The Train Episode 28

The wind picked up a bit, fluttering the flaps of Michael’s duster as he walked down the dirt street. With every step, the spurs on his leather boots jingled, and the holstered gun at his side bumped against his hip. On his chest he wore a silver U.S. Marshall badge that gleamed in the bright sun.

Looking down at the star, Michael said,

“Well that tells me a lot.”

“So why are we here?” Nicole asked.

Dr. Ricer was silent as he walked alongside Lucy. He wasn’t sure what to say.

Just then from a nearby church came the ringing of chime bells filling the air. The people in the street and the shopkeepers sweeping their storefronts turned toward the sound and watched as a wedding party filed out of the church. When he saw Reginald Lawson come through the church doors dragging his reluctant bride behind him, Ricer’s heart stopped.

“Wonder who that is?” Nicole asked.

Finally, Ricer spoke.

“That’s Reginald Lawson. He owns the town, except for a few areas on the outskirts. Up until his death about two months ago, a Mr. Merril owned most of that property. Lawson’s had his eye on the land for a long time. The woman with Lawson is Gwendolyn Merril. The land was deeded to her upon her father’s death. Gwendolyn’s childhood friend Dennis Patrick Hodge had  worked around the farm for years. When Mr. Merril died, Hodge stayed on to help Gwendolyn run the farm until she was able to take over, but Lawson had other plans. He decided he wanted Gwendolyn and, more importantly, the land. Lawson took Hodge prisoner and threatened to kill him if Gwendolyn didn’t marry him and bear him two sons. After the children were born, Lawson threw Gwendolyn out, leaving her with nothing. She never found out what happened to Hodge, and she eventually died in a clinic of tuberculosis.”

“Looks like we’re too late to stop the wedding,” Michael said.

“Then let’s make it a funeral,” Nicole scowled.

“Wait, please,” Ricer exclaimed.

“For what?” Michael asked. “I’m not a big fan of murder, Doc, but this guy deserves it. This should be easy.”

Looking squarely at Michael, Ricer stiffened and motioned toward Lucy. “Let’s try this without violence. Please.”

Michael looked down at Lucy’s young face then toward the wedding party.

“All right, Doc. Your call.”

“What first?” Michael asked as he stepped back and waited.

Ricer relaxed somewhat and tried to think of a plan.

“First, let’s look for a place to rest. Then we’ll watch Lawson for awhile, learn him. He’s spends a lot of time at the poker tables in a place called Lucky’s Saloon.”

“Sounds like a good place to play poker,” Michael joked.

“Lawson owns the saloon,” Ricer said.

Three hours later having just finished a round of poker, Michael was seated at one of the saloon tables. So far, he had won and lost his share of hands. Ricer had suggested that he win just enough to break even. The doctor wanted to play things cool. Suddenly Reginald Lawson strutted in, dressed in his Sunday best and grinning like a hyena. He slowly scanned the tables then walked right up to Michael’s chair.

“Mind if I sit down?”

“By all means,” Michael answered.

“How about a few hands?” Lawson suggested. “I’m feeling lucky tonight.”

Michael caught Dr. Ricer’s nervous stare and answered,

“I’m afraid I can’t, sir. Best be moving on before Lady Luck kicks me out of her bed.”

Lawson laughed and tipped his hat as Michael walked over to the bar. Another player slipped into Michael’s empty chair at the table, and the men started playing cards. After half an hour, the sheriff wandered in and ordered a whiskey. By this time, the card game was down to three players, and Lawson was betting against a wiry little man with a pencil thin mustache and a fierce grin.

“Nice try, my friend,” Lawson said as he laid down his cards over a large pile of money, “but I’m afraid this pot is mine with a full house.”

When Lawson reached out for the money, the little man said,

“Not yet. I do b-believe that four of a k-kind beats a full house.”

As he showed his cards, a wide grin spread across his beaming face. Lawson looked at the cards and pulled his hand back.

“So it does,” he said.

Just as the thin man reached for the money, gunfire rang out. The man’s hands trembled over the table and his eyes grew wide with surprise. Clutching a bleeding stomach wound, he slipped out of the chair and fell to the floor. From under the table, Lawson brought out a pistol, its barrel still smoking. He looked over at the sheriff and said,

“He was cheating.”

The sheriff drained his glass, shrugged and answered, “Looks like it to me.”

Lawson laughed, slipped the gun back out of sight, and raked the money toward him.

Struggling to control himself, Michael’s face showed no shock as he tightly gripped the polished oak bar and pressed his boot hard against the brass foot rail to keep from drawing on Lawson. He finished his drink and walked through the swinging doors out into the street. Ricer quickly joined him outside.

“Are you sure we need to play this cool? He just murdered that man and the sheriff backed him up.”

“Please?” Ricer pleaded.

Michael looked off in the distance and ground his teeth.

“Then this is going to be far tougher than I feared.”

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