My shoulders tightened as the train pulled into the station. My heart banged in my ears and my fists clenched in the folds of my skirt. Part of me was convinced the wheels would skip off the tracks at any instant. A shriek of useless brakes, a lurch, and then the impact of the runaway locomotive smashing through the platform–
But nothing of the sort happened. The train slowed, then squealed to a stop alongside the platform. I let out my breath and realized I’d been holding it. The instant the conductor opened the door, I sprang to my feet and hurried out onto the platform.
I felt foolish for being so nervous, but this was the first time I’d taken a train since Father’s death. His train had failed to stop at the station. It had plowed through a crowded platform, killing several people and injuring dozens more. It had been six months since the funeral, and Mother still refused to go within sight of a train station. She’d begged me not to take the train into town today. She was absolutely convinced that she’d never see me again if I did. She’d almost convinced me, but I was not going to spend the rest of my life afraid of trains. I was not going to hide away in the countryside and languish in my grief like Mother.
Because Father’s death wasn’t an accident. I didn’t care how many people told me otherwise. The Station Crash was not an accident. I’d read everything I could find in the papers. I’d spent my pocket money sending telegrams to the police, begging for more details. I’d scandalized several railway officials by showing up unescorted in their offices to ask for diagrams of locomotives. I hadn’t found anything, but that didn’t mean there was nothing to find.
My heart started racing again as I looked out through the station’s wrought-iron gate into the bustling streets. An eighteen-year-old girl had no business looking for answers alone in the big city. I should be attending dances and making eyes at boys. I should be helping Father organize his notes and label his new medicines. But instead, here I was in my plainest and most professional-looking skirt and shirtwaist, with my curly red hair pinned back severely instead of piled artistically on top of my head. Here I was hoping to find a job that Father never would have approved of.
If nobody would believe me that he had been murdered, I’d have to prove it myself. That meant getting access to every detail the police knew about the Station Crash. And that meant joining the Royal Investigative Service. I had no idea what they required of their agents. I had no idea if they even accepted women. But I had to try.
Mother was welcome to hide in her parlor and weep for the unfairness of the world. I wouldn’t do any such thing. Father had taught me better. “Sometimes it takes years to understand a new disease,” he told me. “And it might take years more to find a medicine that does any good against the sickness. But it doesn’t matter how hard the process is or how long it takes. We can’t give up until we find the answers.”
I didn’t have to be a doctor to take his advice. A murderer was as deadly as any fever, and needed just as badly to be stopped. I clenched my fists against the sides of my skirt, straightened my back, took a deep breath, and stepped through the platform gate onto the street. It didn’t matter how hard the process was or how long it might take. I was going to prove the killer existed. I was going to find out what really happened to Father. And I wasn’t going to give up until I had all the answers.
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