After we graduated from high school, we formed a sixties rock and roll band. Pai, my best friend, spirit hunting partner and hypnotist, Jim and I were part of a nine piece group called Ye Olde Forest, playing anywhere we could from San Francisco to San Jose. George was our manager and a good friend. The entire band hung together, swinging on the Blaney park swings at midnight at the local park to taking off to explore new territories.
Pai and Jim went to our favorite beach in Santa Cruz. Another pal, Rick and I were going to meet them at the beach around midnight. We took off over Highway 17 in his yellow bug eyed Sprite. Rick was not a 'getter'. Period. The closer we got to the summit, the more stuffy it got. Like the air was thick. I tried to ignore it. Rick didn't say anything but he was watching me out of the corner of his eye. I wasn't going there with him and stayed silent. Once we crossed the summit, it got worse, and worse.
There was this famous ice cream store in the main drag. Anyone who went to Santa Cruz in the sixties will know the one I mean, before Baskin Robins was even thought of. The shop sported a large neon pink and brown ice cream sign you could see from a distance. We had arranged to meet them at the ice cream parlour or the beach. Amazing now, to think of how loose we left arrangements back then, yet everything worked out, without cell phones.
Pai and Jim were not there at the ice cream parlour. We needed gas, and by this time had noticed just how strange everything was. This was a weekend, Santa Cruz should be buzzing. Instead, it was like we descended down into a cloud of void. Very uncomfortable. No cars, no foot traffic, it was a dead town. At the gas station, the attendant kept watching us from his safe, comfy station. We wiggled and waited and thought. Finally, when the gas was pumped, the attendant came over to Rick's window, took the money and asked us if we were from out of town. We said, "Yeah, San Jose." He said, and I quote, "Go home. Go home now. It's not safe here." He turned and went back into the gas station office, still watching. Rick and I left, but went past the beach to find Pai and Jim. Their car wasn't there either.
We decided to call it a night and I am sure we were both quite anxious to get back home, to safe ground. We took off for the summit. The closer we got to the summit, the air got thicker again. We didn't talk. Rick suddenly pulled over, about two thirds up the hill. I know the exact spot we stopped to this day. He was shaking uncontrollably. He turned to me and almost yelled, "What is going ON?" He had been picking up something from me, who knows, but I do know that where we stopped was bad, bad news.
Engulfing the entire car, hanging in the air about seven or eight feet off the ground was a cloud. Maybe twenty feet in diameter, light smoke, almost. It was almost as if the oppressive cloud was poisonous. Rick couldn't see it. I knew, without any doubt, that if we had left the car, it would spell disaster. Danger. That's all I got. No specifics. I talked to Rick as calmly as I could, said we just had to keep going and that he could do it. We couldn't switch places so I could drive, we just had to go. Now. Please!!
Rick finally got back on the road and we drove, talking, exchanging impressions, you name it. Chatter just to keep ourselves together. Rick knew it was bad, bad, bad, but since he had never felt anything along these lines, that was all he could comment. We went straight to my place, and for some unknown reason, woke George on the phone and told him all about it. He didn't know where Pai or Jim were either. Rick finally left, we were both exhausted and uneasy. Hard to sleep that night.
Eight o'clock in the morning, George is pounding on my door with the morning newspaper. Two boys were camping in the Santa Cruz mountains that night. When they failed to show up in the morning, one of the boy's older brother was told to go find them. He did find them, dead in their tent, murdered sacrificial style. About midnight. Probably fifty feet from where we stopped the car.
In retrospect, I am amazed. We started hitch hiking every weekend we could, up to Santa Cruz, Big Basin, Castle Rock or Big Sur and San Francisco's Haight, from 1968 to about 1973, continuing our constant travel with our own cars in the eighties. We would always travel in a small pack, never alone, but not out of fear. We simply always had a bunch of people together, where ever we went. To try and locate the news about the murder in this story, I encountered all the other murders that put our area on the map as the "Murder Capital of the World." We were certainly very lucky to have never encountered the four infamous serial killers in our area at that time, Herbert Mullin, Edward Kemper, David Carpenter or John Linley Frazier.