Wood shavings fell to the floor. The smell of pine as she worked was thick in the air. There was an underlying tone to the smell that was familiar, but for the moment, Evelyn Reynolds couldn’t place it. It wasn’t important. Only the wood and her hands and the feelings being translated to the sculpture were of any interest at all.
She’d been working on this piece for the last three months, and she should have been done with it, but it was a work of intense intricacy and had to be viewed from multiple angles to get the full effect. When seen from one angle, the sculpture was of a man and a woman who looked reasonably happy together.
If the viewer moved to the right just a bit, the woman and man would change. They would now have a baby between them. If another step to the right was taken, the man and the baby would both disappear as though they had never been there, and only the woman, lost and alone in a frightful state, would be left.
It was this last part that Evelyn was having trouble with. There was still space left over, and she felt that maybe this wasn’t the end of the story. How could she leave her, the woman in the sculpture, there like that? After all, she wasn’t that woman anymore. Since starting the sculpture, Evelyn had felt herself change; she had felt the sadness and loneliness become something new and different. She would have to use that last bit of the stump she had bought for this to show that progression.
Evelyn always found that a static piece of art was pointless. Showing a person, item, or creature forever in one state was like denying the fact that the only constant that people could rely on was change. She needed her art to reflect that in the most fundamental ways, and so, her art had taken on new dimensions. Especially after her husband walked out on her a year ago.
It was time to move on from Richard “Dicky” Wiesenberg.
Evelyn froze. What was the time?
Her pocket watch, when hauled from its habitual place on her worktable, revealed that it was almost time for the children to be at the schoolhouse. And what about their breakfast?
Evelyn knew what the underlying smell was now. It was the porridge she had put on the range ages ago to cook. She had come into her workshop to get her watch and then had been sucked down the rabbit hole of creation. She had only meant to fix one thing she had seen was off with the piece, and then another had shown itself and another. Soon, she had been working for hours and had not known it.
The smell should have been different, though. It should have been the smell of things burning, not things cooking.
She grabbed her watch and jacket and hurried up the stairs from the basement. Evelyn burst into the kitchen in a panic. “I’m here. I’ll get some toast on the fire. I’m sorry about the porridge—” She stopped speaking, taking in the scene.
There were four children sitting at the kitchen table. They had steaming bowls in front of them and were adding cream and sugar to the mix. They froze as they stared at her. Their ages ranged from three to ten years old, and there was a mixture of boys and girls. They were Silvertown’s orphans. The silver mine that the town was named for, had a terrible habit of killing off parents, either through accident or disease.
“Calm down, Evelyn,” Aunt Cecilia said, turning from the range. “I have it all under control.”
Evelyn nodded and took a breath. It was lucky for the town, and the orphans, that Evelyn’s aunt owned a large house and was happy to take them all in and raise them as her own. She mostly ran a happy ship, with Evelyn’s help, and the children all seemed grateful to be there. All but one.
Lyla Jenkins, the newest addition to the troupe, came into the kitchen at that moment. She wore the same scowl she had plastered to her face since her folks passed away from the influenza a month earlier.
“Not porridge again!” she moaned as she peered into Titus’s bowl. The older boy, tall and blonde with warm brown eyes, lifted a spoonful to her and acted as though he meant to smear it on her.
“Titus!” Evelyn said in a warning tone.
He chuckled and put the spoon down. “Was only joking.”
“I know that,” Evelyn said.
“No, he wasn’t,” Lyla protested. “He wanted to ruin my dress.”
“You’re only going to school,” Titus said, rolling his eyes. “What do you want to get all dressed up for?”
Lyla glared at him as she took a seat as far from the others as she could get. “Well, I’m not one of you. I have family,” she said. “So, I have to dress better, don’t I?”
“You don’t have family any more than the rest of us do,” George Watkins, an eight-year-old boy with a ginger mop of hair on his head said, glancing up from the book he was reading at the table. “We’re orphans, that’s what the word means, no family but the one you find for yourself. Isn’t that right, Evelyn?”
“It is, George,” Evelyn agreed.
“Enough of this chin wagging,” Aunt Cecilia said. “Eat up, or you’ll all be late for school.” She handed a bowl of porridge to Lyla. The girl accepted it with extremely bad grace. She stuck her nose in the bowl, sniffed, and pulled a disgusted face.
“Is this stuff actually getting worse every day?” Lyla asked, in the snootiest voice she had used yet. “It smells like horse droppings.”
Aunt Cecilia could take a lot, but she would never put up with people moaning about the food. “Be careful, Lyla,” she said. “You’re on thin ice, my girl.”
Lyla looked up from her bowl and, with the defiance of youth, pushed her bowl to the edge of the table and then right over. It fell to the floor and shattered into pieces, spilling a mess of oats all over the floor.
“Lyla!” Evelyn cried as she ran forward to pick up the pieces.
The girl, still scowling, stormed from the room with Aunt Cecilia in hot pursuit. Titus and George rose from their seats and meant to go after her. Evelyn put a stop to it.
“Remember how you felt when you first came here?” she asked. “Well, Lyla is dealing with those same emotions. Let’s give her some room.”
“But she does horrible things,” Elke Voss said. The little five-year-old was amazingly mature for her age. She was very bright, too, picking up skills as though they were wooden alphabet blocks. She could already read the names on the flour and rice sacks and all the jars in the pantry.
Evelyn used one of the broken shards of the bowl to scoop the gloopy oats into a mound on the floor. She smiled at the little girl. “I know, and we will deal with that, too—”
Raised voices came from the other room. It was hard to hear what was being said, but the word “unacceptable” rang clear.
Titus appeared at Evelyn’s elbow with a dustpan and broom and together they cleaned up the mess. Then Elke came with a wet cloth she had fetched and made sure that the floor wouldn’t be sticky there.
“I’m leaving!” Lyla yelled loud enough for them all to hear. A moment later, the door slammed shut.
“Hear! Hear!” George and Titus cheered quietly.
“Go, we won’t miss you,” George added, even though Lyla couldn’t hear him.
“You’d miss me, wouldn’t you?” Elke asked, fetching her own empty bowl from her place at the table.
“Of course we would,” George said kindly. “You’re wonderful. You’re a really great little sister. She, however, is not.”
“And me?” Little Bronwyn asked. She was only three and missed a lot of what was going on. She was adorable, though, with her crocheted bunny, Mr. Floppy, who was always by her side.
“And you,” George said, patting the little girl on her head. “You’re a fine little sister, too.”
Bronwyn beamed and hugged her bunny to her. It was so sweet how most of the children worked together and seemed to have developed a real sense of belonging.
“Maybe I’ll put a spider in Lyla’s bed later,” Titus said with a naughty twinkle in his eye. “That’ll teach her to make a fuss for something worthy of one.”
The others laughed.
Evelyn went to the kitchen and continued to listen to their plans to teach Lyla a lesson as she emptied the dustpan into the bin. The shards of the bowl were in interesting shapes, and she hauled them out of the bin to use in something arty later.
As the plans developed, Evelyn knew she would have to put a stop to it. Lyla didn’t need to be tormented with bugs; she needed someone to understand how lost and alone she felt. She needed them to pull together and show her that she was one of the family now. Evelyn knew it was a long shot, though. Odds were that as long as Lyla held onto the fantasy that she had an aunt she had never met back East, she would never embrace the others and truly allow herself to belong here with this ragtag bunch whom Evelyn loved so much.
Heading into the kitchen again, Evelyn announced it was time for them all to get going. “It’s time for school.”
The children took their bowls to the kitchen and placed them in the sink. It had snowed during the night, and the clouds were still hanging heavily over the mountains. Another storm would blow in by the afternoon, Evelyn guessed, bringing more snow, no doubt.
She helped the children into their coats and hats.
“Where is Auntie Cecelia?” Elke asked. “Do you think that Lyla made her cry again?”
“I don’t know,” Evelyn said. “Aunt Cecilia, are you okay?”
The reply came from upstairs. “I’m fine! Can you take the children to school?”
She didn’t sound fine at all. Evelyn was worried, but what could she do now? She had to get the children to the schoolhouse and drop off a sculpture for the mayor on the way back.
“I’ll do it,” she called up the stairs to her aunt. “I’ll see you later.”
The reply was unintelligible.
Bundled in their coats and hats, Evelyn and the children made their way out of their front door and down the slope to the main road. Evelyn was weighed down by the box containing the statue of an eagle in flight, catching a fish as it swooped in low. The mayor’s wife had commissioned it for her husband for Christmas. Evelyn was glad she was delivering the piece early.
The children hurried along, holding hands and making their way through the ankle-deep snow. Overhead, the sun shone weakly in patches between the gray clouds. On the horizon, another cloud bank hovered, looming like an accident about to happen.
Turning down a little side street, they walked up the rise to the schoolhouse. Lyla was standing in the snow, speaking to another girl. Her back was to them, and Evelyn couldn’t make out who it was, but she was glad to see that Lyla had made it there. The children all hugged Evelyn before heading into their classes. Elke even gave her a kiss on the cheek. It made Evelyn smile as she walked on toward the mayor’s house.
Nestled in the mountains as Silvertown was, it was easy to get a house with a great view. The snow-covered peaks rose all around them, and the forest-covered hills rolled on and on. The railway came through the town, too, taking the ore away that the men hauled out of the mountainside.
This time of year, though, the trains often didn’t make it all the way up here due to the large amount of snow that tended to fall, and the town was often left alone for the winter. Silvertown had started a tradition where everyone made a big deal out of Christmas, decorating the town and their houses in festive motifs. That would begin soon when the snow became too thick for trains to travel the tracks. It was already thick higher up, clinging to the peaks and making the valley below cold and wet with sleet and rain. Not that they hadn’t had snow in town, too. They had, and there was clearly more to come.
Evelyn considered this as she crossed the tracks to take a short-cut to the mayor’s house. It was at the top of a hill and overlooked the town. The box was quite ungainly and heavy by the time she reached the house and put it down on the porch to knock on the door.
The mayor’s wife, Mrs. Patricia McKinley, was tall, blonde, and very pretty. Her husband was the youngest mayor the town had ever had. Some weren’t happy with it, but others liked the new energy he brought to the job.
“Oh, is this for Paul?” Mrs. McKinley asked, clapping her hands together in delight.
“Yes,” Evelyn said.
She was ushered inside, and the box was placed on a table. Mrs. McKinley opened it and let out a delighted shriek. “It’s perfect,” she said. “He’s going to love it.”
Evelyn hadn’t realized that she was nervous about handing this piece off. She hadn’t felt it was her best work. Still, so long as the purchaser was happy, who was she to judge?
Money changed hands, and Evelyn left the mayor’s house feeling quite good about things. It was tough to make money in these parts when the trains weren’t running. People traveling often bought sculptures from her when they stopped overnight in Silvertown. Sometimes, folks could make a bit of extra money selling things to travelers. Evelyn tended to rely on them but also did odd jobs around town to make ends meet.
“Good heavens, are you still alive?” a voice called behind her.
Turning, Evelyn saw a face she could have done without seeing today.
“Oh, morning, Clara,” she said without enthusiasm. Since her schooldays, Clara Esper had found ways to humiliate and torment Evelyn continuously. And now, she had more ammunition at her fingertips than ever before.
“I thought you might have slipped away in the night,” Clara said, her long legs bringing her in step with Evelyn with no effort. She was a head taller than Evelyn and far prettier. At least, Evelyn thought so. She couldn’t understand why Clara always picked on her.
“Well, I haven’t,” Evelyn said. “I’m still here and have a busy day, so if you’ll excuse me—” She tried to move past Clara, but the other woman wasn’t allowing it.
“You know, if my husband had left me because I was barren, I wouldn’t have stayed in town,” Clara said. “Don’t you feel ashamed?”
“No,” Evelyn said. “I don’t have time for this.” She pushed past Clara, but the damage was already done. She had dredged up all the feelings that Evelyn had spent the last year coming to terms with and the last three months pouring into her art. The hopelessness, the heartache, the feelings of inadequacy, the self-loathing for being broken and imperfect, and not having any hope of ever fixing the problem. Richard leaving had been the hardest thing she had ever had to live through. He hadn’t even waited to divorce her. The day he left, he cut her out of his life a though she had been a canker. It had hurt so badly, and she was finally making headway, but now all of those old feelings rushed to the surface like a giant wave and almost knocked Evelyn to the ground. She’d received a letter from a lawyer a few months later that informed her that the divorce had been finalized.
Somehow, she kept her feet and hurried on. The first place she came to was the church, and she ducked inside to get away from Clara.
“Evelyn, are you all right?” Pastor Wickers asked. He was a short, rounded man with a balding head and thick spectacles perched on his nose.
Evelyn nodded as she swallowed back her tears. “I’m fine,” she said.
“Well, if you change your mind and want to speak to anyone, I am here to listen,” he said.
She nodded, but she had spoken about this at length, and she didn’t want to talk about it anymore. There was nothing new to say.
“I’m glad you’re here, though,” Pastor Wickers said. “I have a box of old toys we gathered for the children. I think there is a trainset in here that George will just love, and Bronwyn might find a Mrs. Floppy here, too.” He waggled his thick eyebrows at her.
Evelyn smiled. “That’s wonderful. Thank you.”
Taking the box, she thanked the pastor again and headed for the door.
“Yes, there will be a storm later,” he said, rubbing his right knee. “Best you get home soon.”
Evelyn went straight home, and thankfully, there was no sign of Clara the whole way there. The house was empty. Aunt Cecilia must have gone out, too. Evelyn put the box of presents in the hall closet, a place none of the children ever went, and then went down to the workshop. She was determined to get her feelings out and into a medium. She chose clay and set to work, turning the lump into something beautiful.
She had no idea how much time had passed when she was dragged from her reverie. She noticed that the light coming from the high windows was muted and dull. Thunder boomed, and it was only then that she realized that it had been snowing for a while, long enough to dump snow over the windows.
A loud rumbling sound that couldn’t be thunder followed, and Evelyn stopped shaping clay, washed her hands, and headed up into the house. The problem with the noise was that it sounded an awful lot like an avalanche.
The man sipped his coffee with every indication of enjoyment. “As I said,” he continued, while placing his mug down on the table with a little thud. “The world of medicine still has a long way to go to really embrace the philosophy that I have taken as my motto.”
“Is that so?” the woman he was speaking to asked, looking out of the window of the moving train. The landscape around them was white with snow under a dull, mostly cloudy sky.
“Yes, I believe that the cure to every ailment is found in nature,” the man said stoutly. He puffed out his chest. “All the ingredients in my tonic are from nature.”
“You don’t say?” the woman asked.
Noah Hunter shifted in his seat and sipped his own mug of coffee. Watching people in the dining car of a train was a delicate art. The last thing he wanted was for the person he was interested in to know that they were a person of interest. And the snake-oil man was certainly of interest, even if he wasn’t the bounty that Noah was after. Surely, someone would want him behind bars, selling fake medicine to those too silly or desperate to know the difference between actual medicine and sugar water.
Noah looked away from the couple sitting two tables on from where he was and turned his attention to another man he was currently keeping an eye on. This man he could see reflected in the glass of the window. He occupied a seat next to the window in the dining car, and he was reading the paper.
Noah wasn’t so sure about this one. He was a Singer sewing-machine salesman, and he was only really on Noah’s list of possible suspects because he fit the description. But then, with a description as vague and generalized as the one that Noah was working with on this case, he was surprised that there weren’t more men he had to keep an eye on.
The description of the thief and murderer that Noah was hunting across the country was as vague as it could be, without being utterly useless. The perpetrator of the crimes was a man. He was of average height and weight. He had brown hair and brown eyes. No distinguishing features at all. No scars, birthmarks, moles, freckles, or anything else that would set him apart from the thousands of men who could fit that profile. He also walked normally, with no limp or stagger, there was simply nothing mentionable about this person that Noah had been charged with finding. He was as average as could be.
That was why Noah was taking this investigation slowly. It wouldn’t do to rush into anything, accusing the wrong person and inadvertently tipping off the real culprit. No one but the conductor on the train even knew that Noah was a bounty hunter. If anyone asked, he said he was in publishing, a job no one was interested in, and they would leave him alone.
The Singer salesman turned the page of his paper and shook it out with a flick of his wrist. His name was Henry Dodger, according to the tag on his luggage, and he was traveling to Portland, Oregon, via a whole host of smaller little towns on the West Coast.
Noah had spent an hour in conversation with the man the night before and was pretty sure he could cross him off his list. However, there was something about the man that made Noah reluctant to do so. There was something about him, some feeling that Noah got that he was hiding something that made him keep coming back to him.
The same could be said for five other men. The snake-oil man was Bernhard Stoker. He looked around forty-five years old and was certainly charming. He could talk his way around the most stolid and disbelieving people. Noah had almost found himself conned into buying a bottle of this miracle cure-all that Berhard was peddling.
Also on Noah’s list of possible suspects was a Charles Bernstein. He said he was a newspaper reporter. That in itself wasn’t enough to make Noah suspicious. Reporters traveled. What made him suspicious was that the reporter had plans to stay on the West Coast for a long time.
Usually, men cut of that cloth couldn’t wait to get back to New York or Boston or some other large city with a reputable newspaper. Not this fellow. Charles had it all worked out, it seemed. He had spent an afternoon explaining to Noah how his paper, “The Eastern Chronicle,” was tired of being scooped, as he put it.
“We get the news from out West so late, it’s more like olds,” Charles had said during that memorable conversation two days earlier. “We can’t have that if we’re going up against the Times and the other big boys.”
Noah had nodded. After all, his alias would have found this interesting. Noah was only interested to the point of where the mark would trip himself up. He suspected there was more to all of this. It seemed there was something that Mr. Bernstein wasn’t sharing, some other reason for this departure from the security and civilized life back East. Noah was good at sniffing out secrets, and he was certain it would only be a matter of time before he worked out what Charles’ secret was. Was it that he was a murdering thief? It was hard to say. People were good at hiding their proclivities. But Noah was good at exposing them.
The second to last name on the list was Mr. Alistair Hooper. He was an odd one that Noah had simply added to the list because he fit the description. He was traveling west to become a rancher. At around the forty mark, it was a bit late to learn such a skill, but Noah wasn’t one to judge.
The reason, apart from his physical dimensions, that he was on the list was that there was a secret lying inside the man. Noah could smell it on him. He was awkward, bumbling, and often fell over his words in a simple conversation. He seemed eternally nervous and out of his depth in every way possible. How a man like Alistair had managed to get his hands on a ranch and think he would be able to run it was beyond Noah’s comprehension. He thought the best place for Alistair Hooper might be in a quiet office somewhere where nothing exciting or different ever happened.
The last name on Noah’s list belonged to Mr. Alfred Jones. He was a shady fellow if ever Noah had met one, and he had met hundreds of them in his career as a bounty hunter. He’d been on the job for ten years and had brought in over two hundred bounties. That was impressive in anyone’s books, especially since he always worked alone.
Noah considered Alfred Jones. He wasn’t sure about the man. He said he was heading back to San Bernardino to the saloon he owned there. That was all well and good, but he had a habit of patting one of his jacket’s breast pockets constantly that made Noah think that the diamonds the thief had stolen back East were in that pocket. It certainly contained something the man was worried about losing.
Despite his best efforts, he hadn’t been able to find out what was so precious it was with Mr. Jones all the time. Of course, it could be anything that could fit in a pocket, from a ring for a loved one to a pair of spectacles he didn’t want to lose. The point was that Noah would need to find out to know if Mr. Jones was really a suspect or just another average man on this train, trying to get to his destination in peace.
Henry Dodger moved again, flicking the pages of his paper. He really did read the thing from the first to the last sentence. Noah admired his fortitude. After the first page or so, Noah usually lost interest. It was only if something like a headline caught his eye that he would bother with the whole paper.
At the other table, the woman that Mr. Stoker had been speaking to, got up and walked off in a huff. Mr. Stoker lifted his mug to his lips, noticed there was no coffee left in it, and put it back down. He looked around the room, and although everyone had watched the little display, no one was looking at him as he regarded the room.
And then Noah, thinking the man had to be moving on, made the mistake of making eye contact with him.
Berhard Stoker came over and sat in the seat opposite Noah.
“Mr. Hunter,” he said with a smile on his face. “I am so glad to see you here.”
“Really, why?” Noah asked. He was not good with people. Most of his work was spent watching them and gathering evidence against them, not interacting with them.
“Well, I recall that you were very interested in my elixir the last time we spo—”
“Let me stop you there,” Noah said, holding up a hand. “I’m not in the market for an overpriced bottle of agua and sucrose. Thank you very much.” He had used the exact words that Mr. Stoker used to describe some of the ingredients in his mixture.
“It’s not only those two ingredients,” Mr. Stoker said, rallying brilliantly. “There are also all sorts of herbs and spices, some from far-off India, in this tonic. It is a miracle tonic.”
“I’m miraculous enough,” Noah said. “But, if you promise to stop trying to sell me your concoction, you can sit here if you like.” He had to get the man to stop talking about the goop he was selling. How else would he ever find anything out about him before the journey out West was over?
“Oh, well, thank you so kindly,” Mr. Stoker said, relaxing in the seat. “Sometimes I forget that there is such a thing as overselling.”
“Don’t you find that you tend to do that? Publishing is reliant on marketing, though, isn’t it?”
Noah had to shift gears in his head. Right, he was in publishing. He invented quickly. “I mostly work with schools and universities supplying textbooks and readers and the like. We’re extending our reach to the institutions coming up in the western regions.”
“Goodness, I had no idea there were any,” Mr. Stoker said, frowning.
“Well, they’re starting out, and there are schools,” Noah said, hoping he was right. He usually never had to elaborate on his fictitious career, as most people were happiest when talking about themselves. “Why are you heading west?”
“Oh, to explore the brand-new market opportunities out there,” Mr. Stoker said, smiling. “I should imagine that with the challenge of finding proper medical care, folks will be grateful to have my elixir to hand when they need it.”
Noah set his features in a disapproving look, and Mr. Stoker stopped speaking about his work.
“I’m sorry, I am rather proud of my work,” he said.
And there it was. That telltale little dip in the voice, the slight twitch of the eye. Something wasn’t right. There was something there lurking under the words like a gator lurking under the water, invisible but ready to come up and bite.
Something in that story wasn’t true. Noah had no idea what it was yet, but he was getting closer to finding out.
“Attention,” the conductor said. He was a burly man and had just entered the dining car. “We are approaching the town of Silvertown. We will be stopping for a couple of hours there to load freight. It’s a lovely little town that you are free to explore.”
“How many is a few hours?” Mr. Dodger asked, lowering his paper.
“About four or five,” the conductor said. “Like I said, there is a silver mine in the town, and they need the ore shipped. We will try to complete the loading in a timely manner.”
Mr. Dodger smiled, nodded, and lifted his paper once more.
Mr. Stoker looked happy. “A small town, you say? How wonderful. I think I will go for a walk. How long until we arrive?”
“About an hour,” the conductor said. “There is a lot of snow on the tracks, and so we’re heading in at a quarter less speed than usual. But don’t worry folks. We’ve made this trip hundreds of times before. We will have you in Silvertown in no time and then on.”
He answered a couple more questions and then moved on through the car to the next one.
Noah didn’t envy the man his job. He had a whole train of difficult people to deal with. Noah only had to keep his eyes on a few of them. Still, if they all dispersed into the town, the thief could reveal himself by stealing something, and Noah wouldn’t know unless he was watching. How could he keep an eye on all five men at once if they decided to go in different directions? He couldn’t. It was easier on the train where no one could really disappear for long.
Mr. Stoker was far too excited. He wanted to go and get things ready for his trip into the town. He excused himself and set off to his compartment.
Just as he left, another man entered the car. It was Mr. Jones. He went directly to Mr. Dodger’s table and, without asking permission, pulled out a chair and sat.
Mr. Dodger lowered his newspaper a fraction. “Jones,” he said, as though they had known each other for years. “What do you want?”
“I want to talk to you,” Mr. Jones said pointedly.
“Well, I am all ears,” Mr. Dodger said.
“Yeah, so is the whole car,” Mr. Jones hissed only loudly enough for Mr. Dodger to catch it. Or so he must have thought, but Noah had keen ears, and he picked it up. “We need to talk in private.”
Mr. Dodger lowered his paper again and, this time, stared at the man opposite him. “Now?” he asked. “What’s the urgency?”
“You know,” Mr. Jones hissed. He said something else that Noah and his keen ears couldn’t hear.
Mr. Dodger sighed and, folding his paper, stood up. “Well, come on then,” he said in a lazy tone.
Mr. Jones stood and followed Mr. Dodger out of the car.
Noah’s curiosity was piqued. What could they need to discuss so urgently in private? He gave them long enough to exit the car before he, too, stood and followed them. No one was watching him, but it didn’t hurt to be cautious. One never knew who was watching unobserved.
The corridor outside the dining car was empty. Where had they gone? Noah set off, watching for any sign of the two men on his list of suspects. He wondered what was going on. Did Mr. Jones and Mr. Dodger know each other from before the train ride?
Nothing had given him cause to suspect they knew each other. Nothing until that moment. Could it be they were both guilty of the theft of the diamonds and the killing of the clerk in the store? It was an interesting possibility. After all, the only witness to the whole crime was dead.
All that Noah was going on was from witnesses outside the store who swore they had only seen one man running away. But what if they had missed the first one when he left and only saw the second, arriving that moment too late? It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility and might explain why the description of the culprit was so vague. Maybe they had seen two and not realized it. Stranger things had happened.
There had been the time that identical twins had robbed a bank, and somehow, the witnesses had sworn there was only one of them. Was this something similar?
Noah didn’t know. He raced on, passing people who weren’t Jones or Dodger, growing more and more concerned that he hadn’t come across them. Whose compartment were they in? Both men’s compartments were further along the corridor. Could they have gotten there so fast?
Noah was considering doubling back when suddenly the train slammed on the brakes. The wheels locked and began to shriek. He thrust out his arms for balance as the train began to slide along the tracks. The air filled with people screaming. There was a jolt, and Noah was lifted into the air, light as a feather, before he came crashing down hard. The car was on its side, and he slammed into the wall, hitting his head. For a moment, he saw stars before everything went black.
“The Love Song of Christmas Eve” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Evelyn Reynolds has woven her life from the fragments of a broken heart, convinced that love has deserted her forever. In the comforting embrace of her aunt, who presides over a haven-like orphanage, she’s discovered solace and purpose. However, when a relentless winter storm strands Elias, a stoic and emotionally distant bounty hunter, in need of refuge, Evelyn throws open the doors of her heart to the unexpected guest…
Amidst the snowbound days and frosty nights, will Evelyn’s warmth and compassion kindle a renewed hope for love within her, or are the scars of her past too deep to heal?
Elias Hunter, tormented by the searing memory of a heart-wrenching Christmas tragedy that claimed his family, has kept his emotions under lock and key. The mere mention of the holiday season sends shivers down his spine, making him emotionally isolated and remote. But as the relentless blizzard halts his train journey and thrusts him into the care of Evelyn, Elias starts to glimpse a glimmer of a different future—one that holds the promise of love and a family.
Can he overcome the emotional imprisonment that has held him captive for so long and find the strength to thaw the icy grip that trauma has had on his heart?
Yet, as their romance blossoms, a sinister shadow lurks on the periphery, cast by a woman’s jealousy and manipulation. Entangled in her web of deceit, can Evelyn and Elias decipher the malevolent plot that threatens to rip them apart? When love confronts its darkest hour, will it weather the storm, or will the wicked schemes cast an impenetrable shadow over their dreams of a shared future?
“The Love Song of Christmas Eve” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.