"This girl would be some where in Olk. Home . . . she had almost Black eye their was brown in them but real dark she was wiering a long leather string with this Dubble hart the outside was a brite medal and the Hart inside was a Real Red Hart with a crack zig zag through it I don't think I have ever seen one like it any where else I keept it for a long time after that . . . this girl would have a lot of stab woulds in her upper half of the boddy she may have already been found by some one fishing she also had on a leather head band around under her hair which was real black she never had any make up on."

"I mean, as far as suffering, maybe a mental torture," Henry Lee Lucas says. "Maybe. I guess. 'Course I don't know actually how a woman would feel being raped. I guess bad feelings about it. I couldn't tell you what she was feeling inside. But whatever one of my killings, I didn't let the victims suffer. If she was stabbed to death, she was dead on the first stab."

His voice is even, southern, conversational. The eyelid droops over his left eye, which is glass, but looks no cooler than the good right one. He has bad teeth, an unshaven chin, and wisps of shiny black hair that rise miscombed from the back of his head.

He is asked whether he believes he could go on living if he knew this was a lie.

"I know it to be true," Henry Lucas says. "I can only tell you from expressions, things like that, that none of my victims that I can remember actually suffered. There is a possibility -- now, let's see, let's take that back. I guess there was two or three that actually died later on, that I thought was dead. There was one in Alabama. And, let's see, there was another."

He stops for a moment, considering. "I can't think which one it was. Might have been Louisiana. I think probably they did suffer. 'Cause they lived long enough to go to a hospital."

By midsummer 1983, police officers had begun circulating reports of the Texas prisoner who was clearing homicides that dated back to 1979. Slowly at first, and then with such urgency that they had to request appointments as though waiting for the dentist, investigators began coming to central Texas to talk to Henry Lucas. Every state in the country has unsolved homicides: the deputy sheriff shot to death in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana; the two teen-aged girls found gagged and drowned in a drainage canal outside Miami. The officers came with files and photographs and Lucas received them all with the same studied equanimity. He came to refer to the windowless white-walled interrogation room here as "my office."

He remembered hair styles, jewelry descriptions, floor plans of house interiors. He told them about Ottis Toole, the balding man he had met in a Florida soup kitchen, and about how they traveled together, how Lucas became his companion's teacher; how, as Lucas says, "I was successful in actually training him in the field of crime itself."

He described victims left in trash bags, in living rooms, in culverts, in shallow graves, along railroad tracks, on the shoulders of highways, in rural alleys, in urban alleys, in deserts, in motels, in a convenience store, in a liquor store, in a lakefront parking lot, under a wooden bridge, and on the abandoned loading dock of a dairy products plant. He said they had killed with .22s, .38s, .357 magnums, rifles, knives, statues, vases, table legs, a framing hammer, a roofer's axe, a 2-by-4, vacuum cleaner cords, telephone cords, items of clothing, nylon rope and their own automobiles, which they used for random hit-and-runs. He discussed dismemberment, castration, cannibalism, people shot from moving cars, bodies left clothed, bodies left unclothed, and the time he said he nearly aroused the suspicion of a California-Arizona border guard who wondered about the car's odor, which Lucas assumed was coming from the head lying under some clothes in the back seat.

Lucas smoked many cigarettes during the interviews, and drank cups of black coffee. He did not use profanity. He rarely laughed, and never while he was describing a killing. When an interviewer once grew hostile and called him a liar, he grew quiet and declined to go on, so the out-of-county officers learned to remain conversational while he explained what he had done.

"You just sit there," says a Miami investigator whose own colleagues have since asked him how this was possible. "And while the hair goes up on your back, you sit there, and try to remain calm."

He grew up in Virginia, nine miles from the town of Blacksburg, in the cleft between Brushy Mountain and Get Mountain. He says the house was a four-room log cabin, and that he shared one of the sleeping rooms with his father, who had been run over years back by a freight train that cut off his legs.

"My daddy didn't do anything," Henry Lucas says. "He just sold pencils."

He has said his mother was a prostitute, and reports out of that valley have also said that local rumor called her a prostitute and a bootlegger. Lucas reportedly used to say that he saw his mother having sex with a lover, and that she beat him when she caught him watching, but he tells that story differently now. "First thing I can remember was when my mom was in bed with another man in the house, and she made me watch it," Lucas says. "I just couldn't stand there and watch. I had to turn my back and walk out of the house, and after I did that, she beat me, 'cause I didn't watch it."

He started to steal. Newspaper accounts have said that as a child he caught small animals and skinned them alive. "I started stealing I guess as soon as I was old enough to run fast," Lucas says. " 'Cause I didn't want to stay home. I figured if I could steal I could get away from home and stuff."

That is how Henry Lucas, who has been interviewed by many psychologists, says he grew up. "That is what mainly turned me into killing, really," he says. "Because the first girl I killed was when I was 14 years old. I wanted to try the sex I'd been watching." He says he did not know what to do. "I got to playing too rough with her," he says. "The pressure of seeing my mom hit me -- and my emotions more or less took over, and I couldn't quite handle it."

Lucas strangled her, he says. "It scared me quite a bit," he says. The Texas investigators have corroborated this account in Virginia, where a homicide unsolved for 33 years was cleared this summer by officers who listened to Henry Lucas.

He was 19 when he was first imprisoned as an adult. He was convicted of burglary, sentenced to Virginia State Prison, and returned to prison after he escaped by breaking away from a road gang. He stayed until 1959, and a year after he was released, he murdered his mother.

She had moved to Michigan by then. They argued one evening, and Lucas stabbed her in the neck. He was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in the Michigan State Penitentiary where he was paroled in 1970 and returned to prison in 1971 on a four- to five-year sentence for attempted kidnaping. Lucas' parole board notes show that in 1961 he was diagnosed as schizophrenic, and that he spent more than four years in the Michigan hospital for the criminally insane.

"Would say he is making good progress," a prison official wrote in a note to the parole board in 1968, apparently after Lucas had been returned to the general prison population. "I am impressed by his growth."

While he was in the penitentiary, Lucas says, he was allowed to work in the prison records section."You can learn a lot of different types of crimes by reading different type cases," he says. An official at the state penitentiary in Jackson says none of the prison staff remembers Lucas working in the records office; someone recalls Lucas from the carpenter's shop, the official says, and no one remembers the Virginia man as anything but a model prisoner.

The FBI has a new term for men like Henry Lucas and Ottis Toole, and the Chicago multiple murderer John Gacey and the terrible growing list of names that is slowly becoming familiar fodder in American newspapers. They are called "recreational killers." There is also another more technical term -- "serial killers," to distinguish their victim-by-victim drawn-out wanderings from the sudden apocalypse of a gunman who shoots 20 people on a crowded street -- but it is recreation that makes people most afraid, that summons much of the mystery and debate about these men. There are women among them, but the recreational murderers are almost all men. That is known. Beyond that there is not much consensus, either about who they are or why they do what they do.

In the August issue of Life magazine, writer Brad Darrach and psychotherapist Joel Norris laid out the serial murderer profile they plan to discuss at greater length in what Norris says is a still-unsold book about the history and pathology of serial murderers. They are usually abused children, they wrote, with above average IQs, frequent early difficulties like hyperactivity and bed-wetting, and a legacy of emotional damage that buried and stilled all human feeling.

"Rebirth is the theme and purpose of most serial murder," they wrote. "The serial killer, say some analysts, identifies the victim as a symbolic surrogate for the parent who dominated, controlled, possessed, and destroyed him as a child."

Dr. Helen Morrison, a Chicago psychiatrist who conducted interviews with seven serial murderers (including hundreds of hours with Gacey), disagrees with much of that thesis. The murderers may or may not have been abused as children, she says. Her interviews have led her to believe the murderers often grew up in middle-class neighborhoods with both parents, that their IQs were average to above average, that they found work that allowed them to travel or avoid fixed schedules, and that they are often wrongly described as either homosexual or heterosexual.

"Their pathology is not that organized," she says. "Most frequently they're bisexual."

This is not Morrison's principal work -- she directs a psychiatric center that also assesses brain function -- but she has come to believe that from infancy serial murderers may harbor some biological defect. "Whether it's a structure in the brain -- we don't know yet," Morrison says. What to the outsider looks rational, or kind and well-mannered, may surround "this total morass that you can't seem to find the beginning or the end of," she says.

Morrison says it seems clear to her that murder somehow ministers to that morass. "It appears the homicides become an organizing part of their psychology. There is absolutely no humanity in these people . . . and then death is life, and life is death, and there's no difference between the two . . . and that's what's so chilling about them."

There is in these explanations a certain gulf between psychiatrists and the police officials who spend the bad moments of their work life gazing at the residue that men like Henry Lucas leave behind. "There are people who love to kill," says Charles Casey, head of the bureau of organized crime and criminal intelligence at the California Department of Justice. "We don't like to talk about it, and we like to tack some deep psychological meaning on it, but really they're killing for fun. Just plain fun."

In the work of homicide investigators these are extraordinarily frustrating crimes. Serial killers are not like panicked burglars or raging ex-husbands; they do not, as a rule, leave behind wallets or trails of blood or any of the other evidence that might give away a less practiced murderer. They often know their victims only slightly or not at all, so no families or friends can describe them to police. When they work like Henry Lucas, or the person who is believed to have murdered 26 women in the Green River area of Washington State, they pick sometimes on people who will not even be reported missing for many weeks -- prostitutes, or hitchhikers, or runaways.

And they travel, county to county, state to state, up and down the interstates, crossing police jurisdictional lines so fast that by the time a body is found in northern Texas the murderer may be leaving another behind in eastern Oklahoma. Under normal circumstances, the Texas and Oklahoma police do not talk to each other, so nobody picks up the makings of a pattern.

The FBI, which in recent years has developed a special Behavioral Sciences Unit that works up detailed profiles of likely murder suspects based on evidence like location of bodies and method of killing, has launched a national network that will theoretically resolve some of the cross-jurisdictional problem. The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VI-CAP) is only part of what the FBI is calling the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, but it is VI-CAP that has generated the most interest among investigators immersed just now in the travels of Henry Lucas. The program, scheduled for full start-up next summer, is a national service that might, for example, have informed central Texas Sheriff Jim Boutwell that police officers in Covington, La., had also found, tossed out near the highway through town, a female body naked except for ankle socks.

VI-CAP is not a wholeheartedly applauded proposal, even among police investigators. Local agencies will have to make it work, and that means men like Boutwell must be courted away from their essential distrust of big Washington agencies. "It's a good idea, and it's needed," Boutwell says, "but in order to work it has to be something the various agencies will believe in. It has to be a cooperative situation . . . It's usually a damn one-way street. They come at us at all times for information, and we give it, regularly, but you go to them for information and in most cases they say, 'Sorry, it's classified.' "

Even if VI-CAP does work, Keppel says, when a man like Henry Lucas is on the road, a man who kills teen-agers and middle-aged women and elderly shopkeepers, a man who kills blacks and whites and men and women and rarely kills two of them the same way, a man whose every move in murder defies the logic of standard police investigations -- then it is not so easy to see just what a national computer will do. "It doesn't do any good until some evidence is left," Keppel says. "I think that VI-CAP is going to help us catch the easier serial killers. I don't know if it's going to be that successful in catching the Ted Bundy or the Henry Lucas."

Henry Lucas married briefly in Maryland, left his wife, and in 1977, reportedly while standing in a Florida soup line, met the balding man named Ottis Toole. They were traveling partners after that, and, by some accounts, occasional lovers. They stole, worked odd jobs, lived out of cars. Toole introduced Lucas to his niece Frieda Powell, who was then 13 and went by the name of Becky. She became an occasional traveling partner too, and there are reports describing murders in which police guess the victims opened doors or approached automobiles apparently because they thought they were coming to the aid of a girl scarcely into her teens.

Lucas is trying to avoid mentioning the name of Toole, who is now serving out a murder and arson sentence in Florida with a gag order restricting mention of his name in Texas, which hopes to try him locally without any damaging publicity. "He was doing his crimes all one way," Lucas says. "I started to correct him in his ways, in doing the crime where he wouldn't leave the information."

He says he taught Becky Powell to do this too, but that she was not without feelings. He says Becky was once bothered by the sight of a naked woman Lucas had killed, so she went back and laid a coat on the body. He says he thought of Becky as a daughter, that he remembers holding her in his arms, and that he did not have sex with her until 1982, when she was 15. That was the year he murdered her. When he talked to her after that at the place he had left part of her body, Lucas says, he generally discussed his plans of the moment, his uncertainty about whether to leave the area, and the next killings he had in mind. "More or less general, what you'd say, man and wife conversation," Lucas says.

When he did kill, Lucas says, he felt nothing he can recall as emotion. "I didn't have any," Lucas says. "I had no feelings for the people themselves, or any of my crimes . . . I'd pick them up hitchhiking, running and playing, stuff like that. We'd get to going and having a good time. First thing you know, I'd killed her and throwed her out somewhere."

He also killed a lot of women who were on the road with car trouble. There was a businesswoman in California who had simply been walking through a hotel parking lot. His visitor is female, and must walk alone sometimes; would he have killed her too?

"Probably," Henry Lucas says. "Yes."

He is smoking and does not look up, but his voice is unchanged.

"I couldn't any way go around another female person," Lucas says. "When I'd get around one I'd get cold chills."

What followed the chills?

"That person would end up dead. It always has happened that way."

He is asked about the great violence done to people he had already killed.

"It was a force," Lucas says. "I don't know how to really explain why I kept on. It was just, like I say, as though I left my body. And just as though the more you look at them, as though that person wasn't dead. And you just keep stabbing them and imagining that person's not dying."

Also there was a death squad, Lucas says. He met them in Florida, they are responsible for some of his fiercer mutilations, and there are other members of the death squad at large to this day, Lucas says. He is unable to provide specifics, and although the FBI will not say whether it is investigating this report, other police officials say the death squad story is being examined to see if there is any substance to it.

Lucas would like, in addition, to correct the present estimate of numbers. "There's over 360 people that's dead," he says. "It's way over 360. I don't know exactly how far over, but I know it's over 360. Between Ottis and myself together, 'course I'm not supposed to mention his name, but between the two of us it's going to be way over 500 people."

As of last week, Henry Lee Lucas had been convicted of or pled guilty to seven murders, all of women, all in Texas. He faces four life sentences, two 75-year terms, and the death penalty; 29 other charges are pending against him. In one of those cases, a robbery-murder in Chambers County, Texas, he could receive a second death penalty, which Texas prosecutors like to think of as insurance in case the first is successfully appealed. Investigators from around the country had confirmed Lucas' participation in at least 175 murders; about 2,500 police officers have talked to Lucas so far, and the Texas Rangers in charge of coordinating the interviews have another 300 requests to accommodate, which they do with the aid of a large black binder that now charts the travels and killings of Lucas and Toole.

There has been some suggestion that police are simply using Lucas to clear every unsolved homicide they can possibly unload, and Lucas is irritated about that. "I want to make one thing clear -- the police do not give me information," he says. "Each crime, I am able to go back and relive it . . . I am able to trace back and relive it . . . I am able to trace back step by step to where the killing actually took place, and what happened to that person when the killing was taking place."

He says he had a difficult time with one particular recollection, when he was asked to remember the murder of two California girls, who were 4 and 5 years old when Toole and Lucas took them from a small-town sidewalk. Lucas says the men decided that after they picked them up they could not let them go, because the girls might identify them. Investigators who watched Lucas talk about many different murders say he seemed visibly distressed only when he remembered these. "I could see them so small and stuff like that," Lucas says. "I don't usually kill kids. Not that young, anyway."

He expects, he says, that the state of Texas will execute him. He says he does not know whether that is fitting. "I haven't thought about any punishment," he says. "I feel that whatever they are giving me, I have to accept it, regardless."

In the meantime, he lives in the Williamson County Jail. He has a television in his cell, and he prefers watching professional wrestling or police programs. He likes "The A-Team," he says. He also has a Bible, which he says he reads, now that he is carrying out God's command to confess. He says he reads the 23rd Psalm with some regularity.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death --

"I will fear no evil," Lucas says. "For God is with me."

A lot of people want to talk to him, and they get on waiting lists and come into his "office" and have to exchange pleasantries with him and otherwise treat him in a fairly civil manner to keep him from going stony on them. Lucas says he does not think this is particularly good, all this attention. "I'm getting too much," he says. "I don't think I should be made an idol. We've got a lot of young people out there that think of me as an idol. They have been ever since this started."

Quietly, his southern country voice still even and slow, Lucas says somebody with a weak mind is going to follow in his footsteps, and that he does not want that to happen, that he is sorry for what he did and he cannot change it, he cannot go back and take apart what happened, but he certainly does not want someone with a weak mind following in his footsteps, not at all. "I'm not no idol," Lucas says. "I'm just a man like everybody else. I don't want them to think of me as something special. I'm not."

Henry Lucas has one function now, which is remembering what he did in what investigators believe was at least 23 states.

Last month California got him. On Aug. 19, eight months after California investigators gathered in Sacramento for a conference devoted exclusively to Henry Lucas, two state special agents brought Lucas by private plane to the town of El Centro, which lies in the desert along the Mexican border. It was not the first time investigators had led Lucas away from jail -- already he had accompanied them to murder sites in Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida, sometimes giving precise directions to the spot where police had found bodies years before. But the California trip, which had been laboriously mapped out in an office at the state Department of Justice, was unprecedented in its ambition. For 12 days straight, touring 16 hours a day and sleeping in preselected local jails at night, Henry Lucas was to travel the highways of California, pointing out to investigators the particular places where, as Lucas liked to put it, he "had bodies."

There had been a lot of preparation for this trip, some of it forced by the conditions Lucas set out before he agreed to talk. He wanted television in each overnight jail cell. He wanted an unlimited supply of black coffee and Pall Mall cigarettes. He did not want to have to eat "Texas steak," which was what he called hamburger. He wanted to be treated with some courtesy by the guards who would accompany him, and he wanted no press coverage while the group was traveling.

"Our prime responsibility was to keep Henry happy, so that he wouldn't halfway through this tour say, 'I want to go home,' " says H. John Meisner, one of the two San Diego-based state agents who rode for 12 days in the van from which Henry Lucas gazed out at beach grass and desert rocks and half-hidden off-road culverts, trying to remember where he had bodies. Meisner drove, agent Charles McLaughlin sat in back and watched from Lucas' blind side, and between the two of them they learned to recognize the slow bobbing of the cuffed hands that meant Lucas was approaching familiar terrain.

There was something faintly trancelike about it, both men thought, the way Lucas would direct them to stop and then climb from the car and begin walking, his lips moving silently as he neared the site. "He was telling what she did, she was wearing such and such, and I raped her, and then I stabbed her six or seven times -- and he's walking around, he's reliving the incident in his mind," McLaughlin says.

Sometimes his accuracy was astonishing, and sometimes he got things wrong. He remembered precisely where he had left a hitchhiker in the desert outside El Centro -- a butte, called "Sunrise" because of the Easter services held there, marked the place -- and El Centro investigators cleared an 18-month-old homicide. He told them he had thrown the woman's body into a dump behind a concrete bridge and a twisted dirt road, and gave them directions so exact that they found the place he had described, but no body was ever recovered there. He directed them to the intersection in San Diego where he said he had stabbed to death a black prostitute, but the body police had found was of a white prostitute, and the case was left open.

And Lucas made conversation, as they sat in the van and drove the length of California. He talked about how he and Toole used to sell stolen items at flea markets, and which flea markets were best suited to stolen goods, and how he got no enjoyment from sex with living persons, and how blood could be washed from a car by taking it through a car wash, and how he had not joined in the time Toole removed part of a victim's leg -- "filleted" is the term Lucas used -- to barbecue and eat it. McLaughlin asked him why not. "I don't like barbecue sauce," Lucas said.

McLaughlin, who is a big ex-Marine with a long history as a narcotics and organized crime investigator, has a difficult time telling this story with anything that might be called appropriate reaction. There is a thick kind of numbness that settles over people who come near Lucas for very long, as though one cannot imagine after all what to do in the presence of plain evil; as though the spirit might shatter if it summoned some response equal to the typewritten, professionally crisp detail that now lines the walls of the Henry Lucas Task Force office. "8/17/76. Colorado. Victim picked up in bar, taken to rural area, raped, body mutilated; decapitated, torso intact, but arms and legs cut off." "4/17/82. New Mexico. Victim's body found in rural area face down. Victim had been sexually assaulted and stabbed 11 times in chest, throat, and back. Victim also had marks on body made with ball point pen."

Meisner found himself sliding into something like a joke with Henry Lucas. They would drive past a hitchhiking woman, and Meisner would say, That'd be one of yours, right, Henry? And Lucas might smile a little as he said, Yeah, that'd be one of mine. At night Meisner would call his wife and try to talk about it, but he found it was hard to give these things voice; he and McLaughlin would look at each other at the end of the day and say, "Jesus Christ." When the tour was over, and California police had satisfied themselves that Lucas was responsible for at least 15 of the homicides they had listed, Lucas said he wanted to leave his autograph for McLaughlin.

He signed the August issue of Life magazine, the one that features a lengthy article about serial murderers in America. Lucas wrote over the article's opening photograph, which shows him seated behind two rows of photographs of his victims.

In the picture he is holding up the snapshot of a young black woman, and pointing to her face. His mouth is slightly open. Only the left eye, the one that is glass and cannot see, appears to be gazing at the photogapher. "To Charles J. McLaughlin," Lucas wrote. "A swell man and a real nice person who I would have Liked to have as a friend." CAPTION: Map, Location where Henry Lucas' victims were found. By Brad Wye for the Washington Post; Picture, Henry Lucas. Copyright (c) 1984, Austin American Statesman