Chapter 1: (v.2) Chapter 1

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 390
Comments: 4

[December 13, 1963]

[Nearing Rhine-Main Air Base, West Germany at 7,000 feet, afternoon]

 

Brad Stiles was more bored and uncomfortable than he’d been in his life. He liked wide-open spaces, not sitting in a cramped seat next to a cranky Army light colonel who reeked of cigars. The plane bounced through a pocket of disturbed air, jolting his numb butt.

He consulted his watch. An hour to go. Any longer and they’ll unload me wrapped in a cargo net. Please don’t make us circle before landing.

Forty-five minutes later the wheels extended, accompanied by the whine of the flaps. He peered out the hazy plastic window into a bright winter afternoon. The city of Wiesbaden passed as they neared Frankfurt and Rhine-Main Air Base. The fourteen-hour ordeal, with refueling stops in Newfoundland and Shannon, Ireland was coming to an end.

Zombie-like passengers began gathering belongings and waking sleeping children. The officer next to him relighted the stub of his cigar, exhaled a cloud of noxious fumes, then crushed it in the overflowing ashtray.

How does he stand those things? My dad’s pipe is just as unpleasant.

The plane banged onto the runway and bounced once. Reversed props slowed them to a walking pace and they turned onto a taxiway.

The colonel nudged Brad. “Looks like we’re finally here.”

Either that or I’ve arrived in Hell. “Guess so.”

“Have a fine vacation.”

They shook hands. “Thanks, sir. I’m sure it will be. I’ll settle for getting off this plane.”

The man nodded in agreement. “Yeah.”

The plane followed taxiways until it reached the terminal and squealed to a stop. Muffled bumps signaled the stairs were in place. The head attendant, a sergeant, opened the door and a brisk wind smelling of exhaust pervaded the cabin. By rows, the travel-weary passengers straggled forward and out of the airplane. Soon, it was Brad’s turn.

When he passed the pilot, he nodded. “Good flight.”

The captain grimaced. “Long one.”

Brad stepped to the stairs. “Got that right.”

As he trudged across the pavement to customs, he grinned. Freed from the halls of education, it was time to relax. May eleventh was in the distant future.

Brad took his place in line for processing and set his bag at his feet to ease the muscles of his back. The profile of a young girl ahead triggered the memory of his last date with Helen.

Her eyes had teared. “Why?”

“We barely see each other anymore. You have finals the same as me.”

“But, there’s time between them.”

“Not enough.”

She’d sighed and taken his hand. “You’re right. Can we still be friends?”

“Of course.”

They’d broken off their budding romance that night.

A finger poked him in the back. “Hey, pal. You’re up next.”

The customs official waved him forward. Brad was suddenly aware of the money belt at his waist which held close to four thousand dollars. He suppressed the thought as he stepped to the low desk and presented his paperwork.

The man looked up from Brad’s picture. “Business or pleasure?”

“Vacation.”

With a double-thump—ink pad to passport—the official granted him entry. “Very well. Have a good time.” He gestured to one side. “Through that door.”

Brad picked up his luggage and entered the main concourse. Another airliner passed outside the floor-to-ceiling windows accompanied by the rumble and pop of piston engines. Triple tones sounded from the overhead speakers, followed by an announcement in German, then English.

Once into the glaring sunlight, Brad fumbled for his sunglasses and fitted them to his ears. A blue military bus sat idling at the curb. He took a seat and waited for it to fill.

Ten minutes later he stepped off at the guardhouse and passed through the main gate. Taxi or tram? He glanced at his watch. Plenty of time. Trams are more interesting.

He crossed the street and perused the large placard listing trams and their destinations, then joined the queue for the next streetcar to the Hauptbahnhof, or central train station.

Anonymous among faces reddened from the sharp wind, he sat on a chilly plastic seat and watched the scenery pass. When the tram reached his stop he exited, carrying his backpack and suitcase.

Brad entered the station through one of the many arched doorways and stepped aside to get his bearings.

If I was a ticket counter, I’d locate myself… Ah. There.

Amid the distant echoing of Christmas carols, he strode toward a bank of barred windows. His path took him past a money exchange booth where he stopped and swapped two-hundred dollars for German marks.

Brad addressed the gray-haired man behind the counter in fluent German. “Guten Tag. Do you have a seat on the next train to Munich?”

The agent consulted his bookings. “The coaches are full, but there are three compartments left, sir. They are more expensive though.” He added the relative prices.

Brad offered the higher sum. “I’ll take the compartment.”

“One moment, sir.”

The clerk counted the money and slipped it into a drawer. He clipped several pieces of paper together he’d drawn from a tray and pushed them under the bar.

“Have a good trip, sir.”

Danke schön!

Brad slipped into his backpack straps, picked up his case, and went in search of a drink.

The sounds of caroling grew louder. He soon spotted a makeshift bar and sat at a table. A buxom woman in a dirndl took his order for Glühwein, knowing of the heated wine and cinnamon concoction’s warming qualities. When she brought it, he paid and relaxed, sipping his drink until it was time to leave for his departure track.

The attendant at the gate gave Brad a friendly salute as he passed through and walked along the length of the glossy green coaches. He found his car, climbed aboard, and located his compartment. The porter appeared, and they chatted briefly while Brad settle into the room.

At the scheduled time, a shrill whistle sounded once, then again, and the railcar began to move.

With an occasional jolt and bang of couplers, the train eased from the station. Brad relaxed in the seat and opened the book he’d stuffed in his bag earlier. He had no interest in the cityscape unfolding outside his window as he was familiar with typical German cities. Lulled by the rhythmic clatter of steel wheels over rail joints and the car’s movement, his eyelids became heavy.

 

Brad jolted awake at sound and movement from the next compartment. He heard scrapes against the connecting wall, two clicks which could have been suitcase latches, and the clunk of a lid hitting the partition.

Noisy neighbors.

He returned to his book.

He was deep into a chapter when there was a wall-shaking crash, a thump, and a short, piercing scream from the same compartment.

 


Submitted: October 08, 2018

© Copyright 2022 B Douglas Slack. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

PoeticMe♥

Oh wow, I like how this just went from being mellow to "did someone just get killed!" I enjoy the simplicity of your writing, you didn't go over the top with descriptions and pointless details but I could still see this playing out in my head. By the way, that drink sounded delicious! Can't wait to see where this goes.

Sat, December 15th, 2018 9:28pm

Author
Reply

Thanks for the review, Poetic. This is considerable revised from my first effort several years ago.

Bill

Sat, December 15th, 2018 1:36pm

james farr

Rivetting. Well written chapter. I can't wait for your publication!

Sat, March 30th, 2019 3:36pm

Author
Reply

Thank you, James. Much appreciated.

Bill

Sat, March 30th, 2019 8:53am

Diegonovelist

This is really good, but delete many of your "ed" endings, cause it slows down the reader. Also I got jarred by an over elaboration of a passenger, when it would have read better if you had just put, cranky colonel, rather than Army light colonel. You get my drift? Still this is really good!

Sun, March 31st, 2019 10:39pm

Author
Reply

Not sure what you mean by "ed". Any one who carries on a dialogue with the MC gets a deeper description than a passerby with no lines. Thanks for the input.

Bill

Sun, March 31st, 2019 3:52pm

Diegonovelist

examples "bored", " cramped", "reeked", "bounced", all in one paragraph. Would be better if only two words with the ending are used throughout the text.

Sun, March 31st, 2019 11:16pm

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