“You’re telling me people pay to investigate the murder of someone who’s not actually dead? People pay to play at being us? For fun?”

Detective Sergeant Rod Barnes smiled at the incredulity in the voice of his boss, Colin Knowles. Barnes thought Knowles must have led a sheltered life if he’d never heard of murder/mystery parties. Barnes had often wanted to take part in such an event, but had reasoned that it would have to be somewhere far away, where nobody knew his occupation otherwise it would be embarrassing if he picked the wrong murder suspect and someone leaked this information to the newspapers. He’d have to resign in shame from the force and take up gardening. No more expensive suits for him, no more holidays in The Maldives, just because he’d picked the wrong actor in a fabricated situation. He’d never won at Cluedo either, but explained that away by telling his friends he didn’t want to show off. Today represented a first though; a real murder during a murder/mystery event on a moving train and it was his job to find out who did it.

Detective Inspector Knowles was staring at him. “Barnesy, are you looking forward to going on the choo-choo train?”

“I do like steam trains, sir, in fact I would say it’s my favourite mode of transportation. The Flying Scotsman, The Duchess of Hamilton, Mallard – great names.”

“Why would you name a train after a duck?”

“Because of the grace they exhibit when paddling through the water?”

“Ducks aren’t graceful, they waddle from side to side and quack. I would have thought they’d have chosen a name that portrayed speed and elegance, such as Cheetah or Swift.”

“You should enter those suggestions in the next competition for naming the next batch of High-Speed Trains.”

“I will do Barnesy, but I am sure I wouldn’t win as they will choose the name of one of the wealthy landowners across whose land the new line has been built.”

“You’re probably right – so the winning name will be something like Lord Flixton or Lady Sarah Ravenscroft.”

“Almost certainly, anyway what was the name of the train where our murder took place?”

“Toby Jug, sir, running from the depot at Little Flixton to Kenton Waterless and back again. Pulling just the kitchen/dining car and the carriage containing the murder/mystery party.”

“Right and there were 25 of them in the party.” Knowles looked around at the trees and hedgerows speeding by and hoped Barnes didn’t brake too hard on the slippery road, covered with the first brown leaves of autumn. This road was the opposite of a roman road as there were 90 degree bends every few hundred yards, indicating the boundaries of the farmer’s fields. The Romans clearly didn’t bother to find out who owned the land when building their highways. Or was everything in common ownership at that time?

“Are we there yet? Can’t this thing go any faster Sergeant?” Knowles hoped the irony wouldn’t be lost on Barnes.

“It can, sir, Morgan’s can go up to 170mph, but this one has an electronically controlled top speed of 148mph, so we’re only halfway there at the moment.” Barnes smiled as he knew Knowles’s Land Rover had a top speed only slightly higher than the rate they were currently travelling at.

“So – let me get this straight,” said Knowles, realising that Barnes was enjoying himself breaking the speed limit on police business, “we’re going to investigate a situation where the wrong person has ended up dead and we have to work out who did it?”

“That’s correct, Inspector, and we don’t have to pay for the privilege either, so we are going to encounter some resistance in this situation. There will be around a dozen amateur sleuths who will all have their own suspects and we will have to rise above their views…”

“…because we are professional sleuths…”

“yes, and we will have to get it right, first time, and hope they are all wrong.”