Calamity, keeping an eagle eye out for the attackers, fanned out two shots from Dobkin, her right revolver, as Vyrim and John tumbled one row closer to her. There was no further movement or sound, and once she had used the opportunity to top both Seamus and her left revolver O’Flynn back up to their full four shots each, she turned to Brutus.

“Cover me,” she said. “I’m going to see if we holed those two.”

“Cover you with what?” Brutus said. “I can chop them, maybe, but that’s not cover fire.”

“Well, you should have brought a gun!” Calamity snapped.

“You should have bought me one!” Brutus cried. “Just because I’m an orc doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer a good repeater over this hunk of iron! Give me one of your shooters and I’ll cover you.”

Calamity drew back. “Nobody but me handles Dobkin and O’Flynn. Nobody.”

Brutus rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll just axe them a question, it’s all I’m good for, after all, isn’t it?”

Calamity walked forward, her guns ready. Vyrim was where he had been before, but his eyelids were fluttering and he was gagging slightly–a death rattle with red around his mouth and smeared on his shirt. John was still, lying awkwardly face-down.

“Got ’em,” Calamity said. “Go get the loot, we’re almost to the viaduct.”

“Shouldn’t you shoot them both just to be sure?” said Brutus.

“Hit them with your axe if you care so much,” the bandit sneered. “We need to get off before the viaduct, remember? Once the dynamite blows, it’ll be a month before they can follow us.”

“Well, I-” Brutus was suddenly interrupted by a short, sharp blow to the back of his head, which laid him out cold with an instant concussion–Bill had risen and thwacked him with the butt of his coach gun. At the same time, Vyrim raised his own scattergun and planted it in the small of Calamity Djinn’s back. “You’ve just been outfoxed, little lady,” he said, licking the strawberry jam off of his lips. “Drop them.”

With a disgusted sigh, more like a spoiled child than a hardened bandit, Calamity let O’Flynn and Dobkin fall. “Dammit,” she said. “I was so close.”

Outside, the scenery abruptly changed. The train was about to pass over the Tholdom Viaduct, the only rail and telegraph link between Smokewood and Brighthollow. Stretching an impressive distance over a steep gulch, it was a precipitous fall on either side, survivable by neither people nor steam engines.

As Vyrim and Bill, with the enthusiastic but inept help of their friend in pink, tied the bandits up, Bill reappeared in the cabin.

“Good to see you got this wrapped up,” the dwarf said.

“And I’m glad to see you got the dynamite taken care of,” said Vyrim.

Bill cleared his throat. “Yes, well, about that…” He held out a massive steel pin in one hand.

“What do you mean?” said Vyrim. “And what’s this?”

“It’s the pin to the baggage car,” said Bill, as if it was self evident. “Had a devil of a time getting it out.”

Vyrim looked up sharply. The train had just passed over the viaduct and the track had a sharp curve at that point; he had a fleeting glimpse of the baggage car, losing speed, in the middle of the bridge. Then it erupted in a tremendous concussion that rattled the passenger car, cracked windows and flung most everyone to the floorboards. The telegraph wire, which ran parallel to the rail line, twanged as it was severed and lost tension. The burning remains of the viaduct sagged inward and collapsed–there wouldn’t be any trains or messages going through to Brighthollow, or anywhere else, for a good long while.

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