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Terror on the Sequoyah Star Part 3 - Suspicious Cargo

Max_Writer

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* * *

 

 

 

Rhymes with Wolf found Jack West and told him about seeing the large group return after hearing the two strange thunderclaps from the clear sky.

 

When West saw the other Indian on board heading back to second-class, he followed him and saw him talking to a man with a large hat and two other people, one of them a woman. He was talking to them about the conductor and stewards delivering food to the locked freight car and about a man and a woman who were in it. He heard descriptions of a man with a thick, black mustache and a woman with black hair.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Professor Stalloid wired a telegram to San Francisco to one of his servants asking him to have his horses and wagon ready at the station when they arrived at 6 p.m. the following night. He also asked for a reply and left a list of stations he would be stopping at en-route to San Francisco. It was a very expensive telegram.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Back in the second second-class car, Otto noticed the man who had passed through earlier with the fancy hat stopped and talked to the gray-haired man and his daughter. Then he left the car.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

The first-class passengers who had gone to observe the device saw the gambler Tom White return to the first-class coach to count his money and write in a small notebook. The blonde woman was there as well. Dr. Weisswald talked to her and found she was traveling north on the train but had little to talk about. She was going to San Miguel.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

At 2:30 p.m., the train left Tehachapi Junction and continued along through the desert. Around 3:30 p.m., Tom White went back to the lounge to play more faro.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

At 3:59 p.m., the Sequoyah Star reached the town of Caliente, a small town in the dusty foothills. It wasn’t scheduled to leave until 6:14 p.m. and received water, coal, and maintenance while it was there. There were several restaurants near the train station and it provided an opportunity for second- and third-class passengers to get supper. A few of the third-class passengers, including the Walking Wolf and Mary Foy loitered near the third-class car. Almost all of the second- and third-class passengers disembarked and headed into town to various restaurants.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Marshal Pierce saw a pretty dark-haired woman walking quickly to the telegraph office. He found that interesting and followed her, loitering near the entrance and removing his badge. She wrote something on a piece of paper used for writing out messages. It couldn’t have been more than a word or two. She handed the paper over to the telegraph man and spoke to him. He nodded to her. She paid him a dollar and thanked him before leaving.

 

The telegraph operator put the piece of paper onto his desk.

 

Marshal Pierce entered after the woman left and got paper and pencil. On the paper, he wrote "I’m a Federal Marshal and I need to see what telegram she received and what she sent back." He handed the piece of paper over to the operator and then took out his badge.

 

The man read the note and looked surprised. He looked at the badge and took the piece of paper the woman had written on and handed it to the man. It read "Caliente."

 

"What’d she get back?" Marshal Pierce asked.

 

"She didn’t," the telegraph operator said. "She just sent this."

 

"Nothing?"

 

"No sir. She was just sending. This is going to Chicago."

 

"Chicago?"

 

"Yes sir."

 

"What?"

 

He thought on that a moment.

 

"Have you sent her telegram yet?" he asked.

 

"No sir," the telegraph operator said. "I was just about to."

 

"We’re going to change it."

 

The telegraph operator looked uncomfortable with that.

 

"What do you want to send?" he asked.

 

"You’re going to send this telegram, but you’re going to send it an hour from now," Marshal Pierce said.

 

The telegraph operator looked very nervous about that but nodded. He checked his watch and said he’d wait an hour. Marshal Pierce gave the man a dollar for his trouble.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Professor Stalloid and Rhymes with Wolf played cards with Wilder in the lounge during the stop. They saw Tom White enter the car. Father Bishop was still in there, drinking bourbon as he’d been doing since 10 a.m. He was quite drunk. Jacali entered the lounge as well and saw Rhymes with Wolf.

 

"Hello, my name’s Jacali," the woman said. "What is yours?"

 

"Rhymes with Wolf," the other woman said.

 

"Ah! I get it. I get it. Very good. Very good."

 

"Oho!"

 

"Where are you from? Why are you on this train? Where are you going?"

 

"I’m traveling with the great Jack West."

 

"Oh. Jack West. All right."

 

"I’m his tracker."

 

"Ah. Okay."

 

"What are you here for?"

 

"Well, I’m here for … strange happenings I’ve been tracking."

 

"Oh. What sort of strange happenings?"

 

"Well … I met a Paiute man who claimed to be searching for some cursed object called The Horn. I think I found it as an artifact recovered by the U.S. Government officials. I’ve been following it on this train, trying to see─"

 

"It’s on this train?"

 

"I don’t know. I’ve just been following it via the train. The train is the vehicle that I’m following it on. But what tribe are you from? I am Apache."

 

"I am Comanche."

 

"Oh! We are very close then."

 

They decided to speak their own languages to each other and though they had different dialects, they were able to communicate after a fashion. They talked and laughed as if they were making jokes to each other.

 

Gemma Jones sat nearby, sipping her water and whiskey and listening to the conversation. She was less interested when they stopped speaking English. Dr. Weisswald listened in as best she could but only understood the occasional word.

 

"What were you doing when you got off at the last stop?" Rhymes with Wolf asked.

 

"Oh, one of the scientist-men who was looking at the object, he has a lightning box," Jacali said.

 

"A lightning box?"

 

"A lightning box."

 

She laughed as if she’d just told a joke.

 

"I’ve seen … so the object is on the train?" Rhymes with Wolf said.

 

"Well, the lightning box isn’t the cursed object I’m looking for," Jacali said. "The scientist got the idea after he looked at the cursed object but I think the two might be connected somehow, but I don’t know. This is just some weird invention that he’s cocked up."

 

"Hm."

 

"Along the way. I’m following this train to San Francisco where I believe the object will be."

 

"I, too, am heading to San Francisco."

 

"Oh. What a coincidence. With Jack West? Are you looking for bounties?"

 

"Always. Always doing that. This lightning box and this cursed object sounds very interesting. Was the cursed object also related to lightning?"

 

Rhymes with Wolf laughed again.

 

"Because I have seen things fall from the sky," she said.

 

"You have?" Jacali said.

 

"Yeah. See. I have this."

 

She took out a small, blackened piece of stone.

 

"I saw very strange creatures when I met this man who talked about the cursed object," Jacali said. "Things I’ve never seen before. Big birds."

 

"Big birds?" Rhymes with Wolf said. "Like an ostrich?"

 

"Like vultures but the size of two men."

 

"Where was this you encountered these strange things."

 

"Back in Nevada. Northern Nevada. The Central Pacific Railroad."

 

They laughed again.

 

"Well, this sounds interesting," Rhymes with Wolf said. "I don’t know if I can help but … I’d like to stay informed."

 

"Well, yes," Jacali said. "Now, you seem like a good enough person. I’ll keep you in mind when I hear about stuff that’s going on. I’ve met with Jack West once before and, while he didn’t leave a great impression on me, he was a good shot and he was rather helpful in bringing down some criminals."

 

"He’s good at that."

 

"It’s nice to meet you."

 

"Nice to meet you as well."

 

They laughed once again.

 

Rhymes with Wolves turned to Gemma Jones, who sat nearby.

 

"Whatcha reading?" she asked.

 

"Oh, hello," Gemma said. "I …"

 

She showed the woman the dime novel she was reading. It was titled Love in the West. The rather risqué drawing on the front showed a woman and a man, both on horseback, looking longingly into each other’s eyes.

 

"Avoiding unpleasant company," Rhymes with Wolf said. "By being busy."

 

"Whatever do you mean?" Gemma said.

 

"I took it to mean that you weren’t actually reading. But I see I’m mistaken."

 

"Yes, I am reading."

 

She put it away with an embarrassed smile.

 

"I met your … Jacali?" Rhymes with Wolf said, gesturing towards Jacali.

 

"Jacali" the other woman said.

 

"Yes, Jacali and Weisswald?" Gemma said.

 

"Yes," Rhymes with Wolf said.

 

"What is your name?"

 

"Rhymes with Wolf."

 

Gemma looked at her, a little confused.

 

"Rhymes with Wolf?" she said.

 

"Yes," Rhymes with Wolf said.

 

"Oh … that’s your name."

 

"Yes."

 

"Oh. I see."

 

Rhymes with Wolf and Jacali both laughed.

 

"Very nice," Gemma said. "Very nice. I’m Gemma Jones."

 

Rhymes with Wolf recognized the name.

 

"Ah, you … sing," she said.

 

"Yes," Gemma said. "I’m traveling back home, actually."

 

"Why?"

 

"I’ve been on the road, mostly, stopping from town to town, wherever the wind takes me, so …"

 

"That sounds like great life."

 

"It is but it can … it can be a little homesick. I do have … my mother and my sister, I miss dearly."

 

"I wish you good travels."

 

"Thank you. What about you?"

 

"I just like to roam around. I don’t like to stay in one spot too long."

 

"Hm. We seem very similar."

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Professor Stalloid, Jack West, and Wilder noticed a messenger come to the train around 4:25 p.m. The boy was wearing a Western Union uniform and carried two telegrams in his hand. He handed the pieces of paper off to one of the stewards and then ran back to the telegraph office. The steward climbed onto the train. Jack West followed him and saw him hand off one of the notes to another steward with a word. He followed that man who took it to the express car and slid it under the door and knocked before leaving.

 

West ran through the cars trying to catch up to the other man. He saw the steward giving the telegram to the man with the large hat sitting in one of the second-class cars. The man thanked him and gave him a nickel before looking carefully at the telegram.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

At 4:33 p.m., West noticed a freight wagon containing a large crate roughly four feet square arrived. With it were two men. It stopped beside two more men. They stood and watched as the trainmen offloaded the crate and pushed it up the ramp into the baggage car. He realized the four men were more lighter complexioned, typical of eastern city-dwellers, not the sun-baked natives of the frontier.

 

Professor Stalloid and Marshal Pierce didn’t notice until they saw the crate being taken into the baggage car. Professor Stalloid pointed it out to the Marshal.

 

The four easterners spoke for a few moments. Two of them boarded the first-class car and then walked through the lounge, heading towards the front of the train. They later returned through the coach. The other two men stood on the railway platform, conversing.

 

"What the hell was all that about?" Marshal Pierce said to West.

 

"Probably just some large package," West said.

 

"Think we outta check, see what they put on the train?"

 

"Sounds like a good idea."

 

"How good’s your … Indian at sneaking into places?"

 

"I feel like it’s good."

 

"As a lawman, I can’t break in myself. What I’m doing here is suggesting a way that does mean you break the law. However, if your friend was to be caught, I think that I could persuade them to hand her over to me to turn in. So nothing goes wrong."

 

"Now we just need a way to get in there."

 

They went in search of Rhymes with Wolf.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Rhymes with Wolf had moved forward and found Walking Wolf standing up from a seat on the second class car.

 

"Hello," she said.

 

He glared at her and grunted.

 

"Would you like some rabbit jerky?" she said.

 

"No," he said. "I’m fine."

 

"For later?"

 

He grunted and pocketed it.

 

"Where are you headed?" she said.

 

He pointed towards the front of the train.

 

"North," he said.

 

"North where?" she asked.

 

"One of the towns."

 

"What town?"

 

"San Miguel."

 

"San Miguel?"

 

"To see my mother. Didn’t I tell you that?"

 

"No."

 

"I told some woman."

 

"Do I look like some woman?"

 

He shrugged.

 

"Oh, okay," she said. "Well, I just wanted to introduce myself. You seem like a─"

 

"Walking Wolf," he said.

 

"Rhymes with Wolf."

 

"Ah."

 

He rolled his eyes.

 

"Have you heard of John Valentine?" she asked.

 

"Valentine is a villain," he said.

 

"Yes."

 

"White man."

 

"Yes."

 

The man ran his thumb across his throat.

 

"You killed him?" she said.

 

"Not yet," he said.

 

"You going to?"

 

"Maybe."

 

He turned away from her and headed for the third-class car.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Marshal Pierce and Jack West found Rhymes with Wolf and told her of their plan for her to sneak into the baggage car. She told them there were too many people around and they needed to get the people away from the baggage car before she could sneak aboard.

 

"Can y’all create a diversion?" she asked. "Get rid of some of these people?"

 

"Absolutely," Marshal Pierce said. "Why don’t we go outside and you show them some of your gun tricks?"

 

"You could give me some competition," West said.

 

"Or you could just show ‘em some of your gun tricks."

 

"Yeah, that too."

 

"Let me grab some of these things for you to shoot."

 

He got some empty tin cans and bottles from one of the stewards in the dining car and they went over near the baggage car. Then they told the others in the lounge car to come out to help them gather up a crowd. Father Bishop climbed drunkenly out of his chair and joined them.

 

"Everybody come outside and watch what Jack West can do," Marshal Pierce said.

 

He quickly went to the other cars to let people know about the show outside. Not many people were on the train but those that were followed him.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Dr. Weisswald and Professor Stalloid went back to the first-class car and found Professor Terwilliger there. They asked if he wanted to discharge the lightning box again. He noted it had been two hours and the device had recharged itself completely. He wanted to see if it would go up into the red.

 

"You want it to go in the red!?!" Professor Stalloid said.

 

"I just want to see if it will," Professor Terwilliger said. "I don’t think it will. It’s been sitting here. It was sitting in my room all night. If it was going to burn down something, it would have burned down my hotel room last night, right? Probably with me inside. That would have been uncomfortable."

 

"You’re living situation is terrible, Terwilliger," Jacali said.

 

"You’re right," Professor Terwilliger said. "I defer to your better description of my terrible, fiery death."

 

He was just curious as to whether or not it would go into the red and he didn’t think it would. He was fairly certain when the battery was filled, it would stop charging.

 

"Like a capacitor," Professor Stalloid said.

 

"I did put one in," Professor Terwilliger said.

 

"I think we should test that where we can …" Dr. Weisswald said

 

"I’ve been keeping a very close eye on it," Professor Terwilliger said. "And if anything happens, I’ll just chuck it out the window."

 

"But then you’ll have to make a new one."

 

"I know! Isn’t that great!"

 

"Are you sure if you chucked it out the window, it wouldn’t hurt the rest of the train?" Jacali asked.

 

"No," Professor Terwilliger said. "It’s only made of wood. It’d probably smash to pieces. It might discharge off the train …"

 

"Okay."

 

"And I really want to see how high it will go. It was in my room for over 12 hours and it didn’t overload. I don’t think it will."

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

When Professor Stalloid found Marshal Pierce trying to get people to watch Jack West perform, he helped by being a carnival barker, as his medicine wagon business often required. More people came off the train to see what Jack West was going to do.

 

Once people were out there, Marshal Pierce tossed cans and bottles up in the air and Jack West shot them. He shot a can several times after it reached its zenith, keeping it in the air for several shots. It was all very impressive. Even the trainmen working on the baggage car stopped to watch.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Rhymes with Wolf crept onto the baggage car and soon found the crate the others had described. It was back in the corner of the boxcar and she moved to it and looked at it. She found it was nailed shut and she pried up the top with her bowie knife. There was a safe inside held in place with some paper and sawdust. It had a combination lock on the front. She closed the crate.

 

She looked around at the other crates and saw an upright piano in the baggage car as well as personal baggage. Nothing looked out of place.

 

She crept towards the door.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

"What are you doing?" a voice said.

 

Jack West looked down to see a little old lady standing in front of him. She was short and squat and obviously very old, with spectacles perched on her nose. Her white hair was covered, mostly, with a bonnet and she wore light-colored clothing.

 

"You stop that right now!" she said to him. "Gunfire is not permitted in the town limits! What do you think you’re doing?"

 

She gave him a slap in the chest.

 

Marshal Pierce threw another can in the air and Jack West fired at it reflexively. The old woman screamed and fell to the ground, wailing.

 

"Oh dear!" she called out. "Oh dear!"

 

"He shot her!" someone called.

 

"No!" another man said.

 

"Mrs. McGillicuddy!" someone cried out.

 

She wailed. Jack West leaned down to help her up.

 

"Don’t touch me, you terrible man!" she cried out.

 

She slapped him in the chest again.

 

"Don’t you touch me!" she cried out. "Oh, you’re a terrible, terrible man! You’re a terrible man! You break the law! You try to shoot me! Oh!"

 

They saw Rhymes with Wolf leave the baggage car and Jack West made a retreat to the train. Marshal Pierce dropped the cans and bottles and followed him.

 

"Now you’re leaving your trash here!" Mrs. McGillicuddy cried out. "You’re terrible people! These two men are terrible people!"

 

Professor Stalloid had rushed over and fanned the woman, who groaned in terror.

 

"I’m a physician ma’am," he said. "I’m here to help."

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

The train departed Caliente at 6:14 p.m.

 

They noticed two of easterners who had come aboard with the heavy crate were in the first-class car, talking quietly. One of the dark-haired women they had seen earlier had also moved to the first-class car. At 6:19 p.m., the first-class steward told everyone in the first-class car that the dining car would be open from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for dinner.

 

The conductor went by and checked everyone’s tickets.

 

At 6:30 p.m., the stewards began to light the kerosene lamps affixed to the walls of the cars. The dark-haired woman left the first-class car and entered the dining car along with several of the other first-class passengers. Tom White and Lucy Miller ate together.

 

The sun dipped below the horizon at 6:53 p.m.

 

Others moved about the car though no one was acting suspiciously.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

At 7:57 p.m., the train stopped in Lerdo to take on coal and water. A few passengers got off from the third-class car but only a couple of more got back on. Marshal Pierce kept an eye out for the lady who had sent the telegram in Caliente but didn’t see her get off the train.

 

The dining car closed at 8:30 p.m. and the train left Lerdo at 8:54 p.m.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Those in the lounge noticed one of the easterners leave the lounge and another of the men came there, seemingly to take his place. Marshal Pierce thought it almost seemed like a shift. Most of the rest of their friends were in the lounge, along with Lucy Miller and Tom White.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Gemma Jones returned to the first-class car and asked one of the stewards to prepare the lower berth of her seat as a bed. The man helped her prepare the bed and then pulled down the upper berth and set up the curtains around the lower one for her.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Rhymes with Wolf saw one of the easterners enter the second-class car and begin talking to a dark-haired woman who was there. She recognized the woman as having been on the train the entire trip, but she had not yet talked to her. The two seemed to hit it off quickly. She went over.

 

"Good evening," she said. "Good day."

 

"Oh, hello," the man said. "Good evening."

 

"How are your travels going?"

 

"I’m fine. I just got on. Turns out this is an old friend of mine. She’s been on the train since Los Angeles."

 

They introduced themselves. The man was Ira Rosenthal and the woman was Hannah McCoy.

 

"Where ya heading, Ira?" Rhymes with Wolf asked.

 

"San Francisco," Rosenthal said.

 

"What’s in San Francisco?"

 

"It’s where I’m heading. I got some business up there."

 

"What kind of business you in?"

 

"Well, it’s kind of private."

 

"And Miss McCoy?"

 

"Same," the woman said.

 

"Also personal?" Rhymes with Wolf said.

 

"Just personal business, yeah."

 

"Okay. Interesting. Well, y’all have a good day then."

 

"You too."

 

Rhymes with Wolf felt they were fishy and decided to keep an eye on them.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Professor Stalloid had been listening to the two easterners in first-class but couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. Around 10 p.m., one of them asked the steward to turn down his bed. Once it was done, he climbed in and settled down to sleep.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

The train stopped at 10:44 p.m. in the middle of nowhere. Nothing was around except a water tower. While the train was stopped, Tom White and Lucy Miller retired to the first-class passenger car and had their beds turned down by the steward there. Many of the others had already turned in as well. The train left by 11:19 p.m., still on schedule.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Jack West, sitting in third-class saw the dark-haired woman he’d noticed in the Lounge earlier walk through and go to the express car. She knocked and the door was opened for her. He saw Wilder enter the third-class car and sit down. Neither of them could tell what the knock was.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Lambert Otto went over to the easterner man and woman who were still talking.

 

"Hello there," he said.

 

"Hello," the man said.

 

"How are you folks doing tonight?"

 

"We’re fine. How are you?"

 

"Trying to just start some conversation."

 

"Well … hello. We were having a conversation of our own."

 

"Uh … do you know how many more stops we have?"

 

The man looked at the itinerary and noted the last stop had been the fifth and there were eight more to reach San Francisco.

 

"I suppose it depends on where you’re getting off," the man said. "Where you getting off the train?"

 

"Getting off in San Francisco," Otto said.

 

"There you go. There’s a couple more water stops and then we’re going through more towns."

 

"Okay."

 

"I think."

 

"Know anything about the local area?"

 

The man looked out the window.

 

"Besides it being─" Otto said.

 

"It looks like a desert," the man said.

 

Otto smiled awkwardly.

 

"I gathered that," he said. "But is there any groups out here? Indians?"

 

"Probably," the man said. "I don’t know, sir."

 

"I’m sorry. I feel like I’m wasting your time."

 

"That’s all right."

 

"Have a good night, sir. And ma’am."

 

"You too."

 

He went back and shamefully sat in his chair.

 

A minute or so later, another man entered the coach from the back and he recognized another of the easterners. The man went to the man and lady he’d just talked to and Rosenthal introduced him to Miss McCoy. He heard the name Walker. They chatted and Otto overheard Rosenthal say: "So, do you want to take the first watch or shall I?" They decided Rosenthal would take the watch.

 

Shortly after that, Walker asked for a small pillow from the steward and settled down to sleep in his seat, leaning against the window with his pillow between himself and the glass.

 

Otto got up to go find Marshal Pierce. He found him in the lounge.

 

"Marshal," Otto said. "A moment of your time."

 

He asked for some privacy and they moved out to the platform between the lounge car and the dining car.

 

"I heard some men talking in the second-class car about doing a watch," Otto said. "Who should take the watch."

 

"Sleep in shifts and stuff like that?" Marshal Pierce said.

 

"Yeah, so …"

 

"Who were they?"

 

"Walker. Didn’t hear his first name. And Rosenthal. And McCoy."

 

"I have no idea who you’re talking about."

 

He tried to describe the easterners.

 

"Is that the people that got on in Caliente?" Marshal Pierce asked.

 

"I don’t know," Otto said. "I just … I just noticed that Walker hasn’t been … actually … Ira said he just got on the train. I don’t remember seeing Walker before but he could have been on longer."

 

"Well, if they’re trying to watch something through the night. That does sound peculiar."

 

"Isn’t there something up in the express car?"

 

"Yeah. We’re not sure what’s in it."

 

"Why don’t you go back to third class and ask Jack West if he wants to take shifts?"

 

"Okay."

 

"We’ll stay wherever they’re taking their shifts and … see how this plays out."

 

They got together with Jack West and decided Marshal Pierce and West would get some sleep and Otto would stay up and keep an eye on the people in second-class who had been talking. West went to the second-class car and slept in his seat.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

At 12:45 a.m. on May 22, 1875, the train stopped in the middle of nowhere to take on water and coal. During the stop. Dr. Weisswald and Jacali went to the third-class car. Most of the people in there were trying to get comfortable on the uncomfortable seats. They went back and got their bows, sneaking them to the third-class car and finding seats there where they could watch the express car.

 

The train left on schedule at 1:49 a.m. and headed towards the mountains under the full moon.

 

 

* * *

 

 


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