“You wouldn’t dare.” The conductor, a fit man in a crisp blue uniform now unfortunately stained with sweat and powder thanks to his insistence on resisting rather more athletically than had been necessary, gave her a wide-eyed look. Recognition and horror dawned in his eyes as he took in her scarlet coat. There was only one pirate who had that particular quirk of dress, after all. Perhaps he’d missed the memo explaining that the infamous Captain Ramos was female.Marta smiled at him. It was an expression she had, quite literally, practiced in front of a mirror for years to perfect. In her role as pirate captain, that smile was calculated to state, why yes I am quite mad and have a fraction of concern for human life so small, you might as well save your time and round it to zero. “Pirate, Mister…” she peered at his little name badge, “…Lewis. I’m a pirate. Is there anything my ilk does not dare?”
Mostly a bluff, that. Captain Ramos was not one to slaughter droves of innocent civilians, though she had in fact shot a conductor once, because he’d gone after her with a paring knife from a nearby fruit bowl. It had been an embarrassing incident for all involved—terminally so for the conductor in question—but Marta had made good use of it nonetheless in the cause of convincing other potentially brave souls that she really was that mad.
“You’re a madwoman.”
“If I must keep repeating myself, this conversation will become intensely dull.” But she examined him carefully, taking in the signs of distress and mentally calculating which way he would crack if just a bit more pressure were applied. She drew her pistol and pointed it squarely in his face.
The man’s eyes went wide, and he tried to jerk his hands up defensively, only to be stopped by the firm hands of one Lucius Lamburt. Lucius played his part beautifully by growling into the man’s ear, “Now then, sonny, you don’ want ta give us no trouble.” Lucius also played the part beautifully of having been born, as far as anyone could tell, as some sort of gorilla who was subsequently partially shaved and outfitted with the surprisingly well-tailored clothes of a man.
…though knowing Lucius, Marta reflected, he was quite likely serious. The man was unhinged in all of the most useful ways. “If you please, Mister Lewis. I wouldn’t want to overexcite our Mister Lamburt with the sight of blood.”
Lucius laughed in the conductor’s ear, accompanied by a fine spray of saliva. That, at least, was more obviously an act. Lucius had a bit of a thing about bodily fluids.
The conductor was quick to lead her into the third freight car then, and rip up the floor paneling that hid the safe. While the main point of the raid had been the train’s cargo-a shipment of steel bars and some much-needed, delicately machined replacement parts for their various engines-there was really no reason to leave the store of gold and silver on the train behind. It was just good business.
“Captain, this ought to be the last of the crates,” Simms called from behind.
Marta glanced up to see the tall man walking down the narrow hallway toward her. He held one end of a wooden crate that had been painted a rather odd shade of green. “Are you certain, Simms? That doesn’t look like the rest.”
“The maker’s stamp–” Whatever Simms might have been about to point out was lost when the door to the car crashed open and a man with a shock of wild yellow curls flung himself through. His dove-gray jacket was torn and his tie in complete disarray, one glove missing as well, the other stained with ink or possibly grease, it was difficult to tell from this distance.
With wild desperation he flung himself at Simms, arms flailing. “That is my trunk! Mine! You can’t have it!”
The attack was sudden and ferocious enough, despite the almost comical size difference that was revealed when the short, slight man proceeded to cling to Simms like a monkey, that Simms dropped his end of the crate. It hit the floor with a crash and the man who had been holding the other side lost his grip as well, cursing as he did so. One side of the crate lost its integrity, boards splintering outward.
As Simms tried to pry away the fingers of the much smaller man free, bearings cascaded from the splintered crate. Swearing, Simms stumbled and then began to slip freely on them, arms windmilling and legs skating to and fro as the much smaller man pummeled him about the head and shoulders with one hand.
Marta, Lucius, and the conductor, momentarily forgetting he was a captive and this might have been the perfect opportunity to escape, openly stared.
“Ah… shouldn’t someone help that man?” the conductor said, after a moment.
“Naw, ‘e’s fine. Winning even, I’d say,” Lucius answered.
The sad truth of it was, Marta wasn’t entirely certain to whom they were referring.
Released today at Musa Publishing! If you liked the excerpt, there’s more where that came from!