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Train from Marietta
By Dorothy Garlock
WARNER BOOKSCopyright © 2006 Dorothy Garlock
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTATE DIDN'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT STYLE, but he knew that the woman standing beside the rough board wall of the small depot was fashionably dressed. He had glanced at her when he left the ticket counter and had wondered what she was doing in this rugged Texas town. She was obviously a city woman and as out of place as a rose in a cactus patch. Light blond hair fell to her shoulders. She wore a small blue felt hat that matched her princess-style coat, which came down over slim hips. The flared blue skirt that floated down around her calves was edged with a blue satin ribbon. Her matching shoes, with slender heels, were planted firmly beside an expensive leather valise.
What a silly hat, Tate thought, chuckling to himself. It'd offer no shade at all. Within ten minutes, her face would be cooked in the West Texas sun.
Worried about her trunk, Kate had stepped down from the train to make sure it was in the baggage car. When the railroad agent told her it had been left at the last stop and was being picked up by the train from Marietta, she had decided to wait and go on to California on the same train as her belongings. She wondered now at the wisdom of her decision. Shortly after she'd spoken with him, the agent had locked up and left. Now all who remained on the platform with her were alone cowboy and the button salesman who had been on the train since New Orleans.
The sun was setting in the western sky. Purple shadows were sliding down from the hills. It would be dark soon. A slight chill had entered the air with the disappearance of the hot summer sun. The depot was far from town; only a sprinkling of lights shone from the houses. The train from Marietta wasn't due for another hour. It would be pitch-dark by then.
She was glad for the presence of the cowboy at the end of the platform. She'd first glanced at him when he left the ticket counter; her eyes had met his even though she knew that she shouldn't make eye contact with the strange man in dusty boots and well-worn jeans. His hair was black, and he wore a battered, wide-brimmed hat. His mouth was set in a thin line as if he somehow disapproved of her. What was he doing here at this time of night? Regardless of his appearance, she was glad he was here; she didn't want to be alone with the other man.
The salesman, dressed in a striped suit and a derby hat, paced back and forth near his sample case. She'd had the misfortune to take the same route to California that he had chosen. When they first boarded the train in New Orleans, he'd prattled on and on about buttons and snaps for hours. His twitchy, talkative nature and the way he looked at her gave her the creeps.
As the three stood waiting for the train, it seemed to her that they were the only people in all this vast and desolate land.
A door in the side of the depot opened on squeaky hinges. An old man pushed a trolley down to the end of the platform and left it so that its bundles could be loaded into the baggage car when the train arrived. Then he disappeared around the corner of the depot.
The button salesman coughed and took a step toward her. She turned to see that the cowboy was looking in their direction, but she wasn't sure who he was looking at. She pushed herself away from the wall and walked over to him.
"Is this train usually on time?"
"Sometimes," he said. "This isn't Grand Central Station, you know."
"Well, what do you know? I thought it was." She smiled up at him. But he didn't smile back.
What did she expect? He couldn't take a joke. He'd probably only heard of Grand Central Station and had never been there.
"Thanks for that valuable information." She turned and walked back to take her place against the rough boards. At least the salesman had taken the hint and moved back to his case. She looked at her watch but couldn't see the time in the dim light. She nudged the leather valise at her feet; if her trunk never arrived, at least she had clean underwear and her cosmetics.
Then, in the distance, she heard the familiar sounds of a train approaching. Could the thing be earlier than the agent predicted, or had an hour passed already? She looked at the cowboy and saw that he was peering down the track toward the east. She looked in that direction too, and soon she saw the billows of smoke rising up above the huge engine. The piercing whistle was loud enough to wake everybody for miles. The engineer was making a grand entrance into the station. Too bad only she, the cowboy, and the button salesman were there to appreciate the effort.
The train rolled slowly past her before coming to a stop. Two cars were brightly lit and filled with passengers, most of whom appeared to be sleeping. Katherine picked up her valise, walked to the edge of the platform, and waited for the conductor to step down from the train. He smiled, took her ticket, and helped her up the steps and into the car.
The cowboy was right behind her and edged past the conductor. Katherine turned to the right and entered the car. Most of the seats were filled, but halfway down she saw what she thought was an empty seat. Carrying her valise, she made her way down the aisle and set it on the floor.
When she turned, the cowboy was still right behind her. With a grunt, she attempted to lift the heavy bag up and put it in the rack above the seat. Quick as a whistle, the cowboy snatched it out of her hand, and as he slung it upward, the latch opened and her personal belongings spilled out over the seat and onto the floor. She looked down in horror to see a pair of her lace panties covering a pair of dusty cowboy boots.
"Sorry," he said.
Katherine was more embarrassed than she'd ever been in her entire life. All she could do was grunt in reply, "I bet you are."
The cowboy pulled her valise from the rack and set it on the seat beside her. He reached down and grabbed a handful of lavender lace panties, silk slips, and lacy bras and stuffed them back into the case. As he did, a jar of face cream fell onto his foot and opened. Katherine looked down to see the white cream running down over the cowboy's boot. The smell of gardenias filled the air in the passenger car. All around the car, people were stretching their necks to look.
She thought the cowboy said something under his breath. It sounded like "Oh, hell!" but she wasn't sure.
Fearing that he would wipe the face cream off his boot with her lavender panties, she pulled a big handkerchief out of her pocket and handed it to him. He jerked it out of her hand with a disgusted look and proceeded to wipe the cream off his boot. After glancing up and down the aisle to make sure he had picked up everything that had fallen from her bag, he tipped his hat toward Katherine and moved on to the front of the car in search of an empty seat. Fuming at the cowboy's back as he walked away, Katherine sat down and moved over next to the window. He'd made her look stupid in front of everyone! She was certain that her face was beet red with embarrassment. What a grouch, she thought. It wasn't her fault he was so clumsy. Were all the men in the West clods like him?
A cough that came from the aisle caused her to turn. The button salesman stood with his hand stretched out toward her. There, swinging from his fingers, was one of her bras. She snatched it from his hand, pushed it into the pocket of her coat, and looked back out the window. The salesman chuckled before walking on.
Until now, the first part of the trip had been uneventful. What more might happen before she reached California?
Tate Castle moved on to the next car in the train in search of an empty seat. Finding one, he threw himself into it.
He never wanted to see that woman again! All he was trying to do was help her lift that damned bag. How was he supposed to know that it was going to fly apart? Did women actually wear that kind of thing? Holding a handful of those undergarments was like holding a handful of air!
He was glad finally to be heading home. It seemed like forever since he'd seen his ranch, his friends, and, most important, his daughter. He'd missed her terribly and knew that she'd missed him too.
It was still a couple of hours to Muddy Creek, where he would get off the train. He was bone-tired. Tipping his hat down over his eyes, Tate tried to sleep as the scent of flowers drifted up from his boot.
The sound of the steel wheels screeching against the tracks wakened Katherine. The train came to a stop at the next depot, a darkened little town called Los Rios. A new group of passengers came on board. A heavyset woman carrying bundles of clothing under her arms came down the aisle and plunked herself in the seat beside Katherine. The woman looked over at her and grinned, showing snuff-stained teeth. Katherine smiled, then quickly turned away; it was obvious that the woman had not bathed in quite a while.
"Hello, dearie, where are you goin'?"
Katherine acted as if she hadn't heard, and kept her face turned toward the window.
"I'm going to St. Elena to see my brother and sister," the woman offered. "I've not seen them in two years."
Katherine turned briefly and said, "How nice for you." The woman's odor was sickening.
"My brother's been sick," the woman continued, "and my sister lost her husband not long ago. Between you and me, it was no great loss. He wasn't worth diddly-squat! Too lazy to come in out of the rain, you know?"
The train lurched and then moved smoothly down the track. The smelly woman kept talking, not seeming to care that her audience wasn't listening.
Katherine leaned her head against the window, her thoughts wandering.
A year ago she had received her nursing degree, fulfilling a lifelong dream. After she had worked for a couple of years in a clinic in New York City, her uncle in California made an offer that she couldn't refuse. He was a doctor at a large hospital in San Francisco and wanted her to come out and assist him. Jumping at the chance, Katherine packed up her belongings and headed West. She was looking forward to seeing new things and meeting new people.
The leave-taking from her father had been painful. They had always been close, and he had supported his daughter's dreams. She was sure she had seen tears in his eyes when he told her good-bye on the platform.
In contrast, her stepmother, whom her father had married when Katherine was very young, had merely waved good-bye and declared that she wouldn't be surprised to see Katherine back at home within a matter of weeks.
Susie, her half-sister, thought Katherine had lost her mind even to want to go out to such a backwater place as California when there was so much to do right there in New York City. All she could expect to find out there were farmers and orange trees. Kate knew, though, that Susie was glad to get her out of the way so she would have a better chance with Edwin, the handsome nephew of her father's business partner, William Jacobs. Susie needn't have worried; although Edwin was a handsome man, Kate had never had any interest in him as a beau.
The woman's voice broke into her thoughts. "My nephew done fell down a well and drowneded. Wasn't too bright, that boy."
Katherine's thoughts traveled back over the past year. Her stepmother, Lila, had become more distant from the family. She was so involved in all her social activities that she was seldom at home. And when she was, she belittled Katherine for her devotion to nursing and her lack of interest in finding a suitable husband, a man who could support her in style.
Susie was like her mother. She loved the social life. The only things that seemed to matter to her were the latest fashions, dinner parties, and who was seeing whom. Katherine, on the other hand, was her father's daughter. Both of them enjoyed reading, talking business, and even an occasional game of bridge. Since her early childhood, they had been devoted to each other. While he also cared for Susie, Katherine knew that she was his favorite.
She leaned her head against the window and looked out into the lightening morning. The sun had begun to poke up over the hilltops. Telegraph poles whizzed by, and occasionally the train passed a cluster of houses.
Katherine had hoped that the woman would take her silence as a hint, but she kept right on talking. She talked so incessantly about her dog, her assorted aches and pains, and her lazy husband who was angry that she was making the trip that Katherine wanted to jump up and move; but there were no empty seats. To top it all off, someone behind her had lit a cheap cigar, filling the cramped car with smoke. At least it helped mask the stink of the woman!
The conductor came through. "We will be stopping in a few minutes to take on water. Everyone please stay on the train."
Katherine thought it would be wonderful to get a few breaths of fresh air. She hated the cramped feeling of the railway cars. When the train finally came to a stop, she excused herself and, with her handbag over her arm, managed to squeeze out in front of the fat lady and into the aisle.
As she moved toward the front of the car, Katherine noticed that the button salesman had slouched down in his seat, his derby hat pulled over his face. Light snores came from his open mouth. Katherine moved on past him. I hope he sleeps all the way to San Francisco.
The conductor had opened the door and was standing out on the platform. After checking the watch that hung from a chain on his vest, he moved into the next car. As soon as he walked away, Katherine quickly stepped down and moved to the side of the steps, out of the light that came from the car.
Oh, it was great to breathe the fresh air.
She looked off into the darkness and saw a long trough swing down toward the train. Then she heard the rush of water pouring into the engine's tank.
Suddenly something hard was jammed into her back and a hand grabbed hold of her shoulder. The sound of a revolver cocking startled her.
Excerpted from Train from Marietta by Dorothy Garlock Copyright ©2006 by Dorothy Garlock. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed reading this book! The characters seemed so real! Great story!
Love ms. Garlock's stories this book was a good one except if eddie didnt want kate hurt then when he and squirrly came to tate's house,why didnt he shoot squirrely at anytime when the chance arose? I liked kate also because she wasnt hateful. Most of garlocks stories that i like take place in 1800 's. Occasionally DG 's heroines are hateful throughout half of book.
The plot was predictible. The characters weak. The writing voice was forced and un-natural. The only thrilling thing about this book was turning the last page and not finding more. Don't waste your time or money.
In 1933 Katherine Tyler heads from her home in New York to work for her uncle as a nurse in a San Francisco hospital. However, her father's business partner William has his nephew Eddy Jacobs, boyfriend to Kate¿s sister Susan, abetted by two thugs (Hayden and Squirrelly) kidnap her in West Texas during a train stop. William plans to use her as a pawn to extort money and other valuables from her affluent dad John. --- Kate¿s desperate father ignores the warnings of bringing in the law he contacts the Texas Rangers. In turn craggy rancher Tate Castle searches for and rescues Kate. Tate is shocked by his attraction to the seemingly frail city girl she reciprocates his deep feelings. As they flee together she proves stronger than she looks, but his handicapped daughter Emily rejects her father finding a new love even if Katherine is willing to give up everything for a ranch life in Texas. --- TRAIN FROM MARIETTA is a terrific Depression Era romantic suspense starring two likable protagonists, a realistic child with physical and emotional problems (though both are resolved too easily), and antagonists who range from insane to avaricious to desperate. The action-packed story line never slows down from the moment that William begins his plan until the final altercation with a crazed Squirrelly. A final twist will surprise the audience, but fits the key relationships between the cast and hopefully leads to another Dorothy Garlock 1930¿s thriller. --- Harriet Klausner