School's out, and the BSC has already landed a pretty exciting job. Derek Masters is in town, and he's got a big Hollywood movie to promote. It's a murder mystery called Night Train to Charleston, and in order to promote it, the cast and crew are going to be taking a train from Boston to Charleston for the premiere. Derek is going to be bringing Nicky Pike, Linny Papadakis, David Michael Thomas, James Hobart, Buddy Barrett, and his best friend Greg from CA along as his guests, and Derek's brother, Todd, will be bringing his best friend, Daniel. None of the cast, crew, or parents are going to have the time to look after all those kids, so they ask for three of the BSC members to go along to help. Kristy, Stacey, and Aby are the lucky three who get the job.
While everyone is waiting to board the train in Boston, Derek fills the sitters in on who some of the people are that will be making the journey with him. First, there's Jane Atlantic, the only reporter who's being allowed on the train for the whole journey. She's also a Stacey doppleganger. Then, there's Rock Harding, the director, who doesn't have much to say to anyone who's not in "the business." Next, there's Ronald Pierce, screenwriter and father of Todd's friend, Daniel. After him, Derek introduces the group to Anne Arbour, publicist extraordinare. Finally, they get a glimpse of the movie's two main stars, Benjamin Athens and Elle San Carlos. They don't actually get to meet them, though; they're kind of keeping to themselves.
Before everyone can even board the train, things start happening. Elle's soon to be ex-husband, Charlie, shows up and tries to convince her to go back to him. He's hauled away by security, but not before he can threaten either Elle or Benjamin; Kristy isn't sure which one he's lookingat. Soon after boarding, Kristy and the other sitters take the kids to the dining car for some lunch. Each one of them is handed a program with a map of the train and a list of which scenes from the movie are going to be acted out on board the train during the journey. There's also something else in there: a note that says, "The truth will come out - there's nothing you can do to stop me." Everyone seesm to have gotten one in their program, and Kristy thinks it's just some sort of publicity thing. Then, she notices that Anne Arbour seems annoyed and puzzled by the whole thing, which kind of throws that theory out the window. Then, when lunch is delivered, Elle San Carlos finds a little something extra in hers: a rubber hand with a copy of the same message tucked between its fingers. After lunch, the sitters take the kids back to their sleeping compartments for a rest. They barely get a chance to settle in before disaster strikes; the car starts filling up with smoke. When everyone tries to escape through the other end of the car, they discover that the door is locked. They finally manage to get the door open, and when the conductors rush to investigate, they discover that there's no fire. Someone, though, set off a smoke bomb. They also tell Kristy that only someone with a key could have locked the door to their compartment. The trouble? All the staff members have keys or access to keys, and there's a master set that's kept in the supply closet in the staff quarters. Almost anyone could have gotten ahold of a set of keys and locked the door.
After dinner that night, Kristy and Stacey take Todd and Daniel down the observation car to look at the stars. When they get there, though, they find that they're not quite alone. There are two men arguing on the platform outside the car, but Stacey and Kristy can't see who they are since the train is going through a tunnel at the time and it's dark. Suddenly, just as the train leaves the tunnel, one man pushes the other off the train! Stacey runs to get the conductor and Kristy yells for help, but the only one to hear her is Jane Atlantic, the reporter. She shows Kristy a note she received, instructing her to be in the observation car that evening if she wanted some real news. She's VERY interested in the story of a possible man overboard, but when the matter is looked into, everyone turns out to be present and accounted for. There isn't a single person missing from the train. No one is particularly happy with Kristy and Stacey, since the train had to be stopped while they investigated. Also, no one believes them. The girls know what they saw, though, so Kristy returns to the scene of the crime later that night to see if she can find anything suspicious. All she comes up with is a page from the movie script. She decides to hold onto it, just in case.
At this point, just about everyone is a suspect. This includes Elle's ex-husband, Charlie, who's supposedly not even on the train (he's been sending her telegrams). The three sitters do a bunch of sleuthing, including searching the sleeping cars of their suspects. During a brunch stop in Washington D.C., Kristy fills the kids in on what they've been doing so far, mystery-wise. They go on a script hunt, to see who might have a copy with a missing page, but they come up empty-handed. Later, after the train is moving again, Kristy and Derek notice something about the script: none of the characters' names are right. Kristy thinks on it for awhile, then gets an idea. She rushes out of the sleeping car to test her theory, but before she can (and just as the train seems to be picking up speed), the lights go out. The train stops, and an announcement about mechanical difficulty comes over the loudspeaker. Kristy heads back to check on the kids, and orders them all the stay in their sleeping cars. She then heads to the stage car, where Abby and Stacey are watching a reenactment of some of the scenes from the movie. She wants to tell them her theory about the mystery, but Abby runs off to read a bedtime story to Todd and Daniel before she can. So, Kristy fills Stacey in. The character names on the script are different because the page is from a DRAFT, not the final edition. Who would be most likely to have a rough draft of a script? Yep, Ronald Pierce, screenwriter and Daniel's father. Stacey and Kristy head back in to the stage car to tell someone what they've figured out. Before they can, another smoke bomb goes off. When the smoke clears, they see that someone has written another message about the truth coming out; this time, it's on the windows of the car. The girls approach Ronald Pierce and ask him what's going on (since 13 year old girls should ALWAYS be the ones to approach potential murderers). He's not the guilty one, but he knows who is; it turns out that he stole the idea for Night Traing to Charleston from a student of his, Laurence Channing, and Laurence isn't happy about it. Ronald paid him, but that wasn't enough to keep Laurence from blackmailing him for even MORE money. Now, Ronald is scared that Daniel might be in danger, so he and the sitters rush back to the sleeping cars to check on the kids. When they get there, they find Abby alone. The boys had talked her into a game of hide and seek. They find both Todd and Daniel, but just as they do, Laurence Channing comes out of nowhere and tries to grab Daniel. Kristy throws herself at him and manages to knock him off balance enough that other others can subdue him. Then, she locks Todd and Daniel into their bathroom to keep them safe. Laurence Channing is taken into custody, and given psychiatric evaluation. He also gets a writing credit on the movie, and the proper payment that goes along with it. Unfortunately, because of this little snafu, Ronald's writing career is over, and it's back to teaching.
Meanwhile, back in Stoneybrook, the remaining baby-sitters are helping Nikki Stanton-Cha open Greenbrook Club for the summer. All the kids are having fun..except for Nikki's son, Stephen. He can't swim, and he's embarrassed to let the other kids know, so he spends a lot of time on the sidelines. The BSC manages to save the day....of course.
Thoughts and Things
- This mystery isn't bad, as BSC mysteries go. It's not exactly realistic, but I've never claimed to read these books for the realism. :)
- This mystery also might be the winnder for dumbest character names ever. I mean, Jane Atlantic? Anne Arbour? Finally (and possibly worst of all)....
- ROCK HARDING?!?! Between Harmony Skye in the last mystery (stripper name) and Rock Harding in this one (use your imagination), I can't help but wonder where the ghosties were getting their ideas for names.
- In chapter 2, Kristy actually says that it's okay for club members to miss a meeting if they have something really important to do, like baby-sitting. Since when? Kristy ALWAYS freaks out if members have to be absent.
- This is one of the books where Ben Hobart is "one of the kids," rather than being a friend of the sitters. He teases the other kids, participates in all of their activities, and even enters the goofy bathing cap contest. It's even mentioned that he and Mal are the same age, but nothing's said about their "relationship."
- When the sitters are at Greenbrook, Mallory is the one that's obsessively staying covered up and wearing high SPF sunscreen, while Mary Anne is soaking up the sun like it's nothing. Since when did Mary Anne stop being sensitive to the sun?