CHAPTER 1: Business or Pleasure
The dark puddle stained the floor near the security entrance at the west end of the Grande Century Station. Three security officers crowded around the pool of blood and analyzed it, stopping every few seconds to keep back anxious onlookers, hoping to catch a glimpse of something exciting. Most travelers at the famous train station had been waiting hours for their train to arrive, and the thought of being a witness to a murder investigation was simply too enticing to pass up. One of the security officers, a short, stocky man wearing glasses, pointed excitedly to the hallway that led to the back of the station. Tracking the trail of blood to one of the back rooms, marked “Level 5 Personnel Only”, the overly excited officer, obviously a rookie, fumbled through his pockets and eventually produced his clearance card. The door swung open, and he disappeared into the darkness…
As he waited in line he glanced around the station, studying the variety of people around him. He spotted a brunette sitting on a bench near the docking gate, reading a tabloid. She then lifted her right hand to her mouth, revealing… a tape recorder? ‘A reporter, perhaps,’ he thought to himself. He spotted two young boys playing tag in the main waiting area, their grisly father barking at them to sit down. He saw what must be one of the conductors strolling in from the back hallway, glancing at his watch, than speed-walked to the exit gate, which led into the train yard. He noticed a man with a thick white beard arguing with one of the security guards, eventually the guard gave up the battle and headed back to the main office. As he looked towards the docking gate, a chill ran down his spine, and he shivered. The air in the station felt cold and stale.
Suddenly he was pushed forward by something from behind, and almost stumbled forward out of pure shock.
“Excuse me, sir,” bellowed a dark figure of a man, wearing a long, equally dark trench coat. The man had slipped on the increasingly wet marble floor and bumped into him with considerable force. He could smell a faint odor of smoke coming from the ominous figure. The dark man said nothing more.
“Apology accepted,” the man in the leather jacket muttered back to the dark figure. As he regained his balance he noticed a young Asian woman in her mid-twenties, gliding around the station, almost looking like she was lost. He realized she was so absorbed in the beauty and extravagance of the Grande Century Station, direction meant nothing to her. She wore a sleek red dress, which, although elegant, left nothing to the imagination, and her long dark hair blew with the wind whenever someone entered or exited the station. She seemed very out of place among the many travelers, and something about her just seemed very wrong to him.
As he stared at her from across the room she glanced back at him, catching his eye. Her eyes seemed mysterious, almost frightening, and she smiled at him as she looked over to the far west end of the station. He was shocked to notice the many security officers patrolling the area, blocking off a small portion of the floor. A few of them were talking to what looked like executives, while the others where yelling orders into their headsets. He cursed himself for not noticing this before, but when he looked back near the other end of the station, the mysterious woman was gone.
“Thank-you, enjoy your trip, ma’am,” the ticket booth attendant said to the woman in front of him in line, as she walked away from the booth, clutching her ticket in her right hand. The attendant’s eyes squinted as she examined the man in front of her. His face was broad and distinctive, with cold, grey eyes staring right back at her. Sprinkles of tiny snow flakes still covered his jet black hair. He looked like he was in his late-thirties, and had certainly done well for himself. Yet something about him seemed odd. He looked like a business man or reporter on the outside, but the soul of one just wasn’t there. He studied her carefully, her short blonde hair tied at the back in a bun. She stared back at him through her square-shaped glasses, and threw him a wide smile.
“Is cold out there, yes?” she looked at him intently.
“Yes… but a lot hotter in here, I can see,” he snapped back effortlessly.
“Are you here for business, or just for pleasure, Mister…?”
“Smythe. Jonathan Smythe. Strictly pleasure, I’m sure.” The attendant blushed and glanced quickly at the clock that read 10:37 on the side wall. “Don’t mind me asking do you? But I was wondering what all that commotion is about down there,” he pointed to the west end, where the head officer paced back and forth near the blocked portion of the floor that was causing the stir. “One of the officers drop a donut, I presume?” he gave her a quick smile.
“Your destination, Mr. Smythe?” she cut him off sternly, avoiding his initial question. He didn’t seem to notice.
“A one-way ticket to Britain, my dear, preferably something near the back.”
“Always,” Smythe shot back slyly exchanging grins with her. Her playful personality had returned, much to his relief. She continued entering information into the computer in front of her, and then eventually placed a ticket in front of him.
“Everything is satisfactory now, yes?” before he could reply with a witty remark she ushered him to move out of the line, “Enjoy your trip, Mr. Smythe.”
“Sir, this area is off limits, please step back,” he ordered.
“It happened during the night, didn’t it?” Smythe asked, studying the dry pool of blood that was now a tile on the vast marble floor. “…and no body was found I presume? Only a trail of blood… no evidence, no clues.”
“Our men are working on it,” the security guard replied in a monotone voice.
“I’m sure they are,” Smythe shot back without hesitation.
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