Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Who Pulled the Emergency Brake on the Train?

by Sherry Morris

A thunderous squeal, flashing lights, the crashing of stowed luggage and sleeping people resonated in slow motion. Screams and curses filled the distant air.

My head hit the bathroom door hard as it was jolted open. Peetie-the-Parrot flew screeching toward me. My world went dark.

* * * 

I felt myself being dragged backwards. Voices. Cuss words. Male voices. A blow to my stomach and all the blood rushed to my head. Forward propulsion. I opened my eyes and saw a great male caboose. Upside down. Clad in dark wash jeans. Handcuffs dangled. My hair hung down near my arms. I was upside down. Somebody was carrying me. Over his shoulder. I noticed a Glock tucked into his waistband. I grabbed cop handcuffs. He threw me down on a bed.

I brushed the tangled hair from my face and looked into Lieutenant Hottie Hernandez’s big brown smoldering…make those angry eyes.

He snatched his handcuffs from me and returned them to their holster. “Did you stop this train?”

Train? Train…oh, yeah, I was on a train.

“Sandra, did you pull the emergency brake and stop this train?”

“Well I didn’t do it by dragging my foot.”

“Why?” he demanded.

“Why?” I repeated.

“Yes, why?”

I watched his nostrils flare and his eyes bulge. I would have rather looked at something else bulging.

He got right in my face. “Why did you stop this train?”

I remembered. I needed a nurse. “I needed a nurse.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

What’s wrong with me? “My back hurts. Mini…Minnie Mouse hit me with the potty door. Oww. My side hurts, too. And I stubbed my big toe.” I put my hand up and felt a huge goose egg on my forehead. “What happened to my head?”

“You obviously bumped your head.”

“How do you know somebody didn’t conk me over the head?”

“Did they? Who?”

I propped myself up on my elbows and wondered how that toilet paper became wrapped around my leg.

“Who conked you over the head?”

“Huh? I don’t know. But they could have. Then again, I probably did hit my head on the bathroom door. Or toilet or something… I remember! Peetie!”

“Peetie hit you? Who is Peetie?”

“Peetie-the-Parrot. Pat-the-Pirate’s pet.”

“Oh, for the love of— Have you been drinking?”

“Drinking? No. I’m a good girl. You know that.”

I remembered Big Marc. I bolted upright and nearly passed out again.

Hottie caught me. “Careful! Lay back down.”

Under different circumstances I’d love to obey but… “Oh! Big Marc! Pearl Harbor! Old guy working as a car attendant. He stumbled and clocked his head, breaking out a window as he passed out in the parlor car. He had a heart attack. That’s why I pulled the emergency brake. I kept yelling ‘Help!’ but no one responded. I didn’t know which compartment Weepy Wendy was in.”

“Weepy Wendy?”

“Nurse. Nurse with scary hair.”

Hottie snatched out his cell phone, commanded something into it then turned his attention back to me.

Damn, he was so good looking when he was mad.

“What time is it? How long was I out? Where are we?”

“Oh-one-hundred hours, Thursday. I don’t know. Dillon, South Carolina.”

I realized everything was quiet. The train had stopped. The air conditioning wasn’t whirring. I didn’t like this silence. I tried sitting up again. This time, slowly. He offered his hand to help me. Oh, his hand. His hot, strong hand. His touch sent shockwaves of pleasure through my body.

He let go, reached his arm across to the cup holder by the window and grabbed a small water bottle. The lid made a little peep noise as he cracked the seal and offered it to my lips. I let him pour the sustenance into my mouth. Of course it dribbled cold all down my neck. I pulled away.

“Sorry,” he said.

I wiped the water with the corner of his blue covers.

Andy came to the door. Hottie jumped up and talked to him in hushed tones. He turned to me and said, “I’ll get your mother to sit with you. I’ve got to go.”

“Where? And why are you onboard anyhow?”

“Big Marc Clinger is missing. I am conducting a murder investigation.”

“Big Marc is dead?”

“That’s not what I said. I’m investigating the murder of David Starr, the sailor you turned up on the beach.”

“Why aboard the train? There aren’t any suspects—”

He was gone before I finished. I remembered the planted dog tags. Shazam. The killer is on the train! And messing around with my mom’s yarn. Why is he…or she hiding evidence, or are they planting clues? Does the killer want to be discovered? Is this a murder mystery weekend?

No nothing that fun. Nobody is writing a murder mystery dinner party play. Well, I don’t know. Maybe Contest Carly or Rosemary might be. But if it is Rosemary we would never find out whodunit because she would only write the first act.

I was really tired. And boy did my head ache. Throb, throb throb. I just wanted to take two Extra Strength Tylenol’s, lie back and go to sleep and wake up in DC in time for Tony O’Rourke’s presentation.

I was just about to doze off in Hottie’s comfy covers, which smelled so good like he does, when Mom swooped in.

“Wake up! Wake up! Sandra Marie Faire!” She slapped my cheeks.

I pushed her back. We wrestled until I was sitting up. She placed a cup of tea to my lips. I pulled back. “Too hot!”

“Fine. I’ll put some ice in it.” She ran out into the corridor.

I had looked forward to an inspiring and relaxing excursion. Just my luck.

Mom reappeared with a pewter ice bucket and tongs. She plunked two small cubes in my mug and stirred them with a peppermint stick.

Leave it to Mom to pack peppermint sticks.

“What did you hit your head on this time, Sandra? I think you need glasses. You’re always walking into things.” She placed ice cubes inside a floral napkin and then stuffed it inside a plastic Wal-Mart bag. She twirled it three times tied a butterfly knot and pressed it on my head.

“Oww!” I tried to pull it away. She pressed harder. I squirmed. She won. I held the ice to my head.

I picked the toilet paper off of my leg and handed it to Mom. She huffed, threw it in the little stainless steel trash shoot and washed her hands. She came over and soaped up my hands with a wash cloth, rinsed it out then returned to wipe the soap away. I just rolled my eyes and compiled. Mom gets into these hyper-mommy jags and it’s better not to challenge her.

“What were you doing in the parlor car in the middle of the night? Do they have an internet connection in there? Were you surfing for inappropriate photos of Johnny Depp again? Sandra Marie—”

“I got kicked out of my room.”

“Why? Did you and Dina have a fight over another boy?”

I would always be twelve years old in Mom’s eyes. “No. Dina isn’t my roommate. They decided it would be fun if they paired up the writ—umm—book readers club with the missionaries or crusaders or whoever they are.” That was a close one.

“Why on earth?”

“I have no idea.”

“So who is your roommate then? Where is she?”

“Mary Agnes. She’s in our room with Pastor Donaldson. I was booted out for the night and had to sleep in the parlor car.”

Shoot. Too much info. Now I was going to have to tell her the rest of it.

“Why? What did you do to her?”

“I didn’t do anything to her. Why do you always assume… Mary Agnes is grieving. Her brother died.”

“Oh, how terrible. I’m sorry. Was it expected or sudden?”

I removed the ice pack, inhaled and stuck my tea in the cup holder. I swung my legs over the side of the bunk and propped myself up with Lieutenant Hottie’s two pillows.

She was going to find out so I might as well get the lecture over with. “Her brother is…was the dead guy I found washed up on the beach yesterday morning.”

Mom shuddered. A full body shimmy.

“Mom, are you okay?”

“That is too creepy and coincidental. You discovered his body and she is your roommate that very night. I think something is going on here. Something very fishy. And scary… She fumbled in the rickrack trimmed pocket of her pink chenille bathrobe. Pulling out her cell phone, she flipped it open.

“Who are you calling in the middle of the night?”

“Your father. We’ll just see what’s going on here. I don’t like it one bit.”

No. Not Dad. He would stop the train. No, wait. I already stopped the train. Now Dad would dispatch a local yokel squad car to take us home. I would be grounded for the rest of my life.

Mom huffed and shoved the phone back into her pocket. “No service.” She pulled a ball of mint green yarn and knitting needles from her other pocket and plopped down in the chair. “Put the ice pack back on your head.”

I did.
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