Cole momentarily stunned having been shoved to the floor of the car stayed there for a moment. He heard horses gallop off and the commotion outside became quiet. He stood up, dusted himself off and climbed off the train and made his way to the stock car. He knocked on the door. The man inside opened it a bit and peeked out. “Yeah?”
Cole said quietly, “The train has just been robbed. I need my horse so I can ride to Diamond Springs for help.”
The stock handler’s eyes went wide. “So that’s what all the commotion was all about? I usually don’t open the stock car or come out unless the engineer or fireman, or one of the train officials come and let me know there’s trouble and I need to bring the stock out.” He told Cole. He then quickly tacked up the horse and then put down the ramp and led the animal out of the car. “Here you go.” He said to the young man.
Cole smiled. “Thanks…I think you might want to get some of the other men and tend to everyone. I think the engineer and fireman might need to be released as well as the others on the train. I haven’t seen the brakeman or conductor either and I’m pretty certain the outlaws may also have taken care of the cook and porter too. I don’t know how many of them there were. I’m glad they didn’t know you were here or didn’t think about the stock car havin’ someone init or they’d probably have done somethin’ to you as well and taken my horse.”
The stock handler nodded. “Yes, I was able to keep your horse quiet when he got nervous by feedin’ him the carrots and apples you left for him.”
Cole smiled and stroke Boots nose. “Thank you for takin’ such good care of him.”
“You’re welcome.” The man said.
“I’ll be back with help as soon as I can.” Cole told him mounting up.
The man nodded and walked up to the front of the train after replacing the ramp and shutting up the stock car. They didn’t need sheep and cattle wandering all over the place.
Cole watched the man as he headed toward the other passengers and satisfied that he had done all he could for the moment wheeled Boots and set off at a gallop for Diamond Springs.
Gabe saw Jalen and Brett as they were making their rounds and told them Dan and Cole were on their way. Jalen smiled. “It will be good to have them back again…I’ve missed them.”
Gabe nodded. “Yes, I’ve missed my big brother too.”
Brett said, “I’ve missed hanging out with Cole. I’ve not been in the best of moods lately and I know it’s because I’m missin’ my friend.”
Jalen put an arm around Brett’s shoulders and squeezed lightly. “Well it’s understandable.”
Gabe checked the time on his watch and frowned. The train was overdue. It should have arrived about fifteen minutes ago.
Jalen smiled. “Watchin’ the time ain’t goin’ to make it go any faster Gabe.” He teased.
Gabe chuckled. “I can’t help it. I’m impatient.”
Jalen said, “You know the train isn’t always on time, even if it leaves on time. They can run into all manner of things that delay it.”
Gabe nodded. “Yes, I know, but I still don’t like waitin’.”
Brett smiled. “I’m with you Gabe…I want the train to come soon.” He glanced down the track, but there still was no plume of smoke indicating the train was in sight.
Cole rode Boots as fast as he dared along the side of the tracks, trying to be careful to avoid roots or anything that could cause Boots to stumble or fall. The last thing he needed would be to have his newly acquired horse break a leg and have to be put down or come up lame. He had to get to Diamond Springs. He worried about Dan and pushed the thoughts out of his mind. He kept telling himself over and over that Dan would be all right and Dawn too. He liked the young lady, even if he wasn’t exactly interested in females.
Jalen frowned as the train pushed being late almost an hour. He glanced at Gabe who was getting more and more agitated the longer the train was delayed.
When the train was more than an hour overdue Kelcy Johnson wired Glenwood Springs. They confirmed the train left on time and said they’d had no word from any trains coming in their direction about delays or trouble on the track. They suggested that they send the Sheriff down the line to see if he could spot any trouble.
Kelcy said he’d do that and requested they do the same.
The telegraph operator acknowledged that they also would do that and signed off.
Kelcy stepped out of his telegraph office and approached the Sheriff and Gabe. “I wired Glenwood Springs and they suggested there may be trouble on the line. They haven’t heard anything from the other direction and asked we send our Sheriff down the tracks to see if there was any trouble and they would do the same from their end.”
Jalen nodded. “All right…I’ll get mounted and head in that direction.”
Brett said, “I want to come with you Jalen…if there’s trouble we both may be needed.”
Jalen nodded. “All right. Let’s go over to the office and get mounted up.”
The two lawmen walked over to the Sheriff’s office to get their mounts.
Gabe called, “Come back soon…I’m worried!”
Jalen turned and waved. “Don’t worry Gabe; we’ll let you know as soon as we know anythin’.”
Kelcy put a hand on Gabe’s arm. “Don’t worry Gabe. It could just be an animal on the track that’s stopped the train, a deer or somethin’ it’s quite common you know.”
Gabe nodded, but he couldn’t quite believe that. His stomach was twisting in knots and he had a sense that something was wrong…very wrong.
Cole continued to gallop and was almost in tears as he saw the edge of Diamond Springs come into view. He galloped right up to the Sheriff’s office calling breathlessly, “Jalen! Brett! I need you! Now!”
Jalen and Brett at the back of the office tacking up their mounts heard Cole’s distressed breathless call after hearing someone galloping into town which wasn’t allowed. They rushed with their mounts to the street and Cole slipped down off Boots throwing the reins over the hitching post. “There’s been a robbery!” He cried…Dan’s been hurt…they got him and dawn!” He cried, tears beginning now.
Jalen hitched Liberty to the rail quickly and pulled Cole into a bear hug. “Slow down Cole…take deep breaths. Stop cryin’ now…I need to know what’s happened and then I can help.” He said calmly although his heart was beating hard.
Brett, seeing his good friend in distress also came and put his arms around him from behind. “Cole…it’s all goin’ to be all right. Me and Jalen will take care of things.” He told him.
Cole closed his eyes and tried to take deep breaths like Jalen had told him, happy to be enfolded in familiar arms of his partner’s closest friend and his own good buddy.
Gabe, seeing Cole gallop up to the office ran over and hearing Cole’s words said, “I’m comin’ with you”! I’ll help track down them varmints! I’ll get them for hurtin’ Dan and Dawn!”
Jalen bit back a sigh and said to Gabe, “Hold on there Gabe…I’m not even sure what’s exactly happened yet.”
Gabe glared at Jalen, but then remembered he trusted this man and worked at calming himself.
Jack Hillyard the livery owner had heard a horse being ridden hard at a gallop into town and when he glanced outside he hadn’t recognized the horse, but did recognize the rider. He stepped out of the livery and headed over toward Gabe and the Sheriff. When he heard there had been a robbery he waited to hear the rest of the story. He looked over the chocolate horse with the white boots and said quietly, “This horse needs to rest…if we ride out I can loan you another one Cole.”
Cole wide eyed turned to Jack and said, “Thank you Mr. Hillyard.”
Jalen then brought Cole’s attention back to him by asking, “Cole…what happened…where did it happen and how far away is the train?”
Cole said, “About an hour’s gallop from here. There were some outlaws on the train and some who boarded the train…they were comin’ and Dan heard them makin’ their way through the cars…we pulled our guns, but then we were taken by surprise, guns pressed to our heads from behind…” Cole bit his lip. “We really didn’t have much choice. One of the outlaws grabbed Dawn…and Dan tried to prevent them from doin’ it…and…” Cole began to cry again and Jalen held him tight for a few minutes, while Brett rubbed his back. Then he asked gently, “What happened to Dan?”
Cole said, “One of the robbers hit him in the temple with the butt of his pistol…he went down, unconscious and was bleedin’…then they went through his pockets and took everythin’ of value includin’ his watch and stuff, then flung him over their shoulder and carried him off along with Dawn!” Cole cried and began to sob. “I-I c-couldn’t do anythin’ but watch!” The young man said, distressed.
Gabe hearing Cole’s account went pale, his heart beating hard. “There’s no way I’m not comin’ with you Sheriff…I need to make sure Dan and Dawn are all right!”
He went up to Cole and getting right in his face cried, “Where did they take them? Which way did they go? Speak up boy!”
Jalen gently, but firmly pushed Gabe back from Cole. “Easy Gabe…we can’t go off hot headed. If you want to go then I suggest you calm yourself.” I won’t have anyone goin’ off half cocked. I know from experience it causes you to use poor judgment and make mistakes. I don’t want anythin’ to happen to you.”
Gabe backed off, but was still feeling agitated. “All right…you make good sense Jalen, but I can’t help bein’ worried.”
Jalen, holding Cole close nodded. “Yes, I understand, but we need to keep a cool head.”
Cole’s hazel eyes widened as Gabe got right in his face and started rapid firing questions at him. He cringed and felt Jalen’s arms around him tighten and was glad to see him make Gabe back off.
Brett glared at Gabe when he got in Cole’s face and was glad to see Jalen take charge before he grabbed the man and pulled him away. Then he bit his lip at his thoughts and realized he still had a lot to learn about handling people before he became a Sheriff. He could see that cool heads prevailed, not a hot headed response. He stayed close to Cole and listened and watched.
Jalen still holding Cole asked quietly, “Cole, can you bring us to the site and then can you show us which way the outlaws went?”
Cole nodded. “Yes…I can show you where the train is, but I don’t know which way the outlaws went for sure as I was inside the railroad car.”
Jalen smiled. “It’s all right…do you know if anyone else on the train was hurt?”
Cole shook his head. “I don’t think so…at least none of the passengers. I don’t know about the other people who work on the train. I just took off for here after the stock handler got Boots off the train. He said he’d check on ‘em.”
Jalen nodded. “I think we need to get a posse together and head for the train. Do you know how many men were involved?” Jalen asked, giving Cole a squeeze as he felt him tremble.
“Uhm…I’m not sure. I saw four, the two that got hold of me and Dan and the two who jumped on the train and carried away Dawn and Dan after he was knocked out. There were more outside, I could hear them, but not sure exactly how many more.” He told Jalen as he thought about his question for a moment.
The Sheriff nodded. He turned to Brett. “Brett…you stay with Cole I’m going to round up some men to form a posse.”
Brett nodded. “All right Jalen, I will.” He moved closer to Cole and put an arm around him as the Sheriff moved away to go about getting a posse together.
Jack Hillyard who had been watching and listening looked at Jalen and told him before he could begin his search for men to form the posse, “I’ll go with you Sheriff.”
Jalen smiled. “Thank you Jack.”
Gabe said, “I’m goin’ too.”
Jalen said firmly with a stern tone, “Only if you can control yourself. I don’t want anyone makin’ any moves without my say so first.”
Gabe nodded. “I promise Jalen…I’ll listen to you.”
Jalen nodded. “All right.” He headed down the street to see who else he would be able to get to join the posse.
Jalen stopped at the barber shop and Max Anderson told him he’d be willing to go and Hugo O’Brian at the blacksmith also said he’d go as well. Jim Duncan at the general store said he’d come too and made up medical supplies, put together several extra sleeping rolls, found a cooking pot and got together some provisions, including dried meat, vegetables, salt and coffee. Blake Sheridan the undertaker also joined them and Morris Hennings from the hotel agreed to come along as well. With him, Brett, Cole, Jack and Gabe that would be ten men and the Sheriff thought that should be sufficient to face the outlaws. Each of the men he chose he knew could handle a gun and were trustworthy. Some of them had helped out in posse’s before when he had needed them and he knew they would know what to do. He decided that if Gabe gave him any trouble he’d make him stay with the train.
As the men gathered with their horses in front of the Sheriff’s office Jack Hillyard took boots to the livery and returned with another reliable mount for Cole. He brought Cobb, a horse Cole was familiar with and had ridden before.
Cole gave Jack a small smile as he brought Cobb to him. “I think you and Cobb have gotten along real well before.” He told the younger man with a smile.
Cole nodded. “Yes, I like Cobb and him and I get along pretty good. He’s steady and reliable for me.”
Jack smiled. “Good. I rubbed down Boots and gave him feed and water. He’ll be all right until we return. He has a nice clean stall and the other horses at the livery will keep him company.”
Cole said, “Thank you Mr. Hillyard.”
Jack said, “You’re welcome, it was my pleasure. Boots is a fine lookin’ horse.”
Cole smiled. “Yes he is and I really like him.”
Gabe paced a bit, but then went to get his own mount, tacking up Spice and leading him to the Sheriff’s office where everyone would be gathering.
Brett continued to stay close to his friend and watched as men appeared with their horses along with rifles and hand guns. His eyes widened a bit when he saw just how many men were gathering. When he saw Jalen he asked quietly, “Isn’t there quite a few men?”
Jalen smiled. “It’ll be just enough to take care of things. It’s wise to have as many posse members as you’re able to when you don’t know how many outlaws you may be facing. It helps with plannin’ strategies if there’s a shoot out which there most probably will be.”
Brett listened attentively to Jalen’s explanation and then nodded. “Yes, that makes good sense Jalen.”
Once all the men who had pledged to ride in the posse arrived Jalen swore them all in as temporary deputies so they would have the power to arrest or contain any outlaws they were able to.
“Remember everyone.” Jalen said as he addressed the gathered men, “No one goes off on their own, everyone will listen to my instructions and if for some reason I’m not available then Brett will be in charge. No one makes a move or does anythin’ without either myself or Brett givin’ the go ahead. Is that understood? We don’t want any heroics or takin’ things into your own hands. Let us know if you have objections or think you have a better idea or strategy. Brett and I will listen and if we believe it has merit then we’ll agree as a group to follow a new or different plan.” The Sheriff informed his posse.
All the men involved nodded and assented to the rules and strictures Jalen was laying out. Those who had served on a posse before understood and already knew what was expected. Those, like Gabe, who hadn’t, listened and realized the instructions, were for their safety as well as the safety of the entire posse.
Cole bit his lip and watched as the men gathered. He gave Brett a small smile as he listened to Jalen’s instructions. He was still a bit nervous, but he knew he had to hold things together for the others at the train as well as Dan and Dawn.
Brett watched as everyone gathered and gave Cole a concerned look as it grew nearer the time they would all ride off. It felt like the process was taking forever when it didn’t take long at all, maybe all of about a half hour.
He smiled when he heard the Sheriff addressing the men and then glanced at Cole. He seemed nervous, but more pulled together than when he had arrived. He moved his horse, Spirit closer to them and smiled.
Cole smiled at Brett glad for his support.
Once everyone was ready Jalen smiled at Cole. “Cole, lead us out please.”
Cole startled at the request, but then went into action and kicking Cobb into a gallop led the way as the others followed galloping along as well.
The stock handler watched the young man ride off for help and went to the front of the train. There, he found the engineer and fireman and untied them and took out their gags. Then all three men went through the train reassuring passengers and locating the porter, waiter and cook, releasing them and finally the brake man and conductor. All were all right except for a few bruises and aches from being roughly handled. The stockman told the engineer that a young man, the one with the horse with white boots had ridden off to get help. The engineer acknowledged that and then enlisted the aid of some of the other men on the train to help clear the trees off the tracks and let the passengers know that help was on the way.
Dawn tried to hold still as her captor galloped along and would touch her in a way that made her skin crawl from time to time and would say awful things in her ear about her fate that made her shudder inside, although she worked hard to show no outward signs of her discomfort. She glanced over at Dan from time to time. She was worried about him. His head was still bleeding and he groaned from time to time as the outlaws rode along rough ground, having no consideration for his comfort. She was wondering where they were going.
As they rode along Dawn noticed that some of the brambles caught at her brown traveling skirt. The thorns tore at the hem catching the material and leaving brown threads in its grasp. She smiled to herself and subtly made her skirts catch on as many of the passing brambles as she could. Behind her two of the outlaws had leafy branches tied with ropes to their saddles. The branches would wipe out any trail left by the horses. She knew the lawmen would need a trail they could follow and hoped they would find this one. Glancing over at Dan, She hoped he wasn’t badly hurt as he still seemed unconscious and blood was still dripping.
Smokey leered at the young woman in his lap and he touched her wherever he chose. He wasn’t too concerned about the impropriety of his touches and whispered in her ear his thoughts about all the things he’d like to do to her once they reached their destination. He did wonder at her cool demeanor however and thought to himself that once they reached Mountain Grove and Falcon took her in hand she wouldn’t be so cool then.
Stony rode uncaring about the man slumped face down over his saddle. As long as the man didn’t cause him any trouble he wasn’t worried. The groans that emanated from him just let him know his captive was still alive.
Chewy and Slouch rode along behind with the leafy branches, obliterating any tracks their horses made. They were going to make it as difficult as possible for the law to find their trail.
Jalen, Gabe and the others followed Cole and Brett. After about an hour of galloping Jalen saw a plume of smoke ahead and knew they were closing in on the train.
As they broke into the area where the train was sitting steaming the engineer stepped forward. “Sheriff the robbers have been and gone.”
Jalen asked, “Is there anyone who saw in which direction they left?”
“I don’t know,” The man said…”I was gagged and tied up in the cab of the engine on the floor.”
Jalen nodded. “We’ll need to interview all the passengers.”
The engineer said, “I understand. I’ll come with you.”
Jalen said, “That would be helpful.” He took out some paper he had folded into his shirt pocket and a pencil and began, along with the engineer to interview the passengers one by one, writing down their names, addresses, what they had given the bandits and what they had seen, as well as any description they could give him. Brett also accompanied him and Cole stayed with the posse, waiting for instructions from either Brett or Jalen. He exchanged a look with Gabe and both were becoming restless.
Jack Hillyard and Hugo O’Brian helped the men who were clearing the tracks while Jalen and Brett continued among the passengers, making note of their losses and their descriptions of the robbers and the direction they seemed to think they went in.
Jalen, hearing hoof beats looked up and saw another lawman comeing in their direction. When the man arrived he excused himself and approached him. “Hello there…I’m Jalen Brooks, Sheriff of Diamond Springs.” He held out his hand as the lawman dismounted.
The other Sheriff smiled. “Hello, I’m Sheriff Brody Henderson, Sheriff of Glenwood Springs.”
The two men shook hands and then spent some time discussing the situation.
Jalen and Brody came to an agreement. “Sheriff Brooks, I’ll ride back to Glenwood Springs as it seems you have everythin’ here under control. I’ll wire the railroad regarding the payroll theft and if you recover it you can let them know.”
Jalen nodded. “All right Sheriff Henderson. That makes sense and I thank you for your assistance.”
Brody grinned. “No problem. I’m glad it’s given us a chance to meet.”
Jalen grinned. “Me too, but I would have rather it have been in different circumstances.”
Brody nodded. “Me too, but rest assured. I’ll take care of everything in regard to the theft and reportin’ it and the delay to the railroad.”
Jalen nodded. “I’m goin’ to have the engineer stop in Diamond Springs and await my return before proceeding as I may need witnesses for the judge if there’s to be a trial.”
Sheriff Henderson nodded. “All right. I’ll let the railroad know you’re holdin’ the train in Diamond Springs and that you’ll release it to proceed once you have returned and can give them more information.”
Jalen nodded. “All right, thank you.”
Brody Henderson re-mounted and headed back to Glenwood Springs with a wave of his hand.
Jalen resumed interviewing the rest of the passengers and once he was finished with the last one got together with Brett. “What did you find out?” Jalen asked.
Brett said, “I found out that the robbers wore bandanas over their faces so people only saw their eyes that they took Dawn and Dan, which we already knew and that they headed off to the north from what I could gather. They also took anything of value that they could from each passenger.”
Jalen nodded. “Sounds like what I found out as well. The Sheriff from Glenwood Springs said he’d go back and wire the railroad about the payroll having been stolen and that we’re holdin’ the train at Diamond springs until further notice.”
Brett nodded. “I’ll scout around and see if I can find any clues.”
Jalen said, looking around, “It looks like the tracks have been cleared. I’m going to tell the engineer to proceed to Diamond Springs and hold the train there until we return with news one way or another.”
Brett nodded. “All right. What about Gabe, have you decided if you’re takin’ him with us or makin’ him stay with the train?”
Jalen chewed his lip. “I’m not sure…I think it depends on how he acts in the next little bit. So far I haven’t seen him pressurin' Cole or anyone else, but waitin’ patiently like the other men for directions.”
Brett nodded. “All right, I’ll leave that decision to you then.”
Jalen agreed. “All right. I think we should walk the area to see if we can pick up any sign of the trails.”
Brett smiled. “That was what I was goin’ to do, see if I can find any clues as to the exact trail they may have taken.”