This is the beginning of the short story that I’ve been working on for some time. I’ve changed how its written and title several times in my writing process. This is the newest draft after working with the mentor that I had been assigned during my time as part of the Horror Writer’s Association. It’s also under my pen name of Magless Haley
Catching the Last Train
October 1950: “Everything’s all right,” Eloise said to herself while walking through the train stop on Fascination St. She was trying to calm down after reading a story in the paper about a series of murders that occurred a year ago.
“Calm down. The article said that he was killed a year ago.” She clutched the paper she took from the office tightly. Eloise was glad that her boss at the law firm let her take the paper every day so she could save even more money to send to her grandparents. Thinking about them she would smile; they were there for her after her parents had died.
Eloise found a nearby bench to sit on so she could get off her feet, which hurt after a full day of wearing high heels.
Eloise sighed in relief as she sat down, but a man on the far side of the train station caught her attention. He looked homeless because of his raggedy clothes, and his scraggily hair hid most of his face from her. She began to feel uneasy about him; the way he stared straight through her made Eloise uneasy.
As he got closer, he smiled with an unnaturally large smile. It reminded Eloise of her ex; he had beaten her three out of the four months they were together. She got up and started walking to put some distance between herself and the vagrant. He continued his walk towards her, which made her get up and start running away from him.
Eloise was looking behind her and stepped on a large root poking up out of soft earth. Her breath left as she fell into the wooden fence with her chest. She turned round to have the fence at her back so she see where she ran from. Eloise could see the faintest shape in the distance, but her eyes were bleary from fear and sweat. She looked to her left and saw another fence; her right, she saw what she hoped would be her escape from the homeless man. As she turned to her right, the heel on her right shoe broke in the mud, with an audible snap, which she hoped wasn’t her ankle; she fell into the fence as she tried taking a step on her freshly broken shoe.
Eloise slipped off her shoes and started running. The shrubbery along the fence pulled at her stockings and dress, ripping and tearing at both. The only thing on her mind was whether she would ever get to see Martin again. The last few months with Martin had been the best of Eloise’s life since moving to the city.
Eloise turned to look for the man but he wasn’t there. However, something in the back of her mind told her he was still following her. If he hadn’t smiled at her with that smile, she would have stayed to get on her usual train and everything would be fine. Instead, she was more frightened than ever before, and it seemed like he was everywhere she looked.
Eloise stumbled forward, tripping over the root of a tree. As she fell to her knees, her black hair came loose, falling out of the bun she had put it in for work. She thought there was a street near to where she had fallen. As Eloise opened her mouth to scream, a large hand gripped the back of her head. The other hand went over her mouth as the grip on her head tightened and lifted her up. As Eloise looked at what she had thought was a man, she realized that he wasn’t a man at all. Men don’t have soulless black eyes. As she made that realization, she heard a snap, and her life and hope slipped away.
A phone rang in a medium-sized office. On the left wall of the office, there was a large cork board with various pictures and writings tacked to it. Clutter filled the room and in the middle of all of it was a worn desk. Behind the desk sat a worn-down man, and his shaggy blonde hair made him look even worse. He was still getting used to the shoulder holster he wore; the way; he fiddled with it showed the newness. He thought the extra protection would be worth the discomfort.
After the second ring, he grabbed the phone off the ringer and said, “Johann Moreau, private detective. No case is too weird or hopeless.”
“Yes,” a woman said. “I’m looking to hire you because I’ve been looking for my friend, and he hasn’t returned my calls.”
Moreau smiled a small smile; he knew it was his friend John’s wife, Veronica. She was persistent; he had to give her that.
“I’m sure your friend has a good reason for not returning your calls.”
“Come on Johann. You can’t just stay in that dingy office of yours.”
“I can try, no matter how hard you make it for me,” Moreau said.
“John and I are both worried about you. It’s almost been a year since Chatham and we know how much it affected you.”
The grin on Johann’s face melted away, “I’ve got to get back to work Veronica.”
“You’re going to have to talk about it sometime.”
Moreau quickly hung up the phone without saying anything in response. It hadn’t been a full year since he faced the Chatham killer. The confrontation had left him with an even greater distrust of faith-based beliefs, several scars, and the need to carry a gun. His left shoulder always hurt when it rained.
Johann was getting ready to leave when there came a loud knock on the door.
“Who’s there?” he yelled as he adjusted the shoulder holster.
“My name is Officer Gould,” a man shouted through the door. “I’m here because we have a case for you.”
Johann put on the worn sports jacket that completed his suit and opened the door. A large man stood on the opposite side of the door frame. The uniform strained against the barrel-chested man.
“What’s this case you have for me?”
“I was just told to come get you. I don’t know the details of it.”
“I don’t just come when the police come calling.”
Gould replied, in an annoyed tone, “All I know is that it’s a murder. I don’t know anything else.”
Moreau knew he was being short with the police officer. He almost felt bad about it; he looked back and then stopped to think for a second. Moreau thought it would be good to get back to work
“I guess you’re driving?”
“Yes sir, right this way,” Gould said motioning towards the stairs.
The two of them went down the stairs and out into the street without saying a word. The night was cold and rainy the kind of weather that wasn’t good for anything but staying inside. It was an unnaturally cold October night. They both got into the police car.
“I’ve not seen you before. Are you new?” Moreau asked.
“I’m new to the precinct, but not to the job.”
“Are you from Chicago, originally?”
“Yep, born and raised.”
“Are you going to ask me about Chatham?”
“No, all I know is that you went in there by yourself, and you got the guy. I don’t really care about the specifics unless you want to tell me. I just think you’re a hero for doing that.”
“I’m no hero,” Moreau said, watching the rain fall.
Moreau was glad that there weren’t a lot of people at the train station when he got there, because people would always ask about what happened in Chatham. As he climbed the stairs to the platform he saw something he wasn’t expecting: the head of a woman. The look of horror on her face was as striking as seeing a head on a bench. Someone had taken the time to place it in the middle of the bench, in front of the stairs.
“Who asked for me?” Moreau asked with a slightly raised voice.
Johann couldn’t see who said it right away, but soon the squat figure of Detective Wilson moved towards him.
“Did you have to have someone come get me?”
“I tried calling, but the line was busy.”
Moreau had a tenuous relationship with Wilson; they were barely friendly with each other when they spoke. Wilson didn’t trust Johann because he wasn’t on the force, while Johann didn’t trust Wilson because of his faith and the rosary he wore around his wrist.
“Have you found anything of interest?”
“One thing, but it’s not on the platform, though. We still don’t know who she is.”
“Were there any witnesses to say what happened?”
“None, or well none that we could talk to. If there was anyone here, they ran off.”
Johann kneeled down in front of the head and started looking under the bench. He touched the ground underneath the head and couldn’t feel anything wet.
“There’s no blood under the head?” Moreau said with a surprised tone.
“There’s no blood anywhere.”
Moreau stood up and yelled for Gould to get up there. As soon as he got there, they climbed off the train stop and into the wooded area around it.
“What are we looking for specifically?” Gould asked, trying to stay on his feet in the mud.
“Signs of a struggle… or anything that would help us identify who she is.”
They both walked in separate areas until Gould motioned for Moreau to come over to where he was.
“Hey, come over here. I think I found something you’ll want to see.”
Johann moved to where Gould was and saw that he had found a purse.
“Is everything still in there?”
“No money is missing. Her ID says her name is Eloise Moore.”
There were faint tracks in the mud. She seemed to be running either to or from the train station.
“I’m going to go down that way,” Moreau said while pointing away from the train station.
He followed the trail until he reached a fence. He could tell where the cops had been down here because they had trodden over everything. The trail went to his left, and as he turned to continue he found a broken right high-heel shoe. He continued down the path, following the scraps of clothing on the shrubbery. As he got to the end of the trail, Johann saw something he had hoped to never see again.
A headless body.