Taking the final mouthful of coffee from his mug, Jeff decided to lock up the office and go for his first morning patrol of the station. Before he did so, he radioed the other security staff upstairs in the office just to check in and make sure that everything was in order.
Jeff clicked the button on the side, waited a brief second and began his message, consciously aware of how military he sounded. This was no alien task to Jeff. Being a sergeant in the marine corps meant that he had excellent communication skills and a vast knowledge of radio equipment.
“Hello Alpha Two Charlie….This is zero, message. Over.”
His thumb released the button on the side, the transmission made a clicking sound, and then there was silence. He repeated the action, no stranger to it.
“Hello Alpha Two Charlie, Hello Alpha Two Charlie, message over”.
No static, no sound. Just the gentle hum from the monitors in the secluded oval office.
Jeff checked his watch, it was now 08:45am and all security staff should have been in by now. He decided to take a walk up to the office in the building above the station. He remembered it was Monday and that meant the checks were happening on the equipment after the weekend and maybe the guys were just checking the radios.
He took the keys from his belt and locked the heavy door to the monitor room. Whistling quietly to himself, he started on his journey down the main waiting room to the elevators and stairway that took employees to the offices above.
Jeff took another big intake of air, the smell of the station filling his senses. All of the memories, possessing him. He really loved this place.
For over 75 years now this station shipped boys off to the war. Instead of bringing boys home, it brought soldiers home, their sweethearts waiting for them on the platform, their hair set in pretty curls. It took them on vacations and sent them off to visit family.
It was Detroit’s Ellis Island.
Many generations of families took their first steps into the city through the station. Some as far away as Ireland.
The walls still echoed the sounds of hellos and goodbyes. The air carried the sense of great sorrow, and great joy. Sometimes you can still smell the coal from the old steam trains.
Jeff stopped at a certain point on the platform and tried to paint the memory in his mind of his Mother and Father, the day they first met. Ever since he was a little boy he enjoyed this story. His mother was wearing a beautiful burgundy dress with a tailored over coat to match, it had an intricate style of black embroidery on the cuff and breast with black buttons to match. Her dark hair was rolled up and tucked in under a beautiful burgundy hat. His father always wondered how something so beautiful could be standing in front of him. He wasn’t looking too bad himself, donned in his military service uniform, all clean and smelling of lemon soap. He used to joke with Jeff and his siblings about how he was stopped all the time when people thought he was Elvis Priestley when he was in the army. That always set his Mother off laughing. His father told them about how he was waiting on his brother to take him home from the station when he saw her standing outside the sweet shop looking into the bag of boiled sweets she had just purchased. He just had to know her name. That very night he took her out for dinner and the rest was history.
It really was much more than a station. There was magic in its walls.
Jeff rocked back and forth on his feet, looking around him. The three storey station and eighteen storey office tower really was a sight to behold. It was made up of more than 8 million bricks, one hundred and twenty seven thousand cubic feet of stone and seven thousand tons of structural steel. When the station first opened it was the tallest railroad station in the world, and the fourth tallest building in Detroit.
Jeff passed by the ticket stalls and remembered that the very first ticket sold at the station terminal was payed for with “a bright new $20 gold piece” by a passenger from Bay City, Michigan. The actual newspaper article from the Tribune is encased in a glass case at the ticket stalls where Jeff stands.
The very first “lost article” was a poodle named Tessie, who got away from her owner when she let her run loose while she waited for the train on December 27th, 1913. Tessie was later found in the outer gallery playing with the cab drivers. A bronze statue of Tessie took pride of place in the ladies reading room that now served as the stations museum, at the end of the hall. Jeff chuckled to himself as he thought this was a far cry from what he had to deal with today.
He looked around the buildings centrepiece which was the main waiting room. It had marble floors and soaring fifty four and a half foot ceilings, above it hanging a grand clock. A gift from the Mayor when it reopened. This was Jeff’s favourite part of the station.
The main waiting room was modelled after the public baths of Ancient Rome. Covered by Guastavino tile vaults divided by broad coffered arches – this magnificent waiting room was decorated with marble, bronze chandeliers, gargantuan sixty eight foot Corinthian columns and three arched twenty one by forty foot windows, flanked by four smaller windows ornamented with beautiful wrought iron grilles.
It was an experience.
You would enter from the Roosevelt Park into this other worldly waiting room, walking through bronze doors with mahogany trim. You were surrounded by cream coloured brick, marble finishes and massive soaring arches. Enveloped by it all. It took Jeff’s breath away every day.
Every day on his patrols, Jeff counts it’s blessings; there are fourteen marble pillars set against the walls and at the entrance to the concourse. The depot itself that houses the ticket offices, the restaurant and other facilities is ninety eight feet tall. The waiting room is ninety seven foot wide and two hundred and thirty foot long. Its arched ceiling is sixty five feet high. Jeff remembers being 10 years young gazing up in awe at the high ceilings, without a care in the world. Rubber necked. Now, all of this was in his hands.
Just beyond the waiting room you buy your ticket from the ornate counter, then you walk down the twenty eight feet tall arcade that is home to the newsstand, the pharmacy, the sweet shop, the gift shop and an old style barber shop where you can get a short back and sides or a hot towel shave from Abdul. At either end of the waiting room are the lounge areas.
What used to be a men’s smoking room, with mahogany panels and a coffered ceiling, is now home to vast paintings and sculptures. On the other end a women’s reading room illuminated by Italian globes, also housed the same, and Tessie the poodle. These were ran by the Detroit’s historical society, and Jeff loved to poke his head round the door every other day, just to have a chat.
In addition to the arcade and waiting room, was a restaurant, where the young Jane Morgan hosted a beautiful counter and her cook Aunt Bessy with her Southern soul, cooked Jeff up pretty much whatever he wanted. Her big white smile on her ebony skin, always making him feel welcome and her laugh almost as big as herself. He loved the way she rolled her hair underneath pretty coloured scarves like they did in the old days.
The restaurant was quite a sight, it had vaulted ceilings, a main concourse with copper skylights and a fine lunch counter with Welsh quarry tile. It was almost exactly as it looked in its prime.
Just beyond this were bathing facilities where travellers could freshen up, but today it served as the men and womens toilet and washroom. This used to be a spot of difficulty for Jeff with addicts and youngsters with spray cans and graffiti, so he decided to place a security guard here full time to deter from the activity. He could see the new security guy Alex sitting at his chair, one leg folded over the other, the morning paper spread wide. He nodded to Jeff.
Right beside the toilets was a little place where you used to be able to send telegrams, buy postcards or make telephone calls. The historical telegram machines were still there, but nowadays there were more modern facilities to charge your iPhone and make a Skype call if you so desired.
Jeff turned off the main waiting room and entered a more hidden part of the station. He started to make his way upwards towards the five hundred offices that housed all the personnel that worked at the station and the many historians and artists that looked after the paintings and the other historical artifacts. The fine decor didn’t stop inside the station. The employees quarters were just as plush, with halls lined in white marble wainscoting and terrazzo floors.
At the main desk sat a pretty secretary in a crisp white shirt and even whiter teeth to match. Her dazzling smile and perfect hair giving the atmosphere of the office foyer a very 1950’s feel.
Jeff noted Henry, the more senior member of the security staff, seated at his cubicle in front of the monitor, his glasses perched on his nose, his shoes shining like a new penny.
“Mornin’ Jeff, fine mornin’ it is too” he said with his thick Detroit accent. Home grown.
His humorous face was one of Jeff’s favourite things about him. Henry was one of the stations very first security men. He moved Henry upstairs to the more tranquil surroundings of the office building. Things had gotten a little too rough in the station in the last few years and Jeff worried that someone of Henry’s age might fall foul to the less attractive activity that went on at the station.
“It’s a fine morning Henry, how’s everything going here buddy? All in order?”
“Oh you betcha Boss, these blue collar and college grads ain’t got nothin’ on old hobnail boots here” Henry laughed with his belly, his two hands resting on top of it.
Jeff patted him on the back and made his way into the main security headquarters. There was a flurry of activity inside. Monday was always like this and Jeff revelled in seeing everybody so busy. He noted a group of his guys with a checklist and hard plastic briefcases and storage boxes.
He was right. No wonder no one answered him over the net, the radios weren’t even on yet. However, he was happy to see them all checking everything with a fine tooth comb, just the way he liked.
His mind flashed back to his operational days in the marine corps and he remembered how his guys all rolled their eyes in unison when he would tell his platoon to do an ordnance check. He laughed quietly to himself and took in all the activity. He was amazed at how steadily the security team grew and how intelligent it was. They had access to equipment Jeff was lucky enough to put his hands on in the military.
Before Jeff started at the station the security staff consisted of 2 full time staff and a spotty half-teenager that forgot to do leg days. It had now become this organised company with a great reputation and one of the best jobs at the station. They even had pension benefits and opportunities to complete relevant courses in the security industry, something Jeff proudly but silently thanked himself for.
Jeff’s eyes scanned the vast room, with different screens and monitors but his eyes rested on the four monitor crew huddled around one of the screens. The crowd began to grow as someone shouted out “Get the boss quick, there’s something he needs to see”.
Jeff was over at the screen causing the commotion in two or three strides. “The boss is here kid, what seems to be the matter”.
“Eh, Mornin’ boss, I dunno how we didn’t spot this sooner, or how the night shift didn’t manage to see this, but, uh, there’s a body in the main building”.
Jeff, resting his muscular frame on two giant closed fists on the desk, looked quizzically into the young mans eyes and then stared at the buzzing screen.
And there it was, looking straight back at him…..
A shoeless foot.
Chapter 4 coming soon!! Thanks for reading x