Kindle In My Pocket

November 21, 1896
Sarah Waters

URGENT: Meet me on the platform at Union Station. 10PM Tonight. J. Goulding

The cryptic note had mysteriously appeared folded into my pocket. My first instinct was to discard it as trash and I nearly did so. What stopped me can only be described as an intuition because there was no other reason to keep it, let alone make the rendezvous it suggested. I think someone was watching me though and it was that feeling which piqued my curiosity to the point of caring.

In the past I would have gone out alone without a second thought to my safety or return, but that was before I learned there were others who could be trusted. Just prior to dinner I knocked on Edith’s door.

“Come in.” She called from inside.

I slipped into her room and closed the door behind me.

“Sarah,” She said, “what brings you here?”

“I am going out after dinner.” I said.

Edith raised a questioning eyebrow in my direction.

“My presence has been requested at the train station and I think it is important I go.” I explained.

“Who asked for you?”

“Mr. Goulding.”

Edith’s eyes narrowed.

“You should not trust him.” She said.

“I don’t trust him. That is why I’m here, but tell me why do you distrust him?”

“I barely know him, but Elizabeth and I dealt with him last year and I am still uncertain as to whether he was helping us or using us.”

“I would hear the entire story if you would share it.” I said.

“Perhaps another time.”

I nodded my understanding.

“How will you get out?” Edith asked.

“It is my night to assist with after dinner cleanup. I will slip out the side door when it is finished.” I said.

“And getting back?”

“If you could arrange to leave a window open in the study, I should be back by eleven.” I said.

“I will.”

“Thank you.”

“Stop in here when you get back. If I haven’t seen you by midnight, I will alert the Carrington’s you are missing.” Edith said.

“Fair enough.”

I turned to leave.

“Sarah.” She said.

I paused with my hand on the doorknob.

“Be careful.”

I turned my head back to her.

“Always.” I said and slipped back out into the hall.

It was hard to see by the moonlight as I approached Union Station, but a lantern would have left me vulnerable and easily seen from every dark corner. I crept up the steps and by the closed ticket window. There did not appear to be anyone around and even the mice were being unusually quiet.

I found a spot in the shadows from which I could peer out onto the platform without being seen and waited. The clock on the platform ticked to 10PM and still there was no one to be seen. I waited until five past and then decided it was possible Mr. Goulding was hiding himself and waiting for me to show. It is typical of men to assume a woman would not be cautious.

I walked out so that I stood illuminated by a dim circle of lantern light. I was hesitant to move further and give up any hope of escaping should the meeting be nothing more than a trap. Another minute ticked by and it occurred to me that the note might have been from another day meaning the tonight referred to had already come and gone.

Then I heard the voices.

They were barely more than whispers. In the quiet I was able to understand them although not well enough to identify to whom the whispers belonged. I stepped out of the light and back into the shadows, hoping I had not yet been seen.

“Your late.” A man said.

“The station isn’t going nowhere.” Another said.

“Did you bring it?”


“Are you sure this a good idea?”

“You getting cold feet?”


“Then just get to work.”

“Shut up! Both of you. Now make sure it looks like an accident.”

I am not certain whether I saw the flames or heard the breaking glass first. Either way, before I could react I was surrounded by fire and the flames were growing taller by the second. The fire eradicated the shadows in which I had been hiding. Through the flames I saw one of the men and he saw me.

He was short for a man and young too. No more than a boy really, fourteen or fifteen years old. His sloppy hair was plastered to his head with sweat and the orange glow of the fire glistened like fear in his eyes. He froze for a moment staring at me, mouth agape.

“There’s a girl in here!” he shouted.

“What the hell?” Someone responded.

“There wasn’t supposed to be anyone here.” The boy said.

“It’s too late now, come on!”

The boy turned to look at someone else and then turned back to look at me. He closed his eyes and turned and ran. I was left alone with the raging fire. The smoke was causing me to cough and where I would have shouted for help, it sucked away all my air. I fell to my knees and raised up my skirt to cover my mouth and nose.

I looked around trying to find my best chance for survival. With the smoke and flames all I could see was the platform and it was ablaze itself. If I could make it to the tracks though I thought I would be safe. The only problem was the wall of fire guarding the path.

I sucked a last breath through the fabric of my skirt and then gathered it in my hand and ran. The heat blasted my face, but I kept running and just as I reached the wall I jumped hoping there was something beside flames beyond.

I landed on the wood of the platform with a thud and a creak. There was still fire all around me and my skirt was alight. I tried to yank the flaming material away from myself and ended up throwing myself to the floor. The wood of the platform creaked again and then gave way. I fell through to the dirt nearly four feet below. I grabbed the waist of my skirt and ripped it free, throwing the flaming garment back at the platform above.

On hands and knees I crawled in the dirt below the fire until I reached the edge of the platform. I kicked the wood blocking me in several times before the wood finally splintered and allowed me to rip a hole large enough to squeeze through. I ran from the station up the tracks until I was far enough away the heat no longer scorched my skin and eyes.

Looking back at the station it began to crumble in on itself collapsing as the fire destroyed each and every support from the inside. It looked like a camp fire for the gods, flames sparking to a point high above the station and the low crackles of fire all round. It was too late to save the station but the fire brigade arrived anyway.

I looked around to see where the men who had started it had gone and I nearly missed them. On a hill to the west a half dozen horse paused on the top of a hill. They were illuminated only by the dim glow of moonlight, making them more shadows than real. A thunderous boom from the final collapse of Union Station turned my head for a moment and when I looked back at the hilltop, it was empty.

A short while later, Edith opened her door to my quiet knock from the hallway. She was stunned by my appearance but quickly pulled me inside and closed the door.

“What happened?” She asked.

“He tried to kill me.” I replied.

“These look like burns.” She said.

He fingers lightly touched the skin my forehead. I shrank back from her touch.

“They are. They burned the station down.” I said.

“He tried to burn you alive?” She asked in horror.

Up until that very moment I had not made the connection with the Paper we had received. The article had suggest we be burned at the stake like witches and so now it seemed someone had tried. We did not need to speak a word. We both understood the significance and the threat.

“I’ll get Margaret. She can better tend to these burns than I.” Edith said.

“Better get the rest, we have matters to discuss.” I said.

Edith nodded and left. I sat on the edge of her bed and looked at her window. The reflection staring back at me made me shiver as if I had seen a ghost. I looked away again, afraid I could lose myself in the darkness.

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