Snow fell thick and heavy, fat wet flakes like snowballs blowing in off the Atlantic, splashing up against Farrell’s windows, melting on the plate glass in long slow streaks.
Raymond O’Hara and Brendan Ryan were the last patrons to leave the bar.
“Jesus,” Raymond said. “Look at this shit. I’m taking the subway.”
“Two lousy stops?”
“Beats Alaska. You’re lucky, right around the corner. Me, I’ll snooze on the platform. Catch a few z’s.”
The bartender in Farrell’s locked the saloon door behind Raymond O’Hara and Brendan Ryan.
Brendan headed straight for home right around the corner.
Raymond trudged through thickening snow, past Holy Name Church—the beggar was gone, too late and too cold even for that poor guy—and Raymond headed toward the F train station, a block away at Bartel-Pritchard Square and Fifteenth Street across from Prospect Park. Behind him the snow was blowing in harder, almost horizontally, obscuring streetlights, swirling round in mini-tornadoes. But Raymond didn’t feel the cold. Beer and whiskey worked their own kind of warmth.
He picked his way slowly down slush-covered subway steps.
Eighteen minutes to three when he swiped his MetroCard through the turnstile slot.
He was the only passenger on the platform. He planned on riding the Coney Island F train two stops to Church Avenue, then walking a long miserable block along McDonald to 100 Caton and back to the apartment—2H—where his wife, Mary Margaret, would be snoring, lightly, after giving up on Raymond hours (if not years) before.
At eleven minutes to three, the F rumbled in, and he was delighted. Lucky night . . . Between midnight and five, a train arrived maybe once an hour.
Positioning himself near the middle of the platform, Raymond relished this small blessing as the train pulled to a stop, glistening wet from two outdoor stations—Smith and Ninth, then Fourth Avenue.
The motorman’s side window was a watery blur.
The train was short, only four cars for the small hours of the morning. The second car stopped in front of Raymond.
The doors didn’t open at once, maybe nothing unusual given the time. Through windows streaked with water, Raymond saw passengers in the car. The interior lights were bright . . .
. . . bright enough for him to conclude, after a moment or two, that something was very wrong inside the second car.
A half-dozen or so passengers were either sprawled on the floor . . .
. . . or toppled across seats.
No one upright.
No one standing.
No one moving.
And yet he detected no signs of violence. No broken glass, no splattered blood, no gaping wounds.
Before him only a tableau of terror, almost frozen in time.
Gas. They can’t all be drunk . . .
Shouting, he ran toward the first car and the motorman’s compartment.
“Don’t open the doors! Don’t open the fucking doors!”
The effects of whiskey and beer vanished. He was terrifyingly sober as he started pounding on the motorman’s window.
The motorman a young African American, appeared annoyed, though not entirely unfamiliar with irate passengers in the middle of the night. His name badge said Friel Whitmore.
Whitmore opened his side window.
“Hell you want, man—”
Raymond flashed his wallet, nothing there really, just a fast movement.
“FBI. Don’t open the fucking doors. You got a car full of bodies. Your second car.”
Friel Whitmore opened the first door of the front car and stepped onto the platform. He jogged briskly alongside Raymond, back to the second car.
Together, they peered in the first window, second, third. Nothing was changed inside the car, no one had moved.
But this time Raymond noticed what he hadn’t registered at first shock.
A man was on his knees, immobile, his head in a woman’s lap, the woman slumped against a window. Next to the woman’s thigh, the man’s right hand rested on a handgun.
Still Raymond detected no indications of violence: no wounds or blood, no other weapons, nothing.
“Got to call in,” motorman Friel Whitmore said, and raced back to his compartment.
“Tell them, gas!” Then Raymond O’Hara turned around again, transfixed.
The woman slumped against the window was a young, attractive African American, smartly dressed, gray fur jacket, navy slacks.
The man on his knees, head in her lap, was white, midthirties, short blond hair. He wore a tan raincoat, trench coat model, gray flannel trousers, cordovan shoes. The man’s right hand covered most of the gun on the seat, and while Raymond wasn’t sure, the weapon appeared to resemble the same Walther 7.65 Bureau-issued model he’d carried as a special agent.
Behind the couple’s seat, on the floor at the far end of the car, was a khaki-colored plastic bucket about eighteen inches high, the collapsible kind made for backpacking campers. The bucket was open, no cover.
And no bodies at this end of the car.
Raymond walked back from window to window and counted the passengers: seven, as if asleep, but only more so: a montage of death beyond rational explanation.
Heading toward the end of the train, he moved quickly past the windows of the next car, where he saw only two riders, both awake, both unconcerned, so far.
The last car was empty.
Raymond returned to the front of the train as Friel Whitmore was stepping onto the platform, motioning to passengers in the first car to stay inside.
Good thinking . . .
Everyone on this train—except perhaps the motorman—was a potential perpetrator, a suspect.
Or an unsuspecting witness.
As he approached Friel Whitmore, he made a mental note that the first car held at least as many passengers as the rest of train, and now all of them looked as if they were abruptly awakened from their usual train slumber: a little confused, starting to get worried, ignorant of death, innocent of slaughter. The train was stopped too long, its rhythm broken, something was out of the ordinary and they were sensing a difference.
But no one looked panicked, not yet. They just didn’t understand; they didn’t have a clue.
Raymond scanned their faces.
No one was trying to hide.
No one looked ready to run.
Soon, as knowledge of the catastrophe spread via the police and firefighters inchoate shock would grip them. Awareness was like that, always, the first hints of danger simply built up until reason vanished and terror took over.
Title: F Train
Author: Richard Hilary Weber
In a fast-paced thriller perfect for readers of Kathy Reichs and Linda Fairstein, dedicated Brooklyn cop Flo Ott unravels the mystery of a terrifying mass murder–from the cold underbelly of New York to the city’s glittering heights.
Beneath Brooklyn’s wintry streets, seven people are dead, slumped in their seats on an F train. Fast thinking and good fortune prevent the subway car doors from opening, spilling poisonous gas into the station. It’s not long before a frightened metropolis of eight million demands answers: if this was an act of terror, where will these cruel killers strike next? NYPD detective Flo Ott looks closely at the victims. Each of their stories leads to another, one more colorful and complex than the last. A few of these quintessential New Yorkers catch Flo’s attention: a mysterious off-duty FBI agent; the beautiful woman next to him, who may have been his lover. Then there’s a Russian mobster with more than his fair share of enemies. As Flo battles false leads, conflicting witnesses, and meddling politicians, her investigation delves into the dark side of the city that never sleeps. Flo becomes convinced that this wasn’t a random act of violence, and she fears something much worse may be rumbling down the tracks.
Author Bio Richard Hilary Weber, a native of Brooklyn and a Columbia University graduate, has taught at the universities of Stockholm and Copenhagen, and has been a scriptwriter for French and Swedish filmmakers. He lives in Provence, France.
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