It’s coming down the embankment at you with a full head of steam! Here’s a taste:
Our reverie was interrupted by a blast from the horn.
“Do you think…?” I began.
“Probably just coming to a crossing and he’s giving it the horn. Have to do that by law.”
The horn blasted again, was cut short, and then once more.
“Crap!” Corky said, and was suddenly in motion. “Something’s wrong.”
I dropped Perry’s baseball on the nearest seat, tucked the note in my shirt pocket and followed.
We went hurriedly through the next car—an even more dilapidated passenger car—through a door and across to the engine. I followed Corky up a small flight of steps. At that moment the brakes began to engage.
Out the front window, about two hundred yards away, was a truck sitting across the track. The single headlamp from the train speared it and light reflected back at us off the driver’s window, the hubcaps and the front bumper.
“I’m not sure I can stop in time without…really stopping.” Charlie said, and there was fright in his voice.
However sharp Charlie’s eyes were—and they had to have been terribly sharp to pick up the truck from more than half a mile back—my vision has always been excellent, particularly my night vision.
Several other vehicles were stopped off to the side of the tracks, a little closer to us than the truck that was blocking our path. I noted two figures closing in toward the tracks ahead of us, and then a third running up. They had rifles or shotguns in their hands.
“Don’t,” I said.
“Don’t?” Charlie asked. “Don’t what?”
“Don’t stop. The truck won’t hurt this train, will it?”
“It might scratch the paint, but that’s about it.”
“Then don’t stop. We won’t even feel it, will we?” I asked.
“No, we won’t,” Charlie said. “Why not stop?”
“Because, it’s a trap. They put the truck there to scare us into stopping. And those guys are gonna start shooting the minute they realize we’re not. Stopping, that is. But if we stop, then they’ve got us for sure.”
“Damn.” Corky said. “Up, Charlie. Let me do this. Ya’ll get down.”
The side window was open, and the second Corky hit the driver’s seat, he stuck his head out the window and squinted.
“Yeah, they’re gonna shoot,” he said.
Then he poured on the juice. I had to reach a hand out to check myself from tumbling back into Charlie.
The first shot was a pang off of steel somewhere on the exterior. Charlie and I ducked and Corky hunkered down in the driver’s seat. The front glass picked up a spray of buckshot, but it merely chipped the glass. Then there were many such sounds, like someone setting off a string of firecrackers.
“We’re gonna hit it!” Corky shouted, the excitement in his voice both fearful and amused in the same instant. Then he stuck his arm out the window and shouted: “Go to hell you sonsabitches!”
His arm came back inside and there was the sound of something crumpling, not unlike someone clapping a paper bag full of air between their hands, followed by the spectacle of a large object coming up over the windows and onto the roof above us. The truck tumbled across the steel roof like a giant eating its way through a stack of steel fifty-five gallon drums. An instant later there was a loud, shrill scrape as what was left of it fell off to the side. Which side, I wasn’t sure. I realized then that Corky must have given them his middle finger in conjunction with his words.
I stood up, went back down the steps to the deck and went through the doors of the first passenger compartment. I was met by JoJo.
“What the hell was that all about?” she asked.
“Someone tried to stop us. The put a truck in our path, we ran over it, and they started shooting at us.”
JoJo laughed. “They tried to attack a train? With a pickup truck and some guns?”
“Idiots,” she said.
“Yeah. Only, I’m wondering who the hell those guys are, and what they want?”
We exchanged nods and passed each other.