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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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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The Train: Episode 53

Strong winds pushed lightning bearing storm clouds across the late November sky as the rumble of thunder filled the air, shaking the ground. At the cliff’s edge, Michael Montgomery 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,” a voice said behind him.

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

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

Just then a sheet of lightning lit up the sky and the thunder sounded as Michael felt the light touch of a raindrop splashing the back of his neck.

Suddenly the wind picked up and the rain came down harder.

He turned his face toward the sky and let the drops trickle down his face and neck.

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

Michael lowered his chin and turned to face the voice. An old man stood nearby studying Michael.

“Seems fitting if you ask me,” the old man added.

Michael watched as the old man’s army of loyal followers stood at the bottom of the hill chanting and waving torches.

“I will end this tonight,” Michael said, “either by jumping off this cliff alone or taking you with me.”

The old man smiled and said,

“Help me. We shall go together like brothers into the open arms of death.”

“Never!” Michael swore.

“Why do you resist?” the old man asked, rain soaking his white hair and robe.

“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,” the old man smiled. “Fear has clouded your mind, my son. You are already dead.”

“You won’t win! Others will come for you. I was the first but I won’t be the last,” Michael said.

“You believe the train will bring others to stop me? If that were true, wouldn’t I be dead?” “No, my son,” the old man 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,” the old man explained.

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

“Then I shall go through you if I must,” the old man pointed out, reaching into the folds of his robe for Michael’s gun.

Just as the man raised the weapon, pointing it at Michael’s head, Michael heard the train whistle.

* * *

65 years earlier

“Ripples: The Siren”

Michael knew time was relative on the train. He could rest for a week and still arrive on time wherever the train needed him to be.

“Strange thinking of the train as a sentient being,” he thought.

Someone had mentioned an engineer, a special man of legend. But Michael had never seen him and knew little else about him.

As he rested against the pillows, Michael considered,

“What about spending the rest of my life or the rest of eternity on the train? I didn’t have much of a life, really, especially compared to everything I’ve done since boarding this thing.”

“Hey!” Elliot barked. “Quit yer daydreaming and get up here! We’re pulling into the station.”

“Already?” Michael asked.

“You had enough time to rest. Move!” Elliot snapped.

Michael lazily rolled out of bed. From the moment his eyes opened, he had felt it in his bones. The train would be stopping soon. He had already prepared. His bag was loaded, his guns cleaned, and his mind rested. Once again, it was time to step off the train and fix the past.

He walked up to the main car just as the train pulled into the station. It looked like all the others. Hidden underground, empty except for a few chairs, an abandoned ticket booth, and a lonely door on the opposite end of the station.

“Where are we headed?” Michael asked as he stepped onto the platform behind Nicole, Dr. Ricer and Lucy.

“That way,” Elliot said, pointing to the door at the end of the station.

As they headed away from the train, Michael suddenly stopped. He felt something, a heaviness in the air. Turning back toward Elliot, he saw that the cowboy was watching with a solemn look.

Michael walked up to him and asked,

“What’s wrong?”

“Can’t tell you,” Elliot said with a heavy heart.

Michael had heard this before. The crew of the train was expressly forbidden to get too involved in the actions of its chosen agents. They could only sit back and wait.

Michael shrugged but as he walked away, he heard Elliot say under his breath,

“No man can ever run fast enough to escape the consequences of his actions.”

Stopping again, Michael looked back to ask Elliot what he had said but saw that the cowboy was already on the train.

He made a mental note to ask him later then hurried to catch up.

* * *

New York

December 1943

When Michael and the others stepped through the train station door, they found themselves in a nightclub. Both Michael and Dr. Ricer wore dark suits with crisp white shirts. Nicole looked stunning draped with a red evening gown, and Lucy wore a look of pure innocence in a powder blue dress.

Throughout the room, people relaxed at tables laughing and sipping their cocktails while others danced to the music of the band and the sorrowful voice of the beautiful woman caressing the microphone.

“Why are we here?” Nicole asked, clearly uncomfortable in the gown.

“The woman singing is Cynthia Cooper. This New Year’s Eve, she and her eight-year-old son will be murdered,” Ricer said.

“We have four days to find the killer.”

Published in: on October 18, 2015 at 7:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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