Mission: Chapter 10: Brakes on a Train
The door to the Peacock carriage opened slowly. Ivan squinted around the door, trying to hide his facemask, but failing. Aunt Beaufort inhaled sharply and brought her gloved hand to her mouth. She never thought the Peacocks had such an ... interesting butler. Very unbecoming. People might assume this man was a brigand, a Tainted even. It flashed through her mind that maybe this man was not a butler, but rather a guard of some sort.
"Auntie..." Ophelia hissed, plucking nervously at her chaperone's sleeve "I very much think we might be disturbing these people"
"Nonsense child!" Aunt Beaufort bristled at her charges impudence. She could see that another one of her instructional lectures would be needed later on.
Pursing her lips, she turned to regard the rather... colourful gentleman before her "Kindly inform Madam Peacock that she has guests"
She fished inside her handbag and produced a silver case, from which she extracted a calling card and presented it to Ivan in one smooth and well practised movement.
Ivan looked between the proffered card and Aunt Beaufort's steely grey gaze and back then again for a rather stunned second.
"Well?" the aged spinster demanded. She wasn't used to being disobeyed.
"I..." Ivan blinked and curtly nodded his head in a vaguely deferential manner "I'll inform her grace"
Accepting the card, he turned back into the carriage and the crowd of heavily armed pirates that had scrambled into hiding out of view from the door.
He looked at his comrades and shrugged a question.
"Get rid of the old bag!" someone hissed; prompting Aunt Beaufort to stiffen with indignation
"I say!" she snapped.
"Auntie!" Ophelia grabbed her Aunt by a hand to try and pull her away "There's naught but brigands and cut throats in there; we should alert the Rail Marshals!"
With the decision made for him, Ivan opened the door in full top reveal how true Ophelia's words were.He turned back towards the two women.
"I ... don't think so" he said, slowly, as he reached out to pull Auntie in by her wrist.
Many ladies of lesser substance and resolve would probably have swooned; but the Britanic nobility breeds a certain degree of hard-nosed pragmatism, born of many centuries of ruthlessly exploiting anything and anyone to maintain their vice-like grip on power.
"How dare you!" Ophelia bristled with anger while Aunt Beaufort drew herself up to her full, albeit diminutive, height from which she looked down her nose at Ivan and the other pirates emerging from hiding behind him
"Impudent wretch!" she boomed and swung her handbag at Ivan's head "Miscreant!"
Faced with a furious flurry of blows, Ivan tried his best to fend the assault off with increasing irritation - Old woman or not, if she didn't stop this soon, he was going to have to grab her.
Another clout to the head from the heavy handbag stiffened his resolve and he straightened "Right!" he roared.
"Run child!" Aunt Beaufort and Ophelia turned as one and, hitching their skirts up, bolted towards the nearby First Class Lounge, Aunt Beaufort yelling "Murder, murder!" as she ran.
Faizel gave Ivan a smouldering stare, as he, Nate and Finn set out after them, trying to hide their guns and knives. Faizel wanted to warn Nate and Finn not to shoot, but things were moving fast and he just wanted to stop the two ladies from revealing their hiding place.
Ophelia and her aunt rushed past people, who were equally startled to see the men chasing the two women. It led to confusion, shouting and people falling over in their haste to hide. The wave of unrest spread before the two running women, until it reached two rail marshals, who were taking a stroll.
Aunt Beaufort ran into the broad chest of a rail marshal first. He caught her and steadied her. Ophelia was right behind but managed to avoid collision. "Help!" Aunt Beaufort had not stopped screaming. "Murder!"
Before the marshals had time to question the women, Nate and Finn rounded an elderly couple and stopped in their tracks as they faced the marshals. These men were dangerous, often employing a "no holds barred" approach to keeping the peace aboard the rail networks. "This is all just a misunderstanding" insisted Nate with his palms forwards. "Aunty gets like this when she hasn't had her medicine." He tried to casually touch her shoulder, but she recoiled. Ophelia, meanwhile, had Finn standing right behind her, with Finn's knife pressing at her back.
Ophelia's eyes went wide, as she understood the threat. Sure, the marshals would shoot the hoodlums, but she would still be wounded, she was sure. Self-preservation kicked in and she remained silent, even if she tried to alert the marshals with eye signals.
Her aunt was not silent at all. "These men threatened to kill me, marshal!" She addressed the largest of the men. "I want you to arrest them at once!"
Nate tried to keep his smile casual and sheepish. "Now, now, auntie," he said, grateful that he had been trying on the fancy suit of Colonel Peacock. "Let's go back to the carriage and get you a nice cup of tea." He looked at the marshal with a knowing smile and winked. "Sorry to trouble you, sir. Thank you for your assistance."
The marshals looked at each other before the largest of them spoke, addressing Nate, and not Aunt Beaufort. "That's all right, sir," he said. "My own mother looses her mind from time to time. You're generous that you take care of a relative who is that way." He was lost in his own thoughts for a while, remembering how his father had abandoned his mother, when she started showing signs of losing her memory. The marshal worked hard to pay for his mother's care in a specialised home. He dreaded visiting there. Many of the patients were quite like this frail old lady. All left behind by family who refused to look after them.
"Come along," Finn said softly to Ophelia, as he placed her hand on his arm, while holding the knife hidden, but poking at her side. Nate nodding nonchalantly at the onlookers as they dispersed, and then he spotted Colton standing there with a mean look in his eye. "Glad you could join us" quipped Nate. "What took you so long catching up with us?"
"This get-up aint quick to get on and off. What was that, anyway? Rail marshals?"
"Yes, but it's okay" said Finn queitly. "We got away with it, these two won't be making another scene." He jerked his head at the two women, whose faces had grown pale. "Not good enough!" insisted Colton. "They know your faces now. I got a problem to solve."
It was lucky for the women that Colton was talking about the rail marshals. He walked up to the two men, who were standing next to an open cabin, looked like a storage room. A quick look to make sure that nobody was watching, and Colton punched the first one square in the throat, shoving him sideways into the cabin where he tripped over his own feet. The second marshal reached for his pistol, but Colton grabbed his weapon arm with both hands and dragged him into the cabin, in a single motion both knocking the gun out of the marshal's hand and sending him falling over the first man. Colton pulled the door closed.
By the time Finn pulled the door open again to see what was going on, the second of the marshals was being lifted out of the open window at the back of the cabin. Colton slammed it shut. Aunt Beaufort's eyes grew wide, but her scream was cut short by Colton striking her across the mouth. "You wanna go out after them?" he barked. "Cool it, cowboy!" demanded Nate. "Was all that really necessary? Won't we get in trouble now that there's two marshal's missing?"
"Hope not. These guys aint soldiers with a lieutenant to report to, they're all hired guns. Only reason I aint throwing these ladies out too is that they're dressed too important for someone not to miss 'em. We'll have to take them back with us and look after them."
The door to the Peacock carriage opened slowly when they returned. Ivan and the others had been waiting for them to come back.