Part Eight - A Light in the Darkness
Three days had passed since Hector Dan and Alice had their encounter with Roland Frapples at the station. Hector and Dan had been doing some research for another case that had been put on a back burner of late, but this work was swiftly shelved yet again as soon as Alice in an excited state entered the old university building carrying a copy of the Carfax standard.
The newspaper had run an article about a phantom train and had interviewed a local man by the name of Tom Harrington a train driver who had been driving one of the Bluelink trains during a collision with the ghostly engine. The article also printed statements from many of the passengers who gave similar accounts of the episode. Alice had directed them to two photographs at the bottom of the article written by a reporter by the name of Gregory Hickman, the first photograph showed Alice, Dan, and Hector running out of the railway tunnel, the second picture was a close up of the uniformed phantom they had all encountered that night.
‘I didn’t see anyone else at the station, who took this picture?’ puzzled Dan.
‘Never mind that, now we know who we’re dealing with! That uniformed spirit is the driver of the legendary phantom train!’ said Alice still excited. ‘It’s him that’s doing it all!’
‘Doing what? What do you mean Alice?’ Asked Dan a little confused.
‘He is controlling Rolly Frapples, I worked it out. Rolly died or so legend says, due to his wheel chair getting stuck on the train lines, somehow, and when the train came along it didn’t see him in the tunnel, it ploughed right into him and became derailed. Lots of passengers were injured but the driver died!’
Hector’s eyebrows raised and he shot up and raced over to an old bookshelf near to the window. He pulled out a group of notebooks and quickly examined the contents discarding them on the floor to Diane’s dismay, eventually he found the one he had been looking for.
‘Ah here we are, Dan you remember, we looked into this phantom train years ago!’ Hector flung himself into an armchair, ‘Diane would you be so kind as to pull up the document you prepared last week, the one with all the dates of the missing teenagers and of deaths at Carfax Abbey station’ Diane sat at her desk and opened the document from the desktop of her PC. ‘Diane have a look at your document and note down all the dates when people were discovered missing or dead at the station would you, in chronological order!’ Diane nodded. ‘Dan would you write down any dates I mention from this notebook please’ He tossed a pencil to Dan who caught it and took the newspaper from Alice to use as a temporary jotter. Hector raised the notebook and began to read aloud to the rest of the team.
‘The line runs from East Ambleton right through Carfax Abbey, and terminates at Cushing Hill. Sightings of the phantom locomotive have been recorded since 1940, and each new sighting places the train further along the route between termini! The following are the most noteworthy appearances, 1940 five stops after East Amblington the ghostly apparition of a train was sighted speeding along the tracks towards Carfax. A local climber witnessed the locomotive’s glowing form at midnight. 1948 from Carfax Abbey towards Rose Hill, many locals have heard whistles, and seen lights speeding along the track late at night even though no night trains were scheduled. 1954 around Rose Hill station, there are frequent reports from people who claim to hear steam whistles and the unmistakable chuffing noise of an old steam engine. 1973 Great Gunyard played host to an especially odd apparition, in October 1973 three people walking near the railway line, in an area known as the Fort plains, saw odd looking steam rising from beneath the old bridge. As they crossed over the bridge, they looked downwards. To their disbelief, they saw a stationary steam train, just sitting motionless on the tracks below; they described the scene as being semi-transparent. They ran off to find help, by the time they returned with the local bobby some half hour later, everything had disappeared. 1986 four stops after Great Gunyard, a local photographer was busy taking snaps of disused rail buildings. As he stood on a disused bridge, he heard the familiar sounds of railway carriages clattering along some of the disused tracks, when he turned he could see nothing yet the sounds continued. 1992 in between Rockhampton and Bluebell hill station, some children playing on a now disused rail track were inside an old abandoned tunnel, to their absolute terror they suddenly heard a loud steam locomotive heading towards them from inside the tunnel, they fled the scene, only sometime afterwards did they think that this was impossible as the tunnel was bricked up at one end with an abandoned track behind it. 2007 Bluebell Hill station and tunnel, a local birdwatcher reported that he often heard old steam engines chugging and clanking through the station, even though the last train had passed by in 1962. The station tunnel was rumoured to be haunted also with strange lights often seen at night. And finally 2010 along the line towards Piprickin stop on the way to Cushing Hill, Witnesses report hearing the sudden approach of a train and feeling a blast of wind, as one would if a train had just passed by. Others claim to see a ghostly shining train disappear in the centre of a bridge at the far end’ Hector placed the notebook down and looked at Dan. ‘Did you note down the dates?’
Diane handed Hector the list she made and Dan passed him the folded newspaper. Hector briefly examined both lists, and then held them up for the others to see.
‘The dates tally, whenever there had been a sighting of the phantom train, it was closely followed by another mysterious death or missing person at the station!’ Alice was the first to make sense of this information.
‘Each reappearance of the phantom train is a little further along the course of the railway. Diane, could you check where the line terminates please’ Diane searched on-line for the information and then read from her monitor screen,
‘The line runs from East Amblington, through Carfax, and terminates at Cushing Hill’.
‘It’s only a hunch mind, but it would seem that with each disappearance or death the train is sighted a little further along, the last being at Piprickin, and I also did my homework before I came here today’. Alice opened the flap on a documents satchel she had brought with her and removed some papers. She held up a photocopy of a black and white photograph of a round faced serious looking man, his arms were down by his side and he was smoking a pipe, behind him was a railway platform sign which read ‘Cushing Hill’ and upon the platform on which he stood were old wine barrels filled with an array of cheerful flowers. ‘This is him, the driver of the phantom train, his name was Earnest Kent, he was about to retire when the train he was driving hit Rolly Frapples. This is the cause of the resentment I could feel, he never got to retire, to enjoy his rest, his well-earned rest, to spend the time with his family’. Before Alice could continue Hector silenced her simply by holding up his hand,
‘My god Alice, he thinks he has to reach Cushing Hill! This won’t stop until he drives his train to the terminus!’ Alice smiled; glad that Hector and she were now on the same page,
‘He is using Rolly to get the people, to kill the people for him’ spoke Alice now softly.
‘But why does he need the people?’ Dan asked still rather puzzled.
‘Because he needs their life energy to propel the train further along the course!’ Alice answered Dan.
‘Are you serious? Is this even possible? Hector is Alice right?’ Hector nodded.
‘As fantastic as this sounds it makes perfect sense Dan, but I feel that he only thinks he needs to make it to Cushing Hill, his logic tells him that this is so’ Hector said solemnly.
‘If I could communicate with him tell him he can go now?’ said Alice hoping for a green light from all her colleagues.
‘I’m afraid it wouldn’t work, these ideas are so firmly planted in what remains of Earnest’s mind that nothing short of him making his final journey to Cushing Hill would stop him’. Hector added. Diane now sat up and spoke angrily,
‘Are you saying that there’s nothing we can do? We have to sit and wait for Rolland to kill another teenager?’
‘Well I wouldn’t say that there’s nothing we can do!’ Hector sat back in his chair and pressed his fingertips together, he stayed in that position for a full ten minutes before a smile slowly began to spread across his face.