The train station wasn’t far from Sam’s, just a dozen blocks or so. I made my way purposefully there as the sunset began to fade from the sky. ‘My last sunset.’ I thought as I half jogged towards the train station, ‘And I’m too busy to take the time to look.’
The train station rose out of the ground in a massive cube. It was two stories tall and took up an entire block. From the front it looked very much like an old castle, all square stones and squat. Even the entryway, its doors only there for decoration since they never close, were hung in a large archway of cold gray stone. A giant banner hung over the doorway announcing the upcoming construction of a new train track, and for people to be careful around the construction zone.
I hurried into the station itself and found myself in a large waiting room. Tables and chairs were placed randomly about the room, where travelers and tourists had moved them around, and a tired looking ticket salesman stood behind the counter. A small group of people were sitting in one corner, waiting for their train to arrive.
Moving past the waiting room I found myself near the tracks themselves. Rather than being numbered, like most train stations, the tracks were lettered. Track ‘A’ was on the far left, all the way to track ‘E’ on the far right. A construction zone beyond track ‘E’ showed where the new line, track ‘F’ I assumed, was being built. On either side of the platforms that led to the train cars were bright orange boxes, the exact color of the key in my pocket.
“Okay.” I said quietly out loud. “If I was number eighty-three, where would I be…?”
I moved to platform ‘D’ first, figuring that if there were twenty lockers for each platform, this would be the most likely spot. The first set of lockers on the platform were numbered from one to five, but there were more at the end of the platform. Heading that way I found lockers eleven through fifteen. Confused, I headed to platform ‘E’, but again found the numbers one through five, and eleven through fifteen. It was there that I noticed that there were tiny lockers underneath the big ones that accounted for six through ten, and sixteen to twenty. But that still didn’t get me up to eighty-three.
The platforms were long, and even though I was going as quickly as I could, fifteen minutes had passed while I searched just the two platforms. Something wasn’t adding up. I headed back to the main lobby and approached the man at the ticket counter as a train pulled into track ‘C’.
“Excuse me,” I asked the bored attendant. “I’m looking for my friend’s locker, but can’t seem to locate it.”
“Do you have a key?” The kid asked, not looking up from his magazine.
“Of course.” I told him, holding it out to him. “It’s number eighty-three.”
The kid snorted, turning a page. “We don’t have lockers that go up that high.” He told me, grabbing the key and glancing at it. “This isn’t eighty-three.” He said, handing the key back.
I looked at the top of the key closely. Just as it had before, the number on top said ‘83’. “Then what is it?” I asked, my patience wearing thin.
“B3.” He said, flipping another page. “Just looks like an eight.”
I stared at him stupidly. That was such an easy thing to figure out. I must have been more distracted than I thought. I thanked him and headed back to the platforms. Sure enough, as I swam through a small group of people entering the lobby, I found that the locker number three on platform ‘B’ was keyless. With shaking hands I put Grace’s key into the lock, and opened up the locker.
I’m not sure what I was hoping to find, but it wasn’t the single manila envelope sitting on the top shelf of the locker. The envelope was simple, unlocked, and surprisingly thick. I took the envelope, checked the rest of the locker as thoroughly as I could, then headed back into the lobby. The group that had been waiting for their train were now standing on platform ‘C’ as the crew began doing a cleaning sweep of the train, and the new arrivals had all left the building. I took a seat at one of the many empty tables, making sure I could keep an eye on the entrances to the lobby, as well as the guy behind the counter, then opened up the envelope and spread its contents on the table.
The first thing to catch my eye was a small passport. I opened it quickly and found myself staring at the face of Grace Redding. Except that wasn’t the name on the passport. Her real name had been Susan Hammond. I felt myself growing angry at her for a moment. She had lied from the beginning, and now she was dead, and I was marked by the Makos. It was maddening.
I put the passport down and picked up the next piece of paper on the stack. It was Susan’s last will and testament, leaving everything she owned to her daughter June. An interesting piece of paper, if nothing else, and one that needed to get to the authorities, but hardly anything worth killing her over. Unless, of course, she had other family who wanted her money for themselves. I put the will away, keeping it in mind.
Next I found a birth certificate for her daughter, June. She was only six. I winced. Going to be a hard life for her without her mom. The next paper took my breath away. It was a picture of a group of people surrounded by large trees and waxy looking ferns. Flowers on large vines raced through the trees, offering bright spots of color on the green and brown background. The people in the picture were dressed for the rainforest environment around them. Lots of heavy safari gear that was sure to cover all exposed skin to keep the bugs off. On the far right was a man I quickly recognized as a young Dr. Johann, his body restored to a youth of about my own current age. Others in the photo were blurs of faces and colors as my eyes rested on the two figures in the center.
Grace Redding, or Susan Hammond, whichever, was smiling fiercely, her face recognizable even at the apparent age of ten. Her black hair was streaming wildly, as if caught in a breeze, and one of her hands was held in the air, as if in triumph, a small black stone wedged between her fingers and her palm. Her other arm was draped around the head of the man who was holding her up on his shoulder. It was my father. He looked like I last remembered him, tall and strong. His face was a lot like mine, though it’s probably the other way around realistically, but without the scar across the face. He was handsome and charming as always, a big smile on his face as he looked at the camera.
My hands shook as I set the photo down carefully. My head was on fire. This didn’t make sense. My father had died in the rainforest looking for, but failing to find, the Moonstone. Yet here he was, holding my dead client in his arms as she held an item that could be nothing else. And why was Dr. Johann in the picture? No one had ever mentioned him being on the expedition. I searched for a calm, telling myself I’d find out the answers later.
I carefully grabbed the next paper and pulled it out of the pile. It was a doctor’s note, nearly impossible to read. Something about an unknown disease, and Susan’s daughter June. It was from St. Mercy Hospital, here in the city. I frowned at that, and set it aside as well. If June was in the hospital, there was no way she knew about her mother.
The next item from the folder turned out to be the last. It was a small leather bound book. When I opened it up, I discovered it was Susan’s diary. I flipped to a random page near the beginning and read:
I don’t understand any of this. I don’t know why mom and dad insisted on coming down here, or why they brought me with them. I’m ten years old, after all, and I can take care of myself. It’s hot here, and wet. And the animals make horrible angry sounds all night long, making it impossible to sleep. I just want to go home.
Great. Mr. Malone just came by to warn me that I should put everything that isn’t waterproof into something that is. There’s going to be a big storm soon. I HATE this place!
My dad. She was talking about my dad, warning her of a storm. ‘She was there when he died.’ I realized with fluttering emotions. My curiosity overruling the morbid feeling of reading a dead woman’s diary, I continued to read.
That was the worst storm ever! It went on for two whole days, just pouring water on us! And the worst part was the lightning. It crashed all around us, making the night as bright as day. Why can’t we just go home? The lightning caused some sort of wind tunnel a mile or so away, and my parents went to check it out with Mr. Malone. I hope they never come back. Then I can go home!
It was horrible, reading the spoiled writings of this little girl who wanted nothing more than to get away from her parents, when all I wanted at that age was to be with mine. Would I have been like her, if my dad had taken me with him?
I don’t…. I can’t…. I am a terrible person. The worst ever. I deserve to die. Why didn’t they come back? Why couldn’t Mr. Malone save them? He brought their bodies back, carrying both of them. In his hands was a knife made of black glass. My parents are dead! What am I going to do now?!?
If there had been anything but soda water in my stomach, I probably would have thrown it up right then and there. Her parents died there? And with a knife that sounded an awful lot like the one used to kill her? My hands began shaking even more, and I skipped to the last entry in the diary.
We finally get to go home! Mr. Malone found the Moonstone! He said that the natives who killed my parents six months ago had somehow been brought by the stone. He’s been so good to me. He even said that if I wanted to, I could live with him when we get back to civilization. He even told me I’d get to have brothers! I’ve never had brothers before!
We took a big group photo today to celebrate the find, and Mr. Malone let me hold the Moonstone for the picture. Right after that, Dr. Johann and a couple others packed up their things, saying that they were going to get the lab ready for the Moonstone. But Mr. Malone and I are going to rest for the night before following. I can’t wait!
There were no other entries. The rest of the book was filled with strange drawings of plants and large lizards. Mechanically I put the things back in the envelope, and pocketed it. But I didn’t get up. I was too stunned to get my feet to move properly. My mind tried to kick into gear by laying out the facts.
Fact one: Grace Redding, who was born Susan Hammond, had hired me to find the Moonstone.
Fact two: She knew the Moonstone existed, because she had been there when my father had discovered it.
Fact three: Dr. Johann had also been there when the Moonstone was discovered.
Fact four: Grace’s parents had been killed by a knife that looked like the one that had killed her, implying that the same people had killed all three of them.
Fact five: I had been marked by the Crimson Mako gang, and had a little less than twenty hours left before they would come to kill me.
Fact six: My father was going to adopt Susan Hammond.
Fact seven: Susan Hammond had a sick daughter, June, in St. Mercy Hospital.
So that left me with only a few options. Try to get the mark off of my neck somehow, confront Dr. Johann, or make sure that June got the treatment she needed. I haven’t always been a very good man, I knew. I often let my emotions get the better of me, and I’d been in more fights than I was willing to admit. Hell, ask any cop about the scar on my face, and they’ll tell you how I threw down with the chief John Rider when he tried to fire me. Rider had drawn a knife at some point and after he marked my face, I took the knife and got his chest. And the way I pressured Lenny this afternoon only showed that age had not yet brought the wisdom of restraint.
So instead of storming off to Professor Rafkin’s to beat the truth out of Dr. Johann, I decided to try to think of what my father would do. The answer was fairly clear. If he had planned on adopting Susan Hammond, then it practically made her family. And that meant I had a young niece in the hospital, with no one to take care of her.
I went outside and got a cab ride to St. Mercy Hospital.