The train driver was used to the track being uneven, especially after trackwork. The workers never completed anything properly. This time however, it was extremely bumpy. The driver had to tell the next station master to review the work.
The train rolled onto the next track section with a bang. It rocked to the side, and the driver was thrown from his seat. His foot left the emergency pedal, and the brakes applied. Or rather they were meant to apply. Instead, the engine sped up with a roar as its gears spun faster than they had in many years. The driver tried to pick himself up but it was too late. It rolled onto the next section of track and its front axle left the rails. The train’s front carriage jumped the track and jack-knifed into a creek where it landed with a crash. The second carriage surged forward and ripped the coupling apart. It derailed, rolled along the grass and tipped onto its side. Then it screeched onto the highway and was impaled by an oncoming truck. The truck and train simultaneously exploded into a huge fireball, obliterating the truck’s driver and all the passengers.
Cars screeched to a stop to examine the wreck. People were running in all directions; some towards the tangled mess of the second carriage, others to first carriage to help the driver, who was injured but alive.
A car had stopped next to the wreck. Its sole occupant casually called triple zero and hopped out of the car. The plan had worked to perfection. The train driver had survived, while the passengers had all been killed. Superb. The truck driver was a necessary loss; it was always going to happen. At least it was only one extra death, instead of an entire family.
The phone connected.
“Fire, ambulance or police?” asked the female operator.
“All three. There has been a terrible accident on the Princes Highway near the Gerringong level crossing,” replied a voice, calmly.
“Do you know how many are injured?”
“One injured, but ten dead.”
“Oh, no sorry, eleven.”
“How do you know this?”
“I saw it happen,” replied the voice. “Please come quickly!”
The phone call came to an end. Concerned bystanders had no idea that this had been in the planning for months.
“Dither,” said Inspector Martin Price.
“Dither? Dither? Seriously, in this situation, only you would use such restrained language,” responded local police officer Tyler Woodlands.
Woodlands was young, and therefore his vocabulary was full of vulgar and unpleasant words which could have replaced ‘dither’. Inspector Price, though only ten years older than Woodlands, had a much more restrained speaking style. Woodlands was very by the book, which was typical of new officers who were in their first few years of the job. Price, despite other inspectors of his generation frowning upon it, liked to use his own techniques. Some of them were normal, others a little reminiscent of the famous Hercule Poirot. He was often told his ways were too erratic, and he needed retraining. But after twelve years, he had not come across a case that he could not solve.
“Until now,” said Woodlands, as if he knew what Price had been thinking.
“Have no fear, I’ll figure this one out,” Price reassured him, full of determination rarely seen among the modern day Australian police force.
“Have you seen the evidence? It goes nowhere!” sighed Woodlands, who was ready to give up.
The pair had been attempting to solve the mystery of the train crash for three weeks, and had not progressed.