* * *
At 2 a.m., a single steward came forward with a tray and both Dr. Weisswald and Jacali noticed it was Walking Wolf in a stewardâ€™s uniform with the tray. He opened up the door in the front of the third-class passenger car and both of them got up and followed the man as he closed the door to third class. He crossed to the express car and they opened the door.
Walking Wolf stopped and looked over his shoulder. He put a finger to his lips with a shush and then looked past them and pointed over their shoulders. They heard the cocking of pistols behind them. Jacali put up her hands as she heard someone shush her from behind. She turned.
The man with the hat was standing there with a pistol, as was the dark-haired woman Mary Foy. An older man with graying, salt-and-pepper hair and a thick mustache stood there as well as a younger man with a wide-brimmed hat, and a bearded man with a bowler. One of them motioned towards one of the seats. Then he pointed at Jacaliâ€™s head.
Jacali and Dr. Weisswald climbed into the seat on the right side and the man with the bowler climbed into the seat across from them. The rest of them left the third-class car, going to the platform between that car and the express car. Walking Wolf knocked on the door and drew out keys that looked like the conductorâ€™s. The rest of the men and the woman moved forward with guns ready.
Just then Dr. Weisswald and Jacali heard the great flapping of wings and some kind of screaming. They both looked out the window.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t do that,â€ the man in the bowler with the gun said. â€œThatâ€™s a bad idea.â€
The things that flew high in the moonlit sky were horrible to behold. There were four of the great birds or bats, unlike anything they had ever seen before. They were larger than elephants and had heads like horses but scales instead of feathers, their wings encrusted with rime and niter. Each of them carried two men struggling to stay on the horrorsâ€™ backs. With screaming men atop it, one of them flew straight up and disappeared into the darkness of the nightâ€™s sky.
The other three plummeted out of the nightâ€™s sky, one of them landing on the express car and the others landed further back on the train, shaking the entire machine.
â€œI tried to warn you,â€ the man pointing the gun at him said.
Jacali also spotted a horseman galloping towards the train. One was heading for the express car. She looked back and could make out another one heading for the dining car. They heard a scream from the back of the train.
* * *
Otto felt the train shake and then heard a scream from the back of the train. He put his hand on his saber. The easterner â€œon watchâ€ looked at the man curiously.
* * *
As the door to the express car opened, the men on the platform opened fire into the car. Only one gun replied but the man in the salt-and-pepper hair and mustache went down without a sound. The gunfire going into the express car was intense. Several men in the car fell.
* * *
The gunfire woke Professor Stalloid, Wilder, and Gemma Jones in the first-class car.
Professor Stalloid grabbed the shotgun from under his bed and looked at the two easterners. One of them peeked out of the curtain around his bunk, confused. Stalloid ran to Marshal Pierceâ€™s bunk and threw open the curtains, shaking the man violently. Marshal Pierce sat up, gun in hand, and shoved it into Professor Stalloidâ€™s face.
â€œThereâ€™s gunfire!â€ Professor Stalloid said.
Wilder grabbed his rifle out from under the bunk and looked for Dr. Weisswaldâ€™s and Jacaliâ€™s bows and arrows but saw they were gone. He leapt from his bunk and ran towards the front of the car.
Gemma Jones pulled aside the curtain and saw Professor Stalloid reaching into the bunk where Marshal Pierce was. Professor Terwilliger peeked out from his curtains and look around confusedly.
â€œIs something happening?â€ he muttered.
She climbed out of the bunk and ran to Stalloid as the Marshal put down his gun.
â€œHey! Hey! Hey!â€ she said. â€œWhat are you doing?â€
* * *
In the second second-class car, Rosenthal, the easterner on watch looked confused and put his hand in his jacket. Father Bishop had also woken and looked around. Rhymes with Wolf was still asleep.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on!?!â€ Otto yelled at him.
West woke at that. He drew his pistol.
There was a long whistle blast and three short ones from the front and the train surged ahead though it also shook strangely.
â€œTheyâ€™re trying to take the train!â€ West growled.
He leapt up and ran forward to the door of the car and flung it open, heading out onto the platform.
Otto pulled his Winchester rifle from under his seat as Father Bishop pulled his crossbow from his luggage.
â€œWhat are you doing?â€ Otto said to the two easterners.
â€œWhat?â€ one of them replied. â€œSir, you should just sit down. Youâ€™re just a civilian.â€
The little old lady across from Otto shushed him.
* * *
Jacali noticed her guard almost looked out the window towards the front and up but then his eyes came back to the two women very quickly, as if he didnâ€™t want to see what was out there. His pistol never left their position.
More gunfire erupted from the express car. The man with the large hat stumbled back as a bullet perforated his hat and his head. He crashed over the railing and disappeared under the train. The woman who was with them also fell, clutching at her belly with a scream. There was more screaming from inside the car and the gunfire ended.
The man in the wide-brimmed hat and Walking Wolf entered the express train. Two more horsemen climbed up onto the platform. They crossed into the car. Dr. Weisswald noticed one of them was a large man with a mustache and a large hat.
â€œOh my God!â€ Jacali said, looking at the windows to the express car. â€œYour friends!â€
She hoped to make the man look. The man didnâ€™t even roll his eyes. He just watched the two.
â€œI suggest you donâ€™t look on top of the express car,â€ he said.
â€œWe already did,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m so sorry.â€
He sounded very sincere.
* * *
Jack West ran through the first second-class car. People in there were looking around, having woken from the gunfire.
â€œIs this another bandit attack?â€ one man said. â€œI hate those.â€
â€œEverybody just keep calm!â€ he said.
* * *
In the first-class car, Professor Stalloid looked at the easterner peeking out of his bunk.
â€œYou robbing the train?â€ he said.
Before the man had a chance to answer, Marshal Pierce grabbed his rifle, worked the action, and leapt out of his bunk, running forward.
Wilder ran out of the door and onto the other platform before he saw two men climb onto it from the horses that ran beside the train.
â€œHold it right there!â€ one of them yelled at him, drawing his pistol.
Wilder lifted his rifle and fired at the man, who fell backwards and off the train with a shriek. The other man moved forward and pressed his pistol into Wilderâ€™s back.
â€œThrow it over the edge, boy, or Iâ€™m gonna have to kill you,â€ he said.
* * *
In the first-class car, Gemma Jones pulled out a knife and ran after Marshal Pierce. She heard Professor Terwilliger, behind her, gasp.
â€œCould this be any help?â€ he asked.
He held out the lightning box.
â€œI donâ€™t know how to use that!â€ Gemma said.
She ran after the Marshal.
â€œNo,â€ the sleepy easterner said to Dr. Stalloid. â€œWeâ€™re Pinkertons.â€
* * *
In the second-class car Rhymes with Wolf finally awoke and looked around.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on!?!â€ she said.
She thought sheâ€™d heard gunfire. She didnâ€™t see Jack West but she did see Lambert Otto had a rifle in his hand.
â€œWhatâ€™d going on?â€ she said again.
â€œGunfire,â€ Otto said. â€œFrom the express car. I donâ€™t know what these people are doing though.â€
One of the easterner had his hand in his jacket. The other looked around nervously and had his hand in his jacket pocket.
Rhymes with Wolf drew her knife and rushed the woman who was with them. The woman punched her in the face and then reached into her pocket and drew a pistol. Otto pointed his rifle at them.
â€œAre you secret service?â€ he said.
* * *
â€œIâ€™m a doctor,â€ Dr. Weisswald said. â€œI can help your friends.â€
â€œWhat?â€ the man in the bowler growled. â€œWhat are you talking about?â€
â€œTheyâ€™ve been shot! Donâ€™t you see them?â€
â€œTheyâ€™ll be fine. Iâ€™m not looking. Iâ€™m not looking out there, lady.â€
â€œWell, I can see out there and theyâ€™re on the ground.â€
â€œDonâ€™t move or Iâ€™ll shoot her in the face.â€
He pointed his pistol at Jacali.
* * *
Professor Stalloid turned to Professor Terwilliger.
â€œIâ€™ll take it,â€ he said, holding out a hand towards the lightning box.
Professor Terwilliger tossed the box to him. It was a terrible throw but Professor Stalloid managed to catch the thing expertly. He turned and headed for the front of the car.
Gemma heard someone running up behind her and looked over her shoulder. She thought Professor Stalloid was holding the lightning gun like he was going to fire it down the aisle. In a panic, she leapt into the bunk with the easterner and put her knife to his throat. The man reached into his jacket.
â€œHereâ€™s my gun,â€ he muttered, handing it to her.
She thought she smelled urine. He pulled back his jacket and she saw he wore a badge on his vest. It read â€œPinkerton Detective Agency.â€
* * *
Wilder dropped, leaping from the platform and back into the door of the first-class car. There was a loud gunshot right next to him and he saw the floorboards splinter near his head. He crashed to the ground just in front of Marshal Pierce and the bandit cocked his gun to take another shot.
â€œPeek-a-boo,â€ Marshal Pierce said.
He shot the man with his Winchester as he raised his left hand. The bullet went through the manâ€™s left hand and into his chest. He slammed back against the back of the dining car and slid to the platform to lay still.
â€œI know a catâ€™s got nine lives,â€ Marshal Pierce said to Wilder. â€œHow many lives bears got?â€
* * *
â€œNo, weâ€™re Pinkertons!â€ the man in the second-class car said to Otto. â€œPut your gun down!â€
The man Otto wasnâ€™t pointing his rifle at had drawn a pistol.
â€œThe way I see it, weâ€™re on the same side here,â€ Otto said.
â€œWe have a job here,â€ the man said.
â€œI have a job too.â€
â€œAs long as theyâ€™re not interfering with our job. Now put your gun down.â€
â€œLook, thereâ€™s gunfire coming from the express car.â€
â€œSir, I will shoot you in the head if you keep pointing my gun at my associate!â€
Otto lowered his rifle.
â€œOkay,â€ the man said.
Father Bishop headed out of the door the way Jack West had gone.
â€œSorry maâ€™am,â€ Rhymes with Wolf said.
She ran out of the second-class car as well, following the priest.
Otto looked up as he heard the sound of someone running across the roof of the car. The Pinkertons looked up as well.
* * *
Jack West threw open the door to the third-class car and ran in. People looked his way nervously and he spotted Dr. Weisswald and Jacali looking at the man across the aisle from them. The man across the aisle from them looked back at West as the two women launched themselves from their seat at him. Jacali slapped the gun away and it went off, shooting a bullet into the ceiling. Dr. Weisswald slammed the manâ€™s head back against the glass, which broke, and the manâ€™s head lolled forward as the pistol dropped from his limp fingers.
West ran forward.
â€œAre they on the express?â€ he asked. â€œWhere are the rest of â€˜em?â€
* * *
Professor Stalloid ran out of the first-class car and to the door to the dining car, flinging it open for Marshal Pierce. Marshal Pierce ran through the door and into the dining car. Professor Stalloid ran after him. Wilder finally jumped up and ran after them.
* * *
â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ Gemma asked the man in the bunk.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he said. â€œI donâ€™t know! Iâ€™m just here to protect the gold.â€
â€œThe gold. We were sent to protect some gold.â€
â€œIâ€™m not going to hurt you. Iâ€™m not going to hurt you. What are you talking about?â€
â€œIâ€™m not supposed to say?â€
She batted her eyes at the man.
â€œThereâ€™s a payroll safe with $50,000 in gold in the baggage car,â€ he said, blushing. â€œWeâ€™re supposed to watch it.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s so much doing on the train?â€ she asked.
â€œWeâ€™re transporting it to San Francisco to deposit it.â€
â€œSome of those gunshots â€¦ are there robbers here?â€
â€œThatâ€™s what I think. Iâ€™m supposed to go back and guard it.â€
They heard footsteps and Gemma spotted another of the easterners running towards the back of the car where he threw open the back door.
â€œHey!â€ she called.
Then she heard screaming from somewhere in the direction of the dining car. She leapt out of the bunk and ran towards the front of the train.
* * *
On the platform between the second-class cars, Father Bishop climbed up the ladder to the roof. He peeked over the side and saw two men running his way along the roof. They both had guns in their hands.
â€œLawman!â€ one of them shouted.
Father Bishop ducked back down.
â€œGet that son of a bitch lawman!â€ someone yelled.
Gunfire erupted above him and he saw the wood near the top splinter.
* * *
â€œLook, weâ€™re wasting time here,â€ Otto said. â€œIâ€™m going to help you whether you like it or not.â€
â€œThen come with us!â€ one of them said.
They headed for the back of the train. Otto followed. When he reached the other end of the car, he stopped.
â€œTheyâ€™re on the roof!â€ he said.
He climbed up the ladder and he saw two men on the roof of the car. They were running away from him.
* * *
â€œTheyâ€™re in the express car!â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
She ran through the door and tackled one of the men, bringing him to the ground and stabbing him in the chest as he tried to pistol-whip her.
â€œNooo!â€ he shrieked. â€œYou bitch!â€
â€œThereâ€™s some kind of crazy albino injun out here!â€ the other man screamed. â€œGood luck, Bill!â€
He ran into the express car and the door slammed shut.
The man who she had stabbed looked up with wide eyes.
â€œOh God!â€ he cried out. â€œGet her! Get her!â€
In the third-class car, Jacali leapt back across the aisle and grabbed her bow and arrows. She nocked her black arrow and fired it at the horrible head that was reaching down towards Dr. Weisswaldâ€™s back. The arrow flew straight and true, striking the horrible creature in the massive eye on the right side of its face. The thing screeched horribly and black ichor spewed out of the wound. It pulled its head back.
West only caught a glimpse of the giant horse-like head that had reached down for only a moment. He ran forward and saw two shadows struggling on the platform outside the express car. He could see Dr. Weisswald atop a man.
Dr. Weisswald stabbed the man under her again and again. He gasped and she heard the death rattle in his throat. The gun fell from his hand onto the platform.
* * *
Father Bishop climbed back down and ran through the forward second-class car. He saw Rhymes with Wolf in front of him, sprinting through the car as well. He heard footsteps above him and realized the men on the roof were heading towards the front of the train too.
* * *
Jacali stepped onto the platform and saw the horrible creature above her. She felt ill as she saw the thing, which looked down at her with fire in its remaining eye. She pulled back on her bow and let another arrow fly. It struck the thing in the side but didnâ€™t penetrate very deeply, it seemed, and hung off the creature. It glared at her.
West, next to her, glanced up at the horrible thing above him. It was not a horse. He shook off his fear and crossed to the other platform and tried to open the door. It was locked. He looked up and aimed at the thing shooting it under the jaw. It shrieked again.
* * *
Professor Stalloid opened up the door to the dining car and stepped out onto the platform. He felt something move above him and looked up. He saw the horrible shape of another of the terrible beasts that perched on the lounge car as if waiting for him. He felt the world go horribly, horribly wrong. He started screaming and screaming and screaming at the horrible thing.
Marshal Pierce and Wilder stopped. Professor Stalloid stood in the doorway and screamed at the sky. Marshal Pierce grabbed Professor Stalloid and dragged him back to pulled him towards one of the booths in the dining car. Professor Stalloid turned and looked at the man, screaming directly into his face. Marshal Pierce shoved the man into the booth.
Wilder noticed Professor Stalloid had the lightning box in his hands.
â€œOh God, itâ€™s the lightning box!â€ he screamed.
Marshal Pierce ran to the platform and flung the door open. He heard movement above him, looked up as a huge, horse-like head reached down at him. He ducked to one side and the thingâ€™s jaws snapped near him, almost grabbing him.
* * *
Rhymes with Wolf burst into the third-class car and saw Jacali on the platform, looking up and reaching for another arrow from her quiver. She saw Jack West looking straight up, his gun aimed. Gunfire came from within the express car.
Then the a horrible horse-like head reached down and tried to bite West, who swung his pistol at it, both of them missing the other.
Dr. Weisswald got up and rushed at the door, slamming into it. The wood actually splintered and seemed to give a little bit. Gunshots fired from inside, coming through the door. One of the bullets winged her. Then Jacali shot the horror with another arrow. It was as ineffective as her last one.
West fanned his gun, firing three shots at the thing. The first two struck it but didnâ€™t seem to hurt the horror at all. The last bullet caught the thing in the other eye. It swayed for a moment and then fell between the cars, crashing down onto the platform where the three stood. Both Jacali and Dr. Weisswald were pinned under the horrible thing while West leapt towards the side of the platform, dropping his black pistol and grasping the ladder on the side of the platform, barely hanging on.
* * *
Otto climbed to the roof of the car and shot one of the running men in the back. The man screamed.
â€œSomebodyâ€™s behind us!â€ he yelled.
Both men turned and opened fire on the man but both of them missed him. Otto worked the action on the Winchester and aimed at the man again. With a click, his gun jammed.
* * *
Professor Stalloid continued to scream in the dining car. Wilder moved to where he could see the horrible creature on the roof that appeared to be rearing back to attack Marshal Pierce again. He put his rifle to his shoulder and shot the thing. It shrieked in pain as the bullet struck it in the side of the head and black ichor spewed out.
Gemma ran across the dining car and saw Professor Stalloid screaming and screaming and screaming. Wilder stood just inside the doorway, working the action on his Winchester. She ran to the man and looked up, seeing the horrible creature on the roof. It was terrifying and she shrieked and backed away.
She noticed Professor Stalloid had the electric box in his hand and he looked at her and just screamed and screamed and screamed. He was repeatedly pressing the cover on the button and she reached over and tried to pull it out of his hands. He had a death grip on it and wouldnâ€™t let it go. They struggled for the device.
Marshal Pierce shot at the thing on the roof above, hitting it in the left leg. There was a crack as the bullet struck the beastâ€™s bone and it shrieked in pain and anger.
* * *
Rhymes with Wolf climbed out onto the sagging platform and tried to pulled Jacali out from under the horrible beast. She couldnâ€™t get a good grip as her hands kept slipping. The horrible thing had a weird smell that stank. Touching it made her skin crawl. She licked it and it was the worst thing she had ever tasted in her life.
Dr. Weisswald struggled to get out from under the horrible beast.
* * *
Father Bishop climbed up the ladder at the front of the car with the men upon it. He looked back to see Otto struggling with his rifle. He stood atop the car and fired his crossbow at the men, missing completely. The two men didnâ€™t even turn around. He reloaded.
Otto on the other end of the car recognized Father Bishop.
â€œGet back in the train, you fool!â€ one of the men said.
They opened fire on Otto, who leapt down from the top of the train to the platform below head-first. He crashed to the platform of the other car and landed in a heap.
* * *
The horrible thing on the roof of the lounge car reached down for Marshal Pierce again. He tried to duck out of the way but the thing grabbed him in its mouth and swung him around like a dog with squirrel, slamming him back down onto the platform where he lay very still. He was a bloody mess with many obvious broken bones.
Three people ran across the lounge car and Wilder recognized the easterners, all of them armed with pistols. They saw the horror but they also saw Marshal Pierce.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to help that man!â€ one of them yelled.
One of the grabbed the man and dragged him into the car while the other two tried to bind the manâ€™s terrible wounds. They managed to stop the bleeding and keep the man alive but talked about how horribly wounded he was. His arms and legs were both broken, as well as several ribs, and he had lacerations and bruises all over his body.
He came to in great pain.
â€œI got it, right?â€ he muttered, blood in his mouth.
â€œYou got it,â€ Miss McCoy said. â€œYou got it. Good job. Good job.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€ one of them said.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ another replied. â€œI donâ€™t know.â€
One of them took out a flask and poured whiskey down the manâ€™s throat.
â€œDrink it all!â€ he said. â€œJust drink it!â€
â€œOh my God!â€ another said. â€œWhat happened to him?â€
â€œIs he ever going to walk again?â€ someone said.
* * *
Jacali pushed the horror off her and dragged her way out from under the horrible beast.
Jack West hung on for dear life. He was going to climb up to the roof and holstered his pistol. Then he saw his other pistol slowly sliding towards the edge of the platform. He reached over and grabbed it, holstering it as well. Rhymes with Wolf climbed over the horrible creature and pulled up on the area where Dr. Weisswald was pinned beneath the terrible beast. The woman struggled and eventually got out, finally free of the horrible weight.
Jacali ripped the black arrow out of the horrible thingâ€™s eye.
â€œEva, if youâ€™re alive, whatâ€™s the plan!â€ she yelled.
â€œClimb the train!â€ Dr. Weisswald called back.
Jacali grabbed the nearby ladder and climbed to the roof of the express car.
They had been hearing more gunshots from inside the express car. They didnâ€™t know what it meant.
West climbed up to the roof of the express car as well. He saw light on the right side of the express car, reflecting off the trees.
â€œWhatâ€™s that light?â€ he said.
Jacali looked and saw the light. She wasnâ€™t sure.
Rhymes with Wolf climbed up to the top of the express car, followed by Dr. Weisswald. Then they hard the crack of thunder and saw a blast of lightning go up from the train behind them. Somewhere back there, someone was screaming.
* * *
The horror on the roof looked down at Wilder. He ran across the platforms and found the easterners working hard to try to stop Marshal Pierce from bleeding from so many wounds in the lounge car. He tried to stop and treat the man but realized the marshal was much too severely injured for his limited skills. He needed Dr. Weisswald. He got up and ran towards the front of the train again.
Gemma Jones pulled Professor Stalloid towards the doorway of the dining car and aimed the lightning gun as best she could. Then she pulled back the cover on the trigger button. Professor Stalloid had been reflexively pushing down the button on the device over and over and over again.
There was a crash of thunder as the lightning bolt burst from the device and flew up into the dark sky above. The horrible creature was well-illuminated by the electric light. Professor Stalloid continued to scream and scream and scream.
* * *
Otto pulled himself to his feet. He worked the rifle and finally managed to remove the jammed bullet.
* * *
As Father Bishop reloaded his crossbow, the men on the roof turned around.
â€œWhat the hell?â€ one of them said.
He shot one of the men in the chest and the man fell.
â€œClem!â€ the other man shouted.
He shot the priest in the chest and he fell back down onto the platform below with a crash. Then the locomotive whistle started blasting.
* * *
Jacali ran across the express car to the front. In the glowing light from the open stoker she could see the engineer had a pistol and was pointing it in the direction of the train. The fireman was yelling something at him and pointing ahead. She guessed anyone trying to come further forward than the coal tender would probably be shot by the man, who was trying to protect his locomotive.
Then, in the dim light of the lantern on the front of the train, up ahead, that the fireman was pointing to, was what appeared to be a giant boulder on the track. It was painted to look like the track ahead. It was very, very close. The engineer finally looked ahead, grabbed the cord and there were several frantic blasts on the whistle. He worked the controls and everyone was flung forward as the wheels of the locomotive reversed themselves.
Dr. Weisswald crashed to the roof of the express car. Jacali fell from the roof and crashed to the platform below. There were cries of alarm from inside the express car.
West, still on his feet, ran towards the front of the train. Dr. Weisswald leapt to her feet, ran to the ladder and climbed down. Rhymes with Wolf also climbed down on the ladder. Jacali tried to open the other door to the express car but it was locked. She braced herself on the railing.
â€œThis is not how I wanted to die,â€ she said.
* * *
Both Gemma and Professor Stalloid fell to the floor of the dining car when the train suddenly decelerated. Professor Stalloid was holding the device away from himself and Gemma reached over and put the cover back over the button.
* * *
As Wilder ran towards the front of the train, he had a horrible sense of dÃ©jÃ vu. He has been in the same, exact situation before and it had resulted in a train wreck that left dozens horribly injured or dead.
â€œOtto, get down!â€ he yelled, leaping to the deck.
â€œDown here?â€ Otto said.
â€œYeah! Get down! Weâ€™re about to crash!â€
Otto ran back to the lounge and leapt onto the floor.
* * *
The impact was much less than those who had been in the train accident in Nevada, or witnessed it, expected. The train slowed considerably but debris was flung off to either side and a huge tarp was tossed up into the air and then was gone into the night. Those on the express car realized it hadnâ€™t been a great boulder on the tracks this time, but was more likely an avalanche. The locomotive slammed right through it before the engineer reversed the wheels again to take them away as quickly as possible.
Inside the express car, several people shouted in surprise.
â€œThatâ€™s it boys!â€ those on the express car heard a familiar voice. â€œLetâ€™s get on board!â€
Dr. Weisswald recognized is at the voice of the man in charge of the crackup in Nevada. She thought she saw figures as the train roared past.
â€œGod damn it!â€ she heard. â€œI told you we shouldâ€™ve used a boulder!â€
â€œWhat the hell was that!?!â€ someone yelled from inside the express car.
* * *
Gemma Jones looked up at the terrible thing on the roof of the car. When the train impacted something, it had stumbled over to one side and then flew away with a terrible shriek. Professor Stalloid continued to scream. She looked around, shocked. Then she heard gunfire again.
She got up. The thing was gone and one of the Pinkertons was tending to the marshal. The other two were running her way, passing her and heading towards the back of the train. She went to the marshal and saw he was all busted up. She continued forward.
* * *
West looked back down the train and saw the two elephant-sized things fly away. He took a knee and put two bullets back into his pistol. Rhymes with Wolf climbed up onto the roof.
â€œWhat do I do?â€ she asked West.
Dr. Weisswald climbed up to the roof as well.
â€œEva, you all up there!?!â€ Jacali called up.
â€œYeah,â€ Dr. Weisswald called back.
â€œThis doorâ€™s locked too!â€ Jacali called.
â€œI think theyâ€™re on the roof!â€ someone yelled inside the express car.
Jacali cursed and several bullets came up through the roof of the express car.
â€œLadies, if you want to go assist her, Iâ€™ll get everyone on the roof,â€ West said.
He looked down the train. In the light of the nearly full moon. He aimed and fired at the man running towards them but missed. He saw the man climb down.
* * *
Wilder leapt to his feet, surprised to be alive, and ran down the car towards the front of the train. Otto leapt up and chased after him.
* * *
Rhymes with Wolf climbed down and knocked on the express car door. Dr. Weisswald climbed down after her. Jacali put her shoulder to the door and it started to splinter a little bit.
â€œTheyâ€™re trying to get in!â€ someone shouted from within.
â€œWell, kill â€˜em then!â€ another voice said.
â€œAll right, Mr. Parker,â€ the first voice said.
Gunfire came through the door but Jacali had leapt out of the way. Then West climbed down to the platform. He noticed once again a great deal of light coming from the side of the express car.
â€œHere, reload this for me,â€ he said, handing off his black revolver to Rhymes with Wolf. â€œLooks like thereâ€™s a hole.â€
She got to work on it. He realized the freight door on the right side of the car might have been open.
* * *
Wilder saw a man climb down in front of him and fired a shot at him but missed. The man spun around as Otto shot over Wilderâ€™s shoulder. The man fell to the ground. Wilder was deafened in his right ear. As they exited the forward second-class car, they found the body of Father Bishop. He was dead. Wilder examined him as Otto continued forward.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald continued to slam into the door. People yelled inside the express car.
â€œStay away from that door or weâ€™ll kill you!â€ someone yelled.
â€œGet the thing!â€ someone else yelled. â€œUse the dynamite! Open the safe!â€
Jacali put her shoulder to the door as well without any effect.
West drew his other pistol and fired three bullets in quick succession around the lock. There was a crack of something breaking and they guessed the door latch was destroyed. Rhymes with Wolf moved away from the door as she continued to reload.
Dr. Weisswald pulled Jacali away from the door and Jacali reached over and pulled the door open, then used the edge of the door for cover. She peeked into the room, bow at ready.
Walking Wolf and a man in a hat stood near the door. Dan McGoohan was on the other side of the room. A large man with a mustache stood near the open freight door, holding the Crescent in his hands. The device was large, at least three feet across, and must have weighed at least 50 pounds but he held it rather effortlessly.
â€œJack!â€ the man next to Walking Wolf said. â€œTheyâ€™re looking in!â€
Jacali shot at Walking Wolf but the arrow went wide.
â€œInjuns!â€ the man next to Walking Wolf cried out.
Walking Wolf returned fire and Jacali dived for cover but was winged in the hip by a bullet. She crashed to the platform.
The trees disappeared from either side of the train and it seemed like there was just a black void.
Are we on a bridge? Jacali thought.
Jack West stepped into the doorway and fanned his pistol. The bullets struck Walking Wolf, the man in the hat next to him, and Jack Parker, who stood in the freight door holding the crescent. Parker fell right out of the freight door taking the Crescent with him.
Jacali, where she lay on the platform, heard a man cry out and then saw a man holding the Crescent fall out of the side of the express car. With a long cry, he fell into the darkness. She could hear roaring water down below.
We are on a bridge, she thought.
â€œAnyone wants to live, you need to put your gun down!â€ West screamed.
Rhymes with Wolf grabbed the gun out of Westâ€™s hand and filled it with one sheâ€™d just reloaded.
Dan McGoohan was the only man still in the express car and he looked terrified. After a brief internal struggle he cursed and flung his gun down on the floor.
* * *
Gemma Jones reached Father Bishop, his dead eyes staring straight up and mouth agape. It looked like heâ€™d been shot in the chest and he lay crumpled on the platform in a pool of blood. She stared at the corpse for a while.
* * *
Wilder and Otto reached the express car and saw that the horrible thing there was melting away. The sight was very disturbing to Otto but he pulled himself together.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald checked all of the people in the express car and found, of the seven men on the floor, only two were alive: the man with the mustache and Walking Wolf. The rest of the men were dead. She tended to them as best she could.
â€œYou!â€ Dan McGoohan said when he saw Jack West. â€œYou son of a bitch!â€
â€œLooks like the rescue fell through,â€ West said.
Dan McGoohan looked at the open freight door like he planned to make a run for it but then just cursed.
â€œThereâ€™s water down there, probably,â€ West growled. â€œItâ€™s a 200 foot drop.â€
Dan McGoohan growled again.
Wilder, Otto, and Gemma Jones all reached the express car. They were all in the car, securing Dan McGoohan once again, when they heard footsteps on top again.
â€œHey, whoâ€™s up there?â€ West called.
â€œSecret Service,â€ came the reply of an angry voice. â€œAnd a pardoned man.â€
West went out and looked up, gun drawn, and found himself facing down the gun of a man with long, dark hair wearing all black. He recognized Pete Sutter, a wanted man.
â€œWhy donâ€™t you just put your gun down, buddy?â€ Pete said. â€œYou wanna see badges? â€˜Cause we can show you some badges!â€
The two looked at each other.
â€œPut your gun down,â€ Pete said. â€œâ€˜Cause weâ€™re coming in. Câ€™mon boys.â€
West shot the man, who shot him as well. Both men went down, Jack falling to the platform and Pete falling onto his back on the roof of the car. Dr. Weisswald immediately ran to West to try to tend to his wounds and saved the manâ€™s life.
Two more men peeked over the side.
â€œMaâ€™am, weâ€™re secret service,â€ one of them said. â€œYou need to stop.â€
He held up a badge. The other one had a metal camera pointing at her. Otto stepped out with his rifle.
â€œThat manâ€™s a wanted man!â€ he said, pointing to the roof.
â€œWeâ€™re Secret Service, sir!â€ one of the men said.
â€œThen why are you working with that man?â€
â€œBecause we can! Now drop your weapon! I donâ€™t want to have to use this!â€
â€œReally intimidating weapon.â€
Otto dropped the rifle to the platform.
â€œIf only you knew,â€ the man said. â€œIf only!â€
One of the men climbed down and showed them his Secret Service badge.
â€œWhereâ€™s the Crescent?â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re here to pick it up.â€
â€œItâ€™s gone,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œWhat?â€ the man said.
He went into the express car and looked around.
â€œItâ€™s gone,â€ he said.
â€œNo!â€ the other man said.
â€œJack took it,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œJack Parker,â€ Jacali said.
â€œNo! No! No!â€ the man said.
â€œJack Parker dived off a bridge with it,â€ Jacali said.
â€œNo!â€ the man said.
â€œI knew,â€ the other man said. â€œI told you we couldnâ€™t get it.â€
â€œWe had to try!â€ the first man said. â€œWe had to try! We had to!â€
â€œWhy were you trying to raid the train?â€ Otto asked.
â€œSuch a terrible loss of life,â€ one of the Secret Service men said.
â€œExcuse me,â€ Jacali said.
Dr. Weisswald climbed to the top of the express car to treat Pete. She found the man was still alive, surprisingly, and stabilized him and patched him up. Heâ€™d been hit in the gut.
â€œExcuse me,â€ Jacali said again. â€œI took bullet wounds trying to protect this Crescent from these raiders. Can you tell me anything about what itâ€™s about.â€
The man looked up at the second of them.
â€œNo, we canâ€™t,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to go.â€
â€œExcuse me,â€ Jacali said, following him.
He climbed up to the roof of the express car with her right behind.
â€œI shot a giant monster,â€ she said. â€œYou saw it back there. I deserve some answers!â€
â€œItâ€™ll melt!â€ the man said. â€œYouâ€™re fine.â€
The three men headed back the way they came. They left Pete behind at first but then returned to retrieve the unconscious man.
â€œPick him up,â€ one of them said.
â€œI donâ€™t want to pick him up, you pick him up,â€ the other man said.
â€œJust pick him up,â€ the first said. â€œIâ€™ve got the â€¦ camera.â€
One of them picked up the man and they headed down the train along the roof of the cars. Jacali noticed the men held their hands almost like they were claws, the fingers all together. It was quite strange.
* * *
The rest of the trip to San Francisco went without a hitch. They arrived several hours late, however, after dealing with the numerous bodies and injured in San Miguel, the Sequoyah Starâ€™s next stop. They learned from McGoohan that Parker had come to rescue him and more men were waiting just the other side of the gorge with horses and pack wagons to take away the gold and the Crescent.