The Insane Train

The Insane Train by Sheldon Russell

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Authors: Sheldon Russell
am.”
    â€œI’ll bet you are,” he said.
    â€œSo how did you get to be a yard dog?” she asked.
    Hook held up his prosthesis. “My life began and ended with this,” he said. “Car wreck, and then I sort of went out to get even with the world.”
    â€œAnd did you?”
    â€œI hit the skids and learned a lot about survival. Then, with the war came a shortage of men. Hiring a one-arm yard dog doesn’t seem so unreasonable when there’s no one else. I’ve been at it awhile now. Me and the railroad have had our ups and downs over the years.”
    â€œMarried?”
    â€œNever been asked,” he said. “You?”
    â€œI’ve been asked,” she said. “And then he changed his mind.”
    â€œSorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to pry.
    â€œThe law turned out to be something I could do, and I had spent a lot of time riding the rods by then. I have a pretty good eye for detail and tend to think like a criminal, all necessary in a job like mine.”
    â€œWhere do you live?”
    â€œCaboose,” he said.
    Andrea plunked her chin in her hands. “You’re kidding me?”
    â€œIt’s like living at the tail end of a bullwhip,” he said.
    â€œDo you have relatives?” she asked.
    â€œNot that I admit to. Other than Mixer, that is.”
    â€œMixer?”
    â€œMy dog. He fights everything that comes along, and it doesn’t matter a damn how big or mean it is. Don’t know how he’s managed to stay alive. Section foreman’s taking care of him back in Needles.”
    â€œAnd now you’re charged with moving an entire insane asylum,” she said.
    â€œIt just might be the end of a fine career,” he said.
    â€œWhy do you say that?”
    â€œOther than there’s about a thousand things that could go wrong, I’ve some real concerns about that fire out there.”
    â€œI wake up in the night thinking about that horrible accident,” she said.
    â€œIf it was an accident,” he said.
    â€œYou don’t think so, do you?”
    â€œI don’t know. That’s just the point, but I can’t have an arsonist running around loose on my train. I can’t take that chance.”
    â€œThey said it was the electrical wiring.”
    Hook picked up the boxes of books and took them to the car. When he came back, he said, “What do you think?”
    â€œI guess it could have been.”
    â€œBut how do they know? There was nothing left of that building but ashes. Did the fire department investigate or the local police?”
    Andrea gathered up the papers and sacks from lunch and put them in the trash can.
    â€œBoth came,” she said.
    â€œAnd?”
    â€œThey looked around, talked to Doctor Baldwin.”
    â€œIf the fire had been anywhere but in an insane asylum, do you think things would have been handled differently?” he asked.
    Andrea fell silent for a moment. “I’ve gotten used to people’s indifference when it comes to the mentally ill. As far as other people are concerned, those inmates out there are already dead. They didn’t spend that much time investigating, I guess.”
    Hook sat down on the table and lit a cigarette. A squirrel peeked around a limb before vaulting to the top of the tree.
    â€œIf I can’t be certain it was accidental, I can’t be certain it wasn’t set,” he said.
    â€œBut why would anyone do such a thing?” Andrea asked. “There would have to be a reason.”
    â€œThat’s usually the case,” he said. “Unless what Doctor Helms says is correct, that pyromaniacs don’t need a reason.”
    â€œLike Van Diefendorf?”
    Hook shook his head. “Anyone who would burn his house with his family in it might enjoy setting fire to his fellow inmates.”
    â€œBut that’s the security ward,” Andrea said. “The place is locked down

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