"And may I ask where you were today, Dr. Algol," the Doctor said with acid politeness. The insinuation was unmistakable.
Dr. Algol gasped. He was a middle aged man, with sharp features and a narrowly trimmed beard and mustache. He reminded the Brigadier ever so slightly of the Master. "I was away on business! I returned before noon and visited Mr. Charles!""
"Otherwise I might notice that it would be very convenient for you to watch the train accident from the window of your own estate," the Doctor said. "Your place is out that way, isn't it? A good spyglass would suffice. And surely the smoke would have gotten your attention. Yet you didn't come."
"What reason could I have for causing an accident?"
The Brigadier spoke up. He plucked the book from Dr. Martin's hands and pressed it into the Sheriff's hands. "In point of fact, A. Conan Doyle is our publicist, Sheriff. Yes, our adventures are somewhat embroidered by him, and he fancifully speaks in the character of Dr. Watson. But we are who we claim to be, and once our luggage is safely returned to town, we shall satisfy you on that account." He looked down at the short, well dressed Dr. Algol with a certain haughty expression. In the elegant clothing borrowed from Jefferson Charles, the Brigadier was a dashing, authoritative figure. And he was the taller of the two.
"As for you, sir, I see by the wear on your sleeve that you are left handed, or at least inclined to write at your desk with your left hand. That you have recently given up tobacco. That you have the funding to illuminate your home with electrical switching, but have declined to do so for practical reasons. And you are a man given to laboratory experiments with chemicals derived from plant sources, from which you compile copious notes, but you share your information with precious few people."
"Amazing, Holmes!" the Doctor exclaimed, playing his character with perfect timing, but he was genuinely puzzled. The guess about left handedness had been easy, for Algol had pointed with his left hand. But the Doctor was mystified about the rest. And the Brigadier felt some satisfaction in this. Eben's confidences on the trip into town had served well.
The sheriff was also taken back at this, and Dr. Martin was entirely convinced. "Now tell me this man's not a detective!" he exclaimed. "I haven't seen this book nor heard of it, Mr. Holmes, but I wonder if Dr. Algol would just lend it to me!"
"I'd like to read it, too!" the sheriff exclaimed in some admiration. He gazed down at the book. With an exclamation of disgust, Algol snatched up the thin volume. "So they've got you under their spell! Well, we'll see! I'll see them both unmasked!" And the smaller man marched off into the growing twilight.
The Brigadier, head up, watched him, and then after a suitable pause he said, "Come Watson! We must see the passengers. The game is afoot!"
* * * *
Lethbridge Stewart was one of that rare breed of man who could shave properly with a straight razor and not nick himself. Even the Doctor had to admire the skill of the UNIT commander as he watched himself in the mirror and carefully guided the long blade up his throat. Faith had brought them a kettle of hot water for their morning ablutions.
"So we gained no new knowledge from the survivors," the Doctor said gloomily. "I suppose we could investigate everybody's background. We'll have to ask about who aboard the train was local and who was just passing through. Somebody should have that information accessible."
"That would be the Sheriff, I reckon," the Brigadier said. He smiled faintly at his own humor. He started another careful path up the other side of his throat. "Or maybe Tierney."
"They left the sleeper cars behind in Springfield in the early morning yesterday. This town sits out on the end of the line, just a spur off the main line." The Doctor wandered out to the hearth. He was dressed to meet the day in his trousers, the new shirt, and the leather jacket that Tierney had lent to the Brigadier. The Brigadier, attired in matched clothing borrowed from the wardrobe of Jefferson Charles, buttoned up his shirt and slipped the braces up over his shoulders. He looked neat and freshly scrubbed.
"When is deodorant invented?" he asked the Doctor.
"You'll have to do with lavender water like the rest of them." The time lord grinned. But suddenly he stopped and stared, transfixed. He stabbed a finger to the open doorway that led into the hallway. "There she is! Come on!"
The Brigadier dashed out after the Doctor. Tantalizingly just out of reach, the TARDIS, fading into and out of spatial alignment with them, drifted lazily up the hall. They accidentally knocked into each other as they ran after her, and the Doctor lunged forward, inadvertently elbowing Lethbridge Stewart out of the way. The Brigadier regained his feet, and---perhaps roused to a competitive spirit in this desperate game of chase---darted right under the Doctor's arm and made a determined leap to touch the TARDIS.
The TARDIS, however, had drifted out over the top of the wide stairway.
"Get it, get it! Look out man!" The Doctor leaped right after him, and so he came down on top of the Brigadier as they fell. But the Brigadier, who knew a thing or two about falling, started to roll before he hit the steps. The result was that the two of them rolled together in each other's arms and then rolled down the steps. The TARDIS disappeared.
They shouted at each other, but they knew better than to thrust out a leg or arm to try to stop, and so they rolled without resisting, one over the other, down the very long staircase. It was impossible to halt.
"Watch out! Get off!"
"Let go of me you fool!"
The Doctor counted 28 on the way down. They landed in a heap on the floor of the first floor hallway.
Florence Charles stared down at them, her mouth open in surprise.
The Brigadier immediately sat up. "Good morning, madam," he said at once. "I trust that your brother is well."
"Are you all right?" she asked after a moment.
"I won't know until I get my hearts out of my throat," the Doctor said. He gingerly lifted himself to his feet. The Brigadier followed.
"Mercy on us!" Faith, her brown hands white with flour and her dress protected by a large apron, hurried up the hall from the kitchen. "What was that awful banging and shouting?"
"We tripped on the carpet at the top of the stairs," the Doctor told her.
The Brigadier rubbed the back of his head. He frowned. "Was that what happened? I was under the impression you tackled me." The Doctor glared at him.
Florence interrupted. "Dr. Watson, I was coming to find you. It seems that I am unceasingly made to impose on you," the young woman began.
"What's that now?" the Doctor asked. He had his hands on either side of his head, groping carefully, as though checking for cracks in his skull.
"My father is suddenly much worse this morning. If there is anything you can do---"
Her desperate tone got his attention. "Certainly, madam. At once! Take me to him!" She immediately led him away, and the Brigadier followed.
* * * *
The elder Mr. Charles occupied a great room on the sunny side of the house. One window looked out over the sea of grass, and another looked at the clear glass walls of the small and cheerful conservatory, where rows of delicate flowers bloomed.
But the spacious and bright room, so carefully arranged to be pleasant and cheerful, was marred by a laborious sound of breathing. Just as they entered, Florence Charles' father let out three painful gasps. He reached one hand to his daughter, almost in a spasm of grief for her, and then fell silent and still on the vast, canopied bed.
"Water," the Doctor said. "Quickly, Miss Charles." But the Brigadier could see that the old man was surely dead. As Florence turned to find the water pitcher, the Doctor leaned close over the dead man's face, forced open the mouth, and inhaled sharply. He sniffed a second time, quickly shook his head, and sat up as the young woman retrieved the water and hurried to his side.
"I'm sorry." He stood up and took the water pitcher from her. "Holmes, see to the young woman. I fear that your father is dead, Miss Charles."
"But he was better last night! I know he was better!" The Brigadier came around the vast bed and took her by the elbows.
"His physical constitution seems exhausted, Miss Charles," the Brigadier said kindly. "It may be that he gave a final rally of his strength, but he could not hold out indefinitely."
Her eyes filled up with tears as she looked up at him. "But it was only gastritis, Mr. Holmes. He's had it for months. He cannot be dead!"
Just then the loud sound of pounding hoofbeats caught their attention. Eben, on horseback, was flying down the double-rutted path, standing up in the stirrups and urging the horse on.
"Oh no!" she exclaimed weakly. For it was clear that he was bringing urgent news from town.
"I shall meet him," the Doctor said quickly. He rushed out.
"No," she whispered again, and the Brigadier's heart sank. There was only one reason that Eben would race a horse so wildly from the town to the estate. He put an arm around her shoulders.
"Let the Doctor see to it first," he whispered.
* * * *
The time lord hurried to the front rooms and then passed to the kitchen. Eben was just entering.
"Oh, Dr. Watson!" the servant, old enough to be Florence's father himself, was distraught over some great grief.
"Speak calmly, Eben!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Mr. Charles has just passed away, and Miss Charles is quite overwrought."
Faith, wiping her hands on her apron, came from the wood burning stove. "Oh, Mr. Charles!" she exclaimed in dismay.
"Worse and worse, Dr. Watson!" Eben exclaimed. "Young Mr. Charles never woke up this morning. He's dead! The doc in town says his stomach's all burnt up. He asks for you to come to town straightaway."
* * * *
Two great shocks coming right after each other left the household prostrate with grief. The Doctor was an able enough horseman, and after he rode off for town alone, Faith cleared up the unused breakfast settings, and Eben, openly weeping into a great white handkerchief, went to see to the stable.
The Brigadier closed the draperies in the sitting room. Florence Charles lay on the sofa, her face turned towards the cushions on the back of it, her hand over her eyes. He pulled up a straight backed chair and sat down by her.
"You must not stay here, Mr. Holmes," she said, not looking at him. "There are other men dead from the derailment. The railroad needs you to look into those matters. There is nothing you can do here, or for me." And she began to weep, very softly. "Oh my father and my brother," she said softly, to herself. "My very best friends!"
"I have no other business but to look after you for the moment, Miss Charles," he said quietly.
She unexpectedly put out her hand, and he grasped it with warmth and reassurance, but she was still looking away. "If I feel your hand, it is like Father's, or Jeff's," she said. "And I can tell myself that I have one of them here with me. I can put it off for another moment. One of them is still alive." And she burst out with another small sob and more tears.
It was the worst possible moment for the TARDIS to appear again, but it slowly hazed into the room, and then the sound of its engines became audible. She turned at this noise and gave a start of fear as she saw the great time cabinet looming at the foot of the sofa. She sat up, frightened.
He was calm and rueful, and she realized that he was not a stranger to this apparition. "Oh what is it?" she exclaimed. She shrank back. "Is it some sort of death machine? Has it come for me as well?"
"No!' he said quickly. "It is part of another mystery that Watson and I are trying to solve. But it will certainly not hurt you."
But she was afraid, and she turned to him. "Send it away. It frightens me. How did it appear? It's some horrible ghostly thing!"
He didn't know if he took hold of her to calm her or if she caught onto him to implore him, but as the TARDIS faded from existence again, he realized that he was holding her, and her weeping had renewed. She was trembling from this ghostly visit, and she hid her eyes against him.
"It won't hurt you. It's gone," he whispered. "Perhaps it seems frightening, but actually that device has been used to save people's lives."
"But not my father's life. Or Jeff's! If it was good, then it came too late! What was it?" But she burst out crying, now more vehement in her tears. She was, he realized, shocked and exhausted from the events of the morning. She was hardly more than a child---an earnest, hard working, careful child who was now stranded on this wild prairie. It was a patriarchal society, and she had lost both father and brother.
He covered her head with his hand. "It's gone," he said gently. "But it is certainly not dangerous. Dr. Watson is quite an expert about it, and you shall have the full story later, if you want, from him." He looked down at her. With an innocent young girl's acceptance of comfort from a kind and fatherly stranger, she clung to him.
"All right," he whispered. "For the moment, there is nothing to do but recover. You should rest and get some of your strength back."
She nodded, her face filled with sorrow and fear of this world, which was suddenly large and unpredictable. But after a moment, as he said nothing more and let the quiet stillness of the house work on her, she nestled down against him and closed her eyes.
* * * *
"I came as quickly as I could," the Doctor said as Martin met him in the front room of the closed surgery.
"The body is in the back," the town surgeon said. "I knew as soon as I looked at him that it was poison, Dr. Watson. But I'm in a strait about declaring the cause."
"What means do you have for identifying poisons?" the Doctor asked. He followed the other man into the room where the previous day they had set the young man's broken bones. Face slightly blue with the tinge of death, Jefferson Charles' expression showed that he had died in some internal pain. The Doctor picked up the young man's right hand. It was clenched into a tight fist.
"His man, Eben, sat by him the night," Martin said. "Under my instructions, Eben came to get me in my room at the hotel at about eleven so that I could examine young Jeff and make sure all was well for the night."
"You live at the hotel?" The Doctor was curious.
Martin shook his head. "I have a little claim down near the creek. The hotel folk give me a room when I need it. For circumstances like these when there are injured or ill people in the town." He gestured at the dead young man's legs. "He was all right. As you'd removed the needles, I'd given him a draught with morphine at eleven, to get him through the night. He was quickly stupefied from it but showing some responsiveness. I didn't fear for his breathing. I bid Eben watch him and said good night." Martin pointed at the chair where the black man had sat keeping watch. "Along about three, Eben came back for me. Said something was wrong. I hurried over here." He shook his head.
"Symptoms?" the Doctor asked.
"Acute pain in the abdomen. I've found some esophageal edema now that I've had a look, post mortem. Nothing would calm him or still him, even with the pain from his injuries. We tried compresses over the abdomen, both warm and cold. The warm seemed to help at first, but then not at all. He was retching frequently, dry heaves, and passing bile and liquid diarrhea uncontrollably. Finally, I forced an emetic into him as a last resort. It may have been too heroic of an attempt. He died soon after."
"And what have you found?"
Martin indicated the exploratory incision down the young man's chest and abdomen. "A torrid inflammation. Some gastric bleeding. I---I'm at a loss. I would say that death was from the violence of his reaction to some poison--"
"Electrolytic depletion," the Doctor said.
The time lord waved a hand. "Shock, if you like. A violent reaction to poison." Then he added, almost as an after thought, "The elder Mr. Charles died this morning."
"What?" Martine was stunned. Just then there was a knocking out front. The town surgeon, sharply annoyed at this interruption, squinted through the doorway. The door out front opened, and the sheriff strode into the room. "I've just heard that the young man is dead. From his injuries?"
"No," Dr. Martin said. "Or anyway, not that I've determined."
"Maybe a gangrenous infection? You did have to sew him up yesterday didn't you?"
"He had no fever." Martin shook his head.
The Doctor spoke up, "And gangrene could not have showed up this quickly, not in this climate. And it would take a few days to work on him before it could kill him."
The sheriff looked from one man to another, his youthful face somewhat uncertain and yet showing his resolve to do his duty. "Then what killed him?"
"With no fever and with symptoms so acute, I could only guess," Martin said gloomily.
The sheriff's eyes hardened. "Poison?"
Martin gave a nod. "Could be."
The time lord quickly spoke up. "That may be premature, of course."
But the damage was done. The sheriff folded his arms and rocked back on his heels. "Who was in here last night?"
"Eben, his house servant, and me. That's all."
Their visitor frowned. "Mrs. Graylock tells me that just as she was turning down the lights in the livery stable, she saw Florence Charles enter here last night."
"Nonsense!" the town physician snapped. "I sent Miss Charles home myself very early yesterday when I saw that she was exhausted over concern for both her father and brother. I wanted her home before dark. I tell you that only Eben was here last night."
"Then I better go talk with Eben."
Dr. Martin flared at this. "Eben has enough to deal with today! He was tremendously overwrought at the young man's condition and helped me very quickly. He doesn't need to be badgered!"
The young sheriff set his jaw and then said, "Then I'll do my best not to badger him, Dr. Martin. But I must talk to him. Is he at the family house?"
"You should know that the elder Mr. Charles passed away this morning," the Doctor said quietly.
The young sheriff's eyebrows raised. "Both within a few hours of each other? Was Florence Charles with him?"
"We were all nearby to him. The entire household, other than this poor lad," the Doctor said sharply.
Martin snorted. "Their father's death is a grim coincidence. The elder Mr. Charles has been ill some time."
But the sheriff was not convinced by this assurance. "Did you attend him at the last?"
"I attended him," the time lord said. "This morning. His final seizure came upon him suddenly."
"What was it?"
"An acute gastritis, apparently."
"I'll pay my respects." And the sheriff walked out. Both men were silent as they heard his booted feet clumping on the floorboards. The front door opened and closed.
"You've got to do an autopsy on the father as well," the Doctor said.
Martin nodded. "Glad to. That case has always bothered me." He tossed a resentful look at the closed door. "But there's no need to start rumors."
* * * *
The Brigadier began to wonder why a very pretty face could make a man forget his own troubles and induce him to take on the troubles of somebody else.
The natural response for anybody who had suffered such sudden shock was to weep and then to fall asleep. After her storm of tears, the transition into sleep took only a few minutes for the young woman, especially as he remained quiet and still. The touch and smell of his clothing, that of her brother's, he realized, comforted her. She was soon soundly sleeping. Carefully, he set her onto the sofa cushions, but he remained still for a moment, leaning over her and looking down at her. She was young enough that sleep could erase her troubles for the moment, and her face, though streaked with trails of tears, was now peaceful. Indeed, a slight half smile gave her a look of sweet contentment. In this rough world in which she lived, where pleasures and enjoyments were few, sleep was still a retreat from unhappiness, a pleasant refuge.
Women of that era wore so many clothes that there was no need to find a blanket for her. Faith entered, her morning chores completed, and she came up behind him and looked over his shoulder at the young woman.
But when she spoke, her voice was directed at him. "Wouldn't you like some tea, Mr. Holmes?" she asked gently. "You had no breakfast. There's cold biscuits and jam preserves if you want them."
"Will you stay with her?"
"Yes sir. I'll fix you a plate and come right back."
She hurried out. When he next heard footsteps in the hallway, he thought that she was returning to trade places with him, but Dr. Algol entered first, and then Faith followed, clasping her large brown hands in some concern.
"I came as soon as I heard," Dr. Algol said. His voice was quiet. "Is Miss Charles well?"
"She is resting." The Brigadier stood up. He did not really assume a defensive stance in front of the sofa, but there was something in his presence that barred the other man from coming any nearer. Faith interceded.
"Mr. Holmes, I've laid out a bite to eat for you on the table in the kitchen," she said.
"Thank you. Do sit here, Faith, and see to the young lady," the Brigadier asked. He would have said more to their visitor, but just then there was a loud, insistent knocking from the kitchen door. On the sofa, Florence stirred, and the Brigadier hurried out front to intercept whoever was banging on the door.
Just as he reached the kitchen, Big Tierney burst in.
"Oh, there y'are!" Tierney exclaimed. "You've got to come with me, Mr. Holmes. It's about the derailment---" He cut himself off as he saw Dr. Algol entering the kitchen behind the Brigadier.
But Algol, rather than being insulted by Tierney's reluctance to speak in front of him, took advantage of the directive.
"Of course Mr. Holmes shall go with you. I shall see to matters here. I shall place Miss Charles in my care."
The Brigadier turned to him. "I was under the impression that her father was in your care."
Algol's eyes narrowed. "I was not present when Mr. Charles drew his final breaths---Mr. Holmes." He said the last two words to indicate his doubt in them. "Perhaps if I had been called in time, I could have saved him." And then he added, "I take it that your Dr. Watson was ineffective in administering relief to my elderly friend?"
"Called too late, as you noted," the Brigadier said.
Tierney interrupted. "We've got to hurry, Mr. Holmes. It's urgent."
The Brigadier was not really willing to go, but it could not be helped. "Right then."
But as he and Tierney exited the house, the sheriff rode up on a fine dun colored horse. He leaned from the saddle to open the gate and rode through. Algol, the Brigadier noticed, was watching through the window of the kitchen.
"I've come to pay my respects," the sheriff called as he swung off the horse. "How is Miss Charles?"
"In some shock," the Brigadier told him. He strode up to the sheriff to meet him face to face. "I trust that you'll be discrete in consideration of her feelings."
"Yes," the law man said, unsmiling. But his eyes showed both concern and resolve. He strode toward the house.
The Brigadier looked at Tierney. "This really is a bad time, Mr. Tierney."
"It won't get much better, neither," the rail road man said. "I t'ink we got another body. Come on."
* * * *
"If we had better supplies, I could test for chemical poisons," Dr. Martin said as they surveyed the young man's body. "But this enteritis. See how it tracks up into the esophageal wall? This is not related to his wounds. He was certainly acutely poisoned by something. The closest I could name would be arsenic, which is readily available all over town. It is used against the gophers and rats."
"It's not arsenic poisoning." The Doctor's voice was certain. "The signs of inflammation are too widespread, extending beyond the gut wall, and there is not enough gastric bleeding to indicate arsenic. And the smell."
Martin cocked an eyebrow. "What smell?"
"Precisely. Arsenic administered in a single deadly dose leaves an unmistakable odor, as you know. In point of fact, we've looked at his stomach and bowels and the substances he excreted, and there is no ready evidence of a poison like that." He paused, doubtful. "Or any poison. No residue that is easily identified."
"Some poisons can be quite subtle, Dr. Watson. If you have traveled the Orient, you surely know that." Martin stood up from peering into the body. Regretfully, he went to the wash bowl and poured in some water for his hands.
"Indeed," the time lord agreed. "But where on the American prairie would a person find a subtle and ancient poison?" He turned to the town surgeon. "And why use an exotic poison when one available in every corner of the town would do the job as well?"
Instead of answering, Martin nodded to the basin to suggest that the Doctor wash up. "We'd better get the body of his late father in here."
* * * *
On the outskirts of the town, two horses and their riders loped away from the outline of buildings. They made for a hardpacked path among the dense, rough grasses, came around a grove of stunted and blasted trees at the bottom of a small hillock, and came out before a white wooden church.
"The bodies from the train wreck are in the cellar," Tierney called. "We figured the cool air might keep them better until they can be put into coffins and shipped to their families."
"Good idea." The Brigadier gazed around. On a weekday, the church building was deserted. He had no idea what Tierney wanted him to see concerning the bodies, and he wished that he were back at the great house.
"T'ree were railroad men," Tierney said. "Two were passengers we reckoned were smashed up."
They reined in and dismounted, leaving the horses ground tied. There were rough wooden steps that led under the wooden church building. In the lonely silence, the church was almost a forbidding figure: starkly defined, with its perimeter sharply cut against the sky. Taking up lanterns that Tierney had brought tied to his saddle horn, they carefully picked their way down the steps and entered a wide, low, cool cellar with an earthen floor. They paused to light the lamps and then entered, heads low. The bodies were laid out in a row on the hard packed dirt, each wrapped in a cotton sheet. Plastic, the Brigadier reminded himself, had not yet been invented. The wavering, quivering light from their oil lamps shimmered against the sheets and cast uneven shadows around the dark, low room.
As though reminded by the overall stark isolation and eerie silence of the place, Tierney said, "Y'know, when we come and laid the bodies down last night, one of the fellers said he thought we ought to say a word over the poor devils."
"Good of you," the Brigadier said absently as he surveyed the row of five shrouds in the uneven light.
"Funny t'ing is, just as we stopped and got quiet, we heard someone walkin' around upstairs. Creepin', like."
The Brigadier was astonished at the audacity of an opportunist coming so hard upon the heels of the tragedy. "Coming to plunder the bodies?"
"That's what we figures. Two of me boys went up, but the rascal heard them and was gone too quick. So we posted a watch to keep the dead safe. But we went through their pockets to see if maybe our visitor was after somethin' damnin'. Somethin' to make a link to the derailment."
"We didn't find nothin' a' note. But that search is what made me notice this." He nodded to one of the covered corpses. "Here he is. Name was Faulkner Browne. This one. Feel his legs, then."
They knelt at the fourth in the row. The Brigadier hesitated.
"He's not going to hurt you, Mister Holmes. He's dead all right. But get a feel of them legs, eh?"
The Brigadier pulled aside the sheeting from the feet and gripped the dead man's leg in his right hand. He used a compression grip and checked one leg from ankle to knee, and then the other.
"Hold up the lantern will you?" He asked Tierney, passing his light up to the railroad man. "Let me get a proper look at him."
The big railroad man nodded and stood where he could shed better light with both lanterns. The Brigadier pulled away the sheet entirely from the face of the dead man. He took the head and held the face up so that the light fell upon it. Then he carefully felt around the structure of the eyes and nose. He glanced up at Tierney.
"Ah," Tierney said.
Without further comment, the Brigadier checked the arms, and then felt over the ribs. "Quite broken." He said. "Smashed. I want to see his hands."
Tierney obliged with the lights, and the Brigadier examined one hand and then the other on the dead man. Neither hand was marked or bruised, and the fingernails were not broken.
The Brigadier lowered the hands again and carefully drew the sheet over the face and then draped the entire body. He was thorough about this, treating the body with care and respect. He carefully lifted the head and wrapped the sheet under, then gently lowered the head, steadying it so that it didn't bump the ground as he set it down.
"You're a good man, then, are you, Sherlock Holmes?" Tierney asked. "God fearing, like?"
"Yes." The Brigadier stood up.
"So I see. So we'll both keep quiet then that you're not Sherlock Holmes, and no one'll be the wiser."
Lethbridge Stewart's jaw dropped. "If you knew I wasn't Sherlock Holmes, why did you go and call me Sherlock Holmes?"
"Because I wanted you on this matter for the railroad. You and your partner showed up with no clothes and no money and no luggage. And no ticket, I might add. You were never on that train. Carpet baggers. Vagrants. Coupla' sharps down on their luck. Maybe. Maybe you sent her off the tracks, I tell myself. And yet you skin off your last shirt to help make a battrin' ram. You pitch in and save a man from an awful end in that train. When any minute we might all have been scalded like tom cats. And then you get the whole operation organized and under wraps." He imitated the Brigadier giving orders. "'You go over there. You get t'em people over yonder. You there, you see to that man.'"
The imitation was not meant to mock, but to illustrate. He eyed Lethbridge Stewart. "I dunno who you are. But you know a devil of a lot for a couple of sharps. So I tossed you a rope. Said you were a famous detective. And that Doctor friend of yours took it even when you wouldn't. And the railroad agent's agreed he ought to let a famous detective see to things---"
"He actually thinks I'm Sherlock Holmes?"
"Aw, he's a ninny. He didn't know who Sherlock Holmes was from Adam until I explained it. Half the town doesn't know. Books out here are too hard to come by. But I go back and forth, all over from Chicago to Frisco. Pick up books either place and read 'em in the baggage car when poker runs thin." He handed the lantern back to the Brigadier. "And now that you've took the job, if you don't want to get lynched, you and Dr. Watson better solve this case. But I think you can solve it."
"You could have just asked us."
Tierney grinned. "I had to convince the railroad agent you were men of big reputations. No time to ask. And I wanted to see which way you two would jump if I gave you room." Then he glanced down at the dead man. "Now what about him? What do you t'ink?"
The Brigadier knit his eyebrows. "I'll have to check with the Doctor. He's far more expert than I. But it seems clear that this man flew forward and hit the bulkhead without shielding himself or grabbing onto anything. There's no sign of swelling or bruising around the bones that have been broken. It looks like he was already dead when he hit the bulkhead. So he was dead before the train accident ever occurred."
"I'm telling you, he was alive and well when he got to the baggage car on the train that same morning. Just sneezin' and blowin' his nose a lot. Played cards wit' us in the back to pass the time after we got t'rough the switch yards in Springfield. Young man like t'at. What causes it?"
"Could be foul play," the Brigadier said. He realized that he was merely acknowledging Tierney's suspicions. "The Doctor will do a better job at diagnosing a cause of death."
Tierney met his eye. "It's murder, awright. And whoever killed him had to be on that train. So the killer's here, right in this town. Stuck, until we get the track cleared."
The Brigadier glanced up at the flooring above them. "What's in the church?"
Tierney shrugged. "Just what you'd expeck in a church out here. Nuthin' a' value, but we can look 'round if you want."
Just then they heard a horse approaching, fast, and a voice calling. "That's Eben," the Brigadier said. "What else could have gone wrong?"
Tierney passed a lantern to him. "We better see."
"Mr. Holmes! Mr. Holmes!" Eben called.
The Brigadier, followed by the railroad man, swiftly emerged from the cellar and climbed the plank steps. "What is it?" he asked.
Eben, astride his horse, would have quickly dismounted to speak to a white man, but the Brigadier waved at him to tell him not to bother.
"Sheriff's come and looked at Mr. Charles!" the servant exclaimed. "My Faith says that Dr. Algol was there and give a verdict of poison bein' suspected. Oh Mr. Holmes! The Sheriff's taken Miss Charles under arrest! For murder!"