Train Man

Train Man

by P. T. Deutermann

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On a dark night, a bridge is blown to smithereens, thunderously plunging a one-hundred-car-train deep into the Mississippi River. In Washington, the FBI scrambles--sending Assistant Director Hush Hanson and agent Carolyn Lang to investigate the deadly act of domestic terror.

Hanson is a team player and killer marksman. Lang has an agenda of her own. By the time the two agents leave Washington, they are on a collision course with each other. And another bridge has exploded.

Now, the investigation is exploding into an inter-agency feud. The brass is after a terrorist cell, while Hanson and Land suspect a single man--the Train Man--is bringing down the bridges on by one. But as more death and destruction strike the river, on one can guess that far greater danger is looming. A top-secret, emergency shipment of unstable nuclear waste has been sent west by train. And when the nukes meets the river there will be no way across, no time to turn back, and almost no chance to stop the deadliest disaster of all...

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429903578
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/2010
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 95,644
File size: 387 KB

About the Author

P. T. Deutermann is an Annapolis graduate who retired from the Navy as a captain, to begin his writing career. He is the author of seven previous novels. He lives with his wife on their family farm in Georgia.

P. T. DEUTERMANN is the author of many previous novels including Pacific Glory, which won the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction. Deutermann spent twenty-six years in military and government service, as a captain in the Navy and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms-control specialist. He lives with his wife in North Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The river was boundless and almost invisible in the darkness. He could sense the power of the late-spring rains in the current as a sizzle of foam surfaced a pungent stink of alluvial mud. He was letting the current carry him down toward the bridge. He was running the Missouri side, to endure that no one in the fish camp on the Illinois side could hear the boat. He watched for the lights of barge traffic but saw only the occasional wink from a channel buoy glimmering across the wide river. The spectral structure of the bridge loomed ahead, its black steel trusses nearly invisible.

    He shifted his weight in the small boat, pulling the coil of damp rope closer as the small outboard muttered behind him at idle speed. He fingered the steel points of the grapnel hook and touched the bulky backpack with his left hand. To his far left, a faint yellow aurora silhouetted the bluffs where line signal lights pointed their message of caution eastward into Illinois. He scanned the top of the bluffs for signs of life. There was a public housing project next to the tracks up there in the village of Thebes, and he wanted to make sure no one was up and about on the rail line. As the bridge took shape, he reached back and shoved the engine tiller to starboard, twisting the throttle handle slightly to bring him back out into the middle of the river. He wanted to be on line with the western channel pier tower, which was gaining definition now in the darkness. The tower was one of two massive concrete and steel structures supporting the center span across the main channel. It loomed nearly one hundred feet over theriver.

    The sounds of the swollen river began to echo off the steel girders up above as he neared the bridge. His hand tightened on the tiller and then he switched the engine into reverse and again advanced the throttle. The aluminum boat responded at once, its head falling off slightly to starboard as the prop bit in, until he was nearly stationary on the river, hovering in the black current a few yards upstream of the base of the pier tower. He could see the iron ladder hanging down now, its side rails throwing up two light gray bow waves in the muscular spring current. He reduced the rpm, letting the boat drift down to bump against the ladder. He held that position for an instant and then let go of the tiller, leaned forward, and hooked on the grapnel even as the stern of the boat began its swing out into the current, coming around rapidly as he scrambled to secure the rope to the front seat. The boat fetched up against the base of the pier tower with a muffled metallic bump, bow into the current now, facing upriver. With the engine at idle, he sat back, craning his neck to look straight up.

    He was directly under the western end of the center span. The river sound was louder here, the noise of the eddies and ripples echoing off the underside of the bridge. For one vertiginous moment, the tower looked like the bow of an enormous ship rushing at him through the current. He looked over to the west bank, dark and shapeless, hidden behind three more pier towers between his mooring and the shore. He checked the rope again and then pressed the light button on his watch. Early. Good. But time to go.

    He crouched in the boat, steadying himself against the sudden tilt, and hefted the backpack onto his knees. He checked the mooring rope again and then swung the heavy backpack slowly onto his back, struggling to keep his balance while he secured it. He put on leather gloves and reached for the ladder, testing it, feeling the scabrous paint rubbing off on his leather gloves, and then hoisted himself up onto the rusty rungs in one smooth motion. He steadied himself on the first rung, getting his balance, getting the feel of the pack, and then began to climb. The ladder swayed a little under his weight; some of the bolts holding it to the concrete pier had rusted away. It was an old bridge.

    Forty rungs later, he reached the first steel platform and pushed his head through the open trapdoor through which,, the ladder was suspended. He was puffing a little, but his heart was still beating faster more from excitement than fatigue. The pack caught momentarily on the edge of the trapdoor, but he turned sideways and squeezed through. Once on the grating of the platform, he rested, sitting with his knees up, his head forward to balance the pack. He could really hear the river up here, an incessant slushing noise echoing off all the concrete and the steel facets around him. He checked his watch again and then sat there for another minute until his breathing returned to normal. Time to go, he told himself again.

    He heaved himself up off the grating and made his way around to the other side of the platform, to the second ladder. Climbing purposefully now in the darkness, he climbed the final thirty feet up to the main girders supporting the track-bed structure. The ladder continued up the side of the trussed arch. He stepped off the ladder and then swung the pack off his back, laying it down carefully on the grating, making sure it was not going to roll off the edge. Leaving the pack, he walked ten feet along the platform toward the junction of the arched truss and the main horizontal girders of the center span. He found the short ladder and climbed down to the ledge under the track bed where the truss pins were. He knelt down and felt along the steel in the darkness, running his gloved hands over silver dollar-size rivet heads until he found the pins.

    He reached into his vest pocket and removed a slim black metal flashlight, pointed it down into the space between the pin housing and the truss girders, and switched it on. He saw the cavity he was looking for. It matched the plans. He switched off the light and climbed back up the ladder. From where he stood on the catwalk, the shining steel of the westbound track was level with his face. He reached forward and hefted himself up to the track level until he was standing astride the westbound tracks. He faced west and experienced the premonitory tingle of dread everyone feels when standing on a railroad track, the gleaming rails pregnant with the possibility that a train might loom out of the darkness, or was coming up even now, unseen, from behind. He stepped across the tracks and hopped down onto the pine-board catwalk between the track beds. The planks reeked of creosote and engine oil, and he was surprised at their flimsiness. The river below remained invisible, but as the cool wet air rose between his legs, he visualized the hundred or so feet of space between his perch on the catwalk and the swirling surface below. He clambered back over the tracks and swung down to the outside catwalk to study the structure.

    The center span track-bed support truss was attached to a pier tower at each end; it was nearly two hundred feet long. The overhead truss arch was constructed of a heavy steel vertical lattice on the upstream and downstream sides of the bridge, woven together with a lateral truss structure across the top. At the base end of each truss, well below the track bed, were two massive steel boxes, one on each side of the tracks. Each box had a twelve-inch-diameter hole drilled horizontally through the center. Passing through the hole was the main truss pin, a foot in diameter and five feet long. The pin ends penetrated the box on either side and were secured in a saddle mounting, which, in turn, was bolted to the concrete ledge on the pier tower itself. The descending side girders of the arch were supported entirely by these pins.

    Each saddle mounting was nestled in a concrete cavity cast into the inside face of the pier tower. The entire structure looked as solid as Gibraltar, but he knew that the truss could actually flex on its pins, expanding and contracting in broiling summer heat and icy winter air, and also when the weight of a train deflected the center span. These massive river bridges were alive, and, while they looked solid, they were flexing all the time, in infinitesimally small degrees, reacting to the stresses of temperature, winds, and loads. Even the pins themselves were free to rotate in fractions of degrees.

    He returned for the backpack and dragged it down to the pin structure on the upstream side of the bridge. He opened the pack and carefully lifted out the two coffee cans packed on top of the contents, setting them gingerly down on the main horizontal girder. He dug back into the pack, first extracting two pieces of wooden dowel, each a foot long and one inch in diameter, and then brought out six limp plastic bags of black powder, stacking them in a mound. Holding the flashlight in his teeth, he leaned into the cavity and began to pack the three-pound bags into the space between the inner face of the concrete cavity and the inside face of the pin. After he had placed two bags, he set one of the wooden dowels upright between them. Moving faster now, he set the remaining four bags, pushing and tamping them until they fit snugly around the inside face of the dinner plate sized pin, with the dowel protruding a few inches at the top. The stack completely covered the round face of the pin, with no space between it and the concrete.

    He picked up the backpack, clambered across the track beds to the opposite side of the bridge, and repeated the arrangements, again packing the bags between the pin and the concrete cavity's inside face. When he was finished, he checked his watch. If the operating schedule was holding, he had just under thirty minutes. Enough time, he thought. Just enough.

    He climbed back to the upstream side of the tracks, picked up one of the coffee cans, and returned to the downstream side of the bridge. With the flashlight again in his teeth, he removed the plastic lid, discarding it into the darkness, and then removed a quarter stick of dynamite and one blasting cap from a nest of torn rags in the can. He unwrapped the wax paper at one end of the quarter stick and gently pushed the blasting cap into the center hole until only its silvery top and two hanks of bell wire stuck out. Leaning over the powder stack, he wiggled the dowel, raising it carefully so as not to disturb the stack. He threw the dowel into the river below and then slid the quarter stick into the hole, fitting it snugly into the stack until only the wires were visible.

    He reached into another vest pocket and pulled out two coils of bell wire and a roll of electrical friction tape. He twisted the bared conductor from one of the coils together with one of the blasting cap's wires and then put the coil down on the concrete. He repeated the procedure with the second coil of bell wire, then pitched the coffee can off the bridge. Some of the rag fragments drifted up between his feet momentarily in the updraft.

    Standing up, he tied the two lengths of bell wire together in a loose knot and wrapped the married wires around a section of the truss base. He taped the bare connections, picked up the empty backpack, and then began threading the two lengths of bell wire under the eastbound track bed, across the catwalk, then under the westbound track bed, reaching down under the rails as he made his way back across to the upstream side.

    Ignoring the black emptiness beneath his feet, he set the two coils of wire down, being careful not to let them touch each other. He then opened the second can and set the north-side powder stack's trigger, once again discarding the dowel and the second can into the river. When he was finished, he took one of the bell-wire coils from the south-side stack and connected it to one of the wires coming from the blasting cap in the north-side stack. He reached into another vest pocket and removed what looked like a regular-size plastic flashlight, except that its light lens and back cap had been removed. There was a single wire sticking out from either end of the flashlight ease. He placed the flashlight on top of the stack. He removed a small plastic box the size of a cigarette pack from his vest.

    He knelt down and taped the truncated flashlight on top of the stack with some friction tape. He frowned as he realized that the plastic bags of black powder had already begun to accumulate dew, causing the tape to slip. He then connected the second wire from the blasting cap to the single wire coming out of one end of the flashlight case. He grasped the small plastic box in his left hand and pulled a thin springy wire out of the box to a length of six inches, letting it hang down out of his hand. He pressed a button on the face of the box. A half-inch-wide lighted window appeared, much like the dial on an electronic watch. Digital lettering in the dial read PRESS ONCE FOR TEST. He pressed the button again. The box emitted a tiny beep. The lettering now read PRESS TWICE FOR SET. Still holding the light in his teeth, he attached the remaining wire from the flashlight case to a terminal on the end of the plastic box, then attached the box to the steel saddle mounting right next to the stack of powder bags. A magnet on the box case held it securely and also established a ground. He then connected the end of the second wire from the south-side stack to the second terminal on the box and taped the bare connections.

    He leaned back and removed the flashlight from his teeth, exhaling forcefully, suddenly aware that he had been holding his breath. He looked at his watch again. Twenty minutes until train time. Now for the Detacord. He retrieved the backpack and extracted a coil of what looked like television coaxial cable, except that it was denser than coax and felt more like solidified putty. He taped off one end of the Detacord to a section of the truss and then walked west down in the catwalk toward the center of the next inboard span, unreeling the cable and pressing it flat against the wood planks of the catwalk until he had sixty feet straightened out on the catwalk. Then he went back to the start point and pulled it back in toward him. When he had the end in his hands, he got down on his hands and knees and began stuffing the cable into a crack between the top of the massive side I beam and the steel frame of the deck, pushing it up and behind the nest of utility cables already there. When it was all in place, he taped off the far end and went back to the explosives stack. He inserted the end into the powder stack, slipping it between the black powder bags until he felt the end physically touch the quarter stick. Then he stood up.

    Reflexively, he looked over his shoulder to the west, but there was still only the darkness, broken by a faint halo of lights on another distant signal tower. He thought about going up to the track bed and placing his ear against a steel rail to see if he could really hear a train coming from a long way off, then decided against it. He stretched, his knees cracking in the silence. The gentle breeze cooled the perspiration on his face. He took a deep breath; up here, the bridge smelled of old steel, rust, diesel engine grease, and sunbaked creosote. He almost thought he could hear the bridge creaking in the darkness as the river tugged relentlessly at its concrete feet.

    He went back down to the truss pins, closed his eyes, and reviewed the connections in his mind. The circuit was correct. The placement was correct. Another image slid into his mind, that of a dismembered and burned-out car, mangled almost beyond recognition, surrounded by several yellow body sheets around it covering ... He swallowed hard, opened his eyes quickly, and took another deep breath.

    That's why you're here, he told himself. That's what this is all about. So do it. Do it now.

    He leaned into the pin-mounting cavity, felt for the box, and pressed the button. Once. Beep. Twice. Beep. The little box emitted three beeps in quick succession, and the words RECEIVER SET appeared in the window. He nodded, picked up the empty backpack, put the tape and the red penlight into it, and slipped it over his shoulders. Moving quickly, he retraced his climb back down the side of the pier tower to the boat. The motor was still idling quietly, burbling oily two-stroke smoke at the back of the boat. He looked over in the direction of where the fish camp should be, but all was still darkness there.

    He dropped into the boat, settled himself on the seat, and advanced the throttle. When the tension came off the rope, he jerked the grapnel hook off the iron rung of the ladder. The boat's head fell off immediately in the current, and he was swept diagonally across the center channel, moving out from under the bridge as the current carried him downriver. He pointed the boat directly back upstream and gave it more power, turning left slightly to hug the west bank again, keeping away from the darkened trailers three hundred yards across the river. A minute later, he passed back beneath the bridge and then headed upstream, opening the distance from the bridge slowly as the small motor fought the powerful current. The banks on either side remained completely dark except for the glow of streetlights up in the village of Thebes on the right-hand bluffs.

    Once he had the boat steadied on course, he extracted the transmitter box from his inside vest pocket. It was warm iii his hands. He pulled a spring-wire antenna out of its side and then held the box in one hand as he continued to steer the little boat upriver. He felt for the slide button on its face and pushed the slide up until it hit a detent. A tiny red light came on. He looked at his watch and then cut back out into the center of the river, keeping one eye on the bridge behind him.

    The train came out of the western darkness when he had gone about a third of a mile upstream from the bridge. At first, he was able to see only the loom of its wobbling approach light in the mist above the high banks, then the main headlight as the big diesels rumbled into view, a three-pack multiple unit strung together. The lead engine appeared to be pursuing the long yellow beam of its main headlight as a powerful drumming noise slowly overcame all the river noises.

    He throttled down to idle and let the boat take its own head while he twisted around on the seat, holding the transmitter box now in both hands. His mouth was dry and his heart was beating rapidly again. Twelve years he'd been planning for this night. Twelve lonely, painful years, made bearable only by his plan for revenge. He watched the train come pounding out onto the bridge, past the first pier, the second, the third, the steel latticework flaring into sharp relief as the engine set passed each tower. The train seemed to slow down the farther it went out onto the bridge, but he knew that was just an optical illusion. The three big engines passed the fourth, main channel pier on the Missouri side and drove out onto the center span.

    Still he waited. The engines thundered powerfully across the center span, the clicking and clacking noise of the individual cars audible now above the rumble of the diesels. The engine set passed through the first channel pier tower on the Illinois side, and then the next pier. He mentally counted one more second and then pushed the slide button on the transmitter all the way up against its spring tension.

    A bright red glare appeared below the track level on the western channel pier tower, followed by two nearly simultaneous and shockingly powerful thumps. A flash of what looked like yellow-red lightning shot back toward the Missouri side underneath the bridge deck, momentarily transfixing the underside of the train in a photoflash. For a microsecond, he could even make out some of the letters on the sides of the boxcars. Then, almost in slow motion, the western end of the center span sagged and collapsed into the river with a great roaring crash. The eastern end remained attached for several seconds before it, too, pulled away from its tower and crashed down under the weight of the train. The boxcars and flatcars that were still west of the center spilled off the edge of the span into the river in neat succession, one after another, like huge steel lemmings, never faltering in their speed, each succeeding car pulled over the edge by the one in front. He stared as the cars thundered down off the bridge into the maelstrom below, bouncing first off the canted remains of the center span and then disappearing into the thrashing black water. Some of the tank cars came boiling back up on the surface for an instant before rolling over and disappearing again, carried off into the darkness by the swift current.

    After thirty seconds, a pile of wreckage began to emerge from the river. It took almost another minute for the remainder of the train to make the plunge, with the last cars smashing directly onto the pile, then slipping and banging sideways into the water on either side, some remaining intact while others ruptured and spilled their contents out into the black river. Three or four cars from the east span had also gone into the river, but by now the front end of the train had disappeared around a curve on the east bank side. A vast cloud of smoke and mist was enveloping what was left of the bridge as echoes of the crash reverberated off the high banks.

    He watched in awe as the destruction piled up, the booming and crashing of the cars getting louder and louder, until he realized that he had been drifting rapidly back toward the unfolding calamity. He hit the throttle then, going wide open to avoid being swept down into the steaming pile of wreckage. A silvery tank car surfaced right behind him in a great boiling uproar like some enraged steel hippo, its relief valves noisily venting acrid chemical vapors until it rolled over and submerged again into the roiling water.

    He jerked the boat's head around and accelerated back upriver into the darkness, subconsciously aware that there were lights coming on now in the campers and trailers down at the fish camp. The noise of the wreck still seemed to be echoing along the high bluffs on the Illinois side, so he wasn't worried about his engine noise now, only about getting away. There was a sustained roaring noise behind him as another tank car's pressure-relief valve let go, assaulting the night air with a howl of venting product.

    After rounding the first bend upstream, he could see all the way upriver to the old Cape Girardeau highway bridge six miles upstream, backlit by the lights of the barge port. He kept the boat going wide open, her bow aimed into the center of the channel. Now that he was around the bend, the only sound he could hear was the night wind whistling in his ears above the rattling buzz of the outboard. He glanced back over his shoulder, where an ominous glow was beginning to show through the tangled trees along the bend.

    That's one, he thought, squinting against the wind in his face. He had expected to feel some exhilaration, some sense of victory, but he felt nothing at all. He remained dead inside, all of his emotions ground to powder long ago. He had achieved his first objective, nothing more, nothing less. After twelve years, the planning was over. He was now simply a force of nature. One down, he thought. Five to go.

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Train Man 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am almost finished reading Trainman and I hated to put it down to write this review. As always, Deutermann thrills us with mile-a-minute action and suspense. A great book.
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Tall blonde hair blue sparkly eyes blue blouse blue flower in hair short shorts" hey tyler