The Train: Episode 89

As Kenneth Cooper walked through the shed door and into the train station, his eyes grew wide and his mouth hung open in wonder. Like a child meeting Santa Claus for the first time, Kenneth was overcome with joy as he took in everything.

“I knew it! I knew it! All my life the answer to my problems was right here. When I was a child, I would dream of a train showing up and taking me away from my miserable life. But I grew older and the train never showed up. I became angry and bitter. I wanted to lash out and hurt you for not rescuing me. Just as I was about to give vent to my anger, you showed up again, only this time to stop me. It was then that I realized you didn’t come because of the wishes and dreams of a lost little boy. Pain and death summoned you. You were drawn to them like emergency workers to a forest fire. So I did what was necessary to correct your mistake. I know you meant well when you saved my mother’s life, but you didn’t know Cynthia like I did.”

Kenneth turned to face Michael and said,

“I forgive you. You only did what you felt was necessary. How could you realize she would ruin my life?””

Then turning back to the train, he walked up to the passenger car and placed a hand on its side.

“This is for the best. Once I fix things, the child that was left behind to suffer will be free. He will live in peace.”

Looking at Roscoe, Kenneth said,

“I am sorry I had to kill so many, but it was necessary to draw you back to me.”

Then to Michael he added,

“Sorry about your friends. I told Abraham to kill them before he came after us. I was hoping you would turn before then, but I had to give you a good reason to want to go back and stop me.”

As Kenneth stepped onto the train, Michael whispered to Roscoe,

“What are you thinking?”

“Hold on, now,” Roscoe said. “This is out of my hands.”

Roscoe boarded the train and after a moment Michael joined him.

Michael took a seat across the car two rows back from Kenneth and waited for the right moment. He was determined to kill him even if he had to do it with his bare hands. He knew he had to strike fast while Kenneth was still enamored with the train.

“I am so glad you finally see things my way,” Kenneth said as the train began to pull out of the station.

When the overhead lights flickered for a moment, something Michael had never seen before, he became worried that Kenneth’s presence might somehow infect the train. He had to kill him now, before it was too late.

As the lights flickered again, Michael stood and moved two steps closer to Kenneth. Suddenly Kenneth spun around and faced him.

Michael saw his revolver in Kenneth’s hand.

“You know you don’t have to be alive for me to complete my mission. In fact, I personally consider you a loose—”

All at once the train went dark for a moment. The blackest of black. Michael readied himself to dive at Kenneth the second the lights came back on.

A moment later, the lights came back on and Michael reached out to wrest the weapon from Kenneth’s grasp. With his hands in mid-air, he froze. His revolver was lying on the floor and Kenneth was gone.

Whipping around, ready for an attack from behind, Michael asked,

“Where is he?”

After a deep sigh, Roscoe said,

“He’s gone.”

“You let him go?” Michael snapped. “After all he’s done?”

Roscoe just shook his head.

“No, Michael. He’s still on the train, just a version that will never stop. He wanted on the train and wouldn’t quit until he got his wish. So now he will remain on the train until he breathes his last.”

Michael looked around again then asked,

“He’s on this train?”

“The Fairbanks Falcon Train has been traveling through time for over a century. There are many versions of it throughout the world. Kenneth is on one that will never stop. He got what he wanted. He got onto the train,” Roscoe paused with a sigh, “and that’s where he will die, alone.”

“What about Nicole, Doc, and Lucy? What about Elliot? We have to go back and save them!” Michael insisted.

As Roscoe held up one hand, the lights flickered and went out. When they came back on, Michael saw Nicole, Dr. Ricer, Lucy, and Elliot.

“You’re alive!” he said overjoyed.

“We were never dead,” Ricer said.

“But Kenneth ordered Abraham to kill you,” Michael pointed out.

“Abraham couldn’t,” Nicole said.

“Thanks to the one person he didn’t plan on,” Elliot added.

Elliot walked over and placed a hand on Lucy’s shoulder.

Michael threw his head back in laughter as his eyes filled with tears.

“It wasn’t until after he captured me,” Ricer explained, “that I realized who he was.”

“Kenneth had us shackled to a wall. The only way to escape was through a door only he and Abraham had access to,” Nicole said.

“When Abraham brought Nicole in, Lucy was following him,” Ricer replied.

“He never even saw me,” Lucy giggled as she reached out to pet Elliot’s dog Samuel.

“Lucy disappeared just before I was taken. Kenneth knew I would be able to identify him once I saw him, so I had to be taken early,” Ricer said.

“He was going to use us as leverage if he couldn’t sway you,” Nicole said.

“When Abraham took me,” Ricer continued, “Lucy stayed hidden and followed each of us until we were back together.”

“Once Lucy was able to get the key, she freed us and got us back to the train.”

“By then Kenneth had made his decision. All I had to do was get him onto the train,” Roscoe said.

“Some people you can’t save,” Elliot sighed.

“We shouldn’t have saved his mother,” Michael said. “That only made things worse.”

“We did the right thing, Michael,” Nicole corrected. “Had we known she would turn out the way she did, we would have gotten him away from her. But letting her die wasn’t the right answer.”

“Well, it’s time to rest,” Roscoe said. “Soon we’ll be at our next stop.”

Michael noticed a hint of grief in Roscoe’s words. He walked up to him and asked,

“Are you okay?”

“I will be,” Roscoe said.

“Is it about Kenneth?” Michael asked.

“No. Something else bothers me,” Roscoe answered. “You mustn’t worry about it though. The time is not yet upon us.”

Michael didn’t want to let it drop, but Roscoe walked away leaving Michael’s questions unanswered. When he turned around, he saw that Elliot wore the same look of grief.

“What’s coming?” Michael mouthed to Elliot.

Elliot just shook his head and turned away.

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Published in: on October 18, 2018 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 16

“The Drowning Clown”

 

Sarah Daniels drove down the highway, the cool ocean breeze lifting her spirits. The day was so mild that she had decided to let the top down and wrap herself in the perfect autumn weather. It was her favorite season of the year. Neither too hot nor too cold. Like Goldilocks said, it was just right.

As she followed her date back to his house, she was glad he lived on Queen’s Way. The neighborhood looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Houses decorated with white picket fences, families barbecuing and kids romping with the dog or playing catch with an old baseball. Queen’s Way was the kind of neighborhood she hoped to live in one day. She’d settle down, raise a family, maybe even get a dog.

This whole night had been like a dream. She’d answered a personal ad in the paper that read “lonely guy seeks lonely girl.” For a long time, she had been telling herself to get out there and find Mr. Right. She figured he would probably be a creep, bald and wearing a t-shirt of his favorite superhero, but it would be just one date, and she could use the practice. Talk about surprised! His name was Carl Gibson, and he was perfect. Tall and charming with dark hair and mesmerizing blue eyes. His navy blue suit, crisp white shirt and tie covered what Sarah could tell was just the right amount of tanned and toned muscles. Their date together had gone like something out a fairy tale, so when Carl invited her back to his place for drinks, she accepted.

“No hanky-panky! I promise!” he joked. “I just didn’t want this night to end.”

After dinner on their way to his house, they had stopped for a walk on the beach. Carl’s hand closed gently around Sarah’s. She loved the feel of his strong, warm fingers.

“I love your hands,” Carl said, lifting her hand up to his lips. “So graceful and delicate.”

Sarah smiled and felt herself blush as she remembered that she had always seen her hands as her worst feature.

As they passed one of the beach cottages, its radiant lights casting a glow on the sand, Sarah saw a woman inside sitting alone. She felt a sting of guilt at having a companion. Her therapist had warned her about giving in to men too quickly. Sarah’s father had left when she was very young, and without him she had always felt incomplete. Her lack of parental acceptance drove her to seek out men as she tried to find the validation she never got as a little girl.

At least that was her doctor’s theory.

Keeping her eyes on Carl’s car up ahead, Sarah quickly dialed her therapist. When the voice mail answered, Sarah decided to leave a quick message.

“Hey, Doc. This is Sarah Daniels. I know you said I need to stop going home with every guy who says I’m pretty, but this guy’s different. His name’s Carl, and I think he’s perfect. We both like dogs, we both love baseball, we both enjoy walks on the beach, and we even have regular sessions with you. He’s the one, Doc. I can feel it! I’ll tell you more on Monday. Bye.”

When she saw Carl slow down and pull into a driveway, Sarah quickly ended the call. She parked her Mercedes on the street and put the top up. Carl’s house was perfect. A little house with a front yard just right for him to play catch with their kids someday while she cooked or sat on the porch sipping lemonade.

Carl stepped out of his car, walked to the front door of his house, and opened it. After turning on the porch lights, he waited for her.

Sarah climbed out of her car and closed the door, locking it behind her. For just a moment, she stood still, taking it all in. Everything was heavenly.

“I meant it when I said no hanky-panky,” Carl said as Sarah walked up the driveway. “We can stay out here in the yard if you like. Just let me get some drinks.”

Sarah laughed and said, “No, silly. I want to see inside your house. The outside is just perfect.”

“Well come on,” Carl smiled.

Sarah suppressed a delighted giggle and hurried up to the door, stopping playfully before stepping over the threshold.

“Make yourself comfortable,” Carl said. “I’m just going to get out of this suit.”

Sarah nodded and began to look around. Carl said he worked in stocks, and the rich, tasteful decorations in his house reflected his wealth without glorifying it.

“I love your place,” Sarah yelled out.

“Thank you,” Carl called from the bedroom.

“I have to admit I wasn’t really paying attention to most of what you said over dinner,” Sarah confessed

“Really?” Carl called back. “You seemed so interested in everything I had to say.”

“Well, I was kind of lost in your eyes. You have such beautiful eyes,” Sarah said.

She giggled a little to herself. Although Carl really did have beautiful eyes, she always used that line with men. It made them feel more attractive, more confident, and more likely to make advances.

“Why don’t you pour us a couple of drinks? There’s a lovely chardonnay in the fridge,” Carl called back.

Sarah was pleased to hear him offer wine. That was always a good sign.

“And thank you,” Carl called back.

“For what?” Sarah asked, looking for wine glasses.

“For what you said about my eyes,” Carl replied.

Sarah found two wine glasses and walked over to the refrigerator. As she opened the door, she hear Carl’s footsteps behind her.

Suddenly she felt cold and she shuddered as every hair on her body stood up. Resting on the refrigerator shelves were liquid-filled jars with body parts. One held a pair of ears. In another a human jaw. And in a third, a pair of eyes.

“I have my mother’s eyes,” Carl murmured.

As the wine glasses slipped out of her hands and hit the floor, shattering to bits, Sarah turned to see Carl standing behind her wearing a long white butcher’s apron and gloves. In his right hand he held a bone saw.

“And you have her hands,” Carl said with a smile.

When Sarah opened her mouth to scream, nothing came out.

“Now don’t move,” Carl smiled. “We wouldn’t want to ruin those perfect hands.”

 

*          *          *

 

 

Lisa Bennett pulled into a parking spot and cut the engine. After a frantic look around, she ran toward her office building and flew inside. She had called the police from her car and prayed they would show up before he did. Riverbank was a prestigious university in Coldwater with a first-rate reputation, that is until an attack on Coldwater two weeks ago. Many of the faculty had left the next day, citing stress and claiming that Coldwater was no longer a safe place to live. Lisa’s supervisor was one of those who chose to stay, and every night he could be found working late in his office trying not to let his research fall behind. Hired the day after the faculty exodus, Lisa would be starting her classes soon. Straight out of graduate school with a PhD in Biology, the ink on the certificate still wet, she had landed her dream job in the elitist city of Coldwater. But her excitement was cut short when her ex-boyfriend Frank Fisher viciously murdered her date with a claw hammer. When he had called her a week ago, threatening to do the same to her, she panicked. Where could she get help? The next day she found a flier pinned under one of her tires and snatched it up in desperation. Its message gave her a bit of hope.

 

“In trouble? No one to help?

Don’t give up! Call. . . .”

 

When Lisa had called the number, she got a voice mail. After that, Frank went silent. Daring to think that maybe he had decided to leave her alone, she felt brave enough to accept an invitation to dinner with Mike Tanner, a physics professor at the college. But after dinner when they were walking across the parking lot, Frank came out of nowhere and murdered Tanner.

Inside Marsden Hall, Lisa waited by the front doors, trying to stay out of sight as she watched to see if Frank had followed her.

After a few moments, she sighed in relief and turned toward the elevator. But when she heard the familiar roar of Frank’s truck, she screamed and locked the doors. He flew into the parking lot, climbed out of his truck, blood dripping from his hammer, and stormed up to the front door. After trying the door, he glared at Lisa and demanded,

“Open the door, Lisa!”

“NO!” she yelled. “You’re crazy! You murdered him!”

“He didn’t love you like I do, Lisa,” Frank pleaded, pulling on the door. “Now open the door!”

“Get away from me!” Lisa yelled as she backed away.

In a rage, Frank smashed the glass with the hammer and stepped inside, broken glass crackling under his feet.

“I won’t lose you again, Lisa,” Frank said, coming after her.

Lisa flew up the stairs to her supervisor’s office. When she burst inside to beg for help, she saw that he had left for the night. Terrified, Lisa slammed the door shut and locked it then hid under the desk, hoping Frank wouldn’t find her.

After a few moments, Lisa heard him rattling the doorknob.

“Lisa?” Frank called out. “I just want to talk.”

“Go away, Frank! I’ve called the police!” Lisa yelled.

Wild with fury, Frank began pounding on the door, screaming obscenities. Trembling in terror, Lisa covered her ears and cried in despair. Suddenly the pounding stopped and everything went quiet. Too afraid to move, Lisa stayed hidden beneath the desk.

Five agonizing minutes passed and then a gentle knocking came at the door.

“Anyone in there?” a man’s voice called out. “This is Officer Higgins with the Coldwater Police Department.”

Lisa hesitated but slowly got out from under the desk and walked to the door.

“Who did you say you were? Your name?” she asked, her voice shaky.

“Officers Higgins and Lawrence with the Coldwater Police,” he answered.

Taking a deep breath, Lisa slowly unlocked the door and opened it.

On the other side stood two police officers. She read their names on the badges. There was concern in Officer Higgins’ eyes as he asked,

“Are you okay, ma’am?”

“Yes, thank you,” Lisa said.

After a moment, Lisa asked,

“Where’s Frank?”

“Is that who you called about, ma’am?” Officer Higgins asked.

“Yes. He was trying to kill me,” Lisa said.

Higgins looked at his partner then stepped aside.

“Is this him?” he asked, turning to point.

Up against the opposing wall, a trembling Frank lay on the floor, balled up in a fetal position.

“What’d you do?” she asked.

“He was like this when we got here, ma’am,” Higgins said.

In the aftermath, Lisa gave her statement and watched in shock as Frank confessed to everything he’d done, including stalking her, killing her pets, and murdering her date. Lisa promised Higgins she’d come in the next day to make a full statement. For now she was free to go home. When she walked to her car, she stopped when she saw a piece of paper folded up under one of her windshield wipers. Opening the paper, she read:

“He won’t bother you anymore.”

Published in: on October 18, 2018 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 88

In the wild storm, rain drummed incessantly on the tin roof of the old barn as tree branches lashed at the window panes. Michael was so intent on watching Father Salvatore’s face that he was oblivious to the booming thunder.

With an uneasiness in his gut, he asked, “Who are you? Really?”

Salvatore smiled and turning his back to Michael whistled long and loud. After a moment, he slowly turned back to Michael and waited. Just when Michael was going to ask again, he heard a steady far off chanting. As it grew nearer, the darkness beyond the barn lit up with the glow of torches. Michael watched in shock as one after another person he had met at the resort, fathers and mothers with their children, entered the barn and stood just behind Salvatore. As they chanted in unison, they waved their torches.

With his arms outstretched Salvatore said,

“I am the storyteller. I am the old man. I am the wolf. I am the child.”

Then Salvatore furrowed his brow and pointing to Michael said,

“I am the product of your mistake.”

“Mistake?” Michael asked. “What did I do?”

Anger flashed in Salvatore’s eyes and he spat,

“You let my mother live.”

Michael struggled to make sense of what Salvatore was saying but then realization struck him and he asked,

“Kenneth Cooper?”

Salvatore bowed,

“But you died!” Michael said. “You went over a cliff!”

“Yes I did, but it seems I was not doomed to die that day. The story I told you about the nurse and her violent patient is true, only I was not her husband,” Kenneth paused as a smile worked its way across his face. “I was the patient.”

“What do you want?” Michael said.

“I want the train,” Kenneth said.

As Michael considered what this deranged man could do with the train, a chill went down his spine.

“You can run if you like, but I am inevitable. Sixty-five years I have waited for this moment. You have tried over and over to stop me, but each time, you have failed. Your incompetence should prove that this is what it wants, what the train wants,” Kenneth babbled on.

Trying to remain calm, Michael struggled to remember where he had last seen his gun. “What happened to my revolver?. . .Wait. My shotgun is still in the hospital. If I can just get back there, maybe I can put an end to this. Stop Kenneth for good this time.”

As though he could read Michael’s thoughts, Kenneth smiled and whispered,

“Run, little rabbit.”

Suddenly Michael turned and bolted for the hospital.

Before he had made it thirty feet out of the barn, Kenneth’s followers tried to block him.

Hoping to lose the mob long enough to circle back around and get to his shotgun inside the hospital, Michael quickly turned and began running toward one of the hills leading to the cliffs overhanging the beach. The chest wound where Abraham had cut him was stinging as he gulped in the cold air. Suddenly the hill ended at a steep cliff. Michael could hear Kenneth’s followers close behind him. He wouldn’t have time to get back to the hospital, and he knew there were too many of them to fight. He had two options: go over the cliff or face Kenneth’s followers.

* * *

As the wind picked up, lightning bearing storm clouds rushed across the late November sky and the rumble of thunder shook the ground. At the cliff’s edge, Michael looked down at the churning water and watched the surf as it crashed against the rocks below.

“How many tragic novels end this way?” he wondered.

“I’d rather you not jump,” Kenneth Cooper said behind him.

“The further I get into this, the more I think I should,” Michael answered.

“There is still much to be done,” Kenneth said. “I can’t let you do this.”

Just then a sheet of lightning flashed across the sky and the thunder sounded. Michael felt the raindrops splashing on the back of his neck.

He turned his face toward the sky and let the drops beat against him.

“And the blood of brave men was shed like the shedding of rain from a black cloud,” Kenneth said.

Michael lowered his chin and turned to face Kenneth.

“Seems fitting if you ask me,” Kenneth added.

Michael watched Kenneth’s army of followers waiting at the bottom of the hill chanting and waving torches.

“I will end this tonight!” Michael declared. “I’ll either jump off this cliff alone or take you with me!”

Kenneth smiled then said,

“Like brothers into the open arms of death.”

“I think not!” Michael snapped.

“Why do you resist?” Kenneth asked, rain running in rivulets down his white hair.

“Because I have fight left in me. Because my heart still beats. Because I have at least one breath left in my body,” Michael said.

“You are like a wounded animal that runs from the hunter,” Kenneth smiled. “Fear has clouded your mind, my son. You are already dead.”

“You’re not the victor in this, Kenneth! Others will come for you. I was the first, but believe me, I won’t be the last,” Michael insisted.

“You think the train will bring others to stop me? If that were true, wouldn’t I be dead?”

“No, my son,” Kenneth said, slowly shaking his head. “Your team is gone. The cowboy is gone. You are all that is left.”

“Why?” Michael asked.

He knew it was a cliché to ask for a motive, but he needed to know what he had missed.

“Because I have to see it,” Kenneth explained.

“Oh you’ll never see it! Not while I’m here,” Michael spat.

“Then I shall go through you if I must,” Kenneth smirked, reaching into the folds of his robe to remove Michael’s revolver.

Just as Kenneth raised the weapon to fire, Michael heard the train whistle.

“No!” Michael shouted.

“I hear it too,” Kenneth smiled. “It calls for both of us now.”

“What could you possibly want with the train?” Michael asked.

“I wish simply to go back and fix the mistake you made. You let my mother live, and she abused me every day, took out her anger on me. I have killed many to quell my rage, but nothing can slake it. Only one life needed to be taken, and that was the life you saved,” Kenneth roared.

“I won’t let you board the train!” Michael insisted.

“It is too late for that,” Kenneth said. “Come with me, and together we will right the wrongs that have plagued us. I will fix my life, and you can save your friends. Just take my hand.”

At the bottom of the hill, Michael saw an open shed door and beyond it the train station where Roscoe stood waiting. Kenneth turned and seeing the open door invited Michael to take his hand.

“We will take this journey together, my son. Think of all the people I’ve hurt and killed in my quest for peace. If you help me, those lives, those fathers and mothers and children, will be saved.”

Kenneth paused then added,

“Thousands of lives saved by taking just one.”

When Michael looked past Kenneth, he saw Roscoe nod his head.

Then meeting Kenneth’s eyes, he slowly reached out his hand.

Published in: on September 15, 2018 at 11:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 87

As the storm passed overhead, rain pelted the roof like the applause of an enthused audience watching a great performance.

Holding up his hands, palms out, Father Salvatore spoke softly.

“Abraham, I know Suriel confused you. I know he told you lies, but I am here now, and I am asking you not to hurt anyone. Suriel was using you for his own selfish means, but he is no longer with us. I came here to tell you that there is no longer a need to follow his misguided orders.”

While Salvatore talked in soothing tones, Michael noticed Abraham’s eyes for the first time. They were soft and innocent, with the same trusting look a dog would give its master when it didnt understand why it was in trouble.

“I want you to put the weapon away and help me find this man’s friends,” Salvatore said, pointing to Michael.

When Abraham saw Michael, his whole body visibly tensed.

“No, no. It’s okay, Abraham,” Salvatore assured him. “Michael isn’t here to hurt you. He just needs your help.”

Abraham’s eyes darted nervously from Michael to Salvatore.

“Trust me,” Salvatore said. Then gesturing toward Michael, he added, “You needn’t worry about him.”

Abraham seemed to be growing more and more uncertain, more nervous.

“We just want to help you, Abraham,” Salvatore said. “A lot has happened, and I need you to do the right thing.”

Abraham focused on Salvatore’s face and the confusion in his eyes seemed to dissipate slowly.

“I need for you to put away the weapon and help me with my friend,” Salvatore said, again motioning to Michael.

Abraham turned his gaze back to Michael and stared at him as Salvatore continued.

“We don’t want any more bloodshed,” Salvatore said. “I just need for you to help me.”

Michael couldn’t tell if Salvatore was getting through, but he knew something about this didn’t feel right.

As though he could not hear Salvatore, Abraham stared blankly at Michael, his eyes not moving.

Very slowly, Michael slid one foot behind the other and turned his body to reduce his target area. In the seconds that followed, Michael’s senses came alive as adrenaline cleared his mind. He remembered something his father had told him about negotiating a hostage situation. He had always taught Michael that in a hostage situation, you should focus your conversation on the one taking the hostages because the hostage taker is less likely to hurt the hostages if you keep his attention on you or someone else.

Before Michael could figure anything else out, Abraham raised the long eaves knife and lunged.

How to defeat a larger stronger opponent:

Step 1: Protect yourself from an attack.

When fighting a larger opponent, a peaceful negotiation is the best option. But if that fails, remember to keep your arms up, avoid strikes instead of blocking them or wrestling them, and be prepared to take a punch.

As Abraham closed the distance between them, Michael raised his shotgun. Then he stepped back, hoping to use the space to his advantage. But before he could pull the trigger, Abraham swung upwards with the long eaves knife, striking Michael and knocking the gun from his hand.

With a surge of pain in his chest, Michael fell backwards from the strike. When he checked himself, he found that both his hand and chest were bleeding from knife wounds.

Step 2: Overcome the size difference.

Large opponents are fast and strong but may not be fast enough. Evade their strikes, hitting when possible. It’s not a race. Take your time. If you hit them and they can’t hit you, you will eventually tire them out.

Abraham lunged again, but this time Michael was ready. As he dove though the nearest open door, Abraham drove the blade of his knife deep into the doorframe. While Michael scrambled to his feet, Abraham fought to free the blade from the wood. After a few unsuccessful tries, he gave up and stepped through the door, leaving his weapon behind.

For a moment, Michael was relieved until he remembered that an angry bear with no claws is still an angry bear.

Step 3: Use their size against them.

If escape isn’t an option, you have to use the size difference to your advantage. Move in close to prevent your opponent from getting a full swing. Every good fighter puts his weight behind each strike. Use this to gain leverage and throw your opponent. The more he has to get up or chase after you, the sooner he will drain his energy.

As Abraham moved in, his arms raised to attack, Michael quickly stepped forward to close the distance, hoping to prevent Abraham from delivering a solid punch. When Abraham swung with his left fist, Michael caught it under his arm, attempting to pin him. But just as he was about to punch Abraham in the ribs, Michael realized his mistake too late.

“Avoid wrestling them.”

Abraham grabbed Michael’s shirt, lifting him off the floor, and threw him like a sack of garbage through a window. Michael flew through the air, bounced off a line of bushes and hit the ground, knocking the wind out of him.

With the steady rain beating his face, Michael coughed, struggling to breath. Suddenly he sensed someone standing over him.

“It is me,” Salvatore said, reaching down to help up Michael. “We must get away. I am afraid Abraham is beyond my reach.”

As soon as Michael steadied himself, he and Salvatore started running towards the barn.

“I do not know what happened, but he is lost to me. I am afraid it may be too late for him or your friends.”

Michael glanced back and saw Abraham jump through one of the windows, hitting the ground then springing to his feet. Having freed the long eaves knife from the doorframe, he held it firmly in his hand as he marched towards them.

When they reached the barn, Salvatore quickly locked the doors then turned to Michael.

“Trained,” he said.

“What?” Michael asked.

“Abraham. Suriel must have trained him well. I could see he was not listening to me from the moment I spoke his name,” Salvatore said.

As Michael quickly looked around the barn, he saw that it held no weapons aside from an old rusty pitchfork and a few shovels.

“We need to try and lure him to the cliff,” Michael said.

The bloody knife wounds in his chest and hand burned, and his head ached from hitting the ground.

“Is that possible?” Salvatore asked.

“It has to be,” Michael replied, wincing at the pain. “I should be able to get him to the cliff, but I’ll need your help getting him over the side.”

Michael walked over to the barn doors and unlocked them, but before he could open them, Abraham pushed them open, striking Michael in the face and throwing him backwards.

Outside the storm raged as lightning flashed.

Before Michael could get to his feet, Abraham moved toward him gripping the knife.

“Abraham!” Salvatore snapped, his voice now stern.

Trying to clear his head, Michael forgot the stab wounds as fear took over.

“Abraham, stop right now!” Salvatore ordered.

But Abraham didn’t seem to be listening as he raised the knife to strike. Unable to defend himself against the blows, Michael closed his eyes. He had known all along that his exploits would eventually kill him. He just didn’t think he’d go out like some stupid teenager in a horror movie.

“This is usually when the surprise happens,” Michael thought. “The guy everybody thought was dead shows up suddenly, stopping the monster and giving the hero one more chance.”

Michael realized he had been arrogant, seeing himself as the hero of this story. Everyone was dead now because he had been cocky, too self-assured. He wasn’t the hero after all. He was just a con man who was about to die in a barn in the middle of nowhere.

When he heard the wet thump of metal into flesh, he thought,

“This is it.”

But after a moment when no pain came, he slowly opened his eyes.

Abraham was standing over him, the prongs of the rusty pitchfork embedded in his chest. Michael watched as Abraham, his eyes filled with confusion and betrayal, looked up at Salvatore. Just as Abraham fell over, blood oozing from the wound, Michael rolled out of the way.

“I’m sorry that it came to this,” Salvatore sighed.

With a sorrowful look, Salvatore stood over Abraham and watched as he died.

“Why didn’t he impale me?” Michael asked.

Salvatore looked at Michael and answered,

“Because I stuck him with the pitchfork before he could.”

“No,” Michael said. “I mean back in the hospital.”

“I don’t understand,” Salvatore said.

“Every time I’ve seen Abraham fight, he’s either grabbed or impaled. He’s never slashed at someone. He could have easily stuck me back there in the hospital. I was so confident I would be able to shoot him that I wasn’t even trying to dodge. So why didn’t he impale me instead?”

“I am afraid I do not have the answer,” Salvatore said.

As Michael listened, he noticed that Salvatore’s posture began to change.

“You know, now that I think about it, your story about the hospital, you know an awful lot of details for someone who wasn’t even there. You could have heard what happened from some survivors’ stories, but you didn’t mention any survivors.”

Michael watched as Salvatore’s look of confusion slowly began to fade.

“Who are you?” Michael demanded.

Salvatore shifted his feet, and a smile crept across his face.

“Where did I lose you?” he asked.

Published in: on August 18, 2018 at 4:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 86

As a second storm approached, the wind began to pick up, whipping the branches of the old trees at Summerhill. Michael followed Father Salvatore through the soot-blackened ruins, his eyes moving back and forth in his search for Abraham.

“Any idea where he might be?” Michael asked.

“There are two buildings still standing on the grounds,” Salvatore explained. “One is the medical center, the main building, and the other is the barn where the groundskeeper lived.”

“Then shouldn’t we go to the barn first?” Michael asked.

“In truth, Abraham could be anywhere,” Salvatore said. “Since we will pass the medical building on the way to the barn, I feel it would be wiser to look there first.”

A few yards ahead, Salvatore stopped at a building with windows running from its base to the roof. Michael saw fire and neglect had damaged some of the walls. Salvatore reached out, opened one of the doors and looked inside. After a moment, he sighed deeply.

“What is it?” Michael asked with concern.

Giving no reply, Salvatore stepped into the room with Michael right behind. The walls were lined with beds, their mattresses moldy from rain pouring in over the years. The covers were torn from birds collecting bits of the stuffing to line their nests or mice making their home in the soft cotton.

“This is a place of tragedy. I will never forget what happened in this room,” Salvatore said, his voice cracking.

“You remember?” Michael asked. “You were here?”

With a faraway look, Salvatore answered, “My wife. She was a nurse here when it happened.”

He walked past the beds with deliberate steps then stopped in front of one. As he rested his hand on the foot of the iron frame, he dropped his head to his chest.

“No one knew his name. Abraham was out fishing one day when he washed up on shore.”

Salvatore turned to look at Michael.

“Near the groundskeeper’s barn is a cliff that looks out over the ocean. There’s a small trail leading down to the shore. Every chance he got, young Abraham used to go down there to fish.”

Salvatore looked back at the bed.

“When Abraham brought the man up to the hospital, he was almost dead. The nurses dressed his wounds and bound his broken bones. All the while, he lay in a coma. The medical staff wove a story of who he was and why he ended up in the water so close to death. Eventually one of the nurses began to believe the stories and fell in love with a man she had never spoken to.”

Salvatore walked around to the side of the bed and gently lay his hand on the mattress. As he fought back tears, one rolled down his cheek and splashed onto the moldy cloth.

“That nurse was my wife,” he said. “I had been struggling to find work, and my marriage was suffering. I knew she was spending more and more time at work, but I thought she was taking on more hours because we needed the money. I did not know she had fallen out of love with me. When the man finally came out of the coma, the other nurses said that her face lit up. It was as though her prince awakened from a deep sleep. As she brought her face close to him in amazement and joy, he suddenly grabbed a fork from his dinner tray and drove it deep into her throat.”

Salvatore bent down and lightly swept his hand across the floor.

“She died right here, bleeding into the carpet.”

The old man stood up and walked to the window.

“I was outside in the parking lot holding a bouquet of flowers. I had just gotten a job and couldn’t wait to tell her the news.”

Salvatore turned away from the window, brushing away his tears.

“The last thing my wife saw was that man, that monster, as he stepped over her dying body. Snatching up anything he could use as a weapon, he marched through the hospital in a fit of rage, killing anyone who failed to escape. By the time the police finally arrived, he had locked the doors from the inside and set the hospital on fire. Seventeen people died from wounds and thirteen more in the fire.”

“What happened to him, the killer?” Michael asked.

“No one knows,” Salvatore said. “Some think he died in the fire, but all the dead were identified. Others think he escaped and may still be out there somewhere. Since that day, I have longed for him to return so that he may suffer as I have for what he took from me.”

Salvatore ground his teeth in anger then after a moment grew calm. Looking at Michael, he smiled as he wiped away his tears and said,

“Well, my son, your friends do not appear to be in this room. Shall we look elsewhere?”

“Yeah. Let’s keep moving,” Michael replied.

Michael and Salvatore moved down the hall, opening doors and checking each room.

As Michael closed the door to the last room, he said,

“I don’t think they’re here.”

Turning to Salvatore, he saw that the old man had stopped by a set of large double doors.

“What is it?” Michael asked.

When Salvatore did not answer, Michael walked up next to him. On the charred wooden door, trails of soot stretched across the remains of a sign marking the hospital chapel.

“This is where the police found the thirteen who perished in the fire. The madman herded them into the chapel then closed the door and shoved a pipe through the handles, trapping his victims inside. Some of those who escaped the slash of his weapons have said that after he locked them inside, he yelled at them.”

“Yelled at them?” Michael asked.

Salvatore closed his eyes as he told the story.

“Yes. He yelled, ‘You will suffer. You will all suffer as I suffered till she is dead.’ ”

“She?” Michael asked.

“I do not know,” Salvatore said.

“I wonder what he meant,” Michael replied.

“It would not bring back those he killed, I know, but I wish I understood. He was tormented by something, something he could not overcome on his own.”

Salvatore sighed and shook his head as he added, “I just wish there was a way to go back and speak with that young man.”

“Go back?” Michael repeated.

“Yes. I believe I could get through to him. Maybe save my wife and the others.”

Salvatore looked at Michael then smiled.

“I know what you’re thinking. If I went back to fix things, I would cease to exist. But it is a price I would willingly pay to achieve the happiness the new me would have.”

“Unfortunately, we cannot travel into the past,” he softly laughed. “If we could, there are so many things I would change, so many mistakes I would undo.”

Michael thought about what Salvatore had said, of all the people who died in the hospital.

“Father Salvatore,” he began, “what if I could—”

Michael stopped when he saw that Salvatore was watching something at the end of the hallway. When he followed the old man’s gaze, he saw Abraham, a long eaves knife in his hand.

“Do not move, my son,” Salvatore warned. “Let me talk to him. Perhaps I can get through.”

Published in: on July 19, 2018 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 13

“This is Lawton. My team is down. Need help on the ground floor.”

As he listened to the radio message, a smile slowly spread across Charles Heath’s face. Looking over at Jacob Graves, his head of security, he said,

“He’s devious. I like him.”

Graves who had remained silent until now spoke up in protest.

“Sir, this man has already taken out four of my best men, more if you count previous encounters. I’m not questioning you, sir, but I need to alert my men as to what we’re dealing with.”

Heath walked over and got in his face as he asked,

“Do you even know what we’re dealing with?”

Without waiting for an answer, Heath said,

“I knew when I saw him I would finally have a real challenge. But this, this is more than I could have hoped for.”

Heath turned away, lost in his own elation.

“He’s an apex predator.”

“A what, sir?” Graves asked, unable to understand Heath.

Heath turned to face Graves and repeated,

“An apex predator. A hunter with no natural predator.”

“I’m the Lion; he’s the wolf. At last a challenge,” Heath mumbled to himself.

“Sir,” Graves asked, “what are your orders?”

“How many men are left?” Heath asked.

“Not counting Charley and Gord, eleven, sir,” Graves said. “Six in this room and five patrolling the halls.”

Heath considered this then said, “Okay, leave two with me and get the rest downstairs.”

“What do I tell them, sir?” Graves asked.

“Tell them whatever you want. Won’t save them.”

Graves nodded and motioned for four of the men to follow him.

Heath looked over at Marquez and Kristina and chuckled,

“This is going to be such fun. Remind me to get the security footage after this is over.”

Then returning to his guests on the balcony, he announced,

“Gentlemen, it would appear we have a vigilante, a heroic crime fighter, in the building. How does this affect you, you ask? The only way out now is through him or with me. I can get you out of here or, if you choose, you can take your chances with the vigilante.”

Heath thought for a moment then said,

“You know, I don’t like the word vigilante. He needs a grander name, something for the history books. Any suggestions?”

 

*          *          *

 

When the elevator doors opened onto the hotel lobby, Graves and nine fully armed men stepped out. Team leader Graves turned to face the men.

“We’re looking for one person, a single male. Target is quick and deadly. Shoot on sight. Split into teams of two and search the floor. If you see anything, call it in before engaging. Any questions?”

Before anyone could answer, a lamp behind them fell over, shattering its glass shade. Nervous, every man turned and took aim on the shattered lamp.

“False alarm,” Devin Cooper said as everyone turned back around to face Graves. “What if we can capture him?”

No one answered because Graves had vanished, leaving his rifle lying on the floor.

“Congratulations, mates,” Charley said, coming around the corner. “You’ve just had your first encounter with the subject.”

When Charley walked up to face the men, Gord loomed out of the darkness.

“You blokes are on your own now. Graves is out. I would advise sticking together, but that’s only because none of you are very good at this. Have you ever seen a jaguar hunt? He uses his tail to tap the water like an insect luring fish to the surface so he can strike.”

Charley removed one of his revolvers and admired it for a moment, watching as the emergency light reflected off its nickel plating.

“What you’re dealing with is a predator who will use any tactic necessary to take you out. You’re not hunting, lads. He’s hunting you,” Charley laughed, throwing his head back.

“Good luck!” he said, walking away as Gord followed.

Ignoring Charley’s comments, the nine men decided to split into teams of three and go in different directions.

 

*          *          *

 

 

Devin Cooper led his team Webb and Foster to the restaurant, the place of Lawton’s last transmission.

“Stay close,” Cooper warned.

Together they slowly moved through the restaurant towards the kitchen in the back.

Suddenly Foster stopped for a moment and stared at one of the tables. In the dim lighting, he could swear someone was sitting at one of the tables. Turning to alert the other two men, he saw that they had already stepped into the kitchen.

“I should go get them,” he thought then shrugged it off. “I don’t need a babysitter.”

Looking back at the table, Foster kept his gun trained on the figure until he was close enough to see clearly.

Tied to the chair with his mouth gagged and his eyes wide with panic sat Lawton.

“Lawton! What happened?” Foster asked, reaching to remove the gag.

But he stopped when he saw that Lawton’s eyes were darting from him to something just behind him. As Foster slowly took a deep breath, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Whipping around, his finger on the trigger, he saw that there was nothing there.

“Dang, Lawton. What are you looking at? There’s nothing there,” Foster fussed, lowering his rifle.

When he turned back, he froze. Someone was standing just behind Lawton. Before Foster could raise his rifle, the figure struck him across the head, knocking him unconscious.

 

*          *          *

 

Copper and Webb made their way through the kitchen but stopped short when they saw four men tied up and stacked atop each other on the kitchen floor.

“What in the world?” Cooper asked in astonishment.

“You’d better call it in,” Webb suggested.

Cooper grabbed his walkie and radioed Heath.

“Sir, Devin Cooper. Target has taken out Graves, and in—”

“Foster is missing too,” Webb interrupted.

Cooper looked around and when he didn’t see Foster, he said,

“And Foster is gone as well.”

“Thanks for the update,” Heath said sarcastically. “Why are you telling me this?”

Cooper stepped away from Webb and apologized, “Sorry, sir. Just keeping you informed. Lawton’s team is here, tied up.”

“Not surprising,” Heath said. “He’s going to kill each of you eventually, so unless you get him first, don’t bother me again.”

Cooper pulled back the walkie, releasing the speaker button, and looked at it in surprise.

“Why am I working for this guy? He treats us like pawns in one of his chess games.”

“He doesn’t respect your effort?” Webb asked.

“That’s right! He doesn’t!” Cooper said, turning back to Webb.

Cooper froze when he saw that Webb lay unconscious on the floor and the target was standing in his place.

“It’s a shame, really,” the target said, mimicking Webb’s voice.

Cooper’s hands began to tremble and his chest tightened as the target stared at him with cold dead eyes and a cunning smile.

Published in: on July 19, 2018 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 83

Through the manhole cover, Michael and the others climbed down a long ladder until they reached the bottom. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Michael saw that they were in a musty sewer of putrid waste. Searching through his bag, he pulled out a heavy flashlight and swept the beam along the walls and floor. On the surface of the foot deep water, he spotted traces of blood.

“This way,” he directed.

Bugs crawled along the slimy brick walls as an occasional rat scurried off into the darkness.

“Why would Saint Suriel bring Father Salvatore down here?” Serena asked.

“No idea,” Nicole answered, the barrel of her pistol aimed just over Michael’s shoulder.

A few yards down, the sewer opened up into an empty room with a flight of iron stairs.

Michael slowly swept the flashlight’s beam across the water’s surface, and when he found no signs of blood, he pointed to the stairs.

“He must have gone this way. It’s the only way up.”

A faint light poured down the steps.

Keeping a wary eye out, Michael slowly ascended the stairs, pausing to listen for voices. At the top of the steps was a heavy wooden door. Slowly he turned the knob and pushed the door open with his shotgun.

When he stepped through the door into a long filthy hallway, its tile floor cracked and stained, he was certain he heard a faint cry. At the end of the hall, a pale green light cast a glow onto the floor beneath a closed door, and up and down the hallway, the weak light of open rooms cast shadows on the walls.

“Where are we?” Michael asked Serena.

“I do not know,” Serena said.

Stay close,” Nicole advised, her gun raised.

Leading with his shotgun, Michael crept down the hall toward the first room.

When he reached the doorway, he took a step back and froze.

“Why did you stop?” Nicole asked.

When Michael failed to answer, Nicole took her eyes off the hallway and looked inside the room.

Hanging from the ceiling were twelve cloth bags, each six feet long. The cloth had been tightly wound to form a sort of cocoon.

“What are those things?” Serena asked.

Michael cautiously stepped closer and slowly reached out to touch one of the bags.

When the tips of his fingers brushed against the damp cloth, something inside the bag began to move and make a soft noise.

“What is that sound?” Michael asked, struggling to identify it.

“Sounds like moaning to me,” Nicole said. “Somebody’s inside that thing.”

With her free hand, Nicole removed her knife from its sheath and took a step toward the bag.

When Michael heard a low rustling sound, he looked around the room and saw that each of the bags had begun to move.

Suddenly Michael spotted a man standing at the other side of the room. He wore a gas mask and was dressed in a long white lab coat splattered with mud and dark patches of blood.

As he turned around and looked at Michael through the mask, his black rubber boots squeaked. Then with a black rubber gloved hand, he reached out and stopped one of the bags from moving.

His eyes focused on the tall man, Michael put his arm out to keep Nicole from cutting into the bag.

“What?” she asked.

When Michael pointed to the man standing motionless as he watched them, Nicole slipped her knife back in its sheath and aimed her pistol.

Michael’s instincts told him to shoot, but the unarmed man didn’t seem aggressive as he kept staring at them.

“He’s not in here. Please. Let’s keep moving,” Serena pleaded, pulling on Michael’s sleeve.

Michael hesitated but then said,

“We’ll be back for them.”

He stepped out of the room and slowly continued down the hallway, uneasy at turning his back on the man in the gas mask and dirty coat.

Nicole took a quick glance backward but the man didn’t seem to be following them. A few feet farther down the hall, she glanced back again and saw that now the man was standing still in the hall watching them.

“That room must be for those guests who need extra help relaxing,” Michael joked, trying to calm his nerves.

“I do not know what purpose this place serves,” Serena insisted.

When Nicole looked back and saw that the man was standing even closer, she insisted,

“Michael, we need to find a way out of here!”

Turning away for just a moment, she looked back and saw that he was closer still.

As they approached another room, Michael could feel cold air wafting from inside. A pale white light poured out from the room as he turned slowly into the doorway, afraid of what he might see.

For a moment, Michael felt as though his heart would stop. The room was filled with gurneys, each gurney holding a sheet-draped body. Crates marked with different numbers had been stacked at the back of the room, and blood dripped from some of the crates. Fluorescent lights flickered overhead as a man entered the room wearing black rubber gloves and boots, welding goggles and a breath mask. Carrying a saw caked in blood, he stopped and wiped it across his blood soaked apron then looked at Michael in silence.

“Michael, we need to get out of here now! Every time I take my eyes off that man back there, he moves closer,” Nicole informed.

“Not much better in here,” Michael said, staring at the man with the saw.

“Either we get out of here or I start shooting,” Nicole warned.

“Please don’t,” Serena begged. “If Saint Suriel knows we are here, he might kill Father Salvatore.”

Michael saw another door less than 15 feet away. Glancing back into the room with the bodies, he saw that the goggled man had exchanged his saw for a large hammer and was coming closer.

“Okay. Run for that door up ahead,” Michael motioned. “I’ll keep an eye on these two.”

Nicole took Serena’s sleeve and hurried her toward the door while Michael shifted his gaze from one man to the other. Each man came closer every time Michael looked at the other.

“Come on!” Nicole snapped.

Michael turned and bolted for the door. When he reached the door, he spun around to watch the hallway. Reaching behind him, he pulled the door open and slipped through, leaving the two men standing in the hall watching.

As he quickly pulled the door closed, he looked for a bolt to lock it. There was none.

Turning around to Nicole and Serena, he saw that they were in a hallway twice as long as the one they had just left. The hall was dark except for the faint light that streamed from each of the open rooms. Michael quickly flipped on his flashlight and was searching the hallway when suddenly he heard the door behind him begin to open.

The Train: Episode 82

With Michael and Nicole at her heels, Serena slipped through the crowd that had gathered to watch the blazing cabin. Stopping at Scott Morgan’s office, she tried the door and found it locked.

“Sister Serena,” a spa employee called as he walked up the hall. Nicole noticed that his name badge said George.

“What are you doing?”

“I was looking for Saint Suriel. I need advice in this dark time. Do you know where he might be?” Serena asked.

“I have not seen him since he and Father Salvatore left to meditate,” George answered.

“Where did they go?” Serena asked. “It is important that I speak with him. Some of the guests are missing, and one of the cabins is on fire.”

“You know I cannot give you that information, Sister Serena,” George answered.

“It’s an emergency,” Nicole explained, giving him a stern look.

Surprised by Nicole’s remark, George’s eyes jumped from Nicole to Serena.

“Sister Serena, you have brought outsiders to see Saint Suriel and Father Salvatore without their blessing? This is against our rules. You must be brought up on charges at once!”

Out of patience, Michael dropped his bag and pulled out his shotgun. Stepping up to George, Michael jammed the gun in his face and growled,

“I’m really sick of this, you know? Now, you’re going to tell me where they are or I’m going to shoot you in the face. Capisce?”

Startled and frightened, George could only stammer. But when Michael pressed the barrel against his cheek, George squeaked,

“I don’t know. Honest! No one knows where they went. Everyone is afraid, and we have no one to guide us.”

Rolling his eyes in disgust, Michael snarled,

“Fine. Then tell us what you know about Abraham.”

Suddenly, George grew faint and reached out to the wall for support.

“I cannot say anything. Father Salvatore made us swear never to speak of him or mention his name.”

Michael withdrew the barrel from George’s cheek and said,

“Look. I’m not in the best of moods right now, so my negotiating skills are a little off. But because I’m a nice guy, I’m going to try my best to make you see things my way.”

As he stared into George’s eyes, he said,

“I have enough ammo in this bag to shoot off each and every appendage of your body. One. . .at. . .a time. See here’s my plan. I’m going to see how many I can shoot off before you pass out. Want to guess where I’m going to start?”

Trembling with fear George said,

“Father Salvatore has a file on him in his office. That’s all I know. Please!”

After a moment, Michael said,

“Good boy. Now show me.”

 

*          *          *

 

When they reached Father Salvatore’s office, George withdrew a ring of keys and fumbled to get the key in the lock. He kept looking back at Michael’s shotgun.

“Please don’t kill me,” George pleaded when he finally opened the door and let them in.

“Stay there and I might not,” Michael said.

George waited in the doorway while Michael and Nicole searched the office.

“Sister Serena, this is highly unorthodox. Why are you helping these people?”

“Because I believe Father Salvatore is in trouble,” Serena explained.

“That is not possible. He and Saint Suriel are blessed,” George said. “Divine.”

Michael was about to make a wisecrack when Nicole stopped him.

“Found something.”

She pulled an old manila envelope out of the file drawer and broke the seal, spilling the contents onto the top of the desk.

Michael and Nicole worked their way through the photographs and newspaper articles until he said,

“Looks like at one time this land belonged to Summerhill Medical Center. About four years ago, a patient woke from his coma and attacked the staff, killing fifteen people before he set the building on fire. The fire didn’t consume the place, but it was closed down and condemned because of the structural damage. The groundskeeper Abraham Carver stayed behind to guard the place. Eventually the woods grew up around the gutted building, blocking it out of sight and mind.”

Michael put the paper down and said,

“So Abraham is the groundskeeper of a hospital where fifteen people were brutally murdered. And for four years he’s been wandering around the grounds guarding a hospital that’s said to be haunted.”

Michael rolled his eyes and sighed,

“Great. Never had to deal with a haunting before.”

“You know there’s a rational explanation for this, Michael,” Nicole said.

“See why we must find Father Salvatore?” Serena said. “Saint Suriel has taken control of Abraham, and now he uses him to kill anyone who crosses his path.”

George looked shocked.

“Sister Serena, how can you say such a thing about Saint Suriel? Has he not been loyal and faithful to you and all his children?”

“Where is he?” Michael snapped, once again raising the shotgun.

“No! Shoot me if you must, but I will not betray—”

George was cut off when a long blade exploded from his stomach. Standing behind him in the doorway was Abraham, a black cloth covering his face. Quickly, Nicole grabbed Serena and pulled her back as Michael stepped forward with the shotgun.

George gasped for breath as Abraham lifted him into the air and walked backwards towards a door.

Michael looked for a clear shot, but Abraham kept his large frame hidden behind George’s dying body. When he reached the door, he opened it and stepped backwards through it. Closing the door on his knife, Abraham left George on the other side. As he pulled the blade free and slammed the door shut, George’s bleeding body dropped to the floor.

“I’m going after him!” Michael said.

“Why?” Serena asked.

“Because he can lead us to our friends, if not Salvatore,” Nicole answered.

Michael stepped over George’s body and slowly opened the door to a long flight of stairs. Following the trail of blood from the knife, they slowly descended the stairs into what looked like the basement. There were no signs of Abraham, but when Nicole spotted an open manhole cover, she pointed it out to Michael.

“Great,” Michael grumbled. “This is just getting better and better.”

Afraid to go into the opening, Serena hesitated as tears came to her eyes, but when Nicole assured her she would be right behind her, she finally followed Michael into the sewer.

Published in: on March 19, 2018 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 81

After three solid kicks, the door finally came open. Michael recoiled at the heat pouring from the burning cabin.

“You can’t go in there!” Marvin Clark warned.

“I have no choice! My friend is in there!” Michael yelled back.

Shielding his eyes from the heat, Michael took a step into the burning cabin but was pulled back when a strong hand grabbed his collar. As he struggled to keep his balance, he looked up and saw a figure, silhouetted by the light from the fire, close the door and turn to face him.

“What kind of idiot goes running into a burning building?” Elliot barked.

“Ricer’s in there!” Michael snapped.

“And Lucy is missing,” Nicole added.

“First off, the doc ain’t in there. I’d have gotten him out if he were. And secondly, Lucy tends to go missing a lot. You just never noticed it before. It’s what she’s good at,” Elliot pointed out.

“Well somebody grabbed Ricer. I saw it,” Michael insisted.

“I know. That’s why I’m here,” Elliot said.

When Michael saw Serena running toward them, he reached out and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“Who was that? Who took Ricer?” he demanded.

Serena’s eyes were wide with fear as Michael refused to release her.

“Tell me!” Michael growled, losing patience.

“I can’t say his name out loud,” Serena said. “Legend has it he’ll come for you if you misbehave or call his name.”

“I don’t give a squat about legend! Tell me or you’ll have bigger things to worry about than that!” Michael snapped.

Elliot placed his hand on Michael’s shoulder and moved him away.

“Easy, son,” Elliot said. “You’re scaring her.”

Elliot turned to face Serena and asked,

“Who was the man that grabbed the doc?”

“It was Abraham,” Marvin Clark’s youngest boy yelled.

“Quiet, Gordon!” Susan Clark warned.

“Who is Abraham?” Michael asked.

“He used to be the groundskeeper for Summerhill Medical Center,” Serena said.

“Where is that?” Michael asked.

Serena clamped her mouth shut, her eyes full of fear as a bead of sweat ran down her forehead.

Michael remembered Serena being dragged away when they had first arrived.

“Wait a minute,” Michael whispered. “Was that where they were taking you when we showed up?”

Serena nodded.

“I know where to go,” Michael said.

“Good,” Elliot replied. “Stay here and figure out what’s going on. I’ll find Ricer and Lucy.”

“I’m going with you!” Michael insisted.

“No, you’re not. Stay here where you’re safe and let me do my job,” Elliot ordered.

Michael was reluctant but saw that Elliot meant business.

“Last thing I need is more missing people to worry about,” Elliot grumbled as he walked away.

When Elliot was out of earshot, Michael turned to Serena and glared,

“Take us to Suriel now! I’m not asking anymore.”

* * *

Elliot made his way through the woods to Summerhill Medical Center. Across the grounds, the brown grass lay in patches and the dying trees dropped their limbs in great number. With revolver in hand, Elliot walked toward the rotting front door, sagging on its rusty hinges. As he stepped inside the building, he was assaulted by the sour stench of mold and decay. Gingerly stepping across the creaking wooden floor, he peered into every dark corner.

“Why don’t people just tear these places down instead of letting them fall into ruin?” Elliot asked aloud.

Suddenly the wind picked up, its blast slamming the splintered door.

Elliot whirled around then shook his head.

“All right, Doc, where are you?”

He headed for what had been the main hallway and looked inside the first room. It was empty except for a pile of mildewed rags in one corner. He covered his nose against the smell. As he moved to the next room, he heard movement behind him, footsteps across the floor and a door closing.

When he turned toward the noise, he saw no one but decided to follow the sound. At the door, he reached out and kicked it open, his weapon raised to fire.

“I’m not much for playing games. Never have been,” he called out. “Why don’t you step out here and let’s get this over with?”

Silence hung in the air.

“Come on, Abraham,” Elliot said. “Show yourself.”

When he heard the sound of heavy boots on the creaky old wood, Elliot slowly turned.

Opposite him stood a tall man in a long woolen coat, his face obscured by an old brown hat, its brittle straw frayed at the edges. His left hand gripped the handle of a long eaves knife.

“Now that’s something I haven’t seen in a while,” Elliot said, pointing to the knife.

“Abraham?” Elliot asked.

The eaves knife had a straightened scythe blade attached to a three-foot long wooden handle.

“You planning on killing me with that thing?” Elliot asked, aiming his pistol at Abraham’s heart. “You’d better be faster than me.”

From behind him, Elliot heard a weak voice whimper,

“Elliot?”

In a momentary lapse of judgment, Elliot turned toward the voice, taking his eyes off the man. When he turned back, he saw the eaves knife coming straight at him.

Published in: on February 19, 2018 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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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.

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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