Archive for trains
Mr Wright edged his short, wide frame through the narrow door of the sleeping compartment. His eyes widened as he saw the six empty seats. A whole carriage to myself, he thought, as he sniffed the air for stale farts or, worse, lingering tobacco smells. Although he was a non-smoker, he always travelled smoking class. Since the decade long war against tobacco, smoking class was cheaper. He was pleased that all he could detect was a not unpleasant new-car smell. He briefly wondered if there was a range of products that simulated these smells. He pulled his notebook that he took everywhere with him, from his inside jacket pocket, and wrote in bold black letters FIND OUT ABOUT SMELLS-AROMA IN A CAN.
Putting his pen and notebook away he saw a discarded newspaper pushed down the side of a seat and he was pleased to see that it was todays, although his pleasure turned to disappointment when he saw that the feature page had a piece torn from it. He huffed – he could not stand those people who tore bits of newspaper, or folded book pages to mark the spot, or were careless with personal articles – then he settled down to read the headline (TRAIN KILLER CLAIMS THIRD VICTIM – SUSPECT) when the door to the compartment loudly opened.
At first, M Wright averted his eyes and hoped that the interloper would move on. Then, when it was obvious that she was not going to do that, he looked up from his paper and, half grinning, half scowling, too on her visage. She looked to be around her mid thirties. Her face had sharp features and her hair was tightly wound around her head and held in place by a large bone needle. Indeed, as she twirled into the carriage, Mr Wright was afraid that some part of his anatomy might become impaled on that piece of bone. She wore a purple shawl wrapped over a floral summer frock, as if she couldn’t decide whether she was hot or cold. Her legs looked swollen and were encased in thick green support hose. Mr Wright inwardly giggled because he had the image of a cob of corn, tassel end up, and the new arrival reminded him of two of them, side-by-side. She carried a large green canvas bag, which matched her hose, from which knitting, a bread stick, and an umbrella handle, protruded. She smiled at Mr Wright and he instantly felt guilty for the corn image, and, arranging her canvas bag on the seat next to her, she noisily sat down and started quietly humming to herself. Mr Wright concentrated on his paper and mentally added quite hummers to his list of things he disliked. He was again distracted by the door sliding open just as he scanned the first paragraph of the train killer story. Something about a piece of clothing with a distinctive heraldry sign on it being spotted at the scene of two of the crimes.
The new occupant glided haughtily into the compartment, the silk of her stockings squeaking as she moved from door to seat. She looked at the two other occupants of the compartment as if they were creatures in a zoo. She dusted off the seat two away from the green canvas bag lady, sat down, crossed her expensively clad legs, and, with a quick expansive movement dragged a cigarette and a gold cigarette lighter from her large leather purse. She then placed the purse down on the seat where it promptly fell against the green canvas bag as the train lurched into motion. The green canvas bag lady looked form Mr Wright to the new occupant, and back to Mr Wright again, smiled and noisily clicked her needles as she finished an arm of what looked like a child jersey. As she smiled, the new occupant raised her head and turned up her nose with an aristocratic sniff. Mr Wright settled back into his newspaper and saw to his delight that pork belly futures were up. He also noticed that the torn section of the front page had contained a police identikit sketch of the train killer. All Mr Wrights paper showed him was a vague outline of a shoulder.
A loud commotion outside the compartment door made all three occupants look up. A young bearded man, backpack perched high on his shoulders, was arguing loudly with the train guard who seemed to want him to get off the train. The young man pulled the door open and flung his pack in the space between the two women as the guard announced that the young man would have to get off at the next stop and return to where he had got on. With a whirlwind of activity and some dark language the young man sat down beside Mr Wright, leaned forward to his pack, and removed a walkman with headphones and a notebook. Mr Wright couldn’t help but notice that the young man’s notebook was impressive. It had a marbled cover and was gilt edged, altogether grander than Mr Wright’s blue vinyl model. The train entered a tunnel and the lights flickered painting a stroboscopic wash over the four occupants of the carriage.
As they entered daylight again Mr Wright looked at the jumble of bags and luggage on the seat opposite him. His eyes widened in horror as he saw the distinctive dragon and crossed swords monogram on a white shirt that lay in no mans land between the three others bags. He looked at his newspaper again, the shirt, the paragraph about the clothing, the shirt, the young man. The bag lady smiled sweetly and humming, pulled a piece of the bread stick and stuffed it into her mouth and started chewing, turning the hum into a grind. The haughty women snapped her compact loudly, sniffed, and looked away as the young bearded man mumbled to the sound coming from his Walkman. He scribbled something in his notebook. When he saw Mr Wright staring at him, he hastily drew the notebook to his chest so that no one could see what was written on the pages. He then placed the book back in his pack and withdrew what looked like a short walking stick from the frame of the pack just as the train entered another tunnel and intermittent darkness. Mr Wright felt his sphincter tighten as the flickered light from the compartment lit the soot-covered walls of the tunnel.
As the train entered the daylight again the door slid open yet another time and the same guard who had argued with the bearded youth repeated his message that the passenger was to alight at the next stop and make his own way back to where he had come from. The young man started protesting and waving the walking stick around but he calmed down when the cigarette-smoking woman said that she was getting off at the next stop, driving part way back along the route, and she would be willing to take him. There was something else in her tone that Mr Wright could not quite put his finger on but his contemplations were forgotten as the young man agreed to the ride. Mr Wright looked out the window at the countryside which was increasingly lashed by rain and wind. The young man glared at the guard, thanked the woman, and popped his headphones back on and continued to play with his stick. Mr Wright could see now that it was an altogether grander thing than he had first imagined and that it was either telescopic or pulled apart into something metallic, and, alarmingly, sharp. Mr Wright returned to his paper and started to think.
It suddenly came to him as an epiphany. The heraldry on the shirt, the telescopic stick, the anger. This was the train killer. Here in the carriage with Mr Wright and two defenceless women. The instant the thought formed he looked up and saw the eyes of a killer looking back at him. How could he warn this innocent young woman that she would soon be alone with an insane killer?
Psst! Psst! Mr Wright hissed between tightly pursed lips. Psst! She looked up, as did the elderly lady, her mouth stuffed with another morsel of food from her bag. Mr Wright held up the folded newspaper and pointed over the top of the page to the headlines. He then gesticulated toward the young man who sat low in his seat, eyes closed, immersed in his music. The old woman frowned, the young woman looked disapprovingly at the newspaper and Mr Wright then hunched her shoulders and turned away to look at the rain lashed fields that sped by outside their warm environ. Mr Wright was perplexed. The young man suddenly grunted, his eyes opened, and he shook his walkman. Mr Wright hurriedly pulled the newspaper back and glanced down at the headlines. Why couldn’t this stupid woman understand what he was so desperately trying to tell her? He looked and did a double take. To his horror, he saw that he had shown the wrong side of the folded newspaper. Instead of the train killer story he had been frantically trying to draw the young woman’s attention to XXX DO YOU WANT QUICK SEX ????? XXX, and a picture of a scantily clad young woman crouched before an eager looking older man. Mr Wright’s face turned puce and he quickly busied himself with re-arranging his paper. The train slowly drew into the station, came to a stop, and the young man and woman alighted in animated discussion. Curious, but also embarrassed at his blunder, Mr Wright watched the young man buy a newspaper as the woman backed a foreign sports car from the stations day-park. He looked at the front page, then scanned down to the bottom of the paper. His mouth suddenly formed a small O and his eyes narrowed. Mr Wright tried to look away, his failure to save this poor girls life swimming through his head. The young man started stumbling back to the now departing train. Mr Wright thought that he might just make it and perhaps kill him and the old woman before alighting to claim his sixth victim. A gust of wind suddenly lifted the newspaper from the young mans hands and it flew toward the departing train and the window that Mr Wright now looked tremulously out of. It stuck, front page first, to Mr Wrights window. He saw the vivid headline that had haunted him since he had entered the carriage. His eyes were drawn to the picture of the suspect that had been missing form his copy. He only had an instant to register the unmistakable face of the woman now sitting next to him, the kitting with the dragon and sword; then the train entered yet another tunnel. This time, the lights didn’t come on.