Amtrak 234. A serialized short story by Herb Schultz

Part Nine. Billy has a Vision Like No Other.

After disgorging the five suits who had abandoned the idled Amtrak train for a ride to the Dinsmore Golf Course clubhouse with hopes of getting to Manhattan before the end of the business day via alternative transport, Billy Rubin swung his John Deere utility vehicle around to the path leading back to the 15th green. He still had a hole waiting there to be relocated. Just then from the east a helicopter swooped directly overhead and across the golf course, stopping Billy in his tracks. He watched it hover in the distance over the crash site before slowly descending behind the curtain of trees. Even after the helicopter disappeared from sight, by virtue of his clairvoyant gift, Billy continued to “see” it. His bizarre ability to “see” events unfold from afar, the ability he acquired after being struck by lightning, afforded Billy the opportunity to witness the pilot maneuver the helicopter down between the tight rows of trees lining the tracks.

He “saw” the rescue personnel recoil from the dust and bits of gravel kicked up by the whirling chopper blades as the pilot touched down. And with reluctance he “saw” a body strapped to a gurney, head clamped into a padded restraint, face concealed by gauze and bandages, an IV bag hanging on a hook, sheets splotched with blood. Billy assumed the sorry person strapped to the gurney was the accident victim to whom he earlier directed Trooper O’Brien; a victim in extremely critical condition having been thrown from the Saab into the bushes, both legs clipped off in a violent confrontation with Amtrak 234.

The struggling ambulance crew horsed the gurney across the tracks in front of the menacing locomotive. From their strategic locations near the carnage, TV reporters who had been broadcasting live all morning about “the tragedy” and the unforgivable lack of safety devices installed at the intersection of the tracks and the lane, directed their cameramen to capture the medical team loading the gurney onto the helicopter. A female reporter breathlessly updated her audience: “Behind me this medevac helicopter will shortly transport the mangled victim of this morning’s tragic accident between a high-speed Amtrak train and an automobile to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.”

The rotor began to spin the blades faster as the helicopter pilot prepared to take to the air. The reporter, increasing the volume of her voice to compete against the elevated noise, shouted, “At this moment we’ve been told that the victim is still alive but in critical condition.” She placed a finger in her ear and ducked down like everyone does when a helicopter takes off or lands, as if she would be decapitated otherwise despite the fact the blades were a good fifteen feet above her head. “The name of the victim is being withheld pending notification of the family. As we’ve been reporting this morning, another passenger in the car survived the crash, apparently without sustaining any serious injuries. A remarkable and positive outcome to an otherwise totally tragic event.”

Billy “observed” the whole commotion as if he were seated in a box seat high above the crash site. He “watched” a local policeman marking down measurements on a notepad while several State police talked and laughed among themselves, and a half-dozen TV crews each jockeying for the premier position offering the most lurid background possible. Billy “saw” the ambulance team load the accident victim onto the helicopter, and the helicopter lifting off from the gravel access road, rising with trepidation as it passed uncomfortably close to the overhanging tree limbs and thick power lines. Upon clearing the treetops, the helicopter dipped slightly as the pilot transitioned from the vertical to the horizontal, making his way back east across Dinsmore Golf Course flying just a couple hundred feet above the undulating fairways. It appeared to Billy as though the pilot was preparing to strafe the clubhouse which reminded him of an iconic scene in Apocalypse Now and called to mind the gripping music that accompanied the attack on Vietnamese villagers: Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”

When the chopper disappeared behind the ridge, Billy’s attention was summarily drawn back to the crash site where by virtue of his ability he could “see” a person no one else at the site could: the passenger who had escaped the wreck with barely a scratch, sitting somberly in a state of shock inside the café car of Amtrak 234, away from prying reporters and morbidly curious onlookers.

And what Billy “heard” the passenger say and the consequence of that statement would forever be seared in Billy’s memory.

Next. Part Ten. The Thrilling Conclusion to “Amtrak 234.”

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