Like the sound of some ungodly beast was trying to break free of the very gates of hell, the engine rattled and convulsed before the driver allowed the train to come to a rest at the station.
This was always the when the old Dragon bellies as the conductors called them grew hungry for a new piece of fuel and had been pushed on despite the lack of resources.
Denzel didn’t know if it was the metal expanding or retracting due to the lack of heat, or if the train was some starved horse that was digesting what nourishment it could, but it made him aware that he had come in just at the right time.
As the passengers exited the train and went about their business moving their luggage Denzel kept his eyes fixed for a certain figure he had not seen for a month. Then, just as he thought he got the wrong time several men in black suits exited from the private compartment.
With a flick of his fingers Denzel threw the cigarette aside and took in a breath, it was best to get this over with and fast.
Among the men in black one stood out and like a rattlesnake on a mouse narrowed his gaze on Denzel’s. “Ah, Mister Beaton.” The owner and chairman of Paragon Rail opened his arms wide and embraced Denzel’s hand like he was an estranged brother. “How are things going these days. It’s been what? A two months since we last ran into each other?”
“More like six months, Mister Kellerman.” Denzel said allowing his client to pull away first.
Mister Kellerman had grown several new grey hairs since the last time the two had conducted business. Un like the other railway tycoons Kellerman had made it his business to be there in person when large transactions was being made. It was one of those personal touches he wanted to make.
Denzel could respect that about the man, unlike the other kings of industry Kellerman didn’t treat his workers like they were some necessary evil. Of course he didn’t pay them any better but at least he was more active than those others that didn’t care where the money came from or who got hurt just as long as their wallets were overflowing and their glasses were never dry.
“Howdy, Mister Kellerman.” Denzel said with a smile. “Sorry about you coming down here. One of Wolfgang’s men didn’t like me parting ways without a few more words.” The bump on Denzel’s head made its presence felt as Denzel recalled what those last words included.
Upon hearing Wolfgang’s name Mister Kellerman’s expression grew dark.
The term cutthroat was a term used lightly among the less experienced in the ways of business but it was an apt one, there was nothing civilised about a little friendly competition when it came to making money.
“I trust you have my package Mister Beaton, and you did not just ask me to come down here to discuss your shortcomings.”
One of the men in black that accompanied the tycoon adjusted his gloves; from the way he did this Denzel was reminded of a boxer. If Kellerman had heard of anything less than a good report Denzel had this odd suspicion violence was going to be an very possible outcome.
“Wolfgang’s men made off with the merchandise sir.” Before Kellerman’s thugs took the initiative Denzel spoke quickly. “But I think you might have a few things that might interest you.”
The thugs eyed their boss and searched for conformation, you could tell from the looks in their eyes that they were nothing but a pack of dogs that were just begging for a chance to rip something apart.
With their history together Kellerman closed his eyes and breathed. “This had better be worth my time Mister Beaton. My babies are hungry.”
From out of his pocket Denzel produced a small item wrapped in a piece of cloth. “The bullet that shot all three of the Plicter family.” As if he was handling a stick of dynamite Denzel carefully handed the handkerchief to the closest thug. “Just something to get you baby over there something to nibble on while you wait for your next train.”
The Plicter family were crew that liked to hurt women in this little lawless part of Nevada. Only one day they went a bit too far with one lass, killed her husband with the bullet for no reason than he was a different colour, and then torched a barn. Their mistake was not in killing the woman they had tormented.
The woman became known as bullet Martha, a nasty piece of work that liked vigilantism and her husband’s forty-five calibre, a few of the train barons owed their ivory canes to that hell cat.
“Legend went that the bullet would always find its victim’s heart.” Denzel informed his client.
The tycoon looked to his largest thug and nodded to the train. “Wake the professor. I trust you have more for me than a bullet you could just mail to me in the post.” Kellerman raised up the bullet that could keep the locomotive he just came off going for about a week.
“At my hotel room, Sir. Just get ready the safe cracker for your wallet.”
A greasy smile overcame Denzel as he and Mister Kellerman’s cronies were escorted to his hotel room, the scavenger of the wastes couldn’t help it. This was what he had been waiting for, the pay day to end all pay days.
Behind Denzel, surrounded on all sides by gorillas in business attire was the professor. Denzel didn’t ask what type of professor he was; historian, occult, urban legends, all he knew was that he was in Kellerman’s pocket and looked as ten year old girl could drink him under the table. “And how many OCs do you think you have Mister Beaton?” The professor asked in Swedish accent.
OC was the base number for this specific kind of fuel. Denzel didn’t know the specifics or how people calculated the damn things but apparently somebody could with the right equipment.
Denzel took this moment to pretend to calculate the sum in his head. The Plicter was worth about sixteen OCs. Roughly about five dollars on the open market and could take a small sized train from New York to San Francisco.
Funny when you thought about it. The accumulation of four men’s lives and the undying rage of a scorned woman equalled to a bottle of whiskey, that’s got to say something about how screwed up this country was.
The thought was gone when Denzel reached his room. “It’s about…” he stopped himself as his fingers scraped against the door handle. In the dry heat the the metal was ice cold.
In a fluid like motion Denzel’s very special 45 was raised and the hammer was gently pulled back.
Before the professor could open his mouth Kellerman’s thugs pushed him back and drew their own weapons. No words were exchanged but each understood from Denzel’s lack of a smile and the intense stare he held that something was wrong in that room.
There were men that sought violence, they breathed it in and were swept away by the carnage like a shark smelling the tang of blood. Denzel would have loved to say that he was not like these animal in pants, that he was a civilised man that could talk a man down with words and not his fists, but would not have been able to do so with a straight face.
There was no time to be polite, with one good kick Denzel broke into his own hotel room with his pistol ready.
Four men in duster clothes were in the process of rummaging around through Denzel’s truck. The thing was an old relic that had been drudged up from the times of the colonial wars, a lock box that had once carried gold or war bonds but had since been left to rot in a general store till Denzel adopted it, now it was a shadow of its former self.
The cold chill that had caught Denzel’s attention radiated from a teddy bear, that one of the looters were holding in his grubby mitts. It was amazing how such a cute, raggedy toy would have such a bloody history. From the sleepy eyed expression of the looter and the frostbite on his fingers, it looked as if the demonic stuffed animal wanted a bit more blood in its fur.
There was no pity for the amateur that had the lack of brains to pick up a cursed object from a pilgrimage gone wrong. Denzel points the gun on the looters and the expression of shock on the thieves’ faces turn to savage survival.
Whatever diplomacy there could have been flies away as the looter with the bear goes for his gun, even if his frost bitten fingers were able to pull the trigger he never would have made it.
The hammer of Denzel’s 45 dropped and the bed head was given a gory paint job.
Senses returned with the sound of gunfire, thieves were fast to draw and Denzel knew he was going to get a lead bullet for his trouble. The scavenger leapt forwards and used the bed for cover. Now out of the way the looters and the thugs had a clear line of sight of each other.
Gunfire became like rain with both side unloading their revolvers at one another. Denzel had to say he didn’t know if he loved or hated the American way of firing a dozen rounds at a man and praying one hits.
One of the looters managed to nail one of Kellerman’s men in the throat while they in turn were reduced to bloody messes.
It looked to be a miracle outside of Christmas as one of the thieves appeared to have had the privilege to be given a brain, either that or Lady Luck had raised her skirt to him. The moment he saw Kellerman’s crew he turned and jumped out the window like he was trying to fly with glass in his hair, he managed to hit a preacher that had come out of the hotel with a bottle in his hands and a sermon to attend.
Denzel might have laughed at that if the thief had not managed to snatch up an Indian necklace and gained the ability to remain unharmed from great falls, a nifty little trick when you’re escaping for your life and there is a horse in sight.
The violence had ended and it looked as if the maids were going to have a stroke some time in the future. The room had been given a wallpaper of bullets and gunpowder, the floor was drenched in blood, and there was no hope of Denzle using the bed in the near future.
Denzel watched from his hiding spot as the bodies hit the floor, should they stir he was there to delver a good lead round into what was left of their heads.
For just five seconds he eyed the dead looter that was currently leaking his brains on the floor, but time is a funny thing when your heart is trying to escape from that cage, time moves at its own pace and all Denzel can do is watch ruby red gore ruin the floorboards.
Satisfied that the dead were not going to rise for vengeance Denzel stood upon his feet and surveyed the situation.
Three of the thieves and two of Kellerman’s men lay dead, one had been given a lead kiss in the shoulder but he couldn’t complain when his companion was bleeding out on his shoes. As Denzel had not the pleasure of knowing any of them personally he gave not a tear to their passing.
The destruction of his trunk of valuables, however, had earned one of the dead thieves a kick to his stomach. The thing was a piece of history and was starting to absorb the silent screams of sacred objects it had once stored, give a month or two and it would have been milked and returned with its owner that slight bit richer.
“They Wolf’s men?” One of Kellerman’s men asked as he reloaded his pistol and stared down the corridor with suspicion, his face alone was enough to cause any curious sticky beak to slam the door.
Denzel doesn’t care, it wouldn’t be the first or last time somebody would try to snatch up his vault of treasures and it would not be the last. He held the silver medallion around his neck and thought deeply on his recent escape from death.
It was just something stupid, a hunk of junk he picked up when he was young and knew nothing about the supernatural. Like a man buying snake oil he had been caught up in the fancy designs and spat as found he had been suckered. Now he wore it as a reminder, and perhaps one day, if he was truly unlucky, something of his might rub onto it.
The excitement passed the sheriff is called, with luck the thief might get caught, but if the sheriff learns of the necklace there was a good chance it might disappear down his pocket. Every good lawman needs a good luck charm, but Denzel had learned it was the great ones that made their own.
Before the law comes knocking the objects are collected with care, Kellerman’s men do not take chances, even the mundane trinkets are treated like lit dynamite.
For a nickel the stable boy took a walk and business started.
Kellerman’s men don’t take chances and neither does Denzel. Somebody knew about the goodies in his trunk, perhaps it was another business man trying to intercept a shipment of train treats, or perhaps it wasn’t. Denzel was not sure what he feared more, he felt violated and in need of a drink.
The professor took out his own little piece of magic, to Denzel it was just a wooden box with a compass attached to it but it gave the final word when it came to his pay.
“A nail that always points to the moon.” The professor said and examined the his doo-hickey. “Five OCs.”
Denzel couldn’t help but smirk. He had pulled that out of an navel man’s coffin, he didn’t know or care what it bloody did. Five OCs? That was worth fifty cents.
Like lawyer heading out an accused man’s crimes the professor continued to read out Denzel’s stash.
A haunted pocket watch, gold fillings that vibrated when somebody swore, a pair of shackles that could only be opened by performing a good deed. All Denzel heard where the numbers in his head calculating OCs for cold hard dollars.
It was when the bear came up that Denzel could not help but raise an ear.
“Demonic toy. Hmm. Fifty one OCs.”
Denzel’s smoke escaped his mouth and hit the shit covered ground, “Fifty?” he shouted in outrage. He managed to get two steps before Kellerman’s men politely held him back, their expression indicated that Denzel would not want to pursue the matter further.
“We’re happy to return the bear Mister Beaton.” His smug smile was showing his inner thief.
“Man in Dairy said it was at least worth seventy five. Do you know how many people that thing has killed?”
“Seven Mister Beaton.” The professor informs him. “Not including the original owner or the man you took from it. You stopped it Mister Beaton before it had a chance to feed and you kept it contained.”
That would be right. Whatever force was inside the toy was having a temper tantrum and was laughing its head off the adult that took its meal from it. Kellerman was probably going to give it to some rival or worker and let it feast, it would not be the first time the tracks had been fed on blood.
With a pair of tongs from a blacksmiths the professor held out the bear to Denzel. “If you want, we can return the bear and we can try this again at a later date”
The urge to spread some violence in the stable was not far on Denzel’s mind but he would be a fool to take the professor’s advice. It was not the first time Denzel had killed a man over the cursed objects but he drew the line on feeding the damn things human life. Kellerman and those men like him might do so but Denzel was not that desperate or stupid.
In any rate, the toy was a pain and had been trouble at the start.
“Fine.” Denzel mumbled and pulled out his tobacco pouch.
With business concluded Denzel has handed two hundred dollars for the lot. It was good money for his wanderings of the great nation known as America, a place where legends were born everyday, and sold for booze and skip through a brothel.