Wednesday, April 18, 2012

T. E. Story #26

When the train stopped  just outside Washington City at a local station, I got up and got off the train.  I hurried into the station and stepped around the corner into an alcove and sat down grabbing a news sheet and put it up in front of me as though reading.  I was curious since it appeared to me that we were being watched.  Like Hezzie I was excited and concerned at the same time for this new assignment so I thought maybe that was what was bothering me.  Three of the passengers that got off with me went through the station and down the street.  I was about to get up when a tall man in a black suit and high boots hurried into the station  looked around, and then hurried out.  He peaked my imagination, so I cautiously followed him aware that if he turned around he would recognize me immediately because of my uniform.  The stranger stood on the platform for a moment, and that he took off down the street headed for the nearest horse barn.  I watched him until he disappeared inside and then I went to the lone ticket agent and asked, "How far is it from here to city center?"

The ticket man looked up from his counting and said, "Oh about ten t twelve miles."

I then told the man about how I got off at the wrong station and I really needed to get into the city.  The ticket  clerk grinned and shook his head, "Well there Capt. you must've been a-thinking hard aboot sumpin.  Your'n in luck tho, cause the stage will be comin' by for these mail bags in about 30 minutes."  He gestured at two dark green canvas bags at the door to the interior ticket office.  "If'n you are in a hurry, I can sell you a stage ticket here , but it costs 20 cents extra, and the stage will drop you off down town at the post office.  You'll probably be the only passenger tho 'cause I unnnerstand the stage today has a mite o cargo that is sposed to go inside, as well as a full rear boot and top rack."

"Thanks," I said.  I bought the ticket and tipped the agent a dollar.  "This is just between you and me now.  This is a surprise I want to spring on my sister and her nosy husband is probably looking for me right  now."

The ticket agent handed me the stage ticket, and the dollar  tip disappeared with a whisk.  " Wal," he said apparently to the back office and looking at the ceiling, "No more customers so I'll get on with the cleaning up!"  He slammed the ticket window shut and went into the back office.  I walked over to the outhouse, and stood just inside the door for a few minutes.  Within minutes the man in the black suit showed up on horseback and walked into the station.  Pretty soon he came out looking very frustrated and got on his horse and headed down the street away from town at a gallop.  About twenty minutes  later the stage pulled up and the ticket agent met me on the platform and explained to the driver about my ticket.  I squeezed into the coach along with the frieght and when the stage was under way, I was watching for the black-suited man on the road.  About ten minutes later we passed him and I ducked down out of sight as we passed.  I surely would like to know who and what he was, but I don't have time for it now.

We arrived in the city, and the driver hollared down," Hey there Capt., you headed for Willard's Hotel?"

I replied that I was, and the driver swung the coach around the corner and headed down the Hotel Street.  "Hear ye be Capt."  the driver hollared down.  I got out on the sidewalk side and flipped him a dollar.  "Thanks old-timer," I said, "great ride!"  The driver grabbed the coin out of the air and laughed, then cracked his whip and the coach lurched off down the street.  I went to the main desk and got my key and found Hezzie's room number.  On the second floor where we were, I found Hezzie's Room and knocked on the door.  No answer, and I knocked again -- still no answer, so I opened my room next door just as the luggage arrived.  I changed into my dress uniform and grabbed my letter case.  I wanted to get this report business over with, see if I couldn't find out who was after me, and then get down to cases with this new project. I had already made one mistake.  I told Hezzie about possible explosives and he'll have a hell of a problem getting that  done.  I went downstairs to the main desk and asked for paper and a pen.  Using them, I wrote a note to Hezzie:

" Hezz. Sorry about the mention of a hidden box on the wagon..  It will be a task to get a special box made so don't worry about it.  We'll take on that necessity as it arises."

The clerk gave me a sheet of paper to wrap the message in and a smoking pot of sealing wax.  I spooned the wax onto the paper cover and pressed my ring into the warm wax.  To the clerk I said, "When the man in room 16 returns, please give him this message.  I put the message on the counter and weighted it down with a silver dollar.

"Yes Sir!!!, The clerk said and put the note in a box next to Hezzies key.  He grinned and slipped the dollar in his pants.  Then I called for a cab and was on my way to the report and discussion period about the river project.

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