside the trunk were two young women. They were definitely dead, entangled limbs and hollow eyes in distant stares stuffed in the large trunk. One was blonde and wore way too much make-up. She was wearing a red bustier with a short skirt. Both of her shoes were gone. The other was older, brown hair, and glasses. She also had on a short skirt and was only missing one of her high heels. Their skin was a sickly gray color like they had been dead a while. Elvis didn't know what to think. The world was spinning around him.
“Son-of-a-bitch!” said the Sergeant. “Get on the radio. Tell them we found the two hookers from the 76 truck stop from last night and the sick bastard who killed them.”
Now he threw Elvis face first into the pavement, forcing his arms behind his back to prepare to handcuff him. His knee was planted firmly in his back. Elvis could hear the rattle of his handcuffs and he prepared to put them on him.
“What's your name you sick son-of-a-bitch?” He reached for one wrist to put the cuffs on.
Elvis was trying to hold his face up off the hot pavement. Tiny pebbles were stuck to his sweating face. He spit out some dirt that got in his mouth.
“Elvis. Elvis Lee Lewis.”
The Sergeant laughed. “Yeah right. You're Elvis and I'm the fucking Easter bunny. You think this is funny? Do you?”
“I didn't do anything wrong!”
In the distance Elvis could hear the other cop on the radio. He was talking about two hookers that were killed out at the truck stop on the west side of town, only a few blocks from Taylor's Tire and Auto. He knew they thought he killed the girls but he had never seen them before in his life.
“You got the wrong guy! I didn't kill anyone!” he cried out, wiggling to get free so he could explain that he just got off work and was going camping for the weekend.
As Elvis wiggled, the Sergeant that was on top of him lost his balance and fell toward the squad car, hitting his head hard on the bumper. It knocked him out. Elvis acted on impulse and jumped up while the Sergeant was down on the pavement next to him, and the other was on the radio inside the squad car. It wouldn't be long before he realized Elvis was free. So Elvis ran. He ran as fast as he could, hoping that they would soon realize they had the wrong guy. But how the hell did those two hookers end up in my trunk? Some neighborhood kids who were playing catch with a baseball now stopped to watch the spectacle taking place on the side of the road. One cop was down, the other was a rookie who was stumbling out of the car with his gun and starting to run after the tall skinny guy with the tattoos. They hadn't seen this much excitement all summer, so they watched for as long as they could until the skinny guy ran down Evans Street and into the backyards of the houses that lined the east side of the street.
Elvis darted from yard to yard, hiding behind whatever he could find. Garbage cans, swing sets, barbeques, bushes, flowers and hedges. He was cut up, scraped up, and gasping for air. He hadn't run like that since gym class in high school. Even then he was in terrible shape. His two-pack-a-day habit was definitely catching up to him. The fast food and colas were also not helping matters. Covered in sweat and soaked to the skin, Elvis was now under the porch where this strange story started, wondering what his next move would be. He figured it was close to 6pm. He debated whether he should wait until dark and then try and get away.
Nearly two hours had passed. Elvis was still under the porch. As dusk began to settle in, he thought once it was dark he would make his move. He was lucky that the porch he decided to hide under was at a house where no one was outside in the back yard, or had a dog that would know someone was hiding there. His mind was racing the entire time, not knowing how all this happened. He ran through the events of the day over and over while he hid, waiting for darkness. There was nothing that happened that made any sense. All he did was go into the bathroom at the Freedom and when he came out – BAM! It was 1957. As much as he loved the 50's, Elvis didn't know what would happen to everyone he knew. Would they be the same age like he was? Or would they not exist?
It was just after 8pm and Elvis decided it was dark enough to crawl out from under the porch. His plan was to make it back to the Freedom gas station and go back into the bathroom. Maybe it would transport him back to 2015? It sounded crazy, but then so did the entire course of events leading up to this moment. He was stiff from being under the porch all that time, and he brushed the dirt off his bare arms and jeans as he stood up and made his way back toward the Freedom.
After moving as stealth as possible, Elvis made it to a house next door to the Freedom, hiding in the hedges in front of the home. He decided the best thing to do was to just walk into the gas station and not hesitate. The sooner he could get into the bathroom, the better. He just hoped that the old man didn't prevent him from going into the bathroom in some way. Would the cops be there waiting?
As Elvis walked up to the Freedom he noticed that the lights inside were off and the gas attendant was no longer outside in his uniform. It appeared the gas station was closed! He pulled on the doors and confirmed that indeed the Freedom was closed. The posted hours showed they closed on Fridays at 8pm. He knocked on the door, hoping maybe someone was still inside that would let him in. He didn't know what he would say, but it was worth a try. He had no other ideas.
Just then he heard a car from behind him, then a second and a third. The lot was awash in bright headlights and police car lights!
“Freeze!” a loud authoritative voice cried out. “Get down on the ground or I'll shoot!”
Elvis slowly turned around, hoping no one got trigger happy. He made sure his hands were up high.
Just then a shot rang out as he jerked back against the doors. A rookie cop thought he saw Elvis reach for a gun in the dim light. He was hit in the left shoulder. The pain was intense. Then another shot – and another. Elvis was now down on the asphalt in front of the Freedom. Blood pouring from his wounds. Lying on his back all the noise around him began to muffle as a feeling of peace swept over him. Elvis couldn't help but smile while his vision slowly dimmed, and one of the police squad cars was playing Hound Dog on the radio.
Across town at the Bloomington drive-in his parents Odell and Daphne were on their fifth date and having sex in the back seat of Odell's Pontiac Chiefton. Little Elvis was being conceived as 24-year-old Elvis was bleeding out in the parking lot of the Freedom Oil gas station, a cool summer evening breeze soothing him as he passed on to the other side,