During the last week of winter, The Murdoch's were on a train bound for British Columbia. They were on their way to see Jasper, Murdoch's half brother. He was to be married in a few days time to an accomplished poet named Lucille Plath. Julia had insisted that they read some of her work. While she had been very impressed with it, Murdoch had not, but pretended like he had. The fact was that had never been a lover of poetry and didn't really know what constituted a good poem versus a bad one. His mind had always been much more analytical in nature and he simply couldn't compute such free flowing verse's with any real sort of clarity. Even some of the hymns from his church were fairly mystifying to him. All of that was neither here nor there. He wasn't the one marrying her so it didn't really matter what he thought of her work.
It had now been two days since they left Toronto and already Murdoch was going a bit stir crazy. He liked to be out and about, cycling around the neighbourhood and putting the pieces of a puzzle together. Since he couldn't do that, he was busy working away at a new invention of his, one that he planned on giving to Jasper as a wedding present. The device would be able to dispense powder over a large area, making it much faster to find fingermarks at a crime scene. He was almost finished it and since he had already devoured the medical journals he had brought along, he dreaded what he'd do with himself once he was.
Julia had no such concerns. She was still happily occupied with consuming her most recent science fiction novel. This was another by H.G. Wells called The Island of Doctor Moreau. From what she had told him, it sounded absolutely horrific and ridiculous and so he had no interest whatsoever in reading it. He was a little embarrassed and unnerved that she was so fascinated by the concept. For who in their right mind would find talking animals interesting?
Murdoch found the confines of their room to be too stifling and so he was once again fiddling away at the dispenser on one of the dining hall tables, to the annoyance of the waiters and the curiousity of others. His most ardent follower was a little boy of about four years of age. He had a very inquisitive mind and was constantly poking his chubby fingers at the contraption as he asked a myriad of questions. His mother once again came over to apologize for the intrusion.
"I'm very sorry, Mr. Murdoch," said the dainty woman. "His father, God rest his soul, was always tinkering away at things and I fear he can't help it."
"It's quite all right, Ms. Wexler," said Murdoch. "I find curiousity to be a most admirable trait."
"Well, I'm sorry all the same." Turning to her son, "Come along Benjamin. Leave Mr. Murdoch alone."
"I don't wanna!" he whined.
"None of that boy," she said sternly. "Your dinner is getting cold."
"Oh fine," he grumbled. "You're no fun mommy."
As Ms. Wexler led Benjamin over to their table once more, he stole a few pining glances back at the device and consequently Murdoch. It was then that Julia came in and sat down across from him.
"Little Benjamin bothering you again, William?" she asked smirking.
"On the contrary, Julia, I think he's a fine lad."
"Yes, I quite agree with you."
There was a brief lull between them as they watched Benjamin eating his roast beef and potatoes. The silence was filled with the sounds of the patrons and the rumble of the train on the tracks. Then Julia brought up a well worn topic between them, that of adoption. They had both already decided that they wanted a child. The only question had been in relation to when. They wanted to adopt when they were both guaranteed some time off so that they could get properly acquainted with their child and make them feel at home. As a result, the process had been continuously delayed since there had been an uncharacteristically high rate of murders during the winter, a time that traditionally was rather slow. This was because there had been little snow this year; it was normally only after the thaw that all the bodies buried beneath it came to light.
"Would you like to finally adopt a child once we get back to Toronto?" she asked.
"Yes, Julia, I think it's about time we did so. There may never be a perfect time to do so, so there is little point in waiting any longer."
"My thoughts exactly. Who knows?" she said smiling, "we might get lucky and find another Benjamin just for ourselves."
"I would be very pleased if that were to happen," he said also smiling, "very pleased indeed."
They had a lovely dinner together and then Julia decided to go to bed early. Murdoch stayed out in the dining hall to continue labouring on the dispenser. The area thinned out until it was just Murdoch and one of the waiters.
"We're closing up this car for the night, sir. Do you mind taking that...thing somewhere else?"
"Of course," he said and started placing all his tools in a bag. As he was doing so, he briefly looked out the frost encrusted window and into the black of night. Without any real point of reference to use, he couldn't be certain that the train was slowing, it was more of an instinct. Within a few more seconds, it was very apparent that this was indeed the case.
This isn't good. We aren't scheduled to make another stop until morning.
As the train came to a screeching halt, he shared a look with the wide eyed waiter nearby. Then the lights went out, plunging them into utter darkness.
"Oh my God!" the man shrieked, "What's going on!"
Murdoch then experienced an icy feeling shooting all throughout his body, that of dread but also of cold. Someone had turned off the heating system and because the train was so poorly insulated, it took an immediate effect on him so close to the window. It was possible that there was simply a mechanical failure of some sort and that they would shortly be back on line. But he didn't think it likely. For why would everything have stopped working at the same instant?
He grabbed his bag and slowly made his way towards the front of the steam locomotive where the engine, fuses and heating apparatus lay. Eventually he could go no further for the hallway was clogged with paranoid passengers meandering about worriedly. He back tracked a bit to check on Julia, she was still sound asleep although she had begun to shiver a bit. Murdoch decided it was best to wake her up.
"Hmm," she muttered, "is it morning already?"
"I'm afraid not," he said seriously.
His tone of voice must have alerted her to the fact that something was wrong and she shot upright in her bed, the sheets sliding off her body and exposing her to the growing chill.
"Why is it so cold?" she asked quietly, pulling the sheets up around her shoulders. "Wait a minute? Have we stopped moving?"
"The power's out and yes we have stopped moving. And no, I don't know why but I intend to find out. You better get dressed. I have a bad feeling about this."
"William," she said anxiously, and he put a finger to her lips.
"Just get dressed Julia," he said, puffs of air forming, "before you freeze to death."
Before he exited their cabin again, he grabbed his winter coat and gloves and quickly put them on, his fingers already becoming numb with cold. Then he heard shouting in the distance and the sound of people running. He stuck his head out of their room and was met with an unwelcome sight. There were four men making their way through the area, each with a grain bag loosely on their heads. Holes had been cut out so they could see and two of them were carrying a lantern aloft as well as another bag. The other two men were armed with rifles and were standing guard of the weaponless ones. They had split up into pairs and were systematically going from room to room. By the sounds of it, they were ransacking them.
Julia was still nowhere near being dressed properly and he told her to hurry. Just as she had finished, the door to their cabin flung open and a faceless man holding a lantern stood in the doorway. This was rather unsettling so Murdoch continued to block his path.
"Step aside buddy, if you don't want to get hurt."
He didn't want to risk anything unnecessarily so he did as the man told him.
"Good evening, darling," he said to Julia, tipping an imaginary hat to her. "Don't be alarmed, we'll be gone before you know it."
He placed the lantern on the table and began rummaging through their things. The other man entered their cabin and therefore it was quite cramped now. Murdoch would only have attempted to disarm him if it had just been the one man and Julia hadn't been nearby. It was times like these that he wished he carried a service pistol with him.
The first man finished going through their things and had only taken their money and the jewelry that Julia was to wear at the wedding. That was until he saw her rings.
"I'm going to need you to hand those over too, honey."
"No," she said sternly, whipping her hand behind her back, "you can't have them."
"Julia," said Murdoch, "just do as he says."
She brought her hand to her front, slowly took off the rings and dropped them into the bag he was holding out, all the while a scowl crossing her face.
"Thank you for your cooperation, darling." He turned to Murdoch and made him relinquish his wedding ring as well. Then he picked up the lantern and they exited their cabin.
"William," she whispered immediately afterwards, "we can't let them get away with this!"
"What do you propose we do Julia?"
"I don't know," she hissed, "but we have to do something!"
She stormed out of the cabin and he chased after her, grabbing her arm before she got very far.
"Let me go!" she yelled, trying to release herself from his grasp.
"Julia, listen to me!" he pleaded. "I know you're upset that they took your rings but there's nothing you can do about it right now! They haven't hurt anyone yet, so please don't make them start."
She stopped struggling and turned to face him.
"You're right of course," she murmured, "I'm sorry for acting like a child."
"It's quite all right. Let's go see if we can speak with the conductor and other staff so that we can assess the situation."
"All right, William, lead the way."