Doctor Forrester boarded the train, his large trunk in tow. He was a petite man with wirey black hair, large round glasses, and a young face for a 28 year old. He dragged his trunk down the aisle of the train to where he intended to sit in the dining car and slid it under the table. He sat down and stared out the window. The city of Boromont had been a great place to live and study medicine the last several years, but Forrester had been offered his own practice out in the town of Helmuth. He hadn’t heard much about Helmuth other than that it was so small, just a few trading posts and a sheriff’s office as far as he had heard; and the saloon/bordello, but it was hard to find a small town without one of those. Yes, Helmuth was mostly just a place for stopping at on your way to somewhere else rather than a destination in and of itself. Still, his own practice, and so soon out of medical school. The doctor’s heart fluttered with anticipation as the train lurched forward and he started hearing the “Chuff Chuff Chuff” of the wheels on the tracks. Forrester waved goodbye to no one in particular and sat back in his seat and closed his eyes with a smile on his face. His friend’s uncle had arranged his appointment. Uncle Chet was some rich oligarch who owned a mine a few miles outside of Helmuth and wanted someone able and qualified to treat any injuries or illnesses that arose as a result of working in the mine, and of course Forrester jumped at the opportunity. The pay was good too! Apparently most folk who headed out that way didn't stay there long (like I said, a place for stopping at on your way to somewhere else), and so Uncle Chet decided to give good incentive to stay. The view on the way to Helmuth was nice, some mountains, some rivers, some valleys, but Forester took none of it in. He was too excited, too anxious, too distracted to think of anything but his new life in Helmuth. The conductor came by to check the tickets. He was a robust man with a curly moustache and thick glasses. He held Dr. Forrester’s ticket aloft and squinted at it.
“Huh. Helmuth. Well, you’re a very brave man, son.” He said. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in Helmuth. Or, I guess, if I were in Helmuth, I would be caught dead.”
“What does that mean?” asked the doctor.
“It means strange things are happening in that town, and if I were you I’d just stay on the train. I won’t throw you off.” He said as he started walking to the next passenger, “I’m a man of mercy, you know. Tickets please.” Forester looked at his ticket. It read “Destination: Helmuth, party of one”
“What in the world was he talking about?” he thought, but in the end payed it little heed; he was too excited. “Helmuth, here I come!” he said under his breath. The train ride lasted a few hours and it was twilight by the time the train reached Helmuth. Doctor Forrester grabbed his trunk and lugged it down the aisle to the door where he stumbled down the stairs onto the platform. The conductor appeared at the window.
“Last chance, son.” He said. “You can get back on and just keep going. No shame in that.”
“I think I’ll be fine.” Said Forester, “General rule of thumb, even among thieves and brigands, is ‘don’t shoot the doctor. Thanks, though.” Forrester started dragging his trunk towards the ticket stand to ask directions to the doctor’s office, he was so excited he was whistling. He wrapped on the glass without actually looking in.
“Excuse me,” he sang, “but, could you point me in the direction of the doctor’s office?” He waited to hear a response, but none came. As Forester focused his eyes to look in and see if anyone was there he let out a shriek. Inside the ticket booth was a man, or what had once been a man, the skin of his face now removed and with a large bloody hole where his heart should have been. Forester rushed around the building and opened the door to try and help the man, not that there was anything he could have done, the man’s heart was gone. Still, he tried. He stared in disbelief of what was happening and wept. There had been a murder, no, a desecration, an abominable act in Helmuth on his very first day. But still, his own practice.