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.

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Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 76

They were less than twenty seconds through the door when a frightened cat bolted, knocking over a potted plant balanced on an antique pedestal table just inside the entrance to the old house where Roscoe had brought them before he returned to the train. Michael looked at Nicole and whispered,

“Well, there goes our advantage. Be careful.”

Indignant that he felt the need to say that, Nicole glared at him and tilted her head.

The smell in the old house was overpowering. Michael’s eyes slowly began to water at the stench, but Nicole didn’t seem to notice. With revolver in hand, Michael pointed at the stairs then crept past toward the back of the house.

Nicole nodded and headed for the staircase, leading with her silenced pistol. Ready to fire, she kept her body low and slowly ascended the stairs, stopping to listen between steps. On the landing at the top were two closed doors. She followed the smell to the first and cautiously opened it. Inside the room, she discovered the rotting corpse of an old woman resting in a chair. After a cursory scan of the room, she saw no obvious hiding places and silently closed the door. Turning away, she moved to the other door opposite the hall. When she slowly opened that door, she saw Dr. Ricer tied to a chair with a gag in his mouth and a grenade taped to his chest. Quickly she pulled out her knife and sliced through a string tied to the grenade pin at one end and at the other to a door leading out.

As soon as she pulled away the gag and began to untie him, Ricer warned,

“We must hurry! He has Elliot!”

“Who does?” Nicole asked.

“The killer!” Ricer responded.

“I deduced that much. I meant who is he?” Nicole replied.

“Forgive me. I am quite frazzled,” Ricer said.

“The killer is Kenneth Cooper.”

“Who?” Nicole asked.

“Do you remember the little boy from our last stop when we saved Cynthia Cooper?” Ricer asked.

Nicole took a second to think as she pulled off the last of the tape.

“The little boy. Her little boy? Yes, I remember him now. Why is he the killer?”

“First, let’s save Elliot, and then I will tell you everything I know,” Ricer returned.

“Okay. Where did they go?” Nicole asked.

“Through there,” Ricer said, pointing to the door with the string still attached.

When Nicole tried the door, she found it was locked.

“Come on. We need to go help Michael!” she ordered, grabbing Ricer and pulling him from the room.

* * *

Michael cleared the living room and what looked like a spare bedroom. As he entered the kitchen, he saw over the sink a large window that gave a full view of the backyard. At the edge of the yard was an old split rail fence with a drop off on the other side leading down to the ocean. Through the open door, Michael could hear the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks below.

Suddenly he spotted movement in the yard. A man, his back toward the house, was leading Elliot at gunpoint towards the split rail fence.

Michael crept up to the open door and quietly slipped outside. Inching his way through the grass, he moved closer until the same cat bolted past with a loud yowl. Michael mentally cursed the creature for given away his position twice.

The man grabbed Elliot’s arm and spun around, putting Elliot between him and Michael as he pressed the gun to Elliot’s throat. Michael kept coming closer.

“Stop or I will kill him. I know you don’t want that to happen. And don’t try and bluff me.”

Michael recognized the man holding Elliot.

“You!” Michael said.

“You remember me. I am flattered,” the man said with a smirk.

“Lincoln,” Michael said. “Why are you doing this?”

“My name is Kenneth!” the man snapped.

Suddenly it clicked where Michael had first seen Lincoln. It was right after they had arrived here. He had helped Michael stop a purse thief. At the time, he had thought the man looked familiar but until now, he hadn’t placed him.

“Kenneth Cooper,” Michael said. “We saved your mother.”

“You should have let her die when she was supposed to. She made my life a nightmare that only got worse after she finally died. All you had to do was stay out of it, but no, you had to get involved,” Kenneth snapped.

Michael moved a few steps closer.

“Stop moving or I will shoot him!” Kenneth barked. “I don’t need all of you to be alive to get what I want. I just need one of you.”

“What is it you want, Kenneth?” Michael asked.

“He wants on the train,” Elliot said.

“Shut up!” Kenneth shouted. “Now toss your gun away.”

Michael hesitated for a moment, but knowing Nicole wasn’t far behind, he decided to comply.

When he tossed his gun towards Elliot, it bounced and landed on Elliot’s right boot.

“I don’t know what you did with my servants, and I really don’t care. I want on the train so I can go back and fix things, clean up your mess. Now tell me where the door is that gets us out of here,” Kenneth ordered.

“What door?” Michael asked.

“Stop stalling,” Kenneth growled, his teeth clenched, as he turned the gun on Michael.

Elliot saw his chance and grabbed Kenneth’s right wrist, twisting it as he kicked Michael’s weapon off his right boot and dove out of the way.

When Kenneth cried out in pain and dropped his gun, Michael turned and flipped through the air towards him then dove for the revolver and caught it as he slid on the wet grass.

Pulling back on the trigger, Michael’s revolver bucked as a bullet fired from the chamber and struck Kenneth in the chest. Recoiling from the shot, Kenneth crashed into the split rail fence and stumbled toward the drop off. As he fell, he grabbed the fence with his left hand.

His grip was weak, and his hand started to slip just as Michael scrambled to his feet.

When his eyes met Michael’s, he smiled then began to cackle hysterically as he fell to the waves and rocks below.

Elliot came alongside Michael at the edge and looked down at the water. There was no sign of Kenneth.

“Where’s Kenneth Cooper?” Ricer asked as he and Nicole burst from the house.

“Down there,” Michael said.

“Come on. It’s time,” Elliot responded as the train whistle blew.

He walked over to the back door of the house and closed it. Waiting until the whistle sounded again, he opened the door to the station on the other side.

“Are you certain he’s dead?” Nicole asked.

“I sure hope so,” Michael replied as they stepped inside the station and closed the door behind them.

Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 2:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 75

Bleeding from his broken nose, the glowering man hung upside down above the pavement as Michael quickly ran over the steps in his mind.

How to interrogate someone:

Step 1: Be calm, casual and in control.

Most people who are being questioned just want to leave, get back to their lives. Showing them you’re in charge leads them to believe that if they cooperate, you’ll let them go. But if you threaten them, they may become afraid and hold back. And if you’re quick to become angry, they may believe they can manipulate you.

Michael looked at Nicole and laid his hand on the pistol she was pointing at the injured man.

“Lower the gun,” he said.

“What?” Nicole asked in surprise.

Michael turned back to the man and assured him,

“We’re just here to talk. I have some questions I believe you can answer.”

Step 2: Create a bond of trust.

Should the subject see you as a threat or an obstacle, they will shift their thoughts into a defensive position. It is important that the subject sees you as a friend who is just doing a job and will help them if they help you. To create this impression, you must show them kindness, try to learn more about them, and converse with them on other unrelated subjects.

Michael reached into his bag and pulled out a tissue. Moving closer to the man, he gently dabbed at the blood on his face.

“Sorry about your nose. I was going for a surprise. I certainly didn’t meant to smash your face. I’m just looking for a man, your boss I assume.”

Michael paused then introduced himself.

“I’m Shawn Carver. What’s your name?”

The man became stone-faced.

When Nicole caught his eye, Michael moved back a few steps.

“This is not working,” Nicole whispered. “Let me try. I’ll make him talk.”

‘Torture may get you an answer but not necessarily the one you need,” Michael replied.

Nicole looked at the man’s face and said, “Not the way I do it.”

Step 3: Ask only 5 questions.

Avoid the temptation to lead your subject to the confession you want. This tactic reveals what you’re after, giving the subject an advantage. Instead stick to five types of questions: (1) closed questions requiring a yes or no answer, (2) open questions that require a full answer, (3) funnel questions that narrow down a topic to the answer you seek, and (5) descriptive questions that force the subject to think.

“You look like a James,” Michael said. “May I call you James?”

The man gave no response.

“Look. Like I said, I don’t want you. I want your boss. If you tell me where to find him, I’ll let you go. You do want to go, right?”

The man remained quiet.

“Your boss took a friend of mine. He’s a simple man with children and grandchildren. Help me rescue him. What if he were your grandfather? Wouldn’t you want to help him?”

The man’s face showed no reaction.

Step 4: Use tricks of the trade.

Sometimes the right questions and perfect environment aren’t enough. When this is the case, you must resort to dirty tricks. The subject may already be uncomfortable, especially if they are trying to get on your good side. When the interrogation starts to sour, first, become silent and stare at the subject as an angry father. The subject may divulge information just to break the silence.  Next, try using props. This trick is basic bluffing as you try to make the subject believe you have a key piece of evidence that will convict them. If effective, the subject will be frightened into confessing, hoping for mercy. Finally, feign prior knowledge. Let the subject believe you know more than you’re letting on. This technique will often scare the subject into confessing in order to get ahead of a conviction.

Michael knew nothing about the man and even less about the murderer. Without Ricer, he knew he was dead in the water. Nicole had no information either. Plus her only interest was to kill the injured man.

Step 5: Ignore what Hollywood says.

You have been lied to. Techniques like good cop bad cop don’t work, and using them risks derailing your interrogation before it even starts. Secondly, torture is only successful in getting a subject to confess anything in order to get the torture to stop. Fear of torture is a better motivator. Actual torture will get you an answer but not necessarily the one you want.

Michael was running out of ideas, and the time they might need to break the man was something they didn’t have. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Michael thought long and hard about where the murderer might go to hide out.

“My turn!” Nicole spat.

“Wait!” Michael exclaimed.

Just then the door to the roof opened and out stepped Roscoe.

“You need to hurry!” he insisted. “Elliot is in trouble!”

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Keeping a firm grip on his weapon, Elliot did not move for fear that the maniacal killer might pull the string and put an end to Dr. Ricer. The stench of the decaying body in the room behind him nauseated Elliot, but the man leaning against the wall didn’t seem to mind. With a self-satisfied smirk, he watched Elliot, enjoying the game.

“Now put that pistol away. We’re all friends here, right?” the man laughed.

Elliot hesitated then slowly holstered his weapon.

“That’s better,” the man said. “Friends don’t shoot one another, now do they?”

“What do you want?” Elliot asked.

“I have already told you. I want to hear all about the Train.”

“What train?” Elliot asked.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’ m talking about. I know it exists. I’ve studied everything I can find about it since I was a small boy. How does it do it? Is it time travel or some other dimensional trick?” the killer asked.

Elliot started to throw out another response but the man kept talking.

“Did you know there are sightings of a mysterious group of people matching the descriptions of your team dating all the way back to the 1800’s? Is that where they met you?”

Before Elliot could answer, a thump downstairs drew the killer’s attention.

“Now I could call out,” the man said, “but if that’s one of your people, I would be giving away my position and where’s the fun in that?”

The killer motioned for Elliot to follow him into one of the rooms, and just before closing the door he said,

“Now be a good boy and don’t say a word or try anything. You’ll ruin all the fun if you do.”

Then he snickered and whispered,

“And your friends won’t be amused when they have to scrape the good doctor off the walls.”

Published in: on August 17, 2017 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 74

Marvin Campbell loved working night shift at the front desk. Most of the time, the only people he had to deal with were a handful of drunks, good for a laugh or a big tip. But occasionally, a man would come in with a woman on his arm, clearly his mistress, and clever Marvin would check him out for any signs of money. Blackmail had proved profitable on many occasions, if he could get a picture of the couple.

Tonight had been pretty slow, that is until now. Marvin watched as a tall blonde with crazy long legs approached the front desk. She walked with purpose, assurance. Beside her was an average looking guy, nothing special. When they reached the desk, the man pulled out a badge and said,

“I’m Shawn Carver, FBI. We’re looking for two people who checked in recently, within the last few minutes. They would have paid in cash. Probably acting nervous, looking around.”

As his eyes swept over the blonde, Marvin was only half paying attention.

“Uh. . .yea. There were two people. Checked in about five minutes ago. Guy and a girl. Kept looking around and watching the door. I just figured they were worried about getting caught in their naughty affair,” Marvin laughed. “That happens a lot here.”

“What is their room number?” Carver asked.

“Yea. Right here,” Marvin said, checking the register. “3A.”

Carver paused then added, “May I have the key?”

Lost in the blonde’s eyes, Marvin held out the key without looking.

Agent Carver took the key then headed for the elevators.

Marvin watched as the elevator closed, taking with it the agent and blonde angel.

 

*          *          *

 

“I think he liked you,” Michael smirked as the elevator carried them to the fourth floor.

“He’s an idiot,” Nicole replied.

“True, true,” Michael laughed, nodding his head.

When the elevator doors opened, Michael and Nicole stepped out and checked the hallway. Empty. Following the room numbers, they headed for Room 3A. Michael put the key in the lock and turned the knob without opening the door.

After knocking, he waited a few seconds then flung the door open with as much force as he could muster. When the door hit something and bounced back, Michael charged into the room. Quickly, Nicole ran past him in pursuit of a female fleeing to the balcony.

Behind the door, Michael found an unconscious man, his broken nose bleeding into the carpet.

As Nicole cornered the girl on the balcony, she saw the girl look down, her short hair falling into her face. Leaning back against the railing, the girl clung to the balcony’s edge.

“Easy now,” Nicole said. “We just want to talk.”

Her eyes darting from Nicole to Michael, suddenly the girl flipped over the railing. Nicole watched as she fell the three stories down, bounced off the side of a car and hit the pavement, snapping her neck.

“Help me get him out of here before security shows up,” Michael called.

Angry at the girl’s suicide, Nicole left the balcony and helped Michael carry the man out of the room, closing the door behind them.

 

 

*          *          *

 

Having decided to leave Lucy behind on the train where he knew she would be safe, Elliot opened the door and stepped out of the station into a musty room filled with furniture draped by mildewed cloths. The only light in the room was a single beam of sunlight streaming in through a break in the heavy brocade curtains. Pictures of faraway lands and nature scenes covered the four walls. One picture over the fireplace stood out from the others. It was of a young couple, smiling as they stood close together holding hands.  Elliot stood still and listened. In the silence, he could hear himself breathing.

“All right. Where did you stash him?” Elliot wondered as he drew his pistol.

He quietly stepped out of the room into a large foyer with a grand staircase leading up to a second floor. A single light burned upstairs as he slowly made his way up the steps, his senses on full alert. He knew he was taking a great risk, but he had no choice. He had to rescue Ricer.

When he reached the top of the stairs, he slowly stepped into the room, leading with his weapon. Searching from corner to corner, he saw that the only person in the room was a woman who looked like she had been dead for several weeks. Elliot shielded his nose against the foul stench of decay and slowly backed out of the room.

“It’s a shame, isn’t it,” a man spoke behind him.

Elliot spun around to see the killer casually leaning against the wall, a string in his right hand.

“I’m not here for you,” Elliot said.

“You’re here for the doc, right? I wondered if you were involved. I remember seeing you there, but at the time, I thought it was a coincidence,” the man said.

“I just want Ricer, and I will go through you if I have to,” Elliot declared.

“Oh I don’t think so,” the man sneered. “Something tells me you’re the ‘bark orders but don’t get involved’ type. Just in case I misjudged you, this string in my hand is tied to the pin in a grenade taped to the good doctor’s chest. I just want to talk.”

Elliot hesitated then asked, “What do you want?”

“I want to know about it,” the man announced.

“About what?” Elliot asked

“About the Train, of course,” the man giggled.

 

*          *          *

 

Standing on the roof of the building across the street from the hotel, Michael knew he had no time for subtlety.  They needed answers fast. He and Nicole had bound the unconscious man from the hotel room and hung him upside down in view of the street where his female partner had plunged to her death.

“If this doesn’t work,” Nicole said, “I’ll make him talk.”

“Oh don’t worry. He’ll talk,” Michael returned.

When the man began to come around, Michael leaned in and tapped him on the tip of his broken nose.

“Hi there,” he greeted. “Your boss has crossed the line, and you’re going to tell me where he is. If not, I’ll let you talk to her!”

Michael motioned to Nicole who wore a scowl that could freeze an ocean.

“But she’s not as nice as I am.”

Published in: on July 17, 2017 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 73

Without another word, Elliot turned to the station door and opened it. When he stepped through with Michael, they were in the library.

“Come on,” Elliot instructed.

He led Michael to a couch near the lobby where he saw Lucy, crying and distraught.

“What happened?” Michael asked, rushing to her.

“I woke up and. . .and Grandpa was gone,” she said between sobs.

Michael bent down and slipped his arms around Lucy, trying to comfort her.

Looking up at Elliot, he asked, “Is this what you meant by something costing dearly?”

Elliot just nodded.

“What happened, Lucy?” Michael asked.

“I don’t know. Grandpa went over there to use the phone and he told me to stay with him, but I got sleepy, so I came over here and lay down. Then when I woke up, he was gone. I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find him,” the words tumbled out.

“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” she cried.

Michael patted her back and said,

“It’s okay, Lucy. We’ll find him.”

When Michael stood, Elliot motioned for him to come closer.

“The killer took him,” Elliott whispered. “Don’t worry. He’s still alive.”

“Then let’s go get him,” Michael said.

“Not yet,” Elliot replied. “When Nicole gets back, I’m going after him. You still have a murder to stop.”

“Where is she anyway?” Michael asked.

At that moment, Nicole walked into the library. When she saw them, she came over.

“I lost him,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “Frustrating!”

Then looking around, she asked, “Where’s Ricer?”

“The killer took him,” Michael whispered.

“When? How?” Nicole asked.

“When you were away,” Michael snapped.

“Me?” Nicole defended.

Before either of them could say another word, Elliot barked impatiently,

“Silence!”

“You both did what you thought was right. Unfortunately, neither of you thought ahead. This killer is on to you. He knows all about you. That’s why this has been so difficult. How and why he knows, I can’t say. But now that Ricer’s been taken, it’s time for me to get involved. I’ll get Ricer back. You two deal with the others,” Elliot ordered.

“Others? What others?” Michael asked.

“I think there’s more than one killer,” Nicole explained. “I chased one out of the library but lost him in traffic. Then I saw another one atop a four-story building not seconds after losing him. I was supposed to think this was the work of one person, but no one could move that fast. There’s got to be at least two.”

“Given what’s happened, you’d better hope the killer and his helpers haven’t had the chance to regroup. Get back on this while I find Ricer,” Elliot ordered.

“Come on, Lucy. Let’s go find your grandpa,” Elliot said as he extended his hand to her.

He walked her over to the stairwell door, opened it, and just before they stepped through to the train station on the other side, he turned toward Michael and Nicole.

“Hurry!” he warned, closing the door behind them.

Michael looked at Nicole.

“We have to assume this killer has a fallback position for the other two, a place they would meet up,” he said.

“Why do we have to assume that?” Nicole asked.

“Because otherwise we have nothing,” Michael replied.

Nicole nodded then gazed out the window.

“Who is this person?” she asked.

“Someone who has had contact with us before. Otherwise, how would he know anything about us? Ever since we started this train thing, I’m been worried that one day we’d run into an old enemy or contact,” Michael confessed.

“I have to admit, I never thought about that,” Nicole returned.

“Take me to where he lost you, where the two tried to trick you,” Michael suggested.

* * *

A few minutes later they were out on the street. The sun had gone down and traffic was light. People headed home from work while night crews arrived to start their shifts and restaurants and clubs filled up with patrons ready for a night out on the town.

Michael stood on the curb and closed his eyes, listening to the city.

How to evade capture in a manhunt:

Step 1: Stay in a rural area.

Most manhunts start in the city or somewhere near the scene of the crime. Police may quickly set up roadblocks and establish checkpoints. In the city, you will have difficulty finding your way through the maze of streets without running into law enforcement, but since rural areas are too expansive for the police to search thoroughly, the country is a better place to hide out.

They were far away from the country, so Michael marked that possibility off the list.

Step 2: Seek help.

If you know someone you haven’t spoken to or contacted in a while, that person may be able to help you hide out, especially if they don’t know what you’re going through. You do well to leave your hiding place early in the morning and try to disappear in the morning traffic.

Since this killer was confident and probably domineering, insisting his followers stay loyal to him and keep their mouth shut, Michael knew it was unlikely his helpers would run to friends. He dismissed this possibility as well.

Step 3: Stay away from all motels within a fifty-mile radius of your escape.

Usually the first place the police will check is parking lots for stolen or out-of-state license plates. They will question the motel staff to find out if anyone matching your description has recently checked in. If you have no choice but to stay in a motel, avoid the low-rent ones and stay in expensive ones instead. Police are more likely to check low-rent motels, assuming you have little to no cash. Always pay in cash or use prepaid credit cards.

The killer and his crew weren’t running from the police, so they wouldn’t be concerned about the fifty-mile radius. But a hotel or motel would be a good place to go, especially if they needed somewhere safe to hide out.

When Michael opened his eyes, he looked around for the first available cab.

“Come on,” he said as he hurried over to catch a ride.

Climbing in the back seat, he waited until a confused Nicole slid in beside him. Then he asked the driver,

“Where’s the nearest expensive motel?”

The cabbie thought for only a moment before rattling off a name.

“Take us there,” Michael directed.

“Can’t wait, huh?” the cabbie laughed as he started the engine and pulled out into traffic.

Published in: on June 18, 2017 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 72

As the gunman ran through the library, Nicole kept after him. She couldn’t get a good look at his face with the cap pulled down over his head. Like a gazelle, he bounded down the stairs taking three and four at a time. When he hit the first floor lobby, he ran through a large group of people without slowing then exploded through the front doors, flipping forward over the stairs and hitting the pavement in a full sprint. Nicole kept him in her sights, knowing he’d tire before she. Across an open courtyard and around a fountain the gunman ran without slowing. Nicole easily cleared the fountain and was just gaining ground when the killer entered a tunnel that ran from the courtyard to the street. The well-lit tunnel was empty except for a woman walking with her small child.

Nicole pushed herself, picking up speed. If the killer held the woman at gunpoint, Nicole knew she’d have him. She was a crack shot and never missed her target. Suddenly, the killer headed towards the mother, unaware of the danger, and dipped, scooping up the child in his arm and snatching her away.

“No! Stop!” the terrified mother screamed as the killer fled with the startled child.

Concerned for the child’s life, Nicole raised her pistol, aiming for the man’s shoulder.

But when he reached the street busy with traffic, he leapt over a parked car and dropped the crying child in the middle of the street. Nicole quickly cleared the parked car and grabbed the child before she could be hit.

After returning the child to her mother, Nicole patrolled the area, walking back and forth as she searched for the killer.

All of a sudden, she spotted him standing on the roof of a four-story apartment building across the street, shaded by the rays of the dying sun.

Nicole squinted against the light to get a better look.

“Same height, same clothes. That’s got to be him. But how did he get up there so fast?”

The killer stood perfectly still as he watched Nicole for a moment before turning and disappearing.

“Something’s not right. I wounded him. How is he moving so fast,” she wondered.

“Thank you,” the mother said as she came up to Nicole. “Who was that horrible man?”

“I wish I knew,” Nicole replied, her eyes scanning the area.

 

*          *          *

 

Out of time and nowhere to hide, Michael set his jaw and turned to face whoever was coming through the door. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, but this crazy plan of his to distract the cops had gone south quicker than he expected.

Light poured into the room and Michael saw the silhouette of a man standing in the doorway.

“Idiot!” muttered Elliot Tombs.

“You?” Michael asked.

“Yes, you imbecile. Hurry and get out here!” Elliot ordered.

Michael quickly slipped through the door into the train station.

“Thank you,” Michael said.

“Just doing my job,” Elliot replied as he closed the door.

“What now?” Michael asked.

“Well first,” Elliot said, “this.”

He reached out and smacked Michael upside the head.

“You never leave your team!” Elliot barked.

“But I needed to draw the cops away,” Michael defended.

“Noble causes aside, you can’t protect someone if you’re nowhere near them. Leaving them in a safe location instead of dragging them into a firefight may feel like the right thing, but when things go bad as they usually do, you’ll be nowhere near them to help. Now because I’m busy helping you, there’s no one watching out for the others,” Elliot argued.

“Nicole is with them. She’s more terrifying than anyone I’ve seen so far,” Michael joked.

“Enough!” Elliot snapped. “You’re not taking this seriously, and it’s going to cost you dearly.”

“Wait,” Michael said. “What do you mean?”

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Dr. Ricer hurried over to the woman and checked her pulse. When he saw that she was dead, there was nothing he could do for her, he awoke Lucy and headed for the nearest phone.

“This doesn’t fit. No one was supposed to die here,” he thought.

Once he found a phone, he told Lucy to stay beside him while he made a call. He dialed 911 and waited for an operator to answer. When she came on the line, he told her about the woman’s body, what had happened, and explained that he only got a glimpse of the man as he fled the library. She told him to wait on the line, but he quickly ended the call.

Looking down at his side, he saw that Lucy was no longer there. He spun around and sighed in relief when he saw that she had crawled onto a nearby couch and fallen asleep again.

As he watched her sleeping, he couldn’t stop worrying about her.

“I wish I had just called your parents to pick you up. This is no place for a child,” he said softly.

At that moment, Ricer felt someone move up behind him. But before he could turn around, a man’s voice said,

“I could not agree more. This is a dangerous place for one so young.”

Ricer froze. He had heard this same voice in the bookshelves before the woman was shot.

“You know it’s quite noble calling the police like that,” the man said. “Shame they’ll be too late.”

Turning slowly, Ricer saw the man’s face, his eyes staring deeply into Ricer’s.

“You!” Ricer said in surprise.

“So that’s who you are,” the killer laughed. “You’re the smart one.”

“How did you—” Ricer began.

“Get here?” the man interrupted.

“Even an alpha wolf needs a pack,” the killer smirked.

Looking back toward the aisle where the dead woman lay, the man said,

“Sorry about her, but you know how rambunctious kids can get.”

As Ricer backed up to shield Lucy he said “If you hurt her,”

“Don’t worry. I’m not here for her,” the killer smiled as he reached out for Dr. Ricer.

 

Published in: on May 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 71

 

As he raced down the street, Michael risked a quick look back. The police were in full pursuit.

“Very good,” he told himself. “Okay, what’s next?”

Step 3: Have a destination in mind.

Even though driving around in circles may seem like a good way to lose the cops in a chase, it’s not. Police officers spend a lot of time in the city and are in communication with other officers and districts. Law enforcement agencies will put out an All Points Bulletin, casting a citywide net if need be. Focus on a point and aim for it. Detour if necessary, but have a destination in mind. It will keep you from being turned around.

Michael raced down the street dodging cars and running lights. He knew that thousands of car chases ended in tragedy or capture, so he needed to lose the police officers quickly and ditch the car. Aiming for the outskirts of town, Michael kept driving east. Worst-case scenario, he would drive the car into the river and hopefully lose them in the bay.

Step 4: Exercise extreme caution at intersections.

Racing through an intersection during a police chase, narrowly avoiding the cross traffic, may seem dramatic, but intersections, especially high traffic ones, are the most likely place to be caught or killed. People tend to focus on their own plans, where they are going, what they will do. They fail to consider others, to be environmentally aware. It is best to drive as though no one can see you so you never expect someone to get out of your way. This driving style is far more defensive and will increase your chances of getting safely through traffic.

Up ahead Michael saw an intersection, so he slowed and planned his next move. A sign just under the traffic light pointed left indicating an upcoming tunnel to the airport. Michael cut the wheel hard and turned at the intersection, following the signs.

Step 5: Take Cover.

Driving faster and outmaneuvering the police isn’t always enough to keep from being caught. A resourceful officer might request that a police helicopter be brought into the chase, providing a law enforcement presence in the air. Air support is an overwhelming advantage for ground officers because the aircrew can keep you in sight. No matter where you drive, how fast, or how well, they will alert the ground force as to your location. To outsmart the helicopter crew, you will need to seek cover, places the helicopter cannot track you.

Michael flew into the tunnel, moving as quickly as traffic would allow. He turned on his low beams and tried not to get too close to the vehicle in front of him. He knew his speed was too fast for the confined space, but he had to exit the tunnel before the police could seal off the other end. Up ahead two cars were stopped, blocking off one of the lanes. The drivers were out of their cars, arguing over a fender bender. Michael slid to a stop, hopped out of the ’66 Chevelle SS, threw the keys to the nearest of the two drivers, and slid into the lead car, a red Volkswagen bug. As he pulled away, the driver yelled in surprise, chasing Michael for a few feet.

“Sorry, pal,” Michael yelled back.

When he drove out of the tunnel, he passed two police officers on the road. Heading for the airport, he knew he didn’t have much time before the cops discovered he was driving a red Volkswagen bug. If he could just get to the airport’s long-term parking lot, he would have plenty of vehicles to choose from.

After pulling in to airport parking, he drove past the front doors, catching the attention of an officer. When the officer yelled for him to stop, Michael stepped on the gas. As he flew past the rows of cars with the officer in pursuit, a van pulled out in front of him. Unable to stop in time, Michael struck the side of the van. He leapt out, made sure the driver was not injured, then ran into the airport.

He had to find a new car and get moving before the police spotted him. Trying not to draw attention to himself, he hurried through the airport looking for a safe exit.

Within minutes, airport security had joined the chase. Michael shot across the terminal but stopped halfway. By now, the airport was crawling with security and police, and Michael was getting desperate. He noticed a small door less than 5 feet to his right. Hoping it opened into a tunnel to the runway, he hurried over and pulled the door open. On the other side of the door was a small room, less than 30 square feet. When he stepped back out of the room, a gunshot rang out, forcing him to dart back inside. He closed the door and began a frantic search for another way out of the room. Any second now, the cops would pull open the door and arrest or shoot him. He felt like a trapped rat. Heart racing, Michael told himself not to panic. As he tried to decide what to do, suddenly the door opened.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Dr. Ricer and Nicole headed down the street to the pharmacy to get directions to the public records office. As she scribbled directions on a scrap of paper, the woman at the front cash register told them it was across the street from the public library. With Lucy in tow, they thanked the woman and stepped outside to hail a cab. Ten minutes later, they stood in front of the public records office. While Nicole worked her way through city records, Ricer headed for the library to research the history of the neighborhood. Although the library was full of patrons, Ricer stopped reading when he suddenly felt an uncomfortable presence nearby.

“I know who they are,” the man said.

When Ricer lifted his eyes from the pages, he heard the subtle click of a gun’s hammer behind him. The aisles of the library’s bookshelves were too narrow for someone to stand behind him, so Ricer figured the gunman must be one row over, pointing the gun through the shelved books.

Ricer looked around, hoping someone would see the weapon and bring help, but no one seemed to notice.

“But who are you?” the man asked.

Frightened for Lucy, Ricer glanced toward his granddaughter and saw that she had fallen asleep at a nearby table, her head resting on the pages of an open book.

“Don’t worry,” the man said. “She’s safe.”

“If you want her to stay that way, answer my question. Who. . .are. . .you?”

“Elijah Ricer, and that’s my granddaughter Lucy,” Ricer answered.

“What purpose do you serve?” the man asked.

“I don’t understand,” Ricer said.

“She’s the muscle. He’s the detective. What role do you play?” the man asked.

“How do you know—?” Ricer began.

Before he could finish, Ricer heard a woman’s voice in the same aisle as the gunman.

“Excuse me,” she said.

Ricer heard a scuffle then what sounded like a click before silence. He had a bad feeling that the woman was injured or dead, but he feared that if he moved, the man would hurt Lucy.

“Find anything, Doc?” Nicole asked, strolling over. “The public records’ search was a bust.”

Ricer met her eyes, and when she saw his fear, she drew her weapon. Squaring her shoulders, she raised her gun and turned. Suddenly the man bolted from his hiding place and ran for the exit. As Nicole chased after the gunman, Ricer hurried over to check on Lucy. When he looked into the aisle where the man had been hiding, he saw a woman lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 70

“Oh great. A city-wide manhunt is going to make slipping around unnoticed very difficult,” Nicole said.

“I think that’s the idea,” Michael suggested.

Nicole furrowed her brow and said,

“What do you mean? You think he’s doing this on purpose?”

“Yep,” Michael said as he noticed passersby going out of their way to avoid them.

“How is that possible? We had just gotten here off the train when things started changing. How could he have known what we were up to?” Dr. Ricer asked.

Before Michael could answer, police sirens diverted their attention.

“Seriously?” Michael snapped. “Average police response time is 9-12 minutes, and I know we haven’t been standing here that long.”

“They must have been nearby,” Ricer said.

“Or on edge,” Michael suggested.

“Or the killer called them ahead of time,” Nicole added.

“Now what are we going to do?” Ricer asked.

“We have to lose them, or they’ll be after us the whole time we’re here, making our investigation pretty much impossible,” Nicole warned.

All of a sudden, two patrol cars came sliding around the corner, lights flashing, just as a ’66 Chevelle SS pulled to a stop in front of the pharmacy next door.

Everything seemed to slow and fade out as a plan began to form in Michael’s mind.

How to evade the police in a car chase:

Step 1: Choose your ride.

If you have the option, pick a vehicle that handles easily, given the terrain, but also blends well. A shiny sports car may help you escape, but if you stand out, you won’t be able to hide for long.

“I have an idea,” Michael said.

“Great. Tell us later. We need to move,” Nicole advised.

“That’s part of my plan,” Michael returned.

Michael saw that people were watching them, and he knew exactly what to do. Turning to Ricer he said,

“Sorry, Doc.”

He threw a weak right cross at Ricer, knocking him backwards, then turned and shoved Nicole. Quickly reaching into his bag, he pulled out his pistol and fired twice into the air.

While Ricer and Nicole tried to recover, Michael bolted for the Chevelle and jumped the hood just as the driver was getting out.

“Hey!” the guy yelled in protest. But when Michael shoved the pistol in his gut, the man went silent.

“Keys now!” Michael demanded.

When the driver handed over the keys, Michael shoved him out of the way and jumped into the driver’s seat. Turning over the engine, he threw it into gear, stepped on the gas, and peeled out of the parking space.

Step 2: Don’t get out and keep moving.

Although you may be tempted, ditching a car for the stealthy approach is a bad idea while the police are after you. Wait until you’ve lost them. The cops and environment may try to slow you down, but stopping is a certain death sentence. Slow down as necessary but avoid stopping at all costs. Keep moving and always have an exit plan.

Michael sped away with the police on his tail.

 

*          *          *

 

Dr. Ricer sat on the concrete, shaken by Michael’s behavior. While Nicole brushed the dirt off her slacks, a couple hurried over to Ricer and helped him up off the sidewalk.

“Are you two okay?” the woman asked, trying to comfort them.

“Yes, yes,” Ricer replied, rubbing his jaw.

“You two are so lucky,” the man said.

“Why do you say that?” Nicole asked, still fuming from Michael’s push.

“Oh my dear, that man!” the woman asked.

“The guy who punched you just murdered a cab driver!” the man explained.

Ricer and Nicole exchanged a glance as two more patrol cars shot by in pursuit of Michael.

“Do you need a doctor?” the woman asked.

“No thanks. We’re fine,” Nicole said, grabbing Michael’s bag. “Come on, Doc.”

Nicole and Ricer walked down the street and disappeared around a corner. When she was certain no one was watching, she threw down the bag and spat,

“That idiot!”

“What?” Ricer asked.

“Michael!” Nicole barked. “That imbecile just put himself in the crosshairs to keep us safe.”

“I think his plan was to distract the cops so we could keep investigating,” Ricer said.

“I know,” Nicole sighed, her voice suddenly softening. “It’s just that. . .”

“What?” Ricer asked.

“Oh nothing,” Nicole replied.

After a moment Ricer asked,

“So what should we do now?”

Nicole looked off in the distance as she thought before answering,

“This killer’s after something. Something is attracting him to these places.”

“I don’t know what it could be. One location didn’t even exist until two years ago,” Ricer informed.

“Maybe not, but there’s something there.  We need to check public records, anything that may lead us to what happened, what led the killer to target these places,” Nicole reasoned.

“Should we warn the police or the people who live there? One of the places is an apartment building,” Ricer said.

“If it’s necessary. But I don’t believe that’ll stop the killer. What is it about these places that’s drawing him?” Nicole wondered.

“Is Mr. Michael mad at you, Grandpa?” Lucy asked.

“No, dear. He’s just taking care of a problem so we don’t have to,” Ricer explained.

Ricer looked at Nicole and asked,

“Where to now?”

“The public records office. They may have something. Come on,” Nicole directed.

The Train: Episode 69

Michael could see that the figure wrapped in shadows had a man’s build. Just as he ran toward the figure, Nicole drew her pistol. Seeing the gun, the man turned and headed farther back into the shadows. The round fired, cut through the air past Michael’s ear and struck the man in the shoulder. Twisting from the hit, the man kept running, gripping his wound. The back of the burned out rec center opened up to an alley. When he reached what was left of the back door, the man forced his way through and ran into the alley, hurdling a car and running in front of a truck. As the truck driver blared his horn, sliding to a stop, the fleeing man dodged the front bumper and disappeared. Michael stopped and searched the alley. The man was gone.

“What happened?” Nicole asked, catching up.

“He got away,” Michael said.

“How? I hit him,” Nicole questioned.

“You did, but if it slowed him down, I sure couldn’t tell. He’s fast,” Michael replied.

Michael told Nicole what had happened in the alley.

“He’s the killer, I assume?” Nicole asked.

Michael wasn’t listening. His attention had shifted to a cab parked at the mouth of the alley, the vehicle the killer had leapt over in his escape.

“Wait here,” Michael said, approaching the cab.

As he drew closer, everything slowed and his training kicked in.

 

How to investigate a crime scene:

Step 1: Approach and secure the area around the scene.

Before entering a crime scene, ingress and egress must be controlled to prevent contamination of any potential physical evidence. Make a mental note of what you see, hear and smell. Determine if anything looks out of place.

Except for the rantings of the angry truck driver as he drove away, the street was relatively quiet. A few cars passed by, and Michael noticed the smell of burnt fuel. He reasoned that the cab must have been parked in a hurry because it was blocking the alley, something a cabbie would avoid so as not to be ticketed or towed.

Step 2: Initiate preliminary survey.

Conduct a survey of the crime scene itself. Look for signs of entry such as open windows, damaged doors, ladders and the like. Note all sensory readings—the smells, sounds, sights—as before and once again determine if anything looks out of place.  Take plenty of photos of the scene.

Michael placed his hand on the hood of the cab and confirmed that the engine was warm. None of the windows were broken, and the keys were still in the ignition. As he circled the cab, he spotted a small piece of clothing sticking out from the closed trunk, and completing his lap around the car, he saw luggage in the back seat.

Step 3: Evaluate physical evidence.

Reconstruct the events of the crime. Use the physical evidence to answer questions such as: Did the crime take place here or somewhere else? Has the victim or anything in the scene been tampered with? How did the crime affect the scene (signs of a struggle, blood spatter, bullet holes)?

Michael tried the driver’s door and found it was locked. Removing a pair of lock pics from his pocket, he opened the door and carefully slipped the keys out of the ignition. As his eyes slid over the interior of the car, he saw two bullet holes in the driver’s seat and two in the seat behind the driver. Michael slipped out of the car, walked around to the back, and opened the trunk. Curled up on the floor mat, face upward, was a dead man. When he carefully turned the man over, he saw two bullet holes in his back.

Step 4: Prepare a narrative of the scene.

From the collected evidence, compose an account of what happened.

Michael stepped away and looked over at Nicole.

“Well, here’s the cab driver.”

“How do you know it’s him?” Nicole asked.

“The driver’s seat has two bullets holes entering the back of the seat and ejecting through the front with no damage to the dash or window. Plus, the driver has two bullet holes in his back, so he had to be driving when whoever was in the back seat shot him twice. There’s no blood spatter on the front seat or on the back seat. Looks like his killer hailed a cab, probably one at random, climbed in and shot the driver twice in the back with a small caliber pistol. Then he threw the body into the trunk and drove the cab to pick up James Nolan. After leaving the airport, I would guess pretty much after he pulled in here, he turned around and shot Nolan twice in the chest before dragging his body inside and hanging it from the rafter,” Michael explained.

“So he kills a random cab driver just so he can pick up a random guy and kill him in this place which someone, probably him, burned down?” Nicole asked.

“I know. I know. It doesn’t make sense, but there’s got to be a connection we’re missing,” Michael said. “We need to figure out what it is.”

“You know what this reminds me of?” Nicole asked.

“What’s that?” Michael questioned.

“The assignment before this one. Things kept changing. Remember?” Nicole said.

 

*          *          *

 

As they were leaving the scene, Michael realized he still had the car keys.

“Hold on. I’ve got to put everything back the way it was.”

Michael left Nicole and hurried back to the cab. He put the keys back in the ignition then locked and closed the door. Moving around to the trunk, he repositioned the body the way it was when he found it and was closing the trunk when he heard a woman’s voice ask,

“What are you doing?”

When Michael spun around, he saw a middle-aged woman staring at him in horror.

“It’s not what you think,” he quickly explained.

When he stepped closer, the woman let out an ear-piercing scream and ran off.

“Well that can’t be good,” he said.

Checking that the trunk was securely closed, Michael hurried back to Nicole.

“We need to get out of here!” he insisted.

“What happened? What was that scream?” she asked.

“Some woman. I don’t know. She spotted me with the body.”

When they reached Dr. Ricer, he was nervously pacing back and forth.

“What happened?” he demanded.

“What do you mean?” Nicole asked.

“According to history, what was a simple murder investigation is now a city-wide manhunt.”

Published in: on February 16, 2017 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 68

When Michael and Dr. Ricer finally joined Nicole, they found her sitting on a bench across the street from a burning building.

“Is that the rec center?” Michael asked, looking at the scene.

“Yep,” Nicole sighed.

“What happened?” Ricer asked.

“I know my ideas can be bad sometimes, but I don’t think burning down the building is going to stop a killer,” Michael said. Then looking at Ricer, he asked, “It didn’t, did it?”

Ricer shook his head but before he could say anything, Nicole said,

“No. By the time I got here, the building was already on fire. I don’t know what happened.”

“Let me get this straight. The building burned down, but James Nolan is still murdered?” Michael asked.

Ricer nodded.

“Well then we need to find him or at least stake out the place where he’s found,” Michael suggested.

“Where is he found this time?” Nicole asked.

“Still here,” Ricer said.

“What?” Michael and Nicole asked in unison.

Ricer just nodded.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Michael complained.

“Why would the killer bring him here in the first place?” Nicole asked. “There must be some significance to this building. Does Nolan volunteer here on weekends or did he maybe work here in his youth?”

Ricer shook his head and said,

“No. In fact, James Nolan didn’t move to New York until three months ago.”

“So it’s not Nolan himself but maybe something he did recently,” Michael suggested. “What do you think we should do, Nicole?”

Her brows furrowed, Nicole looked off in the distance then up at Michael and Ricer.

“All right, first we need to go and find James Nolan. Maybe we can warn him of what’s about to happen,” she proposed.

“That won’t do,” Ricer said, shaking his head. “James Nolan doesn’t come back into town until tonight. The estimated time of death is right after his arrival.”

“Then we’ll just catch him when he shows up,” Nicole said.

 

*          *          *

 

Later that night in the airport parking lot, they waited for Nolan’s plane to land.

“According to the original report, he leaves the airport and gets into a cab. That’s the last time he’s seen alive,” Ricer explained.

“Okay, so we wait. His plane should be coming in any minute now,” Nicole said.

Keeping their eyes on the airport doors, they watched for anyone matching the description Ricer had given them earlier.

Suddenly they heard a commotion a few parking spaces away. They turned their attention toward the noise and saw that a car two spaces down was on fire.

“What in the world?” Michael said.

Just then they heard the siren of approaching fire trucks.

Climbing out of the car, they watched as the emergency vehicles pulled up into the lot and fire fighters went to work, spraying the fire and moving everyone away.

“How did they get here so fast? It looks like the car just started burning,” Nicole asked.

“Perhaps they were already in the area,” Ricer suggested.

Michael looked back toward the airport doors and slowly scanned the crowd.

“There he is!” he exclaimed.

A man fitting James Nolan’s description came through the airport doors.

Michael struggled to reach Nolan but was blocked by the crowd of people who had gathered to watch the fire fighters.

By the time he pushed his way through, Nolan was already in a cab pulling away.

“We’re too late,” Ricer said.

“I don’t think this was an accident,” Nicole speculated. “This fire was clearly a distraction, but the fire department? What are the odds they would be in the area? That is unless someone called them ahead of time.”

Michael nodded. “I agree. Someone is changing things, and it’s not us.”

“You think Brody may have returned?” Ricer asked.

“Nope,” Elliot said, suddenly walking up behind them.

Ricer jumped in surprise.

“I can promise you Brody won’t be bothering you anymore,” Elliot informed.

“What’s going on?” Nicole asked.

“I can’t tell you. Against the rules. I’m only allowed to get involved if you’re in danger,” Elliot reminded them.

Michael threw up his hands.

“Is someone else from the train here?” Nicole asked.

“Nope,” Elliot replied.

“Wait what?” Michael asked.

“Tell you later,” Nicole said.

“I can say this much. If you’re going to make a difference, you had better hurry up and find a new ride,” Elliot said.

“We have a car,” Michael said.

“That car’s not going anywhere, not on those tires,” Elliot pointed out.

Looking back at the car they had borrowed, Michael saw that both rear tires were flat.

“Seriously? What do—” he began.

But when he turned, he saw that Elliot had disappeared.

“We have to find Nolan now!” Nicole announced.

“Well at least we know where he’s going to be. Maybe we can get there before it’s too late,” Michael said.

 

*          *          *

 

After they found another car, Michael drove them back to the burned-out rec center.

“You and Lucy wait here,” Nicole told Ricer as she and Michael hurried into the remains of the building.

Their hopes were dashed when they found the bloody body of James Nolan hanging from one of the blackened rafters. Nicole reached up and checked for a pulse.

“He’s dead,” she said.

Nicole saw that Michael was frozen in place, staring at something. She was about to ask him what was wrong but then she felt it too.

As she turned and followed Michael’s gaze, she saw at the back of the building someone in the shadows watching them.

Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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