Wanted: one plan

I was watching for it, so when Ben stumbled and his elbow flew out sideways, I caught it and kept it from cracking Jimmy's jaw.  Ben had only asked us so he could act all wounded when he accidentally did what he'd been wanting to do anyway.  I hadn't counted on Jimmy having figured this out for himself though, so I wasn't expecting Jimmy to be trying to block Ben's elbow too.  Jimmy's shoulder crashed into the middle of my back just as Ben pulled himself free of me, and I went over onto some of the packing crates like I'd been pole-axed.  The crates under me disintegrated, splinters shattering in all directions and the iron reinforced corners digging into me where I landed on them.  Oats spilled out everywhere, I gasped loudly as the wind went out of me, and someone banged on the door.

"Beelzebub's liquor, you animals best not be breaking things up in there!"  Charlie Best's voice was as clear as a bell.  "Either you come out now, with your hands in the air, or I'm coming in with Misters Smith and Wesson as my back-up."

"Take that, you rancid little pig," snarled Ben, glaring at Jimmy.  I started levering myself up from the floor, oats sliding under my hands as I tried to get a grip.

"Aarrgh!"  Jimmy's cry didn't sound quite right to me, but then I knew what was going on.  Ben kicked the sidewall hard, and Jimmy punched something that sounded solid.  They both shouted out in unison.  I'd got myself to my knees at this point, and was staring at something that had been hidden in the middle of the oats.  Almost automatically I swept it up and tucked into my inside pocket.  Ben pushed two more crates over, and yelled like the time he discovered that the barmaid was actually a barman -- we'd had to leave that inn in the middle of the night.  I stood up and tossed my gun to Jimmy.  I was sad to see it go, as there was a good chance I'd not see it again, but things had to look good.  Jimmy caught it, looking startled for a moment, then he levelled it at Ben who grinned, winked at him, and raised his hands.

"Dad!  Come on in, I've got them!"

"Boy, you're a bigger idiot than your mother, and she spent the last few years of her life licking windows.  You and your friends can come on out with your hands up, and this is your very last chance."

The look of pain on Jimmy's face said there was another story there, and that maybe the things I'd heard about Charlie Best were truer than I'd credited.  He pulled the door open, and backed out, keeping the gun pointed at Ben.

"You can put that down, and get on the floor."  The Sheriff wasn't buying it.  Jimmy turned round and offered the grip of the gun to his dad.

"I took them down, Dad.  I bought their friendship, got here with them, and now I've captured them.  I'm a hero, Dad."

Jimmy stared at his father, and the Sheriff stared back.  Ben started to reach into his pocket for a cigar, so I kicked his heels, reminding him that we were supposed to be subdued and betrayed.

"Fine."  There was no warmth in the Sheriff's voice.  He turned to his sidekicks.  "Lock those two," he gestured at us, "in the secure wagon.  My... son... can stay with us, but keep an eye on him."  He took the gun off Jimmy, and then held out his other hand.  "Any more weapons, James?  I'd hate for you to surprise me any more today."

Charlie frisked his own son while Ben and I were hustled into the compartment next door.  There were bars on the windows, and bars reinforcing the door as well.  All clearly put here to catch some train-robbers.  Luckily for us, his sidekicks were so amused by the Sheriff's distrust of him own son that they didn't bother to frisk us, relying on the bars to keep us out of trouble.  The door slammed closed, locking us in.

"Well, this isn't quite the compartment I had in mind for this trip," said Ben, reaching for his cigars. "What was it you found in those oats?"

I shouldn't have been surprised, Ben's got astonishingly good eyesight.  I pulled my finding back out of my pocket and passed it over.

"A map, and a keyring," I said.  "I don't think the loot was ever on this train."

The End

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