Cody’s eyes drifted open. He rolled over and wrapped an arm around his still sleeping brother next to him, pulling Zack in tightly. The rhythmic clickety-clack and gentle sway of the train racing down its tracks nearly lulled him back to sleep, but before slumber could take him once again, the shrill scream of a little bitch assaulted his ears.
Zack bolted straight up in bed, eyes darting around in sudden adrenaline-fueled awareness.
“MADDIE?” he shouted, tears filling his eyes.
Cody pulled Zack in tight again, just as he had done before the scream, “No, Zack. Maddie isn’t even on the train. She’s in Boston. You’ll get to see her soon, though.”
He could feel Zack’s pulse begin to slow down, but Cody soon realized that so was the ambient rhythm of the train’s movement, until finally, with a short screech of metal on metal, the train became completely still.
The twins rose from their bed. Zack slid open the window, peering up and down the train cars. Other heads poked their heads out as well. At the front of the train, where there should be a plume of steam billowing from the engine, there was nothing.
Cody opened the door, but before he could step into the hall of the sleeping car, a large man in a top hat barred his way.
“Please, stay in your compartment,” he said gruffly before moving down the hall to the next compartment.
Cody could hear Mr. Moseby, their next door neighbour, arguing with the man. His voice was becoming shrill, so Cody knew things were getting pretty serious.
“The engine? Murdered?” Moseby cried. “How can a machine be killed?
The top hat man muttered something that Cody couldn’t hear, but by incredibly high-pitched Mr. Moseby’s response, he could figure it out.
“I’ve been riding in a sentient train?” The pitch could nearly shatter glass.
Cody whipped around and made eye contact with Zack. Together, in excited glee, they shout “Sentient train?!”
Zack then paused for a moment, “I don’t know what sentient means.”
Cody explained the meaning of sentience and the subtleties of the Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to his much dumber brother as they climbed out of the window of their compartment and sneaked up to the front of the train.
They crept around the front of the blue engine, and the twins noticed for the first time that their train had a massive pale face. Its eyes were half open in a blank, droopy, unending stare.
“We should probably get back to our compartment,” Cody whined, his urge to run like a little bitch was overwhelming.
“Or…” Zack said, putting a finger to his twin’s tender lips to hush his whimpers, “We solve the murder of this train, we go back to Boston as heroes, Maddie falls in love with me, and gives me the hand job of a lifetime.”
That argument was hard to argue with. Cody imagined putting “solved a train murder” under the “Special Skills and Achievements” section of his resume. His teary eyes became steely and cold, and with a nod, the twins began to investigate.
There were no signs of foul play on the exterior of the train. Normal wear and tear from transporting thousands of passengers for just as many miles, but nothing out of the ordinary.
So, the blonde boys climbed up and into the engine room. There were many buttons, levers, and toggles, which enamoured Cody. Driving a train must be like the greatest puzzle of all time with all those little pieces that have to be perfectly in place.
Meanwhile, Zack was considering the more important things, “Are we… inside the train’s brain right now?” he asked like a college kid smoking weed for the first time.
Cody’s obsessive compulsion for cleanliness activated and he began to look for anything out of place, anything that could be a clue. He checked every nook and cranny of that small room, but he finally found a small piece of fabric under a toppled pile of coal.
He showed his brother and the two inspected it closely. It was silk, high quality, in the very corner was an embroidered monogram.
“M M… Who do we know with those initials?” Cody whispered.
“Matthew McConaughey?” Zack offered stupidly.
“Well, yes… But he’s not on this train, and he isn’t the President of the Pocket Hanky Association.”
With a gasp, the twins made eye contact again, “Marion Moseby!” they shouted together.
The two took off, back towards their sleeping car. Dashing through the dining car, as much as Zack wanted to stop for a quick bite of breakfast. Through the lounge and the baggage car, until they finally reached the car where they had begun their morning.
Mr. Moseby was still arguing with the railway employee in the door of his compartment. Moseby also wore a hat, though it was an incredibly long night cap, as opposed to the top hat on the man in front of him.
“Mr. Conductor, arrest that man!” Zack announced triumphantly.
“What, why?” the man in the top hat responded in utter confusion.
“We found this in the engine room!” Cody said, holding out the shred of the pocket hanky, monogram facing the two older men.
“My hanky! I’ve been looking for that since we boarded the train three weeks ago!” Mr. Moseby cried out. “What did you do to it, you rascals?”
“Nothing, we just found it! But he admitted the pocket hanky is his, and that means Mr. Moseby must have killed the train!” Zack and Cody shouted together.
The door to another compartment across from Mr. Moseby’s slid open. Out strutted heir to the Tipton fortune and all-around dumbass, London Tipton.
“What’s with all the yelling? You can all have my autograph,” she giggled, somehow entirely unaware of the situation at hand. Then she noticed the shred of pocket hanky that Cody was holding out as evidence and her eyes widened.
The man in the top hat noticed London’s immediate recognition of the handkerchief. He grabbed it from Cody’s hand and showed it to London closer. “Miss, have you seen that pocket hanky before?”
“No! I mean, yes, but I gave it to someone else,” she stammered, not used to being grilled aggressively, usually her staff were so kind and patient to her.
“Who did you give it to?” the man demanded, shaking the scrap of silk in front of her nose, making her go cross-eyed.
“Well, the train. He said he was tired of just eating coal, he said he wanted to try something new, so I gave him a pocket hanky for dessert,” the heiress admitted.
The four others just stared at her in dumbfounded astonishment.
“Miss Tipton, I’m afraid I’m going to have to arrest you for murdering this train. You poisoned him with that hanky.” The man reached into one of his pockets and pulled out handcuffs.
“Or I could just buy you a new train? A whole lot nicer than this one. It’s kind of a dump.” London counter-offered.
While London and the man negotiated their terms, Zack and Cody went back into their compartment. It had only been an hour since they’d woken up and they were already ready for a nap.
The twins turned off the lights and climbed back into their shared bed. Cody wrapped his arm around his brother and pulled him in for a tight hug.
“I don’t think people will think we’re heroes, even though we solved the case,” Cody complained.
“Do you think Maddie will still give me a hand job?”