Trains are often depicted as sources of intrigue and seduction. Brief encounters between strangers that can last minutes or days. The doors slide open and slews of strangers enter and begin their search for an open seat. A sigh of relief calls from the hydraulics as the doors are released, returning to their stationary positions.
Andrew was one such stranger, entering the train at Baltimore’s Penn Station and making his way down the isle. The train was relatively full considering the time of night. Overhead the muffled voice of the conductor mentioned something about a food car and the next stop.
“Is this seat free?” Andrew asked.
The gentleman being addressed broke his stare in to the night to look up and nod. Andrew placed his backpack overhead and settled himself. The man that shared his seat was clearly well to do, his attire that of a Wall Street Tycoon. A black tie rested on a muscular body that had been wrapped in a white button-up. His long wool jacket was a classic black, much like his sleek black hair that was perfectly combed in to place.
Dark leather gloves drew in Andrew’s attention as the fingers inside clutched a mahogany box. With golden hinges and an intricate design containing flecks of gold leaf across the top, it was hard to ignore such a box.
“Traveling for business?”
The gentleman continued to look out at the passing darkness, giving a small nod to politely acknowledge his counterpart. Andrew fidgeted in his seat, curious as to what was concealed within the box. Twenty minutes past when his tongue got the best of him.
“The box. A gift for someone?” Andrew probed.
There was a moment of hesitation, “A pistol that belonged to my grandfather. I traveled to D.C. to bring it home.”
Andrew nodded, not satisfied. He was momentarily distracted as the conductor once again mumbled through the intercom,
“Next stop, Aberdeen.”
Andrew continued, “Why’d you pick it up in person?”
“I need it for a special occasion.”
The man’s eyes remained focused on the night that whipped by the window. Occasionally a light would appear or the branch of a tree that had grown close to the tracks.
“What kind of occasion calls for a gun?” Andrew smirked, a ticket agent knocking his elbow from the armrest as she called for tickets.
There was almost no hesitation, “I’m going to kill my wife.”
Andrew laughed at this poorly constructed joke.
“No, really. What’s the gun for?”
“I told you. I’m going to kill my wife.”
Andrew began to look around for an official, realizing this was no joke.
“Not only her, myself as well. She’s taken a lover due to my travel. I’m going to give her what she has been asking for and deserves.”
“You can’t kill your wife,” there was panic in his voice.
“I’m afraid it’s as simple as pulling a trigger.”
The train suddenly came to a halt. The conductor’s voice came barking through the intercom once more and passengers scurried towards the doors.
The stranger moved passed Andrew in to the isle and walked quietly with the line of people on to the platform. Andrew frantically looked for anyone that could help. The man stood on the platform as the train began to exit the station, adjusting his gloves and renewing his grip upon the box that would deliver death to an unsuspecting wife.
“Wait! We can’t leave yet.”
“Take your seat sir,” advised a ticket taker.
“You don’t understand. The man that was sitting her is going to kill someone.”
“If he’s off the train, he’s not my problem.”
A stranger’s confession had left a scar upon the mind of one person that would last forever. Such encounters are rare and often insignificant. This one instance resulted in a stranger’s inability to hold his tongue, but even when we know the truth there is often little that can be done.
Watch for additional tales from the train – nothing’s over until the destination is reached.
This is dedicated to Jeffrey Label.