Sample: Love Train
The following is a sample of my book, Love Train. Enjoy!
Amtrak station, New Haven, Connecticut
Friday morning and the Amtrak train station was busier than a colony of ants; a colony of ants who were busy because some kid just kicked their mound all over the yard. But these weren’t ants scurrying about, though the analogy might be apt. These were busy train passengers. And this was Friday morning.
Vic Steelbrass, a thirty-year-old executive with Business Corporation, Inc., was in line to board the 10:45 from New Haven to New York. He glanced at his watch and remembered how much he liked his watch. A lady was in front of him, taking her time. Come on, he thought. I’ve got to get on this train and go! But she kept moving slowly. To be fair, she probably had a good reason for doing so.
Vic was on his way to New York that morning to give a presentation. He was hoping to land the Anderson account, but his PowerPoint skills were not spectacular. While attempting to give a PowerPoint presentation once, Vic managed to shut down half of BCI’s computers and start a couple of fires. With any luck, his meeting in New York would not be similarly consequential.
He finally got to his seat and settled in with a personal copy of Lawn Furniture magazine, his favorite read. This month’s edition featured lawn furniture owned by celebrities, as well as lawn furniture designed by children. The children’s lawn furniture was pretty terrible actually.
Just then, the most beautiful woman in the world–or at least on the train, or at least in this particular part of the train–stepped on and sat down at the far end of the passenger car.
With piercing, blue eyes and long brown hair, she stood out from the crowd. After all, the passenger seated beside her was an old guy, and the one seated behind her was not even in the car at the time, so Vic only saw an empty seat there.
Her name was Anastasia Romanov, 29, and she was from Russia. She was wearing a long, flowing white dress and smoking one of those long-stem cigarettes, like from the old black-and-white movies. She must have known you can’t smoke on Amtrak trains, but she evidently didn’t care. Vic liked that rebellious spirit.
Anastasia glanced over at Vic from her seat, smiled briefly, and looked out the window. Vic smiled back, and then resumed reading Lawn Furniture.
The final call for passengers went out over the intercom. “All aboard!” Vic glanced again at his watch, anxious to leave. He wanted enough time before his meeting so he wouldn’t be rushed. There was nothing worse than being rushed. Well, actually, there are a lot of things worse than being rushed, like genocide and monster alien goblin invasions; but those things were unlikely to happen to Vic.
The train finally left the station. As it gained speed, Vic looked over again at Anastasia. She was busy reading a book with some funny-looking writing on it; Vic thought he recognized it as Russian. Anastasia glanced up unexpectedly and briefly smiled again.
Vic, smiling back, asked, “Russian?”
“Why, no, I’m right on time,” she quipped. Vic chuckled. He appreciated a good pun from a pretty lady. After a lingering pause the two resumed their respective readings.
FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Special Agent John Johnson walked briskly down the hall. The matter before him was urgent and demanded his immediate attention.
He turned a corner and picked up speed. He dodged a man talking on his cell phone, maneuvered around a woman pushing a lunch cart, and slid underneath a very large pane of glass two construction guys were carrying down the hall. Johnson wasn’t quite sure what they were even doing there with a pane of glass.
Now he was racing down the hall and ran into a lady carrying a large stack of papers. Ever the gentleman, Johnson stopped to help her pick up and organize the papers even though he was in a rush. Then he continued quickly on his way.
Johnson finally arrived at his destination: the break room. He was too late! Someone had finished the coffee. Johnson was upset. He needed the coffee, as he and some other agents were about to bust a giant illegal toilet smuggling ring. Low-flows were required by law, but some scofflaws were operating an underground market for people who wanted the traditional toilets. “Not on my watch!” he had shouted abruptly in the agents’ meeting the previous week. Not on his watch.
Alas, there was nothing but a stinky sludge-like black residue left in the coffee pot. “Great,” Johnson said out loud. “Guess I gotta make some more.” Johnson had no clue how to operate the coffee machine.
Thirty-seven minutes later, after finally finding someone who knew how to make coffee, Johnson emerged from the break room with a smile on his face and a fresh cup of Joe in his hand. It was promising to be a great day. Johnson and his fellow agents were going to bust the toilet ring, he was going to try the new Italian restaurant down the street, and his fantasy shuffleboard team was doing well. Life was good. Nay, great!
Johnson arrived back in his office. He noticed that his window, broken the previous week after he tossed a baseball through it, had been replaced by the guys carrying the glass down the hall. Excellent! He sat down and prepared for a brief phone conference.
Just as he reached for the phone, it rang. Funny, he thought, I was just going to make a phone call, and someone is calling me at the same time! Johnson pondered the coincidence for a few moments, then realized that in so musing the phone had stopped ringing.
He sat a moment. The phone rang again.
“Johnson here,” he answered with his trademark, FBI-official voice.
A gravelly voice came over the line: “Is the train on time?”
“I said . . . is the train . . . on time?”
Johnson had no idea who this was, but figured it was one of his colleagues. “Mark, is that you? Why are you asking about trains, you know we’re busting the toilet ring today, not the illegal toy train knock-off ring. That one’s next week. I sent you an email about it yesterday–”
“The only mark here is the mark I put on my calendar to make sure I called you today,” answered the voice.
“Who . . . is this?” Johnson asked, considerably more slowly than before.
“Listen up, Johnson. You have a problem. Big problem. There’s a bomb on a train headed to New York. It’s a big bomb. And if I don’t mind saying, it’s a very well-constructed bomb. I downloaded a whole bunch of instructions and built it myself.”
“Who is this?”
“You can call me Crunchy,” replied the voice.
“Would you mind giving me your actual name and location?” Johnson asked. He figured it was worth a shot.
“Nice try, Johnson,” Crunchy answered. “This isn’t a game, it’s life or death. And actually, it’s just gonna be death.”
“All right, Crunchy, let’s slow down,” Johnson began. It was critical for him to utilize his FBI training. He spent several years acquiring it, and it was, after all, his job to use it. He knew he had to pretend to get on Crunchy’s good side, befriend him, and make him let his guard down. And extract every ounce of information he could.
“Let’s start from the beginning. You have a bomb on a train. At least give me some details, man, what’s going on?”
Crunchy sighed. “My fiancée called things off with me. I was so in love! And she tore my heart, she ripped it out.”
“Let it out, brother, let it out,” Johnson empathized.
“. . . She took my heart right out of me! Cut it up in little pieces and fed it to wolves and raccoons,” Crunchy said through muffled whimpers.
“Hey, hey, this is a business line here, no need to be gory,” Johnson jumped in.
“Sorry. I’m just conveying the gravity of my emotions right now,” Crunchy explained.
“I know, but let’s avoid the vivid imagery. I mean I work at the FBI for crying out loud, I see enough actual hearts cut up to where I don’t really need to hear about them,” Johnson said.
“Look,” Crunchy started again, “I was merely using colorful language to express my heartache in a profound and meaningful way.”
“And I get that, I like to read books too, but let’s try to keep it clean,” Johnson answered, refusing to back down. But he was beginning to worry that debating the merits of using graphic language might have the effect of derailing more than just this conversation; it might derail a train and kill a lot of people, too.
Johnson sighed. “Okay, well, let’s agree to disagree on the plusses and minuses of such language. So your fiancée called it off and broke your heart. Continue.”
“Well that’s why I’m calling you, Johnson,” Crunchy said as he regained composure. “That girl broke my heart, and now I’m getting back at the world! I’m going to share my misery by blowing up a train and teaching people that this world is nothing but hate, death and heartache!”
“Can you at least tell me which train it is?” Johnson asked. “I listened to you rant about this girl, it’s the least you could do for me.”
“It’s the 10:45, headed from New Haven to New York,” Crunchy said.
Johnson was walking briskly down the hall again. But he wasn’t trying to save that last drop of coffee. He was trying to save the lives of all 79 souls onboard the 10:45 to New York. Incidentally though, he did need a good cup of coffee right about now.
“Goodman!” he cried as he saw fellow agent Mark Goodman, the man he thought was on the phone earlier, walking ahead of him. Goodman turned around and waited for Johnson to catch up. He did.
“We’ve got a problem,” Johnson began with a somber tone. “There’s a crazy guy threatening to blow up a train.”
“What’s the 4-1-1 on the 1020?” Goodman asked, as he put his hands on his waist. He liked to use FBI lingo. He was a rookie, so it hadn’t been long since he’d had his training.
“We don’t know much,” Johnson said as the two began walking briskly. “Guy calls himself Crunchy. He’s basically seeking revenge on the world because his fiancée broke up with him. Obviously a disturbed individual.”
“Obviously,” Goodman agreed. “So how are we circumnavigating the deliberations regarding the present predicament?”
“What? Drop the lingo, Goodman, you’re an agent now,” Johnson said, slightly annoyed.
“How are we proceeding with this?”
“Very carefully. We tried running a trace on the phone call, but the computer isn’t working. I think it has a virus.”
“Yeah,” Goodman chuckled. “Williams did that. Guy knows nothing about computers; tried to trace a number and ended up sending a lot of our reserve ransom money to one of those Nigerian scammers.”
“Lousy Williams . . . worst agent here.”
“Yeah,” Goodman agreed.
“Anyway, Crunchy hung up shortly after making the threat but said he’d call back with more details. We’re assembling some other agents in the Serious Business Strategy Room for when he calls back.”
“What are we doing in the meantime?”
“Well Crunchy tells us he installed numerous surveillance cameras on the train so we’d better not try anything stupid. I’m inclined to take that advice. We’re dealing with a madman after all.”
“When can we expect the call?”
“He told me he’d call in,” Johnson glanced at his watch, “about 30 minutes or so.”
“Wanna grab a bagel in the meantime?” Goodman asked.
“That’s a big 10-4,” said Johnson, and the two headed to the break room.
Onboard the 10:45, rural Connecticut
Vic was looking absent-mindedly out the window as the train passed some trees and cows. He was trying to relax before his meeting. Anything to distract him would be welcome.
He glanced down the length of the car again. Anastasia had left her seat. The old guy seated next to her was asleep.
Vic looked at his copy of Lawn Furniture. Turns out this edition was awful, so Vic hadn’t even bothered to finish reading it. He thought about opening a window to throw it out in disgust, but decided it wasn’t worth a littering fine.
With a heavy, bored sigh, Vic got out of his seat. It was still morning, but he could really use a drink. So he walked two cars down to the bar at the back of the train.
“What’ll ya have, mac?” came the corny voice from the bald-headed barkeep. A Scotsman, he was.
“Jack and Coke, please,” Vic answered as he stood at the bar.
A pretty voice chimed in out of the corner of Vic’s eye. “How about a white Russian instead?”
Vic turned. It was Anastasia. “Sorry,” she said with a chuckle. “I know that was lame. Couldn’t resist.” She gave a playful shrug.
With a smile, Vic said, “Nah, it’s okay. I kinda like puns myself.”
“Actually, I do too,” said Anastasia with another laugh and flip of her hair. There was a brief, awkward pause. “I’m Anastasia Romanov,” she introduced herself.
“Vic Steelbrass,” he replied, and the two shook hands. “So,” Vic struggled for words, “how about this weather?” He turned a little shy and blushed.
“It’s not bad, I suppose,” she said. “Where are you headed?”
“I have a meeting in New York. Working hard to get a new account, but my PowerPoint presentation really sucks so I hope I don’t mess up.”
“I’m a bit of an expert with PowerPoint myself,” Anastasia replied. Though subtle, her accent was noticeable and complemented her hotness.