First, a big thank you to everyone who has followed this entire story. Hope you all enjoy the ending. Will Cassidy and Lloyd ever return? I don’t know. For now, they’re going to be relaxing and taking smaller jobs. I think they’ve earned a break.
As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
The Holly Sage Express pulls into the Portland station, which is still under construction and shudders whenever the wind blows. An empty ticket booth sits at the far end, the structure missing two walls and barely covered by a cardboard roof. Passengers with vehicles drive out of the garage car while the others wander onto the platform and wonder where they are supposed to go. Many talk in anger about the promise of a hotel and taxis to take them to a resort that they now fear does not exist. They question any of the staff who dare to come out into the open, but the beleaguered men and women have no answers. Children cry at the sight of the abandoned city and ask where the carnival is that they were told about throughout the journey. As the conversations turn darker and more desperate, the passengers and staff let their rage take over and grab whatever can be used as a weapon. Even toddlers join in destroying the half-finished station, which is swiftly brought to the ground.
Before the mob can get into the train, the whistle goes off and continues until the people have settled down. Bart climbs out of the window and onto the roof before Lloyd and Luca follow him with Tyler held between them. The crowd throws garbage and debris at the businessman, who is shivering from being touched by his captors. His black suit is torn at the seams and there is a burn mark on his dress shirt from where Bart hit him with a powerful stun gun. Clutched in his hands, the glass shards from his broken pocket watch cuts his palms. Any projectiles that can kill the man are knocked away, which stirs the passengers and staff into a wilder frenzy. Hoping to calm them down, Lloyd tussles Tyler’s hair and Luca smacks him in the face a few times. The lighthearted blows are met with some laughter, but most of their audience continue screaming for blood and vengeance.
They are on the verge of rushing the train when the badly damaged jeep comes down the street and stops at the stairs. Katie calmly gets out and casually approaches the crowd, which only get to take one step towards the warlord. With an expression that dwarfs their own anger, Cassidy leaves her baby holding her Tommy Gun and gently stroking the trigger. Not wanting to test their luck with the infamous mercenary, the people part and let the two women go into the train. It is not long before they appear on the roof where Katie calmly walks over to Tyler. She is booed when she helps him to his feet, but the complaints stop as soon as she presses her shotgun against the side of his head.
“Here’s a megaphone for you to tell them what you were planning,” the warlord whispers while waving to Lloyd behind her back. Sensing some resistance, she moves the businessman to the edge of the train and tosses Luca a pistol. “This is either a confession or an execution. Well, you’ll probably die no matter what. At least talking first means you get to reveal the truth. If you want, I can make something up that will drag you and your family through the mud. Nobody really knows who was behind the D.C. destruction after the collapse. Odd that a Portland bartender was in Virginia on business around that time. Do you have any loved ones left in this country?”
“I might have two sisters out there, but I never found them,” Tyler replies, feeling utterly defeated. Dropping his pocket watch, he holds up the megaphone and laughs at the angry faces staring at him. “This city is a festering wound on the country. My wife and son were devoured by whatever lurks here. I came home to finding everything I loved taken from me and nobody seemed to care about the loss of life. I wandered in search of answers, but only met jokes and suggestions to get on with my life. So, I planned on purging it from the face of the planet. What better way than with a train that people would praise as a step toward normalcy? Such a thing will never return to the Shattered States. I know that now more than ever because I surrounded myself with pathetic people like you. Throughout this entire trip, I’ve watched my esteemed guests kill, manipulate, betray, and indulge every urge like my creation was some moving den of iniquity. This is why I picked all of you for this trip. Nobody would miss a pack of miscreants like the Unsupervised or those cannibal butchers who many of you knew were serving human steaks. Even though you weren’t part of my plan, I was excited that I could eliminate the Duchess of LaSalle and those psychopaths she calls friends. My plan would have worked to if I didn’t hire such a disloyal bitch like-”
Three gunshots go off as Katie, Luca, and Cassidy shoot Tyler in the head, which makes it look like his skull explodes. A few puffs of black pepper drift off his back and everyone looks at Lloyd, who is holding out his paintball gun. Smiling at the attention, the serial killer hurries to catch the body by the waistband and tosses it off the other side of the train. He hears a loud sneeze behind him and turns to find that Katie’s face is covered in crimson gore and black powder. Taking off his shirt, he gingerly offers it as a towel and relaxes when the stressed warlord fights to restrain her laughter.
“Let me guess. You thought it was time you got to hit the last bad guy since Cassidy usually gets to do it,” Katie whispers with a smirk. Patting her grinning boyfriend on the cheek, she walks to the edge of the train and pulls out a piece of paper. “All of you have questions and I hope I’m about to give you the answers. As you just heard, Tyler planned on killing all of us, but it really doesn’t matter what his reasons are. Unlike him, we’re not going to dwell on the deceased. Instead, we’ll look at the future, which is what I’m offering you now. Since he expected to die and take the train with him, our dear Mr. McHale signed a contract with me that gave me full ownership of the Holly Sage Express in the event of his demise. If his plan succeeded then I would be either dead or the owner of wreckage, but he underestimated those I call friends. I will be honoring all of the promises made to his donors and deliver a semi-free ride back home. Considering this line is now mine, I will be asking that we create some new deals involving transport and maintenance. All of this can be discussed during our uneventful journey back home. We will be departing as soon as Bart uses his drones to call those with cars back to the train. It wouldn’t be fair for them to miss out on what will be a much more enjoyable journey. After all, I have plenty of evidence to prove Tyler was behind all of the misfortunes in order to cover his plan to kill us. Please get onboard and the staff, who are set to get a sizable raise, will help you with laundry, cleaning, and whatever else you need. This includes candy and movies for the kids in the theater car.”
“I hope you’re not planning on me staying as the conductor,” Bart says as Katie turns away from the crowd. The inventor meets her pleading stare with a derisive snort and loud crack of his knuckles. “Don’t give me that look. I still need a ride home, so I’ll be here until we get back to Minot. Plenty of time for me to train a few of your new employees. This woman named Deby has a knack for the controls. By the way, it’s really strange that Tyler signed that thing. Not sure when he would have had the time. Then again, I’ve never been much of a businessman. Probably takes a lot less effort than I imagine. Give me a few hours to get the others back and we should be good to go by the evening. I’ll have to send a team out to repair the tracks too. Somebody decided to throw the explosives out the back instead of flipping the off switch that I tried to tell them about after I recognized the design.”
“I understand. Thanks for everything that you’re willing to do on my behalf,” the warlord says with a curtsey. Turning to her friends, she puts her shotgun away and stands with her hands behind her back. “Well, this was a great trip. I have a new business, my biggest rival is dead, I have an impressive bodyguard, had plenty of Lloyd time, and made so many deals that I might need to hire an assistant. Oh, I’m hoping to pick up new passengers as we travel back to cover supplies and fuel. Might run into trouble when we get back into Great Falls, but I was hoping to send you three ahead to . . . Forget being coy. Please kill Meister Groves because I don’t want him causing me any trouble. Anyway, Cassidy and Luca will be sharing a room. It’s entirely about space and I trust you will be more careful.”
“You do realize that I’ll be checking everything for cameras, right?” Cassidy asks, her eyes flitting toward Luca. She notices that the bounty hunter is oddly tense and blushing, the taller woman’s embarrassment oddly adorable. “We’ll behave. I plan on resting for as much of this trip as I can. This is a vacation where the only thing I want to fight is a hangover. Let Lloyd take care of Groves because I have better things to do. By that I mean my baby needs a lot of attention and tender loving care.”
“I can’t tell if she’s talking about me or the jeep,” Luca quietly mutters. Realizing what she said, she meets the mercenary’s amused stare. “I’m still not sure what’s going on here, so we’ll play it by ear. For now, I’m going to take a bath and get some sleep. All that electricity has made me achy and drained. Surprised I haven’t collapsed yet. Just give me a few hours and I’ll be back on the job, Katie.”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Cassidy mentions as she stretches her arms over her head. A firm slap on her butt causes the mercenary to whirl around and she briefly catches an impish smirk on Luca’s face. “Might have created a monster here, but we’ll see if that’s a good or bad thing. Hey, Lloyd, do you have a strange feeling about all of this? I mean, everything seems to be straightened up nice and neat.”
Lloyd heads in the opposite direction of Katie and beckons for his partner to follow. “I know what you mean. Who would have thought a guy named Tyler was a villain? It doesn’t really strike me as evil or underhanded. Now, Kevin is a name that just screams sinister criminal mastermind. Oh, I guess you’re talking about that mysterious contract and not making a joke that’s taken us far too long to reach. Honestly, I saw those papers on the desk about a week ago, but they were unsigned. Didn’t think much of it, but we’ve both been busy. If Tyler didn’t plan on anyone getting out alive then he would have gone along with this to keep Katie and us on the train. Consider it a gamble that didn’t pay off for him.”
“It’s not just that.”
“The Bulbosas taking the key in the first place?”
“Among other things.”
“Do you really think most of what we dealt with was put together by Katie in order to eliminate rivals, increase her supply lines, and gain ownership of the only working train outside of Nebraska?”
“Do you think she’s capable of that?”
“Oh, without a doubt, which is why she currently scares the shit out of me.”
Cassidy glances back at the departing warlord and feels her mouth go dry. “Me too. I’m so glad she’s on our side. Whatever you do, Lloyd, do not break her heart. We probably wouldn’t survive it.”
“Way ahead of you. Bought these little buzzing things that you can-”
“Shut the fuck up, Lloyd.”