Read The Transatlantic Conspiracy Online

Authors: G. D. Falksen

Tags: #YA Mystery Fiction

The Transatlantic Conspiracy

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Copyright © 2016 by G. D. Falksen and Soho Press, Inc.

All rights reserved.

 

Published in the United States by Soho Teen

an imprint of

Soho Press, Inc.

853 Broadway

New York, NY 10003

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Falksen, G. D. (Geoffrey D.), 1982–

The transatlantic conspiracy / G. D. Falksen.

 

ISBN 978-1-61695-417-8

eISBN 978-1-61695-418-5

 

1. Railroad trains—Fiction. 2. Conspiracies—Fiction.
3. Mystery and detective stories.

4. Love—Fiction. 5. Science fiction. I. Title 

PZ7.1.F352 2016 DDC [Fic]—dc23 2015031406

Interior art (pages 28–29, 68–69, 118–119, 186–187, 216–217)

by Nat Iwata

Octopus: A. Pollock

 

Interior design by Janine Agro, Soho Press, Inc.

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

My thanks to the incredible team at
Soho Press for all their hard work and dedication.

Chapter One

To: Miss Rosalind Wallace

Exham House, London, England

25 May, 1908

 

My dearest Rosalind. Warmest regards from your mother and me. Hope you have been enjoying your stay in London, etc. Send our warmest regards to Lord Exham and his wife, etc. Be sure not to catch cold in the rain, etc. Your mother reminds you to put on a hat out of doors, etc.

Wonderful news that I know will excite you. You are required back in America at once. And as my Transatlantic Express departs Hamburg on its inaugural voyage in two weeks, I have decided that you will represent the family on the journey. Your ticket will be sent along from the London office in a few days. No need to thank me.

Do remember to dress respectably. The train will carry only one hundred passengers in all, and that includes Second Class. The public will judge you. Have a wonderful journey!

Your loving father,

Alexander Wallace

•••

Rosalind Wallace lowered her
father's telegram, speechless. She had always known that her holiday in London would have to end, but in the excitement of the social season, it had all gone by so quickly.

And now Father wanted her to return home? And on his underwater railway, no less?

She took a deep breath. Yet another one of his publicity stunts, no doubt. Rosalind knew what he was up to. It made her want to scream. She felt the eyes of her friend and hostess, Cecily de Vere, watching her from across the room.

Cecily was at the window, feeding her pair of songbirds. She was rather like those birds, Rosalind realized: perennially fair and pretty, chirping delight at everything around her, even the familiar. And why not? If this were Rosalind's home, she too would delight in the gilded birdcage and the rich parlor with its endless rows of clocks. She
had
delighted in it all.

Now her stay here—arranged almost entirely at Cecily's insistence—was at its telegrammed end.

Cecily's infectious smile melted into a frown. “Is something the matter, Rose? Not bad news, is it?”

Rosalind marched over and held the paper out to her friend. “It's from my father. He's asked me to return home.”

Cecily's face fell. “What horrid news!”

Rosalind could do little more than offer a sad smile.

“I simply cannot imagine London without you,” Cecily stated. “Say it's not so. Has it already been three months? Do you really have to return home?”

“Father is insistent,” Rosalind answered grimly.

Home meant Pittsburgh, a place she'd almost managed to forget while in London. Home was a reflection of Father: always practical, never glamorous. He preferred to keep his family close to his steel investments. Rosalind would only be able to justify a week or two in New York City before being dragged back to the land of smoke and steel mills. Either that or she could summer with Mother on Long Island, which was its own bundle of nonsense, none of it a substitute for the London Season.

She sighed and sat in the chair beside Cecily.

“And after all the trouble we went to introducing you into respectable society
. . .
” Cecily's voice trailed off. She brightened and took Rose by the hand. “Don't worry, Rose. It only means that Charles and I will have to visit you in America. It will be such fun, truly it will. I could
. . .
” She paused, turning back to the caged birds, her eyes sparkling.

“What are you thinking?” Rosalind asked.

“I could accompany you!” Cecily exclaimed.

Rosalind dropped her friend's hand. She would love that, but she imagined Lord and Lady Exham might have something to say about it.

“I've always wanted to see New York,” Cecily continued.

“Cecily—”

“And cowboys.”

“Cecily!” Rosalind couldn't help but match Cecily's grin. She waved a hand to catch her friend's attention and draw it away from the birds.

Cecily blinked a few times. “Hmm? When must you leave us? You have until the middle of summer, surely.”

“Two weeks. And then I must depart for Germany.”

“Germany?” Cecily's delicate features twisted at the suggestion. “Whatever for?”

“Father's great Transatlantic Express,” Rosalind grumbled. “I'm to represent the family on the inaugural journey. He does this sort of thing, places this responsibility upon me. The train departs from Hamburg, so to Hamburg I must go.”

“How utterly abhorrent.”

Rosalind shrugged. “I suppose I should put a bright face on it. I'd rather like to visit Germany. Sometime. Not now, of course, but sometime.”

“Yes, during the summer, perhaps,” Cecily said, “after the Season finishes.” She flashed an impish smile over her shoulder. “Mother and I could offer to take you there, under our care. And then you wouldn't have to go back to America at all, would you?”

So incorrigible.
Rosalind laughed. “I don't think my father would agree. I suspect that my return to America is more about the railway than it is about me.”

“Whatever do you mean?” Cecily asked.

Oh, what to say?
Rosalind thought. Indeed, what
could
she say? That Father had used her and her mother to adver
tise his blasted trains for as long as she could remember? That the first photograph snapped of her as an infant had shown her in her father's arms as he rode a locomotive his own engineers had warned might explode without warning? That she sometimes wondered if she'd rather been born a shopgirl if it meant having a father who considered her something other than a convenient business tool?

Rosalind realized that her hands had become fists. She forced herself to relax. “My father has performed some remarkable feats of engineering these past few years—”

“Like that railway bridge across your Hudson River?” Cecily interrupted.

Ah yes, the Fort Washington Bridge connecting Manhattan and New Jersey. She had been thinking of just the same thing. She and Cecily always seemed to do that, to think of the same thing at the same time. Until now, it had always made her laugh.

“A perfect example,” Rosalind said. “The papers all claimed it couldn't be done. Everyone said it would collapse the first time a train rolled across it.”

“Only it didn't,” Cecily said.

Rosalind chuckled. “And for that I am grateful. As a publicity stunt, my father took the first train across
. . .
with Mother and me in tow. To show there was nothing to fear. Now he's built this underwater railway, and I'm certain the newspapers are predicting disaster. My presence on the train is my father's way of reassuring the public.”

“Your father would let you drown?” Cecily exclaimed, aghast.

“I'm not going to
drown
,” Rosalind said, rolling her eyes. “Father's no fool, believe me. He has every confidence in his train.
I
have every confidence in it. He's just using me to remind everyone else that they
ought to have confidence in it as well.”

Cecily clucked her tongue. “Well, public confidence or not, I do not approve of him spiriting my best friend away. He should have waited until autumn.”

“Annoyed that the peasants are interfering with your plans, Cecily?” Rosalind teased.

“Yes,” Cecily said. Then she caught herself. “No. I mean
. . .
That is to say
. . .
not that you're a peasant, Rose. I mean, you
are
a peasant—”

“Oh, thanks,” Rosalind interrupted.

Cecily's face reddened. “But you're
my
peasant,” she finished, “and that makes all the difference, doesn't it?”

Rosalind laughed at the joke. Still, a part of her knew that it was true. She was no de Vere. Her paternal grandfather had been a penniless steelworker from Scotland; even her mother could trace her family's wealth and status only as far back as the American Revolution. Centuries of aristocratic blood ran through Cecily's veins. The miracle was that it didn't matter to Cecily or to her family. Cecily even made a point of giving her friend a proper introduction into London Society.

True, Rosalind had gotten a taste of debutante balls and socials and cotillions in New York. Her self-made father's wealth and accomplishments had forced even old-money families to accept the upstart Wallaces. “Accept,” of course—not “welcome.” And that was the difference. Compared with London, New York felt so false and pretentious, so competitive. Members of Cecily's class knew that they had nothing to lose by welcoming Rosalind: she could never possibly be one of them; she didn't pose a threat. She really
was
Cecily's peasant.

And right now, as far as Rosalind was concerned, that was wonderful. It was far preferable to being a pawn in her father's advertising campaign.

“Well, I for one am not about to sit here and do nothing while your beast of a father—I do beg your pardon—drags you back to America,”

Cecily said, breaking the silence. She flashed a conspiratorial grin.

“Are you going to write him a strongly worded letter?” Rosalind asked dryly.

Cecily stood. “No. The time for strongly worded letters has passed. Now is the time for action.” She grabbed Rosalind by the hand and pulled her to the door. “We're going to tell Charles. He'll know what to do.”

•••

Viselike handholding often accompanied
Cecily's
stubborn will. Rosalind stumbled along behind her friend through the upstairs of the de Veres' palatial town house. She nearly collided with a member of the staff, her eyes drawn to the old oil paintings, the marble statues, the suit of armor transplanted from the family's ancestral home in Devon.

Again her heart squeezed at the thought of how much she'd miss it here. Exham House had been built in the eighteenth century, its furnishings, like the Exham title, passed down through the generations—so stark a contrast to Rosalind's own home, where everything had to be newer, better, and more expensive, no matter how hideous it was.

In the upstairs study they found Cecily's elder brother seated at the desk, busily scribbling in a sketchbook. At first he did not notice them, or pretended not to.

Charles was only a year older than Cecily, about Rosalind's age. But he had grown remarkably well since Rosalind had first met him—ages ago, when Father's great aquatic railroad had been in its infancy, back when Charles and Cecily's father, the Earl of Exham, had first approached Father about getting in on a transportation scheme in Canada. Rosalind had been very much a girl then, and Charles had been very much a boy.

Now Charles had his father's sturdy build and the strong de Vere jaw. His sandy hair was well kept, a few shades fairer than his sister's luxuriant chestnut. And he dressed as only a young Englishman could. But what she loved most about him was his conversation. Unlike the boys at home, he had a brain.

“Charles,” Cecily announced, “we have a terrible problem. You are going to stop drawing and help us solve it.”

Charles looked up from his sketchbook with a frown. Rosalind smiled to herself: even in confusion—or perhaps especially in confusion—Charles was charming, a lion who thought himself a house cat, majestic by all appearances but adorable when he became tangled in a ball of string.

“Cecily, whatever are you going on about? Good morning, Rosalind. Has my sister gone quite mad?”

“Not very mad, no,” Rosalind said shyly.

“Rose's father is demanding that she return to America.” Cecily's tone made it sound as if Rosalind were on the verge of being kidnapped. “We must put a stop to it.”

Charles blinked a few times and shook his head, mouthing a few words silently as he tried to formulate a proper reply. “You're
. . .
leaving?”

Rosalind nodded. “Unfortunately—”

“She is!” Cecily interjected. “She's to go back on the Transatlantic Express. In two weeks! From Germany!” She turned to Rosalind. “Your father could have at least done the decent thing and sent you home on a proper English boat.”

“Ship,” Charles corrected.

“Hush,” Cecily muttered, rolling her eyes.

“The Transatlantic Express?” Charles continued, ignoring his sister. “Rosalind, you're leaving on your father's train?”

“Yes, I am,” Rosalind said. “I shall be representing the family. It's my daughterly duty.”

Charles furrowed his brow. Suddenly he snapped his fingers and leapt to his feet. “Well, dash it all,” he said. “Cecily and I will simply have to accompany you.”

“We will?” Cecily asked, eyes wide.

“We will,” Charles said, meeting her gaze.

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