The Mystery on the Train A deafening screech caused three doors to come flying open and a different head popped out of each one. The conductor smiled at them from the end of the corridor, rising to his feet. "Please, there is no problem," he assured them. "At this point in our journey, the journey gets a little rough. It is just the noise from the train, that is all." "Bloody mechanics," snorted the heavily built man with a sandy moustache. "Is this train safe, then?" "Oh yes, sir, there is nothing to worry about," Igor, the young conductor, repeated. "We will arrive in Moscow in about twenty minutes." The man grunted once and returned to his compartment. The lady opposite him, whose extraordinary hat filled most of the corridor, looked down at the rather short man from her rather tall height, aided by stunningly impractical heels. "If that is the case, I should like a pot of tea and a tray of biscuits delivered to my compartment as soon as possible. Don't forget: cream, not milk, and always in its separate jug - silver, not any of this tin rubbish." "At once, Mrs Der Layman." Igor bowed and the lady retreated into her compartment. He breathed a sigh of relief and gave a nervous smile to the one remaining passenger, her chestnut brown curls cut into a neat bob. She looked the sensible type, he thought, pretty but clever, the sort of girl who became a teacher or a nurse. So English. He wondered what she was doing here, far from home. He glanced once at the card on her door, written in an upright hand: "Miss Vera Cartwright". "Can I help you, miss?" he asked. Vera responded in his native Russian - fluently, but with a strong English accent. "Oh, no, thank you. I was just wondering if the other gentleman was alright." He hid his surprise well at her choice of language. "The other gentleman, miss?" "The man in the compartment opposite. He didn't come out, and that noise would have woken the dead." Igor smiled. "He may be asleep, miss. I'm sure he's quite alright. I will wake him when we reach Moscow." The girl nodded, flashed him a smile, and turned back to her compartment. Igor was right about the track, Vera mused, as the words of her book began to jolt before her eyes. The rhythm of the train had now escalated to a cacophony of metallic grating and groaning, which continued for several minutes. Relaxing or reading was rendered impossible, so she put away her book and instead watched the countryside unfurl before her eyes. It wasn't long before the train began to slow and the journey became quieter, and Vera peered ahead to see the largest of Moscow's stations wind into view. The snow on the ground sparkled... like magic. She put on her hat and coat, for she knew the train might well stop for twenty minutes and she needed to stretch her legs. The narrow corridor was blocked with people and shouts. The Mrs Der Layman was talking quickly in a high voice, the man with the moustache talking slowly in a low voice. And Ivor was pushing between them, his slight frame swamped by the much taller passengers, all gathering around the door of the elderly businessman. Vera added her voice to the commotion. "What's going on?" Igor looked up at her in relief. "Miss! It's that man you were worried about. I came to inform him that the train was arriving at Moscow, but his door is locked and I cannot seem to wake him." "You have a pass key! Why the hell don't you open it up?" muttered the man, turning sideways to get through the corridor to his own room. "Idiots, the lot of you. Now, stop disturbing me. I have some extremely important business to be getting along with." He slammed the door to his compartment. Mrs Der Layman sighed. "Honestly. A little calm will always suffice in a crisis, a little calm. Remember that, dear." She patted Vera's shoulder condescendingly. "Now then. Get the door open, quickly, before we fear the worst and call the police!" "Yes, yes, madam, I will -" Igor fumbled in his pocket for the key and unlocked the door. "Mr Harvey, sir? Mr Harvey? Are you alright?" Igor's scream shattered the air. "Oh my god!" Vera pushed her way behind Mrs Der Layman into the tiny compartment. It was identical to her own - a small bed which doubled as a sofa, a sink, and a small wooden cabinet. Lying in the bed was the body of an elderly gentleman, blood trickling from a wound in his chest. "Oh!" Mrs Der Layman sank to the floor in a sea of purple. Ignoring her, Vera stepped over her unconscious body and felt for a pulse. Her eyes flashed up at Igor. "I'm afraid he's dead. Get some brandy for Mrs Der Layman, and take her back to her compartment." When they had left, Vera regarded the scene. A bottle of sleeping tablets stood on the cabinet, only half full. Mr Harvey's wire-rimmed glasses were neatly folded next to them. The murder weapon - a sharp kitchen knife - was still in the body, although Vera had more sense than to touch it. Igor entered the room, still pale. "I took her back to her room, miss. One of the train staff is looking after her. Can you help him, miss? Are you a nurse?" "A governess, I'm afraid. Not really equipped to deal with injuries other than bruises and scratches. However, he is still warm, and that wound looks painful. I would guess that he was killed at some point during that noisy piece of track, which would have muffled his screams." Igor nodded. "That would make sense. I left the corridor for most of the last hour to talk to my colleague, so anyone could have come in here. When I leave, the pass key is on my desk... oh god, this is my fault!" "Of course it's not your fault," Vera said briskly. "Can you give me a list of all the passengers in this corridor?" "Of course, miss. Other than you and Mr Harvey here, there is the English lady Mrs Der Layman, and the General Culling." "I'm going to need to talk to both of them." "Yes, miss." Mrs Der Layman did not appreciate being interrupted. "Are you suggesting I had something to do with his death? I was in here all the time during that piece of rough track, resting - well. Trying to rest, anyway. It was near enough impossible to do anything!" Vera nodded. "I know. I'm just trying to work out where everyone was. You didn't leave the compartment, then?" "Not at all. I didn't hear a scream or anything else either, not that I would have done over that noise. Now, if you'll excuse me. I've had a terrible shock and need to rest." If possible, General Culling was even less co-operative. "What are you suggesting? For god's sake, I didn't hear a thing! Get out of here." "What were you doing when he was killed?" asked Vera. "I don't know. Listening to the radio, I think. There was a rather good programme on after lunch." "To the radio? On that noisy stretch?" "Huh? Oh no, after the programme it got a bit noisy. I had to turn it off. Stayed in here the rest of the time, didn't see or hear anything. Now move it." Vera sighed, and left him to himself. Who killed Mr Harvey?