Thursday, January 19, 2012
Now Playing: The Darkness
Bart McRae stared through the train window at the darkness outside. He should have felt happy. A terrible ordeal was over. But he only felt empty and, he admitted to himself, a bit scared.
“You best be movin’.”
Bart looked startled as he turned to face the train conductor. “What?”
“You best be movin’!” The conductor’s voice was loud and Bart wondered if the old man was hard of hearing. “This here is Jameson, Texas, your destination. We’ve dropped off a mail bag and picked one up. We’ll be pullin’ out soon. Your ticket is only good fer this far. You wanna stay on the train, you gotta pay more.”
“I’m leaving,” McRae said. The conductor stomped off, appearing disappointed that Bart hadn’t argued with him.
As he stepped off the train with only a small valise in his hand, Bart McRae realized his clothes were hanging loose on his five foot eight frame. He had lost weight during his four years in jail. Bart remembered reading that some prisons in the East give a prisoner a new suit of clothes when he is released.
“Guess the West ain’t quite so civilized,” he whispered to himself.
As the train pulled out, Bart began to walk toward the weak light coming from the depot and then abruptly stopped. No one was waiting for him there. He might as well be on his way.
Six shadows were outlined by the faint yellow emanating from the depot. They meandered about, looking like lost phantoms seeking passage back to the netherworld. Bart began to walk toward town.
“McRae! Bart McRae!”
McRae stopped as a figure swayed toward him. “Thought it was you.” The voice was familiar. The figure moved closer, advancing with the uncertain gait of one who had consumed more than a couple of drinks.
The light from the depot and a partial moon combined to give Bart a decent look at the man’s face. “Wyatt Cummings! Good to see a friendly face!”
Bart was polishing the truth. Wyatt’s face was more sullen than friendly. His skin looked doughy and his beard unkempt.
Wyatt Cummings had always been a proud man who took care of his appearance and drank wisely. Something was wrong.
Bart maintained his friendly greeting. “So, what is the best stage coach driver in these parts doing at the train depot?”
Wyatt gave a bitter laugh. “Nothin’. Just watchin’ the train come and go like those other worthless barflies. Sometimes I feel like runnin’ in front of it. Let the train kill me. It already has.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean there is no more stage coach line. The best stage coach driver in these parts, as you put it, is outta a job.”
“They don’t call these parts the flatlands for nothin’. Some places still need a stagecoach to go where the train can’t. Not the flatlands. The train does jus’ fine.”
An array of angry thoughts assaulted Bart McRae. Someone was lying to him. But who? It sure didn’t appear to be Wyatt Cummings. McRae’s voice remained calm; he really was concerned for his friend. “Why didn’t you move, go to where they still need a good jehu?”
“Don’t matter no more.” Wyatt looked back at the shadows still wandering about the depot as if they were ghosts from his past. “A day or two after losin’ my job, I got drunk. Went home and beat Annie, beat little Caleb too. The next morning, Annie took Caleb and went back East. On the train, ‘course.”
“I’m sorry, Wyatt. If there’s anything I can do…”
“There’s somethin’ you can do, all right! Come back here tomorrow night when I’ll be good and liquored up! Push me in front of the danged train!”
“Wyatt, don’t talk like that! Look, I don’t know exactly what has happened since I’ve…been gone. But I got a letter from Adrian Monahan, the owner of the stage line, promising me--”
Wyatt Cummings began to laugh hysterically. “Maybe we both should jump in front of the train.” Cummings continued his harsh laugh. “When did you get this here letter?”
“About three weeks ago.”
“Is that so?” Sobs mixed in with Wyatt’s laughter. “Well, Mr. Adrian Monahan has been dead for over two years. He shot hisself in the head.”
Tomorrow: Episode Two of The Darkness