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Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Chapter 4 of Train to the Sun


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Chapter Four of Train to The Sun


CHAPTER FOUR


Next morning I was on the trail before sunup.  The trail out of Tucson was wide for the first couple of miles, then narrowed a bit, as it went east and followed the railroad, then eventually it was just the track.  Mile after mile of twelve by twelve by eight foot railroad ties, spaced evenly apart.  Steel rails spiked to the ties.  The morning sun reflected off of the steel no matter which way I faced east.  I pulled my dirty old hat down over my eyes, gave Paint his head and rode easy in the saddle, dozing most of the time.  


I dreamed in short spurts about Will.  Will and I working together, straining hard on barbed wire, digging through sand and rock to set fence posts, shoveling for days to make a watering hole, eating meager rations and hoping our herd would expand enough to make it through the next season.


During my woke up hours I thought about what I was going to do.  I realized that without help I probably would not be able to maintain the spread.  Best thing to do, I thought, would be to round up the herd, drive them to the nearest ranch, and sell them for whatever I could get.  Then pack up my meager possessions and move back to Tucson, maybe take that job as deputy.  


The idea of finding Will’s killer kept haunting me.  
I made better time going back than I had riding towards Tucson after finding Will’s body.  I had more supplies, more water and was rested.  Paint was rested too, and we made it back to the water tank in ten days.  I stopped and dismounted next to the pile of rocks, sat down on them, took off my hat and poured a little water on my bandana to cool my face.  That’s why it happened that I had my bandana in my hand when I heard the train.  It was a long way off yet, but I could feel it.  I walked to the track, holding on to Paint’s reins, knelt and put my ear to a rail.  I could hear the steady rumbling sound coming through the steel.  My guess was the train was five miles out.  I got on Paint and rode a short way out through the sand, found a place where the wind had piled up a dune and rode behind it.

I pulled the Colt and examined it.  It was fully loaded.  I pulled the bandana up over my face and tied the knot securely behind my neck and waited.
When the train stopped and the engineer got out to refill the water tank I rode to the first car fast and swung off of Paint onto the steps, holding the rail.  I tied Paint to the rail and walked down the aisle of the cars, Colt in my right hand.  I found Chester Peak in the second car.


“Why’d you shoot Will?” I asked him through the bandana.
“What?  Who are you?  I didn’t shoot anyone!” he said, adamantly.
“You know who I am, and you know who Will was.  He’s buried out there under that pile of rocks.  I want to know why you robbed him and shot him, you’re gonna tell me, then I’m going to put a bullet in your fat gut and let you die like you let Will die.”
“Now, nn..nn.now hold on there…”


“Start talking!”
“You…you’re the man who brought that sick man on the train!”
“And you’re the one who shot him,” I said.
“Now wait just a minute,” Chester said, sweat popping out suddenly on his face.  “I remember you.  But I didn’t shoot your friend.”
“If you didn’t, who did?” I asked grabbing his shirt collar and pulling him closer, the barrel of the .44 against his chest.


He moved as if trying to get away but my grip on his collar was too tight.  He gagged a bit, then tried to speak, gagging again.  I let up on my hold so he could talk.
“Spit it out,” I told him.
“There was another feller in this car,” he finally said, still coughing.
“And?”
“I found the note in your friend’s pocket.  I read it and put it back,” he said.  “I got to feeling guilty about your grandpa’s watch so I stuck that in his pocket too.”
“Then you took him off of the train, under the water tank and put a bullet in his chest.”
“No….no..I didn’t do that!”


“Who did?”
“I believe it was the other feller who was sitting there!” Chester pointed across the aisle to the seat opposite where I’d left Will.  I vaguely remembered a tall thin man in a dapper outfit sitting there.  The man had worn fancy revolvers on a tool engraved belt under his vest. I remembered the grips on his pistols, they were silver.
“So did you see that feller shoot Will?”


“I didn’t see him, but he must have been the one who did it,” Chester said.
“What did you see?”
“I left your friend there in the seat,” Chester told me.  “When I came back he was gone.  The other feller was gone, too.  I returned to the caboose, looking in all the cars for your friend.  He wasn’t on board.  Then I saw the fancy dude get on right behind the engine.  That was just as the train started to move again.”
“Did you ask him about Will?”


“I said, ‘do you know where that man is that was sitting here?’ and he grinned at me and said, ‘it aint my day to watch your passengers, fat man’ so I went on about my business.”
“Are you telling me the truth, Chester Peak?  Cause if I find you lied to me, I’ll find you again.  I swear I’ll beat you half to death and shoot you the rest of the way!”
“I…I..I’m telling you the truth!” he said.  “I’ve got a wife and a new son back in Cleveland.  I swear I’m not lying to you!”


I let go off his shirt and spun on my heel.  The train was starting to move again, slow.  I walked towards the handrail where I had tied Paint.  As I passed through the next car I glanced to my left and saw a man standing there.  He had on a pair of blue pants like Chester Peak’s, a white shirt and a blue vest.  His hat was similar to Chester’s but without a badge.  


In his hand was a large canvas bag, he extended it towards me.
“Take it, Mister.” He said.  “Take it, but please don’t shoot me.  I’m new on this job, and I aint armed.”


I could tell he was nervous from the sound of his voice.  What puzzled me was why he was trying to give me a canvas bag.  The train lurched just at that point and he dropped the bag at my feet.  Instinctively, I picked it up.  Thinking that the train was moving a little faster, I hurried towards the spot where Paint was tied.  By now the train had picked up considerable speed.  Paint was trotting at a fast pace to keep up, the reins tied to the rail.  I untied them and shoved the Colt in my holster, grabbed the saddle horn and swung out and over, landing in the saddle, my right hand still holding the canvas bag.


I raked spurs across Paint’s haunches and reined him hard right.  He jumped and his forefeet slid a little as he landed in sand and rock on the track bed. Then he bolted and we were speeding off at a fast gallop away from the train.  I heard shouts behind me, then the sound of gunfire.  


It didn’t occur to me that anyone would be shooting at me.  
When a slug zipped close enough to my ear to sound like a mad bumble bee, I slapped the reins between Paint’s ears and he turned it up a notch.  We were soon far enough away that the shouts and shots were faint and far behind us.
As sure as I’m telling you this, I still hadn’t considered what was in the bag or why I was being shot at.  


It was only when I reached my dilapidated shack a day later that I opened the bag and found the money.  I counted it and there was nearly $3000 in cash.  Slowly, like stink off of a horse apple, it dawned on me.  I had robbed the train.  I hadn’t meant to rob any one, let alone a train.  But nevertheless, as I stood there with both hands full of cash, I realized that I had, indeed, robbed the train.  That man in the funny blue suit must have been the railroad paymaster, taking money to Tucson to be transferred west for payroll.  


No wonder they were shooting at me.  I was a highwayman.  A rail rod.  A bandito.  Me?  I’d never stolen a thing in my life and hadn’t intended to this time.  But I was a thief, never-the-less.  Train robber!  I thought about what Dewey Bradshaw had told me about wearing a mask.  If I’d NOT been wearing that danged bandana around my face, the paymaster wouldn’t have handed over that bag of money.  


Well, there was just one thing to do.  Take it back.  
But I had a lot of work to do before hand.  Now I had no choice.  I rounded up as much of the herd as I could find, packed some grub and water, and slowly looked around the place before I climbed on Paint and swung a rope and let out a yippee-cay-yee.  The herd started moving slowly at first then trotted a few hundred feet before settling down and following a longhorn steer towards the nearest ranch which was nearly twenty miles away, along the Gila river bed.  If I could get ten dollars a head for the twenty or so I was driving, I’d be happy.  I realized that isn’t what Will would have wanted me to do, but then Will’s dead.  I had to think of myself, and somehow find a way out of being a hold up man, train robber, and bandito.  And, too, I wanted to find the dirty pole-cat that killed Will.


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