Morrison’s Depot

Novel Excerpt
First published on Scroll in Space in 2010.

Emily’s eyes widened and her body straightened. “Yes of course!” she whispered. Finnegan groaned and rolled over. Emily silently slipped out of bed and down the hall toward her pile of books on the depot. She turned on a soft lamp and began to read.

A warm night wind blew in one of the open windows carrying the scents of sage and dust. It was the most pleasant thing Emily had smelled in the depot since they’d moved in. It had been two hours since Emily began reading. She had her mini-notepad out so she could list anything that might explain the smell or the phantom body parts, but it was blank.

Hamish Morrison had built the depot in 1904. At the time it meant a surge in growth for the small town of Boise and it seemed he was something of a local hero. He held fundraisers for St. Luke’s hospital and the fire department every year at the station. There was no mention of any accidents or malfunctions at the depot. The place was known for its punctuality and reliability. All in all the information wasn’t extraordinary.

Emily yawned, it was just after midnight. “Should probably get to bed. I can pick this up in the morning.” Emily got up to turn out the light when a breeze came through the window and pushed some of her photocopies off the table. As she picked them up a headline caught her eye. Woman Still Missing: 4th in 8 Months. Emily pulled the paper from the pile and sat on the floor to continue reading.

Police have yet to discover anything that would lead to the current whereabouts of Marie Termain, 23 of Boise. Marie was reported missing by her mother, one week ago, when she didn’t return from visiting her sister in Billings, Montana. Marie was expected to arrive on the AmTrac and the sister claims Marie did depart on the train. However, there is no record that her ticket was ever taken. Marie is the 4th woman from Boise to go missing since February. Any information regarding the whereabouts of Marie Termain, Lisa Farr, Yvonne Goldstein or Hazel Gall should be sent to the Boise Police Department.

“Interesting,” mused Emily. She scanned through the rest of the papers but there was nothing else about the missing girls. “Looks like I’ll have to make another trip to the library.”

The next morning Emily was out the door at 8:45a.m. The library opened at 9. Even with the windows down Emily had sweat stains under her arms by the time she pulled into the parking lot. Her blouse was a light blue silk and didn’t breathe well. I’ll have to change my entire wardrobe to live here in any kind of comfort. She had at least traded in her penny loafers for saltwater sandals and scurried toward the air-conditioning.

Once inside Emily headed straight for the archives to look up Lisa Farr, Yvonne Goldstein and Hazel Gall. She had several hits, all of which were in old Idaho Statesman newspaper articles. Emily pulled every article she could and took them to a study booth. The first article in her pile referred to Lisa Farr.

Lisa Farr’s boyfriend, Harry Taylor, was taken into custody last night regarding her disappearance. Farr has been missing since Tuesday and it is believed that Taylor may have some sort of connection to the case. He was apprehended at the train depot yesterday evening, just as he was coming off shift as a platform hand. Taylor did not resist arrest but was said to have fainted when Deputy Jim Wigle read him his rights. Taylor has not been officially charged with anything at this time.

Emily set that one aside and scanned through more articles on the missing Lisa. The police had released her boyfriend. Since there was no body, there was no proof that a crime had actually been committed. As the case became colder the articles started to hint that Farr wasn’t a very discerning young woman and may have run off on her own. Then, only two months later Emily came across Yvonne Goldstein. She was the subject of the headline on the front page: Yvonne Goldstein Missing, Feared Dead.

Beauty pageant winner, Yvonne Goldstein has been missing since 4 p.m. yesterday and is feared to be dead. Goldstein did not check into her Denver hotel, however, her luggage was delivered and contained blood stains. Police have taken the AmTrac employee who delivered the bags to the hotel in for questioning. Goldstein’s family requests that anyone with information about the disappearance of their daughter contact them or the Boise Police Department.

Emily lay the article down on the laminate desk and looked out of the high window in the study room. The sky was a bare blue. There wasn’t a cloud anywhere. “This can’t be a coincidence.” Emily absently fumbled with the collar buttons on her blouse. She read on. “Maybe Gall will be different.” Two months and three weeks later, the stories about the disappearance of Gall were there. And they were different: This time, Hamish Morrison was mentioned.

Owner and founder of the Boise train depot, Hamish Morrison, willingly agreed to be questioned regarding the disappearance of Hazel Gall. Gall was reported missing by her brother. Her brother claims that the last time he saw her was just before she was going to board the AmTrac at the depot. He claims he saw Morrison yelling at her on the boarding platform and then grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her into the station. No other witnesses have been able to confirm this. Gall, 19, is already known to police for petty theft and attempted prostitution. Morrison has no criminal record to speak of. He has issued a statement saying that he is willing to do whatever he can to help police find the missing girl.

“My God, there has to be some connection between these missing girls and the depot.” Emily leaned back in her chair, staring at the blue sky. I wonder what Finn would think about this? Emily glanced at her watch and was surprised to discover it was already 3:30. She gathered the articles she set aside and headed out of the archives. On her way to the door she saw the Pink Lady out of the corner of her eye. No scruffy teens were waiting for her assistance this time. Emily walked over.

“Well hello, Ms. Morrison! Did you just come from an interview?”

“No, haven’t gotten a call yet.”

“Oh, you will. Your resume was very impressive.” She smiled and Emily noticed that the rubber bands on her braces had been changed from the pale pink of yesterday to hot pink.

“Thank you. Actually, I was hoping you could tell me some more about what you meant the other day when you said you’d be too spooked to live at the depot?”

The Pink Lady laughed. “I was just being silly. There was a local myth that the place was haunted. But that was back when I was a little girl. It’s all but forgotten now.”

“Haunted? By what?”

“Well, by Mr. Morrison’s ghost. He committed suicide when I was about 10 or so. Jumped off the top of the clock tower.”

“What?”

“Yes, didn’t you know?”

“No.”

“Well, he did. No one really knew why either. But rumours began to fly. Some people said he was, what are they calling them now-a-days? A homosexual. Yes, some people said he was one of those and couldn’t take it anymore. Others said it was related to that missing girl. That he’d murdered her, chopped her up and ate her. Then other people said that he was having an affair with some young thing and his wife found out. His poor wife and sons. I wonder what they thought of all the rumours?”

Emily couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Finnegan never mentioned any of this! “What did you think?”

“My mother always threatened that Mr. Morrison’s ghost would come to chop us up and eat us if we misbehaved. But now that I’m older,” she pulled down her pink glasses and looked at Emily over the frames, “I don’t think any of it is true, besides the suicide of course. He did do that. But he was such a contribution to the community. Always involved. Definitely not a murderer, let alone a cannibal. Maybe he had an affair, I don’t know. But it’s long over now.”

The moment Finnegan stepped out of the elevator Emily was on him. “Why didn’t you tell me that your great, great grandfather committed suicide here?”

Finnegan stood frozen, staring at her narrowed beady eyes. He took a deep breath, “Can I take my jacket off first?”

“Fine.” Emily crossed her arms and sat on the living room sofa, not taking her eyes off him.

Finnegan loosened his tie. “I need to get some water.”

Emily crossed her legs and waited. She gently pinched her bottom lip between her teeth and was surprised at how inflated it had become. She tended to swell when she was extremely anxious. Now aware of her body, Emily noticed that her heart was fluttering, her face felt hot and her hands where covered in red splotches. “God,” she whispered. Emily sat there for a second with her mouth hanging open, rotating her speckled hands in front of her. Finnegan came back into the room, a double shot of whiskey in his hand. Emily raised her eyebrow but said nothing. Instead she grabbed a couch cushion and put it on her lap, folding her splotchy red hands under it. Emily quietly took some deep breaths through her nose and tried to appear calm, totally in control. She thought of work at the library. Finnegan sat across from her in an antique chair made of oak and crocodile skin. He leaned back in it, his drink dripping ice sweat on the wood arm. Emily looked him in the eye and tried to resist the urge to get him a coaster.

“I didn’t mention it, Emily, because I didn’t think it was relevant.”

“Not relevant? Finnegan, he committed suicide here!”

“And?”

“And!?”

“It was my great, great grandfather, Emily. Almost 100 years ago.” Finnegan leaned forward and set his elbows on his knees, rubbing the rim of his glass with both thumbs. “That was then, and this is now. What happened here before has no bearing on the present.”

“Oh, yes it does!” Emily sat forward, taking the pillow off her lap and gripping the seat of the couch. “Those types of things leave a residue, Finnegan.”

Finnegan shook his head at the floor and then looked up at her smiling.

Eww. Emily flared her left nostril as she focused in on his bare teeth.

“Ah, you’re so superstitious. You know, I always found that a little charming. But come on, be realistic about this Em. You shouldn’t be upset about something that happened a long time ago. There’s nothing to it. No reason to even be talking about it.”

“There’s more to it than you might think, Finnegan.” Emily pressed her knees together and angled her chin toward him.

Finnegan took a swig of his whiskey. “What do you mean?” He smacked his lips as the smooth fire ran down his throat.

“I found something in the information I got on the depot from the library. It was from the time your great, great grandfather ran this place and it was about a missing girl, the fourth in less than eight months. And it mentioned the depot.” Finnegan stared at her blankly. Emily had seen this face before. It was the face he wore in court when he listened to a criminal denying his crime. But it was the first time he directed it at her. Emily swallowed and continued. “I looked up the other missing girls and each of their disappearances had a connection to the depot too.”

“Again, that’s ancient history, Emily. But beyond that, it doesn’t mean a thing. The depot was the center of transportation for this town at the time. If someone were to go missing of course it would have a connection to the depot. The most transient places are often the most fertile grounds for crime.” Finnegan nodded at her and finished his glass. He set it down on the arm of his chair like a gavel. “But, my great, great grand daddy kept the place well.” He smiled up at the ceiling.

Emily crossed her arms. “Your great, great grand daddy was accused of kidnapping one of the girls.” Finnegan looked at her in surprise. She’d seen that face in court too, but rarely.
“How do you know this?”

“It was mentioned in one of the articles I found.”

“Show me. I want to see it.”

Emily got up and walked toward the table and her growing pile of resources. Finnegan followed her but veered into the kitchen and returned with another double. Emily pulled out the photocopy of the article and handed it to him. Finnegan’s eyes bored through the page and Emily wondered if the whole thing might suddenly combust.

“You’re full of shit.” Emily jerked back, eyes wide, her whole body stiffening. “This article says he did whatever he could to aid police in their search for her. You made it sound like he was a suspect. What, exactly, are you trying to say here, Emily?” Finnegan turned his eyes from the page to her. Emily felt like a sausage ready to burst. She was so swollen that even if her jaw wasn’t locked, her words wouldn’t have been able to escape her throat.

Is he even noticing this?

“Are you accusing my great, great grandfather of abducting those girls?”

Emily rubbed at her long neck, trying to relax the bulging, tense muscles. “No. I….”

“Good, because I don’t want to hear about it anymore. You should do your own thing for dinner, Emily. I was invited over to Judge Williamson’s house for poker tonight. I wasn’t going to go because I wanted to spend the evening with you, but now I think I will.” Finnegan walked straight toward the elevator and put on his jacket and shoes.

“Finn, you’ve had two doubles in less than five minutes. I don’t think you should be driving.”

The elevator doors slid shut.

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