A shard of lightning flashed into the canyon access to the valley, striking the bridge and sending a shock wave along the track into the wheels of the train. A rippling sensation ran rampant through the cars until it reached the engine.
The Conductor strode purposefully through the cars. “Valley Of Dreams. We have arrived at The Valley Of Dreams. Coaches are waiting to drive you to The Valley Resort Hotel. Your luggage will be sent on to your rooms once you have registered.”
Sarah Weshlyn descended the steps to the terminal platform. Her husband Johnny was following but was feeling a little displaced.
“I didn’t think it would be like this. I thought it would be remote, wild and rustic.”
Sarah smiled. “Something really odd has happened Johnny. It seems right but I don’t remember booking a room or having to bring along luggage. And nothing in the brochure said anything about a resort hotel or a station. And look. There is even a village, archaic, maybe even Victorian.”
Johnny replied, “Yah. Maybe you were right. Maybe there is something weird about the conductor.”
Jake Taggart climbed into the carriage, an ornate medieval thing drawn by two golden draft horses decked out in leather and brass trappings. He shook his head in wonder as he looked around, letting his eyes and mind marvel at the old English style village too much like what he had seen in a period film about peerage and the life styles of the privileged and their servants.
Something itched in his mind, something he should remember but as the carriage pulled away from the station he couldn’t recall what it was and felt pleased about it because ‘It’ was something dark and miserable.
His co-passengers, people he had not recalled seeing on the train were looking about with the same gaze in their eyes he figured he had, one of amazement.
They were just pulling into a lane in the street when the whistle blew and the train began pulling out, chugging like and old iron horse, a cloud of black/grey smoke rupturing skyward.
It felt right, but at the same time it felt out of place. Jack tried desperately to remember why he had decided to embark on such an odd adventure.
One of the other passengers, an older woman, said wistfully, “It feels just the way it should feel but not like I imagined.”
“What do you mean?” Jake enquired curiously.
“Oh well, I am not sure but just a while ago something odd happened, but I am not sure what it was. My memory you know. I am old and the mind has a way of forgetting things.”
Samantha Bleck stepped off the train smiling. She felt like she had been to the Valley before, a long time ago and everything she saw fit in perfectly. “I wonder if it will happen the way I remember it. The murder on the train was spectacular and the detective was…well is amazing. I wonder if he will solve the case…the murder…it’s all so…novelishly exciting.
“Ms. Bleck. I believe this is yours and you have left it behind,” said the conductor. Then he touched Samantha’s forehead, just where there would be a third eye if she had one. “The key is within you.” He said ominously then quickly turned away and went back into the train car. And just then the whistle blew and the train chugged away.
Samantha looked around smiling. “Of course. How silly of me.” She whispered playfully. “But I never expected it would happen like this.”
Two men in black tuxes and top hats loaded the body into a hearse. Then they climbed into the drivers bench and urged the team of black horses on.
“It’s all very strange Ms. Bleck.” A soft but alarming voice crept up from behind her. She turned abruptly and saw Detective Sam Wakes approaching.”
“What is strange Detective.”
“That someone would actually commit a murder on a train heading essentially nowhere where the killer could escape.” Wakes replied.
“Well detective, people do the oddest things for even odder reasons and it is up to cops like you to unravel the mystery, a Gordian knot sort of mystery I think this will be.”
“It’s more than that. I feel like I am not really doing this. I feel like I am following a path already laid out for me.”
“Don’t be silly. We all follow a path and it seems this wonderful train has brought us all together in a mystery within a mystery with a sixty nine subplots mixed into the quagmire and maybe you and I are here to solve it, together.”
“That’s a pretty stretchy reach Ms. Bleck.”
“By the way detective, how do you know my name?”
“When the murder happened I instructed the Conductor to give me a list of passenger names.”
“And that fellow Lassiter Leeks. Do you think he committed the murder? I know you were shadowing him.”
“Funny thing about that. I didn’t see him get off the train. But how did you know I was following him?”
Samantha ignored the last part. She countered quickly, “Then he gave you the slip. Maybe he murdered that poor fellow they just took away in the hearse to divert your attention.
“You should be a mystery writer, Ms. Bleck.”
“I have thought about it but my reality just keeps me too busy to settle down to writing fiction.”
“And what might your reality be?” Detective Wake asked interrogatively.
Wakes laughed out loud and replied, “And here I thought the grim reaper was a man.”
Something cold washed over them and Wakes shivered. Samantha grinned viciously as she said, “The reaper has nothing on me Sam Wakes and by the time all this…well…I shouldn’t say more. It will play out the way it will play out, part by design, part by chance and part by random interjection no one can understand.”
“Yah well, I guess for now my only concern is the dead guy,” Detective Wakes replied then turned and moved away to follow the hearse which was moving slow. He had caught up to it by the time Samantha Bleck had climbed into a carriage.
“What a splendid day it is.” She greeted her co-passengers cheerfully, but it was wasted. They all seemed lost.
Samantha lifted the first leaf of the ream of paper the conductor had returned to her. She smiled as she remembered. “Ah. How could I have possibly forgotten that?” she uttered amusedly. The other passengers looked at her and one said, “Forgotten what?”
“You’ll see. Eventually.”
More about Donald H Roberts
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BEGINNING All Aboard 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 …
The Conductor strode easily up and down the aisle of the train moving from car to car assisting where needed and admonishing where necessary. Mostly he simply observed, but his attention had a shadow to it masked with a sly grin.
Samantha Bleck watched the world chug by slowly. She was lost in a dream that fit nicely into the scenery just past the window. The book in her hands was her own, a murder mystery she had written that somehow fit perfectly into this strange journey to nowhere. It was like her imagination was coming true and as if somewhere aboard the train was a killer ready to play out the scene she had written in chapter three. She wondered if her book could have been a premonition, but how could that be since she had decided to take the tour on a whim.