1963, Southern California: His name was Gus Ward Harrison. He was getting older, no longer a carefree young man though he never was carefree, for his mind was one that switched back and forth from a dark side to reality. He was driven to succeed, and he was no dummy, but the dark side kept him in a kind of no-man’s-land. A good-looking man of forty-eight years, with short-cropped hair, nice features, and in seemingly good shape and health, though he walked with an almost unnoticeable limp. Not the most outgoing person, but he was able to get along fairly well with people. Of course, this might have been to mask his alter ego.
For, you see, Gus was a serial killer. Here it was, 1963, and he had been killing for about thirty-one years. He had first killed at the age of seventeen when he murdered a cousin who had angered him. It didn’t stop there. Any time he traveled with his parents on vacation or to visit someone, he would find a way to slip away and find another victim. Most of the time, he used a knife or strangled the victim with a rough length of clothesline. He carried a pistol, but being in new places where he wasn’t sure who might be nearby, he seldom used it.
On this day, he drove down the highway in his 1962 Plymouth Savoy, smoked a cigarette, and listened idly to a country-western tune on the radio. It was the Fourth of July and the smell of backyard barbecue floated out over the road. But Gus was on a mission, a mission to find some new victims. His dark side had taken over and told him to go hunting, and he knew just the right hunting spot: an old, remote beach where young lovers sometimes went and hobos slept. With a little luck, he would find someone there. He tossed his cigarette out the window then took another from his pack. He had started smoking more and more lately, and he liked it.
As he pulled off the highway, he parked his car on a dirt patch big enough for three cars. Luckily no one else was parked there, which allowed him to take up more than the space he needed. After getting out of the car, he took a large burlap bag from the trunk, and then he headed down a hill on a narrow path through brush and trees. This was such a great place because you could not see the beach area from the road or any place above, perfect for his purpose. As he walked along, he thought to himself what a great Fourth of July it would be if he could add a few more victims to his list. It was a beautiful day and the breeze off the ocean was delightful, but Gus’s thoughts were not on the weather.
More than halfway down the trail, he saw the beach. Another seventy feet and the view would be clear. So he stopped, opened the burlap bag, and took out a set of expensive binoculars, then continued walking until he finally had a view of the whole beach area. It was a fairly small beach, with large rocks here and there, along with clumps of rough grass that grew through the sand in places. With the binoculars to his eyes, he looked out. There, on a blanket fifty feet from the water, was a young guy in swim trunks and a gal in a full-piece bathing suit, lounging as they enjoyed the afternoon. Lowering the binoculars, Gus grinned he had hit the jackpot.
He reached the bottom of the trail and stood behind a large rock and bushes; he looked all around, then took the binoculars and scanned the area, looking back up the trail. Assured there was no one else around, he opened the burlap bag and took out a .22 semi-automatic rifle; his hands liked the feel of it. He leaned it against the rock, and then took out four pieces of cut lengths of clothesline, which were tucked in his belt to hang down. He walked on, the rifle held along his side furthest from the couple. With the rifle there it made him seem to limp more in order for it to stay hidden.
On the blanket, Robert Delaney and Linda Taylor, two high school seniors, relaxed and listened to pop tunes on the radio. Robert, a high school football player, felt good that he had talked his new girlfriend into coming to a secluded place with him. Linda was not used to dating much, and for her to come here was a big decision, but she really liked and trusted Robert. She had made sure to wear a one piece bathing suit; a bikini would have been too much for someone she had been dating only three months. As Robert lay back and soaked up some sun, she sat and watched a seagull that pranced around on the beach near the water. The waves brought in a small dead fish; the seagull noticed it, picked it up and swallowed it, and then continued to prance around like a little Napoleon as it looked for other fish.
Gus walked their way and Linda noticed him.
“Robert, there is a guy coming this way. He seems to be limping.”
Robert, head raised, glanced toward Gus and then lay back again.
“Yes, there is.”
As Gus got closer to the young couple, he swung out his rifle and rushed over to them. Linda was startled.
“Oh my God! He’s got a gun!”
Robert sat up and noticed Gus with the rifle as he approached the blanket. Nervously, Robert looked at him.
“I don’t have a lot of money, but you can have it all”
Linda tried to keep her composure.
“Please, don’t hurt us.”
Gus ripped several pieces of rope from his belt and tossed them to Linda.
“Tie up his hands!”
Robert knelt and held his hands out in front of him.
Gus had the rifle pointed at Robert.
“Hands behind your back.”
Linda got up and walked behind him. As she started to tie his hands, Robert jumped up.
She ran in one direction as Robert ran in another. Gus, rifle aimed, shot Robert five times, then whirled around and shot Linda three times. They both fell to the sand. He then shot the radio to silence it before he walked over to Robert, who seemed unconscious, and shot him two more times. Then he walked to Linda, who noticed as he walked up. She looked at him with pleading eyes.
“Oh please, no.”
He put two more bullets in her, then looked around to make sure no one else had seen them. He saw no one, but he noticed an old wood shack beneath two arroyo willow trees. It had no front, just a back, and sides, and was very crude, probably used as a shelter by hobos. Rifle slung over a shoulder, Gus walked over to Robert, grabbed his feet, and dragged him toward the shack. Reaching the shack, he dragged Robert in on his back and walked out for Linda.
With both of them in the shack, Gus stood there and looked at them. Robert on his back, Linda on her back on top of Robert. He took out a three-inch pocket knife, reached down, and cut open Linda’s bathing suit, then ripped the suit open to fully expose her breasts. As he folded up the knife to put it back in his pocket, he noticed some shreds of old newspaper. He picked them up. Outside the shack, he found some small pieces of wood. He piled the paper and wood by one wall of the shack and lit the paper with a lighter, then quickly walked away.
The next afternoon, a young man, twenty years old, well groomed, walked along the beach in cutoffs and a colorful pull-over shirt; a chocolate Labrador retriever ran around him. Suddenly, the Lab stopped, raised its head and sniffed, then took off toward the old shack. The young man whistled and yelled.
“Spider, get back here!”
But the dog paid no attention as it raced to the old shack and entered it, only to come back out barking frantically. The young man called him again, but the dog looked back at the shack and barked again. He walked toward the dog.
“What the heck does that dog want?”
When he reached the shack, he looked in to see the two bodies. “Holy smokes! Come on, Spider.”
He took the dog by the collar and moved quickly away.
Later, the young man stood and talked with a sheriff’s deputy as the sheriff stood in front of the shack and looked at the bodies. The deputy questioned the young man.
“So you were walking with your dog and he wandered over to this shack?”
“Yes, he wouldn’t come back so I walked over and found the bodies.”
“And you did what?”
“I grabbed the dog and ran toward my car, drove to a pay phone, and called you guys. Then drove back here.”
The sheriff walked over to them.
“This guy tried to burn the shack down but it looks like the fire went out.”
He looked at the young man.
“You didn’t see anyone around?”
“No sir, Sheriff, no one.”
The sheriff glanced all around and looked at the shack again before he turned his gaze back toward the deputy.
“Get some guys down here and rope off this beach. It’s obvious he killed them out near their blanket before dragging them to the shack.”
“Yes sir, the coroner should be here any minute.”
“Good, and don’t forget, this is a sandy area, make sure you guys are careful searching it.”