Night Fall (The Quantico Files #1) - Nancy Mehl Page 0,2

moment, then took a partially smoked cigarette out of his coat pocket. He’d found several of them on the sidewalk outside a movie theater in downtown Kansas City, and he’d scooped them all up. He cursed softly when he remembered this was his last one. New packages of cigarettes were impossible to steal now. Almost every store kept them either locked up or in a place inaccessible to the public. Sometimes a smoker would give him a whole cigarette when he asked for one, although that was a luxury. He would smoke only half of it, saving the other half for later.

He coughed again, trying to ignore the pain in his chest. He’d been spitting up blood for a few weeks. He should find a free clinic—maybe here in Independence—but he was pretty sure he knew what they’d say. He didn’t want to hear it.

When he reached for the book of matches in his pants pocket, his fingers got caught in a ragged hole. The matches were gone. He could search through the canvas bag he carried with him, but he wouldn’t find them. He’d definitely put them in his pocket. His curses echoed loudly through the black of night.

“Are you all right?”

Patrick startled at the voice coming from the darkness. A man walked into the yellow beam provided by a looming light pole behind the train cars. He seemed to have stepped out of nowhere.

Patrick’s body tensed. But he saw the person now approaching him was younger than him and held a can of spray paint. A train tagger. Not dangerous.

“You have any matches?” Patrick asked.

The man smiled. “No, but I have a lighter and some cigarettes.” With his free hand, he reached into his coat pocket and took out both a plastic lighter and an open, almost-full pack of cigarettes. “I have more smokes in the car. You can have these.”

“What about the lighter?”

The man held out his hand. “Keep both.”

Patrick grabbed them before the guy could change his mind. “Thanks,” he mumbled. “I mean it. Very nice of you.”

“Not a problem.”

“You’re a tagger?”

The man laughed. “I guess the paint can gave me away.”

Patrick smiled as he put a fresh cigarette in his mouth. He tried to ignite it, but the wind kept blowing out the lighter’s flame.

“Hey, there’s an open car down here,” the man said. “If you get inside, you can light that a lot easier.”

Patrick thanked him again. This was turning out to be a good night. Cigarettes and a place to sleep. He was so tired. His bag held a small pillow and a blanket he got from some do-gooders who’d found him under a railroad bridge a few months ago. They needed to be washed. Or replaced. Another reason to go to the Army when he got to the next city. They might even give him a sleeping bag too. That would help a lot.

He followed the man down several cars to the one that was open. Another light pole illuminated the tag the man had painted. Patrick liked most of the graffiti he’d seen on trains. A lot of it was interesting and colorful. This one was a little different. He stared at it a few seconds, trying to figure out what it meant, then decided he really didn’t care.

The man set his paint can inside the open car and pulled himself up into it before reaching down to help Patrick up. Patrick walked a little way inside the empty car and lit his cigarette. He sighed as the smoke entered his lungs. Once again he was seized with coughing, and he fought to control it.

“Sounds like you should give up smoking,” the man said.

Patrick’s family had said the same thing, but he didn’t like anyone telling him what to do. Suddenly, his mother’s voice seemed to speak out of the darkness. Pat, you need Jesus. He can help you. Change you. Save you.

He could almost see her tear-filled eyes as she spoke those words. Why was he revisiting this now? Something powerful poured through him. Regret? In that moment, he wished he’d listened to his mother. But it was too late. He couldn’t go back.

“Thanks for the cigarettes and helping me find a place to sleep,” he said. “I’m Patrick.” He held out his free hand, and the man grabbed it with a gloved one.

“And I’m Adam.” Without letting go, he took a step closer. “Have you heard of the Train Man, Patrick?”

He shook his head. The Train Man? Who’s that?