Clark finds the repetitive thumping of the train to be very relaxing even if the temperature is not. Being nearly August, he had thought by heading west he might escape the heat wave that is gripping the East Coast, but it seems to have stretched its fiery touch over the entire country.
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Clark sits in the smoking car with his face against an open window from which hot air is flooding in. He remembers hearing something about a machine that‘s able to "condition the air" so that gentlemen like himself will not be bathed in sweat on hot days like this, but unfortunately such device is still off in the future. For now, he must try to keep cool by waving his 10-gallon Stetson in front of his face, but it offers little comfort. Instead, he tries to focus on his job at hand.
He is currently on a trip to Kansas City. It seems the town is booming of late even if it is a bit lawless. His company, one of the top pistol and rifle distributors in the Philadelphia area, is considering a little expansion and a town as wild as Kansas City certainly could use a quality firearm distributor.
Of course, Clark carries a trunk full of their finest models. These shiny, accurate weapons sell themselves even if he doesn‘t know how to fire them. He glances out the window and takes in the beauty of the undeveloped countryside while considering how much profit he‘ll be able to pocket for himself.
However, his fantasies of newfound moneys are cut short by the sound of a distant rumble. At first, he thinks a thundercloud has raced up on the train, but when he looks to the sky, it is blue as far as he can see.
Still, the thunderous sound grows nearer as if its creator is almost on top of the train. Clark reaches for the pistol he keeps on his hip and gracefully pulls it from his holster. Now if he can only remember how to load the damn thing, it may just be of some use.
Then a rifle‘s shot fills the air, and Clark drops the weapon to the ground. He sees it slide forward just as he feels the train beginning to come to a stop. Risking another peak out the window his worst fears are realized as he sees five rough looking men with bandanas pulled up over their faces yelling orders to the train’s conductors.
Clark reaches the tip of his hand crafted boot under the seat in front of him and fishes for his pistol. As he bends forward to retrieve the weapon a small bead of sweat finds the end of his nose and drops slowly to the ground. Fumbling hopelessly with the pistol he attempts in vain to load a few rounds into the revolver. Clark curses under his breath at his deceased Father, who had spent more time fostering Clark’s love for reading than teaching him to shoot.
He quickly abandons the attempt at loading the firearm as the realization strikes him, that even if he could load it, he doubted very much that he would have the ability or the intestinal fortitude to shoot anyone. He stared down at the pistol thinking how useless it was now to have read all the works of Shakespeare and even the recent, albeit, critically acclaimed works of Charles Dickens. If he had spent more Saturday’s out in the back yard shooting can’s with his schoolmates instead of reading, he might be equipped to handle such a situation. It was then that he remembered a quote he had read in a novel long since forgotten... “A man who does not use the gifts God has bestowed him is a fool, destined to die a fool’s death.”
With that Clark stood abruptly, replacing his pistol in it’s holster. He reached for his Stetson and cocked it slightly forward and to the left (a position that he had come to call his “Selling slant”) Straightening his jacket he approached the front of the train car and exited onto the tracks.
As Clark approached the five men, he identified one as the leader. The man wore a dark black hat, sweat stains clearly showed through the brim and dust had long since found it’s home on his clothing. Black hat was clearly in charge as he was the one holding the rifle and barking orders at the train conductor. He was also the one who turned first as Clark approached. Black hat leveled his rifle at Clark’s chest “Mr. you best turn around and go back the way you came, less you want to end up dead.”
“No Sir, I have come to make you a proposition that I think will serve both our purposes quite nicely.” Clark said continuing his approach.
Black hat pulled the trigger of his rifle and a shot rang out. The dust flew up approximately two feet in front of Clark, covering him in a fine cloud of dirt. He did not flinch and he did not retreat. After all, Clark had already adjusted his Stetson to his “Selling Slant” and once that was done, taking no for an answer was not an option. Besides, being an arms distributor, Clark had been shot at more than once. Although he was not much of a shooter himself, he had become quite accustom to bullets whizzing by his head.
Clark stood a bit taller and reached up with his hand, brushing dust from his coat he again started. “Sir, I can understand your apprehensions and I can further understand your limited time, but If you will just allow me a moment of that valuable time I assure you it will be worth your while.”
Black hat stared at Clark as if searching for something in his face. Clark stood firm and stared directly back at Black hat. The other’s in Black hat’s group sat atop their horses looking at their leader, awaiting his decision. The air hung hot and deadly still for a moment, then one of Black hat’s eyebrows began to curiously rise as a smile formed on his face. He placed his rifle back into the holster on his saddle and stepped down from his horse.
“I do believe I like you Mister.” Black hat said as he approached Clark. “I didn’t catch your name though.”
“Clark Samuelson, of Arkerson Arms of Philadelphia. One of the finest distributor’s of Pistol’s and Rifles on the East coast, pleased to meet your acquaintance Sir.”
“And Mr. Samuelson, what is this proposition you think will keep me from killing you here on this stretch of tracks?”
“My proposition is simple, I have 12 of the finest rifles known to man on board this train. I would be willing to sell them to you and your men at a greatly reduced cost.”
“And why would I buy your rifles when I could kill you and take them free of charge?”
Black hat asked, as his smile grew wider.
“Although you certainly could kill me you would miss out on the opportunity of a life time and by your look you appear a man who does not miss an opportunity when properly presented!”
“And what is this opportunity of a life time?”
“I happen to know that a fellow salesman is carrying a shipment of gold and precious gems worth a hundred times what you will find on this train. I had a drink with him in the last town and he informed me he would be along on the next train and promised to meet up with me in Kansas City.” “That train is expected here in no more than an hour.”
“And why would I not rob this train and then wait for the other and rob it as well.” Black hat asked, thinking he had Clark this time.
Clark smiled back at Black hat “Dear Sir, if the train I am presently riding does not arrive in Kansas City at it’s appointed time, surely some form of Law will be riding up the tracks to see what has occurred.”
Black hat lifted his hat and using his sleeve wiped sweat from his brow. “And even if I were to buy your rifles and await this other train, what is to say that you, or others on the train wouldn’t warn the Sheriff upon reaching Kansas City?”
“Here is how I see our present situation, first of all no crime has been committed other than a crime of inconvenience.” “No one has been hurt and no property has been taken.”
“Secondly, If I were to make a sale of these rifles to you fine gentlemen, I would certainly explain to the other passengers that the only thing that had occurred here today was an exchange of cash for goods made in good faith.”
“And how do I know you are not lying about the other salesman on the next train?”
“Let’s say for a moment that I am lying and that there is no other salesman.” “The worst that could happen would be that you gentlemen would buy fine quality rifles at a fair price, and would then be better equipped to rob the next train which, even if I’m lying, would have as much profit as could be made off the present train.”
Black hat rubbed his beard and looked at the ground, considering the proposition. “I’m not sure I can trust you Mr. Samuelson.”
“I’ll tell you what” Clark said fishing around in his front pocket and pulling out a gold watch. “I will give you my dearly departed Daddy’s pocket watch, which he gave me on his death bed as a token of my good will.” “If everything I have said here today is not the God’s honest truth, you will not only have the loot from the coming train, but also this fine gold watch to keep as your own.” “However, if what I have told you is true and you recover the gold and precious gems from the coming train, I would greatly appreciate you leaving my Daddy’s watch with the conductor of the coming train, so that I may retrieve it once he arrives in Kansas City.”
Black hat took the watch and opened the face. The inscription on the inside of the watch read “Awarded to Andrew Samuelson for 20 years of faithful service”. Black hat felt the weight of the watch for a moment, then placed the watch in his pocket and extended his hand. “Mr., provided the price of your rifles are as good as your story...you have yourself a deal.”
As Clark’s train pulled into Kansas City he reached into his suitcase. He pulled out a soft cotton bag containing fifteen or so gold pocket watches. Pulling one from the bunch he opened the face of the watch to check the time. The inscription on the inside read “Awarded to Andrew Samuelson for 20 years of faithful service”. As he exited the train he approached the man at the ticket window and asked
“Excuse me Sir, where might I find the Sheriff’s Office?”
It wasn't my fault...I fell asleep and missed my stop.