Night Trains- A Synopsis
In his first novel, ‘Night Trains’, in what began as a simple assault quickly becomes the ultimate battle between good and evil. The story revolves around a killer in the New York City subways. This is no ordinary killer though. He can thwart the best of police efforts to apprehend him and his ability to do so stems far beyond the possibilities of reality….into the realms of the supernatural.
…and now a ‘Ghost Story Like No Other’….
Joseph J. O’Donnell’s ‘Night Trains’
Maria Gomez stood on the open platform of the Pelham Bay line. It was late October and the chilling rains had made the day miserable. She hated these night shifts at the hospital where she worked as a nurse because it forced her to make these night trains a daily and often scary trip. Some of the weirdoes that were occasionally forced upon her during these travels made her look longingly to the end of the month when her rotation would be due, and she would be able to switch and work the morning shifts for a change.
Not that the night shift was bad, mind you. It was the lonely nights on the platform, waiting for the trains, that got you, she thought. Her husband wasn’t too fond of her hours either. Normally, he would walk with her to the station and wait with her until the train came. Her mother watched the kids for them while Miguel walked her the eight blocks to the stop. Then the flu finally caught up with them because of the cold weather they’d been having. Miguel didn’t look all that well himself. After much protest, however, she was able to convince him that she would be safe and it would only be for tonight that she would walk to the station herself. He finally gave in when she promised that she would call him when she arrived at work.
She regretted that decision now that she realized she was the only person waiting for the train. She had just missed the last train by seconds, and as she stood there and eyed the adjacent platform nervously, she cursed herself inwardly and waited impatiently for the next train to arrive.
Maria didn’t hear the sound at first, but as the slow rhythm of it continued, she consciously became aware of it. It was, she first thought, a ticking noise. But she began to realize that it wasn’t mechanical, but rather… “but rather, what?” she thought. She didn’t want to grow panicky. It was silly to get jumpy at every noise you heard. It could be anything. A loose wire, an unfastened latch, or just a broken strap that was blowing back and forth in the wind. That was it, she thought, just something loose that mother nature tossed around on a night like this to give you goose bumps. Like in some of those supernatural books her husband read and which she occasionally peeked into and quickly put away.
With those thoughts to bolster her confidence, she tried to put the sound out of her mind when she realized that it had stopped. That confirmed it, she thought, only the wind. She returned her vigil to the tracks and kept switching her glances up the line and back to the adjacent platform.
Suddenly something brushed her arm and clung there. Startled, she whirled around to face what she thought was her attacker and realized with a sudden relief that it was only a page from a newspaper. Things like this, I don’t need, she thought, and peered around with some relief when she saw the twin points of light of her approaching train.
That’s when she heard the ticking sound again. It isn’t quite ticking, she thought. More like a TSK sound. She turned to see where it originated and that’s when she saw the movement in the darkness.
She hadn’t seen them at first, for they sat so still. She more or less caught the glint in the shadows from a pair of glasses going from side to side as their owner made a TSK, TSK, TSK sound. Then she made out the outline of two, no three figures, as they sat in the shadows at the back of the platform.
Maria felt her scalp crawl and her jaw slacken and go numb as she realized that they had been there all the time, just watching. She tried to focus her attention on the far off train again, trying to not appear to care if they were there or not, silently praying for the arrival of the train. Her first natural instinct told her that if she was nonchalant they would not bother her, or at worse, just make a few obscene catcalls.
Maria Gomez could see the train’s lights now. They started to appear as separate beacons as they pulled into the station that was eight blocks down the EL. They were the approaching cavalry.
She almost jumped out of her skin when she heard the low voice next to her ear ask, “You got a match”. She nearly fell off the platform as she turned to face the stocky youth standing next to her. He was kind of tall, but heavily built, and seemed to have a sincere sort of face. He stared earnestly at her, but not with the mad violence she expected to see.
“Sure”, she said as she fumbled with her coat pockets, digging for the book of matches she knew she had.
“Hope I didn’t scare you or nothin,” he replied.
“No, you just startled me for a bit,” she said. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the other two standing off to her right, watching her. The one with the glasses stood silently, shaking his head from side to side. He didn’t make a sound.
Her hand made contact with the matches at last. It had seemed like ages of fumbling. She pulled them from her pocket and presented them to the stocky kid. He didn’t reach for them though, and she tried to read his face.
“Such a pretty lady to be out on a night like this,” he replied. The low awareness of his voice startled her and sent her scalp crawling again. Once more she felt her jaw slacken and her mind and mouth go numb. The train seemed to take forever, and she felt every part of her will pulling it toward her, to its inevitable arrival. She turned her head to look at the other two boys when she felt her midsection explode. The stocky youth had let go with a crushing right that made her eyes bulge before she went face down. It took every bit of breath out of her. She felt her knees buckle, then the crashing pain of her right shoulder hitting the platform. The look of fear on her face delighted him. He knew she was powerless against him, but, more so, he knew she knew and it was a look of ecstasy to him. She felt her face scraping the cement as they dragged her to the back of the platform into the shadows. The one with the glasses gave her a vicious kick in the side that sent any wind that was left in her into space, and mercifully, she blacked out.
They covered her with an old blanket they had been using for warmth during their vigil; and sat on her like three monkeys on a log as the train pulled up.
The train was nearly empty. If Maria had been conscious, she would have been dismayed to see that no one got off. No one had even seen the boys sitting in the back of the station. After what seemed like an eternity, the train doors shut and it began to slowly pull away. The youth with the glasses made the “TSK, TSK” sound again and the other two grinned.
They grabbed the blanket off of her, then rolled her over. She started to revive, and her lungs worked laboriously to pump the much needed air into her body. She offered no resistance as they tore the front of her coat open, popping two buttons in the process. They pulled the top of her dress open, and then one of them cut her bra in two with a knife, and began to assault her. They hesitated for a moment as they leered, then continued on pushing up her dress, tearing her nylon body stocking, and cutting up her cotton panties with the knife.
They leered again for a few seconds, and then started to work her over roughly with their hands. Out of a daydream‑nightmare type pattern, she could hear the train screeching past and she felt so alone.
One of the boys had unbuckled his belt buckle, while another continued grabbing at her. The boy with the glasses stood slightly behind the other two and looked down at her with a half grin, half pitying smile, and kept slowly shaking his head from side to side and making those “TSK, TSK” noises that seemed the sole background for this all too real nightmare.
She could only look toward this one with pleading eyes, hoping he would stop the others, knowing that he would take his turn when the time came. She feared him the most because he was the one with the knife.
As she stared at him with dulled eyes, she watched a change come over the boy. It was a slow, but unyielding physical change, almost as if he was growing. With slow realization, she saw that it wasn’t him that was growing, but rather something behind him. With a sense of utter fascination, she watched, and then she saw the man. He seemed huge, even monstrous. With an expression of hatred, his eyes bore into the back of the head of the boy with the glasses. There seemed to be such hate in his eyes, unparalleled by anything she had ever seen before. It sent waves of fear through her body motivating her into consciousness.
Sensing something was wrong, the boy with the glasses opened his knife. He thought that the shock was wearing off of her and she was going to scream or something.
She was, but not because of what was happening to her, but at the man, no the thing, behind the boy with the glasses. He was huge; bigger than any man she had ever seen. If she stood up, she felt she could probably figure him to be at least seven feet tall. It was the eyes that shook her the most. Such eyes could only belong to the devil himself. Then she saw the hands creeping towards the boy’s neck. This was the look the one with the glasses saw. The one in which he thought that she was going to scream and give them all away. He never knew how really wrong he was.
As she watched in horror, she saw the man move with surprising speed for someone so huge. With a quick jerk, he closed his big gloved hands around the boy’s neck and picked him up effortlessly. With a fast up and down motion, the boy’s neck twisted with a sickening snap. The other two boys didn’t even see it coming, but they heard the cracking noise. As they started to turn, they saw the first boy sail past their heads and crash limply into the station wall in front of them. He hit the cement, and the stocky boy turned in terror. He faced the intruder. A huge clinched hand slammed into the top of his skull, sending blood spurting out of his nostrils. His eyes quickly rolled up to the back of his head. He fell dead with a bewildered look on his face as if not comprehending what he saw, or what had happened to him.
The third boy gave a startled gasp, but before he could move, the thing cuffed him with such force his body actually did a back flip. He couldn’t even get himself properly tucked back into his jeans. The huge man then pulled out a knife the size of a small sword, and before the boy could recover, he was ripped open all the way down the front with one swift flick of the steel blade. The kid looked down and saw his intestines puckering out of his opened stomach like loosened snakes, then he passed out with a strangled scream on his lips.
As Marie looked on in horror, she could see the huge figure turn towards her. His eyes bore down as he stood over her, and with a quick movement the knife disappeared into the pocket of the brown trench coat that he was wearing.
She watched the knife vanish and glanced up at this menacing face again, but this time his eyes were quiet and gentle. He reached slowly down to her, and folded her coat back over her. Marie mercifully passed out.