Cold breezes rapped the glass that Friday morning. The rays of light bounced and cascaded through the wintry, sleet-filled air, through the octagonal turret windows of Toby's room at the top of the house and onto the young man's face,stirring him a few moments before his alarm clock sounded its two great brass gongs just after eight. The young manawoke, rubbed his eyes to rouse himself before prizing himself from his warm, snug bed and into the chilly air thatseemed to fill the room. Toby had no real love of winter, and it showed as the minute hairs on his bare arms, fromwhere they emerged from his light sleepwear, stood upright from his goose-pimpled skin. Overcoming the cold, andsweeping his hand through his messy hair, he went about his business, washing, shaving, eating a slice of toast freshfrom Gretchen's electric toasting rack in the kitchen area downstairs. It was during breakfast that the telephone nosilyinterrupted his meal. Toby's father, Brightly, looked up from his paperwork and glanced at his son."Suppose you'd better get that, son," he grunted."Alright, alright…" Toby sighed, walking through to the telephone on it's little table in the hallway. He pickedthe receiver from the springy holder. "Hello?""Ah, good," a voice that Toby sort-of recognised said briskly."Who's calling?""Ah, brilliant, it's you, Toby,""
""Oh, right, sorry. It's George.""George?""You know…
."Toby knew who George was. "Yeah.""Your presence is required, usual place. How long will you be?"Must be serious, Toby thought. George didn't even need to tell him what it was about, but Toby knew."Give me about an hour. I'll take the train."The line went dead, and the receiver almost found its own way into the cradle. Toby went back into thekitchen, where his father was still reading his paperwork over some warm toast. His second slice, Toby noted."I'm needed in London, dad." Not a movement from the older man and his papers. "At Bertram's?""No."Brightly looked over, sceptically, but met his son's genuine look of anxiousness. "Very well. Nothing too life-threatening, is it?""No, I don't suppose it is," Toby said, turning. Quietly, to himself, he muttered. "I hope not."Once he'd dressed himself in his hefty woollen coat, going down past his knees and had tightly fastened it andwrapped his scarf around his throat. Toby left the modest little house just before a quarter to eight. The walk to therailway station, perched in the middle of the town, which was still mostly asleep at this time, was only a ten minuteone, and by 8:30 Toby stood on the stone platform of Epsom station, a card ticket clasped by a leather-gloved hand,under the pristinely painted cast iron canopy, resplendent in brilliant dark green paint, with details picked out, like theSouthern Railway symbols built into the awning supports and cast into the ironwork of the railings and balustrades, inglorious dark, shiny green. It seemed the Southern had performed freshening up of it's property to welcome in the newdecade; flecks of paint from the time it had been applied were still visible, not weathered at all, on the cement aroundthe railing posts. Within a minute or two, a distant chugging and chuffing down the line became ever nearer, and withthat, a small, but busy train pulled into the station, stopping at the platform with the screech and squeal of steel brakeshoes against flanged metal wheels taking hold. The locomotive was a smart green Southern tender engine, with twolarge wheels connected by rods and linkages to cylinders at the front of the frame, and two smaller wheels at the frontholding the smoke box, which was grey and dusted in soot and ash from the chimney at its apex. The tender, in thesame dark, shiny green hue as the locomotive in front, held coal and water for the morning's journeys, and displayedthe engine's number in classic yellow swirly writing, outlined in white, with what seemed like a shadow of glossymaroon paint."Oh, ol' Southy," Toby mouthed to himself, "always a beautiful train if ever I saw one."Which he had. Toby was biased, of course. He'd spotted the dark, oval metal plate attached to the locomotive's boiler, displaying its heritage: Mount Machine-works, 1905. A
class. Even though his passion for hisfather's trade had waned and withered, how could he not be proud of the sheer workmanship as one of his father'ssurrogate… children, almost, as that was how his father viewed every locomotive that rolled from the foundry in North London, pulled in to collect him on his merry way.There wasn't a great deal of people waiting on the platform, so Toby had liberty to peer through the mistywindows of the brown carriages for a suitable looking entrance. Seeing one in the second carriage of the train, wherethere were a few seats available. It was a busy morning working from Guildford, and as the train had made it's way upthe line towards London, the eight carriages the engine pulled along the track had slowly but steadily filled with silent, preoccupied commuters wanting, presumably, nothing more than to get off at their destination and begin their working