On a Monday morning in October, Carl Collingwood and his 20-year-old son Bruce hijack a New York City commuter train. They board the diesel-powered train at its northern-most terminus, Wassaic, New York. That sets events in motion that alter the lives of a host of characters including: Mike Snead, the arrogant, Machiavellian CEO of Transport International; David Price, a tough, action-oriented F.B.I. agent: and Juli Gables, an energetic but neophyte TV journalist.
A brilliant inventor, Carl developed the "personal aircraft" -- a vertical take off and landing fixed-wing airplane -- that the military needs but Snead saw a way to divert some of the steady flow of government dollars away from Transport International. When Carl needed capital for his company, he took Mike's bait and mortgaged his intellectual property. Carl inadvertently missed a payment, allowing Mike to spring the trap. Carl sought redress in the courts, but somehow Mike had been able to dodge the legal bullet, leaving Carl despondent and bereft.
Now, Carl and Bruce let all the passengers off except Mike. Carl's objective is to deliver Mike to Washington, D.C., to testify before a Congressional Committee on corporate corruption. Can a commuter train on a line that dead-ends in Grand Central make this trip?
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THE COMMUTER TRAINA Hijacking for Justice
By Karl Milde
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Karl Milde, Jr.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWASSAIC TO WASHINGTON
"All abooaard!" shouted the conductor. The few latecomers hurried up the steps to the platform to get to the train before the car doors closed. It was 6:31 Monday morning at the station in Wassaic, New York, the northernmost end of the Metro-North commuter railroad.
The doors slid shut and the train started up with a jerk.
Carl Collingwood sat in a car in the middle of the train with a duffel bag on his lap.
Carl's son, Bruce, a young man in his early twenties, took a seat in the front of the first car, just behind the growling Diesel locomotive. There were only a couple of other passengers in this car.
"Ticket?" Bruce Collingwood handed the conductor his ticket. The conductor punched it and gave it back. "You're gonna have to put that up on the rack." He pointed to Bruce's duffel bag, on the seat next to him. "This car fills up pretty fast."
Bruce nodded, and the conductor went on his way, walking down the aisle, stopping to punch the tickets of the few other passengers, and then left through the door at the rear of the car.
The train stopped briefly at Tenmile River to pick up a few more passengers. None got into the front car.
Bruce unpinned a cell phone from his belt and pressedthe bleep button. His father, Carl, keyed his phone, "Okay?"
"Yeah. I'm ready."
The train slowed to a stop at Dover Plains. The station platform was filled with early morning commuters who crowded the car doors before they opened. The passengers rushed in when the doors parted, as if at the starting gun of a race, and took their seats.
One of the passengers, dressed smartly in a gray suit, was on a cell phone as he entered the car. Without taking the phone off his ear, he surveyed the available seats and chose one by a window. Mike Snead, President and CEO of Transport International, Inc., was
on his way to corporate headquarters from his country estate in the nearby town of Millbrook.
Carl, in he same car as Sneed, bleeped Bruce with his cell phone and said quietly, "He's here."
Bruce pressed an acknowledging bleep, and snapped his phone shut, hitching it quickly to his belt. He opened his duffel bag, took out a wrench, and zipped the bag closed again. Turning around with one swift movement, he used the wrench to unlock the front door on the passenger car, pulled the door partly open and slipped out. One of the other passengers looked up absently from reading the paper, but the unusual occurrence failed to register in his mind.
Outside, the roar of the Diesel engine was deafening. Bruce held on to a bracket with one hand and, with the other, deftly used the wrench to unlock the back door of the locomotive. He pushed this door open and stepped inside.
Bruce bleeped Carl: "I'm in."
Carl got up from his seat, carrying his duffel bag, and sat down next to the man in the gray suit. He placed the duffel on his lap and looked squarely ahead. Snead was oblivious, barking orders on his cell phone to some underling far away. Then Snead pulled a small computer from his briefcase and opened it on his lap.
The train pulled into the Harlem Valley Wingdale station and picked up a few more passengers. Bruce opened his duffel and replaced the wrench. When the train started up again, Bruce reached into the duffel, took out a handgun and zipped the duffel closed again. He then moved forward along a narrow corridor in the locomotive, past the roaring engine, and approached the back of the engineer.
Bruce watched as the engineer stopped the train at the next station, Pawling. He took a deep breath, stepped up to the engineer and, holding the gun to the engineer's head, said sharply but politely, "Hello. Don't move. Don't make a sound." The engineer instantly froze with fear. "I don't want to hurt you or anyone else. Just do as I say."
The train signal changed from red to green. "Go ahead. Take us to Patterson," Bruce commanded. The very frightened engineer did as he was told. Bruce unhitched his cell phone again and bleeped Carl. "We have control."
The train traveled on to the Patterson station, stopped and picked up still more passengers. When everyone was seated and the car doors were closed, the train started up again.
Bruce spoke to the engineer, more calmly now: "Call the dispatcher and tell him the engine isn't running properly Tell him you can make Southeast, but then all the passengers have to get off."
The engineer's call came in to the Metro-North Railroad control room, located in Manhattan, above the tracks in Grand Central Station. The dispatcher, Phil Davis, wearing a telephone headset, sat facing an enormous illuminated track board, monitoring and directing the trains. Whenever anyone asked how he liked his work, he'd tell them "It's like a huge real-time video game."
"This is the Chief on Metro two-niner out of Wassaic."
"Come in, Jack. Is that you?"
"Yeah, Phil, it's me," came the somewhat nervous voice over the speakerphone. "We - uh - have a little problem here. Engine's smokin'. It's overheating but fluid levels are okay. I can make it to Southeast, but then I gotta dump all the passengers. They can take the local."
"Shit. Can't you keep that old Diesel running? What did you do? Feed it cow piss up there in the country?"
"You gonna let me stop, or what?"
"Yeah. 'Course. After you unload, back it onto a holding track and shut it down. We'll have someone come up there and check it out right away."
"I'll be there."
Phil looked at his computer screen to see what trains were scheduled to leave Southeast station after the 6:31 out of Wassaic passed through. There were plenty of trains to pick up the slack. Next he pressed a button on the console to call maintenance.
"Metro-Central. C'mon back."
"We've got a problem with one of our Diesels. He's going to park at Southeast station. Can you get up there?"
"Uh, let's see ... Yeah, we've got a guy who can hop the next train out of North White Plains. Is it serious?"
"Serious enough to dump all the passengers."
"Oh. Well maybe he'd better take the truck with the equipment."
"No problem. He's on his way."
Next Phil pressed another button on his console for the public address system.
"I need an announcement, now."
"Okay. Go ahead."
"The 6:31 out of Wassaic is disabled. When it stops at Southeast all the passengers will have to change to the 7:20 on the electric line. We're taking that train out of service."
"Passengers on the 6:31 Wassaic to change in Southeast to the 7:20?"
Having taken care of this small emergency, Phil went back to watching the trains inch along on the Big Board.
Chapter TwoIn the middle car of the train, the passengers listened intently to the announcement.
"The last stop of this train will be Southeast. All passengers are asked to get off and change to the 7:20, which will be waiting just across the platform. This train will not - repeat not - be going on to Manhattan. It will be taken out of service."
A huge collective groan could be heard throughout the car as people stopped what they were doing and began to collect their belongings, preparing to get off at the next stop. The man in the gray suit looked disapprovingly straight at Carl, as if Carl were the cause of the problem, and muttered under his breath, "Shit." He shut down the open application on his laptop and closed the screen. "Damn bastards don't know how to run a railroad."
As the train slowed to a stop, the passengers grumbled but began to get up and move down the aisle toward the doors at either end. The man in the gray suit looked at Carl, motioning for him to get out of the way. Carl remained seated and slowly unzipped his duffel bag. When the last passenger in the aisle had passed by, he took out a handgun and pressed it against the waist of the man in the gray suit. "Don't move. You're staying on the train," he announced sternly.
"Whoa. What the fuck!"
"I know who you are, Mr. Snead. You're staying right here on this train."
When the train doors opened, the conductors stepped out first and waved their hands at the shiny new electric-powered train across the platform. A number of people on the platform, waiting to board the Diesel express to New York, seemed confused.
"Don't board this train. It won't be going on. Take that one. It's a local to Chappaqua, but then it's an express to New York," explained the conductors, over and over again.
The passengers on the Diesel train spilled out onto the platform, and then scurried to find seats on the local.
When the last stragglers finally emerged, the conductors re-boarded the cars to check for any remaining persons who might not have heard the announcement or who might be sleeping. Finding no one, they too exited the train and joined the passengers on the local. Before he boarded, the head conductor inserted a key in a lock on the side of a door and all the doors closed. He then waved to the engineer, who had his head out the window of the locomotive. What the conductor couldn't see was Bruce standing behind the engineer with his gun drawn.
After receiving the "all clear," the engineer turned to face Bruce. He was still wary, but no longer in fear of his life.
"Okay, what now?"
"Call the dispatcher. Tell him this train has been hijacked. Tell him there's a man in the locomotive with a gun to your head. Tell him we're going to take this train to Washington, D.C."
"But we can't go to Washington. The tracks go to Grand Central, and that's the end of the line."
"Do as you're told."
The engineer keyed the mike and reported in.
"This is Metro two-nine."
"We're at Southeast. Passengers off. Request permission to proceed."
"Permission granted. You can back up now into the rail yard."
"This is a code 99. I repeat, a code 99. This train has been hijacked. There is a man here with a gun. He says we are going to take this train to Washington."
"Just a minute, Jack. This is a joke, right?"
"Phil, you've gotta believe me. There's a guy standing here with a gun aimed at my head."
"Jack, give me a break. This is the morning rush. Quit farting around."
Jack, not knowing what else to do, keyed the mike which stood up out of the dash, and pushed it in Bruce's direction for him to talk.
Almost as flustered as Jack at this unrehearsed turn of events, Bruce leaned down toward the mike and spoke awkwardly into the open channel. "Uh, hello. This is - um - Bruce Collingwood. You'd better do as he says."
"Who? Who is this?"
"I - I'm Bruce Collingwood. My father and I are hijacking this train."
"That's baloney. You can't hijack a train! It's on a goddamn track. And I know exactly where you are at every minute. I see your train right here on the Board."
"Don't you think I know that? You're the guy that throws the switches. What's your name, anyway?"
"I -uh - I'm Phil Davis, the dispatcher. And who the hell are you?"
"I already told you. Bruce Collingwood.... It doesn't matter who I am. The point is, my father and I are hijacking this train and we have guns. And we're going to take this train to Washington."
"You can't get there from where you are."
"Yes, we can, and you're going to help us."
"Okay, Bruce. Tell me how."
"We're going to stop at Mt. Vernon, just beyond the cut-off to Connecticut and then back up the Connecticut Line to New Rochelle. From there, we can go forward down the main line through Penn Station and continue on to Washington."
"The hell you are! You can expect the police to be crawling all over that train in five minutes, like bears on a honey pot. You're looking at some major jail time, Bruce, whoever you are."
"We're prepared to take the consequences, once we get to Washington. In the meantime, if anyone tries to stop us, the engineer, Jack here, gets a bullet in the head."
Bruce handed the mike back to Jack, who was decidedly more nervous now.
"Jesus, Phil, don't piss him off. Do as he says!" Jacks voice was shaky, and it caught Phil up short.
"Okay. Okay. You go ahead, Jack. Just take it easy. You read me?"
"You just throw the switches. I'll do the rest."
Chapter ThreeThe conductors at the Southeast station fully expected the Diesel train to reverse its direction and back onto an idle track to wait for maintenance. Instead, the Diesel briefly emitted a loud growl and eased slowly forward, pulling the train back onto the main line. It roared and picked up speed as it headed south, out of the station
"Where the heck is he going?" wondered the chief conductor aloud as he pulled out his phone and quickly called the dispatcher.
"Metro two-nine, calling in. This disabled train is headed south!"
"Roger that. It's authorized."
"What gives, Phil? Where's it going?"
"Can't or won't?"
"Not at liberty to say, dude. Just get your passengers on the next train out and come on down."
Inside the train, Carl stood in the large handicap restroom, with his pistol leveled at the head of Mike Snead. Mike sat fully clothed on the open toilet seat and snarled at his captor.
"You'll pay for this, you shit!" he hissed.
There was a small jerk as the train started up. "Looks like we're moving again. We're going to take you on a little ride, Mr. Snead," said Carl, ignoring the last remark.
"Now, Mr. Snead," continued Carl coolly. "You are going to call your office with your cell phone and tell them that this train has been hijacked, that you are being held hostage, and that you are being taken to Washington, D.C."
"This train doesn't go to Washington, you idiot."
"Okay, I'll play your little game. Then what?"
"Then I'll let you go."
Mike snapped his phone open and pressed a button. "I want to speak to Shelley, right now!"
"Be sure to tell him to contact the media about your little ride."
"You bet I will. And the F.B.I. too. This is a federal offense, you bastard. You won't get two miles down this track without ending up dead."
"While you're at it, you can tell them that if anyone tries to board this train, you are going to get a bullet in your brain. I mean it."
"Shelley, listen to me carefully. I'm on the usual train - yeah from my weekend place in Millbrook. And there's this crazy guy holding a gun on me. Says he's hijacking this train and taking it to Washington for god's sake.... Yes, yes, I know. He's nuts! That's just the point, I don't know what he'll do. They've got to be goddamn careful or he'll blow my brains out.... No, I have no idea what this is about. I'm sitting here in the restroom in one of the cars in the middle of the train. The usual one I get on at Dover Plains on Mondays. Get help. And inform the media. They'll be all over this train, with helicopters and news vans, the works. The F.B.I is good at this shit. They'll board the train and take him out. But I don't want to end up dead. Got it? Go!"
"It's not going to be so easy," commented Carl with a wry smile.
"Oh yeah? Why is that, Mr ... whoever you are?"
"Collingwood. Carl Collingwood. First of all, we're on a speeding train, in case you haven't noticed. How do you expect someone to board? Fly?"
"They'll drop someone down from a helicopter - whatever!"
"Can't do that. There are electric wires nearby. And bridges too. You can't get in that way."
"So? They'll go alongside and jump on."
"Nope. That won't work, either. There are no roads along the train line."
"Okay, they'll come in the back, for god's sake. Who the fuck cares! It's their job to get their butts in here!"
"Sorry. They can't come in the back. They don't have the equipment for that. At least not now."
"Just shut up. This train has got to stop sometime."
"Now, that's true. We'll just have to wait and see, won't we?"
Excerpted from THE COMMUTER TRAIN by Karl Milde Copyright © 2009 by Karl Milde, Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
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