NaNoWriMo Update Three

Sort of keeping pace here, only a day behind at 1132 words this update and 5139 total.

Left lying in the dirt and dust right in their path was a body. Katherine only needed one guess to know who it was. “Well now,” she mused as she brought her horse to a stop and hopped to the ground. “Isn’t this just a convenience. Lonesome?”

“Katherine?” the Spirit Talker responded as the two walked up to the body. Bales hung back, still on his horse. It wasn’t worth him getting off and agitating his ribs any.

“This your doing?” she asked. Lee’s body was beaten and bruised, but the obvious cause of death was a knife stuck square in his chest. Probably the one Lonesome had left him with.

“He was seven shades of stupid,” Lonesome said of the departed, “But I never touched him.”

“Not that you’d have to,” Bales commented.

Lonesome turned so he could glare at the deputy properly. “You don’t have spirits kill people. That makes ‘em mean, and not a Spirit Talker alive wants the mean ones around. And that’s putting aside the fact that you just called me a cold blooded killer.”

“Take it easy Lonesome, he didn’t mean anything by it.” Katherine soothed his ruffled feathers. “I just want to know what this is. You have the goyles out here doing you favors?”

“None I’ve asked for.”

“Hmm. You and them have got that understanding,” she pointed out. “I’ve been meaning to ask you about it. When that goyle jumped us yesterday it left without a hassle once it saw my badge. It knew I was an Arbiter. That part of your understanding?”

“I may have talked you up a bit,” Lonesome admitted.

“Well, just so long as you don’t go teaching them any nicknames,” she warned. “One of those things calls me Wild Kat and I will end you, Cooper. Now grab his legs, let’s get the poor dead bastard on a horse.”




Blackoak was like any number of frontier towns, with two major exceptions. The first was iit had a railroad station. The second was a consequence of the first, that being the town was almost entirely owned by the same company that owned the railroad, Haversham & Black. Being that the town was right next door to the Badlands it was literally the end of the line, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t plenty going on. Cattle ranchers from all around brought their herds into the rail station so they could be shipped back to the coast, and when the trains returned they were often carrying new settlers hoping to make a new living on the frontier.

The latest to come chugging into the station carried something extra. In a passenger car separate from the others, six armed men waited patiently. There was little to distinguish them from your common hired gun. Expert observers, however, could pick out a few things. These men were better dressed and better armed than most guns for hire, for one thing. For another each wore something black embroidered with the letters H and B in silver thread. Their job was simple – meet their fellow Haversham & Black employees at the station, take possession of whatever those men handed over, and see it securely back to the city of New Thermin on the coast.

Walter Hawkins hung out of the car door as the train slowed to a stop, eyes scanning the platform from under the brim of his bowler derby. Amid the people waiting to greet new arrivals was a group of dusty, dirty men with sunworn faces clustered around a large lockbox. He caught the eye of one man, who nodded. Hawkins nodded back and hopped out onto the platform. The rest of the H&B men followed him out.

“Gentlemen,” one of the dusty men stepped forward to greet them. “My name is Clemens. These here are my men.”

“Walter Hawkins.” He tilted his head to the side and gestured at the lockbox. “Is that it?”

“You here for the pickup?” Clemens asked, not directly answering the question.

“That’s right,” Hawkins nodded.

“So prove it.”

Hawkins raised his eyebrows, but couldn’t argue. “Take your job seriously, don’t you?” he asked, digging into his vest pocket for the necessary papers. “Here you go.”

“Lost five men out there to the Gargoyles,” Clemens said sourly as he inspected the papers. “You’re damn right I’m taking this seriously. Alright,” he pushed the papers back into Hawkins’ hands. “You’re good. Let’s get this thing loaded.”

“We can take it from here.” Hawkins motioned to the lockbox. “Stevens, Barrington, get it onto the car.” The two started forward, only to be barred by Clemens’ men.

“I don’t think so,” the weathered man told him frankly. “We’ve got it. You and your pretty boys are just here for security.”

“We’re to get that lockbox back to the coast,” Hawkins said evenly. “Our orders didn’t mention anything about you coming along.”

“We went through hell to get what’s in that box,” Clemens told him. “And we sure as hell ain’t stayin’ out here. Don’t worry, you can watch the box all you want. But my boys’ll be sitting on it until we pull into New Thermin. Then our job is done and you can do whatever you want.”

There was a tense moment, but Hawkins knew there wasn’t anything worth arguing about. So long as they had the lockbox on the train, all we well. So he shrugged and stepped aside. “All right then,” he told Clemens. “If you and yours want to do all the heavy lifting, be my guest. We’ll be happy to watch.”

“This is going to be an awkward ride, isn’t it?” Stevens muttered at Hawkin’s side. He could only nod.

The train sat idle as cargo, cattle, and passengers loaded on. Hawkins imagined H&B could have arranged for a private train if they’d wanted, but that might’ve drawn more attention than they wanted. The two groups of men sat on opposite sides of the train car, the lockbox firmly on Clemens’ side. One of Hawkins men by the name of Tavish tried to strike up a conversation. “So,” he asked, “Just what’s in that thing anyway?”

“They didn’t tell you?” Clemens asked. The rest of his men sat silent and grim, not saying a word even to one another.

“Just that it’s really valuable and the boss wants it real bad, whatever it is.” Tavish shrugged. “We know it comes out of the Badlands, though. What could possibly come out of there that’s so important?”

The car lurched as the train started on its way. Clemens looked at the lockbox, then back at Tavish. “If they didn’t tell it isn’t our place to say.”

Miles outside of Blackoak, atop a hill that overlooked the train tracks, Clayton Wells nervously fidgeted with his boot knife.


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