By: Wayne Brown
Tim Reynolds spat the toothpaste residue into the sink and rinsed it down the drain. He sipped some mouthwash and sloshed it around in his mouth before sending it to the same fate as the toothpaste. Time for some shut eye, he thought. Today had been a tough one and tomorrow did not look much better. He quickly wrapped up the nightly rituals to head for the bed.
A paperback copy of Stephen King’s “Christine” lay on the night stand. Tim was reading the novel for a second time. He did that with King’s stuff in that he seem to miss details of the story on the first pass. Reading it again made it all the more vivid in his mind. Tim had been a Stephen King fan for years and had read most of his books twice. On the other hand, Tim was not a book collector but an avid reader therefore he tended to buy only the paperbacks and he liked to get them at the used book store whenever possible. Tim was a bit frugal.
Grabbing the paperback off the night stand, Tim decided to read himself to sleep as opposed to watching television. Normally the reading would put him into dreamland much quicker than Seinfeld reruns. He flipped open the book and began to read. Christine was intense even if she was a car.
Tim awoke to find the paperback laying on his chest. He must have dozed off. He turned and looked at the alarm to see that it was only 1:30 AM in the morning. He rarely ever woke from a sound sleep unless he heard the alarm. He hated it when he did because it was always more difficult to get back into the sleep mode. He fluffed his pillow and rolled onto his right side, closed his eyes and offered up his intention to regain sleep. He lay there with his eyes closed. His senses were very keen. The night was quiet, very quiet. There was almost no noise from the outside. Maybe that was the problem, maybe it was too quiet to sleep.
Tim twisted slightly in the bed and turned his head back to the left attempting to gain a bit more comfort. As he moved into this position and began to relax, there was a very low noise that he began to hear. At first, he thought it might be coming from outside, then he listened more intently. It was definitely a radio or television broadcast. Someone was talking. Maybe it was the news. This seem strange in that Tim’s condo was an end unit and his bedroom was away from any common walls with any of the other occupants. His neighbors were very quiet so he could not imagine that it could be coming from their place. He listened closely. Yes, it was definitely a broadcast of some type. He began to turn his head to the right and the sound noticeably diminished growing so faint that he could barely detect it. He then turned his head slowly to the left and the sound grew in volume. Finally, at one point in the head twist, he could actually hear the words being spoken. “We have breaking news, early reports indicated that at least 20 vehicles have piled up in a collision on Interstate 85. Reports indicated the incident occurred in an area west of downtown which tends to become very foggy when surface temperatures shift. There’s no confirmation yet but early speculation is the death toll may be as high as 10 people with numerous other seriously injured. More news as it develops."
Tim quickly shifted his head and looked at the clock. It was 2:20 AM. He turned his head and listened intently for the broadcast. There was nothing. Wow, the papers would be filled with gruesome news tomorrow he thought prior to finally dropping off to sleep again.
Tim scanned the front page of the morning paper as he sipped his morning coffee. There was nothing about any foggy weather or vehicle pileups. Maybe the accident happened too late to make the papers. He reached for the remote and snapped on the television turning it quickly to a local news channel. He sat and watched the various reports, then the weather and then more reports. Again, there was no mention of any foggy weather or vehicle accidents. Tim glanced at his watched and frowned. He had a client appointment at 9:00 AM and was running out of time. Better get moving, he thought heading for the door.
TR Images was the business in which Tim Reynolds was a senior partner. The business was built around photography and covered the subject from just about every angle. Tim had designed the business model ten years ago and with the assistance of two of his close friends and associates had put the wheels into motion. As the business had gained ground, the focus extended from basic photography services into various aspects of commercial and artistic photography. Over the last ten years, the business had grown significantly and matured into a steady-state business with a solid foundation. Tim had concentrated his interest into running the division that provided commercial photography services to the newswires. TR Images held contracts with the local news media organizations to respond to stories of local and national interest and provide the necessary photos to be sent out to all media organizations desiring their use. TR Images maintained copyrights and received royalties accordingly for their use.
“Good morning, Mr. Reynolds,” Jennifer Landis said with a smile as Tim entered the side door to the office complex. “Your first client is in the meeting room awaiting your arrival. I got him coffee and I gave him the contract to review while he is waiting,” Jennifer added. “Thanks, Jen, you are a life-saver. Remind me to give you a raise,” Tim said smiling back at Jennifer. “Oh, you can count on it, sir” Jennifer laughed as Tim headed into the meeting room to work out the details with the potential client.
Jennifer Landis took a sip of the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and poked at her salad with her fork. Tim had rewarded her by taking her to lunch to celebrate the new contract. Tim had finished his sandwich and was sitting back in his chair quietly sipping at his wine. “Jen, did you see anything on the news or in the papers today about a multi-vehicle pile up in the fog? Tim asked quietly. “No, nothing that I recall” Jennifer replied. “And if something like that would have occurred around here, we would know about it through our photography contracts with the news wire services, don’t you think? Jennifer added. “Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing,” Tim responded. “So, why are you asking, Tim?” Jennifer queried. “Aw, it nothing, Jen, just a dream or something I suppose. I was just curious,” Tim replied as he sat perusing his glass of wine.
“And that wraps up the headline news for this evening. Let’s check with Tom Vann at the weather desk and see what we have in store for the area tonight. Tom, what does it look like out there?” The television newscaster chattered away as Tim lay in his bed and watched the news in the hopes that it would bring on sleep. “Looks like we have the makings for a foggy night, Matt,” Tim heard the weather forecaster reply from the television. Tim hit the remote and turned off the television ready to head off to dreamland again. As he arranged his pillow to get comfortable, he remember how he had heard the broadcast the night before by twisting his head on the pillow. He lay down and began to turn his head into various positions again. Suddenly, just like before, there it was faint at first, then it grew louder as he fine tuned the position of his head on the pillow. Tim smiled thinking that he might catch the rest of the weather report, then he began to make out the words clearly,
“And that’s all we know at the present, Matt. It appears the two trains were placed on to the same track while traveling in opposite directions. Certainly, this was a recipe that would spell disaster and it has as passenger cars of these two commuter trains lay scatter about in a mass of twisted wreckage.” Then the words began to become less distinct and finally there was nothing but a low indecipherable hiss to be heard. Tim kept moving around but could never regain the sound. Finally, he fell asleep.
The ring of the telephone on the night stand beside Tim’s bed rested him from his sleep on the second ring. “This is Tim” He spoke groggily into the phone noting the bedside alarm clock was showing it to be 5:30 AM. “Tim, it’s Jennifer. Sorry to wake you up this early but I thought that you would want to know. We got a photo dispatch about a half-hour ago to send out a crew to cover a multi-vehicle pile up on the west side interstate loop. I didn’t think too much about it until I saw the note that stated the pile up had occurred as a result of the thick fog that had formed in the area. Didn’t you mention something about that at lunch yesterday?” Jennifer queried. “Anyway, I thought you might be interested to know.” She added. “Thanks, Jen” Tim replied. I will turn on the news and check it out.” Tim hung up the phone and reached for the remote.
The photographer’s proofs showed all the gruesome details of the pile up in the fog. Tim picked one up off his desk and examined it again. He thought back two nights and tried to run the words of the broadcast that he had heard through his head. This just did not seem possible. Maybe it was just a coincidence. It was as if he was getting a glimpse of some future happening when he was able to tune into these sounds in his head. Tim shook his head thinking that he was losing his ability to think logically. He needed to figure this out.
Jennifer tapped lightly at Tim’s office door and then entered carrying a paper bag with deli sandwiches and chips. They were dining in today. Tim looked up from the photos and waved to Jennifer. “Glad you are back, I was getting a bit hungry,” Tim said. Jennifer reached into the bag and passed a wrapped deli sandwich to Tim. “It’s an Italian veggie made with just a little mayo, just the way you like,” She said also passing him a bag of potato chips. Tim grinned, “Thanks, Jen, you are a sweetheart and you feed me well too!” He laughed.
“Tim, what did you think about the pile up in the fog early this morning,” Jennifer ask as she prepared to bite into her sandwich. “The details were very much like that newscast that I heard in my head two nights back, Jen. It’s really gnawing at me. Actually, I am beginning to think that I might be losing it. I really wish there was something that I could have done about this. Three people died in this accident. I knew about it and I did nothing, “Tim said looking back across the desk at Jennifer. “What could you do Tim? Do you really think you could have gone down to the police station and convinced someone that you knew this would happen two days before it did? Jennifer replied “You would have been labeled as a certifiable nut case, you know that? In fact, I would not have believed it. But you brought it up over lunch before it all happened. It is bizarre but I believe you,” She added. “Thanks, Jen, I appreciate the support but I got to tell you, the problem is even worse now.”
Tim reviewed the words that he had heard of the commuter train accident in the broadcast from the night before as Jennifer sat listening in awe. “I know it is local, Jen. The reporter called the name of the television anchor, “Matt Jennings”. He is local on the Ten O’clock on Channel 6. I watched him last night,” Tim said. “You have to tell some one about this, Tim. If it follows the fog accident sequence, it will happen soon, maybe today or tomorrow. You have warn them,” Jennifer urged Tim. “I agree but who do I tell and how. How am I suppose to make them believe that I know something before it happens?” Tim asked. “That part doesn’t matter so much Tim. The way I see it, you have the knowledge and it is your responsibility to tell the proper parties. If they decide to do nothing about it, I don’t see that there is anything else you can do but pray,” Jennifer replied. “I see your point. Okay, I’ll go down to the Public Transit Authority and tell them what I know. You be prepared to come up to the crazy house and bail me out, Jen,” Tim said as he frowned and winked. “You can count on me” Jennifer grinned back.
“Who is that you would like to speak with, sir? Do you have an appointment?” the receptionist in the main lobby of the Public Transit Authority asked Tim Reynolds. “No, I don’t have an appointment and I have no idea who I need to speak with but it needs to be someone that can exercise some control on the commuter train routes I believe,” Tim responded. “Are you here to make a complaint, sir?” The receptionist continued as if she were operating from a scripted performance. “No, no, I am not here to complain. I am here to share some information. Will you please help me find someone,” Tim pleaded with the receptionist. “Okay, sir. I am afraid that all I can do without an appointment will be to check with the operations shift supervisor and see if he will meet with you,” The receptionist responded. “That’s fine” Tim said, “Just get someone for me to speak with quickly, thank you.” He added.
The man came out of a door marked “Authorized Personnel Only” and walked purposely toward Tim Reynolds who was sitting in the waiting area of reception. “Mr. Reynolds, I am Harry Sutcliff, the shift supervisor for commuter train operations. Reception tells me that you need to speak with me on a matter concerning the Transit commuter train service. What can I do for you, sir?” queried the man. “Thank you, Mr. Sutcliff,” Tim responded and motioned for Sutcliff to sit across from him in the chair. “I appreciate you taking the time to hear me out. I don’t have a lot of time. You don’t have a lot of time either but you need to know that two of your commuter trains will crash head-on soon due to them being placed on the same tracks by accident. I don’t know when it will happen but believe me it is going to happen,” Tim blurted out hoping he could convince Sutcliff of the urgency. The supervisor sat with a look of surprise on his face and almost smiled. “How do you happen to know this will happen, Mr. Reynolds? He asked while staring in disbelief at Tim. “It’s a long story and I will be glad to share it with you later but for now, I suggest that you look closely at your operations before the commute hours begin,” Tim continued. Harry Sutcliff stood up from the chair and looked back at Tim rather strangely. “Well, okay then Mr. Reynolds. I want to thank you for coming in and sharing your information. You just head on home now and we’ll take care of things here with the trains,” Sutcliff said. With that said, he quickly turned and let himself back through the door before Tim could speak. Once inside the door, Sutcliff shook his head and muttered, “crazy, crazy people, they are everywhere nowadays!”
Tim had invited Jennifer to share dinner with him at O’Hare’s Grill. Tim, lacking an appetite played at his Salmon de la Crème more so than consuming it. He and Jennifer had just discussed the results of his visit to the Transit Authority. “You should have seen that guy, Jen,” Tim said, “He looked at me like I was an escapee from an asylum. I didn’t know what else to say. It all sounded so stupid and, and, hell, I don’t know. He just thought I was a nut, just like I said” Tim went on. “I know” Jennifer replied. Just as she began to add to her comment the mobile phone in her purse began to ring. She quickly dug it out and answered the call. Within seconds her face took on a contorted look and she said, “Oh, Jesus” aloud as she listened to the caller. “Okay, I’ll take care of it and get a photographer on the way.” She said and hung up the call. Looking straight into Tim’s eyes, Jennifer said, “Tim, it was the wire service calling for photo coverage, there’s a big wreck down on the commuter rail. I have to dispatch a photographer,” Jennifer said holding up the phone as tears began to well up in her eyes. “I think it is a really bad one, Tim, really bad,” She added.
Tim tossed his keys on to the top of the chest of drawers in their usual place. He loosen his necktie and pulled off his suit coat. He sat down on the edge of the bed and contemplated what he had just witnessed with Jennifer. Eight train cars were scattered over a two miles section of the tracks. The trains had hit head on at top speed at the height of the commuter hour. The passenger count was high as likely the death toll would be. It was still too early to know. Searchers were still sorting through the wreckage attempting to find survivors. He quickly rose from the bed and ran to the bathroom sink arriving there just in time to vomit into it. Dear God, how he wished this was just a bad dream so he could wake up from it and everything would be okay. Seeing into the future was not all that it was cracked up to be. Nobody would believe the information. Tim bent over the sink again and gagged. He prayed for this to be over.
“And that wraps our newscast for another night. You can be assured that we will continue to track the situation regarding the commuter train collision near downtown. We will break into our regularly scheduled broadcast with updates as they come in. Please join us again tomorrow evening for News at Ten on Six” Matt Jennings said as the screen faded to black. Tim clicked the remote to turn the television off and rolled into his pillow to try to go to sleep. He closed his eyes and prayed for sleep so he could stop his brain from churning all these details.
Small bits of sunlight were finding their way around the edges of the curtains covering Tim’s bedroom window. The alarm clock clicked and suddenly soft music was playing at a low level. Tim, hearing the music, opened his eyes. He was laying on his back and staring up at the patterns in the paint on the ceiling. He reached out with his right arm and silenced the radio. Pulling the covers up to his chin, he lay there a bit longer gazing at the ceiling. In the silence, he could dimly hear the sounds of a broadcast. He turned his head slowly, listening, and the volume began to increase to the point at which he could understand the words. “We have breaking news here, Police have just apprehended two suspects in a daring daytime bank robbery at the Vantage Bank & Trust on south Wilkes Street here in the city. Sources say one teller was taken hostage in the gun-wielding robbery." The signal suddenly dropped and the broadcast was back to a dim presence. Tim turned his head about attempting to raise the volume again with no luck. It was gone.
Tim dragged the razor through the lather on his face. He had made up his mind this time. He was not going to wait and let the day go by. As soon as he could get himself dressed such that he did not appear to be a nut, he was heading down to Vantage Bank & Trust to talk with management. Surely he could convince these folks that a robbery was eminent. It certainly should be much easier to be on the look out for than a train wreck he reasoned. He finished the shave and wiped the remaining soap residue from his face. It was time to get moving and get down to that bank so he could be there when it opened. Maybe he could repent for his inability to save lives in the train wreck.
Arriving near downtown, Tim cruised along Wilkes Street looking for a parking spot along the curb near the bank. Finally, he spotted a car pulling out of a parallel space just up ahead and rushed forward to capture it. Parking the car, he locked it, set the alarm and headed off in the direction of the Vantage Bank & Trust that occupied the next corner.
It was 9:14 AM when Tim pulled open the glass door leading into the foyer area of the bank lobby. As he stepped through the door, he heard a woman scream, someone yelled “hold it” and then there was a loud explosion followed by another. Tim felt his knees go weak and his vision went to black as he fell to the floor. The sounds of the shotgun blasts were still ringing off the marble and stone covering the walls and floors of the bank as two robbers ran through the glass exit door.
Jennifer Landis sat at her desk outside of Tim’s office looking at the clock. Tim had called earlier to relate the new broadcast concerning the bank robbery that he had heard early this morning. He was going directly to the bank to report what he knew. She was proud that he was still trying even though they had labeled him a crazy prior to the train collision. Maybe this one would work out differently. These messages that Tim was getting were really unbelievable yet she had witness enough to know that it was true. She hoped that he could convince others of that fact.
Thinking again of the train collision, Jennifer headed into Tim’s office and turned on the television to see if there were any updates. A morning talk show was on the screen broadcasting the standard daily psycho-babble of the talk circuit. Just as she began to hold up the remote to change the channel, the screen shifted and the broadcast voice said, “Channel Six News breaking in first with news that is happening now.” The announcer appeared on the screen. “We have breaking news that Police have apprehended two armed robbery suspects in a daring daylight robbery attempt at the Vantage Bank & Trust this morning. Sources say the gunmen took one teller hostage but suddenly released her as they were surprised by a patron coming into the bank lobby. Sadly, as the teller screamed the gunmen trained a shotgun on the patron and fired twice. The patron was a local businessman, Tim Reynolds, who owns a photography business. Mr. Reynolds was pronounced dead at the scene. Jennifer sat back against the edge of Tim’s desk with her hands to her face, totally in shock and barely able to breathe.
In the lobby of Vantage Bank two police detectives stood over Tim Reynold's corpse laying in a pool of blood on the marble floor. “Poor bastard” muttered one of the detectives, “He never had a chance after he surprised those guys like that.” “That’s true,” said the other, “but you can bet one thing, he save that teller’s ass, that’s for sure.” Tim Reynolds lay on the floor in his suit and tie, his eyes wide open in a death stare gazing at the patterns on the ceiling.
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