Monday, March 12, 2018
(After playing the Call of Cthulhu Down Darker Trails Catastrophe Engine Campaign scenario â€œTerror on the Sequoyah Starâ€ based on the Aces & Eights scenario â€œTrouble on the Sequoyah Starâ€ by Jolly Blackburn Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with James Brown, Ashton LeBlanc, Collin Townsend, Yorie Latimer, Kyle Matheson, Austin Davie, John Leppard, Katie Gallant, Ben Abbott, and Ambralyn Tucker.)
In May of 1875, Los Angeles, California, was still only a small city with a population of 7,000 or so. It was growing very quickly, and constant new construction went on round the clock. Angelinos were setting out to remake their city to challenge San Francisco, already with a population well over 150,000. The city sought to improve its port facilities, railway terminal, banks, and factories. Much of the county was farmland with an emphasis on cattle, dairy products, vegetables, and citrus fruits.
Rumors circulated freely in the city about a certain Marshal Clayton Pierce who shot down a drifter in Arizona who was terrorizing a town there. Some claimed the drifter was a ghost or a demon. Others said he was part of John Valentineâ€™s gang, sent to rescue Dan McGoohan who was captured in the tiny Arizona town. Others said he was the fastest gunfighter in the west traveling incognito and called out the Marshal, who put an end to his murder and bloodshed.
What was agreed upon is that the Federal marshal called the man out and gunned him down in the street.
There were also rumors of John Valentineâ€™s gang being in California though no one knew where. Everyone hoped they were in northern California and many thought he must have been in Nevada or Oregon. At least they hoped he was. There had been no sign of him or his men in Los Angeles, however. People didnâ€™t know what he could want in the small city.
* * *
Jack West was walking in the desert by himself. There was scrub brush and twisted trees. Then the Drifter stepped out from behind some cover. He held his hands out to his sides and stood there, only 10 yards away.
â€œYou coward,â€ he growled. â€œShot me in the back like a coward! Donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve forgotten! I never forget.â€
â€œI can do it in the front now!â€ West said.
He drew his six-guns and cocked them, pulling the triggers with amazing speed. But the hammers fell on empty chambers. The Drifter drew his own gun and fired, the blast louder than anything West had ever heard in his life.
He woke up in his hotel room in Los Angeles, sitting up in bed. He was covered in sweat and his heart was racing. He heard the beating of hammers outside. Workers were always building in Los Angeles, it seemed. When he got out of bed, he found the floor covered in sand. He didnâ€™t know how it got there. He woke up again, this time in his actual hotel room. But the first one seemed so very real. It was very disturbing.
Dr. Eva Weisswald, Wilder, Jack West, and Professor Brandon Stalloid had come to Los Angeles after they had set their affairs in order in Midnight. Repairs on Professor Stalloidâ€™s house were proceeding apace with craftsmen and women from Midnight doing all of the work. He planned to make it into a town library. Dr. Weisswald tried to persuade the town to get a telegraph line. Unfortunately, that was on a larger scale than the town could actually accomplish. The people said they would try to get San Diego County to help them with that.
There was no talk or rumors about the Crescent in Los Angeles, much to their surprise. Neither was there anything about Dan McGoohan being in the city.
* * *
Federal Marshal Clayton Pierce had brought outlaw Dan McGoohan to Los Angeles for Wilder and Jack West. He had remanded the man over to local custody and saw to it he was locked in the jail in the city. Arrangements were being made to transport him to San Francisco for prosecution. Marshal Pierce heard rumors John Valentine and his gang were in northern California and decided to travel north along with McGoohan in search of the outlaw and his second-in-command: Jack Parker: the man who had killed his son.
He was eventually wired $2,000 reward for the man and started looking for Jack West, who had said heâ€™d meet him there.
He heard stories about himself, much to his surprise. He also learned McGoohan would be sent north to San Francisco on May 21 by train.
* * *
Father Peter Bishop was in Los Angeles continuing his travels. When he had initially left South Carolina the year before, he had followed the south coast of the United States, going through Texas in a plan to make his way in a great circle. He moved through the southern states in the west and then into Southern California, planning to go up to San Francisco and then head back following the states bordering Canada before his return to South Carolina.
He preached the word of God mostly in saloons, trying to dissuade those whores within from their sinful ways. He was disappointed to find most of them found that adorable and quaint. They thought he was a joke and tried to seduce him. When he told them he was a priest, their response was often â€œWe can fix that.â€ He was getting a little sick of their teasing him and decided to move on.
He learned San Francisco was a city of vice and sin, much like Sodom and Gomorrah of old. He decided to head north.
* * *
Lambert Otto had come to Los Angeles to see an old friend from his time in the Union Army during the Civil War. A garrison of the United States Army was in Los Angeles and his friend was still in the military. He visited with the man extensively. He had heard about rumors of John Valentine and was looking for any of the outlaws or information about them.
Though he had lost out on the big bounty in Yellow Flats, a little research in the jail there had turned up wanted posters for some others in Dan McGoohanâ€™s gang. He had brought them to Los Angeles and was paid a total of $250 for those bounties.
* * *
Rhymes with Wolf was a petite young American Indian woman who had spent her life as a scout for various people, including Jack West. West couldnâ€™t track to save his life but Rhymes with Wolf was an excellent tracker and scout despite her youth. She was only 17 years old and a Comanche originally from New Mexico. She had meant to meet with West in Yellow Flats but had been delayed and, by the time she got there, he had gone. She had tracked him to Los Angeles and found the man there.
* * *
Marshal Pierce eventually found Jack West sitting at a bar in Los Angeles. He sat on the manâ€™s right, where his face looked normal. He paid no attention to Rhymes with Wolf, who sat on Westâ€™s scarred side, drinking sarsaparilla.
â€œHow much for a bottle of whiskey?â€ he asked.
â€œFifty cents,â€ the barkeep said.
â€œIâ€™ll take one,â€ Marshal Pierce said.
The barkeep brought him a pint of whiskey. He paid for it and then gave West the wad of bills.
â€œTransportation fee, of course,â€ he said.
â€œHow you doing, Marshal?â€ West said.
â€œIâ€™m doing good. Looking for John Valentine whoâ€™s gang is around here. What about you?â€
â€œIâ€™m just counting money.â€
He was, indeed, counting the wad of cash the other man had handed over to him.
â€œYouâ€™re gonna be about 50 cents short of what I promised you,â€ Marshal Pierce said.
â€œAh, itâ€™s 50 cents,â€ West said.
â€œWhat kind of bounty are you going for here?â€
â€œJust looking for work at the moment. Nothing big in town.â€
â€œYou know John Valentineâ€™s probably the biggest bounty right now.â€
â€œYou going for him?â€
â€œI could use a good gun by my side when I try to take down his gang.â€
â€œYou have any idea where he might be?â€
â€œNo. Rumors are heâ€™s around here. If we can find some of the other people he was working with. If we could get a good tracker, Iâ€™m sure we can find him.â€
â€œI can help,â€ Rhymes with Wolf said.
â€œOne of my older friends is a great tracker,â€ West said, nodding towards the woman.
Marshal Pierce looked at the girl for the first time.
â€œOlder?â€ he said. â€œLooks kind of young. How young did you know her? Did you raise this woman, Jack West?â€
Rhymes with Wolf nodded. Jack West grumbled.
â€œClayton Pierce, Federal Marshal,â€ Marshal Pierce said, reaching around West to shake the womanâ€™s hand.
â€œClayton p***?â€ she said.
â€œPierce,â€ he said. â€œPierce.â€
She looked at him.
â€œPierce,â€ he said again. â€œWith a hard â€˜r.â€™â€
She had heard rumors that the man had singlehandedly taken out a whole gang of men trying to take out a town somewhere or something.
â€œMighty Warrior,â€ she said. â€œAre the things they say true?â€
â€œUh â€¦ I donâ€™t think everythingâ€™s the full truth,â€ Marshal Pierce said.
â€œI think a little bit was embellished,â€ West said.
â€œI think there might have been some people that helped me that were not credited,â€ Marshal Pierce said.
â€œI know of what you speak,â€ Rhymes with Wolf said.
* * *
Professor Stalloid and Dr. Weisswald made contact with the U.S. Army in Los Angeles. As scientists who were associated with the Crescent in Yellow Flats, they were deemed fit to learn its present whereabouts. They found it had already been transported to Newhall, north of Los Angeles, where the train line to San Francisco presently lay. A tunnel was still under construction between Newhall and Los Angeles, 27 miles north of the city. The tunnel probably wouldnâ€™t be finished for about another year and then the line would connect Los Angeles to San Francisco.
They learned the Crescent would be heading north to San Francisco by rail on the Sequoyah Star, and a stagecoach could take them to Newhall to catch the train in a few days. They were also told theyâ€™d be transported with it if they wished, second class. They learned it was an additional $8 to go from second class to first class to San Francisco. They also learned there were stables in Newhall as well as several hotels. They might also be able to make provisions to put their horses in one of the cattle cars on the train.
Professor Stalloid asked about being reimbursed for his purchase of the mule in Riverside after the army column had left him there. He was reimbursed for the money he had spent on the mule, tack, and harness. The army took the mule and gear. He also purchased a first-class ticket.
Dr. Weisswald purchased first class tickets for herself, Wilder and Jacali and arranged for the stage to take them to Newhall. She also wired to Wyoming for cash and soon received the money.
* * *
Lambert Otto stumbled across Marshal Pierce in Los Angeles.
â€œWhat are you doing here?â€ he asked the man.
â€œWell, I had to bring Jack West his money,â€ Marshal Pierce said.
â€œOh yeah, I remember.â€
â€œDan McGoohan is turned in and now Iâ€™m looking for John Valentine and Jack Parker.â€
â€œA bit ambitious, donâ€™t you think?â€
â€œGuns got bullets.â€
â€œYou looking to start a party to go find â€˜em?â€
â€œI think itâ€™s more of war.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™m interested in getting Valentine myself.â€
â€œFor the money or for justice?â€
â€œWell, youâ€™re my kind of guy.â€
â€œMoney would be helpful.â€
â€œI hear that. Well â€¦ Jack West is an expensive gun, so heâ€™ll probably want most of it. But, if you do your part, Iâ€™ll make sure you get something.â€
â€œI donâ€™t need much. I donâ€™t live anywhere. I just need enough to buy more ammo.â€
â€œI hear ya.â€
â€œWell, why donâ€™t you join up with us? Heâ€™s got a tracker he says can help us find him.â€
â€œOkay. Thatâ€™s good to know.â€
They made arrangements to travel on the Sequoyah star.
* * *
West found Wilder and paid him $1,000 for his help in capturing Dan McGoohan. He also deposited about half of his share in the bank and sent the other half to his wife in Texas.
* * *
The day-long stagecoach ride was uncomfortable. They saw numerous Chinese coolies working on the tunnel for the final line to Los Angeles on the way.
Newhall proved to be a tiny town with numerous cheaply built hotels, stables, and restaurants. The town was presently a hub of activity, though they guessed once the line went all the way through to Los Angeles, it would probably wither up and die.
Dr. Weisswald and Professor Stalloid connected with the small, temporary military encampment there and learned they had the Crescent. Dr. Weisswald asked about notes on the device and learned they had already been sent ahead to San Francisco.
When they reached the tent they were told held the Crescent, they heard an argument going on within.
â€œThis was found in my mine so itâ€™s my property!â€ one voice said. â€œIt should be mine!â€
â€œNo sir,â€ the more calm voice said. â€œThe government has taken an interest in this situation. The government owns this. If you wish to take this up with the President, or possibly your congressman or maybe your governor, youâ€™re welcome to.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t understand! You donâ€™t know who I am! Iâ€™m Frederick Rotheschilde! I own mines! Iâ€™m rich enough, I could have your job!â€
â€œYouâ€™re welcome to it, sir. If you want it, you can have it.â€
Professor Stalloid pushed back the tent flap. A well-dressed older gentleman with a cane with a very fancy head stood inside. He had a cigar in his hand and scowled at the more conservatively dressed younger bearded man in a simple suit. The latter didnâ€™t seem very upset about the argument and looked at the two.
â€œAh, Professor Stalloid and Dr. Weisswald, I head you were coming!â€ he said. â€œMr. Rotheschilde, you can leave.â€
Professor Stalloid knew of the Rotheschildes. Frederick Rotheschilde was a rich mining tycoon and powerful man from San Francisco. Angrily, Rotheschilde stormed out of the tent.
â€œEminent domain is a powerful thing,â€ Professor Stalloid said as the man stomped out.
The Crescent was in a large, wooden crate, held in place and away from the wood by leather straps. They were surprised to see the crescent had been removed from where they thought it had been embedded in the stone. The letters U.F.O. was scrawled on the side of the crate. The bearded man, who never introduced himself, told them the letters stood for â€œUnidentified Found Object.â€ They learned he was with the United States Secret Service.
Professor Stalloid asked what tests had been conducted on the Crescent and the man told them there had been no testing since Yellow Flats. He also asked where Terwilliger was and the man said he thought the professor was in one of the hotels in town but was not sure which one.
â€œAre there going to be any guards on the train?â€ Dr. Weisswald asked.
â€œYes maâ€™am,â€ the man said. â€œThere are going to be several men guarding it in the express car which is heavily armored and locked up tight. Theyâ€™re working on a coded entry to get in through the door.â€
â€œWill we know that?â€ she asked.
The man shook his head.
â€œWatch out for boulders along the track,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
The man checked a clipboard he held, turning several pages.
â€œI donâ€™t think we have anything to worry about,â€ he finally said. â€œPete Sutter has not been reported in California in three weeks. Iâ€™m doubting heâ€™s here.â€
* * *
Jacali had followed the trail of the crescent. She had gone from tribe to tribe in her quest to learn what she could about the object. They didnâ€™t know much about it but she did learn the name of the strange sorcerer in northern Nevada was He-Who-Waits. She also learned he was looking for something called The Horn and when she showed the buffalo skin with the drawing of the Crescent on it, it seemed to be what he had been looking for. Many of them were relieved to hear the crazy old shaman was dead, for there was a great fear in many of the nations of him.
She eventually found her way to Newhall. When Dr. Weisswald saw her, she handed her a first-class ticket for the Sequoyah Star on May 21. She found that Wilder and Stalloid were also both there with first-class tickets as well. She was surprised the evening before the train was to leave to see so many of the people she had seen in Yellow Flats and who had helped in their dealings with the Drifter.
* * *
Gemma Jones had also traveled west from Arizona and was in Newhall where she purchased a first class ticket aboard the Sequoyah Star heading back to San Francisco.
* * *
On Friday, May 21, 1875, they all found their way to the little train station in Newhall.
First class tickets to San Francisco cost $28. Second class tickets cost $20. Third class tickets were $15.
Rhymes with Wolf, Lambert Otto, Father Bishop, and Jack West all purchased second class tickets. The priest used most of the rest of his money for it. Marshal Pierce sprung for a first-class ticket and soon found himself in the first class coach towards the back of the train with Professor Stalloid, Wilder, Dr. Weisswald, Jacali, and Gemma Jones.
Those with longarms were asked to stow them under their seats or out of the way so as not to disturb or scare the passengers. Father Bishop had packed his crossbow in his luggage. Those with bows also tucked them under their seats.
The Sequoyah Star was a sturdy locomotive pulling a coal tender and 11 cars. An express car was at the front of the line, resembling a plain, unadorned baggage car. Following that was a third class car and day coach. Just over 60 feet long, the coach had eight kerosene lanterns affixed near the ceiling and 12 high-backed, upholstered, mohair-covered narrow bench seats with enough seating for about 24 people.
The two second class coaches had wooden benches that pivoted to swing either way and could be lowered and flattened to make beds. They also held private, upholstered hinged upper berths over the seats that could be pulled down to form an upper bed, though at cost extra.
Following them was a lounge car that resembled the passenger cars without bench seats. Instead, it contained several simple but padded armchairs, small round tables, and a larger rectangular table. The car also served as a waiting area for diners when the dining car was full. Both first- and second-class passengers were allowed in the lounge car.
Next was the dining car which contained a small galley at one end while the other supported booth seating on either side of the center aisle. Only first-class passengers were supposed to have access to the dining car, though other passengers could enter if they paid for their meal.
Following the dining car was the first-class passenger car, which provided a measure of high living and was only open to the first-class passengers. Seats were covered with plush upholstery and rich hangings decorated the hand-carved, inlaid wall paneling. The facing seat backs could be lowered and flattered to make beds and eight upholstered, hinged upper berths could be lowered and flattened for traveling at night.
Each car had a cast-iron stove standing in a box of sand at one end that was unlit in May as it was warm enough. Opposite the stove was door to the Ladiesâ€™ Lavatory, or ladiesâ€™ dressing room, which included a toilet and a counter sink with small attached water pump for bringing water to the basin. At the other end of the car was a closed door leading to the Gentlemenâ€™s Lavatory containing the same type padded bench and counter sink as the Ladiesâ€™. Opposite that lavatory was a smaller room called the Gentlemanâ€™s Closet that held nothing more than a standing toilet. Next to that was a linen closet. Only the dining car was bereft of the lavatories.
A single pair of doors at each end of the car led to an open, connecting platform over which the roof extended to provide some minor shelter. Two short, curved iron grab rails on the end of the platform gave some handholds for when trainmen needed to travel from one car to another. A short set of steps on each side of the platform provided ground access when the train was stopped.
A tall pole rose from each platform with two small, horizontal wheels, one segmenting the pole just above the platform and the other sitting on top of the pole above the carâ€™s roof. The pole was attached to the air brake line connecting all the cars and allowed the brakeman to quickly move along the top of the car and operate each individual carâ€™s brakes.
Following the first class car was a baggage car, two stock cars, and a caboose.
* * *
There was also a squinting older gentleman, a dark-skinned American Indian with white hair wearing a fine suit of clothing, and a young man with a thin mustache in a very fancy suit in the first-class car, among a few others.
Those in first-class recognized another familiar face already seated in the car: Professor Marion Terwilliger. He seemed to be working on a box that appeared to be a wooden camera. When Professor Stalloid went over to him he saw there seemed to be a lens on one side, and two handles and a button on the other. Professor Terwilliger had it open and it was filled with wires, fuses, and other strange items. Professor Stalloid had no idea what it was so he walked back over to the others.
Dr. Weisswald asked one of the stewards how long it was until the next stop and the man looked at his watch and told her the first stop was at 10:49 a.m. for water in Orange, California. The train was set to leave at 9 a.m., in only a few minutes.
Jacali went over to Terwilliger. Dr. Weisswald followed her.
â€œWhatâ€™s in the box?â€ she asked the man.
Professor Terwilliger looked up.
â€œOh!â€ he said, smiling. â€œHello! Youâ€™re the assistant!â€
â€œYes,â€ Jacali said.
â€œFrom Yellow Flats!â€ Professor Terwilliger said. â€œOh.â€
He looked around nervously.
â€œIâ€™ve been given a very important assistant job,â€ Jacali said. â€œAnd I need you to help me with it.â€
â€œOh,â€ Professor Terwilliger said. â€œOh. All right. Well, what can I help you with?â€
He closed up the box and set it aside next to a leather-bound book.
â€œWhatâ€™s in the box?â€ Jacali asked.
â€œThis is a new invention Iâ€™ve been working on!â€ Professor Terwilliger said. â€œIâ€™ve been having some great ideas since Yellow Flats! This â€¦ I call this my Static Electricity Generation Battery. It actually pulls static electricity from the â€¦ here.â€
He showed her a little gauge on the side that was marked with black, yellow, green, and red markings. The needle was up in the green.
â€œThis actually pulls static electricity from the surrounding air in order to power a battery thatâ€™s within it,â€ he said with a grin. â€œThatâ€™s pretty fascinating, isnâ€™t it? I canâ€™t believe I got it to work, to be quite honest. But, it works really well. I even have this. You see?â€
He showed her the lens.
â€œThis is the static electricity discharge, in case it overloads,â€ he said. â€œYou see, if the needle goes into the red, it might explode. I donâ€™t know if it will or not. I havenâ€™t worked out all the â€¦ physics donâ€™t really seem to fit, you know?â€
â€œAnd they let you bring that on the train?â€ Jacali said.
â€œWell yeah,â€ Professor Terwilliger said. â€œThey said they were fine with cameras and I said â€˜Oh. All right.â€™ I donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re talking about!â€
â€œWell, can you not tinker with it while youâ€™re on the train?â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œOh, well, Iâ€™m just checking on the components,â€ Professor Terwilliger said. â€œI need to test the discharge. Iâ€™m going to wait until we stop at one of these towns and Iâ€™m going to find a field and test it out. I think itâ€™ll be pretty harmless. Itâ€™ll just fizz, I think. Fizz. Just kind of â€˜fizz.â€ I think thatâ€™s all itâ€™s gonna do. But I donâ€™t want try it â€¦ Iâ€™m not going to try it on the train! Of course not!â€
â€œAnd what gave you this idea?â€ Jacali said.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Professor Terwilliger admitted. â€œIt just kind of came out of the air. I figured I could probably pull the static electricity out of the air â€¦ the physics arenâ€™t quite right. I donâ€™t know why it works, exactly, but it works! Iâ€™ve been powering several things. Electricity is the wave of the future, you know.â€
â€œDid you get the idea from the Crescent?â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
Professor Terwilliger looked terrified and then shushed her. He motioned for the two women to sit down with him. Dr. Weisswald waved over Professor Stalloid. Professor Terwilliger seemed delighted to see him.
â€œProfessor Stalloid!â€ he said. â€œI havenâ€™t seen you since Riverside! What happened?â€
â€œI must have overslept,â€ Professor Stalloid said.
â€œIâ€™m so sorry. You missed a really boring trip. It was terrible.â€
â€œYeah, I got a lot of travel expenses too. I bought a house.â€
â€œYouâ€™re going to write off a house for travel expense!â€
â€œIâ€™m going to try.â€
â€œThatâ€™s amazing! I wish I knew how to be an accountant!â€
Dr. Weisswald told Professor Stalloid about Professor Terwilligerâ€™s invention. The man planned to test it out at the next train stop, maybe on a cow. He told them about the discharge lens. He asked if any of them saw it smoking to warn him immediately.
* * *
Marshal Pierce talked to the pregnant lady and her husband who sat across from him. He found out the well-dressed man was in dry goods and owned a store in San Francisco and in Los Angeles. His wife was very pregnant and the man told him they had been married for a year. They expected their first baby in the next two months.
Marshal Pierce told them he was going to put his rifle under his seat and for them to let him know if anybody touched it.
â€œOh!â€ the man said. â€œOh! Glad to help out, Marshal. Glad to help out.â€
His wife didnâ€™t say a word but merely looked scared.
* * *
Lambert Otto found himself sitting across from a little old lady who was knitting with very long, very sharp-looking knitting needles. He had put his rifle under his seat.
Father Bishop, Jack West, and Rhymes with Wolf were also in the second-class car nearby. There were several other people in the car as well as an older gentleman with graying hair and a thick mustache, and a younger woman, probably his daughter, with dark hair.
* * *
The train conductor and stewards calling for people to board and there were two short blasts of the steam whistle from the locomotive. The train lurched into motion exactly at 9 a.m. Plumes of smoke blew overhead.
Once they were underway, several of them went to the lounge car. Some of those from second-class met there as well.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald got up and went to where Gemma Jones sat.
â€œOh, Gemma, itâ€™s so nice to see you again!â€ she said.
â€œOh, Miss Weisswald!â€ Gemma said. â€œJacali. Itâ€™s great to see you. Itâ€™s a surprise to see you here.â€
â€œReally?â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œYou are traveling, yes?â€ Jacali said.
â€œYes!â€ Gemma said. â€œThatâ€™s why Iâ€™m on a train.â€
â€œNew performances,â€ Jacali said. â€œNew venues.â€
â€œYes,â€ Gemma said. â€œIâ€™m going back to San Francisco, because thatâ€™s where my home is. Iâ€™ve been traveling often and I feel itâ€™s time I go back and see my mother and sister.â€
â€œHome is a good thing. It is good that you appreciate your family.â€
â€œYes. Very much so. What are you traveling for?â€
The other two women looked at each other.
â€œWell, weâ€™re following the artifact,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œSpooky ****,â€ Jacali said.
â€œYou remember the artifact from Yellow Flats?â€ Dr. Weisswald said. â€œIt â€¦ it just happens to be on this train heading for San Francisco.â€
â€œOh!â€ Gemma said.
â€œEverybody I talk to says itâ€™s bad,â€ Jacali said. â€œEverybody I talk to says itâ€™s nasty and horrible and that you shouldnâ€™t touch it and that itâ€™s awful and everybody died. So, weâ€™re checking it out.â€
â€œTo make sure that nobody touches it,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œYes,â€ Jacali said.
â€œIs it cursed?â€ Gemma said.
â€œThat is what some people Iâ€™ve talked to who are more prone to superstition believe,â€ Jacali said.
â€œWell, Iâ€™m leery of superstition, personally.â€
â€œAnd a smart thing.â€
â€œWhat about your kind? Donâ€™t you have legends? Donâ€™t you have â€¦?â€
â€œI mean â€¦ you have legends. You have bibles and religions.â€
â€œThatâ€™s very true.â€
â€œI have â€¦ run away from such things. I was a child last time I â€¦ really believed.â€
They chatted together, Dr. Weisswald telling her about the tiny town of Midnight and some of the strange but friendly people who lived there. They told about the murder there and how they stopped the insane Alice Pettigrew from killing anyone else. She mentioned Professor Stalloid bought a house there.
â€œThat sounds a delight, albeit a bit unfortunate incident,â€ Gemma said.
* * *
Those in the lounge noticed a man come in from first-class with a deck of cards. He set up a game of faro at the table and introduced himself as Tom White. The table already had a faro board set into the green top. He shuffled the cards and got playing with several others.
Marshal Pierce asked him to hold his seat while he checked something.
â€œSure!â€ White said. â€œAnything for the law!â€
Marshal Pierce left, heading towards the front of the train and seeing Otto and Rhymes with Wolf in the second second-class car. He passed through it and the first second-class car as well as the third-class car. He went out to the platform for the express car and grabbed the door. It didnâ€™t move. It was locked.
â€œWho is that!?!â€ a voice said from inside.
â€œFederal Marshal Clayton Pierce,â€ he said.
He heard what sounded like several guns get cocked. There was a rattling and the door slid open only a slit. He the barrel of a gun cocked and pointed at him from inside and a couple of other men also pointed revolvers at the door.
â€œYou got papers, marshal?â€ the man who answered asked.
He was an older man with thinning white hair and a prominent white mustache.
â€œYes, I have papers, sir,â€ Marshal Pierce said.
He handed over his identification and the man passed them back to the people behind him. There was some discussion inside and Marshal Pierce heard one man confirm he could be trusted. The white-haired older man finally uncocked his pistol, looked around, and holstered it. He slipped out of the express car, the door closed behind him, and they both heard the bolts thrown home again.
The man handed him back his badge and paperwork.
â€œJames Coyer,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m in charge of the men Iâ€™ve got in there. What do you need?â€
â€œIâ€™m not trying to start any trouble, I just wanted to know if Dan McGoohan was in this express car,â€ Marshal Pierce said. â€œIâ€™m the one thatâ€™s responsible for his bounty and I just wantedâ”€â€
â€œWait, are you Clayton Pierce?â€
â€œYes, weâ€™ve got Dan McGoohan in there. Weâ€™re supposed to protect him. Thereâ€™s a few of us. As you can see, weâ€™re not taking any chances and you didnâ€™t give the correct signal at the door.â€
â€œWell, if you donâ€™t mind me asking, thatâ€™s a lot of men for Dan McGoohan. You donâ€™t need that much for a prisoner thatâ€™s already been captured. What else you got back there?â€
â€œIâ€™m afraid I canâ€™t say, Marshal. That goes outside of my orders. Itâ€™s supposed to be hush-hush. Nobody knows.â€
â€œAbove my jurisdiction?â€
â€œStraight from the President of the United States.â€
â€œIndeed. But as long as youâ€™re on board, if you see anybody acting suspicious, we have a â€¦ we â€¦ we just donâ€™t want anything to happen on the trip to San Francisco, and there might actually â€¦ thereâ€™s been some worry that there might be some people on board that might be up to no good. Thatâ€™s the fear.â€
â€œWell, Iâ€™ll keep my eye out.â€
â€œThank you, sir.â€
â€œIf you â€¦ uh â€¦ if you need any help, Iâ€™ll be up in first-class, but it looks like you got it.â€
â€œWell, if you take that badge off, you might be able to do us one better, because then they wonâ€™t know youâ€™re looking at â€˜em. Thatâ€™s up to you though. Thatâ€™s up to you.â€
â€œThat sounds like a smart idea.â€
â€œJust keep your eyes open.â€
â€œI think everybody in the car I just went through saw that badge.â€
â€œJust keep your eyes open.â€
Coyer waited until Marshal Pierce went back into the third-class car before he turned and fiddled with the door. He saw the conductor come from the other direction, exchanged a nod, as he passed the man, and headed for the express car.
â€œHope you got papers,â€ Marshal Pierce muttered to him.
He put his badge back on.
* * *
Dr. Weisswald, Jacali, and Gemma Jones headed forward. When they passed Marshal Pierce, on his way back to the lounge, he told them third-class was as far as they were going to go. They continued forward to the third-class car, Jacali noticing an Indian sitting in one of the seats there. She stopped and greeted the man.
â€œWhere are you from?â€ he asked.
â€œOklahoma,â€ he said.
â€œIt was our territory once. Itâ€™s not anymore.â€
â€œMy whole familyâ€™s gone now. Everyone I know.â€
The man just grunted. He looked around at all the white people sitting around them. The car was fairly full.
â€œWhat are you traveling to?â€ Jacali said. â€œWhere are you going?â€
â€œTraveling north,â€ the man said.
â€œTo meet my mother.â€
â€œThatâ€™s why Iâ€™m going north,â€ Gemma said. â€œTo meet my mother.â€
â€œOh,â€ the Indian said. â€œFamily is important.â€
â€œYes, it is.â€
â€œFriends are important. Loyalty is important.â€
â€œYes it is. Quite.â€
The man seemed very angry.
â€œIâ€™m Jacali,â€ Jacali said.
â€œIn the white language I am Walking Wolf,â€ the man said.
The women moved on, going out of the front of the third-class car. They knocked on it and they heard a lot of metallic noise from within.
â€œWho is it?â€ someone said. â€œWhoâ€™s out there?â€
â€œItâ€™s Dr. Weisswald,â€ the woman said.
There was muffled talking within and eventually the door opened. The conductor came out, the door closing behind him. Gemma Jones noticed several men with guns pointing at the door just behind the man. She gasped. The door latched and locked behind him.
â€œIâ€™m sorry folks,â€ he said. â€œNobodyâ€™s allowed in the express car.â€
â€œWe know that,â€ Dr. Weisswald said. â€œWe were just checking out the situation.â€
â€œEverythingâ€™s fine,â€ the conductor said.
â€œWell, Iâ€™ll be back in the next hour, checking again,â€ she said.
She turned to walk away.
â€œI might not be here, maâ€™am,â€ the conductor said. â€œIt might not be as friendly to you so, just keep that in mind. Theyâ€™re not supposed to open this door at all.
â€œWell, I realize that,â€ Dr. Weisswald said.
â€œUnless thereâ€™s a special knock,â€ he said. â€œSo â€¦â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the special knock?â€ Jacali said.
â€œIâ€™m not allowed to tell you that,â€ the conductor said.
â€œThatâ€™s not very helpful information to me,â€ she said.
He told her they were pretty jittery in there. He waited for them to leave before he left the express car. The two women caught up with Dr. Weisswald and noticed the conductor go back into the express car. Gemma told them what she had seen. They went to the lounge.
* * *