“AN UNSOLVED MURDER MYSTERY”
(reading time approx. 7 minutes)
The year is 1934. There’s a small one-room schoolhouse with six grades, in a place called Woodside Crossing. Four school chums in the 3rd grade are Chubby, Slim, Moses and Skippy. They all go to the Woodside Crossing School. Most students are from farm families. There are a few houses and a railroad crossing, with an old time railroad station next to a heavily wooded area. It’s mainly for farmers in past years. The station building is an empty unheated structure, once used for the occasional pick up of a passenger or two, on a flag signal. The train goes to the industrial areas outside of Philadelphia, hauling farm produce and lumber from upstate eastern Pennsylvania. It has an engine, one small half-size passenger car, an open coal car and a caboose.
There’s a fireman and engineer on the train when it comes by weekly. The engineer is Louie Frankenfield, who lives near Woodside Crossing. He never chased the four kids off the train when they hitched a caboose ride on the way through the countryside into town. The old Woodside Station is the unofficial clubhouse where the kids can meet and plan their mischief for the day. Just two old benches are inside, so they built a table and workbench, using boxes and boards from an abandoned, falling down barn nearby. They’re excited about their clubhouse in the old Woodside Station.
The engineer, Louie Frankenfield’s house is just a half-mile from the old R.R. station. When the train is on schedule, Louie’s wife Sophie rides her bicycle to meet the train. She always packs a very thoughtful lunch for Louie, with sandwiches and a bottle of cold homemade beer. This is only when he’s going north and won’t be home for a few days. Louie always talks endearingly about his most wonderful and faithful wife, Sophie. She feels so alone for the three or four days when Louie is on his trip, taking his next load to the Poconos. Everybody loves Sophie, including the Duncan’s Bakery man. He delivers baked goods along his route twice a week, both days when Louie is gone. When Louie’s train heads north, it means that it won’t return to Woodside Crossing for at least four days. Poor Sophie will be alone, all by herself for four days every week. Well, sometimes. The Frankenfield’s house is the last delivery on the Duncan’s Bakery route, twice weekly, when Louie is working.
About 20 miles north of Woodside Crossing, there is a collapse of the Indian Creek Bridge, and the rails fall into the creek. Louie’s train has to be diverted into a nearby siding until the creek crossing can be rebuilt. That will be at least a two-week delay. Louie’s excited. It will mean a vacation with his beloved, super lover, faithful wife, Sophie. He’ll surprise her.
He hitchhikes to the house from the fallen bridge. He’s surprised to see the Duncan’s Bakery truck parked in his barn. What could that be? It doesn’t take long to figure out who’s visiting his beloved wife, Sophie. Before breaking in on a scene he really doesn’t want to see, he loads his 12 gauge double-barreled Remington shotgun with pumpkin ball shells from the barn. He silently creeps in the back kitchen door. He can hear recognizable moans, laughter, screams and squeals emanating from his bedroom. It’s too much to bear. He opens the door to the bedroom, takes one look, and fires two 12 gauge blasts directly into the naked bodies of Sophie and the loving Duncan’s Bakery man. Blood is everywhere. He panics and can’t think clearly. What to do? Desperate, he foolishly gets into the bakery truck and drives to the Woodside Station. He goes inside, sits down weeping, puts the 12 gauge shotgun in his mouth, pulls the trigger and says good bye to this world.
Moses, Skippy, Chubby and Slim stumble on the scene after school the next day. Blood and pieces of head everywhere. They don’t know what to do. They’re sure they will be accused of this horrible sight as a murder. They have to get rid of the body. The four boys wait until there’s no one in sight, then drag the body into the woods behind the station. They drop it into a deep inaccessible ravine along a creek, just a few hundred yards from the Woodside Station.
It was now the secret of the Woodside Station clubhouse. They were never to return to the station and swore to each other, under an oath of a horribly excruciatingly painful death, to remain silent.
In a few days, the missing truck is reported to the county sheriff. The sheriff finds the Duncan Bakery truck abandoned by the train tracks, near the Woodside Station, but no driver. This opens an investigation. Where was the driver? They trace along the Duncan’s Bakery route, making inquiries. Several days later, they come upon the Frankenfield house. They knock. No Answer. They forcibly enter the house and discover Sophie with the driver, their naked dead bodies blasted into their final rewards, in Louie’s bed. The concluding and logical assumption is that Louie killed the secret lovers. He must have driven the truck to the station, boarded a passing freight train to escape, somewhere along the route to Philadelphia, then vanished. The sheriff makes a profound statement, just like the big city cops, “Find the gun and we’ll find the killer.”
The week following the incident, the four school chums meet after school. Their discussion opens with, “Did any of you guys ever go back to the station?” Moses, Chubby and Skippy say, “No!” Slim sheepishly admits, “Yes, I did, once!” “Why?” they yell. “To get that neat Remington 12 gauge, double-barreled shotgun, that’s why!”
And so goes the unsolved Frankenfield murder mystery at Woodside Crossing and the disappearance of Louie, the railroad engineer.