The Brotherhood #8
By Mark W. Meier
Prophet of Death
The two police officers watched as you turned as pale as the cheap toilet paper in your bathroom. “Um. Sleeping, I guess.” You shrugged, as if that’s where you were every early morning.
“Can anyone confirm that?”
You sneered. “Look around, Marshal. Who would be with me in a place like this?” You’d been bitter about your living conditions for years, but nothing you did had changed your life in any significant way.
“Mr. Reymond, do you own a car?”
No doubt he knew about your sky blue 1978 Pacer.
“Y-yes. It’s parked out front.”
Woods rose to his feet. “Do you mind if we take a look at it?”
You led the trio of law enforcement to the off-street lot where thirty or so cars were parked. Tucked in the middle of the lot was the rust bucket you used as little as possible. A vandal had keyed the passenger door long enough ago for the groove to corrode. You didn’t even bother to lock the doors, thinking thieves would only break windows to get in. Besides, there was nothing inside worth stealing.
You pulled open the driver’s door, which complained loudly. Then you noticed the garbage on the passenger seat wasn’t in the same configuration you’d left it.
“Already searched it, didn’t you?” The bright afternoon sunlight contrasted with your scowl, and the clear sky accentuated the remaining bits of blue on your car.
Woods only smirked. “When was the last time you drove it?”
“Last night I splurged for a Mikey Burger and fries at the Half Pint. I ate on the way home and left the take-out bag on the seat.” You gave Woods a significant glare. “Not on the floor.”
The marshal crossed his arms. “Any chance you could have driven to Fairmont and back?”
One of the cops chuckled. The vehicle probably would fall apart before getting to the next county. No way it could get to the next state, much less back again.
“In that?” You pointed to the blue hunk of junk. “Are you kidding?”
He took a deep breath and looked down his perfect nose at you. “Stranger things have happened.”
“I had an oil change a month ago.” Planting your hands on your hips you dared him to accuse you of something. “I haven’t driven enough miles since then to get to Fairmont and back.”
“Receipt?” Woods made a note. “Maybe a work order?”
You gestured to the accumulated trash in the passenger area. “Feel free to dig into the pile to find it.”
The marshal nodded and made another mark in his book. “That won’t be necessary.”
Scoffing, you knew he’d already checked your odometer reading against your mechanic’s notation of the milage. “Then if there’s nothing else, I’d like to get back to work. I’ve picked up a number of subscribers in the last few days.”
That’s when you first realized why Woods was treating you like a murder suspect.
“Wait, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
Woods gave you a knowing smile and walked toward a black SUV with government plates. Like the marshal, the police also left without saying a word. Their unmarked sedan started a moment before the marshal’s Escalade. Woods gave you a suspicious stare from the driver’s seat, then both vehicles drove off.
Back in your apartment you checked your subscription numbers. A thousand more since yesterday. The service selling ads on your website had even bumped up your payout.
A quick search produced a news story about a nursing student in Fairmont being killed at a railroad crossing. Two hours after the news story was posted, your subscriber numbers had ticked up.
The headline on a local rag screamed, “RN-WANNABE DIES AT RR XING.”
A medical scribe at the Fairmont Clinic was killed when her car was struck by a train at the Pioneer Drive crossing.
Janet Wilson was returning home from Lakeside Cemetery late Tuesday evening when the accident happened. She was alone in her late-model Kia, which showed no signs of slowing.
Railroad investigators say witnesses saw the crossing lights flashing, and the automobile’s taillights come on, but police say the car was traveling over the speed limit when it entered the crossing. No skid marks were on the pavement leading up to the intersection. Detectives believe the witnesses must have been mistaken. Initial inspections have found no evidence of tampering with the vehicle’s brake system.
Friends and relatives say Wilson has no history of drug or alcohol abuse. According to Wilson’s family, routine tests at the clinic where she worked were all negative. “They’d have to be to keep working there,” her sister said. Postmortem blood tests have yet to yield results.
Services have not been scheduled, and the investigation is ongoing.
Further searches showed similar articles, with an internet-only story mentioning your post about avoiding railroad crossings. One comment on the story named you “The Prophet of Death.”
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