Blood on the Tracks Part 3 - Murder and Suicide?
CoC 1-6e Jazz Age
* * *
Mr. Nickerbocker was talking about the suit he had recently acquired from “a man whose generosity knows no bounds.”
“Look,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Yes sir,” Mr. Nickerbocker said.
“The reason I’ve come to see you: an associate of mine knows that the suit you have on is not yours.”
“And I’m going to … I want to make this a pleasant ride for everybody. So if you just give me the suit so I can return it.”
“Well, Mr. Sanderson, I would love to do that but … but … it would be … then I would not have any clothes to wear. You have to understand, I’m wearing underwear of course …”
Mr. Nickerbocker pulled back a sleeve of his shirt and coat to reveal the end of ratty-looking long johns.
“… and that would be the height of impoliteness,” Mr. Nickerbocker said. “There are ladies on board, my good sir.”
He took another sip of the bottle and offered it to Agent Sanderson.
“No, thank you, sir,” Agent Sanderson said.
The other man smiled and carefully corked the bottle once again.
“I don’t mean to impose but I don’t want to be rude,” Mr. Nickerbocker said.
“I’m going to get you some clothes,” Agent Sanderson said. “Just, give me the suit and there won’t be any problems.”
“Very well, sir. Do you wish to take me away in handcuffs as well? I submit myself to your mercy, to your gentle, tender mercy. However you wish to handle the situation officer. Just one more snoot.”
“Just go ahead and give me the suit. Just drop it. Drop the suit.”
“Well, can I ask a terrible, terrible huge favor of you, officer, sir?”
“What’s the favor?”
“Could you bring me the clothes before you take my suit? It is a beautiful suit. It fits me so well. But I promise I will not leave this room until you return. I swear on my mother’s honor.”
Agent Sanderson took out his handcuffs.
“I understand!” Mr. Nickerbocker said. “I understand!”
He held out his hands to be cuffed and hung his head. Agent Sanderson cuffed him.
“I’ll be right back,” Agent Sanderson said.
“You will find me here,” Mr. Nickerbocker said. “Sir. Sir.”
He sat down on the settee.
Agent Sanderson went back to his room and retrieved his second suit of clothing, returning to the stateroom and knocking. Mr. Nickerbocker opened the door, at first looking embarrassed and then obviously relieved to see Agent Sanderson.
“Yes, Officer Sanderson!” he said, ushering him in.
Agent Sanderson uncuffed the man and then stood outside while Mr. Nickerbocker changed into the other suit. After a few minutes, the door opened and the man stood there. The other suit of clothing was over his arm.
“Officer, I have to confess another crime!” Mr. Nickerbocker said.
“Okay,” Agent Sanderson said.
“If you could see yourself clear to looking the other way … I understand that’s against your oath! You’ve sworn an oath to uphold the law like the man that you are, but if you could see yourself clear to look the other way, just until we make the stop in New Orleans, I will make redemption the best I can. I won’t be a bother; I promise.”
“The conductor is now thinking that … he knows you’re on the train without a ticket because the other passengers have said something about it.”
“Oh dear. Well, it’s jail for me again, I suppose.”
“Look, if you want to stay in my cabin, just so I can say I have you arrested and then when we leave you can just get the blazes out of here.”
“Sir, you are an officer and a gentleman.”
A single tear rolled down the older man’s face, his heart touched by the other man’s generosity. He picked up his bottle and his baseball bat, tucking the bottle away. He put his top hat back on his head.
Agent Sanderson had Mr. Nickerbocker lead them back to his stateroom. They were at his door in the second coach, when the door to the parlor opened and McCree and the conductor entered. Agent Sanderson shoved Mr. Nickerbocker into his room and approached the two.
“Okay, I have your suit,” Agent Sanderson said to McCree.
“All right,” McCree said. “Has the perpetrator been handled?”
“I have apprehended the suspect,” Agent Sanderson said, “and once the train ride ends, I will─”
“Wait,” the conductor said. “What suspect are you talking about, Agent?”
“There was a hobo who had come onto the train somehow.”
“But he was apprehended. Once the train gets to its destination, I will immediately get him sorted out. Right now he is arrested.”
The conductor thought on that a moment.
“Very well,” he finally said. “If you wish to take charge of that situation, he is in your care and custody so you’re responsible for him.”
“Like he’s my son,” Agent Sanderson said.
“I wouldn’t go that far, but … that’s fine,” the conductor said.
He turned to McCree.
“Are you satisfied, Mr. McCree?” he said.
“Well, I will need to get this washed,” McCree said. “But … uh … as long as everything’s sorted out, it should be fine.”
He told the conductor to please watch the luggage more closely.
“Yes … sir,” the conductor replied dryly.
* * *
Agent Sanderson went to Miss Brown’s room and told her of the strange situation that had occurred and, as an officer of the law, that he had to deal with it, also telling her it was very late but he was looking forward to seeing her the next morning.
“Oh, you’re so brave,” she said to him. “Your job is so dangerous.”
She gave Agent Sanderson a little peck on the cheek and then blushed and went back into her stateroom. He went back to his own stateroom and made ready for bed.
* * *
The scream of “Murder” awoke many of the passengers on the train around 9:30 p.m. The cries came from the forward carriage. It sounded like it was right outside of Johnson’s door, waking him up. He grabbed his bat and ran out the door as the stateroom door next to his opened and Brubeck ran out wearing mismatched pajamas.
Annie Clarke stood in the passageway wearing a frilly negligee and pointing down the way where a blood was spilled out into the narrow hall. Footprints of blood led towards the back of the train. Johnson ran towards Miss Clarke, who swooned. He ignored her and saw a body in the stateroom. It was Miss Brown, who lay on the ground in a great deal of blood. Her neck was twisted and her throat appeared to have been torn out. He stopped in terror for just a moment before he ran after the footprints.
“Honey! Honey!” Brubeck said to Miss Clarke. “What happened!?! What’s going on!?!”
“The conductor!” Miss Clarke cried out. “It was the conductor!”
She pointed down the passageway in Johnson’s direction.
“It was the conductor!” she said again. “He came out of the compartment! He was covered in blood!”
“It’s okay, baby!” Brubeck said.
Johnson followed the footsteps into the parlor where they faded to nothing. He slid open the outside door and headed for the second passenger coach.
* * *
Agent Sanderson and DeLuve had heard the screaming and rushed out of their own staterooms on the second car. Other stateroom doors were opening as people looked out to see what the disturbance was. A few people came out to look up the passageway. “Serious Sam” and the bearded man none of them had met yet both exited their rooms after they passed.
“What’s going on?” “Serious Sam” had asked.
“I heard a scream!” DeLuve said.
They had reached the door to the car when Johnson burst in from outside, baseball bat in hand.
“There’s a dead woman back up there!” Johnson said. “Footprints went this way. One of the actress ladies said it was the conductor and he ran into this car.”
“I’m a cop,” Agent Sanderson said. “Get out of the way, Joell. Just move.”
He shoved Johnson aside and left the carriage. Johnson started to continue down the passageway but DeLuve grabbed him and pointed at the bloodstains around the door to the washroom at that end of the car. Johnson cursed and banged on the door with the baseball bat. There was no answer so he tried to open it but found it locked.
The door of the end stateroom opened and Professor Leighman looked out, pulling his bathrobe on.
“Gentlemen, what’s going on?” he asked.
“There’s a dead woman in the first car,” Johnson said.
“Oh my God!”
“Blood footsteps led─”
“Melissa, stay in the room!”
Professor Leighman pulled the door shut behind him. Johnson looked at DeLuve.
“Can you pick locks?” he asked.
“Y-Yes,” DeLuve said.
He headed back to his stateroom as more people peeked out of their doors. Other people came up the passageway. Both the Father Delarove and the man with the beard had come out, the priest with a blanket over him. “Serious Sam” zipped by them and headed for the forward carriage.
Professor Leighman knocked on the door and rattled the latch. Father Delarove and the bearded man asked what happened. Johnson told them as quickly as he could.
“Was she dead?” the man with the beard asked.
“Definitely,” Johnson said.
* * *
Agent Sanderson had rushed forward to the other carriage and found several passengers around Miss Brown’s stateroom. The woman was obviously dead of both a broken neck and a torn and bloody throat. Agent Sanderson felt sick.
She was a good woman, he thought, mortified.
He was shaken and angry by the sight of her corpse. He headed back the other way, following the footprints. He almost ran into “Serious Sam” coming from the other direction. Agent Sanderson dashed by him towards the second passenger carriage.
* * *
DeLuve had grabbed all his lock picks and ran back to the washroom.
“Are you sure she was dead?” the man with the beard and mustache asked.
“You wanna go have a look?” Johnson said. “Yeah, she was dead.”
“I’ll go look,” the man said, not making eye contact. “I’ll go look.”
He opened the door and headed out of the carriage.
DeLuve started to work on the lock to the washroom when Agent Sanderson came back into the carriage. The agent noticed the nice-looking lock picks DeLuve had and then headed for his stateroom to get his sidearm.
* * *
Mr. Nickerbocker was in his stateroom when Agent Sanderson got there.
“What happened?” the old man said.
Agent Sanderson didn’t reply. He just got his 1911 .45-caliber semi-automatic revolver, worked the action to put a bullet in the chamber, and put it into his pajama pocket. He left the room without a word.
* * *
DeLuve was still working on the lock to the washroom when Agent Sanderson returned. He stood up and moved away, motioning for someone to break it down. Agent Sanderson rushed the door, putting his shoulder to it and throwing his entire weight against it. The door was sturdier than it looked and it didn’t move but Agent Sanderson did hurt his shoulder.
“Sanderson, let me,” Johnson said.
He used his baseball bat on the door and started to smash it down. It took several minutes to break through. McCree came out of his cabin, fully dressed. He had secreted his own semi-automatic pistol into the back of his belt. Johnson eventually broke a panel and could see into the room. A great deal of blood was splattered on the walls. He didn’t see anyone at first in the room, but then saw someone lying on the floor. He was covered in blood, especially his arms. Johnson cursed and reached in the hole to unlock the door. The knob for the lock was wet but he turned it and then pushed the door open.
The door opened partially but then Johnson had to press hard against the corpse of the conductor, lying twisted and crumpled upon the bathroom floor. Both his wrists proved to be slashed and blood adorned the walls and floor. A bloody straight razor lay in the basin.
Professor Leighman went pale and Father Delarove crossed himself and stepped away.
“All right, people,” McCree said, looking away from the terrible scene. “So, if the conductor’s dead, who’s in charge of the train.”
He looked at Agent Sanderson.
“Sanderson!” Johnson said.
Agent Sanderson knew the porter was in charge of the train with the loss of the conductor. He also realized the amount of blood evident in the bathroom was far less than what it should have been for two slit wrists. It was comparatively little for such terrible wounds. He also noticed the blood on the walls appeared almost to be smeared on … or perhaps spat. A any rate, it looked wrong, not in keeping with the spray that would have resulted from the wounds.
The porter, Clarence Marlin came through the door to the forward carriage. He looked ashen and terrified and worried.
“Oh my God,” he said. “Oh my God.”
He walked over and peeked into the toilet that was now an abattoir.
“Oh no,” he said. “No no. Everyone needs to go back to your staterooms. Everyone needs to go back to your staterooms, please. We-we need to … I’ll explain fully when we figure out what’s going on. We’ll explain fully. If there’s any police officers on board … wait, Mr. … Officer …”
“Sanderson,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Sanderson, if you could help …” he went on.
The outer door opened again and “Serious Sam” entered the carriage.
“Sam Club, private investigator!” he said, holding out his credentials. “All right, everybody needs to calm down. Everybody needs to calm down so we can get things organized here.”
The porter looked between Club and Agent Sanderson.
“Federal agent,” Agent Sanderson said.
“You’re a federal agent?” Club said.
“Where’s your badge?”
Agent Sanderson reached for his badge and realized he didn’t have it in his pajama pocket.
“It’s in my real clothes,” Agent Sanderson said.
“I need to see it at some point,” Club said. “I need your help and you can definitely use mine. We need to get these people calmed down. How about I go to the other carriage and tell people to get in their staterooms and you handle people in this one for now and we’ll get together and figure out what to do about this.”
“There’s a doctor on board. He can look at the bodies.”
“He’s right here,” DeLuve said.
He pointed at Professor Leighman.
“I’m not a doctor,” Professor Leighman said. “I’m a professor, my good sir.”
He launched into a lecture on how and where he got his degree and credentials.
“Is that okay with you, officer?” Club said to Agent Sanderson.
“Let’s just get to work,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Do y’all need my assistance or do you want me to go back?” McCree said.
“Are you a cop?” Club said.
“No,” McCree said.
“Then no,” Club said.
It took some time to get all the passengers in order, back into their rooms, and settled down until they could try to figure out what had happened. Agent Sanderson learned the man with the beard was Dr. Troy Adamson who was a physician. He was willing to take the bodies of Miss Brown and Mr. Cosley and clean them up and look at them to determine their cause of death. He was going to do it in Miss Brown’s room.
DeLuve questioned the porter on having everyone go back to their staterooms, wondering if they should separate everyone up. The man replied that it looked like Mr. Cosley had killed the woman and then killed himself. Agent Sanderson noted it looked like it had been set up to look that way. Club thought it better to separate people to keep people from collaborating if there was another killer.
Dr. Adamson found Agent Sanderson and asked if he was in charge. When he found he was, he said he’d come to tell him what he learned about the dead bodies.
* * *
In his room, DeLuve opened the window. A blast of cold air burst in and he stuck his head out to look at the carriage top. He realized he might be able to climb to the roof, though it would be very hard and he would have to be able to climb like a spider. One slip would send the potential climber to his death on the ground below. He thought he remembered seeing a ladder going up the side of the baggage car but otherwise there was no easy way onto the roof of the cars.
He closed the window, not trusting Sam Club.
* * *
Johnson, in his room, heard Brubeck in the corridor telling Miss Clarke and Miss DeMillings they would open the connecting door between their rooms so he could keep them safe. Johnson wanted to beat the man. He hated him.
“I’m so scared,” he heard Miss Clarke said.
“I’ll protect you, baby,” Brubeck said.
* * *
Agent Sanderson returned to his room, glad Mr. Nickerbocker was still safe. The hobo asked what was going on as Sanderson got dressed and he told him. There was a knock on the door and DeLuve was there.
“How can I help you?” Agent Sanderson asked.
“I … I just … I’m … I’m awfully suspicious of this ‘Sam’ guy,” DeLuve said. “Especially the way he tried to take control of the situation immediately before anyone else. And now he’s alone with some other guy that I think he knows, talking about ‘we don’t want people collaborating’ but he’s the only other one with someone else … possibly collaborating.”
Agent Sanderson realized Club wasn’t with anyone in particular and told DeLuve the man was questioning passengers.
“Never mind,” DeLuve said. “I thought he and the doctor were doing the autopsy.”
Agent Sanderson told him Dr. Adamson was alone in the room doing the autopsy. He told Mr. Nickerbocker to wait in the stateroom. Then he went to the forward passenger carriage to see Dr. Adamson. He found the man cleaning the bodies in an attempt to get a better look at the wounds. Dr. Adamson noted he was not planning on cutting either of the bodies open and expected to have his results in a couple of hours.
Agent Sanderson looked around Miss Brown’s room. There was not as much blood there as he would have expected either.
* * *
While Agent Sanderson was gone, DeLuve told Mr. Nickerbocker everything that had happened.
“Oh dear,” the older man said. “That sounds quite dreadful.”
“Ghastly,” DeLuve said.
“Ghastly! How well do you know all your friends?”
He especially wanted to know about the rich man who had owned the suit.
“Well, he’s my employer,” DeLuve said.
“Oh,” Mr. Nickerbocker said. “You see, sometimes the rich are very eccentric. They don’t think like normal people.”
“Everyone’s a little eccentric.”
“Well, I would keep my eye on him. He seems … well, I don’t really know him. I shouldn’t just the man before I know him. He has a very impressive mustache.”
“What we were talking about earlier. Good on you.”
“Yes yes. I haven’t met him yet. Wait, what about your friend Joell? I haven’t met him yet either. And I would like to.”
He started talking about Joell and his work again.
* * *
Sam Club found Agent Sanderson an hour or so later. He advised the passengers could probably be allowed to move about if they wanted, so long as they were careful. He was convinced that the conductor murdered Miss Brown and then killed himself. He didn’t see there was any other explanation. When Agent Sanderson told him there wasn’t enough blood in either of the rooms, he asked what that meant. Agent Sanderson didn’t know either. Club wondered if they were both anemic.
“I tried pulling the brake cord and nothing happened,” Club said.
“What?” Agent Sanderson said.
“The brake cord. There’s a brake cord to stop the train. It’s broken.”
Agent Sanderson took Club out of the room and they headed for the engine. Opening the front door of the front passenger coach showed the back of the tender, which was as tall as the car. There should have been a ladder there but it was missing. They could see the bottom of it and the top of it attached to the coal tender but a good eight feet of the middle was simply missing as if it had been torn off.
“Oh my God!” Agent Sanderson said.
“How the hell would they get to the engine?” Club said. “This is stupid. Is there a telegraph in here to talk to the engineers? I’ve never heard of that. That’s fancy.”
They leaned out and looked forward, trying to see the locomotive. It was wreathed in darkness.
Agent Sanderson went to look for the porter while Club went room to room to tell the passengers they could move about the train again as it was thought to have been a murder suicide.
Johnson left his room when he was able and went looking for Sanderson.
* * *
Sanderson found Clarence Marlin, the porter, in the second passenger coach. He told him about the missing ladder and the malfunctioning brake.
“Uh … uh …” Marlin said, obviously distraught. “Did you check all the cars? The dining car? The other passenger coach? Try to see if all the brakes are broke.”
They went from car to car and tried the emergency brake cord. None of them did anything. That disturbed Marlin even more.
“We have a telegraph,” he said. “There’s a telegraph here. It’s on the train. We can send a telegraph to the next station. Let them know what’s going on. It’s back in the dining car.”
The two men went to the kitchen of the dining car where the telegraph was being stored, and found it damaged beyond repair. It looked like someone had ripped out the insides of the device.
“Oh God,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Wha …” Marlin said. “What do we do? What do we do?”
“Get it together man!” Agent Sanderson said, slapping the black man in the face.
* * *
Johnson found Agent Sanderson in the second passenger car parlor.
“What do you make of this, Sanderson?” he asked the man.
“There’s been sabotage,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Telegraph is destroyed. Brakes are shot. Ladder’s gone off the back of the coal tender.”
“Jesus. And the murders?”
“What about ‘em?”
“Do you think he killed himself?”
“Oh no. There’s not enough blood.”
“So what does that mean? Do you think somebody set it up?”
“I said it was a set up, didn’t I?”
“A set up? But that would mean that somebody took out all our communication, we can’t stop the train, and presumably, they’re still on it and they killed these people and used one of their bloods to frame it. I’m not a cop, if you can’t tell.”
“I’m going to do to you what you did to that sentence. Yeah, that’s what it seems like. It seems like something’s fishy and somebody’s the culprit. Or somebodies. Two people maybe. I don’t know. There’s some people in pairs.”
“So, does that mean we have to start doing suspects and figure out …”
“Sam Club says he talked to some people but I don’t know what he’s come across. He says he still believes it’s a suicide. Murder/suicide.”
“I mean, it would make sense if it wasn’t for the lack of blood which you said and all our shot communications and brakes. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to keep an eye out. Listen in. Sneak. You’re good at sneaky.”
“Not particularly … but I’m glad you see me in that light. I can keep a watch on the first car but I can’t guarantee I’m going to be a spy.”
DeLuve came down the passageway as Johnson went to the parlor in the first passenger coach. A few people moved through the parlor, looking nervous. Professor Leighman found the man and asked about what was going on. Johnson filled him in on what he’d seen.
* * *
Agent Sanderson had gone to the forward passenger car and knocked on the door of the room with the young women. There was a startled wail from inside. The door was opened by Horace J. Brubeck.
“Oh hey,” he said. “How’s it going, there? You’re one of the cops, right?”
“Agent Sanderson,” the man said, holding out his hand. “I’d like to speak to …”
Brubeck had been holding a cigar in his hand and when he reached for Agent Sanderson’s hand, it’s switched it to the left hand but the ashes spilled all over both of them.
“Oh,” Brubeck said. “Sorry. Sorry, there, Agent. Sorry, there.”
“Oh my goodness, who is it?” one of the woman said from the stateroom. “Is he going to murder us?”
“It’s okay girls,” Brubeck said. “It’s a cop.”
“Ooo!” one of the girls said. “A cop!”
“Is it a man?” the other said. “Is it a man cop?”
“I’d like to speak with the witness,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Oh … yeah,” Brubeck said. “C’mon in. C’mon in.”
He ushered the man into the tight little room and backed into his own room through the adjoining door but stayed to watch. He pointed out the blonde girl, Annie Clarke.
“Oh, officer, how can I help you?” she asked
Her voice was very high-pitched. She wore a short, revealing negligee and a housecoat that covered little more. It was quite distracting.
“Oh officer,” she said. “Oh dear. Oh, it was horrible. It was horrible.”
“I’m going to need you to tell me everything you saw,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Okay. Well, I got on a train and I saw a train.”
“What did you see of the murder?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you policemen wanted details. Okay. So, I was coming out to use … to powder my nose, and as I was lookin’ to my right, I see the conductor. That Mr. Conductor Fella.”
“I don’t know his name and he comes out and he’s got blood all over him!”
“And I thought ‘Oh no! He must’ve cut himself.’”
“And then I thought ‘That’s too much blood. It’s so much.’ And he looked at me … and he had fire in his eyes. I know how men are. I know how they are. And I thought ‘Oo.’ And then he turned and he starts running the other way, and I walk up, and I saw that lady, Mrs. Brown, and she’s dead on the floor and there’s blood everywhere, splattered all over the place.”
“And then I screamed and then that little dirty fellow came out of his room and he ran past me and had a baseball bat and he was looking at the floor. And that’s when I saw the blood on the floor and then everything went blurry. And I woke up and Horace here was holding me up because I’d passed out. Oh, it was terrible.”
“Miss Annie, do you happen to know what time you came out of your room to powder your nose?”
“I didn’t look at my clock, no. I’m sorry.”
“I will next time.”
“That’s okay. Please do.”
“I will. I’ll always check my … I don’t have a watch …”
Agent Sanderson thanked her and stood up.
“It was the conductor,” she went on. “He was covered in blood and he just ran away. I mean, he even left a trail, you can still see it out there on the carpet. It was terrible! I was so scared!”
“Thank you for your time,” Agent Sanderson said.
“But now he’s dead,” Miss Clarke said. “So am I’m not as scared but I’m still scared.”
“Do you want to talk to Constance?” Brubeck said as Agent Sanderson tried to get out the door.
“Did she see anything?” Agent Sanderson asked.
“Constance, did you see anything?” Brubeck said.
“No, I was … I was in the … I was lying down,” Miss DeMillings said. “I came out into the corridor when I heard … when I heard Annie screaming but I never saw the man.”
“She didn’t see nothing,” Brubeck said. “I didn’t see anything either. I came out after I heard the scream. But I am a very important fellow.”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Agent Sanderson said. “If you see or hear anything else, let me know.”
“Of course,” Brubeck said. “Thank you, officer. Agent - sorry.”
Agent Sanderson looked at the bloody footprints, which faded by the middle of the parlor.
He headed for the washroom where the conductor had committed suicide to find DeLuve there, taking photographs of the little room.
There was a good amount of blood on the toilet seat, which was obviously down when the man had died. The basin was bloodstained and there was blood on the floor and walls. There was less blood on the ceiling. The room stank of it.
When they examined the window more closely, they found some bloodstains around the handles and discovered the window was unlocked. Agent Sanderson opened the window and cold wind blew in as he leaned out, using his flashlight. He found bloodstains leading up to the top of the car. It looked like a very hard climb and Agent Sanderson couldn’t figure how someone would be able to make it to the roof.
“So … let’s close this window,” DeLuve said, doing so. “I will go to the front car and close and lock every window. You should go and close and lock all the windows in the back car.”
They set out to do so.
* * *
DeLuve got Johnson to help and they checked all the windows, asking everyone to make sure to close and lock their windows as well. When they got to Dr. Adamson’s room, he opened the door.
“Yes?” he said.
“One of the officers just came and told me we should lock our windows,” Johnson said to him. “So I just thought I’d let you know.”
“Yes,” Dr. Adamson said. “Okay.”
He quickly checked the window to make sure it was locked. Johnson was a little unnerved to see the two sheet-covered corpses.
DeLuve opened the next stateroom and checked it to make sure it was locked. There were a few personal items that looked like they probably had belonged to the porter and the conductor. He looked through them but didn’t find anything incriminating or even of any great interest. He left that door open. The other empty room was the one where he’d originally found Mr. Nickerbocker.
The two of them met Agent Sanderson eventually. Johnson checked the doors on the front and back of the train cars and found they couldn’t be locked.
All of the windows in both passenger cars were closed and locked. Johnson went back to his seat in the parlor with his book. DeLuve joined him there. When Agent Sanderson came back through, DeLuve reminded him they hadn’t checked the baggage car. The three men headed that way, DeLuve knocking on McCree’s room as they passed by it.
“Who’s there?” McCree’s voice came from the stateroom.
“It’s DeLuve,” the man said.
“Ah … what’s going on now, DeLuve?”
“We’re going to go check the baggage hold.”
“Uh … one moment. Let me put something on.”
Agent Sanderson and Johnson went on ahead, leaving DeLuve behind.
* * *
Johnson and Sanderson entered the baggage car, still only lit by the low-burning oil lamps that swung and swayed, casting the strange shadows over the piles of baggage. Aside from the rattle of the wheels on the tracks and the blowing wind, it was quiet. It was very cold in the place. Johnson looked around with interest at the mail and the large crate.
Agent Sanderson shined his flashlight on the large wooden crate and got into the paperwork again. Nothing looked like it was in any way different from before. Then he examined the door on the other side of the boxcar and peeked out. The tracks receded into the darkness and seemed to be speeding under the train. He closed it.
“I didn’t find anything,” he said.
Johnson was looking over the luggage. Eventually DeLuve and McCree came in.
“What’s in this big box?” Johnson said of the large crate. “I saw you looking at it earlier.”
“Uh … when I checked the paperwork on it earlier, it said it was a box from England,” Agent Sanderson said.
He told him all the particulars of the paperwork about Christopher Alexander’s dead wife, Victoria.
“There aren’t any British people on the train, are there?” Johnson said.
“Nigel,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Nigel Nickerbocker said he was British,” DeLuve said.
“Oh, who’s that?” Johnson said.
“He’s a hobo,” DeLuve said.
Johnson went to the box and found it was nailed shut. He lifted on the lid and it came right up as if the nails weren’t even holding it.
“What’s going on?” Johnson said. “Sanderson, flashlight!”
Johnson lifted it up and peeked into the crate while Agent Sanderson shined his light over his shoulder. Within was a mahogany coffin with brass handles and trimmings. Agent Sanderson reached for the coffin lid and Johnson pushed the lid of the crate rest of the way off and picked up his baseball bat.
“Lift it up,” Agent Sanderson said.
Johnson flipped up the lid quickly and stepped back. The heavy coffin lid went up, stopped when it was 90 degrees, and then bounced back and slammed shut again with a crash.
“Let’s just put it up normally,” Agent Sanderson said.
When Johnson pushed the coffin lid up more carefully, he saw it was empty.
“I knew it!” he cried out.
“What’s going on?” DeLuve said.
“Is it empty, as I assumed?” McCree said.
“Has the body been exhumed?” DeLuve said.
DeLuve was looking for his baggage and McCree was fiddling around with his rifle bags.
Johnson noticed a portion of the velvet lining was pressed out as if something were stuffed into it. He pointed it out and Agent Sanderson reached in and pulled out a book with a strange, mottled cover and yellowed pages. He realized the cover of the book was polished and pressed shards of bone. All over both covers and the spine were bizarre etchings of half-glimpsed things swimming in a great lake. He could also feel something not unlike tiny figures swimming under his fingers as he held it. Even the fingers he was missing on his right hand seemed to feel the odd touch.
“Sanderson, you just went a little pale,” Johnson said. “You okay?”
Agent Sanderson made a strange face.
“Yeah,” he said.
“So, what’re you all thinking this time?” McCree said. “Zombie or … vampire?”
DeLuve had retrieved the camera case he used to hold his sawed-off shotgun. McCree was looking through his gun bag.
“Can I have a look at that?” Johnson said.
Agent Sanderson handed over the strange book. Johnson looked at the book and blinked when he felt the strange sensation pressing against his fingers.
“What the hell is this made of?” he asked.
Agent Sanderson looked at him for a moment.
“Bone,” Agent Sanderson said.
Johnson opened the cover and saw that it was handwritten and in English. The frontispiece read “Selected Material from The Revelations of Glaaki.”
“You all know who Glaaki is?” he asked.
McCree looked up as Johnson turned to the next page and found more handwritten English.
McCree wasn’t sure how he knew it but he somehow realized Glaaki was a terrible god that pierced the chest of its followers and would kill them while at the same time making them immortal. Certain things could hurt them, including sunlight. The terrible thing was worshipped in the bottom of a lake somewhere in England. Glaaki itself came from some other world hundreds of years before. He didn’t know how he knew it, but he knew it.
“Apparently, through some … I can’t explain it but … it sounds like that’s some sort of alien, English zombies?” he said.
He told them what he knew of Glaaki.
“I don’t know why I know this but …” McCree said.
“Let’s go talk to Nigel,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Sounds like it,” McCree said. “Ah … I feel like … immortal doesn’t go well with what we’re doing so why don’t I bring a big gun as well.”
“Did you say that sunlight is one of its weaknesses?” Agent Sanderson said.
“Yes,” McCree said, fetching his Greener F35 Far-Killer shotgun.
The shadows in the boxcar seemed somehow darker and more forbidding. They seemed to move towards them at times.
“Uh, Sanderson, you don’t mind if I take this on the train, do you?” McCree said, hefting his Greener.
“At this point …” Agent Sanderson said.
He left the boxcar while the other two men looked at what Johnson was reading.
“What’s the title of your book with Glaaki in it?” McCree asked.
“Revelations of Glaaki?” DeLuve said.
“Selections from the Revelations of Glaaki,” Johnson said.
“All right …” McCree said.
“Maybe we should go look at that in better light,” DeLuve said.
“Ah, the light of the dining car?”
“Better than reading under these lamps.”
“That sounds fine to me,” Johnson said, closing the book.
They went to the dining car where the lights had been dimmed. Johnson put the book on one of the tables and skimmed through it, DeLuve looking over his shoulder. McCree went in search of Agent Sanderson.
* * *
Agent Sanderson went to his stateroom and found Nigel Nickerbocker there, sitting up in his bed asleep, his baseball bat in his lap. McCree caught up with him when he continued on from there to the forward passenger car and the room of Sir Christopher Alexander. He knocked on the stateroom door, putting his hand on his pistol in his pocket while McCree waited around the corner. There was movement from within the room and then the door opened. Sir Christopher was there, pulling a robe on.
“Yes?” he said. “Can I help you?”
“Tell me what you know about the box in the luggage car,” Agent Sanderson said.
“With your name on it, sir?”
“I’m sorry. I just woke up. You mean the large box with the …”
“That’s my wife’s coffin. She died 16 months ago in Great Britain where we were living at the time. It was before I came to America. I brought her with me because where I end up settling is where I wish to have her finally buried.”
“Your box … has been opened.”
“Something has come out of it.”
Sir Christopher looked at the other man.
“What?” he finally said. “No no no no. That is impossible. It was cleared. There is no vermin or disease. We had her body examined. She was … how you say? What’s the word? You put fluid in the body to preserve it?”
“Tell me what you know about Glaaki,” Agent Sanderson said.
“Who? Is this a baseball team?”
“Come with me for a moment, sir.”
“Meredith, we’ll be right back. Will she be safe?”
Sir Christopher came out of the stateroom and closed the door behind him. As Agent Sanderson passed McCree, the man fell into step with the two men. When they got to the dining car, Sanderson told DeLuve and Johnson to go to Sir Christopher’s room to keep an eye on Meredith.
“Both of us?” DeLuve said.
They continued towards the boxcar and Johnson and DeLuve got up, Johnson marking the place in the book.
“You don’t want to hide it?” DeLuve said.
Johnson put the book under his shirt.
“I’ve got bags!” DeLuve said.
“Fine,” Johnson said.
They tucked the book into the photography bag and they headed forward.
* * *