Welcome kind readers to a grand new tale of high adventure and gruesome horror in the latest thrilling installment of “Terrifying TRUE Tales of the West”!
These events begin early in the spring aboard the Skyline Steamer; a Denver-Pacific passenger train trekking West over Rockies. Among the small throng of passengers sat our unlikely heroes. Raul Blackthorne, a weary veteran sat in the diner car. Doctor Etienne Vendredi, a co-traveler of Raul’s for more than a few journeys loomed in the corner of the car, pulled a scarf over his scarred face.
It wasn’t long before Raul was dragged into a card game and quickly began losing more money than he expected –and fast. Fortunately, a new player sat down – a young greenhorn full o’ vinegar named Tanya, who faired a slight bit better at the table then old Raul.
While Etiene chuckled from his corner at the misfortune of his friend at the card table, a well dressed woman entered the dining car and immediately began gawping at his disfigurement – a hook in the place of a hand. Etienne grumbled at her rudeness, but also noted that despite the bourgeouse appearance of the young woman-a Miss Ernestine Smith –stains of grease and ghostrock on her fingers implied that she had some interesting hobbies. Fortunately for all embarrassed parties, Roscoe, Raul’s faithful black mutt, bounded into the center of the dining car looking for affection or a meal.
Back in the passenger car, Tobias – a frayed and bleary eyed farmboy – was rudely roused from his sleep by a hellish young child. The farmboy’s fixed the imp a fearsome glare of righteous anger and frightened the little hellion out of his continence. Satisfied, Tobias wandered back to the dining car.
Tala, A taciturn Comanche in native dress had entered as well; looking as rail thin and half dead-with a face etched by years of hard travel and eyes staring at something that wasn’t quite there.
The gathering crowd of eccentric and well-armed travelers drew in the attention of Denise Merritt - a freelance journalist. She struck up a conversation with Tanya, which turned sour as Ms. Merritt began to doubt the young women’s talent and experience. Tanya was left with a warning for caution when traveling in the West.
Unbeknownst to any of the other passengers, Raul receives a dark premonition a moment before disaster struck.
A sudden and explosive crash shook the train and turned the cars onto their side. Tala, following his oath, lept to the aid of Ernestine and Tanya, who had received minor injuries in the wreck. By laying his hands and muttering a chant, their cuts and sprains were removed. Then, with a shocking spryness, Tala climbed through the shattered windowpanes of the dining car to take in the damage.
The engine had disappeared into a chasm that was spanned by a tressel, now only smoke and wreckage remained. Then Tala spotted a gang of armed bandits emerging from the woods and advancing on the overturned railcar.
Tala leapt back down and warned the others of the trouble approaching. Tanya, Tobias, Ettiene, Raul pulled their pistols. Ernestine to the surprise of the her fellow passangers revealed that instead of a hand she wielded a gatling pistol grafted onto her wrist – which had been cleverly hidden in the folds of her sleeves.
There was a firefight! Ettiene and Ernestine dispatched a trio of bandits attempting to enter the rear of their car. Tobias and Tanya took out several more coming through the front. Raul climbed on top of the overturn car, blasting away at thugs in the woods beyond while bullets whizzed past. Tala, meanwhile took to scrounging the food spilled from the larder admist the gunplay.
Raul jumped over to the passenger car. Through the shattered windows he saw 3 more bandits had taken some of the passengers at gunpoint. With a fierce and withering glare, Raul unnerves the bandits enough for Tanya and Tobias to make easy work of 2 of them, leaving the 3rd fleeing for his life. Uttering words of biblical wrath, Tobias strikes the fleeing bandit blind.
Back in the dining car, Etienne and Ernestine had the last bandit nearly overcome. The robber chuckled ruefully, dropped something and fled. Etienne put a final bullet in the villain. Ernestine stepped out to inspect what had been dropped. Etienne, seeing it first and reacting quickly dragged Ernestine back inside the car and underneath a table as the stick of dynamite exploded.
The posse recovered from the blast and began accounting for the other passengers and crew of the train. Tala climbed over the ravine ledge and found the remains of the engineer and fireman. Tobias said prayers for the slain bandits. The passengers were minimally injured, but several crew members were missing – furthermore, so was the baggage car and the caboose.
Tanya had restrained the last remaining bandit, suffering a gutshot and struck blind. Tanya and Raul questioned him, only finding out that he belonged to the Clarkson gang and that the missing baggage car and caboose wasn’t part of the plan. Once they were finished questioning him, Tala addressed the injuries of the bandit.
Etienne asked the cook - the only remaining crew, if he had anything that belonged to the porter – one of the missing crewmembers. The cook produced a borrowed deck of cards and Etiene cast his eye to see if he could locate the owner. He had a vision of someone or something moving quickly through the forest. Etienne inspected down the rail of the track, which was on a slight grade downhill from the accident and could spy nothing.
One of the passengers, a well-dressed Yankee was particularly upset about the missing baggage car. She introduced herself as Laura Giles and offered a small reward to the posse if they were to find and recover it. Tobias, without so much regard for her offer began walking down the rail – Ernestine rushed to join him as the sun began to set.
How will the posse survive in the harsh wilderness as darkness begins to fall? Will they discover the fate of the missing train cars, and find out what happened to the rest of the crew? Find out in the next month’s Terrifying TRUE Tales of the West!