Chapter 5: The missed stop

August 24, 2008

Help me

If one more minute were to pass, the people around him were going to duct tape Sergeant Jackson’s hands to his brief case. He was strumming his fingers for a half-hour while waiting for Sergeant Chamber’s train to arrive at the station. This was Jackson’s first real case and he was looking forward to Chambers counsel. He held in his lap a case full of the initial investigation information that Chambers wanted to review upon arrival. The wait was killing Jackson since he knew time was of the essence. Upon hearing the announcement over the PA system stating that the train was arriving, Jackson felt a heavy weight left from his chest.

Jackson stood up as the passengers began to disembark from the train, scanning the crowd for the first sign of Chambers. As more and more of the passengers passed through the gate, Jackson grew concerned. Walking up to the agent at the gate, he inquired about the location of Chambers. “No sir, he hasn’t checked out yet,” the agent replied, causing Jackson to pull out his bad and ask for permission to board the train. The agent called for security, and soon after, he was escorted to the tracks.

After boarding the train and walking through a few passenger cars, Jackson and the guard reached the berth registered to Chambers. Opening the door, it was soon clear that Chambers had not checked off the train as his belongings were still lying about. Searching around, Jackson found keys, a book that was being read, even his police badge sitting on the table next to his bed, but no sign of his wallet. Asking the guard if there was a dining car on the train, Jackson wondered if Chambers might had taken a visit to the bar at one point, so they decided to search there next.

The night bartender was called down to the dining car to meet with Jackson, who confirmed that Chambers had in fact visited the car earlier in the morning for a drink, and then departed to his room following payment of his bill. Nodding to the guard, the guard called in to the station requesting the train be held for investigation. Jackson asked the bartender to pull out the receipts from the night so he could begin to piece together a timeline. In addition, he asked the guard to contact the conductor to request the train logs to piece together where the train was at the time Chambers paid for his drink. This has turned into a missing person’s investigation.

Within a few hours, the train had been thoroughly searched and interviews conducted, including with a young lady who departed the dining car right after Chambers. She recalled seeing Chambers in her car as she went to her room, but did not recall seeing nor hearing anyone else. The bartender noted that besides the young gal, no one else had left the dining car within a half-hour of Chambers’s departure. The conductor estimated the location of the train at the time Chambers paid for his drink. Jackson was reviewing his notes when it was reported that one of the transition access doors was tampered with, adding confirmation to what he feared. Chambers did not make it to Cincinnati. Using the conductors estimate, Jackson called in for inspections to be made along the tracks in Indiana.

The search dogs were barking and rescue teams were calling out Bill’s name along a hundred miles of tracks, searching for any clue in the disappearance of Chambers. From small towns, to open fields, to the woods, teams were on the ground. In the background, the barking of the dogs was heard.

Bill laid motionless along the same tree for almost twenty-four hours, praying for a miracle, hoping to be found. He fought off the cold of the long night and the fear that he might not be found in time. Unable to move and too soar to call out, all he could do was wait until the rescuers to reach him. And he didn’t have to wait long as a light shined upon him and a dark silhouette approached. “Help me,” Bill cried out in his mind. Kneeling down along side of Bill, his savior in the dark laid a hand upon his chest, giving Chambers a sense of calm, knowing that he was safe. He closed his eyes and slipped into unconsciousness, the sound of dogs barking far off in the background continuing.

Advertisements

Chapter 4: Long Ride Home

August 17, 2008

… and to all a good night

“Let me just verify the information. The car belongs to one Darren Hernandez, and a local store clerk remembered seeing him a few nights earlier. Correct? Ok, I will join up with the team as soon as I return home. The train has just left Denver and I’ll get a connection out from Cincinnati. Keep me appraised of the investigation. Chambers out.”

Cutting his vacation short, Sgt. Chambers responded to a call from his precinct regarding a black convertible found abandoned in the woods with no sign of the owner. One of the town residents indicated that Darren Hernandez was on his way to one of the local campgrounds to meet up with his friend Kyle Wright. After Darren failed to show up at the site, Kyle headed into town and filed a missing person’s report with the local sheriff’s office. While such a case usually wouldn’t require Sgt. Chambers’ presence, it was a call from Chip Mackey requesting his assistance as a favor.

Bill had spent the weekend skiing and taking a well-deserved break from the job. After assisting another department with a missing child case, he needed the time to clear his head and recharge his batteries. Taking the train only added to the alone time he needed as the rhythmic clacking of the wheels on the track allowed him to rest in his cabin with a good book. Mystery novels were his obvious weakness, though he also felt that they helps him think outside of the box when it came to his work examining crime scenes. But tonight the biggest mystery was on which page he would fall asleep reading.

The banking of the train as it winds through the countryside was enough to stir Bill from his nap. He replaced the bookmark in his book and slowly crawled out of his chair. Though it was only two in the morning, he remembered that the dining car had 24-hour bar service; and he really felt the need for a drink. After splashing some water on his face and slipping on his shoes, he closed his cabin door and headed down the length of the train to reach the dining car. The otherwise stillness of the night was interrupted each time he transitioned from one car to the other, even though it was only momentary.

He finally reached the dining car, and besides the three other individuals who seemed to share his semi-sleepless state. He asked the bartender for a scotch, and then took his drink to a nearby seat to enjoy the nighttime view. The glow of the near full moon illuminated much of the countryside; accenting the open fields and limbs of nearby trees as the train sped along the tracks. The periodic flicker of the lights inside the dining car only added to this sense of tranquility as he sipped his drink.

As the clanking of the ice cube in the glass reminded him that his drink was quickly ending, Bill knew it was time to return back to his cabin for the night. Taking a one last gaze outside the window, he watches as the fields gave way to the trees and the glow of the moon was obscured by the darkness of the forest. He stood up and raised his glass in the direction of his quiet strangers, bidding them goodnight before taking his last slip. Placing the glass and two-dollar tip on the counter for the bartender, he made his way back up the length of the train towards his cabin.

The swooshing sound of the tree branches near the train provided a distinctly different sound as Bill transitioned from car to car, but as before once the door closed, the car would become silent once again. He made it halfway down the first car when he heard the door behind him open and close. Looking over his shoulder, he noticed one of his dining car companions – a young woman – enter the berthing car and made her way just a few steps down the hall to her cabin. As Bill reached the door to transition to the next car, she had already entered her cabin and closed the door.

After entering into the next car, Bill couldn’t wait to walk the 75 feet to reach the door to transition into his car and eventually his cabin to get a few more hours of sleep before reaching Cincinnati. He had a chance to reflect on the case while enjoying his drink, and he could not wait to get to the scene and start some interviews, especially with Chip. His thoughts lingered with him as he finally made his way to the end of the car and opened the door. Closing the first door behind him he reached for the door to his car as the floor suddenly shifted underneath his feet as the train banked.

The sound of branches scraping against the side of the cars did not calm his nerves as he tried to regain his balance and reach for the door in front of him. The lights in the transition way flickered as he turned the knob, but the door did not open. Turning and pulling on the knob did not help as his relaxation turned to frustration. But finally he felt the breeze of the door opening, or what he thought was his door. Someone entered the transition behind Bill and quickly pushed him into the door before him. Grabbing him by the arm and back of the neck, the stranger continued to slam him against the door, making him lose consciousness somewhere between the second and third blow of the head.

Kicking open the service passage on the side of the transition way, the stranger threw Bill of the train, watching his limp body bounce against the bare earth and come to a rest against a tree. Within a matter of seconds, Bills’ body disappeared into the darkness and the train quickly passed him by. The sound of the clacking wheels against the track faded into the eerie silence of the night, and no one but the attacker knew of Bills’ whereabouts.


chapter 3: Home away from home

August 10, 2008

No more homework, no more books

Finally! This long weekend could not have waited another day. After weeks of studies and exams, Chen was looking forward to having three days off to relax and recharge his batteries. Most of his friends from the University made plans to head home for the weekend, leaving Chen with a relatively empty dorm. Mike, Chen’s roommate, had invited him to spend the weekend with his parents, but Chen declined. Noting the fact that he can sleep-in and enjoy not having anyone around was a blessing that he hadn’t enjoyed since their sophomore year began.

Hearing the doors down the hallway close one by one, and as the parking lot began to empty, Chen sat down at his desk and started to put some of his textbooks away. He paused as he uncovered an old postcard from his parents back home. Home. Just the thought of the place brought back memories of open fields and quiet streets; a stark difference to the hustle and bustle of college life. Moving over to lay back on his bed, Chen wedged the postcard underneath the bunk bed above him – staring at the picture while slowly drifting off to sleep.

BANG!

“What was that!?” Chen thought to himself. Startled and confused, Chen rubbed his eyes and stumbled out of his bed. He bumps into his chair and desk as he searches for the light-switch. Why is it so dark? What time is it? Flicking on the light, he sees it is only 3am, and he has been asleep for over 10 hours. Reaching his door, he peeks up and down the hallway, trying to identify where the sound was. Not seeing any sign of activity nor life in the door, he scratched his head and closed his door … and locked it, just in case. Turning off the light, he undresses and goes back to bed, this time under the covers.

Stretching and yawning, Chen woke up for the second time this day, this time with the sun up and a calmer heart rate. Walking over to his sink, he puts on his bathrobe and collects his toiletries, and heads out the door. A long hot shower is just what he needed. Walking down the hall towards the showers, he enters and turns on the water before disrobing. The sound of rushing water was a change from the eerie silence of the dorm. Chen has never been alone since he first attended college. Even at midnight when he was trying to sleep, there was always music and chatter echoing down the hallway. The sound of the water was music to his ears.

BANG!

“What the hell!?” Nearly slipping on the wet shower floor, Chen quickly dashed to grab his robe and ran into the hallway to see what the sound was. It almost sounded like one of the stairway doors slamming shut, but no one was in the building other than Chen. “Maybe I should have taken Mike up on his offer,” Chen thought to himself as he went back into the shower to finish up. Quickly rinsing the soap and shampoo off of his body, he turned off the water and dried himself off before heading back to his room, but first … a quick check of all the doors, just to be sure. After making sure all the stairway doors were closed, he headed back to his room to get dressed.

Fearing that the stillness of the building was playing with his mind, Chen decided to head out for lunch since he slept through breakfast. Getting dressed, he headed out into town to the local pizzeria. This was the hangout for most of the college undergrads at some point in the week, with available seating being as rare as a moment of silence during the day. However, it must have been that rare day, as Chen was greeted with a large smile by the cashier standing near the front door of the restaurant.

“Finally, a customer” the cashier said as Chen walked in the door. Sitting down and looking at the menu, he decided what he wanted to order. “I’ve never seen this place so dead before,” Chen stated to the waiter as he approached Chen’s table. “Yeah, you are our first customer today. This place feels like a ghost town when you kids head home on the holidays” the waiter replied. “You must be the only one that stayed behind.” “It feels like that,” Chen shrugged and started to place his order. After a few minutes, two fresh slices of pizza were delivered … and devoured. Paying his bills and waving good-bye to the employees, Chen stated that he might return tomorrow for the good food and company. He headed across the street to the park to enjoy the beautiful afternoon and catch up on some long awaited pleasure reading.

The sun was going down, making it hard for Chen to continue reading. It’s hard to believe that he had 5 hours of peace to read most of his book. He gathered his belongings and headed back to the campus. Making his way up to his floor, he consciously inspected the stairways and doors again, since he did not want to be startled yet again. “Good,” he thought to himself as the last door was closed. Walking to his room and locking his own door after entering, Chen made himself comfortable and laid down on his bed – book in hand. He only had a few chapters left in this book before he could progress on to the sequel.

His eyes were growing heavy as he flipped through the last pages. Fighting the urge to fall asleep with each passing line, Chen finished the last page with a great feeling of achievement; not only with the fact that he finished the book in one day, but that he had also correctly figured out who the true criminal was in the mystery novel. Placing the book back on the desk and turning off the lights, Chen rolled over and quickly gave in to the night’s hand closing his eyes.

BANG!

Mike wasn’t surprised at first when he returned back to the room to find Chen missing. “He must be out in town somewhere” he thought as he unpacked his clothes and settled back into dorm life. But as the hours began to pass and the sun started to set, Mike began to get concerned. As he bumped into people on the floor while walking around, he would ask if they’ve seen Chen, but like Mike, they too were gone for the weekend. “He’ll show up,” they would tell Mike as they carried on with their activities, so Mike headed back to his room and wait. “He’ll show up,” he thought to himself as he sat down at his desk and started to get things ready for classes the next day.

“He’ll show up … right?”


Sorry about last weekend

August 5, 2008

I’m sorry about not getting chapter 3 posted in time on Sunday this past weekend. I was out of town and ran out of time. Chapter 3 will be posted this weekend, featuring a young man named “Chen” (just to give you a sneak peek).