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Gray Lace, Part 35

First, an author’s note: The spring season has caught up with my swamp. The alligators are numerous and the Mayflies are confused. The length of the lawn-grass worries my favorite gardener and our lake is often angry when the sea winds arrive from the Atlantic not far away. Still, I enjoy reading and writing on our pier as the birds complain that I’m interrupting their mating season, but the fish are on the bed so the stink is amazing. My WIP Draft #2 is complete and today is a break from 1908 Irish Gun Running. Today, I’ll “publish” the ending to Chapter Six of my Gray Lace, a 1908 mystery set in this swamp.

Gary Lace, page 65.

Jacob Newsome compliments Joann Garrett’s positivity and our group sets out on their Charleston adventure.

“Your attitude will get us far, Mrs. Garrett,” Jacob started a low hum of a lively tune before turning east toward the harbor. “Let’s go, my new friends. There’s a friendly retreat not far from here with warm breakfast made just for us.”

Ross Garrett mumbled, “In your dreams”

“Mr. Garrett, take a lesson from your pretty wife. If positive thoughts take seed, the plant grows.”

Ross stopped his forward march. When his friends realized he hadn’t kept up, they turned to face him with frowning facial questions.

“There’s something you should all know before any more danger and troubles head our way.”

“In the rain!” Trevor Coffman had his arm on his hip and his other arm lifted his rifle to his shoulder but pointed it to the soggy heavens. “Are you Americans still fighting that old war? It’s over!”

“Not for everyone,” mumbled Ross, “especially here.”

“Oh, good grief, shall we get out of the rain, feed our hunger, and make a plan? We need a successful campaign.” Trevor stared forward once again.

Catherine Randolf laughed and caught up with Trevor. Over her shoulder she told the Garretts, “He’s a bit wordy, but he’s right.” She faced forward and urged Jacob, “Lead on, Mr. Newsome.”


Enough for now!

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Our five characters have finally arrived, they have finally retreated from their uncomfortable freight car and stepped into Charleston of 1908. Finding necessities will be difficult, but not as elusive as friendliness, helpfulness, or understanding. They will have to rely on their strengths: intelligence, perseverance, and bravery. Tough to find attributes these days, let alone in that long ago, a slow healing southern town.

A nearby stranger’s hacking cough urged the five to silently jog behind huge piles of lengthy logs waiting for the sawmill. After several scurries around the yard, they approached the main gate, and the guardhouse rattled from the snores heard inside. They managed to scoot away and feel the freedom of the darkened streets of Charleston.

“Now where?” Ross reflected everyone’s willingness to bathe, eat, and rest. Not necessarily in that order.

“There’s a rooming house over there” Catherine pointed across the street and the porch light welcomed them into a decision. It took a while for someone to answer, but the answer to their request for two rooms turned the late evening positive.

“There’s room for the gents in my front room and you gals can have the upstairs small bedroom. Come in so I can shut out the cold.” The tall husky man who had answered their knock turned and seemed to expect them to follow. “There had better be five honest people behind me. I’m a captain on the Charleston police force and I need my sleep.”

He pointed to the backdoor and explained about the plumbing, a small house outside. “We’ll install indoor arrangements this year, I hope.” His sudden stop and turn caught their attention as he glared at Joann. “Sorry folks. She stays in the shed next to the outhouse,” he grinned and added, “There’s some old blankets out there.”

Jacob stepped forward with his wallet exposed and the bills forcing the leather to open. “Now, how much do the five of us owe you? There’s a discount, right? There’s a discount for a Jew and a beautiful half African?”

The silence thickened. The host softened his glare and it landed on Catherine. “Are you willing to sleep with her?”

She stepped forward and counted the hairs in his nose. “Willing, ready, and pleased to do so, any time, any place. Are there enough blankets for two in that out-building of yours?”

He hesitated, but finally answered with a shrug, “Suit yourself, young lady. Just don’t let it get around this town that you’re a … ” His sudden change of tune surprised no one. The red lines in his sleepy eyes turned blue with fear when the weapons came out. He held up his hands, “No need for those, gentlemen. We all need our sleep. Let’s get to it.” He turned, left the room, and ignored their sighs of relief.

Ross slid his arms around Joann and closed his eyes as Jacob and Trevor returned their pistol and knives to their pockets and sheaves. “Good God, woman, are you all right?”

“Of course, I am. That wasn’t bad. Remember, we’ve been through worse.” She kissed him for a quick wonderful moment, let him go, and turned to Catherine. “Come on then, faithful one, let’s check out our hard fought-for luxury suite upstairs.”

“Wait. We need to make plans,” Trevor sounded whiney even to himself.

Jacob sluggishly threw himself onto one of the worn couches. “Those can wait until morning, my friend. Kiss the pretty girl good night and turn down that lamp. Shouldn’t waste good kerosene.” His eyes closed and the others appreciated how tried their new friend must truly have been when his entire body seemed to deflate into slumber before their eyes.

“He’s right,” Catherine sighed.

“About what?” Trevor stepped as close as he could to her warmth.

“You should kiss me before I fall over.”

Trevor followed her directions and Joann planted a quick a second quick peck on Ross’s cheek before leading Catherine upstairs. The men settled on the second couch and a large, overstuffed chair and drifted toward sleep, while listening to their ladies briefly move about just above their heads.

From the back of the house heavy steps approached the front. “You folks be gone before sunrise.”

“The price includes breakfast. You must serve early,” Ross reminded him from his chair, while his hunting knife itched to appear from his belt.

“No breakfast,” he crossed his arms, expecting trouble. “Y’all paid extra to break the law.” He then turned the lamp completely dark. “No colored in this rooming house,” he mumbled.

In the pre-dawn light, a cold drizzle tapped on the glass as if in warning of a difficult day ahead. The five walked onto the porch and faced the street with baggage in hand. Joann announced, “Well, that went well.”

Enough! (Until later)

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Our characters, Catherine, Trevor, Joann, Ross, and Jacob are riding out the last few miles into 1908 Charleston in a logging company freight car. Catherine tries to release any obligations the others felt to keep her safe. However, they’re unwilling to back off. They’ve invested time, energy, and love in her. Jacob is presently only interested as he’s new to the situation.

(Page 62 in paperback)

Catherine absorbed as much oxygen as her lungs allowed and then let it all escape. “I need to confront an evil force bent on faking my kidnapping and probable death in order to obtain the fortune that had been left in a trust.” She explained to Jacob. She continued in fear over the racket caused by the slowing train. “The three goons are after me to return my dead body to my stepparents. They then will bribe the courts to release my money.”

Joann stood, shook off any dirt and crumbs from her skirts, and braced herself against the machinery. “One of the many lessons I’ve learned, child, is that you can’t always get what you want. Your stepparents are a bit spoiled, I’d say.” She checked out the expressions on the men. Turning to Catherine, she offered an alternative, “Let’s disappoint them.” She smiled her warm motherly face to Catherine.

“Adventure! Ah, I love adventures.” Jacob rubbed his hands together and stood up. “Do you have a plan, Mrs. Garrett?”

“Soon, she’ll have one soon,” Ross confidently answered. “So, are you with us, then?”

The train had slowed more, so instead of waiting for Jacob’s answer, they settled on the floor and hid, while they waited near the open door for the train to make a pass through another logging camp. Ross glanced out and estimated time of arrival into Charleston in less than an hour. “There’s those tall church steeples and the roads are wider. We’ll probably have to jump this ship just before it pulls into the lumberyard, or we’ll have to wait until dark. What do y’all think?”

“Exactly, my friend,” Jacob started gathering his cloth bags. “Let’s wait until dark. The crew won’t empty this car right away. These bags are my fortune, young Catherine. Nobody will bother to steal them,” he laughed before he added, “Except those who own less,” he winked at her and it sent a message of perseverance and an attitude of understanding priorities.

Their hunger and exhaustion made the waiting for dark nearly unbearable, but the hugs and smiles of encouragement made the time arrive for escape from their cold transport. The men jumped down on silent feet and the ladies passed down their weapons and sacks of meager supplies, and then they too jumped. Trevor caught Catherine by her waist and purposely slid her to the ground as slowly as she would allow. He landed a kiss, a warm slow kiss, on her lips and he thrilled at her willingness to stay in his arms.

Egad and Enough! (for now)

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Gray Lace, Part Thirty-two

Egad! If my theme, my brand, my whatever, is “Finding the Heart of the Mystery”, then today, The Feast of St. Valentine is an appropriate time to continue. Trevor and Catherine are finally arriving in Charleston, SC. With their friends, Joann, Ross, and Mr. Newsome, they begin to end their perceived problems. Sometimes it’s difficult to see down the road, paved with those good intentions or not so much.

Catherine helped Joann prepare a feast in their moving freight car and soon Trevor and Ross helped them devour their first meal of the long and fearful day. “Now, my friends, in the box on that machine,” Jacob Newsome pointed above their heads, “there is a bag of sweets a kind elderly gentleman made for me.” Ross retrieved the bag and divided up the candy. He carefully walked the few steps to Jacob and handed him a fair share.

“Thank you for giving us what is probably your fortune. God sent you to us and I thank you again.” He offered his hand in friendship.

Jacob took the bag and stored it in his pocket. “I’ll save it for a rainy day in Charleston. Thank you, Mr. Garrett.” He smiled up at him and they shook hands. “Am I correctly assuming that’s where you’re all headed, back home with Miss Randolph?”

“You’re assuming correctly, Mr. Newsome,” Trevor answered, as Ross returned to sit with Joann.

“So, if I may ask, what evil has brought you to my current mode of transportation?”

Catherine mentally sized up the strangeness of their situation. Here they sat in a cold rumbling cargo railroad car carrying on the politest conversation she had heard since fleeing Charleston. He thoughts of home brought up the ugly memories and her own objectives. These kind people should be far away from her nightmares. An idea began to form in the sleepiness of her mind. “Mr. Newsome, where are you headed?”

“Not sure, my dear, why do you ask?”

“Maybe the Garretts and Mr. Coffman, here, could help you find a shelter, perhaps some employment.”

Ross chuckled out a laugh, “You can’t get rid of us that easily. Have you forgotten The Three?”

“Three?” Jacob’s eyebrows headed north.

“Yeah,” Ross continued, “Our Catherine is popular with three men who’ve been bothering the dickens out of her since we met a few weeks back. There were four, but our good Mr. Coffman took care of one of them.”

“Well, that was a coincidence. Please allow a correction,” Trevor interrupted, “Someone else lost control of a bullet that was meant for me.”

Catherine had nearly forgotten Cranfield. Hopefully, he and the others had given up the chase. Right now, she needed to get Trevor safely away. “Listen everyone, Charleston is a port town and recently a navy base has opened. Ross, Joann, Mr. Newsome, could you not help Trevor to find his way there and possibly a ticket home?”

“Why would they want to that?” Trevor pulled her closer, a deeper embrace than they had been enjoying before.

She hid her face and mumbled, “I have something I have to do.”

“Yes, you do, but I’ll help you, Sweetheart,”

She lifted her head and hugged him back. “Trevor, from what I’ve read about your British aristocracy in this day and age, it is obvious you need to find an heiress. I am not her. Yet.”

“Obvious?” asked Trevor.

“Heiress?” Jacob joined in.

“Yet?” Ross whispered.

Joann pretended to wake and added, “Listen to the girl more often, gentlemen.”

Enough! more later. Maybe.

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Gray Lace, Part 31

Egad! I am back. I took a necessary “Pause” and now I am ready to write about Trevor’s and Catherine’s adventures in Chapter Six. The question remains, however, are you?

Catherine liked his manners. The freight car continued to rattle its way south through the Carolinas of 1908. She carefully observed their new passenger, actually, they were the new ones. Trevor, Joann, Ross and Catherine had jumped into his world. She wasn’t naive enough to think Mr. Newsome was necessarily better than sliced bread. That compliment is reserved for Trevor, she smirked. “Mr. Newsome, why does the law want your company?”

“You’re a brave lass. Well, young lady, I’ll answer your question if I could have your name, for proper addressing.”

Trevor interrupted, “I am Trevor Coffman, Mr. Newsome.”

Catherine could not stop her grin. Trevor’s defensive attitude reminded her of Killer Chicken.

“This young lady is Miss Catherine Randolph of Charleston and she is already spoken for. To my right are Mr. and Mrs. Garrett.”

“Thank you kindly, Mr. Coffman. You are a fortunate young man. Although, I noticed the surprised expression on your intended’s face. You might want to inform her of your proposal soon.” He laughed and then nodded to Ross and Joann, “Mr. and Mrs. Garrett, my pleasure. Now, to answer your question, Miss Randolph, the law is read differently in various regions of our fair land. In some parts of this country my Jewish heritage and practices are a thorn in the side of the law.” He sat down on the heavy blankets he had used and wrapped one around his shoulders. “Presumptions are often vicious. Isn’t that right, Mrs. Garrett?”

Joann had been sitting on the floor next to Ross. She turned her head from the group and buried her face against his chest in a hunt for protection.

“Listen here, Mr. Newsome, you’ll not insult my wife.”

“No insult intended, Mr. Garrett,” he held up his hand in a peaceful gesture. “I only meant to inquire on the well-being of a fellow sufferer.”

Trevor leaned forward to question Ross, “Is why the cook insulted her, because she’s African?”

“No, my friend,” Newsome answered before Ross could, “without knowing the cook of which you speak, I can tell from your delightful accent that you’re English and you and your countrymen are found of variety, more tolerant than most Americans, especially the back-wood type. That cook probably didn’t see her beauty. Only a few appreciate African or Jewish culture. Am I right, Mrs. Garrett?”

“She’s my “half-and-half” and I love her for it.” Ross protectively hugged her.

“Indeed, you do, my good man. Now folks, allow me to sooth this discussion by offering my meager supplies. Mr. Garrett, please explore that box you’re resting on. I’ve hidden some dried meats, cheese, carrots, and turnips. Help yourselves. I’ve already dined.” He leaned back and rested as the train rattled their bones toward Charleston.

Egad and Enough (for now)

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Author Notes

January, yes. Start over? No. Waiting? Always. Hopeful wishes for 2022? Of course.

I am still creating draft #2 of my historical novel, Countess of Change (working title, I might use it). Currently at 29,500 words, draft #1 is approximately 60,000. I have noticed that my characters demand more: description, action, and creatively inserted backstory. Good Grief. I thought I was the boss.

I set a goal every morning of at least 500 words and sometimes, I pleasantly surprise myself with more.

My revised Gray Lace novel should return from her editor soon. Checking email twice a day. Hence the dreaded waiting. Once here, I’ll need to make major decisions. Mainly, will I accept all, some, or none of the expected changes. Pun intended. My Countess in the aforementioned work will be chuckling. You might as well.

When next we communicate, I plan to restart my Gray Lace installments. Part 31? Where Catherine is headed to her Charleston riding in a freight car with friends Joann, Ross, Lord Trevor Coffman, and new arrival, Jacob Newsome.

A final word about hopeful wishes … agents. I hope to begin what I’ve read is an arduous task of query writing.

Egad and Enough!

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Gray Lace, Part 30

Trevor, Catherine, Joann, and Ross managed to “jump a train” from their lumber camp and Killer Chicken to Charleston. However, they are not alone in their freight car.

As the train rattled over the rails, Trevor struggled to sit up and surveyed his newest surroundings. Besides the Garretts, the lovely Catherine, and large pieces of logging equipment and supplies, there was the particular odor of human occupation. He found the source from the accompanying groan.

“What in God’s name is this, a convention?” An untidy speckled beard grinned up through several layers of heavy wool, “First Class full?”

The man sat up and swiveled around to face them, “Please allow me to introduce myself. I am known as Jacob Newsome, recently of Richmond, Virginia. Although, I did enjoy a bit of a stay in Plainville, North Carolina,” he bowed his head to the group. “Now, Ladies, due to a lack of proper circumstances, I need to direct your attention away from the door while I attend to nature.”

Joann and Catherine turned around and pretended to study a box of supplies, although laughter could be heard. Newsome continued his introduction while he relieved himself through the open door. “Gentlemen, I’ll share histories, ancestries, and maybe food. I hope you’ll do the same. I’m the unfortunate second son of nobody with a questionable background, but I have acquired some means of livelihood through diversifying my economies, and oh, I’m wanted by the law.” He finished his task, restored his clothing, and turned when the ladies did.

Ross stared at him, but he sat down on a locked metal box without pointing his gun. Trevor maintained his friendly grin and braced himself against a large piece of equipment which reminded him of huge dinner tongs. Catherine came to his side, entwined her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. Joann sat on the floor with her back to her husband’s knees. Trevor protectively hugged Catherine and thought this character would prove interesting and he prayed he would be helpful.

Most prayers are answered, just not our expectations.

Egad! and Enough! Until Later.

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Gray Lace, Part 29

I have never jumped onto a moving train, or off one, for that matter. I hope I never have to do so. I did jump out of the backdoor of a stationery school bus, while teaching a safety evacuation drill, subsequentially tearing my ACL, but I digress … In this episode our heroes run from a rough lumber company, its employees, and an angry killer chicken. Their escape route is a moving freight train. Their difficulties are imagined. Thank goodness for fiction.

The sounds of a train’s approach on the nearby tracks signaled an opportunity of escape. The train slowed but didn’t come to a complete stop, men throwing out bags of food and mail.

“Follow my lead, but don’t stop running forward,” ordered Ross. “Trevor, hold onto Catherine and don’t let go!”

“As if,” he whispered between heaving breaths. He had her hand and tried to throw an encouraging smile her way, but she focused on the slowly moving train. There were two open-door cars and the rest were log carrying open flat beds.

Ross threw Joann through the open door of the second car and hustled a forward-flip himself onto the floor, turned and held a hand out to Trevor.

The gun got handed in first then Trevor lifted Catherine into his arms, and threw her. She landed on top of Joann, turned and fearfully screamed, “Come on, Trevor, hurry!”

As the back end of the car passed, Trevor reached for a guardrail and jumped. His hands were sweaty and he slipped an inch, but he still hung on. His arms strained against the forward motion and pain shot through his shoulders. He wanted to let go until he saw Catherine’s hair flying around her beautiful face as she held out her hand. He forced his left leg onto the same rail and heaved his body against the rattling and shaking metal.

He held on.

The train gathered speed and Trevor flattened his full body length against the rail and metal siding. He gritted his teeth, pressed his lips tight, and as the train rounded the curve, he used the momentum to swing toward her and their open door. Landing on the hard floor with a painful thud, he thankfully enjoyed her concern.

“God, Trevor, are you alright?” She patted him everywhere. He decided to play possum. “No broken bones, thank God.” Catherine gently turned him onto his back and he kept his eyes closed, but could not for the life of him, stop a foolish grin from spreading across his face. After a few more enjoyable pats, she must have noticed his mouth, because he absorbed the lovely realization of her kissing him. Her first kiss pillowed his lips too briefly then a few on his nose and forehead.

“Sit up, silly man” she whispered, “we have an audience.”

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Gray Lace, Part 28

A bit more background concerning one of my favorite characters: Killer chicken.

He and his harem of five were introduced to me during a visit to a small farm. Once he took note of my husband, he attacked. He lowered his crown and jabbed at Rudy’s ankles and sent his wings to overdrive, sending my beloved running.

Our host yelled, “Get behind Eleanor!”

Really? Made no sense to me either.

Killer stopped at my feet and looked up at my face. He turned and his crown nodded as if he was indeed counting his ladies. Seemingly satisfied that all was well, he marched away, his ladies following. We were told this happens daily to the milkman. Yes, they had one of those, too.

Now, back to Catherine, Trevor, Joann, and Ross, battling a 1908 survival journey to Charleston, have come upon a lumber camp within the forests surrounding the swamps.

The late afternoon machinery noise and male voices slowed to a low growl, as the four travelers entered the center of the camp and stopped in front of the cooking tent. Trevor nearly gagged at the body odor wafting from the large man in the greasy apron in front of him. His meanness came from his body language as well as his eyes. His welcome left Trevor no doubt as to his political philosophies.

The cook waved his finger in Joann’s face, “What the hell is this darky bitch doing with my livestock?”

Trevor readied the long barrel of his gun securely on his hip. While he was sure of the cook’s vocabulary and intent, he also knew his gravely voice threatened all of them.

Ross took the hen from his now frozen wife and tried to hand it to the man. “Sorry, sir, we had no idea this was your property.”

The cook refused his offer.

Ross gently pushed Joann behind Trevor. “Just tell us when the train south will be here and we’ll leave you to your supper.”

The cook’s smile not only smelled, but he was missing a few of his teeth, and dark spots showed on the remainders. “Hey!” he announced to the dozen men within earshot, “These foreigners want to travel on our next luxury train south.”

Trevor backed up a few feet forcing the ladies to do the same. “Get ready to run,” he whispered. The mean laughter warned him and he wouldn’t allow them to be surrounded. He saw Ross reach behind and pull a knife from his back pocket and he glanced around for a possible way out.

His majesty, Killer Chicken, surprisingly appeared from behind the cook’s tent and he wanted his lady back.

Ross threw the hen into the cook’s face. “What the hell!” The man screamed in surprise and pain, turning around in circles as his friends began wailing in laughter. Killer brutally pecked at the man’s leg and flapped his wings to distraction. The hen continued to fly into the cook’s face as he tried to pull a knife from his belt.

Egad! and Enough! (more later)

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Gray Lace, Part Twenty-seven

This is one of my favorite characters, Killer Chicken. Yes, I really did experience this situation. Those of you who are city-dwellers may not believe this, but it’s true. Trevor wished it was not, until the next scene.

Morning brought gray fog and hunger. The fog gradually burned off and their hunger increased by the time they reached a clearing where man had convoluted the environment. A straight train track pointed the foursome in their intended southern direction. Sounds of civilization alerted them to prepare.

Ross pointed, “There, Joann, a clear pool of water. You and Catherine take a few minutes to clean up while Trevor stands guard. I’ll scout out the racket from down the track.” The women seemed eager to follow his directions and Trevor waited beside the tracks as he watched Ross disappear.

“Be careful, ladies. I understand your southern waters are crowded with wildlife. Call out if I am needed.” He hoped he would be welcomed by Catherine to enjoy a refreshing dip. However, with her chaperone, he’d better not, so he sat on the wooden railroad tie and waited.

Appreciating the female sounds of pleasure, he barely registered a vision approaching from the north. As the six creatures closed in, stomach rumbles confirmed that dinner might be imminent. Five hens led by a large regal rooster strutted forward. They stepped between the ties and displayed a cockiness that informed Trevor they had no fear of a pot of boiling water. Their attitude was briefly humorous.

At the same moment, Ross returned and the ladies walked up behind Trevor. He had turned around to enjoy the sight of a refreshed Catherine as she sauntered toward him wearing a delicious smile. The spell was broken when the rooster went into attack mode.

“Good God, man, watch out for Killer Chicken!” Ross bellowed. The red crown had lowered and the beak aimed for Trevor’s face, forcing him to stand and run. The rooster went after him and didn’t let up until Trevor took refuge behind Catherine and Joann, who thought the entire episode was hilarious entertainment.

Ross jumped into the old strategy of divide and conquer. He grabbed a hen.

Killer Chicken turned from Trevor, raced after Ross, but soon gave up. The rooster stopped, turned and gathered the remains of his harem. As he retreated into the forest, he urged his females into a faster gate, far from humans.

“My dear God, Ross,” Trevor announced, “Now, we’re even. That young and mighty fellow wasn’t giving up. His Majesty, Killer Chicken, could challenge last night’s bear.”

“Not quite, Trevor,” Catherine hugged him, “Last night’s bear would not have stopped at my skirts.”

“Killer Chicken was rather fond of us, wasn’t he, Catherine?” Joann took the hen from Ross and smoothed her feathers while tucking her under her arm. “Now, this young lady could be a tasty treat later.”

“Or perhaps a bribe,” Ross pointed down the southern tract. “Just about a half-mile ahead there’s a rough lumber camp. Maybe they could use an addition to their dinner in exchange for a free ride on the next train south.”

Catherine’s eyes widened, but Trevor also noticed a tad of fear in his favorite swampy greens.

“Approach them cautiously,” Ross warned. “These men haven’t seen a female of any sort for some time.” He handed Trevor his weapon that had fallen during Killer Chicken’s retreat. “Keep this handy and loaded. I wouldn’t go in there, but we need to get on that train and I can’t see us heading that far south without a ride.”

“Why not wait for it here, then?” Trevor glanced back north listened for an engine.

“My guess is, your lordship, you’ve never jumped onto a moving train.” Ross smiled as he shook his head and headed down the southern track. “Come on, everyone. We can do this, but keep your eyes open and your weapons ready.”

Egad and Enough (until next time)

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