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Maniacs Of Con City - Excerpt One

Harry shook the thought from his head and checked his watch. Nine minutes to go. He closed his eyes and tried to recall the words of the shrink he'd seen for the first six weeks of his stay in town. He no longer remembered the woman's exact words, but they all went along the lines of silver linings and long term plans and whatnot. He barely started to scoff at the memory of the shrink's guidance when he heard the door to the second carriage slide open. He looked towards it and saw Eye Patch Sally emerge from beyond. Harry nodded to her, and she smiled, if only briefly.

`Evening, Sally,' he said, as he removed his ticket from his pocket.

`Good evening, Harry.' As usual, Sally spoke slowly in the dialect Harry had grown up hearing in Con City, but uncharacteristically deep for a woman. She gave a quick glance to the ticket, then moved on.

For a fleeting moment, Harry thought to ask how she was doing, but he knew from experience that Sally didn't like talking to anyone. He supposed losing an eye would do that to people, but Sally was more reclusive than anyone he knew. She struck him as the perpetually single person. The loner who chose to work at one of the least used train stations in the Republic of North America precisely to be left alone.

The thought made him feel grateful. He may have lost his home, his home city, and many of his neighbors, but he was alive and had both eyes. Then he started to feel guilty about what had made him feel better, and once again considered talking to Sally, see if he could cheer her up. But by then Sally was in the far end of the carriage, standing in front of the other passenger.

He was a young man with a thin beard. He wore tattered denim trousers and a white T-shirt beneath a camo vest. He had earbuds in both ears, connected to the phone in his pocket. Harry wondered if he should have boarded not just in the far end of the carriage, but the far end of the whole train.

`Tickets, please!' Sally said. The young man ignored her. She repeated the question and waved a hand in front of his eyes. The young man removed one of the earbuds, filling the carriage with sounds of pop music, and looked up at her.

`What?' he said.

`Tickets, please!' Sally repeated. The young man shrugged.

`Go away.'

`I need to see your ticket, sir.'

`Ain't got one. Leave me alone.'

Sally visibly stiffened. She waited a couple of moments, then spoke. `Sir, if you don't have a ticket, you must buy one immediately and pay the penalty fee.'

`Piss off, cyclops!' the young man yelled.

Sally took a step back. The color drained from her face.

`Sir, I must ask you to get off the service right now,' she said in a low voice.

`Can't you see that I don't want a ticket?' the young man said.

Sally stood still for a couple of seconds, then she turned and made her way to the nearest door. She got off the Midnight Express and started to walk towards the station building. Harry watched the poor soul vanish from view through the window and shook his head. It was lowlifes like this rude youngster that made Brickton such a bad place to live in.

Perhaps two minutes later, he heard the door to the next carriage open once more. He looked, and very nearly jumped to his feet. In the door stood a man. He wore a trench coat and a fedora. Beneath the hat, a balaclava covered his face and pilot goggles shrouded his eyes. In his right hand, he held a baseball bat. There were letters glued on the bat, cut out from newspapers and magazines. They spelled out the words, `Tickets, please!'

Harry couldn't believe his eyes. He'd heard the stories. He'd read the news. But he'd never actually believed any of it. Yet now, before his very eyes, stood the Guardian of Trains. No, that wasn't the name the papers had given the man. It was the other way around: `Train Guardian.'

Harry fumbled for his ticket when the Train Guardian started to walk down the aisle. He barely had it in his hand when the Train Guardian walked past him, giving him a barely perceptible nod, then proceeded towards the young man in the far end of the carriage. Harry dropped back into his seat and waited for his pulse to settle, while he watched the unfolding scene.

The Train Guardian stopped in front of the young man and raised the baseball bat in front of his face. The youngster glanced at the words on the bat, then smirked and looked up.

`I already told you,' he began, then stopped talking. His hands moved towards the phone in his pocket, but then the Train Guardian struck. The bat got the young man in the left wrist and prompted a loud wail. The Train Guardian moved the bat back up and then brought it down on the young man's right hand, then struck him in the jaw. Harry figured if there'd been any real momentum behind that third blow it would have killed the young man outright. As it was, all it did was send a couple of teeth flying, along with bloody spittle.

The Train Guardian kept going. He slammed the bat into the young man's ribs, twice, and then into his left knee, which produced a disgusting crunching sound. Harry wanted to look away and cover his ears, but found that he could do neither. He watched as the Train Guardian rained blow after blow down on the young man. Finally, the vigilante lowered the bat, and grabbed the unruly passenger by the shirt.

He pulled the young man out of the seat, visibly struggling with his weight, then started to drag him to the door. The Train Guardian opened the door and threw the young man down to the concrete floor of the platform. He adjusted the hat on his head, waited for the door to close, then turned back. He walked along the aisle and passed Harry, tipping his hat along the way, then went into the next carriage.

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For more, please proceed to the novel Maniacs Of Con City.


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