The Light of Day

Impasse – Chapter Eight

The night was still cold and dark as Farva made his way back downtown, eventually arriving at the tracks down where the chief had called from earlier in the night. There were two patrol cars, their lights flashing and headlights facing the train stopped there on the tracks. The chief had set up a detour sign, pointing south to the other crossing down several blocks. Taking up the rest of the crossing road was an ambulance belonging to the regional hospital and the coroner’s white work van, an exempt sticker on its license plate, otherwise unmarked.

Farva parked far enough away to keep from blocking in the other two vehicles. Bundling himself up against the wind, he marched up the berm to the crossing and the rails perpendicular to the road. The slamming of a car door forced his eyes back. It was the chief, stepping out of his patrol car to join him.

“What happened?”

Schultz shook his head, hands buried deep in his pockets. “Wish I could say. I had Travis go inside. Head inside the train here, that is. From all angles, it’s abandoned, but somehow it’s just ended up here for some reason.”

“I see that,” the detective nodded.

The chief eyed him in the low light. “The kid was just supposed to look for signs of anything strange in there. Now look what’s happened.”

“Strange things at work here.”

Schultz let out a low huff, his breath forming a wide cloud that was immediately sucked away by the wind. “Yeah, and we’re here to clean up the mess. There’s no signs of anybody else, I just don’t understand. But the kid ended up stabbed, bled out before we had the chance to come and check on him. Right there in the little train car kitchen, galley. Multiple times he was hit, right in the stomach, left with the chef’s knife sticking out from him. Damn it. Not a single wound on his hands, anywhere else. Like… he stabbed himself all those times.”

“The hell…”

The surface of the road crunched under the movement of heavy tires behind them. They both looked back to watch the ambulance drive off back down the road, its tail lights glimmering in the dark. Inside the train, several sets of flashlight beams waved back and forth through the condensation-clouded windows. Not long later, the side doors were being forced open, the coroner and his partner stepping down with a long black stretcher hoisted between the two of them.

The chief shuffled back and forth, glancing at the body bag as it moved by them. “Listen, what I said over the phone… that this is your fault… this whole fucked up situation has nothing to do with you.”

“That’s not right,” Farva contradicted.

“Yeah, it could have been you in his place. But we couldn’t have seen something like this coming. Can’t change how it went down.”

“Damn it,” the detective muttered to himself. “What can I do?”

“I’d like to know what any of us could do, Farve,” Schultz slumped back. “This is beyond me, and as far as I’m concerned, out of any of our hands. The company who runs the train is having a technician come our way, some time tomorrow… later today, in the afternoon. Likely only to get it moving, but it’s better than nothing. The missing people, on the other hand… if the feds or whoever come our way, the best I can do is record every little detail. On top of that, it’s Travis’ family I’ll have to be dealing with. Lucky for you, you’re able to take a break from all the reports, detective,” he finished with a sneer.

Farva had his eyes locked to the train, head shaking. “Give me your flashlight, chief.”

“Huh? Now you wanna play ball?” Schultz huffed. “I told you, it’s out of our hands. Go and fuck off to whatever you were doing. I can’t bring myself to care right now.”

“Tomorrow…” Farva repeated. “When the company rep comes…”

“You want to handle that? Fine,” the chief rolled his eyes. “Go home and get some sleep before then, cuddle up next to your perfect wife.”

The detective sat in his car, far back enough from the scene, watching through the darkness as the chief continued about his business. I should leave before he does. Then I can come back after and get into the train. But how long is he going to stay here? The lights on the patrol cars finally shut off, but the dome light of Schultz’s car stayed on, testing Farva’s patience.

The detective’s head was suddenly heavy. He felt a drop of drool down his cheek. His arms had fallen down in his lap, leaving his body cold. As he wiped the spit from the side of his mouth, he realized that the morning light had crept up over the road and the tracks.

The windows of the Lincoln were completely frosted over. The ice crackled as he pushed the door open, the crisp air not much colder than the temperature of the car. His teeth began to immediately chatter.

The train remained in the same place, frosted over with tiny pale spikes. The only remaining sign of the others being there earlier that morning was the orange and black detour sign and several short cones blocking off the road to the crossing. A handful of cars, driven by those barely beyond the grasps of sleep, pulled past the blocked intersection and begrudgingly jerked their wheel in the direction of the service road.

The detective rubbed his hands together before shoving them into his pockets, slumping his shoulders to shield his front the best he could from the wisps of freezing wind. The road up to the tracks was icy, untouched by recent feet or tires. The bars for the crossing were still lowered, but the chime and flashing lights had been disabled from the service box not far off the edge of the tracks. While there was a break in the already dismal traffic, Farva jogged up the rock berm and down out of sight of the road to the caboose at the end of the train.

He was forced the use of his bare, cracked, dry hands to grasp onto the freezing metal railing to climb the narrow stairs, then to turn the handle of the sole door there at the back of the train. It opened for him without resistance. The interior of the train car was painted with pale light through the rectangular windows, a sight he hadn’t managed to see before.

At least I don’t need a flashlight. But… what am I looking for? Nothing stays the same here. It keeps changing. To… throw me off. Or because… it can’t help but be different. What’s different, and what’s stayed the same all this time? Is that the key to this hell?

Farva looked about at the packed shelves and storage boxes and suitcases. He paused, pushing the image into his mind before making his way to the next door. The following car held the fancy, spacious rooms, with locking privacy doors. The following, cramped bunks, shielded by curtains for the staff. Beyond that, the dining room. This layout doesn’t make any sense. What’s going on? The car after was the viewing deck, its wide windows still decorated with swirls of frost.

The following car was dressed with stainless steel. The galley. The detective nearly walked forward without a second thought, but the memory of the chief’s report from the night before came to the front of his mind. This is where Travis… The floor was made up of thin metal plates, fastened down with smooth rivets. It had been cleaned, the room stank with the odor of bleach. Still, there remained hints of blood, clinging to the cracks between the metal plates and hardware and up at the adjustable feet of the cabinets. The rookie’s blood. He was stabbed… or he stabbed himself… with one of the knives.

The detective’s gaze found the magnetic strip where they were held between uses. A gap was left, where the makeshift weapon would have been held at one point. Did someone… something do that to him, or was he driven, himself, to take his own life? Was he trapped, like me? How… how many times have I been through this, now? If only there was a sign…

Farva took one last look at the hanging knives before making his way to the next door. Just as his hand found the latch, he heard the slamming of a car door somewhere outside. Who could that be? Damn it, my car is still out there. The chief would recognize it. Why would he be here? He’s going to rip me a new one if he finds me inside here.

The detective let his hand off the door and stepped back. Trying to get to the next car would get me seen. Which way? The observation deck is a no-go. What’s beyond here? His eyes darted back and forth between the two exits. At the far end, where he had come from, there was yet another door— the walk-in.

The heavy metal door with a latching handle led to the wide refrigerator. Cold air crept out across the floor as he yanked the fixture open. Still cold, even after all this time, but about as bad as outside. Without thinking further, the detective stepped in, allowing the door to close after him.

All light was suddenly cut off. Damn it, what am I thinking? Before he could retreat, the latch clicked with the sound of the door sitting fully back in its sealed frame. His hands ran across the cold, wavy metal, moist with condensation from the rising temperature. He found the mechanism on the other side of the latch, but it refused to budge.

With shoulder pointed at the door, he slid back as far as he could in the thin space and shoved himself forward. Ouch. The only result was a low smack and a lingering pain in his shoulder. He rubbed at his arm, leaning back against the metal shelf. It’s colder than I thought. He pulled the collar of his jacket close to his neck. Who was that outside? They might check in here. Or they might not. Damn it. My phone?

The detective found the bulge in his pocket. It had been turned off since the night before after the chief had called him. Holding the power button, it began to light up, chiming lowly. The home screen that eventually appeared teased a connecting message but conceded no bars of service. No calls, in or out. The tiny, dim screen was only enough to illuminate the damp boxes of vacuum-packed cuts of meat and wilting lettuce and half-empty bottles of sauces.

Farva’s teeth began to chatter. He slid down to the floor and held his knees toward his chest, hoping to cling to what warmth was left inside the insulation of the jacket. Jess bought this for me after I got out of physical therapy and got assigned this detective job. If only I could call her now… Death by hypothermia… will it start again after this? Will I be back to the start? Will… Travis be back? I haven’t fixed or recognized anything.

The feeling began to drain from his fingers, even tucked into fists, his eyes becoming heavier. Head throbbing, his breath came and went quickly from his chest, collecting in heavy clouds in front of his face.

The latch clicked. The light outside was blinding. The bleary shapes of two figures stood outside the door. “Farva?”

“Is that your man, the one whose car you pointed out?”

“Yeah. Farva, what the hell are you doing in there?”

The detective attempted to stand but could only manage to make it to his knees, pulling himself forward on numb hands. The chief and the other man pulled him up by his arms. “You can’t be serious. Let’s get him to my car, we can have the heater running.”

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By Any Means

Impasse – Chapter Seven

There was a pair of arms around Farva’s shoulders. He felt at the hand strung over his chest, warm and soft. When he opened his eyes, he saw the tacky wallpaper and stained upholstery of the motel room chairs. He pulled away from the woman’s grasp, someone dark-haired and noticeably younger than him, and sat on the edge of the bed, face in his hands. She sat up, already awake.

“What’s the matter?”

The detective shook his head and muttered lowly. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be here. You, neither. Just… you should probably yourself tested.”

The woman shuffled the bed covers loudly. “Excuse me? Tested for what?”

Farva sighed. “Please. I’m sorry.”

The woman stood and began to stomp about, dressing herself. “You son of a bitch. I’m calling the police. You do this, knowing you have something?”

“Don’t bother. I mean… I’m sorry. I’m with… the police force. But… I don’t blame you. I’ve really messed up.”

“Damn right,” the woman muttered, yanking on her discarded clothes. “Fucking small town hicks, dirty fuckers, son of a bitch, what I get for getting with whoever… people like you ruining people’s lives. You know what, I’m going to the papers. Not here, unless I dare getting lynched…”

The young woman bustled about the room like a tornado, still cursing under her breath until her heeled shoes finally took her out the door, disturbing the night with a loud slam that shook the walls of the structure. Farva glanced at the square packet, ripped open, on the nightstand. At least… we used protection.

His slacks were discarded on the floor. Leaning down, he fished around in either pocket until he found the one with his phone, quiet and still. He flipped it open and checked the time— just before three in the morning. I need to call her. I need to confess. Or better, I need to—

The phone rang, shaking his hand. The police chief’s name lit up the tiny screen. The detective waited for the call to end, but a second one came soon after. I should answer it. Tell him no. I know… something is going to happen… if I go where he is… the tracks. The train…


“Got you awake finally, did I, Farve?”


“If you’re up and sober I need you. Come down to the tracks, second avenue.”

“I can’t,” Farva responded quickly.

Schultz huffed, breath heavy through the speaker. “You’re going to make my life hard now, are you, Farve? I know it’s late, but-“

“I need to take care of something,” The detective interrupted. “I… can’t go without doing this. If… I go to the tracks, I won’t be able to make it back and do it properly.”

“What are you talking about?”

The chief’s voice was cut off as Farva clacked the phone closed, terminating the call. The phone vibrated and chirped another time as he dressed himself, and once more as he dropped the keys to the motel room in the box by the office. Halfway through the phone’s noisy call for attention, the detective choked it out finally with a long press of the power button.

The open windows of the Lincoln let in the frigid air, keeping Farva awake, lucid enough to think of the words he would say when he got home. About ten minutes later, he was pulling up to the double-wide, flipping off the headlights, and turning off the car. He climbed the stairs and opened the doors without a thought to be quiet, knowing he was going to wake her up anyways.

The woman stirred in bed as he stepped into the bedroom, floorboards creaking beneath the old carpet. She forced her face into her pillow when he flipped the light switch. “Turn that off, please? Can’t you manage with the hall light?”

“Jess, we need to talk,” Farva said, the breath leaving his chest.

The woman sat up, eyes mostly shut. “Can it wait until morning? Or even after I get back from work tomorrow night?”

Farva sat on the edge of the bed near her feet. “I don’t know… if I’ll last that long. With how things are going.”

“Wait… what now? Are you okay?”

“I… I’m sick. That’s why… I haven’t let myself be around you.”

Jess sat up and reached for her husband’s hand. He felt her skin but pulled away before he could enjoy the touch, sully it. “I don’t understand.”

“Please, don’t,” the detective began to explain. “A month ago. When I was gone for the two whole days…”

“I remember.”

“It wasn’t for work. I was… getting tested. Because…”

The cold trailer sounded with a sudden, shrill ringing from the next room. Jess shook her head. “I think it may be your boss. The chief. He called earlier, left a message asking for you. I just let it go to the machine…”

“Damn it,” Farva muttered, trying to ignore the ringing. “Jess, I’ve been unfaithful.”

The woman shuffled her head back and forth. “I… I had thoughts… that that might be… what’s going on.”

The answering machine clicked on in the next room, the tape beginning to reel up to record the incoming message. “Farve… if you get this… we need you out here. Travis is… he’s dead.”

The detective bit his lip and jerked up from the bed, rushing to the phone before the call would hang up. “Chief,” he answered, pushing the phone to his ear.

“Now you answer,” the gruff, hoarse voice answered. “This is your fault, you know. I had the kid doing your job. If only you’d come out. I’d ask you to come out now, but whatever or whoever you’re fucking around with now is obviously more important.”

“I’ll be there. I’ll be there, as soon as possible.”

“Good on you,” Schultz said sarcastically. “Well, at least you can help me clean up this fucking mess. Let’s hope I can think up something for you to do, keep you out of my sight…”

Farva set down the phone in the cradle. Jess’ arms reached around him, holding him tight from behind. “We can fix what we have here any time. You know I’m patient. Go take care of what you need to out there. Go.”

Farva pulled away from her grasp without another word, stomping outside in his boots and avoiding the urge to look back. Before he started up his car, he leaned over and tugged on the handle to the glove compartment. Beneath the old napkins and blank service reports was a bundle, and an old handkerchief, holding something heavy and uneven. He unwrapped it in his lap, revealing the revolver. The cylinder was loaded with a single bullet, with others tucked away deeper in the compartment.

It will only take one. One to restart this cycle all over again. To save Travis. To do the right thing. What is the right thing? How do I stop it from repeating? I don’t… I don’t remember enough. But with enough tries, I can find the right way out. But… I am out. Right now. I’ve escaped. It will all repeat again, won’t it. And when I’ve gotten to this point…

Farva forced the barrel around, pointing it towards his mouth, the cold steel finally coming to rest on his bottom lip. He had seen the results of people doing the same thing to themselves. It was only a small margin of error between quick and painless to slow and agonizing, or even not at all. His thumb made contact with the hammer, ready to push it back into firing position. The light in the trailer flicked on and glowed through the curtains of the window, the shadow of a silhouette moving beyond. I… can’t. I have to… do this the right way. Accept that this is the way it has to go.

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The Mistake

Impasse – Chapter Six

Rough, long nails and scrawny fingers dragged across Farva’s scalp, pulling him awake suddenly. He recoiled from the smell, stale smoke from a cigarette. The platinum-haired woman was sat up beside him in the bed, getting what she could from the last bit of a glowing ember. She ruffled his hair one last time and pulled her arm back. “Did I wake you?” She asked with a raspy voice through creased lips. “A lot of my customers like that, getting their hair played with once in a while. Men usually aren’t on the receiving end of stuff like that.”

“Was this a smoking room?” Farva rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed, glaring at the floor.

“I dunno, hon, you booked it. And you were smoking like a chimney when you pulled up anyway.”

Farva shoved his face in his hands and shook his head. “I need to get out of here.”

The older woman made a loud puff on the remaining cigarette and let the smoke out her nostrils. “Well, I’m sorry my company couldn’t be more comforting to you, hon.”

The detective glanced back. “No, it’s not that. Something came up… it’s… work… a work thing.”

“Sounds convincing.”

“I promise… it’s not. It’s just… what was it? Downtown? Why do I feel like something is wrong?”

“Something is wrong, you’ve got that right” the woman sat up, pushing the butt into the ashtray on the nightstand. “But I don’t want to be the one to spell it out for you.”

The detective’s slacks, folded on the chair by the window, vibrated and chirped with a call. Farva took no time in pulling out the phone and flipping it open. “Hello?”

“Sorry to call you at a time like this, Farva,” said Schultz on the other side of the line.

“No, don’t worry, I’m up,” he said lowly, glancing back across the room at his company.

“Good, and it sounds like you’re nice and sober too. Or am I wrong?”

“I’m quite fine, chief. Something’s come up?”

“I need you down by the rails on second.”

“The train?”

“The-“ Schultz stumbled. “Yeah. How did you know? One of the other boys call you?”

“I’ll be down there. I won’t be long.”

The cold air from outside flooded the car, windows down, trying to flush out the smoke and old perfume smells from his clothes. Barely stopping at the stop intersections, Farva kept feeling at the phone in his pocket, hard up in deciding whether or not he would call the wife to explain his absence. If I call her to let her know now, she’ll expect that I call her other times I’m out. Even if it is for work.

By the time several possible situations had crossed in and out of his mind, he was already at the tracks, the patrol cars there flashing and shining their lights. The fancy passenger train sat on the tracks, dark, stretching from one end of his vision to the other. Schultz was in the street all of a sudden, hand up in a motion to have the car just before the closed crossing.

The chief was at his door, arms crossed as the Lincoln sputtered to a stop. “You sure you’re okay to work tonight?” He asked before any other formality could cross his lips.

“Just tired, chief,” Farva sighed, eyes still studying the train.

“Slap that sleep outta your eyes,” Schultz muttered, supporting his back in a stretch. “’Cause your expertise is actually going to come in handy tonight.”

“I’ll be fine, chief. Train’s stopped, huh?” The detective asked plainly.

“Don’t push it, Sherlock. Yeah, that’s it. The big issue, mystery really, is that there’s not a single soul left on that train. And we don’t know where they might have gone. And because it’s on our doorstep, we’re going to be the ones having to explain to the touring company, the rail authority… the feds… who knows? At the very least, we have to start the paper trail to prove we did the best we could.”

“I understand. I… I can look around the tracks maybe.”

Schultz smirked. “Nice of your to volunteer, but I need you looking around the inside. Making sure there were no signs of struggle, foul play, whatever it might be that caused the guests and staff to abandon the train.”

“Pretty dark.”

Schultz already had the heavy flashlight off his leg, with its knurled handle pointed the detective’s direction. “You’ll have this at least.”

Farva took up the light but hesitated to push the rubberized button. “There should be some emergency power or something. Might make it easier to look around.”

“If you find something like that, that’s fine. But don’t disturb anything that might be suspicious. Hell, you know enough about crime-scene bullshit. You’ll find the caboose open, the main doors don’t open unpowered from the outside. Get to it.”

The rear car was unlocked as told. The shelves inside were packed neatly with boxes and crates and luggage, held tightly in place by elastic straps. Despite his premonition, neither a breaker box nor a set of batteries were there to be seen in that part of the train.

The handle of the door to the outside and the second car opened without any complaint. The space above the coupling felt larger than it actually was, especially when attempting to cross without looking down. I’m glad I don’t have to cross these when the train is moving, but it probably wouldn’t be going that fast in the first place. It would be better to have the lights on for this, regardless.

The train cars were dark, but their purpose clear even through the beam of the flashlight. The bunks were tight in the following car, intended for only the hard-working staff. The kitchen car smelled of food and had pans soaking in a narrow sink. The dining car tables had small droplets of wax from the candles that had burned down just slightly. The bedrooms of the guest cars contained random articles of clothing, strew on the feet of beds or the backs of chairs, and had divots in the down pillows where people had laid their heads. In the observation car, a sweatshirt hung over the back of one of the wide benches. People had been aboard at one point, but there was nothing out of the ordinary, at least through the beam of the flashlight. I need the lights on. Why?

Farva trudged through the last remaining cars before finally finding pause at the coal car, looking upon the cold locomotive just beyond. I… shouldn’t move beyond here.

Stepping back inside, the detective shined his light about the space, a bar, albeit only under its first impression. Instead of spirits and beer taps behind the shiny wooden counter were sodas and snacks and overpriced souvenirs ready to be purchased. A painting of a nondescript mountain on a canvas hung on the wall beside the bar, stretched on a heavy wooden frame… the hints of a hinge hiding on one side. What’s this now?

The detective pulled on the edge of the picture frame and swung it outward. Disguised beneath was the metal door hiding the train’s breakers. The switches matched up with each of the cars, plus a few extras, one of which was the one that Farva desired- Emg. Lights – Batt. Power.

Breath was held while he flipped the switch from off to on. Somewhere below the floor boards, there was a click of a solenoid or something similar, followed by the sudden wash of red light from the ballasts in the ceiling. Farva blinked slowly, allowing his eyes to adjust, while he flipped the flashlight off. The flashing of the patrol cars and their red and blue lights were harder to see outside the windows but were still there nonetheless. The windows themselves were already frosted over with condensation from the cold. But in the condensation were other marks.

They could have been seen as streaks of curious and impulsive fingers, pointing out sights and views passing by on the train’s journey, but they were more than that. If the staff was so meticulous, these would have been wiped down. The marks covered every window, full hand prints, greasy and stretched and streaked by pulling grasps. The detective ran his finger through them, confirming the side of the glass they inhabited. Were they trying to get out? This… at least… is something the chief needs to see.

The latches to open the sliding panes were old-fashioned and tarnished, but with enough leverage, they popped open. Pushing on the pane of the window was enough to have it slide up slightly, sufficient to push his finger underneath to wrench it open more. Maybe I can get the chief’s or one of the other guy’s attention. Then I can get the side doors open.

Farva’s hands made it out the window frame, forcing the moving pane up little by little. Just as he made enough space to fit his head out, his wrist caught on the edge of the jamb. He yanked his arm back, grating it once more against something sharp. In the dim red light, he could only see the rough slice and the dark liquid beginning to run from it. His legs went weak. Fuck. Fuck.

The flashlight dropped from under his arm. His feet shuffled, wanting to move in the direction of the door. He held tight to his wrist while shoving the door open with an elbow. “Help! I need help!”

The red light spilled out onto the ground from the train’s windows. The gravel crunched under the feet of the chief attempting to reach the detective and his calls for help. “Farve? Where are you? Hold on, I see you!”

The detective stood on the train’s landing, hovering over the coupling, the world moving back and forth beneath him. He attempted to inch his way down, but before his feet could find the ground, his body left the platform. The coarse gravel found him, stifling his fall with limited success. Still grasping hard to his arm, he heard the chief approaching.

“I’m bleeding. Don’t touch me!” Farva yelled. “Just… call the ambulance! I don’t want you to… you can’t…”

“I’ve got you. We have a first aid kit in the car, I got the boy getting it. Shit, that’s a bad cut. Hold on.”

“Don’t touch me,” the detective continued to cry. “You shouldn’t… get involved.”

“Hurry up with the kit,” Schultz yelled back, quick to attend once again to the detective. “Listen, we can get some pressure on the wound before the ambulance gets here. You know how backed up they can—“

Farva jerked away as soon as the Chief’s hands came near. “I’ve… got it. I’m… fine. My blood…”

“Damn it, Farve, I’m not letting you bleed out on me, not on my watch—“

“I’m goddamn HIV positive, Hank!” Farva shouted, foam at his lips. “If you get… if you’re not careful… I can’t have you end up like me.”

The chief sat back on his knees, glancing at the rocks beneath him for any signs of blood on the ground or his clothing. “Since when? And why am I just hearing about this?”

Farva’s hand could barely move as the warm blood dripped from his wrist and onto the ground before him. The world continued to shake, the pounding in his head louder and louder. “I got it from some hooker. Couldn’t tell you which one,” he said with a weak laugh. “A few months ago.”

The chief’s face, plastered with disappointment, could be seen in brief moments of the flashing police lights. “You’re sure?” He jerked back, looking for the other officer. “Drop the kit! Get the ambulance here as fast as you can! Go!”

Farva sat back, landing on his butt weakly. “I… I skipped town for a few days. When I told you I was on a trip with the wife. Told the wife I was working, got myself tested some place where nobody would know me or my face. They say… I’ve got… I forget… a few months before it goes full-blown… and…”

Schultz sat up. “Stay with me. Keep talking. Damn it, even some gloves…”

“And… I’ve only made it worse… since then… I’ve avoided her, I don’t want to tell her, pass it on to her. I’ve slept around, damn it, given it to… whatever strange women.”

The chief leaned down to catch sight of the detective’s drooping face. “Don’t think about any of that right now, you just focus on me and my voice.”

“I’ve… I’ve been through this before.”

“You’re not making sense, Farve. Breathe. Keep a good hold there.”

The detective glanced back up at the windows of the train, windows still glowing with the red emergency lights. “It… keeps repeating. But…I’m close.”

“Just hold on until the ambulance shows up. They have the protective gear to deal with… you.”

“Don’t… tell my wife, chief…”

Schultz shook his head. “If you stay with me, I promise not to. But you’ll have to tell her yourself. You understand me, Farva? You can’t lie to her like you’ve lied to me. You can’t. You can’t. You…”

Farva couldn’t help but closed his eyes, the chief’s voice fading.

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Her Voice

Impasse – Chapter Five

There was a rough hand on Farva’s bare chest, shaking him awake. “Your phone is ringing, big boy.”

The detective shot up, pushing the hand and covers off and yanking himself to the edge of the bed. “Don’t touch me,” he grumbled, stealing a glance back at the dark, curly-haired woman.

She stuck her arms over her breasts and slid off the other side of the bed, standing and making her way to the bathroom with heavy steps. “You know, you’re the second asshole I’ve slept with in this town. You get off, roll over, and suddenly decide you’re too good for girls like me. Go to hell, I’m moving on, the lot of you.”

“I’m sorry,” Farva held his face in his hands.

“Yeah, right. I hope that’s your wife calling.”

The detective pushed himself off the edge of the bed, bending his stiff back to pull the phone up out of his nearby slacks. He flipped it open to answer the call. “Chief?”

“Took you long enough,” Schultz huffed at him through the phone.

“It’s late.”

“I know that, Farve,” he said back, attempting a slight amount of compassion. “But you know how things are. Can you come down to Second? By the tracks. Something pretty odd we got down here, I’ll tell you.”

“Yeah,” The detective answered tiredly, dragging the discarded pants across the floor with his foot. “Yeah, give me some time to get dressed. Won’t be long,” he finished, clacking the phone back closed.

The dark woman sauntered out the door, fully dressed, as the detective got himself together. The headlights of her vehicle glared in the window as he finished putting on his shoes, the keys to the motel in hand. He made sure to drop them in the metal box outside the office before he made the necessary call.

Sounds like something is up downtown, so she’ll believe me that I’ve been working. I’ll just leave a message for when she wakes up. The phone rang, once, twice, closing in on the answering machine taking over. And then the phone picked up. “Hello?” The woman answered.

Farva pulled the phone from his ear to double-check the number he had called, regardless that he had heard the voice belonging to his wife. Her voice came through the speaker once more before he forced himself to answer. “Hey. I’m sorry if woke you up. I know you have work in the morning…”

“No,” She answered tiredly. “Well yeah, I do have work. I was up getting some water and using the bathroom. Something… must be up if you’re out this late. I mean, the bars have been closed almost an hour now.”

“I haven’t been at the bar,” Farva answered quickly without thinking, then glancing back to the dim motel sign flickering on the corner of the lot.

“I don’t care if you were or not,” she answered, her true feelings hiding behind the words. “I’d just like it if we could spend some nights together.”

“Listen, babe…”

“You don’t owe me an explanation for this. I need to get back to bed.”

“The chief called me downtown. This is just gonna be something small, I bet. I should be home for breakfast time.”

The silence on the end of the line dragged on. “You bet. Let’s hope it is something small. Goodnight, Robert.”

The phone clicked before he had a chance to respond. Shoving the phone back in his pocket, he made his way to his car.

The wind blew hard that night, rocking his wide car back and forth as he rode through the dark, silent streets towards the place the chief had called him to. There was a train on the tracks, stopped, high beams and police lights illuminating it. The detective’s heart skipped a beat. He sat in the old Lincoln, engine still running, lights on, and unlit cigarette resting in between his lips. The mustached and uniformed man eventually marched up to his car, tapping on the glass of the driver’s window.

“Farve?” The chief’s voice was muffled through the glass.

The detective twisted the keys, turned off the car, unbuckled himself, and pushed out the door. “I’m sorry. Just thinking.”

Schultz had his arms crossed. “Save some attention for the task at hand, Farve.”

The detective shook his head, blinking at the lights cast on the fine paneling of the train car blocking the crossing. “The train stopped.”

“Good attention to detail, Einstein,” The chief sneered, walking forward with his hands in his pockets. “I guess you can tell it shouldn’t be here, right on the damn crossing.”

“This… isn’t right.”

Schultz glared back, looking Farva up and down, finally into his eyes. “You haven’t been drinking? You don’t see all there tonight.”

The detective glanced about at the two patrol cars. Up beyond the crossing, the guard rails still down, another officer was scanning the edges of the tracks by flashlight. “Where are the passengers? The driver?”

“Well, if you aren’t quick to catch on,” Schultz praised tiredly. “All gone, the lot of them. Like they were never there. At least, there are no signs of anyone leaving on foot, why they would abandon their fancy train in mass doesn’t make sense either. But we haven’t gotten a chance to give the interior a proper look-at. I want you on that, Farve.”

The detective froze. “I don’t think… me being here would make a difference. I can… I can find out who we need to call to get the train moving again.”

Schultz sighed, shaking his head. “I’m not able to offer you a choice, at least not right now. I was first on the scene, so I’m stuck filling out the reports that you’d be given otherwise. That’s our compromise, Farve. You know very well that if it weren’t for me pulling strings, there wouldn’t be the budget to pay someone with the title of Detective, a small town like this.”

Farva bit at his lip, then held out his hand. “Looks like the power’s off. I didn’t come with any of my gear, I need a flashlight at least.”

“That’s the spirit,” Schultz smirked, yanking the gear from his belt. “Just take notice of anything out of the ordinary. Some reason why the lot of them bailed somewhere. You might start down at the far end.”

Heavy knurled handle of the flashlight in hand, the detective crossed under the guard rails, over the ballast stones, and down to the end of the train where a thin set of stairs led up to the car.

They hold all the extra cargo and luggage in here. There’s no reason for this to take longer than this needs to. The beam of the flashlight flickered off and back on, but the room was clear and lit up for long enough. The fancy suitcases belonged to people, those who boarded the train for its journey. They were gone, for whatever reason, but their belongings still remained. They left without heed for their things.

The doors between the cars were unlocked. The detective proceeded without delay, nothing more than the bare minimum on his mind. Why do I know this place? The long galley, the tight tables of the dining car, the rooms made up for the guests, they all look familiar. Was this train on TV some time? If the train had power, it would be infinitely easier to look around.

Farva continued on, silently shining the beam around the walls and carved wood fixtures, passing over the couplings between the individual cars. There were cheaper-looking rooms near the beginning of the train, obviously closer to the noise of the locomotive. The following door before the next car was mounted with a sign reading off in a fancy typeface: No Guests Beyond This Point. The staff car.

There was a buzzing on the detective’s hip, the muffled ringer following. I forgot to put this away when I parked, didn’t I. When he was safely across at the next car, his senses begged him to answer it, barely glancing at the number calling before putting it to his ear. “Hello?”

“I can’t sleep,” said the voice belonging to his wife.

“I’m sorry,” Farva said lowly, shifting the flashlight in his opposite hand for a better grip.”

“No. No, I’m sorry. I figured… I would just call and leave a message. Just in case you didn’t make it home before I left for work in the morning. Didn’t… expect you to pick up. I should—“

“Don’t hang up. I have the time.”

The silence dragged on. Is she still there? He almost took the phone from his ear to check the call and the signal, but the voice finally returned.

“You are working, right?” She asked with uncertainty.

“Down at the train tracks, yeah,” Farva said, marching extra slowly past the tight bunks and privacy curtains of the staff quarters. “This train… it stopped. Right on the tracks on Second. The chief has me… just mapping things out.”

“Oh. Are they going to be able to move it? A lot of people head across there during the day.”

“I suppose so,” He said back absently.

The wife hummed. “Since you’re out so late, make sure to get a form to report your overtime. We could use the extra money to pay down the bills after all.”

“I will,” Farva answered, knowing that the chief and his secretary down at the station would always stall and deflect requests of that sort, eventually causing him to forget or move on. “You said… you wanted to leave a message?”

“Oh,” her voice cracked. “Just wanted to say that I love you, and miss you and that we should plan a night out. So that… you can… should plan ahead to make it home early some time during the week.”

The detective nodded along with her words. “Sure,” he muttered. I can’t promise that, though. Finally reaching the end of the rail car, something caught his eye; a metal breaker box, glaring in contrast to the old-fashion decoration of the rest of the train. “Oh, found something.”

“Yeah?” The woman’s voice perked up.

“The breakers for the train here,” he said, shoving the flashlight between his neck and shoulder and tugging on the metal latch to reveal the heavy switches inside. “I’ve been running around on just a single flashlight in here.”

“That’s my detective man…” came the dreamy voice. “I should… let you go… and get some sleep myself.”

Farva’s eyes passed over the printed labels beside the individual breakers as his wife’s words trailed off. “I’ll try to be home for breakfast, like I said. I… love you. Get some rest.”


The phone clicked closed and he shoved it into his pocket before reaching for the lowest breaker on the panel: Emg. Lights – Batt. Power. The switch flipped over to ‘on’ with a hefty clack. In the blink of an eye, dim red lights in the room illuminated, one bank at a time, in a domino pattern of flowing electricity and newfound assurance. Through the foggy window of the far door, he could see the faint glow of the other train cars making use of the limited power as well. This should get the chief’s attention. Though if this is battery power, it won’t last forever. I need to look for… anything and get out of here.

Two cars ahead was the locomotive, absent of the low emergency lights, cold after its long wait on the tracks. The detective held still to the heavy flashlight, illuminating the dark corners hiding out of the reach of the red glow. He began to trace his steps back through each car, looking for signs of something that would have caused the passengers and staff to depart midway through their journey.

People were here. A half-empty pack of cigarettes on a staff bunk. Coal dust footprints on the vinyl flooring. Open packs of sodas and water bottles behind the counter of the snack bar. Trash half filled, and a napkin fallen to the back corner of a seating area. Surely people were staying in rooms.

Before Farva could make it deeper into the reaches of the train, the emergency banks of lights flickered, once, twice, then cut out completely. Battery must be out. And I still haven’t found anything that helps this make sense. Is there even anything? This is a fool’s errand.

Following nothing but the flashlight beam once again, the detective crossed over to the next car, desiring only to reach the end of the train and descend once again. He found himself in the observation deck, the car fashioned with wide windows and benches, meant for looking out on the passing sights along the tracks. It’s quite fine that they would pass through here in the middle of the night. Nothing to see here. The darkness captured everything except for the strobing lights from the pair of patrol cars.

Farva’s pocket vibrated and sang once more. I can’t answer it now, I’ve already wasted too much time talking and not enough looking for whatever the captain hopes he might find. Ignoring the phone the best he could, the detective marched forward, heading for the next door. The handle stuck, unturnable, the door refuging to budge either.

Smoke found Farva’s nostrils, though not the sort he was used to. The ceiling grate at the opposite end of the car trickled winding clouds. He ran for the door at that end, hoping to find it unlocked, but the metal fixture instead burned with searing heat, untouchable by bare hands. The vibration in his pocket returned.

“Farve,” the voice called out before he could answer himself. “You need to get out of there.”

“Wish I could, chief.”

“There’s a fire. What car are you in?”

“The one with… the big windows,” the detective coughed, holding his sleeve to his face to ward off the billowing smoke. “The door… it won’t open.”

“I see it. The fire is already catching there. I’ll try to get you out of there.”

The dry planks making up the train car were like wicks for the flames, causing smoke to pour up from the cracks in the floor, waves of heat from the ceiling, and finally orange tendrils of flame from the corners of the boxy compartment. Farva backed himself into the far end of the car. The glare from a light outside cast against the window, and a figure danced outside frantically. “Farva! Farva!” the muffled voice called out to him.

The detective ducked towards the light, attempting to send the butt of the heavy flashlight against the glass. He struck the hard surface once, twice, and on the third hit, a faint crack made its way across the surface. The chief’s voice found its way to him once more.

“Get down. I’m going to try something.”

The detective ducked back. The seconds passed like days, but the sound of the shot broke the air in a fraction of a second. What remained in the glass was a round hole, chipped on all edges, but the remainder of the glass held firm. “Farve! Hold tight, we’ll try to get the door open, or try to pry the pane of glass down, or…”

The chief’s voice was becoming more distant as the fire spread, goaded on by the relief of additional oxygen from the outside, and the smoke replaced the breathable air, even in the low corner of the train car. The beam of the flashlight was, little by little, swallowed by the glow of the flames and curling of smoke through the air, the same smoke that choked his lungs, sucking what remained of his consciousness.

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Falling Rain

Impasse – Chapter Four

The sing-song tone of the ringer sounded first, followed by the vibration that shook the rickety motel room floor all the way up to the bed. Detective Farva rolled over as soon as the feeling registered for him, planting his feet hard on the oily carpet before ducking to the floor where the pocket of his slacks held the phone.

“I’m here, what’s up?”

The deep voice wasn’t what he was expecting on the other end of the line. “Did I catch you at a bad time, Farve?”

“Uh, Chief,” he lowered his voice. The detective’s eyes adjusted to the dark. The covers of the bed behind him stirred, messy dyed-red hair flipping over in reaction to his voice. “No, I thought you might have been… the wife. What time is it?”

“Just before three,” Schultz answered. “Why would the wife be calling, especially at this hour? She out of town?”

“No, erm…”

“Or have you been out at the bar? Sleeping out in your car somewhere, now?”

“No, sir.”

Schultz hummed. “Well, it’s not my business if you are. But if you’re up and sober, I need another body. Down at the tracks. Second avenue.”

Farva nodded as he spoke. “Yeah. Yes, I’ll be there. It won’t be long.”

The detective stowed the phone and pulled his slacks on in one single movement. The bedded woman propped her head up on one arm as he finished dressing. “Out of here?”

“Something came up,” Farva shrugged. “You get some free time, I guess.”

“Free things are never truly free, love. Stay safe out there.”

Farva shook his head and put a cigarette to his lips in a practiced motion from his coat pocket. Opening the door revealed the parking lot soaked with pouring rain, the gutters and eaves of the motel dripping with engorged droplets. Before dashing across the slick asphalt to his car, he tucked the cigarette behind his ear and readied the proper key to enter the vehicle without a wasted second.

Somewhere between the motel at the far end of town and the avenues, the detective found himself tapping through the contacts to reach the landline of his home. I doubt she’d get up to answer, but at least she’ll hear my voice through the machine.

He sucked in a deep breath and waited for the line to decide that enough rings had sounded. After his own voice played back to him in the message, he enunciated the carefully chosen words. “Sorry, babe. Something came up, the chief is calling me downtown. Maybe I’ll see you in the morning before you leave for work. Love you, bye.”

The police chief stepped out of the patrol car, its lights strobing in the night, as Farva pulled up, the call not long behind him. Schultz and his mustache were dressed down in a covering of clear plastic, hood, and all to brave the rain. The tracks were occupied by a fancy tourist-type train, unmoving, and lit only by the patrol car’s headlights.

Farva pulled the wide-brimmed hat out of his back seat and covered himself with it as Schultz approached, nose flaring. “I’m surprised, I don’t smell even a bit of booze on you. Could be covered up by all the smoke, though.”

“I’m good, chief,” Farva muttered, blinking through the rain. “Road’s blocked, huh? Why isn’t it moving?”

“Before you ask, nobody ended up on the rails. Come on, let’s get out of this,” he said, turning and waving, the plastic parka crinkling loudly.

The sound of the crossing chime was nearly covered up by the downpour but was certainly noticeable as they ducked under the guard rails. The ballast rocks were slippery underfoot, as were the narrow stairs to the rear-most car of the train. The chief had his long, heavy flashlight out from under the parka by the time the detective had found his footing beside “You know what this train is, don’t you?”

“Not a clue,” Farva muttered, removing his hat and slapping the excess water from its brim.

“It’s one of those tourist type trains. I would have just guessed another random train if it weren’t for the kid back at home talking about them all the time. He saw an ad on TV for the package this particular one runs. He loves the things, ya know?”

“Kids, right?” The detective shrugged, looking up at the tin roof, rattling and pinging with drops of rain.

“You make it sound like you don’t want any. You’ve been married for what is it, a year now? You been tryin’?”

“That’s none of your business,” Farva said with a grimace, shaking his head. “Just tell me why we’re here.”

“Fine,” the chief retracted, arms folded across his chest. “Well, this train should be moving as you might guess. It should have a lot of things, to tell you the truth. Passengers, staff, a conductor, engineer. But by all accounts, including me and the boy having a look about, there’s nobody.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“It certainly doesn’t. Listen, this shouldn’t be our problem, hopefully, we can push this off on the state, being on their tracks and all. Maybe it’s just some technical fuck-up or weird circumstance that brought it here to our doorstep, but it’s still too early to decide anything. But I want to give this our due diligence just in case someone higher up the chain somewhere tries to point fingers.”

Farva nodded along with the words, trying to peer in through the back window. “And by that, you mean…?”

Schultz shoved the end of the heavy knurled flashlight at the detective. “Here, you’ll need this. Just go and have a look around the insides, just for anything that looks like funny business. I think the doors are mostly unlocked between the cars. I need to finish filling out a prelim report in the car.”

Farva grabbed the flashlight, shifting its weight around to better aim the beam. A shiver ran down his spine and he spoke up before the chief descended the narrow stairs, crinkling poncho and all. “No other trains are coming this way, I hope?”

Schultz shrugged, looking back up at him. “Pretty rare than any come around this time of night, apart from this guy. But you’d hear them a mile away, and they know how to use their brakes. Get to it… please?”

“Fine.” Farva huffed, tugging on the handle of the door in the beam of the flashlight. The caboose. What a name; a terrible, unserious one at that. This one only held cargo and baggage and dried foodstuffs.

The detective pushed back the brim of his hat, still very damp, to get a better look ahead. His free hand found the edge of a wooden crate, sealed and unmoving in the center of the floor. Whatever it contained was none of his business, despite a picking sensation at his brain telling him to peek through one of the cracks.

The platform to the next car was barely sheltered from the rain, slick with water and old oil too, with a daunting enough gap over the coupling. Farva crossed over, one foot and hand at a time, ensuring his grasp was on the door handle before daring to take a breath.

The individual cars were of an unsurprising nature considering the type of train and its expected passengers, with amenities and services tucked into uniform boxes on wheels. At the same time, it seemed as if such passengers and staff had been there, if for but an instant— the pans in the galley sink, coated in grease and food bits, beds in the private rooms slightly unmade, a newspaper, unfolded, sitting upon on a bench in the observation car. Despite such signs, not a shred remained of what could be called a personal item.

The people left, but it kept moving… why… how long, and what caused the train to stop at this place? Surely the chief has made all the appropriate calls. If there was anything to be found to answer at least some of these questions, it would be the locomotive.

The head of the train was just beyond one final car of bunks for the staff, equally devoid of life as the previous cars. Farva’s back became slick with rainwater as he passed between the bins of coal. The final platform there before the engine room was slick and narrow. The detective’s heart thumped and he nearly lost grip on the flashlight, his hands cold and wet. Droplets of rain passed and glowed in the beam for fractions of seconds.

I’ve been here before. How? Why? It doesn’t make sense.

Farva made sure the flashlight was tight in his grip as he stepped forward. In his free hand, he twisted the handle of the final door, holding his breath. Dust danced in the beam, inky specks from the movement of coal from the bins and the furnace on the head of a shovel.

The detective straddled the doorway, one foot left outside, no way for the door to close behind him. There was nothing but silence from the antique-looking engine and boiler until there wasn’t.

A push from behind felt as if he had been shoved, but instead, it was his wet soles gliding against the slick ground as the train jerked forward. The distinct puttering and puffing of the engine began to grow louder as did the clicking and clacking and grinding of the drive wheels below the locomotive. Farva jerked back only to see the sight of the strobing red and blue lights and glaring high beams trailing off in the distance. Pushing off the door frame, Farva jerked back and began to rush for the back of the train, his thigh aching as he increased his pace.

The detective passed the staff beds, leaving wet footprints, then made across to the rooms in coach, the snack bar, and finally the observation lounge. The rain darted by the window as the forward movement continued, the sound of the locomotive puffing in the distance, broken up by the clacking of the wheels over the rail gaps.

How did it start? Where is it going to end up? What happens if I can’t stop it? I have to stop it, there must be a brake.

And so the detective turned about, his feet gliding over the slick ridges of the vinyl flooring, determinedly headed for the locomotive once more. He flung the door open, amplifying the chugging of the engine and the clacking of the wheels and the whoosh of the freezing night air, and his feet lost traction, his hand couldn’t find the railing, and the flashlight tumbled down into the darkness of the ground below, followed by the detective himself. His body made contact with the coupling for only a moment before rolling off, his spine finding the hard metal of the rail and his eyes finding, in the dim light, the car’s rear set of wheels barreling towards him.

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