Union Pacific Rail Lines, Wyoming Territory, April 1883
Dalton Babcock lifted his .45 Colt from its holster and checked the chambers. As always, his weapon was loaded and ready, as was the gun that rested heavily on his other hip. Two loaded shotguns hidden on a bunk in the musty train car were extra insurance and within easy reach.
In three hours, the Union Pacific was due to stop at the LoganMeadows depot to take on water and exchange a few passengers. From there it would continue on to Seattle and then San Francisco, stopping at a dozen small, nondescript towns along the way. His journey was halfway complete.
Gazing out the small two-by-two window, Dalton took a deep breath and held the stale air in his lungs. The rough terrain, with the endless pines and large granite outcrops of rock whisking by outside, made a stark contrast to the three locked boxes behind him, filled with freshly printed one-hundred-dollar bills, said to total over a million dollars.
Thump, thump, thump. The knock at the door was right on schedule.
Grasping the heavy steel–enforced window guard, Dalton closed it, then threw the lock. He went to the door at the front of the car. “Yeah?”
“It’s Evan, come to relieve you.”
Dalton recognized his coworker’s gravelly voice. “Echo, Echo . . .”
“. . . river black,” came the coded reply.
Each day of the week, the color of the code changed, in an effort to keep the First Bank of Denver’s assets safe until they arrived in San Francisco. One million dollars was enticing to outlaws and law-abiding citizens alike. The guards had been instructed to protect the cargo at all costs.
Dalton unbolted the lock, and then lifted the bar. Evan slid inside as Dalton stepped onto the small platform between the connected cars, the rush of cool air brisk. The door was not to remain unlocked for more than a few seconds.
“Get some grub and hot coffee,” Evan said. “Once we reachLogan Meadows I’ll need both you and Pat”—he gestured toward the roof, where the third guard patrolled—“on high alert.”
“On my way.”
The door banged closed.
Dalton passed through the cattle cars, watching where he stepped, then through the luggage and cargo cars, the chugging of the train now so commonplace it went unnoticed. Once in the passenger cars he nodded to anyone who looked his way. Taking a seat at a table in the dining car, he put in an order and waited for his fare. Twenty minutes and three cups of coffee later, he felt the urgency within that always unsettled him right before a scheduled stop. He’d return to the money car and take his position on the outside landing.
Picking up the pencil, he signed the tag for his employer to pay, then stood at the exact moment a forceful jolt rocked the train, knocking him off his feet.Return to Under A Falling Star