“BOARD! ALL ABOARD!”
The woman had been talking forever.
Carrie looked at her watch and discovered “forever” was only about fifteen minutes, but in that time she’d heard more about the woman and her husband than any stranger ought to know. She also knew the couple had come to Arkansas on vacation mainly to ride the historic excursion train from Springdale to Van Buren. “We collect rides on real trains,” the woman explained.
“Umhmm,” Carrie said. She was alone in her boredom. Henry had deserted her several minutes earlier, saying he wanted to watch the train’s engineer line up the cars to be used today. Claude, the woman’s husband, had left long ago to do the same thing.
The woman took a breath and said, “Well, now. How about you? Are you and your husband retired? You look old enough to be retired. Claude and I are way too young to retire, but we’ll probably be unlocking the door of our business as long as we can toddle there. So, what did you retire from?”
Carrie, suddenly feeling very wicked, said, “Oh, we’re not retired. We’re private detectives.”
“My, how, uh, very unique. I guess you chase after people who owe money, spy on wayward husbands, stuff like that. I know if Claude ever—”
“No,” Carrie interrupted, “We chase after murderers.” Then she walked away, hoping Henry never found out what she’d just said.
“Board! All aboard!” the conductor said.
When their turn to board came, Henry climbed up first and extended a hand down to her. The conductor hovered, waiting to give a judicious boost if such were required. “Golly these steps are high,” Carrie said. “They’re like I remember from when I rode the train home for college vacations all those years ago. You’d think by now....” She grasped Henry’s hand and swung up. The momentum rocketed her against him with a whump, and his free arm went around her.
“Well, my dear, I think the reason these steps are as high as you remember is because this railway coach was built in the 1920’s, quite a few years before you went to college.”
“Oh, well, um, yes. For goodness’ sake, let’s move on. People are waiting in line.”
He released her and they went through the vestibule into the coach. “Where do you want to sit?” he asked.
“Near the back. We’ll have more window space in front of us.”
“Good. You take the window seat. I can see over your head.”
Carrie dropped onto a green velvet double seat three rows from the back of the coach, then put her tote bag on the floor under her seat so Henry would have plenty of room.
After a moment of silence she looked up at him. “My love, this is a great anniversary present. I’ve wanted to take this day-trip to Van Buren for ages, but never got around to it. I do feel a bit guilty though, since Eleanor, Jason, Shirley, and Roger have talked about wanting to make the trip too. Maybe we should have done it together.”
“Nope,” Henry said, “we’re celebrating eight months of marriage on our own. Besides, the anniversary train ride was Eleanor’s idea in the first place.”
Carrie grinned, said, “I must thank her,” and then turned to look out the window. “I wonder how long before we leave.”
“Don’t know. The flyer said departure was eight o’clock, but there are still quite a few people out there waiting to board.”
“Henry, look, look!” Her finger jabbed the window.” Isn’t that Chuck Dovish, the guy we watch on TV?”
“You know, the one who does the ‘Exploring Arkansas’ program on Public Television. That’s gotta be him, black hair, mustache, and all. See? Over there, standing on the platform, talking to a man with a video camera.” She bounced in her seat. “Henry, I think we’re going to be on TV.”