(The Pen Is Mightier 07) Are We There Yet?

Summary: At long last, the posse is headed for home on the Bayou Vermillion. But as they enter the last leg of their journey, some of the other passengers liven things up with a good old fashioned train robbery.

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Darren Conrad Handsome Pete Lady Wilde
wyatt-earpjames-earp

The posse's stay in New Orleans was much longer than anticipated. Lacking resources, they were forced to stay and find work in order to pay for their train tickets, new clothes, food, and lodging while they remained in the city — not to mention Pete's extracurricular activities. Nearly three months after their arrival, they had finally saved enough to make the trip home, and eagerly boarded the Bayou Vermillion headed for Tombstone.

The trip was uneventful.

Almost.

Less than half a day out from Tombstone, things got a mite troublesome. Several of the passengers on board were, in fact, outlaws. While the posse was touring the rear cars of the train (mostly out of boredom), the train robbers put on their masks and set about extorting the other passengers' valuables at gunpoint. By chance, the posse caught one of them in the act while he tried to leave the dining car. Lady Wilde fired up the charm to stall the young man, and Handsome Pete fired a couple of bullets to drop him.

While Lady Wilde tended to the wounded outlaw, Darren and Pete concocted a plan to deal with the other outlaws in the passenger car. Pete climbed atop the train, making his way along the roof — and very nearly falling off. Once on the passenger car, he made certain to make plenty of noise to distract the bandits inside. It did the trick, as two of the four men shot through the roof at him. One man's bullet grazed the inside of Pete's thigh, nearly makin' him less of a man!

Darren's instructions were to wait to enter until the shooting started, to that was his cue. Attempting to sneak in so he could get the drop on the bad guys, he was naturally about as subtle as a buffalo walking into a saloon. The outlaws attention was now on him, and it was his turn to dodge bullets. But Darren did what Darren does best, and moved in to deal with the outlaws up close and personal.

Lady Wilde, having stabilized the bleeding outlaw in the dining car, entered to witness one of the other passengers, a mustachioed man, move to pick up a fallen outlaw's gun. But her immediate priority was aiding Darren, and she sneaked up on one of the last standing outlaws, putting a gun in his face and shocking him into a moment of stupor.

After another near-miss with a messy death under the train, Pete finally managed to get on steady footing and come in the front end of the passenger car. One bullet put an end to the last threat against Darren. That was enough to convince the man under Wilde's gun to surrender and drop his pistol. Through him, the posse learned that there was one more bandit up in the engine, keeping the engineer under control. While Darren and Pete headed out to deal with him, the mustachioed man came to assist Wilde with their prisoner, keeping him under guard while she tied him up. After she explained the situation to him and who they were, he tipped his hat and introduced himself as Wyatt Earp.

Pete and Darren climbed up onto the ghost rock car, and spotted the engineer with the outlaw's gun to the back of his head. With their target ignorant of their presence, they moved in. Darren, concerned for the engineer's safety, decided his first priority was controlling that bandit's gun arm. With Pete covering him from the ghost rock car, Darren made a precarious jump down to the edge of the engine's platform, he seized the outlaw, and the two engaged in a struggle, teetering just inches away from the deadly gap between the cars. Though the outlaw managed to slip out of Darren's hold, a one-two punch from the corpulent bounty hunter put the man on the ground.

The engineer warned that he'd heard the man speaking about a steam wagon that was to come pick the outlaws up. Surely enough, he pointed out a plume of dust behind the train that Darren had spotted earlier. Reconvening back in the passenger car — and officially making the acquaintance of the legendary Wyatt Earp and his brother James — the posse discussed whether to try to engage the outlaws on the steam wagon, or to try to frighten them off as Earp suggested. Some interrogation of their tied-up prisoner revealed that their leader, Rico — who lay dead by Pete's bullet — would use a pair of handkerchiefs to signal to comrades. A white handkerchief was the signal to "move in", while the red was a warning. Sure enough, when Pete waved the red handkerchief out the back door of the caboose, a man on the wagon waved a similar red cloth back, and the steam wagon turned off, abandoning the train.

Wyatt told the posse that he was going to Tombstone at the invitation of his brother, Virgil, to take advantage of the silver boom that had brought such prosperity to the town. He also informed them that Virgil was a Deputy C.S. Marshal, and would most assuredly take possession of their prisoners upon arrival in Tombstone.

With only hours left in their journey, the posse settled back in with fond thoughts of returning home.

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