Serial Saturday: Nightmare Engine of Doom Part 17 – A Dangerous Distraction

Enzo spent the next hour whipping the assembled men in the club car into a killing frenzy over anyone who would do such an ungentlemanly thing as to burst into a ladies’ sleeping compartment, and soon they’d forgotten all about the part about rooting through luggage. He shot me several grins and significant glances as he made his declamations, clearly enjoying himself.

“Now, perhaps we’re being hasty,” I said at one point. “It seems to me that the part where this fellow rooted through the ladies’ luggage is really the crime here. No doubt the incident in the sleeping compartment was a simple misunderstanding.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Enzo snapped. “How could anyone ‘accidentally’ burst into a sleeping compartment waving a gun around. He’d have to be a drooling idiot, barely capable of doing up his own britches to somehow do that by accident.”

“Not at all,” I replied. “One could easily fall into a compartment by accident. When the train lurched, perhaps. The luggage, on the other hand–there is no possibility of accident or innocent misunderstanding there. No, only the most vile of perverts would sink so low, no doubt one who was incapable of maintaining a proper human relationship.”

“A victimless crime!” Enzo shouted, leaping to his feet (which had the effect of making him shorter). “Examining a bit of luggage didn’t hurt anyone. Not like scaring those poor maidens half to death.”

“Gentlemen, settle down,” said one of the others gathered around the table. “What does it matter, which of the two crimes is worse? The same man perpetrated both, after all, and he’s dead now. Sit, and let’s have another drink to death of the wretched Presbyterian.”

Enzo and I settled into our chairs, glaring at one another.

“Besides,” the man continued, “clearly sniffing about in the luggage was worse.”

“Spoken like someone who often stumbles around in other people’s sleeping compartments,” Enzo snapped, gesturing with the glass he’d just picked up and splashing the man with bourbon.

“I say, steady on,” the heavyset man said. “There’s no need for insults, little fellow.”

“I’ll insult who I like, you tub of guts,” Enzo snarled, “and I’ll start with this…this…groper here.” He splashed more liquor on the other man as he spoke, and I could feel the crowd’s attitude turning (this would not be the last time I was to witness Enzo’s uncanny ability to first win over a crowd, then almost immediately alienate them, nor the last time I would see him dousing someone in alcohol, although thankfully he did not, in this instance, follow it up by lighting his target on fire, as was his wont). It was good, in a way, that Enzo seemed to have forgotten exactly who had done the stumbling around in the sleeping compartment, but he was not exactly maintaining the sort of low profile I associated with espionage work.

In another few moments, there was enough hostility in the car that chairs had been pushed back and we were all standing and staring at one another like gunslingers in the old west who had just discovered cheating at cards. I was torn between a desire to see Enzo get his comeuppance and and a vague sense that I should side with him since we were nominally allied in a common cause (this, too, was to be a feeling I was to experience again).

I had just decided I should probably save Enzo form being given a sound thrashing (and no doubt save several of his assailants from vicious injuries as well) and I was just trying to determine how I could extricate him without suffering damage, when the train began to slow.

Enzo and I exchanged a glance, and in a rush I remembered that we were moments from my revolver being turned over to the authorities.

Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on February 4, 2012.