Today we learn the fate of our friends introduced to you in yesterday’s Micro-Fiction Monday.
* * *
By: Rachel A. Carrera
When Lloyd arrived at Grand Central Station, he looked as frazzled as he felt. He eagerly approached the New York Central Railroad counter. “Hi. Do you have any tickets left to Chicago tonight? My flight got canceled, and I have to get home.”
The ticket agent checked at his register and adjusted his glasses. “We have a couple rooms left. We have room 343 and room 210.”
Lloyd pulled his wallet out of his coat pocket then hesitated as he remembered the gypsy’s prediction. “Uh, I’ll take room 343.”
The agent took Lloyd’s money then handed him a ticket and change. They turned as a woman in a blue suit and a black hat with a small netted veil joined them. She said breathlessly, “Hello. I was afraid I’d missed my train. I’m Ruth Zeilman.”
The agent winced. “Oh, Miss Zeilman, I didn’t think you were coming.” He glanced at his pocket watch. “We’re about to take off.” He looked to Lloyd and blushed. “I’m sorry, sir. I’m afraid room 343 isn’t available, after all. You’ll have to take 210.”
A chill traveled up Lloyd’s spine. “What? No! I was here first, and I’ve already paid you. Let her take 210.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed, and her cheeks flushed. “I’ll have you know I purchased my ticket last week!”
The agent nodded. “That’s right, sir. And hers is a premium room. She paid extra.” He offered six dollars to Lloyd. “Here’s your refund for the difference.”
Lloyd held up his hand and pursed his lips. “No! I can’t take room 210. I’ll pay anything. I just can’t take that room.” He reached in his coat pocket for his wallet.
The woman waved her hands. “Forget it. I’ll take the other room. I just want to get on board before the train leaves without us.”
The conductor leaned out of the caboose. “All aboard!”
Lloyd blushed, and the muscles in his neck tensed. “Thanks.” He took the money from the agent and offered it to Ruth. As they reached the platform, he removed his fedora and gestured for her to go up first. “My name’s Lloyd Hartley. I know I must sound crazy, but I really appreciate you trading rooms with me. Maybe I can buy you a drink to show my gratitude?”
They boarded the train and gave the conductor their tickets. Ruth smiled sweetly. “It’s no problem. I’d be happy to take you up on your offer. Why don’t we meet in the club car in about thirty minutes? I’d like to go to my room first and freshen up a bit.”
* * *
A half hour later, Lloyd was seated in the club car when Ruth entered. She’d changed into a deep emerald dress that enhanced her auburn hair and sultry eyes. Lloyd stood and smiled. “What’s your pleasure?”
She sat beside him and crossed her long, lean legs. “Gin and tonic, please.”
He held up his finger. “Barkeep, two gin and tonics.” He turned to her and forced himself to look up from her buxom breasts. “So, are you visiting Chicago, or do you call it home?”
The bartender brought their drinks.
Ruth smiled seductively as she took her glass and licked the swizzle stick. “Thanks. I live in New York, but I grew up in Chicago. I’m going home to visit my mother.”
As she twirled her swizzle stick in her drink, Lloyd noticed her gold ring was in the shape of a serpent with two ruby eyes. His body tensed, and his heart thumped loudly. The red-eyed snake! He shot out of his seat. “No! Noooo!” He threw his glass to the ground, and it shattered. The color drained from his face as he raced out of the club car.
Ruth gasped and jumped to her feet. “Lloyd! Mr. Hartley!” She set down her drink and chased after him.
As Lloyd turned the corner, he practically ran into the door with 210 in large brass numerals. His throat tightened and threatened to suffocate him. He turned and saw Ruth approaching. He gasped for air. “No! Get away from me!” He rushed down the narrow corridor until he reached the wall. He looked over his shoulder and saw her at his heels. “Noooo!” His eyes squeezed shut as he grabbed blindly at the emergency cable. As the train screeched to a halt, the metal wheels grinded on the track and made a piercing sound in the otherwise quiet night air. Lloyd fell forward and hit his head on the wall.
* * *
Nearly a half hour later, Lloyd’s eyes fluttered open. He was lying in the dome lounge, and a bright light shone in his eyes. Ruth towered over him with a small smile on her lips. Something red covered her hands. It’s blood! He gasped and made a gurgling noise as he attempted to sit up.
A man gently grabbed Lloyd’s shoulder. “Just lie back and relax, Mr. Hartley. I’m Dr. Milton, and I’ve given you a mild sedative. That’s quite a bump on the head you’ve got there. I’m afraid I had to give you stitches. You’re just lucky that Miss Zeilman here is such a skilled surgical nurse.”
Ruth wiped her hands on a towel. “You’re going to be just fine, Mr. Hartley. We all owe you our thanks. How’d you know to pull the emergency cord?”
Lloyd’s head spun as he attempted to focus on Ruth’s hands. “What? What are you talking about?”
She tossed the bloody towel aside and grabbed his shoulder. “There was damage to the tracks on the bridge about ten yards ahead of where we stopped. If you wouldn’t have pulled the cord when you did, the train would’ve derailed, and we would’ve plummeted into the river below…”
Time to talk: Have you ever ridden on a train? Have you ever been afraid of someone as soon as you met them with no particular reason?