All words presented in this blog are purely opinion, not fact - unless specifically stated otherwise in the post.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Almost a year later

It's been almost a year since I last posted.  I've been wondering whether I should take this blog down, leave it up with no posts or to start using it for something more interesting or useful.
I'm honestly not sure, but its something I'm thinking about. In the meantime It's been a very long time since I posted anything about writing.
Insanely the last time I posted an exerpt of anything was 5 years ago. I've written 2 whole books since then.
2 books I'm excited about. they're fantasy wild west books in a series I call Wild card.
The First book is called 'Gentleman' and here are the first couple of chapters:

Prologue

"Do you believe in magic?" The old card shark asked, shuffling the deck of cards in front of him. He split the deck and dropped it a piece at a time back into his hands. He wore a deep purple shirt with the sleeves rolled up to make sure that nobody thought that he was slipping cards up his sleeve - which was fine, that wasn't how he cheated anyway. He paired the shirt with a black waistcoat, black suit trousers and Oxfords.
"Time was; magic was real." He continued, splitting the deck in two and riffling the two halves together so that each card was only sandwiched by two others, a perfect shuffle. He pushed them together and then began dealing around the table. Two per person.
"And I'm not talking about simple sleight of hand. Card tricks or something." He punctuated the statement, as he finished dealing the cards, by making a popping motion with the deck and having a pair of cards leap out from two different spots in the middle of the deck. He caught them with two deft fingers and flashed the grinning jesters at the other players around the table. "New deck." He said "forgot to take the jokers out." He smiled to himself, pretending not to notice their expressions of childish wonder. The same expression that let him know that they had completely overlooked the fact that he had full control of the deck and what would be dealt from it.
"Sorry, where was I? Ah yes. Real magic. Not just card tricks." He paused, cocking his head to the side as he leaned forward to place the deck down on the table. "Though there was one card magician of note... but his were no simple tricks." He set down the deck, picked up his cards and sat back in his chair, a small smile on his face. "Let me tell you fellows about Eighteen-seventy-Eight's Wyrd west outlaw, Benjamin Wexley."

CHAPTER ONE

Passengers

Benjamin Wexley, also known as 'the Gentleman' sat in a window seat on the 11 am East bound train across the state of New Victoria going from the city of San Rojo in the west, through the countryside, stopping at several towns and eventually rounding down towards New Biggleswade, where the train would unload it's cargo before, finally heading on to Texas.
Or at least that was the plan.
Benjamin, Ben, had a feeling that things were going to go differently.
Ben was a tall man with light brown hair, cut to ear length and brushed into a side parting where his hair swept back behind his ears. He wasn't as rugged as some of the others he knew, for one thing he kept himself well shaved, but unlike many of the others he was handsome. He wouldn't be able to do what he did if he wasn't. He had grayish blue eyes that he'd often been told ‘sparkled mischievously’ and slim features with very little fat on them, though he wasn't large and muscular, simply toned and wiry.
He sat with his feet up on the opposite chair, absently shuffling a deck of cards and occasionally spinning a card around and letting it drop from the deck into his lap. He watched out the window as the countryside flew by, enjoying the sights, the smells and the sounds. He loved New Victoria, his home state. It was a little known state, nestled to the north west of Texas, east of New Mexico and south west of Oklahoma.
It was a simple land that prospered thanks in great part to the fertile earth, the gorgeous scenery and the black mountain at its center, looming over the town of Blackrock, with its treasure trove of obsidian.
There were a great many sources of magic throughout the world, but only a few sources of great magic, and the black mountain was one of them. Nobody understood it, many people feared it, but everyone could feel it.
When you stood near Blackrock you could feel the magic in the air. When you held the Obsidian birthed in the depths of the mountain you could feel it's potent power, but none had ever figured out how to access it.
People had learned to access different types of power, however. By Ben's estimation there were two major groups of magical power. External and internal.
Of the external magics there were four sub-types; ritual magic which used magic from the earth to perform a magical feat. Spiritual magic, which asked the spirits of the earth to perform the magic. Some argued that Spiritual and Ritual magics were the same, but with different levels of politeness, but Ben had never seen spiritual magic, so he had no basis for comparison.
There were also the sources of great magic, like Blackrock which felt like they should be able to be harnessed, but none knew how. Even Ben carried a piece of Blackrock's obsidian in case anyone ever figured it out. Lastly there was demonic magic, which allowed a person to do great and powerful magics with the help of a demon, but at terrible costs.
Of the Internal magics there was only two types; Spells, where a practitioner used words of power to craft their will into reality, using magic from within oneself as fuel. Spells had their advantages over the external types, most notably speed compared to rituals and the continued sanctity of your soul compared to demonic, but they certainly also had their disadvantages. When powering a spell from within your resources become limited. Comparing what you can do with a spell to a ritual is like comparing a match to a bonfire. There are some cases where the match has all the light and heat you need, and if you use it well it can be very versatile, but a bonfires always going to do everything a match can do, but longer and better.
Finally there’s Wild magic. Wild magic was special and unique to each person using it. Not everyone could use wild magic, it was something you were born with, not something you learned.
Ben had wild magic, and he had known a half dozen other people in his life who also held such powers. Each power was incredibly unique, incredibly personal. He, himself had never fully shared with anyone the extent of his power, and he was certain that none of the people he had met had ever let him in completely on what theirs could do.
Part of that was because it was personal. But a much bigger part was that nobody knowing gave you an edge.
One person that Ben had known had been born with the ability to transform any open liquid within ten feet of them into any other liquid. Blood, saliva, things like that she couldn't effect, but if you had her tied up and you went for a glass of whisky in front of her you can bet your ass it would be poison by the time it met your lips. Ben himself had once made a joke at her expense while they had been out drinking and his whisky hadn’t made it to his lips without transforming into water for the rest of the night.
Ben had a deck of magic playing cards. How magic was the deck? Well that would spoil the illusion now wouldn't it?
"West Camden station, coming up." Came the loud voice of the train conductor as he wandered up the train past Ben, towards the front.
West Camden was where Ben's associate and long time friend, Jay Clavijo would be getting on. Ben sat up and straightened himself out, lifting the cards off his lap - from the bottom up, the four aces, the four kings, the four queens and two of the jacks, in the same suit pattern of spades, diamonds, clubs, hearts. They were strange, Ben's cards. None of the face cards had anything on them, except for the letters and suit images in the corners. Save for the King of clubs which had the image of a large man, thick around the waist and arms, holding a pair of meat cleavers. Ben swept that card quickly into the stack and shuffled them all back into the deck, storing it away in the inside pocket of his jacket.
He flattened his shirt and jacket down, then did the same to his trousers and boots before reaching for his Stetson hat on the seat next to him and slipping it carefully up onto his head.
The hat was also special, not quite as special as his deck of cards, there was no wild magic in it, but it did have a number of ritual magic circles and runes and the like sewn into the inside. The thread used was black on the black hat, so it was hard to see, but if you tried to attack ben with any sort of mind altering magic it became very obvious as the runes, the symbols and the circle lit up a bright white.
Ben sat back in the chair and watched out the window as Camden Town rolled into view and the west Camden station slid up beside them. He watched Jay slide by as the train slowed, but didn't pay him much attention. Ben had already told him which carriage he'd be getting onto and where he'd likely sit. There was no need to signal Jay. It was better that nobody paid him any attention when all of this was said and done.
The train came to a hold and a few people got up to leave. Once they'd disembarked, Jay and about three others got on the train and found seats. Jay came over and sat down in the seat behind Ben's, close enough that they could chat, but not so close as to lead people to the correct conclusion that they knew each other, or that they were friends.
"G'mornin, Ben." He said quietly after a moment of sitting down. "Got about ten minutes before the train starts again if you want t' stretch yer legs or something."
Ben smiled and shook his head. "I'm fine, Spanish." He responded, omitting Jay's real name as they had agreed when in the planning stages. Ben's name was fine to be said allowed. His fame, his infamy was a big part of why people liked to bring him in on jobs, it masked everyone else. Put Benjamin 'The Gentleman' Wexley in the mix and people think it's a gentleman caper, when nine times out of ten he's just there as a favour to someone else.
This job, however was his. He'd brought Jay and his crew in on it to help out, but he would still be taking the heat from the sheriffs and the marshalls.
So Ben's name needed to be heard. People listened to his name, and like a conductor with his baton, he led them with it.
"Is everything else set up?" Ben asked.
Jay nodded, Ben caught only a fraction of movement in his periphery. "Yup." He added a moment later. "Bands all ready to play at breaker rock."
"Good."
"S'gonna be tight though." He said. "Not a lot of track between Breaker Rock and New Biggleswade. We miss the opportunity; we'll be in the middle of town surrounded by law and a train full of people who know we're there."
"Let's not miss the opportunity, then." Ben suggested.
Jay smiled to himself, "well when you put it like that..."
Ben smiled as well and added, "just make sure you're back at the cargo cabin when your guys arrive. You know your part, I'll do mine."
Jay nodded. "I hope so, Ben. I'm not really in the mood to spend the night in lock up and the morning in a noose."
"Don't worry so much, Spanish. We're all professionals here." Ben stretched his arms over his head and yawned. "Besides, even if you and your boys do take too long the law won't have any idea what you're doing, they'll be too focused on me. That's the point, is it not?"
"True, but I don't exactly want to see you swinging either." Jay retorted.
Ben made a ‘psh’ sound, a dismissal. "Won't happen. The New Victoria Journal wouldn't stand for it. I sell that paper for them five days of the week with that awful Serial they write." He said. "I die, they lose their star. Who'd they replace me with? Graeme Lexington? 'The bladesmith'? What does that name even mean? It's nonsense. Does he make blades? Why not call it a blacksmith then?"
Jay let out a short snort of laughter and shook his head. "Alright. I think we're about to get moving. Any last notes for the plan?"
"You remember the meet location?" Ben asked, turning his head a little.
Jay nodded. "Raven's peak. Meet there, camp for the night and head away from each other to fence the goods in smaller portions."
"Then we're all set." Ben stated as the train began to move again, chugging out for the final stretch of the journey before New Biggleswade.
Jay and Ben stopped talking and both gave their attention back to the window. The next leg of the journey was a couple of hours. The first hour would be through farmland and fairly well ranged countryside, and then they would spend thirty minutes going through desert, and that was where Jay's gang would hit the cargo carriage.
Adrenaline pumped through Ben as he sat there in anticipation. He breathed slowly to try to calm his racing heart but it didn't help. He looked around the carriage at the other occupants.
Besides Jay and himself, Ben saw three couples, an older man and a woman that he guessed was in her thirties. The older man was a little round and held himself like a city banker. He looked out the window almost with disgust, as if he couldn't believe he had to be there.
The woman had long curly red hair tied up in a bun. She had just the right amount of curves and a youthful quality to her features. She was reading a pocket book while fanning herself. Ben smiled to himself, it was a cool and breezy seventy-seven degrees in Camden when they'd left. If she was too hot and requiring fanning now then she wasn't going to enjoy her summers in the state. Ben could recall a few times when he'd been a child when it had gotten up to one-ten, though it was more likely to hit closer to ninety. At least that’s what the papers said. Ben had never even seen a thermo-thing.
Ben moved his gaze to the first couple that caught his eye. They were actually the middle couple. Young, looked like they were in their early twenties. They had suitcases and were talking animatedly. They didn't look particularly wealthy, but their clothes, typical rancher outfits, looked crisp and new. Newly weds, Ben thought, off to try their luck building a ranch or a farm in south New Victoria where there had been calls to settle.
Next was a burly gentleman with a mousy looking young woman. Ben frowned looking at her, she cowed from the man, nodding and agreeing with whatever he said. Likely married, Ben knew it was none of his business, but he didn't think that they suited each other. He would be overbearing, she would spend the rest of her life afraid. Ben didn't like the idea of anyone spending their lives in fear, even less when that person was an innocent looking woman, like the one before him.
On the plus side, of the people in the carriage, this brute was the most likely to cause him trouble. He might get the opportunity to do the woman a favor.
Or the man might get the drop on him, knock him out and send him packing. You could never tell with things like this.
The last couple were wealthy sorts, a man and a woman that wore all the fanciest of clothes, carried very little, only a purse on her and a wallet on him. She was skin and bones, as if she had chosen to go on a hunger strike for women's suffrage, though he doubted that was the reason why she looked that way. The really rich ones always seemed to. Almost as if the more food you could afford the less you ate. It was a paradox.
He considered the couple for a long moment. He would need to take a moment to figure out what they did for a living. Some rich people worked honest jobs. Others lived off the backs of others. Ben didn't like robbing innocents that needed the money, but slave owners and the bastards who ran the San Rojo child labor factories could rot for all Ben cared, and he'd take their money while they did so.
Ben yawned and stretched, realizing that people watching had calmed his nerves significantly. He looked out the window and tried to pick up on some landmarks in the desert wilderness, eventually noticing a huge obsidian rock that arched over the track creating an improvised bridge for people to cross when there were trains passing.
Or people could have if there was anyone about. "We'll be hitting the rendezvous soon." Ben muttered.
He felt Jay nod. "I'll see you up at the cargo carriage when you're done playing with your fans."

CHAPTER TWO

Train Job

Jay stood up and left as the quiet sound of hooves on dirt grew louder outside the train. Ben watched and waited. First, for Jay to leave and make his way through the train to the front where the cargo carriage would be. Next, for the members of Jay's crew on horseback to come into view and then pass on by the carriage, going on up to meet him.
Then finally he needed to wait for people in his carriage to notice the horses and begin to make a fuss.
It was at this time, and this time only that Ben felt it was time for him to make himself known.
As the people on his carriage spoke animatedly and worriedly about what might be happening at the front of the train, Ben stood up and drew one of his revolvers from his inside jacket pocket, aimed it out of one of the trains windows and fired. The crack of the bullet firing drew everyone's attention and he smiled at his fellow passengers. "May I have your attention please!" He called out from the very back of the train.
All of the people in the carriage turned to look at him, fear and shock on their faces.
"Now, now, no need to be so scared. My name is Benjamin Wexley." The look of recognition on people's faces told Ben everything that he needed to know. "I see you've heard of me. Then I'm sure you know that you're in no danger, so long as you don't present a problem." He looked around at them and brought his gun back in to point up at the ceiling. Nobody responded. "I'm glad we can come together on this." He said walking forward. As he reached the rich couple he stopped and eyed them. "Mr and Mrs..."
The man, looking grumpy and inconvenienced, eyed Ben before letting out a sigh of exasperation. "I suppose you heard we'd be on the train from somewhere?" he asked, reaching into his pocket for his wallet. "I'll certainly be whipping that boy when I get back, for letting our plans get into the hands of felons. How much are you being paid? I'll give you double to leave now."
Ben smiled warmly. "I'm sorry, sir but I have no idea who you are. I'll take the wallet, but I'm not so interested in anyone being whipped for poor luck. Might I inquire as to who exactly I have the pleasure of talking to?"
The man stared up at Ben. "I... I am Jack Caldwell." He said, clearly expecting a reaction from the name as he offered the wallet, but Ben didn't give him one. "Boy I own this railroad you're thieving on."
Ben nodded, raising his brows, impressed as he took the man's wallet. This particular railroad had been built on the backs of slaves, white men and black, tricked and bullied into their servitude. Ben had no compunctions about taking this man's money. He only wished he could take more, but he was not a killer, not unless he had to be.
He emptied the wallet and smiled at the man, handing it back. "In that case I thank you for this generous opportunity." He said, bowing low in mock respect before standing tall again. "And I assure you that your money is going to a good cause." He turned from the couple and continued up the carriage to the newlyweds, who had pulled a small handful of notes out from their belongings and were holding them towards Ben as he came close.
Ben smiled warmly at the pair of them and got down on one knee, close to them. He placed a hand over their wad of money and slipped one of Caldwell's ten dollar notes into their stack as he closed his hand around it, enclosing their hands as well and pushing the whole lot back towards them. "No, my friends. You'll need all of this for your new life down south." He said. They looked up at him in shock to which Ben simply smiled warmly. "Congratulations on your marriage. Are you looking to ranch or farm?"
"I-" the man stuttered. "Ranching, sir."
"Call me Ben." He told them. "Ranching's good work."
"Yessir- er, yes Ben. I worked on a ranch back up in Montopan."
"Well, mister..." Ben trailed off, offering the man an opportunity to give over his name.
"William, sir. William Stocks. Bill to my friends. And this is Abbey." The still somewhat terrified man said.
"Well, Bill and Abbey I wish you a great deal of luck. Ranching is good work but it's tough. You'll need people looking out for you." He told them, standing back up. "Try and get land near a man named Marcus Barrenden. He's good people. Tell him I sent you, he'll see you right. And a little tip from someone whose been all over New Victoria; if the cattle, or whatever livestock you go for; if it's got a fresh brand don't pay full price. If its an adult it's been rustled, if its a calf the rancher needs to get rid quickly and can't spend time haggling."
"Yes sir, thank you sir." Bill said. Ben wasn't sure the newlywed had taken in anything that Ben had said, but he was a nice guy all the same. If he was ever down south again he might check in on the boy. Either way he wouldn't be stealing from the couple today.
"Have a fine day, the pair of you." Ben said, tipping his hat and continuing past them to the lone woman.
She looked up at him with rosy cheeks and awe in her expression. Ben smiled at her and held out a hand. She tentatively placed her hand in his and he bent low, bowing to her and brushing his lips across the knuckles of her silk gloves. "Good day, miss." He said. "How are you doing today?"
"I-I-I'm well, sir. Mister Wexley." She responded.
"That's good." He offered. "On a trip to New Biggleswade or are you heading further?"
"New Biggleswade, Mister Wexley." She said. "I... Mister Wexley, I must tell you; this is truly an honor to meet you. My name is Mary Elizabeth-"
A memory sparked in Ben’s mind at the name and he cocked his head to the side. "Now, if you don't mind my asking; why does your name seem familiar to me, Miss Elizabeth."
"I-" She stuttered, blushing an even deeper shade of red. She looked away and mumbled something.
"Uh, Excuse me, miss Elizabeth?" He asked.
She let out a long breath, sighed and looked up at him, determination in her eyes and cheeks as bright as any Ben had ever seen. "I write the Gentleman Serials in the New Victoria Journal." She admitted.
Ben's brows shot up, remembering seeing her name across all of the articles he'd ever read about himself. "Well I'll be..." he said, looking her over more thoroughly, burning her into his memory as someone to know. "And here I thought I was the only Celebrity on this train." He smiled warmly at the woman and she appeared to calm a little. "I appreciate all of the positive fame you've given me over the years, Miss Elizabeth. If there's anything I can ever do for you do let me know."
"Oh! Um, actually, there is one thing, Mister Wexley." She said, hopping up onto her feet.
"Name it. And call me Ben. I reckon you know more about me than my own momma - God rest her soul. I should think you could call me by my name."
"Yes, Ben. And please call me Mary." She responded.
"Right you are, Mary. Now what is it that I can do for you."
She blushed again as she spoke her plea; "might I impose on you, Ben, once in a while to send me a letter about your adventures and what you've been up to. Or if there's anything you'd like me to talk about in your serial."
Ben grinned at her. "I think I can manage that."
"Thank you, sir." She grinned, her cheeks growing a deep red as she took his hand in hers and squeezing tight. "Send it to the newspaper, To Mary Elizabeth Care of the New Victoria Journal. That'll get it to me."
Ben nodded and reached into his inside pocket. He drew out a perfect and completely whole Fire Lily, clipped 4 inches down the stem. He handed to her, enjoying the look of wonder in her eyes. "I'll see you soon, Mary." He added. She sat back down, mumbling something through her shyness and sniffing in the flower.
He chuckled and moved on through the carriage to the older gentleman. "Good day Sir!" He said, lowering his gun to his side. "Might I ask what your business is, this side of New Victoria?"
The man huffed and ignored Ben, turning to look out the window.
Ben sighed, "Sir this'll be a lot easier if you just answer the question." He said, but again he didn't. Ben raised the gun back up to the main, pulling back the hammer. "You sure it's worth your life sir?"
At the click of the hammer the man jumped and looked around at Ben "You- you ruffian! You wouldn't dare! You barely touched the rest of them!" it was a New York accent. Out of towner, probably a lawyer, had business with someone nearby. He'd probably never been out to the Wyrd West before.
"Sir, so far you're the only one to give me any trouble." Ben said, deciding to rob the man only in that moment. "There was a chance that I wasn't going to rob you, sir. Not everyone deserves it, but I'm fairly certain that chance has gone."
"I won't give you anything." He said, "I have friends you know. Law men who will make you swing if you hurt me."
"Perhaps you do. Perhaps your friends will hunt me to the ends of the earth, catch me, kill me and prop my up for everyone to see, so they know what happens when people hurt their friends. Perhaps you’ll be thoroughly avenged; but you'll still be dead. Don't much help you for me to be caught later." Ben pointed out, leaning back against one of the seat backs to talk to the man. "I can assure you, Yankee, I don't want to shoot you, but I will. Then I'll get whatever money you have anyway. So just hand it over."
The man seemed to consider it for a long moment and then deflated only marginally. He'd given in, but didn't want to lose face. "Fine!" He grumbled. "Take my wallet, if only to make sure you don't do anything stupid and hurt one of the other passengers!" He pulled his wallet out and offered it up to Ben.
There was a slight smile to the man's expression as he handed it over and Ben could see why. Like Ben's hat it was covered in small patterns of letters symbols and runes, likely trapped against theft. Ben couldn't see all of the runes as they were covered by the man's fingers, but he could see enough to know that he'd be stunned if he touched the wallet. However he couldn't back down now.
Ben reached out and whispered "Veni hic." The paper money from the man's wallet flapped for a moment and then as if propelled by a great wind that only affected them, shot away from the man and into Ben's outstretched hand. His face fell in shock.
"Thank y' sir." Ben said, putting the money away in his inside pocket and tipping his hat to the man, moving onto the last couple, the burly man and the mousy woman.
"We ain't got nuffin'." The man said before Ben could say a word.
"I'm sure that's not true." Ben said. "While I'm certain you've not got manners, I'm sure there's something that you have. Each other for instance. Is that not so, miss..."
"Don't answer him, Beryl." The man said.
"No smarts either I see." Ben added quickly. "Miss Beryl. A lovely name." He sat against the back of the opposite seat, leaning his elbow against the top and resting his gun hand on top of his opposing forearm to aim it at the man. "Is this your husband, Beryl?"
"I said don't-" the man started again.
"I'm not talking to you, sir." Ben interrupted sharply. "The lady can speak all she wants. Now miss, is this your husband?"
She shook her head. "My brother, sir."
Ben raised his brows in surprise. "Your brother?"
"Yes, sir. Please don't take offense at his antics, sir, he's just protective." She said. This time the man didn't tell her to stop.
Ben frowned. It wasn't often that he misjudged a person. He was good at reading people, but perhaps this time... "very well." He said, lowering the gun. "Where are you two off to?"
"I'm off to meet my future husband, sir, and my brothers along to help me should I need it." She explained.
Ben nodded. "Well then I wish you both well." He said, standing up and stepping up to the door out of the carriage. He turned to look at the passengers and pulled a gun belt from his inside pocket before wrapping it around his waist and depositing the gun in it.
"It's been a pleasure, all of you. I will now be stepping out of the carriage and disconnecting your train car from the rest. You'll slow to a stop and be collected in a few hours. Worry not; we're close to town now. I apologize for the inconvenience but I can't have you following me." He smiled at them and bowed low. "Good day!" He called to them before stepping back out of the carriage and hopping over to the next one. As soon as he landed he spun, knelt down and pulled the pin out from the train and the previous carriage instantly began to drift away.
He turned and continued on into the next carriage. The train wasn't huge, three passenger cars, a luggage car, two cargo cars the coal car and then the locomotive at the front. Ben had started in the back passenger car to try and keep everyone's attention towards him rather than at the front where Jay and his gang were working.
He stepped onto the middle cart and nodded to the passengers as they looked back at him, eyes wide with fear. "Good day, all. My name is Benjamin Wexley." He called out and began his way down the carriage as he had in the previous one, chatting to everyone, stealing from those who deserved it and helping - or at least not assailing - those who were innocent. Each time he took something he put it into his inside jacket pocket, but at no point did it ever seem to get full. He even managed to spirit away several things that didn't seem like they ought to fit in the pocket, like his gun belt or the Remington Model 1875 6 shot revolver that now rested in it.
The middle carriage was a little busier so it took him a little more time than the first, but he got through it and gave them the same speech at the end about unhitching them from the train before disappearing into the final carriage.
The final passenger car only had three groups, another young couple, a small group of men that looked like priests and a lone blonde man sat at the back of the carriage, staring out the window. None of them were paying him any attention, so Ben assumed that they hadn't heard the commotion of the previous carriages, or they'd ignored it. The gun shot was a while earlier after all.
Ben reached into his jacket's outer pocket and withdrew a small pocket watch to check the time. Jay should have finished up with breaking into the cargo cars and would already be in the process of emptying them. He had to make this last carriage quick or he’d miss his opportunity to ride off with the others.
He drew the revolver, aimed it out the window and fired. "Good Day, sirs, madam. My name is Benjamin Wexley." He watched as their expressions went from shock and fear to curiosity. Except for the blond man. He barely flinched and he didn't look around. Ben frowned slightly, eyeing the man and made the decision to keep an eye on him, be aware of what he was doing at all times.
Ben continued into the carriage moving first to the young couple to sit down opposite them. He rested the gun on his knee, not threateningly, but pointed at them so they were aware that doing something other than what he wanted would be foolish. "Good day, sir, ma'am. On your way into New Biggleswade?" He asked.
"Yes, Mr. Wexley. My wife and I have been visiting family in San Rojo. We're on our way home." The man said, nervously.
"Had a good time, I hope?" Ben asked.
"No, sir." The young lady piped up. "My sister was very sick. We were visiting her for the last time."
Ben nodded. "I see." He said. "I'm sorry for your loss."
The couple bowed their heads respectfully and Ben stood up. "Enjoy the rest of your journey." He said, walking further down the carriage to the three priests. Ben reached into his inside pocket, ignoring the priests as they cringed away, and drew out a silver dollar. He flipped it to one of the priests. "For your donation box."
"But- you're not going to rob us?" the one who had caught the coin asked.
"Not on principal. Never rob a priest or a child. Unless the priests like one of them that don't obey their own rules, uses an' abuses folk. But at that point I'm not sure we can still call them priests, can we now?"
"I... I suppose not, Mr. Wexley." The priest responded, looking down at the coin. He looked back up. "Sir, might I offer you some advice?"
"Always appreciate tips and tricks from a man of the cloth, sir. Go right ahead."
"Stop this, now. Leave this life behind. Be a good man. Stop stealing and lead a good and decent life."
"Ah, padre. If only it were that simple." Ben smiled, "Now have a good day."
He stepped away from the priests and continued down the carriage to the last man. The blond man. He was very thin, but muscular, with heavy bags under his eyes and an almost dead expression. He wore black jeans and a black shirt with heavy boots, but no gun belt.
"How you doing today, mister..."
The man didn't look to him, he continued to stare out the window, but he did speak. "The light of this land has gone out." He spoke with a Welsh accent, continuing to stare out at the land.
Ben eyed him. What he'd said... it was strange. The sort of thing you hear from soothsayers and false psychics. Metaphors wrapped in similes. It made Ben uncomfortable just looking at him.
"Okay..." He said. "I'm just going to leave you be, here." He stepped away from the man, brow furrowed as he puzzled the words together. It didn't matter of course, and it didn't matter that he hadn't robbed the man; that wasn't the point of all this after all. It was to get noticed and draw the attention away from the front car as he unhooked all of the passenger carriages, and he'd done that.
He stepped up to the exit of the last carriage and opened the doors. The blond man's words had annoyed him so much that he'd lost his train of thought and didn't even explain to the passengers what he was doing. He jumped across to the luggage car and pulled the pin from between the two carriages, watching as the passenger carriage began to slow and fade away behind them.
He let out a tired sigh but smiled. It was a job well done. Now all he had to do was get up to the cargo car with Jay and help unload the goods to the riders.
He frowned, realizing only now that he couldn't hear the horses. The thunder of hoof beats should have been almost deafening, ten men either side of the carriage and an extra pair of horses for Jay and Ben? But no, it was only the sound of the train.
Ben cursed and stepped out to the side, leaning out between the carriages. There were no horses riding alongside the train. He stepped back in and leaned out the other side. Still no horses. Had they left without him? "Those assholes!" Ben muttered, anger and shock registering within him. He pulled open the door to the luggage car and marched inside, crossing it and coming out onto the next car. He jumped over to the cargo car and kicked the door open, stepping inside.
Blood.
Limbs.
Heads.
Death.
The room had no cargo in it, but it was not empty. The walls were covered in runes and symbols painted in blood. The floor was an inch deep with blood and pieces of dismembered people, spread out and piled into specific locations with black, still burning candles stuck on top of them. The one closest to the right hand wall of the train car was not lit, and the pile in the centre didn’t have a candle on it at all.
Ben's eyes went wide, darting around the room to each of the features, to each of the piles of body parts, until his eyes settled on the one in the very centre; Jay.
Ben's legs went weak and he fell onto his knees, dropping into the blood and throwing up, emptying his stomach down to the bile into the cargo car. He panted, breathing deeply as he looked up at Jay's remains. A darkness emanated from the car, from the ritual. Whatever had happened here... it was dark magic. Black Magic.
As he stared at Jay's remains the door at the other end of the car opened. A woman stood there. She was of average height, but that was the extent of her averageness. She had the dark skin of the natives of America, long black hair and an athletic build. She wore the clothes of her people and carried many interesting looking things with her, including a bow with what looked like a small dog's mummified head hanging from it.
She looked in at him and then she made an exclamation that Ben could only assume was a curse. She turned on her heel and ran, slamming the door closed and disappearing from sight.
"No..." Ben growled. She had killed his friend. She would not get away with her evil magics! He leapt up and ran for the door, slowing momentarily as he passed Jay's remains to keep himself from retching and then he kicked his way out of the door. A rush of wind blew into the room and sent his hat flying off his head and back inside. He ignored it and moved to the sides of the car. He saw to the north a lone figure riding away on a horse. He cursed and kicked the railing on the side of the train, before looking up ahead of them.
New Biggleswade was quickly riding up towards them. He looked down at himself covered in blood. The blood of the gang. The blood of his friend... He retched again, spewing what remained of his bile up onto the car floor. He looked terrible. Like he'd done the killings. He had to get off the train before they got any closer. He looked up at the town again and then back to the cargo car. He shook his head one last time and then leapt from the train into a bush.

I do hope you enjoyed that. I wrote it in a month for Nanowrimo in 2018 and I've been editing it since. I have a second book written and a rough idea of the whole series up to book 6

Anyway,
Hope to be more up to date soon.

 - James

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