Phoebe hated taking the subway. If she could avoid it, she would. But since her car was at the workshop and she didn’t trust Uber enough to use the service, her only available option was the subway.
Her hectic job as a lawyer employed at one of the biggest firms in New York meant that her day almost always starts in the morning and ends late in to the night. When she had her car with her, she’d always leave the office at a time that suited her – which usually meant close to midnight. But since she had to take the public transport now, Phoebe didn’t have the luxury of flexible timing.
It’s not that she lived in a bad neighborhood, it just felt safer to be on board with the working crowd.
Phoebe closed the manila folder and looked at the time – 11:45pm.
Shoot, she was supposed to leave at 9pm.
As she gathered her things, ready to take the subway home; she heard a light knock on her door. She looked up, surprised to see her colleague, Danielle, smiling at her.
“Elle, I thought you left for the night.” Phoebe said.
Danielle shrugged and entered Phoebe’s room. “I wish. The Cruz case is keeping me here. I won’t be able to leave until tomorrow morning.”
“But didn’t you let Giselle leave?” Phoebe asked, gesturing at the table where Danielle’s intern sat.
Danielle shook her head, “Oh, I let her ‘leave’ to get us some food. If I’m not heading home, she’s not going anywhere.”
Phoebe laughed as she picked up her cellphone. “You’re a mean boss.”
“And you’re paranoid.”
Danielle leaned against Phoebe’s desk. “Still not going to take a chance with Uber? You missed your curfew for the subway.”
Phoebe stuffed two manila folders into her document bag. “Yes, I know but no. I am still not taking that dreaded service even with my missed self-imposed curfew. After all the horrific accounts I’ve heard about Uber, I’m not taking a chance.”
Danielle crossed her arms in front of her chest. “How is it any different from taking the subway this late? There are worse things that could happen on a subway than with Uber.”
Phoebe shook her head. “No. There are a lot of worse things that could happen on either transport. But I feel like I have a better chance with the subway.”
Danielle rolled her eyes and stood up straight. “Whatever you say, hobo.”
Phoebe merely smiled as she stood up from her seat with her bags in tow.
“You know, you could take my car home and return it to me tomorrow morning since I’m clearly not going anywhere tonight.” Danielle said.
“Normally, I’d take you up on the offer. But, if I remember correctly, the car you drove in today belongs to your socialite boyfriend. Not going to take a chance at being thrown into the scandal pot.” Phoebe said, switching off the lights to her room.
Danielle put her hand to her chest in mock offense. “And here I was helping my friend out.”
Phoebe rolled her eyes and put a hand on Danielle’s arm. “Good night, Elle. Don’t work too hard.”
Danielle pat her hand and the two walked over to the office doors where they bade each other good-bye just as Giselle entered.
“Oh! Ms Bowery, I got you some supper.” Giselle said.
Phoebe smiled. “Thank you Giselle. I’ll take mine to go.”
Giselle nodded and handed a takeaway bag to Phoebe, who took it from her as she called for the lift. Having just emptied the young intern onto their office floor, the lift dinged open and Phoebe stepped in. She gave both women a smile and said a final good-night before the doors closed.
Phoebe arrived at the station in 10 minutes, relieved to see several other office executives waiting for the subway. As the subway pulled into the station, Phoebe made for the last empty car when she felt a hard tug on her arm that stopped her in her tracks.
She turned to see a woman not much older than her with red hair and green eyes looking at her intently. “Don’t take the last car. It’s not safe… Follow me.”
Puzzled but not wanting to create a scene, she followed the woman into the second last car and the both of them sat down.
“I’m sorry to have tugged you so rudely just now but it was important that you don’t enter the last car.” She said.
Phoebe frowned. “Why?”
“Is this your first time taking the midnight subway?”
Phoebe kept silent and the woman nodded, her red hair moving with each nod. “Would explain why you don’t know about the last car.”
“What do you mean? Is it haunted or something?” Phoebe asked.
The woman sighed. “In a manner of speaking. Some say it is haunted while others claim its cursed. Either of these guesses are bad enough.”
Phoebe shook her head. “Is this some prank? Am I on some late night subway prank show?”
The doors to the subway opened as they pulled into the next station. The two women watched as new passengers took their seats.
The woman turned to Phoebe, “It’s not a joke, miss. I’ve heard stories about car 11 where people turn up dead. You shouldn’t take this lightly.”
Phoebe had a retort but as she studied the woman who was dressed in designer clothes with a limited edition Hermes bag on her lap; she couldn’t find a reason to refute this woman’s claim. She wanted to think this woman was probably a loony but someone dressed as well as this woman couldn’t possible be spouting nonsense, could she?
“You can choose to believe me, or choose not to.” The woman said. “But I’ve done my duty in warning you about car 11.”
She looked at Phoebe. “Unless you want to end up dead; it will do you good to listen to what I said.”
Before Phoebe could inquire further, the train pulled to a stop and the woman stood up. “This is my stop. Have a good night, miss.”
Phoebe nearly nodded as the woman made her exit. As the train doors closed and the subway slowly left the station, Phoebe looked in the direction of the last car. Was it true what she said? She looked back around her and noticed that her car was starting to look slightly crowded while car 11 remained empty.
Was this some unspoken knowledge for midnight passengers?
After the tele-meeting she had with her client, Phoebe looked at the clock on her computer – 5.30pm. She had another Skype meeting with a client in Dubai and she still had to run through the notes a law firm had sent her about the
settlement. While she was aiming to leave at 7pm; her to-do list was not making that possible.
She sighed and pushed herself away from her table, leaning back against her chair as she closed her eyes to rest. Suddenly, her mind had wandered back to the night before.
Car 11 on the N Train.
Phoebe stood up from her desk with lightning speed and hurried over to Giselle’s desk.
“Hi Giselle.” She greeted.
Giselle stopped what she was doing and looked up. “Hi Ms Bowery, how can I help you?”
“Are you currently busy with any of Elle’s task?” Phoebe asked.
Giselle shook her head. “Nope. Ms Lanchester told me that I can leave at 6pm. Is there something you need?”
“Yes, well, Elle told me that you’re pretty good with research so.. I was wondering if you could help me with a case?” Phoebe said.
Giselle nodded and picked up a pencil and memo pad; ready to jot down the information.
“I need information regarding the N Train… specifically anything to do with car 11 at midnight.”
Giselle mouthed the words as she penned them down onto the memo pad. Phoebe felt a little silly asking Danielle’s intern to assist with something that was just hearsay but something about it bugged her out. While she had hoped that last night was the only time she had to take the midnight train, it looks like tonight was another lucky night. And if she had to steer clear of car 11, she needed to know exactly why.
“So that’s anything I can find on the midnight N Train, car 11?” Giselle repeated in her own words.
Phoebe nodded. “Yes, exactly that.”
“I should be able to pass you the information in an hour.” Giselle said.
“Oh-you don’t have to…”
Giselle smiled politely. “It’s no problem, Ms Bowery. I don’t have any plans after work so it’s alright if I stay another half hour or so.”
Phoebe smiled back gratefully. “Thank you, Giselle. You can leave the information on my table when you’re done.”
Giselle nodded and looked back at her computer as she started on the task given to her.
Phoebe returned to her office, relieved that she would finally have some answers. Earlier, the autoshop had called to tell her that her car should be ready the next day, so she just needed to get through her last ride that night.
Giselle gathered the papers from the printer and secured them with the clip binder. She looked at her watch to see that she was just 20 minutes behind the expected duration she had given Ms Bowery. As she held the stack of papers in her arms, she walked over to Ms Bowery’s office.
She knocked once before opening the door to an empty office. Hearing someone talking loudly in the meeting room, Giselle stepped back to glance in that direction. Ms Bowery had her back facing Giselle as she spoke in front of the projector screen. Knowing better than to disturb her, Giselle stepped into the office and left the research she had done on Ms Bowery’s table.
Satisfied with where she had left it, Giselle stepped out and closed the door behind her.
Phoebe sank onto the meeting room chair and heaved a loud sigh of relief. After two hours with her client over Skype, she had to admit she was exhausted. It was bad enough that her client was getting a divorce but going through the list of assets was worse.
Her assistant, Greg, looked at her. “Would you like me to get dinner, Ms Bowery?”
“It’s fine, Greg.” She said. “You can head on home. I’ll just finish up some paperwork and head out.”
He nodded and picked up his documents. “Have a good night, Ms Bowery.”
She smiled. “You too Greg.”
Once Greg left the meeting room, Phoebe sat up straight, diving back into her work. A text message eventually broke her trance and she looked at her watch – 11.30pm.
She hurriedly gathered her things before making her way back into her office. She stuffed the files and papers into her document bag and swiped her laptop along with her handbag off the table before making a quick exit. Giselle’s research continued to sit near the other manila folders, forgotten.
Arriving at the subway station, Phoebe noticed that there were more people than usual at the platform. Feeling exhausted from the day, all she wanted to do was go home and run a nice bubble bath before heading straight to bed.
She could afford to sleep in and head into office at noon tomorrow.
The sound of the subway pulling in had everyone ready at the doors’ position. Seeing no one heading to car 11, Phoebe shrugged and walked right in.
It wasn’t that she didn’t remember what the woman from last night had told her. But whatever it was, it is just rumors and Phoebe was way too exhausted to care. She wanted some peace and quiet for her ride home and car 11 was just the place to get that.
Phoebe picked a seat by the entrance and smiled as the doors closed. While it really was empty, the quiet car was a trade-off she was willing to take.
She closed her eyes as the train started to move.
Phoebe was startled awake a few minutes later when she felt someone settle into the seat next to her.
“I thought I told you not to take car 11 on the midnight train.”
She blinked a couple of times until the woman turned to face her.
It was the woman with red hair and green eyes.
Before Phoebe could reply, she felt a sharp pain in her stomach that grew more intense. She dropped her bags and looked down to see her light blue dress slowly turn red.
Phoebe couldn’t get the words out as the woman with the red hair and green eyes pulled out the knife from Phoebe’s stomach only to plunge it into her the second time round.
Phoebe tried to speak only to let out a bloodied gurgle as she watched her assailant smile.
“It’s always the pretty ones who don’t listen.”
Phoebe turned to see that the subway was pulling into the next station and as she tried to stand up, she fell back down. She clutched the pole next to her in an attempt to get close to the exit but the woman stopped her. Using her
gloved hands, she grabbed Phoebe’s hand and placed it back down onto her lap. Phoebe tried to fight but her severe injury and blood loss were draining her fast.
The woman shook her head, her red curls moving. “I already told you. Car 11 is where people turn up dead. You were warned, weren’t you?”
The train pulled to a stop and the woman smiled at Phoebe – the last thing she ever saw before she closed her eyes.
“Alright Murphy, you’re up.”
The guy shook his head as he put his bottle of water into the placeholder in the front control room of the midnight N Train that just pulled in.
“Did you do a sweep?” Murphy asked.
“Nope. I didn’t see any stragglers.” His colleague replied.
Murphy did a sweep of the screens until he spotted the document bag on the floor of car 11. He pointed at the screen, “What’s that?”
“Must be something someone left behind.” His colleague said.
Murphy shook his head as he got out of the control room and headed down towards car 11. His colleague followed behind, hoping to prove him wrong that it was just someone’s forgotten item. As they neared the doors of car 11, they noticed a person sitting by the doors.
Murphy looked at his colleague. “You were saying?”
His colleague kept mum as the two of them boarded car 11. They were just about to ask her to leave when they saw the pool of blood around the vicinity of where the woman was sitting.
“What the fuck?!”
Murphy gritted his teeth as he surveyed the bloody sight before him. He’s only seen this that other one time which swore him off taking on the midnight N Train duty. If it wasn’t for the trip he was planning to surprise the missus with, he would have never taken the available shift.
“FUCK!” His colleague shouted. “Oh my holy Fuck. Shit! Fuck! Murphy – is she… is she dead?”
Murphy pulled up the walkie-talkie he held in his hand and radioed into the main control room.
“Station, this is Murphy.”
“This is Station. What seems to be the problem, Murphy?”
Murphy sighed heavily into the walkie-talkie. “You better get the NYPD down here… We’ve got another body.”
“Hey, Greg, have you seen Phoebe?”
Greg looked up from his papers, “No Ms Lanchester… Not since last night.”
“That’s strange… I texted her a couple of times.”
Danielle was just about to head back into her office when she spotted a small crowd gathered at the television by the pantry. She walked over out of curiosity and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw her colleague and friend’s photo on the screen.
“T-Turn up the volume.”
The receptionist with the remote control nodded.
“…The body of 28 year old Phoebe Bowery was found at the N Train depot at 1.30am this morning. Bowery was found to have sustained 2 stab wounds in the abdomen which eventually led to her demise. This is the 16th case in a string of murders that has happened since late February in car 11 on the midnight N Train. With unavailable video footage, the NYPD has not been able to determine how or when the perpetrator strikes. Internet sleuths has coined this ‘The Haunted Murder Car’ and have advised the public not to enter car 11 unless they wanted to meet their own death. While the NYPD continues to investigate the case, they have asked for the public to step forward with any information they have pertaining to Phoebe Bowery or the 15 related cases.”
Giselle hurriedly made her way to Phoebe’s office and picked up the stack of papers that had been left untouched. She made her way back to where Danielle was was sitting after registering the shock. She hastily handed the research over to her.
Danielle cleaned away her tears. “W-What is this?”
“It’s the research that Ms Bowery had me do.” Giselle explained. “I thought she would have seen it but she didn’t.”
Danielle frowned a little. “She asked you to do this? Why?”
“She said it was for a case… But I’m starting to think that it was for her own purposes.” Giselle said.
Danielle looked through the research as Giselle continued. “If I had passed it to her in time, it might have served as an additional reminder not to enter car 11.”
Danielle shook her head. “It’s not your fault.”
Seeing a theory from an internet sleuth, Danielle stopped and pointed it out to Giselle. “What’s this theory about?”
“Oh, I’ve read several articles about this one. Some believe that there is someone.., a woman, taking the midnight N Train, warning people off riding in car 11. She usually picks her victims based off the way they look because she would assume their appearance… But it’s just a theory. Nobody has been able to prove it.”
She flicked her new strawberry blond hair over her shoulders as she waited for the train to arrive.
It was such a relief to finally change her hair colour and contacts. It has been almost a month since her last change and it was already getting on her nerves. She could only pull off that red hair, green eyes look for so long. Being a redhead was such a damper to her mood.
Now a strawberry blond with her own natural blue eyes was a change. It is comfortable, a hint at who she really is though nobody would know until it hits them. It helped that the recent one had good taste in brands too. Affordable but chic.
She adjusted the Kate Spade tote on her arm as she looked at the small number of people at the platform.
Definitely not the men.
Oh no! – DEFINITELY not that frumpy woman with the Uniqlo attire and Jansport backpack. Ugh, poor tasteless woman!
Nope. Nope. Hard pass…
Ah – Bingo.
Auburn hair with brown eyes and dressed in J.Crew… Haven’t done that before.
She smiled to herself as she quietly said, “She’ll do.”
She was just about to reach the doors to car 11 when she felt a hard tug on her wrist. She pulled out one side of her Apple AirPods as she turned to see a woman with strawberry blond hair and blue eyes looking intently at her.
“Don’t take the last car. It’s not safe… Follow me.”
Original short story: ©Jasmine Ong