She was the cold, hard facts of life with a smile.

Lady on a Train: Scene from the 1945 film noir classic.

Her life had all of the ingredients for a good story: Love. Cheating, Heartbreak. Getting drunk. Dying. And a little mystery thrown in.

The writer found her when he wasn’t looking for her, and after he found her, he wondered if there was any chance he would ever let her go. She was perfection in a gingham dress.

She was seated alone in the back of a slow-moving train, watching the tall buildings of Denver slip slowly away, fading into the slums.

She shuddered.

It was a hard life outside, down on the sidewalks, littered with trash, back in the alleys where no one dared go after dark.

It had been her life.

The homeless with their carts.

Drug dealers with their switchblades.

Homes without windows.

Children without fathers.

A tear moistened the corner of her eye.

She silently said goodbye.

There was nothing to hold her now.

She would never be free, perhaps.

But she was gone.

Good riddance.

Good riddance to them all.

She was a small woman, her pale features framed by ruffled curls the color of a November sunset.

Her dress was two years out of date, and she was five years north of being beautiful.

She turned and smiled, and the five years faded away.

The writer sat down beside her.

“Do you mind?” he asked.

She didn’t.

They rode in silence for a minute or two, then he took a chance and asked, “You on vacation?”

“No.”

“Going home?”

“Denver was my home.”

“Got a job somewhere?” he asked.

“I’ve got a bus ticket,” she said.

“Be gone long?”

“It’s one way.”

She lost her smile and glanced quickly out the window.

He looked at her left hand.

The ring was small.

The diamond was small.

She was married.

He shrugged.

It happened to him all the time.

“Your husband coming to join you?” the writer asked.

It was none of his business.

But he was curious.

Writers almost always were.

“He’s dead,” she said.

“I’m sorry.”

“No reason to be sorry.” This time, she was the one who shrugged. ‘I was his wife in Denver,” she said. “He had another wife in Santa Fe.”

“He get caught?”

“Cheating men always get caught.”

“I guess he had a decision to make,” the writer said.

“He made the wrong one.”

“How’s that?”

“He chose me.”

The little lady sighed. She bit her lip and needed another patch of lipstick.

“He came home and begged me to forgive him,” she said.

“Did you?”

“No.”

“Did he go back to her?”

“He killed off a bottle of gin, packed up his clothes, and walked out the door. He wasn’t walking none too straight.”

“Last time you see him?”

“The next time I saw him, he was dead.” She laughed softly. It had a somber tone. “She was waiting for him outside my door.”

The little lady paused.

She watched the sun slip behind a cloud.

Both were hanging low in the sky.

“She shot him three times.”

“Murder?”

“That’s what the police would call it.”

“And what do you call it?” he asked.

“Justifiable.”

“Did you call the police?”

The little lady shook her head.

“Why not?”

“She stuffed him in the trunk of her car and drove off.”

“Did you report the crime?”

“No.”

“You should have.”

“I didn’t know her name.”

The little lady cocked her head, turned, and smiled at him. “Why are you asking so many questions?” she wanted to know.

“I’m a writer.”

“So?”

“I’m looking for a story.”

“You like mine?”

“It has all of the ingredients,” he said. “Love. Cheating, Heartbreak. Getting drunk. Dying. And a little mystery thrown in.”

“You could write about me,” she said.

“I could.”

“You think I would make a good novel?” she asked.

“I don’t know about a novel,” he said, “but you’re a damn good country song.”

I have just released my Memoir of Sorts. Please click HERE to find The Man Who Talks to Strangers on Amazon.

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