Long Black Train

I really think these flash fictions are doing me some good. At any rate, they’re helping me immensely with Blood on the Quarter. This week, according to the direction of Chuck Wending on terribleminds we were told to tell a travelling tale. Considering that I’ve been travelling nearly my entire life, the tale shouldn’t be to hard to tell, right?
Right.
Easier said than done.
Travelling is one thing. Writing about it is a separate one entirely, especially since I have yet to ride on a train. I hear they can be dangerous, though. Melanie is about to find that little bit out the hard way.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you straight out of Blood on the Quarter, Melanie Moore’s misadventure with a determined woman and her gun.
Sometimes, it’s good to pay attention to your mail.

Long Black Train

The train station is just as a dank and dark as the weather outside. Melanie shivers a little despite the coat buttoned up to her throat and the scarf underneath. If there is anything she hates, it’s the cold. I’m a cold blooded creature, she thinks with a tight smile, I need the sun and the heat.
Her hands don’t move from her pockets. They’re heavy and full, but what they carry is too precious to be left alone for even a second. Looped around her arm is her luggage, lightly packed despite her extended stay.
She steals a look at the large clock dominating the St. Louis train station. The train is over two hours late.
Snow delay, the passing policeman had said. Thick snow lying heavy across brittle steel tracks. She has made up her mind to go back to the boarding house when a crackling voice comes over the loud speaker.
“Six thirty train to New Orleans arriving track six. Stand back from yellow line.”
Snapping her head to the right, Melanie hears the whistle and sprints across slippery concrete to join the growing crowd on the platform.
“Thank God,” She mutters under her breath, unapologetically pushing her way to a decent position.
“Excuse me,” A sweet voice says, copying Melanie’s movements.
Too focused on the train to care, Melanie makes room for her, stepping to the side. The train arrives in a screech of wheels and voluminous, ochre smoke. Everyone coughs, covering their hands against the rancid smell. An apologetic conductor hurries departing passengers off and the new ones on. Melanie barely has time to admire the coal black train before she’s swept up in the crowd and onto the machine.
Securing a compartment is a mercifully easy venture and soon, the train is off with another scream of its whistle. Hot in her layers, Melanie stands and begins to undress, taking her bag from around her arm and carefully pulling her hands out of her pocket to remove her gloves. The compartment door slides open, startling her. She jumps, heart hammering in her chest.
A pair of wide brown eyes stare at her, a merry twinkle in their depths.
“I’m sorry, did I scare you?” Their owner asks, smiling prettily, her black bob bouncing with the train’s motion.
Melanie laughs, “A little.” She recognises the girl from the platform.
“I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right.”
“Is this compartment taken? I mean, is there anyone else joining you? Every other one is full.”
Melanie shakes her head, spying a pair of tall boots and a long jacket on one of the seats. Soft snoring enters her ears. She stares, surprised at a closed curtain above the seats. She puts a had to her lips, motioning to the boots.
“I think there is,” She whispers, “but I don’t think he’ll mind overmuch.”
The girl smiles, shucking off her own coat and gloves. Wary, Melanie turns back around, carefully folding her own coat on the seat so that her right front pocket faces the cushion.
She turns back around, intent on something to eat. A Remington Derringer stares her down. She stops, blood going cold.
The smiley girl is no longer smiling. She licks her lips slowly, sizing Melanie up carefully, big brown eyes narrowed and shifty.
“Don’t move,” She says.
“I didn’t think that was an option,” Melanie says, attempting bravery, falling flat.
“Shut up. Open your bag.”
“My bag?”
“Are you deaf? I said open the damn bag!”
“All right, all right,” Melanie says, bending down and opening the clasp.
“Now kick it over to me.”
Melanie does, casting a longing glance at the shut curtain.
Wake up, damn it!
Her hands shake, she folds her arms across her chest. The gun flies back up.
“Keep them up. I don’t want you doing anything funny.”
Melanie does as instructed, trembling violently. A thousand scenarios run through her mind, each featuring her as the hero, single-handedly defeating the armed girl. She acts on none of them, rooted to the spot as if her feet were glued to the floor. Outside frosted windows, snow flurries by. Every now and again, Melanie catches a glimpse of a skeletal tree or white-capped house. She prays she lives to see the sight again.
“What the hell is this?!” The girl demands, grabbing Melanie’s attention.
In a matter of seconds the girl has ripped apart Melanie’s bag, scattering clothes and what little possessions Melanie brought. More importantly, white bits of something flutter around Melanie’s feet echoing the snow outside, looking suspiciously like ripped bits of paper.
“What did you do?” Melanie yells, outraged.
“Where the hell is it?!”
“What?”
“The book! The-the journal!”
“What journal?”
“The one you were sent!”
Melanie’s memory draws a blank. She blinks at the girl. “I wasn’t sent a journal,” She says.
“Thomas Reddington sent you a package when he died. Where. Is. It?”
Memory returns. Melanie tries to hide it. The girl grins a wicked grin. She steps over the bag, jabbing Melanie in the stomach with the gun. “Where. Is. It?” She repeats, her voice dripping menace, the gun guaranteeing the threat.
Melanie swallows. “I don’t know.”
“LIAR!”
The hammer clicks. Behind her, the curtain is drawn back, a glint catching in the light.
“Put the gun down,” A male voice says.
An explosion thuds through the compartment, silencing Melanie’s auditory sense, the force of it slamming her back against the door and onto the floor. A fierce pain shoots up her arm. Blood spatters her face and shirt.
Someone screams.
Melanie wakes to someone shaking her.
“Hey lady, you all right?” The same male voice asks, worried eyes looking her over.
Melanie nods. “Sure.” Pain stops her. She winces “My arm.”
“Yeah, you got nicked. The doctor is gonna take a look at you.” He clears his throat, “Had to shoot the girl.”
She nods again, “Sure.”
“Do you know what she wanted?”
“No, but I’m sure gonna find out.”

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8 thoughts on “Long Black Train

    1. rjkeith says:

      Yay! I’m glad you’re enjoying the story! I just finished the outline today. The first draft’s deadline is no later than 15 June. After that, I’m shooting for a winter release. Giving me enough time (I hope!) to line up an editor and get a good cover design going.

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