After the North loses the War of Southern Secession, money buys power in the Magnocracy, and people can disappear in a blink. War veteran Donovan Schist's specialty is finding these missing persons. There isn't much money in it, but he sleeps a little better. This time, Donovan is looking for a girl named Bridget Cleary. Her family's had no word from her for months. Donovan's certain he'll find her belly-up, but it seems her talent for analytical machines has made her a valuable asset to the powers that be.
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Donovan Schist's current job was supposed to be an easy one: grab Phoebe Mosey before pimp and murderer Stanny Slash does, and drag her back home to Ohio - kicking and screaming if necessary. But when a blazing river halts their steam train in the middle of nowhere, the veteran turned detective starts to wish he had stayed in New York. With a homicidal Stanny hot on their trail - maybe poisoning Stanny's man was a bad idea - Donovan needs to get Phoebe out of Juniper Junction fast. Even if that means taking a few jobs for some quick cash.