The Morning Train

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

It's 1962 Two Men have built a friendship traveling to work on the morning train over many years. One has a dark past that will come back to test that friendship.

The Morning Train

 

 

The year is 1962, people didn't have mobile phones or computers. They travelled to work on the trains with the same people every morning. They talked and made friendships over the years of travelling together. This is the story of two such men. Who became close friends in that hour and a half together on, The Morning Train.

 

The train pulled into the station as it had done since the turn of the century. The station is a bit more up-to-date now that it's 1962. Reg was employed as an accountants clerk and made this long trip to Sydney every day for the last twenty years. When the war broke out, he had applied for the army but didn't pass the fitness test. So he ended up getting the job at 'Thomas Green and Sons' Accountants. Old man Green had passed on, and now the place was run by his two sons, Thomas Jr. and Fredrick. Reg didn't mind Fredrick but thought Thomas Jr was a bit of a jackass and not a patch on his father, who first hired Reg back in forty-two. Standing there waiting for the train to stop before boarding, he did a quick mental check of all his kit, as he called it: newspaper;  check, lunch;  check, wallet;  check, ticket;  check,  all good so on he hopped for the one hour thirty minute trip to Sydney. The fourth window seat on the left facing the front of the train in the third carriage was his seat for as long as he could remember.

After seating, the first thing he would do was unfold his morning paper. It was one of those oversized papers. Reg would read that paper from front to back in that one and half hour trip and discuss every topic with Frank, his travelling partner of the last twelve years. 

Frank boarded at the next station and always took his seat alongside Reg, after putting his old Gladstone bag in the overhead rack. The bag was the only mystery about Frank that puzzled Reg. He had asked him once what he carried in it, but he would only reply, just stuff, Reg, stuff I need for my job.

Frank lived just one station away from Reg, but they had never met outside of the train trip or had been to each other's houses. The two were like old friends on the train; they knew everything about each other's families. They shared photos and stories of their holidays and special family occasions, but that is where the friendship ended. They both finished work at different times, so they never got on the same train on the return trip, just the morning ride. 

The train pulled into Franks station, and he soon came through the carriage door carrying his Gladston with him. He was not a big man, about five foot eight tall and slight build, a little skinny, some would say. Reg could see he was listing to one side with the weight of the bag. It was that heavy, he struggled to lift it onto the rack. He then took his seat next to Reg.  Gday Reg, how would ya be going, mate? He said with a little bit of an Irish accent left over from his childhood. His parents had migrated to Australia from County Mayo Ireland when he was ten, and a little of the accent would come out here and there.

What have you got in the bag today Frank?  Reg asked. Frank quickly turned and looked out the window; tis  a beautiful day today for sure  said, Frank. Reg knew then he should not have asked  about the bag, but he did notice the whole trip Frank glancing up to check on it as if he was worried it might go missing or something.

Reg went back to the paper and read down the page, commenting on little stories here and there. Reg spotted a report on a crime in Sydney. I see another break-in and robbery at one of the clubs again, the third one this month.  Have you ever been down to any of the clubs in Sydney, Frank?  Reg asked.  I hate the clubs, money-grabbing poker machines everywhere,  Frank replied. Reg changed the subject; he could see Frank wasn't too keen talking about the clubs. The rest of the trip was uneventful until they pulled into Central station, and Reg went to grab Frank's bag for him. Reg being the bigger man than Frank, it was much easier for him to lift the heavy bag down from the rack, leave that fucking bag alone, he yelled at Reg. Poor Reg was startled; he had never seen Frank like this before; he left the bag for Frank to get and said goodbye, see you in the morning, and headed off to work a little shaken by what had just happened. 

Reg couldn't sleep that night; he kept thinking about Frank and how he spoke to him that day; it wasn't like Frank to talk like that. So finally, tossing and turning in bed, he concluded he was hiding something in that bag that was either dangerous or illegal. 

He decided to follow Frank tomorrow morning when they arrive in Sydney, but he'll have to be careful; he wouldn't want Frank to see him. After he came up with that plan, he rolled over and fell asleep.

Reg boarded the train the following morning, sat in the same seat as usual, and unfolded his morning newspaper. Frank got on at the next stop, said gday, sat, and acted as if nothing had happened. The trip in was quiet; Reg read his paper; he wanted to talk but couldn't find the words; he felt like he was betraying his friend by planning to follow him. Frank didn't speak; he seemed happy enough to sit there, look out the window, and watch the countryside pass.

It was time; they had arrived at Central Station, both said,  see ya tomorrow, and then parted their ways. Reg walked out of the station and started towards his work but did a double-back as soon as he knew he couldn't be seen. 

He got to a spot where he could see Frank walking, not towards his workplace but farther into the city. Frank walked to a corner and just stood there as if waiting for someone, then a car pulled up. Reg clearly saw three men, one driving, and two rough types hopping out of the car and walking towards Frank. They were saying something to him, and then one grabbed his arm, led him to the car, and they all climbed in.

Reg had to go; he was running late for work, he couldn't get it out of his head all day. Who were the guys in the car? It wasn't a police car, it was too old and beat-up for one of theirs. Not only that, the guys looked more like gangsters than the police. He started thinking more about the clubs' robberies and the heavy bag frank had that day. Also, he said he hated the clubs and their poker machines, maybe the guys belonged to the mob. That night it bothered Reg, it was getting too much for him and it was gave him a headache, so he went to bed. 

Reg bought his paper, went through his check list, and stepped on the train the next day. He unfolded the paper, and there in giant print,  THREE MEN ARRESTED  for SYDNEY CLUB ROBBERIES.  Reg  thought to himself, I knew it, I knew it, I was right. Frank has been knocking the clubs off with that rough bunch he was with. So worked up about solving the mystery of the bag, he didn't realise they were at the next stop. Gday Reg, how would ya be going mate, rang out from Frank as he put his bag on the baggage rack. 

You ok mate, you look a little pail; I didn't startle you, did I? Said Frank as he took his seat. Oh no, no, I was just miles away in thought, and yes, you did startle me a little, replied Reg. Now Reg was feeling really bad, what a friend am I to think things like that about Frank and follow him. Did you enjoy your walk in the city yesterday Reg, asked Frank? Reg was real pail now and lost for words; his thoughts were racing along with his blood pressure. All he could think of for a reply was, oh, oh, yes, it was such a nice day. Don't bother Reg, I saw you following me; you make a lousy private eye mate; how about you come to my place tonight for a bit of talk? I'll give you the address, Frank said. Then he settled back into his seat and pulled his hat down over his eyes. 

Poor old Reg had a bad day, but he got through it. Seven o'clock was the time stipulated by Frank, and Reg was right on time; he dare not be late, he thought it sounded more like an order than a request to meet for a friendly drink or something. 

It was a modest house, nice gardens, and in a quiet little street not far from the station. Frank had lost his wife several years ago, and his only family was his son, who was married and lived in Queensland, so he lived by himself. Reg rang the bell; the door quickly opened as if he was waiting on the other side with his hand on the door nob, ready to turn. 

Frank said, sit down, Reg I have something to tell you, but first, do you want a beer? Well, I don't usually drink much but I, that's as far as he got, Frank cut him off and started on his story.

  When I was young Reg, around 19-20, I travelled back to Ireland to see my grandparents. While I was there, I met some people. They offered me a chance for some excitement and challenge and talked me into joining them. I was young and could see what was going on in Ireland with the British and all. I thought it was a good cause, but I didn't know at the time they were working with the IRA. 

I witnessed some terrible things Reg, some terrible things. They trained me in assembling explosive devices, I thought I was doing my duty for Ireland, we were sent to a pub one night and told to wait in the car park. I didn't have any idea why we were there. We stayed in the car park for about an hour when two guys came out of the pub, and you could tell they had been drinking a lot. As they moved closer to the cars, the two I was with stood up, yelled, 'for Ireland', and opened fire with their handguns. They must have fired six or seven rounds into each of those poor devils, I was sick to my stomach, and that's when I knew I had to get out of this and back to Australia. They had just assassinated two British army officers. I knew I just couldn't walk away, give my notice, quit. It doesn't work like that with the IRA. One thing in my favour was when I joined, I didn't give them my real name, so over the following week, I planned my escape, bought a plane ticket, and vanished into thin air, as they say.

Until about a month ago, I got a phone call; they had tracked me down after all this time and requested my skills again; I say 'requested,' it was a demand. They are serious, Reg, they threatened to harm my family, my son, and his children, I had to go along with them.

They wanted me to build a device, so I did. I don't know why they wanted it, but I know there's some sort of royal tour happening soon; that's all I know.

Jesus, you mean you made them a bomb to blow up the Queen?. Yep, said Frank, but it's not the Queen I know that. Then I took it down on the train the other morning; it was heavy. Jesus, said Reg, stop saying, Jesus, it was only a dummy, but looks authentic. At no time did I ever build a bomb used against people. My bombs were used to destroy businesses that supported the British army in Ireland. They were always pre-warned to clear the building beforehand. 

After talking to these jokers, I don't think their too savvy when it comes to bombs, so I'm hoping the dummy device will buy me some time. The only thing is because they're not real smart, it could make them dangerous. If they get caught, it'll all come back on me. Frank sat down; he was finished talking; he had to think of a plan.

This was a lot for Reg to take in. He thought he knew everything about Frank, but it looked like he didn't know him as well as he thought, but Frank was still a mate, and you don't let your mates down, so Reg started putting up ideas. We have to get rid of these jokers. When they find out this thing is a dummy, they'll come looking for you, that's when we have to do something. We can't kill them, we can't dob them into the police, it will all come back on you, also with you being a member of the IRA, who knows what shit you could end up in.
I think I might be able to help you mate. Come to my place tomorrow after you get home from work. The wife's going out in the afternoon and won't be home till late. I'll write the address down, seeing you've never been there before.

Frank had no trouble finding Reg's place. It was a reflection of Reg himself. Everything was neat and well-groomed, the lawns mowed, the hedges trimmed, flower gardens up the path to the front door where the garden gnome holding on to a donkey and kart greeted him. He rang the doorbell, with the chimes of Big Ben sounding out, Frank thought, this is just how I pictured it. Reg then let him in but couldn't help glancing up and down the street to make sure all was clear. Frank sat down on the lounge, which was still covered in plastic, as Reg brought out a bottle of beer and two glasses and started pouring slowly into one.
Frank, Reg said, I have something to show you, have your beer, I'll be right back. A few minutes later, Reg returned with a small cardboard box. He took the lid off and pulled out a revolver. Frank almost spilled his beer with shock. What the hell are you doing with that. Don't worry, Frank, it isn't loaded. When I missed out on getting into the army in forty-two, I went and bought this to defend myself from the Japs if they ever came down this way. I've never fired it, no bullets. Frank didn't think Reg had it in him to own something like a gun and said, that was twenty years ago, mate, fire it now, and you could blow your bloody head off. I keep it in a box and look after it, mate. I didn't bury it in the backyard, Reg replied. So what if they have guns? I don't think this is a good idea, mate. I think we should lose the gun, said Frank with this picture in his head of them both laying on the floor full of bullet holes.
Let's sleep on this, Reg. I'm starting to freak out here. I'm going to finish my beer and head home. So he drank his beer, thanked Reg, and left. He no sooner walked through his front door, when the phone rang, it was them, they were mad, they worked out the bomb wasn't real, and they were coming to see him, and leaving now. So Frank rang Reg and told him. Reg said he's coming over and bringing his gun. You haven't got any bullets, mate, forget it, said Frank, now starting to panic a little with the sick feeling in his stomach getting worse as the time passed.
An hour had gone by, and they must be close Frank thought. Reg was here. He decided it was better to leave the gun at home.
Frank glanced out the window, there was a car out front and three men walking towards the house. Frank could see It was them; he was shaking as he opened the door. The first and biggest of the three pushed Frank back inside and almost into the TV set. Who the hell is this? Looking at Reg, a friend said Frank. Well, fuck-off friend, the big guy said, at that moment there was a loud banging on the front door and a voice yelling, police, police, the front door flew open, in charged three big coppers, commonwealth coppers with guns. Reg through his arms in the air, Frank turned white and did the same. The police were all over the three Irishmen and had them cuffed and kneeling on the floor.
We've been watching these clowns ever since they came into the country. We tapped their phone and heard the call about your son and his family, don't worry, their safe. We did a raid on where these guys were staying and got the device. It was a bit of useless crap, and they didn't know it, the dumb shits. Whoever made it pulled a good one on them, said the head copper.
We've been keeping track of you, looking at Frank, we knew about your time in Ireland, and I'm not interested in that. You were just visiting your grandparents, right, weren't you? With a bit of a smile, he asked, oh, yes, said Frank, still shaking.
Well, it looks like they were working on their own, without the approval from the top in Ireland. We'll be holding them until we can deport them back to Ireland to face their mob. He said with a grin; I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. The big cop then looked at Frank and Reg and said, What happened here tonight didn't happen. You will never talk about this to anyone, right. Frank gave a nod, you too, looking at Reg, now nodding. You will go back to your everyday life as if none of this ever happened, ok, said the officer. They were still nodding as the police bundled the three into the paddy wagon and drove off. Frank's stomach was now feeling much better; he turned to Reg and said, let's have a beer, mate; sure thing said Reg.
The next day the train pulled into the station. Reg did the check of his kit and boarded, took his usual seat, and unfolded his paper. Frank boarded at the next stop, placed his Gladstone bag on the rack, just a sandwich, and an apple in there today, Reg, and they both laughed.

Reg then said, " I have a small boat at home I haven't used for awhile Frank, how would like to go fishing next Saturday mate?" Sure, said Frank, that would be grand. Right, said Reg, I'll pick you up at six.
Frank sat looking out the window deep in thought, then said, you know Reg, I really like this train trip, and Reg answered, me too Frank, me too.

 

 

END


Submitted: March 20, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Bernie Fay. All rights reserved.

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