Samuel loaded Cassidy’s bags above their seats. The trains storage area consisted of a flat surface and a rail. There was nothing to hold the bags in place other than their weight. Cassidy’s bag was more than heavy enough to ensure it wouldn’t slide around.
“Are you ready for this?” Samuel asked.
She folded the excessive fabric of her dresses skirt in front of her and wedged herself into her seat.
“I can’t stay here any longer. Too many memories,” she said.
Samuel brushed his long, leather jacket to the side and began to sit next to her. A hand stayed him. He turned to see a member of the train staff.
“Sorry sir, you’ll have to stow those,” the man said, pointing to the twin guns on his hips.
Samuel gritted his teeth and placed his hand firmly on the butt of the right gun as he returned to standing.
“Sorry, sir, train policy,” the conductor said, swallowing the hard lump of confrontation in his throat.
“I get it,” Samuel said.
He unbuckled the brown belt and placed the guns his bag, then threw it on top next to Cassidy’s. The clerk let out a small sigh and continued on his way.
“I get what you’re saying, too,” Samuel said, settling in next to her.
“I know you do. It’s one of the reasons that I love you.”
“What do you think we’ll find in St. Louie?” he asked.
“A new start, I hope.”
“I’ve heard it’s gone civilized. An old gun slinger like myself might not fit in,” Samuel said.
“You’ll always have a place. It’s with me, wherever we go. Besides, there’s no going back. They’ll hang you,” Cassidy said.
“They’d try,” he said.
“I ain’t never been on a train before,” Samuel said.
“I was, once. It was a long time ago, when I came here with him.”
She turned her eyes from his. He took her hand in his, and using the other to push her chin upwards, he looked deep into her sorrowful eyes.
“It’ll be ok. That’s all over now. We’ll start our new life, become city folk, and forget.”
She nodded and lay her head on his chest. He stroked her hair
Before long, she was fast asleep. But it wasn’t restful. She thrased and moaned, cried out and struck at the demons in her dreams. A dagger struck at his heart everytime she unknowingly whispered teh name Thomas.
She wasn’t over him. Samuel knew he couldn’t faulther her for this. Afterall, he had been her husband, and Samuel had killed him. Gently, he corressed her head, and encourged her mind to hush. His embrace was enough and she settled back into deep slumber.
In her dreams, she saw Thomas. He was angry. But more so, he was hurt.
Cassidy hadn’t intended to fall in love with another man. While she saved her body for her husband alone, her soul was too easily shared. She never expected that her indiscretion would end with a showdown between the only two men that she had ever cared for. Unable to choose between them, they would settle the matter themselves. The booming clap of gunfire echoed in her mind.
She awoke several restless hours later to find that she was alone in the car. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and groggily scanned the area. Samuel, the conductor, other passengers, all gone. She looked out the window. The train was moving at dizzying speeds.
She rose from her seat and made her way to explore the other cars. She searched the dining car first. Empty. She checked the latrines. Nothing. Fear began to rise inside her. She went car to car in search of any life, but she found none.
Out of options, she made her way to the conductor’s area. The door was cracked open. She pushed it aside the rest of the way and entered. The room was empty.
She heard a sound behind her. With hope and dread, she turned to see Samuel standing there.
“Samuel!” she exclaimed.
She ran to him, threw her arms around him, then fell on her face. Her body had gone through the image of him.
“Samuel, what’s happened?” she asked.
From the floor, she saw another man appear next to Samuel. It was Thomas. He looked just as she remember, except he lacked the bullet wound that had done him in. Only an inch shorter than Samuel, he had a similar build, with two day stubble and a strong jaw.
“Thomas? How?” she asked.
“You couldn’t choose in life,” Thomas said.
“Now you have to choose in death,” Samuel finished.
“I don’t understand.”
“You made us choose for you. Samuel was the truer shot. But you would have happily come with me if I had been just a moment quicker,” Thomas said.
Cassidy knew he was right.
“You said my place was with you,” Samuel said. “Did you mean it? Did you mean forever?”
“I still don’t understand. Samuel, you weren’t dead.”
“I made the playing field even again,” Thomas said.
“You killed him?” she asked.
“He killed me first. It was only fair. Now, choose!” Thomas commanded.
She searched her heart and found equal love and repulsion for the two men.
“I, I choose neither of you. You two may be dead, but I’m alive.”
“Not for long,” Thomas said.
“What?” she asked.
“Sorry, love,” Samuel said, pointing out the window.
The track turned sharply, and the train was barreling forward too fast. As it hit the junction, the wheels leapt from the track, turning the train over on its side. The sound of twisting and breaking metal was muffled behind the panicked pounding of her heart. She was tossed about the room, bouncing from ceiling to floor and back again. Her body became as broken as the train. The deafening beating in her chest ceased.
She rose from her husk, and faced the men that had put her in this position.
“Choose. Here and now, to put this to bed forever. Who will it be?” Thomas asked.
She still had no answer. And until she did, she knew that she would never know peace.