Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, having exchanged his civilian tweeds for his familiar uniform, cautiously peered around the edge of the door into the Doctor's lab. The TARDIS waited silently in its corner, close to the tightly spiraled stair steps. Much closer, at the work bench, the Doctor sat before a small array of micro-circuit components, his gray eyes unseeing. The Brig glanced at his own wristwatch. It was just past one in the morning. He had hurried away from the celebration at Llanfairfach after only a few drinks, the effects of which had worn off long before his return to UNIT headquarters.
The Brigadier decided to enter first and then speak. As he stepped across the threshold of the lab into plain view, the Doctor shot a startled glance at him. "What brings you back so early?" The time lord's voice was neither sharp nor irritated. He was genuinely surprised to see the Brigadier back so soon.
The Brigadier made his voice off-hand. "Didn't want to lark about too much, not until I'd had a chance to get down some notes for the official report. Everything happened so fast that there was no time to properly see to procedure and keep notes."
"Then what are you doing down here in the lab?"
"Oh I've finished up. I mean, I jotted down a rough timeline of events. Made notes for the report narratives I'll need. But I'll have to tap you for the real explanations."
"No, not at all. But as you were in, I thought you might like a drink. Got a bottle or two of my grandfather's famous malt whiskey." And the Brigadier drew his hands from behind his back and set down two identical, tall, sealed bottles of amber fluid. He reached into his pockets and pulled out a shot glass from either one.
"Thank you, no. Not now." The time lord looked away. His voice was dismissive, but the Brigadier did not move. At last the Doctor said, not looking at him, "All this hullabaloo over a natural social and biological process. I mean, I know humans associate a great deal of sentiment with it, and there's always talk of lifelong commitment. Hope for a bright future. But I really don't comprehend it. The timing of it. Why now? Why the sudden change from---" He caught himself and stopped. After a moment, he said, "I'm happy for Jo. But, in the end, I've lost the----the assistant I spent three years training." He looked down, his face still turned away. "I was---I've become quite fond of her. I'm sorry. I don't feel like celebrating."
"All the more reason for a drink," Lethbridge Stewart said. He fished a slim pen knife from his back pocket, unfolded it, and began to peel away the paper from the seal on the first bottle. "I can't face the prospect yet of lining up another assistant for you. I need a bit of a breather. And I shall miss her. Didn't really feel like dancing jigs myself, knowing I may never see Miss Grant again."
The Doctor turned back and glanced at him, eyes troubled and yet relieved at this frankness. "Neither did I."
"Doubt that anybody did. Especially Mike Yates. But it's proper to send her off with our good wishes. So now we might as well have a drink to brace ourselves up. She's happy, and I'm glad. But it's a bit of a loss all the same."
"Well all right, then." And the Doctor stood and pulled another lab stool up to the workbench. For once, his eyes were grateful at this gesture of camaraderie from the Brigadier. But to save face, he kept his voice skeptical. "You're always going on about your grandfather's highland malt. I might just try some."
* * * *
Sunlight was never welcome to Lethbridge Stewart first thing in the morning. He preferred sleeping in a room in which drapes were drawn and blinds were down, so that he could awaken in calm dimness. Too many nights of too little sleep had turned morning sunlight into a stabbing sort of thing. And a hangover made it worse.
He groaned and silently cursed himself for having forgotten to lower the blinds before collapsing into bed. The sunlight was pounding against his closed eyes like an irritated pulse. Then he seemed to remember that he was on field maneuvers. But that didn't make sense. He wouldn't be hung over on maneuvers. And yet that was grass under his head, and a gentle, cool breeze wafted over his face. He lifted his right hand, clapped it over his eyes to act as a visor, and sat up. Guardedly, he looked around under the shadow of his hand. He was in the middle of a meadow so vast that it took the breath away. If his head didn't hurt so much, he would have jumped right up.
In his present condition, he managed to stagger to his feet. The breeze was actually quite brisk. He seemed to be in a world made of rough grass under foot, and blue sky above. There didn't appear to be anything else.
"Lethbridge Stewart!" a familiar voice behind him barked. "What're you doing man! Get her! Get her! Before she disappears again!"
He turned his aching head to see the Doctor racing in his direction. The timelord's eyes were fixed on something that wasn't there. The Brigadier glanced around. Gently and almost silently, the TARDIS materialized a few yards away. It slowly faded again as the Doctor dived past him and landed face first on the grass. The time lord got to his knees and bolted to his feet.
"When she next appears, we've got to get---aaagh!" He roared, and he charged across the grass as the TARDIS again briefly materialized and faded away. He once again launched himself into the empty space that the police box had occupied and fell flat on his face. He sat up, bits of dead grass sticking to his white shirt and sprouting from his mop of white hair. "Don't you see? We've got to at least touch her. Make contact."
Lethbridge Stewart was puzzled and not yet alarmed. "Where did it go?"
"Where ever it went, it left here, and here is where we need it to be," the Doctor exclaimed. He got to his feet. His velvet jacket was gone. Long before they had worked their way through the first bottle, he had shucked it off.
Hung over or not, the Brigadier still had his critical faculties in place. He arched an eyebrow. "Look, I don't fancy getting trapped in that thing's energy field when it goes sailing through the vacuum of space."
The Doctor became indignant. "The TARDIS has never, ever, sucked a person unprotected into the vacuum of space or any other vacuum. If we could just touch her and break the energy field, she'd stop."
The events of the previous night were beginning to trickle back into the Brigadier's memory. There had been some sort of argument about the Doctor's ability to pilot the TARDIS accurately. It had resulted in a "Yes I can," "No you can't" sort of crossfire between them, and the last that Lethbridge Stewart could recall, they had marched very formally into the time machine to test the Doctor's ability to land on any spot that the Brigadier picked in time and space. Though drunk, the Brigadier had wisely chosen a safe spot.
"Are we really in Kansas?" he asked all of a sudden. He looked around. His voice became doubtful. "I don't think we're in Kansas, Doctor."
"Of course we're in Kansas. Didn't you ask for Kansas? So here we are. And we'll be properly stuck here if we don't expend some effort in getting home again! There she is! Get her! Don't let her get away!" And the Doctor rushed pell-mell across the grass again, this time in the opposite direction, as the TARDIS faded into reality several yards behind the Brigadier. The Doctor launched himself into the air once again as though he were tending goal. But the TARDIS faded from material substance just as his outstretched hands would have touched her. Once again, he belly flopped onto the rough grass. He rolled and sprang up to a sitting position. "Are you going to help, or not?"
"All right. Here goes!" And the Brigadier assumed a crouch, ready to race towards the time machine as soon as it might appear again.
But when the TARDIS next appeared, she was far out of diving range. They both chased after her. She lingered for a moment longer in material reality then she had yet done. But just as the Brigadier assumed that she had really come to a stop and allowed himself to slow to a jog, she faded again. Then she reappeared several yards ahead, and they resumed the chase. This tantalizing game of tag continued for about ten minutes, until both the Brigadier and the time lord were properly exhausted. The Doctor managed one more heroic and useless launch just as the time machine faded away for the thirtieth or fortieth time. He fell flat on his face in the rough prairie grass. The Brigadier, gasping for breath, with his liver and his lungs all feeling seared, collapsed to his hands and knees and for several moments could do nothing but gulp in air.
When he could at last speak, he asked, between gasps, "Has it ever done this before? Why does it keep coming and going?"
"Because I put it into temporary park!" the Doctor gasped. "Just long enough to prove to you that I could get you here. How was I to know you were going to wander off? I couldn't just leave you here, so I came out after you!"
"Wander off? I've never wandered off in my life!"
"Well then you passed out in the grass, and I couldn't find you. And I'd forgotten about the timer, and it reset while I was out here looking for you."
"But won't the TARDIS go back to UNIT HQ?"
The Doctor, having caught his breath, sat up. He scowled at the Brigadier. "No, she won't go back to UNIT HQ! She'll go off looking for me!"
"Then why doesn't she hold still long enough for you to get aboard her?" And the Brigadier's voice was equally irritated.
The Doctor, genuinely puzzled at this question, rubbed his ear. "I'm not sure. There may be a flaw in her interval timing."
"I might have known! Does anything in that box of bolts ever work right?"
The time lord glared at him. "She got us to Kansas!"
"Then let's walk to the nearest town and phone for travel reservations. I've got to get back to HQ!"
"Brigadier!" The time lord's voice was impatient again. "She got us to Kansas 1890, just as you asked. Even if there are any towns out here, there are certainly no telephones."
Lethbridge Stewart was stunned. He fell into a sitting position. "I never!"
"I did not!"
"You did, I say, and that was how I set the course! So like it or not, we're in Kansas, 1890!"
As though to highlight his words, a piercing, screaming whistle cut across the entire landscape. It made them both grit their teeth and cover their ears. When cutting through the mists of a hangover, the ear splitting whistle was almost transcendent in its ability to cause pain.
Instead of muting into silence, it was suddenly joined by a tremendous clanging of metal, and then a screech of shearing bolts and rumbling, rushing masses of great weights crashing into each other.
Something small and dark flew through the air in the sky beyond the Doctor's shoulder. The Brigadier saw it and this time leaped up in earnest, just as a sheet of yellow flame shot skyward and then disappeared, and great thunderclaps of toppling railroad cars seemed to shake the ground. He set off towards the cacophony of noise at a run.
The Doctor quickly followed his friend. The landscape had seemed to be gently rolling, but the Brigadier, following the direction from which he'd seen the metal rod fly through the air, disappeared into a deep draw in the ground. And as the Doctor followed, the time lord saw the optical illusion that the prairie created. It had seemed fairly even, but this unexpected dip in the earth was quite deep and long. They had actually been running across a fairly elevated bluff in their pursuit of the TARDIS, and now they followed the descending ground and saw that a tract had been cleared of grass where the ground was most level. Further ahead, shorter and steeper bluffs had been bisected to make a level pathway. This straight path that cut right through the bluffs was laid with steel rails.
Before they could get a good survey of this lower landscape as they descended into it, a great billow of inky black smoke billowed around them. It was as though an instant, hellish version of midnight suddenly dropped down, blinding them and choking them.
"Further ahead! Up there!" the Brigadier shouted. "A train's derailed!"
He couldn't navigate through the choking smoke. The Doctor seized his arm and piloted him along. Occasional moments of clear air, pushed by the breeze across the blackness, helped them. They ran through the intermittent black clouds towards the rails. The Doctor pushed him through one of the bisected humps of ground, and the sound of voices screaming and crying reached them.
Men were shouting and calling and running to and fro across the scene of the wreck, some of them with cloths around their faces to fend off the smoke.
"It's just a couple cars!" the Doctor shouted. It was still quite daunting to see railroad cars hurled onto their sides like toys. The baggage car, in back, was upright, but off the tracks, and the next car up was crazily tilted in the soft sod of the prairie. The front passenger car lay on its side, and the engine was also on its side. The hissing of hot steam and the white jets that pushed against the black smoke gave evidence of the danger to those in the front car.
"Come on!" the Brigadier shouted. "If that boiler blows up, those people will be scalded to death! We can evacuate them though the rear of the car if we can get the door open!"
The screams were frantic, and there was a sound of despair in the terror. With a slight shock of horror, the Doctor realized that the windows of the cars were not removable, nor even big enough to lift out a person of average size. Safety considerations had not yet been invented.
He spied something in the grass---a wooden railroad tie that had been discarded months ago. It was a large and heavy member of its kind, designed to be sunk into the flat ground to a level where wind would not expose it.
"We'll use that!" he exclaimed.
The Brigadier nodded and rushed back to it. They picked it up between them and ran to the rear of the first passenger car.
Men had climbed up on the side of the toppled car that faced the sky, and they were peering inside and reaching to pull out those small enough to escape by the narrow windows.
"The door's buckled!" a man shouted at them. He was one who sported a red kerchief over his face. He had one booted foot on what had been the handrail, and another on the side beam of the doorway. By his demeanor and quick survey, he seemed to be one of the train's workers.
"We'll try to bash it open!" the Brigadier exclaimed. And he threw a nod down to the heavy railroad tie that he and the Doctor carried.
"Aright then!" And quickly comprehending, the man ripped off his shirt, and the Brigadier did likewise.
"Danny! Get over here!" the man bawled through the smoke. He twisted his shirt around the bar of wood close to its head, and the Brigadier tied his around the bar of wood close to its rear. Using these strips of shirting as hand holds, he and the Doctor took their positions at the back, and another man pelted through the smoke and without another word of instruction climbed into the tangle of destroyed hand rails and awning rails, found foot holds to brace himself, and nodded.
"Get away! Get away from the door!" The big man yelled at the car. "Get away!"
It was impossible to see if the panicked people inside did as they were told or not, but there could be no waiting. Anybody pinned near the front of the car was being scalded to death.
"Give a short burst!" the man said, and all four of them swung once in unison and hit the door as a warning. It shuddered under the blow.
"Awright, on the count of t'ree!" he exclaimed.
They quickly swung in rhythm as he shouted, "One---two---t'ree!"
They crashed the wooden beam into the door, heard the screech of the hinges shearing, and swung again with a second heavy ram. The door abruptly collapsed inward, and they saw hands pulling it and heaving on it to clear it out of the way.
"Let's go, boys!" Red kerchief shouted.
They flung the tie away and the two men in front climbed through the crowd while the Doctor and Brigadier lifted out some passengers and assisted others to the ground.
As soon as those up above at the windows realized that the door had been forced open, they climbed down to help. The Brigadier took the opportunity to snake through the mass of people and get into the car, and the Doctor followed.
The interior had been hit with several scalding blasts from the engine, but the boiler was fairly quiet for the moment. Everything was wet, and there was still the sound of crying from up ahead. The big man with the red kerchief was coming back towards them, climbing over the sides of the row of seats that were now thrust up like pikes.
"There's two dead that hit with their heads, and one poor devil trapped by his legs. I can't get him out without makin'; it worse."
"Perhaps I can have a go," the Doctor said. "What about the boiler?"
"T'em's the tricky type. We cut off the fire awright, but they can have a head a' steam building up in e'm. She might blow yet and kill us all if we're in here---especially up there to'rds the front. Or make us wish we were dead when that scalding water hits us." His eyes met the Doctor's and then the Brigadier's "Hot water hittin' you like that'll peel the skin right off you and cook what's underneath as it goes by."
The Doctor made his voice brusque. "Then we'd better hurry. He's certain to have hip and leg injuries. Can you make a litter for him? Tear up one of the seats and use that?"
"Sure! There's a fire axe, in back. Danny, fetch it, will you?"
The Brigadier followed the Doctor, climbing over the sides of the seats, which were now pointing skyward, to the surviving casualty. He was a young man, not really pinned in place, but when he had been thrown in the derailment, his feet had caught against the iron legs of the seat in front of him, and the force of the throw of his weight forward had broken his legs above the knees. As the weight distribution in the car had changed when it flipped onto its side, he had become entangled in the iron legs of the bench-like seat, his shoulders broad enough to keep him from slipping down to the side bulwark of the car (which was now the floor), so that his feet were almost dangling. As painful as it was, it would be more painful to move him.
He was chattering with pain already, and he pleaded with them not to touch him.
"We're going to get you out with a neat bit of engineering," the Doctor told him. "It will limit the pain." He glanced at the Brigadier and mouthed the words, "Get rope." The Brigadier nodded and climbed back to find the two railroad men. They had severed one of the benches and were getting its metal legs off.
There was no rope, but in the jumble of items left behind, the Brigadier found a bundle of muslin--purchased to make underclothing, no doubt--and tore it into strips.
With the Doctor directing, the two railway men brought up the crude wooden stretcher and with his help set it at an angle, so that when they lifted the wounded man, it would be flush against the injured man's back. He was nearly unconscious. They slipped the long muslin strips over the top of the stretcher and under his arms so that he could be hauled out of the legs of the bench.
"He needs a drop of whiskey," the big man insisted, and he nodded at his boot. Neither the Doctor nor the Brigadier argued. No matter what the man took or did not take, lifting him was going to be excruciatingly painful. Forcing a mouthful of whiskey between his lips was probably more helpful as a gesture of mercy to his rescuers than to the man himself.
"If you can hold that backboard perfectly steady," the Doctor said, passing the whiskey back to Red kerchief. "And lift smoothly on the rope. He should come up. When his heels are up on the backboard, take it backwards and tie him onto it so he doesn't throw himself off." He pointed to the big man. "You hold the backboard." He pointed to the man named Danny. "You guide it backward when it ought to be lowered." And he glanced at the Brigadier. "You and I will lash him into place."
"Right Doctor," the Brigadier said. This quick agreement, or perhaps the Brigadier's accent, caught the big man's attention, for he seemed to give a start of surprise, but he didn't let it distract him from his task.
The Doctor positioned himself in front of the man to lift him and keep him as straight as possible against the makeshift backboard that would be his stretcher. "All right, then, lift him now."
The big man, standing behind the backboard, pulled on the makeshift ropes with a smooth, steady force. Hung by the strips under his arms and across his chest, the injured young man was lifted onto the wooden slab at his back, which the Brigadier and Danny held steady.
It was terrible for a moment, as the pain brought the man back from his faint, and he screamed and tried to kick his broken legs, but they were all surprisingly cool and quick. Nobody slipped, and nobody faltered. They got the bench lowered to a level orientation, and the Doctor and Brigadier tied him fast to it, with surviving bundles of muslin over his legs where the bones seemed sound, to act as padding against the strips that bound him.
By that time other men were peering into the car from the back, and the big man was directing them to anchor themselves in a line to the door so that the wooden stretcher could be passed to them. They did this, and the stretcher was passed up with as little jolting as possible, far less than would have happened if the Doctor had not engineered the rescue.
The big man must have realized and appreciated this, for he gave them a hand to help them out of the car ahead of himself.
"That was a nice bit of work," he said as they came out into the windy sunlight and the renewed sounds of sobbing and people crying and calling for help. The Doctor climbed over the tangle of railings at the rear door and dropped to the ground. The Brigadier followed, and then their two assistants dropped down.
"I'm Big Tierney," Red Kerchief told them. "Are you doctors?"
"I am," the Doctor said. "Let's get a look at the injured. Are there blankets? Any type of first aid kit?"
"Blankets," Tierney said.
"Is that all?" The Doctor was astounded.
"'ey! Tierney!" a man bellowed from across the confusion. "Feller from town come out in a buckboard and saw us. Gone to get help!"
"There y'are!" Tierney was obviously relieved.
The Brigadier was angry and impatient. "It's a dashed melee!' he exclaimed. "Look, get the most seriously injured over there, closest to the most gradual route out of this draw, so that they can be taken first. Doctor, you ought to station yourself over there, where you can do the most good. And then those who are not critical but need care should be put in a group next to the first group. Those that are fit ought to be kept out of the way if they're of no use to assist. We'll have to lay out the dead."
"All right," the Doctor said. "You're right." He glanced at Tierney. "Can you do as he says?"
"It's the best way." Tierney stripped the kerchief off his face and waved it, calling in his few men. "I'm foreman. I'll get my boys organized to do what you want."
"Right then. I'll see to that lad with the shattered legs." And the Doctor strode through the smoke and the crowd.
Tierney squinted at the high bluff between t hem and the sun. "Looks like someone's comin'! A woman! Looks like a light buggy. She must have kin on the train!"
"She's got to be kept out of the way!" the Brigadier exclaimed. "We've too much to do!" Now he could see her. But as he watched, the light buggy, drawn by one horse, reined in not far from where the Doctor knelt over the body of the badly injured young man.
The young woman hurriedly set the brake and alighted. She nimbly raced to the Doctor's side, heedless of her long skirts and ungainly shoes, and dropped to her knees by the injured young man.
"Must be her husband," the Brigadier murmured.
"Brother," the railroad man corrected. "I'll get her on her way. That's Florence Charles. Her father's lord of the manner hereabouts."
"Tell her to bring back proper wagons and emergency supplies!" the Brigadier shouted after him.
"And then we'll need a list of names so that people can find each other," the Brigadier said.
Tierney burst into a jog to show his agreement.
"Yes sir?" Tierney asked.
The Brigadier jogged after him to catch up. Tierney stopped, puzzled, and the Brigadier threw a nod out towards the rough grasses of the prairie. "I think this was done deliberately. If you see anybody out that way as we clear this area, take careful note of who it is. Once this site is cleared, we ought to go out there and search for some clues."
The big man's eyes widened. "Clues, sir?"
"Certainly. If somebody derailed this train, the evidence will point it out!"
A sudden light of realization seemed to dawn in the big man's eyes, but he only said, "Awright, then!" And he set out to see to Florence Charles.
* * * *
"Some tomfool who got out first from the car ran for town and told the first person he met that the Charles boy was killed," Tierney reported later as he and the Brigadier searched the baggage car for any sign of stragglers or plunderers.
Even with the wagons and buggies that came from the town to move people, the Doctor and the Brigadier had been busy for nearly two hours assisting the injured. And Tierney---who had to account for all the passengers---had been busy counting tickets and tracking down those few people who had escaped unscathed and run for town. As railway accidents of the turn of the century went, they had gotten off rather lightly: five dead from the initial impacts and scaldings. And five others severely injured. Of the remaining fifteen passengers, eight sustained fairly minor injuries.
Of course, in the 1890's, the Brigadier thought gloomily, even minor injuries were serious enough. The sheer inconvenience of life in these conditions amazed him afresh. Nothing was padded for comfort. Shock absorbers had not been invented. There were no medical boxes aboard the train. And anesthesia, though in use in some places, had not found its way out here. Even those people with merely broken wrists and broken ankles would have to go through the agony of having their bones set.
There was no Red Cross, no public shelter, not even a very well organized church parish in this remote place. Tierney promised that he and his men would have the belongings of the passengers delivered to the livery stable the next day. And that was just as well, because apparently the livery stable was going to accommodate those aboard the train who could not afford or be accommodated by the town's one hotel.
"Perhaps we should catch a ride into town, too," the Doctor said as the last wagon finally trundled away across the rough grass towards the two dirt ruts that made the only road. "I don't fancy sleeping out here tonight."
"I suppose we've lost all hope of finding that TARDIS," the Brigadier said.
The Doctor shrugged. "Oh, she'll be back. She does always find me."
Lethbridge Stewart made a sound of skepticism in his throat, but before he could think of a really crushing retort, Big Tierney approached from the wreckage, where he and his men were estimating ways of righting the cars.
"The railroad agent is coming back," he called to them. "I sent word that you wanted to help in the investigation."
"We can walk out that way now if you like," the Brigadier said to him. He had stripped off his uniform shirt hours ago and had been working in a thin cotton undershirt. Now the breeze whipped against his bare arms and neck with a warning that the temperature would soon drop. Tierney had foreseen this and tossed him a tough leather jacket. "Him that once used this won't need it again," he said.
Lethbridge Stewart nearly recoiled as he caught it, but the Doctor said, "You'd better put it on." He glanced at his ally and lowered his voice. "Besides, Tierney means it as a kindness." Then the Doctor called to the foreman. "What about you, Mr. Tierney? Were you injured in the crash?"
"No. Me and my boys was catching 40 winks in back." And Tierney nodded to the baggage car. "It was the engineers that got it. What about you?"
Before the Doctor could think of an answer, the Brigadier said. "Let's hurry. We may get this resolved in time for the railroad agent."
"Right sir," Tierney said. He seemed to have assumed, from the Doctor's previous acquiescence to the Brigadier's directives, that the Brigadier was the leader of the two of them.
As they strode from the wreck in the direction that the Brigadier had indicated, Tierney asked a question of them: "You from England? London?"
"Yes," the Brigadier said.
"Been over here long?"
The Doctor cut in. "Not long at all, Mr. Tierney. What are we looking for, by the way?"
"I'm positive that we should go that way," Lethbridge Stewart said, pointing the way. "Nearly up out of this draw, in fact. Let's fan out and watch the ground."
"What are we looking for?" the Doctor asked again.
"An iron bar. Or perhaps a stout iron chain. It will be this way, but further on. All the same, fan out and start looking."
They did as he said. Not more than five minutes after they started out, the Brigadier himself gave a shout. He reached into the sea of grass and extracted a length of stout chain. But the links on one end were partially flattened---nearly as thin as paper on the edges.
"Did the train do that?' Tierney asked. "Rather than just chop through it?"
"Yes, Mr. Tierney." The Brigadier passed it to the Doctor to examine. "Quite a curiosity, eh Doctor?"
"Rather a grim curiosity." The Doctor held it up. "Fairly common practice during the war to derail enemy trains. Throw a steel bar or a chunk of metal onto the tracks."
The Brigadier coughed, reminding the Doctor that World War II had not yet happened. But then he added, "It's almost certain that nothing could have put the chain onto the tracks by random accident."
"But nobody set out to rob us," Tierney objected. "And what other reason would there be to do harm to a train?" He suddenly seemed agitated. "All the same, I think we'll hire out some extra help to watch the baggage until its delivered safe to town."
"I don't think the motive is robbery," the Brigadier said. "If anybody wanted to rob the train by this method, they would have derailed it much further away, to keep it in better isolation."
"A chain set down to derail a train could have been flung off in any direction when the carriage wheels hit it," the Doctor said. "How did you know it was here?" For once, he was mystified. He had no idea that the chain flying through the air in the distance over his own shoulder had been the Brigadier's introduction to the matter.
Lethbridge Stewart was interrupted by the rattling sound of a buckboard and horses. First, a well dressed man astride a sorrel horse came riding through the grass.
"What have you found?" he called.
"That's the agent," Tierney whispered. For answer, he took the chain from the Doctor and held it up. The man rode up and reined in. He patted his horse's neck to quiet it, and then he took the chain.
"Did you receive any warnings about this?" the Brigadier asked. "Threats of a derailment or accident?"
The railroad agent glared at them from under his hat. "Now why should I tell you that?"
Just then, the young woman who had come earlier reappeared, driving two matched horses and a buckboard. She pulled them to a stop. She set the brake and fixed her eyes on the Brigadier and the Doctor.
"Good day, madam," the Brigadier said instantly. Like the others who had come, she had been busy, transporting people to the town. She had not refused this duty after delivering her brother to safety.
"You are the gentlemen who helped to rescue my brother," she said. "The doctor in town sent me to find you. He said that one of you must be a very good medical doctor, and he begs for your help now. My brother's legs are broken quite severely."
"Of course," the Doctor said. "I shall come right away."
"Who are you fellows?" the man astride the horse asked. "You're foreigners, ain't you? What are you doing out here in North Dakota?"
"North Dakota!" the Brigadier exclaimed. He glared at the Doctor. "We're no place near Kansas!"
Tierney could no longer contain himself. "Don't you know who these men are?' he exclaimed. "They can help us figure out what happened. We have to let them!"
"What do you mean?" the agent demanded, and the woman asked, "Who are they?"
Tierney pointed at the Brigadier. "That's Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" And he pointed to the Doctor. "And that's Dr. Watson!"
For a moment, everybody---including the Doctor and the Brigadier---was too astonished to speak. And then the Doctor bowed to Big Tierney. "So you've guessed it, Mr. Tierney! We have been traveling incognito! But my friend Holmes, here, could not refuse to look into such a serious event. Very shortly, I trust that he will be able to enlighten all of us in this matter." He turned to the Brigadier. "Won't you, my dear Holmes? We're all counting on you!"