The Case of the Man in the Private Booth

Submitted into Contest #27 in response to: Write a short story that takes place on a train.... view prompt



It was an early Sunday morning when the Vanderhein Express pulled to a screeching halt at the Northern Amsterdam Station. The conductor tugged on the cord, releasing several loud bellows from its horn. There was a central clock that hung in the middle of the station that chimed when its hands reached the top of the nine o’clock hour. The lobby of the station was starting to fill quickly with rushing passenger; each having a specific destination to reach within a very strict time limit. 

Among the throng was young intern Madame Amy Carthage. Amy had just accepted a job offer at the prestige Abbey County Detective Office in the downtown Alpine District. A strong gust from the returning train on the other track blew over Amy. She brushed the loosen strands of her bleach-blonde hair, that came free from her bun, behind her ear. “Oh, shoot!” she muttered as she bent down and picked up her documents before they floated away, carefully holding her striped pencil skirt in place between her knees. 

The train sounded its horn again; a final warning that it was about to leave the station. Amy scrambled to her feet; her bright red pumps clanking against the marble floor tiles. Barely making it on time, she released a huge sigh as she handed the conductor her ticket. He paused at the rough-looking woman; a slight scowl forming on his face at her unkept appearance. He stamped her ticket and handed it back to her, still looking her over. Amy felt his judgmental stare and she forced awkward smile. She wanted to explain that it was the wind, but instead, just took the ticket and silently boarded the train. 

Amy found herself an empty seat as the intercom roared to life; static mixed between every word, making the announcement difficult to understand. The train jolted to life and slowly pulled forward, leaving the North-Ams Station for the day. Preparing to get her first day at work started, Amy sat her papers next to her and closed her eyes, relaxing along the ride. 

“Is this seat taken?” asked a voice. Amy peeked up at a tall, handsome gentleman in a blue suit and hat was standing in front of her. 

“No, not at all.” She moved her papers into her lap, making room for the blue-suited stranger. 

“Thank you.” He smiled as he took his seat. The man removed his hat, revealing his medium-length black hair that was hidden underneath. 

Amy slyly stared at the gentleman, studying his striking features. She felt her face beginning to flush, and she excused herself to go find the restroom. She took one more look at the man and cleared her throat. “May you hold my seat, please?” she asked. 

He kindly smiled at her and nodded his head. 


The Vanderhein Express had many cars—the longest passenger train in the county—and it took Amy a while to make it to the back of the train. The closer she got towards the back; the previously overpopulated cars became scarce. The open area was now replaced with condensed private booths. Curiosity started to set in as Amy went up to a few doors and peered into the opaque glass windows. Getting frustrated, she gave up her spying when the train hit a bump along the rails, causing her to fall into one of the doors. To her surprise, it was unlocked. 

Amy looked around her to see if anybody was watching. She hesitantly wrapped her fingers around the handle and slid the door ajar only enough for her to peep inside. Amy's eyes widened. She couldn’t believe what she was looking at—there was a dead body in the middle of the room! Amy stumbled backwards, tripping over her own heels and crashing against the room behind her in the narrow hallway. “Oh, my God!” Amy picked herself up and ran back towards the open car. 

It felt like an eternity until she reached the open car again. She swung open the door as everybody’s head turned to face her. Amy's brow was beaded with sweat and her breath was short. She found it ironic that she was hired as a rookie detective, and yet, she crumbled at the sight of a corpse. People rushed to her, wondering if she were okay. Losing her composure, Amy’s knees went weak. A woman saw this as she grabbed ahold of Amy’s arm and helping to steady her balance. 

“Are you alright, Madame?” the woman asked. 

Amy was lost for words. 

The woman led her to an empty seat. Amy went pale which raised even more concern with the people hovering around her. The man in the blue suit walked over. He crouched down in front of her; a look of worry in his eyes as if he could see straight into her mind and witness what she had just saw. 

“I—I—I …” Amy stuttered, reaching up and grabbing her chest. She pointed over towards the door, and the man followed her finger. 

Taking the hint, he stood up and faced the door. The man fully removed his long trench coat and straightened out his suit’s jacket. 

“Oh, my God,” shouted another woman, “it’s Monsieur Hamon!” 

Amy cocked her neck and stared at the well-dressed gentleman. She was in disbelief. Monsieur Hamon … the Monsieur Hamon as in the famous detective from the Yellow Harbor County Office? 

Instinct took over as Monsieur Hamon approached the next car; a multitude of eyes fixed on his every action. 


He cautiously made his way towards the back of the train where the private booths were. He spotted the open door and crept up beside it, preparing himself for the worst. Monsieur Hamon placed a hand on his breast pocket when he kept a miniature pocketknife. Drawing in a deep breath and steading his nerves, he slid open the door to find the lifeless body of a middle-aged man bludgeoned to death. It was a gruesome scene, and Monsieur Hamon averted his eyes, whispering a silent prayer for the unfortunate man. He switched pockets and pulled out a notepad and pen. He wrote down several key details about the crime scene, noting how the body was positioned facedown as if the killer didn’t want to see the victim’s face. Monsieur Hamon noticed the particularly unusual blood-splatter pattern along the walls and couch, hinting that the killer was must have been spotted and frantically tried to eliminate the victim with whatever was convenient. 

And then it was spotted … the murder weapon. A bloodied, gold-painted metal door handle rested underneath the couch. Monsieur Hamon looked around to find that one of the other rooms’ door was missing its knob. He inched himself inside, carefully watching his surroundings as not to disturb the evidence. He took in the scene one last time before returning to the open car. 


The passengers waited anxiously for Monsieur Hamon to return; their heartbeats pounded in rhythm with the bumps along the tracks. The door opened and everybody stared at the seasoned detective in hopes for good news. His expression was grim, and his head hung low. 

“Monsieur Hamon?” Amy started before her voice trailed off. She could see in his face that he had saw the man in the room, too. 

Monsieur Hamon brushed his hair out of his face, showing a pair of dazzling hazel eyes. He clasped his hands behind his back and walked towards the crowd; his stride was precise and blunt. “I’m afraid that I may have to be the bearer of some rather unsettling news,” he started as he raised up his head and made eye contact each person. A scare tactic he learned during his time in the academy to strike fear in the suspect’s heart if they were to be hiding among the crowd. When his gaze rested upon Amy, he tried to soften his look but not too much as she was still just as guilty with being the first person to find the deceased. “I found a man in his private booth beaten to unconsciousness,” he changed the detail as to bait the killer. “He is still alive,” he lied, “but just barely.” Monsieur Hamon walked past the crowd and stopped on the other side, staring at the opposite side of the car with them behind him. “With that being said, there is a murderer on this train,” he cut his eyes over his shoulder at them, “and I intend on finding you before we reach our next destination.”

February 04, 2020 18:46

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