Hennessy pounded the table. America is huge! Bigger than squabbling Europe. Wider than divided China. Railroads unite us. How would people get around without our trains? Who would carry their crops to market? A single one of my locomotives hauls more freight than all the Conestoga wagons that ever crossed the Great Plains—Mr. Bell, do you know what a Thomas Flyer is? A flyer is a crack railroad train famous for speed!
That Hennessy used this section of his private car as his office was evinced by the chart pulls suspended from the polished-wood ceiling. The tall, flaxen-haired detective chose from their brass labels and unrolled a railroad map that represented the lines of California, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, and Washington. He pointed to the mountainous border between northern California and Nevada. They were heading for San Francisco, but early snow blocked the pass they had chosen through the Sierra Nevada.
The Donner Party was trapped all winter. They ran out of food. Those who did not starve to death survived by eating the bodies of those who died. Isaac Bell grinned. Go ahead, Bell. Speak your piece. Bell indicated the map. Van Dorn. Ten off the job with broken limbs.
Construction delayed eight days. Crackerjack detective. But he had his troubles. Bell looked each person in the face, and in a clear voice spoke the highest compliment paid in the West. Men who join his cause are not seen again.
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From what I have gleaned so far, he may have recruited an accomplice for the tunnel job. A young agitator, a miner named Kevin Butler, was seen hopping a freight train south from Crescent City. Labor radicals, foreigners, anarchists. Did this agitator confess his crime? However, nothing in his background indicates the ability to carry out such an attack by himself.
The Wrecker, as he is called, is still at large. A telegraph key rattled in the next room. Lillian Hennessy cocked her ear. When the noise stopped, the telegrapher hurried in with his transcription. Collision north of Weed. The caboose telescoped into a freight car. Two train crew killed. Hennessy leaped to his feet, red faced. Fouled a signal, my eye.
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Those trains were bound for the Cascades Cutoff. Which means another delay. Bell reconsidered the young woman. Perhaps Lillian was more than the spoiled, headstrong only child she appeared to be. Emma Comden wore a snug dress with a proper round collar and an elegant brooch at her throat. Comden to complete my education. Bell smiled back. Lillian responded coolly.
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Hennessy was a great beauty. How much money are you paid to be a detective, Mr. Osgood Hennessy stared. Good God Almighty, a banker? He was a section hand, pounding spikes. I started out like he did, spiking rails to ties. It was a blueprint, a fine-lined copy on pale blue paper that depicted in exquisite detail the engineering plans for a cantilevered truss bridge that spanned a deep gorge on two tall piers made of stone and steel. Bell, the Cascade Canyon Bridge. To save time, I built it ahead of the expansion by routing work trains on an abandoned timber track that snakes up from the Nevada desert.
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Hennessy looked sharply at Joseph Van Dorn. Mother Nature. Between us, Mr. Bell, if this expansion stalls, I will lose any chance of completing the Cascades Cutoff the day after the first snowstorm. Hennessy was not soothed. He shook the blueprint as if to throttle it. Isaac Bell did not doubt that the old man loved his railroad. Nor did he forget the outrage in his own heart at the prospect of more innocent people killed and injured by the Wrecker. The innocent were sacred. Hennessy stared at him for a long time, taking his measure. Slowly, he settled into an armchair.
Bell, having a top hand of your caliber. When Hennessy looked to his daughter for agreement, he noticed that she was appraising the wealthy and well-connected detective like a new race car she would ask him to buy for her next birthday. Bell had already noticed that the lovely young woman was appraising him. Flattering, tempting too, but he did not take it personally. It was an easy guess why.
He was surely the first man she had seen whom her father could not bully. Now that most are settled, she has taken a position at a newspaper. You will also have a letter written in my own hand authorizing you to charter a special train anywhere you need one. When the telegraph key started clattering again, Bell nodded to Van Dorn, and they stepped quietly off the car onto the platform.
A cold north wind whipped through the rail yard, swirling smoke and cinders. Isaac Bell spoke a long list of names. Van Dorn listened, nodding approval. But Sacramento has the faster rail connections up the Pacific Coast and inland. But tell me, have you discovered something else beyond what you just reported to Hennessy? Van Dorn replied with a silent nod.
But he was drinking himself to death. Clearly, Wish was right there at the precise spot where the dynamite detonated. Van Dorn shook his head, sadly. Even drunk.
I hated having to let him go. Bell kept his voice neutral. In the flap holster. He must have had it in his hand. Had he died before or in the explosion? So I put his body on a train and brought it to a doctor in Klamath Falls. Stood by while he examined it. The doctor showed me that before Wish was crushed, he had taken a knife in the throat.
The knife went in his throat, slid between two cervical vertebrae, severed his spinal cord, and emerged out the back of his neck.