The mystery train part 7

Meanwhile Alex was still waiting for Dave to arrive; it was already 3 pm and Dave said his train would arrive around noon.  Alex was concerned and tried calling Dave’s cell phone but failed to get an answer; each ring lead to a voice message “Hey you’ve reached Dave Jackson, please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you”   Alex left the following message “ Hey, Dave, I know you said your train was due at noon but  I haven’t heard from you, buddy, just let know when you get here, alright?”  Dave was mildly annoyed first stating  “Dave was never on time when I met him and he was so unreliable”   but he that wasn’t the truth; he was just upset Dave was late. Alex’s wife Deborah; seeing Alex’s concern; tried her best to calm him “Well honey, trains can be late, you know, Dave will get here, ok, he said he’d be here and he will, so just try to relax and I’ll bring you a beer” said Deborah.   Alex sat down in his easy chair and just relaxed; watching a college basketball game on tv. He told himself to be patient; a part of him was nervous after not seeing his friend for so many years; so much had changed; maybe this was a bad idea.  3 pm turned into 6 pm and Alex went from being annoyed to concerned; it had been six hours already and no sign of Dave; not even a phone call; sure, Dave had been late in the past but he usually at least called.

Deborah said to her husband “Honey have you tried calling Dave” “Yes!!” Alex exclaimed slamming his beer on the kitchen counter.  Deborah hated to see Alex so upset.  Alex raised his voice “I have left 3 messages already and he hasn’t even called back” Deborah once again trying to calm down her anxious husband “Maybe you can call someone that knows Dave. Maybe they can clue us in” Alex nodded feeling a little calmer. “Yeah I can call his sister Susan; they are pretty close” Alex was hoping somebody could givr him an idea of what happened to Dave.  Maybe Dave got delayed; maybe he got the days mixed up.

Alex called and Susan picked up “Hello” said Susan in a quizzically voice obviously not recognizing the number on phone’s caller id.  Or maybe she couldn’t hear well; it sound liked she was at a noisy restaurant. Alex replied “Hi, Susan this is Alex Wilson; Dave’s buddy from high school.   She was confused because they never hung out during those high school years except on the occasions where Alex would stay over for dinner and he flirted with her relentlessly.  She replied “Oh Alex, a blast from the past. What are you doing calling me after all these years”   Mark said “ Well, it’s about Dave; I’m not sure if he told you but I invited him to my home in Seattle to visit and he was supposed to arrive today at noon and has yet to show up”  This was news to Susan because she didn’t know about a trip; then again they lead both busy lives and hadn’t spoken in quite a while.  She said “I had no idea about a trip although we haven’t talked in a while so….”    She like Alex felt concerned because in her experience; Dave usually showed up when he said he would; he wasn’t prone to standing people up and if he was going to be late, he would have called. Yes, this was odd.   Alex replied “Oh, ok. I’m just concerned because, you’re right, he would have called and I’ve left several messages and yet to get a response”.  She felt even more anxious; Dave usually returned calls and promptly and would usually answer within an hour or so even if he was working.  Susan stated “Well, Alex I am with my husband and the kids; we are also with my parents who talk to Dave regularly; do you want to talk to them?”   “Sure” Alex replied.  He could hear her put the phone down.   He could hear Susan say to her parents in the distance “Mom, Dad someone wants to talk to you” They were out to dinner and the Grandparents were walking around with the kids.  “Who is it?” exclaimed Susan’s father.   “Some old friend of Dave’s” she replied.   At this point Alex was growing impatient.  “Hold on” Susan stated.  “I’ll put them on speaker phone” “Hello” said Harold; Susan’s father.  Alex recognized the voice but he sounded older which shouldn’t have surprised Alex but it did.   Alex said “Hi, Mr. Jackson, it’s Alex Wilson; Dave’s old friend from high school” “Ohhh Alex, how are you” said Harold.  He then heard Harold motion to his wife Margery to come to the phone “Hi there, Alex “said the friendly voice; she sounded the same as he remembered.  “Hi Mrs. Jackson, I wanted to call you to let you know that Dave was supposed to be arriving here in Seattle at Noon and he never showed, I tried calling his cellphone and leaving messages but I haven’t heard from him.  Have you talked to him in the last few days?”  Margery replied “I knew he was taking a trip and a few days ago he called me from the train and said he was on his way and that he was safe; I haven’t heard anything else from him” He could hear her ask “Susan, did Dave call you” “No” replied Susan.  “I haven’t talked to him in over a month” (Although she was sure it was probably longer) They all grew concerned because this wasn’t like Dave.  Margie said “Alex, please let us know the moment you hear from Dave.  We are going to call him right away.  And if you don’t hear from Dave by tomorrow, please call us back” “Will do” replied Alex.

 

Margery hung up the phone with a deeply concerned look on her face.  “I have a bad feeling about this” she said in a somber tone.  “Mom” replied Susan.   “Dave is fine, he probably got his train times mixed up or something, maybe he forgot, and please don’t tell the kids about their Uncle, I don’t to upset them during dinner” The kids were looking at the fish tank with her husband; unaware of the situation.  Susan stepped outside to call her brother and got his voicemail “Dave, it’s me Susan” she said in a nervous voice.   “Look I just got a call from your friend Alex saying that you were supposed to meet him in Seattle at Noon today; it’s 9 here and I guess 6 there, I dunno, but anyways you’re late and I know that’s not like you, so please call Alex, me or mom and dad, we are concerned. Love you, brother” She knew something wasn’t right and had knots her stomach but regained her composure and walked back to her family sitting at the booth.  Her father gave her a look as to say “So, did he pick up?”   She quietly nodded no and the just continued eating his hamburger; trying to smile for the grandkids but pacing back and forth in his mind.  “Where could he be” he thought.  Margery just picked at her food; growing increasingly anxious; not being able to concentrate on anything else.

After dinner when Margery and Harold came home; they called Dave again; to get the same voicemail. They too left their message “Dave, it’s your dad. We haven’t heard from you since you were on the train. Just checking to see if you made it back alright. Talk to you later, goodnight” Margery took some pills she had prescribed for anxiety; by this point she was a nervous wreck.  She put on her nightgown and crawled into bed and started reading a book to calm herself down. Harold crawled into the other side of bed and let out a big sigh.  He said to this wife “You know, honey if none of us hear from Dave in the next day or so, we may have to call the police” Margery perked up “The police? Do you think it’s that serious?  “You don’t think someone hurt him, do you?”  She was now visibly nervous. Harold tried his best to reassure her “Let’s not jump to conclusions” as he folded his glasses back into the case.  “I’m sure Dave is fine but it might be an option” Margery lay down to sleep facing away from Harold said “Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that” And with that they both hoped to God they’d get an answer by morning but for now they’d just have to wait.

 

No photo description available.

The abandoned mall ( a short story) part 1

Tom was tired of being cooped up in the house all day long; with no one talk to and the only voices he heard were his own thoughts; loud as thunder;  the loneliness seem to worsen at night. So to quell his anxiety; Tom decided to take a walk and venture out into the night to see what he could find; anything was better than another night watching late night tv and eating leftover pizza; so off he went.  Tom walked out his door; not having felt the fresh air in days; he was greeted by sound of a young kid blasting loud music from his car stereo; he’d run into problems with him before so he decided to walk on by; he didn’t want to cross this kid.  He didn’t live far from the main road so he went into that direction; no destination in mind; just enjoying the exercise and clear his head from all the stress he endured; the job he hated  and the girlfriend who left him for some guy she met on tinder; he walked with his hands in pocket; wondering what she was up to and remembering she had yet to pick up some of her things.   Tom hummed a song; just to change the conversation in his head.

Tom walked upon the old abandoned mall; it had died a year ago and nothing was done with it; it was an empty building; lifeless; missing were the crowds of people who use congregate that mall on those weekend nights. He thought about the days as a teenager where he’d spend hours with his friends; just hanging out. His dad used to ask him why he hung out at the mall so much and his reply was always “I don’t know, nothing else to do, I guess”  Now that the mall was gone; Tom wondered where the kids hung out; a feeling sadness over washed him; like something sacred was gone; like what once was; was no longer and he shook his head.  Those kids will have no place to go to with their friends; he said to himself.  The mall was an essential part of his growing up and it was gone; snatched by a bad economy and trendy online stores.  Tom wondered what caused all this and why it mattered to him.

Tom then had a crazy idea; he didn’t see any security and the he knew he had to go back to that mall just one more time for old times sake; but he wasn’t going in alone. He texted his friends John and Lauren  ( his best friends from high school; who spent all of their time at this mall)    They all texted him back and agreed that this would be a great idea. 30 minutes later the gang was all back together again; figuring the best way into the mall.  John remembered that he had heard some kids had gotten in a few months before through the parking garage and low behold; they found a way in. They were amazed. How could it be this easy?

They found themselves in the old food court and to their surprise the lights were still on and the muzak was playing. Who was paying for all of this and what was the purpose of keeping this mall running when all the stores were long gone? It was eerie as hell. Lauren exclaimed “Guys, this is creeping me out; let’s just leave”   “Don’t be scared” said Tom, “We’re the only ones here”  John all had a great idea he said ” Hey guys, I’m hungry; I’m wondering if we can find any food” “You guys wanna raid the Pizza place?”    They all agreed.  Low and behold all the food supplies were there ( as if it was still operating)  and John immediately got some dough out; flattening it on a table; threw some tomato paste and cheese and threw it in the over that was still working.  Tom said “This is really weird, I mean if this mall is closed then why does it feel like it’s still open?”  No one had an answer.  John said ” Don’t question it, man.  I just want some pizza”   Lauren was puzzled as well and said “I am really regretting coming here with you, guys but since I’m here; I’ll take some free pizza, I guess”  They all enjoyed their pizza and starting to really enjoy this excursion into the abandoned mall; that seemed to calling to them to explore.

After dinner they walked around the mall; like in the old days and they couldn’t believe their eyes. All the store were open with the lights on and merchandise still on the shelves; as if nothing had changed. And like the food court; they were blasted by music from the loud speaker; missing were the pesky sales clerks. They realized that the mall was all theirs that night.  Tom yelled out “Hey guys check it out: A bike store!!”    It couldn’t get better than that.  They all grabbed a bike and rode around the mall as if they were 13 years old again; all yelling out like children; having the time of their lives.   Tom sang from the top of the escalator at the top of his lungs.  John and Lauren pulled out their cigarettes and smoked gleefully in defiance of the shoppers that were no longer there.

It was like a dream come true; they went through every store; grabbing everything they could. They found some abandoned shopping carts and the race was on; grab as much stuff as they possibly could. I mean, who was going to know? Half of these business’s were closed for good so it was ripe for the picking. John and Tom grabbed everything possible in the video game store; all the gaming systems; hundred of games; hell even the display tv; this was a free for all, man.  Lauren joined them; prying opening the register to see if there was any cash; and it was full of money.  Her brain just exploded in delight; she’d rob this non existent mall for all it was worth; she could pay all her bills; she could take that much needed vacation; and buy her boyfriend something nice ( maybe).  She yelled out “Guys, this register has cash in it; let’s check every store!”   They agreed; tossed the games aside and just gathered the cash instead. What  first was exploration into an abandoned mall was now full on robbery.  They went into every store; smashing the registers; finding tons of cash and finding even more in the backrooms of each store.  None of them had stolen anything in their lives but yet somehow in mere hours they’d become criminals in pursuit of stealing cash.  And none of them felt guilty about it ;as far as they were concerned it was a victimless crime.

They gathered about 4 carts worth of stolen cash; they had at least 5,000$ .  “I mean imagine all the shit we can buy with that cash” said Tom.  Lauren said ” Yeah but we cannot tell anyone about this, ok?  “If we get caught’ they’ll send us away for a long long time and I know you, John; you have a big mouth”   John said ” Lauren what the hell are you talking about? I don’t have a big mouth, why would you say that?”    Remember that time I told you I liked  Pete Michaels and the next day everyone knew about it?” said Lauren.   John said ” Oh that is bullshit. First off, I never told anyone and even if I did, that was high school, get over it” They both started arguing. Tom broke it up;  making sure that everyone agreed to keep their mouth shut.

At that point; they all decided to leave. John had brought his truck and that was enough to conceal the cash under a blanket until they could make it home. They made their way through the food court to the door they had entered from; to their shock the door was locked; in fact it was padlocked.   They were all terrified; how did this door get locked if they were the only ones there? Were they alone or was there someone else here with them?  Was there really security after all?  Tom suggested they try to make their way to all the exits and press their luck; locked every damn time. What was happening?  They’d never been so scared in their lives. They’d could call the police but they had to admit to breaking into the mall; stealing thousands of dollars of cash; they couldn’t do that. They panicked; they were trapped and it was too late to call anyone else and when they looked at their phones; none of them had service.  They had no idea what to do. They decided that they had no choice but to stay there for the night and they’d see if they could call someone in the morning; what else could they do? Now they all regretted breaking into this mall;  who knows how long they’d be stuck here.

Tom remembered there was a few restaurants in the mall and they had beer and wine;  “Hey if we’re going to be here all night; we might as well party and get drunk”  That seemed to lighten the mood. They all ran as fast they could and found the bar in one of the restaurant; Lauren played bartender.  She had worked at plenty of bars and knew how to make drinks.  They drank and drank until they could barely stand up; all they could muster was babbling drunk talk; filling the empty mall with loud laughter; for a moment they’d forgotten their predicament.  They made a raucous; smashing up mannequins, breaking signs and found the muzak radio that piped in the music from the speakers; they broke it piece by piece. “There, no more crappy music to keep us up; sang Lauren in a drunken stupor”   Tearing up the mall was just so much fun; all of that pent up aggression came out; the mall looked like a bomb hit after an hour of this.  John even set a mannequin on fire and threw in that little wishing fountain where people would throw all of their pennies. It looked like a scene out of Lord of Flies except these were adults which made it seem even more disturbing.  How did a curiosity of the abandoned mall spiral out of chaos so quickly?   After effectively destroying the mall; they retreated  to the department store; to sleep off their drunkenness and to try and figure out a plan to escape the next day.   They all crashed; not knowing what lay ahead for them.

 

No photo description available.

 

The pancake robbery

Ted sat in his car; early in the morning; feeling the summer burn his neck; the sun partially blinding him; in front of a breakfast joint he had been to a thousand times.  He watched the early bird crowd shuffle in slowly; eagerly awaiting their morning meal.  He felt nervous; his leg shaking at lightning speed; his hands quivering; his forehead drenched with sweat and it wasn’t from the heat; he was anxious about what he was about to do. Ted stared at his watch; a cheap daffy duck watch his nephew had given him as a gag gift last Christmas.  Ted remembered how his sister stopped talking to him after he go out of the jail last time and demanded that he was not to see his beloved nephew until he got his act together.  Ted shook his head and thought to himself “How did it get this far?” The time ticked on and on and Ted became more visibly nervous; fortunately people passed by him in the parking lot without noticing the anxious man in the car; chain smoking.  Where is he; Ted said out loud.  He checked his phone; waiting for a message that Bill would be arriving soon. Minutes go by and the text alert chimed on his phone; Ted saw the message in sheer disbelief it read;  the cops are here with a warrant; they found everything; you are on your own.  Don’t do it, man.  Just forget about it and find a place to hide”.   Ted slammed his phone down in anger. “Dammit what am I going to do now?  I can’t do this alone.  Oh shit oh shit. Just think this through”   Ted thought about  how desperate he was; the debt he owned; the threat of broken knee caps; his mother’s medical bills; it was all too much for one man to take.  His back was against the wall and said the phrase that had become his mantra in life “Fuck it”.   He walked into a restaurant fully intending to rob them for all their worth; cash registers; old ladie’s purses; tips on the table; that was his money as far as he was concerned.

Ted noticed the beautiful woman with a cheery smile guide him to his next table; a part of him felt bad about this; he didn’t want to hurt anyone but he felt he had no choice in the matter and he never backed away from anything in his life. Ted had a moment of hesitation when he saw a young boy out to breakfast with his grandparents. He thought about all the breakfast’s he went to with his grandpa; right before their fishing trip where he had time of his life. He got lost in the moment; lost in the past; days that no longer existed.  A smile ran from his face when he realized he was going to rob the place; he felt down around his hip to make sure the unregistered pistol was still there; yep still there.  He felt like such a man with a gun on his side; he just hoped that the gun wouldn’t jam; like the robbery where the gun jammed; the cops had an informant and he spent 6 years in prison; only to be released 3 weeks ago. The waitress came to the table; scaring Ted who was panicking about his next move.  “Would you like to order?” she asked.  Ted nervously replied ” Uh yeah umm I guess I’ll have the Early bird pancake special with a coffee”  “I’ll be right back with that” she said in all too familiar cheery voice that Ted detested.

Ted was having second thoughts as he walked toward the bathroom to try to calm his nerves. As he was walking he noticed a group of Priests out to breakfast; he got a knot in his stomach. Now he felt even worse; how could he rob these men of God?.  For years he wore a cross on his neck but had given up on God and religion a long time ago.  Robbers have little use for church he chuckled to himself. One of the priests; an older man; said to Ted ” Are you ok, son?  Do you want to sit down with us and talk about it?” Ted shook his head no; and half paying attention; almost walking in front of a waiter;carrying trays of food; who angrily explained ” Hey buddy watch where you’re going”

Ted walked past him into the bathroom and into a stall.  He said to himself  “I don’t know about this   I can’t do this.  What if i fuck up again; I cant go back to prison. I can’t”  Ted felt himself panicking.  Suddenly Ted heard the sound of footsteps which made him even more nervous. He again felt for the gun around his hip as a reminder of his intended mission. He pulled the gun out and checked to see if it had bullets; he knew they were there but he needed to be sure.  Ted opened the chamber and in his sweaty nervous hands clumsily dropped  the gun and it miraculously didn’t go off since the chamber was open; the bullets fell on the floor. “Son?” he heard someone say from out the stall door.  ” Son, what are you doing?”  He recognized the voice from priest he had just talked to.  Full of emotion Ted said ‘ I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.  I am so desperate;  I am out of options, man and this is all I got. I didn’t want to do it but here I am”. All of  a sudden Ted  fell to the floor; having a anxiety attack in front of a complete stranger ( who just happened to be a priest) The priest picked up the gun from the floor and embraced the man.  Ted cried out loudly; so loud it could be heard in the next town.  He said “I don’t know what to do” as he hugged the Priest. The Priest said “My name is Father Michael; I love you and so does God. Please son, turn your life around. Do the right thing. Give  up this life of sin and turn to the Lord. Will you pray with me, son? Can you do that?” Ted agreed as the Priest held his hand with both hands and prayed ” Lord, please show your love to Ted this morning. Show him a better way; give him the strength and faith and trust into you.  Help Ted find a way towards your grace and mercy. Forgive him for his sins and show him that life is wonderful; he doesn’t need to rob or hurt anyone because God will provide for him. in Jesus’s name I pray. Amen”

Ted completely shaken walked out of the bathroom, out of the restaurant and from then on never forgot that moment where he walked into rob innocent people; risking a long prison sentence and walked out turning his life to God. He looked up at the morning sun and said “Thank you lord”.  God had saved him right then and there and he didn’t deserve it. He was a miserable, angry man who felt crime was his only option; now he knew that God would take care of him; any time day or night.

Years later Ted would think of that day when he walked into his job where he counseled prisoners getting ready for release.  He couldn’t believe that 10 years ago; he was in a prison just like this; with no remorse; ready to rob and hurt anyone to get what he wanted in life. Now he was helping those just like himself turn their lives around. And it took a failed robbery attempt at a pancake restaurant and a kindly priest to make him see the light.  Ted was saved and he wasn’t going to forget it.