prompt: train, title: still counting the dead in misc. flash fiction

  • Feb. 22, 2023, 6:25 p.m.
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  • Public

Breaking news tonight, regarding the tragic train derailment in northern California, where they are still counting the dead: confirmation of the main suspect’s identity in the disaster that spewed toxic chemicals through the center of Mendocino, leading to the entire city’s evacuation pending study of its environmental impacts. K.T.E.L. San Francisco’s police insiders have identified the engineer as Casanova “Casey” Jones who is, at this hour, eluding local authorities while wanted for questioning in regard to the tragedy. Surviving crew-members of the ill-fated shipment have described Jones as “riding the train” while “high on cocaine”, operating the hundred and thirty compartment freight at a dangerous rate, despite their professed repeated warnings to “watch his speed”. Recent freak storms had resulted in redwood treefalls throughout the region, but despite being briefed on the troubles ahead and the troubles behind, for whatever reason Jones took the warnings lightly, barely “crossing his mind” in the words of one survivor, interviewed from an Oakland Kaiser Permanente hospital’s intensive-care ward.

A spokesman at Union Pacific Railway’s Terrapin Station describes Jones as a new hire, whose previous career had been in trucking, and that they were investigating whether his drug screening records had been falsified or somehow otherwise altered. Past associates have described Jones’ chemical abuse as both long-term and habitual, one former girlfriend (whose name is withheld for sake of her personal safety) saying Jones essentially lived on “reds, Vitamin C and cocaine” but ironically had developed great skill in covering his tracks. Under assumed names during his previous career in the trucking industry, police authorities across the country are discovering a pattern of run-ins with the law including the theft of a soft-serve iced cream machine in Dallas, arson charges in the Denver area for setting fire on the mountains, as well as a massive heroin smuggling bust on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. In addition, it has been discovered that he established marriages under multiple aliases in multiple localities, leaving a string of destitute families and long unpaid bills, rents in arrears, pet dogs that haven’t been fed in years and one child who cannot read at seventeen.

Jones is noted as being six-foot-two of a lean build, with blue eyes and brown hair, distinguished by a touch of grey. If spotted, please contact authorities but do not engage him as, even unarmed, he is considered extremely dangerous due to substance-induced psychosis. Despite all this, a few of his former associates express hope he’ll evade capture, despite the enormity of his crime. “He will get by,” one ex-lover who would only identify herself as Sugaree stated hopefully, “he will survive.” Despite that, the people of Mendocino California do not hold that positive view of Mr. Jones. Local cattle farmer Max Yasgur, noting the many local cows now giving kerosene instead of milk, called the fugitive a “Friend of the Devil” and hopes Casey Jones is taken alive and sees justice in a court-of-law but would be equally grateful if Jones is found dead.

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