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From Runaway Murder
“Morning, Greg,” I muttered as I made my way up the
metal steps, my footsteps clanking as I went.
He didn’t move at first, asserting his dominance by making me
brush past him, I’m sure. But one quick glare from me had him
hopping onto the platform to give us space.
“Good morning, Jessica, and what a lovely morning it is, too.”
“What’s got into you this morning?” I asked.
He was always either far too happy or far too irritable, never in
between, although part of me was convinced he acted the tempera‐
mental boss for my benefit.
“Can a man not be happy at work, Jess?” he asked.
I just shook my head and walked past into the waiting area as
Vanessa pulled herself up. Greg Kendrick was one of the less pleasant
parts of my job. He was the train’s chief conductor and general
manager—and my ex-lover.
Our affair had been brief, and long before I took the job on the
train, but there was no escaping the fact that it had happened. I hadn’t
been in the best of places after my divorce,—and even though my two
kids and my stepson had long ago flown the nest, I’d still felt guilty
divorcing their father. Greg had been a nice distraction from all that,
but boy, had it come back to haunt me when I started working on this
Whenever he disagreed with me or refused to entertain my ideas—
which was often enough—I wondered whether he was punishing me
for ending things when I did. I quickly put that thought out of my
mind, though. Greg was a lot of things, but he was always a consum‐
mate professional. He loved that train as much as I did, and after two
months on the job, I was beginning to get a handle on him and his
Vanessa widened her eyes as she looked at me, and I shot her a
questioning look back. When we were halfway through the first
carriage on our way to the kitchen, she spoke over my shoulder.
“He still holds a torch for you,” she said.
“Who? Greg?” I tutted. “Don’t talk nonsense.”
“It’s not nonsense,” Vanessa insisted. “Did you see the way he
looked at you?”
“Anyway, about that heist,” I said, knowing full well it would divert
“Yes, about that . . .”
Her crazy criminal theories were a whole lot better than her
romance theories, and she was wrong, anyway. The only person Greg
held a torch for was Greg himself, and even if he did still have feelings
for me, they certainly weren’t reciprocated.
“You’ve seen the Batman movies, right?”
“Er . . . yeah, I think so,” I replied, having no idea where this was
“You know that grapple hook thingy he uses to swing from
“Yeah,” I said slowly.
“I reckon our thief had one of those.”
I snorted with laughter. “So, he breaks into the museum, snatches
the spike, then climbs up onto the roof, throws a grapple hook, and
swings to safety, all without anyone noticing? In a tiny town like
“Well, think about it,” Vanessa urged. “The spike is what? Five,
maybe six inches long? Small enough to fit in a pocket. He’s already
set off the alarms, and the security guards are walking the perimeter,
right? There’s no way he was getting out through the front or back
doors. From the roof is the only way.”
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“She’s not wrong,” a voice said, and I stopped, surprised.
It was Carter Osborne, one of the train’s regulars. I often
wondered what he did with his life, because he didn’t seem to work
much, other than writing his great literary novel that never seemed to
get any further than a page or two. He was a short man with thick
glasses and an overbite. He liked to talk too. While he was friendly
enough, he liked most of all to share his ideas on how to improve the
train—new seat covers, a different event, music piping through the
carriages. He even went so far as to advise the engineers on how to do
their job—much to their irritation.
“Morning Carter,” I replied with a smile. “Nice to see you today.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said. “One of my favorite days
of the year, this. And your friend is quite correct; there’s no way the
thief would have got out through the front of the building.”
Vanessa puffed up. “Thank you very much, Mr. . . .”
“Osborne. Carter Osborne,” he said, holding a hand out. Vanessa
shook it gratefully, throwing me one of her I told you so looks.
“Enjoy the day, Carter,” I said chuckling and tugging on Vanessa’s
arm to encourage her further into the train.
“Now, he seems like a very nice guy,” Vanessa said.
“Only because he agreed with you,” I said with a chuckle.
“Regular?” she asked.
“Yep. A writer. Or he’s trying to be, anyway. He signed up for this
scheme where he gets to ride the rails for free in return for a bit of
social media publicity, but he’s got, like, two followers or something.”
“He’s not as daft as he looks, then,” Vanessa said. “Free train rides
and no work. What’s he writing?”
“Who knows?” I said. “I’m pretty sure his ideas change by the day!”
The interior of the train had been designed with luxury in mind.
At the head, there was the motorcar, where all the workings were. It
was hot and loud and full of activity for the entire journey. The next
carriage housed Greg’s office—somewhere I found myself often—and
a small infirmary that was, thankfully, rarely used, along with guest
facilities. There were two passenger coaches with carpeted floors and
leather couches, all facing inward. The windows were draped with
blue velvet curtains, held back by golden ropes. After that was my
domain: two restaurant cars and the kitchen.
“All right, if not a grapple, then what?” Vanessa asked.
“Good morning,” I said brightly to a couple who seemed deeply in
love, snuggled together on one of the couches and gazing out of the
window. “Maybe he flew, Ness?”
“Don’t be so ridiculous,” Vanessa replied, shaking her head.
I pulled open the oak-paneled door at the end of the coach, step‐
ping over the join and entering the next.
“Okay, okay,” I said, holding my hands in the air. “In all serious‐
ness, then. How he escaped is not all that important, is it? I mean,
surely where he is now and who he is are the questions we should be
“Fair point,” Vanessa conceded.
About halfway through this coach, a woman leapt up from her seat
and blocked our path. She was tall and well-dressed, perhaps fifty or
so years of age. Her hair, though graying, had been twisted into an
elegant knot, with strands hanging down to frame her face. She held
herself proudly, hands clasped neatly in front of her, and given the
state of her dress, I would say she was a paramour of the finer things
“You must be Jessica Preston,” she said. “The chef. Your reputation
She thrust her hand in my direction, and I stared at it for a
moment before taking it and shaking it slowly.
“Thank you. Yes, that would be me.”
She waved her hand in the air dismissively. “My name is Mrs.
Beverly Lyonel, and I’m visiting Golden from Napa. I was hoping to
ask you a few questions about the town.”
“You a journalist or something?” Vanessa asked. “Because if you
are, you’ve got to write about the museum heist.”
Mrs. Lyonel offered her a weak smile, an unconvincing one, and
that irritated me. She turned to face me again, making a point that she
was talking to me and me alone.
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