Corcovado V

Corcovado 5

Corcovado + Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars

Chapter V

He heard voices again, voices far away – as if on the far side of a dream. Scratchy voices lost in time, voices full of concern – and then he knew where he was.


The low tree-line in the distance, that same low, rocky escarpment – and the village beyond. Spreading fires lighting up the marsh as he falls from the sky, Tiger 509 tumbling through the swamp like a paper cup tossed from a passing car, gouts of fire erupting on the surface of the black swamp below his leg. The pain excruciating now, like something inside him is on fire. He knows if he looks down, looks at the onrushing earth inside the mottled red shadows under his boots he’ll see jagged shards of metal jutting from his leg…and there will be blood.

Then, he feels something on his forehead, something like a washcloth, cool and damp, and the muffled sounds of people talking again – far away – like voices in another room – and he wonders how this could possibly be – because he feels like he’s being pushed away from this life and, suddenly, those voices didn’t matter anymore.


“When did this happen? The first time, I mean?” the physician asked.

“It was in the early nineties, I think, after he came back from Iraq,” Ted said, looking back at the discarded memories of his childhood – like looking through the pages of a book that contained nothing but painful images. “His leg was pretty messed up, some kind of bacteria got into the wound, like in the space between the skin and the muscle, and it spread. My mom told me he nearly lost his right leg after they got him to Germany. But whatever it is, it’s come back several times since…two or three times that I can remember.”

“When was the last time?”

“Oh, I guess…maybe…three years ago. He went to the VA hospital in Seattle that time, I think, for some kind of special injections.”

“And it keeps coming back?” Melissa asked, clearly now concerned.

“It’s probably triggering some sort of autoimmune disorder at this point,” the physician said, shrugging as she looked around the boat. “You said he lives aboard? How long?”

“Not that long. Maybe nine months…not quite a year, anyway.”

“Humid down here, but I don’t see any signs of mold or mildew,” she sighed, as if talking to herself. “Well, whatever, with a temperature of 103 we’re going to have to get him back to a big hospital. I’ll call it in, have an air ambulance land outside the entrance. They can taxi right up to the boat, load him up right here. I think he should be taken straight to Vancouver, by the way. Be less paperwork than going to the US that way.”

“What about the boat?” Ted asked.

“Well, you’ll need to stay with him on the trip down; is there anyone who can remain aboard and keep an eye on things?”

“I can,” Melissa said, her voice now steady and calm – then, as she looked at Tracy there was an implied command in her voice.

“I guess I can, too,” Tracy added – though her voice was brimming with reluctance.

Ted turned, looked at Melissa, yet he could now see Tracy had been shaken by this unexpected turn of events – but that Melissa seemed steady as a rock. “I’ll go,” he said, “and get him checked-in, then I’ll turn around as fast as I can and come right back. Unless he’s released by then. I think we should try to take the boat back to Seattle…”

“The, what…the three of us?” Melissa asked, her voice full of alarm. “Do you think that’s…that he’d want you to do that?”

“What are the options?” Ted asked.

The physician chimed-in then: “There’s the town-dock, over in Whaletown. I know the Harbor Master, I could talk him into keeping an eye on her for a few weeks.”

Ted looked at the doctor, then at Melissa. “I don’t think so. This is my father’s home – and I’m not about to leave it sitting out here, unattended…”

“Well, think it over,” the doctor said, her voice a distant sigh. “If you could run me ashore now, I’ll call for an air ambulance, then we can send a nurse out to help you load him on the airplane. She’ll fly in with you to the hospital.”

Ted nodded and looked at his unconscious father again, then went topsides and helped the physician into the Zodiac. They motored off across the little cove to the store by the inlet, and he was back in a half hour – but Melissa was waiting for him on the swim platform, her arms crossed protectively across her breast, and he thought she was glowering at the world.

“Not quite what you signed up for, is it?” Ted said to her stony, fiercely expressionless eyes.

“Oh, it’s not that. I feel afraid, and yet I don’t really know why…”

“Afraid? Why…of what?”

“I don’t know, Ted. It’s hard to put my finger on it, ya know? But I feel a connection. It was, I don’t know why – or even how to say this – ” she said, suddenly almost gulping for air. “But I’ve felt a connection with your father since I saw him this morning…yet…”

“Yet? Just what are you trying to say?”

“I’ve felt drawn to this place for days…felt as if something, or someone, was pushing me to go to that bakery this morning, and when I saw your boat pull up to the dock, saw your father walking around down there I just knew I’d been summoned here, for a reason.”

“Summoned?” he said – warily.

“Yes. Like God wanted me to be here for some reason. Does that make any sense at all to you?”

He nodded his head as his stomach turned, then looked at the companionway hatch. “The plane should be here within an hour.”

“You should go pack some things, for both of you – just in case.”

He nodded, then turned and went below…but he stopped first – and stared at the sky for a moment, lost in the feeling that something was terribly wrong.


The girls, all of them save one, were slaves. It was as simple as that.

And Elizabeth, being a rather quiet, even a staid product of far-upstate Vermont, found herself ill-prepared for what came next, to handle the information that came out of these forgotten girls. She found that one or two offered to translate, though one girl, in particular, seemed to be quite fluent. This girl was well-dressed, haughty and indifferent, and Elizabeth figured this girl was on the inside of the operation, part of the inner family, and soon she had this girl sequestered from the others. Then, once she talked with one of the girls willing to interpret, she began her interviews with the girls – one by one…

They were bound for New York City, they said, and most of them already had “owners” lined up, though a few of the younger ones, she soon learned, were more like speculative ventures. Young virgins, for the most part, these girls would show up “to work at restaurants on the East Side” one day, but they would be snatched up within hours by their owners, destined to work as “housekeepers” – though, she learned, these as yet unattached waifs rarely did anything but housework. No, these girls were part of a steady stream of children being imported into the US, allegedly to work as domestics, but the truth of their existence, Elizabeth soon understood, was as part of a far darker world. All would work in the sex trade, either as domestic sex slaves or as “actresses” in brutally sadistic S&M films. One of the girls she talked with had a friend who had reportedly been killed – for the film, such as it was, was all about killing very young virgins. Or so this girl said.


Ted heard an aircraft overhead and went topsides to look for it; he saw the ungainly looking beast through the trees that lined the cove, and he watched as it flared and settled on the water. Then, with a wary eye, he looked on as it taxied through the inlet and he found himself wondering, for perhaps the first time in his life, what it was like to fly. To be a pilot. To do the things his father had done.

‘That’s odd,’ he thought as he watched the beast approach. ‘I’ve been surrounded by pilots and aircraft my whole life, yet never once have I…’

“Is that the plane?” he heard Tracy ask, and so, biting his tongue, he turned to her and nodded his head. “What took them so long?” she asked, and again, he fought back the urge to lash out at her inanity and simply shrugged.

He watched the aircraft pass a few anchored boats, their owners now very curious indeed and staring at the floats as it passed. As the beast drew near he saw the doctor was onboard and, oddly enough, she waved at him, and smiled. He waved away his fear and tried to meet her smile, then he thought about Melissa – and about the things she’d told him down below.

Drawn to his father. By God. Never had an interest in Canada, nor even heard of Desolation Sound, but for weeks she had felt a need to be here – today. Her description of seeing his father on the fuel dock had rattled him, too. He looked god-like, she said, wreathed in an aura of golden flame, and she said she knew right then that her destiny waited now, waited for a decision. She had been waiting for him all her life.

He’d tried to measure her words against his own experience of God – and he’d come up short. God didn’t do things like this, did He?

Or did He?

Or…was her being here really nothing more or less than chance, a mere coincidence. A simple statistical anomaly, a chain of unrelated events leading to a new outcome, like intricate lines of dominoes set to fall along predictable paths, only – interrupted by an earthquake. Destin. Sailboats. Her ex-husband, a pilot with Delta who had known his father. How many coincidences must there be, he sighed as these varied images came to mind, before things just didn’t add up any longer?

The pilot maneuvered his aircraft through the water in a tight arc, swinging the loading doors right up to Altair’s lifelines, and he grabbed hold and held the plane’s elevators off the shrouds while the pilot hopped out onto a float and secured the aircraft’s floats to Altair. After his father was lifted aboard the aircraft he grabbed their duffels and hopped aboard, but then, before he went further he turned and looked at Melissa.

Her eyes were full of tears, yet he felt strength in them, too.

‘So many contradictory impulses,’ he said, if only to himself, then he smiled at her – as the pilot let slip the lines and pushed his airplane away from Altair’s navy blue hull.

“You’ll need to sit up front with me,” the pilot said. “No room aft, I’m afraid.”

“Right.” He looked at Melissa after he clambered up into the tiny cockpit, looked at her – standing on his father’s home – as the airplane taxied out the inlet into open water. He looked down at Altair after they took off and circled the cove, lost inside all the implications of her last words to him.

“He’s in God’s hands now, Ted. Have faith in Him.”

Then, quite suddenly, he knew just what it was she’d experienced – and where his future lay.


She’d never imagined worlds like this existed. That one’s life could be so utterly, so wantonly castrated of meaning, of purpose, of even the simplest joy. It was as if these women, these girls really, had been wiped clean from the book of life. Erased, in silence, and no one would bear witness to their suffering save the warped souls who would torment them on their way through this life. These girls, all of them unwanted in their homeland and lucky even to be alive, had been cast adrift soon after birth, only to be raised almost as domestic animals, kept alive for their potential worth once they reached a certain age. Kept alive for men in America and Europe – so they could be consumed again and again, out of sight, out of mind.

After Elizabeth finished her first dozen interviews she went to talk with the haughtily indifferent girl she suspected of being on the inside. She had no name, she said, and her silence implied she had no existence.

“Where are you from?” asked Elizabeth.

No answer, only an insipid, almost vapid shrug.

“You should answer me, you know? If you don’t, well, you simply go to jail until you do.”

Again, the quietly defiant shrug.

“You think your people in New York will come for you?”

A slight smirk, a quick, sidelong glance of the eye.

“That maybe they’ll get you out so you won’t have to talk to me?”

“You don’t know what you’re dealing with,” the girl said, her English clear and perfect.

“Oh? Enlighten me?”

“Let me go now and you may yet live. Keep me and you’ll be dead by nightfall.”

“Oh? And who do you think will pull that off?”

The insolence on the girl’s face was almost too much for Elizabeth, but she looked into the girl’s eyes, tried to feel her way inside this lost soul, yet she found nothing there – only a darkening void.

“So, you take these girls down to the Village? They already have masters, is that it?”

“And you are dead.”

“No, Mai Ling, I am very much alive and, actually, I have your Passport. The FBI is en route, as is a representative of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And, as you are in a world of trouble I thought I’d give you an opportunity to tell me what you know before the, uh, well, the professionals start in on you…”

A rattled veneer now, a sudden, tectonic shift deep within the girl’s magmatic core.

“The truck driver? Your brother? You do know he’s dead, don’t you? Are you sure you don’t want to talk to me before the FBI gets here? You do realize the danger you are in, don’t you? Your family? What they’ll do to you now that we have these girls?”

Deeper cracks in her veneer, sudden tremors passing across her face like shadows of clouds.

“Your family in Queens? And in Kowloon? All that in jeopardy now. Unless you talk. I can help, you know?”

“You?” the girl cried, the word full of mocking scorn. “You have no idea what you’ve stumbled on, do you? This is just the tip of the iceberg…”

“Really? And what if you’re just a frightened little girl, a girl afraid of the dark.”

They talked for hours after that – while two detectives from the Vermont State Police took notes.


Melissa sat in Altair’s cockpit after Ted left, looking past the bow to the trees that lined the cove, but she appeared lost now. Lost and vulnerable. All she could see in her mind’s eye was the spreading disease within his leg. Black streaks, like lightning gone terribly wrong, and hot to the touch. She’d never seen anything like it but she knew it was evil, that something was coiled up inside of him waiting to strike, and she was afraid because she knew he was going to die. So much was riding on him now – and he was going to die. And now, suddenly, she felt quite helpless to stop this runaway train.

Then she heard Tracy coming up the companionway ladder and she tensed.

“Think you could run me across to the store?” Tracy asked.

“Sure, but there’s no bus service over there. Only seaplanes. Kind of expensive, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh,” the girl said, lost now, and not a little confused.

“So. Who are you running from?”

“Excuse me?”

“Running? Who from? Daddy? A boyfriend? Who?”

The girl turned away, shrugged.

“And? What happens if they find you?”

Tracy shrugged again, then sighed – as really, there was no point in lying now. “I guess they kill me.”

“You know their distribution network, I assume?”

Again the girl nodded, only now she turned and looked at Melissa. “How’d you know?”

“Oh, I’ve met you before. Not you, but girls like you. Caught in the trap, nowhere to turn, no place to run.”

“Dime a dozen, huh?”

“Something like that. Do you want to go home?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did he abuse you?”

She nodded her head a little, a barely perceived, mouselike little motion, almost a denial, yet not quite.

“What about your mum?”

“She was always too afraid.”

“I know, but there’s no need to blame her, you know? Caught in the same trap, I guess.”

“You too?” Tracy asked.

And Melissa shrugged. “Not really, but yeah, I know where you’re coming from.”

“Do you?”

“I’ve helped a few girls in your shoes.”

“Oh, have you?” Tracy said, but there was a layer of scorn in her voice that hung over them both.

“I’d like to think so, yes.”

“Yes, I rather imagine you might like that. Who are you running from, by the way? Boyfriend, or husband?”

“Not that simple, Tracy.”

“It never is, luv. Until it is.”

“When was the last time you thought you were made? Before this week, I mean.”

“About a year ago, in San Francisco. The people running me are tied to the cartels now.”

“No way out in California, is there?”

“No. I always thought I could hide there, but…”

“There’s always someone coming around the next corner, isn’t there?”

“That’s right. Always.”

“Did you tell Ted this part?”

“No, course not. I knew someone was on to me last week like, knew it was time to move again…”

“And along comes Ted.”

“And Jim,” Tracy added.

“Ah, so it’s him that interested you?”

“Until you fuckin’ came along, yeah.”

“Funny how things turn out, isn’t it?”

“Do you know how to sail this thing?”

“Sort of, but not really,” Melissa lied, suddenly realizing she was in imminent mortal danger. “The systems on this boat are…well, I have no idea how to run a boat this complex.”

The girl looked towards the seaplane base across the way. “I wonder where they fly to?”

“Up and down the coast, small fishing towns for the most part. Think you could hide out someplace like that?”

“Maybe. Got any cash?”

“A few hundred. I could buy your ticket, though. Give you what I’ve got on hand.”

That seemed to make up the girl’s mind. “Let me get my kit, then. I want to be out of here before dark.”

“Did you see someone this morning?”

She nodded her head. “Maybe. At that bakery. Someone I remember from Vancouver.”

Melissa thought about that now. Someone looking for Tracy here – if that was really her name – out here on the sound. And now they knew she was on this boat.

Would she be safe out here by herself, she wondered? And, when would Ted be back?

She was in the Zodiac, waiting, when Tracy came up with her duffel, and they rode across the cove in silence. She tied up at the cove and walked up to the store and bought her a ticket to Campbell River, gave her a few hundred dollars then hurried back to the inflatable before the girl changed her mind.

She tied-off on a cleat and climbed up to the aft deck, then went below to her duffel and pulled out an Inmarsat phone and flipped it on. She entered the encryption key and waited for the green light, then dialed a one-time number and waited for the connection.

“Go,” she heard the man’s voice on the other end.

“She’s on the evening flight from Squirrel Cove to Campbell River. Says she’s spotted someone on her tail, but I didn’t see anyone.”

“Your next move?”

“Stay here, for a few days, at least,” then she explained why.


(c) 2017 | adrian leverkuhn | abw |

fiction, all of it…

The Sunset Limited + Conclusion

So, here we go…

But first! A few more images of the real train to get you in the mood. First up, an old advertisement referencing the French Quarter lounge car mentioned in the story (more than once). These full-page advertisements usually appeared in such long-gone magazines as LIFE and The Saturday Evening Post, as well as the National Geographic Magazine.


(below) Here’s another advertisement, and this one appeared in poster form. I’d guess this one is from the early 1960s, too.

SP SL poster

Below, from Amtrak files, a 1960s Sunset Limited about to head over the Huey P Long Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River on the west side of New Orleans.

SP SL Long Bridge

Another shot (below) of the Sunset Limited heading into Los Angeles, circa late-60s. The angular ‘eyebrow’ structures over the cab windows on the lead FP-7 were added to break up snow and ice that might otherwise damage the exhaust fan blades. Southern Pacific carried a lot of traffic over Donner Pass, on the north side of Lake Tahoe, and most all their later F-units were so-equipped.


(below) A Sunset Limited “crossing the diamonds” as it arrives in downtown Los Angeles, seen crossing the Los Angeles River just east of the station. This train is still wearing ‘Daylight’ colors, and as the surrounding area is not built up I’d guess this is an early 1950s image. Note the number board on the front of the lead EMD E-7A unit. Number 1 is the westbound Sunset Limited; the eastbound train would be numbered “2”. Obviously, Southern Pacific considered the Sunset Limited their premier offering, and trains from New York, Florida and points in between converged on New Orleans to feed this train, including many through sleeper cars. Many transcontinental passengers disliked a layover in Chicago, preferring instead to schedule a layover and visit the French Quarter. Still, by the time of this story, service was being cut back, some might say sabotaged, so that the SP could get out of the more cost-ineffective passenger business.


A note: if interested in picking up a few prints of passenger trains from this era, I’d recommend dropping by John Winfield’s site (link here); he has several prints of the Sunset Limited, as well as SP Daylight-era trains in his varied offerings. Paintings, of course, available as affordable prints, I have a few that he did of Dallas back in the day. Cherished memories, I guess, need reminders on the wall. Winfield is about as good as they come, too. He gets the mood right.

winfield SP SL

I’ve taken the Sunset Limited a few times, once on the old SP and, of course, via Amtrak. The new incarnation is nothing like the old, but it’s not a bad way to cross the country – if you have the time. I gave up taking scheduled airlines after 911 and have usually been able to get where I need on Amtrak. It takes a bit longer, true, but it’s still a somewhat more pleasant way to get around than being herded like cattle and shoved in a metal tube. Anyway, I digress far too much…

So, on to the conclusion.

Sunset limited logo

Chapter Four

The train pulled into the station at Uvalde, Texas just ten minutes late – at three ten in the morning – and Sara looked out the window at the flat, almost treeless moonscape, and at the flat, treeless station – and thought she must have found the bleakest corner of the universe. The station looked, in the moonlight, like something out of a John Ford western – and if the sun had been out she’d have not been at all surprised to see a bunch of Comanches sitting around a cracker barrel drinking whiskey…

And she was worried, too.

It had been almost four hours since she’d seen or heard from ‘Ben’ – and she’d only heard the porter walking down the corridor once, when a woman rang him a little after two to ask for some water. She’d dared not check on him either, not after his warning, so she rang the porter after the train started moving again, and he came by a few minutes later.


“Is the lounge car still open?”

“Yes, doctor. Could I fetch you something?”

“No, no, I just can’t sleep. I think I’ll go sit up for a while.”

“You want me to freshen up your bed while you’re gone?”

“If you don’t mind, yes, that’d be nice.”

“Alrighty. You go on up; I’ll get to your room while you’re gone.”

“Thanks,” she said, then she slipped on her loafers and walked forward. No light on in his room, she saw, and no sign of activity within, either, so she walked forward to the lounge. There were other night-owls sitting up: a couple playing cards, a fat, bespectacled man writing on a notepad and, of course, the attendant behind the bar, so she walked up to the bar.

“I can’t sleep,” she began. “Know anything that might help?”

He nodded – and grinned: “I can fix that.”

“Better make it two,” Ben said, slipping quietly next to Sara’s side.

She looked at him and grinned, then they watched as the bartender put four scoops of vanilla ice cream in a blender, then added a troublesome amount of Gran Marnier, a dash a white rum, then a liberal splash of Tia Maria before setting the blender on it’s base and turning it on for ten seconds. He then poured two tall glasses and set them down.

“Try that…” the bartender said, “but be careful. This one kind of sneaks up from behind – fast!”

Sara did, and her eyes went wide. “That’s fantastic!”

Carter tried it, then nodded. “That’ll do the job, alright. Better make two more.”

The bar-keep grinned knowingly and set about making two more while Carter led her to their table. “Couldn’t sleep?” he asked.

“Not a wink. How’d things go?”

“Fine. This is a fine little drink, ya know?”

“It’s like a milkshake, only better…”

“I’ve never had a milkshake like this before.”

“Learned this recipe at Brennan’s,” the bartender said, setting down the two new drinks. “It’s a favorite at brunch on Sunday mornings.”

“I can see why,” Sara added, already feeling a little tipsy..

Carter handed over some money, told the bartender to keep the change before he turned to look at the other people in the car. “You horny yet?” he asked in a whisper.

“YES! You?” she whispered loudly.

He nodded. “I can’t seem to think about anything else. Very unprofessional of me.”

“Think this will ‘reload’ your gun?”

“If it doesn’t – nothing will.”

“Are you okay? You look a little, well, upset.”

“I am.”

“Want to talk?”

“Later. Not here.”

She nodded, shook her head. “This thing’s hit me like a ton of bricks,” she said as she polished off the first 12 ounce glass. She picked up the second and tossed off about half that one in one long pull, too.

“Better take it easy – or you won’t be doing anything for the next 12 hours…”

“Wanna bet?” she said – licking her lips.

“Not really, but I don’t want to carry you through a moving train, either.”

She snorted then squealed – and everyone turned and looked at her, then grinned and turned back to their tables – except the fat old man, who was sitting a few feet away.

“Best be careful with those hammers, young lady,” he said. “Ian’s are legendary in these parts for being both smooth – and lethally strong. Don’t go too fast, or the velvet will turn into a nasty hammer!”

They watched as she swooned in her chair, still snort-giggling as she picked up her glass and finished the second drink. Carter – wide-eyed – stood quickly and caught her as she slid sideways out of her chair.

“Oops,” the old man said. “Need a hand with that?”

“No, sir. I’ve got her.”

The fat man shrugged, turned back to his writing and Carter picked her up, tossed her over his shoulder and started back to their car, doing his best to shield her head as the train rolled along. The porter was just coming out of her room when Carter huffed into the corridor, and the old man turned, saw her and grinned.

“Don’t tell me. Velvet Hammers?”

“Two of ‘em. She just sucked ’em down, too!”

“Uh-oh. I take it the doc ain’t a big drinker?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I better gets a bunch more towels, maybe a bucket, too.”


“You ready to fuck yet?” she crooned – and the porter rolled his eyes.

“She gonna go fast tonight, like one of ‘dem volcano movies. I better scoot!”

He sighed, looked at her head hanging limply: “No, I’m not quite ready, Sara. Why don’t you start without me.”

“Okay,” she crooned again – her lilting voice carrying happy notes of carefree inebriation down the corridor.

He set her down on the freshly made bed and stood, waiting for the porter – and the eruption that had to be coming.

“Was that him?”

He spun around, saw her sitting up – and saw she was now, suddenly, stone cold sober. “What?” he said, his voice registering confusion.

“The fat man? Was he the one who killed your friends?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know, but I assume it’s either him or the other couple there.”

“The couple…they’ve been walking around out in the hallway a lot.”

He shrugged. “Who are you?”

“What do you mean? You know who I am…”

They heard the porter coming and Carter slid the door open, held a hand out to take the towels – then he heard Sara moaning on the bed. “Looks like you got here just in time,” he added.

“Lawdy, lawdy, I keep sayin’ Ian makes ‘dem things too strong.”

“Yeah? Well, thanks, I got it from here…”

“You need a hand you just holler.”

“Will do.” He slid the door shut and locked it – again – then turned to her as she sat up and grinned. “So, who the Hell do you work for?”

“County-USC hospital writes the checks…”

“Come on, no bullshit…”

“Open my purse. My last paycheck is in my checkbook.”

“That doesn’t mean shit.”

“It does to me! If I don’t deposit it soon I’m going to start bouncing checks…”

He saw the truth in her eyes, but still, he couldn’t reconcile her actions. “So, why…”

“Because I want to help! You! Got it, numbskull!?”


“Yeah. There are people on this train – right? – trying to kill you. I want to help.”

He grinned, chuckled a little when her words registered. “So, Sara Berman, MD. Super Spy. Is that about right?”

“You betcha. But first, don’t you think I need to know what’s going on?”

He sat down, let slip a long sigh – then shook his head gently. “About two weeks ago a military cryptographer stationed in France, a kid named Dinkin, apparently flipped out and went AWOL, but he ran to Switzerland. He contacted someone he knew in the UN there, and he told them a story…

“He read intercepted dispatches between military units – in Texas – the upshot of which is that there are five teams on the ground in Dallas, and they’re going to try and take out Kennedy later today.”

Her face went pale, her eyes round with fear.

“We’ve been tailing several known actors in this plot…”


He shook his head. “Just another word for suspects.”


“And we picked up a new one a few days ago, a guy named Oswald. He’s been in and out of New Orleans a lot, and as we picked up more chatter about him last week, well, the last few days, we decided to intervene. We think Oswald is under the control of a mob family out of Chicago, but acting through a cut-out in New Orleans. I was there yesterday to take out who we think is Oswald’s controller, the thinking being maybe we can stop Oswald from getting a ‘go ahead’ – and he’ll abort.”

“Mob? You mean, like, the mafia?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“But, what about the other teams?”

“We know where one is setting up, but no idea where the others are.”

“Are they military?”

He shrugged. “No one knows. Military, mob, Cuban…no one I know knows who’s doing what, but there’s apparently a faction in government that does. And apparently Kennedy does too. And he won’t back down. Anyway, we have almost all our agents from Europe on the ground in Texas now, and some from the FBI, but we don’t have enough to cover all the leads.”

“And you’re afraid something’s going to happen, aren’t you?”

“There are too many people out there, too many loose cannons, and too few people around the president to keep this from going down.”

“Is that why you asked me about Kennedy yesterday?”

He nodded. “I was trying to flush you out into the open, see who you’re working for.”

She shook her head. “So what happens next?”

“They either get him – or they don’t.”

“You mean…kill him? The President?”

He nodded his head. “Yup.”

“So, why are there people trying to take you out. And your friends?”

“They don’t know how much intel we have, and I suppose they look at us as loose ends. We know enough to bring down the conspiracy.”


“They’ll have to eliminate us.”

“And…since I know you?”

He nodded his head. “Sorry.”

“Oy vey.”

“You can say that again.”

“What’s your backup plan?”

“Mexico,” he lied. “I have a place down there.”

“You have room for me?”

He nodded. “I can make that work.”

“Can you get us out of the country? Safely?”

“Hey, you’re the one who reads Ian Fleming novels. Can’t you?”

“Nothing comes to mind, no. Short of jumping off the train…”

“I’m guessing you’ve never tried to cross a desert, on foot…?”

“I’ve seen Lawrence of Arabia…does that count?” she grinned.

“Almost,” he said, sighing and shaking his head again.

“So, there’s nothing we can do about Kennedy?”

He sighed. “My guess? Containing the news, and the fallout, is a military operation – so yeah, there’s nothing to do now but get out of the crosshairs. There will be an orderly transfer of power, a cursory investigation and it’ll all go away in a few months. A few history books will have to be updated, but that’ll be the end of it.”

“So, we just need to get out of sight? For how long?”

He shrugged. “Probably forever. Can you deal with that?”


“You’ll be able to get your medical license anywhere you go. No big deal.”

“Assuming I can use my own name, you mean?”

“The appropriate people can be paid to get things like that taken care of. What languages do you speak?”

“Other than English? Hebrew of course, a little German, more French.”

“No Spanish?”

“Junior high, but languages always came easy to me.”

He heard a clicking sound, then the lock on the door vaporized – followed by several more bullets smashing into the seat…

He pushed Sara to the floor while he pulled out the Walther, then he squeezed into a corner – and waited…

Then all the lights went out.

He heard the door sliding open, saw a handgun enter the room, then the silhouette of an arm, then a head…

He squeezed the trigger once and the Walther coughed, and he saw the head jerk back before the body crumpled and fell to the floor.

Voices in the corridor – “Jesus!” and “What the fuck?” – then footsteps…retreating.

A moment later the lights came back on, and he heard the door hissing open in the vestibule. He pulled the body into the room and slid the door closed, then he turned to Sara.

She lay crumbled on the floor – motionless – and he dropped to her side.

“Sara? You with me?”

An eye opened and she looked up at him. “Are we dead yet?”

He grinned. “Sorry, no, not yet.”

She looked at the man on the floor, the man from the lounge car. “Do you know him?”

He shook his head. “Let’s get him into the toilet for now,” and they both stood, hefted the man up and shoved him into the tiny compartment. “Do you smell…shit?” he asked.

She nodded. “Most people, when they die fast like this…their bowels and bladder cut loose.”

“Funny. I usually never hang around for that part.”

“Welcome to my world.”

“Shitty way to go.”

“Stop it. I mean that…just stop it!”

“Oh, alright.”

“Does he have any money, anything in his pockets?”

“Good thinking, Miss Bond,” he said as he went in and patted the man down. He came out with a wallet and an envelope, which was stuffed with hundred dollar bills. “This might come in handy…”

“Ya think? Who is he?” she asked as he flipped through the man’s wallet.

“No I.D., but some more cash,” he said as he pulled more currency out of the billfold, “maybe five hundred or so in dollars, some Swiss francs and Italian lira, too. And…a key?”

A knock on the door.

“What happened to this door!?” they heard the porter say. “Land-sakes! What now?”

He pulled the door open, pulled the porter into the room and showed him the body.

“What’s goin’ on here?” the old man said suspiciously.

“I’m law enforcement,” Carter said, “and I need to speak with the conductor.”

“You got somethin’ that looks kinda like a badge?”

Carter pulled his wallet from the jacket hanging by a hook on the back of the door and handed it over, and the old man looked it over before handing it back, nodding his head. “Alright. Stay right here. And keep this door closed!”

“Don’t worry…” he said, then he looked at his watch and turned to Berman. “I’m assuming they’ve reached the others we have on the train too, but…”

“The others?”

“Our team…of investigators.”

“More loose ends?”

He nodded again. “Yup.”

“What’s going on? You’re talking like they’re two competing teams within our government, one trying to kill Kennedy, the other trying to stop that from happening…”

He looked her in the eye. “That’s about the size of it. There are people, on the inside, and I mean all the way from Washington to the Dallas Police Department, that are in on this thing. The scale is staggering, too.”

“Why not just call the newspapers, the TV stations?”

“And expose the rift in our government? That would start a civil war, or worse, right when we’re at our weakest. The country is divided…”

“And you think killing Kennedy will help?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You don’t have to.”

He looked away. “Look, this country has been divided from the beginning, between mercantile interests, the big money, and the little guy…”

“It’s like that everywhere…”

He shook his head. “Not like it is here. Here we hold out the proposition as self evident, that any man can get ahead. That’s real new in human history. In the past that impulse was held in check by a monarch, or by a vested nobility, but not here, not now. That’s an explosive force, Sara. So much expectation, so much money, our entire system awash in material expectation, and the entire thing, for a hundred years, has been fueled by cheap oil – but that era’s coming to an end. Kennedy knows that and wants to put the brakes on, reorient the economy. The oil companies and the so-called military-industrial complex want to stop him, and one way or another they’re going to.”

“If they kill him, they’re killing…”

“Yeah. We’re at a fork in the road. If they kill him they’re nullifying the will of the people.”

“Then they’re killing the country.”

He shook his head. “No, just one vision of the country, the vision FDR tried to implement.”

“I feel sick to my stomach.”

Another knock on the door…the porter talking with another man in the corridor. Carter slid the door open.

The conductor standing there poked his head in the room. “You have a body in there?” he said, nodding to the toilet compartment.

“Yes. My concern is that there may be more on-board, probably hidden.”

“Do we need to stop the train? Get people off…?”

“How many people are onboard?”

“241, plus the crew.”

“What’s the next stop?”


“Anything there?”

“Like what?”

“An airport?”

“Not that I know of. We usually just pick up mail there. No one scheduled to get on or off tonight.”

He thought for a moment… “No, just keep on schedule. My guess is whoever’s behind this will try to get off there.”

“You need back-up?”

Then the train started slowing, obviously coming to a stop, and he looked at the conductor. “What’s going on?”

“We meet the eastbound train out here about now…stop on a siding to let it pass…”

He held up the Walther and looked at the conductor. “I need a clean shot, in case they try to jump across…”

The conductor’s eyes widened. “Vestibule is the only place. Follow me.”

“Stay here,” Carter told Berman, shutting the door behind as he left. The conductor had the trackside door open by the time he got to the vestibule, and the conductor was already down on the gravel ballast, looking at the eastbound Sunset Limited approaching – still about a mile away – but he could hear the approaching train slowing down.

“That’s not right,” the conductor said. “It usually passes at speed.”

“Not tonight. You better get up here, out of the line of fire.”

“Who are these people you’re after,” the conductor said as he climbed back up.

“Mafia. They killed a bunch of people in New Orleans,” Carter said.

“God – damn!”

The eastbound train sounded off – three short blasts – with it’s horn, and their stationary train responded with one long blast just before the engines met, and Carter saw a head poke out of a car near the front of their westbound consist, the head silhouetted by the oncoming Alco…and then a wide door opened on the eastbound train, in the baggage car…

The eastbound train stopped and the fat man from the lounge stepped down from the car – and Carter squeezed off a round just as a woman followed, hopping down onto the gravel ballast. The fat man swatted at his neck, like he’d been bitten by a stinging insect, then he fell to the ground. The woman turned and looked towards Carter, and his second bullet found her, struck her in the base of the throat, in her windpipe, and she too fell to the ground…

He heard the eastbound’s engine’s throttle up and he ducked inside out of view as the baggage car slid past, then he turned to the conductor. “Tell the engine not to move. We need to get those bodies into the baggage car.”

The conductor ran forward just as the train started moving, but a few seconds later it stopped – the two bodies now almost right outside the vestibule – and he hopped down, checked for signs of life, found both were still alive and groaned.

“Anything you want to tell me?” he asked the fat man.


Carter placed the Walther’s silenced barrel just above the ear and pulled the trigger; the man’s body jumped, then twitched a few times as he sidled over to the woman.

“You? Want to tell me anything, something that might keep you alive a while longer?”

“Fuck you, Dead Man.”

“So be it.” One more round and she too was gone, and he picked her up, carried her body to the baggage car just as two men appeared trackside. They picked up the fat man and carried him to the baggage car, and a few minutes later the train resumed it’s journey, with almost all aboard none-the-wiser.

“What next?” the conductor asked.

“We find the other bodies.”

“But they could be anywhere…”

“How long ‘til we hit Sanderson?”

“A half hour, maybe.”

Carter led them to the car beyond his own, 2311, then to two compartments he knew of – and they accounted for five dead agents before he moved on to the last car. One more compartment, one more agent. He bent close and pulled papers out of his controllers jacket pocket, and as he read the dossier he wondered why they’d left it. ‘So I’ll find it, obviously,’ he said to himself.

“You might as well leave them where they lie,” he told the conductor when he heard them man walk up. “You’ll need to notify the FBI as we near Los Angeles.”

“Those two did all this?”

“Three, but yes.”

“Oh, the one in your compartment. You think there are more of them onboard?”

“Yes, one more,” he sighed. “To take out…me.”

“Do you know who it is?”

He nodded his head. “Yes, I do,” he said – as he folded up the paper.


The man from the toilet compartment had been moved by the time he returned to ‘Berman’s’ compartment, and he went inside and slid the shattered door to, then sat across from her.

“You’ve been gone a long time,” she said – then he handed the dossier to her as he pulled the Walther out and laid it on his lap.

She read the document, looked at the attached photographs in the dim light, then she looked up at him.

“This isn’t me…” she said, her voice quavering. “Some one planted this. It’s not me.”

“Mossad? Why?” he said, pointing the Walther at her forehead. “Why would Israel be in on this, too?”

“This is not me!” she said, her eyes filling with tears.

He pulled the trigger once, just once, his eyes filling with tears too – then he smiled.


When the Sunset Limited pulled into El Paso he slipped off the train and walked through the old brick station, noting the news flashes coming from Dallas. The president had been shot and was being rushed to Parkland Hospital, and he shook his head as he walked out to the taxi stand in front of the station. He walked up to the first taxi and poked his head in the front passenger door: “Can you take me across the border, over to Juarez?”

“Sure thing.”

He got in the back seat and sighed. “Go around the block first, would you? Just swing by the front again.”

“It’s your dime, mister.”

He rolled down the window, was surprised at how warm it was here. “Seems pretty hot for November,” he said.

“Almost ninety.”

“You hear about Kennedy?”

“No? What’s going on?”

“He’s been shot. In Dallas.”

“Really? Well, hallelujah! There is a God!”

He smiled at that, smiled at the implications of what that would mean going forward. Two countries – split right down the middle – each united in their hatred for “the other side.”

They turned and were passing the station again, and he leaned forward a little. “See the woman there, in the brown dress – and the high heels?”


“Let’s pick her up.”

“Okay.” The driver pulled over to the curb and Carter opened the door.

“Glad you could make it,” he said to Sara Berman – and she slid in beside him.

“Did you see the news?”

He nodded but didn’t say another word, and the taxi slipped back into the early afternoon traffic, bound for Mexico.

This story © 2017 | adrian leverkühn | abw |

from Wikipedia: In “Allegations of PFC Eugene Dinkin,”the Mary Farrell Foundation summarizes and archives documents related to Private First Class Eugene B. Dinkin, a cryptographic code operator stationed in Metz, France, who went AWOL in early November 1963, entered Switzerland using a false ID, and visited the United Nations’ press office and declared that officials in the U.S. government were planning to assassinate President Kennedy, adding that “something” might happen to the Commander in Chief in Texas. Dinkin was arrested nine days before Kennedy was killed, placed in psychiatric care, and released shortly thereafter. His allegations eventually made their way to the Warren Commission, but, according to the Ferrell Foundation account, the Commission took no interest in the matter, and indeed omitted any mention of Dinkin from its purportedly encyclopedic 26 volumes of evidence.

WIP + The Sunset Limited + Ch O2

Sunset limited logo

So, off we go, a little deeper into the night. A short read…enjoy.

Chapter Two

Carter looked at the menu and decided the cheeseburger looked like the least deadly option, but after the heavy breakfast he’d just eaten in the Quarter even the idea of a hamburger felt oppressive. And just now, after slamming down three rums in a half hour, he felt a little light-headed when he’d walked into the swaying dining car – though of course Berman seemed unaffected by the splash of rum she’d not quite finished.

He’d walked behind her, looking at her legs as she made her way forward, then up at her hips and back, and there was something about her that just seemed a little too well put together. She looked too strong, he observed, and that bothered him. For someone who’d allegedly spent years studying, he thought something was “off” if a girl like this was too strong. His mind worked through the problem as he watched her walk, because in his worldview when something was “off” the situation soon devolved into a “kill or be killed” situation.

He had no problem killing, of course. That was part of his job description after all, and he’d killed more than a few women over the years, too. Even a few children, he thought, if you considered the airliners he’d brought down. No, he just didn’t have any desire to kill anyone he didn’t absolutely have to kill. The thing was, however, he wasn’t sure about this girl – yet.

And she was cute.

He hated killing cute.

So he’d taken the seat across from her’s, his mind full of contradictory warning klaxons, his eyes searching for clues…

“What are you going to have?” she asked.

“You,” he said, then he shook his head. “Excuse me. I meant – a cheeseburger.”

“Me? You want me for lunch?”

“I’m sorry. I think that was the run talking.”

“Really? Remind me to drink rum more often, would you?”

He laughed – a little laugh that seemed to come from someplace far away, then he looked out the window into the black-water swamp just a few yards from the tracks. “It looks dangerous out there,” he said, and he watched her reflection in the glass, watched her head turn and look out too – but their eyes seemed to meet inside that moment. Meet, and lock-on, inside the glass.


“Everything that moves out there can kill you.”

“Have you spent a lot of time in swamps?”


“Scouting for movies?”

He turned and looked into her eyes, yet he saw nothing to fear – and again, that troubled him. She was either what she said she was, or she was something much more dangerous. “That’s right,” he said, looking her in the eye – trying to decide.

“So, you’ve spent time in swamps and you’d like to eat me for lunch. I guess that makes you, what? An alligator?”


“If you could choose to be any other animal, anything other than human, what would you choose?”

He shook his head. “I have no idea.”

“Oh, come on. Pick one.”

He looked out the window again, tried to ignore the question – but he couldn’t. His mind filled with the image of an eagle screaming down out of the clouds and snatching a snake – a snake coiled a large, flat rock. ‘And who am I?’ he thought. ‘The eagle, or the snake?’


“I think a bird of some sort. Maybe an eagle, or a falcon.”

“A predator, then?”


“Odd. Not what I’d have picked for you.”

A waiter came up to their table. “What can I get you folks this afternoon?” he asked.

She looked up. “Cup of soup and a grilled cheese, please.”

“To drink?”

“Do you have iced tea?”

“Yes’m. And you, sir?”

“Cheeseburger and a Coke, I guess.”

“Potato chips okay?”

“Fine,” he said, and he watched the waiter walk off before he turned to her again. “So, what do you think I’d be?”

“A horse. Steady and dependable.”

“Really. Interesting. A beast of burden. And who do you on my back?”

She smiled. “I’m not sure. Yet.”

“What’s it like…to dissect another human being?”


“Didn’t you take anatomy your first year?”

“I heard you. I’m just trying to make the jump from talking about horses to cutting up a cadaver…”

“I can’t imagine what that must feel like. Another human being…”

“Why would you want to imagine that? It’s hard enough doing it, but you can intellectualize the exercise, I guess, when you understand the objective of the class, when that’s what you’re studying.”

“So, how’d you do?”

“The first lab session, when we were assigned cadavers and a cadaver buddy? I remember the smell most of all, then we were given an info sheet. You know, who the person was, what they did, how they lived and how they died. The idea being they wanted us to realize we were not just cutting up some piece of meat…but that was a person, a person with a life, with hopes and dreams…”

“What kind of person did you have?”

“A middle aged woman,” Berman said, a hard edge in her voice. “She’d had breast cancer and passed after fighting it for two years. She had a husband and three boys. She’d been a nurse most her life, and wanted her body donated to the medical school.”

“What color was her hair?”

“Red,” Berman said, not missing a beat.

“What could you tell about her, just by looking at her?”

“That she fought her cancer until she couldn’t take one more breath.”

He nodded, shook his head at the reflection in the glass. “Sounds like my mom.”

“I’m sorry, Ben. I don’t like talking about this stuff, okay?”

“Yeah. What was your favorite class, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Anatomy. My least favorite was my fourth year rotation through psychiatry. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.”


“Yup. With older inpatient psychiatric patients, well, it’s like looking at people locked within in an endless cycle of despair, and their’s no real treatment. It’s like stuffing broken people into a warehouse. They sit on a shelf until the rest of their body wears out and dies. I’ve never been as depressed as I was for those six weeks. Like I said…helpless. I hated that feeling.”

“Maybe that’s why you want to be a surgeon? To work on eyes?”

She nodded. “I know. I want to fix things, help people. Tell me about your mother.”

“She was a nurse, but my dad died when I was still a, well, when I was young. She raised us, me and my brothers.”

“How long ago did she die?”

He sighed, looked down at the table. “Fifteen years, I guess,” he said softly.

“Do you miss her?”

“Every day.”

“I can’t believe my dad’s gone. It’s only been a week but I still feel numb inside.”

He watched her eyes fill with tears – and reached across the table and took her hand. “I know,” he sighed. “It never really goes away.”


He shook his head, picked up his glass. “Rum helps. Sometimes. What did he do?”

“He was a lawyer, but he’s been a judge for a long time. Mom still works there, in the court clerk’s office.”

“You had no interest in the law?”

“No, not really. That and politics. No interest at all.”

“You like Kennedy?”

“I guess. He seems more honest about the problems facing the world, and less likely to start another war.”


“Yeah, but like I said, I don’t keep up with politics, all that stuff. Pointless.”


“Yeah. I mean, everybody likes to grouse about how politicians are nothing but con-men, then they turn around and root for their team, for their con-man, because – supposedly – their con-man is better than the other sides con-man. All we end up with, one way or another, is a bunch of con-men deciding our destiny.”

“Sounds like a cynical worldview.”

“Maybe, but I’m not a cynic.”

“So. Kennedy?”

“What about him?”

“What if he was to disappear, like…tomorrow. Would that be a good thing?”

“Disappear? How do you mean?”

“Oh, just hypothetically. Someone waved a magic wand and presto – poof – he was gone. Would that be a good thing for the country?”

She shrugged. “That’s not reality, the way this world works, is it? I don’t see the point of the question.”

“Oh, you’re correct. There’s no point.”

“What do you think about Kennedy?”

His face a mask, he shrugged, looked away. “Camelot. I liked the metaphor,” he said wistfully.


“Like. They’re very photogenic people.”

“The missiles last year. Khrushchev, all that stuff. What did you think of that?”

He had tried not to, for more than a year now, but he couldn’t let go of the memory, of how close the world had come to annihilation.  “It worked out well, in the end, I suppose.”


“We’re still here.”

“Do you think the country would be better off? Without Kennedy, I mean?”


“You’d like him to just disappear, then?”

He nodded his head. “Yes. I would.”

And when she looked into his eyes, when he said those three words, she saw into a space of infinite darkness – waiting, a hollow hatred that left her feeling more bereft than she had when she’d learned of her father’s passing. “I see,” she said.

“Of course, as you said, that’s not the world we live in.”

“The world is what we make of it, don’t you think?”

“As opposed to?”

“Oh, I don’t know. The idea that, perhaps, God takes care of everything.”

“Maybe He does.”

“Do you believe that?”

“It’s either that or there’s no purpose to all this.”


“Some meaning to it all.”

“What about the notion of a life well-lived. The Good Life, things like that?”

He shrugged. “The Good Life?”

“Aristotle. The idea that goodness is it’s own reward, that leading a good life, a life dedicated to producing good in the world, is the best a man can do.”

“Where does that leave women?”

“Men, women…humans.”

“No heaven? No hell?”

She shrugged. “Just working to achieve good, here, in this life.”

“What’s the point?”


“Without the idea of salvation, of a life beyond this one, what’s the point of living at all?”


“Without salvation, without forgiveness, what is there left out there – but a jungle?”

Her soup came, a steaming bowl of chicken and rice, and she looked at it, suddenly not sure she could eat. “So, the only reason to act with virtue is because God is watching? And that He’ll forgive you if you sin?”

“That’s right.”

“But what if you sin, and He doesn’t. What if some sins are so bad He either can not, or will not, forgive them.”

“That’s why there’s Hell.”

“So, you can act without virtue all your life, work to create harm all your life, then at the last minute recant and ask for forgiveness?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. I think that’s God’s purview, though. Not mine.”

“Interesting,” she sighed. “What about your mother? Did she believe that?”

He shook his head again. “No.”

“But you do?”

He nodded. “Yes, I do.”

“What about the notion of leading a good life?”

“Sometimes a man’s got to do what he’s got to. He may not like it, but he just has to.”

“For example?”

“Say killing people, in a war. He may not want to, but he has to.”

“Does he?”

“Yes. If he’s a man.”

“I see.”

“How’s your soup.”

“Too hot. What about high heels? What do you think God has to say about those?”

“What do you mean?”

“Aren’t high heels sinful?”

“Sinful? How so?”

“Don’t they promote impure thoughts?”

“I’m not a priest.”

“Only priests can have impure thoughts?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“What about stockings? Lingerie, and all that stuff?”

“What about it?”

“I listened to a psychiatrist talk about the Christian symbolism of those things, like a woman taking off her stockings is analogous to a snake shedding it’s skin, the snake analogy referring to original sin, Adam and Eve in the Garden.”

“Really? Stockings?”

“Really. A lot of the things we encounter in daily life are symbols for some of the things we struggle with on a metaphysical plane.”

“And sometimes a snake is just a snake.”

She laughed. “I suppose so.”

“You walk out there in that swamp for five minutes, then talk to me about the metaphorical meaning of snakes.”

“Okay, but what about the man who chooses to go out and walk through that swamp, to walk among the snakes?”

“That man is a fool.”

“Really? Maybe he’s just a man who has faith?”


They walked back to their sleeping car after lunch, and while she half expected him to follow to her room, he ducked into his own and shut the door. More amused than disappointed, after their conversation she was more convinced than ever that ‘Ben Carter’ was anything but a ‘movie location scout.’ She had, on the other hand, no idea what he did or who he worked for, but she did have the very certain feeling she didn’t want to know those things. He was, she thought, attractive – in a way – but there was a hard undercurrent of danger behind his eyes – something evasive and, yes, she had to admit – predatory.

She sat, looking out the window as the train slowed and stopped in New Iberia. She admired the red brick station, a long, low, one story affair with broad, sheltering overhangs that looked vaguely like it belonged in New England, and she saw three men standing almost directly beneath her window, looking at the vestibule and the exit from her car – when she saw Ben walk up to the men and shake hands with one of the men. When that man leaned forward a bit his jacket swung open, and she saw a badge clipped to the man’s belt, as well as a pistol dangling inside a barely concealed shoulder holster – and she leaned back in her seat when it looked like Ben might turn his head her way. She wished the windows opened, wanted to hear what was being said, but she remained still – and out of sight – until she heard the train’s horn blast once. Moments later the car jerked ever so slightly and began moving again, and she leaned forward, looked out the window and saw only one of the men walking to a car in the lot adjacent to the station – and she watched him until the station slid from view.

She heard people walking outside her door and wondered if he’d stop and talk, but no, a minute passed, then another, and nothing – so she decided to go forward to the lounge car and get another Coke, or maybe some coffee. She felt sleepy, like she needed a nap, and maybe, she thought, caffeine would help keep her awake. She yawned, wiped errant water from her eyes while she stood, then she slipped on her heels and reached for the door.


His voice?

Ah, talking to the porter – about dinner reservations.

Then…a knock on her door. She opened it and the porter was standing there expectantly.


“I’m coming by, taking dinner reservations, and this man,” he said, nodding to Carter with his head, “wanted to know if you’d care to join him at seven?”

“Yes, that’d be fine,” she said, looking at Carter – who was staring at her legs again.

The porter wrote something on his notepad, said “Very good,” then walked on to the next room in the car.

“I was going to go get a Coke,” she said to Carter then, and he looked up, grinned, then nodded his head.

“Me too. Want some company?”

“Sure. But no more rum. I’m about to pass out as is.”

“I know. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes open right now.”

“I was thinking of coffee,” she said as they walked forward, squeezing past the porter in the narrow corridor, “but it smelled stale.”

“I’m sticking with Coke.”

“You don’t like Dr Pepper?”

“Too sweet. Makes my teeth ache.”

Their same table was still open so she sat while he trundled up to the counter, and he came back a moment later – empty handed – and sat. The attendant brought glasses and bottles of Coke – and another cup full of lime quarters – then laid the things out on the little table for them.

Carter poured both glasses and she watched his movements – fluid, sure of himself – then looked at his eyes. More unsettled now, unsettled – but full of resolve. She could see his carotid, see his pulse and she began a short count: resting – 110, and she noted the fine bead of perspiration on his upper lip and in his hair-line. Something had changed, and he was doing his level best to hide it, too.

“Interesting station,” she said.


“That last station. Interesting architecture. Kind of rococo. All the arched doors and windows, the overhangs.”

If this was her way, he thought, of telling him she’d seen him on the platform, she was certainly being coy about it. He took a wedge of lime and squeezed it, watched the juice run off his fingers into the deep brown cola in his glass, then he looked up at her. “Rococo?”

“Italianate. Kind of popular in the late 19th-century.”

He shrugged, bunched his lips a little. “Not my thing, I guess.”

“Oh? I’d have thought a location scout would have to be attuned to such things.”

“Would you?”

“Looked like cops on the platform, too. Guns and badges all tucked away out of sight. Kind of interesting, I think.” She watched him stiffen ever so slightly, made another carotid count – 120 now, his blood pressure going up too – then she just grinned at him. “It’s funny how things are never quite as simple as they seem, isn’t it?”

“Funny?” he asked, his voice catching, the word coming out more like a frog’s croak.

Her grin widened to a broad smile, and she could tell that unsettled him even more. “Why don’t you relax – before you have a stroke.”

“Who the fuck are you?” he growled softly, his voice now full of menace, like a predator who’d suddenly been forced back into an unexpected corner.

“Sara Berman, M.D.,” she said casually, “intern and wannabe eye-doc. Who the fuck are you?”

“You don’t want to know, okay?”

“Okay,” she said, now focusing intently on his twitching lip, “if you say so. But could I ask you one thing?”

He shrugged. “Go ahead.”

“Why do you keep staring at my legs?”

The question seemed to startle him, jerk him back from wherever it was he’d gone. “Stare? Do I? I wasn’t aware…”

“You do. It’s kinda cute, too.”


She nodded her head, grinned again. “Yup. I like it, like that you like them.”

“I do, you know. You said you’ve never been with a man before?”

“I did.”

“That’s true? I mean, you’re not BS-ing me?”

“No. No BS.”

“You, like, holding out for your wedding night?”

She laughed at that, a little, attractive laugh – honest, not evasive. “No-o-o,” she said, drawing out the word in a way that dripped with latent meaning. “Why do you ask?”

“Because…if I don’t make love to you, soon, I may lose it.”

“Make love? Don’t you mean…fuck?”

“No. I mean make love. To every inch of you.”

“Starting with my legs?”

“If you’d like that, yes.”

She felt the change in her thighs almost immediately, and the warmth spread to her belly as he spoke. “Yes. I think I’d like that.” She finished her Coke and stood, and he stood too, then he followed her to the sleeping car – his eyes never leaving her legs.


This fragment © 2017 | adrian leverkühn | abw |

Strangers on a Train

Was working on this one Friday when a comment came in, asking if I knew of a certain book. I’d run across that book, in the place mentioned in the first paragraph of this story, almost 30 years before. Synchronicity, I think, is the word I’m thinking of.

strangers on a train

Strangers on a Train

He rubbed his eyes, looked at his fountain pen – leaking, again – a puddle of deep blue spreading on the paper. He picked up the pen and threw it in a nearby trash can, then took a little packet of tissues out of his jacket and wiped his ink off the paper and tossed that away, too. He looked at his watch and shook his head, packed up his things and grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and walked out to the reception. The old man shoved the register across his desk and he signed his name, once again, then took off down the steps and out onto the snowy walk, but he pulled out his little Leica and took a shot of the stained ochre house. Mann’s last house, at the university, on the hillside overlooking Zurich. Now an archive where he’d spent most of the last week buried in drafts of old manuscripts and correspondence, and where he’d realized he was tired of academia. Of books and musty old curators and anything to do with German history. Even the idea of a life spent researching academic minutia – and in that frame of mind he put his camera away and took off down the hill to the main railway station. He went to the luggage storage window and retrieved his suitcase, then looked up at the departure board over the platforms: his train, an overnight to Rome, was due to board in twenty minutes, so he walked over to a news stand and very nearly dropped his bag when he saw the headlines.

“Shah Abdicates!” Screamed a Swiss paper, and “Khomeini En Route From Paris” was highlighted in blood red on another, from New York. “Oh, no,” he said, now noticing the unusual number of heavily armed police officers walking around the station platforms. ‘Maybe I should just go home,’ he thought. ‘Italy will only be worse.’

But no, he thought, knowing he was, even then, trying to rationalize the decision: he had almost an entire week before the next term began, and after a week in Lübeck and another here in Zurich, he was ready for some sun – and holding to the plan would still be the best thing to do right now. Two more months of snow waited back in Boston, and two more months of winter in that dreary apartment did not appeal to him that much. Preparing the final draft of his dissertation, weeks of consultations with his advisor, integrating his latest research into the middle chapters… No, he needed this time off. He needed to recharge his batteries, maybe meet a girl, have a fling, or just get drunk once or twice…

“Ihre Papiere bitte!”

He jumped back into the present, turned and looked into the eye of a uniformed soldier of some sort. Flanked by men in dark suits. All eying him closely.

“Certainly,” he said in English, and then the men relaxed some.

“You are an Englishman?” the soldier asked.

“No. American,” he said, handing over his maroon ‘special’ passport. The soldier handed the passport to one of the men, and this man stepped forward now, while he scanned the passport in his hand, comparing it to items in a notice on the clipboard in his other hand.

“Herr, excuse me, Mr Douglas, you have been in Zurich for the past week?”


“At the Hotel Engadine?”

“That’s correct, sir.”

“And before that?”

“In Lübeck, sir, north of Hamburg.”

The man grinned, slightly. “And here? What were you doing?”

“Research, at an archive.”

“Ah? What sort of research?”

“Academic, at the Thomas Mann archives.”

“Research concerning?”

“Mann’s role in convincing FDR that the need for a united front against Hitler was imperative, and…”

“That’s fine. I understand all the rest, yes?” the official said, handing his passport back. “Good afternoon.”

“And you,” he said, and he turned and followed the men with his eyes as they walked across the platform. Stopping other men about his age, he noted, men who looked and were dressed similarly – to himself. “Geesh,” he sighed. “What is that all about?”

He turned again, looked at the departure board, saw the yellow ‘Now Boarding’ indicator was lit up and he picked up two newspapers and paid for them, then walked across the platform, pulling out his ticket as he made his way through the shuffling crowd. Of course his car had to be all the way out the platform, he grumbled, and it was so far out he walked the last hundred meters in falling snow. A conductor checked his ticket and let him board the car, a First Class sleeper, and he trundled down the narrow corridor to his compartment, which was, of course, the farthest from the entrance – at the very end of the train.

He walked in, heaved his suitcase up onto the overhead rack and sat heavily, looked out the window at the snowy scene. The city, defined here by rivers and low commercial buildings, was emptying now as commuters came to the station for their evening ride home, and he saw skiers getting off local trains still in there ski boots, skis parked jauntily over shoulders as they clomped through the station. He saw a woman getting off the train just across the narrow little platform outside his window, saw her stop and look around, then look at his train. Deep burgundy colored coat, red fur collar. Nice legs, rather timeless shoes, burgundy colored pumps, a matching handbag. She looked nervous, yet somehow almost predatory. She possessed a peregrine alertness, like she was searching for something – her eyes registering recognition or threat, and then she turned – looked right at him. He thought he saw a briefest flash of smile, then she walked down the platform and disappeared from view.

And he watched two men appear behind her, just stepping out of the train she had, and they watched her for a moment, then followed in her wake.

“Interesting,” he said, then he picked up a paper and started reading about events in Tehran, and in Washington, wondering what the event meant going forward. A pivotal country in the heart of Persia, loaded with oil, going from staunch American ally to radical Islamic theocracy literally overnight. No wonder there are troops walking the platforms, he thought. After two deep oil price shocks over the past decade, not to mention the almost constant threat of war between Israel and her neighbors, and now the ever-present threat of terrorism – this would be a world-seismic event. And Europe, unlike America, was not separated from these changes by oceans. Parts of the second world war had taken place in the region, and one of Hitler’s goals had been to wrest control of the area’s oil supplies from Britain and America. Now, overnight, the region was in play again.

The train barely shuddered as it backed away from the platform, and he looked out the window as the train moved slowly out of the station, watching the city slip by in near silence. A minute later the train stopped, then changed direction, heading south now, and he resumed reading – an opinion piece about the need to approach Khomeini, try to avert a war of ideologies – and he laughed. That wouldn’t happen, he scoffed. Not in Washington, anyway. The Kremlin might try, simply con their way to a new understanding in order to keep the west off balance, anyway, but that would be the end of it. A new war was beginning, one that would play out over decades, a war that would bring untold changes to the world.

“Oh well,” he sighed. “Maybe academia isn’t such a bad place, after all.” He wasn’t a writer, or even a literary scholar. No, he was an historian, and he had studied foreign policy both as an undergraduate and, now, as a graduate student, so he could teach, easily, or he could go into government. Events taking place now, right now, would define the need for foreign service officers for decades to come. Maybe it was time to begin moving in that direction, he thought. Stop this wooly headed pursuit of academic trivia and move on out into the real world…

His compartment door opened and she was standing there. The burgundy coat with the red fur collar.

“Hallo,” she said, her accent English, as the room porter stepped up behind. “And I see you found our compartment?”

The look in her eyes. The searching, pleading look, so unexpected in a predator. No, someone was looking for her. Someone, or something dangerous. Those men…

“She is with you?” the porter asked.

And he stood, quickly. “Yes, of course. Here, let me help you with your coat…”

She stepped in, and as he helped take her coat he could smell unrelenting fear under layers of travel – and he noticed the conductors leering grin. Some sort of recognition, perhaps, that not all was on the up and up in this compartment – but the old walked away, left him to her devices, and he slid the compartment door to and turned to her.

“Well,” he said, smiling, “so nice to see you again.”

And she smiled too. “Thanks,” she said, looking at him.

“So, who’s chasing you?”

And she shrugged. “Mind if I sit?”

“No, please do.”

She sat by the window and sighed – and he handed her a handkerchief. She nodded, wiped her brow, then leaned back and sighed again.

“Tough day at the office, dear?” he quipped – as he sat down across from her.

She looked at him and laughed a little. “You might say so, yes.”

They heard the conductor coming down the corridor now, checking tickets, and she looked at him again.

“Shoes off,” he said, “feet in my lap. Now.”

And when the conductor opened the door he was rubbing her feet, she leaning back in sudden wedded bliss. “Ihre Fahrkarten, bitte?” the conductor asked.

“Ja, hier sind sie,” he said, handing them over.

He punched the ticket and handed it back. “You are going to Rome, Herr Douglas?”

“Yes, we are. Then on to Paestum. We’re on our honeymoon.”

“Ah. So, perhaps we need some champaign here tonight?”

“Yes, that would be wonderful. Is it possible to have dinner in our room this evening?” he said, handing over a 20 franc note.

“Yes, of course. I’ll see that your porter takes care of you immediately.”

“Thank you,” he said, and the conductor slid the door to again – and he began to move his hands away from her…

“Oh, please,” she said, “don’t stop on my account. I was rather enjoying that.”

He laughed, resumed massaging her feet while he looked her in the eye. “So, do I at least get the short version?”

“No, sorry,” she sighed. “Our honeymoon?”

“Best I could come up with on such short notice.”

She smiled. “God, this feels a little like heaven…”

He looked out the window, saw evening coming on fast now, the snow letting up a little, lights coming on in little chalet-looking homes scattered across the valley floor, cars driving alongside the train as they came into a village, slowing now – but not stopping. The train accelerated away and a lake appeared, the low mountains beyond now etched by the setting sun’s pale orange light.

He took the ball of her foot and pushed it towards her, stretched the tendons on the bottom of her left foot, then he ran his thumbs up the tendon, busting little crystalline nodules along the taught rod – and she twisted in sudden agony, took in a sharp breath – then he rubbed the area gently, before starting up again.

“My God in heaven, what are you doing to me?”

“Calcium crystals build up on that tendon,” he said, rubbing it carefully now, “that’s what makes your feet ache like that. High heels make it worse, I think.”

“Don’t tell me? You’re a foot doctor?”

He laughed. “Not quite. Historian. Had a girl friend in college, she taught me this little trick.”

“Thank God for girlfriends,” she moaned – as his fingers started in on her right foot. He found a big crystal and dug into it with his thumbnails, felt it give way and burst, and she almost screamed as relief flooded up her leg into her back. “Oh…” she sighed.

Another knock on the door, the porter sticking his head in, another leering grin as he looked down at the ongoing massage. “You wanted dinner this evening? In your compartment?”

“Yes, please,” he said, handing over another 20 franc note.

“Ah, very good sir. We have a trout this evening, or a lamb curry?”

And he looked at her. “A curry,” she said, “might be nice.”

“Make that two,” he added. “And perhaps a red wine?”

“I’ll bring a wine list by, sir.”

“Ah. Thanks.”

“Yes, sir,” the porter said, sliding the door closed yet again.

“It’s getting rather busy in here,” she said, leaning forward now, putting her shoes back on. “You should be careful doing that to a perfect stranger, you know?”


“That’s like an aphrodisiac, or heroin. Addicting, I should think.”

He smiled. “You looked like you could use it?”

“Oh? And how do I look, to you?”

“Tired. Scared. Alone.”

She sat back again, looked up at the ceiling – scowling now.

“You’re very pretty, you know?” he said. “In a dangerous kind of way.”


“Yes. I think it would very easy to fall in love with you, and yet quite dangerous to do so.”

“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment, or not?”

“More an observation, I think. Calling you pretty? That was a compliment.”

“I see.”

Another knock, and this time the porter handed over the wine list, as well as a list of snacks and light appetizers. “Cheese and crackers, some hummus and olives, please, and I think we’ll have this Pinot Noir,” he said, pointing to an item on the list.

“Very good, sir.”

She watched him move, his self assuredness a bit of a surprise. She’d wanted a momentary diversion, somewhere to hide for a few minutes, but now she wasn’t so sure if she wanted to leave him just yet. She felt sure she’d lost the men on her tail, but she also knew she could be wrong about that. She was cut off from the outside world inside this little compartment, yet that was a double edged sword she’d have to handle with care. But she felt safe here, safe – for the first time in two days.

“Could I see your ticket?”

“What…oh, sure,” he said as he handed it over.

Douglas Fairchild, ticket issued by an independent travel agent in Cambridge, Massachusetts almost six weeks ago. An historian, but too young to be teaching yet, too old to be an undergrad. So, a grad student. In Zurich. Either religion or foreign policy. She looked up, looked at his clothing: taupe tweed jacket, grey flannel slacks, pale yellow button down shirt, Harvard tie. He was like a walking advertisement, his appearance screaming ‘I’m an Ivy Leaguer!’ – and he probably had a serious foot fetish thing going under that staid Brook’s Brothers veneer.

She handed his ticket over and held up her leg. “What do you think of these shoes?” she said, flexing her foot suggestively in the air between them.

“Classic lines. When I saw you out there I thought you looked a little like Audrey Hepburn. Good choice.”

Another knock on the door: a small bottle of champagne, a tray of appetizers appeared and were set out on a small rolling table, and the door zipped shut.

“I think I’ll go wash up,” he said, and he disappeared down the corridor. She took a cracker and a slice of something mild and white, took a bite and sighed. Her first food all day, and she realized she was famished. He came back in a few minutes later, looked at her as he stood there, then he shrugged.

“Two of them,” he said quietly, watching her reaction.

“What’s that?”

“Two men. My guess, middle eastern, probably Iranian, maybe Israeli. They’re following you, asking the porter about you.”

She nodded her head. “What did he say?”

“That he hadn’t seen anyone fitting your description.”

“I see.”

He opened the champagne, poured her a glass, then sat. “You have the loveliest eyes,” he said. “What color – hazel or green – I can’t quite tell in this light?”

“More green I think,” she said, looking at him anew, trying to figure him out.

Another knock on the door, and the porter slipped inside, pulled the door to. “The conductor told me they are Iranian,” he said. “And that there are two more of them onboard.”

He nodded his head, took two one hundred franc notes out and handed them over. “Keep me posted, Emile.”

“Certainly, sir. We have a french onion soup this evening. Should I bring two down?”

“Yes, Emile, if you please.”

She watched this exchange with a growing sense of alarm, and no small amount of wonder. ‘Who is this man?’ echoed in her thoughts, then: ‘Is he dangerous?’

He took a cracker, looked over the cheese and shaved a bit of gruyere from a small block and took a bite, rolled his eyes. “Oh, God, I love this stuff,” he said, then he took a sip of champagne. “I could move here, you know, just to have cheese this good every day.”


He chuckled, took another bite – sip, then leaned back. “So? What about you? Obviously from Devonshire. So Oxford, and, by the nature of these circumstances, I’d say MI6.”

She was speechless now. And not at all happy. “Devonshire? What makes you say that?”

“Your hair. Skin and eyes, too, but your accent is the give away.”

“You’ve spent time there, I take it?”

“My junior year. Oxford.”

“Ah, but that’s not all there is to it?”

“No. My Grandfather has property, near Wells.”

“Indeed? And you visit – quite a lot?”

“Used to, yes. Not so much recently.”

Another knock – and Emile came in with two soups. He put them on the table and took off their covers, grated cheese on top of croutons and disappeared again.

“Damn,” he said, “that smells a little bit like heaven.”

Still speechless as unseen implications rolled over her, she watched him eat for a while, then leaned over, started in on her crock. ‘Fairchild?’ she wondered. ‘Douglas Fairchild? Have I heard that name somewhere before? Could he be agency? Or is that his legend, and he’s moving about under an assumed identity? Well, there’s no way to tell now, is there?’

She looked at him again, now putting hummus on a cracker, then some cheese – oblivious. Or was his carelessness simply an act?

‘Perhaps I should just kill him – before he kills me…’

But no…there was something about him. In his eyes, perhaps. An unexpected kindness. A steadiness of temperament. Learned, almost a patrician air in his learnedness. Like a lion, she thought. A bored, sated lion, or a comic book hero – about to go soft from too little action.

“You know,” he said as he looked up from his soup, “they never put enough cheese on top.”

“Don’t they?”

“I suppose it would turn into a soupy, oniony fondue, but I can never get enough.”

She smiled at that. “You never make your own?”

He looked up. “No. Suppose I could learn, but I’m always too tired to cook when I get in.”

“Tired? Your studies?”

“God, yes. Twelve hour days in the library, day after day. And I’ve been leading freshman seminars since August. That added about 300 pages a week to the load.”

“What are you studying?”

“FDR, for the most part. How he struggled to build a coalition, a political coalition, to overcome the isolationism building before Lend-Lease.”

“Why the interest?”

“My grandfather again. He was in the House of Representatives then, and FDR enlisted his support.”

‘Fairchild?’ she heard an inner voice say. ‘Douglas Fairchild?’

“Your grandfather…is he in the Senate?”

He nodded his head. “Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.”

She swallowed hard, made a series of quick recalculations – as now, her mission had just been put on hold. She had just led this kid into serious danger, serious danger that could blowback all over the Prime Minister, endanger the so-called Special Relationship. Her job was no longer to get information to headquarters, it was to protect this boy from her carelessness, and his bad luck. Iranian agents might try to take her out, and they might very well take out this kid, too – while not knowing who they were dealing with, let alone what the repercussions might be.

“It is good soup,” she said as she took a spoonful, then a sip of champagne.

“You look like you just swallowed a squirrel,” he said, looking at her.


“Nervous. You suddenly look very nervous. More nervous than just a few minutes ago.”

“I am.”


“Certainly you. I’ve led you into real danger. Inadvertently, but nevertheless.”

“That’s okay. I can take care of it.”

“Oh? Look, I don’t know who you think you can call, maybe the Marines or something, but there are four or more hostile agents closing in on me – as we speak, and you might get in their way. Understand?”

He nodded, took another cracker and spread hummus on it, shaved off another bit of gruyere and popped the whole thing in his mouth – then he smiled at her.

She couldn’t tell if he was deliberately trying to infuriate her, or if he was simply the most obtuse human being in the long, boring history of male chauvinism – then he took yet another sip of champagne. ‘I may kill him myself,’ she thought, ‘and save the world the trouble…’ He looked up at her and grinned, blinked rapidly several times.

“You know, you’re taking all this a little too seriously.”

“Perhaps you aren’t taking things seriously enough.”

“Perhaps because I don’t know what’s going on. Just what on earth did you do? And to whom?”

“I’m sorry. I can’t…”

“I know, I know. Well, tell me, did you kill someone?”

And she looked away, tried to hide her eyes.

“Ah,” he said. “I see. So these gentlemen are a little pissed off.”

“You could say that, yes.”

He stood and pulled his suitcase down from the overhead rack, unzipped a side compartment and pulled out a little black pouch, then he put the suitcase back. He sat next and unzipped the case, pulled out a little Walther, and a silencer, then screwed it on. He took the magazine out and checked the load, then chambered a round – and handed her the pistol.

“What,” she said, “are you doing?”

“I’m assuming you know what this thing does, and how to use it better than I do, so you take it. If I tried to use it I’d probably shoot my foot off.”

She looked at the pistol, an Israeli special. A TPK, 22 short, designed for close range head shots. “Ammunition?”

“Israeli,” he said.


“Don’t hold it close. I keep it as far away from soft tissues as I can.”


“My dad.”

“Is he…?”

“Yup. Career. Seventh floor.”

“Oh dear God. This just gets better ‘n better.”

He laughed.

Emile knocked on the door, brought in two curries and a bottle of red. “They are in the dinning car right now. Six of them. Four Iranian passports, two Swiss.”

“Emile? I’m going to need to use the radio-telephone.”

“But it is not for public use, sir.”

“I understand. Perhaps it will be better if a dozen or so people are killed by terrorists on this train during the night?”

“I’ll have the conductor come by in a few minutes, sir.”

“Thanks, Emile.”

“We’re going into the Alps now,” she said. “Poor radio signal.”

“We will be, until Milan.”

“Where is this train going, anyway?”

He laughed. “That’s right, I forgot. Rome – by way of Milan, and Genoa. The coastal route. How’s that curry, by the way?”

“Swiss,” she said, not quite making a face.


“And where are you headed? Rome?”

“Paestum. I wanted to walk the ruins there. And you?”

“I was going to try for our embassy, but the way was cut off.”

“So, any ole embassy will do?”

“Theoretically. I’ll be blown, but yes.”

“What’s optimal?”

“Disappear. Make my way back to town.”

“You married?”

“Me? Heavens, no. Why do you ask?”

“Just curious.”

“Well, are you?”

“Married? No, I came close…but, no.”

“What’s next? Teach?”

“Maybe. My father would like me to sign up, grandfather wants me to go to State.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I wish I knew…”

Another knock on the door, the conductor sliding the door open quietly. “You need to contact the authorities, Herr Fairchild?”

“I do,” he said, then he turned to her. “And is there a name I should reference?”

She leaned close and whispered in his ear.

“You’re joking!” he said, but she shook her head and he took off with the conductor – while Emile came inside the little compartment and sat with her while he was away.

Which wasn’t long.

“Did you get through?” she asked once they were alone again.

He nodded his head. “Yup, but the neighbors were watching.”


“The RT is right by the dining car. They’re just sitting in there, drinking coffee.”

“Gearing up for a long night.”

“As will we,” he said. “I’ve got strudel and coffee inbound, and I’ve got a deck of cards in the suitcase. Play gin?”

“Of course. And I’ll beat your ass into the ground, too.”

“That sounds kind of like a challenge,” he said, grinning.

“No, not at all. More a warning, a fait accompli. I’m going to kick your ass all around this little compartment, that’s all.”

“Assuming your name isn’t George Smiley, think you could tell me your real name?”

“George Smiley.”

“I see. Guess I deserved that, huh?”

She smiled, tried not to be too ironic about it, then Emile knocked and cleaned up their dishes, spread a fresh tablecloth and laid out silverware for dessert and coffee – then disappeared again, returning a moment later with two mountainous globs of strudel and a carafe of coffee. He produced a bowl of schlagsahne next, and heaped it on each pastry – leaving the bowl with their coffees before he disappeared, and they looked at the size of their desserts, then at one another.

“Dear God,” they said in unison, then they laughed for the longest time.

He took down his suitcase again and dug out his deck of cards, and when the cabin was squared away again he opened the deck and shuffled it. She cut and he dealt their hands, and a few drops in she ginned.

He raised an eyebrow, then dealt another hand – and she smoked him, again.

‘Something’s not right,’ he sighed, and he leaned forward, dealt again, and lost again.

“Odd,” he said.

“Isn’t it?”

Then he discovered her trick.

Dangling a shoe off her toe, moving her legs just so…and he grinned, went into the tiny head and stuffed a towel down into his briefs, rolled up just so. He went out and splayed himself just enough to reveal a monstrous bulge – and he took the next four games.

“This is too much fun,” he said, and then he moved around a little, pulled the towel up from it’s hiding place.

“Bastard!” she cried.

“Bitch!” he echoed, then he leaned over and put her shoe firmly back on her foot.


“I’ve never seen such underhanded play before,” he said, smiling.

“Works, doesn’t it?”

“I suppose.”

“I had you pegged after five minutes.”

“I wonder what that says about you?”

She arched her eyebrows rapidly a few times, then grinned. “I’ll never tell.”

“You know, I feel certain you won’t.”

“Anymore coffee in that thing?” she asked.

And she felt the change before she heard anything – he did, too. Someone outside their door, listening. Then trying the lock. Her hand, going for the little Walther. Then Emile’s voice, down the corridor: “Excuse me, but you are in the wrong car! You must leave! NOW!” Hastily retreating footsteps – she putting the pistol away – then Emile, knocking on the door.

“Come in!” he said.

“This is the second time they have tried to come into this car. I have alerted the conductor, and we will try to put them off at the next stop.”

“No need,” she said. “They’ll just put someone else on at the next stop, and then we won’t know who they are.”


“My concern, Emile,” he said, quickly trying to cover her mistake, “is the terrorists might set off a bomb if we tried that, or take hostages.”

“Ah, I see.”

“Just let them come, Emile,” he added, “but turn off the corridor lights.”


Emile cleared the dishes on the rolling trolley, and a few minutes later the lights went out.

“You do know,” he said, “we’re the last room in the last car of this train.”

“Nothing behind us?”

“No. I, uh, well I borrowed Emile’s key, unlocked the door.”

“You didn’t?”

“Here’s my plan…”

A half hour later he felt that same presence, knew someone was just outside the door, and a moment later the door started to slide open. He saw a small silenced pistol slide past the curtain, then the man appeared – and he seemed startled to find an American, alone, sitting there making a sh-h-h gesture – with one finger up to his lips – then pointing at the folded berth over his head.

“She’s in there,” he whispered, and the Iranian nodded his head as he stepped up to the bed and tripped the release…

At which point she stepped out of the tiny head and with one – pffft – the agent fell to the floor, grabbing at the small, fatal head wound.

“Okay,” he said as he picked up the man, “you get the door.”

She stepped out into the corridor, saw it was clear and stepped aft, quietly, then opened to outer door – and he tossed the body out the back. Seconds later they were back in the compartment, and a minute later they heard Emile knocking on the door.

“Yes,” he said as he slid the door open an inch or two.

“Did you hear something?” Emile asked, trying to see into the compartment.

“I’m so sorry, Emile. When she gets on top she gets a little wild. I think it has something to do with the motion, ya know?”

“Oh, dear. Oh, no, excuse me…” Emile said as he retreated to his compartment at the other end of the car.

Twenty minutes later the presence announced itself again, and exactly as before the door slid open, the curtain parted when a silenced pistol entered, he sh-h-h’ed the man and whispered she was above, and when the man tripped the release she dispatched him. Two minutes later they were back in the compartment.

“This is too easy…” he said.

“They won’t fall for that one again.”

“Okay, let’s try this…”

Twenty minutes later the door slid open and the gun appeared; when the man entered the compartment he saw another man splayed out face down on the floor, apparently dead.  When he bent down to check for a pulse – pffft – down he went too, then out the back door.

“Was that number three?” he asked.


“What are they? Morons?”

She broke out giggling.

“This is like Laurel & Hardy. I thought these guys are supposed to mean, ruthless killers?”

“Well, they are.”

“But they’re fucking morons!”

“Stop it,” she said, doubling over, laughing hysterically now.

The door flew open, the next assassin rushed in – and he took the gun right out of the man’s hand and she stuck the Walther up to his left eye and – pffft – down he went, right into his waiting arms.

“I’m getting tired of this,” he said. “Maybe tie one hand behind my back? Something, anything to give these morons a fighting chance?”

Forty minutes later the last two were dispatched and they stood there, looking out the back door, letting the frigid mountain air wash over their sweat-soaked bodies – when Emile walked up.

“This door is supposed to be closed, locked!” Emile said as he scurried up, and he shut the door, felt for his key.

“What are you looking for, Emile?”

“My key, for the door?”

“Is that it,” he said, pointing at a key on the linoleum floor.

“Ah, just so. Thank you.”

“Fell out of your pocket.”


“Where are the Iranians?”

“They seem to have disappeared?”

“Really? How strange?”

“Yes, we just looked from one end of the train to the other, and not a sign of them.”

“Curious. How long until we reach Milan?”

“Oh, about an hour.”

“I’m expecting a business associate to join us there. Name is Jones.”

“Of course, sir. You’ll still be up?”

“Up? Why, yes Emile. I’ll still be up.”

“Very good, sir.”

“You’re awful,” she said once Emile was safely out of range.

“I am? Why?”

“You’ll still be – up!” she said, her pointing finger popping straight up.”

“Oh. That. Wishful thinking on my part.”

She smiled. “It is?” she asked.


“Well, how long do we have?”

But he shook his head. “You know? I’ve never had a one night stand, and I’m not sure I want to, even with you.”

And she kissed him, once, before she got off the train in Milan. Teams from the CIA and MI6 escorted her to a waiting transport, and she was in London hours before he made it to Rome. He walked the ruins in Paestum, and in the winter light the old Greek temples took on the soft aires of forgotten dreams. He walked and walked, took dozens of rolls of film, all black and white, which seemed to fit his mood better than color.

He flew home on a Pan Am 747 and once back in Boston he rode the T out to Cambridge and found he’d forgotten to leave the heat on inside his apartment. His jet lag was terrible for days, and he walked around in a fog, barely able to come to terms with the things he’d done, so the next weekend he hopped on the shuttle and flew down to National. His father was waiting for him at the gate.

And uncharacteristically, his father was very quiet on the ride home. Once they were home, once he’d put his suitcase back in his old bedroom, he went downstairs and got a Coke, then went to his father’s study.

“Shut the door, son.”

He did.

“So, how was Zurich? Get much done?”

“A bit, yessir.”

“And how many people did you kill on that train?”

“Me sir? Technically, zero.”

And his father smiled. “Let me rephrase. How men dead men did you throw out the back of that train?”

“Six, sir.”

His father leaned forward, his face turning redder by the second, then all that pressure released. “Kind of fun, isn’t it?”


“Bad guys? It’s kind of fun, popping them in the head like that. Sorry you didn’t get to take out a few.”


“The first dozen or so are the toughest. Gets easier after that.”


“Still, everyone down in Yorktown that’s read the after-action report thinks you’ve got what it takes, son. You know Russian, German and French, and you have the background. When are you going to decide?”

“Sir, I’ve put in my application, with the Peace Corps.”

He flew back up to Boston on Sunday morning, still unconvinced that a life of killing spies was the life for him, but he had promised his father not to decide about the Peace Corps until his dissertation had been defended and approved for publication, so he sequestered himself in his apartment and began writing in February, and he emerged from time to time, for groceries, mainly, and he wrote and wrote. March passed, then April and May. Then June and July. And August, too, but at last his work was at an end and he took it to a professional typist, then to his advisor, who took it first to one committee, then another. He was called in the middle of September to defend his dissertation, and he did so on the third day of October. A month later he was notified: he would receive his PhD in December.

“So GramPa, what’d you do next?” his granddaughter asked, swaying in the rail car.

“Well, when I walked home to that little apartment, your Grandmother was waiting for me right there, out on the front steps.”

“Yes, but who was she?”

“Who? Oh, that spy, from Britain.”

“From Devonshire?”

“That’s the one. She was waiting, said she had been for a few hours, and that’s when we made your father.”

“GramPa! You’re not supposed to say things like that!”

“What? We didn’t do it in the road! We went upstairs!”

“So, you’re telling me GramMa was a spy?”

“Yup. And a pretty good one, too, as it turned out.”

“Golly, that’s kind of hard to believe, you know?”

“Hmm? Why’s that?”

“Well…it’s GramMa! I mean, she’s just a little old lady!”

“Oh…is that what she is…?”

“I guess she’s more than that, huh?”

“You know, you never seem to talk to her all that much and I think she misses that. Maybe she’d like to get to know you better.”

“It looks different out here,” the little girl said – going to the window, looking out over passing farmland and trees.

“How so?”

“Like there’s more water here, more rain.”

“That’s true. This part of England gets a lot of rain. Do you know why?”

She shook her head, still gazing out the window.

“Well, it has something to do with a water current. Does that ring a bell?”

“The Gulf Stream!”

“That’s right. Now why don’t we go down and talk to GramMa for a while.”

“I don’t know. I think I’m a little afraid of her now.”

“Afraid? Why?”

“Well, you said GranMa killed people…”

“Yes, so? Soldiers kill people all the time? Are you afraid of soldiers?”

She nodded her head. “Yes. Kinda.”

“And police officers kill people too. Are you afraid of them, too.”

Again, she nodded her head.

“What about those big, bad terrorists? Are you afraid of them?”

“Uh-huh,” she said, nodding her head big time.

“Well, somebody has to kill the terrorists too, don’t they?”

“Yes,” she said quietly, “I suppose so.”

“You suppose?”

“GramPa, why are we going out to that old house?”

“To Devonshire?”


“Well, after your grandmother and I got married, we lived there for a long time. I worked in London, and your GramMa continued to work, well, as a spy. Your father was born here, too.”

“Did she kill more people?”

“Why don’t you go ask her that? You can ask her about all kinds of things, you know? She helped a lot more people than she hurt.”

“Did she?”

“Yes.” He stood and held out his hand, helped her out the door and down the narrow little corridor, and he knocked on her door.

The nurse came and let them in, and his granddaughter slipped inside, through the little curtain beyond the sliding door, then he turned and went back to his compartment. He sat by the glass, looked at the passing landscape through a reflection he saw there. His face, staring back, and the passing landscape beyond, merging. He hardly recognized the old man in the glass, then realized he hardly knew that old man at all.

The trees and farms looked the same, he thought, but not me. Everything out there looked caught in amber, frozen in time, but not me. Not her.

How many more weeks do we have together?

Time, so precious now. So inescapably precious.

His time, with her, the most precious thing of all. But so too was the little time those two could share. So much would be passed along. Memories would be made, memories to last a lifetime. The little girl was old enough now, and she was bright enough; she would remember. His wife would pass along the secrets of a lifetime, just as he had passed on those secrets to his son.

He looked at the eyes in the glass. His eyes, so unchanged, looking back into God only knows – like strangers on a train, chancing to know one another.

© 2017 Adrian Leverkühn | abw |

Hope you enjoyed. Happy trails… A


Sunset at the Pink Water Café, Chapter 4

sunset logo

So, another ending. Life as metaphor. An End well met? Perhaps.


Sunset at the Pink Water Café

Chapter Four

Sitting in the cockpit of the Air Force C27J Spartan, he listened to an analyst’s evaluation of the situation over an encrypted line, checking the team’s reasoning once again, while the transport bounced around inside a frontal boundary. Of the fifteen replacement crewmen bound for a Russian oceanographic research vessel, that had been docked in St Johns taking on fuel and supplies earlier today, three tripped Customs alerts when they checked through checkpoints: known SVR and GRU operatives with military backgrounds, and certainly not oceanographers. Canadians photographed the group and imagery was in Langley within minutes, and a further eleven of the fifteen were identified, all former military with established dossiers in CIAs files.

A hit team, in other words, the analyst argued.

And with zero equipment in their luggage.

The research vessel had departed St Johns 14 hours ago, and an Air Force E-8 was keeping track of it’s progress, the analyst advised. The ship had traveled 120 miles, heading south along the coast, then turned to 2-4-0 degrees. And such a route would, the analyst said, carry them about a hundred miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, on a route that would take them on a passage along the US seaboard.

“And let me guess? Who’s out there?”

“The Jimmy Carter has been tailing the Severodvinsk for three days, sir. She’s closing on sea mounts and canyons, working her way into shallower water, the skipper thinks.”

“They’ll transfer to the sub out out there,” Jim said, “then work their way closer to shore.”

“That’s my guess,” the analyst said. “Skipper on the Carter wants a few million sonobuoys dropped from the shelf off Halifax all the way around through the Bay of Fundy. We can fine tune their approach once the Severodvinsk gets into shallower water, but he wants to drop back some now. Not enough room to hide, something like that.”

“What’s going on up on the seventh floor?” Jim asked, referring to the operations directorate on the top floor.

“No decision yet. They’re still talking with the White House.”


“I know. Looks like three days ‘til they can make the transfer, and maybe two more for a real cautious approach. If I was going to do this I’d try to get in the channel between Grand Manan and the coast. It’s real noisy in there…easy to hide.”

“Well, they’d break the 12 mile limit, and it’s full of lobster pots. Not real smart.”

“They need to get within a mile or two if they’re coming by inflatable. A helluva lot closer than that if the team is going to swim for it.”

“They won’t do that.”

“I don’t think so either.”

“What about sleds?”

“Possible,” the analyst said thoughtfully. “Hadn’t thought of that. Several on the team have the relevant experience.”

“Do we know what the range is on that new unit is?”

“The two man units, uh, let’s see, looks like about 30 klicks, so call it 10 to 12 each way, with a little in reserve.”

“That would put them off the twelve mile line, on the east side of the island.”


“Exactly. Uh,” he said, looking out the cockpit windshield, “looks like we’re getting ready to land. I’ll get back to once we’re airborne again.”

“K – out.”

He looked up, saw runway lights ahead through rain and intermittent clouds, and the little transport flared over the numbers and rolled out on runway 34, then turned off to the northeast, and the pilot taxied to the Canadian Air Force facility on the east side of the airport. An airman opened the door and a blast of rain soaked him as he ran down the slippery metal steps – then across rain-soaked concrete to a waiting US Navy P-8A, and he climbed up those steep stairs and into the cabin. An airman close the door behind him and the Boeing’s engines spooled up as he walked into the cockpit, putting his raincoat in a closet as he walked forward.

“War Eagle 3-0, clear to taxi,” he heard the tower say as he strapped into the jump-seat and put on the proffered headset.


“Uh, three-zero, change of runway and departure information. Wind now 2-6-0 at 18, taxi direct to two niner from your position and hold just short of the active. At 1900 left turn direct VOBEG, then hit GAGMA at 6000.”

“Eagle 3-0, 12 and 6. Got an altimeter?”

“Still two eight niner five.”

“Got it.” The captain turned to her co-pilot: “Checklist?”






“Armed and crosschecks?”

“Set and checked.”

The captain held just short of the runway, flipped on the lights as she checked in with the tower: “Eagle 3-0, holding short of the numbers.”

“3-0, hold for the MD-80 on short final.”

“Roger.” She looked past the ensign in the right seat and scowled. “See anything?” she asked.

“Nothin’. Weather’s really closing in fast…nope, there he is…”

Jim bent down, looked out through the rain splattered glass and could just see strobes bouncing off the Air Canada jet’s belly, then it flared and settled onto the black asphalt, thrust reversers roaring a moment later, the air behind the MD80 full of drifting spray and settling exhaust.

“Eagle 3-0, clear for take off, and expedite, please.”

“3-0,” she said, advancing the throttles a little, and as the 737 lined up on the centerline she advanced the throttles, jogged the rudder pedals a little as the jet began it’s run.

“80 knots,” her ensign co-pilot called out 18 seconds later, then “V1…and…rotate.”

She pulled back on the yoke, eyes on her instruments: “Positive rate.”

“Gear up…”

And moments later they were in solid cloud, the sudden turbulence extreme.

“Clean the wing,” she said, and Jim couldn’t tell where they were now, even what their attitude was, until he looked at the screens on the panel. Nothing but gray ahead, then the lights turned off and he couldn’t even see that, so he focused on the panel, watched her ease into a deep left turn, saw a waypoint on the screen, and when they hit that point she made another easy left, and another waypoint appeared ahead. Five minutes later the P8 climbed out of the clouds at 12,000 feet and she turned to parallel the coastline, then she turned and spoke to him.

“Better head aft now, sir. You can monitor the ship better from there, and we’ll be over the Carter in about, oh, twenty three minutes.”


She watched his men walk into the house next door, but one of them, Tom, slipped through the rain and knocked on the door. And, surprisingly, waited for her to come to the door.

“Where is he now?”

“He had to leave, quite unexpectedly,” the man said. “Do you need anything?”

“Is it safe to go outside?”

The question seemed to startled the man. “Ma’am?”

“I have no idea what’s going on around here, but what I read on Google sure opened my eyes.”


“How he save those Russians, and now, how the Russians are trying to get back at him.”

“That’s online?”

“It sure is. Want to read what I found?”

“No, not really.”

“Is it true?”


“Are you hard of hearing, or is it just my voice?”

He laughed a little, looked up at the house next door. “Ma’am, you’re safe here, but if you’d like me to walk Jimmie, I’d be happy to.”

Of course Jimmie was out the door in an instant, circling in the rain, looking for just the perfect spot to let one go, and when he finished his business he pranced up the steps and back into the house, then turned and looked at her.

“I guess not,” Tom said and they both laughed.

“Will he be back tomorrow?”

“Should be, but I don’t have any word on that yet. How ‘bout I come over and tell you as soon as we hear something?”

She nodded her head, remembered his promise to keep her in the loop – then turned and went inside. When she slipped under the sheets Jimmie came up and laid beside her, his chin resting on her thigh, his eyes focused on hers like twin laser beams.

She looked at him for the longest time, then turned off the light and away from his searching eyes, but she rolled over a few minutes later and saw the pup’s head on Jim’s pillow; he was facing her now, but his eyes were closed, and he was snoring gently. She looked at the pup for what felt like years, and she couldn’t help thinking that, somehow, these two were connected in some vital way.


He watched the research vessel far below on a screen, the stabilized, night vision image clear enough to make out sailors on deck, but there wasn’t much to see yet. They came up on the Carter’s track and at 0100, exactly, the radio operator picked up a UHF burst and ran it through the computer.

“Skipper reports the contact is holding steady on course 2-1-0 and has slowed to five knots,” the operator said a few minutes later.

“Ivan has got to be nervous now,” the Navy commander said. “Just a matter of time till he picks up something out there that spooks him.”

“Been a while since he’s tried something this brazen, don’t you think?” Jim asked.

“Yup. They must want you real bad.”

“Nice to be wanted,” Jim sighed. “Got a track for your sonobuoys?”

“Computer sets the deployment pattern. All the pilot has to do is get down to about 200 feet and 180 knots, then engage the autopilot. The computer flies the airplane and spits out the buoys, and we’ll get half laid this trip, the other half later today. More difficult now, too. Since they closed Brunswick, adds about three hours to the evolution.”

“Short-sighted. Closed too many bases, thought Ivan was gone. Well, people are waking up now.”

“This is a decent platform, endurance-wise, anyway. I thought we did a better job in the old P3, though; pilots have to fly slow to do half of the things we need to, so speed ain’t a real asset. Stealth would be, but these crates aren’t stealthy.”

“Cheap and easy to get hold of. Easy to get past committee, anyway,” Jim added.

“Did you hear the Admiral Kuznetsov is out there?”

“Nope. Where is she?”

“RORSAT picked her up five hours ago, two hundred north of Lajes, headed north. Of course they know when the birds pass.”

“If she’s headed this way, that would change the dynamics.”

“The Astute and the Warner are moving in, should get a baseline course for us by mid-morning.”

“This is getting interesting,” Jim sighed.

“Isn’t it? Think it’s worth the risk?”


“Where will you take her?”


“If you don’t start the next world war, you mean.”

“There is that,” Jim sighed, smiling.


She was in the café, still feeling depressed, when she saw his slate blue Land Rover coming down Main Street – Jimmie in the passenger seat, his head hanging out the window…his ears flapping in the breeze. He pulled up right outside the café and hopped out the door – Jimmie waited for his door, then he slipped down onto the sidewalk and waited for Jim to open the café’s door, then they made for the corner table as she walked over, menus in hand.

And she saw dark circles under his bloodshot eyes, thought better of tearing into him and handed him a menu.

“What’s he got going back there this morning?”

“Fish chowder and, believe it or not, about a half dozen fresh Dover sole. Sautéed, with lemon butter and broccolini.”

“Done. Tea?”


He nodded his head. “Sorry about last night. Something came up.”

“Yeah?” she said knowingly. “I understand.”

“Do you?”

“No, but at least I understand you’ll never change.”

He looked at the hurt in her eyes and bunched his lips, and he seemed to deflate before her eyes.

“Look,” she sighed, “all I know is I don’t know. Okay? And that not knowing is a lot worse than knowing.”

He looked up but she was walking away, so he looked down at Jimmie and shook his head. “I fucked up, boy. Big time.”

The pup looked in his eyes and saw something, because then he got up and stood, put his hand on Jim’s shoulders and leaned forward, licked his chin – and Jim leaned forward and hugged the pup, put his face to his, nose to nose.

“I know. I’ve got to do better,” then Jimmie nibbled his ear before he licked it a couple of times. By the time she came back with his tea and chowder the pup was on the floor again, curled up and sleeping.

“Hear about the Sheriff?” she asked and he looked up.

“The Sheriff?”

“Drunk, bunch of kiddie porn on his lap. Arrested, took him down in Bangor this morning, for some sort of hearing, maybe arraignment?”

“Whoa. Kiddie porn? Up here?”

“Yeah. Lot of people freaked out this morning, talking about it. You know, ‘it can’t happen here,’ that kind of thing.”

He nodded his head. “The Devil’s greatest triumph was convincing people he doesn’t exist.”

She seemed shocked by that. “What? I didn’t think you…”

“What? Good and evil? That they don’t exist? Of course they do. It’s all around us, all the time. So much so that we forget it exists, that it’s real.”


“So, you can’t measure it, take a photograph of it, but you can’t take a picture of love, either. You can’t put love on the scales and measure it.” He looked at her again. “I love you, by the way. In case you wanted to pick that up and throw it against that wall over there.”

“Do you enjoy reading my mind?”

“Yes, Ma’am. Very much.”

She turned and walked away. Again. She brought his sole a few minutes later, then turned away – without saying a word. Again. She brought him his check when he finished, and he paid her, watched her walk away again.

“You’re gonna get a lousy tip today,” he said after she put his change on the table, and she grinned – before she turned and disappeared into the kitchen.

“Hmm,” he said, looking down at Jimmie, “I think we need to get out of here…before she kills something.”

So, he drove home and they went inside, turned on his computer and made the encrypted connection while Jimmie settled in by his feet – again. Revised plans started pouring in: two subs with SEAL teams onboard now northbound from Norfolk, several hundred special forces types already digging-in around Lubec and on Grand Manan, the Gerald R Ford almost in position to intercept the Kuznetsov – a giant chess board taking shape far away at sea, all because he’d managed to keep two Russian president’s safe and out of harm’s way. All because he’d pissed off the wrong spy. He sent a note to Langley and slipped off his clothes and into bed, and it seemed only a few minutes later he felt someone shaking him away from the dream. The soaring dream. Only something was wrong now. Something dark and forgotten.

He sat up, saw it was dark outside, saw Tracy, out of her clothes now, walking into the bathroom. He heard the shower next, then Jimmie coming in the room, his paws wet, his grin fresh, and he stumbled into the bathroom, barely made it to the toilet before he vomited. He saw streaks of blood in the water and groaned, looked at his watch and made a few quick calculations.

“You okay?” he heard her ask.

“I’ll let you know,” he croaked.

She turned off the water, came to him, saw the blood in the bowl and lifted him up.

“What is that? Blood?”

“Probably. Yes.”

“Do you have an ulcer?”

He shook his head, walked back to the bed and sat on the edge, sweating now, and he picked up a little radio and called: “Tom?”


“Need the doc. Now.”


“You have a doctor over there?” she asked.

“Sure. Don’t you?”


“Ah, well, there you have it.”

Tom and a woman in khakis came in through the back door, walked up to him. The woman, the physician, put the back of her hand on his forehead while she checked his pulse, then she told him to lay back and she palpated his gut.

“It’s too soon, sir,” she said. “We need to get you back to Philadelphia.”

“How long will I be away?”

“Two days, best guess – maybe three.”

“Can’t afford that now.”

“No choice, sir. It’s that or big trouble.”

He sighed, looked at Tom. “Okay, let’s get going, but I want to be back here by Saturday morning.”

“I’m coming too,” Tracy said, and everyone turned to look at her, then at Jim.

“She’s coming too,” he said, grinning.

Tom looked at him, shook his head then sighed. “Okay.”

The physician went back to the safe house next door and came back with an bag of plasma, then she started an IV and shot a little morphine into the line. She hooked up the bag next and set the drip, waited for Tom to bring the Suburban to the drive. Once he was settled in the back seat, for the first time with Tracy by his side, they drove around to Eastport, waited for the Challenger to arrive. He slept on her shoulder until, sometime in the middle of the night, he once again sat back and felt hard thrust pushing him back in his seat, and he looked out a tiny window as the earth fell away in darkness. Again.

He was unconscious by the time the Challenger landed at Northeast Philadelphia Airport, and an ambulance met the little jet, drove him down to the Abramson Cancer Research Center.

By then, Tracy was beside herself, deep inside an unknown landscape of mysteries so terrifying, so far from her experience, that she felt herself shutting down. She called Darren later that morning, told him what had happened and where she was, and he told her to take care – which left her feeling hollow, even more unsure of herself.

He had, she learned, stage four colon cancer. He had been treated conventionally, with chemo and radiation, almost two years ago – but treatment had failed. Miserably. Then he’d come here, been treated with an experimental protocol that used a tailored HIV virus to trick the cancer into remission, and that had worked. He felt wonderful but his physicians argued against his returning to work, so he had continued treatment, begun rebuilding his life here.

Then a Russian team entered the city and tried to take him out at the little townhouse he’d moved into northwest of downtown. He’d been moved to a safe house after that, then yet another team tried to take him out. In retaliation, a Russian diplomat in London disappeared, his mutilated body turning up in a Syrian whorehouse – the message clear – and the attacks stopped.

He resumed treatment, got better – to a point, and began to work out, to build himself back up – all that began almost a year ago. Then, just before Christmas, another team was turned back, and the decision was made to move him – almost – out of harm’s way. A suitable location was found, assets moved into place, modifications made – only this time the idea was to keep the location quiet, but only for a while. Three months ago mention of his movements began to show up in routine chatter, on lines of communication known to be compromised, and assets globally began watching for a response – so that they could be drawn in, closer. And observed

The plan this time was to hurt them, to make the cost of doing business as usual a little too steep for comfort. And that’s when the Navy got involved.


By Friday morning he felt – almost – human again, and a team from Langley dashed up to brief him on the mission’s progress. It was critical that he be seen in Lubec some time during the day tomorrow, critical that he go to the café – because that’s where, according to reports going to Moscow, he was seen, at least twice a day.

“So, there’s someone in town? Watching?”

“Yes, we thought it was the Sheriff, but the reports are still going out, an encrypted burst transmission.”

He laughed. “No, it couldn’t be that easy!”


“Check on a guy named Dooley. Paul Dooley. He was living in Bangor after his divorce, until a recently. Showed up a few weeks after I moved in. Tom has the details, so check with him.”

“So, the question is…can you make it back up by tomorrow?”

“Yeah, we’ll head up tonight.”

“Prognosis, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Oh, you know me. I’m gonna live forever.”

“Yeah, okay. Anyway, if this plan works, there’s no telling how they’ll react.”

“No telling. That sounds about right.”

“They’ll try again, that’s for sure.”

“Reckon so.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?”

“No, not really.”

“I’m curious. Is there anything that does? Bother you, I mean?”

“That girl out there,” he said, pointing at Tracy, waiting outside in the corridor. “She does something with her finger…well, that bothers the hell out of me.”


She walked down to the café a little earlier than usual the next morning, wrote Darren’s specials on the board – in pink and blue chalk, just to spice things up a little bit – and she stuck her head out back, looked at all the progress the carpenters and plumbers and electricians had made over the past four weeks, but Dooley wasn’t out there. “Hasn’t been here for a few,” the contractor said, shrugging his shoulders, but she saw Vance walk by a little before noon, a few minutes after Jim and Jimmie came down for lunch, and he looked in the window as he passed, then looked down at the ground. Other eyes took note of his passage, however, and Jim smiled.

“This could be fun,” he sighed.

A massive Russian submarine slipped into the Bay of Fundy two nights later, and Russian commandos dove into the water and mounted electric sleds, took off past North Head and crossed Owen Basin under the dark moon, though other men, unseen ‘til that moment, boarded the submarine, and a half hour later the submarine was under tow, on the surface, bound for the Penobscot narrows.

He sat in his study that night and watch his plan unfold. The commandos, captured on the rocky beach a little before sunrise, never got a message off, while a billion ruble submarine – stripped of all it’s secrets, was towed out to sea and set adrift, months later. Spies were caught that night and would be tried in courts, sent to prisons, but all that was for tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow to deal with.

When morning came he walked down to the café and went out back, looked over the addition. The drywall was finished and carpenters were trimming the doors and windows, and Bruce pointed out where the piano would go. Jim pulled a sawhorse over and put it where the piano bench would go, and he sat there looking out all that glass for a long time, wondering what it would feel like. The sun setting over the world, all that pink water.

He walked back to the house, found Tracy just getting out of bed, and the smile on his face was not lost on her – yet like everything these days she wondered how long it would last.


A few weeks later, the addition complete, the truck from a music store in Boston pulled up to the café and four men muscled a huge box out the back and carried it inside. They carefully unboxed the Clavinova and set it on the wood floor in the indicated corner, and Jim beamed while Bruce stood behind his new bar, mixing old fashioneds. The men hook up the concealed speakers that were already in the walls and ceiling and, when everything was ready, they powered up the full-sized concert grand.

“Well?” Bruce and Darren sighed, looking at Jim – and pointing to the piano.

“Reckon I ought to,” he said, grinning. “Just to try it out.”

And everyone laughed. Everyone watched, even Jimmie, settling by his feet again.

He sat behind the keys and played a few disjoined notes, then riffed along warming up, his eyes closed as he remembered nights with his wife so long ago, so far away, rocking back and forth in the music of another night, in other arms – as he drifted into Gershwin’s Prelude Number 2. He felt hands on his shoulders just then, in the here and now, and when he finished the piece he looked up, saw Darren crying by his side, Tracy too, her arms wrapped around Darren.

He drifted into Summertime, looked out the window into the distance, and he watched the sun slipping towards the far horizon behind lozenge-shaped clouds drifting by. The sky turned orange, then pink, and the water turned with the sky – orange to pink – and he felt their love all around him. In the air, all around this new space.

He heard the bell on the front door twinkle as it opened and he turned, saw Vance and three other men walking in, silenced pistols coming out of shoulder holsters and he laughed, then he smiled, and the hair on Jimmie’s neck bristled.

“Oh,” he sighed as he soared, “this is going to be so much fun…”

© 2017 Adrian Leverkühn | abw | | | a little work of fiction, every syllable of it.

Sunset at the Pink Water Café, Chapter 3

sunset logo

Chapter 3 here for you today, and I think I mentioned in a comment a few days ago that this story exists in shades of metaphor. Jim and Tracy and Dooley and Darren, all of them metaphors, shadows of a paradigm slipping from our grasp. A few queasy moments in this one, so hang on for the ride.


Sunset at the Pink Water Café 

Chapter 3

Jimmie heard her first. His ears perked when he found her peculiar gait among all the other noise out there, while she was still on the strange hard stuff beyond the grass, then he stood when he heard her footsteps brushing through the grass, hoping she would take him outside, play with him for a long time, but he looked at the man on the floor and didn’t know what would happen next.

She came up the steps and opened the door, came into the house, walked into the living room – then saw a man sprawled out on the floor, apparently unconscious. She ran over, knelt down and checked his neck for a pulse, signs of breathing – but everything appeared normal, at least as far as she could tell – yet she had no idea who this was, let alone what had happened.

She was about to get up, call for an ambulance when she heard more footsteps on the landing just outside the door, and she turned, expected to see Jim walk in the door – but no, that wasn’t what happened. Not at all.

She watched her world turn upside down when Paul Dooley and Sheldon Vance walked in the door. They walked in and looked around the room, then Dooley saw her kneeling on the floor, and he smiled. There was nothing nice about his smile, she saw. Nothing like this afternoon.

“Well, lookie here. My, my, already on the floor…waitin’ for us.” he said as he walked over to her, then he saw the other man on the floor and stopped. “Who’s this? Your new boyfriend, maybe?”

“No, I don’t know who he is. Can you help me get him up into the chair?”

Dooley laughed a little; Vance went over and nudged the man with his foot.

“Looks out cold to me,” Vance said, then he bent over and slapped the man’s face. No reaction, nothing at all, and Vance stood up and shrugged.

“Good,” Dooley said. “No witnesses…”

And then she looked at Paul, who was now undoing his belt and unbuttoning his jeans, flipping off his work boots, stepping out of his jeans…

“What are you doing?” she asked, not believing what she was seeing.

“We’re gonna have a little party tonight, just the three of us, and guess what? You’re the guest of honor.”


He pulled down his briefs – letting his cock free to dangle between his legs – and then he leered at her now. “Suckee, suckee, five buckee,” he said gleefully, then he stepped forward, coming for her…again. “Just like old times,” he sail, almost giggling.

“Who’s that,” Vance said, but Dooley heard a click-pffft, like the sound of rushing air, then something bit his neck, pain like a wasp’s sting, or a hornet, maybe –

And she saw Jim step out of the shadows, a pistol of some sort in his right hand – which arced over to Sheldon Vance and click-spitted again. She saw a little spat of blood form on Vance’s neck, watched him react, bring his hand up to the side of his neck – “Ahh, ouch!” he said – then Dooley went down on his knees, eyes rolled back in his head and he slowly slumped over backwards, trying to stop his fall with an outstretched arm. “Oh, fuck,” Dooley said as he let himself down to the shiny oak floor. “Somethin’ don’t feel right…”

And then Vance stumbled, leaned against the wall, then he was trying to hold on to something, anything, as he slid to the floor, and he ended up in a sitting position with his back against the wall, his chin on his chest.

Jim walked into the room and the stranger on the floor sat up, looked at the two men on the floor and grinned, more men walked in from other hiding places and she looked around at all this sudden commotion and didn’t know whether she wanted to hide her eyes or run away or cheer for the good ole red, white and blue…

“Did you just kill them? Simple as that?” she cried, but he came over to her and held out his hand, pulled her up.

“They’ve been watching you, and your house, for a couple of hours. What’s up with them? And why is this dickhead wagging his weenie in my living room?”

So she sat down and she told him, them really, because all of them, all eight of his men, walked in and listened to her retelling of events now almost thirty years old – with all of them soon regarding the two on the floor almost like dog turds they’d just stepped on.

Jim looked at them, shook his head, then said: “Tom, get my bag, would you?”

“The black bag, sir?”


He walked over to Dooley, leaned over and looked into the man’s eyes. “What hit you in the neck is a voluntary muscle relaxant. That’s why you’re still breathing, and that’s why you can’t move. You’re not going to die, so just try to relax”

‘Tom’ brought in a small black case and handed it over; Jim opened it and took out some eyedrops and a few other odds and ends.

“That’s also why you can’t close your eyes, or even blink, so I’ve got to put some drops in your eyes from time to time, until you come out of this.” He put drops in Dooley’s eyes, then tossed the vial to one of his men. “That boy looks uncomfortable sitting like that. Let’s get him down on the floor, then put some drops in, would you?”

“Yessir,” the other man said.

“So,” he said, looking at her, “which one is this?”

“He was my boyfriend in high school. Paul Dooley. And that’s Sheldon Vance. He held me down most of that night, jacked off on my face once, then fucked me in the ass.”

“Did he, now. Well, too bad for you, Sheldon.” He turned to her, his face a blank mask now: “You might want to go home now.”

“What are you going to do?”

He sighed. “I think class is going to be in session again for these boys. It’s time they learned a thing or two about what happens to rapists in the real world.”

“No, I’m not leaving,” she said defiantly. “And I won’t let you kill them.”

“Kill them? No, just a little civics lesson, but it won’t be pretty.”

“I don’t care. I have to watch, to make sure…”

“Well, suit yourself,” he said, and he took a vial out of his bag and leaned over Dooley, put two drops on the man’s tongue, then he walked over and did the same to Vance.

“What’s that,” she asked.

“It’s an LSD analogue. Sort of the same thing, but this little home-brew heightens the sense of paranoia,” he said as he took latex gloves out of his bag and slipped them on. Two wrapped syringes came out next, and he pointed at Vance, said “get his pants down,” and men snapped to, pulled that man’s pants down, including his underwear, then he walked over to Dooley, leaned over and looked into his eyes.

“Can you talk yet?”

Dooley worked his mouth, tried to say something and failed, then tried again. “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you, man…” he whispered.

“Indeed. Glad to hear it. Now Paul, do you know what this is?” He held up a snake, a rubber snake, but one that looked remarkably like a live coral snake, and he held it up carefully to Dooley’s eyes, taking great care to hold it, then he put it back in his bag. “That’s right, Paul, this is a coral snake. You’ve heard of those, haven’t you? Well, Paul, what I’m going to do is this. I’m going to put that coral snake right up your dick. I’m going to put that snake to sleep first, then I’m going to just slide him right up that dick of yours, all the way up into your bladder. Then that snake is going to wake up. And Paul, do you have any idea what that poor snake’s going to do once it wakes up?”

“Fuck you!” he slurred, and he watched as Dooley’s eyes rolled back, the LSD analogue taking hold now.

“No, not at all Paul. I’m not going to fuck you. That snake is going to fuck you, right up your ass. Just imagine that snake coming up behind you, then fucking you up the ass, just like you fucked Tracy up the ass. Remember that? How good that felt? Well, that snake is going to enjoy fucking you up the ass just as much as you enjoyed fucking Tracy, only his dick is a lot bigger than yours.”

“Oh, no…” Dooley cried, and he leaned over, put more drops in his eyes.

“Yes, Paul, much bigger, and it’s going to hurt like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. So, Paul, I’m going to have to get your dick hard first, so I can slide the snake up there, and this is going to hurt a little, and I’m sorry for that. But I can’t push that coral snake up your dick is it’s soft, can I?”

He opened a syringe, screwed down the plunger to prime the binary chemical load, then swabbed off Dooley’s dick with an alcohol swab, quickly slipped the needle into the base of Dooley’s penis – then slowly depressing the plunger. He went over and repeated the process on Vance, right down to dangling the snake in front of the terrified man’s face.

“No,” Vance whimpered, “no snakes. Please, no snakes.”

“Ah, so you’re afraid of snakes?”


And Jim frowned at that, shook his head at Vance’s tears, his uncontrolled trembling when he held the snake in front of Vance’s eyes again.

“Oh well, that can’t be helped, I’m afraid.”

He walked back to Dooley, bent over and flicked the dick with a gloved finger – and it was beginning to react to the medication, getting harder by the minute, and he nodded, then looked up at her.

“Anything you’d like to say to him now, before we do this?”

“No. Will it hurt?”

“Excruciating pain, yes. When it wakes up and bites him, he will experience total agony.”

“Good. But…won’t he die?”

“I’ll administer an anti-venom when that happens,” he said, and he saw his words were having the exact affect he wanted. Dooley farted, began to cry…

“Don’t do this to me…what kind of monsters are you?”

Jim nodded, leaned over and looked into Dooley’s eyes. “I’m so sorry about all this, that this is going to hurt so much, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Neither can you, for that matter, so why don’t you just relax now…it’ll all be over in a minute.”

“No, please, don’t do this to me…”

“What? Are you sorry now? Sorry for what you did to Tracy? Are you?”

“I didn’t do nothin’ to her.”

“Oh. I see.” He went into his bag, pulled out a small envelope and a tube of sterile lubricant, then opened the envelope, pulled out a small sterile sleeve. “Okay, Paul, if you’re not going to tell me the truth, guess who’s coming out for a visit?” He pulled the snake out and handled it carefully again, held it just above Dooley’s face –

– and he cried out again: “I didn’t do nothin’!”

“Of course you didn’t, Paul. And you go right on thinking I believe you, too.” He put lube on the end of Dooley’s dick, then opened the sleeve, peeled back the wrapping and took what looked like a six inch long piece of glass tubing out and in one smooth motion slipped it inside Dooley’s urethra. “Here it comes, Paul. Here comes the coral snake…”

The man screamed, coughed and screamed again.

“That’s alright, Paul. It’s almost all the way in now. But Paul, once that snake is all the way in I can’t get him back out. Do you understand, Paul? Once I let go of the snake he’s in there for good, until he wakes up, then, well, you know what happens then, don’t you? So, are you sure there’s not something you want to say to Tracy now?”

“I’m sorry, Tracy, for all we done to you that night…I’m so sorry…”

“Tell me, Paul, just what did you do to Tracy that night?”

“We fucked her, he fucked her in the ass, we fucked her all night long…”

“Paul, did you like it? Did you like fucking her up the ass?”

He grinned. “Oh yeah, it was great, the greatest night of my life. I loved it, we all did.”

“So, you’re not really sorry, are you, Paul? Not really?

“Shit no. I’d do it all over again…”

“That’s what you were going to do tonight, isn’t it, Paul?”

“Oh, yes. I can’t wait to fuck her up the ass again…”

And put a gag in Dooley’s mouth then squeezed his dick, causing the crystalline sugar rod to shatter, and he kept squeezing the dick until he saw blood run out the tip. The rod melted quickly after that, and Dooley’s muffled screams filled the room – and Tracy looked down at him for a minute, then stood and left the room.

He walked over to Vance, and began again.


He and his men were sitting around the card table, deep in a new hand when they saw a sheriff’s car drive up the street and stop in front his house. An old man got out and walked up to the door and banged on the glass, then on the wooden door frame. “Open up,” he called out, and Jim went to the door, opened the door and smiled.


“I just come from the hospital. Two men down there, their dicks all torn up, and they you done something to them.”

“Excuse me? Who said what?”

“Two locals, say you stuck snakes up their dicks.”

His eyes went wide and he laughed. “Snakes? Not likely, I’m deathly afraid of snakes, and besides, we’ve been playing cards since five this afternoon.”

“I’m gonna need to see some ID,” the old sheriff said, and eight men pushed back their chairs and walked over to the door, their pistols and badges now clear for him to see. “You all law enforcement,” he asked, now cowed.

“Federal,” Jim said. “Counter-terrorism.”

“Why didn’t you guys check in with me, let me know you’re here?”

“Because,” Jim said, “we’re not here. You didn’t see anyone in this house. Not one soul. Is that clear enough for you? Do I need to elaborate?”

“Yessir, I got it.”

“Now, I don’t know who you have down at the hospital, but it sounds to me like somebody took too many drugs tonight, maybe got hold of some really bad shit. You wish ‘em a speedy recovery, though. Tell ‘em I hope they get better, real soon. Now, goodnight Sheriff.”

She watched the old man walk out to his car from his bedroom, watched him drive away, then walked out to the living room, walked up to the table and put her hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, all of you,” she said, and Tom looked over at her and winked. “Five card stud,” he said, looking right at her. “You in, or you just gonna stand around lookin’ all cute ‘n stuff?”


Life slipped into new patterns after that night.

She moved most of her things down the street, put her clothes in the closet – in his closet, as in: her clothes next to his – and she looked at that development in wonder. Looked at what that really meant. For the first time in nearly three decades she had given her heart to another human being, yet she still had no real idea who, or what he was.

She only knew that he was dangerous. A most dangerous kind of human being, a great unknown, like a shadow in the night, lurking out there beyond the trees. He would walk by and she would feel that in her gut…that he was a feral beast, the creature of a child’s nightmare.

And that night lingered in her mind for days. The way he walked around the room, the gentle way he talked to Dooley and Vance as he stripped away their souls, laid them bare. Practiced was the word that came to mind, too. Like he’d done this so many times he’d grown bored with their fear. They were toys, not human beings, and yet when then were through with them, after they loaded Dooley and Vance in the back of one of the Suburbans and drove away in the night, after they were pushed out the back of the moving Suburban onto the beach road, when he came back to her he was as gentle and caring as any soul she’d ever known. So he just didn’t compute, she told herself. Things didn’t quite add up. Like two separate souls inhabited one body, one gentle and sweet, the other an unspeakable monster.

Yet she loved him. She loved him because he instinctively understood what had happened to her all those years ago, what it had cost her over the years, in the most human terms. And he – without hesitation or questioning her – acted on her behalf, to protect and avenge her. So, she understood he had been trying to protect her, and probably in the only way he knew how – so, could she hold that against him? Truly?

But what did his actions say about the man? Who he was, at his core? What he had done with his life?

And, she knew, he would have to tell her – because she wasn’t about to ask him again.

The first time she tried he turned her questions away, inverted their meaning and deflected her searching looks. The second time she asked that dangerous monster settled in his eyes – and she had to turn away, quickly, lest the other man, the creature who lurked deep within those shadows, came out to play.

Yet one moment she knew his was a gentle soul, playful in the extreme, yet also deeply caring. He was an attentive lover, wanted her to have at least twice as much enjoyment from their intimate moments together, and he seemed to need her happiness for his own to be complete.

But she soon noticed he grew tense every Sunday afternoon, and the crescendo of his anxiety always came around six in the evening. When his computer, or something like that in his study, buzzed loudly – and he shut the door as he went inside. Jimmie stood and growled until she either walked outside or down to the bedroom, and he would come out of the room, his face glum one Sunday, or seriously excited, as had happened last week, and she could let out her breath again. Regardless, his face was stern and all business when he came out, and his men would come over and they talked in hushed, angry tones while she worked in his garden or finished folding their laundry.

And Jimmie?

When he came out of the room Jimmie relaxed, and it was as if nothing had happened. One minute a snarling creature ready to rip into her throat, the next just another gentle soul ready to love, and be loved. Feral – docile – in the blink of an eye. Birds of a feather, she thought…

But the changes just didn’t make sense.

Or did they?

“Just who the hell is he?”


And another routine was quickly established, soon set in stone. He stopped cooking lunch and dinner, except on Mondays, and he walked down the hill, to her. He walked down to the café and in the front door at 11:15 sharp, for lunch, and at 5:00, on the nose, for dinner. And Jimmie always came with him. Soon everyone knew the corner table was his, or…theirs. For the pup curled up at his feet and just slept – until it was time to leave again,

About ten days after “that night” Paul Dooley came back to work, was working out back framing a bathroom wall when he walked in, right on time, and she came over, told him about the day’s specials then mentioned, in an underhanded way, that ‘a friend of yours is out back…’

“Oh? Splendid!” And he’d walked right through the kitchen and out the back door, onto the framed and decked addition – and Dooley was about five feet away, on a step ladder, when he stepped out there. He walked around for a while, until Dooley saw him, then he walked back inside, stuck his head in Bruce’s office. “Lookin’ good out there,” he said, and Bruce looked up.

“Yes, now that they’re back up to full strength they should make good time.”

“Oh? Something happen to someone?”

“Yeah, one of their carpenters had some kind of bladder infection, something like that.”

“Ah. Well, looks good, lots of progress. Can’t wait to see it once all the walls are up and rocked.”

Bruce smiled, looked at him, then cleared his throat. “Got a minute?” he asked.


“Come on in, have a seat.”

“Yeah?” he said, “What’s up?”

“I was looking over the plans, thinking about maybe getting a piano, putting it in a corner out there. We’ll have room for a piano, maybe even a trio, something like that. Evenings, ya know. Try to set a new mood around here. Maybe a small dance floor, too.”

“What? Jazz? Stuff like that?”

“Oh,” Bruce said, leaning back, “jazz, classical, even old Elton John.”

“Sounds interesting. What are you thinking you’ll need?”

“I don’t know anything about pianos, neither does Darren, but Tracy mentioned you play so I was wondering, could you help us pick out a piano, maybe get that up and running once we get close to opening?”

“Up and running?”

“Well, maybe you could play a few nights a week, for an hour or so?”

“Ah, kind of sing for my supper, eh? Well, we’ll see. I can certainly help get a piano in here, and there are a few options to go over, but we can talk about that in a month or so.”

“Great, thanks! So, what’s Darren got for lunch today?”

And his routine at home changed a little after that. He started playing more, working on pieces he’d played easily years ago, but that challenged his hands more these days. And when the addition out back took shape he walked out there and looked over the area where the piano would sit. And he’d picked out a nice one, too. A Clavinova, of course, but a full size concert grand, and he could hardly wait to dance with it.

Then one afternoon Paul Dooley walked up the street, trying to act like he wasn’t there, and he walked up to her house and looked at it for a while, then kept on walking up the hill. But of course by that time several people were looking at him, wondering what he was up to – and one of his men slipped into the trees and watched Dooley from a distance, watched Dooley walk up and get into the sheriff’s car, then drive away with him.

And that night the man gathered around the card table, waiting, and the sheriff’s car drove by as the sun set, and again, a few hours later – and then the loud buzzing alarm went off in his study and she thought that odd, as it was a Wednesday. He disappeared inside the room and talked for a few minutes, then he came out and looked at his men.

“Okay, let’s roll,” he said, and they left the house, left her sitting in the living room, alone, and they got in their Suburbans and drove off into the night. The drove south on Main, then out the old County Road where the sheriff was set up, working radar, or so he liked to tell people. When they pulled up to the sheriff’s car he was hurriedly stuffing girly magazines into a briefcase, and he was not amused that these strangers had interrupted his routine.

“What are you lousy sons-a-bitches doin’ out here?” he fairly screamed.

And as he watched Jim walk up to his window he heard a ‘click-pffft’ sound, then swatted at the wasp that must’ve just bit his neck.

“How’re you doin’, Sheriff?”

The old man slumped over behind the wheel, began babbling and drooling.

“My oh my, Sheriff. Have you been drinking? You know, it sure smells like you’ve been drinking. And look what we have here. Juggs Magazine. And Little Beavers, too. Why Sheriff, do you have a thing for little girls? Oh, and look at what we have here. An envelope full of pictures? Of little children, being fucked by…why Sheriff? Is that you? Are you beating off to pictures of you fucking little children?”

The Sheriff mumbled something incoherent, then his bowels cut loose, filling his pants.

“Opps, looks like we’ve had an accident. Well, I hate to say this, Sheriff, but we’ve put a call into the State Police,” he said as he emptied a pint of bourbon onto the sheriff’s uniform, leaving a few good swigs to pour down his mouth. “I guess you know what a DUI is going to do for you, don’t you? Not to mention all that kiddy porn.”

More mumbling, then a State Police trooper’s car pulled up behind the caravan and one of his men went over and introduced himself to the trooper, explained what they’d found when driving out of town. The trooper checked their IDs and was duly impressed, then she examined the sheriff’s car, found all that kiddy porn and they helped her get the sheriff hand-cuffed and into the back of her car.

They watched as she drove off, content with having cleaned up a little of the local trash. For now. Then they watched as the C-27J circled the airport and landed, never once turning on any lights during it’s approach.

They drove out the county road and turned into the airport, and he ran to the Air Force transport and climbed aboard, then the aircraft taxied – again, with no lights – to the end of the little grass strip. The engines spooled up and the Spartan sprinted down the runway and leapt into the sky, then turned to the north northeast and disappeared into the night.


She watched the Suburbans pull into the drive next door, saw he was gone – again – and she wondered where he went – without explanation – on these sudden nights. ‘No point,’ she said to herself as she turned out the lights and went to sleep. “He’d never tell me…”

He wasn’t at lunch the next day, neither did he come by for dinner, but an hour after she walked up to her house she heard one of the Suburbans pull into his drive, and she watched, from her living room, as he went inside and, she assumed, looked for her around his house. Yet a few minutes later all the lights went out and she cursed his name, then went upstairs and crawled into her own bad, in her old room, the room of her childhood.

When she couldn’t sleep he tried to touch herself, tried to get herself off but she knew that was pointless now. She couldn’t even get wet down there without his touch – so she threw back the sheets and put on her slippers, walked down the stairs and out the door. Cussing now, as a light rain began falling, she pounded down the street and across his yard, threw open his front door and tromped down the hallway to his bedroom door. She threw that door open too and walked over to the bed, threw down the sheets and, like a heat-seeking missile, her mouth zeroed in on his cock – and just then she realized he was sitting there, that he’d been waiting for her, that his cock was hard, and slippery, and she flew onto his lap, impaling herself on him. As soon as he was all the way in she slipped into an almost convulsive state, writhing in sudden ecstasy as he held her down, twisting under her and driving up deeper inside from time to time – then he reached for her clit and with his thumb began massaging her. She growled for a moment, then began to roar, finally howling her way into a monumental, thrashing orgasm – screaming “Oh, God, oh, God!” over and over and over again.

When she was falling back to earth he flipped her over and slipped his cock into her mouth, and as soon as her liquid warmth encased him he felt himself explode – and he watched as his cum erupted, oozed past her lips, began running down her chin and onto her breast – then he slid down and put his face on her nether lips and began hammering her clit again, with his tongue this time.

She became a thing possessed now, wrapped her legs around his face, her feet on the back of his head, pulling him closer, and she was lifting up to put more force on her bud, pulling him deeper still – and within moments she was pounding the mattress with clinched fists and her legs shot straight up into the air – her thighs squeezing his head so tightly he thought he might pass out. He drove his tongue in as deep as he could just then, and a silky wave of fluid washed over him – and that only seemed to release a second, much deeper wave of orgasmic contractions…

“Oh, fuck…put it in me…now…”

And he moved up, ran the head of his cock over the running river and slid in, the silken grip surreal now, almost molten. She had her legs up, his face resting on the sides of her feet and he started licking the bottom of her strong arch, then he bit it, started sucking the skin there and her back lifted, he felt her contractions from the head of his cock to the small of his back and everything was suddenly unstoppable. He felt his orgasm begin somewhere in his thighs, the pressure building until his entire being felt wrapped in hot light and a million pricking pins of lust –

And then he felt light headed, like he was standing on a mountain high above timberline and a cold wind was blowing in the sun. He lay there, very still, propped on her legs as the feeling grew more intense…this feeling of altitude, high altitude, and of howling winds. He put his arms out to his side, felt the wind lifting him high into the sky –

And he was flying. Like an eagle, he thought, looking down at the earth far below, soaring on unseen currents, banking on a breeze then looping over into a steep dive…his wings back as he fell on unseen prey far below. He could hear his cry, an eagle’s piecing call even over the roar of the wind, and he took a deep breath, opened his eyes and saw her there, looking at him, her eyes full of wonder.

“Where did that come from?” she whispered.

“Oh, God I love you,” he said – then he was on her, kissing her with more passion than he’d ever felt in his life – and she was all arms and legs now, wrapping herself around him as they rolled on the bed in a frenzy of abandoned restraint.

“Don’t ever leave me like that again,” she cried. “I can’t stand not knowing where you are, not knowing if you’ll come back to me…”

And he stopped, looked into her eyes. “Alright. I promise,” he said, then he took her fingers in his mouth, one by one, licking and sucking on them, “on one condition,” he added.

“And what would that be?”

“We fly to Vegas, and you marry me.”

She grew very still then, and she moved away, looked him in the eye. “Is that what you really want?”

“More than anything in the world,” he said softly, sucking on one of her nipples.

“Alright. I’ll accept, on that one condition.”

He moved to her other nipple, began tonguing that one, and he felt them growing hard as he worked them over, felt her thighs trembling and her hands pulling his mouth closer – and he pushed her down again, buried his face between her thighs until her body was almost on fire, her being on the verge of spontaneous combustion.

When she came down this time he left her again, spiraled away on thermal currents until he was high over the mountains, looking down. Clouds were gathering along a far ridge, a deep storm coming and he looked down into the forest far below. He saw her running then, running like a fawn, her tawny, spotted skin dancing in the sunlight, oblivious to the warning wind building around her, carefree, alive, running through the trees without a care in the world.

He wondered what it was like to run free, to run through forests – without orders. What it must feel like to kill just for the sake of killing, without having to be told to kill. He looked at the fawn and wondered if he should let it run free a while longer, or if he should fold his wings back now, and fall on her.

He knew they were getting close now. The team had been spotted in St Johns. Leaving the airport, headed to the wharves. So, they would come by sea this time. Not unexpected, he thought, and he looked at her – sleeping by his side. So cute, he thought. I could lick those freckles for all eternity, kiss those lips, fall into her eyes and swim away. He trembled and jerked for a moment, felt himself falling through lightning and rain, the wind and enfolding darkness too close now. Close, but not touching.

She would die, he knew. She would get to close to the lightning before he could save her, so maybe it would be better to kill her now, before all the pain came crawling through the night – before the real suffering began.

He reached out, put his hands around her neck –

And the current, the charge of her skin touching his, reached into him – and he closed his eyes, felt the wind and the rain and he flew higher, reaching out for the sun.

© 2017 Adrian Leverkühn | abw | |

Sunset at the Pink Water Café, Chapter 2

sunset logo

Sunset at the Pink Water Café

Chapter 2

She woke up late the next morning, slipped out of bed and tip-toed to the window – halfway expecting to see that dog down there, waiting for her, but she saw grass and trees – and no dog – so she showered and dressed quickly for work. She fixed coffee and toast in the kitchen, looking out the window at his house, then walked out the door and down the street, passing his house with her head down, as quickly and as quietly as she could – but the Land Rover was gone, a black Suburban in it’s place now. She saw US Government plates on the back bumper and shook her head, saw a young man inside the house looking at her as she passed and she quickened her pace, made it to the café in record time.

She wrote out the specials on the chalkboard, took the chairs from the tabletops and arranged them just so, swept the floor – again – and went to the kitchen. Darren was working away on today’s soup – a cream of celery with shaved gruyere and scallion garnish – and she heard a commotion out back, just outside the kitchen entry.

“What’s goin’ on out there?” she asked Darren, and he looked up from the cooktop and smiled.

“Permits approved yesterday. Starting the new patio soon. Check it out…”

She went to the door and opened it, looked outside to the land between the back of the building and the water’s edge. A big yellow bulldozer was clearing the site, surveyors were placing stakes and a construction shack was already in place and she nodded her head before going back inside, wondered what this would mean to the future.

“It’s going to double our seating,” Darren said. “Almost all glass, like a greenhouse. In fact, it’s going to be full of plants!”

“What about the kitchen?” she asked. “Aren’t you going to need to expand that too?”

“Yes, we’re going to put a bigger walk-in downstairs, and that’ll free up enough room to add two tops and a huge prep station.”

“So, going from 12 tables to what? Twenty five?”

“Thirty. And we’ll have room to put a little bar up here too.”

“Geez. How many…?”

“Bruce figures we’ll need three girls waiting tables, maybe a barkeep full time if business picks up. He’ll work prep and the bar while I work the kitchen, but we’ll probably need another cook, too.”


“We were thinking, maybe you’d like to move to hostess and being a manager, that type of thing.”

“Yeah, why not,” she said, crestfallen.

“Hey, Tracy…it would be a promotion…”

“I know. I get it. Too old to work tables, I guess.”

“No…that’s not it at all…we just thought you’d like a change, that’s all. Maybe make some more money, ya know?”

“Yeah. Sure, if that’s what you want.”

“Oh, Tracy,” he sighed. “What are we going to do with you?”

She shrugged. “Told you a long time ago, I have zero ambition. I do what I do because I like it.”

“So, how was Prince Charming?” She looked away and he did too. “Well, so it didn’t work out?”

“I have no idea,” she said. “He’s kind of a busy man.”

“I thought you said he was retired?”

“I don’t think he is. Not really. Anyway, I think he’s out of town.”

“You think?”

“I don’t know where he is, okay?”

“Ah. Well it’s time, honey. Better open the door and let the starving masses in.”

She nodded her head, went to the door. “Starving masses. Right.”


She walked home after the café closed for the evening, walked up the hill and by his house, and the black Suburban was still parked out front, the blue Land Rover still gone. She relaxed after that, walked to her house and locked her doors before going upstairs for the night.

She never locked her door anymore, she thought. So why now? She gotten over all that other stuff a long time ago, hadn’t she?

But the Land Rover was back the next morning, and all those feelings seemed close again.

She saw it from her living room, saw Jimmie out in the front yard. Sitting. Looking up the hill, at her. She looked at the dog for a long time, and he never once looked away from her. What was he thinking, she wondered? Or was he thinking about him, and how she might be a threat? Or was he even thinking?

She walked down the hill a few minutes later, saw Jim on the ground, on his back under the Land Rover – swearing at something up under there – and she laughed.

He heard her laughter and turned, looked at her – and she stood as if transfixed. Like a deer in the headlights, tail up and motionless. Waiting to see what would happen next.

“Howya doin’?” he asked.

“Fine. You?”

“Not bad.”


“Oh, he’s fine,” he said standing up, wiping greasy hands on a coarse, red shop towel. “He doesn’t like it when I leave him like that, but c’est la vie, I guess.”

“Oh? Where’d you go?”

“Down south. Washington.”

“Fancy house-sitters you have. The machine guns are a nice touch, too.”

He looked down, shook his head. “I was gonna fix some coffee. Want some?”

She shook her head, said “I don’t know,” and he looked at her for a moment, at her indecision.

“Well, suit yourself,” he said, turning away.

“Just who the fuck are you, anyway?”

He spun around, his eyes narrow and hard again – but he relaxed again, as quickly. “You want to talk, we can talk inside,” he said, turning and walking inside.

And she followed him. Right up the steps and into the living room. Right through the living room and into the bedroom. He was standing there when she walked in, unbuckling his belt, smiling, then he turned to her. “I took a blue pill this morning. One hundred milligrams. I could drive a nail with this fucker,” he said, grinning – and she walked over and felt it.

“Damn…does that hurt?”

He nodded his head a little. “Pressure seems to be building a little.”

“I take it you could use a hand with that?” she said, slipping her skirt down to the floor.

“A hand?”

“My mouth’s dry. Think you have something that could lube it up a little?”

“I’m willing to try, if you are…”

She got on her knees, flicked it with her finger a few times. “Goddamn, Jim, I ain’t never seen anything this hard in my life. It’s not natural,” she said, taking it in her mouth. She went up and down the length of it a few times and withdrew. “Nope, this ain’t right,” she sighed, biting the tip once, watching him flinch and smiling –

And he held her head after that, basically raped her mouth, going at it like a jackhammer…and he felt her fingers encircling his thighs, then creeping up, closing on his ass. She felt his cheeks clinch and she forced her fingers through the cleft…

“And just what the devil do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m going to stick my fingers up your ass.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“Let me repeat. No. As in N-O – you are not.”

She took the head of his cock in her teeth and applied pressure. “Excuse me?” she said, sweetly, once she released him.

“No, thank you.”

“Do you mean to tell me that no one has ever played with your ass?”

“That’s affirmative.”

“Your prostate?”

“Aside from my internists bi-annual explorations, ditto.”

“Oh, you poor man. I-am-going-to-have-so-much-fun-with-you-tonight…” – and with that she took him all the way down again, then hammered him until she felt him rising on his toes, breathing hard, then she felt it pulsing and slowed, swirled her tongue over the head as it erupted. She felt it filling her mouth and she worked to swallow him as fast as she could – but the poor thing didn’t get in the least soft after that. In fact, it seemed harder and she pulled back, looked at it and bit the head once – causing him to convulse a few times. Liking that response, she bit him a few more times, felt him writhing somewhere between controlled and uncontrollable ecstasy, then she pushed him onto the bed and crawled up on his lap and slipped him inside.

She moved slowly now, all the way up, all the way down, drawing out each motion into a minutes long journey, until she looked down and saw him sweating profusely, trembling uncontrollably. Then she slid all the way up and off him, watched as sudden anxiety filled his eyes, then she positioned him over her anus and slid down again, taking him all the way down in one easy slide.

She clinched down hard as she rode him now, milking him with pressure until he was trembling again, then she went into overdrive until he was lost in searching spasm. They came down together, and she let his breathing ease before she spoke.

“Did you like that?” she asked.

“Yes, but it felt different. What’d you do?”

“You ever fuck a woman up the ass, Jim,” she asked, her voice teasing, almost mocking him now.

“No…uh, you don’t mean…”

She nodded her head slowly, smiled gently, and as slowly. “Uh-huh, you sure did, you horny devil. Now tell me, was it as bad for you, Jimmie-boy, as it was for me?” And she slid off him, put her clothes back on and walked from the house, smiling triumphantly as she skipped down the street.


He skipped lunch, thought he’d let her stew for a while, then he went down a little before five only to find contractors all over the property, and men in suits gesturing pointedly at one another. He walked up, listened and got the gist of things in a moment, then walked inside. She saw him and he pointed at his table in the corner and she nodded her head; Darren stormed through a moment later and disappeared in his kitchen and she brought him a glass of iced tea.

“Blueberry tonight,” she said. “Pretty good, too.”

“Thanks. Could you ask your employer to come here, please?”

“Darren? Sure, but why?”

He shrugged, she walked off and Darren came to his table a moment later and looked at him.

“Yessir? Tracy said you wanted to speak with me?”

“Have a seat, would you?”

The boy sat.

“You want to tell me what’s going on out there?”


“Bankers and lawyers, upset contractors. What’s going on, what went wrong?”

“Oh, the short version is the bank wants more collateral before they’ll release funds to the GC, that’s the…”

“I know what a GC is, son. How much are they sticking you up for?”

“Twenty large.”

“Twenty?” he said, smiling. “Could I see the plans, please?”

Darren excused himself and went back to the office, returned with plans and renderings of the new addition and Taylor looked them over for a minute and asked a few questions about their latest earnings statement, the he leaned back and steepled his fingers. “Sounds like you boys need a silent partner.”

“Oh?” Darren asked. “Know anyone interested?”

“What’s your position right now, today? You down with any suppliers?”

“Yessir. We had a slow winter.”

“So…why expand now? Increase cash flow? Tax write-offs?”


He shook his head, knew they were making a classic blunder but with enough financing to get them over the hump they might make it. “I’ll take a 25% stake in all future earnings for a one hundred K investment right now, tonight.”

Darren ran back to the office; he and his boyfriend returned a minute later and Taylor went over his proposition once again. The boys smiled and, after Taylor stood to shake hands, they leapt into his arms and hugged him.

Tracy watched all this in silence, wondering just what the fuck she’d gotten her boys mixed up in now.


She walked up the hill after the café closed – and walked right up the steps onto the porch – right through the front door – right past a snarling Jimmie and into his bedroom. He was laying on his bed, naked, with a huge grin on his face – waiting.

“What did you do to those boys!” she said, almost screaming.

“Not much. I just saved their collective asses, and yours too, I’d say.”


“I made an investment, and I expect it to pay off handsomely over the years, too.”

“An investment?”


“They were pretty glum this afternoon,” she said, “but now, I’ve never seen them so happy.”

“Good. Now, if you’ll focus your attention on the hard thing between my legs, you’ll find it’s cold and lonely, and in need of some close, personal attention.”

She looked at it and smiled, then tossed a small brown paper sack on the bad and watched him pick it up, look inside. “What’s this?” he said, taking the small bottle out of the sack. “Personal lubricant? Whatever for? I thought I slipped inside easily, didn’t you?”

“It ain’t for my asshole, you asshole,” she said, grinning.

“I thought we cleared that up earlier.”

“No, we didn’t.”

“Did you just call me an…?”

“I did, yes,” she said, taking the bottle from him. She got down on the bed, slipped between his legs and popped the top, squeezed a glob all over his penis and began stroking it. Long, slow strokes again. He put his head back and sighed. “Spread your legs a little wider,” she said – and he shook his head. “I said, spread them a little wider,” she repeated, holding the tip of his cock in a fingernail pincer.

“I have an idea. Let’s not, and say we did.”

“Now, Dickweed.” She poured a large glob of lube on him and let it ooze down, then she slipped a finger over his bud and massaged him for a few minutes.

“That’s not so…”

“Shut up,” she said, positioning it over the opening, “and take a little breath in.” She slipped inside and he fought it, clinching for all he was worth, but in the end it didn’t matter. “Let it out now, and relax.” She moved it in and out several times, then felt his prostate. “I’m going to touch it now,” she said, and she took his cock and put it in her mouth – then massaged the gland…

He erupted on her second stroke, catching them both by surprise, and she swallowed all of it, then swirled her tongue over the tip for a few minutes – and he was wracked by spasms when she nibbled the tip again – then she pulled out.

“Was that so bad?” she whispered.

“You’re a devil,” he said quietly, then he rolled on his side and shut his eyes; a minute later he was snoring gently.

“Well, damn,” she said. She got up, slipped out of her clothes and under the sheets, curled up along the contour of his back. A minute later Jimmie jumped up on the bed and she looked at him when she leaned over and to turn off the lamp on the bedside table. He was staring at her, panting gently, but he wasn’t grinning now. He seemed to be measuring her intentions, wondering if she was some kind of threat, perhaps.

She turned off the light and shut her eyes, and she felt the pup circling on then end of the bed, then he curled up behind Jim’s knees, like he was placing himself between his master and an intruder. Perhaps she would have been surprised to know the pup never once slept during the night, never took his eyes off her, never relaxed.

Or perhaps not.


She heard someone in the kitchen, looked up and saw a clock on an unfamiliar dresser across an equally unfamiliar room – a little after seven, she saw, and she sat up, looked around the room and remembered where she was. He walked in a moment later carrying coffee and croissants, some Nutella and orange marmalade, all on a little tray.

“Been to the head yet?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No. And I feel like elephants are dancing around inside my skull,” she added, rubbing her eyes with the backs of her knuckles.

“Well, go do your business and I’ll dig up a few naproxen. That ought to get you going.”

She padded off to the bathroom, washed her face – and he ducked in, handed her a new toothbrush, still in the box, and gently closed the door behind. She scrubbed her teeth, smelled her fingers and scrunched up her nose, turned the water to hot and washed her hands a few times, then went back and crawled up on the bed. He sat on the edge and handed her a coffee and she took a sip, then took the pills he handed her. He asked for her cup then, and for her to turn over on her stomach. He started on the backs of her calves and worked his way up her thighs, massaging her muscles with his elbow, he told her, digging in deeper than fingers or thumbs ever could. He worked his way up her pelvis, then through the deep muscles astride the spine. He sat on the backs of her thighs then, leaned into her upper back and shoulders and, a half hour later, up her neck.

“Why don’t you roll over now,” he said, and she did – if a little groggily – then he looked at her. “About last night. About what  you did. Never again, okay. That was not enjoyable, in the least. Clear?”

She nodded her head. “Okay.”

“And I’d just as soon not go there with you. I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy, I guess, but that’s always been good enough for me.”


“You always cover up your legs, you know? The way you dress. You shouldn’t. They’re spectacular.”


“Uh-huh. I could nibble on those thighs for a week and never get tired.”

“Okay,” she said, opening her legs to him. “Be my guest.”

He grinned, looked her in the eye. “Got chores to do this morning. You?”

“Nope. I was just planning on screwing your brains out for an hour or so.”

He seemed to grow annoyed at that, took his coffee and went to the study – the door closing behind as he stepped inside his little sanctuary – and she looked at him as he walked away, wondering about all his irregularities and inconsistencies. He acted like a man in conflict, undergoing some inner turmoil, and she thought about Monday night and his secrets, his armed guards in the house next door.

Who the hell was he? What was this all about?

She slipped on her clothes and walked out the door, up to the house, and she showered and changed clothes, then walked back down the hill – to the library.


She walked into the café a few minutes early, walked into the kitchen and found Darren in the back office, talking with Bruce – about their latest good fortune. About Jim Taylor’s investment, and what a godsend he was. Then she handed them the pages she’d just printed up at the library, and they read through the pages and pages slowly, page by bloody page, and Darren looked up at her at one point and sighed.

“That’s him?” he asked.

“That’s him,” she said, her voice stonily cool.

“Holy Mother of God,” Bruce whispered. “He got Gorbachev out? And Yeltsin? Stopped assassination attempts on them both?”

She shrugged, then handed them one last print out, a simple Google search. “The Russians have tried to kill him a half dozen times, twice in Washington, DC, in the last 18 months.”

“So, basically,” Darren sighed, “he’s hiding out up here.”

“Yeah, well, if Putin declared me an enemy of the state,” Bruce added, “I couldn’t think of a better place to hide than here.”

“I could,” she said. “Canada, right across the border. A deserted beach a few hundred yards away. I’d feel exposed as hell here, and he would know that he is, too.” She looked at her friends, perhaps the only friends she had in the world, and she smiled. “So, he’s your partner now? That sinking in now?”

“Yes, I suppose.” Darren said. “Anyway, I deposited his check first thing this morning, and the bank released our funds to the contractor.”

“So, they’re back on track?”

“A-yup, still on schedule. The new addition will open early August.”

“I wish we had a piano,” Bruce said. “Space for a piano bar, ya know?”

“Jim’s got one,” she said, and they both looked at her.

“Does he play?” they asked in unison.

“He hasn’t so far, but I haven’t asked him, either.”

“Think you could?” Bruce pleaded.

She smiled. “Might be able to, but I got to get ready now…”

She marked up their specials, swept the floor and put the chairs on the floor, then unlocked the door and flipped over the ‘OPEN’ sign; a few minutes later she saw Jimmie prancing down the hill – but they passed the café, walked on down the street and into the pharmacy. She shook her head, seated an older couple and was explaining the days specials when Jimmie reappeared, and they both walked in a moment later, went to their corner table and sat.

“Is that a crab-cake Benedict I see on the Specials today?” he asked when she came to the corner.

“A-yup. With Hollandaise and capers, some field greens.”

“Geez. Sign me up. What kind of tea today?”

“Bing cherry.”

“Geez, yeah, better bring me one of those, too.”

“Wanted to ask. You play the piano?”

“Badly, but yes.”

She nodded, walked off – stopped off by the office. “He plays,” she said, and Bruce nodded while Darren smiled, then she took him his tea and seated several new groups that had just walked in. ‘Sailors,’ she sighed. ‘Always starving, always in need of a shower…’

He lingered after he finished lunch, and he waited, paid her at the table. She brought him his change then planted a kiss on him – a lingering kiss that garnered catcalls from the other patrons inside – then he and Jimmie walked from the café, his gait a bit unsteady, and they disappeared up the hill.

But he had left his sack from the pharmacy on the table, and she opened it up, peeked inside, saw another bottle of ‘personal lubricant’ inside, along with a card. He’d written ‘sorry for being such an asshole,’ inside, and she took the sack and put it under the counter and finished up the lunch shift, then a couple of the carpenters working out back came in, and she stopped dead in her tracks.

Paul Dooley. Her boyfriend, all through high school. That she had not seen once since.

He walked in, saw her and stopped – dead in his tracks.

“Tracy?” he said, and he smiled, came up to her and took her by the arms. “I heard you were working here…”

“Paul? So nice to…well, this is a surprise…it’s good to see you. Again. Here, let me get you guys a table…”

“You guys got burgers?” one of Paul’s buddies asked.

“Sure do. Fries and beer, too.”

“That’ll do.”

Before they left to go back to work, Paul stopped by the counter…looked like he wanted to talk.

“So, you livin’ at your pop’s place?” he asked.

She nodded her head. “Sometimes, yes. Heard you married Sally Needham.”

“Yeah, we got a divorce a while ago, after the last kid moved out.”

“Oh? Too bad, I always liked Sally.”

“You seein’ someone?”

“Yeah. For a while now.”

“Oh? Well, good for you.”

“So, how long will you be working here?”

“A month or so. We’re out of Eastport, not much work around here these days.”

She smiled, nodded. “Yup. Well, maybe we’ll have a chance to talk every now and then,” she added, holding out her hand. “Sure nice to see you again.”

He looked at her hand, didn’t quite know what to do so he took it. “Yeah. You too,” he said slowly, then he walked out back – and Darren walked over, looked at the man as he left.

“Is that Trouble,” he asked, after the door closed.

She shrugged, sighed. “Could be. He’s the type that wants it, bad, and won’t take no for an answer.”

“Not sure I liked the look in his eyes just then. Looks kind of…unhinged.”

“He’s a big part of the reason why I left after high school. Heard he used to beat up his wife a lot. Glad she got out in one piece.”

“You let me know if he causes you any trouble,” Bruce said, standing in his office door, but he wondered: ‘Did you get out in one piece?’

She turned to him and smiled. “You guys are like my very own kid brothers, ya know.”

Bruce looked at her, went back in his office, but Darren came over and hugged her. “If I’d ever wanted a girlfriend, it would be you, so pardon us if we’re overprotective.”

She kissed him on the cheek, nodded her head and wiped away a tear. “Okay,” she whispered, then she got back to work.

When her break came she walked up to Jim’s house, walked right in, found him on the living room floor, under the piano hooking up speakers to a black box – and she looked at him, then it, not quite knowing what to think.

“Isn’t that kind of, well, I don’t know. I didn’t think pianos needed speakers.”

“Not really a piano. It’s a Yamaha Clavinova. Digital, more of a teaching tool, but hang on, let me finish up and I’ll show you.” He hooked up the second speaker, then a sub-woofer – and left them on the floor – then turned on the piano. She walked over and watched him hook up his iPhone to the piano, pull up a file and press ‘begin’ – and a full orchestra began playing – through the piano.

“A Rachmaninoff piano concerto,” he said, then he pressed pause. I can play along with the orchestra, or I can just let the piano play the part for me. Great for parties, dinners, things like that, or I can just turn all that nonsense off and play by myself. It’s also a great teaching tool.”

“Teaching? What? Like piano lessons?”

“Sure. Do you play?”


“Want to learn?”

“I don’t know – maybe?”

“Here, have a seat,” he said while he opened up the file ‘Pachelbel Canon.’ “Now, when the piano prompts with a light,” he said, pointing to lights ahead of the keys, “you just press the key. Watch…like this…” He pressed begin and a light lit on the piano, and he hit it, then the next note, and the next. He paused the lesson, went back to the beginning and added accompaniment, and he pressed ‘Begin’ again. “Now, you do it.”

The light lit up and she hit the key, and a symphony orchestra began playing with her. Her smile was infectious and he smiled with her as she hit key after key, but after a few minutes of this she grew bored and turned away. “It’s not really playing music, or learning, really,” she said, “but it’s kind of fun.”

“Yes, it’s more a child’s game, like dangling a carrot to stimulate curiosity, but you’re right. Like so many things these days, we need carrots to stimulate the imagination, to stimulate learning, yet little seems to take root.”

“Well, I’ve never wanted to play.”

“Tell that to a piano salesman. A hundred years ago they couldn’t build them fast enough, and most every home had a piano of some sort, yet now that’s a rarity. An even greater rarity, that you’ll find anyone in such homes who knows how to play. The world changed, didn’t it, Tracy?”

“I suppose so. Do you play? I mean, really play?”

He moved over, turned off the computer and took up playing the concerto for a few minutes, then stopped, turned off the instrument and walked to the kitchen, leaned over the sink and looked out the window.

She could feel his despair as he walked away and she went to him. “Tell me what you’re thinking, right now,” she said softly, putting her arms around him, the side of her face on his back.

“Alone,” he said.

“You’re not, you know.”

“No, I suppose not,” he said, turning inside her arms, putting his around her. “We used to play together, sometimes for one another. I thought of a moment when I went inside the music again.”

“Has it been a while…since you played?”

He nodded his head, sighed. “Too long, I think.”

“What about me, Jim…if I was suddenly gone tomorrow, what would remember about me?”

He smiled, deeply: “I would think about you walking in here and pulling me by my belt-loops. I would think about the first time I breathed in your hair, and of how lost I became in that moment.”


“How suddenly everything else felt so far away, so inconsequential. How overpowering lust grew, my lust for you. Nothing else has mattered since, you know? I feel like a blathering teenager again, when you’re here with me, only when I was young I never knew anyone quite like you.”

“You feel lust? For me?”

“I do.”

“Is that a little like love?”

“It is…a little.”

“A little?”

He nodded his head. “I can’t imagine life without you now, yet I…”

She place a single outstretched finger over his lips, made a ‘sh-h-h’ noise and then kissed him, once, gently. “No explanations necessary,” she whispered. “And I love you too.” She let go, went back and got the little paper sack then came for him, grabbed him by the belt loops and pulled him free, led him on…

“What do we need that for?” he asked, pointing at the sack.

“You’ll see,” she said, grinning madly.

Dooley watched her walking back from her break. Never took his eyes off her, as a matter of fact.


In his mind’s eye he saw her then as he remembered her most fondly: spread out on the hay in the barn behind his father’s house, her legs spread, waiting for the final assault. He had hit her, hard, and she was barely conscious when he pulled her legs up and put them over his shoulders, when he put his cock on her anus and pushed in as savagely as he could. She had moaned a little, started to cry and he hit her again, told her to shut up.

She had told him at school earlier that day how she wanted to head south after graduation, to get out into the world and see it, to learn more about people and places and things she’d never even heard of. Then he’d reminded her of their plans. Get married, settle down and have kids. Make a life together. And then she had gone kind of silent, a faraway look in her eyes – and he had nodded to the reality he saw in that moment. When school let out that afternoon he and three of his best friends picked her up as she walked home and they drove out to his father’s place, took her into the barn. They talked about silly things like football and the school play, then Dooley grew serious, took off his jeans and gathered his fists. They took turns, every time up the ass until she was bleeding down there; they picked her up when they were finished with her and carried out to the truck, then down the beach road – and they pushed her out on the side of the road, left her there with blood and semen streaming out her ass, pooling on the asphalt.

Someone found her, carried her to the hospital and in time the county sheriff came and talked to her, but he didn’t fill out a report. He went over to the Dooley farm and talked to the boys, and they told him pretty much what he thought they would. They said they’d been alone here in the house all afternoon, and that Paul and Tracy had broken up a few days before. He talked to the girl’s father and he agreed, there was no reason to put all those families through an investigation and a trial. It would just be better if it all went away.

She was better, her face had healed by the time graduation rolled around, and she walked on that stage and looked at all those good people looking at her, judging her, and she got her diploma, then walked home, alone, after that. Her grandfather had given her five hundred dollars and she took that money, packed her suitcase and walked out the door. She didn’t say goodbye to anyone, and she never once looked back when that bus headed south down the old county road.

But Paul Dooley watched that bus. He watched it leave and he frowned, and after it was gone, after the swirling dust and diesel fumes had settled all around him, he turned and walked back to the barn – smiling, as the memory came back to him.

And as he watched her walk into the café he smiled. He smiled at the memory, and he wondered how it would feel to put on a little repeat performance. When he got off work he called his old friends and told them what he had in mind. Two begged off, but one, Sheldon Vance, said he would be more than up for a little reenactment. They got the old truck out of the barn and he drove it into town while Shel followed in his car, and they parked the old truck right in front of her house, left their calling card for her to see.

They watched her walk up the hill after work, but she turned and went into another house and they wondered what was up with that.

“Maybe we should pay them a little visit,” Vance said.

“Yeah. Maybe.”

© 2017 Adrian Leverkühn | abw |