A verse from The Woodland Chronicles
Cold thick rain falls heavy onto the still passenger car as Midnight strikes. The departure horn screams and the burly steam engine begins to crawl down the track. Midnight, quietly scurrying in the dark through as many bags as possible, knows the get-away window is beginning to close. Shortly, the steam engine will have too much speed to jump off safely. The loud thoughts keep getting louder…
“Why can’t I find anything?”
“I need to get the hell outta here!”
In a mild panic, Midnight accidentally kicks a small case while looking for anything of value. Suddenly still, peering quickly through the dark, Midnight holds in a few breaths. Hoping not to have alerted any sleeping passengers. Not wanting to leave completely empty-handed, Midnight grabs a small hunk of metal that fell out of the pail. It’s time to go. The loud thoughts, again, getting louder…
“Get the hell off this heap!”
“The steam engine has too much speed.”
Midnight steps through a narrow opening out of the car. The only thing left to do is jump. The steam engine is going faster now than the other times. The time to jump is now or never. Midnight leaps! Crashing hard and rolling into an ankle-deep mud puddle. Midnight’s cloak is completely covered. Midnight stops, looks back with a glance over the shoulder at the rolling steam engine, then to the aged and dirty hunk of junk cupped in both hands. Wasting only a few seconds before quickly disappearing from the tracks to the safety of wooded darkness.
– – –
Today, for the third time in two weeks, the Westriver steam engine will stop in a downpour at noon.
The weekly arrival of the steam engine can be quite the happening in Woodland. That steam engine carries a sense of promise on-board. But lately with this never-ending rain, the merchants in Woodland are on edge… No farmers, herders, or merchants out. No travelers about. Rain water rushing and mud everywhere always causes the market to dry up. Everybody in Woodland knows the market thrives when the strangers arrive. But the travelers over the last 2 weeks only stay as long as the steam engine stands still. Arriving before noon and departing by midnight. With the train due to arrive shortly. The sheriff bears the rain yet again to put up a dry batch of bounty flyers. The sign reads:
25 Gold Pieces for the capture
of the “Midnight Bandit”
If you have any information,
contact Sheriff Marks.
First, crossing the would be dirt road from the Sheriff’s quarter to the oldest, rickety building in town, the Riverside Tavern. Sheriff Marks rips the old soaking wet and tattered flyer down off the Riverside tavern entrance to hang a fresh copy. He walks into the tavern. “Loud-mouth” Johnny and his rag-tag crew are already playing cards. The sheriff isn’t surprised. In Woodland, only the rats and trains maintain their routine when it rains.
The sheriff walks past them to the bartender, Fran, and hands her a copy.
“Here ya go, Fran. Keep an ear open for anything, will ya?”
“Sure thing, Sheriff. How long’s this been going on now anyway? 3, 4 weeks?” Fran asked.
“This time?” the sheriff pauses. “3 weeks, maybe longer?” he replies.
Stepping out from Riverside, even over the pounding rain, the sheriff can hear the train rolling down the track from a distance. Impressive for a law man whose seen better days.
To avoid the pond of mud between Riverside and the Westriver Steam Engine loading area. Sheriff Marks makes a semi-circle from Riverside to the train. Heading back across the street in front of his quarter, then to the right, towards the loading area to greet any travelers who might be stopping in Woodland.
The steam engine comes to a stop just as the sheriff is about replace another bounty flyer. The first man off the train was a sight to see. The sheriff couldn’t help but take notice. Taller than normal folk traveling through Woodland. With broad shoulders, wearing a long black coat that came down past his knees. The man sees the sheriff holding a few flyers under a little roof at the loading area and approaches him with a few slow smooth steps.
“Are you the sheriff here in Woodland, sir?” asked the man.
“Yes, indeed,” said Sheriff Marks.
“Good. Then you’re just the man I’m looking for. I’m Inspector Bruce,” the man stated.
“I’ve come from New Cap to investigate a stolen valuable. A valuable I believe your…”
as Inspector Bruce reaches for a flyer from Sheriff Marks, “… ‘Midnight Bandit’, has stolen.”
“Do you have ANY new information or whereabouts concerning this person, or item?” asked the Inspector.
The sheriff takes a deep breath and exhales.
“No,” replied the sheriff.
“Nothing other than we had somethin’ stolen from a traveler each of the last 3 times a steam engine headed north from here. Maybe more?”
“Seems like you have a problem on your hands Sheriff,” the Inspector says eagerly.
“Every couple years, some smart ass pulls something like this. Thinks they won’t get caught. And they always gets what’s comin’ to them,”chirped Sheriff Marks.
“This time ain’t any different.”
With a slow turn of his head from left to right the inspector takes a long look over what he can see of the town. Other passengers start filing out of the passenger car behind him and the rain inexplicably starts to lighten up.
“So this is Woodland,” the inspector says as he looks at the bleak, dreary, and vacant marketplace. “Sounds like this bandit is forming a pattern. How do you deal with rodents here in Woodland, Sheriff?” asked Inspector Bruce.
“I don’t do rodents, inspector. Hell… over these last weeks, they prolly just drown,” said Sheriff Marks. “Well in New Cap, Sheriff…”, says Inspector Bruce, “… to catch a mouse, we set a trap.”
Be sure to check back for more Woodland Chronicles!!