* * *
In the parlor in the second coach, a slightly plump woman in nice clothing entered and sat down. She lit a cigarette and looked out the window. Agent Sanderson noticed that every once in a while, she took a little flask out of her jacket and took a sip. He finished the game of Parcheesi, winning it easily. Father Delarove congratulated him with a â€œMasterfully done!â€ He said heâ€™d like to play more games with the man and was ready to play right at that moment but he deferred.
Agent Sanderson approached the woman, who was smoking a cigarette and reading a Time Magazine.
â€œHow are you this evening, madam?â€ he said.
â€œOh hello,â€ the woman replied in a very deep voice.
She stared at the man fixedly.
â€œEleanor Brown,â€ she said finally.
â€œAgent Sanderson,â€ he replied.
They shook hands.
â€œDo you have a first name, Agent Sanderson?â€ she asked.
â€œRamsey,â€ he said.
â€œOh, hello, Ramsey, nice to meet you. Oh please, have a seat.â€
â€œCigarette?â€ she said, offering him one from an inexpensive cigarette case.
â€œSure,â€ he said.
He took one.
â€œHere you are,â€ she said. â€œLight?â€
She lit his cigarette with her lighter and tucked it back into her purse.
â€œTell me about yourself,â€ she said.
Agent Sanderson told her he was on a spooky Louisiana trip to the bayou.
â€œOooo!â€ she said with a smile. â€œIt sounds exciting. Iâ€™m just going to see my sister in New Orleans. I very much enjoy train rides. Theyâ€™re so soothing, donâ€™t you think? Relaxing. Like, in the whole world, nothing could ever go wrong on a train, I would think.â€
She blew smoke out of her mouth and smiled at him.
He told her a little about himself and his work in Providence.
â€œWhat room are you in?â€ he asked.
â€œOh, Ramsey,â€ she said with a smile. â€œWell, Iâ€™m in the other car, up in the front. Itâ€™s the third one up on the left coming from this side. Would you like to have dinner together?â€
The two sat close and chatted affectionately until dinner. He learned she was 33 years old.
* * *
Dinner was served at 5 p.m. in the dining car. There were five large tables on one side of the car and five small, more intimate tables for two on the other side.
Sitting at a smaller table in the back of the car, nearest the kitchen, was a very attractive, suave, and sophisticated gentleman with black hair, strong blue eyes, and somewhat of a regal bearing. He shared the table with an attractive young brunette lady in her 20s with green eyes and a wonderful smile. Another face no one had seen yet was a quiet gentleman in his mid-30s with a well groomed, brown beard and mustache in a casual suit of good make. He seemed to constantly wipe dust or dirt from his suit.
They met Randolph Jefferson, the negro cook, who worked in the dining car and watched all the white people nervously. He and Clarence Marlin, the porter, served the meals with the conductor, Wilfred Cosley, coming in occasionally to help out. They had noticed the latter often pursed his lips and fiddled with his glasses.
All the rest of the passengers were there as well. Brubeck and the girls with him sat at one of the larger tables, right behind Johnson at his table near the front. Brubeck kept his cigar burning through the entire meal. He told terrible jokes, laughing loudly at them himself. The girls seemed to hesitate before laughing at the terrible, unfunny jokes, as if waiting for a cue to do so.
Professor and Mrs. Leighman sat at one of the smaller, intimate tables as well. â€œSerious Samâ€ sat at one of the larger tables by himself. McCree was a little suspicious of the man. DeLuve sat at one of the smaller tables near the finely dressed people at the far end. Father Delarove ate his supper alone, looking out of the windows at the darkening landscapes.
Sanderson and Miss Brown had gotten the last small table and she ordered seltzer water and ice, noting he could do the same. She showed him her little flask and raised her eyebrows.
â€œItâ€™s medicinal, of course,â€ she whispered to him.
When her water came she poured a little in and lit a cigarette before dinner.
DeLuve was trying to listen to the conversation at the end table. It was mostly small talk with the girl wondering how much longer the train ride would be and the man reassuring her. He looked a good deal older than she. Though they made no mention of money or valuables, DeLuve realized both of them were wearing very expensive clothing.
McCree also lit and smoked a cigar after he ate a little dinner.
â€œJoell,â€ McCree said after heâ€™d eaten.
â€œYes McCree?â€ Johnson replied.
â€œDo you have any idea whatâ€™s so funny at that next table?â€
â€œOh, itâ€™s â€¦ his own ego.â€
â€œI think thatâ€™s the best joke thatâ€™s been told all night.â€
Nearby, Agent Sanderson and Miss Brown were having cute small talk and leaning close over the table. A few times, Miss Brown touched his hand with hers. He noticed she stared a lot, sometimes at him, sometimes out the window. She would look at something very intently.
After most of them had eaten but before anyone left the car, another man came from the back of the dining car. He wore a shabby top hat but fine clothing. A black patch covered his left eye and he carried an old baseball bat like a cane. A wilted carnation was in the button of his very fine suit, though he looked a little dirty. He had a mustache and a goatee.
As the man took his seat at the large table in the back of the car, DeLuve went to the porter.
â€œYes sir?â€ the porter said.
DeLuve pointed at the man in the top hat.
â€œYes sir?â€ the porter said again.
â€œYou see that guy over there?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWell, I donâ€™t recognize him.â€
â€œWith the baseball bat?â€
â€œNo sir, but â€¦ is that a baseball bat? Isnâ€™t that his cane?â€
â€œThatâ€™s a baseball bat.â€
â€œOh, it is a baseball bat. Well, let me talk to him. Iâ€™m sorry, sir. Iâ€™ll talk to him.â€
The porter went over to the man and DeLuve went to the front of the car and sat with Johnson and McCree. He pointed out the man to the two. McCree realized the man was wearing his best formal-dress suit or an identical one to the one heâ€™d packed.
â€œGentlemen, yâ€™all may want to get somewhere safe,â€ McCree said.
â€œIs that my baseball bat?â€ Johnson said just as a cloud of cigar smoke was blown into his face.
He didnâ€™t think it looked like his bat as it looked old and shabby and grimy. It looked like itâ€™d seen a lot of use.
McCree got up and went to Agent Sandersonâ€™s table as the porter came up to the front of the car.
â€œMr. DeLuve?â€ the porter said to the man. â€œHe says heâ€™s Mr. Nickerbocker?â€
DeLuve stared at the man for a moment.
â€œAnd?â€ he said.
â€œHeâ€™s a passenger, sir,â€ the porter said. â€œThatâ€™s his cane, he says. He seems eccentric.â€
â€œOh, yessir. Thatâ€™s a terrible hat.â€
Mr. Nickerbocker had sat down at the table, facing the rest of the car, had tied his napkin around his neck like a bib in the height of hobo fashion, and sat with knife and fork at ready while the cook brought him a steaming steak. The man was all smiles as he dug into his meal.
Agent Sanderson and Miss Brown were sitting close at the table when McCree approached.
â€œWhy Sanderson,â€ McCree said. â€œCould I speak with you for a moment?â€
â€œOh, Ramsey, whoâ€™s your friend?â€ Miss Brown said.
â€œHi,â€ McCree said.
â€œGriffin McCree,â€ Sanderson said. â€œEleanor Brown.â€
â€œGriffin, how nice to meet you,â€ she said.
She shook his hand. She had a very, very firm handshake.
â€œA pleasure to meet you,â€ McCree said.
â€œGriffin,â€ she said. â€œOh yes. Thatâ€™s a mythological beast.â€
She smiled at Agent Sanderson and the two men looked at her.
â€œIt is!â€ McCree finally replied.
â€œWell, let me â€¦ see what McCree is asking from me,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œDonâ€™t be long, Ramsey,â€ Miss Brown said.
He smiled at the woman and went with McCree to a small room in the front of the car.
â€œMake it quick!â€ Agent Sanderson said to McCree.
â€œDid you, by chance, see that fellow with the eye patch?â€ McCree asked.
Agent Sanderson shook his head.
â€œThat â€¦ uh â€¦ dirty gentleman with the eye patch seems to have possibly gotten into our luggage in the back,â€ McCree said.
â€œHave you checked your luggage?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œUh â€¦ thatâ€™s why I got you first. Because thereâ€™s some â€¦ equipment back there that would be bad if it got into the wrong hands.â€
Agent Sanderson sighed.
â€œIf you donâ€™t mind waiting for one moment, Iâ€™ve got something in my cabin I can grab,â€ McCree said.
â€œIâ€™m going to tell you what youâ€™re going to do,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œYouâ€™re going to go to your room, check your luggage. If it seems in disarray, tell me.â€
â€œOh no. I meant the luggage in the baggage car.â€
â€œWhat I was getting to is Iâ€™m worried of my protection, as of late, with attempts on my life. So â€¦ Iâ€™d like to get my â€¦ protection and â€¦ then we can go check out the luggage in the back â€¦ just in case we run into any nasty surprises. There are some large-caliber weapons back there.â€
â€œI have a weapon on my person. I cannot allow you to bring more weapons forward for anybody to see or know about and just bring them to the public. So â€¦â€
â€œI do not plan on letting anybody see anything.â€
â€œWeâ€™re not going to get guns involved; just go check your stuff first. Iâ€™ll accompany you.â€
* * *
In the dining car, Johnson finished his meal, stood up, and turned around.
â€œYou ever hear the one about the Hollywood agent and the two women?â€ he said to Brubeck.
â€œNo, I havenâ€™t,â€ Brubeck said. â€œIs it a good one?â€
â€œOh, it is.â€
â€œWell sit down there Mr. â€¦ I didnâ€™t catch your name.â€
â€œIâ€™m Joell by the way.â€
â€œJoell, thatâ€™s right. Joell. Sit down. Join us.â€
â€œThat wonâ€™t be necessary.â€
â€œAw. Girls, give him a hug. Look how cute he is. I bet you could make it in pictures. With your looks? Yeah, I bet you could.â€
â€œI have no interest, sir. Anyway, the joke goes: once upon a time there was a Hollywood agent and two fine looking women.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a terrible way to start a joke, isnâ€™t it girls? Go ahead.â€
â€œHe swindled them out of all their money and left â€˜em!â€
Johnson burst into loud, obnoxious laughter and then turned and walked away, heading back for his cabin.
â€œI donâ€™t get it,â€ Miss Clarke said.
â€œI do,â€ Miss DeMillings said. â€œItâ€™s so funny.â€
She laughed, having not gotten it either, obviously.
DeLuve saw Brubeck take a long puff on his cigar.
â€œHeâ€™d never make it show biz,â€ Brubeck said.
DeLuve saw Mr. Nickerbocker finish his steak. With a great flourish, he put his knife and fork on the plate very politely. He took off his makeshift bib and put it on the table, knocking over the salt shaker. For a moment, the man looked terrified, quickly throwing some salt over his left shoulder. Then he picked up his plate, even as the porter walked towards his table. He waved off the porter and handed off the plate to the cook himself, shaking the negroâ€™s hand and apparently complimenting him on the meal. He turned to the porter, who was coming back with plates and took them from the young man, handing them off to the cook, and then shaking the porterâ€™s hand with a grand smile. It sounded like the man had a British accident.
During all this, the two rich people DeLuve had been interested in took their leave.
Mr. Nickerbocker headed forward in the dining car after that.
* * *
Johnson entered the small compartment where Agent Sanderson and McCree were talking. Agent Sanderson had finally made a decision and he led McCree into the dining car, nearly running into Mr. Nickerbocker along the way.
â€œOh!â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said.
He had a distinctly British upper-class accent.
â€œGood day, gentlemen,â€ he said. â€œGood day. Catching a bit of fresh air out there? Nigel Nickerbocker!â€
â€œGriffin McCree,â€ McCree said, shaking his hand.
Mr. Nickerbocker introduced himself to Agent Sanderson as well and then left the dining car. The two men headed for the back of the dining car, McCree stopping when he reached DeLuve.
â€œMr. DeLuve, would you mind finding which room â€¦ fancy-pants stays in?â€ McCree said to him.
â€œI would love to,â€ DeLuve said.
He was thinking about the rich couple he had been eavesdropping on earlier. He got up from the table and left.
Agent Sanderson and McCree talked to Clarence Marlin, the porter about entering the baggage car. He told them only staff and personnel was back there. Agent Sanderson flashed his badge, which seemed to make the man nervous.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, sir, Iâ€™m sorry,â€ he said. â€œI really should check with the conductor first. Can I check with the conductor, sir? Please?â€
Agent Sanderson told the man he wanted back there right then. Marlin led the two men along a passageway that obviously went by the dining car kitchen. That led them to a door out onto a small balcony on the back of the car where the baggage car waited. They saw another door leading back into the dining car, probably to the kitchen.
The baggage car had a single sliding door on the end and they entered to find the car lit by only a few low-burning oil lamps, swaying and swinging from their hooks and casting maniacal, twisting shadows over the piles of baggage. As soon as they entered the cold car, a dog started barking from somewhere.
They searched for McCreeâ€™s luggage. The porter helped as best he could.
* * *
Johnson had quickly made his way to his room after leaving the dining car. He found everything he had brought was there, including his baseball bat.
* * *
DeLuve had rushed to follow the rich-looking couple, thinking that was who McCree wanted to see. He saw them as they left the passageway ahead and made their way to the front passenger coach. He picked up his pace to try to catch up with them and heard a whoosh of air as the door opened. He crossed to the front car and spotted them entering the cabin nearest the parlor on that carriage.
He went to the second cabin and knocked. The door was answered by Mr. Nickerbocker who greeted him with a smile.
â€œOh my!â€ the man said. â€œYes sir! How nice to meet you.â€
â€œHowdy, Mr. Nickerbocker,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œNice to meet you. Could I help you sir?â€
â€œI just wantedâ”€â€
â€œWonâ€™t you come in for a drink? Come in!â€
â€œI just wanted to apologize for reporting you earlier.â€
â€œOh. Oh. Oh. Oh, it was you!â€
â€œI was a little concerned about the bat at first.â€
â€œCome in! Come in! Oh, I lost my cane. You know how these things go. Come on in!â€
DeLuve entered the stateroom and Mr. Nickerbocker closed the door behind him. A bottle wrapped in a paper bag was sitting on the windowsill between the two settees. The sad, little top hat sat on one of the seats. DeLuve noticed there was no luggage in the room.
â€œI donâ€™t have glasses, sir,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œBut Iâ€™ve never been one to stand on formality, you see. Iâ€™ve never been one to stand on formality.â€
He picked up the bottle and handed it to DeLuve.
â€œWould you like a snort?â€ he said.
â€œA snort?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œWhy, yes sir. As Iâ€™ve said, I donâ€™t stand on formality. I donâ€™t â€¦â€
He looked out the window.
â€œI donâ€™t stand on formality,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œNot for anyone. Actually, I didnâ€™t catch your name, sir.â€
â€œDeLuve,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œDeLuve? Excellent. First name?â€
â€œMr. Spencer DeLuve. Itâ€™s quite grand to meet you. Iâ€™m traveling in luxury this time. Itâ€™s quite a nice change. I love this suit. Itâ€™s quite beautiful.â€
â€œIt looks good on you.â€
â€œOh thank you! It doesnâ€™t quite fit but, you must understand, sometimes when you get things second hand and youâ€™re in the mood because you want to help the working man in a small shop, then they donâ€™t always fit very â€¦ very â€¦ what do you do, Mr. DeLuve?â€
DeLuve sniffed at the bottle. It smelled like very strong and very cheap corn whiskey. He handed it back to Mr. Nickerbocker. The other man took a tiny swig of it and then breathed out heavily, filling the cabin with the smell of cheap whiskey.
â€œThatâ€™s bracing!â€ he said.
He corked the bottle back up.
â€œAs you wish,â€ he said. â€œYou may indulge any time if you see fit, sir. I just had the most wonderful meal and Iâ€™m about to sleep in the softest, most comfortable bed Iâ€™ve had in the last six months Iâ€™m sure. Ah. Pure heaven.â€
The man smiled at DeLuve.
â€œIâ€™ve not met many people on the train yet,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve been indisposed here in my cabin.â€
He looked out the window and then took his jacket off. DeLuve also looked out the window. The two men chatted and had a nice conversation.
â€œWhat brings you to Louisiana?â€ DeLuve asked.
â€œWherever the rail takes me,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œI am a wayward traveler who has â€¦ who has lost his interest in the finer things in life. I was â€¦ I was â€¦ I feel that I was chosen to see the world and rebel against my â€¦ rich British upbringing.â€
â€œYou should probably meet Joell.â€
â€œOh! Why, sir?â€
â€œWell, he works with the unions. Heâ€™s sticking up for the little man.â€
â€œWhy, heâ€™s an American hero, sir.â€
â€œHeâ€™s on the train.â€
â€œWell, introduce me, my good man. I would love to meet this gentlemen of working class. He would be a man â€¦ obviously heâ€™s a man of great strength of character.â€
â€œIâ€™m not really sure where he is. Iâ€™m pretty sure heâ€™s in this car though.â€
â€œWell, letâ€™s find him! Iâ€™m sorry. I didnâ€™t mean to impose upon you. Iâ€™ve let my excitement get away from me. Please accept my apology, sir. Please accept my apology. From the bottom of my heart. I would love to meet this man who sounds â€¦ you see, I am from Great Britain. I donâ€™t know if you can tell from my accent or not but I am from there. Since I said Iâ€™d had British upraising, I guess that does make sense, doesnâ€™t it? But, I would love to meet an American hero like your friend â€¦ Joell, did you say?â€
â€œI would love to meet him and if you find him and bring him back to my cabin â€¦ this place â€¦ is it called a cabin? I have such trouble with the American language. I would love to meet him.â€
He continued to chat with DeLuve, noting heâ€™d had a few â€œdashes with the lawâ€ as he put it but noted he tried not to take anything from anyone who couldnâ€™t afford it. DeLuve felt like the man was not so bad and excused himself to look for Johnson.
* * *
While McCree was looking for his luggage, he found a very large crate some seven feet by three feet by four feet with some paperwork attached to one end. It was a larger than anything else in the boxcar.
â€œIs â€¦ somebody shipping a body?â€ he asked.
â€œI-Iâ€™m sure I donâ€™t know, sir,â€ the porter said. â€œIâ€™m sorry. I donâ€™t know.â€
â€œDid somebody accompany this Nigel back here when he was in this car?â€
â€œWe saw him come from the backside of the dining car.â€
â€œWhat? Iâ€™m sorry sir, I donâ€™t know. I donâ€™t know, sir. Iâ€™m sorry, sir.â€
Agent Sanderson took out his flashlight and looked at the paperwork in the manila envelope stapled to the large crate. The tag read â€œAlexander, Christopher.â€ Several legal papers seemed to be there as well. One of the papers was a death certificate for Lady Victoria Alexander, wife of Sir Christopher Alexander. Her date of death was December 1927, some 16 months before and described her dying in a riding accident. Another form from U.S. Customs indicated when the body was brought into the country. The third and fourth papers testified the fact the body was free from contagious disease, vermin, and the like. The final paper was a government form granting permission to transport the body across state lines from Massachusetts to Louisiana. All had been filled out and signed.
â€œIs that coffin-looking thing nailed shut?â€ McCree said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry, sir, you shouldnâ€™t be looking at that,â€ the porter said. â€œThatâ€™s official documentation, sir. Iâ€™m so sorry. Please put that back. Please. Please put that back.â€
Sanderson saw the crate had a lid with nails in it. He put the papers back into the envelope.
They found McCreeâ€™s luggage and he opened up the trunk with his formal clothing within. The suit was missing.
â€œIt seems our friend, Nigel, helped himself to one of my suits,â€ McCree said.
â€œWho?â€ the porter said.
â€œThe gentleman with the eye patch.â€
â€œOh. I wouldnâ€™t think he would do that. Heâ€™s one of the passengers.â€
â€œApparently, he might not be.â€
â€œDid he have a ticket?â€
â€œYouâ€™d have to ask the conductor.â€
â€œLetâ€™s go find the conductor,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
McCree pulled out an old, moth-eaten tuxedo with vest from his trunk. It smelled as well.
â€œI feel he may have smuggled himself on,â€ McCree said. â€œHe either hid in here or â€¦ he may have taken out the late body and stored himself in it.â€
â€œIt looked like it was closed though,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œBut I think he did somehow smuggle himself on here.â€
â€œAre you done?â€ the porter said.
â€œYes sir,â€ McCree said. â€œDo we know where the conductor might be?â€
â€œIâ€™m really not sure.â€
â€œLetâ€™s just go,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
They left the boxcar, returning to the dining car. Miss Brown was gone, as were the other passengers.
* * *
DeLuve went to the next stateroom and knocked. The door was quickly pulled open by Miss Brown, who seemed excited to see him for a moment before her face fell.
â€œOh, hello,â€ she said in her deep voice. â€œCan I help you?â€
â€œIâ€™m just looking for my friend,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œOh, well, Iâ€™m alone here. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
â€œHave a great night, maâ€™am.â€
â€œNice to meet you. Iâ€™m so sorry. That was so rude of me. Eleanor Brown.â€
He introduced himself and then took his leave.
There was no answer on the next door and he peeked in. It looked like it was empty.
The next compartment was answered by the two vacuous but beautiful young women, who seemed delighted he was there.
â€œDid you bring us champagne?â€ the redhead asked.
â€œIâ€™m not a porter,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œYou coulda fooled me!â€ the blonde squeaked.
The two girls laughed and closed the door.
The next room stank of cigar smoke. He made his way to the last door.
* * *
Joell Johnson had heard the sound of the two girls laughing in the passageway and when he heard a knock on his door, he guessed it was Brubeck.
â€œWhoâ€™s there?â€ he called angrily.
â€œItâ€™s DeLuve,â€ DeLuve said through the door.
â€œOh,â€ Johnson said. â€œCome in.â€
DeLuve let himself into the stateroom. Johnson was still reading Das Kapital. He was enjoying his time alone in the stateroom. His own home was in a flophouse with stinking halls and paper-thin walls it seemed. He also wouldnâ€™t miss Crazy Jeff, who lived on his hall and who had yelled a good bye at him in the form of â€œHe wears no mask!â€ earlier that day. He wasnâ€™t sure what that was all about.
â€œWhatâ€™s up, DeLuve?â€ Johnson said.
â€œIâ€™m just going room to room, finding out where people are,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œThatâ€™s an interesting hobby if I ever heard one.â€
â€œWell, I mean, weâ€™re going to be on the train for two, two and a half days.â€
â€œWell, this is where I am.â€
â€œGotcha. Have a good one.â€
DeLuve headed back for his room.
* * *
Agent Sanderson and McCree found the conductor and DeLuve in the front passenger car passageway. The man was apparently checking windows to make sure they were securely closed. McCree stopped DeLuve.
â€œWhere does he live?â€ he asked.
â€œOh, fancypants,â€ DeLuve replied. â€œHeâ€™s in the first room in this car.â€
He pointed room closest to the parlor where the rich couple was staying.
The conductor looked a little miffed at the partially opened window. Agent Sanderson and McCree approached the man while DeLuve headed for the back of the train.
â€œAgent Sanderson,â€ the man introduced himself.
â€œAh â€¦ Wilfred Cosley,â€ the conductor stuttered. â€œAgent?â€
â€œAgent of â€¦?â€
â€œThe Bureau of Investigation. Has there been anyone on the train that youâ€™ve met with an eye patch named Nickerbocker?â€
â€œIâ€™ve not met a man with an eye patch â€¦ is this a joke?â€
â€œDo I look like a joking man, sir?â€
He pulled out his mangled right hand. Three fingers were missing, leaving it an awful mess. The conductor drew back, repulsed.
â€œIt seems that this Nickerbocker, the man with the eye patch, if youâ€™ve seen him, has helped himself to some of the luggage in the back,â€ McCree said. â€œOne of my suits, actually.â€
â€œPassengers arenâ€™t allowed in the baggage car, sir,â€ Cosley said.
â€œUh, thatâ€™s what I was told by one of your boys,â€ McCree said. â€œBut, uh, when we went to investigate, we did find that my suit was, indeed, missing. And I can affirm that this one-eyed man was wearing it.â€
Agent Sanderson went to the door DeLuve had pointed out to McCree and knocked on it while McCree continued to talk to the conductor. The door was answered by a tall and very good-looking man with dark hair, who was putting his jacket back on. He had strong blue eyes and stood very straight with a regal bearing.
â€œYes, can I help you?â€ he said in a slight accent.
â€œDo you happen to have another male passenger in your room, sir?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œNo,â€ the man said, stepping back and opening the door a little wider to let the man look into the stateroom. â€œThis is my ward, Miss Meredith Denise Shelton.â€
The brunette with green eyes smiled dazzlingly at the federal agent. She was young, probably in her 20s.
â€œWe are traveling alone and sharing a stateroom,â€ the man said. â€œSince she is like a daughter to me since â€¦ since the accident. I am Sir Christopher Alexander.â€
â€œRamsey Sanderson,â€ Sanderson said.
â€œNice to meet you, Mr. Sanderson. Thereâ€™s only the two of us in this stateroom.â€
â€œOkay, sir. Well, thank you for your time.â€
â€œYouâ€™re very welcome. Is something wrong?â€
â€œJust trying to find a particular person.â€
â€œWhat does this person look like. Perhaps I have seen him. He is not here.â€
â€œOne eye with an eye patch covering the other.â€
â€œThat was that gentleman that had the steak,â€ Miss Shelton said, snapping her fingers. â€œHe was in the dining car just a little while ago. We were just finishing up dinner while he was having steak. He â€¦ he seemed quite eccentric. He had a baseball bat he was using as a cane.â€
She laughed, leaning forward and patting Agent Sanderson on the hand. Sir. Christopher laughed along with her.
â€œAre you looking for him right now?â€ she said. â€œWould you like to come in? Come in and tell us about this man.â€
â€œNow now now, Meredith, Iâ€™m sure the gentleman is very busy,â€ Sir Christopher said.
â€œNo no, come in,â€ Miss Shelton said. â€œJoin us. Weâ€™ve just been talking. We havenâ€™t really met any of the passengers.â€
She smiled at the man. Sir Christopher smiled at Agent Sanderson as well as if he was fine with it.
â€œIâ€™ll make my rounds back around,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œIâ€™ll find this gentleman first and then I can meet with you later.â€
Sir Christopher shook the manâ€™s hand as did Miss Shelton. They both seemed delighted to have met the man.
As he moved to the next door, McCree and the conductor went past him. McCree had finally convinced the conductor of what he believed but the man wanted to see for himself the suitcase heâ€™d looked in, wondering if he might not have gotten the wrong luggage. Though hesitant, McCree went with the man.
Agent Sanderson knocked on the door to the next stateroom and, after a moment, it was opened by the one-eyed Mr. Nickerbocker. He looked towards the parlor but saw the door that led to the second passenger coach close as McCree and the conductor left.
â€œOh dear, another!â€ the man said. â€œAnother new person. Nigel Nickerbocker. So nice to meet you. Please come in! Please come in!â€
Agent Sanderson was ushered into the stateroom and the man closed the door behind him.
â€œPleased to meet you!â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œAre you an American?â€
â€œYes,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œItâ€™s so nice to â€¦ are you Joell?â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m not.â€
Agent Sanderson scowled.
â€œMy good friend Mr. Spencer DeLuve said he was going to send â€¦ well, he didnâ€™t say he was going to send his friend Joell around but he implied that I would love to meet Joell,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œHe seems like a wonderful fellow. Would you like a snoot?â€
â€œNo, thank you,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œVery well,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œWell â€¦â€
He took a sip of the bottle and put the cork back in.
â€œPlease please, have a seat,â€ he said. â€œOh dear. Iâ€™m sorry sir, I didnâ€™t catch your name. How rude of me! How terribly rude.â€
â€œRamsey Sanderson,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
Mr. Nickerbocker shook his hand again. He seemed quite chagrinned he had not asked his name. The man was very friendly and chatted with Agent Sanderson, who suspected he might suddenly turn violent if exposed to any kind of confrontation.
â€œWhat do you do, Mr. Sanderson?â€ he asked.
â€œIâ€™m a police officer,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œOh! You are a working man of the people. Thatâ€™s grand. Iâ€™ve met many police officers. You would be surprised how many. They all seem like grand gentlemen, trying to save men from other men who are terrible men. Men who would hurt and harm and do awful things. I â€¦ I respect your profession more than any other, I think, any other. It is a grand profession.â€
â€œWhat brings you to be traveling with us?â€
â€œWell, after I went to university in Great Britain, I decided that I would turn my back and rebel against my rich family and become a wayward, wandering soul. See the world. My travels brought me to America.â€
Mr. Nickerbocker told him about working his way across the Atlantic on a steamer that left him in South America. From there, he rode the rails in whatever capacity he could up to North America and made his way eventually to the east coast and Massachusetts. He boarded the train they were on and was heading wherever the rail took him. It was a long but very entertaining story.
* * *
In the baggage car, McCree found his luggage fairly easily. Conductor Cosley checked the tags on the bags and the trunk and then they opened the proper one. McCree also showed him the dirty clothing on the floor and showed the man that his best dress suit was missing.
* * *