Behind every skyline there are neighborhoods, relationships, people, and stories …
By Neta Jackson and Dave Jackson
Copyright © 2013 by Dave Jackson and Neta Jackson
Sylvia was in the vestibule, stowing the yellow stepstool when I came around the corner to the side door like a wild driver in a destruction derby. “Mr. Bentley! What in the world’s the matter? You ill? What are you doing? No, you can’t open that!” She yanked my hand from the door handle.
She was a lot stronger than I expected, but I broke free and pulled at the handle again. The door wouldn’t budge. This time she threw her body between me and the door like a Chicago Bears linebacker.
“Mr. Bentley, stop!” she yelled. “This is an outside door! If you open it and fall out while we’re going forty miles an hour, you’d kill yourself. Now get ahold’a yourself, man!”
The door hadn’t budged. I’d forgotten about the big safety “dog latch” at the top corner. But I could also see through the window that Sylvia was right. We were going far too fast to jump from the train without serious injury.
I stopped pulling at the door. In spite of myself, I knew I hadn’t fully blown my cover with Sylvia. In the melee, she’d been telling me this was an outside door, still assuming I couldn’t see.
“Sorry, sorry.” I stared blankly over her head as we relaxed. “Must’ve gotten disoriented … panicked.” I reached out and touched the walls on either side and backed off. I needed to think, maybe call the state police to stop that Greyhound Bus. “I’m really sorry, Miss Sylvia. I’ll just go back, now. Don’t worry about me. I’m okay. And thank you. Thank you.”
She was shaken, but I think unhurt as she let me go without asking any more questions. She’d have a story to tell the other attendants after this.
As I returned to my compartment, I noticed an envelope on the floor just inside the door. Picking it up, I slid the door closed, and returned to my seat to figure out what to do. I opened the envelope absently and pulled out a handwritten note.
Dear Mr. Bentley,
Sorry I didn’t have a chance to tell you this personally, but I got a call from my agent in Denver inviting us to stop by Bongo’s offices. Seemed like a good opportunity to catch up and work on future plans, but we had to get off the Chief in Raton, New Mexico, and take a bus up to Denver.
We’ll spend a day there and catch the California Zephyr home. Get in to Chicago just a day late. Hope all is—
A crashing erupted out in the hallway, and I could hear hushed, angry voices. Was Sylvia into it with someone else? Passengers were going to think this sleeper had turned into a madhouse. But this time I remembered my shades before opening my door a few inches. Sylvia wasn’t in sight, but a couple of passengers by the luggage compartment were arguing with each other. A young girl, maybe seventeen, with long black hair, was waving her hands and putting her finger to her lips in an attempt to quiet a tall, older guy with spiked up blond hair. He was grimacing and swearing in a barely restrained voice, slugging the suitcases on the upper shelves, and kicking those down below.
“I can’t believe it! It’s gone!” He turned and almost backhanded the girl, but she cowered and slid to the floor. He grabbed her wrist and yanked her back up to her feet as she began to whimper. “Shut up,” he snarled. “Someone’ll hear.”
Just then the door of one of the compartments beyond slid open, and a woman peeked out with a horrified look on her face.
“What’re you lookin’ at? Get back in there and mind your own business.”
The row suspended as if in midair until the woman retreated. Then the man said in a hoarse whisper. “Thought you talked to her, but now look what you’ve done.”
“No, no, you don’t understand. She said she was going to Chicago. You gotta believe—”
“But she didn’t go, did she, and now it’s gone!’ he hissed. “They’re gonna kill me, but not before I kill you.” He raised his hand again.
“No, Max! Please no. Somebody’s gonna hear us.” She put her finger to her lips again. “Come on, come on. We’ll figure something out. I got her number.”
“What?” He lowered his threatening hand.
“She gave me her phone number.”
“In Chicago? You sure?”
“Yeah. We can still find her there. Number’s up in my purse.”
“You dumb slut.” He raised his hand for another blow.
“No, no! Please!” The girl put her arms up to block the blow, and I slid my door all the way open and stepped out, ready to intervene. “Everything okay out here?”
“Yeah, yeah. No problem.”
They stood frozen, and then the girl’s eyes dropped to the floor as if she were embarrassed.
“Come on.” The guy grabbed the girl’s arm and pushed her ahead of him up the stairs.
* * * *
Derailed—coming November 2013
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© 2013, Dave & Neta Jackson