The car was a little crowded as Rafe got into the train. He was going to have to stand, but that wouldn’t kill him; it wasn’t a long ride. It was only about a fifteen-minute commute from his home stop to his office. Holding on to the pole with one hand, he pulled his ‘phone out of his pants pocket and quickly tapped the screen to check for messages. There wasn’t much there, just his colleague Scotty wanting to meet him for coffee. He texted OK, see you in 15, and slid his ‘phone back into his pocket.
That was when he first noticed her. She was watching him from across the aisle. She must have gotten on the train at least a few stops ahead of him because she was one of the lucky ones with a seat. She glanced at him for a second and then looked back at the open Kindle lying on her lap. Rafe had thought of getting one of them himself, but he wasn’t about to ask a complete stranger what she thought of hers. He looked in the other direction out the window at the passing cityscape.
After a few minutes he had that sense of being watched. He glanced over and there she was, looking at him again. And this time she seemed to be making notes on her Kindle as she did. That was weird. Well, she didn’t seem dangerous. Jeans, simple black shoe boots and a black and pearl-grey pullover. Nothing unusual about that. Maybe she was interested? Nah, no smile. No hair flip. She just kept looking up at him and making those notes whenever she thought he wasn’t watching.
Now he started to worry. What if she was a cop? Oh, God, maybe they’d found out about that accident! He could feel prickles on the back of his neck as he thought about that. But no, he was being paranoid. She didn’t look like a cop, didn’t have the bearing. And besides, it was just a smashed fender. He’d pulled out of the parking lot too fast when he left the club last night. The other driver wasn’t even there, so nobody was hurt. Why in the hell would a cop chase him down for that? And OK, he’d had more than he should have to drink, but there was no way a cop could prove that now. He was being completely ridiculous.
Now embarrassed at his paranoia, Rafe looked down at the tips of his Johnson & Murphys. The train stopped and a few people got off. Not her though. When he glanced up again, there she was, watching him once more. It was deliberate too, not the kind of casual glance you give a stranger. What was this?
Two minutes later the train got to a curve. The force of going round the curve pulled Rafe sideways and closer to the woman who’d been watching him. As he straightened up, he could hear her muttering something to herself:
‘I can’t use a gun. Too loud and too easy to identify. OK, no big deal. There’s always a sharp little knife.’
The fear returned. Was this woman some kind of maniac? Was he stuck on this train with a goddamned nutcase? Then he took a breath. Stop being an idiot, he told himself. There’s nothing wrong. She’s just…weird, that’s all. Lots of people are weird.
Rafe straightened up as quickly as he could and held more tightly to the pole. Two more stops and he’d be at his office. He forced himself to focus. God knew he had enough going on at work today to keep him busy. For a moment or two he calmed down and got back to planning his morning. After he and Scotty had coffee, he had that meeting. Then…but wait. There she was, looking at him again. She was making more notes too. What the hell was this? Now she had an odd sort of grin on her face as she made more notes. He thought he heard her mutter, ‘That’s it! Under the tracks!’
The last five minutes were a blur as Rafe struggled to keep his nerves under control. Whatever was wrong with that woman, she wasn’t going to be his problem for much longer. Finally he heard the announcement for his stop. With a deep breath, he left the train and joined the crowd surging towards the stairs to the street. That’s when he saw that she’d left the train too. It was that same crazy woman. Was she following him?
Enough is enough, Rafe decided. This is stupid. Just ask her what’s going on, he told himself. You’re bigger and stronger than she is. Angry with himself for being so afraid before, Rafe waited until he’d gotten to the top of the stairs. There she was. He took a breath and strode over to her.
‘Excuse me,’ he said.
She turned around. ‘Yes?’
‘Look, I couldn’t help noticing you on the train back there. You were watching me and now I think you’re following me. Why?’
‘Oh, that? Don’t worry. I was just thinking of ways to kill you.’
‘Wha-what the hell? Kill me?’
‘Yes, kill you. I’m a mystery novelist, and you’re exactly the kind of victim I need for my next story.’
Happy Weekend, Everyone!
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Grateful Dead’s Casey Jones.