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 Hunter's Moon- What the Butler Saw

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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Hunter's Moon- What the Butler Saw   Fri Feb 07, 2014 6:33 pm

Hunter’s Moon

The full moon hung in the sky, fighting its way through the low, heavy clouds; the pitted surface the same dark-grey as the steam from the train which hung in the November air like dragon’s breath.  Two travellers grabbed their bags and headed towards the warmly lit windows with sighs of relief.

“Two hours late,” the Kid murmured.  “I’m freezin’.”

“You’re getting soft, Thaddeus,” Heyes chuckled.  “We’ve slept out in worse.”

“I gave all that up for a reason.”  The tall gunman opened the door and stepped into the welcoming, cozy railcar.  “It’s cold enough for snow.”

Heyes cast dark eyes up to the gathering clouds.  “Yes, it can fall early up here in the mountains,” he stepped into the train and smiled at the faces turning to observe the newcomers.  “Hey, Thaddeus.  It’s one of those new Pullman carriages.  We’ll be able to get some sleep.”

The Kid pulled the door closed behind them; the chill still hanging in the air around the newcomers echoing the fish-eyed, inexpressive, black-suited, fellow-travellers staring mutely at the new arrivals.  He smiled at the only friendly face; an approaching giant of man with grizzled, silver hair and a quiet, air of restrained dignity.  His dark skin emphasized the brightness of the impossibly wide smile.  He stretched out a huge hand looking for their tickets.

“Howdy, gents,” the grin flashed beneath the sparkling, jet eyes.  “Two?  Ya can upgrade to sleeping berths for another dollar apiece.”

“Sleeping berths?”  Heyes smiled at his cousin.  “Proper beds?”

“Yessir, all made up for you with fresh laundered linen and everythin’; and in the mornin’ we will serve fresh breakfast in the Delmonico Car.”  The man gestured toward the next car with his grey head.  “Mr. Pullman insists on all fresh made and only the very best for his passengers.”

“I guess that’s too good an offer to pass up,” the Kid nodded, forking over crumpled cash he dug out of his pocket.  “We expected to be propped up in a seat all night but I’m as stiff as an undertaker’s face after all that time in the cold.  I could do with a touch of luxury.”

The steward’s mobile brow crinkled into an almost impossible number of furrows.  “We can make you as snug as a bug in a cat’s ear.  Luxury is the service we aim to provide.  Can I get you a hot drink?”

The Kid noted the dull, creeping ache still boring into his bones from the frozen wait on the platform.  “Sure.  This all sounds real civilized.”

“George!”  The call came from a man in a coat with an astrakhan collar who gestured to the porter.  “I'm ready to turn in.  It’s getting late.”

The steward nodded towards the sallow man.  “Comin’, Mr. Glavin.  I’ll just get my colleague and we’ll have you tucked up tight as you like.”  He gestured towards the carriage.  “It’s time for us to convert the place for the night.  Make yourselves comfortable, gents.  The seat and the shelves fold out into bunks that run down the right-hand side.  They’re separated by curtains to make small cabins.  You can travel like kings.”

“Sounds great,” Heyes replied heading towards a vacant seat.  “It’s about time somebody realized our worth.”

A pair of admonishing blue eyes fixed on his cousin.  “We spend a good part of our time tryin’ to make sure folks don’t find out what we’re worth, Joshua.”

Both partners took a seat and smiled into the moon-shaped face of the soberly-dressed man sitting opposite.  The railway car was made up of the new Pullman seats, which meant the backs of the chairs could be swung over the cushioned bench so that the passengers could face either direction.  Most of the seats were set to allow passengers to sit facing one another but were long enough on one side of the carriage to convert to sleeping bunks.  The partners nodded to the people across the aisle; a middle-aged woman facing a granite-faced, grey-haired statue of a man who supported an ancient, balding specimen who snored heavily into the glass of the window. 

“Good evening,” the curt nod of the stiff man opposite did nothing to hide the gimlet eyes scrutinizing the newcomers. 
  
"It is now,” Heyes replied, noting the man’s English accent.  “A bed on a train?  What will they think of next? 

One pencil-thin brow arched superciliously.  “We do live in remarkable times.”

“Yup,” Heyes agreed.  “We’ve sure seen a lot of change in our lifetimes.  I sometimes wonder where it’ll all end up.”

“Lollygagging and wastefulness, if you ask me,” the stranger tutted.  “I’ve just read that a British company has invented perforated paper to use in the privy!  Can you imagine being too lazy to tear your own paper?”  He gave a heavy sigh, “and just think of the waste?  Why would anyone buy something especially for that?”

“Do you mind?”

They all turned to witness the glower of a pinch-faced, sparrow of a woman sitting across the aisle.  “Some things should not be discussed in front of ladies and that is one of them.  Save your gutter-talk for your workplace and the dollymops who frequent it.”  Her clipped, English accent gave the sentence the staccato stab of a stiletto as she pushed home her message.

“Mrs. Hunter, I am acutely aware that you do not approve of my chosen profession, but I did not invent this paper.  I merely discuss it with two travelling companions.”  The stranger turned to the partners, “Albert Philpot, at you service,” he tilted his head, “and you are?”

“Thaddeus Jones and this is my friend, Joshua Smith.”  The Kid bowed his head gently towards Mrs. Hunter, “and I’m truly sorry if you were offended, ma’am.  I’ll make sure we don’t discuss anything of that kind again.”

“See that you don’t,” she sniffed, turning back to her book.

“There sure seem to be a lot of English people on this train,” Heyes gazed around at the murmuring passengers before returning to Philpot.  “Are you travelling together?”

“Most of these men are with Gerald Tishing,” Philpot gestured towards the craggy-faced man beside Mrs. Hunter.  “He’s opening a school in San Francisco to teach butling.”

“Butling?”

Philpot smiled.  “He’s spent his life in one of the finest country houses in England.  A butler oversees the entire staff, makes sure the household runs as it should, and is entrusted with the most intimate secrets of the family.  He is a steward, a manager, and a chief of staff.  No large house can run well without a good butler.  Isn’t that right, Mr. Tishing?”

“It certainly is, Mr. Philpot,” the rugged face beside Mrs. Hunter belied the silky-smoothness of the man’s mellifluous voice.  “The better a butler is, the less it looks like he is actually working.”

“Yeah?” the Kid chuckled.  “I’ve been lookin’ for a job like that all my life.”

Tishing’s brows met slowly, like two boulders rolling together in his granite face.  “I am seeking more students for my course, and a good number of these passengers are coming to join the college, but you would never do.  A butler is upright, trustworthy, loyal, and discreet.”

“I’m all those things,” the Kid protested.

“He also needs to be a master of all the social graces; to the point he can cover them to save people from embarrassment.  You do not strike me as a man who has a mastery of etiquette. He has to be a man’s man – to meet his master’s every need.”

The blue eyes simmered with confusion.  “A man’s man?  I ain’t sure if that’s an insult or not, but I don’t think that’s a fit conversation to be havin’ around a lady.”

Mrs. Hunter gave a tinkling laugh.  “Definitely not butler material, Mr. Tishing.”

Heyes sat back and crossed his legs at the ankles.  “And you think there’s a need for all these butlers out West?  I can’t say I’ve ever worried about a lack of domestic staff.”

“Certainly.”  Tishing turned his long, craggy head; reminding Heyes of some pictures he’d seen of statues on some remote Polynesian island.  “There are many men who’ve made their fortunes and are seeking staff for the fine houses they are building.  I am going to train my students to the highest standards whilst Mrs. Hunter is going to run an employment agency to place them, and any other domestic staff they may need.”

“He’s got a point, Joshua.  Silky has a butler.”  The Kid paused, “and a huge house.  They could do well.”   

“True.”  Heyes turned back to Philpot.  “So what is your role, Mr. Philpot; the one which Mrs. Hunter disapproves of so much?”

“I am an accoucheur policeman.”

Heyes jaw tightened.  “Policeman?”

“Accoucheur Policeman,” Philpot corrected.  “I attend to ladies’ medical needs.  I am nothing to do with the law.”

“Disgusting,” snapped Mrs. Hunter.

“Huh?”

“He’s a midwife,” the matron sniped.  “A man has no business seeing things like that.  Not even a husband should ever see, well... that!”

Heyes laughed gently.  “A midwife?”  Two pairs of eyes scrutinised their travelling companion with renewed interest.  “A mid-husband?”

“It is called an accoucheur policeman, and it is a skilled and honourable profession.  All the fine ladies of Europe have used one for decades, including Queen Victoria herself .  It’s a great deal more than a midwife.  I specialise in women’s health; pregnant or not.”

Incredulous dark eyes gazed around the railway car.  “Butlers... male midwives?  England must be quite a place.  I don’t know why my father’s folks left.”

There was a long pause before the Kid whispered in Heyes’ ear.  “Joshua, what does he mean; he specialises in women’s health?  Is it what I think it is?”

“How should I know?  Do I look like an expert on female doctoring?”

“Nah...”  The sheepskin jacket relaxed into the corner along with its pensive occupant.  “Men get paid to do that?  Really?  And rich women let them?  It doesn’t seem right.”

“He helps them give birth, Thaddeus.  Most sane men would run a mile from that.”

“I guess.”  More mulling, then, “I’ve helped horses foal.  D’ya think it’s like that?”

Heyes rolled his eyes.  “There are some things I don’t want to think about.  Why are you so fixed on this?”

“I dunno.  It’s confusin’,” the Kid bit into his lip.  “I don’t often find folks I can admire and look down on at the same time.  That’s quite a job.”      

“Mr. Jones, my profession has done extremely well in Europe since the sixteenth century and with rich people in the East.  There is a rising demand amongst some very wealthy people in the West who wish all the comforts and advantages of their counterparts.  It is a new frontier and we intend to be pioneers in our own way.”

“Yeah?  Good luck with that, Mr. Philpot.”  Heyes pushed his hat back with one long finger.  “I’ve got a feeling you’re gonna need it.  Western men are kinda protective of their womenfolk.”

“We hope to be a civilizing influence in the wilderness,” Philpot smiled.    

“These English folk,” Mr. Astrakhan growled.  They think they’re better than everyone.  Look at them looking down their noses at us.”

Tishing arched a brow which resembled a tangle of fine wires.  “I don’t think that at all, sir.  I have come here to serve your nation.”

“I ain’t buyin that,” Glavin snarked back.  “My grandpa was Irish and told me all about the English.  They can shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time.  Haughty, that’s what he called them, and they look down every other nation.  I have Greek, Irish, Italian and Norwegian blood.  What have you got to say about that, Mr. Snooty?”

Tishing’s lips slowly spread into a smile, his grey eyes twinkling.  “I’d say it was awfully sporting of your mother, old chap.”

The color rose in a flush of anger but the huge porter appeared as if by magic and placed a wall of muscle between the two men.  “Bunks, gentlemen?  I think you seem over-tired,” the voice was light and friendly but the eyes signalled danger if the argument persisted.  “Perhaps some hot chocolate might be in order?”          

Another porter bustled by, his arms full of linen and blankets, and leaned against seats with flexed knees, trying to stay upright as the train chugged to a halt at the next station.  The youngest of the pair pointed out through the windows.  “Malachi, I can see a lady standin’ there, all by herself.  A woman travellin’ alone out here?  That ain’t right.”

The large, older man frowned and headed for the door.  “I’ll see to her.  Ain’t no lady travellin’ without protection when she gets on my train.”

“Malachi?” the Kid asked the younger porter.  “That man called him George.”

The porter dropped his voice to a murmur.  “His name is Malachi and mine is Jeffrey.  Some folks,” he darted a look of disdain at the man with the astrakhan collar, “well, they like to think they’re bein’ waited on by slaves seein’ as the porters and stewards is all black fellas.”

“What’s that got to do with callin’ somebody by the wrong name?” the Kid demanded.

“The boss is George Pullman, sir.  Slaves was called their master’s name, so they like to call us all George; but my name’s Jeffrey and that’s Malachi, sir.”

Cold, blue eyes bored into Glavin’s back.  “Slave names?  Is that right?”

“Yes, sir.  Now, would you like any food before we turn in?  We can offer you some roast beef sandwiches.”

The blue ice melted.  “Food?  Yeah, food would be great, Jeffrey.”

Malachi appeared at their side with a soberly-dressed young woman whose chignon was a tight as her forced smile.  “Can I leave this lady with you gents while I get her a bite to eat before everyone turns in?  It’s the only empty seat just now with Jeffrey and me makin’ up the bunks and all.”  He turned to Mrs. Hunter.  “You ladies will get along just fine, I’m sure.”

Both ex-outlaws stood respectfully.  “Thaddeus Jones, miss,” a gloved hand gestured towards Heyes, “and this here is Joshua Smith and Albert Philpot.  You’re on your own?  All the way out here at night?”

“Yes.”  The monosyllabic answer was softened by the bright smile dancing in the intelligent, hazel eyes.  She sat next to the accoucheur and straightened out her dark-green skirts before nodding to Mrs. Hunter across the aisle.  

Heyes frowned unsure if he had picked up the trace of an accent in so short an exchange.  “In the   mountains, at night?”

“I have business out here, Mr. Smith,” she replied, confirming yet another English accent.

“You sound like you’re a long way from home, Miss...?”

“Davies.  Maud Davies.”

The Kid smiled up at Malachi who proffered a tray bearing plates of sandwiches.  “Well, Miss Davies, what’s an English woman doin’ high in the Sierra Nevada mountains on her own?”

“I’m a writer,” Maud replied, reaching for the plate.  “I’ve been working out here.”

Intrigue lit Heyes’ eyes.  “A writer?  Dime novels?” 

She shook her head.  “Non fiction.  I write scholarly pieces on sociology.”

“Sociology?”

“The dynamics of the society in which we live.  We have recently been able to use a scientific methodology to predict the outcome for certain groups based upon their start in life.”  She bit daintily into her sandwich.  “It’s a fascinating subject.”

“One that brings you all the way out here?” the Kid asked.

“Certainly,” Maud peeled back the bread to delicately examine the beef.  “Poverty is a predictor of many things, including the need to emigrate from one’s home.  What happens to those people is of great interest to me.”

“Well, if you’re lookin’ for folks who left England for a new life you’ve got a whole mess of ‘em here,” the Kid waved towards the carriage full of trainee butlers and their new headmaster.  “Although I get the feelin’ the teacher’ll be talkin’ in someone else’s sleep.”

Philpot turned incredulous eyes on the newcomer.  “Miss Davies, I can’t believe you are out here alone.  Don’t you have a companion at the very least?”

“I am made of stern stuff and I am not foolish enough to go anywhere alone with a man.”  Maud shrugged.  “Besides, I have found that I have been treated with great respect.  There seems to be an old-fashioned code of honour in the West which offers a modicum of protection.  For the rest, I carry a gun.”

“But still,” Philpot protested, “A woman travelling without protection?  Why does your father allow this?”

“My father is dead.”  The hazel eyes burned with challenge.  “Why should I spend my life cooking and sewing?  I’m terrible at it.”

Blue eyes met brown.  “She’s got a point,” grinned the Kid.  “You spend your time doin’ what you’re good at and lots of folks don’t think it’s man’s work.”

Maud’s brow creased.  “Really?  What do you do?”

“Nothing a decent woman should talk about,” barked Mrs. Hunter from across the aisle.  “Don’t encourage him.”

Malachi’s hands rested proprietarily on seats on both sides of the aisles.  “I’m just goin’ to make up the last of the bunks.  I take it you ladies would like to share?  We can only split the bunks into two or four berths, so it seems right to put the only two women together.”

“That sounds sensible.  Miss Davis should not be allowed to sleep in any manner which may compromise her.  I will look after her.”  The older woman’s lips firmed.  “You have a gun?  That should prove handy.”  

“Why should my having a gun be handy to you?” Maud’s brows met in curiosity. 

“My moonstone.”  Mrs. Hunter patted her chest mysteriously.  “It was a gift from Lady Kettering herself and I keep it next to my heart.  It’s worth a fortune and is how Mr. Tishing and I intend to finance our College of Butling and Employment Agency.”

Maud shook her head.  “You should know I’m not much of a shot.  I can’t promise to be able to protect you from robbers.”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a conversation in a glance.  “Mrs. Hunter, if you have something of value concealed about your person it seems sensible not to tell anyone about it.  You’re just askin’ for trouble.”

“I agree, ma’am,” Malachi broke off from making up the bunks.  “I could get the conductor to put that in the safe for you.”

“A safe?” Mrs. Hunter shook her head furiously looking around the assembled company in turn.  “Oh, no.  Safes can be breached.  There are expert cracksmen out there who can get into anything.  I prefer to retain valuables on my person.”

“Ma’am,” Heyes cleared his throat.  “I’m real concerned about you having something so valuable and telling folks about it.  I think the safe is a good idea.”

“Nonsense.  I have travelled all the way from Liverpool with this stone in my clothing.  It couldn’t be safer.”

Heyes pulled out his gun, pointing it straight at the startled matron.  “Hand it over, Mrs. Hunter.”

The Kid’s eyes widened.  “Joshua!  What the Sam Hill are you doin’?”

“I’m showing Mrs. Hunter that she’s not as secure as she thinks, Thaddeus.”  Heyes smiled.  “It’s that easy, Mrs. Hunter.  Put it in the safe. There’s not one thing any man on this train can do to me right now without risking your life.  If someone did this for real you’d lose your nest-egg – at the very least.  You can’t go around with that stone now you’ve told a trainload of folks about it.”

“Ya think?  Put that gun away or I’ll break your neck myself,” embarrassed blue eyes scanned the gaggle of trainee butlers who gaped at the spectacle of the woman being held at gunpoint.  “I’m sorry, ma’am.  He reads a lot and can get carried away,” the eyes narrowed, “unless I’m there to stop him.”  A gloved hand reached out and took the weapon from his partner’s hand.  “Have you gone totally loco?  You don’t point guns at women, no matter what point you’re tryin’ to make.”  

“I have to agree with your friend, sir,” Malachi agreed fixing Heyes with keen dark eyes.  “Guns ain’t toys.”

“I’m just trying  get her to see sense,” Heyes protested.  “There are some ruthless people around and now she’s told everyone she’s carrying a valuable jewel; she could be a sitting duck.”

“Not while I’m around you won’t, Mrs. Hunter,” the Kid handed Heyes’ Schofield back to him with a warning glint.  “I’ll make a point of lookin’ out for you.”

Philpot shifted uneasily from foot to foot.  “We never asked, but what do you two do for a living?”

“Security,” Heyes muttered, “and I have good reason why I need to make sure that stone isn’t stolen.  It wouldn’t do our reputations any good at all.”  The intense brown eyes clouded over.  “It could be very damaging.”

“What my silver-tongued friend meant to say was that it would be upsettin’ for Mrs. Hunter.”  The Kid glowered at Heyes.  “Didn’t you, Joshua?”

“I guess.”  A sharp nudge from his cousin finally jerked the eloquence into action.  “I was trying to show you how easily a woman can be robbed, Mrs. Hunter, even in front of a crowd of people.  I could have taken that stone and jumped off the train and that’d be last you’d see me or your moonstone.”

The Kid folded his arms.  “Or I could just promise to toss him right out the door for you, ma’am.  That way he’d only be able to embarrass the coyotes and the wolves.”  He shook his head in admonishment.  “What were you thinkin’?”

“Well, I can be sure of sleeping soundly tonight,” Mrs. Hunter sniffed.  “After all we have two trained security men aboard.”

“Sure ya can,” the tousled head nodded in agreement.  “I’ll make sure that the next time my friend here draws his gun, it’ll be necessary.”

“A real good idea.  I like a nice quiet journey,” Malachi returned to making up the bunks as Jeffrey hooked the curtain dividers to the extendable rails.  “I’ll put you two in the bunks next to the ladies, with Misters Tishing and Philpot on the other side.  That should give them plenty of protection.”  The obsidian eyes stared at each of the men in turn. 
“Especially if I’m keepin’ an eye on things.”

oooOOOOoo

The bunks were not the most comfortable sleep the partners had ever had, but they were far from the worst and they were quickly lulled into a gentle slumber; broken only by the odd snore of a butler or the muted footfall of the giant porter patrolling intermittently.  They were warm, comfortable and tired; so they soon drifted into a tranquil, enveloping repose; rocked in the serene arms of Mr. Pullman’s new sleeper car.

oooOOOooo

They woke simultaneously, jolted by the sound of the brakes grinding and the engine puffing and huffing in protest at an unscheduled stop.  The Kid’s hand reached for his gun even before he was fully conscious.                

“No!”

The cry came from Jeffrey, the younger steward, who was staggering into the aisle in shock.

Heyes strode out of the curtained area fastening his trousers.  “What’s wrong?”

“Mrs. Hunter,” Jeffrey stammered, “she’s been killed.”

Heyes dragged the curtain aside revealing the tiny-framed woman lying in a pool of blood.  He knelt and scrutinised her.  “Bring a lamp!”  He reached out and touched her face.  “She’s alive.  She’s warm.  Fetch Philpot.  He’s a doctor.”

The Englishman wandered groggily forward.  “I’m not a doctor.  I’m a...”

“We don’t care what you are, Philpot,” the Kid growled.  “You’re the nearest thing we’ve got.  You’ve got medical training.  Get in there.”  

Mrs. Hunter’s eyes flickered weakly open.  “My moonstone.  Miss Davies...”  She fell back into insensibility.

The Kid frowned and keen blue eyes looked up and down the railway car.  “Where is Miss Davies?” 

Malachi padded briskly up to the group.  “Oh, my goodness!  The poor woman.”

“Yeah, Philpot’s seein’ to her.  She’s still alive.  Why’ve we stopped?”

Malachi quickly fastened a stray button.  “I’m sorry, gentlemen.  I was on a break.  I have been informed that a rock fall has blocked the tracks.  We will dig it out and be on our way as soon as possible.”

“A rock fall?  So we’re not at a station?” Heyes demanded.

“No, sir.  We’re high in the mountains, miles from anywhere.”

Heyes’ brows knotted into a frown.  “Miles from anywhere?  So where has Maud Davies gone?”

“With the moonstone?”  The Kid ran over to the door and looked out at the huge feathery flakes drifting down from the heavy skies.  “Where has she gone?  There’s nowhere to go

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Hunter's Moon Part 2 What's in a Name   Fri Feb 07, 2014 6:44 pm

Hunter's Moon Part 2   What's In a Name
 
Mrs. Hunter’s eyes flickered and her head jerked from side to side to escape the pungent smelling salts being held under her nose by Philpot.  “Mnuurgh...” 
 
“She’s coming round.”  Philpot turned and nodded towards Malachi.  “Will you help me to lift her onto the bunk?  And somebody bring a lamp.  I need to see what I’m doing.”
 
“You get the light, Malachi,” Heyes gestured towards the end of the carriage with his head, “I’ll help here.”
 
The two men lifted the tiny woman onto the lower bunk, where the shadows suddenly deepened to black against the arriving lamplight.
 
Philpot’s eyes flicked over to the pool of red liquid on the floor.  “That must be quite a head wound.  Turn her on her side so I can see.”  He frowned and waved to usher the lamp to where he needed it.  “Yeah, there’s a wound on the back of her head.  It looks like a clean cut.”
 
“Does it need stitches?” Heyes asked.
 
“How do I know,” Philpot scowled.  “I don’t usually deal with this end.  I’m not a doctor.”
 
Heyes gave a huff of disapproval.  “Use your common sense.  What do you think?”
 
“I always find it best to use the most conservative method possible.  Give me my bag,” Philpot stretched out a beckoning hand to the porter hovering on the background.  “I’ll put a pad on it and if it keeps bleeding I’ll stitch it.”
 
The men left the accoucheur to bandage up the injured woman as the men gathered in the aisle.  “Where’s Miss Davies?” a worried Kid looked up and down the train.
 
“You can’t think she did this,” Heyes scratched his head.  “A head injury like that would take strength or a powerful struggle; and we would have heard that.”
 
“All I know is that there’s been a violent robbery and a woman is missin’.  I ain’t accusin’ her of anythin’, I’m worried about her.”
 
Heyes nodded.  “Yeah, me too.”
 
Malachi finished lighting the carriage lamps and extinguished his taper with a blast of breath.  “If you don’t mind me saying so, gentlemen, you’re in security.  Unless the conductor has anyone else in mind, I believe you can help to make a search professional.”  He turned to the younger steward.  “Jeffrey?  Can you please mop up the blood from the floor and I’ll take them through to meet Mister Stephen?”
 
**********
 
The conductor was marked out by his livery, peaked cap, and grave expression.  He broke off from his conversation to give a hard stare at the men wearing tied-down guns walking behind his head porter.  “Malachi?”
 
“Mr. Stephen, sir?  These two gents work in security and I thought you’d find it useful to have them on our side considering we’ve had a robbery and got a female passenger missing.”
 
Intelligent grey eyes appraised them under a pair of steel-wool eyebrows.  “Security?  Who have you worked for?”
 
“We usually work for the Governor of Wyoming, but we have a large list of clientele,” Heyes replied.
 
The conductor’s eyes glittered with suspicion.  “I can check, sir.  Mr. Pullman is testing a new type of wireless telegraph and we have the prototype on this train.  If I was to check you out, who would I ask?”
 
“The Governor of Wyoming; but for a quicker response, Sheriff Lom Trevors at Porterville can vouch for us.  We’ve ridden with him.  I’m Joshua Smith and this is Thaddeus Jones,” Heyes’ cheeks dimpled.  “Does that mean we’ve got help coming?  That’s good news.”
 
The conductor shook his head.  “Not fast.  We’re fifty miles to the nearest town and high in the mountains behind a rock fall, but at least we have contact with the outside world.  Lom Trevors, you say?”
 
“Yes.  We rode with him before we started picking up jobs for the Governor,” Heyes smiled innocently.  “We have a lot of other clients we have to keep confidential, you understand.”
 
“Stephen Farrow,” the conductor extended an arm in handshake.  “What would you fellas do first?”
 
“Search the train, systematically and thoroughly.  Miss Davies has to be somewhere,” the Kid replied. 
 
“Sounds like a plan.  There are only two passenger carriages.  The rest are freight and livestock.  Do you want any of my staff to help you?”
 
The partners exchanged a glance before Heyes replied.  “One of your employees with us to show we have the authority to search and to vouch for the fact that we conduct ourselves properly.  We’ll do the search ourselves; except for the ladies.  Do you have any female staff that could help?”
 
“Yes, Miss Cunningham has worked with me for years.  She’s great with the passengers.”  The conductor frowned.  “Why only one with you, surely the search would be over faster if we all searched?” 
 
“We have no choice with the ladies, but we prefer to do the search ourselves.”  Heyes gave a conciliatory smile.  “No offense, but how do we know your staff weren’t involved?  We can’t assume that a search will be thorough enough or that they’re honest about what they find.” 
 
“Right back at ya, Mr. Smith, how do I know you weren’t involved?”
 
“You don’t, Mr. Farrow.  That’s why I want a staff member with us.”
 
The conductor nodded sagely.  “Fine, I’ll supervise the search myself.  I just have a telegram to send before we start.  Malachi, can you make sure the passengers have everything they need; but ration the food?  We don’t know how long we’ll be stuck here.” 
 
Malachi nodded his greying head.  “Will do, Mr. Stephen.”
 
**********
 
Heyes and Curry looked down at the granite face of Gerald Tishing and the ancient man who sat propped up in the corner beside him.  “Mr. Tishing?  Would you and your companion mind stepping over here so we can search you?”
 
“Mind?  Of course I mind.”  Tishing turned indignant eyes on Heyes.  “I am not a thief.”
 
“I’m sure of it, sir.  But everyone’s being searched.  The conductor searched my friend and me.”
 
“And what about the ladies?  I will not allow you to lay a finger on them.”
 
“Neither would I, Mr. Tishing,” the conductor smiled the patient smile of the professional people-handler.  “My lady stewardess is looking after that.  Miss Cunningham has worked with me for a long time and is very efficient.”
 
“Ladies being searched by staff?  This is an outrage!”
 
“Voluntarily, Mr. Tishing.  Everyone has agreed to the search to establish what is going on here.  A violent crime has been committed.”
 
“And if I refuse?”
 
“Then we will draw our own conclusions,” drawled the Kid, “and this train has a telegraph system so help is on the way.  Anyone refusing to help will be a prime suspect and handed over to the law.”
 
“Never, in all my born days, have I encountered such behaviour.  I will register an official complaint.”
 
Heyes switched on his charming smile.  “Feel free, Tishing, but I’d have thought you’d have been keen to assist in a vicious attack on your business partner.”
 
The craggy face dropped into its mask of feigned indifference.  “Of course I want to help.  I didn’t say that I wouldn’t.”
 
“Then allow us to search you and the area you were sitting in.”  The Kid nodded towards the skeletal, old gentleman who snored softly beside him.  “Is this your father?”
 
“Goodness me, no,” one of Tishing’s brows rose superciliously.  “He’s my assistant.”
 
“Assistant?”  Everyone fought to suppress the smiles fighting their way through the politeness.  Heyes cleared his throat. “He’s rather senior to be an assistant, isn’t he?  How old is he, eighty; ninety?”
 
“His age is of no consequence.  Old butlers never die, they mature.  Mr. Jenkins has worked with the royal family and has a world of experience to bring to my Academy of Butling.”  Tishing raised his hawk-like nose specially to look down it.  “He taught me all I know.”
 
“Did he teach you that attempted murder is a very serious offence?” the Kid asked, laconically.
 
Tishing sniffed.  “I am willing to assist.  I just don’t like my privacy invaded by strangers.”
 
“We learned a long time ago that crime robs folks of a lot more than just property.”  The Kid held out an arm to help the old man struggle to his feet.  “Come with me, Mr. Jenkins.  I’ll make sure we get you a seat to make you as comfortable as possible.”
 
The elderly man leaned forward with a hand behind his ear.  “Huh?”
 
“Come with us, Mr. Jenkins.”
 
“Who?”
 
The Kid smiled patiently.  “Please come with us.”
 
“Is it time for my bath?”
 
“No, sir.  We’re just going to make sure you didn’t have somethin’ planted on you?”
 
The wrinkled face screwed up.  “Planted?  Are you a gardener?”
 
The Kid smiled.  “No, sir.  I’m, not a gardener.”
 
“Are you sure?  You look like a gardener.”  The wrinkled flesh folded into a scowl.  “You know him don’t you?  That footman.  He’s always around causing problems.”    
 
The Kid tried again.  “Come with me, Mr. Jenkins.”
 
“Who?”
 
“You.”  The Kid held out an arm.  “Come with me, please.”
 
“Come with you?  Sure.  Why didn’t you say so?”  The old man turned to Tishing.  “Why don’t folks get to the point anymore?  Wittering on about gardeners and old footmen.  Honestly!  No wonder you young folks don’t get anything done.  You can’t keep to the point.”
 
Exasperated blue eyes stared at Tishing.  “Sir, can you help?”
 
“Are we there yet?” Mr. Jenkins muttered.
 
Tishing extended a proprietorial arm towards the old fellow.  “Yes.  We just have to go through customs first.  They need to search us for contraband.” Tishing glanced up at the questioning faces.  “Humor him.  He’s very elderly and there are no pensions for domestic staff.  We look after our own because nobody else will.”
 
Heyes cheeks dimpled.  “Now, that I can understand; we will be very gentle with him, Mr. Tishing.  I promise you.”   
 
**********
 
A pair of arctic-blue eyes glowered at the accoucheur.  “Come on now, Mr. Philpot.  Everyone else on the train has been searched.  We’re askin’ you nice to cooperate.  Everyone else has, and even Mr. Glavin did,” he glared at the sullen-faced man in the Astrakhan collar.  “Eventually...”
 
“You bullied me into it,” Glavin protested.  “You pulled back your jacket and kept your hand near that gun.  Don’t think I didn’t notice.  I’ll be making a formal complaint to the authorities about this.  I’m not afraid to put it in writing, you know.”
 
“He didn’t say a word to you,” the conductor replied.  “I was here the whole time.”
 
“Yeah, with him glaring over your shoulder, mean as a junkyard dog.”  Glavin folded his arms.  “And you didn’t find anything either.  I told you so.”
 
“Well, one of the hazards of our line of work is that we can’t place a lot of stock on people’s word,” Heyes turned back to Philpot.  “Come on, Mr. Philpot.  You’re the last.  Once we’ve searched you, we’ve done the whole train.”
 
“I fail to see how I can be concealing a missing woman in my medical bag.”
 
“We’re searchin’ for a missing woman and a stolen gem, remember?” the Kid growled.  “We’ve been through the whole train, including the livestock and the freight and there’s no sign of her, so now we’re just lookin’ for the moonstone.”
 
“I am not a thief!” Philpot protested.
 
“Good, then you’ll want to be eliminated as a suspect, won’t ya?”  The Kid grabbed the leather bag and snapped it open.  He pulled out a large set of mid-cavity forceps.  “What are these for?”
 
Philpot rolled his eyes.  “They’re for removing jewels at a distance.  It saves getting too near the victim.  I can pick them up from over a woman’s shoulder.”
 
The Kid narrowed his eyes.  “Yeah, right.”  He pulled out a packet of powder.  “And this?”
 
“Magnesium sulphate.”
 
“What do you need a powder for?”
 
Philpot shrugged.  “It’s for afterwards.”
 
The Kid frowned.  “Huh?”
 
“Think, man.  Aren’t you married?  What do women do after they have your baby?”
 
Heyes and Curry stared blankly at the conductor who clearly felt he was the only one able to venture an option.  “Swear at you?  Warn you never to come near her again?  Is there a powder you can give her for that, cos even after all this time...?”
 
“Not immediately afterwards!” spluttered Philpot.  “It dries up their milk.  Decent women do not feed their own babies.  They use a wet nurse.”
 
Three men pursed their lips to bite back a very similar comment and stared back at the bag.
 
A long-handled hook was next out of the bag.  “And this?  It looks like a button-hook.  A big ‘un.”
 
“That’s a decapitation hook.”
 
“Decapitation?”  The Kid blanched.  “Here, Joshua.  I get the feeling this is more your area than mine.  I’ll get Malachi to sieve the powder to make sure nothin’s hidden in it.”
 
**********
 
Farrow indicated some upturned crates in the conductor’s car.  “Take a seat and Malachi will bring you some coffee.”  He lifted a piece of paper from his tray wire in-tray.  “So, Mr. Trevors has replied.  You two are who you say you are.  He regularly gets you jobs to do for the Governor of Wyoming.”
 
“He sure does,” the Kid leaned back against the wall and folded a long leg on top the other, “and not always the ones we’d choose for ourselves.”   
 
“Any sign of anyone coming to help?” Heyes smiled up at Malachi who handed around mugs of coffee.
 
“We’re fifty miles from the nearest town and the weather’s shocking.  It’ll take a few days for them to get here at best.  Have we got enough supplies, Malachi? “
 
The Chief Steward nodded.  “Yessir, I’ve done an inventory and we’ve got supplies we were delivering to the depot so we’re not going to go hungry.  It’s mostly tinned meat and vegetables, but the Cook should be able to provide something warm and nourishing for folks.”
 
“Good, that’s one worry taken care of.” Farrow sipped at his coffee before nursing the warming receptacle in his cold hands.   “So, we’ve searched the train from top to bottom.  No sign of Miss Davies or the moonstone and no footprints in the snow from after the train came to a halt.  I guess we can only come to one conclusion.”
 
“That a woman is freezing to death somewhere in the mountains?”  Heyes frowned.  “If she jumped off with the stone, she’ll be dead by now.”
 
“That’s what I thought, Joshua.”  The Kid downed his coffee.  “I guess there’s only one thing left for us to do.”
 
Heyes grimaced, guessing what was coming.  “In this weather?”
 
“There are horses in the freight car,” a pair of determined blue eyes fixed each of the men in turn.  “We can’t leave her out there.”
 
“She tried to murder one of my passengers,” Farrow blew on his drink.  “I’m not interested in putting anyone at risk trying to find her.”
 
“It ain’t up to us to sentence her,” the Kid leaned forward, determinedly, “it’s our job to bring her in.  I ain’t gonna sit back and let a woman freeze to death without makin’ any effort to rescue her.”
 
“Much as I hate to admit it, my humanitarian friend is right.”  Heyes sighed.  “I guess we’d better take a couple of horses along the tracks until we find her.”
 
Farrow’s hirsute brows rose.  “I guess that’s the difference between a professional detective and a conductor.  I reckon she made her bed so she should stew in it.”
 
Heyes chuckled lightly at the mixed metaphor.  “How far did we travel last night from when we all turned in until we hit this rock fall?”
 
“We’re carrying freight and climbing uphill for about an hour so I doubt it’s more than twenty miles.”
 
“In this weather?”  Heyes shook his head.  “We can’t go that far.  We have to get back before dark.  “We’ll go and look, but if she’s too far back the authorities will have to recover her body.”
 
Malachi’s eyes widened in shock.  “Body?  You’re sure that she’s dead?”
 
Heyes’ dark eyes glittered with regret.  “Pretty sure.  I wouldn’t do it terrain like this unless my life depended on it.  In cold like this and dressed the way she was, she’d last, what; four, maybe six hours?”
 
The Kid nodded.  “Unless she had a plan and was prepared for it.”
 
“It’s hard to prepare for a jump from a train in the mountains, Thaddeus.  She had no way of knowing what time Mrs. Hunter was going to fall asleep.  Nah, this wasn’t planned.”  
 
“Stupid; stupid girl!” the Kid muttered.  “She’ll be as cold and hard as that moonstone by now.  What good did it do her?” 
 
“Yeah,” Heyes stared down into his drink.  “I guess we’d better get moving.  I reckon it’ll be dark by about four o’clock so time’s a wasting.  Can you saddle up a couple of those horses for us?”
 
**********
 
The biting wind cut through the layers of clothing but the riders pressed on, the animals with their heads down as they faced into the stinging hail and slashing cold.  Progress was slow because the partners were cautious about the effect of the sharp rocks on the horses’ hooves through the drifting snow, but they inexorably made their way along the track, back the way the train had come, checking for signs of anyone jumping from a train, prints in the snow or anything else suspicious.
 
The wasteland spread out before them, nature in the raw; polar armour of bone-numbing ice encasing the already hard ground.  The bleak, white expanse stretched as far as the eye could see; a lucent, frigid desert as deadly as it was beautiful.  One of the riders raised his head and pointed ahead, calling out to alert the other of a flash of color in the snow ahead. 
 
“Wasn’t she wearing a green outfit?” Heyes called.
 
“Yeah, dark-green.”  The Kid drew the horse he was leading behind his own to a halt.  “Is that her?”
 
“Well, I doubt that’s grass showing through the snow.  Not in this weather”
 
They urged their mounts on, gaining ground on the bundle lying in the snow like a broken doll and a pair of grim blue eyes slid sideways to grimace at his cousin.  The Kid pulled out a gun and fired a shot in the air to chase off the forging fox working on the face before he dismounted.  It was clear that Miss Maud Davies was very dead indeed.
 
The snow around the body was stained with the blood which had seeped into the ground, staining and contaminating the ground with a cloud of darkening gore. 
 
The Kid waved an arm at the birds picking at what was left of her cheek.  “Git!” 
 
A raven fluttered away to the safety of nearby rocks to stare at him with indignant obsidian eyes.  Food was precious in this weather and a prize like this wasn’t to be abandoned easily.  He would wait until this human moved on and resume his feast in peace.  Persistence paid off in a harsh climate. 
 
Heyes crouched over the body.  “Her throat’s cut.”  The phrase seemed almost redundant given the gaping, open wound staring back at them.  Heyes pointed at the long, thin, spray-like stain colouring the snow for yards leading up to the body.  He frowned and stood deep in thought before striding the length of the stain, obviously counting as he went.  He stood at the clean, virgin snow before the long blood-splatter began and glanced between the tracks and the cadaver, his gloved hand on his chin.
 
“So?” the Kid demanded.  “What’re you lookin’ at?”
 
“You see this long thin blood stain?”
 
“Yeah.”
 
Heyes sighed deeply.  “Her throat was cut.”
 
“I can see that.”
 
“The train was travelling about twenty miles an hour, according to the conductor.”  Heyes pointed to the start of the blood spray in the snow.  “Now, if her throat was slit when she standing on the observation deck when the train was here, it would be carried outwards by the momentum of the train to hit the snow here.”  He strode the length of the stain counting once more.  “This is about fifteen yards long.  There are two hundred and twenty yards in a furlong and eight furlongs in a mile.  That’s seventeen hundred and sixty yards in a mile.”
 
The Kid stood patiently, well-used to his partner’s analytical mind.  “Go on.”
 
“So, it would take an hour to travel seventeen hundred and sixty yards.  That means it would take about thirty seconds to travel fourteen or fifteen yards.  We can’t be sure of the exact speed of the train, but the blood sprayed from her body for a distance of just over fourteen yards before she hit the ground.”
 
The Kid pushed back his hat and gazed aimlessly at the heavy sky.  “So she had her throat slit and blood spurted out for almost half a minute before she either fell or was thrown from the train?”
 
“That’s about the size of it, Kid.  We can check for traces of blood when we get back to see where it happened.  I’m guessing it was the observation deck.”
 
“She must have seen the thief.  Why didn’t she cry out?  I didn’t hear a thing and I’m a real light sleeper.”
 
“It’s hard to shout with a cut throat.”  Heyes sighed heavily and stared down at the last mortal remains of Maud Davies.  “Maybe she was in on it and her accomplice decided they wanted all the cash for themselves?”
 
“She wouldn’t be the first to go that way,” the Kid strode over to his horse.  “Whatever happened, I’m glad we brought those tarpaulins.  Let’s get her wrapped up and get back to the train.  It’ll be gettin’ dark in a couple of hours.”
 
**********
 
“Dead?”
 
“Very.”  Heyes cradled the bowl of soup in his chilled hands and blew away the steam.  “Poor woman.  I’m guessing she was killed by the same person who attacked Mrs. Hunter.” 
 
Malachi shook his head and proffered the plate of bread.  “Terrible, just terrible.  I ain’t never seen the like in all my born days.  She seemed like such a respectable young lady.  Real bookish, but a good type.  May her soul rest in peace.”
 
Heyes’ eyes narrowed in thought.  “Yes.  She did study a lot.  She said so.”
 
“So, have you heard from anyone?” the Kid reached out and grasped a couple of slices of bread.  “Any word of anyone comin’ to dig us out?” 
 
Farrow leaned against the bulkhead.  “They’re setting out in the morning.  They had to get a team of navigators together to dig us out.”
 
Heyes nodded.  “How long until they get here?” 
 
“Sometime tomorrow.  Probably late in the day.”  The conductor folded his arms.  “They’ll be bringing the law with them.  What do you fellas suggest doing now?”
 
“Question the passengers and fit together a picture of everyone’s movements.”  Heyes prodded at a potato with his spoon.  “Before we do that, can you grab me the old man’s bags; Jenkins, was it?”
 
The conductor nodded.  “Yes, but why?”
 
Dark eyes glistened with promise.  “He said something strange about a footman and a gardener.  I want to speak to him first.”
 
“Why?”  The conductor frowned.  “He’s old.  He’s probably just senile.”
 
“His name.  He didn’t recognise his name.  I’ve seen old, confused folks before and their name gets their attention before anything else.”  Heyes downed the last of his soup.  “Jenkins isn’t his real name.  I’ll put my money on that.  If we find out a bit more we may have something to tangible to ask Tishing and Mrs. Hunter. ”
 
“An alias?” Farrow frowned.  “He doesn’t look the type.  Surely not.”
 
“What’s in a name?” Heyes mused.  “It can tell you a man’s history or it can tell you that he’s hiding it.  Either way, it tells a story; and I need to know that old man’s story before I question anyone else.”
 
 
Historical Note
 
The 'Old Units of Length' thread in the site at the link below show the measurements Heyes used to make the calculations on the blood splatter.  There are numerous articles on the internet about 19th Century children learning such tables by rote. 
 
http://aliassmithandjones.canadian-forum.com/t292-old-units-of-length

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb


Last edited by Silverkelpie on Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Hunter's Moon- Part 3    Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:55 pm

Hunter's Moon  Part 3 - the Thrill of the Chase
 
 
“We interview him without you here, Mr. Tishing.”  Heyes folded his arms and smiled at the elderly gentleman.  “I insist on it.”
 
The granite face took on the hue of rose quartz.  “He’s old and confused.  You’ll get nothing out of him without my help.”

“He seems okay at the moment.”  The Kid glanced at the old man being assisted to drink a cup of warm, sugared milk by the stewardess.  “We’ll let you know if we need your help.”     
 
“Staff will be here at all times,” the conductor ushered the head of the Academy of Butling to the door of the conductor’s car.  “We’ll call on you if we need you.”
 
Tishing looked over at the stewardess whose competent smile shone brightly and reassuringly.  “She’ll be here?”
 
Heyes nodded.  “Yes, sir.  He seems to like Miss Cunningham.”
 
“It’ll be her dark skin,” Tishing nodded.  “He probably thinks you’re Indian, miss.”
 
Miss Cunningham’s brow creased.  “They’ve got braids and shoot bow and arrows.  I look nothing like one.”
 
Tishing chuckled lightly.  “He spent time in India with Earl Brockenhurst.  He fell head over heels for a beautiful lady there, but they couldn’t marry because of her place.”
 
Heyes smiled sympathetically.  “Because she wasn’t white?”
 
Tishing shook his head.  “She wasn’t white, but she was high caste and from the very best family in Nahorani.  He wasn’t acceptable to her family because he was a mere servant and they put pressure on his employer to send him back to England.  His career spiraled downwards after that.”
 
Miss Cunningham’s eyes widened.  “There’s colored folks who look down on whites?”
 
Tishing inclined his head graciously in her direction.  “Certainly, Miss.  In my view there is a difference between knowing one’s place and putting others in it.  The first is just socially practical, but the later merely shows that it’s takes to less strength to put people down than it does to pick them up.”
 
Heyes folded his arms.  “I’m kinda surprised to hear you say that.”
 
“Service is an ancient and honorable profession.”  The butler’s craggy face rearranged itself into the professional mask once more.  “A man can work himself up to be the butler of the finest houses in the land if he applies himself.  There is almost no other job which can offer such social mobility,” he paused.  “At least not until now; these days almost anyone can demand the life of a lord if he has enough money.  That’s why I’m here.”
 
“And you approve of that?” the Kid rested on the edge of the conductor’s desk.  “Ain’t that turnin’ tradition on its head?”
 
Tishing’s eyes twinkled.  “Tradition?  Isn’t that just a way of holding onto the good parts of the past while we let go of the bad bits?  The people we serve may change but if I saw that as a bad thing I wouldn’t be here.  I’m not completely antediluvian.”
 
“Thanks, Mr. Tishing.  We will call you if we need you.”  Farrow urged the butler from the carriage by closing the door firmly on his face.
 
Heyes pulled out a packing case and sat opposite the old man.  “What’s your name?”
 
“Huh?”
 
“Your name, sir.”
 
The wrinkled face frowned.  “You know my name.  It’s Gerald Tishing.”
 
“The butler?” The Kid frowned.
 
The old man’s gaze dropped.  “I was.”
 
Heyes’ scrutiny intensified.  “What do you do now?”
 
He gazed up at the stewardess.  “I’m sorry, Avani.  I’m a failure.”
 
Confusion crowded Miss Cunningham’s face.  “Avani?”
 
“I’m guessin’ he thinks you’re his old love.”  The Kid stood as an idea hit him.  “Ask him why he’s a failure.” 
 
Miss Cunningham nodded and gently complied while dabbing away spots of milk from the elderly gentleman’s mouth.  He blinked back tears and grasped at her hand.  “Avani.  Your name means the Earth and that’s what you are to me; the whole world.”
 
“Gee, thanks, sugar,” her coffee-colored eyes gazed into his.  “Why are you a failure?”
 
The wrinkled jowls quivered.  “I lost my job.”
 
Miss Cunningham’s eyes met the blues pressing her to continue.  “How, my darlin’?  Tell your honey pie.”
 
“Pie?  There’s pie?”
 
“In a minute, tell me how you failed?”
 
“When I got back to England I couldn’t get a job.  They said I couldn’t be trusted around women and I didn’t know my place.”  He shot a desperate look at the stewardess.  “It’s not true.  You were special; worth risking everything for.  There was no one else; not in my whole life.”   
 
Miss Cunningham patted his hand.  “Aw,that’s real cruel.  What did you do to earn a livin’?”
 
“I ended up working in a tailor’s shop.  I was in ignominy!”
 
“Where?” the Kid murmured.
 
Heyes shrugged.  “Dunno.  I heard they got funny place names over there, but what’s so bad about working in a tailor’s shop in Ignominy?”
 
“Maybe it’s a real mean town?” the stewardess ventured before turning back to her frail charge.  “Don’t you fret none.  What’s so bad about workin’ in a shop?”
 
“It’s trade, Avani.  I worked for the Princess Louise and the Duke of Fife.”  He shuddered.  “Then I ended up in trade.”
 
“In Ignomony,” the Kid nodded, wisely.
 
“There ain’t nothin’ to be ashamed of in good honest work, sweetie.”
 
“I knew you’d understand,” the crinkled hands clasped Miss Cunningham’s to his breast.  “You’ve come back to me.  I knew you would.”   
 
Heyes narrowed his eyes.  “Who are you travelling with, Mr. Tishing?”   
 
“Herbert Jenkins.”
 
“Isn’t that your name?”
 
“No!”  The wrinkled fist crashed down on the table with a sudden vehemence.  “My name is Gerald Tishing.”
 
“Sure, Mr. Tishing.”  Heyes watched Miss Cunningham offer another calming sip of warm milk.  The protruding Adam’s apple bobbed beneath cadaverous skin as the elderly man now known as Tishing drank.  “Tell me about Herbert Jenkins.”
 
The rheumy eyes narrowed, hooded by crepey eyelids.  “He’s a nice enough lad and he was a good footman, but he had ideas above his station.”
 
Heyes leaned forward.  “So?  He was ambitious.”
 
“He’s a man in a hurry,” the chuckle rolled around the old man’s throat before it dropped into his chest and wallowed in the welling phlegm.
 
“What does that mean, ‘he’s in a hurry’?”
 
“Money.  He likes money,” the head started to droop.  “He wasn’t too fussy about how he made it either.  He’s got a good a heart so I tried to guide him, but you know how impulsive the young are.”  The eyes closed.  “I’m tired, mummy.  Where’s Bertie?”
 
“Who’s Bertie?” Heyes pressed.
 
“My big brother.”
 
 “He’s getting over-tired,” the stewardess murmured as gnarled hands closed tightly around hers.  She grimaced in embarrassment and tugged but the old man held fast.    
 
The Kid stepped forward.  “I’m guessin’ your eyes are pretty enough to make him forget he’s a gentleman.”  He leaned over and tapped on the bony shoulder.  “You’re hurtin’ her.”
 
“Huh?”  The empty vacuous eyes told the assembled group that the moment of lucidity was suddenly lost, gone in a cloud of geriatric absence. 
“You need to let go of the lady,” the gloved hand unfurled the fingers, allowing the stewardess to slip her fingers away.  “That’s the way, Gerald.  There’s a fine gent called Malachi who’s gonna help you to your bed.”
 
“Where’s my mummy?”
 
Pity softened Miss Cunningham’s chocolate eyes.  “She’ll be with you directly.  Let’s get you all tucked up so you’re ready to see her, honey pie.”
 
“Pie?  There’s pie?”
 
“Not again,” Heyes scratched his head.  “Can you get him something to eat?”
 
“The Stewards can take him to his bunk,” the Kid asserted.  “Could you go fetch him somethin’ to eat, miss?  Give it to Malachi, though, I don’t want you goin’ near his bed.”
 
Amusement lit her face.  “He’s eighty-six.”
 
The blue eyes glittered determinedly.  “He’s strong.  I felt it when I released his grip and he’s a bit wandered at times. He thinks you’re the love of his life so I’d prefer it if you weren’t alone around him.”     
 
“Don’t you think I’m used to dealin’ with sugar daddies?”  Miss Cunningham placed her hands on her hips.  “They sometimes think that the like of me comes with the price.”
 
There was a steely glint in the blue twinkle.  “Yeah?  If I hear any man thinkin’ that, he’ll be able to use his teeth for poker chips, ma’am.”
 
**********
 
The trainee butler turned to his companion over the chess board balanced on suitcases between them, “...and I looked down the hill and I watched this wrinkled, old dowager dotting up the slope towards me.  At least, that’s what I thought until I pulled out my spectacles.”
 
“And?” his companion’s brow wrinkled in curiosity.
 
The man dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  “It was Patterson.  I swear he’s looking more like Queen Victoria every day.  I think it’s the hair.”  Both men turned to eye the man sitting a couple of rows away.  “Have you heard that accent he puts on?  He’s getting grander and grander by the day.  I fully expect him to declare that this was an assassination attempt.”
 
“Yes, the family that gets him better know their place.”  The second butler took a bite of his sandwich and looked down at the chess pieces.  “Oh, I think I got some sauce on your bishop.”
 
“He’s got nearly as many wrinkles as old man Jenkins.  He’s says they’re laughter lines but nothing is that funny.”
 
Both men stared down the car at Heyes and Curry following Malachi and the old man.  “Here come those security men again.  How many times do I have to tell them that we saw nothing?”
 
His companion nodded in agreement.  “It’s obvious what happened.  That Davies woman stole the jewel and jumped off the train.  They’re in competition with the criminal.  I swear it’s a sport to them.  Look at that dark one grinning, he’s loving this to the point of dimpling.”
 
“They’re after one of us.  They always think the butler did it.  Why is that?”
 
“I blame the French.”
 
“Why?”
 
“I don’t know.”  The first butler took a pawn.  “It’s generally their fault isn’t it?  They gave us everything louche and disgraceful; French kissing, French leave, and don’t get me started on the letters.”
 
“That doesn’t explain a Dutch uncle or Spanish practices.”  The other man’s knight slid over the board to threaten the white queen. 
 
“You’re right.  It’s all the continental types.  They refuse point blank to play cricket you know.”  The first butler glanced around.  “Do we have any on board?” 
 
“That Glavin man is suspiciously cosmopolitan.  Didn’t Woodward hear a door in the night?”
 
The butler’s lips pursed as he scanned the pieces looking for an escape for his most valuable piece.  “Yes.  I heard him telling them that.  I heard it, too.”
 
The second butler stared at his travelling companions like a judgmental cat on top of a cheap pine dresser.  “Someone’s not telling the truth.”
 
“What makes you say that?”
 
“I saw the Davies woman going out to the observation deck when I came back from the lavatory.”
 
The lips pursed tighter emphasizing the hollow cheeks.  “Did you tell the investigators that?”
 
“Of course I did.  Robertson saw me.  He’d have told on me if I lied.”
 
The first butler shook his head in confusion.  “But why does that mean someone’s lying?”
 
“I heard the door open again a few minutes later, and looked out.  Mrs. Hunter was in the corridor whispering to a man before she went back to her bunk.  I don’t know who he was.  I only saw his back in the darkness.”
 
The older man slid his queen diagonally across the board to seize the black rook.   “But why does that mean someone’s lying?”
 
“As far as I know, no men admitted to being in the corridor after Robertson and I went back to bed; but I could see a man’s feet just under the curtains of my bunk area because I still had my nightlight lit.  Then I heard the door to the observation deck door again, yet everyone denies leaving their bunks after Robertson and I went back to bed.  A man was wandering around.   I’ll swear that on a stack of bibles.”  The younger butler knocked over the white king with his knight.  “Checkmate, I think.” 
 
***********                      
Heyes kicked out a packing case in the butler’s direction.  “Sit down, Mr. Tishing,” the dark eyes gleamed, “or should I say, Herbert Jenkins?”
 
The granite features hardened.  “My name is Gerald Tishing.”
 
“Your companion told us different.”
 
“He’s senile,” Tishing snorted.  “I can prove who I am.  I have papers.”
 
Heyes threw down the document on the conductor’s desk.  “Yeah, these; I’m no expert, but even I can see these have been altered.”
 
“I don’t have to listen to this rubbish,” the Englishman turned on his heel but stopped short, his exit cut off by the tall, blond gunman with a stare as friendly as a pair of gun barrels.
 
“Sit down,” Heyes commanded.
 
The ex-servant glowered at everyone in turn.  “Who died and made you king?”
 
Heyes casual tone was belied by the intensity in the brown eyes.  “You can answer to the law when they get here tomorrow.  Did you know there’s a telegraph onboard?” he added brightly.  “They’re on the way.  It may help you to explain why they’ve been altered and you’ve swapped identities with that confused old man in there.  You can see how convincing your story’s gonna be to them.”
 
The Englishman drew himself to his full height and raised full ceremonial eyebrows above a haughty nose.  “I will not deign to dignify that accusation with a response!” 
 
“No?”  Heyes sat and propped his feet casually on the packing case.  “Have you ever been to prison?”
 
“Of course I haven’t.”
 
“Well, get yourself ready, you’re going there real soon.”  Heyes arched a brow.  “They’re gonna love you.  They’ll think they’ve died and gone to heaven having their very own butler.”
 
“You are mistaken,” Tishing sniffed.
 
“Am I?” Heyes replied, archly.  “I’m guessing the toughest man in the place is gonna have you run into the ground tending to his every need, either that all he’ll have you ground into the...”
 
“Alright!  What do you want to know?”
 
“Your real name would be a start.”
 
“It’s Gerald Tishing.  I’ve already told you that.”
 
Heyes leaned over and carefully selected a document covered in copperplate handwriting.  “This is yours?”
 
“My birth certificate, yes.”
 
Heyes help it up to the lamp.  “How long have they had these in England?”        
 
“Since 1837, I believe.  I was born in 1838.”
 
“So when your companion was born there were no records?”  Heyes handed the paper to the conductor. 
 
“I wouldn’t say that,” Tishing frowned.  “There have been parish records for centuries.  The churches have records.”
 
“Your passport?”  Heyes selected another missive from the pile and started to read.  “We, Granville George Earl Granville Viscount, Granville Baron Levson, a Peer of the United Kingdom...,”  Heyespaused,  “well, there’s a whole list of titles before he requests and requires in the name of the queen to allow you free passage to the United States of America.”
 
“Yes, so?”
 
“You see this, Mr. Farrow, when you hold the birth certificate up to the light,” Heyes pointed out a line on the document.  “See there?”
Farrow screwed up his eyes to look closer.  “There’s lots of wear around the name and other writing showing through.”
 
“Yup, and if I hold up the passport you can see the same around the date of birth.”  Heyes glanced over at the butler, “and on the birth certificate, the handwriting’s not the same.  The loop of the ‘g’ is completely different to the hand in the rest of the document and the ink’s a different density.”  
 
“Yeah,” Farrow stared at the butler suspiciously.  “I’d never have spotted it until you pointed it out.  They’ve been rubbed out and changed.  The name’s different on the birth certificate and the date of birth has been altered on the passport.”
 
Heyes nodded.  “Yes.  He had to change the name on the birth certificate because the old man wouldn’t have one.”  
 
Tishing shifted his weight from foot to foot.  “If they have, I know nothing about it.”
 
“Do ya think the law’s gonna believe that?”  The Kid folded his arms.  “What’s goin’ on?  You’re a crooked ex-footman in the middle of a murder and theft.  It doesn’t look good for you.”
 
The craggy face started to crumble as the man bit into his bottom lip.  “I’m not a killer.”
 
“But you’re a thief?” Heyes demanded.
 
“Yes...no!” he sank onto the packing case with his head in his hands.  “I stole.  I did a stupid thing a long time ago, when I was young.  I learned my lesson and wanted a fresh start under a new name.  Is that a crime?”
 
The partners exchanged a conversation in a glance.  “Not in itself,” Heyes eventually replied.  “Tell us about it.”
 
“My real name is Herbert Jenkins.  I worked under Mr. Tishing when I went into service as a young footman.  I was caught up in a scam I had going with the local coal merchant.  I’d sign for a ton more than was delivered and then we’d split the profit we made selling that on.  It went on for over a year before we were caught.  The coal merchant got a prison sentence but Mr. Tishing pushed for me to be able to give evidence in exchange for immunity.  He argued that I was only eighteen and that I was led astray by a fully grown man.”  He turned imploring eyes on the boys and the conductor.  “I escaped prison, but I was sacked without a reference.  I had to start from again from nothing.  A reference is everything in England and it was nearly impossible but I studied hard and improved myself.  Eventually, I worked my way up from nothing to be a clerk in an engineering factory in Lincolnshire.”
 
Penetrating blue eyes peered into the man’s eyes.  “You stayed clean?”
 
“Yes.”  A huge sigh racked the man’s big frame.  “I was on a weekend trip to the seaside when I found poor Mr. Tishing working in a tailor’s shop.  The owner was yelling at him for burning something with an iron and it was clear he was far from well.  He was about to be sacked.  I took him home with me and I’ve looked after him ever since.  I owe him.  I’d have been in jail if it wasn’t for him.”      
 
“Yet you stole his name?” Heyes snorted.
 
“I thought of writing a book, putting together everything he knew about running a fine house, but then I started reading about millionaires over here trying to get good staff.  I hit on the idea of training men and then matching the best candidates to the employers, but I couldn’t use my own name because it’d destroy everything if it came out I was a failed, dishonest footman.”
 
“Using his know-how?” cynical dark eyes glittered at the man they now knew to be called Jenkins.  “Yeah, he’s real lucky to have you looking out for him.”
 
“I have worked in that line myself,” protested Jenkins, “besides; he has wanted for nothing since I took him in and he’s never had to work another day.  I don’t expect any of you to understand the kind of debt a man owes someone who keeps him out of jail.  I’ve lied because I wanted a new start and that’s the only reason.” 
 
Heyes stood and rubbed his chin pensively.  “Why should we believe you?”
 
“The secret’s out now.  All of this can be checked.  Why would I lie?”
 
“To save yourself from the noose?” the Kid murmured.
 
Jenkins gulped heavily.  “I’m not a killer.  A man can be a thief but that doesn’t make him a killer.”
 
Farrow shook his head.  “How did you meet Mrs. Hunter?  You don’t mention her in your story.”
 
“On the boat on the way over here.  We were at the same table for meals and got talking.  She was coming over to start an employment agency for ladies.  It seemed to make good sense to marry the two up.  No respectable woman would work for an agency without a lady involved, so it saved me looking for someone.  She had the added advantage of bringing some funds into the business.”
 
“Had she told you about her moonstone?”  Heyes started to pace.
 
“No,” Jenkins shook his head firmly.  “All she said was that she had the finances taken care of.  I assumed she had savings.”  He glanced around nervously.  “So, what now?  Am I under arrest?”
 
A smile twitched at the Kid’s lips.  “To stop you runnin’ away?  No.  There’s nowhere to go.  Besides, we ain’t the law.  We find out what we can and hand it over to the law when they get here.” 
 
Heyes nodded in agreement.  “Go back to your seat, Jenkins.  We’ve still got a few more people to question.” 
 
“Really?  Aren’t you afraid that I could get hold of a gun or something?”
 
“Nope.  Believe me when I say I’ll deal with anyone who tries anythin’ like that.”  Jenkins felt a chill go through him as the gravity of the fair man’s words bored into his soul.
 
**********
 
“So, we have Mrs. Hunter talking to a mystery man in the corridor after everyone went to bed and nobody will admit to being him,” Heyes sighed.  “If we find out who that was, we’ll have our man.”
 
The Kid leaned languorously against the wall.  “So how do we break them?”
 
“I’m hoping Mrs. Hunter can help once she’s fit to talk,” Heyes replied.  He fixed Farrow with questioning eyes.  “Are you sure none of your staff saw her talking to anyone?  Can they be trusted to tell the truth?”
 
“I’m sure of it,” Farrow replied.  “Working for Pullman is one of the best careers around for black folks.  They’d never risk their jobs.”   
 
The men looked up at a tap on the door of the conductor’s car.  “Come in,” Farrow called.
 
“Mr. Philpot says that Mrs. Hunter is well enough to be interviewed now.  She’s up and about,” Miss Cunningham bustled in and put the dirty mugs onto a tray.  “He thought you might want to talk to her before lights out.  It’s getting late and he’ll give her some more drugs soon.”
 
Blue eyes met brown.  “Yeah,” the Kid stood.  “We’ve been waiting to speak to her.”
 
Farrow strode over to the door.  “I didn’t want the lady bothered until she was well enough.  She’s been attacked and I have a duty to care towards everyone on this train.”  He cast a warning glare at both ex-outlaws.  “I don’t want her upset.”
 
“We’ll be gentle as kittens,” Heyes smiled.
 
The Kid followed the conductor into the corridor.   “Don’t they scratch?”  
 
“You’re not helping, Thaddeus.”
 
There was a shrill scream of terror from the stewardess as the Kid walked straight into the back of the conductor.  “Hey...” he rapidly corrected himself before the rest of the name slipped from his lips. 
 
Heyes jumped back from the oozing pool of gore spreading over the floor.  “What the...?”
 
“It’s Jeffrey,” Farrow mumbled.  “Oh my God!”  He fell to his knees where the steward was gasping for air. 
 
The Kid rushed forward and Heyes finally had a clear view.  The man was lying with his head and shoulders supported against the wall.  Jeffrey’s hand was slipping helplessly away from the gaping wound in his throat as the light faded from the steward’s brown eyes.  The pupils dilated in the light of the oil lamp and remained as fixed and open as the mouth which had been mutely pleading for help just moments before. 
 
“He’s dead,” the Kid pulled Miss Cunningham protectively to his chest as she covered her eyes and started to scream incoherently.  “Throat slit, just like Miss Davies.”  He frowned down at the sobbing woman in his arms before he peered into the dark corridor.  “Whoever did this must have been right behind her.”

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Hunter's Moon- What the Butler Saw   Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:45 am

Hunter's Moon, Part 4.  A Handshake Seals The Deal 

Two women huddled on seats across from Mrs. Hunter’s bunk surrounded by a sneer of cooing butlers who tucked a blanket around the shaking stewardess and proffered hot sweet tea as though it were an elixir of tranquility.  The granite-face man they had previously known as Tishing cautiously approached the ex-outlaws.  “Excuse me,” he nodded towards the blood seeping down the corridor and at Malachi who fought back tears as he stared at the gore.  “Can we help?”

“Help?”  The Kid eyed the butler suspiciously.  “Help with what?”

“The mess.”  Tishing threw a hand out to the gory corridor.  “That’s the steward’s friend and colleague.  How can anyone expect him to clear up his blood after the murder; it’s inhumane.  We are all in service and I have a collection of my best men who will make that vestibule look spick and span in no time.  Allow us to look after the poor man; his position is very much like ours, after all, and I believe we must look after our own.”

Glavin eyed both the white butler and the black steward.  “Your own?”

Heyes and Curry exchanged a glance.  “You want to clean up?” Heyes asked.

“Want?  I hate blood and going near that mess is the last thing I want to do.”  Tishing’s hard stare rolled towards the conductor who stood near the door at the far end of the railway car with the driver and the fireman.  “I get the feeling that the white men of his own nation are none too keen to get their hands dirty to help him,” he nodded at the stewardess, “and that poor girl has been traumatized.  It seems only fitting that we help out.”

“I need to make sure you’re not destroying evidence,” Heyes replied.

“Evidence?” Tishing spluttered.  “What can you possibly deduce from that slaughterhouse?”

Heyes stepped forward, drawing the butler with him.  “See those splashes on the wall?  That’s where Jeffrey’s blood spurted out.  Whoever did it was standing behind him and not between the victim and that wall.”

“Well, I could have told you that,” sniffed the Englishman.  “If the murderer had been in front of the poor man he’d have been marinated in stuff.  As nobody has been walking around looking like a cut-price dentist from a travelling show, we can safely assume that the killer was protected by being behind the victim.”

Heyes arched a brow.  “Exactly; but there’s so much blood.  Something small could be hidden in the mess.  How do I know you’re not just trying to remove something?”

Tishing pulled himself up to his full height and widened indignant grey eyes.  “You don’t, but you could roll up your sleeves and do the bloody work yourself if you’re so worried!”

The Kid dropped his head, concealing a smirk.  “Yeah, Joshua.  How about that?”

“I’m too busy,” Heyes scratched his chin.  “Go ahead, Tishing.  My partner will make sure everything’s above board.”

A pair of disgruntled blue eyes hooked his partner. “And what’ll you be doin’ while I’m watchin’ this?”

“It’s about time I found out more about the victims.  I’m going to go through their belongings.  Didn’t Maud Davies have some books tied up with cord?”

“Books?  Well, you make sure you don’t burst a blood vessel.  All that readin’ could injure a man,” the Kid replied, tersely. 

“How can reading injure anyone?” Heyes retorted.

“Take too long doin’ it while I’m workin’ and ya might find out.”  The Kid reached out and shook the Englishman’s hand firmly.  “Thanks for doin’ this, Tishing.  It’s real decent of ya.”    

A dozing figure rubbed his bleary eyes before running his hands through his greasy, black curls and pulling up his Astrakhan collar.  He pulled his feet off the bench and slowly sat upright in his seat.  “I want to sleep.”  Glavin reached out an arm and tugged at the sheepskin jacket as the Kid turned to walk towards the murder scene.  “I don’t want to be disturbed.”

The Kid shrugged dismissively and made to walk on.  “Who does?”

“I’ll pay ya.  I’m a wealthy man.  You look like you know how to use that gun.  Work for me instead of the railroad.  There are horses in one of the wagons.  I’ll give you fifty dollars to get us a couple and protect me until we reach the next town.”

“Let go of my coat or the hand comes with me,” the eyes hardened, “and I don’t work for the railroad.  I’m a passenger; almost like you, but useful.”  

“I’ll be filing out an official complaint when we get to our destination.”  The hand clutched even more tightly at the sheepskin.  “You’ll be in trouble, but you could be earning a nice little sum.”

“I don’t know what makes you so dumb, but it’s working real well,” the Kid retorted.  “Shut up and listen.  I don’t work for the railroad and I ain’t workin’ for you because I don’t like you.  Have you got that or do you want me to put it in writin’?”  He strode to the front of the railway car and raised his hands.  “Settle down, folks.  It’s gettin’ late and we need to get a few things straight.  We’ve got ourselves a killer here, so nobody leaves this car unless my partner and me go with them.”

“Go where?” asked a butler with extravagantly waved grey hair.  “We’re stuck in the mountains in an ice storm.”

“Help is on the way,” the Kid assured him.  “In the meantime if anyone needs to use the latri…” he eyed Mrs. Hunter and thought the better of calling a spade a spade, “the facilities; my partner and I will escort you.”

“What about those of us left behind?”  Squeaked a little weasel-faced butler. 

“We like to think that there are enough men here to step in,” Heyes strode over beside his partner.  “In any case, we’d be back in a few minutes.”     

“That’s easy for you to say,” Glavin barked.  “You’ve got a colt strapped to your leg.”

“Yeah,” the Kid drew his weapon rested it on his folded arms.  “And I’m quite prepared to use it if necessary.  My partner has a few questions and I want you all to cooperate.  Am I clear?”

“We’re being held at gunpoint now?” Glavin harrumphed.  “This is ridiculous.”

“You’re bein’ warned what to do for your own safety,” a pair of bright-blue eyes burned over at Glavin.  “Don’t blame me if you’re fool enough to ignore it.”

Glavin pulled up his collar.  “I tried to hire you as protection.  The last thing I’m doing is ignoring it.”

“I am lookin’ out for you,” the Kid growled, “along with everyone else.”

“What about your friend?” Glavin gestured towards Heyes with his head, his hands thrust straight into deep pockets against the cold.  “Are you for hire?  Ya look second best as a bodyguard, but you’re better than nothing.”

“Second best?”  The harsh stare filled with obsidian darkness.  Glavin shifted uneasily in his seat and pulled out a pair of spectacles and blinked huge, apprehensive eyes at the ex-outlaw.  “Don’t worry; I never hit a man with glasses.”  Heyes muttered under his breath, “not when there’s something heavier around.”

“Just saying,” Glavin shuffled in his seat.  “He looks meaner’n you.”

Heyes’ face dimpled at the sight of his partner’s indignant scowl.  “You’re clearly a great judge of character.   Are you a betting man?  We could play poker when I’m done here.”

“I’m a businessman.  I can pay,” Glavin snarled.  “If you don’t want the job, ya just have to say.”

“Much as I love being offered commissions, I have to refuse, Mr. Glavin,” Heyes arched a brow.  “After all, if you’re the murderer I won’t get paid, will I?”

“How can I be the killer?” spluttered Glavin.  “I never moved from my bunk last night and I was in the cabin with everyone else when the boy was killed.”

“Yeah,” Heyes nodded, and gazed around the assembled company.  “So which one of you snuck out of the passenger car and did it?  One of you did.”

“It wasn’t me,” huffed Glavin.  “I was having a snooze on these seats.”

“Lying down?  Out of the line of sight?”  Heyes glanced around looking for witnesses.  “Who noticed him?”

“I was reading,” proffered a prospective man-servant, shaking his head.

“I was sketching,” another pronounced.  “I was concentrating on mastering perspective.”

“We were playing chess,” a brace of butlers announced with a shrug.

“I was tatting,” declared another, “in that seat over there, so I had my back to him.”

“Tatting?” Heyes glanced at the Kid who shrugged and shook his head. 

The man held up an intricate piece of lace.  “Yes.  It passes the time.  I learned in the Royal Navy.  I found knitting too boring.”

“Yeah…right.”  Heyes scratched the side of his head, tilting his hat slightly.  “What about you lot?”

A huddle of men suddenly sat erect and faced front.  “We were playing ‘The Game of Authors.’”  A butler with a serious centre parting smiled.  “I was Louisa May Alcott.  Everyone in the game can vouch for me.”

The Kid rolled his eyes and dropped his head.  “Of course you were.”  He threw Heyes a look.  “What was that you were sayin’ about there bein’ men here when we escorted folks to the latrines?” 

“Hey, we may not be cowboys, but we’re men,” a British bulldog growled over a starched collar cutting into his neck  “We all know about standing up to be counted and there’s not a man jack of us who’ll sit back and let someone be hurt.  You survive in your world and we survive in ours.”

Heyes appraised the men who glared at him over the backs of the Pullman seats.  “Yes, I suppose.  The world’s not easy to negotiate wherever you end up, and brute force doesn’t cut it where you come from.”

“But sometimes it’s called for,” The Kid holstered his weapon.  “Nobody’s gonna get the chance to skedaddle before the law gets here either,” he glowered at Glavin.  “I ain’t gonna stand by and watch anyone else get killed.”

“Me neither,” Heyes gestured to the front of the railway carriage with his head.  “Come with me, Glavin.  I haven’t interviewed you yet.  I want to know why you were so keen to get outta here and why no one can confirm your whereabouts at the time of the second murder.”

“It’s Mr. Glavin to you,” he stood, prodding at Malachi who was walking down the aisle to provide Tishing and his butlers with cleaning equipment.  “Get outta my way, George.”

“Malachi!” the Kid barked.

All heads turned at the sharpness of the tone.  “Can I help you, Mister Jones?” Malachi asked.

“Nope.  I’m just letting Glavin know that I ain’t happy with him usin’ slave names for folks around me,” an ice-blue glare fixed on the dark-haired passenger.  “His name is Malachi, but you can call him ’Sir.’”

“A steward?  You want me to call a black steward ‘Sir’?  Are you mad?”

The blue eyes narrowed to slits.  “Yeah, real mad.  Wanna find out how mad?”

Glavin gulped hard as the conductor stepped forward.  “I won’t have anyone intimidated on board my train.  Come with me, Mr. Glavin.  I’ll sit with you while you’re interviewed.”  Farrow ushered the man past the lean gun man who held  Glavin’s dark eyes every step of the way.  “I’ll make sure you’re looked after.  Mr. Jones, weren’t you going to oversee the cleaning?”

“Yeah,” the Kid continued with his glare.  “I need to take out the dirt.”

“This way, Mr. Glavin.”  Farrow steered his charge towards Heyes who had cleared the benches at the front of the railway carriage for the interview.  “We need to speak to everyone on board.”

“Sit down, Mr. Glavin,” Heyes gestured towards the empty seat opposite from him.  “So, why do you feel the need for a body guard?”

The lips pulled into a snarl under a pencil-thin, dark moustache.  “Folks have been killed.  Why’d ya think?  I don’t want to be next.”

“There are women on board.  Don’t you think they need to be protected more than the men?”

Glavin thrust a thumb towards his chest.  “What?  An English housekeeper and a black railroad worker?  I’m an important man.  I own the biggest salmon cannery on the Sacramento River.  I’m travelling back west after a trip to expand my business on the East coast.  I deserve some protection.” 

“And how do you figure that?” asked a frowning Heyes.

“Money’s clearly the motive.  They went for old Hunter when they found out about her moonstone.  I’m gonna be next.”  Glavin’s voice dropped to a whisper.  “I’m wearing a money-belt.”

Farrow and Heyes exchanged a glance.  “We know.  We searched you.”  Heyes pushed back his hat with a long forefinger.  “Why do you think you’re next?”

Glavin’s greasy curls nodded towards the two women huddled together.  “I dispose of fifty like them a week, when they don’t measure up.  They hate men like me.”

Heyes sat back in his seat.  “Dispose of them?”

“They have to keep up with the line, if they can’t they’re out.”  Glavin’s dark, Italianate eyes mirrored Heyes’ reflection.  “I’m not a charity.  I lose money if the lines slow down in the cannery.  Folks come from miles around to work in my factories, so I don’t have to put up with lollygaggers and goldbrickers.  If folks can’t keep up they have to go.  I only keep the best, but that makes a man enemies.”    

“So how do you recruit these people?  Where do they come from?”  Heyes asked.

“I have agents meeting immigrants from the boats and trains.  Chinese, Italians, Poles, Irish; you name it.  They come from all over; all I’m interested in is how well they work.”

“Is the work dangerous?”  Heyes sat forward and looked straight into Glavin’s eyes.  “How long do they last?”

“The women look for husbands and get out real quick.  They tend to do the gutting and salting.  The men last longer, until they can’t do the carrying and heavy work anymore.  It ain’t too dangerous, maybe a finger here and there, but that’s what happens if you ain’t bright enough to learn how to use a knife.  The ice can freeze the hands so you don’t feel it slice through.  It’s not like it hurts – at the time anyway.”

Heyes’ brows gathered.  “You don’t think losing a finger hurts?”

“They keep working, so how bad can it be?”

“They probably face starvation if they don’t.  Maybe worse.” 

“Immigrants; there are thousands of them desperate for work.  I can afford to cherry-pick; and why shouldn’t I?”  Glavin twitched his head towards the sobbing stewardess.  “I wouldn’t tolerate that for a second.  You’re paying her and she sits there with her betters?  She’d be on her knees with her butt in the air scrubbing that floor, if I had my way.”

Silence fell; the kind of thick, uncomfortable disquiet which gets under the skin and makes folks blink, shuffle and clear their throats.  Heyes folded his arms.  “Have you any questions, Mr. Farrow?”

“Yeah, but I have a family to feed so I need to keep my job.  You ask, Mr. Smith.”

Heyes stared at the factory owner through hooded eyes.  “Are human beings disposable to you, Mr. Glavin?”

“Like I said; I’m not a charity.  They’ll find something else.”    

Heyes arched his brows.  “Like what?”

“Not my problem.  They can end up on the streets as far as I’m concerned.”  Glavin parted his thin lips and released an unsavory smile.  “There’s some of them I’d pay, but I don’t usually have to.  Have you ever met a desperate woman, Smith?  They’ll do anything,” he leaned forward, a malignant darkness in his eyes, “and I mean, anything.”

Heyes bit pensively into his lip as his jaw hardened, the tightening sinews standing out as his hands balled into fists.  “You’d best go back to your seat, Glavin.”      

“So what about my protection?”

Heyes stood, peering down at the greasy crimped hair which merged into the tight curls of the Astrakhan collar.  “Your best protection is to get back to your seat and shut your mouth.”

“But…”

“Take a warning, Mr. Glavin.  He doesn’t work for the railways and there’s a limit to how much I can control him,” Farrow murmured

Glavin stood eyeing the brooding ex-outlaw leader suspiciously.  “Ya’d better.  I didn’t book a ticket to have all this trouble.”

“Keep away from the women,” Heyes muttered.  “I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

**********

The tall gunman gave his partner’s boot a gentle kick, causing the book in the dark man’s hands to jostle.    A pair of irritated dark eyes darted up.  “What!?”

The Kid grabbed the book.  “’Durk…heim’s Structural Function…alism?’  You thinkin’ of buildin’ a house, Joshua?”

“It’s Maud’s.  It’s about how society works together like a series of parts, like clockwork.  If one part of it goes bad it has an effect somewhere else.”  Heyes handed it over to his partner and picked up a pile of letters.  “She worked for a charity in England that helps women tricked into traveling on the promise of marriage or employment.”

The Kid scratched his head.  “She said she was a student.”

“She was a charity worker, too,” Heyes unfolded a letter.  “The chairman of the charity was worried she was getting too involved.  He sent her this telegram telling her to stop following someone.” 

Serious blue eyes widened.  “A motive.  So she was after someone who was forcin’ girls to become,” he dropped his voice, “prostitutes?”

“I guess so.  Once a poor girl travelled all this way she’d have no money and even fewer choices,” Heyes shook his head ruefully, “and it’s not just girls either.  There are boys too.”  She’s been communicating with a journalist called William Stead who’s done a series of stories in England about the problem.”

“Boys?”  The Kid’s face hardened.  “What kinda dirty lowlife…?”

Heyes handed the Kid an album full of newspaper clippings and turned the pages until he pointed at a piece.  “He bought a thirteen year old girl and wrote a story that shocked England.  It’s happening here, too, Thaddeus.  Vulnerable young folks are being sold and used every which way by greedy users.  Youngsters like we once were.”

The Kid stared around the railway car at the people bundled up against the biting cold.  “And one of ‘em’s on here.”

“It looks like it,” Heyes flipped open Maud’s leather suitcase. 

The Kid swore quietly under his breath and glared at Glavin.  “Yeah, it’s all startin’ to fit.” 

“We don’t know it’s him,” Heyes flicked through Maud’s case.  “Clothes, shoes, books.  Nothing out of the ordinary.”  He flicked open a leather case.  “Mirror and brushes…” he flicked open a cardboard box.  “What is that?  Bandages?”  He frowned reading the printing on the box.  “’Hartman’s Hygienic Wood Wool Diapers.’  Why would she need diapers?”

His cousin shrugged.  “Dunno.  She works for charity.  Maybe she needs ‘em for little kids she saves.”

“I guess.”  Heyes pulled out a veneered and lacquered box and draped a delicate gold chain over his fingers.  “She had a fair collection of good jewelry of her own.”

“So, if anyone stole the moonstone it’s lookin’ less likely it was Maud Davies.”

The box snapped shut before it was tossed back into the suitcase.  “Yup, it feels dirty, going through that woman’s things and I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth.  I need a drink.”   

**********

“Mrs. Hunter?” Heyes smiled at the Englishwoman.  “How are you feeling?”

She placed a forefinger on her temples and gave a watery smile.  “I have a headache, but I’m much recovered, thank you.”  

Heyes cheeks dimpled.   “We didn’t like to disturb you earlier.  Can the conductor and I ask you a few questions?”

“Questions?”  Mrs. Hunter turned resigned eyes on both men.  “I suppose, but I really don’t remember much.  It was dark and everything happened so fast.”

“We have to try,” Heyes nodded.  “Can we search your sleeping area while we’re at it?  We couldn’t do it before because you were being treated there.”

“Search?”  Mrs. Hunter watched Heyes throw back the curtains to her sleeping area without waiting for permission.  “Whatever for?  You surely don’t think I stole my own moonstone?  I’ve lost my nest egg.  I have absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose.”

“Hmm,” Heyes slid something out from under the bunk and flicked open a wooden box.  “I think I missed this in the search, but we couldn’t get in there before now.”

“That’s my writing set.  I do the books for the new Academy of Butling.”  She watched Heyes pull out a pair of squat, little bottles.  “The black ink is for net income, the red denotes net loss.”

“Pens, inkwell, extra nibs,” he listed.  “Ah, the ledgers,” Heyes dragged out the book and put it on the bench, glancing over at the woman hugging the stewardess across the aisle from him. 

Heyes lifted the bottles and held them up to the light measuring the levels of both bottles.  “Did you have a previous business fail?”

“Unless you think I’ve hidden my gem in there I can’t see the relevance of going through my writing chest.”

Heyes snapped the box closed.  “Me neither.  How will you manage now you’ve lost your capital?”

The Englishwoman dropped her head and sighed heavily.  “Mr. Tishing and I have to discuss that.  There may be a delay while we get some capital behind us,” she drew her chin up defiantly, “but we will get there through hard work and perseverance.  I think you call that the American way?”

“I’m sure somebody does.  It sounds like the kinda thing politicians say to get folks to do more work for the same money.”  Heyes lifted the mattress to both bunks and examined the beds before dropping everything back in a crumpled mess.  “Nothing.”

“What did you expect?”  Mrs. Hunter frowned. 

“Just what I found, I guess.  What happened last night, Mrs. Hunter?”

“Miss Davies wanted to talk to me in private.”  The woman dabbed away nothing in particular from her mouth with a lace-trimmed handkerchief.  “She asked me to follow her to the observation deck.”

“And did you?”  Heyes pressed.

“After I went to the rest room, yes, I did.”  She cast a hand out towards the student butlers.  “I saw Robertson and Drake,” she paused and rubbed her forehead, “no, forgive me.  I saw them when I came back in from the observation deck after talking to Miss Davies.  I wasn’t out there long.  It was freezing.”

The dark eyes grew more intense.  “What did she want to talk to you about and why did it have to be out there?”

“Female things,” Mrs. Hunter met Heyes’ gaze with a defiant stare.  “There are things a woman does not discuss with a man, or within his earshot.”

“Female things?”  Heyes and Farrow shared an uncomfortable glance before Heyes continued.  “Can’t you do better than that?  This is a murder investigation.”  

The woman sniffed.  “All you need to know is that she wanted to talk to me about a delicate matter and it took no time at all.  I returned to my bunk fairly quickly.”

“Can’t you tell Mr. Philpot what she wanted to talk about?” Heyes nodded over to the accoucheur.  “I doubt there’s anything about females that’d shock him.”

“It’d shock me, “she declared.  “To the very bone.  There are some areas a man has no business meddling with and that…” her face grew puce.  “She needed to seek out some feminine supplies.  I won’t be drawn further.”

Heyes shrugged, knowing when he was beat.  “Why’d she have to take you out to a freezing observation deck to ask you that?  Why not do it in the comfort of the bunk area?”

“You’d have to ask her that,” the Englishwoman snapped.  “All I know is that I went out there and our conversation was ended in less than a minute.  I did not have what she sought.  I returned to my bunk and it was then I saw the students.  I went to bed and the next thing I knew she was standing over me.  She struck me with something and everything went black.  You know the rest.”

Heyes nodded.  “You talked to one of the men?” 

“Oh, yes.  I spoke briefly to the young man who was just murdered.”  Mrs. Hunter’s eyes widened.  “No!  Do you think someone might be afraid that I may have told him something important?  Something worth killing for?”

_________________
Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Hunter's Moon Part 5 - The Face At The Window   Tue May 13, 2014 10:42 am

“Something worth killing for?  What could that be?”  Heyes queried.    


“I’ve no idea,” she raised a hand, waving him away with fingers curled around the lace-trimmed handkerchief.  Mrs. Hunter slumped back in her seat and fanned herself her handkerchief.  Her wan face shifted into a scowl at the sight of Heyes continuing to sit on the opposite bench with his arms crossed.  “This is all too much for me.  I’ve had enough.  Please leave me be.”    


“Sure, Mrs. Hunter,” Heyes raised placating hands to the Englishwoman.  “You take all the time you need.  I need to see Mr. Philpot about something.  I’ll be back when you’re rested.”


“I thought I’d made it clear that I’ve said all I have to say.”


Heyes’ cheeks dimpled as his eyes sparkled with his most irritating affected charm.  “Really?  I didn’t get that at all, ma’am.  I thought you needed a rest.”


“Well, I have had enough.  I have nothing else to say.”


Heyes cocked his head.  “Sure, ma’am.  You just relax and take it easy.  I’ll be back when I have more questions.”  Hesmiled reassuringly at the stewardess.  “How are you doing, Miss Cunningham?”


The stewardess turned coffee-colored eyes shimmering with sorrow on him.  “It was just such a shock,” she gave the conductor a shame-filled glance and made to stand.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Farrow.  I’ve never seen anything like that before and to think he was just there, talking and laughing just a few minutes before.  I’ll get back to work.”  The eyelids drooped and tears streamed down her cheeks.  “Oh, Jeffrey!  What happened?  Why would anyone kill you?”


Heyes leaned forward and stroked her arm.  “We’ll get justice for him.”


“Justice?”  The bitterness of the words betrayed the depth of her feelings.  “There ain’t no such thing for the likes of us.  The only reason folks care when we die is because they have to take the trouble to go out and find another or dig a hole.”


Heyes’ jaw hardened.  “That’s not true.  Tishing and the butlers cleaned up to help Malachi.  They insisted on it.  There are folks who care.  I care.”  The brown eyes softened.  “I’m doing my best, Miss Cunningham.  What’s your name?  It sound too formal to call you Miss Cunningham all the time.”


“Cassie,” she sniffed.  “My name is Cassie.”


“Did Jeffrey say anything to you; to anyone?  Anything which might give usinkling as to why this might have happened to Jeffrey?” asked Mrs. Hunter.


“No.”  Miss Cunningham shook her head hopelessly.  “That’s what I can’t work out.  He was so ambitious.  He… well, we weren’t courting properly or anything, but he always said he wanted to marry me.  He said he’d make enough money for my feet to be warm for the rest of my life.”  She took great gulps of sorrow, her face alight with tears.  “I’m always cold, you see.  My hands and my feet; it doesn’t sound very romantic but it was to me…he cared enough to know that.  Nobody ever cared before.”


Heyes watched Cassie dissolve into grief as a pomaded butler came forward and proffered a pressed linen square.  She took it and rasped her delicate nose fiercely before offering it back.  The butler’s professional face turned blank to mask his horror, mutely saying goodbye to his handkerchief forever before walking quietly away.


“Did he say how he’d make all this money?  When did he say that?” Mrs. Hunter asked.


“He always said it,” Cassie sobbed.  “We got a chance to work on this new train and thought it meant a great future.  This is one of the first to be heated by the heat of the engine, to have lights, bunks and a connecting corridor with restrooms.   It’s the future.  He told me only today he’d propose soon and get us a little home together.  He made me believe that he finally had something firm to plan upon.  It seemed wild and lovely to have someone plan to have you in their dream future, but that’s all it was – a dream.”


“Miss Cunningham was with us when Jeffrey was killed, Mrs. Hunter.  Where were you?” Heyes asked.


“I was sitting at the back of the carriage with Mr. Philpot,” the lacy handkerchief saw more dismissive action towards the ex-outlaw.  “He was tending to my wound.”


The dark eyes stared intensely into hers.  “Did either of you see anyone leave the carriage and go into the corridor just behind you?” Heyes pressed.


“I was dazed and nursing a headache, but I can tell you that Mr. Philpot stayed with me the entire time.”  Mrs. Hunter leaned into the stewardess and sighed deeply.  “Please leave us be.  Neither of us is in a frame of mind to revisit these horrors.”  


Farrow stared at the stewardess before he turned resigned eyes on the ex-outlaw leader.  “I guess she’s not fit to work.”


Heyes gave a huff of exasperation.  “Ya think?”  He stood and folded his arms.  “How many women would be fit for work within an hour of a friend being brutally murdered a few feet behind them? “


“It’s just that we have a train full of folks to look after.”  Farrow scratched his head pensively.  “Women think like a man who’s been hit on the head at the best of times.  They’re kinda delicate, huh?”  


Heyes glowered at the conductor.  “You’ve got a train full of butlers who’re keen to prove to the West that rich folks can’t live without them.  Leave her be and let them get some publicity for their school.”


Farrow sighed deeply.  “Have you ever had to find a killer before?  How do I know you’re competent?”


Heyes turned dark eyes on the Kid.  “Both my partner and I have dealt with killers before.  I can’t say I enjoy it, but I’m prepared to do what it takes.  There are two young people stiffening up in one of the baggage cars instead of laughing, living, and loving.  I’ll find them and make sure they meet up with some kind of consequences.”  


Farrow blinked hard, caught by the starkness of his message.  “I’m glad it’s not me.”


The cold smile echoed the chill in the ex-outlaw leader’s eyes.  “Let’s hope not, huh?”


**********


“Can I have a word, Philpot?”  


The accoucheur gestured to the seat beside him.  “Do I have a choice?”


“Always,” Heyes sat.  “Can I ask you something very personal about women?”


The straight nose underscored the Englishman’s quizzical blue eyes.  “I can’t give you the secret of eternal bliss, if that’s what you’re looking for.  Women don’t work that way.  It’s not like knowing how to wind up a clock.”


“No?  I guess I’ll have to keep trying.”  The cheeks dimpled joylessly.  “That’s not what I want to know.  If Miss Davies took another woman aside to talk to her about something personal  and the other woman refused to discuss it with a man, what do you think it would that be about?”


The mid-husband scratched his chin.  “If women know one another they’ll talk about very personal matters in the most lurid detail.  They talk about feminine health in a way they’d never dream of doing to a husband and sometimes even to a doctor.  I see them bring mothers, sister, friends; you name it, for support.  Sometimes I feel like I’m creeping up on a cauldron surrounded by witches, muttering secrets they won’t tell me.”


Heyes chuckled lightly.  “Do they do that if they’ve just met; say like Mrs. Hunter and Miss Davies?”


Philpot pursed his lips.  “That depends on the woman.  I got the definite impression that Miss Davies was of a considerably higher social class than Mrs. Hunter, so it’s unlikely that she would confide in her.  Mrs. Hunter is of a servant class.”


Heyes frowned.  “What difference does that make?”


“You’re not English.  The social structures are very set and they don’t cross except professionally.  People follow the rules.  An upper middle-class woman like Miss Davies would be happy to allow Mrs. Hunter to clean up after her, but she wouldn’t make a friend of her.”


“How can you tell?”


Philpot chuckled lightly.  “Miss Davies did all she could to put Mrs. Hunter at ease; you don’t do that unless you feel you have the upper hand.  However, she did it without being too warm.  I think you could call it companionable aloofness.”


“True,” Heyes sighed.  “I’m glad my folks left England.  I don’t think I could live in a place like that.”


“They were English?”  


“Pa’s folks were.  Ma’s folks were Irish.”  


“The Irish have the most beautiful women,” Philpot sighed, “my first love was Irish.”


“Yeah, my ma was something special,” Heyes nodded, “but back to the matter in hand.  Mrs. Hunter says that Miss Davies asked her to go out on the observation deck to discuss something about feminine supplies?”


Philpot paused, staring down the train at the conductor playing cards with the fireman and the driver.  “She wouldn’t confide in a servant unless it was something practical.” Philpot shrugged, smiling mysteriously.  “Something very personal which nobody else could supply.  I can’t think of any other reason.”


Heyes rubbed his chin.  “How would we know if that was the case?”


“I could examine the body.  If she required something for feminine personal hygiene I would know.  Why is this important?”


“It supports Mrs. Hunter’s story,” Heyes stood in the aisle and leaned on the back of the seat.  “I just like to have everything covered.  Otherwise how can a man spot the gaps in anyone’s story?”


“You’re very thorough,” Philpot leaned back against the window and stretched his legs out across the now vacant seat.  


“Sure am.  So how about it?”


Philpot’s brow creased.  “What?”


“Examining the body.  I’d like you to confirm if Miss Davies may have needed any ‘feminine supplies.’


“Now?”


Heyes nodded.  “No time like the present and the butlers appear to have finished clearing up the connecting corridor.”  He stepped out into the aisle and spread out an ushering hand.  “Shall we?”


***********


The sharp chill of baggage car caught at the back of their throats and made their breath hang in the air in condensing clouds.  Two forms lay on the cold floor covered in tarpaulin, the English lady and the black railway steward side by side as they could never have been in life, leveled by nature’s finality.  


Heyes held up the lamp, cutting through the darkness.  “She’s in the corner.”  He turned, watching the accoucheur hesitate.  “What’s the matter?  You’ve seen a dead body before, haven’t you?”


The Englishman’s thin lips firmed into a line.  “Mine are usually fresh.  I’m not a doctor, you know.  I don’t slice them up to find out why they died.  It’s my job to try to stop that happening in the first place.”


Heyes grimaced.  “Yeah, it’s a gruesome job, but you can help catch a killer.”  


“Fine,” Philpot planted his leather bag on the floor and started fumbling with the covering on the cadaver.  “Bring that lamp over here.  I need to see what I’m doing.”  He raised curious eyes towards the dark man who crouched and peeled back the tarpaulin on the steward’s body.  “What’re you doing, man?  Have some respect for the dead.”


Gloved hands slid over the blood-splattered body, pushing into pockets and exploring the uniform.  “I’m checking out a hunch.”  Heyes paused at Jeffrey’s right-hand trouser pocket, glancing up at Philpot before he pulled out a white cloth covered in red stains.  Lights of cleverness danced in the dark eyes as he looked down at the gore, now forming browning, crusting gouts over the young man’s chest.  He stared into the cloudy, sightless eyes.  “Gotcha!”


“Pardon me?”


Heyes replaced the covering and stood, thrusting the stained cloth into his jacket.  “Are you done here?”


“No, hold that lamp up for me.”


Heyes averted his eyes respectfully, allowing the male midwife to complete his inspection amid the sound of rustling fabric and the clank of metal instruments.  


“I’m finished,” Philpot snapped his bag closed and stood.  “Mrs. Hunter may have been telling the truth.  Miss Davies would have required some intimate sanitary items.”


Heyes’ jaw hardened along with his anger as he stared at the two bodies on the floor, young people robbed of life and promise.  “Let’s get back.”


“Have I helped?” Philpot asked.


“More than you know.  Let’s go and expose ourselves a killer.”  Heyes stepped over to the connecting corridor and stood back to allow the Englishman to go first.  “Nuh uh.  Nobody walks behind me on this train.  Not after what happened to Jeffrey.  You go first.  I’ll watch your back.”      


**********


“Joshua, take a look at this?”  The Kid held out sketch pad.


The dark eyes scanned the parchment before the dark eyes darted back to his partner.  “The whole railway car?”


“Yup.  When one of the butlers was sayin’ he was sketchin’ I thought I’d have a look to see if it was any use to us.”  He smiled.  “I think it is.”


“It sure is.  Look at that.  Everyone in their place,” the cheeks dimpled, “and we can see exactly where that is.  This is a real good drawing.”  Heyes pursed his lips.  “Who did it?”  He scanned the cabin and smiled at the lean man whose receding chin disappeared into his starched collar.  “Ah, yes; the one who spoke up.”


The Kid held the pad out at arm’s length and turned the page to look at a few unfinished etchings.  “He’s talented.  He’s caught your lopsided face real well.”


"My face isn’t lopsided.”


“Yeah, it is. It might look fine from your side, but you should see it from here.”


Heyes turned indignant eyes on the conductor.  “Farrow, is my face lopsided?”


The man gave Heyes a long, hard stare.  “Not lopsided exactly, but one eye’s bigger than the other.”


“No, it’s not.”  Heyes stabbed a gloved forefinger at the drawing.  “I’ve always been told my eyes are my best feature.”

A guffaw cut through railway car.  “Who by?  Kyle?  It doesn’t count if you’re his boss.”  The Kid glanced between the sketch and his partner.  “I ain’t sayin’ that one eye is bigger than the other; it’s a completely different shape.”  He snapped the pad shut and grinned.  “I guess the problem ain’t so much that your eyes don’t match some romantic hero, it’s more that they don’t match each other.”

The partners watched Farrow’s retreating back as he followed the driver and the fireman down the aisle towards the latrines.  “And you’re so perfect?” Heyes demanded.  “What about those curls?  You look like that boy in the advertisement for tar soap; the one in frilly knickerbockers.”


One slim, fair brow arched in retort.  “At least they picked him because he was cute.  Not because he’s lopsided.  That ain’t gonna sell soap,” the Kid paused pensively.  “Your face might sell some kinda cure though.”


“I’m not lopsided!” Heyes exclaimed.  “My description said I have even features.”


“Good point,” the blue eyes sparkled with humor, “I guess it was such a good description you were recognized everywhere you went, huh?”


“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.  It’s like trying to order a cat around.”


“You should be more grateful, Joshua.  I just got you a picture of where everyone was just before the murder.  Whoever it was would have to try to get past Mrs. Hunter and Philpot in the back row.”


“Yup.  I have one more thing to find out.  Where did Farrow go?  The latrines?”Heyes nodded towards the sketch pad in the Kid’s hand, “and take those.  We don’t want anyone to have pictures of us.”


“So you agree it looks like you?”


“Just take the pad, Thaddeus,” Heyes sighed.  “Tell him we need it for evidence.”



**********


“Farrow, I need to ask you about how your crew looks after the passengers.”


The conductor pulled himself up from the wall where he had been leaning and nodded.  “You were a passenger.  You’ve seen it.”


“More specifically; I want to know what the stewardesses do for the female passengers.”


The door to the toilet opened and the burly driver emerged, holding it open for the fireman.   Farrow gestured towards the washroom with his head.  “We’re going in threes.  That way there’s always somebody to watch our backs.  What did you want to know?”


“Smart move,” Heyes folded his arms.  “Female hygiene when they travel.  How different is it to men?”


A line of puce rose up from the conductor’s stark, white collar.  “How the…?”  He paused, snorting slightly through hirsute nostrils.  “What has that got to do with a steward getting his throat slit and a passenger thrown from the train?”


“More than you’d think,” Heyes pressed.  “What does the stewardess do for them that she wouldn’t for a man?”


“I don’t rightly know, and I don’t want to.  We pay the stewardesses to deal with all that stuff.  It ain’t decent to even ask about this.”


“All what stuff.  What do they deal with and how?”


Farrow tugged at his collar as though releasing steam.  “Well, you know… women’s things.”


“No, I don’t.  That’s why I’m asking.”


“The stuff they incinerate.  You couldn’t pay me enough to get involved in that nonsense.”


Heyes stare intensified.  “They incinerate stuff?”


“Sure they do.  A lady doesn’t want to carry stuff about with her when she’s travelling.  The ladies’ rest rooms have incinerators in the stations, but on the train the stewardess will take a package and burn it in the pot-bellied stove in my car.  Women can buy disposable things now.”  Farrow shook his flushed head.  “My wife does if she’s travelling.  Most pharmacists make their own disposable diapers.”


“Miss Cunningham’s the only stewardess in this train.  Did she dispose of anything for anyone?  Anyone at all?  Did she burn anything in the stove?”


Farrow shrugged.  “Dunno.  I’m not at her side all the time.  Is it important?”


“Very,” Heyes nodded.  


The fireman thrust open the door to the restroom and closed it behind him.  “We’re all done here.”  Farrow gazed around the group.  “Let’s get back.  This corridor gives me the creeps.  Who’s gonna walk at the back?”


The men eyed one another nervously before Heyes spoke and drew his gun.  “I’ll do it.  Go on, get back to the main car and I’ll cover your back.”  


Farrow paused.  “You think the moonstone is in the stove, don’t you?  It’s still burning.  It’d take hours to cool down.  Does fire hurt a moonstone?”


**********


The Kid watched his partner follow the staff into the main car, immediately catching the unspoken message in the intense eyes and stiff stance.  He’d seen this before, in countless jobs and capers: business was coming.  Heyes had a plan.


The ex-outlaw leader leaned over and whispered something to the stewardess.  Her perfect forehead, the color of milky coffee, wrinkled in confusion before she shook her head.  Joyless dimples pitted Heyes’ cheeks.  His smile was merely a polite response to the young woman.  The man known as Thaddeus Jones shifted back to his instincts; he could trust them.  He had no way of knowing what would happen next, but experience would inform the responses.


Heyes straightened up and nodded pensively before he strode to the front of the car.  “Kid,” he whispered, “take the back.”


There was no room for hesitation, dubiety or question.  Their skills dovetailed perfectly.  Heyes’ ability to strategize unfolding events needed a man who could foresee potential danger and strike like a rattler.  They were a team; a well-oiled machine.


“Ladies and gentlemen,” Heyes stood at the front and raised his hands.  “We need to bring this to an end.  I can’t allow anyone else to be killed.  Maud Davies worked for a charity which helped people forced into prostitution.  We found the evidence in her bag.”


“Prostitution?”  Tishing spluttered.  “But she was such a genteel young lady.”


“She was a brave, young lady.  The telegrams in her bags show that she was on the trail of someone who’d trick the poor into making a journey at the promise of employment.”  Heyes glowered at Glavin.  “Once they arrived they had no money, no job and no prospects.  They’re treated no better than slaves.”  Restrained anger glistened in the dark eyes.  “Apparently there’s a market in children.  She was on someone’s trail and was warned to back off, but she didn’t.”  


“Really,” Mrs. Hunter clucked.  “That is such an ugly subject for mixed company.  The woman was a thief.”


“It’s an ugly business,” Heyes replied, “and she never stole anything from you.  Did she, Mrs. Hunter?”


“Well, I was unconscious.”  The folded arms pointed jagged, hostile elbows at Heyes.  “Anyone could have taken it.”


“Unconscious?”  A humorless smile twitched at Heyes’ lips.  “I’ll come to that in a minute, but let’s start with the sketch made by...” his eyes crinkled as he deciphered the signature and frowned, “Mr. Dumbass?”


“Dumas,” the frowning man with the receding chin corrected.


“Mr. Dumas, sorry,” Heyes nodded.  “It’s a wonderful picture and it clearly shows Philpot sitting next to the window in the back row and Mrs. Hunter by the aisle.  This sketch was done just before Jeffrey was murdered and shows us where everyone was.  Mrs. Hunter was best placed to slip into the corridor behind her.”


“This is utterly ridiculous.  I am a respectable woman.  I’m the victim here!”


“Victim?” disdain dripped from Heyes’ lips.  “You’ve been tempting vulnerable youngsters on the promise of a future, but they’ve been forced into a choice between prostitution and starvation


“But I run a school for butlers and a placement agency for superior domestic staff,” Tishing declared.  “Any of these men will verify that they are not being used for immoral purposes!  They are going to the best homes in the West.”


All eyes turned to the array of flunkies; tall, short, fat, thin, hirsute and smooth as a pool ball; each of them as good an example of male pulchritude as the average mule’s butt.  An overtly coiffeured man spoke up.  “My dear fellow, if I had wanted to get involved in immoral activities I would have gone to work for the Marquis of Beauregard.  Some people treat their bodies like a temple.  He treats his more like a vaulting horse.  I can assure you my placement will be prestigious.”


Heyes gave a wry smile and turned the cloth he’d pulled from the steward’s pocket in his hands.  “Even Mrs. Hunter was clear about having met Tishing on the boat over here.  He thought he’d gained someone to do his clerical work and place female staff; she thought she’d got a respectable front for her crimes.  This cloth is covered in red ink, not blood, and Jeffrey suddenly seemed to think he’d come into money after he’d cleaned up the bunk area.  Mrs. Hunter has a bottle of red ink in her writing case that’s nearly empty.  Blackmail threats, Ma’am?”


“These are just wild lies and accusations,” wept Mrs. Hunter.  “I was attacked and robbed.”


Heyes’ eyes narrowed.  “I spotted right away that there was no moonstone.   There never was.  You never mentioned it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, all the way west and when bargaining for a share of a new business.  You couldn’t even produce it at the point of a gun.  It was a lie, a ruse, thought up on the spur of the moment as an excuse to dispose of Maud Davies.  Folks won’t be so concerned about a thief disappearing as they would a respectable young woman.”  Heyes shook his head.  “Nope.  It was dumb luck that the train was stopped by the landslide.  If it hadn’t, you’d have been at your destination and gone before anyone found Maud Davies’ body.  The sound of the door to the observation deck opening again was you going back out there after talking to Jeffrey.  He saw you, and that, combined with the fake blood, gave him enough to blackmail you.  I can prove you faked the whole thing because there’s nothing wrong with your head.  Isn’t that right, Philpot?”


The accoucheur blanched.  “Me?”


“Yeah, there’s nothing handier to a madam than her own pet abortionist, is there?  A nice sideline too, for a man who’s building a brand new kind of business.  A male mid-wife’s got a lot of resistance to get over; a man doing your kind of work over here won’t be well received and you still need to eat in the meantime.” Heyes nodded over to the stewardess who sat on the bench beside Mrs. Hunter, her eyes widening with disbelief.  Heyes glowered over at the Englishman again.  “Let’s see your wound, Mrs. Hunter.  That’ll soon tell us if you and Philpot have been telling the truth.”


Bony knuckles bulged under the woman’s lace cuffs as she clutched at her reticule.  “I refuse to be shown off like some kind of prize cow.”


“No?  You can show us now or be forced by the law.  Your friend here helped to confirm you were both lying.  First of all, you said she wanted to speak to you about some female supplies, but I found out that she had her own.  I didn’t know what they were when we found them in the bag, but the conductor is a married man and filled me in.  Why would she ask you for something she already has?  They were right at the bottom of the bag too, so I’m guessing she didn’t need them the day she died and that Philpot lied about her condition.  The stewardess didn’t incinerate anything for her so that kinda supports my reckoning.”  The dark eyes bored into Philpot.  “But an examination of the body will tell us if you lied to me just to back up Mrs. Hunter’s excuse for going onto the observation deck,” a dark eyebrow flicked up, “won’t it?  It shows you two are working together.”  


“You damned fool!” Philpot yelled at Mrs. Hunter.  “You could have used any excuse, but you had to use something that could be checked.  You’ve just killed me.  I’ll be hanged.  They always blame the man, even though you were the one who slit their throats.”


“I deliberately chose that subject because any decent man would back off.  How was I to know he’s some kind of deviant?” spat Mrs. Hunter.


Farrow stared at Heyes in amazement.  “That’s why you were asking all kinds of questions about women?  You were trying to trap them?”


“I can smell a lie at a thousand paces,” Heyes nodded. “I just needed to find a way to prove it and I had to work with what I had.”


“You’re unnatural!” screeched Mrs. Hunter.


“He sure is.  It’s written all over his lopsided face,” grinned the Kid, nodding proudly at his cousin.  “But as soon as you lie to him; he’ll call you on it eventually.  That was your biggest mistake, ma’am.  Ya tried to tell him not to go there.  That’ll do it every time.”


**********


Two days later the train chugged wearily into its destination.  Once the navigators had arrived to help dig them out, it had been a long hard slog to clear the line, involving backing up the train so dynamite could be used to blast the larger rocks to a more manageable size.  Men worked in shifts to clear the line.


“Mr. Smith.  Mr. Jones!”  Gerald Tishing scurried down the aisle towards them.  “I really need to thank you for not disclosing my past to the law.  I felt sure I’d be a suspect as soon as we got through to town.  I was setting up a business with her, after all.”


“Everyone deserves a second chance,” Heyes shrugged, “and you were duped by her.  You never knew her before you set off from England to start your school.  Besides, I think your gang of butlers would have turned you in if they thought you’d do anything like that.  They seem like a pretty upright bunch.  They spoke for you indirectly.”


“Gang?” Tishing grinned.  “I never thought of them as a gang, but now I’m over here maybe I have to change; when in Rome and all that, eh?  I need a woman to do the clerical work and interview female staff though: someone respectable, this time.”  He scratched his head.  “I don’t need this setback.  I have interviews already set up and I need to find someone who can find out if they have the right qualities to make good servants.  I need a woman’s eye.  Men miss things when it comes to women.”


“What about Miss Cunningham?” the Kid gestured towards the stewardess with his head.  “She’s real presentable and smart as a whip.  I bet she’d jump at the chance to get away from the trains after all this.”


“Oh!”  Tishing’s hirsute eyebrows shot up.  “I never thought of her.   She’d be ideal, and if anyone reacts to her badly because of her color, we can weed them out instantly.  A good servant needs to expect the unexpected, and rise to it.  That is a wonderful suggestion.”


“Well, she certainly got the unexpected on this train,” the Kid mused.


“I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.  I had thought of approaching Malachi to see if he would be interested in working with us.  I think his calm dignity would make him an ideal candidate.”


“I don’t think he could afford the fees to take the course,” Heyes murmured.


“He could help with all the clerical work and the placements whilst he’s studying,” Tishing mused.  “I wonder if he’d do it?  He really does have a presence and gravitas many employers would value.  I doubt he’d have to learn too much.”


The partners exchanged a grin.  “I knew I liked you, Tishing.  You give folks a chance, that’s why I reckoned you needed one yourself.”  Heyes glanced at the forlorn giant of a man watching the body of his murdered companion being stretchered away from the train.  “Go ask him.  I think he’ll jump at the chance to get outta here and into a place where he’ll be treated with respect.”


“Yes, I’ll get right on that,” the Englishman declared, striding determinedly towards Malachi and the stewardess.  


“Sorry, we need to get past.”  The partners stepped aside to allow the sheriff and his men to lead a scowling Mrs. Hunter and a gaunt Philpot off the train.


“You’ll never prove this!” the Englishwoman yowled.  “All you have is a lot of wild speculation.  There’s no evidence.”


“Ya think?” The sheriff prodded his prisoners along.  “Maud Davies sent a telegram from her last stop to tell me that she was following a woman called Maggie Butler who was forcin’ girls into prostitution and to meet the train.”


“My name is Hunter.”


“Is it?  We’ll soon find out, ma’am.  The lady’s boss is on his way here and he can identify Maggie Butler,” the sheriff’s smile spread under a salt-and-pepper moustache as the sight of the suspect’s mouth dropping open in shock.  “He tells me he’s got copies of Maggie Butler’s criminal record from London, along with photographs.”


“Nothing to say, Maggie?”  Heyes’ eyes narrowed.“That silence tells me the law’s got you dead to rights.”


“Hey, boy!”  All heads turned to look at Glavin, who was pointing at his bags with a silver-topped cane and glaring at Malachi.  “George, get my bag.”


The Kid stepped forward but was stopped by Heyes’ restraining hand on his chest.
 

Malachi’s smile split his face in two.  “Sure will, sir.”  The enormous man’s fist dwarfed the handle as he lifted the bag and strode to the observation deck.  They watched through the gaping door as the giant of a man raised the bag above his head with both hands and pitched it as far down the tracks as his considerable strength would take it.


Glavin turned puce.  “Farrow!  Have you seen what that n*$$@* just did to my bag?  I want him sacked.  I want the law on him for criminal damage. ”


“Sacked?” Malachi couldn’t hide the delight dancing in his chocolate eyes.  “I don’t work here anymore.  Ya should’ve thought of that before demanding that I get your bag.  Consider it got.”  He dusted off his enormous hands and stalked off towards the conductor’s car.  


“My bag!” spluttered Glavin.


“You’d best go get it,” the Kid grinned.  “I hear the next train’s in soon, so it’ll probably run right over it.”


“Where’s Farrow?  I want that man arrested,” Glavin demanded.  


The blue eyes narrowed.  “The conductor’s on the platform dealin’ with the law.  My partner and me are the only ones here and we never saw a thing.”  


“I wouldn’t say that, Thaddeus,” chuckled Heyes.  “I think I saw Glavin throw the bag himself, in fact I’d swear to that on a stack of bibles.”  The hoot of a whistle deepened the joy in the dimples.  “Sounds like the next train’s arriving.  Yup.  It sounds like you left it too late to get your bag.”


“What are you talking about, man?  It’s miles away.  I’ve got time.”


Heyes and Curry’s smiles danced with mischief.  “Nah, I don’t think so.  I think we’d better keep you here for your own protection.  What do you think, Thaddeus?”


“I never agreed with you more, Joshua.  How about the latrine?  We can keep him in there until it’s safe to let him out.”


Glavin felt himself grabbed under each arm and dragged off to the restroom.  “But it’s stinking in there!  This train’s been trapped for days and everyone been using it.”


“I know,” nodded the Kid, sympathetically, “better safe than sorry though.  We’ll let you out as soon as the train’s in the station.”


“But it’ll have run over my bag by then!  I’ve got at least five minutes.”


They thrust Glavin into the stinking latrine and shut the door in his face.  “It’s real stinky in there, Joshua.  The stewardess stopped using it as soon as help arrived.  Cassie said it was disgustin’.”


“Yeah,” Heyes ignored the battering on the door.  “She had a point.  All those men and her with long skirts; they’d have more respect for a white woman, but they just didn’t care.  It was like being in some kind of den for a couple of days.  We can’t deny that a decent woman civilizes men.”  


“Maggie Butler,” mused the Kid, holding the rattling handle fast.  “She was usin’ an alias?  You do realize that means the butler really did do it, don’t ya?”


“I guess.  Who’d have thought it?”  Heyes shook his head ruefully.  “I keep thinking how different things would be if Maud had told one of us what she was up to.  She’d still be alive.”


“Yeah,” the Kid nodded.  “I keep seein’ her face through the window smilin’ up at us before Malachi and Jeffrey went to help her.  Damn!  I thought she couldn’t have been safer.”


The partners shared a few moments of pensive silence, punctuated only by the angry business man pounding on the door demanding to be released.  “Ya know, if we tied this door shut we could just walk away and leave Glavin to it.”


The dark eyes danced with delicious devilment.  “You’re right.  That’s why I need you, Thaddeus.  You see the practical things I miss.”


The Kid fastened off a convenient curtain-pull to the door handle and tied it to a grab-rail.  “Yup, it’s my job to cut holes in your big ideas until they work.  C’mon, let’s get outta here before Glavin gets out and starts pointin’ fingers over his ruined bag.  Why is it that we’ve always got to make a break for it, even when we did good?  D’you think we’ll ever learn?”


“Somehow, I seriously doubt that, Thaddeus.”


Historical notes


Maud Davies was a social pioneer who wrote a book identifying all the social ills in her native village of Corsley which pulled no punches.  She identified the drunkenness, idleness, and indiscretions in such a way that made the subjects very identifiable.  This caused outrage because they had cooperated with her, inviting her into their homes and lives.

She went into fascinating and meticulous detail about laborers’ subsistence living and published diaries on what they ate, bought, and detailed indiscrete liaisons.  Her investigative work was exhaustive; compiling hourly censuses of people’s whereabouts and the customers’ transactions at the local public houses over years.  The local parish council did everything they could to suppress the work.


She was investigating the white slave trade (human trafficking) to America and the West Indies, (one assumes with equal vigor) when she was murdered just after returning to London from the West Indies.  She was found decapitated in the London Underground.  The murder was never solved.  Her work ‘Life in an English Village’ was re-published a hundred years after her death to celebrate a life dedicated to attempting to break down barriers in class and gender.

Women in the 19th century menstruated less than her modern sisters due to the frequency of childbirth, breastfeeding, later onset of menses and earlier menopause.  Most women used home-made washable pads which they would toss into buckets of cold water to soak with bicarbonate of soda before being washed with soap and caustic soda.  Another treatment to remove blood stains was to soak with petroleum and then wash in warm water.


Local pharmacies and a few manufacturers started to produce disposable wood wool pads in the 1880s.  These were often too expensive for the poorer women but were frequently used for traveling, or at times where washable pads could not be conveniently and hygienically stored.  Incinerators were provided in public toilets, stations and institutions so used pads could be burnt.  The grids for these incinerators can still be seen in some Victorian public toilets.  
Links
Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - The Lady's Dressing Room, by Baroness Staffe, trans. Lady Colin Campbell, 1893 - Part IV

www.victorianlondon.org/publications/ladys-4.htm


http://tranquilheart.hubpages.com/hub/Overview-of-menstrual-pads#

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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Tabumin

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Location : Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY, USA

PostSubject: Re: Hunter's Moon- What the Butler Saw   Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:01 am

Great story - amazing research!  Definitely going to look into learning more about Maud. 
the steam from the train which hung in the November air like dragon’s breath

love the description!

Also loved your humor:
“We spend a good part of our time tryin’ to make sure folks don’t find out what we’re worth, Joshua.”

The blue eyes simmered with confusion.  “A man’s man?  I ain’t sure if that’s an insult or not, but I don’t think that’s a fit conversation to be havin’ around a lady.”

Mrs. Hunter gave a tinkling laugh.  “Definitely not butler material, Mr. Tishing.”


 

How should I know?  Do I look like an expert on female doctoring?”

 
“We’ll be gentle as kittens,” Heyes smiled.
 
The Kid followed the conductor into the corridor.   “Don’t they scratch?”  
 
“You’re not helping, Thaddeus.”



Good mystery and loved the solving/conclusion.  Thanks for the piece at the end on Maud - really fascinating  history !
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