Impasse – Chapter Ten
The body next to Detective Farva there in the bed was warm. He sat up to put his hands to his face in an attempt to ease the throbbing of his head. His bare shoulders outside the covers riddled themselves with goosebumps and the brunette stirred, attempting to pull more of the blankets over her body.
“Lay back down, it’s cold,” she mumbled, eyes relaxed shut. “These places never have enough blankets.”
Farva felt the pain retreating from his head. He glanced about in the low light, identifying the tacky, tar-stained floral wallpaper of the motel. “Just why is it so damn cold?”
“I suppose it’s going to snow, they said.”
“That’s what the TV in the lobby was saying when we checked in,” the woman said more clearly, sitting up to find her grasp on Farva’s arm. “Maybe a white Christmas. Come on, lay back down, you paid for two hours. I’ll be sad if you want to ditch me this early.”
The detective flung his legs out of the bed. “Christmas? What day is it?”
“Uh, the 17th. No, the 18th now?”
“Uh, yeah,” the woman giggled. “Was it that good that you lost yourself?”
“It’s moving backward—“ Farva said out loud, not thinking about the words. “It’s always been moving back.”
“Moving back, babe?” The woman asked, puzzled. “What is? What are you talking about?”
Farva leaned over and turned on the bedside light, casting the orange glow through the shade and across the bed. He turned back to the woman, sat up innocently. Small dots of red adorned her face and neck, up against her hairline. “It’s you. It was you. Damn it. Damn it!” His yell echoed about the room, and he turned his face back.
“Hold on now, stop it. You’re scaring me.”
The detective shook his head furiously. “When’s the last time you got tested?”
The brunette huffed, eyes averted, kneading the pillow by her side. “I use protection, you tool.”
“I don’t think you understand that isn’t enough. Damn it. Fuck. Fuck me!” His cursing found the corners of the cheap space once more. “You should know damn well that isn’t enough. Have you looked at yourself in the mirror? Wondered what that rash is?”
The woman thrashed the pillow and lunged up out of bed. “You’re going to shove that in my face, now? You think I have the luxury of going to the doctor for every little allergic reaction? Fuck you!”
As the woman stomped to the bathroom, retrieving her clothes off the bedspread and floor, the detective couldn’t help but shake his head. We’re back to this. This is where it started. Where… it wanted me to be. “It’s not your fault, I’m sorry,” he said loud enough to be heard in the bathroom. “You’d never had known. It’s too late for the both of us.”
His slacks were discarded on the floor. The lump in the pocket was his phone, silent and still. He extracted the device, flipped it open, and stared at the screen. It’s supposed to ring. The chief… he’s going to call me out… to the tracks… downtown somewhere. Second avenue is the crossing. I… can do something different this time. What haven’t I done? Why isn’t he calling? I need the excuse to get out of here.
He glanced back at the light creeping under the closed bathroom door. There was a fumbling on the other side. Shortly after the brunette had entered, she exited, fully dressed, and made a beeline for the door. “Why don’t you get your own self tested, hypocrite? Whoremonger!”
Farva kept his head down, shaking back and forth, as the woman exited, slamming the door behind her. If I end it here… how much further back will I go? Can I go back again? He thought of the gun in the glove box of the car outside. While deciding what to do with himself, the windows lit up with red and blue flashing lights. He stood and pushed open the blinds to view the sole patrol car outside. The yelling, huh?
The sound of knocking radiated from the nearby doors as the detective dressed himself. The knock finally came to his own door, and he was prepared to swing it open. “We got a report of some yelling, sounded like a threat, and— Farve?” The chief greeted him, questions prepared, beyond the entrance.
“I wouldn’t have expected you yourself to be here,” the detective murmured, glancing past Schultz at the parking lot for anyone else from the force.
The chief put himself in the way of Farva’s gaze. “Why the hell are you at a motel? Did the wife kick you out for the night?”
The detective stepped back from the door and looked at the ground. “Sure, something like that.”
Schulz clicked his tongue. “Listen, the person next door said the yelling came from this way. Did you… were you…? Hell,” he paused, turning around, hands in his pockets and cold air drafting in the open doorway. “This is gonna sound like bullshit, but before I got this call from dispatch, I was about to call you, specifically. I shouldn’t even be here, tell ya’ what, but you’re familiar enough with the calls we answer out here in the part of town.”
“Something… going on elsewhere, Chief?” Farva asked slowly, hiding what he knew and felt.
Schultz shook his head and turned back to face the detective, hanging just inside the door frame. “There’s a damn train stopped on the tracks, down on Second. Gives me the chills, weird fuckin’ situation it is. I’d be great to have your help, but seems like you’re already going through it…”
“No, I’ll come,” Farva answered decisively. “Let me check out, I’m not coming back here again.”
The detective had joined the Chief in the patrol car, the strangely familiar words of his explanation playing out from the driver’s seat. Farva sat and nodded, watching the beams of the headlights bounce up and down over the rough roads. As they wound up downtown, flakes of nascent snow began to tumble down from the sky to glow briefly in the light before melting on the asphalt. “Great, now the weather wants to gum things up on us,” the chief muttered lowly as they pulled up to the railroad crossing. “Hopefully the serviceman get here before we get snowed in.”
“Let’s hope,” Farva responded, unbuckling himself from the seat, hand on the door latch. “Hey, chief?”
“I’ll need your flashlight.”
“Wasting no time? Sure. Here.”
Farva grasped the knurled handle tightly through the cold. He punched the pliable rubber button to turn on the beam, perfectly round with wrinkles of oddly reflected light inside. The chief cleared his throat. “We’ve tried the main side doors. They don’t want to budge.”
“The caboose, then?” Farva pointed the light down the side of the train as far as it would reach. Even further was the rearmost car with a way up.
“You’re on top of things, it seems,” Schultz said, breathing long clouds of condensation. “The title detective is coming to fit you. I’ll get back to my reports, then. Be safe, eh?”
Farva nodded despite being out of the chief’s sight. He pointed the beam down and let it guide his path under the guard rails and over the ballast rocks, already slightly slippery with sleet. His free hand traced the edge of the train cars, one by one, until he reached the very end where a set of narrow stairs invited him up.
Will it be different this time? I’ve seen the cars of this train… how many times now? How could I ever know? Every time… it was empty. I know… I remember that. There should be passengers. How does an entire train of people disappear? There must be names, passengers, staff, people who have families and friends elsewhere. The last time… I left this little shithole town was to… get tested. But… that hasn’t happened yet here.
The beam fell upon the rail just below the final metal wheel of the train car, crossing endless treated timber ties and infinite parallel stretches of rail. It isn’t the train I need to look at, but where it came from.
Farva’s boots crunched the rocks as he stepped over the first rail, finding a footing on the long timber between. Out of the shelter of the tall train, the wind blew, pulling at his hair and the tails of his jacket. Hunching his shoulders up allowed his collar to barricade a decent amount of the wind from his neck.
The beam of light fit perfectly between the two stretches of track. If I keep walking… what will I find? Anything? The detective took one last glance back at the train, then began forward.