A Touch of Lavender - Part 7 - A Craven Danger Mystery
“Tickets!” said the conductor. “Have your tickets ready!”
Damn, thought Craven Danger. What did I do with that ticket?
“I can’t seem to find my ticket,” said Craven.
“Where are you heading?”
“Beacon,” said Craven.
“That will by two dollars and fifty cents.”
“Well, this is certainly a fine pickle,” said Craven. “I don’t seem to have any money, either.”
“Oh,” said the conductor. “We don’t like to hear that.”
“Yes,” said the conductor. “We, the railroad.”
“Are ya sure ya speakin’ for the whole railroad?” said Craven. “There must be one of ya that’s got a beatin’ heart.”
“There’s certainly no call for that, sir. I’m simply doing my job. The fare is two dollars and fifty cents. And if you don’t have two dollars and fifty cents, you’ll have to get off at the next stop.”
“But I need to be in Beacon,” said Craven. “I’m on a case.”
“Well,” said the conductor, “you should have thought of that before you left the house.”
“I don’t have a house,” said Craven. “I live at the office.”
“At the office, eh?” said the conductor. “She throw you out, did she?”
“She?” said Craven.
“The Mrs.,” said the conductor. “The battle axe, the noose around your neck, the cement in your shoes. The reason you drink and stopped going home at night.”
“Oh,” said Craven. “No. I ain’t married.”
“You ain’t married?” said the conductor. “And she still threw you out? Brother, you’re getting off on the wrong foot.”
“Nobody threw anybody out,” said Craven. “I couldn’t pay the rent and so I was asked ta leave, and now I have ta live at the office till business picks up and I can afford myself a flat.”
“You get thrown out of your apartment for being a deadbeat and you have the nerve to board my train with no ticket and no money? Why I’ve a good mind to call the authorities and have you tossed out on your ear. But since I’m such a nice guy I’ll overlook this little episode. Besides, us veterans got to stick together.”
“Veterans?” said Craven.
“World War II veterans,” said the conductor. “After I got drafted, I served two years in the Pacific campaign. Got a butt full of shrapnel at Iwo Jima. Never thought I’d get out alive. How about yourself?”
“Well,” said Craven, “it’s like this. I got a 4F deferment on account of my fallen arches.”
“I ought to you beat you silly and throw you off this train myself,” said The conductor. “Fallen arches, my foot!”
“It’s all right,” came the voice from behind. “I’ll pay his fare.”
“And who are you?” said the conductor.
“I’m Della Swanson, his current employer,” said Miss Swanson.
“Well talk about taking pity on the deadbeats!” said the conductor.
“Now wait just a minute,” said Craven. “I ain’t no deadbeat and I didn’t wait till I was drafted before I showed up at the draft board, fella. I was the first in line the day after Pearl Harbor. And, brother, did I cry when they turned me away. And if I ain’t hearin’ an apology in about two seconds, these fallen arches are gonna find there way up the back of your trousers!”
“Ah, says you!” said the conductor. “You’re lucky there’s a lady present. Or I’d have shown you a thing or two.”
With that the conductor collected the fare from Miss Swanson and left the car.
“I’m impressed,” said Miss Swanson. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“Me neither,” said Craven.
“And forgive me for following you, Mr. Danger. But I wasn’t quite sure you were the right man for the job. I guess I was wrong. I’ll get off at the next stop and let you get down to business. Here's a little extra advance. I'm sure you'll earn it. And please give me a call when you catch up to Herbert Sampson. I’ll be waiting.”
Craven Danger craned his neck as Della Swanson got off the train at the next stop, and he could almost feel Betty pulling him back into his seat.
But that’s crazy, he thought. Betty’s not even here.