A Sketch in Time
By D. Reichsbahn
The clickety-click of wheels turned from irritation to peaceful serenity, rather a chant of sorts. It brought Franklin a serenity no other sound could replicate. He’d tried to achieve the same sense of freedom via aircraft and car but found their movements jerky and unpredictable. Nothing could substitute train travel. It was the perfect background for creativity.
He scanned the compartment, his eyes focused on the pot-bellied middle-aged man to his left who was shifting his weight in an attempt to find a comfortable position in tight quarters. The man settled in, unfolded a newspaper and set it against the back of the seat in front of him. The rustle of paper sounded with each page turn.
Franklin heard the distant cry of an infant and the faint shush of a mother’s quieting voice. His eyes caught sight of a young woman sitting beside a guitar case. Her hair flowed free with the exception of a thin braid running down one side. Specks of sunlight glistened against her face and auburn hair. The girl sat staring, at what he had no idea, simply a blank stare, perhaps of boredom or loneliness.
His creative juices stirred to capture the look in her eyes and exquisite beauty. He drew the sketchpad out of his briefcase, took a pencil from his pocket and began the mastery of drawing. Surely, this woman knew he was catching her essence, yet she did not stir. Those blue eyes piercing and blank contained a stare of emptiness. Franklin was lost in each moment. The shading and variety of grays produced subtle darkness and light until the sketch became the person and not a mere caricature. Yes, he had brought her to life with his mastery.
Franklin rose and approached the girl. He bent over to speak with her and show her the drawing.
“Miss, if I may be so bold. I took the liberty of capturing your beauty.”
Her trance-like state now broken, the young woman looked at the sketch. She raised her head and looked into Franklin’s eyes, and smiled.
“Why, it is beautifully done. Sir, you have quite a gift.”
Franklin grinned with pride.
“Thank you misses. If you don’t mind, I must give it a name.”
She paused a moment. “I suppose it won’t do any harm. As they say, strangers on a train. My name is Audrey.”
Franklin felt a grasp on his shoulder as hands grabbed his arms and pulled him toward the exit door. He caught sight of the conductor’s badge. It read, STRATTON. The man grabbed the sketch from his hand and tore it into shreds.
“Look, I didn’t think anyone would mind. It’s only a drawing.”
The trains’ wheels shrieked to a stop. His resistance could not fight the force. A final push and he found himself in the dust and dirt. He heard the valise’s thud against the platform.
Then it hit him. How stupid. The papers headlines! Double Homicide. Police Seek Daughter, Audrey Stratton For Questioning.