Monday - 3:21pm Outbound

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Dalton felt pleasantly tired after work, and the gentle rocking motion of the 3:21 outbound train was soothing. He was sitting up the front of the train, hunched down on the seat with his legs splayed in front of him. His now empty cooler box lay on the empty seat beside him, and he could hear a bunch of raucous school kids horsing around behind him. He saw Redton station come into view through the graffiti-covered plexiglass window, swept up the cooler with one fist and swung himself into a standing position. Rolling with the rhythm of the train like a seasoned sailor, he moved to the exit then, as the train glided to a stop, he pressed the button that unlocked the doors and stepped out onto the platform. His good mood instantly evaporated as he took in the scene in front of him - what on earth had happened here? he thought as the swarm of school kids swept around him.

The first thing Dalton saw was the small huddle of police that were standing almost directly in front of him as he stepped off the train. The second thing Dalton noticed was the temporary, hastily erected black plastic scaffolding that surrounded the very end of the platform, where there should have been a gap in the fence leading to the car park through the long grass. The third thing Dalton noticed was the stench lingering in the air. The smell seemed to have substance all of its own, a foul, viscous mixture of rotting meat and flyblown household rubbish. Instinctively, Dalton began taking shallow breaths through his mouth. The smell made him feel like retching, and he swallowed thickly, trying to push the rising bile back down to his gullet.

Dalton's first instinct was to continue on his way and he began to turn towards the main exit from the platform, following the children. Suddenly the memory of the homeless man he had seen at the station that morning rose in his mind, and he wondered if there could be a connection. At odd times throughout the day, while he had been going about his business, his mind would retrieve the memory for him like a photograph - the old man with his head down on the bench, the bundle of old clothes in the grass. The more he had thought about it, the odder that bundle of clothes had seemed. Now he was being faced with a scene where the police were clearly present and there was something rotting on the air, he couldn't help but wonder what the old clothes may have concealed. His curiosity piqued, he turned back towards the police, who had almost instantly disregarded him, and resolutely started walking towards them.

There were three men standing together, two in the familiar blue uniforms of general duties officers, and one in casual pants and a collared shirt. Dalton assumed he was a detective of some sort, based only on his knowledge of American television shows. Of the two in uniforms one appeared older and slightly thicker around the waist. Dalton noticed he had two embroidered chevrons on his epaulet, but couldn't remember what rank that would make him. The other was younger and quite tall, his epaulets without ornament, fresh-faced and clean shaven yet his eyes were tired, the stresses of police work already beginning to show on his young face. The one in plain clothes appeared in his late-thirties, strong and lean and with an expression of distrust, not a man to pick a fight with, Dalton surmised. As he approached the small group their lacklustre conversation lulled and ceased, and the three turned towards him as one, suddenly alert - instinct raising invisible hackles and throwing up emotional shields. Suddenly the older cop opened his mouth and barked "Yes, Sir, how can we help you?" Dalton stopped a few paces short, the challenge apparently thrown down by the officer making him question his actions.
"Uh, I was just wondering, um ... I was just wondering what was going on. I was here this morning you see ..."
The officer who had spoken tilted his head to one side thinking, then eyed the detective meaningfully. The detective must have given some signal that Dalton didn't catch, because suddenly the cop's attitude changed. His features softened ever so slightly, although the suspicion never left his eyes, and he pulled a notebook from his uniform shirt's breast pocket. Fishing the pen from the spiral binding, he looked directly into Dalton's eyes, the human version of a polygraph, Dalton assumed, and asked him what train he had caught this morning. Dalton hesitated only slightly before telling him it was the 4:56 to the city, the same train he caught every day. The officer asked him his name and occupation, and Dalton gave him the requested information, spelling out his surname and the name of the construction company he worked for. This was dutifully copied down in the notebook and then an uncomfortable silence fell as the officer flicked back in the notebook two, three, four pages. He was still looking down at the indecipherable scrawl on the small page as he begun speaking again, "Look, Mister ... ah ... Richmond. I won't beat around the bush, there was a dead body found here at this station this morning, and we've begun an investigation into how that body, ah, came to be here. Now if you're right in your recollections, Mister Richmond, and you came through here at approximately 4:56, or slightly before, then I believe you may be able to help us in our investigation. Do you think that you might have something that you can add to this case, Mister Richmond?"
Dalton, realising immediately that the cop really didn't care what he thought, that he was going to be questioned regardless, nodded slightly, "You can call me Dalton, or Tony, if you want. Mister Richmond is my father. I, um, I don't have a lot to tell you, but it's been bugging me all day. Can I tell you here ... now? Or ... "
The cop gave a tight, humourless smile, nodded slightly and then responded, "All right Mister Richmond - Dalton. How about you start here and now, and we'll decide if we need to go to the station once we know what you saw? By the way, I am Senior Constable John Mitchell, this," he indicated to the plainly dressed man on his left, "this is Detective Sergeant David Ward, and this here," he nodded towards the young uniformed cop, "is Constable Michael Platt. Now, how about you start when you arrived at the station. Did you drive Mister ... Dalton?"
Dalton's mouth was suddenly dry and, though he knew he carried no guilt, he felt sure that Mitchell was capable of making him question his own innocence. Determined, now that he had started, to simply get through the interview which hopefully would be over soon, Dalton swallowed, tried to ignore the stench in his nostrils, and began, "I don't drive, I live just up the road. I know I left home about a quarter to five, so I got here around ten to. I was walking over the pedestrian overpass to the city bound platform ..." Dalton continued, uninterrupted, for ten minutes as he gave his impressions of the homeless man, the bundle of what he had mistakenly taken for clothes, and when he had finished, his story exhausted, Mitchell looked up his notes, nodded his head, and said gravely, "Mister Richmond, I think you had better accompany me down to the station. We'll need fingerprints from you, and a formal statement."

Without waiting for an answer, Mitchell turned away from the group, and spoke into the radio that had suddenly materialised in his hand. The conversation was unintelligible to Dalton, who stood slightly stunned, looking in confusion at the other two police officers who had not yet spoken a word, wondering if they would be able to tell him when he had gone from being a source of information to a suspect, and waited for Mitchell to turn back and deliver him his fate.


Zach paced up and down Platform Twelve at Central. Where the hell was she? The 3:21 outbound had been and gone. Zach checked his watch again, compared it to the station clock on the platform, and the arrivals board above him. The next outbound train came through at 3:38. He paced a little more, considered waiting in case she had missed the usual train, then decided that he had better things to do than wait around after a bit of arse. Yeah, it was great arse, but he had no doubt it would be there for him tomorrow too. Sullenly, and thinking of the romp he was missing out on, Zach stalked back out of Central Station, up the stairs and to his car. He hit the button to roll the top down on the convertible and, the wind in his hair making him feel at least slightly better, decided to go home and paint something. He decided he was going to use a lot of dark colours to match his mood - red and black, crimson and pitch. To hell with women, they caused nothing but trouble.


Walter had stumbled home from the station as soon as his hip had allowed him to stand and walk again. Even the trains had not been able to take his mind from the horrors that lay in the grass to his left, and the station had lost its appeal, at least for today. He just wanted to be home, where people didn't show up unexpectedly dead, wrapped in filthy old blankets and left out in the cold for strangers to find them. It had taken him close to an hour to traverse the kilometre or so back to his house, and when he had arrived he had collapsed into bed with exhaustion, fear and anguish crowding his mind. After ten minutes of lying in agony, the confusion of the morning refusing to allow him to slip into sleep, he snagged the bedside phone by its cord with shaking fingers, and punched a speed dial button. His niece’s husband had set the phone system up for him years ago, patiently sitting beside him one Sunday afternoon, teaching him how to use the speed dials, and which one to use for what service. Since then, he had had a falling out with his niece’s family, they had accused him of being senile since all he did was stare at trains. Later, when he had refused to go into an assisted living facility because it was too far from the train line his niece and her husband had ceased contact and now he hadn’t heard from them in years. Most of his old friends had passed away or moved out of town, and so Walter rarely had visitors anymore. Although he missed the company, at least he didn't have to explain to anyone why he was at the station so much. He could come and go as frequently and at whatever time he wished, without having to justify the action.

The line was picked up at the other end, startling Walter out of his memories, and for a moment he forgot who he was calling and why. Then the pain in his hip reminded him, not so subtly, and he asked in a soft voice whether or not Rosemary would be able to come around that afternoon. He had had a bad night, he told the nurse on the telephone, and a bit of a scare this morning, and he was in a bit of pain. Although Walter's words did not reveal the level of discomfort he was in, the nurse was practised and had heard from Walter often enough to know from the sound of his voice that he was in urgent need of medical attention. When Walter ended the call with a pleasant, "Thank you, Lovey." she immediately dialled Rosemary's personal mobile and called her in on her day off. She knew that Walter needed the best care right now, and that Rosemary would provide just that.

After swallowing two pain killers from the bottle above the bathroom sink, Walter finally found peace in the form of drug-induced sleep for a few hours, and was woken when he heard Rosemary knocking on the front door, calling out, "Walter! Dear, are you home? It's Rosemary, from Home Nursing". He slowly and carefully rolled out of bed, throwing aside the last remnants of pleasantly dream-free sleep, and padded in his socks to the front door. He unlocked it with the key he kept in a jar on the window sill, and checked above the chain before opening the door wide. Rosemary entered with an undisguised look of relief on her face. Chattering pleasantly, apologising for being late and saying how worried she had been about him, she grabbed his elbow and gently steered him back to the bedroom. Walter allowed himself to be led back into bed, let her check him over, Rosemary exclaiming over his bumps and bruises. She noticed the pain evident in his eyes as she gently manipulated his leg to gauge the damage in his hip and then went to her bag for some appropriate medication. Walter took the pills without question, swallowed them with the glass of water she fetched for him. She elicited promises from him that he would go and see the specialist, both of them knowing full well that he wouldn't. Rosemary waited, engaging Walter in general, light hearted conversation, as the drugs took effect, and once he was again asleep, Rosemary slipped out of the room and left the house, ensuring the door was locked tightly behind her.

Walter awoke some hours later and lay in bed listening to the sound of the trains as they passed behind his small house. Judging by their frequency, it was late in the afternoon. After an hour or so of daydreaming as the last vestiges of the medication faded away, Walter rolled over to check the clock - nearly half past three. He had virtually slept the day away, he realised, and with a resolve found from the faded pain in his hip, and a trace of unfounded guilt at sleeping for so long, he carefully rose from his bed, and shuffled into the kitchen.

With his half full coffee mug in one hand and toast crumbs clinging to his lips, Walter shifted into the living room, and studied his model trains. He set the coffee down carefully on a side table and picked up an engine from the collection at the miniature rail yard. Placing it on the track, he had just flicked the switch to set the train in motion when a knock came on the door. He assumed that it must be Rosemary returning, perhaps she had forgotten something, and he switched the power off and went to the door.

He unlocked the door with the key and, because the chain hadn't been replaced when Rosemary had left the house, opened the door wide. Instead of the friendly face of the home care nurse, though, Walter saw the stern faces of a pair of police officers - one older, one younger. Walter gave an involuntary cry and fainted on the doorstep.


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