The Train: Episode 55

The wind beat against Michael’s back as he walked through the quiet city streets headed to Cynthia Cooper’s apartment. When he quickstepped to avoid the puddles from the rainstorm, his shoes clicked on the wet sidewalk.  Reaching into the pocket of his dark suit, he pulled out a pack of unfiltered cigarettes and slipped one free with his lips. Then dropping the pack back into his pocket, he fished out a book of matches and quickly cupped his hands to keep the flame against the wind. As he touched the paper with the fire, he took a long pull from the cigarette, shook the match then dropped it to the street.

Drawing closer to the apartment, Michael found himself thinking about Cynthia Cooper and the boy. He couldn’t get them out of his head.

“Sad life for such a sweet kid,” he considered.

When he reached up to remove a bit of loose tobacco from his tongue, he looked at the cigarette between his fingers.

“What in the world?” he thought, dropping the cigarette into a puddle. “I can’t let myself get lost in this character.”

At the apartment building’s front entrance, Michael stopped and pulled open the glass door then climbed the stairs to the second floor. Like the rest of the building, the hallway floor was cracked tile that looked like it hadn’t seen a mop, and the walls were covered with peeling paper. A solitary lightbulb flickered and hummed as Michael walked down the hall.

At apartment 2B, he saw shoe marks on the bottom of the door as though someone had tried to kick it in. Checking the knob, he found it locked, so he pulled lock picks from his bag and quickly had the door open.

A strong musty smell hit him when he stepped inside and closed the door behind him. Shaking his head at the state of the room with its dull walls and moldy baseboard, he was filled with pity for Cynthia and her boy.

“What a way to live,” he sighed as he closed the blinds and turned on the light.

Next to an old armchair, its upholstery torn and stained, a wood tube radio sat on an end table, its surface marred by rings and cigarette burns. Beside the radio was an overflowing ashtray and a stack of opened mail. Michael looked around for a phone or an answering machine.

“Maybe the killer was nice enough to leave a threatening message behind,” he joked.

After a minute or two, he found a black rotary phone but no answering machine.

Then rolling his eyes, he silently scolded himself.

“Idiot. Answering machines won’t be commercially available for six more years.”

Michael tried to shake his head clear. Something about this mission was clouding his thinking. Reaching down, he scooped up the stack of letters and fanned through the pile.

Most of the letters were bills, but three caught his attention. One was from a Claire Ross. She demanded that Cynthia stop fooling around with her husband or suffer the consequences. She threatened to do whatever was necessary to protect her kids and marriage.

A second letter was from Curt Krosby. He warned Cynthia to leave him alone and said he would pay her if she promised to leave town and never bother him again. If she refused, he would sue her for slander. He insisted that he was not Lincoln’s father and would not pay her child support. Michael found a scrap of paper and scribbled the names Claire Ross and Curt Krosby before returning the letters to the stack.

The third letter was from the law firm Riggs, Horton & Copeland. According to the letter, Cynthia Cooper had recently performed at the private birthday party of Anthony P. Armstrong, and Riggs, the senior partner, wanted Cynthia to call his office for an appointment to discuss that evening. He explained that he was mounting a defense for Armstrong against charges brought by the District Attorney.

Michael put the third letter back in the stack, but when he moved his hand, the stack fell over, scattering across the floor and falling into the wastebasket. When he bent down to pick up the letters, he saw that someone had thrown away several crumpled pieces of paper.

After stacking the letters, he reached into the wastebasket and removed one of the papers. When he opened it, smoothing its wrinkles, he saw that it was a letter from Cynthia addressed to Brian Reese. In the letter, Cynthia told Brian that he was Lincoln’s father and asked for money to help her raise the boy.

Michael grabbed another piece of paper from the trash and saw that it was another letter from Cynthia, this time to a Donald Moore. The wording was the same as the Reese letter. After that, he found seven more letters addressed to different men, each letter worded the same.

“Well, well. Seems someone has a scam going on. You bluff too many games, Cynthia, and eventually someone will kick you off the table,” Michael said.

He made note of each name then tossed all the letters back into the wastebasket.

Just as he rose to his feet, he heard the front door open. The small apartment didn’t offer too many hiding places. Besides, there was no time. Everything around him seemed to slow as his mind raced to think of a response.

Hoping it was just the super, Michael took a deep breath and turned to face the person as he quickly decided what he would say.

But he stopped short when he saw a pudgy, bald man with a revolver in his hand. At once, the man lifted the weapon and aimed at Michael.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

“William Spencer,” Michael lied.

“Where’s the girl?” he snapped.

“Well I didn’t bring one with me, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m not familiar with the whole dating scene, but aren’t you supposed to go to a bar and try to pick up your own girl? Doesn’t seem fair if you go about taking girls from other guys,” Michael answered.

“Cooper. Where’s Cooper?” the man insisted.

“Ahh that girl. Afraid she isn’t here right now, but if you’d like to leave a name and number, I’ll see that she gets back to you,” Michael said.

“Stop wasting my time! Mr. Armstrong doesn’t like waiting and neither do I,” the man said taking a step closer. One more step and he would be well within Michael’s reach.

“So are you Armstrong, or do you represent him? That last sentence left me a little confused,” Michael said.

The man stepped forward, pressing the revolver into Michael’s stomach.

“Listen, wise guy, tell me where the girl is right now or I’ll—”

Before he could finish, Michael had twisted the man’s hand and pulled the revolver free.

“Surprise,” Michael said. “Now had you said please, I might have been more willing to help you.”

Slowly raising his hands, the man kept his eyes on the weapon, waiting for his chance.

“So,” Michael asked, “what’s your name?”

“L-L-Luther,” he stammered.

“Well, L-L-Luther, I’m not happy about this, but I think we need to go have a talk with Mr. Armstrong. Maybe we can work something out,” Michael said.

“What?” Luther asked surprised.

Michael paused then said, “Let me make this simple for you. You take me Armstrong now. Please?”


Published in: on December 16, 2015 at 7:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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