Part II - Chapter 04 - Suspicions of Cloak & Dagger

Train Ride to Miami, OK

Rachel was uncomfortable. Yes, she had been in this train compartment with Doc & Brisco for hours and, yes, she had a splitting headache. But beyond that. The moment she followed Brisco into the town corral and locked eyes with James, she felt something. And then he was gone. In that moment, she had felt a sense of loss and fear for his safety. Rachel shook the image out of her head which ended up jostling her blonde hair into her eyes. “Why can’t I be as cool, collected, and tough as Mama was in her bounty hunting days?”

Rachel thought back to the numerous stories that she had listened to from her mother over the years. Crystal Hawkes was a skilled bounty hunter who always got what she set out for and had made a name for herself in a male driven environment. She was one of the greats and made quite a substantial sum of money throughout her career. But when Crystal noticed that the frontier was getting smaller and people like Buffalo Bill Cody and others were making more money entertaining crowds with significantly less danger, Crystal saw a better world to raise her child. So, Crystal transitioned out of bounty hunting and instead worked in vaudeville for a time, impressing crowds with her ability to make seemingly impossible shots. Rachel followed in her mother’s stead and worked Wild West Shows for a time before their tour landed in Los Angeles. When it was time for the wild west show to move on, Rachel stayed. The glamor of the silver screen called to Rachel and Buffalo Bill was able to get Rachel the right auditions. She was on a track to make a name for herself in silent pictures.

Crystal was not pleased with Rachel’s decision but elected to not stand in Rachel’s way. About the last thing that Crystal said on the matter was that being the damsel in distress would grow wearisome. After years of hitting the trail and seeing men brought to justice by her mother and then spending years on the road with a wild west show, being a trophy or delicate flower would quickly become boring.

Much to Rachel’s frustration, her mother was right. In fact, Rachel was just about to throw in the towel, when Brisco got himself into… Well, whatever you might call this adventure. Rachel was supposed to bring Brisco back but the idea of adventure and being back on the road appealed to Rachel so much more than the idea of getting back to Hollywood. Somehow, this felt more like a version of the familiar. Home was too strong of a word. But, like a hometown you drive through. You no longer belonged but there is a feeling of being among old friends and being welcome to stay as long as you needed. But still, there was a small voice in the back of her head that pointed out that this adventure was taking too long. If they stayed on the road too much longer, both Brisco and Rachel would be out of a job.

And then there was James. She was not expecting him to be so handsome, much less her age. The way that Brisco kept referring to him, it sounded like he was a child who got lost from home. But James was far from a child. Rachel felt her face begin to blush and she shook her head again in an effort to refocus her mind.

Rachel looked across the compartment to Brisco and took the opportunity to study him as he watched the passing scenery outside the window lost in thought. He looked weather worn and like he had seen his share of battles, but it seemed like he was renewing his strength on this trek. He was no longer the lot drunk but a man of adventure with a lust for life. It suddenly struck Rachel that the loss of the frontier must have been a blow to Brisco as much as it was to Crystal. No more earth to discover. No more lawless towns in desperate need of vigilante justice. Out here, he was free. Young at heart. Out here, Brisco seemed in his natural element and he looked every much as dashing as newspaper clippings she had seen from before the turn of the century. He seemed like a man in his 20’s and filled with purpose on this adventure.

Rachel turned her attention to Doc and rolled her eyes in annoyance. While Rachel and Brisco seemed to enjoy the silence, Doc needed to fill it. In a matter of minutes, he would go from chewing his pencil to anxiously moving papers around in his bag to grunting as he scribbled notes. However, Rachel preferred his restless behavior compared to the slew of questions.

“So, we’re headed to Miami-“ began Doc.

“Except, it’s pronounced My-am-ah” corrected Brisco. “Miami Oklahoma. It shouldn’t take us too long by train.”

“And you have friends there?” inquired Rachel.

“A few friends out there. Years ago, when Bowler and I were working for the president, we were assigned to keep an eye out along the Mexican American border. While collecting bounties on various criminal elements, we also needed to ensure that cowboys weren’t causing international incidents or wars by stealing cattle from Mexican ranchers. Anyway, we were in Washington DC to meet with the president and ran into Michael Weston. Weston was originally assigned to Boston to keep an eye on a growing underground Irish movement. Various Irish labor party members had been coming to the States to stir up trouble with local labor movements.”

“You got in the way of labor movements?” asked Doc indignantly.

“No, I was in charge of missions along the border. Additionally, Mike wasn’t fighting against workers’ rights but the anarchists who took advantage of the anger ensued by overworked unionists and labor parties.”

Rachel laughed before saying, “I somehow can’t imagine you rubbing shoulders with spies in Washington. Haven’t you always said that spies are-”

“Bitchy little girls!”

A thought struck Rachel, “The Michael West?” asked Rachel. This story sounded familiar.

“Yes. Michael West.”

“Why is that significant?” inquired Doc.

They could hear the train whistle from far away and Brisco stood and looked out across the horizon towards the sound. “You see,” began Brisco, “Michael had a burn notice put out on him and he was blacklisted from continuing services for the country.”

Rachel suddenly remembered how she knew this story, “Weren’t you the person who turned him in?”

- - - - - - - - -

After several minutes of silence in the train compartment, Rachel could no longer hold in her questions.

You turned him in? Why? What did he do? More than that, how could you call him a friend? Won’t he be pissed and refuse to help us? Aren’t we in danger for being with you? How the hell is this plan going to work?”

Brisco held up his hand just as a waiter opened the compartment door and came in with a rolling coffee table. “I believe you ordered coffee,” the waiter chirped while opening a latch against the compartment to extend a table out from the wall. He then placed three saucers onto the table before returning to the cart to get cups, coffee urn, milk, and sugar for the small table. Brisco slid the man a tip before shutting the door.

Brisco seemed lost in thought as he stared down into his coffee cup before filling his cup with coffee. He immediately slurped down his coffee before looking at an incredulous Rachel and offended Doc.

“What? Did you want coffee?” asked Brisco.

Doc helped himself to the coffee before opening up a small book and making notes in it. He seemed to be documenting everything; the time, the clouds outside, his pulse, the speed of the train, and who knows what else.

Rachel sat patiently with an arched eyebrow.

“Listen, I can’t explain everything but this is what I can say. Michael was in Miami on a mission when he was burned. When you’re burned you have nothing. No cash, no job history, no references to help you get a stable job. So, Michael has been doing whatever work comes his way and making ends meet with whatever work he can find. I hear that he occasionally gets paid in yogurt.”

“And-“continued Rachel.

“And that’s it for now.”

At that, Brisco finished his coffee before leaning back in his seat, tipping his hat over his eyes and at least pretending to sleep. Rachel leaned back as well. It was clear that they were walking into trouble and Brisco was not willing to share all of the details of what they were walking into. She looked down at her hands to try to cool down her frustration. She eyed the coffee but realized that she did not need any coffee to stay alert; caution and warning were already filling her every sense. This was not going to be a safe harbor after all and if Brisco wasn’t talking, then Rachel needed to keep her guard up.

- - - - - - - - -

The train pulled into the Miami station around sunset. Disembarking the train as the shadows grew longer did nothing to put Rachel at ease. She held her guns close, ready to fire at the slightest sign of danger. Brisco seemed to be in no mood to hurry as they walked across town to the only hotel. A veiled woman passed by in the darkness, it was impossible to make out any distinguishing characteristic aside from the fact that the passerby was an extremely thin and small woman wearing a dress and veil. Brisco clumsily sidestepped into the veiled figure’s pathway before apologizing and tipping his hat. “It must be the moonlight,” he laughed before continuing back towards the hotel. The rest of the walk seemed to be completed with Doc peppering Brisco with silly questions and Brisco keeping responses curt and short.

Once the trio reached the hotel, Brisco requested three separate rooms. As soon as the key was in Doc’s hand, he pushed past them and almost ran to his room. Doc seemed to be the most anti-social and timid person that she had evet met. The odd almost basic questions around the world floored Rachel and his overly secretive nature made her suspicious. Rachel was relieved to see that her door was next to Brisco’s. It was clear that Brisco was up to something and she needed to stick close to find out what. As soon as she closed the door, she grabbed a glass sitting near the wash basin and mirror before turning out the lantern. She felt her way across the dark room, put the glass between her ear and the wall to listen into Brisco’s room.

She heard Brisco set his things down and do some initial rustling. She could hear him wash his face and hands in the basin before the bedsprings squeaked. She heard two soft thuds, meaning Brisco had taken his shoes off and then she heard more bedsprings squeak. Then the other room was silent. She had no idea if he was lying in bed reading, sleeping, or what. She stood there listening to the other room for ten minutes. Or was it five? She could not tell but the time seemed to drag with boredom. She leaned away from the wall and put the glass down. Rachel sighed as she realized that there would be no excitement tonight after all. Just as she was deciding to turn on the light to undress for the night, she heard the hesitant sound of bedsprings from Brisco’s room. Rachel froze as the sound of soft footsteps approached the wall. Even though she knew there was a wall preventing Brisco catching her spying on him, she held her breathe and closed her eyes as though to make herself as silent, small, and invisible.

It seemed to have worked because she then heard the footsteps move away, this time faster, while still being quiet. She heard the bedsprings squeak before firmer footsteps moved towards the door. Clearly, Brisco had put back on his shoes and was on his way outside. She heard the door open before she saw a shadow slowly pause in front of her door. They hesitated for a moment as though to confirm if her light was on or off. Then the shadow disappeared.

Rachel quickly moved towards the door, relieved that she had not undressed or removed her guns. She opened the door as quietly as possible before slowly peaking her head outside and found that Brisco had already left the hallway. Rachel quietly closed the door before pausing by Doc’s room but breathed a sigh of relief as she heard his raspy snore. She hurried down the hallway and peered around the corner to watch Brisco pass by the guest services desk and out the front door. She silently rushed after him and into the night.

Brisco was moving fast now as he headed across the street into a saloon. Rachel followed but rather than going inside, she moved around to the side of the bar where a dirty window allowed her to look inside. She saw Brisco sit down at a table across from an impeccably dressed man with blue eyes and short brown hair. The man looked grim, almost unhappy to see Brisco, as he poured a shot of whiskey for himself and for Brisco. The two looked deep in conversation but abruptly stopped when two more men joined the table. These men were wearing bowlers, though not as nice looking or as well tailored as the original man at the table. The two newcomers seemed more talkative as they helped themselves to the whiskey. One of them seemed to direct the conversation and to be in a much more jovial mood than the rest of the members at the table. Rachel wished that she could get closer to hear what they were discussing but seeing as how there were not any women in the saloon, she would merely draw attention if she had entered and right now that was the last thing that she wanted. The four men seemed to conclude their business and stood to leave. The original tailored man tossed money on the table before tipping his hat towards the bartender. For a moment, Rachel thought he might have seen her standing outside the window so she ducked. When her heart was no longer racing, she peeked back up through the window. The men were no longer in the bar area. ”Had she been seen? Were they looking for her? Was she in danger?”

She strained looking through the glass and checked from side to side before finally spotting them. They were headed towards the back door of the saloon. They seemed to be in no hurry so Rachel assumed that she had not been seen. She would have an added advantage if they were moving towards the door; maybe she could finally maybe hear what all of this was about. She moved quickly towards the back of the building and peered cautiously around the corner to just barely make out what the men were saying.

“It’s lucky for us you stopped over in town, Mr. Finley,” a thick Irish accent stated.

“Even luckier that Michael recommended you. We don’t take kindly to strangers,” said a second voice, much deeper than the first.

“Well, I owe Michael a great debt,” stated Brisco. “And I don’t like to leave myself indebted to anyone.”

“Just don’t forget. It has to be tomorrow or all of our plans will fail.”

With that, Rachel watched as the two Irishmen turned and walked into the darkness. They had barely moved out of sight before Irish drinking songs began to be belted out. It was almost as though they were working to appear like two drunk Irishmen out to drink instead of men talking a bit of treason. Rachel took a deep breath. “What was that about? What plans had Brisco agreed to?” Processing the presence of Irish men and recalling Brisco’s story about Michael, a terrible thought began to form. “What if Brisco agreed to work with the Irish Labor Movement as penance for turning in Michael?”

Brisco and Michael were still talking but they had taken their voices down considerably. Rachel could not catch a single word that was being said. She was about to turn back to the hotel when a movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. Rachel took a step towards the movement with the intent to investigate but instead she felt the presence of someone coming up behind her. Before Rachel could turnaround, she felt a sharp pain at the back of her head, and then complete darkness.

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