A group of passengers stepped aboard the train, some of them returning from a smoke break while others were boarding for the first time. The inside of the train was decked out in blue, from the seats to the ceilings. A mother with her son walked down the aisle and stopped after coming back to the seats that held their belongings. Her pink coat rested below a pile crumpled up blanket, which housed her housed her son’s iPad and cell phone. As she plopped down in the seat nearest the window, she looked across the aisle and saw someone in worse shape than herself.
Her eyes were dilated and she had looked like that she hadn’t slept in days. The bags under her eyes were heavy enough to be reminiscent of a grocery bag being weighed down by dozens of canned goods. Her son was used to seeing her like this and had learned to accept it as normal behavior. He knew that she only had about fifteen minutes left in her before she succumbed to the drug induced slumber that comforted her most.
“Max, grab your iPad and play some games to pass the time. We’re about three hours from your father,” she mumbled before yawning and eventually curling up beside the window with the baby blue colored polyester blanket that matched her eyes to a tee. Max grabbed the iPad and approached the man that her mother was staring at before she had passed out. His face was riddled with acne scars, presumably from digging at various pimples and zits in his adolescence. His brown fleece jacket was visibly old and worn out, featuring holes and burn marks throughout the front of it, and he smelled like dumpster sludge. Max’s features were the polar opposite of this gentleman’s. He looked just like his father, devilishly handsome with brown hair that really accented his sea green eyes.
“Are you a crazy man?”
The man repositioned himself in his seat to approach the boy, and just as he was about to speak, heard rumbling coming from the front of the train. An elderly man with a cane and a pork pie hat was damn near barreled over by the conductor and several of the wait staff. Max quickly jumped out of the way and into the empty seat next to the man who he had dubbed crazy.
“My mom thinks you’re crazy, I think.”
“Oh yeah? And why may that be?”
“I’m not sure,” Max replied, stepping back into the aisle as the commotion had come to a halt at the bathroom. “I’ll be back,” he said, as he jogged down the now clear path between the seats to see what was going on. He had arrived just before the conductor shoulder checked the locked bathroom door, sending it shooting open with a great deal of force. Once he had realized that he was face to face with a corpse that was leaning against the far wall inside the stall, he turned around and vomited on the floor without hesitation. Despite the body being relatively bloodless outside of his nose, it still turned his stomach like nothing ever had before.
Max had never seen a grown man puke on the floor before, let alone a dead body. He wanted to see more, but was grabbed on the shoulder by the crazy man.
“Get away from there, it’s a crime scene.”
Word had spread quickly throughout the train cars about the man who perished in the bathroom. Everyone on board seemed to be horrified, except for Max’s mother, who was still in a drug induced dream land. A stewardess came over the intercom, filling the role of the conductor, and announced that the train would remain stationary for the foreseeable future. A few groans were heard at the revelation, but most of the passengers understood the magnitude of the situation.
Max plopped down in an empty chair at the front of the car and watched people file out one by one to kill the time, so to speak. When the crazy man approached the doorway, Max stood at attention and began to interrogate him.
“Why’d you kill that man? What did he do to you?”
The man looked down at Max with a puzzled look on his face.
“Look kid, I don’t know why you and your mom think I’m crazy or why you think I had anything to do whatever happened in there, but I’d appreciate it if you just left me alone. You’re fucking weird.”
This wasn’t anything new to Max. His friends at school called him weird all the time, so this particular crazy man’s remarks had zero effect on him.
“But I watched you do it, don’t you remember?” Max reached for the ends of his scruffy jacket and tugged at the bottom of it.
“Knock it off, kid!” The man was getting visibly agitated with the boy, and restrained himself by only allowing himself to softly push him out of the way. The man scurried out to smoke a cigarette, watching Max from the outside of the window with every drag that he took. Max got tired of playing with this game with him, so he began to scout each passenger, looking for a motive for each one of them. He had always wanted to be a detective like on the shows that his dad would watch on TV.
He ran over to tell his mom the great news, but she was too deep in her sleep to acknowledge his excitement. He wanted to ask her why she would kill that man and what he had done to her to deserve it, but he quickly reached the conclusion that there were no answers to be had. He marked his mother as the first to be innocent of this crime.
He stood back as the real police stepped on board and began talking to the young clean shaven conductor who puked earlier. Just seeing that man again was enough to make Max chuckle, which drew the attention of one of the detectives. The stocky bearded police veteran slowly approached Max, and knelt down on one knee to look him in the eye, his long, black overcoat grazing the floor.
“My name is Detective Brooks, hello. Did you see anything suspicious, little buddy? Do you know what that word means? Suspicious?”
Max nodded his head yes and continued on, “I know what that word means, sir. My dad always wanted to do what you guys do but told me that he had to put that on hold when my mom had me.”
The detective was stunned by the intellect of this child and asked just how old he was.
“I’m turning eleven this year,” he answered, holding up both of his index fingers to show his age. “I saw that man outside in the ugly brown jacket go in the bathroom just before the dead man did.”
Detective Brooks stood up on his feet once again and walked over to his superior to alert him of the information that Max had just relayed to him. The wrinkled old man accompanied Brooks back over to the child, prompting him to ask the very same questions that were answered in the very same way. The captain turned to his colleague and nodded his head before turning around, grabbing his walkie talkie as he came to the exit.
Brooks put his hand on the child’s back and walked him back to his mother.
“Please don’t wake her up,” Max begged of him. “She’s exhausted from all of the traveling we’ve been doing and this is the first time she’s slept in days.”
The detective was reluctant to agree but eventually responded by telling him that he would let her sleep for now but would eventually have to tell her of how he had helped their investigation. Max sat next to his mom and cuddled up with some of the blanket that she was using. He was trying to hide his interest in what was going on outside of the train but couldn't help himself. He rose up from his seat and stood next to the window, looking on as the detective and the captain questioned other passengers about the crazy man’s potential involvement in this death.
The old man who was almost ransacked earlier kept shaking his head yes to everything that was asked of him, which was a good sign to Max. He smiled and shook his mother awake as they slapped handcuffs on the crazy man, who began shouting and acting belligerent until he got tazed. As he flopped around on the pavement, Max’s mother finally came to. The first thing she saw was the stretcher being wheeled off of the train with a body bag on top of it.
She looked at Max with a look of pure shock, her jaw open wide, “Maxwell Joseph, what the fuck did you do now?”
He smiled back at her and sat back in his seat, swiping away at the iPad, giggling to himself with every touch.