When what seems like a normal pit stop turns to more than just gas and food, a lost couple finds themselves searching for the truth of a twenty-year-old mystery that may cost them their life.
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The ancient train-car looked innocent enough, but the lack of surrounding cars gave Gino Canale pause as he opened the door of his silver rental. The GPS Sheila and he had been using had directed them off the highway in search of gas. But there were no gas stations around, just this one structure in the outskirts of this Northern California town.
Sheila opened her door, but he waved her off. “Stay in the car. Let me check this place out.”
As usual, she did what she wanted and jumped out anyway. “I have to go. I’ve had to go since that last exit you ignored.”
“Fine,” Gino replied, walking toward the entrance, Sheila on his heels. He listened for sounds, but heard nothing. “What do you think?”
“I think I need a bathroom—bad!”
Gino reached for the knob, but before he could turn the handle, the door screeched open as if the wind had pushed it. A faint sound of bells on the door sounded over his head. “Hello?” he called. His voice faded into the stillness of the store. The only noise came from the creaking of the wood planks below the new Crocs his wife had talked him into buying. “Is anyone here?” he called again.
A crackling sound started up behind the counter. Someone had turned on an old AM radio. The music that emanated was reminiscent of old 50’s style music his grandfather loved.
“Afternoon,” a man called out in a hoarse voice, popping up from behind the register. “You kids aren’t from around here, are ya?”
“Uh, no, sir,” Gino stuttered, not sure why he couldn’t find his voice. “We’re heading to a wedding, and we just ran low on gas and were wondering if there was a gas station around here.”
The man chuckled. “Son, you don’t need gas. You got a full tank.”
Gino shook his head. “Excuse me, how would—” Sheila tugged on his arm and gave him the look he knew all too well; they’d stopped a hundred times on this trip. “Sir, is there a restroom my wife could use?”
“Round back, but she doesn’t have to go.”
“Joe?” An older woman stepped through a doorway on the other side of the room.
Gino gasped and grabbed Sheila’s hand, pulling her toward the door. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Trust me. Something isn’t right.”
The old man stepped around the counter. “Just a couple of lost souls, Martha.” As the man moved toward them, Gino could feel beads of sweat dampen his forehead, but the man just opened the door, allowing them to leave. “We’ll see yens back here soon.” He lowered his head and looked Gino deep in the eyes. “Don’t you recognize me, son?”
Gino pushed Sheila through the doorway toward their vehicle.
“What the heck are you doing, Gino?”
Gino’s heart pounded in his chest. “That was my Grandpa Joe. He died twenty years ago.”
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Railcar Diner Image courtesy of Jeff Boyce.
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