Midnight Train To Nowhere Ch. 02byHeathen Hemmingway©
The teenage clerk was looking at him with a blank stare, like someone trying to peer through a dirty window. The clerk craned his neck to look past the angry man in the grey pinstriped suit standing at the counter in front of him. The man realized the clerk was looking at something behind him and turned to see what it was.
"What is it?" The man barked. "What the hell are you looking at? And do you have my car or not?" He demanded angrily.
"He's probably looking at the sign on the door." Said a voice from behind him. "You know, the one that reads Economy Rentals."
A man in a blue mechanic's jumpsuit was standing there, and it was clear by the expression on his face that he was not happy. "And no one's rude to my Son, Mister. Now what's your problem?" He growled.
"I'm not the one with a problem." The man barked in response. "Do you have my car or not?"
The man in the jumpsuit took a step closer to the angry customer, barely two feet away. "Oh, you got problems, Kid. The first problem is that someone with an ounce of common sense doesn't come into a business with a sign that reads 'Economy Rentals' and expect to rent a new BMW 740 IL, that's one problem. The second problem is that you must have chickenshit for brains to expect you can get one without calling ahead to reserve it." He growled, leaning in close to the man, who weighed roughly half as much as he did. "And your biggest problem is that if you don't get the hell outta my shop I'm going to stomp a mudhole in your ass and turn around and walk it dry."
The man in the grey suit stood there for a moment, as if in disbelief. It didn't take much analyzing to decide that he could very well have his ass handed to him, and given the nature of his mission, that would not be a good idea. An angry person tends to be a very strong person, he thought to himself, and an angry person twice your size could easily deliver a righteous ass whipping, and quickly.
Without another word the turned on his heels and walked out. He was cursing under his breath, his blood boiling. He wanted to return to the shop and put a slug between the owner's eyes and then shoot his smarmy-assed son in the crotch. "No one talks to me like that." He hissed under his breath as he stomped his way across the parking lot.
It was a blistering hot day, typical for the time of year in Dallas. Heat radiated off of the asphalt in distorted waves, and he was almost immediately sweating head to toe. He spied another rental shop across the highway and headed in that direction. After all, he was within a mile of an airport. As he dashed across the highway toward the shop, he was still cursing and muttering under his breath. "No-fucking-body talks to me like that. I oughta wait until you leave and slit your fucking throat, you fat greasy redneck." He scowled." And nobody calls me Kid."
The shopowner watched the man in the grey suit as he stomped away. He turned to his son and smiled a broad, wicked smile.
"Son, let me show you how to deal with a rude prick like that." He chuckled, reaching across the counter and picking up the telephone. He punched a button and held the receiver to his ear. "I got Billy on speed dial." He said with a wink. "Billy? Hey Billy this is Rick. You got a dude about to walk in your door, and he was just in my shop. He's one rude little son-of-a-bitch. He was nasty with Jack and acted like he wanted to show his ass. He's wearing a high-dollar grey suit."
'Yep I see him coming in the front now.' A detached voice said from the other end of the line.
"I want you to give him the royal treatment." Rick said with another smile.
'You got it brother.' The detached voice responded, followed by a click.
"So what's Uncle Billy gonna do?" The teenage boy asked excitedly.
"I dunno for sure." The man replied, followed by another huge grin. "But you can bet your ass he's going to wish he never tried to rent a car in Dallas, that's for damned certain."
On the train bound for nowhere
He settled back into the seat across from where the woman was sitting, still feeling a bit embarrassed. "I guess I'm lucky I didn't lose all my teeth when I fell on my face." He mused.
'You're lucky one of those guns didn't go off' She thought to herself, but immediately decided that saying it would be a bad idea. She wasn't certain of that kind of person he was yet, so she didn't want to take any risks she hadn't already.
"And I work in private security." He said. "I'm between jobs right now and I'm taking advantage of the down time. I've always wanted to take a trip on a train, and I've always wanted to go to Arizona to see the Zuni petroglyphs, so I'm killing two proverbial birds with one stone."
She sighed in relief, his words disarming most of her apprehensions. She doubted that crazed serial killers or rapists knew anything about ancient Native carvings, and the man had nothing in common with the goons her ex tended to surround himself with. She was still nervous and worried, though -- it was too much of a risk to trust anyone too quickly. She was, after all, a woman on the run. She felt a need to say something, to gauge his response so she would know how to proceed from there. They were still the only two people in the train car and she was uncertain if she wouldn't be better off alone. At first he had made her very nervous. It was the way he carried himself, like he could be one of those steely unblinking special-ops types her ex thought so highly of. After hearing him speak she was somewhat less anxious, but old habits taught her not to be too trusting too soon. 'Don't dare be honest if he asks you what your first impression was.' she thought suddenly, followed by another and more frightening thought. 'If you lie to him about your first impression he'll know it and then you're in big trouble.'
The man in black could see the angst on her face and tried to console her.
"And I've never been on a train before today." He added. "I guess I'm off to one hell of a start, eh?"
She immediately smiled, surprising herself. "Me too." She giggled. "I have never been on a train before this morning."
"Wow, you've been riding since this morning? And these hard vinyl seats haven't driven you insane yet?" He replied.
'You told him too much!' she thought in a panic. 'Now he knows you've been riding the train all day. He can figure out where you got on at! He probably already knows that you're trying to get as far away as you can!'
"It was a last minute decision." She said. "I could either fly or take the train. I've flown a lot so I decided to see what it's like to go cross-country on a train. The food is better, but the ride sucks."
He laughed aloud, and as she watched him she could not find a single thing he held in common with her ex or the self-important pricks he associated with. 'Except for those guns.' she thought. 'Except for those guns.'
The rain had faded away to a slight drizzle. Outside the lightning was still playing merrily through the sky, although neither of them seemed to notice. The partition door between the train cars opened and an attendant walked through. He was an older fellow with salt and pepper hair, his blue uniform crisp and perfectly pressed. He approached them with a bewildered smile.
"I've been working for this line since 1972 and never have I seen that before. I hope you folks are okay back here. "He said, obviously concerned. "We're still not certain what caused that yet."
The man and woman both smiled.
"I got my britches dusted pretty good but I think we're okay. I do appreciate you checking on us, though." Said the man in black.
The attendant smiled and looked to the woman. "If you'd like I'll be happy to bring you folks a couple of pillows from the first class car. They won't miss 'em." He offered.
"It's okay, I'm fine, too." She responded. "We're fine, really."
"Okay, but you feel free to let me know if you two need anything back here. You can get the front by using the intercom just outside of the door up here to the left. You folks have a good night." He said with a genuine smile.
As the attendant ambled away she looked at the man in black again. 'It's do or die time.' she thought. 'Preferably do, not die.'
"So what type of private security do you do?" She asked, hoping her voice didn't betray her attempt at hiding her worry.
He gave her a pensive look and then he hung his head and closed his eyes, as if in deep thought for several moments, then he opened his eyes and looked up into hers. It occurred to him at that moment that she was taller than him, and it made her even more attractive in an exotic way.
"The rough kind." He sighed. "The rough kind."
'He's honest.' She thought. 'He looked at you like that because he doesn't want to lie.'
Before setting foot on the train, her life had been different. She had always taken pride in being one of those people who could always be depended on to tell the truth, no matter what the result may be. Yet, since boarding the train she had been imagining and fabricating every lie she would have to tell along the way to make her great escape. She shrunk at the thought of the things she might have to say, as she spun a new life for herself along the way, hoping each lie she told would not give her away. The thought of what was waiting for her as she ran weighed heavily on her, and before she realized it she was crying.
'This is it.' She thought. 'This is where he picks you apart. He's got you figured out now, and he's going to pull out a cell phone and call Finch and you'll be back there before you know it.'
To her surprise (and relief) he leaned across the aisle and put his hand on her shoulder, giving her a comforting squeeze. "Ma'am I'll be happy to leave you alone if you'd like. I regret if me being here upsets you."
It took a moment for his words to sink in, and as they did she cried even harder. He was the first person who had spoken kindly to her in many days. "No." She cried, wiping angrily away at the tears. "No, not at all." She continued, looking up into his eyes. 'Truth time, Girl' she thought, and in that moment decided to take what could be the biggest risk in her life.
"Look." She said as she tried to gather herself. "I'm not good at lying or being dishonest. And I don't want to be, either."
He sat there without speaking, waiting.
"I was worried about your guns because I'm trying to put some distance between me and my crazy-ass ex-boyfriend. He's..." She stopped speaking for a moment, her voice trailing off, and then she continued. "The violent type. I'm scared that he's got someone looking for me, he's that kind of guy."
'I'm the violent type, too.' The man in black thought to himself. 'And I like to think I'm one of the good guys. But honestly I don't know if I am or not.'
"I admire your honesty." He said with a charming smile. Not a car salesman smile, just a genuine warm smile. "That took some guts."
One thing she had observed about men was that they tend to get irritated when a woman cries, as if it is an inconvenience or an embarrassment to them, and they just want to see her get it over with as soon as possible. But the man dressed in black just sat there, waiting calmly while she struggled to gain control of her emotions. Something about him was different. As she fought back tears, she realized that she was suddenly afraid of the thought of him leaving. If her ex did send someone, or worse show up himself, at least she had this man here with her. 'Do or die.' She thought again.
"My name's Lucille." She said rather defiantly, extending her hand to him. "It's nice to meet you."
"Nails." He replied, taking her hand and shaking it firmly. "And I know it's a rather unusual name. But it's what I got so I'm sticking with it."
"Nails, huh? That's pretty original." She quipped as she took a tissue from her purse and wiped under her eyes. She seemed to gain her composure quickly, like a woman who often had to think on her feet. Like a woman who had been through hell.
"It is, I guess. But not as nice as Lucille. So were you named after a relative, a redheaded movie star or B.B. Kings guitar?" He asked jokingly.
She blessed him with a beaming smile and laughed aloud, the first good laugh she had experienced in weeks. In that moment he thought she was quite beautiful, and the way she looked at him told him that she knew it.
"None of the above." She said, still laughing. "My mom just liked the name Lucille."
He looked at her for several moments, admiring her and studying her at the same time. "Well, Lucille, it looks as if the rough part of the train ride is over. And I know this is probably entirely out of place for me to say this but I can tell that you're very nervous and upset, and it's really none of my business. But while I'm here I'm not going to let anything bad happen."
She felt her heart sink and swell at the same time, and she was struck for how to reply. 'Am I more vulnerable now or am I safer now?" she asked herself. 'Or does it matter?'
"Thank you." She whispered, and then spoke a little louder. "So long as nothing else happens to the train, right? But what are the chances of that?" She asked with a smile.
"I don't think that's very likely, I doubt we have anything to worry ab...." He started to reply, but his words were cut short by the train's horn suddenly erupting.
A loud, high pitched screeching noise surrounded them and the train car suddenly lunged forward violently. A bright spray of sparks could be seen through the windows on both sides of the car. The train's brakes were locked down and throwing a brilliant trail of sparks as metal ground against metal with tons of pressure. The man in black dove across the aisle and yelled to the woman, hoping she heard him through the hellish noise. "Get down!" He screamed.
She dove down between the row of seats and he crawled on top of her, covering his head with his arms. The cabin lights went out again and the sparks from the train's overtaxed brakes illuminated the train car like a rapid shutter flash from a camera. The metallic screeching went on for several more seconds then began to fade a bit, gradually dwindling down to a dull groan as the train painfully slowed to a stop with a heave and a series of loud clunks as the train's cars ground to a halt in succession.
He waited a few more seconds, listening, trying to determine if they needed to get out of the train car or stay put. He climbed off of her, righting himself into one of the seats. She was tucked under the back of the row of seats in front of them, frozen with panic.
"I think we're safe to get up." He told her, trying to sound reassuring. "Whatever happened, it's over. We need to get out of this car."
Just as he spoke he noticed a brief gleam of light from the corner of his eye. He slowly turned his head in the direction of the light, and through the train car's windows he saw a pencil thin beam of brilliant green light bobbing and bouncing along the ground just yards away from them. The beam of light moved upward and played along the windows, and he ducked down suddenly and pulled his jacket off, wrapping it around her.
"Wha? What are you doing?" She asked, confused.
"I was wrong." He whispered urgently "It's not safe to leave the car. Somebody is out there. And they have a gun. Do not move." He said with a frightening finality in his voice, and a second later he was gone.
"Oh no." She cried, her heart sinking in her chest. "It's Finch."