Read Part I at http://ijparnham.blogspot.com/
Read Part II at http://jacksopenrange.blogspot.com/
As Walt Arnside walked toward Silas Bartlett’s private car, his back seemed to straighten and his shoulders grow broader. His iron gray hair and close-cropped beard no longer marked him as a weak old man. Instead, his strides were firm and steady. A slight smile appeared on his face.
“Wait. Wait,” Cox cried. “You can’t just barge into Mr. Bartlett’s private car.”
Arnside never broke stride. “I can,” he said. “And I will. Get your crew back on that iron horse. In two minutes this train’d better be making up lost time, or if I know Silas Bartlett, you all will be looking for new jobs down the line.”
Merrell and Jerome jogged for the engine, and Henry Cox struggled across the sandy ground toward the passenger cars. Walt Arnside stepped up into the vestibule of the red-and-white Bartlett car. Less than a minute later, the steam whistle blew and the four-foot driver wheels of the locomotive began to turn.
Arnside stopped a moment outside the door to Bartlett’s car. The train moved out and each car clunked against its couplings in protest. He drew his .45 Peacemaker, turned the gilded knob, and pushed the door open as he stepped to the left, behind the door frame.
“That you, Straight? Come on in. Just me and the ghosts in here.”
A little smile showed on Arnside’s lips again. He shoved the Colt back into the well-worn holster that rode his right hip, and entered the well-lit Pullman.
“Put ‘er there,” Barlett said, his hand held out.
Arnside reached across the mahogany desk and firmly grasped his friend’s hand. “Long time no see, Scoot,” he said.
“Much too long, Straight. You still packing a star?”
“Nah. Too old for hard work. Never was as quick as you, Scoot.”
“Don’t mind if I do.” Arnside knew Bartlett would get around to telling him the reason for this strange visit when he was good and ready, and not before. Besides, he had no owlhoots to run down, no rustlers to catch, no wife to tie him down . . . no nothing. Waiting weighed easy on a man with nothing.
Bartlett poured four fingers of Jim Beam’s good whiskey into two of his fine glasses, all sparkles and facets. He handed one to Arnside, took one himself. He lifted the glass. “To memories past,” he said, “and adventures to come.”
“Hear, Hear,” said Arnside, one eyebrow raised. He clicked glasses with Bartlett and sipped the whiskey. It was real. The aroma filled his head and the heat of 80 proof Kaintuck lightning worked its way down his throat and into his guts. Fine stuff.
For a while, the two old friends tippled Jim Beam and communicated with the ghosts of times past. “Whatcha got up your sleeve, Scoot?” Arnside asked at last.
Bartlett leaned forward as if he wanted no one else to hear. “I know where there’s a Spanish treasure ship,” he said. “On dry land.”