The next day dawned bright and sunny in Last Chance; it was as if the weather were trying to make up for all the trouble it had caused the previous night.
All the runners were up early, light knocks on the walls of their rooms bringing them all to congregate once more in Winterhawk's and Ocelot's room. 'Wraith's pocket watch indicated that it was only a little after 7:30 in the morning. "So we've got over four hours to kill before we go," Ocelot said. "What do we do with 'em?"
"I'm up for breakfast," Joe spoke up from his position by the window. "I can already smell it, and I'm hungry."
Kestrel nodded. "Me too. And maybe we can get some more information from talking to the other guys who live here."
Winterhawk appeared to be thinking about something else. His gaze snapped back to the present. "I don't think we should all go."
"Huh?" Ocelot looked at him strangely.
"To the clearing. I think it might look suspicious if we all went. I suggest two, three at the most. The others should remain in town and attempt to fulfill their roles.
Everyone nodded; it made sense. "Besides," Kestrel added, "we might scare those kids if we all showed up en masse. So who should go?"
"'Hawk should," Ocelot said. "The kid gave him the note. But who else?"
In the end it was decided that Ocelot and Kestrel should accompany Winterhawk to the clearing. As the new blacksmith's assistant, Joe would be too conspicuous in his absence, and 'Wraith, as a banker/assayer (they hadn't completely figured out which one he was supposed to be yet), would probably prove more intimidating to a couple of kids than two down-on-their-luck miners. That decision made, the runners retired downstairs, following the delicious scents wafting up from the kitchen.
If they had expected to talk to the other boarders, they were mostly out of luck. There was no sign of Charlie Smith or Silas Weatherby, although James Waring had beaten them to the table and was already filling his plate with eggs and bacon. "Mornin', lady and gents," he said agreeably through a mouthful. "Didn't expect to see you up this early, what with all the activity last night."
Kestrel muttered something about "—haven't quite gotten used to the place yet," and the five of them sat down. Mrs. McMurtry bustled in with another heaping dish of eggs, wished them a cheerful 'good morning' and headed back for the kitchen.
"Where's Weatherby?" 'Wraith asked, reaching for the bacon. One of the few advantages to being a temporary human was that he could eat meat, and he wasn't going to pass up the chance.
Waring shrugged. "Out with Grimmer, probably. They were workin' those poor guys all night once the rain stopped, gettin' that damn trestle shored up so they didn't lose any time." He looked at Winterhawk. "It was a good thing you were here, young fella, or we'd have lost a lot more good men than we did."
"I did what I could," Winterhawk murmured.
"What about Charlie Smith?" Ocelot spoke up when he saw that the mage wasn't in the mood for praise right now.
"I reckon he's upstairs asleep," Waring told him, glancing toward the dining room door. "He dragged in here about 5 a.m.—I know that 'cause I got up to answer nature's call and heard him clumping into his room, which is next to mine. I 'spect he'll be dead to the world until at least this afternoon." He looked around at the five of them. "So—what do you folks have planned for today? I guess you'll be wantin' to get started with your jobs, won't you? Except for you—" he added to Winterhawk. "You've already got started, it looks like. Hell of a thing on your first night in town."
Kestrel smiled at him. "Terry and I thought we'd take a look around, and get an idea of what's around here. Maybe we'll even go have a picnic."
Ocelot cast an odd look at Kestrel, but knew better than to contradict her.
"Picnic, eh?" Waring considered that. "It's probably still pretty wet after the storm last night—"
She shrugged. "Maybe we'll just take a walk, then. Do you know any good places to go walking around here?"
The storekeeper thought for a few moments, apparently feeding his mental processes with copious quantities of eggs. "Well..." he finally said. "If you go north out of town, there's some nice meadowland up there. Some folks think it's pretty. Me, I just end up gettin' chewed up by bugs whenever I go up that way."
"Hmm..." Kestrel appeared to be thinking over his suggestion, but then she looked up brightly. "I remember now—someone mentioned that Elkhorn Clearing was a nice place to go. Can you tell me where that is?"
Waring frowned. "Well, now, whoever was tellin' you that must have been pullin' your leg, ma'am. That's nothin' but a place where the kids go to play. Not usually this time of year, though. It's a bit far out of town when the weather's this touchy."
"Well, if the kids aren't there now, then maybe it will be a nice place." She smiled again; Ocelot couldn't help smiling too, though he hid it behind his hand. "Can you tell us where it is?"
"Sure I can," Waring said, shrugging. "Don't know why you'd want to go there, but—you just go south out of town on Main Street, then turn left at the first fork in the road. Head down that way about half a mile, then go off the road where you see a big rock right next to it. You'll see some trees off a few yards from the road, and the clearing's in there."
"Thank you, Mr. Waring," Kestrel said sweetly, then gave Ocelot a look meant to suggest to the storekeeper that they certainly had things they could do at the clearing.
Waring, unsure what to make of that, muttered something unintelligible and returned his attention to his breakfast. The runners ate in silence until he took his leave and departed, and then Ocelot grinned and clapped Kestrel on the shoulder. "Nice going."
"I think you've scandalized our Mr. Waring," Winterhawk added with his own smile. "But you've gotten the information we need. Well done."
Kestrel shrugged. "I'm not much good at that 'feminine wiles' stuff, but occasionally it comes in handy."
Information obtained, the runners finished their breakfast in a leisurely fashion. Mrs. McMurtry seemed pleased that they had healthy appetites; Joe, especially, was singled out for her approval, while she kept clucking around Winterhawk trying to encourage him to eat more. They bore her ministrations with good humor and managed to kill an hour and a half over the meal.
They spent the rest of the morning wandering around the town, learning where things were and identifying landmarks; all of them noticed that there were very few men of working age in evidence on the streets. Grimmer and Weatherby were likewise nowhere to be seen. When it got close to the time when Winterhawk, Ocelot, and Kestrel would have to leave, 'Wraith and Joe headed off to their respective places of business. The five of them agreed to meet back at the saloon in three hours.
Kestrel sighed as the three of them walked out of town. "What do you suppose this kid has to tell us about Grimmer? I still don't quite understand exactly what we're doing here."
"Me neither," Ocelot admitted. "But if it's anything like last time, things like this don't happen for no reason. If the kid has something to tell us, then I'll put money on the fact that it's important to what we're supposed to do."
"Which we still don't know." Winterhawk said, echoing Kestrel's sigh. He walked along for a few more moments, then mused, "I wonder what our two favorite scaly chaps are doing just now."
"I hope they're havin' better luck with it than we are, whatever it is," Ocelot said sourly.
Kestrel nodded. "I wonder if they're even together."
"Good question." Winterhawk shrugged. "I wouldn't even venture to guess what kind of situations the metaplanes would throw at a pair of Great Dragons. That's a bit beyond my area of expertise."
Ocelot was walking along listening to them when suddenly he got a strange look on his face. He turned to Winterhawk. "You don't suppose they're here, do you?"
Winterhawk raised an eyebrow. "I don't follow. Why would they be here?"
"And why wouldn't we have found them?" Kestrel added. "From what you guys have been saying, it sounds like the place is kind of self-contained, right? Wouldn't we have seen them?"
"Maybe we have." Ocelot looked at her first, then at Winterhawk. "Maybe we're goin' to talk to them right now."
Winterhawk looked momentarily confused, but then light dawned. "You think those two boys are Gabriel and Stefan?" He frowned. "Hardly seems likely—why wouldn't they have contacted us? It doesn't make sense that they would be here and not recognize us."
"Maybe they did," Kestrel pointed out. "Maybe that's why they gave us the note."
"I don't know," Winterhawk said with a sigh. "P'raps you're right—it's certainly worth investigating. But if we confront them with the knowledge and they don't know what we're talking about, then it doesn't make sense that they'd be here unaware of who they are. I'm inclined to believe that Fate—or whoever else has set up these little scenarios this time—is just having a little sport with us."
Ocelot trudged along. "I'm not sure whether I hope you're right or wrong," he muttered.
Neither Kestrel nor Winterhawk answered that. They continued walking in silence, watching the landscape roll by. Any other day it would have been a pleasant walk: although the ground was still quite damp from last night's rains, the road wound its way through terrain that alternated between light forest and meadowlands. It was hard to tell what season it was at the moment, but their best guess was early spring—the earth was still caught in winter's grip, but just beginning to come to life again.
They found the large rock Waring had described without difficulty and left the road there as he had directed. They had to make their way through high weeds to reach the clump of trees, thoroughly soaking the cuffs of their pants. Kestrel and Ocelot, both wearing jeans and heavy work boots, weren't bothered, but Winterhawk's suit slacks and city shoes weren't faring nearly as well. To his credit, he didn't complain, though; he seemed focused on reaching the clearing.
No one else was there when they arrived. The clearing was not large, perhaps twenty by twenty feet, surrounded by trees with boughs that grew over the area, almost enclosing it. Winterhawk pulled out his pocket watch and consulted it. "We're a bit early."
Ocelot nodded, setting up a pattern of pacing designed to ensure that they weren't surprised by unexpected visitors. After a moment Kestrel did the same thing. Winterhawk took a seat on one of the smallish rocks in the middle of the clearing and waited. He would have liked to have used astral perception to determine when the boys were coming, but that was one aspect of magic that he knew didn't function on the metaplanes, for whatever reason. He had tried it just to be sure when they were back in their rooms, to no avail. A clairvoyance spell seemed like overkill, so he forced himself to just be patient and wait.
It was only about ten minutes later that they all heard slight movements outside the clearing. The movements stopped suddenly just at the edge, and a young voice called quietly, "Doc? You there?"
Winterhawk rose quickly from his seated position. "Here."
The two boys stepped around from where they had been hidden behind a tree. Their gazes swept over Winterhawk, Ocelot, and Kestrel, then continued on as if looking for others. "Where's the other two?" the younger boy, the one who had given Winterhawk the note, asked.
"They had to work," Ocelot said. "We're it."
The boys looked at each other, then back at the three runners. The younger boy nodded. "Thanks for comin'. We figured you might not, since we're just kids. We thought you might not believe us."
"Why wouldn't we believe you?" Winterhawk asked, sitting back down. "It's fairly easy to see that Mr. Grimmer is an odd duck. We thought p'raps you might be able to enlighten us as to the details."
The boys' expressions clouded a bit at Winterhawk's strange phrasing, but they shrugged and came closer. "Yeah," said the older one.
"By the way," Kestrel spoke up with a quick glance toward her companions, "I just realized we don't even know your names. I'm Juliana, and this is Terry. You already know Dr. Stone."
Again, the younger boy spoke; he seemed to be the leader of the pair. "I'm Mike. This is my brother Nathan. Our pa's Clarence Briggs. He works for the railroad. That's how come you were healin' him last night."
Ocelot looked them over. "You know, you guys look kind of familiar," he lied. "Are you sure we don't know you from somewhere? Maybe by different names?"
The two boys looked at each other in confusion, then turned back to Ocelot. "Beggin' your pardon, sir," Mike said, "but I'm afraid we don't know what you're talkin' about. We ain't got no other names, and we never seen you before yesterday. You came in on the stage, right?"
Winterhawk nodded. "So you don't recognize the names 'Gabriel' and 'Stefan', then?"
Mike frowned. "Nope. There's a guy named Steve who works for the horseshoer, and old Gabe Sykes—he's a prospector who lives up in the hills. But that's it."
"Okay," Ocelot said. "No problem. Must have you confused with somebody else. So what's this you have to tell us about Grimmer?"
Mike and Nathan Briggs exchanged glances; it didn't get past any of the three runners that they looked scared. Moving in closer to the runners and glancing around to make sure no one else was watching, Mike whispered, "I think there's somethin' bad about the guy comin' in on the train. And I think Mr. Grimmer knows about it."
Now it was the runners' turn to look at each other. "Bad?" Winterhawk asked after a moment. "Bad in what way, exactly?"
Mike took a deep breath and let it out slowly, thinking. "I'm—we're not sure. Not exactly." He shifted back and forth from foot to foot; it didn't take a terribly perceptive person to tell that he was holding something back.
Winterhawk lowered his voice, speaking softly and persuasively. "You don't have to keep anything from us, Mike. We're here to help. If there's something going on, best if you give us all the details. Otherwise we won't be able to see how to help you."
"Don't be scared," Kestrel added. "We won't tell anybody what you tell us. Nobody except our other two friends, and they want to help too."
Mike's frightened gaze moved from Winterhawk to Kestrel to Ocelot, and then lit on his brother. Nathan shrugged; he too looked fearful, and kept constant watch on the perimeter of the clearing. "Promise?" Mike finally asked, his tone hesitant. "This is gonna sound dumb. But we're not lyin'. I swear on our ma's Bible, we're not lyin'."
"Yeah." Nathan nodded. "Me too."
"If you don't mind my saying so," Winterhawk said, "you young chaps don't look like you're very good at lying. I think we'd be able to tell if you were—and none of us think you will." Ocelot and Kestrel nodded agreement. "So why don't you just tell us and let us be the judge of how dumb it does or doesn't sound?"
The two boys were silent for several seconds before answering. Mike looked down at his shoes, around the clearing again, and finally back up at Winterhawk. "We think he's gonna kill everybody in the town," he mumbled.
That was certainly not what any of the runners had expected to hear. They all stared at the boys, startled into speechlessness for a second or two. "What—" Winterhawk finally got out, "—what gave you that idea?"
"See? They don't believe us," Nathan said sullenly. "Just like I said."
"Wait a minute!" Kestrel held up her hands in protest. "Nobody said we didn't believe you. It's just a little hard to take—surely you understand that." She nodded toward Winterhawk. "Why don't you tell us why you think this is true?"
"We heard it," Mike said.
"On the telegraph," Nathan added.
"Hang on a second," Ocelot spoke up. "Start at the beginning. You heard what on the telegraph? And who was it from?"
Mike looked at Nathan, took another deep breath, and started speaking with frequent checks around the clearing punctuating his words. "It was three days ago. Mr. Peabody, who runs the telegraph office, sometimes pays us a little bit to deliver telegraphs that come in—you know, the ones that ain't too private. Nathan's been kinda hangin' around the office learnin' how to run the telegraph—Mr. Peabody don't mind, 'long as it ain't too busy. So anyway," he continued as he realized the story was getting off track, "we headed over there three days ago to see if Mr. Peabody had anything for us to deliver, but he wasn't there. Mr. Grimmer was there."
"Is this unusual?" Winterhawk asked.
Mike shrugged. "Sometimes some folks use it to send private messages that they don't want Mr. Peabody to see—Mr. Henry, the assayer, used to do that when there was a lot of gold comin' into town. We ain't never seen Mr. Grimmer do it, though. Anyways, Mr. Grimmer don't like kids much, so we didn't go in. But Nathan was curious about what kinda message he might be sendin', so we hid and listened." He paused, looking challengingly at the runners, as if daring them to make any comment regarding the morality (or lack thereof) of listening in on other people's conversations.
None was forthcoming. Winterhawk, Ocelot, and Kestrel remained silent, their full attention on the boys.
"So we listened. Nathan didn't pick up everything, but Mr. Grimmer was sendin' a message to his boss. Somethin' about, 'everything's almost ready, and when you get here, everybody in town'll die just like we planned.'" He turned to his brother. "Right?"
Nathan nodded. "Yeah. That's not it exactly—it was kind of fast and I'm not that good yet. But that's mostly it. The part about everybody dyin' I'm sure of."
The runners looked at each other. "Why would he want to kill everyone in town?" Ocelot asked. "It doesn't make any sense. I thought they were tryin' to get the railroad set up so the town could be somethin' instead of just a wide spot on the map."
Mike frowned. "We don't get it either. But that Mr. Grimmer's mean. He don't care about any of the folks in town, as long as he gets his railroad done on time. If you folks hadn't been here, our pa woulda died 'cause of him."
Kestrel sighed, shaking her head. "It doesn't make any sense to me either. Killing off the people who are going to run your business—"
"Are there any secrets in town?" Winterhawk spoke up suddenly. "Anything hidden that someone might not want people to know about?"
The two boys thought about that for a moment, but both shook their heads. "There used to be a lot of gold up in the mountains, but there ain't been any new gold discovered for a year or so. That's why everybody's havin' such a hard time and havin' to work for Victory United." Mike shoved his hands in his pockets in dejection.
"I guess if there's any secrets, we don't know about 'em," Nathan added.
"All right." Winterhawk rose from his seat on the rock. "We'll have to think this over." Facing the boys, he smiled reassuringly. "Thank you for the information. We're not quite sure what to do about it yet, but I assure you that Mr. Grimmer or his mysterious boss won't be killing anyone else while we're around."
"You got that right," Ocelot said, slapping his palm with his fist for emphasis.
Mike's eyes searched the runners' faces. "Are you sure you believe us? You don't think we're just dumb kids?"
Kestrel nodded. "We believe you, Mike. Honest."
"Yeah," Ocelot said. "You might have just given us the piece of this puzzle that we're gonna need."
"What puzzle?" Nathan looked confused.
"Never you mind that," Winterhawk said briskly. "Now you boys had best be getting back to town before someone misses you. It won't do for anyone—especially Grimmer or Weatherby—to know we've been chatting."
The two boys nodded. As they turned to leave, Kestrel called after them, "One more thing?"
Mike turned back. "Yes'm?"
"You tell us if you hear anything else, all right?"
The boy smiled; the smile lit up his plain face. "Yes'm. We promise." And then they were gone.
"—So that's the story," Winterhawk told the assembled group. "Our young informants seem to think that the mysterious head of Victory United Railroad is the main culprit here, and I'm inclined to agree with them."
They were reunited again after 'Hawk, Ocelot, and Kestrel had returned to town and collected 'Wraith and Joe from their respective jobs. Fortunately business was slow, so no one missed the two of them when they left (and more importantly, no one had expected them to do any work in the time their friends had been gone). The five runners were now sitting in the back corner of one of the local saloons, discussing the latest developments over appallingly watered-down whiskey and a large bowl of peanuts. Between them, the three who had attended the meet had related the story of what the boys had said, and now they were knocking around the implications of it all. "This sounds a lot like that one we did last time," Ocelot said, mulling it over. "Remember—with the dinosaurs and that thing from the mine?"
"Maybe the metaplanes have an affinity for the Old West," Winterhawk said sourly.
"Sounds like we need to stop that train," Joe said, getting back to the subject at hand.
'Wraith nodded. "Prevent him from arriving."
"It still doesn't scan, though," Ocelot said, almost to himself. "Why would the guy want to kill everybody? Unless there's some kind of big hush-hush secret up here that he doesn't want anybody to know about, what would be the point?"
"Maybe there is," Joe said. He shrugged. "We haven't been here very long. What do we know?"
"Yeah," Kestrel pointed out, "but kids hear things. Who around here didn't know everything that was going on in your neighborhood when you were a kid? People talk around kids, because they don't think they're paying any attention. If something like that was going on, I'd bet that the kids would know about it, or at least have a suspicion."
"So why, then?" Ocelot sighed in exasperation.
"What difference does it make?" Winterhawk looked like he had almost surprised himself with his words.
Everybody turned to him. "Huh?" Kestrel demanded.
"What difference does it make why?" the mage repeated. "I think we've forgotten where we are. It doesn't necessarily have to make complete sense. It's a metaphor."
'Wraith nodded slowly. "Yes."
"Yes what?" Kestrel looked even more exasperated. "Why don't you old hands explain this to the newbie, huh? What's a metaphor?"
"Everything," 'Wraith said before Winterhawk could speak. "The train. The chasm. The boss."
"Right," Winterhawk said. "And it's really quite a transparent metaphor when one gets right down to it. I'm rather surprised we didn't see it more clearly before."
"Yeah," Joe broke in as he caught on. "The canyon is the chasm between us and the Horrors. The trestle is the Bridge. So the boss must be—"
"Whatever they sacrificed Gabriel's friend to bring over!" Kestrel exclaimed, rather more loudly than she'd wanted to. Then, more quietly after looking around to make sure no one had noticed her outburst: "Okay. I get it now. But—if this is a metaphor, does that mean that whatever it is isn't here yet? In the real world, I mean?"
"That's a good question," Winterhawk said, rising from his spot at the table and pacing around the perimeter, "and one I can't answer. I don't think anyone can just yet. But regardless, I think our mission is clear now."
"Stop that train from getting here," Ocelot said.
"Blow up the bridge," Joe corrected.
"Both," 'Wraith added.
Kestrel joined Winterhawk in pacing. "How are we going to blow up a bridge? I don't carry high explosives around in my back pocket—do you?"
"Bound to be some around here," Joe said. "Somewhere. If they're mining, they have to have explosives to open up the shafts."
"So all we gotta do," Ocelot said dubiously, "is find out where they've got the explosives stashed, break in, steal us some without blowin' our asses off in the process, get out to the trestle, and blow it up, all without anybody seeing us."
"That's about the size of it," Winterhawk agreed.
"Hey," Joe said, shrugging, "if it was easy, anybody could do it."
"So when do we do it?" Kestrel took another sip of her whiskey, wrinkled her nose, and put the glass down.
"Pretty soon," Ocelot said. "The guy's due in sometime tomorrow, isn't he?"
"So we'd best get to it before he gets here," Winterhawk said.
Everyone looked at 'Wraith. "No?" Ocelot said, giving the elf a funny look. "Why not?"
"Must kill him."
"Blow the bridge up while he's on it?" Kestrel demanded. "What about all the other people on that train?"
'Wraith's expression was resolute. "If we don't kill him, they'll rebuild. He'll come back. Same problem, later on."
That was the longest speech anyone had heard ShadoWraith utter in a long time; it must have been important. Winterhawk nodded reluctantly. "He's right. It'll make the whole thing about ten times tougher to pull off, but he's right. If we leave the boss alive, then he and Grimmer will just force these people to build the trestle again. They won't stop trying."
Ocelot sighed loudly and ran a hand back through his hair. "Next time, I'm going to Tahiti. That's all I got to say about it." Picking up his glass, he downed the whiskey in one long pull.
"Tahiti sounds lovely," Winterhawk agreed, "but I don't think we're going to find out what we need to know there."
Joe nodded. "We need to figure out where the explosives are, when that guy is getting into town, and how we're gonna set the charges so nobody sees us. And we've only got about a day to do it."
"We'd better get on with it, then." Kestrel rose. "Ocelot and I are the logical choices to check on the explosives, since we're supposed to be miners. Maybe we can get some of the old-timers to talk to us."
"And the three of us can try to talk to some of the railroad guys," Joe added, standing too and brushing peanut-shells from his lap. "Maybe they know when the train's due in tomorrow."
"And can tell us about that trestle," 'Wraith added. "Should go look at it if we can."
Winterhawk nodded. "Right—p'raps I can do a bit of magical snooping at the Victory United office as well, and possibly find out a bit more about what our Mr. Grimmer and his employer up to."
Finally possessed of a plan, everyone was anxious to begin implementing it. The rest of them stood up and together they threaded their way between the gaming tables and around the saloon girls, headed for the door.
Several clicks greeted them as they stepped outside.
"Well, now, if it isn't our gang of would-be saboteurs," came a familiar voice, oily and mocking.
The area outside the saloon was surrounded by seven men arrayed in a semi-circle, all of them pointing rifles at the runners. Spinning around toward the interior of the saloon, 'Wraith, Kestrel, and Ocelot immediately noticed that there were several more armed men inside, also pointing rifles at them. "What's this about?" Winterhawk demanded angrily.
Grimmer stepped out from behind two of the riflemen, a contemptuous grin on his face. Behind him, as always, was his lackey Weatherby. "What's this about, Doc?" His smile grew a bit wider. "I should think you'd know that, seein' as you were sittin' right there with the rest of these folks while they were conspirin' to blow up the hard work of these good townspeople."
"What the hell are you talkin' about?" Ocelot took a step forward, but stopped as two more of the riflemen trained their weapons on him. "You're crazy, Grimmer. Tell these guys to put the guns down and get the hell outta here before somebody gets hurt."
Grimmer chuckled, but it wasn't a happy sound. "Not half as crazy as you are. Are you sure you don't want to reconsider your statement? 'Cause Wilkins here—" he cocked his head toward one of the riflemen, whom the runners now recognized as having been fairly near them in the saloon while they were discussing their plan "—he heard you, plain as day, talkin' about how you were plannin' to blow up the trestle." He turned to one of the other gunmen, a middle aged gent with a star pinned to his shirt. "Sheriff, if you'd be so good as to lock up these folks, we can get about our work in peace."
The runners exchanged glances, but there was nothing they could do. Without armor or easy access to their own weapons, there was no chance that they were going to take down all the gunmen before being killed themselves. Grimmer had been prepared, that was certain. The sheriff stepped forward. "You're all under arrest," he said. "For conspirin' to blow up the railroad bridge. Come along peacefully and nobody'll get hurt."
As the ring of riflemen moved in a little closer, the sheriff circulated among the runners, divested them of their guns, and snapped handcuffs on them. Ocelot glared at the man and struggled a bit, but it was no use. Finally he sighed and allowed himself to be cuffed. "What are you gonna do with us?" he demanded.
"I assume we get some sort of trial," Winterhawk added.
Grimmer chuckled again, but the sheriff glared at him and then turned his attention back to his prisoners. "Yeah, you'll get a trial—in a couple days, after the trestle's finished and the first train's arrived." He waved his men forward. "Take 'em to the jail, boys, and lock 'em up good."
The line of prisoners and their keepers heading down Main Street toward the jail building captured quite a bit of attention from the townspeople; many of them came out of their homes or businesses to watch the five runners being led down the street. The runners ignored them, being much more intent on trying to find a hole in their captors' defenses so they could make a run for it. They found none. The gunmen were very good and very vigilant; not once did they take their attention away from their charges. All the runners feared that if they tried anything their friends might suffer for it, so they remained in line.
"This bites," Ocelot muttered under his breath to Winterhawk, who was next to him. "We ain't gonna do any good stuck in jail."
"I don't think this is over yet," the mage replied in the same tone.
"I sure as hell hope you're right. I just—"
"No talking there!" the man nearest Ocelot ordered, prodding him with the end of the gun. "Just get moving."
Ocelot sighed and shut up, fighting his natural impulse to kick the guy in the teeth. This is just great. Some bunch of world-savers we are.
He didn't see the two dark-haired boys hiding behind a water barrel, watching them go by, nor did he see the worried glance they exchanged as they hurried away.
Copyright ©1998 R. King-Nitschke. The Shadowrun universe is the property of FASA Corporation.
No part of this story may be reproduced without permission from the author.