Two Trains Running - By Andrew H. Vachss
A candy-apple-red ’55 Chevy glided down the rain-slicked asphalt, an iridescent raft shooting blacktopped rapids. Behind the wheel was a man in his mid-twenties, with a wiry build and a narrow, triangular face. His elaborately sculptured haircut was flat on top, long on the sides and back, ending in carefully cultivated ducktails.
The Chevy’s headlights picked up an enormous black boulder, standing sentry in a grove of white birch. The driver pumped the brake pedal, then blipped the throttle as he flicked the gearshift into low. He gunned the engine, kicking out the rear end in a controlled slide through a tight S-curve. As soon as the road straightened, he eased off the gas and motored along sedately.
A quarter-mile later, the driver pulled up to what looked like a miniature cottage. A lantern-jawed man slowly rose from his seat on the one-man porch. He held a double-barreled shotgun in his right hand like an accountant holding a pencil.
“It’s me, Seth,” the driver said, out his side window.
“I knew that a few minutes ago, Harley,” the man with the shotgun replied. “Heard those damn glasspacks of yours a mile away.”
“Come on, Seth. I backed off as soon as I made the turn,” the driver said.
“You’re getting way too old for that kid stuff,” the man said reproachfully. He stepped closer to the Chevy. The driver reached up and flicked on the overhead light. The man with the shotgun glanced into the back seat, then shifted his stance slightly to scan the floor.
“Let’s have a look out back,” he said.
The driver killed his engine, took the keys from the ignition, and reached for the door handle.
“I’ll do it,” the man with the shotgun said. “You just sit there, be comfortable, okay?”
“Are you serious?” the driver said.
“You been here enough times, Harley.”
“Exactly,” the driver said, with just a hint of resentment. “So what’s with all the—?”
“Ain’t my rules.”
“Yeah, I know,” the driver said, sourly. “Let’s go, okay? The boss said nine-thirty, and it’s getting close to—”
“Next time, come earlier,” the man with the shotgun said, taking the keys.
He walked behind the Chevy and opened the trunk with his left hand, leveling the shotgun to cover the interior. He pulled a flashlight from his belt and directed its beam until he was satisfied. Finally, he closed the trunk gently, walked back to the driver’s window, and handed over the keys.
“See you later, Harley,” he said.
* * *
1959 September 28 Monday 21:29
* * *
The darkened house was a featureless stone monolith, the color of cigar ash. Harley ignored the horseshoe-shaped brick driveway that led to the front door; he drove carefully past the big house, his engine just past idle, until he came to a paved area clogged with cars. He slid the Chevy into a generous space between a refrigerator-white Ford pickup and a gleaming black ’56 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and climbed out, not bothering to lock his car.
A short walk brought him to a freestanding single-story building. Its wooden sides had been weathered down to colorlessness, but the roof and windows looked newly installed.
As he approached, Harley saw his reflection in the mirrored finish of a small window set at eye level. Before he could knock, the door was opened by a short, bull-necked man wearing a threadbare gray flannel suit. The man’s perfectly rounded skull was covered by a thick mat of light-brown hair, roughly trimmed to a uniform length. His facial features were rubbery; his mouth was loose and slack.
“It’s me, Luther,” Harley said.
The short man nodded deliberately, as if agreeing with a complex proposition. His slightly protuberant eyes were as smooth and hard as brown marbles, reflecting the moonlight over Harley’s shoulders. Wordlessly, he tilted his head to the left.
Harley stepped past the slack-mouthed man into what looked like a modern two-car garage. A charcoal-gray Lincoln sedan was poised on the concrete slab, its nose pointing toward a wide, accordion-pattern metal door. Conscious of the other man somewhere behind him, Harley opened a door in the back wall, and followed a passageway to his left.
He paused at the threshold of a large, low-ceilinged, windowless room. One wall was lined with file cabinets, another with bookshelves. Various chairs and a pair of small couches were scattered about, all upholstered in the same dark-brown leather. Most of them were already taken. A few of the seated men glanced expressionlessly at the new arrival, the youngest man in the room.
The far end of the room was dominated by a lengthy slab of butcher block,