Here she was Claire. Alone riding this nosy train to the West, not knowing where she was going or anyone who might live there. How had it all come about? One day she was living the best life in a quiet part of town, and the next she was running for her life.
Johnny, her older brother, had seen something he shouldn’t have. Reporting it to the authorities had not been the best thing to do. They had planned to hide him away for protection. Failing to act rapidly enough, Johnny had been shot and killed. Knowing she was his sister and not sure how much she knew they had searched for her. Claire knew they would never stop.
As she sat here listening to the clackety-clack of the wheels, deep in thought a gentleman asks, is this seat taken. “No,” she replied. Sitting down, he stared hard at her causing her to shake. “is something wrong?” he asked. “No, nothing. I’m just a little nervous starting on a new adventure.” “Oh well, don’t worry, I start a new adventure every few weeks.” “How’s that.”
I’m a traveling salesman. I sell Fuller Brushes. Not the best job in the world, but I make a good living and meet the most interesting people along the way. Names Oscar Hornell. “Oh, I’m Catherine Edwards” It surprised her how fast she came up with a new name. She could never be Claire Evans again.
Oscar departed the train at the next stop. Again, alone with her thoughts, she wondered what it would be like in Montana. Would she be free from all the problems her brother had caused? Only time would tell.
Excitement stirred as the train rolled on. Catherine could be anything or anyone; it was her choice. She is starting a new life without any worries about money or family. It was her chance to be happy. Catherine, yes, that was an excellent name to start over.
Blue skies, bluer than she had ever seen, flashed as the train rolled on to Montana. Rolling hillsides, horses were running a race with the train. Cattle grazing and cowboys were herding them along. Every so often, she would see a campfire with cowboys sitting around or a chuck wagon and a cook serving food. Quiet time as they shared an afternoon or evening meal. She could image the talk about their day and how things had gone, the problems, and what tomorrow would bring.
Catherine decided it was time for her to get a bite from the dining car. She made her way back and froze as she was about to enter. Looking ahead, seeing two men sitting at a near table, knowing they were the ones whom her brother had problems with before his murder. Quietly she turned and went straight to her sleep berth. She couldn’t stay here the whole trip. What was she to do? Fear was making her a nervous wreck. She had changed her hair color, cut it short, and because of all the stress, she had lost about fifty pounds. Looking at her reflection in the window, she wondered if she could pass as she had hoped, for someone else. Catherine returned to the dining car and entered. She wished she presented herself well enough not to be recognized. Walking right past the two men, they glanced up but continued with their meal. Did this mean everything was okay? She could only pray it did.
Having enjoyed her meal thinking all was well and preparing to leave the dining car, she was shocked to see the two men watching her. One of the men started toward her, and fear gripped her so hard she thought she would stop breathing. Just then, a stranger appeared at her table and asked if he might join her as there were no other tables available. Gladly she said yes.
She told him she had finished and was about to return to her car. The cowboy asked if she minded staying while he ate, and maybe they could share some dessert and coffee. Afraid to move, she agreed. What a pleasant gentleman he was. He talked about life in Montana, living on a ranch, problems, and yet the joy of being a part of it all.
Curious as to why he was traveling, Catherine asked his reason for being here. The cowboy, Sam Walker, told her his father had passed away in New York, and he had attended the funeral. Now heading home, he planned to increase his heard and branch out with a few new ideas.
Catherine was so excited listening to her she forgot about the two men watching her. As they finished up with coffee and dessert preparing to leave, one of the men came forward to ask if she might be Claire Evans of New York. Why no, I’m Catherine Edwards of New Hampshire. Is there something wrong? No. thank you. I think we have made a mistake. Had they believed her? Her heart was pounding so hard she was shaking all over. Noticing how shocked she was, Sam asked her to please stay and have one more cup of coffee. She was grateful he had asked.
Sam told her I don’t generally stick my nose in other people’s business, but he seemed to have frightened you. I’m just not used to strangers. She tried to lie. Sam, not believing her, allowed her just to sit and think a bit. After a few more minutes, she decided she must return to her car, and stay there for the rest of this trip, she thought. Sam escorted her to her car, and they found he was right next door. She could feel a little safer.
Sam didn’t know what was going on, but he was sure she was the woman they asked about, now to find out just what was up. He turned in for the night as well as Catherine had.
The early morning hours just before reaching Jordan Junction, South Dakota, Sam heard someone trying to break-in to Catherine’s car. Rushing out, he ran into the two men from the dining card. Catherine screamed as she realized what was happening and the Porter came. Explaining what Sam had seen the two were taken away and would remain in Jordan Junction.
Relieved, Catherine thanked Sam for his help. He invited her to share breakfast with him while they waited in Jordan Junction for the authorities to take the men away.
You know it’s none of my business what’s going on, but you seem like a nice lady, and I wouldn’t want to see harm come to you. If there’s anything you want or need to talk about, I’m here to listen and not judge. I’m just trying to be your friend.
I know you are Sam. I do appreciate what you have done and for just being here. The truth is, I am the person they were searching for from New York. Sam sat up a little straighter and waited for her to go on. You see, my brother got into some trouble in New York. He saw something he shouldn’t have. He reported it to the authorities. He was the prime witness against the criminals when it went to court. Their partners didn’t like it and came after Johnny. He tried to get away, but they shot him in the back. I sold everything I had, closed out all my bank accounts, and took the inheritance both, and Johnny received from the death of our parents to head West for a new start. A chance to be free and happy. I just wanted to have a life without fear of someone finding me and taking everything in life away. I understand, and you can do just that. Where were you headed? Missoula, Montana. Sam smiled and said, Why not try Billings? Why? That’s where I live, and I can keep an eye on you, so no one else tries to harm you. Smiling, Catherine said, Billings it is. I have to start over someplace.
Arriving in Billings, Montana Catherine stepped out on the platform and was amazed at the difference here from New York. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but she was ready, and with Sam’s help, who knows what might happen.