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Night-Train
 


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Night-Train


  UNDER THE SUBWAYS’ ROAR,

  OUT OF THE DEER WET CAVES,

  COMES THE FURY FROM HELL…

  In the bedrock beneath New York, a beautiful news reporter and a hard-bitten cop enter an eerie maze of abandoned tunnels, searching for a train that vanished with all aboard—over half a century ago.

  But under the city of skyscrapers and tourists, under the peep shows and the penthouses, within the clammy darkness, around the next turn … an unholy evil waits to disgorge itself in violence and blood. Now the final nightmare must explode. Now the killing frenzy must begin …

  SOMETHING IS MOVING

  IN THE TUNNEL,

  SOMETHING IS COMING

  IN THE DARKNESS …

  He moved toward the exit and saw that the glowing fog was moving there, too.

  He was trapped, cut off from the world.

  Very slowly, trying not to make a sound, he unsnapped the holster of his sawed-off shotgun and eased it out of the leather casing.

  He could feel it now. A presence. A feeling that he wasn’t alone down there. Now he knew. Now he believed. There was something in the tunnel that wanted to get him.

  Suddenly, it was on him. He pulled the trigger, heard the blast of the shotgun.

  Whatever it was that had lunged for him was caught by the high-velocity pellets and slammed backward.

  Slumping against the wall of the tunnel, he sucked in his breath, thinking he had made it.

  That was when he saw the others. They were stepping out of the fog …

  Most Pocket Books are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotions, premiums or fund raising. Special books or book excerpts can also be created to fit specific needs.

  For details write the office of the Vice President of Special Markets, Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020.

  This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Another Original publication of POCKET BOOKS

  POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020

  Copyright © 1984 by Thomas F. Monteleone

  Cover artwork copyright © 1984 Lisa Falkenstem

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York. N.Y. 10020

  ISBN: 0-671-44952-4

  First Pocket Books printing October, 1984 10 987654321

  POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Printed in the U.S.A.

  This is for Linda, my wife.

  Sweetheart, I love you.

  For now, this fearful night.

  There is no stir, or walking in the streets;

  And the complexion of the element

  In favour’s like the work we have in hand,

  Most bloody, fiery, and most terrible.

  —SHAKESPEARE,

  Julius Caesar

  PROLOGUE

  Nick Creedon, motorman on Train 93 of the IRT underground railway system, eased his train out of the Astor Place station. The year was 1915, and Nick—along with the rest of New York City—was settling comfortably into a new, modem age. The IRT, the subway, had been operating for almost ten years, and the new BMT line was practically completed. Everything powered by electricity! Yessirree, thought Nick, it’s great being a motorman on the IRT.

  His train got a green lantern from the trackman and he headed slowly toward the Bowling Green terminus to the south. It was his sixth run of the morning and he had only seven people in the first car. Most everybody was at work by now. Nick turned his controller-key farther to the right and the train accelerated, giving him a feeling of power. It was his first day in the cab by himself and he loved it, especially after a week of riding through the dark tunnels with a five-year veteran of the IRT.

  It was an exciting time to be alive, Nick thought. A war was raging in Europe, and while President Wilson kept promising that he would keep the Germans honest, papers like the Daily Mirror and the Times kept telling Americans they should prepare for war. More important to Nick was the stupendous moving picture called The Birth of a Nation that had just opened in the city. Nick had never been to a moving-picture house, but everybody was raving about this show so much that he was going to take his wife, Josie, to see it as soon as he got his first paycheck.

  Suddenly Nick saw a red lantern moving in an arc ahead in the darkness. He released the controller-key and the train drew to a stop in the middle of the tunnel as a trackman came running up to his cab.

  “Almost missed you, ” said the man with the lantern. “Got a dee-rail down by Bleecker. You’ll have to take this train down to the 4th Street cut and switch yourself over to the other tracks. Pass Bleecker station on the northbound tunnel, then switch back at Houston Street. Take the left cut goin’ back, and be sure to check in with the Houston Street stationmaster before goin’ on to Spring Street, okay?”

  Nick’s blood was pounding in his ears as he listened to the instructions. Jeez-zoo-whiz—first day out alone, and he had an emergency already! Get yourself together, stay calm! he told himself.

  First, he went back and told the passengers in the first car that they would be bypassing Bleecker station and asked a gentleman in a tan tweed suit to go back to the other two cars and inform the other passengers of the detour. The man complied with Nick’s request, and Creedon returned to his cab. The trackman with the red lantern had disappeared into the blackness. Nick started Train 93 moving, slowly this time, peering along the tracks under the swath of his headlamp, searching for the “cut”—the switch—that would reroute his train.

  He knew it could be a tricky business maneuvering down in the tunnels. Nick Creedon’s foreman had stressed to all the motormen that they had to be very familiar with their territory, but Nick hadn’t had a chance to memorize all the track routings yet. Of course, if you listened to some of the veterans talk, it wasn’t exactly easy. In the ten years they had been tunneling beneath New York City, there had been a few mishaps and some miscalculations. Sections of the line being bored through bedrock suddenly had to be rerouted because of the discovery of a weak building foundation or an underground stream. There had also been temporary lines and stations constructed along the Lexington Avenue line, which were eventually closed when the larger platforms on the main line were completed. Some had been converted into sidings and maintenance spurs; others had simply been ignored and forgotten. Although the underground rail system was still relatively young, it was already more complex than the man on the street would imagine.

  The switch glinted for an instant in the beam of his headlamp, then vanished. Nick stopped the train. As he was leaving the cab, he noticed that there were perhaps twenty passengers in the front car now. Presumably the others from the second and third cars had come forward to watch the proceedings. Nick smiled and waved to his people, then climbed down to the tracks. Instantly, he could feel the cool, musty dampness encircle his body like a shroud. There was a clinging, oppressive atmosphere in the subways that Nick Creedon had yet to get used to. Funny—Nick had not been one of those kids who are afraid to go to sleep without a candle burning or a lamp lit out in the hall. Nope, it wasn’t until he started working for the IRT that he realized that he might have some latent fear of the dark.

  It sure is funny how the mind works, he thought as he walked toward the switch.

  There were supposed to be blue bulbs every fifteen yards, emergency lights, but they kept blowing out s
o often that nobody had time to replace them all. It wasn’t unusual to find sections of tunnel totally dark for thirty or forty yards. A couple bulbs still burned nearby, shedding an eerie, ineffectual glow. Nick pushed away the odd thoughts that were hanging on the fringes of his mind and approached the switch. Wrapping his hands around the lever, he yanked it up and threw it hard to the right. There was a clanking sound as the rails lifted and slid over to a second set of slots where they fell into place.

  Now, let’s get this train moving again, he thought.

  He climbed back into the cab, trying to look confident under the baleful gaze of his passengers. He turned his key and the train lumbered forward, passing the switch—no derailment on the heels of the first one, especially not on his first day, nosirree!—and swinging slightly east through the northbound tunnel. He bypassed the Bleecker station, followed another bend in the tunnel, and started watching for the switch that would put him back where he belonged.

  There it was, just as it ought to be, the switch handle shining in the headlamp. Nick cut the power, left the cab, and jumped down to the tracks again. The darkness dropped over him like a heavy wool cloak and a cool, dank feeling seeped across his hands and face. He grabbed the handle and got ready to throw it to the—

  His mind blanked completely. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember which direction the trackman had told him to throw the switch. Normally the cuts were simple two-position switches, but this one had four. Obviously also a junction for a spur or a maintenance shed.

  Calm down. Just think about this. Try to remember what the trackman said. The thoughts moved through his mind, but the answer eluded him.

  On impulse, he yanked up the lever and heaved it all the way over to the right and the rails clanked into place. If it was the wrong direction, he would just back ‘er up to the switch and try a different one. Shrugging, he walked back to the train, trying to ignore the cloying darkness of the tunnel until he reached his cab. The passengers were watching him and he tried to school his young features into a business-as-usual look.

  Drawing in a deep breath, Nick turned his controller-key and exhaled slowly. The train moved forward tentatively, then gathered speed. Nick watched the tracks ahead as they veered off to the left. It might have been his imagination, but it felt as if the train was going down.

  Down?

  This can’t be right, thought Nick. Stop the train, get it into reverse. Do it right now. But something kept him from doing it. Where the hell were these tracks taking him? What could be down there away from the station levels? He had never heard anybody mention such a thing.

  Just then he saw an indistinct brightness ahead beyond a curve in the tunnel. Nick felt a sense of relief wash over him. It was the Houston Street station, it had to be. He increased the angle on the controller-key and the train picked up speed, heading toward the light. It’s okay, thought Nick, and the feeling of descent had just been a trick of the eye or the mind.

  The light did not materialize into the Houston Street station. In fact, as Train 93 rolled around the curve, the light seemed to be just as far away as it had been when Nick first noticed it. It was as if the light was moving ahead of Nick’s train.

  Another train? Couldn’t be. They aren’t that brightly lit from behind, thought Nick. And now that he really looked ahead, he wasn’t even certain that he would actually call it a light. It was almost like some kind of fog with a diffused light glowing inside it.

  But there shouldn’t be any fog down here in the tunnels, thought Nick Creedon. He eased up on his key and the train slowed, the wheels rumbling over the joints in the rails. Nick felt as if he were holding in a skittish horse, as though the engine itself sensed the oddness of the tunnel.

  The brightness ahead assumed a roiling shapelessness; now it appeared to have stopped moving, to be reversing itself, coming closer to the train. No longer an elusive thing, but a threat, advancing inexorably.

  The hairs on the back of Creedon’s neck felt like they were straightening up like a dog’s hackles. Mary and Joseph, what the hell is happening?!

  His hand dropped nervelessly from the controller-key, and the dead-man’s switch instantly stopped the drive wheels. The train stopped short, pitching Nick against the window; the sound of scuffling feet and the curses of his passengers reached him inside the cab. Someone pounded on the door to the little compartment. “What’s going on in there! Why’re we stopping again?”

  Nick opened the door and faced the excited passengers, trying to explain calmly what had happened, but he was confused and scared himself and his words reassured no one. One of the passengers saw the strange fog through the front window and let out a shout of “Fire!” There was almost total panic before Creedon managed to assure them that there was no fire. He promised them that everything would be all right as soon as he ran up the tunnel to see what the problem was. He asked everyone to remain calm and await his return.

  But everything was not going to be all right.

  Nick Creedon knew it in his bones. He knew it as he dropped down to the roadbed and felt the fog, or whatever it was, reach out and swallow him like some living creature. The mist seemed to glow with a light source of its own.

  “Anybody there?” he called out softly. The words did not echo, but were simply swallowed in the mist. Nick stood still, barely breathing, listening to the darkness, straining to hear … hear what?

  Skittering noises along the gravel. The sound of feet tramping toward him, coming from every direction at once. Not the quick scrabblings of rats or cats, but slow deliberate steps, full of confidence and menace. He was filled with a sense of dread, yet nothing happened. The sounds seemed to get no closer.

  If there’s something out there, thought Nick finally, it’s my duty to find out what it is. Steeling himself, he walked slowly forward away from the train, and noticed that the tunnel seemed to be widening as he moved forward. The darkness seemed thicker, more palpable now, and he slowed his step, groping forward with his hands. A chill washed through him and he stopped abruptly, giving in to an instinctive scream in the back of his mind. A scream to stop, and to look down …

  Down.

  He was staring into the deepest, blackest pit he had ever seen. The walls of the tunnel had disappeared entirely and the place had opened up into a vast underground vault, a canyon. The mist did not drop below the level of the ground where he stood and he could peer through it into the clear, inklike darkness of the bottomless place. It was an abyss, an open mouth in the earth; if you dropped off, you would never touch bottom, much less be found.

  If there is a Hell, thought Nick Creedon, then I’m standing at its gates right now. The silence of the place oppressed him unbearably. It was so eerily quiet that he could hear the blood pumping past his eardrums, a rhythmic beat that seemed so loud in the absolute silence that Nick was certain the passengers back in the train could hear it.

  Where the hell was he?! What kind of place was this? Why hadn’t his foreman told him there were places like this beneath the streets?

  Turning from the edge of the pit, he headed for the train. He would have to throw ‘er into reverse and get them out of here immediately. That was when he noticed that there were no tracks on the roadbed …

  Impossible! Can’t be! His thoughts rattled in his head like the trains he drove. Dropping to his knees, Nick groped frantically about on the loose gravel and found nothing. There was no soot, no ash, no oil from the wheel-boxes. No tracks. Nothing. He crawled up to the base of his engine and felt under the first set of wheels.

  Nothing.

  The tracks were gone. That is impossible! his mind screamed. It just cannot be!

  He jumped up and ran to the rear of the train, past the third car. Sweat was forming greasy rivulets down his face and his breath caught in his throat. He wanted to swallow, but no spit would come.

  Beyond the third car there was, of course, nothing. Nick looked carefully, with desperate calm. No rails, no roadbed, nothing but the boili
ng mist and the darkness. He decided his only choice was to walk into the black nothingness, follow the tunnel back to the switch. But Nick had walked forward only a few paces before he slammed into a blank, featureless wall of stone. Cold, smooth stone.

  The tunnel was gone now, too, sealed off in an instant of nightmare impossibility. The path he had followed to this spot had ceased to exist, and he and his riders were imprisoned on a small cut of rock perched over what might as well be the entrance to Hell itself.

  A sound came to him.

  Movement beyond the mist? Wild-eyed and on the verge of total panic, Nick Creedon rushed to the front of the train and stared into the glowing mist. Something appeared to be trying to take shape. He stared into the phosphorescent fog, straining to see something clearly. But all remained phantasmal and smokey.

  I’m never going to see Josie again.

  The thought crept into his consciousness like a thief, then took on power and stood out boldly until he could not ignore it, until he could not deny its fundamental truth.

  And then it was replaced by another, more terrifying conviction. As the rolling mist swirled, as though disturbed by unseen movement, and gathered closer about him, Nick Creedon had the distinct feeling that he was staring into the face of eternity, that he was locked within a timeless place beyond all fear and desperation.

  A place where he might not even be allowed the comfort of dying …

  CHAPTER 1

  CARTER

  The student in Professor Lane Carter’s office seemed to radiate an animal vitality, a bursting enthusiasm that unfortunately did not encompass things academic. Her tight designer jeans and tank top displayed her body proudly, but her lackluster eyes and sloppy speech sadly displayed a far less satisfactory state of affairs. She had just finished her little oration about how important it was that she pass Philosophy 101, and was now searching Carter’s eyes for some lustful understanding.

 
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