Like now, for instance. I knew these boys were going to be trouble when I joined up, I just knew it. And sure enough, I’m right.
I start thinking about drawing my other Colt .44. If there’s one thing my useless pa taught me, it’s that two guns are always better than one.
Here’s what’s going on.
Boyce is standing over by the safe, his face slowly turning red. Just inside the door of the train car is Timmons. He’s soaking wet. Head to toe.
And so’s the bundle of dynamite in his left hand. Our only dynamite.
That bad feeling in my gut gets a whole lot worse.
“What in tarnation happened?” Boyce yells.
That’s a dumb question. It’s obvious what happened. This whole stretch of railroad tracks is flooded from the recent rains. Half of Timmons’ body is covered in mud. Clearly the purblind fool hit a boggy spot and went down.
I’ve half a mind to shoot him myself.
“It ain’t my fault, Boyce,” Timmons whines. “It was an accident. Coulda happened to anybody.”
“But it didn’t, did it?’ Boyce growls, advancing on Timmons. He’s got his six-gun gripped in his big fist. Just like we all do. It’s a train robbery, after all, and you don’t rob a train with toothpicks. Grady and I exchange looks. I can see in his eyes he’s thinking what I’m thinking, that Timmons is about an owl’s whisker away from getting some lead in his gut.
Timmons must be thinking the same thing because he takes a step back. But he’s standing just inside the open door and when he does, one heel goes off the edge and he starts to fall backward, arms pinwheeling.
Real quick I take a step forward and grab his arm and steady him. Maybe the dynamite can still be saved. Maybe it’s not as wet as it looks.
Grady’s standing by the door leading up to the front of the train, where the passengers—and the U.S. Marshall. Very important not to forget the U.S. Marshall—are, takes that moment to speak up. “No need to get hasty, Boyce. Won’t fix nothing to shoot the boy for being clumsy.”
Grady’s a solid man, about halfway past five feet, with a thick neck and watery blue eyes. He doesn’t raise his voice much, stays pretty calm as far as I can see. I’ve only been riding with these boys a couple weeks, but I guess I got a pretty good bead on all of them. A man needs that skill, in my line of business and considering my heritage and all.
“You sure about that?” Boyce turns toward Grady and his gun turns with him, so now it’s pointing at Grady. Grady’s eyes kind of slit down a little. Most men don’t cotton to having a pistol pointed at them.
“Ever’ minute we stand here is one minute less to run from the posse,” Grady says. As if to prove his point a couple shots ring out outside the train car.
“Who’s in charge here anyway?” Boyce says in a low, dangerous voice. “You fixing to give the orders now, is that it?”
For a moment I’m not sure what Grady’s going to do. I see the muscles along his jaw tighten and I get ready to jump out the open door. Being in a gunfight in the close quarters of a train car isn’t at all something I look forward to on an ordinary day.
Then Grady licks his lips kinda slow and shakes his head. “Ain’t like that t’all, Boyce. You know that.”
“I’d like to know,” Boyce says loudly, “how we’re s’posed to get that payroll now. I’m open to ideas, you might say.”
He points his gun at the safe as he says this, in case any of us forgot. It’s one heckuva safe, I gotta say that. Made by some company out of New York, says so in fancy gold letters right on the front. It looks about as solid as a mountain. Once again, I consider jumping out the door. Just get on my horse and ride away. This ain’t going at all like we planned.
“You got any ideas, Grady?” Grady shakes his head.
“How about you, Slow Eye?”
Slow Eye’s standing by the other door, the one that leads toward the back of the train. He’s a skinny feller with one eye that never wants to point in the right direction. His hat is a shapeless mass of sweat-stained felt, shoved down tight on his head, greasy curls of black hair jutting in every direction from under it.
“Why would I know?” he wails. “I ain’t the brains of this outfit. I’m just here to shoot those you say need shootin’.”
“Well, I know numbnuts there has no idea,” Boyce says, dismissing Timmons with a look of scorn. “That leaves you, half-breed.” He looks at me. “You got any ideas?”
Now, that riles me right off. I don’t like being called half-breed, even if it’s what I am. Half-Apache on my ma’s side, half-white on my pa’s side. A man hears that term used on him poorly enough times and he starts to take offense, you know what I mean?
But, it ain’t the worst thing I’ve been called since I left the tribe and started moving amongst the white-eyes and I’ve learned enough to know that that a half-breed with a thin skin dies fast out here in the world. So I keep how I feel off my face and answer as calm as a can.
“Yeah, I got an idea.”