The Train Journey

Submitted into Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that takes place on a train.... view prompt



                                                                 The Train Journey 

My long cherished dream of visiting India, was to be realized now. My book, ‘The Mental Trauma,’ had been selected as the best among foreign authors of Indian origin. I was to be honored at the beguiling capital city of India, New Delhi. An invitation that I received in my mailbox for a prize distribution ceremony was the most enthralling news of my life.

Though I was of Indian origin, I had been born and brought up in the US. I took to writing at a very young age and had soon become a renowned writer of murder mystery.

I did write on different genres, but quite a few of my books were centered on the life of a Psychopath named Dr. Adam North. The latest of my work, that was to fetch me an award in India, depicted how the serial killer murdered many of his patients in a particular age group and shrewdly made it appear like suicide cases.

Having been bullied by a twenty four year old neighbor and some of his accomplices in the same age group, the protagonist's growing years had been a nightmare. The persecutor eventually moved away and all repugnant memories attached with him were erased from the mind of the boy, Adam, who later became a famous doctor. One day while Dr. Adam North was driving home back from his hospital, he incidentally happened to spot the scalawag, who had now aged a bit and had a grey tinge of receding hairline. 

Appalling memories of the past having surfaced in his mind, the doctor suddenly becomes a psychopath and then goes on killing his patients in the age group of twenty to twenty five. 

However a hawkeyed inspector, newly deputed to the area, digs in to these mysterious deaths and finally the culprit is enfettered. The court scene, the media had written, was the highlight of the book. The Doctor breaking down after pleading not guilty, touched the heart of many.

 The book had hit the shelf last month and went ahead to collect accolades as the best seller.

 I had chalked out an appealing program to make the most of my short trip of ten days in India. Episodes about the versatility of Mumbai city, had been enchanting me since quite a few years. A visit to that city therefore had become indispensable. Also I had been contemplating on taking a train ride while in India to have a feel of it.

After spending a couple of days in Delhi, subsequent to the award function, I took a train to Mumbai.

I expected three more passengers along with me in the four seater coupe. However there were four. A couple accompanied by a kid, who being hardly three, probably did not need a berth of his own and then there was another lone passenger.

However impertinent I may sound, I have to admit here about my detestation for kids. All kids are trouble mongers, was my contention. I still vividly remember how a four year old came running to me while I was having dinner at a get together. Mistaking me for a very benevolent uncle of his and as if in a attempt to revive a long lost comradeship; he literally attempted to climb over me, spilling the soup that I was relishing. It took a better part of an hour to clean my attire.

I expected some similar trouble from this brat too. He had an impish look and was constantly on the move, Clambering up and down in a jiffy. 

I tried putting up a stifled look assuming that might discourage him from approaching me but it had no effect on him whatsoever. He started thumping on my lap like it was some piano and he was composing some music. 

The contrivance of the kid, failed to attract any sort of discomfiture from his parents. On the contrary the mother kept smiling at her kid who she probably considered, was accomplishing some rare feat. The father seemed to be a very sober man, as if his brain was saddled with all the problems of the universe. No smile on his permanently frowning face. 

I could realize that the other passenger seemed very earnest in striking a chord with the brat. He diligently opened his bag pack and removed some savories. He offered it to the kid, who gobbled it in a matter of two minutes and began pestering him for more.

The father kept to himself while the mothet profusely thanked the passenger for his bountiful nature.

The man then steered the packet towards me as a gesture of solidarity. Though I wasn’t very sure what it was, I helped myself to some, sticking to civility norms.

He tried to drag me into a conversation, now being almost sure that making any efforts to initiate one with the kid’s father would only disgruntle him. That abstemious guy seemed to be the wrong person to expect any response to pleasantries. 

“I am Doctor Arvind,” he brought forward his hand for a golden handshake. I was bewildered when the father of the kid, who had all this while been sitting like he was mentally cut off from the compartment, pranced from his seat on hearing this. 

 “You are a doctor, you mean medical doctor?” he almost blurted. “I am a doctor too; an orthopedic, Dr. Steven Braganza,” he grinned for the first time bubbling with excitement, confirming that he was also aware about an emotion called exuberance.

I was puzzled to hear that he was a doctor by profession. The revelation seemed like a perfect example of incongruity. A presumptuous guy like him; can definitely not be a friendly doctor. How on earth would any patient, visiting him feel comfortable?

Both my co passengers were medical practitioners in New Delhi, but from different fields. They got along like a house on fire and I was totally side tracked. The conversation kept revolving around hospitals, surgeons and modern technology of treatment etc etc;  

The kid whom I had loathed seemed to be the only person concerned about a poor creature like me. He continued playing the piano on my lap at regular intervals while the mother was too engrossed listening to both the doctors talking. She also gave some inputs in between and later my doubt that she too was involved with the medical field was confirmed. Apparently she was the chief nurse of the orthopedic department in the hospital where her husband worked. 

‘Wonder why this vivacious woman fell for this reticent chap?’ I shook my head in disbelief. ‘Marriages are made in Heaven,’ I concluded.

A smile escaped my lips as I marveled at the coincidence that the psychopath of my book was a doctor and here there were two of them in the same profession. 

In a while it dawned on Dr. Arvind that it was very unethical to have totally ignored me though Dr.Braganza never felt any contrition on that issue. He started to look away through the glass window while Dr Arvind spoke to me. 

“So, gentleman, where do you come from and how far are you traveling in this train?”

Seizing this opportunity that I was eagerly waiting for I informed him that I came from the US and that I was a writer named Bryan Lobo. My books centering the life of a Psychopath, were famous.

  I flaunted my award that was bestowed on me in India for my latest book. Briefing him about my work on a serial killer, I explained to him that a medical professional Dr. Adam North; a fictitious character created by me was the psychopath in my books. 

Even though he was a Doctor, he took it in light spirit but it was evident that Dr. Braganza was stung by my stories. 

“Why on earth would you want to assassinate the character of a medical professional?” he frowned.

 “Come on Doctor, take it easy. It would have been simpler to portray a doctor as the serial killer because only a person involved in medical profession would know how to tactfully camouflage a murder and pass it as suicide.” Dr Arvind Kumar came to my rescue though Dr Braganza did not look convinced even by an inch.

They had a brief argument over my book and then things seemed to settle amicably when the mother of the kid, Anjali, opened a box of sweets thereby keeping everyone’s mouth busy.

The kid literally spat a few pieces on me and I honestly wanted to spank him, but tried my best to refrain from doing anything detrimental. I was already in the eye of a storm for having called my centre character Dr North as a Psychopath and a serial killer. I did not wish to invoke more displeasure from Dr.Braganza by starting a fresh act of animosity against his son. 

 “Are you travelling till Mumbai Central?” Dr. Arvind asked.

I shook my head simultaneously as I was trying to remove all the sweets spat by the kid, from my shirt. “My friend will come to pick me from Surat. By day after tomorrow I should be in Mumbai.”

“Surat is the station after the next, which is Vadodara,” he volunteered with the information about which I was already apprised with. Nevertheless I thanked him.

As the train left Vadodara the halt before Surat, Dr Arvind Kumar excused himself to visit the washroom. 

The brat found more place to jump about and suddenly went on a rampage, pulling at all things available. The blankets, bed sheets and pillows were being thrown like some grenade. Even before his mother could bring the situation under control the boy had flung Dr. Arvind Kumar’s bag pack scattering it’s belonging on the floor.

I helped the mother to put the stuffs back in the bag while the dad tightly held the kid. Everything fell into place just as Dr. Arvind returned and took his seat. He would not have got any inkling about the tornado that had just struck the coupe.

 “Someone else may take this seat of yours probably till Mumbai,” Dr Arvind said when I returned after visiting the washroom in a while. “Generally some business guys travel this distance every week at least once. The trains never go empty.” He seemed to be having a thorough knowledge of trains and passengers. 

I got up as we were nearing Surat. The kid had fortunately gone to sleep. His father, who seemed to be piqued, genuinely did not think it was very important to at least give a parting smile. The mother slightly twisted her lips in an effort to grin and nodded. 

On my behest Dr. Arvind came with me to the exit door to see me off. 

“Has your friend come to pick you?” he asked visually scouring the station as if he would recognize my friend.

I requested him to give me company till my friend arrived as there were ten more minutes for the train to depart. When the engine siren honked, Dr. Arvind took my leave and got in. My friend was not to be seen.

I too got in and closely followed Dr Arvind and took my seat again.  

“Hey how come you are back? And you can’t take this seat; someone else may have been allotted the place. More over you must have paid only up to Surat right? The Ticket checker may come now and take offense to this.” Dr. Arvind could not conceal his vexation. 

With a wave of my hand I brushed aside his apprehension.

He was about to say something in thorough retaliation when the train screeched and came to a sudden halt. 

There was some commotion as people tried to find out why the train had stopped suddenly.

There were different theories, “Someone must have pulled the chain.” 

Yet another theory proposed a brake failure.

While theories were being propagated, a few cops entered the train and came to our coupe. “Dr. Arvind?” they looked around while I pointed to the doctor. They held him and hand cuffed him.

“What on earth is happening here? I am a renowned pediatrician and you are taking me into custody for what offense?”

“Everything will be explained to you in detail,” they said taking him away. I also handed over a diary to them, while Dr.Arvind looked askance at me.

The parents of the kid were dumbstruck, not able to comprehend anything that happened in a matter of a few seconds.

 “Will let you know what the issue is, give me your contact details,” I said looking at Dr. Braganza, before I got down with my friend.

After obtaining the number from a stunned and confused couple, I softly patted the sleeping kid on his cheek and left. If not for him I would not have encountered a serial killer today, one similar to my centre character Dr North. A murder would have been committed.

When the kid had toppled Dr. Arvind’s bag pack, a diary, which I handed over to the cop now, had fallen underneath my opposite seat. It aroused my inquisitiveness as the page that stood open read as, ‘my next plan.’

Concealing it under my shirt, I went to the washroom. The contents of the diary revealed the truth that Dr. Arvind was a serial killer who targeted male medical professionals who were married to girls from within the same profession or something linked to it, for instance a nurse like Anjali. He went on this rampage for the simple reason that a female who worked at the pathology laboratory in a hospital had ditched him for another doctor working in the same hospital.

‘Dr. Joseph being my best buddy, I had taken him into confidence regarding my decision to propose to Margaret, a nurse in the pathology department, no sooner I returned from my internship. I would then have been absorbed as a full time doctor in the hospital. With a steady job and a good income I could marry and settle.

When I returned from the internship, they were a much married couple.

Then he tells me all this fairy tales that Margaret had taken the initial step and proposed to him. Though he claimed that he had tried briefing her about my feelings for her, she had brushed it aside saying that we were good friends, nothing more than that. Apparently Margaret was not even aware that I had been secretly admiring her.'

The pages in his diary read thus. He justified his murders by saying he was avenging the humiliation at the hands of a doctor friend, by ruthlessly killing any medical professional married to a female associated with the medical field.

He had mentioned about five of his previous murders and now his sixth victim was Dr Braganza. He planned to continue his murdering spree till such time he could lay his blood stained hands on Dr.Joseph. His death would complete his revenge.

He had spotted this couple at a function in New Delhi and meticulously planned the murder. Knowing that they were travelling to Mumbai on a short vacation in a first class coupe, he engaged the same travel agent who was booking their tickets and asked for a seat in the same coupe.

He had however over looked upon the fact that the kid was below age for a separate ticket and realized that as planned by him he won’t be the only passenger with them. There would be one more person. That was me. He later gathered information about me and learnt that I was going to alight at Surat.

He purchased that ticket in a different name from Surat to Mumbai, so that only he and the couple with the kid would then be seated in the coupe. Seizing an apt opportunity he would lock the door and carry out his murder plan.

His plot was jotted in the diary. His evil intentions being exposed to me, I had immediately contacted my friend who was to receive me at Surat and asked him to fetch the railway cops. However there was bit of time lag and the train left. I had to somehow get back to the seat before Dr Arvind could swing into action. 

Thankfully by the time he expressed his displeasure on my having returned; the cops had intimated the engine driver to stop the train. 

I had not only saved the life of a doctor but had inadvertently donned the role of a detective and been instrumental in handing over a serial killer to the cops. 

The most thrilling part of the whole adventure was that I had encountered my central character Dr. Adam North in person; in the form of Dr. Arvind.

I returned home with a new plot for my upcoming novel.

February 07, 2020 11:13

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