Silent roars will kill this curiosity
rating: +17+x

I knew that I would die out west. That was an inevitability.

When I was a younger man living in Charleston, my neighborhood was one of the ones that got wrecked by the sharecropper riots. That put me on a train up north. Only about two years later I was in New York City for the Great Insurrection. A bunch of workers all hopped up on that Sarkist nonsense, smashing factories and bombing all the trolleys and railcars. I never did get why that German fellow's book made all them people get so up and mad about everything. My factory job wasn't coming back after a mob burned the place down and literally ripped the owner apart. Heard they ate him too, but that's probably just one of them tall tales they tell.

I had myself two real options. I could shuffle off to Buffalo where the jobs were plenty and I could live and die a normal, safe life or I could hitch a ride out west and live and die in a wild and untamed world. Ultimately, I decided to avoid the snow and hitched the first ride I could out to Nevada. On reflection, maybe that was a mistake.

I ended up in Golconda with six dollars to my name. That was enough to get me a place to stay for a month, some food, some drink. Then I picked up some oddjobs to put a real roof over my head. The little shack out on Shapey Acres where the damn landlord changed every couple of days just wasn't cutting it for me. Saving up money was hard. I didn't ever do any work before besides farming and cranking a machine back in Brooklyn. I was finding that no matter how much I worked I could only save up a little bit each month. I figured there had to be another way for me to earn a living.

I guess I should of mentioned before, back when I was living out east, I found myself a really neat hat. Newsboy looking thing. Best I can tell this hat makes people ignore you. It was nice for walking away from a bout of violence or for hoppin' on trains without paying. Soon I was using it to shoplift. Then I was stealing bigger things, reselling expensive odds and ends to lowlifes and criminals like myself. Then I started advertising in certain circles. That was the decision that changed my life forever.

I went to the seediest saloon in all of Humboldt County. Took off my hat at the door, as I was accustomed to doing. Everyone notices me all at once, which is a hell of a way to make an entrance in my opinion. But this time instead of all the hooting and hollering of their favorite thief coming in to sell his wares, there is an eerie silence across the place. The barkeep calls me over. Says there's a man in the corner, he's itching to talk to me. Nobody's ever seen him before, came in with a group of muscle behind him who were armed to the teeth. I headed over to his table. I remember the conversation word for word.

~~~

"I hear you're the one they call the Invisible Bandit." said the strange man, dressed in a chequered gray and blue suit jacket.

"That's just one of the dozen or so dumb nicknames they have for me." I said, trying not to seem nervous. "What do people call you?"

The man laughed and smirked. "Name is Mr. Dark. I run what you might call a …detective agency."

"Are you the kind of detective agency that solves crimes or the kind that busts up union strikes?" I asked, spinning a chair around and sitting down.

The man laughed again.

"We're in asset recovery. People pay us to recover… objects of interest. We retrieve them, for a modest price… and some times we send people out to find things we've been informed about with unusual qualities, we hold onto them just in case somebody might want it some day. That's why I'm here actually." He put fifty dollars on the table.

"If you're looking to buy my hat… It ain't for sale." I said, reaching for the knife in my pocket.

"Oh no, you misunderstand me friend. This isn't for your hat. This is for you. Your sign on bonus for your new job at Marshall, Carter, and Dark National Detective Agency. If you follow me outside, you'll see the horse I got you, and directions to the very nice house in Goldfield you'll be staying in. You have a talent, sir. A talent that we would love to have as part of our team."

I picked up the money and followed him to the horse, silent the entire way.

~~~

The house was lavish beyond my wildest dreams. The bed was massive, the view from the balcony was beautiful, and the well outside had the best water I'd ever had the pleasure of drinking. The library was such that I could have read the books for the rest of my life, although admittedly I was pretty bad at reading.

The agency had a building just down the street. It had a lounge, private bar, cafe. A little auction house. You had people coming in to browse the exotic wares every single day, and someone was always having a party there. I was well liked. I had even more nicknames there then at the saloon. Ghost. Mr Invisible. Faceless. I was a star employee by all accounts. I grabbed all sorts of interesting things for them over the years. Everything from weird new pieces of technology like this colorful music playing machine to things like a shipment full of cockroaches that apparently acted weird. All of those had buyers waiting, they paid top dollar. I got commission. I was living like a king, and all I did was waltz on board a train or into the back of a building and then carry it out. I thought it was too damn easy.

Well, turns out it was.

I remember this next conversation pretty well too. Mr. Dark called me into his office. Didn't happen too often.

~~~

"Well there he is. Nevada's famous ghost thief." his voice boomed as I opened the door.

"You didn't tell me I'd be meeting a celebrity today." Said a man who I had never met before, sitting across from him.

I laughed. "Maybe you've met me before and just don't remember it."

"If only I could have been so fortunate." the man said while smiling and standing up. He reached out for a handshake. "Nice to meet you. They call me Lucky."

I reached out my hand and met his. He had an odd handshake, not quite limp but not nearly as firm as most folks out here.

"Nice to meet you Lucky. They call me… well, they call me a lot of things. Bandit has been the most consistent nickname though. So call me Bandit."

Mr. Dark turned to look me directly in the eye.

"This is going to be the most difficult job you've had. Lucky here is just another part of the operation. We've got a potential big score. I trust you more than anyone else to recover it."

I paused. I hadn't heard Mr. Dark speak in such a serious tone in quite a long time.

"Well, give me the run down then." I told him as I sat down.

"We've got a high profile client very interested in something coming through the Tombstone area by train. Client says no matter what, can't have anybody get killed over this… least of all the man transporting the item." Mr. Dark ran his hand through his hair, a rare sign of stress.

Dark cleared his throat and continued.

"Now normally, that'd just be a job for you, Bandit. Walk in, grab the item, hop off at the next stop. Problem is they know about you. They've taken every security measure available. There is a Doctor Mander-Bassen, he teaches up out in Deer College in Portland. He has the item with him, but it is in a briefcase that is handcuffed at all times. The train company has agreed that nobody gets out of the train until the Doctor does, they have armed guards checking the doors at every stop, and the Doctor will be escorted by an Arizona ranger all the way until he reaches his destination safely. The typical play ain't gonna work here, no matter how good your hat is."

I looked over to Lucky.

"I presume this is where he comes in?"

Mr. Dark nodded.

"Lucky here is gonna gather some of his boys. They're gonna rob the train the old fashion way, hit the emergency brake, bust the handcuffs off, but otherwise make it look like a run of the mill train robbery. Ideally the Ranger won't bite if he sees that he's outnumbered five to one. Then they make a big pile of suitcases and valuables and you just sneak off with the Doctor's briefcase while they start to make their escape. Lucky is confident he can escape the ranger alive."

Lucky chuckled.

"I haven't died yet, and that's a lot more impressive than it sounds."

I simply nodded, and took the map Mr. Dark handed to me.

~~

Sixteen hours later, I'm riding on the train. My hat has me looking like any other average joe. I see my target two rows ahead of me, other side of the train. He's leaned up against a window and tapping his fingers. The man at his side was gruff, the shadow of his hat hiding his face. His Single Action Army was clear as day from where I sat, but the damn huge size of his arms and legs told me that he could hold his own without it. I was hoping that I wouldn't need to find out.

It was only two hours more before Lucky and his crew started a whole hell of panic by running on board and pulling guns on everyone. They got them all calmed down right quick though, hit the emergency brake, and started going row by row to grab the valuables and add them to the pile.

All of it was going fine until they all gather around to watch Lucky break the chain on that handcuff. He lifted the briefcase up over his head and cheered. An obvious give away if nothing else, but also a deadly distraction for him and his men. The ranger waited for him to turn around to his men and slammed him in the back of the head with his fist. Lucky hit the floor a few seconds later. As his men reached for their guns they were each surprised with a bullet to the brain. The ranger had fired four off before anyone could blink. Lucky incidentally, had flung the suitcase back in my direction when he hit the ground. I panicked. Nothing I had ever done had gotten violent before. I jumped up and grabbed the briefcase and ran, ran faster than I ever thought I could.

I ran so fast, my damn hat came off.

I had maybe ten feet put between me and the train when curiosity got the better of me. I had no idea what the hell was in the briefcase, and I always took an interest in whatever it was I was stealing. I pulled the zipper open.

Y'see, this is the really funny thing about all this. I don't remember what the hell was in that briefcase. I know something must have been in there, but whatever it was escapes my memory. Whatever it was though, it must of slowed me down, because the next thing I remember is the Arizona ranger, running full speed. Three feet behind me.

I started running again, but it was way too late for me. The first shot rang out and I nearly doubled over. The second shot rang out and I hit the ground.

I see the ranger walk over and pick up the briefcase, taking back what I stole from that doctor.

I see blood on my hands as I tremble and quake, slowly feeling my wounds leak out.

I see Lucky stumble his way out of the train. He puts on my hat, and he disappears.

That's how my body ended up with the rest I supposed. Out here in this tree of loathsome criminals like myself. Lucky is probably off gambling somewhere. Mr. Dark is probably eating cake with rich folk and pretty ladies. That doctor is probably off at his school trying to figure out whatever the hell it was he had his hands on.

And I'm here, forever stuck watching the Ranger bring in his dead.

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