Train of Thought

--by Anne


I don’t own any of the characters, I’m not trying to maliciously step on anybody’s copyright, and I’m certainly not making any money from writing this. So there.


As he took a step closer to her she finally found the courage to look up into his eyes. “Preston, wait,” she said, her voice quavering just a little from fear – or anticipation? She could no longer tell which.  “I do like you a great deal, but, oh, I'm sorry … this is all moving just too fast for a widow woman from Maine.”

       “I can respect that.”

       “You’re sure?”


       Jessica stared out the window of the train at Penn Station without really seeing anything, reliving once more the events of that afternoon – as she must have done twenty times already.

       “If something else is destined to come out of this relationship, so be it.  But if not, at least I will have made a very good friend.”

       A flood of warmth tinged with sadness surged through her at the memory of how he had kissed her then, leaving her feeling both elated and apprehensive in its wake. It was the first time she had been kissed like that since Frank had died. Was it any wonder she was distracted?

       A touch on her shoulder woke her from her reverie. She looked up to see Daniel, the porter she had come to know so well after so many aborted attempts to go home, looking down at her in concern.

       “Is something wrong?” he asked her. “You look out-of-sorts.”

       Jessica sighed.  “You know, it's ... funny.  This past week I couldn't wait to get out of this city, to go back where I belong.  And now,” she said, emotion rising in her voice, “I'm not exactly sure where that is.”

       “Yes, ma’am,” said Daniel – he wasn’t sure what else to say, but felt a sympathy for her nonetheless. “Well, if you need anything just let me know.”

       He left her to see to his other passengers while Jessica returned to her thoughts.

       “Back home we have a saying: ‘Flowers that bloom too quickly are fair game for a late frost.’”

       “Do people in Maine really say that?”

       “Actually, no.”

       Was she running away? Deep down, she suspected that she was, and that reluctant admission gave her a twinge of shame.  But in reality, was there anything wrong with taking the opportunity to put some distance between her and Preston for awhile, to give herself a chance to sort out her feelings in peace? What was wrong with that?

       What was wrong, she knew, was that she was leaving too much unfinished business behind. Gundison had told her that Grady was in the clear, but so long as Caleb McCallum’s murderer walked free she couldn’t be completely sure about that. Then there was the matter of Caleb’s widow Louise, currently under suspicion for his death and for that of Dexter Baxendale – Jessica knew that Louise was innocent of both murders, but could only hope that the circumstantial evidence didn’t end up convicting her anyway. As for the victims themselves, their blood cried out for justice, for even though neither man had been a saint there was nothing they could have done that made them deserving of such violent deaths.

       With an effort of will Jessica mentally pushed back the horrible image of Dexter Baxendale floating face-down in the pool that inevitably rose in her memory.  Nothing would be accomplished by dwelling on this, not when the rest of her world had been thrown into such confusion. Determined to put her turbulent feelings aside at least for awhile, she picked up the copy of the New York Times she had brought with her to pass the time with reading.

As was her habit, she picked out the book section first and opened it up to page two.  In the tumble of final instructions Kitt had given her on the station platform she had mentioned that Chris Landon, one of the Times’ book columnists, would be contacting her for an interview within the next few days. Jessica recognized the name – she had read Chris’s book reviews on occasion – but couldn’t recall what sort of reviewer he was. Now was as good a time as any to refresh her memory so that she would be prepared when he called.

       Normally the New York Times didn’t publish photos of their columnists in the paper, but for some reason today they had.  Jessica’s eyes were drawn to it immediately – Chris was younger than she had imagined, with merry eyes and a quirky smile.

       And she was a woman.

       Never mind that newsprint is not always the clearest medium for photographs – Chris Landon was definitely a young woman. The Chris must be short for Christine, Jessica decided.  This was a stroke of luck – if it were not for this photo, she would have been thrown very much off balance when a female Chris Landon called instead of the man she was expecting.

       But then another realization hit her with the force of a blinding epiphany:

       “A very persistent reporter from the New York Times,” Preston had told her when she came into the kitchen with Ashley in tow and asked who he was talking to on the telephone. “He insists on interviewing you first thing in the morning …”

       If the Times had assigned Miss Landon her interview, then why had Preston referred to her as a he?

       Because he hadn’t been speaking to Chris Landon at all, she realized. His response to her had been a lie, an effort to hide what he had really been doing. And there was only one possible reason for that.

       Oh, God, no …

       It all made sense now – the lie about the telephone call, the Sherlock Holmes costume, even the promise that Grady would be exonerated “one way or another.” The murderer she had been pursuing, and whose hunt she had abandoned to distance herself from Preston, was Preston himself. He had killed not once but twice, and at least one of those murders had been committed in cold blood.

       It was a shattering realization, one she had not been prepared for. Just for a moment she wavered, and considered giving in to the temptation to do nothing with this knowledge but simply walk away from it.  But she couldn’t do that.

       Before she was fully aware of what she was doing she was out of her seat and off the train. There was still a slight chance that Preston was innocent, but it all hinged on one detail, one thing everyone had been assuming since the beginning. Jessica was determined to find out if this assumption was false – she suspected that it was. Either way she had to know, had to see the truth for herself no matter how heartbreaking it might prove to be.  Desperation gave her speed as she ran back along the platform bound for New Holvang.

       By eight o’clock she would have her answer.