He drove up to the street corner, picked her up with promises of a well-paying photo shoot. She gave him the benefit of the doubt and got in the car with him. The black sedan headed out of town.
“I’ve only been, uh, working like this for a week.”
“Don’t worry, Miss, uh, what’s your name again?”
“Don’t worry, Evelyn. After you finish this photoshoot, you won’t be working that other job anymore. The street corner ain’t no kind of life for a young woman as pretty as you.”
Evelyn’s tinkly laugh filled the sedan, and she smiled, crossing her legs the other way in her excitement and nervousness.
“I tried for so long to get a modeling job, but everyone kept telling me, ‘We’re all full up. Don’t need no one.’ Even the damn local women’s shop catalog people. Talk about rotten luck.”
“But that’s all changed now. Your picture will be in all the magazines and newspapers after today’s photoshoot.”
The man smiled with closed mouth and turned his eyes back to the road. Highway 31 was mostly featureless between Tyler and Athens. Texas was big, and the wide open spaces tended to make drivers drowsy. But the man didn’t look drowsy.
“Where’s your studio, actually, Mr. Gaines?”
His smile began to widen until a few teeth showed. “It’s in a little place called Evelyn, kinda like you.”
“I thought Evelyn was a dead town. The only road I know goes there is some sort of Army official path or something. You mean there’s an actual town?”
“Sure is. Not that much there, but that means cheap real estate, and with my outfit bein’ nationwide, we like to keep local costs down.”
Shortly, the dirt road came up on the left; the man turned easily onto the path. Evelyn began to worry. She twirled her tawny hair nervously and stared down the featureless path. She had to stop herself from biting her lip; it would ruin her makeup for the photoshoot.
Mr. Gaines drove a few miles down the road and then suddenly turned off next to a desolate scrubby area. Evelyn’s watery blue eyes widened a bit, even after she saw his widest smile yet. All his teeth showed, and his eyes crinkled as he swung his camera gear out of the car.
“We’re calling this series Scrubland Sweetheart, so I want some shots out in the wild like this. That ok with you, honey?”
Her mother warned her about things like this. But what could she do now? This was, literally, the middle of nowhere. Just paste on a big smile and pretend you’re a movie star, Evelyn. Nothing else to do. With that resolution, she swung her legs out of the back seat of the car and straightened her skirt. And sat down. Right in the middle of the dirt road.
“Sure,” she managed, not being sure at all.
You want Scrubland Sweethearts? I give you just that! she thought. She hiked up her skirt a bit to add a touch of raciness. I’d be fooling myself if I thought this was anything but a risqué photo series to go in those racy men’s magazines. Big smile — as big as Texas. But she only managed a bewildered look. They’ll remember me, Evelyn thought. Snap, snap, snap. Show more leg. Snap snap snap….
Her eyes met the camera lens and then rose slowly above it, as a shadow fell across the dirt path. Mr. Gaines’ camera lowered, and his head tilted up. The whole sky darkened, or so it seemed. The object was huge, round and smooth, featureless. The two witnesses stared at it, mouths agape, eyes wide, trying to identify the unidentifiable.
The government man found the black sedan with two of its doors still open, about a third of the way down the restricted access road off State Road 31. The camera lay almost dead center of the path. No one was in the area. A purse belonging to an Evelyn Detmar was found in the back seat, while the car registration slip in the glove compartment showed the vehicle belonged to a two-bit dirty movie company called Gaines’ Dames.
No one knows what became of Mr. Gaines and his latest subject, Evelyn. The case is cold but still open. It’s a mystery as big as Texas…or maybe bigger.