Diversion - A Christmas Story Part Four
Elaine frowned, taking in the information and checking she had given Barbara the right house number. Yes, there it was 17, Gibson Avenue.
“Hey, don’t bite my head off Barbara, but you’re sure it was number 17 Gibson you went to?”
“No, I just knocked on a random door. Jeez Elaine.”
“Sorry. It’s just a bit weird, I mean, it doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well I suggest you leave this mystery alone, who knows who the guy who answered the door is and who you have really been speaking to on your phone. As I said, the one who answered the door, well let’s just say I wouldn’t date him.”
“Haha as you have been married to Will for less than a year, I should hope you wouldn’t be thinking about dating anyone. Tell me what he was like?”
“Hmm, well around forty, definitely works out, pretty fit, beard, but I don’t know, something about his eyes and the way he watched me as I walked back down the path. He gave me the creeps.”
“Yes, but what did he say?”
“Well that was also what was weird, he just nodded no, when I asked to see Molly, and made a face. I explained why I was there, then he shrugged and said he didn’t know Molly.”
“So he didn’t say she didn't live there?”
“Duh, well obviously she doesn’t live there, if he doesn’t know her.”
Elaine paused, something didn’t add up, but as Barbara said it wasn’t her mystery, she shouldn’t get involved, but that was what she did, she got involved. Like with the young couple opposite. Since speaking to their Aunt, she had conjured up all sorts of situations they might be in.
“Ok well, thanks Barbara. I’ll message Mark and let him know he must have the wrong address. Are you heading to mum’s now?
“Yes, and then later I’ll pick you up from the station and fill you in, just let me know when you’ll be arriving.”
But her words were cut off by a loud screeching sound as the train jerked, slowing down from high speed to an almost abrupt stop. Luggage and detritus from the passengers fell into the aisles. Elaine's books and pen slid across the table into the seats opposite, her head and neck were thrown back violently and then forwards again as the train did a final jiggle. A flurry of commotion followed, screams and shouts and passengers trying to see from the windows what could have happened. A little girl who had fallen out of her seat into the aisle was sobbing inconsolably in her mothers arms. The train guard came rushing through the carriage, flying over the various obstacles with the grace of a gazelle fleeing a predator. Ignoring the shouts of “what’s happened” he continued to run to the front of the train.
“Elaine, what happened, that noise, the shouting?” Elaine heard Barbara's voice, faintly from under the seat where she had dropped her phone. She scrambled to pick it up.
“I don’t know, we've stopped suddenly. It’s chaos.”
“Are you alright, are you hurt?”
“No, just a bit shaken up.”
“OK. Look, I’ve got to get to mum’s, call me when you know what’s going on.”
“Yes, I will.” Elaine pressed her phone to end the call. She looked at the young couple opposite, they had gone from looking worried to terrified. The woman buried her head into her husband. He was holding her tightly, whispering to her and stroking her back.
Elaine leaned across and said “Is she OK?” He looked at Elaine, his eyes were wet. He couldn’t be older than twenty she thought, but there was something about him that made him seem even younger, almost a child. The young woman pulled her head up, she too had been crying. Elaine held up her phone, and pointed, wondering if they wanted to speak to their aunt again, but they both shook their heads. “No thank you.” the young woman whispered.
So she did have more English than just please Elaine realised, wondering how much she really understood or spoke.
Outside the carriage the weather was changing dramatically, the snow that had started falling in light flurries a few moments before they stopped was now intense. It was laying on the ground, and the tracks on the opposite side of the carriage were soon covered in pristine white powder. Moving anytime soon was looking more and more doubtful, as the wind started pelting the windows of the train with snow, and the view of the open countryside faded from sight. Within about five minutes visibility was almost zero.
The guards voice broke through the murmuring concerned voices of the passengers.
“Cross Country Rail apologise for the delay. As soon as we have more information about the unscheduled stop we will make an announcement.”
Well that was about as helpful as an empty roll of loo paper thought Elaine. Why did announcements about delays always have to be so vague. Surely he knew the actual reason for the stop. It was so sudden, there had to be something wrong. Oh I hope it's not a suicide she thought grimly, her imagination, as usual taking her to the worst possible scenario. The thought brought her back to Mark, what should she say in her message to him? The mistake in the phone number had been believable, but what if his mum had given him the wrong phone number and address on purpose? She messaged him. Hi there, are you sure your mum said 17Gibson? Hope the baby is doing fine. Elaine.
She was surprised by the almost instant reply. Yes, the baby did well, a girl. Sometimes we get lucky. 17 Gibson is right, is there a problem?
Elaine stared at the message. She’d just have to be honest, but that was going to be hard by text. She decided to message and ask him to call her when he was able to. It took less than a few seconds for her phone to ring.
“Yes, hey that was quick.” She was caught on the back foot, without time to prepare what she was going to say. She started to gush, tripping over her words. “Look, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation but when my sister went to the house someone else answered the door. They said they didn’t know Molly.” There was a long pause. “Hello, Mark, are you still there?”
“Yeah. I’m here.” His words sounded measured. “Did your sister say what this guy looked like?”
“How did you know it was a guy? I didn't think I said who answered.”
“No you didn't, but you didn’t need to. I’m guessing it’s her nephew. What did he look like, not that I’ve seen him for over ten years.”
Elaine described the man the way that Barbara had described him to her, leaving out the fact Barbara had found him shady and creepy .
“Well, he’s the right age, sounds like Lee.”
“But if you're right, why would her nephew, Lee, say he didn’t know her?”
“It’s a long story but in a nutshell that house used to belong to Lee’s mother, my aunt. She left it to Molly, my mum because her son is an evil nasty son of a bitch. Always has been and always will be. Sorry to be so blunt but there it is. I have no idea why he is there, last I knew he was in prison.”
Elaine swallowed. “For what.”
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