The Posse was motivated by many things: One, a desire for redemption. Another, a mysterious vision quest. Another sought adventure and knowledge unforeseen. Another sought only to keep having the time of their lives. Another was simply doing a job. And one sought to learn all there was to learn about the world and his own strange self.
So, was it the money that had the Posse agreeing to the job? Perhaps, but it seemed there was more to it. Dr. Hedgewig, for example, sought to expand his repertoire of scientific endeavors, and demanded that he be allowed to work on the No. 6 train in an effort to improve on what he called “an inferior design” before he agreed to the job. Ruckus, naturally, demanded a larger cut of the money. Reverend Dallas, who normally did not care about money, accepted the job almost immediately. Walks With Moonlight was intrigued by Black River’s “women only” policy, and agreed to the job on the condition that a position in the Witches opened up if nothing better came along. One can only surmise at Doc Pinket’s happy-go-lucky acceptance of the assignment. But Leo had more unconventional interests…
After departing Mina’s railcar, Leo Nighthawk stayed behind to ascertain the true meaning behind Mina’s desire for the scroll. He had deduced the scroll’s origins, if only vaguely: The scroll was of Mesoamerican origin, but it seemed to predate many of the ancient cultures prevalent by at least a few hundred years.
Mina hinted to the wily huckster that she had an interest in the scroll beyond just a taste for archaeology. In fact, she strongly hinted that the scroll itself may contain a secret of untold power. Leo surmised that Mina was in fact a huckster in her own right. Was he correct? Mina wasn’t telling, so the slick gambler from Louisiana would simply have to wait and see.
Outside, Doc Pinket said a temporary farewell to the party:
Pinket: “Well, y’all, I got me some minor business to take care of, so I will meet you in Denver ‘tomorrie’. Take care now!”
With that, the mysterious snake oil salesman vanished into the night, but vowed to meet up with the group once again. Never once did he say WHERE he was off to, but it seemed the Posse trusted the strange old man to meet them in Denver, as if somehow, there was more to Doc Pinket than met the eye. Still, that story would have to unfold later.
The Posse proceeded on to the No. 6 Engine, nicknamed "The Black Phantom, which was situated just outside Dodge City on the Black River Railroad’s Western railhead. There, a group of the Wichita Witches had gathered to demonstrate a few knife-tossing skills. Although Leo tried to ingratiate himself into the ladies’ company…and possibly into their beds…they seemed nonplussed and almost agitated by Leo’s presence. Walks, however, seemed a natural fit into the group. She quickly demonstrated a skill at knife-throwing, besting one of the Witches handily and with almost no effort. Leo even decided to make a wager on Walks that she could outscore any of the women, and came away with a little extra spending money!
Dr. Hedgewig, meanwhile, immediately set to work on “improving” the No. 6 with his own unique skill at science and engineering. All the while, Ruckus kept badgering the undead scientist with an idea for an armored duster that would allow easier carrying of Ruckus weapon of choice, dynamite. Hedgewig seemed irritable, moreso than usual, and seemingly only agreed to Ruckus’ request to get the burly mercenary off his back.
Reverend Dallas arrived shortly thereafter with the Posse’s horses and equipment. But a strange noise caught his attention on the other side of the No. 6 opposite Hedgewig and Ruckus. The Reverend went to investigate along with Ruckus and discovered a gang of thugs accosting the engineer, with one of the thugs planting something beneath the train! With a quick intervention, the two men scattered the ruffians, but the Reverend wanted answers. He quickly fired a shot from his Winchester ‘76 into the path of one of the men, stopping him in his tracks. The Reverend commanded the men to either tell him what they were doing to the train, or they could tell Ruckus! Ruckus punctuated the Reverend’s words with a quick hook to one of the men, dropping him like 3rd period French.
The thugs quickly folded like a house of cards and explained that they were there on the order’s of Joshua Chamberlain, owner of the Union Blue Railroad and one of Mina’s chief competitors! Dr. Hedgewig recovered some sort of tracking device from under the engine, and the Reverend, deciding to err on the side of honor, ran off the men with only a few bruises inflicted by Ruckus during the course of the interrogation.
The engineer, named Abner Duncan, was grateful to the Posse. He greeted them warmly and offered a tour around the Black Phantom, and the Posse was happy to find that they would be riding in one of the most luxuriously appointed rail cars in the Weird West! Hot coffee and water from a steam boiler, silk sheets and a full wardrobe, even a pool table!
Dr. Hedgewig completed his improvements to the engine, and soon the Posse was underway, enjoying the fruits of being favored Black River employees.
An hour into the trip, it was apparent to the Posse that the train was comfortable, yes, but now with Hedgewig’s improvements, it was fast…REALLY fast…..uncomfortably fast, maybe?
The Posse enjoyed a few rounds of pool, discussed the case at hand and enjoyed a friendly camaraderie…except for Hedgewig it seemed. The mad scientist seemed lost in thought and disinterested in company, but before anyone could mention it to him, Walks With Moonlight commented about the train’s speed. She asked if it was safe to be going this fast, and that’s when all Hell broke loose.
Dr. Hedgewig appeared overcome by a crippling discomfort, as if trying to toss off some iron shackles. Panic appeared in the doctor’s eyes, and for a moment, it seemed that Hedgewig was not in control of his own body! In fact, Leo noticed a sinister green light creeping out from behind the eyes of the mad scientist.
Hedgewig: (straining with effort) “Made….train…..fast…….no…….brakes!”
With horror, the Posse realized that they were on a runaway train, they leapt into action….sort of.
With the speed of the train and the jostling movements, standing up proved incredibly awkward. Only Walks With Moonlight demonstrated a superior grace as she quickly ascended to the roof of the lounge car and made her way forward to see if she could stop the engine. Upon arrival, it was clear that the train wasn’t going to stopped up here. The engine was screaming out of control, popping rivets on the engine and spraying steam and ghost rock vapor all over the Weird West, and poor Abner Duncan heroically tugged at the brakes….only to have the handle come off in his hand! Abner told Walks With Moonlight that the train was approaching a curve, and there was no stopping the crash to come!
Meanwhile, Ruckus and Reverend Dallas attempting to strongarm the train coupling free, but it was no use. Even the mighty Ruckus wasn’t strong enough to budge the coupler. So, a tried and true method was employed….more dynamite!
Leo held on for dear life at the back of the railcar, barely noticing that Dr. Hedgewig was slowly backing out of the rear of the lounge car. The huckster turned and saw that Hedgewig was attempting to leave, and the undead scientist regarded Leo with a hellish light in his eyes and a twisted grin! Leo put the evidence together, and surmised that Hedgewig had been overtaken by the Legion of manitous in his body! The things wearing Hedgewig’s body leered at Leo and with a mocking salute, threw open the door to the lounge, ready to make his escape and leave the Posse to die in a fiery train wreck!
Leo, however, was having none of it. The huckster summoned his trusty Earthwrack hex once more in an effort to prevent the Harrowed scientist from making good his escape.
Walks With Moonlight quickly returned to the lounge car and leapt inside just in time to see Ruckus’ fuse ignite the TNT stuck into the coupler!
And Abner Duncan could only watch in horror as the multi-ton train approached the sharp turn at over 80 miles an hour!
(TO BE CONTINUED)