Part II - Chapter 05 - The Actress in the Storm Cellar

When Rachel awoke, she was sitting in some kind of poorly lit underground room. As her eyes adjusted she was able to note that it was a large room, with dim electric bulbs lining the area and a ladder on the far side of the room. Rachel studied the room before determining that she was in a storm shelter. The only furniture available was a small table with a wooden chair. Sitting on the clearly uncomfortable chair was a small woman, armed to the teeth. She had several pistols lined up across the table, two rifles behind her, and a judge in a state of being cleaned on the small table. She looked over the judge to stare at Rachel with a look of reproach only matched by Crystal when Rachel missed an easy target.

“Where am I?” asked Rachel as she struggled to get up. Based on the pain shooting up her arms, it was clear that her hands were tied behind her. Her head felt woozy as it protested any quick movements.

“Miami,” came the curt reply. Rachel could only roll her eyes.

“I meant specifically…?” clarified Rachel.

When the woman ignored Rachel to focus on her gun, Rachel began a slew of questions, “Why am I here? What did I do to deserve this treatment?”

Before the small woman could reply, the well-dressed man came in.

“Fi!” he exclaimed sharply as he looked at Rachel’s condition. He moved quickly across the room and untied Rachel.

“It’s time,” said the man. “Was it Rachel’s imagination or did he no longer have an Irish accent?” The rest of the conversation was stated in low whispers as the man and “Fi” loaded up the guns and climbed the rickety ladder to the doors of the storm shelter. Upon reaching the top, the man pulled the ladder up and out of the shelter while “Fi” aimed two pistols at Rachel to ensure that Rachel would not attempt to jump on the ladder for a quick escape. The last phrase that she could hear as the door was shut was from an excited female voice asking, “Are you sure that we shouldn’t just shoot them?”

Clearly this woman was some sort of sociopath who took pleasure out of violence. Between what she stated and plethora of guns and ammunition that the couple left with, it was clear that this woman was dangerous. Rachel thought back to the female captor’s partner in crime. While the man was more sympathetic, the way that he walked into a room and silently demanded attention, showed that he had a military background. When he looked at her, she could see a lifetime of war, secrets, and a hard life behind his eyes. “What trouble did she walk into?”

The doors above swung open again which caused Rachel to jump. Rachel craned her neck to look through the storm shelter doors. This time there was a mature woman in the frame. She had short white hair and a cigarette dangling out of her mouth. It was as if she was midway through a conversation and finished it by shouting over her shoulder, “Someone needs your help, Michael!”

Rachel carefully stepped further into the daylight to see if she could see any hint of what was going on outside. Beyond seeing the sunshine and a few trees, the vantage point was terrible to see anything. Rachel squinted for a better look when the woman turned her attention down to Rachel and gave a large smile. She lifted two plates of food onto a rickety roped pulley system. She expertly moved the tray down toward Rachel until the tray landed on the ground.

“Here you go, Rachel. Sorry, we can’t stay but we’ll let you out shortly.”

“How do you know my name? I have never seen you people before last night!”

“Brisco told us all about you, honey.”

At that the mature woman took matches out of her pocket and lit the cigarette that had been hanging out of her mouth since first opening the storm shelter doors. The woman took a deep inhale of smoke and exhaled slowly while studying Rachel.

“I have to say, of all the dumb and irresponsible things to do! Running around town, in the dark, following a man that you barely know to meet up with another man that you haven’t seen before. That’s not bravery, girl, that’s stupidity.”

Rachel opened her mouth to protest but before she could begin, the mature woman waved her hand as if that part of the discussion were over.

The mature woman continued to holler down at Rachel, “Now, according to the doctor and Brisco, the young man Jamie-“


She waved her hands again with a bit more impatience. Clearly details were not important to her.

“-he should be arriving in this room based on Doc’s calculations from over the past few trips. I don’t pretend to know all of these comings and goings, why it’s suddenly accurate, or fully understand this bracelet business. However, it’s the most inconvenient time as we have been working for years towards today. So, I don’t have time to babysit you or wait for this boy of yours to arrive. But we found a solution in that, you seem to be a bit of a troublemaker and we can’t let you run freely. So, you’ll wait for him here with the door locked and this pulley system out of commission.” As she finished the sentence, the woman pulled a knife out of her pocket and cut the rope. Rachel’s heart sank as the rope fell to the ground, leaving nothing but air between Rachel and the shelter doors.

The woman continued, “It shouldn’t take long but we’re leaving you some food in case y’all get hungry. So, eat up but be sure to leave some for James because Doc said that James probably hasn’t had time or ability to eat.”

“I want to talk to Brisco,” demanded Rachel in a voice braver than she felt.

“Oh honey! This is on Brisco’s orders! Brisco wants you both to stay here until we get back because he doesn’t want to chase either of y’all around town. Like I said, Michael says that our meeting should end in plenty of time before the boy goes to his next destination.” The word was emphasized as though the woman felt the whole story was a fish tale. After looking down about the room below one last time, the mature woman took another couple puffs of cigarette before her gaze honed in on Rachel. It was as if she was sizing Rachel up for something.

“You actually look a lot like your Mama. Tell her Maddie says hello and she owes me a beer next time you see her,” and with that she left the room, leaving a dumbfounded Rachel alone.

- - - - - - - - -

Rachel was too anxious to eat. James would be arriving any moment. “Or would he? Are they just lying to keep her here? What if Brisco is actually a captive in another room and they tortured him to get all of this information about Rachel?” Rachel shook the thought out of her head. The only sound Rachel had heard was the door locking and then a wagon pulling away from the building. It was clear that she was all alone. Beyond that, she knew that Brisco was too tough to break under pressure and he was not someone to easily betray a friend. “But then does that mean that Brisco is involved? After burning Michael, how could he join him in a possible anarchist plot?”

Out of boredom or absent-minded fidgeting she had found a couple small rocks to throw up at the top of the shelter. She tried to squint and see through the cracks in the wooden doors above, but it was too far above. Rachel attempted screaming a few times but when the only reply was the sound of a distant car honk, she realized that she was alone. After shouting a few more times for help, Rachel decided that there was no reason to lose her voice. She was all alone.

Rachel found herself at the small table and chair that “Fi” had left and found herself wishing that the sociopath had forgotten a weapon or two, even a dainty single-shot derringer pistol. Rachel sighed knowing that the act of wishing would be a useless task. Based on the way that Fi meticulously cleaned and hoarded her weapons, Rachel knew that the tiny woman would not misplace a single bullet, much less a gun. In fact, she probably gave them all names and slept with them nightly. For a moment Rachel smiled finding the mental picture semi-amusing but it still did not calm her frayed nerves.

Suddenly there was a bolt of light and a loud noise in the center of the room. Rachel had to shield her eyes but her heart leapt as she could see the outline of James in the room. The light faded and James stood there, still holding the gun from Santa Barbara. Despite his good looks, he looked grim and tired.

“When’s the last time that you have eaten or slept?” Rachel asked the question before she even realized that she had found her voice.

“Couldn’t tell you,” came the exhausted reply. He looked around the room to take it all in. He did a double take look as he tried to place where he’d seen Rachel before asking, “Friend of County’s, right?”

“Of sorts. Brisco and I work in the film industry together. Although, the last few days, we’ve been looking for you. The name is Rachel,” she held out her hand to shake his but his eyes continued to survey the room and landed on the food on the table.

“They left you some food but I’m afraid that we are locked in here,” Rachel quickly explained.

James quickly grabbed the food from the tray on the floor and moved quickly to the table setting the gun by his food. In what must have been a few moments, he devoured his plate. He paused only for a moment to point at the second plate.

“All yours,” Rachel replied. Being locked in a storm shelter with anarchists running amuck and Brisco potentially part of a spy ring had managed to ruin any appetite that Rachel felt.

As he came to the last few bites, he slowed down as if to process the predicament that he was facing.

He looked around the room before waving the piece of bread in his hand and observed, “Nice place you got here.” At Rachel’s weak smile and continued, “And here is-“

“Miami…or rather outside of Miami, in some kind of storm shelter, based on the fact that I yelled for help and the only thing that I heard was a distant car horn. Since then, I haven’t heard any outside noise.”

“I assume you don’t typically lock yourselves in with men that you have been chasing? Or is this part of a larger plan from that skinny-ass frazzle hair boy?”

“Hardly,” Rachel said wryly before responding, “I actually think Brisco got mixed up with something and when I tried to investigate, I got locked down here with a headache for my troubles.”

“And our hosts are-“

“An Irish couple and an old woman, or at least I think the couple is Irish. The names I caught are Michael and Fi. There is a third woman but not really sure how she is involved. She seems more like a mother figure than a member of an Irish-anarchist-labor-party-member. And I haven’t seen or heard Brisco or Doc since waking up down here.”

“That’s twice now that I seem to have missed him,” mused James.

He seemed to register Rachel’s anxiousness and he leaned back in the chair and studied her. “I think you should start at the beginning.”

“Well, I met Mr. County-“

James held up his hand. “I don’t mean your entire relationship with Brisco. As we seem to be unwilling residents of a storm shelter, let’s skip the whole adventure and go straight to the Miami bit. We can go back to the beginning later, but I would like to know why I’m locked up and why you are locked up with me.”

Rachel began again, this time beginning with their arrival into Miami, Brisco’s late night meeting with smartly dressed Irishmen, and finishing with waking up in this room.

“Today’s adventure - locked up with a good-looking actress-”

“How did you know I was an actress?” interjected a blushing Rachel.

“With a face like that, you’re not a clown or a stunt double,” reasoned James. As Rachel avoided his eyes, James began again, “So, I am locked up with an actress by an Irish gang, possibly anarchists, in the middle of nowhere… and to top it all off, my pa’s old bounty hunter partner has gotten himself into some kind of trouble.” James sighed and smiled as he looked around the room, “Well, it’s not the oddest thing to have happened to me of late.”

“Not the oddest thing-“began Rachel before James smiled mischievously and held up his arm for her t see the bracelet. Rachel wondered how she could blush anymore as she seemed to be in a constant state of red. He must think I’m a ditz! thought Rachel as she kicked herself for allowing herself to become flustered and forgetful of the odd reality that James existed in.

“Maybe there’s more to the story,” mused James. “You know, I have heard about gangs and mobs moving into Hollywood and blackmailing people into doing their dirty work.”

Rachel pondered James’ theory but shook her head as she recalled her various interactions with Brisco. She voiced her experience by stating, “I have heard of those types of situations but haven’t seen anyone unscrupulous ever hanging around Mr. County,” However, the reality set in that she really didn’t know Brisco outside of the lot. She had to relent and agree. “But then, we usually only talked on set. Do you think that’s what happened with Mr. County?”

“It’s possible,” James said as he looked up at the doors to the outside. “My pa always said that County was the best man that he ever knew and it was a pleasure to work with him. And he didn’t give his good opinion to most folks so it’s worth looking into the idea of an honorable man being forced to do the unimaginable to protect his friends. I mean, I could see someone living that journey for 7 or so seasons before that stress can start to wear on a man,” mused James.

James seemed to snap back into the present and addressed Rachel directly, “Figure we can work on getting out of here and finding out a bit more of what is going on. Then you can tell me the rest of your adventure with Mr. County on the ride back to town. Since I have not heard a horse, wagon, or even a critter outside since we began chatting, I think your assessment about being outside of a town is right.”

With that James stood and began attempting to scale the walls towards the doors of the storm shelter. Unfortunately, no matter which wall he attempted to climb or how high he stretched, every time led to James falling after only getting up a few feet.

“Have much experience in climbing?” asked an awed Rachel.

“Just a bit,” James absently responded as he brushed off a layer of dirt from his most recent fall.

“You climb like a spider!” exclaimed Rachel.

James gave her an odd look as though unable to decide if it was a complement or not. He finally responded by saying, “A spider-man, huh? Well, that would be different.”

Rachel grimaced at the thought before looking back up at the double doors. “It seems like climbing out of here is out,” Rachel called over her shoulder.

James sighed before agreeing, “Yep, seems so.” He continued to study the walls before inquiring, “Have you inspected if there is a back way out?”

“A what?”

“If these guys are as intelligent and mysterious as you say, I can’t imagine that this is the only way in or out. They would need at least a back door built in, that way they never get caught.” James studied Rachel for a moment before taking her silence as confirmation, “You take that side of the room and I’ll take this side and we’ll see if there is anything odd about the walls.”

Rachel did as James instructed but she doubted that they would find anything. However, it was not long before James called her over to inspect something. He had moved to the darkest corner of the room and as she moved to where James stood, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. To her surprise, the closer that she looked, the more that she realized that there was an area that seemed a bit of a darker shade than the rest of the wall. As the two began to slowly brush their hands over the wall, they were able to feel the edges of a worn-out door. Within a few moments they had located a door handle.

While it was easy to turn the handle, the door would not budge as it clearly had not been used in quite a long time. James took a few steps back and then hurled his whole weight into the door. The door shuttered and the two could hear the sound of wood protesting the attack but the door did not give way. James took another couple steps back and ran at it a second time. This time the door buckled out and Rachel could hear that it was almost about to give way. This time James did not run into the door but gave it a hard kick in the middle and the door finally relented and fell to the floor with a loud crash.

As they peered through the doorway, they were met with a stale smell and darkness. It was impossible to see their hands in front of their faces much less what was truly on the other side of the door. James grabbed his gun from the table and handed it to Rachel to keep an eye out for any danger. He then pulled out a matchbox from a pocket and began to slowly inch through the door. Just on the other side of the door was a lamp. James stomped out the first match before lighting a second and using it to light the lamp.

Rachel was reluctant to move into what seemed to be a tunnel but she also did not like the idea of missing out on whatever mission Brisco was on, he was her ticket for promotion after all. So, she steadied her nerves and kept the gun at the ready by her side. After a few moments of the two slowly moving in the dark tunnel with only the dim lamp to guide them, James reached back to hold Rachel’s free hand. When she tried to protest that she wasn’t afraid, he stated that it was only to help her guide her as he had the only light, and they were traversing uneven ground. Rachel relented and quickly realized that it was the right decision as the ground was not only off kilter, but she could feel that they were walking uphill in the dark.

After fifteen minutes of slow, silent walking, they could finally start to feel a breeze. It seemed that they were coming to the end of the tunnel. Rachel could feel relief starting to rush in and as Rachel held James’ hand, it seemed like James was also starting to relax more. At the thought of finally getting to the other side, the two began to pick up the pace. Finally, they reached a door on the other side and it not only hinted at fresh air but small slits of sunlight through the cracks in the wooden door greeted their hungry eyes. To their joint relief, this door easily swung open and the couple found the sunshine both beautiful and blinding.

As their eyes adjusted, they found that they were in a small, empty cabin. The rest of the cabin lacked furnishing aside from a table, writing desk, and a pot belly stove in the corner. However, all along the far wall were a series of local maps. Each map had dates, times, and names scribbled at various circled spots. Within moments, both of them were at the wall to study it for clues. Rachel followed his gaze and found the sketch of a man with the word “Dean O’Banion” scribbled along the bottom. As she studied the face, she realized that she recognized it. Rachel excitedly exclaimed, “This is the man who met Brisco and Michael last night!”

“I’m guessing you know this man too?” inquired James.

She looked at the newspaper clipping that he was pointing to and sure enough, it was the fourth member of the table from last night. Rachel nodded slowly as she began to read the newspaper clipping, “New York Workshop Bombing, Suspect Still at Large.” Rachel’s heart sank as she continued to read the gruesome details of the event spurred on by this shady character, Snake Kinney. Before she could finish reading the article, James was out the door with one of the maps clutched in his hand. Rachel caught up to him as he studied the horizon. “It looks like we’re about two miles outside of town. How are you at talking and running?”

“With Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, I was able to shoot, ride, and recite the national anthem at the same time,” boasted Rachel. James began to run and Rachel sprinted to catch up with him.

“Talking is enough for now,” he called over his shoulder. “Because I still need to know who are you and why is Brisco following me?”

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