* * *
Mr. Nickerbocker was talking about the suit he had recently acquired from â€œa man whose generosity knows no bounds.â€
â€œLook,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œYes sir,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said.
â€œThe reason Iâ€™ve come to see you: an associate of mine knows that the suit you have on is not yours.â€
â€œAnd Iâ€™m going to â€¦ I want to make this a pleasant ride for everybody. So if you just give me the suit so I can return it.â€
â€œWell, Mr. Sanderson, I would love to do that but â€¦ but â€¦ it would be â€¦ then I would not have any clothes to wear. You have to understand, Iâ€™m wearing underwear of course â€¦â€
Mr. Nickerbocker pulled back a sleeve of his shirt and coat to reveal the end of ratty-looking long johns.
â€œâ€¦ and that would be the height of impoliteness,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œThere are ladies on board, my good sir.â€
He took another sip of the bottle and offered it to Agent Sanderson.
â€œNo, thank you, sir,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
The other man smiled and carefully corked the bottle once again.
â€œI donâ€™t mean to impose but I donâ€™t want to be rude,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said.
â€œIâ€™m going to get you some clothes,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œJust, give me the suit and there wonâ€™t be any problems.â€
â€œVery 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.â€
â€œJust go ahead and give me the suit. Just drop it. Drop the suit.â€
â€œWell, can I ask a terrible, terrible huge favor of you, officer, sir?â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the favor?â€
â€œCould 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 motherâ€™s honor.â€
Agent Sanderson took out his handcuffs.
â€œI understand!â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œI understand!â€
He held out his hands to be cuffed and hung his head. Agent Sanderson cuffed him.
â€œIâ€™ll be right back,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œYou will find me here,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œSir. Sir.â€
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.
â€œYes, Officer Sanderson!â€ 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.
â€œOfficer, I have to confess another crime!â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said.
â€œOkay,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œIf you could see yourself clear to looking the other way â€¦ I understand thatâ€™s against your oath! Youâ€™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 wonâ€™t be a bother; I promise.â€
â€œThe conductor is now thinking that â€¦ he knows youâ€™re on the train without a ticket because the other passengers have said something about it.â€
â€œOh dear. Well, itâ€™s jail for me again, I suppose.â€
â€œLook, 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.â€
â€œSir, you are an officer and a gentleman.â€
A single tear rolled down the older manâ€™s face, his heart touched by the other manâ€™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.
â€œOkay, I have your suit,â€ Agent Sanderson said to McCree.
â€œAll right,â€ McCree said. â€œHas the perpetrator been handled?â€
â€œI have apprehended the suspect,â€ Agent Sanderson said, â€œand once the train ride ends, I willâ”€â€
â€œWait,â€ the conductor said. â€œWhat suspect are you talking about, Agent?â€
â€œThere was a hobo who had come onto the train somehow.â€
â€œBut he was apprehended. Once the train gets to its destination, I will immediately get him sorted out. Right now he is arrested.â€
The conductor thought on that a moment.
â€œVery well,â€ he finally said. â€œIf you wish to take charge of that situation, he is in your care and custody so youâ€™re responsible for him.â€
â€œLike heâ€™s my son,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t go that far, but â€¦ thatâ€™s fine,â€ the conductor said.
He turned to McCree.
â€œAre you satisfied, Mr. McCree?â€ he said.
â€œWell, I will need to get this washed,â€ McCree said. â€œBut â€¦ uh â€¦ as long as everythingâ€™s sorted out, it should be fine.â€
He told the conductor to please watch the luggage more closely.
â€œYes â€¦ sir,â€ the conductor replied dryly.
* * *
Agent Sanderson went to Miss Brownâ€™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.
â€œOh, youâ€™re so brave,â€ she said to him. â€œYour job is so dangerous.â€
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 â€œMurderâ€ 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 Johnsonâ€™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.
â€œHoney! Honey!â€ Brubeck said to Miss Clarke. â€œWhat happened!?! Whatâ€™s going on!?!â€
â€œThe conductor!â€ Miss Clarke cried out. â€œIt was the conductor!â€
She pointed down the passageway in Johnsonâ€™s direction.
â€œIt was the conductor!â€ she said again. â€œHe came out of the compartment! He was covered in blood!â€
â€œItâ€™s okay, baby!â€ 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. â€œSerious Samâ€ and the bearded man none of them had met yet both exited their rooms after they passed.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ â€œSerious Samâ€ had asked.
â€œI heard a scream!â€ DeLuve said.
They had reached the door to the car when Johnson burst in from outside, baseball bat in hand.
â€œThereâ€™s a dead woman back up there!â€ Johnson said. â€œFootprints went this way. One of the actress ladies said it was the conductor and he ran into this car.â€
â€œIâ€™m a cop,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œGet out of the way, Joell. Just move.â€
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.
â€œGentlemen, whatâ€™s going on?â€ he asked.
â€œThereâ€™s a dead woman in the first car,â€ Johnson said.
â€œOh my God!â€
â€œBlood footsteps ledâ”€â€
â€œMelissa, stay in the room!â€
Professor Leighman pulled the door shut behind him. Johnson looked at DeLuve.
â€œCan you pick locks?â€ he asked.
â€œY-Yes,â€ 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. â€œSerious Samâ€ 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.
â€œWas she dead?â€ the man with the beard asked.
â€œDefinitely,â€ Johnson said.
* * *
Agent Sanderson had rushed forward to the other carriage and found several passengers around Miss Brownâ€™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 â€œSerious Samâ€ 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.
â€œAre you sure she was dead?â€ the man with the beard and mustache asked.
â€œYou wanna go have a look?â€ Johnson said. â€œYeah, she was dead.â€
â€œIâ€™ll go look,â€ the man said, not making eye contact. â€œIâ€™ll go look.â€
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.
â€œWhat happened?â€ the old man said.
Agent Sanderson didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t move but Agent Sanderson did hurt his shoulder.
â€œSanderson, let me,â€ 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 didnâ€™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.
â€œAll right, people,â€ McCree said, looking away from the terrible scene. â€œSo, if the conductorâ€™s dead, whoâ€™s in charge of the train.â€
He looked at Agent Sanderson.
â€œSanderson!â€ 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 â€¦ 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.
â€œOh my God,â€ he said. â€œOh my God.â€
He walked over and peeked into the toilet that was now an abattoir.
â€œOh no,â€ he said. â€œNo no. Everyone needs to go back to your staterooms. Everyone needs to go back to your staterooms, please. We-we need to â€¦ Iâ€™ll explain fully when we figure out whatâ€™s going on. Weâ€™ll explain fully. If thereâ€™s any police officers on board â€¦ wait, Mr. â€¦ Officer â€¦â€
â€œSanderson,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œSanderson, if you could help â€¦â€ he went on.
The outer door opened again and â€œSerious Samâ€ entered the carriage.
â€œSam Club, private investigator!â€ he said, holding out his credentials. â€œAll right, everybody needs to calm down. Everybody needs to calm down so we can get things organized here.â€
The porter looked between Club and Agent Sanderson.
â€œFederal agent,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œYouâ€™re a federal agent?â€ Club said.
â€œWhereâ€™s your badge?â€
Agent Sanderson reached for his badge and realized he didnâ€™t have it in his pajama pocket.
â€œItâ€™s in my real clothes,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œI need to see it at some point,â€ Club said. â€œI 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 weâ€™ll get together and figure out what to do about this.â€
â€œThereâ€™s a doctor on board. He can look at the bodies.â€
â€œHeâ€™s right here,â€ DeLuve said.
He pointed at Professor Leighman.
â€œIâ€™m not a doctor,â€ Professor Leighman said. â€œIâ€™m a professor, my good sir.â€
He launched into a lecture on how and where he got his degree and credentials.
â€œIs that okay with you, officer?â€ Club said to Agent Sanderson.
â€œLetâ€™s just get to work,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œDo yâ€™all need my assistance or do you want me to go back?â€ McCree said.
â€œAre you a cop?â€ Club said.
â€œNo,â€ McCree said.
â€œThen no,â€ 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 Brownâ€™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 heâ€™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.
â€œIâ€™m so scared,â€ he heard Miss Clarke said.
â€œIâ€™ll protect you, baby,â€ 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.
â€œHow can I help you?â€ Agent Sanderson asked.
â€œI â€¦ I just â€¦ Iâ€™m â€¦ Iâ€™m awfully suspicious of this â€˜Samâ€™ guy,â€ DeLuve said. â€œEspecially the way he tried to take control of the situation immediately before anyone else. And now heâ€™s alone with some other guy that I think he knows, talking about â€˜we donâ€™t want people collaboratingâ€™ but heâ€™s the only other one with someone else â€¦ possibly collaborating.â€
Agent Sanderson realized Club wasnâ€™t with anyone in particular and told DeLuve the man was questioning passengers.
â€œNever mind,â€ DeLuve said. â€œI thought he and the doctor were doing the autopsy.â€
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 Brownâ€™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.
â€œOh dear,â€ the older man said. â€œThat sounds quite dreadful.â€
â€œGhastly,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œGhastly! How well do you know all your friends?â€
He especially wanted to know about the rich man who had owned the suit.
â€œWell, heâ€™s my employer,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œOh,â€ Mr. Nickerbocker said. â€œYou see, sometimes the rich are very eccentric. They donâ€™t think like normal people.â€
â€œEveryoneâ€™s a little eccentric.â€
â€œWell, I would keep my eye on him. He seems â€¦ well, I donâ€™t really know him. I shouldnâ€™t just the man before I know him. He has a very impressive mustache.â€
â€œWhat we were talking about earlier. Good on you.â€
â€œYes yes. I havenâ€™t met him yet. Wait, what about your friend Joell? I havenâ€™t met him yet either. And I would like to.â€
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 didnâ€™t see there was any other explanation. When Agent Sanderson told him there wasnâ€™t enough blood in either of the rooms, he asked what that meant. Agent Sanderson didnâ€™t know either. Club wondered if they were both anemic.
â€œI tried pulling the brake cord and nothing happened,â€ Club said.
â€œWhat?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œThe brake cord. Thereâ€™s a brake cord to stop the train. Itâ€™s broken.â€
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.
â€œOh my God!â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œHow the hell would they get to the engine?â€ Club said. â€œThis is stupid. Is there a telegraph in here to talk to the engineers? Iâ€™ve never heard of that. Thatâ€™s fancy.â€
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.
â€œUh â€¦ uh â€¦â€ Marlin said, obviously distraught. â€œDid you check all the cars? The dining car? The other passenger coach? Try to see if all the brakes are broke.â€
They went from car to car and tried the emergency brake cord. None of them did anything. That disturbed Marlin even more.
â€œWe have a telegraph,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s a telegraph here. Itâ€™s on the train. We can send a telegraph to the next station. Let them know whatâ€™s going on. Itâ€™s back in the dining car.â€
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.
â€œOh God,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œWha â€¦â€ Marlin said. â€œWhat do we do? What do we do?â€
â€œGet it together man!â€ Agent Sanderson said, slapping the black man in the face.
* * *
Johnson found Agent Sanderson in the second passenger car parlor.
â€œWhat do you make of this, Sanderson?â€ he asked the man.
â€œThereâ€™s been sabotage,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œTelegraph is destroyed. Brakes are shot. Ladderâ€™s gone off the back of the coal tender.â€
â€œJesus. And the murders?â€
â€œWhat about â€˜em?â€
â€œDo you think he killed himself?â€
â€œOh no. Thereâ€™s not enough blood.â€
â€œSo what does that mean? Do you think somebody set it up?â€
â€œI said it was a set up, didnâ€™t I?â€
â€œA set up? But that would mean that somebody took out all our communication, we canâ€™t stop the train, and presumably, theyâ€™re still on it and they killed these people and used one of their bloods to frame it. Iâ€™m not a cop, if you canâ€™t tell.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to do to you what you did to that sentence. Yeah, thatâ€™s what it seems like. It seems like somethingâ€™s fishy and somebodyâ€™s the culprit. Or somebodies. Two people maybe. I donâ€™t know. Thereâ€™s some people in pairs.â€
â€œSo, does that mean we have to start doing suspects and figure out â€¦â€
â€œSam Club says he talked to some people but I donâ€™t know what heâ€™s come across. He says he still believes itâ€™s a suicide. Murder/suicide.â€
â€œI mean, it would make sense if it wasnâ€™t for the lack of blood which you said and all our shot communications and brakes. What do you want me to do?â€
â€œI want you to keep an eye out. Listen in. Sneak. Youâ€™re good at sneaky.â€
â€œNot particularly â€¦ but Iâ€™m glad you see me in that light. I can keep a watch on the first car but I canâ€™t guarantee Iâ€™m going to be a spy.â€
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 heâ€™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.
â€œOh hey,â€ he said. â€œHowâ€™s it going, there? Youâ€™re one of the cops, right?â€
â€œAgent Sanderson,â€ the man said, holding out his hand. â€œIâ€™d like to speak to â€¦â€
Brubeck had been holding a cigar in his hand and when he reached for Agent Sandersonâ€™s hand, itâ€™s switched it to the left hand but the ashes spilled all over both of them.
â€œOh,â€ Brubeck said. â€œSorry. Sorry, there, Agent. Sorry, there.â€
â€œOh my goodness, who is it?â€ one of the woman said from the stateroom. â€œIs he going to murder us?â€
â€œItâ€™s okay girls,â€ Brubeck said. â€œItâ€™s a cop.â€
â€œOoo!â€ one of the girls said. â€œA cop!â€
â€œIs it a man?â€ the other said. â€œIs it a man cop?â€
â€œIâ€™d like to speak with the witness,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œOh â€¦ yeah,â€ Brubeck said. â€œCâ€™mon in. Câ€™mon in.â€
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.
â€œOh, officer, how can I help you?â€ 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.
â€œOh officer,â€ she said. â€œOh dear. Oh, it was horrible. It was horrible.â€
â€œIâ€™m going to need you to tell me everything you saw,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œOkay. Well, I got on a train and I saw a train.â€
â€œWhat did you see of the murder?â€
â€œOh, Iâ€™m sorry. I thought you policemen wanted details. Okay. So, I was coming out to use â€¦ to powder my nose, and as I was lookinâ€™ to my right, I see the conductor. That Mr. Conductor Fella.â€
â€œI donâ€™t know his name and he comes out and heâ€™s got blood all over him!â€
â€œAnd I thought â€˜Oh no! He mustâ€™ve cut himself.â€™â€
â€œAnd then I thought â€˜Thatâ€™s too much blood. Itâ€™s so much.â€™ And he looked at me â€¦ and he had fire in his eyes. I know how men are. I know how they are. And I thought â€˜Oo.â€™ And then he turned and he starts running the other way, and I walk up, and I saw that lady, Mrs. Brown, and sheâ€™s dead on the floor and thereâ€™s blood everywhere, splattered all over the place.â€
â€œAnd 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 thatâ€™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 Iâ€™d passed out. Oh, it was terrible.â€
â€œMiss Annie, do you happen to know what time you came out of your room to powder your nose?â€
â€œI didnâ€™t look at my clock, no. Iâ€™m sorry.â€
â€œI will next time.â€
â€œThatâ€™s okay. Please do.â€
â€œI will. Iâ€™ll always check my â€¦ I donâ€™t have a watch â€¦â€
Agent Sanderson thanked her and stood up.
â€œIt was the conductor,â€ she went on. â€œHe 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!â€
â€œThank you for your time,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œBut now heâ€™s dead,â€ Miss Clarke said. â€œSo am Iâ€™m not as scared but Iâ€™m still scared.â€
â€œDo you want to talk to Constance?â€ Brubeck said as Agent Sanderson tried to get out the door.
â€œDid she see anything?â€ Agent Sanderson asked.
â€œConstance, did you see anything?â€ Brubeck said.
â€œNo, I was â€¦ I was in the â€¦ I was lying down,â€ Miss DeMillings said. â€œI came out into the corridor when I heard â€¦ when I heard Annie screaming but I never saw the man.â€
â€œShe didnâ€™t see nothing,â€ Brubeck said. â€œI didnâ€™t see anything either. I came out after I heard the scream. But I am a very important fellow.â€
â€œYeah, Iâ€™m sure,â€ Agent Sanderson said. â€œIf you see or hear anything else, let me know.â€
â€œOf course,â€ Brubeck said. â€œThank you, officer. Agent - sorry.â€
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 couldnâ€™t figure how someone would be able to make it to the roof.
â€œSo â€¦ letâ€™s close this window,â€ DeLuve said, doing so. â€œI 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.â€
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. Adamsonâ€™s room, he opened the door.
â€œYes?â€ he said.
â€œOne of the officers just came and told me we should lock our windows,â€ Johnson said to him. â€œSo I just thought Iâ€™d let you know.â€
â€œYes,â€ Dr. Adamson said. â€œOkay.â€
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 didnâ€™t find anything incriminating or even of any great interest. He left that door open. The other empty room was the one where heâ€™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 couldnâ€™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 hadnâ€™t checked the baggage car. The three men headed that way, DeLuve knocking on McCreeâ€™s room as they passed by it.
â€œWhoâ€™s there?â€ McCreeâ€™s voice came from the stateroom.
â€œItâ€™s DeLuve,â€ the man said.
â€œAh â€¦ whatâ€™s going on now, DeLuve?â€
â€œWeâ€™re going to go check the baggage hold.â€
â€œUh â€¦ one moment. Let me put something on.â€
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.
â€œI didnâ€™t find anything,â€ he said.
Johnson was looking over the luggage. Eventually DeLuve and McCree came in.
â€œWhatâ€™s in this big box?â€ Johnson said of the large crate. â€œI saw you looking at it earlier.â€
â€œUh â€¦ when I checked the paperwork on it earlier, it said it was a box from England,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
He told him all the particulars of the paperwork about Christopher Alexanderâ€™s dead wife, Victoria.
â€œThere arenâ€™t any British people on the train, are there?â€ Johnson said.
â€œNigel,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œNigel Nickerbocker said he was British,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œOh, whoâ€™s that?â€ Johnson said.
â€œHeâ€™s a hobo,â€ 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 werenâ€™t even holding it.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ Johnson said. â€œSanderson, flashlight!â€
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.
â€œLift it up,â€ 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.
â€œLetâ€™s just put it up normally,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
When Johnson pushed the coffin lid up more carefully, he saw it was empty.
â€œI knew it!â€ he cried out.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œIs it empty, as I assumed?â€ McCree said.
â€œHas the body been exhumed?â€ 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.
â€œSanderson, you just went a little pale,â€ Johnson said. â€œYou okay?â€
Agent Sanderson made a strange face.
â€œYeah,â€ he said.
â€œSo, whatâ€™re you all thinking this time?â€ McCree said. â€œZombie or â€¦ vampire?â€
DeLuve had retrieved the camera case he used to hold his sawed-off shotgun. McCree was looking through his gun bag.
â€œCan I have a look at that?â€ 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.
â€œWhat the hell is this made of?â€ he asked.
Agent Sanderson looked at him for a moment.
â€œBone,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
Johnson opened the cover and saw that it was handwritten and in English. The frontispiece read â€œSelected Material from The Revelations of Glaaki.â€
â€œYou all know who Glaaki is?â€ he asked.
McCree looked up as Johnson turned to the next page and found more handwritten English.
McCree wasnâ€™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 didnâ€™t know how he knew it, but he knew it.
â€œApparently, through some â€¦ I canâ€™t explain it but â€¦ it sounds like thatâ€™s some sort of alien, English zombies?â€ he said.
He told them what he knew of Glaaki.
â€œI donâ€™t know why I know this but â€¦â€ McCree said.
â€œLetâ€™s go talk to Nigel,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œSounds like it,â€ McCree said. â€œAh â€¦ I feel like â€¦ immortal doesnâ€™t go well with what weâ€™re doing so why donâ€™t I bring a big gun as well.â€
â€œDid you say that sunlight is one of its weaknesses?â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œYes,â€ 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.
â€œUh, Sanderson, you donâ€™t mind if I take this on the train, do you?â€ McCree said, hefting his Greener.
â€œAt this point â€¦â€ Agent Sanderson said.
He left the boxcar while the other two men looked at what Johnson was reading.
â€œWhatâ€™s the title of your book with Glaaki in it?â€ McCree asked.
â€œRevelations of Glaaki?â€ DeLuve said.
â€œSelections from the Revelations of Glaaki,â€ Johnson said.
â€œAll right â€¦â€ McCree said.
â€œMaybe we should go look at that in better light,â€ DeLuve said.
â€œAh, the light of the dining car?â€
â€œBetter than reading under these lamps.â€
â€œThat sounds fine to me,â€ 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.
â€œYes?â€ he said. â€œCan I help you?â€
â€œTell me what you know about the box in the luggage car,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œWith your name on it, sir?â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry. I just woke up. You mean the large box with the â€¦â€
â€œThatâ€™s my wifeâ€™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.â€
â€œYour box â€¦ has been opened.â€
â€œSomething has come out of it.â€
Sir Christopher looked at the other man.
â€œWhat?â€ he finally said. â€œNo no no no. That is impossible. It was cleared. There is no vermin or disease. We had her body examined. She was â€¦ how you say? Whatâ€™s the word? You put fluid in the body to preserve it?â€
â€œTell me what you know about Glaaki,â€ Agent Sanderson said.
â€œWho? Is this a baseball team?â€
â€œCome with me for a moment, sir.â€
â€œMeredith, weâ€™ll be right back. Will she be safe?â€
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 Christopherâ€™s room to keep an eye on Meredith.
â€œBoth of us?â€ DeLuve said.
They continued towards the boxcar and Johnson and DeLuve got up, Johnson marking the place in the book.
â€œYou donâ€™t want to hide it?â€ DeLuve said.
Johnson put the book under his shirt.
â€œIâ€™ve got bags!â€ DeLuve said.
â€œFine,â€ Johnson said.
They tucked the book into the photography bag and they headed forward.
* * *