The Bottle


Most move with purpose and haste. Others halt briefly to steal glances at their phones, creating congested confusion. The focused however move ahead and instinctively serpentine through the crowded station like ants of a vast army – significant in numbers yet quite invisible at the same time.  The flow and ebb of a winding river, always there and forever repetitious, yet seldom noticed.

He steps from the shadows and into the current flowing out onto the platform. Outside, as the line of waiting passengers builds up before him, he nonchalantly strolls off to the left and stands alone facing the tracks with his back to a large fence.  Behind the fence is an old wooden elevated trailer/office that serves as the station master’s control room.  Within that room, the coordination of all automated track switches and communication with incoming and outgoing trains is solely centralized.  Given this singular choke point of importance, security surveillance and presence is obviously, yet discreetly, escalated in this corner of the yard.

His presence, while unnoticed by the masses sweeping before him is immediately however, picked up by a security technician in a dark room illuminated only by dim screens situated across the station and two floors below.

By the fence, in a fluid movement, he reverses his backpack and calmly pulls a quart sized glass bottle of clear liquid out with his right hand, lowering the pack to the ground with his left. The technician zooms in, toggles his headset and speaks softly…

On the platform, a canine officer turns his head left towards the fence and holds it there in the suspended seconds. Another officer appears to the right and walks slowly by and out onto the platform before speaking into his chest radio.

All of this the man by the fence observes and has half expected.

Inside the dark room, the cameras triangulated on the figure coupled with the officer’s report have determined nothing. He wears no earpiece, suggesting he is alone and facial recognition return is ‘negative’…he is an unknown.

The supervisor behind the technician twitches in uncertain pause….‘the bottle’, he whispers, ‘what is in the bottle?’   The technician sitting rod straight opines nervously:  ‘could be anything sir: an arsenic, hydrofluoric acid, gasoline or water …hard to know, but he took it out and is just holding it …’

The supervisor then speaks into his headset: ‘Riley, swing in for a closer look, have Nine sniff it out. No engagement unless instructed’.

To the technician he instructs: ‘have Team Two hold in the van but be ready.’

The canine officer slowly weaves through the crossing mass of pedestrians and approaches the fence.   The man stares to his left but in his peripheral he sees this and calmly removes his left hand from his pocket, leaving the lighter there and checks his watch.

The service dog, while still twenty feet away has taken the slack from his leash and seems to know exactly where he is going.  

It is decision time. 

‘The bottle … what are you up to..?’ the supervisor whispers to no one, straining to see what the monitor cannot reveal.   The man’s eyes now lock with the dogs at ten feet and he unscrews the cap to the bottle.  

His decision has been made.

Sixty feet away, on the street a van door slowly opens and five heavily armed men step routinely out into the sunshine…

The man raises the bottle to his lips and drinks a long swallow.

At four feet, the officer gently tugs the leash to the left and passes off to the right.

The man returns the bottle to his nap sack and moves towards a boarding train. His eyes blurred in a dizzying sting and his throat burning from the kerosene just ingested. He fights the bile down and refuses to vomit as he quickly boards an outbound as the doors close.

The supervisor removes his headset, rests his hand on the technician’s shoulder and sighs:   ‘water, just water.’



                                                                     Sent from Rail 📞 . . .


© All rights reserved 2018


Author: Breck Masterson

Tales From The Rail is a collection of short stories revealed in observation during a commuters journey across this land. Most, if not all stories are based on what actually happened or at times, surmised to what might have happened. . . Granting on some occasions, levity to the mundane. Enjoy!

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