The following morning Mindy awoke to the sound of her cabin door sliding open. She popped upright to see Bethany striding into her room at a speed and grace she'd come to expect from the maid.
"Morning," said Bethany, pulling back the curtains. Another stormy gray morning could be seen behind water speckled windows. "Mr. Kedding - Charlie hoped you and your brothers might join him for breakfast."
Mindy leaned forward on her fists, a large smile on her face as she nodded eagerly. Bethany pursed her lips in a stifled grin.
"Thought as much. I'll be sure to pass on the splendid news." She sped out of the room, closing the door behind her. Mindy rolled back on her bed, grabbed her emerald dragonfly brooch from the nightstand and pet his tiny head.
"Good morning Mischief," she whispered. "Did ya sleep well?" Mindy cocked her head to the side and brought Mischief close to her ear. "Yes, Garret said the same thing. She really is fast, for such a little thing." Replacing her dragonfly on the nightstand, she hopped out of bed and rushed herself to get dressed. She soon emerged from her cabin, adjusting her shawl over her shoulders and panning back and forth around the hall. From where she stood, she could hear a muffled thumping and stomping around in the cabin next door. Garret and Tyler must be still getting ready, she thought. She leaned over, stretched out her arm and knocked sharply.
"C'mon you two," she called. "Charlie's waiting for us."
The thumping stopped suddenly, but then quickly turned into a rumble. The door slid wide open. Garret came stumbling into the hall laughing, still trying to pull on his navy blue blazer. But, when Tyler appeared through the doorway, Mindy did a double take, grabbing hold of her glasses as if expecting they might fly off her face at any moment.
"Ty," she gasped. "Ty - you look - well, I mean." She let out a squeaky giggle, still having trouble believing her own eyes. Tyler's hair was combed and slicked back against his head. He was wearing his favorite blue jean overalls, though it would be nearly impossible for anyone to tell as they were hidden behind a slightly oversized tan sport coat that he'd borrowed from Garret.
"What do you think?" said Tyler, slowly turning in place. "Garret helped t'get my hair layin' flat."
"You wouldn't believe the trouble I had," said Garret, mock punching Tyler on the shoulder.
"You think Bethany'll like it?" said Tyler through a wide blushing grin. Mindy lurched forward throwing her arms around her brothers, hugging them much tighter than she had intended.
"I think she'll love it," she said, releasing her grip. A small joyful tear formed at the corner of her eye. She lifted her glasses to wipe it away as she continued. "It's just not fair. You're both prettier than I am, and I hate you for it."
"Oh, don't take it too hard there sis," said Garret, placing his elbow on Tyler's shoulder. He adjusted his clip-on. "Someday, you'll catch up."
"Speaking of catching up." Mindy's bright green eyes narrowed behind a playful grin. "Race ya to the dining car!" and with that, she took off down the hall.
Running and laughing, they barreled through door after door, taking no notice of the shocked and disdainful looks on the faces of the other passengers as they pushed, shoved and tripped their way through the cars. They were simply having far too much fun to be concerned with keeping up appearances. Just as they reached the dining car, the door slid open. Bethany let out a yelp before leaping out of the way just in time to avoid Tyler as he stumbled through the archway and was quickly tackled to the floor by Garret a second later. Unable to stop in time, Mindy tripped over her own two feet and tumbled down on top of them. Laughing uncontrollably, they all looked up at the same time to see Charlie, sitting at the end of the long table, chuckling into his fist. The head waiter, from the previous night's dinner party, was standing next to Charlie, a rather unamused look on his face. Charlie must have noticed this because he quickly coughed and grunted away his smile, feigned a stern expression and then vanished behind the newspaper he had been reading. Together, Mindy, Tyler and Garret all got up, patted their clothing straight and slowly they marched to their seats, still smirking and giggling amongst themselves. Once they had all been seated the head waiter turned to Charlie.
"Do you require anything more sir?" he said, in a snobbish nasally tone. Mindy was just able to see the top of Charlie's head tweak a little to one side, facing away from the waiter. Bethany, who was now standing beside Charlie opposite the waiter, raised her hand, placing the tips of her fingers over her mouth in an attempt to trap a smile that was trying to break free.
"N - No th - that'll be all," said Charlie, with what seemed like great effort. The waiter bowed, but as he did so, he looked at Mindy, his smug face contorting as if she were made of something foul smelling. Mindy, having forgotten herself, crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue. The waiter's lip curled and he arched his eyebrow in revulsion before strutting for the door like an overly proud peacock. Out of the corner of her eye, Mindy spotted Bethany letting her own tongue fall out of the edge of her mouth and she shook it at the waiter as he left the room. The moment he was gone Mindy looked to Charlie, who was still hidden behind his newspaper.
"I hope we haven't embarrassed you Charlie," said Mindy, soberly. "I know we should not have been -." But before she could finish, Charlie dropped the paper. His face was red as a cherry, his eyes sparkling with tears. It was suddenly clear to Mindy that Charlie had not been embarrassed, nor was he even slightly upset. As it turned out, he had been doing everything in his power to hold back the laughter that seemed ready to burst out of him at any moment. Eventually, the color in his cheeks began to cool and he managed to speak.
"When you three came through that - door," Charlie paused to fight back a giggle before continuing. "The look on his face. Well, I half expected he might implode."
"I thought Bethany was gonna end up on the ceiling," said Tyler.
"I nearly did," Bethany snickered. "You startled me half to death."
"Is it just me," said Garret, still staring at the door where the waiter had exited. "Or was anyone else waitin' for that toupee of his to pop off his head and make a break for the Brie?"
There was nothing for it. Both Charlie and Bethany burst out laughing so hard that Charlie nearly fell out of his chair and Bethany had to grab hold of his shoulder just to keep her balance.
"Well," said Charlie exhaled. He then spread out his arms as if preparing to hug the entire table. "I must say, I thank you all for joining me once again. It's been an absolute pleasure, meeting you all and, I'll be quite sorry to see you go. Haven't had this much fun in years, actually."
"I don't think we could ever thank you enough Charlie." Garret and Tyler nodded in agreement. Mindy could feel her chin beginning to scrunch up as she fought back the lump building in her throat.
"There'll none of that, my dear." Charlie placed his hand over Mindy's wrist. "This has been such a wonderful time, it'd be a shame to end it with tears."
"That's all well and good for you boys to say," said Bethany, cutting in as she dabbed at her cheeks with a handkerchief. "But we girls don't really have a choice in the matter."
"Oh come now," said Charlie rising out of his seat and taking Bethany's hand. "This should be a happy occasion. We are here, enjoying a splendid morning together and I must say you all look marvelous. Especially you," he said, gesturing to Tyler. "Pressed and dressed like a proper gentleman. Wouldn't you agree Bethany?"
"Oh yes," said Bethany, giving Tyler a little wink. "A proper gentleman, he is."
"Hang on," said Garret raising his hand. "I helped, why don't I get a wink?"
"Oh very well," replied Charlie and he winked at Garret. Tyler laughed at the top of his lungs and punched Garret hard on the shoulder.
"There ya go mate!" Tyler chortled. Garret rolled his eyes.
"Asked for that one, didn't I?" he said, directing the question at Mindy.
"Every good deed," she replied through a smile.
Charlie returned to his seat, as a waiter came into the room, pushing a cart loaded full with biscuits and eggs and pancakes and bacon and more flavors of syrup than anyone could poke a stick at. Garret and Tyler joined Charlie in removing their jackets to hang on the backs of their chairs. But all at once, Mindy stood straight up out of her chair and sent it toppling backwards across the floor. For a second or two she spun around back and forth, patting her shawl and dress. She then turned to the table, pushing around the plates and glasses and patting over the napkins in front of her. Before anyone had a chance to ask what all the fuss was about, she disappeared beneath the tabled. When she finally reemerged there was a definite look of panic on her face as she blurted out,
"I've lost him! He's gone!"
"Calm down sis," said Garret. He rushed over to Mindy. "Who's lost?"
"Mischief!" she cried. "He's not here."
Charlie seemed to freeze solid for a moment, staring unblinkingly at the empty plate on the table before him. Then, he flinched, as if suddenly startled out of a deep thought. He looked around the room in what appeared to be a concerned, yet oddly false look of confusion.
"Who is Mischief?" he said finally.
"It's her brooch," said Garret. "The dragonfly brooch she was wearing last night."
"He was a birthday present."
"Maybe you left him in your cabin," said Tyler absently as he eyed the food cart.
"No - well, at least I don't think - oh I don't know, but I've got to find him Garret."
"Don't you worry sis, we'll find him." Garret shot a nasty look at Tyler, who was at that moment trying to shove an entire croissant into his mouth.
"What?" said Tyler, crumbs bursting from his mouth.
"Stop stuffing your face," Garret spat. "This is important." He turned back to Mindy and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. "C'mon, we'll check your cabin first."
Charlie jumped up out of his chair and stepped swiftly to the nearest silver calling cord, tugging it so hard that it nearly came right out of the wall. As Mindy and Garret sped off toward her room, several waiters and maids came dashing in through the door.
"We have an emergency!" Charlie announced to the group. "Somewhere between here and the cabin cars, a priceless piece of jewelry has gone missing. There will be a great reward to the one who brings me the emerald dragonfly. Now hurry, we don't have much time." On his last word the crowd of servants scattered out of the room. Charlie hurried back to the table where Bethany was now crawling around on the floor in search of the brooch. Tyler was now shoveling eggs into mouth as fast as he could swallow them down. He glanced up to see Charlie with same annoyed look on his face that Garret had given him only minutes earlier.
"What?" Tyler asked again, spraying bits of egg back onto his plate.
"Your sister is in a frightful panic," said Charlie. "You do care, don't you?"
"Of course I care," said Tyler. "But the whole train is already looking. What can I do?"
But before Charlie could respond, Bethany popped up from behind the table tugging her dress straight.
"If you find that brooch Tyler," she said severely. "I will kiss you." With a surprising speed, Tyler sprang from his chair and dashed off so fast he could have outran a bullet.
"Wait," called Bethany to Charlie as he too was now running for the door. "Where are you going?"
"Are you kidding?" he called back over his shoulder. "I want that kiss as much as he does."
At that moment, across the train, Mindy was lying crumpled up on a pile of sheets and clothing, wailing into a pillow, in what was left of her cabin. Garret sat at the edge of the bed, surveying the destruction.
"It'll be alright sis, we're going to find it."
"You don't understand," said Mindy, between sobs. "Miss Dorrey had'em since she was a little girl. He was mine for less than two days and I lost him. I'm a horrible person."
"You know that's not true."
"Isn't it? She trusted me to keep him safe and like a fool." Mindy trailed off in a whimper, returning to her pillow.
Garret looked up to see Tyler standing in the doorway looking rather distraught. His hair was pulled this way and that, looking as though he'd just been hanging his head out of the window. He stared at Garret for a moment as though trying to tell him with his eyes, the brooch is still missing. Garret nodded slightly and jerked his head in silent response. Don't give up. Tyler seemed to have understood this and quickly vanished back into the hall as Garret returned to picking through the clothing scattered around the floor. Suddenly, the room was filled with a tiny electric fizzing followed by a small "pop" and a static coated voice came through the intercom overhead.
"Next stop," said the voice. "Frittenden station."
"I guess we should be getting ready then," said Garret in a defeated tone and he placed his hand gently on the back of Mindy's head. "I'll be back in moment to help you clean up and pack." He then stood slowly and walked to the door, hands in his pockets, his head slumped down to his shoulders. At the doorway he stopped and looked back at Mindy. She was still lying curled up on the floor. "I'm really sorry sis." Garret paused for a moment, opened his mouth is if there was something more he wanted to say, but the words just wouldn't come out. Finally, he simply shook his head and left the room.
Back in the dining car, Charlie, all alone, was now pacing back and forth along the table and speaking angrily out loud to nobody.
"Where on earth have you gotten off to you fiendish little devil." He said, scolding the air around him. "You honestly have the most impeccably bad timing. Every time, every bloody time, you do this!" Charlie snatched a fork from the table and began flailing it about as he carried on. "After all these years you haven't changed one bit, have you?" If it were up to me, I'd have you melted down and remanufactured into a slug." He ducked into the breakfast cart and soon emerged holding two crystal glasses and a salt shaker. He glanced around the room indignantly as he stacked the glasses brim to brim. He then removed the cap from the salt shaker, positioned the fork above the top glass and paused. "This is your last chance," he said, raising the shaker above his head. "I didn't want to have to do this, but -." Charlie gave a sudden start and took a quick step back, away from the table. For a brief instant, he stared at Bethany and wondered how long she had been watching him.
"I, um -," he faltered. "Yes, well, I was just - that is, I thought perhaps."
"You what?" Bethany snapped. "You thought what?"
Charlie said nothing. He expected no lie in the world could make Bethany forget what she had seen. She moved in closer. Charlie noticed her eyes flick to the glasses on the table and he took a step to the side, blocking her view.
"You've got everyone tearing this train apart for that little girl and you're in here talk, talking to yourself and doing, doing whatever that is!" Bethany closed her eyes for a moment and took in a deep breath and as she opened them again, she turned her head, refusing to look at Charlie. "I just came to inform you the children are ready. I'm sure they'll want to say goodbye." Without waiting for a response, Bethany hurried out of the room.
The moment, she was out of earshot, Charlie called out to her, halfheartedly, in a whispered shout.
"There's a reason he's called Mischief!" he said, waving his arms in frustration as he spun around on the spot and struck the top glass with the fork. A tiny ringing began to fill the room. Quickly it grew louder and sharper. The windows began to tremble and the chandelier overhead, seemed to amplify the sound. Charlie began pouring the salt over the glasses and, as he did so, the ringing suddenly turned to a screeching, high pitched buzzing. Plates and silverware began sliding around on the table. Dropping the fork, he positioned his hands, his eyes fixed, unblinking, on the glasses. The salt had made its way down through the base of the top glass and was now swirling around inside like a violent tornado. Charlie's eyes widened with strain, his hands twitching with anticipation. All at once, a flash of green light sparked out, followed by an ear piercing "CLAP" mixed with a shattering of glass and everything became silent.