He jolted awake, roused by a jab in his side. Must of leaned on his knife, the way it felt. He had to blink a few times, trying to get his head unmuddled, get a grip on where he was. Wait, what was his knife doing there?
He was in a room. Damn, hard to believe he’d fallen asleep like that. A woman sat on a bench across from him, a baby sleeping in her arms. She ignored his smile. A couple of boys in tattered clothes rolled and punched at each other on the floor, laughing, jostling his feet like he wasn’t even there. Just what his head needed. And he’d almost missed noticing the old man, still as death, over to one side in the gloom. The man’s lips moved, like he was talking to himself, more like praying, only Johnny realized he couldn’t hear anything over the wind slapping around outside like it was trying to find a way in. When had that started?
“Johnny?” Scott’s voice. That explained him sleeping in public, Scott watching his back like he did. Scott said something else, only Johnny couldn’t make it out over the wind’s howl. Or, no, not wind, a train whistle? Yes, of course, the train station! Damn waiting room. No wonder he’d dozed off. Those places were as deadly as funerals.
He started to rise as the stationmaster announced the train, but Scott told him to stay, it wasn’t time. Damn, he should have known he couldn’t get that lucky, not like the old man who shuffled toward the platform door as it opened. The man turned to look back in Johnny’s direction, his lips drawn tight against his pale face in a smile, but Johnny had to look away as the wind-driven dust swirled in the dazzling light that poured in. When he looked back, the man had already disappeared in its glare, just a shadow on the platform before the stationmaster wrestled the door shut and the wind went back to testing the windows.
He turned to ask Scott when their train was expected, only Scott was busy talking to somebody Johnny couldn’t see. Johnny let his eyes wander, but the place was dead of anything interesting. The only action was the stationmaster winding the clock. Even the boys had finally given up and lay stretched out on the floor.
He wasn’t sure if it was the beat of the pendulum or the squalling of the wind that lulled him back to sleep, but he awoke again to some sort of clattering, like the wind was throwing branches at the windows, trying to break them. No, another train! He jumped to his feet, or tried, before he realized his arms and legs must have fallen asleep and all he ended up doing was flopping around like a cat with a broke back.
“Take it easy!” Scott, that look on his face.
Dios, if Scott could turn into more of a mother hen he’d grow feathers, and not just in his hat. But truth was, with Murdoch gone, he’d gotten even bossier. “Sure, papa,” he mumbled sarcastically, with every intention of getting up and dancing a few steps just to needle him. Only the room was so damn hot it was way too much effort. Shit, couldn’t they open a few windows in this hellhole, let some of that fucking wind blow some breathing air in here?
His gaze stuck on the moon outside the window. Night? How long had he slept? He turned to ask Scott, but he didn’t see him. Tried to look at the clock, but the stationmaster was in the way, winding it. Hadn’t he just done that?
When the hell was that train getting here? Those kids must have got on that last one. Lucky stiffs.
Then he saw him. The asshole who’d pulled a gun on him earlier, behind his back. Wonderful, just fucking wonderful. When did he get here? Johnny could have sworn he’d nicked him enough to put him to bed, but here he was catching a train, maybe the same train! Even wonderfuller.
Ah shit, Scott was saying something to him, looking plenty pissed. He should take care of the situation now, for good. Give the asshole a dead-eye stare until he lost his bowels. Maybe scare him under the wheels of that train coming in. He could see into its lighted cars, see the faces of the passengers as they flickered past the station windows. Faces he’d thought had quit haunting him, only now they were looking in, like they saw him through holes as black as gun barrels where their eyes should be.
Shit, what the hell had been in that tequila? It wasn’t just the faces, everything was swirling. He figured he better take care of the asshole before he passed out, before Scott got in too deep.
The stationmaster started to wind the clock. What was with him and that damn clock?
The door to the platform opened, and now he could see that the bright light came from inside the train car beyond, like looking into the sun, dazzling his eyes until the shadow of a big man stepped into the doorway and blocked it. He almost missed the asshole raising his gun behind him, just as the wind smacked the door into the wall like a gunshot, just as he jumped to push the man out of the way. The damn knife was jabbing his back again, the damn wind was shoving him from behind and he was falling, barely hearing Scott’s shouts for him to stop, come back, just as his father caught him.
Scott knew everything in the waiting room by heart. The flickering lamp caught in a draft from the window. The feeble ticking of the clock’s pendulum.
He absently picked up the key and wound it.
It seemed a lifetime since the doctor had ordered him from the surgery.
He’d been here before, the night Murdoch had left them.
The door to the back room opened, throwing light in. “Come now,” Sam said. And Scott knew.
Kneeling, he held his breath to listen for any sign, clutching at hope as Johnny took a rattling breath, losing hope as the wind rushed out of Johnny’s lungs.
And didn’t return. “Please, please, stay. . .”
“Come on, little brother. . .Come back. . .”
But the only sound was the gentle chime of the clock in the other room, followed by the fading whistle of the 3:15 leaving the station.