The Mystery on the Train

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The Mystery on the Train Page 4

by Gertrude Chandler Warner

  “But Annie is certain her aunt wouldn’t hire anyone to do anything like that,” Violet said. “I think she knows her aunt well.”

  Henry shook his head. “We still don’t know much.”

  Then Benny yawned and stretched. He said, “I’m sleepy.”

  “We should go back to sleep,” Jessie said. “We don’t want to be tired tomorrow.”

  “Tomorrow we’ll see the Rocky Mountains,” Henry said. Then he added, “Tomorrow we can talk about Annie’s problem at breakfast.”

  “That’s a good idea,” Benny said. “I am a better thinker when I am wide-awake.”

  The Alden children were back in bed and fast asleep in ten minutes.


  Shadowing Vincent

  When the Boxcar Children woke up the train was slowing down and Aunt Jane was knocking on their door. “We’re almost in Denver,” she called. “Time to get up.”

  They were dressed in just a few minutes. “Why don’t we have breakfast in the station,” Henry suggested. He wanted to make sure no one got off the train with Annie’s portfolio.

  Aunt Jane said that would be fine and so the Aldens got off the train and went into the Denver station. They watched the train exits at the same time they bought postcards and ate cinnamon rolls, orange juice, and milk.

  After breakfast, they walked around a little bit. They all agreed it felt funny to be on solid ground again.

  “That’s what sailors used to call getting sea legs,” Henry said. “Even after you get off the train you feel as though you’re still on it. It’s the same on a boat.”

  “See, I told you riding a train is a lot like sailing,” Benny said. “I guess it’s because you need sea legs for both.”

  “Look over there.” Violet pointed to a magazine stand.

  “That’s Mr. Reeves,” Jessie said. “I wonder why he got off the train? I thought he was going to San Francisco.”

  “Maybe he wanted to stretch his legs like us,” Benny said.

  “Maybe,” Jessie said. “But let’s watch him carefully. It’s very odd that he collects movie posters, and Annie’s movie posters were stolen.”

  “No portfolio in sight,” Henry said. “He’s just buying a newspaper.” The children watched as Mr. Reeves put the newspaper under his arm and headed back for the train.

  They hurried to catch up with him. “There you are,” Mr. Reeves said, as though he had been looking for them. “I was wondering what happened to you nice young people and your lovely aunt. Perhaps we can have lunch together? Of course, we can’t all lunch at one table. But we could sit side by side and pass the rolls or something. Right?”

  “That would be nice,” Henry said.

  “Good,” Mr. Reeves said. “How about lunch today? No—I’m busy today. Tomorrow at noon? Is it a date?”

  As Mr. Reeves went on his way, Jessie whispered to Henry, “He sure looks cheerful. Do you think it’s possible . . . ?”

  “I can’t believe he’s a thief,” Benny said. “I like Mr. Reeves.”

  “He was awfully happy. Maybe it’s because he got what he wanted,” Henry said. “Let’s wait as long as we can before we get back on the train and make sure no one comes off carrying a portfolio.”

  Mr. Reeves went back into the train with his newspaper tucked under his arm. The Aldens watched carefully as a few more passengers got off and others got on the train. No one saw anything out of the ordinary.

  Henry said, “I wish we could help Annie find her portfolio.”

  “I just hope we can find Annie,” Violet said softly. “I’d like to talk with her again.”

  “Where do you think she might be?” Jessie asked.

  “Let’s go to our compartment and go over the clues,” Henry said. “Then we can decide what to do.”

  Aunt Jane was surprised when the children said they were going back to their compartment. “I thought you would want to ride in the observation car all day. We could have snacks instead of lunch and then have a really nice dinner to celebrate crossing the Continental Divide.”

  “What’s the Continental Divide?” Benny asked.

  “It’s a high ridge of mountains that divides the United States,” Henry explained. “All the rivers on the east side of the Continental Divide flow into the Mississippi River. All the rivers on the west side of the Continental Divide run into the Colorado River or the Pacific Ocean.”

  “This train is tilting up,” Violet said. “Are we going up the mountains now?”

  “We’re beginning our steep climb,” Aunt Jane said. “It’s very steep for the next two hours. I think you’d see more in the observation car.”

  “We’ll be up there soon,” Henry promised. “We just need to talk something over. You go on up and we’ll meet you.”

  The Alden children went into the girls’ compartment and sat down to think. Henry started the conversation by saying, “I think we need to go over our questions and clues. We can’t help Annie unless we know what is going on.”

  “The man with the beard and sunglasses is a clue,” Benny said promptly.

  “Why do you think that?” Henry asked.

  “I don’t know,” Benny said. “I just have a feeling he’s connected to Annie. Also, who is he? Why was he talking so long to Vincent?”

  “The money Annie’s aunt gave Vincent is a clue,” said Jessie. “It was a lot of money for a tip. Why would her aunt pay Vincent to look after Annie if she was angry?”

  “She was angry,” Violet said. “Do you think she really paid Vincent to steal the posters?”

  “Maybe Vincent is working with the bearded man to steal Annie’s portfolio,” Benny suggested.

  “We don’t really know what was in Annie’s portfolio,” Henry said. “We didn’t see the movie posters. And we do know Annie doesn’t always tell the truth.”

  “I think Annie was telling the truth about the posters,” Violet said quietly.

  “How do you know?” Jessie asked.

  Violet began, “I notice things. When people don’t tell the truth, they don’t like to look at you. Annie looked right at me when she talked about going to live with her uncle and selling her posters.”

  “But she wouldn’t look at me last night, after we helped her look for anyone who was getting off the train with her portfolio,” Henry said. “Plus, she definitely did not want to tell me where her room was. She was hiding something last night.”

  “That’s another clue,” Benny said. Then he asked, “What about Mr. Reeves? Don’t you think it’s strange he’s on the same train as Annie? He collects old movie posters and he says he’s going to San Francisco to buy some. But what if he really planned to steal them from Annie?”

  “Yes, Mr. Reeves is definitely a suspect,” Jessie agreed.

  “So we have Annie, the bearded man with the sunglasses, Vincent, and Mr. Reeves,” Jessie said. “Any one of them could be the thief.”

  “Not Annie,” Violet said. “The posters are hers.”

  “We don’t know that for sure,” Henry reminded his sister. “How do we know they’re really hers? Maybe she stole them from her aunt.”

  Violet frowned because she didn’t like that idea. She said, “Annie is a nice person and I believe she was telling the truth about the posters.”

  “It sounds like we have some good ideas,” Henry said, “but we don’t know where any of these people are. Let’s go up to the observation lounge and see the Rocky Mountains. Sooner or later one of our suspects will show up to see the scenery.”

  “The observation lounge sounds like a good place to start,” Violet said. “I’ll take my sketch pad.”

  The Aldens went up to the observation car where Aunt Jane waited for them. She said, “I’m so happy you’re here. This is the most fabulous scenery I’ve ever seen. But there aren’t any more chairs, I’m afraid.”

  “That’s okay,” Jessie said.

  The children settled down on the floor close to their aunt. They gazed out the window as the train twiste
d through narrow canyons and around the high mountain peaks. They had spectacular views of the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

  Vincent came to the observation lounge and stopped in the entrance. He looked up and down the car and when he saw the Aldens he turned away.

  Henry stood up. “I think I’ll see where he is going. I’ll be back soon.”

  Henry followed Vincent from a distance, making sure that the porter didn’t notice him. He watched as Vincent went up and down the aisles of the coach cars, bringing pillows and blankets to people who wanted them. After about ten minutes, Vincent knocked on the door of a sleeping compartment. The door opened and Vincent went in.

  Henry stood outside the door, trying to hear what Vincent was saying. All he could make out was that the porter was talking to a man. Then the door started to open again. Vincent stepped out into the hallway.

  Henry was bending down, pretending to tie his sneaker. He heard Vincent say, “Then it’s settled. You’ll be leaving the train at Salt Lake City?”

  “It’s settled,” the man said in a gruff voice.

  Henry followed Vincent into the kitchen where he saw the porter sit down at a table. He had a cup of coffee and a newspaper in front of him.

  Henry went back and knocked on the door of the sleeping compartment, where he had seen Vincent before. The door opened a bit and someone said, “Yes?”

  “Is Billy there?” Henry asked, making up a name. The door was open just a crack and Henry could see only a part of the man’s face, but he recognized the sunglasses and beard.

  “No. I don’t know any Billy.” The man shut the door in Henry’s face.

  Henry went quickly back to the observation lounge and sat down on the floor beside the others. Violet looked up from her sketching and asked Henry, “Any news?”

  “I followed Vincent and he talked to the bearded man. He’s getting off at Salt Lake City tonight.”

  “I really wish we could find Annie’s room,” Violet said. “I’m worried about her.”

  Aunt Jane left her card game and came over to the children. She said, “Good, you are all here. We are going through Moffat Tunnel now. This is the way we cross the Continental Divide.”

  The tunnel seemed very long and the children were glad they were all together. The train wasn’t dark but it was very dark outside. Most of the people in the observation lounge sat quietly and looked out at the black walls of the tunnel without saying anything.

  When they came out into the daylight, Violet looked up and smiled. “There’s Annie,” she said. She called over to Annie and said, “Come join us.”

  Annie waved to Violet and started toward them. She was limping and as she sat down on the floor beside Henry, she winced with pain. She bent over to stroke her ankle and said, “It’s good to see you all. I didn’t thank you for helping me last night.”

  “Why are you limping?” Violet asked.

  “I sprained my ankle this morning,” Annie said. “I thought I saw someone with a package that looked like my portfolio leaving the train in Denver and I jumped off to try and catch up with him. I fell and sprained my ankle.”

  “Did you catch the person?” Violet asked.

  “No.” Annie frowned. Then she said, “It will be all right, though. I’m not worried about the portfolio anymore because the insurance company will cover the loss.”

  “We watched people get off in Denver,” Henry said. “It’s funny we didn’t see you fall.”

  Annie ignored Henry’s comment and asked, “Isn’t this a fabulous trip?”

  “I wish I had seen your posters,” Benny said. “I’d like to see movie posters which are worth so much money.”

  Annie said, “The posters are gone—that’s all there is to it. So let’s not talk about sad things. I think we’re about to go down the mountain.”

  Annie sat with them for a little while. Her ankle obviously hurt her a lot but she said she was all right. “The conductor helped me bandage my ankle,” she said. “I’ll be all right.”

  Annie watched Violet sketch interesting people in the observation lounge. About five o’clock, the bearded man with the sunglasses came in for a drink and Violet made a quick sketch of him while he stood at the drinks counter. He took his drink with him and left the car quickly.

  Violet showed the sketch to Annie and asked, “Doesn’t he have unusual ears? They are flat on the side but a little pointed on top.”

  “Yes, his ears are certainly different.” Annie studied it carefully and said, “You know, there’s something familiar about that man.”

  “Do you know him?” Henry asked.

  Annie looked carefully at the sketch and shook her head. “No. I’ve never seen him before in my life.”

  “Are you sure?” Henry asked.

  Annie looked at him with a steady gaze. “I’ve never seen him before in my life,” she repeated quietly. “Why do you ask?”

  Henry answered, “Annie, we want to be your friends but we aren’t certain you’ve told us everything.”

  “Of course I have,” Annie answered quickly. But this time she flushed and looked away.


  Good Friends

  Aunt Jane suggested that Annie join them for dinner that night. “That way we can split up without having one person sit alone,” she said. “We’d love to have you.”

  “Oh, do,” Violet urged. “We can sit together.”

  Annie smiled at Violet and said, “I’d love to. I’ll meet you at six but I think I should go back to my room now.”

  The Aldens were waiting when Annie limped into the dining room at quarter past six. She was still wearing the same jeans and sweater and her face looked flushed. She said, “I fell asleep. I’m sorry.”

  “That’s all right,” Aunt Jane said. “I’m sure you’re in a lot of pain.”

  They found three tables with two people and so they split into three groups. Benny and Henry joined one table, and Jessie and Aunt Jane joined the second. Violet and Annie sat together at the third table.

  Violet was pleased to have a chance to talk with her new friend. They talked most of the time about sketching but Violet learned quite a bit more about her. By the time dinner was finished, Violet learned that Annie was eighteen years old and an only child. She also learned that seven was her lucky number. Annie said, “I was really happy when I saw my room number—seven hundred seventy-seven. I thought maybe it would bring me some luck—I guess it didn’t.”

  “Five is my lucky number,” Violet said. “I’m glad you can remember your room number now.”

  Annie looked away and quickly changed the subject. “Purple is my favorite color.”

  “That’s my favorite color, too,” Violet said.

  “I noticed,” Annie said. “Do you wear only purple clothes?”

  “I have some others,” Violet said, “but I thought it would be easier for this trip if they were all one color. That left more room for my art supplies.”

  The waiter brought the bill and Annie said, “Oh, dear, I left my purse in my room. Will you wait here for me? I’ll go get it and be right back.”

  “Did you lock yourself out? Are your keys in your purse?” Violet asked.

  Annie frowned. “I must have left my door unlocked. I was so sleepy and my ankle hurts so much that I’m not thinking very well.”

  Violet stood up. “I’ll go get your purse. I can tell your ankle still hurts a lot.”

  “No, don’t!” Annie called.

  But Violet was already on her way.

  Violet found Room 777 easily. It was on the second floor of the sleeping car behind the dining car. She peeked in the room and saw Annie’s purse on the sofa. And there on the chair was Annie’s large, black portfolio.

  Violet picked up the purse and closed the door carefully. She was back in the dining room in just a few seconds. Annie was waiting for her.

  “Annie, when I was in your room, I saw . . . ”

  “I know,” Annie said. “You saw the portfolio.”
/>   “Why did you lie?” Violet asked quietly.

  Annie leaned over and touched Violet’s arm. “Oh, please let me explain.” She looked over at Jessie, Henry, and Benny and said, “I’d like them to hear, too.”

  The other Aldens joined their table and Annie began to talk.

  “In a way,” Annie said, “I was angry because my aunt wanted me to give her half the money for the poster sale. She doesn’t need the money and I do, so I thought I’d say they were stolen. Then, when it was safe, I’d sell the poster collection and keep all the money. I thought if I asked you to help me I would have witnesses to prove they were stolen.”

  “So no one was after the posters at all?” Jessie said.

  “No. I made it all up.” As she talked, tears streamed down her face.

  “What?” said Henry. “But you woke us up in the night and told us it was stolen!”

  Then Annie said, “I know, I’m very sorry. I’m glad you know the truth. Now I can’t go through with my plan and I won’t have to feel so guilty. You have all been so nice to me and I haven’t been honest with you. I’m so sorry.”

  “We knew you weren’t telling the whole truth,” Violet said. “You’re not very good at making up stories.”

  “I know.” Annie choked back her tears and smiled. “I blush and I get mixed up. You see, I don’t usually lie about things. I really am an honest person. Or at least, I used to be . . . ” She began to cry again.

  Jessie handed her a Kleenex and Annie blew her nose. Then she said, “I’m really glad you found out. Now I’m glad, too, that I can’t go through with the scheme. My aunt always loved me and took care of me as best she could.”

  Annie began to cry again. “When we quarreled she fell down. I don’t even know if she’s hurt. I just ran away.”

  “She’s all right,” Henry said. “I helped her up. How did you hurt your ankle?”

  “I sprained it trying to hide the portfolio on the top bunk. I thought I could do it but I couldn’t. And then I fell down.” Then Annie said, “I’m so sorry.”

  Then Violet said to her brother, “We should help Annie to her room. Her ankle hurts a lot and she’s very tired.”


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