Title: F Train
Author: Richard Hilary Weber
In a fast-paced thriller perfect for readers of Kathy Reichs and Linda Fairstein, dedicated Brooklyn cop Flo Ott unravels the mystery of a terrifying mass murder–from the cold underbelly of New York to the city’s glittering heights.
Beneath Brooklyn’s wintry streets, seven people are dead, slumped in their seats on an F train. Fast thinking and good fortune prevent the subway car doors from opening, spilling poisonous gas into the station. It’s not long before a frightened metropolis of eight million demands answers: if this was an act of terror, where will these cruel killers strike next? NYPD detective Flo Ott looks closely at the victims. Each of their stories leads to another, one more colorful and complex than the last. A few of these quintessential New Yorkers catch Flo’s attention: a mysterious off-duty FBI agent; the beautiful woman next to him, who may have been his lover. Then there’s a Russian mobster with more than his fair share of enemies. As Flo battles false leads, conflicting witnesses, and meddling politicians, her investigation delves into the dark side of the city that never sleeps. Flo becomes convinced that this wasn’t a random act of violence, and she fears something much worse may be rumbling down the tracks.
Into the cold and snow, again.
Raymond O’Hara’s teeth chattered.
And he dreaded what looked like an inevitable hike home through windswept Siberian-deep wastes.
No more F train tonight. The subway station was closed and barricaded. The police were taking over stations all across the city.
Around Bartel-Pritchard Square, search beams and flashing red and yellow emergency lights pierced the screen of swirling snow, the lights outlining a ghostly caravan of police and fire department vehicles, nine by this point.
A van pulled in to pick up the F train passengers, and two police ambulances followed right behind.
Despite snow and the ungodly hour, house lights began coming on in apartment windows around the square, shadows flickering on windowpanes, lending the chaotic scene below an air of performance, an eerie kind of theater in the round.
A young patrolman grabbed Raymond O’Hara’s arm.
“This way, pal.”
The cop Raymond spoke to on the platform stopped his younger colleague. “He’s with the Bureau.”
This warmed Raymond. “Who’s here from homicide?”
“Sergeant Keane. The car over there.”
In the backseat of an unmarked vehicle, Detective Sergeant Marty Keane was talking on the phone. The sergeant was a blond crew cut sporty guy, still as lean as the champion sprinter he was in high school.
The patrolman with Raymond O’Hara tapped at the window and pointed to him.
Sergeant Marty Keane rolled the window down a crack. “What’s up?”
“Guy who found the bodies. He’s from the Bureau.”
“Retired.” Raymond wanted no misunderstandings. “For years now.”
“Hop in.” Sergeant Keane opened the door and made room for Raymond. “What happened?”
“I can only tell you what I saw. While it’s still fresh.”
The sergeant turned on a recorder, and Raymond O’Hara began explaining his presence, relating the exact sequence of events, describing everything he observed, all the details, including a precise description of a man on his knees, hand on a gun, and Raymond O’Hara’s fleeting impressions of the passengers left alive in the other cars; all in all, a professional comprehensive summary.
“Great,” Sergeant Keane said. “Terrific job, we got you on tape. Outstanding, thanks. Still, you know we have to get you back for more.”
“I’m with you. I go over and over this, and you get the whole works. You know, in a way I envy you guys, but in a way I don’t. You nail the killers, but any slipups, any mistakes they can use in court, and you get screwed. Big-time on a case like this. You and the DA.” Raymond rubbed his eyes and stretched, the adrenaline wearing off. He was an old guy, and he was up way too late. “I’m all talked out, Sergeant, I’m pretty whacked.”
“Need a lift home?”
“You’re a mind reader.”
“We’ll get back to you again.”
The sergeant summoned a patrolman, and Raymond O’Hara rode home in a warm squad car, a four-minute trip.
Once inside his apartment, Raymond undressed in the bedroom, keeping the lights out, trying not to wake his wife.
The air was stuffy inside the apartment, the radiators working overtime. He tried opening the bedroom window a crack, but the frame was stuck fast.
He stared out into Caton Avenue, empty at this late hour. The gas station across the street was closed. If he and Brendan Ryan hadn’t been into some serious drinking there, closing Farrell’s, if he’d come home at a decent hour, then who would have spotted those bodies?
And the man on his knees, hand on a gun, head in a woman’s lap.
At this hour, the bodies might have gone right on riding, all the way out to Coney Island.
A car alarm went off in the street, sending up a futile ringing from somewhere down the block. A recorded voice boomed, Step away from the vehicle.
The snow was turning to icy rain, giving the asphalt road a black glitter like a firefighter’s rubber coat.
Raymond O’Hara drew the curtains and slipped into bed beside his wife, Mary Margaret. Far too late to disturb her, but he certainly couldn’t fall asleep. The ghostly tableau on the F train wouldn’t allow it.
His preliminary conclusion: a madman’s sick brainstorm of slaughter.
Before he drifted off, Raymond spent the next hour mulling over the macabre scene, floating with those comatose bodies down a twisting underground river into the interior of a dark continent, a place called Fear, toward an insane city where he always hoped he’d never set foot.
Raymond was a citizen whose loyalty and patriotism and competence were never questioned. His place wasn’t the city of scam artists or professional flag-wavers or even of God, but the city called Self-Respect and At Peace with Your Own. Nine-eleven was a one-off, and so many years ago now, Raymond believed another probably impossible. Surveillance was almost total.
But this subway slaughter—and now he was certain it was mass murder, not some kind of freak accident—this massacre confounded him. Another attack imminent? Somehow he doubted it, but who knew? He’d been out of the picture for too many years and almost felt abandoned, left behind, because the real job, the work justifying a real existence, belonged to other people this time.
Richard Hilary Weber, a native of Brooklyn and a Columbia University graduate, has taught at the universities of Stockholm and Copenhagen, and has been a scriptwriter for French and Swedish filmmakers. He lives in Provence, France.
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