The Case of the Missing Locomotive III

The Case of the Missing Locomotive III

Punishment

By Roger Heid

Continuation

The heavenly smell of fresh coffee and pastries, fresh out of the oven, awakened my senses. Bruno was already up and busy straightening out the catenaries we had hurriedly installed the night before. In the industrial area, two new smoke stacks needed to be erected. While I put the pieces together, Bruno wired a couple of smoke generators.

“You now, Roger, this is supposed to be a chemical plant. I am tempted to wire a hefty fire cracker and blow it up. Wilhelm would not like that. He bought it for me and helped me to put it together. Personally, I hate the darn thing, but I need to show some respect and gratitude toward my brother. He helped me lot with all this.”

“You could lift everything up and place it on a pre-cut thin sheet of plywood, then cut another sheet to size and put up whatever you want. This way you put up this plant only when Wilhelm is around. The new plant you can blow up at heart’s delight, if that is what you want to do, in the first place. You could construct it in sections that can easily be put back together. This way you can stage a plant explosion often and on demand.”

“Hey! I never thought of that. That’s food for thought. Uhhh……will you help me with that?”

“I’ll be more than happy to.”

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It was time to report to the Dining Room where we would be served our last meal before the grand verdict and the sentences. In spite of the ‘circumstances’, the breakfast was delicious. Those excellent croissants and the turnovers were created by Chef Wilhelm. He rubbed that in, to no end. A chicken that had just laid an egg could have learned a great lesson in persuasive cackling. For a few minutes, Wilhelm shed his dignity and behaved like an average man of the ‘mature’ age of 21.

After the table had been cleared, the Dining Room turned into a Court Room. The jury, consisting of Wilhelm, announced that a verdict had been reached and that all defendants were found guilty as charged.

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This is how we felt.

Then he got up to take a seat at the head of the table. On his way there, he gave the All Rise command. Then he sat down, assuming his role as Honorable Judge Wilhelm. His attempt to keep from laughing wound up in dire failure. The Judge lost his dignity, altogether, and would not regain it.

He reached for the folder which he had placed on the judge’s bench. The type of grin or smile on his face was a new one. It was a conglomerate of everything we knew from his father, traces of his mother’s soft and gentle smile blended with some impish and cheerful smirk most likely found on some leprechaun, up to no good.

The tonal quality of his voice changed from an unrelenting judge to a bringer of good news. It was now obvious that he was anxious to announce the good news.

“Now listen up. My father and I have talked this over. We think that this elusive clique in your class is not such a good thing. It is too restrictive and it can cause some bad blood. The attitude of some of these so-called ‘clique members’ is outright deplorable, from what my father told me. This needs to change, right now.

My father and I discussed this with the school officials. It was decided that this ‘clique’ will become obsolete by establishing an official Model Railroad Work Group, sponsored by the school and certain donors. Attendance and participation is open to any student in the entire school, including the ‘have nots’. They are student citizens like anyone else. They are not of an inferior race, if you will. The school administration has allocated a seldom used room in the basement. It will be ready for occupancy, sometime next week.”

Out of the folder, he produced several sheets of paper. He handed them, along with the folder, to Bruno and me. There were drawings and text on them.

“You can study that later. Here is the deal, your ‘punishment’, so to speak. You will construct the layout described, in sections, by no later than November 20. If I approve of it, we will haul it to the Railroad Club for the December show. The Club already set the space aside, so, therefore you have an obligation.

You will all pitch in. If you run into a logistics problem, let me know. If you do your job right, you will win a prize. That will be all.”

He rose and left the court room.

Back in Bruno’s room, I asked him:

“Say, I can’t quite figure out your brother. Does he always act that way?”

“Uh huh. A couple of years ago, we thought he might apply for a commission in the Army, after college. Then he dropped the idea. He said they would not let him do what he wants to.”

Then I scrutinized those sheets of papers the Judge had handed us. Not bad, I thought. There were a couple of difficulties involved, but nothing that couldn’t be tackled with some team work and a competent hand behind a solder iron. The carpentry work would not be prohibitive, either. The required logistics, well, that was left to be seen.

“Bruno, did Wilhelm design this layout?”

Bruno looked at me and nodded

“You did !!! Gee, I thought, uh…”

“Yeah, I did. I knew about his plot all along. You see, he can’t even put two rail sections together without bending the joiners. He had to involve me. Believe me; it was hard to keep my mouth shut. He may look hard around the edges, and he likes to bark a lot. But, once you know him, you will find out how good hearted and smart he is. He is very resolute, though, and nothing escapes his attention. Uh, Roger, we better get cracking with this project.”

“Bruno, we got until the middle of November. What’s the hurry?”

“If you keep saying that every day, we’ll never get it done. Now I have to quit my job at the club. They’ll have to do without me. Oh well! They did not pay me that much, anyway.”

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This example of a track plan closely resembles the one Bruno had designed. Talk about tedious and expensive.

On the following Wednesday, right before the end of the last period, four men entered our classroom. There was the school principal, one of his henchmen, the head janitor and some strange dude.

The principal interrupted and terminated the teacher’s blabbering and ordered that Eugen, Paul and I were to report to Room 17, in the basement. The men made an about face and split. The two ‘ex-clique members’ and the ‘ex-pariah’ proceeded to Room 17.

There they were again, the four men. Bruno was also present. The room was nice and brightly lit. A pile of plywood sheets, a bunch of saw horses, shelves, folding chairs and a desk were cluttering the room. The principal’s voice sounded like the ‘Trumpets of Jericho’ when he announced:

“This is the work room for the new ‘Model Railroad Work Group’. Bruno, Eugen, Roger and Paul are in charge; Bruno will be the senior in charge. Roger and Bruno, see me on Friday, right after school, without fail.”

The principal and his henchman left the scene. The strange dude turned out to be one of the dictators of the local model railroad club. He briefly impressed on us that he was our advisor and go to person. He looked at his watch, mumbled something about an appointment and flew out the door. We pretended to listen to the janitor’s spiel about the dos and the don’ts, the this and that, and that the locksmith would have our keys by Friday. He left a cloud of dust behind him when he stampeded out the door. This cloud dust was not imaginary; it was for real. The dust needed to be annihilated. There was lots of it.

We were dazed but not very confused. There it was, our punishment. Incredible! The procurement of a ton of elbow grease would have to be the first item on the agenda. Then we would have to take lessons as to how to swallow one’s pride.

“I wonder what we have to see God for, on Friday,” Paul mentioned.

“I’m not sure. Anything is possible. A press conference with a marching band and champagne, or maybe some bitching around that the room was not ready. Let’s assume the worst and get cracking,” Bruno insisted.

Spare me the details about how we learned to swallow our pride. I do not have particularly fond memories of this, but the room was ready, on time, to the best of our juvenile judgment. Everything was in place. You could have eaten off the floor.

Friday came; Bruno and I promptly reported to God’s domain. There we had to wait a few minutes for some stranger in a trench coat to depart. Then God finally granted us the audience. Upon entry, God finished to push some papers around. Then he pulled a desk drawer out and handed us a bunch of keys to Room 17. He informed us that we could now go about our business and that we had until November 20.

Ok, so the Press and the Marching Band were not late; they were never cited, forget about the champagne. We had sterilized the room for nothing.

“Uh, Sir, would you like to take a look at the room, please. We did some work to it,” I dared to declare.

God glimpsed at his celestial time piece adorning one of the palace walls.

“Sure, why not. I have a few minutes to spare.”

When we entered the room, we got to see something unseen before by anyone alive. God smiled. It was warm and honest. His face could hardly be recognized. He reached into his wallet and handed us a 50 Mark bill.

“Here, my boys, you will need that and then some.”

Maybe this ‘punishment’ wasn’t so severe, after all.

Several weeks went by, the layout growing at a snail’s pace, until that day when our Physics teacher became involved.

To be continued.

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