Chapter Ten

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Mr. Wilson sent me around the back to a storage shed where there was a large wheelbarrow to gather up the packages coming into the station from...well, from who knew where? I hadn't had time to study the schedule yet, and I was curious to know where their 'regular' trains came from, since the one I'd arrived on was so special.

"Just let me do the talking," he instructed. The wheelbarrow squeaked as if in weary anticipation of the burden to come as I pushed it along. "Samuel is a good man, but like I said, he doesn't take well to out of town visitors."

"May I ask why?"

"He has his reasons." Suddenly he shot me a grim expression. "We all have our reasons."

From the tone of his voice I knew better than to ask what those reasons might be.

Wishing Cross was pretty much deserted this time of the morning.

"The first freight pulls in about now. Then the passenger trains come later in the day."

"From where?" I asked.

"Oh, lots of places," he said with a dismissive wave. "Most folk are just passing through on their way to much bigger towns. If we're lucky, they stop in the store while they're here. That's about it. Most of our regular business comes from the people in town."

"And how many people live in town?"

"You ask an awful lot of questions, boy." He frowned, taking a cigar from his pocket and sticking it into his mouth, biting down. He didn't light it.

"Apologies," I said repentantly, lowering my eyes.

He grumbled something I didn't quite catch. His steps quickened as he saw a man of exceptionally tall stature standing in the distance, just outside the ticket booth.

"The Stationmaster," Mr. Wilson said. "Samuel Sutton. His wife, Helen, works in the ticket booth, among other duties. His oldest son, Samuel Junior, is almost twenty-one and carries a lot of responsibility at the station."

"Anyone else I should look out for?"

"The rest of the family, and it's a complicated one. Will take you awhile to keep them all straight. You see, Helen is the third Mrs. Sutton; the first two died very young, rest their souls."

"Sorry to hear," I said. That explained why the Stationmaster looked to be a man in his early fifties, while his wife was at least twenty years his junior.

"There's a daughter from his second wife. They weren't married very long. She died when their only daughter, Marigold, was still tiny. The girl's got to be eighteen by now. Sweet little thing, really." He softened for a moment, but then he was all business once again. "There are the twins, Joseph and Jeremiah. They do most of the small deliveries to the shop from the station and have been delivering the postal packages. Needless to say, even though Samuel has raised them with a strict hand, they're boys, and boys will be boys. That's why I'm hoping this arrangement between us works out, Mr. Wainwright, to get me through the busy holiday season. Then I can hire someone permanently at my leisure."

"Yes, sir."

"I guess we'd best waste no more time. Let's go talk to Mr. Sutton."

The closer we got to the man, the more amazed I was by the enormity of him. He was a giant; had to be at least six-foot-six in his boots, with shoulders so broad they obscured the light of the lamp in the window of the ticket booth.

Samuel Sutton, I thought. S.J. Sutton was the name on the front of the book... he was still Stationmaster?

"Samuel," Mr. Wilson called, "A word, if you please?"

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