The Night Train from Vienna
I saw him as soon as I boarded the train in Vienna. He was sitting in the dining car alone, smoking. He was short and stocky and had dark eyes, almost black. He looked like a dangerous man. I didn’t think much about him at the time.
Lynn and I found our compartment, 21 and 25, in the sleeper car. We arranged our things and went back to the dining car. The dark eyed person was still sitting in the same place and still smoking. Lynn and I sat down at the next table. The dining car was beginning to fill up. Since it was Christmas Eve eve, people were getting into the holiday spirit with a lot of happy conversation. A tall blond Teutonic looking man with a black satin eye patch and a rather nasty scar on the right side of his face came down the aisle carefully scrutinizing every one in the car. He stopped at the next table and said tentatively, “Boris?” “Da,” said Boris.
“So Boris is a Russian,” I thought. I really didn’t
intend to eavesdrop, but the tables were so close. Apparently the Russian
couldn’t speak German and the German couldn’t speak Russian,
so they both spoke heavily accented English. It was fun to listen in.
As I turned back to talk to Lynn the train slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop. Stuff slid off of the tables. We could hear breaking glass throughout the whole car. “What was that all about,” Lynn asked. I told her we probably hit a cow. She laughed and when the conductor walked by, she said, “Is there a dead cow out there?” “No a dead person,” he said. “Apparently someone jumped or was pushed from this train into the path of the oncoming train on the next track. Since the other train hit the person, it will have to stop and deal with the problem.” Our train started moving again. When we got underway again, I noticed that Natasha, Boris, and Wilhelm were nowhere in sight.
Lynn and I went back to our compartment and rang for the steward to make up the beds. While he was making up the beds, I went down the hall to the WC to take care of “personal business.” Natasha came out of the WC and started up the aisle. The aisle is only 20 inches wide and we both turned sideways to squeeze by. She brushed against me and seemed to linger a bit longer than necessary. I didn’t really mind.
When I came out of the WC Natasha was still standing in the aisle looking very frightened. This time I spoke to her. “Gute Nacht,” I said. She didn’t even answer. She just squeezed by me and went back into the WC. I was really enjoying this passing in the night thing.
The steward had finished his job and our bunks were in place with sheets, pillows and a warm blanket. As I was closing the door to our compartment, it was pushed open with such great force and I landed on my bum on the table behind me. Natasha leapt into the compartment and slammed the door. “You must help me,” she said in accented English. I was ready to volunteer to do any thing I could. “I’ll help, I’ll help,” I said. Lynn just glared at me. Natasha grabbed me and rolled me into the lower bunk with her. This is getting better and better, I thought. She got behind me under the warm blanket and said, “Lay down in front so no one can see me. You must hide me. They will kill me just like they killed Joaquin.”
Just then there was a loud banging on the compartment door. It seemed to go on forever. Then someone grabbed me by the shoulder and started shaking me. “Wake up,” Lynn said. “The steward just knocked and said it’s time for breakfast. “Wow,” I said, “I just had the weirdest dream…”