The Train: Episode 79

“I’m sorry, a demon in the form of a man?” Nicole asked, looking highly skeptical.

“Let me start at the beginning,” Serena said.

“Father Salvatore came to us three years ago and turned this place around. Please walk with me,” Serena asked.

While she explained, she led them to the main building and the pool. All the guests seemed to be getting along well, laughing and playing in the water, visiting by the pool.

“What was this place before?” Michael asked.

“Before Father Salvatore, it was pretty much empty except for a few bikers and drug addicts. But Father Salvatore changed everything, made this into a resort and spa, a place of peace and relaxation.”

“What about Morgan?” Nicole asked.

With an intense glare, Serena turned to face Nicole.

“Do not let anyone hear you call him by that name. No one here except those loyal to Father Salvatore calls him by his given name. They must call him Saint Suriel.”

“So he’s Saint Suriel unless you say otherwise,” Michael said. “Got it.”

Serena’s glare melted into a sweet smile, and she beckoned them to follow her.

“Come. Let us go meet the guests.”

She whipped her hair around in the breeze for a moment then headed for the pool.

“Did we have to get one of the inmates to show us around this asylum?” Michael laughed.

“I’m afraid for now, she’s all we have,” Nicole said.

“Just once I’d like to get help from someone who’s actually helpful,” Michael sighed.

As they approached the pool, an older man, his black hair thinning on top, slipped out of the water and walked over to them. He wore a rosy smile as he shifted a little girl from his right arm to his left.

Extending his right hand, he greeted,

“Hello. I’m Marvin Clark and this little angel is my daughter Judy. That’s my wife Susan with our boys Gordon and Paul.”

Marvin pointed to a redheaded woman in the pool, the length of her bright hair floating in the water as she played with two small boys.

“So what’s your name, or do I get to make up one for you?” Marvin asked.

“Pete Shepherd,” Michael said smiling.

“This is my sister Erika,” Michael said, pointing to Nicole.

As Marvin shook Nicole’s hand, Michael pointed to Dr. Ricer and added,

“And that’s my dad David and my niece Marie.”

“A pleasure to meet you all,” Marvin said. “Please, let me introduce you to everyone here.”

As they followed Marvin around the pool greeting people and shaking hands, Nicole watched the windows and scanned the open areas of Tearmann River Spa & Resort. Everything seemed normal, nothing out of the ordinary.

“My name’s Brad. Let me show you to your rooms,” a young man said as he approached them.

“We don’t have rooms,” Nicole answered.

Cursing herself for speaking without thinking, she realized she had become so wrapped up in the calm of the resort that for a moment she’d forgotten why they were there.

“Yes you do,” the attendant said.

“Serena told me your rooms were assigned late due to a mix-up on our part, but she’s sorted out everything. You’ll be staying in Maple. We’ve put you in adjoining rooms with a beautiful view of the gardens.”

Brad pointed to one of the larger buildings close to the main building.

“We apologize for the loss of your bags. Serena said they arrived but were misplaced. Entirely our fault. We’ll bring them to your rooms as soon as we find them. In the meantime, we will provide clothes for you and anything else you need. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your rooms,” Brad cheerfully said.

“Thank you,” Nicole smiled.

“Oh Pete,” she called to Michael who was talking to a young couple. “We’re going to see our rooms.”

* * *

The Maple building was decorated with polished wood paneling and soft grey carpet. Soothing music played over invisible speakers as a fountain’s streams of water cascaded over polished rocks creating a restful, tranquil atmosphere.

“Here we are,” Brad said, stopping just down the hall from the fountain.

“The dining room serves breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and of course you may have meals delivered to your room if you’d prefer,” he said while opening the door. “Each of the rooms has an itinerary of events. Everything is included in your admission fee. No hidden charges. Our goal here at Tearmann River Spa & Resort is to make certain your stay is happy and peaceful.”

When Brad finished with the information, he handed Michael three room keys.

“We can arrange for a wakeup call over the phone or in person. Might I suggest you start your stay here with a relaxing massage? I find its the best way to unwind and fully enjoy your day.”

“Sounds great,” Michael responded.

“One last thing, the gates will close after midnight, but the grounds are always open to any of our guests who wish to enjoy the stars, the fireflies, or maybe a romantic tryst in the moonlight,” Brad informed.

With a slight bow, he said,

“I shall leave you to relax and settle in. Thank you for choosing Tearmann River Spa & Resort.”

Then he clasped his palms together, and pressing them against his chest, he sighed,

“Have a blessed day.”

Michael waited until Brad was gone and said,

“Well that was creepy.”

“He seemed nice,” Ricer said.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not used to the whole smile and wave happy family thing. Always puts me off,” Michael replied.

“Most likely the knowledge of the impending mass murder has you off about this place,” Ricer suggested.

“No, Doc, it’s this place,” Nicole said. “I’ve been to plenty of places like this, but this one is different. Something about it makes me feel like I’m being hunted.”

“I didn’t get that impression, but I do agree with you that this place is an 11 on the creepy scale,” Michael said.

“What about the people you talked to?” Ricer asked Michael.

“Okay. I met five couples and several singles. Most of the singles were just doing what single people do. I had two girls hit on me, which is odd because girls never hit on me. Let’s see. What else? Oh yeah. Marvin and his wife Susan aren’t the only ones with kids. Another couple Thomas and Charlotte are expecting their first child. Charlotte’s two months pregnant, so they came here to enjoy one last romp before their child is born.”

“Any word on Scott Morgan?” Nicole asked.

“Now, now. Remember it’s Saint Suriel,” Michael corrected.

Nicole rolled her eyes and began to check the room.

“Nothing yet, but I did notice one thing. The staff is always close by, always within earshot and always watching the guests. It’s almost like we’re being guarded, not tended to,” Michael pointed out.

Suddenly the doorknob of the adjoining room, Michael’s room, began to turn. Michael moved Ricer and Lucy out of the way as Nicole reached for her pistol.

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Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 77

In the wake of Kenneth Cooper’s death in 1970, Dr. Ricer quietly listened as everyone tried to figure out what had happened.

“So because we saved Cynthia Cooper, she turned her little boy into that?” Nicole asked.

“Kenneth said we should have let his mom die. According to him, she ruined his life and things only got worse after that,” Michael explained.

By now, Lucy was sleeping peacefully, her head resting on Ricer’s lap as he stroked his granddaughter’s long blonde hair. Had he know what taking the train that night would do to their lives, he never would have climbed aboard. He would have taken her straight home or at least put her in a cab. Anything but have her see what she’d seen. Ricer hoped in time her young mind would gloss over the memories and she wouldn’t need therapy.

“According to recorded history,” Ricer explained, “Cynthia Cooper was a drug addict who had men pay her bills in exchange for favors. Some of those men were also interested in Cynthia’s little boy. Although we don’t have any information about what specifically happened to Kenneth, we know that he suffered at the hands of his mother. At worst, she abused him. At best, she left him outside on the fire escape while she entertained her visitors. After her death from a drug overdose, Kenneth was too old to enter foster care, so he ended up on the street. He’s lost to history after that. I don’t know what drove him to become who he was.”

“A need for vengeance and a desire to fix his life,” Elliot said, patting the head of his gray and white husky.

“Obviously his anger towards his mother and the abuse he suffered at her hands led him to hate her. He knew the train existed—”

“How is that even possible?” Nicole interrupted. “I thought the train existed outside time and space, where there are no witnesses.”

Elliot continued, “The people you encounter out there in the real world start to forget about you soon after you leave. After a while, even the people you saved have only faint memories of you, and before too long, their imaginations have filled in the details. However, some of the more obsessive minds can latch onto the details and run over them again and again. This leads to stories being told that eventually grow from legends into myths. Kenneth Cooper knew the train existed because he saw it back in 1943.”

“And when he saw us the same age we were when we saved his mother, he knew,” Michael reasoned.

Elliot nodded, “Yep.”

“That was the moment he knew what he saw was real and how he could finally fix his life,” Michael added.

“That’s why he wanted on the train,” Nicole replied. “He wanted to stop us from saving his mother.”

“I’m sorry we couldn’t save him,” Ricer said.

The face of little Kenneth Cooper floated through Nicole’s mind. She remembered him staring at her, devoid of any expression.

Suddenly the whistle sounded and the train began to slow.

“Next stop,” Roscoe called out, walking through the cabin.

“May Lucy stay here?” Ricer asked.

“Sorry, Dr. Ricer, but she’s part of the team. She has to go with you,” Roscoe apologized.

“But she hasn’t done anything, really,” Ricer pleaded. “I know she’ll be safe here.”

As Michael stood up and grabbed his bag, he tried to sound reassuring.

“We’ll keep an eye on her, Doc. Don’t worry about Kenneth Cooper. He’s dead. It’s over now.”

Reluctantly, Ricer scooped up the sleeping Lucy and carried her off the train.

* * *

“Ripples: The Saint”

Alaska

October 2008

Michael and Nicole pushed against the rotting cabin door and stepped out into a forest of trees heavy with moss. The thick clouds overhead draped the woods in twilight. Dr. Ricer maneuvered his way through the narrow opening as he carried his sleeping grandchild. When he came alongside Nicole, the door closed behind them.

Straight ahead was a narrow path covered with autumn leaves in shades of brilliant golds, oranges, and reds. As Michael started down the path, the dying leaves crunched underfoot and the woods grew thicker until they could no longer see the sky.

“Where are we?” Michael asked. “It’s getting dark up ahead.”

Ricer looked around and said,

“Hard to tell. This place isn’t on any maps. I can tell you, though, that its late October 2008, and we’re in Alaska.”

A slight chill in the air heralded the coming winter. Nicole shivered and pulled her coat tightly around her. Farther down the path, they came upon a sign.

“Tearmann River Spa and Resort,” Michael read, struggling to see in the fading light. “Well, I guess this must be where they need us.”

“Something about this place feels wrong,” Nicole said uneasily. “Weird.”

“Probably just the weather and the lack of a day or night cycle. That’s Alaska. You’ll get used to it,” Michael assured her.

“Why doesn’t it bother you?” Nicole asked.

“The way I was raised. My father always kept the lights on in the house with the windows blacked out. He didn’t want me to develop sleep patterns dependent upon the cycle of night and day,” Michael explained.

“Are you aware that what your father did could be considered child abuse?” Ricer pointed out.

“I know,” Michael admitted. “But my father used to say that the hottest fires make the strongest swords.”

“Of course he did,” Nicole said, rolling her eyes.

The path turned up ahead and as the trees opened, light poured into an idyllic scene. Ten buildings encircled one large one whose gardens ran along a peaceful river bubbling over rocks. Near the main building, a pool was filled with laughing children and couples splashing and swimming as a small band played cheerful music in the background. Warmth radiated from the captivating scene of welcome.

“So where are we again, Doc?” Michael asked, feeling himself relax a little.

“Tearmann River Spa and Resort,” Ricer answered.

“Why are we here?” Nicole asked.

“A week from now, a truck carrying supplies will make its usual delivery here. But when the driver gets out of his truck, he will discover twenty members of staff and sixty guests dead,” Ricer said.

“How do they die?” Nicole asked.

“Most of them are poisoned. Others are killed in more brutal ways, and some are hanged. Those are just the ones the authorities find,” Ricer explained.

“What do you mean, find?” Michael asked.

“The resort currently has over ninety-seven guests and twenty-seven on staff,” Ricer said.

“One hundred twenty-four people total,” Nicole said, “and only eighty-seven were found. That means. . .”

Nicole trailed off, wrapping her coat more tightly.

“Eighty-seven people will be killed, and thirty-seven will never be found,” Nicole finished. “I told you there was something off here.”

“What is this place?” Michael asked with growing uneasiness.

Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 74

The hum of voices filled the theater as the audience entered and found their seats. While the musicians in the pit began tuning their instruments, backstage behind closed curtains the cast went over lines and warmed up their voices for the performance.

The theater had two auditoriums, the larger for performances and the smaller for rehearsals and set building. Ross left Christopher Callahan’s dressing room and slowly ascended the stairs to the balcony section. As he drew near his private box, he saw that the door was closed but the two guards Franklin and Boon were not at their post.

“Those idiots better be behind that door or I’m getting a whole new security staff,” Ross grumbled.

As he reached for the doorknob, his foot hit against something on the floor. He looked down and saw a small white rook from a chessboard lying on its side in the doorway.

Just as he bent over to pick it up, the door of the box next to his opened and a beautiful young woman with flowing red hair stepped out. When she looked at him and smiled, he saw that her eyes were different colors.

“You!” Ross gasped.

As she disappeared around the corner, Ross followed after her asking,

“What are you doing here?”

He quickly descended the stairs in pursuit just in time to see her slip through a door leading to the smaller auditorium section of the theater. Stopping in the doorway, he checked his watch.

“Thirty minutes before the curtain goes up. Plenty of time,” he told himself.

From the doorway, a narrow hall led to a second door and the smaller auditorium. The woman was standing at the end looking back at Ross. She giggled, pulled open the door then disappeared into the auditorium.

Enjoying the game, Ross smiled and said,

“All right, baby. Get ready cause here I come.”

He let the door close behind him, and as he strode down the hall, he unbuttoned his shirt then pulled it loose from his pants.

Inches away from the auditorium door, he stopped for a moment and remembered.

“You’re in trouble, and I need your help to stop this Captain Bonkers,” Crandall had pleaded.

“I have reason to believe that you’re his next target,” Raymond Slats warned.

Ross shook his head clear,

“You’re being silly. King doesn’t have the spine to turn on you,” he told himself.

Ross seized the knob and pulled the door open. When he stepped into the cold auditorium, he stood for a moment in the darkness waiting for his eyes to adjust.

After a few moments, he still could not distinguish shapes. He dared not move forward into the blackness.

“Hello?” he called out.

Slowly, faint calliope music began to play with a deep thumping sound like an old Victrola. When the sound grew increasingly loud, Ross turned back to the door behind him and found it locked.

He jerked his head toward the darkness demanding,

“What’s going on here?”

Suddenly a spotlight kicked on, casting a beam of pale yellow light. Ross froze in horror when he saw Franklin, one of his security guards, strung up like a marionette, his shirt soaked with blood pouring from a gaping wound that stretched across his neck.

Franklin’s mouth began to move like a puppet manipulated by string as Ross heard his own voice over the speakers.

“Ruben Ross. How can I make you a star?”

A wave of fear washed over him, and Ross grew short of breath.

A second spotlight switched on, this one sending out a pale green light. When Ross saw Boon, his other security guard, hanging like a marionette with a large knife plunged into his forehead, he leaned over and vomited.

Franklin’s mouth closed and Boon’s worked open and shut as the speakers crackled to life.

“You can start by not being an idiot!”

The voice was Bradford King’s.

Ross listened as a recording of an earlier conversation between him and King played over the loudspeakers while the mouths of Franklin and Boon moved like puppets in a play.

“I’m not an idiot. That’s why I’m always prepared,” Ross heard himself say.

“You’re going to a play and then some bash as though no one were trying to kill you!” King’s voice yelled.

“No one is trying to kill me,” Ross’s voice barked in return.

Suddenly the yellow and green lights turned off, plunging the auditorium into darkness, and a video began to play on the wall to his left. Ross watched as the faces of Scott Baker, Douglas Burroughs, Suzanne Taylor, Oscar Blake, Rebecca Conrad, Jackson Kane, and Evelyn Hyde appeared one after the other. Beside each face was a chess piece. Baker, the white knight. Burroughs, the black. Taylor, the white bishop. Blake, the black. And then Ross’ face appeared on the screen with the white rook alongside.

He remembered the white rook he had knocked over just outside his theater box and panicked when he realized that the faces with chess pieces had been found murdered.

“Wait. That means that I. . .” he thought.

Suddenly another picture appeared on the screen. Bradford King. And beneath his name were the words ‘The Chessboard King’.

The video shut off and the room was once again bathed in darkness.

Across the room, a red spotlight turned on, and in its center stood someone wearing a clown mask with a long coat and a top hat.

Ross backed up until he hit the door behind him. The spotlight’s beam went out then came back on with the clown standing closer in the light. With every shut down, the beam of light brought the clown closer until he was within a few feet of the terrified Ross. He reached behind him, and with trembling hands tried to open the door.

“Captain Bonkers?” he asked, his voice quivering.

Without a sound, Captain Bonkers slowly nodded his head.

“Y-y-you don’t work for King, do you?” Ross asked.

Captain Bonkers slowly shook his head no.

“Mercy?” Ross squeaked.

Suddenly the red light went out, plunging the auditorium into darkness.

* * *

Ray worked his way over the legs of other theatergoers until he came to the seat number on his ticket. He settled down, trying to get comfortable, and hoped that he would get another chance to offer help to Ross, if the foolish man lasted that long.

Just then the director walked up on stage and stood proudly, patiently waiting for the voices of the audience to die down. When a hush fell over the crowd, the director smiled and extended a greeting.

“Ladies and gentleman, thank you for attending at this late hour. We have a wonderful performance in store for you this evening that I am certain you will thoroughly enjoy. There will be a fifteen-minute intermission during which time an assortment of light wines will be served in the lobby. We must ask that you refrain from any flash photography. Our performers are timid and easily scared by the flash,” he chuckled.

The director waited for the laughter to die down then continued,

“We hope you enjoy the show.”

After the director stepped off stage, the lights died down across the auditorium.

As the curtain slowly opened, the stage lights came up to show the body of Ruben Ross hanging upside down from his feet. Blood drained from his slit throat and at the end of a string around his neck hung a white rook.

Some members of the audience screamed and trampled each other as they ran for the exits. Others stared in shock as a voice came over the theater speakers,

“I’m Ruben Ross and I want to make you a star.”

The disjointed audio sounded as though it had been pieced together from different snippets. Suddenly the stage lights went out and a spotlight kicked on, its beam focused on Ross’ body, while circus calliope music began to play.