Tag: western

Agents of the Vault – Part 6

Part 6 of Agents of the Vault.  Charlie & Grisom ride after the men that stole the trunk.

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Agents of the Vault
Part 6
By Grant Baciocco

It took Grisom and Charlie a bit of time to find out exactly which way Leland and his men had gone as the spooked horse pulling the cart had run wildly for about half a mile.  They were finally able to find where the bandits had regrouped and moved on.  About an hour into the ride Doris began fidgeting in the saddle bag.  Charlie clicked his tongue three times and Doris sprung out and climbed up onto his shoulder.  She looked at him sheepishly in the lantern light.

“You’re fine.” Charlie said to her with a grin.  “You were just trying to make sure he didn’t get away.  You’re not in trouble.”

Doris let out a whistle of relief and scampered to Charlie’s other shoulder.  Charlie looked sideways at her, “Let us know if we’re getting close to anyone.”  Doris gave a little salute and nodded.  She then lifted her nose into the air and began sniffing.

Doris was what the indians called a ‘prairie fire.’  A breed of fur covered dragon that was native to North America.  Even in their most bountiful times, hundreds of years ago, they were very rare.  Most indians only spoke of them in legends.  The prairie fire feared any sort of contact with humans and, with their amazing digging ability, would dive underground at the first sight of one.

Indians passed down stories of those days when ancestors said that at night balls of fire would rise in the dark on the prairie, especially during the summer months.  This was the prime mating season for the creatures.  No one ever witnessed this event, however.  How Doris came to be with Charlie was a tale so mixed in legend, no one could be sure what was true or not.

The story goes that about sixty years ago there’d been a terrible drought on the prairie.  Herds of buffalo were wiped out, colonies of prairie dogs were decimated.  Every living creature was starved for water.  A rider named Thurman Rawlings had been crossing a particularly dry patch of the prairie when he came across a huge hole dug deep into the ground.  As he rode up to it, a patch of dirt in the center began to move and a skinny, weakened ‘prairie fire’ crawled out of the hole towards him.  Thurman was frightened, until he realized this creature, whatever it was, trying to communicate with him.  He cautiously got off his horse and knelt in the dirt and the creature limped it’s way towards him.

Seeing the that creature was obviously dying of thirst, he began to unscrew his canteen.  He held it out and the creature hesitated.  Thurman drank a little from the canteen to show that it was okay, and held it back out to the prairie fire.  The creature shook it’s head and pushed the canteen aside with it’s weakened paw.  Thurman then watched as the creature reached into a pouch, much like a kangaroo has, and produced a tiny, gray egg.  Looking down at the egg, the mother tenderly stroked it and then, looking up at Thurman, held it out to him with outstretched paws.

Thurman gingerly reached forward and the mother gently placed the egg in his hands.  She stroked it one more time and looked up at Thurman.  Thurman nodded.  The creature nodded in return and took a few steps back.  Thurman brought the egg close and looked at it, then looked back at the mother.  She had collapsed on the prairie floor.  Dead.  Thurman went to reach out to her and her body slowly turned to ash before his eyes, and blew away in the wind.  Thurman looked down at the egg in his hand and gingerly placed it into the saddle bag over his shoulder.  The same saddle bag that Charlie now carried with him.  Thurman was Charlie’s great-grandfather.

Thurman had taken the egg with him and cared for it best he could, but kept it a sworn secret, only letting his wife know about it.  They’d hatched the small creature, naming it Doris after Thurman’s mother and tried to raise it.  Several times after the drought, Thurman returned to the spot in the prairie where he’d first received the egg, with the hopes of returning Doris to the wild.  He’d never found another sign of the creatures anywhere and even in talking to the local indians, they believed the ‘prairie fire’ was merely a legend.  So Doris became the family secret.  The family’s secret pet.

Charlie had known Doris for as long as he’d been alive.  They’d become inseparable as soon as Charlie could walk.  They had a bond that transcended other human animal bonds.  Almost as if they could communicate without a word.

As Charlie and Grisom continued into the night, Charlie tilted his head to the side, bumping into Doris’ who chirped softly and pressed her head back against his.

Grisom and Charlie had followed the trail through the early morning hours.  The lantern gave out about an half hour before the sun began to rise, but the trail had been easy to follow as the bandits had followed a river for several miles.

Not too long after, the river flowed into a deep valley.  Grisom stopped near the entrance and waited for Charlie and Doris to ride up.

“My guess is they are holed up in there.” Grisom said, indicating the valley.  Charlie looked ahead, but couldn’t see anything except lush green trees on either side of the river.  Grisom continued, “Perfect place to hide out, they can watch either end of the valley and see anyone entering it from either side.”

Charlie nodded.  “What do we do?”

Grisom looked around.  “Let’s leave the horses tied up here and climb up the side there to see if we can look down into the valley and spot them.  Plan out a way to get down.  Seems the safest way.”

Charlie nodded again.  He clicked his tongue three times and looked at Doris.  Doris gave Charlie a sad look and let out a whine.  Charlie clicked his tongue again three times, but this time a little more forcefully.  Doris sighed and slipped across Charlie’s shoulders and slide down his arm and, reluctantly, crawled into the saddle bag.

Grisom watched her slide into the bag and then looked up at Charlie.  “Keep her under control this time.  We don’t need any outbursts like before.”

Charlie nodded.

“Though.” Grisom said, scratching his chin.  “It’s possible that we may need her services if things get hairy.  Let’s get a move on before those bandits get too curious about that trunk.”

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

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Agents of the Vault – Part 5

Part 5 of Agents of the Vault.

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Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

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Agents of the Vault
Part 5
By Grant Baciocco

Using bribes and threats in Kingsley, Jane and her men had determined that Grisom and Charlie had hopped the train to Yankton.  They’d actually been lucky enough to catch the very next train and were only half a day behind them by rail.  At the water stop roadhouse, the same water stop roadhouse where Grisom and Charlie had met Brandle, they received the news.

A small, mole of a man man from the train company had come into the dining hall and asked for attention.  “Folks, make sure you stock up on food here.  We’re aren’t going to stop until Yankton after this.  There was a robbery last night on the train ahead of us, so we need to make it through the territory fast.”  A murmur went through the crowd as people wondered what exactly had happened.

Jane threw down her napkin and stood from the table following the railroad man out the door of the roadhouse dining hall.

“’S’cuse me.” She called after him.  “Sir!”

The man stopped and turned.

“Yes ma’am?” the train man asked as Jane strolled right up to him and got in his face.

“Tell me more about this robbery.” She ordered.

“Ma’am, that is railroad business and as such I cannot—“

Jane cut him off by holding a silver badge up, inches from his nose.  “I’m a Pinkerton.  Tell me about the robbery.”

“Ah, yes, sorry, ma’am.  I’m afraid I don’t know much other than what the telegram said.” The railroad man sputtered. “As far as I’ve heard a group of bandits stopped the train and stole a chest of gold bound for the bank in Yankton.”

“That it?  I want ALL the details.”

The man fidgeted with his pocketwatch, “Ah, well, apparently two men, uh, passengers, had a confrontation with the bandits but most of them escaped.  One of the bandits was apprehended after he was bitten by a snake that paralyzed him.”

“Doris.” Jane whispered.

“What’s that?” the railroad man asked.

“Nothing.  Continue.” Jane barked.

“Well that’s it.  Excepting that the two men who’d had tried to stop the robbery took horses and went after them.”

Jane raised an eyebrow in question, “To get the gold back?”

“Ah, no actually.  Apparently the bandits had made off with an item of theirs as well.  An item that belonged to the two passengers” The railroad man replied.  “So they went after to retrieve it.  The train then continued on to Yankton.”

“You in touch by telegram to your office?”

“Yes ma’am.  Of course.”

“Tell them you want the approximate coordinates of where the robbery happened.  Tell them that this train is going to stop there too.”

“But ma’am, I—“

“Me and my men will get off there and we’ll need our horses from the livestock car.  We’re going after them.”

“Well, ma’am, we’re supposed to get to Yankton by—

Jane putted out a bank note from her pocket.  “Here’s one hundred dollars.  Make it happen.”

The railroad man looked at the money.  He quickly grabbed it from her hand, “Right away ma’am.” Then he turned and ran to the train office.

Jane watched him go, then turned back towards the dining hall.  Her mouth a solid straight line of frustration.  Grisom had slipped away too many times.  She wanted to get within firing range.


©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

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Agents of the Vault – Part 4

Part 4 of Agents of the Vault.

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version of this part to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit www.patreon.com/saturdaymorningmedia

Agents of the Vault
Part 4
By Grant Baciocco

It was pitch black when the train came to a sudden, lurching stop, sending the occupants of the passenger cars tumbling forward.  Charlie instinctively grabbed the saddle bag as he woke, making sure it was secure.  He stood and looked at Grisom who was picking himself up off the ground.  “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know,” replied Grisom.  “Something’s wrong.  Train’s don’t make unscheduled stops in the middle of the night.  But get your gun ready.”

Charlie’s saddle bag shifted.  A whistle fluttered out.  Charlie’s hand quickly grabbed the side of the bag.  “Easy Doris.  Easy.”

Grisom looked towards the back of the car, “Let’s step outside and see what we can see.”  He then nodded towards the bag, “Keep her quiet.”

Charlie reached into the bag and stroked the soft fur of the creature that huddled inside of it as he followed Grisom down the train’s aisle towards the back of the car.  Passengers were busy standing, readjusting luggage and wondering what had happened.  They peered out of the windows and into the darkness as Grisom and Charlie passed them and chattered amongst themselves, throwing out possible theories for the train’s sudden stop.

Charlie and Grisom went out the door at the back of the car and Grisom motioned towards the ladder leading to the roof of the freight car behind the car they’d come out of.  They ascended and once on the roof, they crept along the top, keeping low so they couldn’t be seen by anyone of the ground.  They could see torches lighting the area around the door of the freight car on the left side of the train.  On their bellies now, they slid forward just enough to see over the edge of the roof.

Three men on horses with torches and bandanas around their faces waited near the freight car door.

Charlie whispered, “Are those Jane’s men?”

Grisom shrugged, indicating he didn’t know.  Just then, from one of the passenger cars further up the train, came some shouting.  Grisom and Charlie looked to their right and saw a fourth bandit on horseback forcing another man to walk towards the freight car.  As the two figures came closer, Charlie and Grisom could see it was Mr. Brandle.  His mouth was running non stop.

“—The truth!  There’s no gold on this train.” Brandle pleaded.

The man on horseback kicked him further along the side of the train.  “Be quiet and keep walking.  We know there is gold on this here train.  Our man in Yankton says so.  Also says that you, Mr. Brandle, have the only key that can release the trunk with the gold from the special slot on the train floor.”

Brandle was a bundle of stuttering now.  “Ab-ab-ab-surd!  Why the thought of it is outrageous.  I have told you that there is no gold, why are you so reluctant to not believe me.”  They were now standing at the door of the freight car.

In one quick motion, the man on the horse leaned down and knocked Brandle out cold with the butt of his revolver.  Brandle fell with a splat in the dirt next to the train.  “Jimmy, search this fat jasper for any keys he’s got on him.” The man on horseback barked.

Jimmy hopped down of his horse and turned Brandle over.  His pockets were rifled through and the bandit came out with a set of keys on a ring.  He held them up for the leader to see.

“Buck, help Jimmy get that door open and get in there.  It ain’t gonna be long before one of the passengers gets the fool notion to try and take us on.  We don’t need blood spilled tonight.  Let’s just get the gold and git.”

“RIght Leland,” one of the other men said as he hopped down from his horse to help Jimmy open the freight car doors.  The leader slipped his hand under his bandana and gave two short, sharp whistles.  As the whistles echoed in the darkness, Doris began shifting uneasily in the saddle bag to Charlie’s left.

Charlie reached a hand down into the bag and whispered, “Shhhhh.  Easy girl.”

Suddenly a creaking could be heard approaching the train in the darkness.  Charlie and Grison strained to see just what was going on.  Below them they felt the door of the freight car rumble open and heard Jimmy and Buck clanking about inside.  After a minute, a horse drawn cart entered the flickering ring of light the torches were casting on the prairie floor.

The man driving brought the cart around in a wide circle so that the bed of the cart was even with the floor of the freight cart.  As he did, Grisom and Charlie heard Buck and Jimmy straining as they lifted the gold chest across the freight car floor and into the back of the wagon.

Leland looked around.  “Okay, now let’s get to riding.  This has taken way too long.”

“Leland?” came Jimmy’s voice from inside the freight car.

“What is it Jimmy?  I said let’s get moving.”

“You gotta see this.”

Grisom shifted uneasily next to Charlie.  “The trunk.” He whispered softly.

“What the hell are you flapping on about?” said Leland as he brought his horse closer to the door of the freight car.

“This trunk.  Look at all the fancy markings on it.  Looks expensive.  Old, but expensive.”

Leland held his torch in through the door of the freight car and peered inside.  After regarding the trunk for a moment, he pulled his horse back.  “Bring it.  We’ll open it later.”

Charlie turned towards Grisom, “What do we do?”

“What can we do?  We can’t let them take the trunk.”  Grisom slid back from the edge of the car quietly, Charlie followed his lead.  Grisom had his guns out checking to see that they were loaded.  “Charlie, you slide off the other side of the car here and go at them from underneath.  I’ll distract them until you get down there.  We gotta be fast, if they take off we’ll lose them in the dark.”

“But, what should we—“

Grisom cut him off.  “No time.  Go!” Then Grisom stood up on top of the car and walked to the edge with his guns drawn. “All right, hold it!”

Charlie scrambled off the far side of the car as he heard the men shout in confusion at Grisom’s words.

Leland looked up at Grisom, “Listen old man, we don’t want any trouble.  We’re just going to take these things and be on our way.”

“You can take the gold.  Leave that other trunk.”

There was a moment of silence.

Leland looked at the trunk then back up at Grisom, “Well now, old timer, your protectiveness of the trunk makes me very curious as to what could be inside.”

“A writing desk.  Some papers.  I’ll open it and show it to you if you’d like.” Came Grisom’s reply.  Charlie was now under the train by one of the sets of wheels.  He was near Leland, but realized he didn’t have a clear shot unless he broke cover.  In the saddle bag, Doris was shifting nervously with the tension she felt in the air.

“Something tells me there’s more to what’s inside that trunk than just a writing desk and some papers.  So I think we’ll take it along with us.”

“I’d hate to see you do that, because then I’d have to kill you.”

Another moment of silence and then Leland and his men busted out laughing.

“Kill me?  You do realize you are seriously outgunned at the moment?”

“I may be.  Or I may not be.  I may have you surrounded.  You can’t be sure.”

Leland pulled the reigns of his horse back, starting the animal in walking backwards, while keeping a gun on Grisom.

“You can’t be sure that we don’t have this entire train surrounded.” Leland said, still slowly backing up.  He reached a hand under his bandana again and gave a long sharp whistle.

Suddenly from out in the darkness came the sound of a shotgun firing.  Grisom heard pellets hit the back of the train car behind him.  He fell flat to the floor.  Under the car, Charlie spun around to try to see where in the darkness the shot had come from.  As he did, his saddle bag shifted and Doris came tumbling out.

Doris was a small creature similar to a koala bear.  Gray, fuzzy, but with huge black eyes taking up the sides of her head.  She had a long prehensile tail that she curled around her like a ball as she tumbled from the bag.  She landed on all fours with her back arched like a cat, ready to attack.  He long incisors glistening in the torch light.  Her long claws digging into the wooden railroad tie she landed near.  A low whistle coming from her mouth.  Being so small none of the men noticed her.  Charlie realized she was out and was just about to whisper for her to return to the bag when the horse that was pulling the cart caught wind of her and reared back with a loud whinny.  Doris replied with a small puff of fire from her mouth that frightened the horse even more and made it bolt.  The man at the reigns of the cart, completely unawares of what had happened, held on for dear life as the cart sped off, full tilt, into the darkness.

Buck, who had been standing on the back of the cart when it began moving tumbled to the ground and landed next to Brandle’s, still unmoving, body.  The other bandits panicked in the commotion, and began to take off, firing wildly in the direction of Grisom and the train.

“Let’s go!  Follow the cart!” Leland barked as he turned his horse.  Buck had scrambled to get up and chased after the cart as it rumbled away.  He reached it just as it disappeared into the darkness and hauled himself up onto the flatbed back.

Jimmy, seeing his partner’s flight, scrambled out of the freight car and dashed for his horse.  Doris saw this and leapt forward, sinking her teeth into Jimmy’s calf.  Jimmy tumbled to the ground instantly paralyzed.

Charlie, scrambled out from under the train car, “Doris!  Bag!”

Doris looked towards Charlie, her teeth still firmly in Jimmy’s leg.

“Doris, bag NOW!” said Charlie sharply.

With a sad chirp, Doris released her bite hold Jimmy’s leg and scrambled off, across the dusty prairie floor, towards Charlie.  She gracefully climbed up Charlie’s leg and scurried into the saddlebag.  Charlie walked towards where Jimmy was lying down on the ground, still breathing.  His eyes were still able to move and he was awake, but he was completely paralyzed.  Charlie knelt next to him.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine in about an hour’s time.” Said Charlie to the, obviously, panicked Jimmy.  Charlie looked back toward the car and saw Grisom climbing down off of it and walking his way.  He also saw the conductor and others were now making their way to the scene of the action.  One person was helping Brandle up off the ground.

“She got out when the shots fired from behind us,” said Charlie, indicating the bag.  “Spooked their horse.”

“We’re going to have to go after them.  They have the trunk.”  Grisom replied, shaking his head, clearly frustrated.

The Conductor made his way up to them.  His lantern spilling light every which way.  “Is that one of them?” he asked.

Grisom nodded as he stood.

“He dead?” the conductor queried.

“No.” Grisom replied.  “Bit in the leg by a rattler.”

The conductor peered down at the fallen bandit.  He saw the puncture wounds in the leg.  “Looks too wide to be a rattler.”

“Well it was,” Grisom replied.  “I saw it slither off.”

“Hmmm.  Well you two best get back on the train.  Engineer wants to move out as soon as possible.”

“We aren’t going back.  Those men made off with our trunk and we aim to get it back.”  Grisom looked back at the train and the folks gathered around the freight car.  “We’ll take their horses.” Grisom said, indicating Buck and Jimmy’s steeds that were left behind after the skirmish.  He looked down at Jimmy, “Can you hold him on the train and turn him in at Yankton?”

The Conductor nodded.  “Not sure there’s a doctor on the train for his bite though.”

Grisom looked down and locked eyes with Jimmy.  “He’ll be fine.  I was able to get most of the poison out.  He’ll he right as rain in about an hour I imagine.”

The Conductor nodded again and whistled for two other train employees to come help him get Jimmy back to the train.  Grisom and Charlie walked to gather the horses.

“How we gonna know which way to go?  It’s pretty dark.” Charlie said.

“The wagon tracks should be pretty easy to follow.” Grisom replied.  “Hoping we can borrow a lantern from the train staff to light our way.”  Grisom stopped and turned to Charlie.  “We gotta get to them and get that trunk before they try to open it.”

Charlie nodded, “Or before they run into Jane.”

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

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Agents of the Vault – Part 3

Part 3 of Agents of the Vault.

If you want to subscribe to the Grantcast, you can do so with iTunes, or by using this feed in your favorite podcatcher.  Enjoy!  And let me know what you think of the story in the comments here, as we go along.

Also, if you prefer a PDF version to read, CLICK HERE for that.

Finally, if you’d like to support my projects, visit www.patreon.com/saturdaymorningmedia

Agents of the Vault
By Grant Baciocco

Part 3

At dusk, the train stopped at a water stop near the Kansas-Nebraska border, Grisom and Charlie hopped off the train to grab some food at a tiny roadhouse.  Grisom, as he always did, sat in a corner so he could keep an eye on the room’s entrances and the people coming and going through them.  A difficult task today as the roadhouse was packed.  Every seat was filled except for the two other chairs at the table where they now sat, Charlie’s saddle bag resting on the empty seat next to him.  Charlie did his best to cut through the leather tough pice of beef he and Grisom were splitting.  Grisom looked in his direction, seeing the displeasure on his companion’s face.

“Food will be better in Yankton.” The older man drawled between bites.  Charlie looked up and smiled.

“It’s fine.  Better than nothin’” Charlie replied.  He popped the piece of meat he’d managed to cut into his mouth and chewed.  His jaw popping with each gnashing of his teeth, doing their best to soften the meat.  As he chewed he scooped up a spoonful of the ice cold beans they’d been served and glanced around the room.  When he was sure no one was looking he  doled them out on the wooden seat next to him.  The saddlebag at his side began to shift and two fuzzy arms slipped out and began scooping in the beans.

Grisom leaned to his side to watch the beans disappear, then looked up at Charlie.  “How’s she doing?”

“Seems to be doing fine.  The train put her right out.”

“I reckon the train put us all right out.” Grisom replied, taking a sip off his coffee.  “Now once we get to Yankton we’ll—“

“Pardon me, sirs!” said a short, pear shaped man with large handlebar mustache who was now hovering above the other empty seat.  “There’s no where else to sit.”  He glanced down at the empty chair.  “May I join you?”

“We’d be obliged.” Grisom replied and gestured towards the chair.  As the man noisily sat, clanking his plate and cup on the table, Charlie made a clicking noise with his tongue.  The creature in the saddlebag quickly drew itself to the back and made sure to keep out of sight.

“Thank you.” The man said once seated.  “Terrance Brandle is the name.”

“Name’s Grisom.  The kid here is Charlie.”

“Pleasure to make both of your acquaintances.”  The man said, scooping a large spoonful of beans into his mouth.  He talked sloppily with his mouth open.  “Lots of folks on their way to Yankton it would seem.”

“It would appear that way.” Grisom replied.  He hated small talk.

“I suppose form the looks of many of them, their final destination is the gold in the Black Hills.”

“That your destination Mr. Brandle?” Grisom asked, not looking up at the man who he, after a few seconds of watching his sloppy eating, found disgusting

“Me?  Heavens no.” Mr. Brandle chuckled.  “My travels take me to Yankton.  I’m a courier for the bank there.”


Mr. Brandle wiped his chin with the back of his hand.  “Ah, yes.”  He shifted nervously thinking he may have said too much.  He always seemed to do that.

Grisom saw the flash of panic cross the man’s face and to ease the man’s suddenly uneasy mind, he changed he subject.

“Foods decent?” Grisom asked sarcastically, watching how Brandle put it away.

“Mmm hmm,” the man replied between chomping mouthfuls.  He swallowed, “So Mr. Grison, Charlie what brings you two to the Dakota territories?”

“We are…couriers as well,” said Grisom with a smile over to Charlie.  The man stopped chewing and stared at Grisom wide-eyed.  “We are bringing some items to a friend in Yankton.”

Brandle leaned in excited, wiping his fingers on his vest, “What kind of items? If I may ask.”

“You may ask,” Grisom answered.  “But we ain’t gonna tell you.”

Brandle’s face dropped.  Just then the train’s whistle sounded indicating that it was time to roll out.  Brandle thanked Grisom and Charlie and scurried off through the throng of people.  Charlie watched Grisom watch Brandle walk away.

Grisom indicated towards Brandle’s direction, “There’s something else on the train besides our trunk.  Gold, maybe bank notes.”

Charlie stood, gingerly picking up the saddlebag as he rose.  “Think so?”

“Yep.  Notice how he clammed up the moment he mentioned the bank.  He was worried he said too much and that we may take an unusual interest in what he was bringing to Yankton.”  Grisom stood, putting on his hat.  “Well, let’s get back on the train.”

Charlie stood, pushing in his chair and hoisting the saddlebag’s strap up over his shoulder.  The bag was now the same height as the table and if anyone had been looking, which they weren’t, they would have seen a fuzzy, gray arm, slink out of the bag and snag the rest of Charlie’s uneaten steak and then quickly retreat into the bag.  Charlie had seen the theft and patted the side of the bag as he and Grisom followed the crowd out of the roadhouse and back aboard the train.

©2015 Grant Baciocco/Saturday Morning Media

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