The Train into the Valley of Madness
By Donald H. Roberts, The Barrie Island Story Teller
The ancient steam locomotive chugged into the station. The seven passenger cars emitted dozens of chattering, cheerful, grumpy, and noisy passengers with a hundred different versions of their experience aboard the Valley Of Dreams tour train. When the platform cleared the five passenger cars were removed and next group climbed into the remaining two passenger cars. A typical manifest for the final tour of the season.
The Ticket agent came out and told the conductor, “Small manifest this time round. Only 69.”
The conductor grinned and replied, “And half of them have a snout full already. It’s going to be a noisy ride.” Then he called out authoritatively, “All aboard for the Valley Of Dreams…All aboard.”
Trevor Morris groaned as he and Anna boarded the Valley Of Dreams train tour, “I really hope this isn’t a waste of time and money. You know how things like this turn out. Mostly a big disappointment, all hype, no action.”
Anna frown and replied, “Oh dear. How could I have managed to marry such a negative old sod? Be happy Trevor. It’s our Honeymoon.”
Trevor snickered playfully, “Oh. Well yes of course. Well, at least we had a good dinner at the restaurant and it was fun touring around the Soo. Maybe this tourist trap will prove fun too.”
Anna said with a laugh, “Better dear. Better, but a smile would help a lot.
Jake Taggart eyed the tour train critically. Its nostalgic appearance was intriguing, but he was most impressed with the way the engineers had interwoven modern technology into the nostalgic shell of the 19th century. But the fact that there was only a passenger, dining, and observation car concerned him. How was he going to pull off his disappearing act with so few passengers to cover up the fact that he wouldn’t be aboard for the return trip. Of course, maybe it wouldn’t really matter. As long as he kept to himself the tourists would be too busy ogling the natural beauty of the Valley Of Dreams.
A party of six, already feeling light hearted and a little light headed filed noisily into the main passenger car. Alexander, the conductor, urged them to contain their enthusiasm and for a few seconds they were orderly.
John Weshlyn grinned at the conductor and then said in a clear voice, though not loud, “We paid our fare and we’ll have our fun.” He made it appear that he was talking to his friends but it was obvious the statement was directed at the conductor.
Sarah Weshlyn sneered at him and said, “Don’t be snide Johnny. We aren’t the only people on this tour.”
“Yah I see that but we’re the only ones with any life left.” Her husband shot back and pushed his way through the door.
“You have had some pretty dumb ideas Maddy, but this one takes the cake. Using a tour train as a get-away vehicle.”
“Sherry. Are you kidding? It’s brilliant. We took those guys for three hundred grand. They’ll be looking for us everywhere except on a tour train that doesn’t go anywhere. Nobody in their right mind would think of it. But I did and I did it smart. I left a trail to the airport. I told the guy at the hotel desk that we were flying east to back home. By the time we get back to the station no one’ll be looking for us. All we have to do is go to the parking lot where I parked the car and we drive off into the sunset.”
“Well Maddy, maybe but it sounds crazy to me. If they track us down they’ll…”
“Yah, crazy enough to work.”
Lassiter Leeks was running for his life. He would escape or die trying but he was never going to jail. Not again.
Sam Wakes pushed his phone into the shoulder holster he had made so he wouldn’t keep losing the thing, pleased that he had trained himself never to just put the phone down where ever he happened to be. It got expensive after the third one. He wondered how a guy like him who could solve the most twisted murder cases could possibly be so absent minded about a phone.
“He just got it holstered when it buzzed. He pulled it out and checked the text. “Got’ m boss. He’s on the tour train. It looks like he is ready to bale once they reach the Valley.”
Sam texted back, “Get two tickets. I’ll meet you there, and don’t use your badge.”
“Got it Boss. It leaves in an hour.”
“Ok Leeks. What are you up to?”
The whistle blew. The train lurched then the chug of the engine rumbled. Amy Luff watched as the cityscape changed to the suburban sprawl then on through the farm country. These pictures she locked in her mind, the images she wanted to keep forever. But she wished she was sharing them, the way it was supposed to have happened. They were supposed to be on a second honeymoon, year 25. Instead Allan was in her shoulder bag, in an urn on his way to the place he loved most in all the world. Secretly Amy would leave his ashes there, urn and all, hidden away where they would rest for ever.
But this noise. Can’t people just sit and watch. They aren’t even looking out the window. They’re just talking and laughing and…drinking. Don’t they know drinking can kill then, just like it killed my Allan? That drunk. Allan. She started to cry.
Alexander strolled up and down between the seats. He was smiling but he was thinking too, “This is going to be a noisy run. He said out loud, “The bar, observation and dining cars are open.”
“Ok gang. Lets head for the bar car. We can wait there until we reach the trestle then go up to observation deck.” Randy who was the loudest of the party of six bellowed.
It was a gray, stormy morning as the Valley Of Dreams tour train pulled out of the station. Rain beat upon the passenger car windows. A sense of foreboding clung about the train like mist, but no one noticed, not until it was too late. But who would notice, who could know that the tracks ahead were leading the last tour of the season into intrigue. Who could understand that the whistle of the train was bidding the world goodbye?
Episode One: Into the Mist. Coming next issue.