Zephyr, an Onboard Mystery – Part 1

…California Zephyr, eastbound…

Swaying back to her seat from the baggage area, she hears faint cries, but no, it would be somebody’s tablet, another passenger without headphones. Never mind.

Patches of almost-Christmas snow in the Sierra Nevadas, and then

Truckee…

Reno…

Sailing through Sparks…

No, wait, that was definitely a meow. Make that much meowing. Where’s it coming from?

Dark falls over the desert. As she pulls suitcase after suitcase off the luggage rack, the yowling becomes more urgent. Other passengers circle. It is a cat. Trapped in a soft carrier beneath three layers of bags. Black. Wide- and golden-eyed. Whose?

Word spreads. “Couple in the next coach had a cat out at the last stop.” Ah. Thank goodness. But not. The couple, finally located, is surprised, even offended. “Our cat’s right here. It’s not like we have two.”

Cold night in Winnemucca…

By now it’s a whole convocation track-side—coach and sleeping car passengers, assistant conductor, car attendant, then the conductor, who’s sought the owner from dining car to locomotive, and drawn a blank. And so?

“Wish I could keep her.”

“I’ll take her, seriously.”

“Unfortunately, she’s not Amtrak property, so we couldn’t release her.” The assistant conductor sighs, pats her again.

“Are we positive somebody didn’t fall asleep, and they just haven’t heard us?”

“But she was meowing way before Reno, so it’s been, like, at least five hours!”

“Hey, there’s a can of food in her carrier. Can we feed her?”

“Of course.” Next thing, the conductor’s back with a bowl of water. “We’ve radioed management. We’ll have to follow their lead.”

By the time we reboard, word is that someone from the animal shelter will be meeting her in Elko.

Meanwhile, the cat posse takes things into their own hands: an entire parade through the coach cars, cat protesting in the forefront, and no passenger unquestioned. But nothing.

Elko…

Nobody there to meet the cat. The shelter’s already closed, so now our newly-named Zephyr’s been taken to the crew cab for the night; she’ll be picked up instead tomorrow in Grand Junction. But now we’re worried.

Tête-a tête in the lounge car till well past midnight… What will they do? Is it a no-kill shelter? Google says not. We can’t let that happen! What if one of us went to the new crew getting on in Salt Lake City and said, ‘Man, I just woke up and I can’t find my cat!’ Or else, let’s see, if the clearly elder of us played the memory loss card, and…

No, we’re getting way too overtired here. Nothing we can do. The only plan is to meet here again just before Grand Junction, and hope for inspiration…

~ To be continued ~