Train to AnywhereDavid George Howard / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime
Train to Anywhere
David George Howard
Train to Anywhere
Copyright © 2014 David George Howard
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
I would like to thank my sister Barbie Fleming and friend Debbie Springer for providing their many valued comments. I also want to express my appreciation to Alan Williams, a friend and classmate, who helped with the editing of this edition.
Eddie turned on the lights to the main factory floor and then closed the switch box. The sound of the metal door on the box echoed through the empty factory for a few seconds and drifted off to every corner of the building before disappearing altogether. To earn extra money, the owner of the plant let him work a few nights during the week to clean up, perform maintenance, and restock the workstations. Mr. Aron was a decent boss, as bosses go—usually uncomfortable to approach, but a fair man. Eddie had been there for about three years, hiring on not long after he arrived in Providence, and he worked the extra hours to help cover the cost of the classes he was taking. The work was tedious, and the pay was meager, but after serving time for a couple of years, it was what he could find. Eddie had been through a bad time and was a victim of where he came from, but Mr. Aron was willing to consider that behind and done with.
The cart he was pushing was for collecting leftover cloth from the various stations around the factory floor. During the day, his regular job was to bring materials out of the storeroom and move cloth to the correct stations. The seamstresses did the real work of making the shirts and suits that now hung from lines high overhead. They referred to him as "Hon" and "Darling" as he made his rounds during the day to check on their supply of material, thread, and other items they needed. Many of them had worked there for better than twenty years, since Mr. Aron's father first started the business. Now Eddie was part of "the Family," as Mr. Aron called it, though he did not intend to work there longer than he had to.
After Eddie finished cleaning the stations, he made a few minor repairs and adjustments to one of the cutting machines, and then ran it through a couple of cycles. He took about ten layers of waste cloth, put it in the cutter, stepped on the pedal, and watched the knife blade slice smoothly through the material as it was supposed to. Eddie pulled the cloth out of the cutter, and the factory was quiet again.
Eddie went up to the managers' offices to empty trashcans and sweep the floors. He lingered in the office belonging to Mr. LaRue, the chief designer, to look at a few of the sketches on the drawing table. Eddie had no sense for fashion, though he knew enough to understand that Mr. LaRue always wore nice clothes and took frequent trips to New York to see shows and make sales. The drawings were in colored pencil and quickly sketched. They were all of angular young men supposedly wearing shirts and suits Mr. LaRue was designing for Mr. Aron. Eddie flipped through about seven or eight of the sketches before spotting a stack towards the back of the table. He quickly glanced at these and found they were of a woman in fancy clothes. He guessed this was the woman he had seen visit Mr. LaRue from time to time. Eddie did not know her name, only that she would go directly to his office, stay for a few minutes and then leave.
Before going down to the production floor to continue his cleaning, Eddie decided to take his break, since it was now around 10:00 pm and he had not eaten since lunch. He walked out of Mr. LaRue's office to the balcony that ran around the second floor of the plant. The manager's offices were all on the second floor, overlooking the entire factory layout. During normal working hours, the place hummed with the sound of sewing machines, moving material and stock, as fifty women worked to produce shirts and men's wear for department stores in Boston and New York. Now, as he leaned against the railing, it was quiet except for a slow-running ventilation fan somewhere in the rafters. Hundreds of finished shirts hung from conveyer lines above the production floor, almost as if they were alive and ready to board a train.
Eddie walked about a quarter of the way along a catwalk that ran across the middle of the plant and sat down to eat the sandwich he had bought earlier. He had just started eating when he heard a door open and footsteps as a number of people entered the plant. Hidden amongst the shirts hanging around him, he was not able to see the entrance where the people had come in. His first thought was that they were robbers. Eddie pulled his legs up so he could hide between the shirts or run if he needed to. It was then he heard a familiar voice.
"I'm telling you gentlemen, I don't have it." Eddie instantly recognized the eloquent voice of Mr. LaRue. He was able to see enough to make out four men besides Mr. LaRue. "She gave the package to the man at the train station."
"Who was that? It never got there," one of the four said. Eddie looked at him, and he thought the man seemed familiar. The other three larger men stood in a semicircle behind him as he spoke. "When I give her a package to take to New York, I expect it to arrive on time, with all the contents in there."
"Clarence, how many times do I have to tell you? I don't know anything about it. I think we usually meet with Eugene. But this time there was no visit."
The man was Clarence McBride, a local businessman with political ties. His picture had been in the paper a number of times, though Eddie had never seen him in person. The other three were street thugs that looked to be about twice the size as McBride, all dressed in similar cheap suits.
"I don't think the faggot's gonna give us any answers," one of the men said to McBride.
"I've known Eugene for ten years. The two of you were supposed to meet him last Thursday. You work for O'Connor, right?" McBride asked.
"I know him."
"Eugene's never lied to me or my cousin. You work for O'Connor. Now who do you think I'll believe?" McBride said.
"Boys," LaRue pleaded a tight smile on his face. "I'm telling you all I know."
"Come on. Let's have a look in your office." McBride led the group of men up the stairs along the sidewall and around the balcony over to LaRue's office. Eddie had no choice but to wait it out. For the moment, if he stayed down, the shirts hanging from the overhead lines gave him a place to hide. But if he went forward or backward, they would see him. He was not able to hear what they were saying in the office, though the voices continued to get louder. Eddie parted the shirts just enough to see through. The four men were going through the contents of Mr. LaRue's office, opening and closing drawers, pulling boxes from beneath his worktable. At first, they were orderly. LaRue appeared to be placating them as much as he could, but the search continued. McBride made him sit in his chair as the search went on and continued to become more urgent. Soon they were dumping all the contents onto the floor and tipping over the furniture. Between McBride and the three thugs, they had everything destroyed in a matter of moments.
"Where's the money?" McBride asked.
"I don't have it," LaRue said. The man behind him grabbed the back of LaRue's head and slammed it onto the desk. Crimson blood freely ran down onto LaRue's honey colored shirt.
"O'Connor put you up to this?" McBride said.
"No," LaRue said. The man hit his head on the desk again, breaking his nose further. LaRue's mouth hung open as he gasped for breath.
"Let's try this. He'll keep banging your head until your brains are jelly on the floor. Where's the money?" McBride bent forward and grabbed the back of his neck.
"Gloria's got an account. In Boston," LaRue said his voice a wet mess.
"Keep talking," McBride said, removing his hand from LaRue's neck.
"In Boston, in a bank deposit box. Said she was saving it." LaRue let his head slump forward, the words draining him of any self-respect.
"She there now? Waiting for you? You were getting ready to skip town, weren't you?" McBride said.
"We were going overseas. I don't know where she got it. Leave her alone," LaRue said, not looking up.
"Sure." McBride pulled a pistol out of his jacket and aimed it at LaRue's chest. A muffled explosion echoed through the empty plant. The sound of the second shot echoed off the high ceiling of the plant, and Mr. LaRue crumpled forward onto his desk. Eddie scurried as fast as he could, trying to stay low. One of the men with McBride turned as he ran away.
"I saw something move," the man said stepping out of the office. Eddie stopped breathing as he heard them come onto the balcony. "Right there, I seen somebody move." Without a moment's delay, the man pulled out a gun of his own and started firing. Eddie crouched down as much as he could, as the shirts around him blew to pieces and bullets sparked off the catwalk. If he stayed in one place, he would be dead. If he ran, he might have a chance.
"Stop!" a voice rang out. Eddie turned to see McBride lowering the other man's gun with his arm. Then he pointed to Eddie. "Hold on. You, stay there."
Eddie climbed to his feet, surprised he was even able to stand. After a moment, he started running along the balcony. McBride began to fire just ahead of him, the bullets making small eruptions in the concrete wall about five feet ahead of him. Eddie stopped and tried to go the other way, only to see one of the men bounding up the stairs and headed in his direction. McBride was pointing the gun directly at him from the floor below.
"Stand against the wall," McBride said, lowering the gun. A few seconds later, the man who came up the stairs walked up to Eddie and twisted his arm behind his back hard enough to make his shoulder pop.
Eddie bit his lip as he felt the tendons stretch. He looked at the grinning man holding his arm. The face was one of a man who had enjoyed delivering his share of beatings. They went to the stairs, and at the bottom, the man shoved Eddie forward against one of the workbenches. Eddie fell on the floor and received a kick to the back of his thighs. "Get up, boy. He wants to talk to you."
The man stayed behind him as he made his way through the sewing machines and large fabric cutters. McBride and the others were walking across the plant from the other direction. The man gave Eddie another shove in the back for good measure, though there was no chance of him slipping away.
When he walked up to McBride, the first thing he noticed was that McBride was even shorter than himself. This brought him no comfort, as he knew that LaRue was dead, and McBride had killed him.
"What's your name?" McBride asked
"You work here nights or something?" McBride said, moving closer.
"I work a few nights a week," Eddie answered, his voice not much above a hoarse croak.
"Not supposed to be anyone here on a Wednesday night."
"I traded days earlier this afternoon."
"Bad timing on your part. That's what working too hard gets you." The three men standing behind McBride moved around closer. "Did you see what happened?"
"He seen it all," one of the men said.
"Answer me, Eddie," McBride insisted. "What did you see?"
"I saw you shoot Mr. LaRue."
"I don't think you saw that at all. Keep in mind what happens to people who won't cooperate with me." One of McBride's men walked over to one of the fabric cutting machines Eddie had just serviced. He ran his finger along the blade.
"Let me ask you again. What did you see?" McBride asked.
Eddie did not say anything, considering his first answer had not been satisfactory.
McBride pointed to one of his men. "Fingers. Bring him over here."
The man he had called Fingers was standing at the cutter. He came over, grabbed Eddie by the wrist, and dragged him over to the machine. A few hours before, Eddie had seen the cutter slice through ten sheets of cloth in one swipe. He had adjusted the blade to be sure the cut was clean and straight with no tearing. Many times, Eddie had seen machine cut through much more.
"Put his hand here," McBride said, pointing to the space under the blade.
"Goddamn! What're you doing?" Eddie said. Although no one had their foot on the pedal, his hand was still in it.
"Get ready," McBride said, pointing at the actuation pedal.
Fingers put his foot on it.
"What do you want?" Eddie shrieked.
"I think he wants you to answer his fucking question right this time. Give 'im a better answer," Fingers said, very close to Eddie's ear. "Then again, I'd like to see you lose a couple fingers."
"Nothing, I didn't see nothing," Eddie said, pleading. "Please, let me go. I didn't see nothing at all. I don't even know you."
"Exactly. And in case that story ever changes—well, let's hope it doesn't. Let him go."
Fingers jumped onto the pedal and let go of Eddie at the same time. The blade nicked the end of his index finger as it sliced down. Eddie crawled away from the cutter and looked up at the four men, who suddenly appeared to have no interest in him. McBride glanced around the area. "Pull down those shirts you shot up." Doing what they were told, the three men grabbed the long hooks sitting by one of the machines. They reached up and took the shirts down. "Bring them. You," he said, pointing at Eddie, "stay here until we're gone. Cops might show up soon, so don't waste any time getting out of here."
Eddie watched them weave their way through the production lines and out the door on the other side of the plant. He heard a car start and drive away, and then Eddie scrambled away from the cutter. He stayed there for a few moments, before running out of the side entrance.
Eddie had been trying to stay out of trouble while figuring out how to move ahead. He was wise in the way certain people become when they have few options in life. He was also smart enough to realize this was going to turn out wrong. In his haste to leave the building, he had left his coat there. Normally, he walked home when he finished cleaning, the two miles being easy to cover on most evenings. Tonight, he had no idea where he was going, only that it took an effort to walk at a normal pace. Eddie had caused and seen his shared of trouble in his life, but this did not change the effect of what he had seen. He continued along the sidewalk and then turned down a few unfamiliar streets in a reflex to hide from whatever happened, conscious of whatever and whoever else might be around.
He developed a shiver that he kept telling himself was due to the cool weather that evening. Walking faster and faster, his teeth began to chatter as he kept looking around in the shadows and cars that were parked along the streets. A few cars drove by, and each time, Eddie put his head down and turned his face away. There was small chance that the men he had seen that night would jump out at him, but the fear was there nonetheless. He took his door key out of his pocket with his right hand. Before opening the door, he opened and closed his hand a couple of times, thinking how close he had come to losing it altogether. There were too many people going around missing parts of their bodies—fingers, toes—and he was in no hurry to join those ranks. He opened the door and stepped into the hallway. Warmth and a sense of security came over him.
Once in his apartment, he tossed his keys on the only table in the room and collapsed onto the ratty couch that sat along the wall. He sat with his hands behind his head, looking at his meager possessions. A few pieces of furniture, basic kitchen utensils, and enough books to keep him busy. He could not afford a radio, so he often went to Bert's apartment next door to listen to Amos 'n' Andy and baseball games. Bert was a Red Sox fan, and being from Buffalo, Eddie favored the Yankees. Right now, Eddie wished his life only had to be concerned with how the Babe was going to do that year. He took his shoes off, lay down, and pulled a blanket over himself. For about thirty minutes, he stared at the ceiling, rolled onto his side, then over on his back again. The image of the three thugs, faces like used-up prizefighters, kept coming back whenever he closed his eyes. If the police were to ask him to describe them, he would end up describing half the useless, petty street criminals in the city. Finally, he managed to fall into a tense, dreamless sleep.