“I have no need of one of your kind, Mista Jones.” the Mayor said squinting through the window at me.
“I reckon I’m about exactly what you could need right now.” I say in my best serious.
“Somehow I highly doubt that. You’ll stay here with Raek while God and the law deal with this.”
“But sir,” Raek began.
“I’ll not have this insolence right now, Raek. Do your duty as your prophet asks. As you have been tasked to do so.”
I watched as Raek’s big head bowed down and sulked at the words of that fat mustached man. It sickened me a bit to see such a big fella cower to the likes a’him and such, but I was a fetch more bothered by them not loosing my irons none.
“You ask me,” the train man piped in, “that feller looks like a gritty one, probably come in handy right now I thinks.”
“It’s quite obvious that isn’t a fair bother to you, sir.” The Mayor retorted.
I took a seat, admittedly annoyed for the moment. My chains clanked against themselves and then fell to the ground. I was really getting tired of them.
“Enough talk gentlemen.” The lead guard piped in. “I’m the law on this here train, so we’ll do things my way. I’ll take toward the front of the train with James. Richards, you take in with the Mayor’s lot, go find out what’s really going on in the South cars. There ain’t no way a full car’s gone inta a coma, or even jes off ta slumber.”
“But I seen it, with my own eyes I did! Ya callin me a liar lawman?” Diego said agitated.
“Diego, that’ll be good. We’ll take this Richards along with grace. Thank you for your hospitality in lending us one a yours Mista, uh. Now, I don’t believe we’ve been fairly introduced good sir.”
“Bannet, Mister Mayor. Charlie Bannet. A pleasure.”
“It’s right fine to meet ya Mista Bannet. Terrible occasion as it is.”
The Mayor stuck his stubby hand out and the two shook hands, the Mayor had his slim stretched smile on, and I was happy to see that it unsettled the lawman just as much as it did me cuz his face looked like a man’s that had to fetch a dyin brother from a pile of steamin manure.
“Terrible indeed, sir. We’ll be off then. Take care of them Richards.” He motioned to the other man, and then went off with James and the train man who seemed willing to go back, just as long as he could follow behind the two men with guns.
“Raek, you watch him now, hear? He moves, you put him back in his place. This ain’t the time for his silly games.”
“Of course, sir. I will honor my duty.”
“See that you do. And you will make Tibbit’s return a far more grand event by following in his duty.”
The Mayor set off with Richards leadin the pack. Soon as I heard the door to the other car shut, I started my mouth up again. I’d had it with these cuffs. And I was getting a bad feelin about this train ride.
“So what’s the deal Reak? A biggun like you takin to bowing to a lesser fella. Just doesn’t fit your build.”
“He is our prophet. And you best hold your snake tongue. But if you would like to keep talking like this, go right ahead. I’ll leave one of your arms so that at least you can point us to the treasure.”
“Prophet. Ya know, on my travels I’ve seen a bright number of prophets. They was just fellers like you and m…well you…cept mighty smaller. Anyway, ain’t a one of em ever turned out ta be real is all. These times we live in, a man can make a fair trade of runnin a church. Passin the poor box. Takin donations. I’ve even seen a charlatan preacher once or twice. Ragin on bout firey death from above, and then another preach about firey death from below. So which one’s it is? If they all got a different story, and they’re all reading outta the same book, who’s getting any of this right?”
“Our prophet is not mislead by those books. He has written one of his own. For our town, for everyone. And someday they’ll see his truth.”
“Guess it can’t be any worse than the way the world already is right?” I ask with a twinge of smile. Yeah, I was workin out a plan of sorts.
“No. And we will be rewarded for our dedication.”
“Now that’s something I can understand, reward.”
“Do not think us similar demon. Our reward is a richer and fuller life. Immortality and more.”
“That does sound nice. But I guess I won’t be here to see any of it, right? That is what you were saying earlier?”
His shoulders sunk a bit, and then he did it, he turned his head away, towards the door, towards Tibbits, so I took my chance and leapt up holdin my iron’s chain taut and pinning Raek’s neck to the wall behind. I pushed as hard as I could, even put my boot to the side of the car I’d come from so I could use my entire body. And sure, he struggled for breath, I’d done cut off his airway, and his eyes were startin to bulge, but he still had the rest of his body, and those great big arms of his, so he reached for my throat just the same, and squeezed as hard as he dared, which luckily wasn’t enough for one like me. I could barely breath, but I still got something in, and I just tried to act like I couldn’t.
I continued to push as hard as I could. His face was going from red to purple, and that’s when I heard it, and felt it. The quick patter of something runnin across our roof, and the sudden feelin that we was suddenly going faster, like when you lose all your belongins off the back of your horse. Both our eyes looked across the roof until the footsteps were gone ahead of us, and then I chanced a look out the window just in time to see the Southern train cars falling behind as we turned Westward.
In all of the goings on, I forgot to act like I wasn’t breathin which Raek had just noticed, and decided not to try strangling me anymore. With a swift motion of his great arms, he slammed them down into mine, and I lost my stability and fell in his lap. He gasped for breath, but didn’t lose a moment to throw me back to my side and with one hand on his throat, he slammed the other into my face. If I’d been a regular man, I think he would have ripped off my lower jaw.
“You will not escape me demon. My prophet’s orders will not be broken.”
“That’s just sweet a ya, Raek. But it looks like your prophet won’t be comin back here anytime soon now. Take a gander out that there window.”
He did so, reluctantly at first, but as soon as he saw the last fading moment of the Southern train cars, he took a keen interest out the window.
“Oh yeah. And it makes you wonder if he’s even alive now don’t it?”
That upset him, and I saw that fire back in him for a moment, but then it was gone.
“Come on, Jones. We are not staying here, we’re stopping this train right now.”
“That’s just swell, but you wanna do me a favor and take these manacles off now? I’d hate to be a burden for ya.”
“I can do no such thing.”
“Your prophet and all your brethren are gone, maybe it’s time you do the smart thing, and let me loose.”
“No, I simply cannot. The Mayor had the key.”
Well that burns.
Raek took my chain in one hand, and threw it over his shoulder, much like a feller would lead a horse ta a water trough. We walked to the back, saw for sure that all the train cars behind us had been let go, then made our way up to the next train car. This one was general seatin. They all looked curious at Raek, but as soon as they saw me the women clutched at their chests, those with children pulled them closer to themselves. Even the gentlemen were scared. They hid behind hats, and acted like they was gonna protect their woman from me, even with that ‘I ain’t ever even seen a gun’ look on their faces.
We then got to the next car, which was the dining car. Sure enough, there were the two guardsmen and that train feller lookin over a body of a man still sittin sprawled out in a swivel chair at the bar, his back against it, and his throat wholly ripped open so that his head flopped back on the counter.
“What are you doing here?” Bannet asked to Raek. “Didn’t your Mayor tell you to stay put?”
“He had. But he’s gone now. Someone disconnected all the train cars behind ours.”
“I’ve seen it with my own eyes. So we need to stop this train. We need to go back for them.”
“I must say that I agree. Two murders and now this. Yes, it’s best we stop the train and now.”
The guard began leading the way, James just behind, and the train man between him and Raek. We made a neat little parade as we moved up through the cars. People watched, always curious until they got a gander on me and my peepers, then they all did the same and went to clutchin at something. Finally we made it to just outside the coal car, and that’s when we heard the screams.
“Heavens? What the hell is going on up there?” Bannet asked aloud.
They just kept coming, blood curdling things.
“Come on James, let’s go find out what’s this about.” Bannet said pulling his pistol from his hip and heading out the door and off over the coal car.
We listened as the screams stopped, and then the gunshots began. Three, then two more, then more screaming. Another couple of shots rang out, and then Bannet came barreling back over the coal car and jumped down to just in front of the door looking white and scared for hisself.
“JESUS!” He said as he came in the train car and slammed the door shut, locking it. “James is dead! Goddamned dead!”
“What happened?” The train man asked.
Just then, we felt the train car lurch forward and begin to chunk chunk more quickly below. Someone had just sped up this train.
“Oh God! I shot him, I know I did, but he still got James, ripped his arm right from his body. I shot him I swear it!”
“Who got James?” The train man asked going all pale again.
“I don’t know! He was just a man! I swear I shot him!”
“If ya shot him, then how the hell’s he still alive?”
The two went on a couple more rounds, and that’s when Raek turned to me.
“This got something to do with you? Sounds like more of your dark work to me.”
“This is just as curious to me as you big boy.”
The last word hit my lips, passed from em, and then I felt it. Close, real close. As I looked back to Bannet and the train man bickering, a hand came through the chest of the frightened guard. His blood splattered on all of us, and as soon as the train man realized it, he fell to the ground useless. The hand pulled back out of the chest and the guard slumped to the ground dead. The hand turned the lock, and opened the door. What stepped in and stared at us, I can’t say I was expectin. You see, I can sense evil, feel it when it’s close, and generally guage what it is I’m dealin with. So when I saw that feller standin there, my mind went blank, and two words fell from my tongue.