TEARS FOR THE DEAD
It was a hot day outside, but the office was quiet and cool. Yet the brow of the clerk had broken out in heavy beads of sweat. His voice trembled as he looked pitifully up at Klyne and Bates. “Don’t let on I told you, sir, please don’t. The man who hired the special train and a lot of the others are very rich and powerful, and if they ever knew…..”
“Sonny,” said Klyne, “We aim to go and talk to each and every one of those fine citizens, and I don’t figure that any of them will be round here after that to bother you.”
“Let me see,” said the clerk, getting up and walking to a dark green filing cabinet. He rummaged through some sheets, until he found a buff folder. Klyne noticed that his hands were shaking as he looked through the folder, finally holding up a single sheet of paper.
“Here we are. Special train. Ran from New Orleans up to San Francisco. Got held up just outside town here for a couple of days by that snow. Two coaches and an engine.”
“Most of this we know. Who hired it? And the list of passengers. It must have been cleared all along the line through here.”
“Yes, sir. Hired by….you won’t tell?”
Klyne leaned over him, smiling thinly, and rubbing his knuckles. “Hurt like a bastard, was all he’d ever say about it.”
Joe Nathan, from San Francisco. He’s the son of Senator Nathan. Very important.”
“He’d be the leader, then,” commented Bates.
“Come on with the rest of those names. Quickly. We got things to do.” Klyne said.
“Barry Barton, from Memphis. The reverend Charles Smith, from Yuma.”
“The card sharp and the preacher,” Klyne said as he remembered the name.
Larry Hailey from Carson City. Patrick Shelton from out at Gila Bend. And the Stanley brothers….Luke and Mark. They give their addresses as Lone pine. That’s up in….”
“The Sierra Nevadas,” interrupted Klyne. “I know it. That’s all you can tell us?”
“As God is my witness, mister!”
“Thanks a lot for your time. You’ve been a lot of help.”
After the door was shut behind the two men, the clerk staggered out the back to the bathroom and was very sick.
The Blue Leopard welcomed the two men, and they sat at a quiet table behind the piano….covered in dust so early in the day….and ordered drinks. Bates drank three quick whiskies straight off, while Klyne nursed his first one.
“Now we know who, and we know where they’ve gone. So we go after them. Is that your way of thinking as well, Roy?”
Klyne was toying with the gold ring that he’d taken off the severed finger. “Yeah that list on the waybill is a real break. If it had been an ordinary scheduled trip, they wouldn’t have had that kind of information. I just wonder about the guy who lost this finger….”
At that moment the fat, balding figure of Doc Newton breezed into the bar, sending the yellow doors swinging and creaking. Both men looked up at him, expecting the usual smile and joke. Newton had been their doctor, as he was for most of the folks of the small town, for years, and had attended Klyne’s wife during her miscarriages and for the still-birth.
But when he saw Klyne and Bates sitting there, his jaw dropped, and he spun round on his heel and bustled out again, sending the doors rattling for a second time.
“Now why in Hell did Doc do that?” wondered Bates, reaching again for the bottle.
Klyne clicked his fingers, tossing the ring up in the air so that it gleamed. “I got me one bright idea about that. Bill, come on.”
He was quickly up on his feet, striding out of the bar, hand moving under his jacket from the reborn habit to slip the safety catch off the gun he carried in his shoulder holster.
“Roy! Where are we going in such an all-fired hurry?” Bates asked his friend.
Klyne still held the ring, and he tossed it again in the air the
Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch