Murder on the Disoriented Express


By Emily Lloyd-Jones

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He’s a survivor. No matter the cost.

Until he met Ciere and her crew of superpowered thieves, Alan Fiacre’s life had been singularly focused on safeguarding the vaccine that changed the world. As an eidos, and reluctant heir to his father’s legacy, it was his duty to ensure the formula never fell into the wrong hands. So it came as something of a shock to learn the right hands might belong to criminals.

Now Alan and Ciere are conscripted into service with the Gyr Syndicate, notorious mobsters set on taking down all of the other crime families in the United States. Their latest mission: a train heist meant to derail a covert arms deal. It will put Alan–and the formula–in more danger than he’s ever faced before. But if he’s learned nothing else from Ciere, it’s that there’s more to life than survival.

Word Count: ~12,000 words


“Well,” says Ciere Giba, peering into the wine cellar, “of all the places we’ve squatted, this one has the best drinks.”

Alan Fiacre closes his eyes and slowly inhales. The cellar is dark, cool, and comfortable. There’s a sense of strength to the old wood walls. With its single exit, it’s easily defensible, and there’s enough food down here to last at least a week. Whoever stocked this cellar made sure they’d have a fine place to hide, should they ever need it.

Alan relaxes. He’s been in many places like this before and familiarity almost feels like coming home.

Ciere lingers on the threshold, her fingers still on the doorknob. She gives the small room a narrow-eyed look. It puts Alan in mind of feral cats looking at baited traps—tempted by the food, but wary of the walls.

Alan says, “You want to get out of here? The others probably won’t mind if we wait on the stairs.”

“I’m fine,” Ciere says automatically, in the same guarded way she always says, I’m not claustrophobic.

Alan understands. There are some things he won’t talk about, too. Trying to pry such truths out of others would be hypocritical.

“You know,” he says, after a long moment, “I have to disagree. The casino had pretty good ones.”

She looks at him, puzzled by the sudden change in subject.

Alan keeps his eyes on the wine barrels. “Drinks, I mean.”

The comment does what it is supposed to: it distracts and redirects Ciere’s attention. She walks to one of the wine racks, her hand going for a dusty bottle. She squints at the label. “You think Guntram would notice if I took one?”

“Yes, he would,” comes a familiar voice. A blond man strides down the stairs. He’s not physically imposing, but Alan knows better than to judge by appearances. Brandt Guntram is one of the more dangerous men Alan has met in his life. Guntram is cool, methodical, and without pride. There’s none of the bluster Alan has come to expect from criminals. Should he ever decide Ciere and Alan are threats, there won’t be a warning. Just two flashes of gunfire.

Alan lets his eyes meet Guntram’s gaze. Something like understanding passes between them. I don’t trust you, Alan thinks.

I know, is Guntram’s silent reply.

Ciere grudgingly puts the bottle down. “You make a living out of being a mobster, yet you draw the line at stealing a bottle of booze?”

Guntram smiles thinly. “We’re all our own kind of criminal.”

Alan isn’t a criminal by choice.

It’s more of a necessity. While staying off the government’s radar, he learned how to squat in houses, how to use corners of the Internet the government can’t access, how to send and receive coded messages, and to steal food when he has no other options. Alan doesn’t regret any of it.

He’s the last Fiacre. It is his duty to survive.


“The privatization of trains began after the war,” says Guntram.

There are no chairs in the cellar, so Ciere and Alan sit on wine barrels. Guntram stands before them, having adopted a stance like a history professor.

Sitting behind them is Conrad, Guntram’s bodyguard. He’s well over six feet tall and he looks like he could lift one of these barrels in each arm. But despite this, Alan likes the man. Conrad is blunt, honest, and good-natured; Alan doesn’t mind having Conrad at his back.

“After the Pacific War, crime spiked,” continues Guntram. “And that included pickpocketing—especially on public transportation. Trains in particular. Criminals with powers used the trains as ideal hunting grounds. This caused a slump in business and eventually, some of them began to shut down. However, one individual saw an opportunity. Benjamin Hubbard, a rather wealthy man, began buying out some of the public railroads. He hired his own security, thus ensuring that people could once again ride trains without worrying about losing a wallet. These companies charged more, but that was to be expected—”

“Why do you always monologue at us?” interrupts Ciere. “It’s boring and just a little cliché.”

Guntram gives her a flat look. “Informing my colleagues is cliché?”

“Oh, come on,” says Ciere. “There’s informing and then there’s twirling your mustache.”

“I don’t have a mustache,” points out Guntram.

“You also don’t have a high-backed chair or a white cat, but you manage the B movie villain schtick just fine.”

“I,” says Guntram, sounding offended for the first time, “would not be a B movie villain.”

Conrad turns a laugh into a garbled cough. Alan tries not to smile.

Ciere throws up her hands. “Everyone knows about the trains! In fact, I’ve been one of those pickpockets. How’d you think I got from Seattle to Detroit when I was a kid?” She gives Guntram a triumphant look.

Guntram smiles. It’s one of those thin smiles that sets Alan on edge. “Conrad?” he says. “Did you know about the trains?”

“No,” says Conrad, and he grins at Ciere. “Kitty, we’re not all Americans. And I had better things to learn than the recent history of your trains.” His German accent seems to thicken around the last few words, as if in deliberate rebuke.

Ciere flushes and turns back to Guntram.

“Okay then,” she says grudgingly. She waves a hand around. “Continue.”

“I’ll try to keep my mustache-twirling to a minimum,” replies Guntram.

Alan and Ciere have been working with the Gyr Syndicate for just over two months. Two months of living with professional criminals and killers, and at some point in the midst of it, Ciere began talking back to Guntram. Maybe it was the familiarity—eating together, sleeping in adjacent hotel rooms, traveling in the same cars, listening to Conrad’s muttered curses and Guntram’s careful silences, and allying themselves against the same enemies.

As they became more integrated into the Syndicate, Alan watched Ciere gradually relax around the mobsters. She doesn’t trust them, even Alan can see that, but she doesn’t expect a knife in the back, either.


On Sale
Jun 9, 2015
Page Count
32 pages

Emily Lloyd-Jones

About the Author

Emily Lloyd-Jones grew up on a vineyard in rural Oregon, where she played in evergreen forests and learned to fear sheep. She has a BA in English from Western Oregon University and a MA in publishing from Rosemont College. She currently resides in Northern California, where she enjoys wandering in redwood forests. Her young adult novels include Illusive, Deceptive, The Hearts We Sold, The Bone Houses, and the forthcoming The Drowned Woods. Her debut middle grade, Unseen Magic, will release in 2022.

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