NaNoWriMo Update Four

Still about a day behind on the word quota, but keeping up otherwise. This update is 1563 words, for a total of 6702.

He’d already trimmed his fingernails twice and didn’t think they could get any shorter, so now he was just idly running his thumb along the edge.

“Just relax, Clay,” Morgan told him. “You’ll start cutting bits off you keep going like that.”

“Relax?” Clayton asked. He tried a laugh, but it came out sounding too nervous and high pitched for his liking. “I can’t relax. We’re about to rob a train. I’ve never done crime before, how am I supposed to relax?”

“Oh, it’s not as hard as all that,” Thomas grinned at him from a little further down the line. “If Slim did his job right all we’ll have to do is pick up the pieces. Not like we’ve got to shoot our way into it or anything.”

“I promised you an easy job, didn’t I?” Morgan added. “Trust me. We do this, we get paid, and you go back to farming dirt or whatever it is you were up to.”

Clayton bristled a little. “I was a ranch hand, not a dirt farmer.”

“Hey,” Brodie snapped, “Y’all shut up. It’s coming.”

They looked, and sure enough the locomotive was coming down the track at speed. Brodie signaled Slim with a mirror to let him know it was time. Down by the tracks Slim took a puff from his cigar, then touched the end to a fuse which led to a small stack of dynamite. It was probably overkill. All they needed to do was destroy the tracks and derail the train, but they’d been given twice as much as what was about to go up and slim figured more was never bad.

The fuse took immediately and began merrily hissing its way to extinction. Slim was on his horse galloping away shortly thereafter, not caring whether the oncoming train saw or not. By the time they did it would already be too late.

“Shit, I think they saw him,” Thomas muttered. They could all hear the squeal of the train’s brakes from the top of the hill. Sparks flew from the rails, but the beast of a machine had hardly slowed when the fuse ran its course. The chosen section of rail track erupted in a geyser of dirt and fire, wood splinters and twisted metal all spraying out into the sky. Clayton could swear he saw innumerable blades of prairie grass bend over as if an invisible hand had brushed through them, each one tilted away from the explosion.

Then the train hit the crater and his attention was firmly on the spectacle of its demise. The front of the engine dipped it, cattle guard gouging into the dirt. When the second car hit the locomotive went nearly straight up and down before slamming back to earth. It drug the second car down with it, and everything just kept on going, like a great mechanical snake folding in on itself and writhing in agony.

When it had all played out and the dust started to settle an awed silence gripped the hill. “Merciful Mother,” Clayton spoke softly.

“Well, that was something, wasn’t it?” Morgan added.

Brodie urged his horse down the hill towards the wreck. “No time for sightseeing,” he told them. “Let’s get this done and get gone.”

“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” Thomas suggested as they reached the wreckage. “I mean, just how are we supposed to find what we’re looking for in this mess?”

“The forward car is still attached to the engine,” Brodie explained. “The box should be in there. Shouldn’t be too hard to… well, shit.”

They made their way around an overturned boxcar. They’d found the locomotive, but the car that had been attached to it was shattered. Debris was strewn everywhere.

“Well,” Brodie sighed, “It’s in there somewhere. And it’s not like we’re expecting company anytime soon. Spread out and start looking. Remember, it’s a big H&B lockbox. Even this mess shouldn’t have put much of a dent in it.”

Half an hour later they were still picking through the pieces. “Rotten bastards,” Morgan groused as they went. “How many guys did they have guarding this thing? There’s pieces of ‘em everywhere.”

“Plenty still in once piece,” Slim noted. “If that box ain’t here, might be one of ‘em walked away and took it with him.”

Brodie considered for a moment. “Yeah. Split up, all of you. Search the entire place.”

“And if we do find one of ‘em alive?” Morgan asked.

“Then put them down. The last thing we need is a witness.”

Walter Hawkins groaned as he pulled himself through the wreckage of the train. Somehow he and one of Clemens’ men had made it out alive. Knowing whoever was responsible for the explosion on the track would come looking to finish the job they’d gotten out as soon as they could and brought the lockbox with them. It hadn’t been easy, and they hadn’t gotten far. They knew their time was running out.

Clemens’ man still had his shotgun. Hawkins wished he still had a pistol, or a rifle, or anything, but he’d lost it all during the crash. He didn’t even know his companion’s name. The man, bleeding from cuts on his face, turned to Hawkins with grim determination.

“We’ve got to hide it.”

Hawkins shook his head. “There’s nowhere here they won’t find it. If they’re after that box they’ll tear the place apart until they have it.”

“We’re not moving fast enough to outrun the sons of bitches,” the man grunted. “And as much as I want to think different, I know we can’t outfight them.”

“So what’s left?” Hawkins asked. “We can’t just let them have it.”

“We’re gonna have to. They’ll find us either way, so let them find me. Just me. You go. Stay out of sight. I’ll take a few with me if I can, but… once they’ve got it you need to get help. Hunt them down and get that box back. That’s all that matters Hawkins, you hear me?”

They heard someone working through the wreckage, coming towards them and getting closer. Hawkins swallowed hard. It felt like the cowards way out, but it also made sense. He just hoped his employers saw it the same way. He clapped the nameless man on the shoulder, but couldn’t think of anything terribly encouraging to say. So he just nodded, and then he left.

Clayton advanced with his revolver drawn. He thought he’d heard someone talking just around this next boxcar. Heart pounding, he pressed his shoulder against the wood. He was nervous as hell. It wasn’t supposed to be like this – he wasn’t supposed to have to shoot anyone. But he was the only one here. The others were spread out all over the place, too far away to come help. If he went to get someone the H&B people might get away with the box. If they did that he wasn’t going to be paid, and if he didn’t get paid he’d lost it all. So he clenched his jaw in determination, took a deep breath, and poked his head around the corner.

He pulled it back just in time to avoid the shotgun blast. Splintered wood sprayed against his cheek. It stung, but at least his head was still in once piece. That bastard wasn’t using buckshot – that had been a solid slug.

“Come and get it ya coward!” the H&B man shouted. Clayton huffed a couple more breaths and stuck his gun around, firing off shots just to keep the other man’s head down. Then he took a quick peek, popping his head out and back again. The man was huddled behind a dislodged axle for cover. More importantly, the shotgun he was holding was the double barreled variety. Only one shot left. Question was, could Clayton survive that last shot?

He decided to try diplomacy first. “Just give it up! All we want is the box! Let us take and you can walk away!”


“I don’t want to kill you!”

“Can’t say the same!”

Well, that didn’t work out. Time for plan B. If only he could think of a plan B. Alright, he decided, when in doubt start shooting. He stuck his gun around the corner and squeezed off another shot. Hoping the man had gone to cover again he stuck his head out. Time seemed to stand still. The H&B man wasn’t ducking for cover. He was aiming down the sights of his shotgun, right at Clayton. As a knee jerk reaction, Clayton fired at him. The two shots rang out at the same time, one from a revolver and one from a shotgun.

It took Clayton a stunned moment to realize they’d both missed. He didn’t have a hole in his midsection, and the H&B hadn’t gone down either. But that didn’t mean the fight was over. The H&B man stood, raised his shotgun like a club, and started charging forward. “Nonononono stop!” Clayton shouted, but the man kept coming. So Clayton did the only thing he could think to do. He started squeezing the trigger, and he didn’t stop until he was out of bullets.

The H&B man staggered forward a few more steps then dropped like a rock. Clayton stared at his body for a few moments. Then he threw up.


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