ADVENTURE THE 17TH: THE NARROW ESCAPE
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
ADVENTURE THE 17th: THE NARROW ESCAPE
In those split seconds following my own damn fool notion that death by derailment would somehow have been instantaneous and painless, I found myself sailing around on my celebrated ass in a room doing a complete barrel roll. The world had become unhinged and it was every man for himself. I hung on to Mico for as long as I could, but felt the centrifugal force tear us in half. She disappeared out of view, buried under several racks of costumes and a couple of heavy mail bags. I didn’t see Hemmingway airborne, but suddenly I looked up and there was Marysol like a great white terrified vapor staring me square in the face.
We knocked our brains together with such a force that I don’t remember the rest. I felt my legs wedged against the wall and hoped nothing was broken. But beyond that meager and fleeting thought for self preservation, I didn’t much give a damn one way or the other until a few moments later, when the thunderous rumble from beneath ceased and my eyes slowly stop ricocheting inside the back of my head.
. . .
A blast of cold air and some wet sleet pouring in from the busted doors brings me to. I can hear the faint sound of steam from the boilers and dim echoes of confusion and panic from the survivors in the next car. But I haven’t got a moment to wonder who didn’t make it. It’s dark inside, except for the faint flicker of an emergency lamp that barely makes things visible. I wait for my eyes to adjust then have a quick look around. In the few seconds it took to wreck an entire train, I managed to cover the span of forty feet on my back and I shows. My spine feels like the wishbone on Thanksgiving.
I’m stuck, but not too tight in a corner with a couple of shelves laying across me - sore but alive which is more than I can say for Marysol whose shattered skull greets me as I roll over to wiggle out from under my trap.
Yep, she’s dead alright. If that sunken half of her head didn’t tip me off then that thickening pool of blood pouring like a can of Mott’s tomato from her nostrils gives away the mystery. And it’s a good thing too, or I’d have to bash that puss of hers into pulp. I wouldn’t mind…not after what she’s put me through…only my fist is bloody enough without help. Funny…I didn’t think this cat had used up all of her nine lives just yet.
I get the second shock of my life a few minutes later when a battered hand begins to stir from under a sack of mail. It’s Mico and she’s still breathing. Even with that hole in her she’s managed to hang on to some forgotten daydream for a better tomorrow – or at least a tomorrow. I crawl over to the mess covering her up and gently peel the bundles and loose letters away until I hear light sighs and feel her warm breath on my knuckles.
“Angel?” I whisper.
Her eyes flicker like a pair of searchlights hooked up to a dying battery.
“He…help me,” she barely stammers.
“Hang on,” I tell her, brushing away a few strands of her matted hair from her forehead.
I begin to pry back all the junk surrounding her.
“Glad you stuck around for the encore,” I quip, trying to convince myself that it’s ‘happily ever after’ from hereon in, “We’ve had our ups and downs, baby but this is the first time they came at us at the same time.”
How can you refuse that face, ivory white, angelic and so close to death that for a moment I think I hear Gabriel’s trumpet gaining from behind – then I realize it’s a conductor’s whistle coming up from the rear.
I don’t have time to look for Hemmingway as I dig his kid out’ta the rubble and try to straighten myself enough to pull her closer to me. From under a trunk I dig out Mico’s hand. She squeezes mine just to let me know she’s with me still.
“Hang on, Angel,” I reaffirm for her again, “Just stay with me.”
Her eyes never leave mine and I know she hears every word.
“I’m not going to leave you,” I tell her.
There’s not that much blood around her wound. It’s as though the shock of impact and all that junk being dumped on top cauterized it.
“We have to go,” I tell her.
“Afraid so, Angel. I don’t know where but there’s still a few pieces of the puzzle unaccounted for.”
“I ca…can’t,” she whispers.
“You don’t have to,” I explain, kissing her forehead “I’ll do all the work. You just concentrate on living.”
She nods. She trusts me. But it doesn’t last long.
“Is anybody here?” a voice calls from the other side of the car. Mico tries to make a sound. But she’s weak and no match for my fist cupping over her mouth.
“Anybody, at all?”
I observe as a pair of flashlight beams dart back and forth about the crumpled recesses of this room. They’d see us for sure if it wasn’t for all that steam and night fog that’s flooded the place. I lay quietly across Mico and whisper into her ear.
“Be still, Angel,” I tell her, “We don’t have a chance of explaining this away if we’re caught.”
That seems to work, or so I think until I realize that Mico’s passed out, her face a portrait of peaceful slumber in some forgotten moment childhood left behind.
The conductor climbs into our car. His accomplice is ready to give up when they both hear what neither they nor I expected.
“Here!” Hemmingway’s voice calls out loud and clear. My glances dart about the room, frantic to locate the direction of his pleas. He’s stronger than I thought and probably twice as warped as before – like a vinyl record that’s been left out in the afternoon sun, “Damn it. Here!”
I spot him a minute later, clawing at a wire clothes rack that’s pierced through the window nearest where the old car door used to be.
“We’ve got a man down,” the conductor shouts to his friend, prying back the wreckage from Hemmingway’s crumpled body, “He’s broken his leg I think. Go to the dining car. Get me any cloth you can find that I can use for a bandage.”
One of the shafts of flashlight suddenly disappears. It’s then that I realize I’m close to the other exit. I watch as the conductor becomes completely absorbed in his rescue efforts. With all the stealth of an alley cat desperate not to get the boot thrown for pilfering fish heads from the ash can, I wait until I’m certain neither will notice as I sling Mico across my shoulder and slip quietly out of the baggage car.
Outside it’s a lot colder and windier than I’d imagined. A curtain of sleet keeps me lucid and awake like I haven’t felt in years. I start down the embankment, away from the train. We must be in farm country because from what I can make out there’s not a tree in sight; just a lot of flat land with no good place to hide. My feet begin to sink into the mud along side the tracks as I look around for our means of escape. I don’t know where my second wind’s coming from but I’m fairly certain it’ll weather Mother Nature.
Somewhere off in the distance I think I see a dim echo of light from a farm house. It’s only after I’ve walked fifty feet or so from the wreck that I’m certain of the fact.
“Don’t leave me now, Angel,” I whisper while giving Mico a slight pat on the ass, “I couldn’t handle it.”
...no, guess again.
Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure
- There Was A Farmer
on Sept. 15, 2006.
@ Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).