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Splitting Hairs


“Unless I’m misreading the room” - Seth cocked an eyebrow - “It appears, sir, neither of us are surprised by the other’s response regarding his gray hairs.”


“Well, we can’t say the two names mentioned qualify as unexpected wild guesses.” Scott pivoted the angle of his seat, allowing room to stretch out his legs. “Unfortunately, my last visit to Boston ended poorly with Grandfather. I let time pass with little resolve, setting the stage for discussions which will require the avoidance of splitting those hairs, gray or otherwise. Never an easy task when it comes to Harlan Garrett. The gentleman prefers grabbing the reins and steering the cart.”


“Roberta Westcott doesn’t give a damn who’s holding the reins but, by God, the cart better be gilded and headed to a social event.” Seth swept his arm out at his ornate surroundings. “This sure as hell would earn her approval. I’m referring to Pullman’s taste in decor, that is, not the fella currently admiring it.” His focus drifted to the dark countryside passing by. “No finer words spoken by an ungrateful son.”


“Seems to me a man can’t be ungrateful until he’s been offered something to be thankful for.”


“Ah, you’ve been blessed with my grandfather’s view of his daughter-in-law.”

“A letter from my grandfather inspired your grandfather to voice his opinions.”


Seth's smile returned. “I believe we need a playbill to distinguish all these grandfathers in our vaudeville act of gray hairs.”


Spying their porter from dinner now making his rounds through the library car, Scott signaled for service. “A playbill would be handy, however, let's settle for a nightcap.”


The two brandies arrived in crystal snifters displayed on a silver tray carried by the white-gloved hands of the man with the kind eyes and soft southern accent. “Would The Jupiter be bringing you gentlemen along nicely this evening?”


“No complaints here…” Scott frowned. Old ways from slavery had some passengers referring to the porters as George, naming them all after their so-called master, George Pullman. Scott found the practice dehumanizing today as much as he did before and during the war. He refused to do it. “I’m afraid I don’t know your name.”


“It’s George, sir.”


“No, no. Your God-given name.”


“Well, sir, that be George. I guess I had the callin’ to be here since birth.”


As the porter excused himself, Seth knuckled a chuckle, while Scott shot a sheepish grin at his business partner. “Tell me I didn’t put my foot into it.”


“I would, but I feel honesty is the best policy between business partners.” A snifter gently swirled its brandy. “It’s a sad fact but the more things change, the more they remain the same.”


“Agreed.” Scott’s glass followed suit. “However, Pullman’s train shall give us pleasure. Naught like it was known before. All its comforts we shall treasure. Ere we reach the golden shore.”


“Well stated.”


“Not my words. They were penned by a fella named DeWolfe. He called himself a wandering poet. I had the pleasure of his company during my first cross-country train ride to California.” Scott held the snifter to his nose. Appreciating the brandy’s subtle fruity and woody aromas transported him to the Beacon Hill study and his grandfather. “It was to be a round trip.” A sip brought his thoughts back to the present. “Ended up as a one-way ticket.”


“Any regrets?”


Scott rested an ankle to knee and settled back. “Like my brother has said on more than one occasion - you got to have ‘em, before you can share ‘em. Truth be told, there have been some regrets. They’ve diminished over time.” A nod acknowledged the gentleman across the aisle. “And you?”


“Oh, a few in the past. No doubt a couple more are in my future.” Seth grinned. “Although the little lady sound asleep two cars up the line will never be one of them.” Somber reflection weakened his smile. “I’d have to say my biggest regret is never asking my father what he found that made him love my mother. Guess I wasn’t old enough at the time to know how to put it in the right words. And considering what I just said, I’m still not.” Sip. “I can tell you he's been dead for ten years and I have yet to figure out the goddamn answer.” Never far below the surface, Seth’s mischievous nature reappeared. “Maybe I should write to Miss Providence and ask her.”


“My God.” Scott pinched the bridge of his nose. “Before we left, the young lady informed Jenkins of Miss Providence’s demise due to her upcoming nuptials. Before Will could open his mouth in protest of his golden goose flying the coop, Kinsey invited the sonofabitch to your wedding.”


Seth's abrupt boisterous laugh, echoing to the far end of the car, startled a slumbering older gentleman into a snorted awakening. Rising with a look of disdain aimed at his two fellow passengers, the distinguished fella tugged at his vest front and left with a garumph.


Scott raised an eyebrow. “I believe our social graces are in question.”


“That” - Seth’s index finger pointed down the aisle - “Was the look I’d get while being hauled off to the woodshed.”


“The study was my destination where I’d sit and sweat, listening to the grandfather clock countdown the minutes to my behind getting paddled.” Scott reduced the level of brandy in his glass and chuckled. “Murdoch’s clock in the Great Room has the same damn effect.”


“Well, like I said, the more things change, the more they remain the same.” Seth leaned back and eyeballed his traveling companion. “You don’t strike me as a young’un who would dunk his backside into hot water much.”


“Oh, I managed rather well with my stubbornness. And my adventures always seemed like brilliant ideas at the time. Which is why it’s hard for me to stay mad at Kinsey after some of the stunts she’s pulled. My father sums up our hereditary affliction as Garrett Guts.”


“She’s going to need them once we get to Boston.”


Scott stared at the final finger of amber liquid in his glass. Smiling Cobra. Beacon Hill Rattler. What were they all going to need once they arrived in Boston? Fishing out the pocket watch from his coat’s side pocket, the timepiece held a surprise. “Our nightcap has journeyed into the early morning.”


“What did that DeWolfe fella say again?” Seth raised his snifter.


The gesture repeated. “Pullman’s train shall give us pleasure. Naught like it was known before. All its comforts we shall -”


The jolt catapulted Scott out of his luxurious upholstered seat.


Fine carved wood splintered.

Expensive stained glass shattered.

Darkness.


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