Disappearance on the Overland Limited

by Eclipse Email

A train of luxury, a missing husband, and a mysterious monster on the Nevada sands await a detective and his assistant, but neither man can foresee the culprit’s intentions.

Added: 17 Oct 2020 4,141 words 636 views 4.7 stars (3 votes)

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October 1901

It was one o’clock that afternoon in Sacramento. People milled about and paced along the platform of the Southern Pacific depot. There was a nip in the air; winter was coming early. Snow already capped the Sierra Nevada and all traffic had slowed to a crawl.

On the tracks was a splendid sight. The proud Atlantic class locomotive hissed contentedly before the line of well-polished Pullmans. The Overland Limited may have already been five minutes late for departure waiting on the slow freight to arrive, but it was still the height of luxury travel west of the Mississippi. Created by a partnership of three railroads, the Overland Limited was the fastest train of its day from the San Francisco Bay to the Great Lakes.

Standing on the steps of one Pullman was a man, a bit scruffy and weathered in appearance. He was decently built but more of a runner than a fighter. The corners of his eyes crinkled as he watched the clock, lost in his own thoughts. He only stirred when another man, this one barrel-chested and balding but with a fiery beard and moustache arrived.

“Stationmaster said the snow on Donner Pass is fallin’ fast as they can clear it,” the brawler of a man grunted. “No way we’re getting’ to Chicago on time, Ted.”

“More time for us to relax then, Mack.” Ted Ward grinned. “Besides, I figured a man of your caliber wouldn’t be so worried about a little snow. Who ever heard of a soldier complain about something children love?”

Mack Simmons shook his head and pushed past his partner. “Cuba didn’t have any snow.”

Ted laughed and followed his assistant into the car. This time of year combined with the cold snap meant fewer travelers. They had the only occupied Pullman sections in the car. The young valet quickly made a few final touches to the cleaning of the car. His fitted uniform made it clear he was rather slim, but he had an ample behind like a succulent peach. He turned and jumped. “Oh, I’m sorry! I thought I was alone!” He blushed, very apparent on his pale Scandinavian skin, and stashed away the rag. “My name is Oliver Sorenson, though everyone just calls me Ollie. I’ll be your valet up to Ogden. You must be Mr. Ward and Mr. Simmons.”

Despite an attempt to be surreptitious, Ted caught the young man’s eyes carefully crawling over him and Mack. Before he could comment, the conductor strode in. “I hope you’re not bothering the guests, Ollie.” The conductor was a solid man in his late forties, salt and pepper starting to show in his moustache. He might not have been a barrel-chested many like Mack but years on the railroad had given him a strong build and the soft bulge in his trousers was very telling.

“No trouble at all,” Mack chimed in, clasping a hand on Ollie’s shoulder, only making the valet blush harder. “Mr… uh?”

“Orville Hubbard,” he replied. “And we’re likely to be an hour late into Reno with the snow, but we should make up the time between Winnemucca and Promontory. In the meantime, we will be serving complementary drinks in the dining car. Please enjoy yourselves and we’ll do what we can to get caught up.” He snapped his pocket watch shut as another whistle blew outside, and a manifest freight rumbled by. “Gentlemen, please excuse me, that’s our cue.”

Ollie nodded. “I’d best make sure your bags have been loaded. Please let me know if you need anything!”

As soon as the two were out of earshot, Mack whistled. “You didn’t mention the sights on the train were better than the scenery.”

“Rein it in you horndog.”

“Don’t act all high and mighty,” Mack said, grabbing the bulge in Ted’s slacks. “I know this ain’t your gun. You were thinkin’ the same thing.”

“Guilty as charged,” Ted smirked, thumb pressing against the thick nub poking through Mack’s shirt. Mack bit back a little groan. “Now, I think we best calm down before we end up making a mess in the vestibule. Best not put on a show, eh?”

Mack released him. “We’re finishin’ this later.”

“Sure thing,” Ted replied, swatting Mack’s muscle ass and swinging the door open.

As to be expected of the luxury train, the dining car was immaculately decorated with intricate wood carvings, etched glass, and even small crystal chandeliers. As Ted had noted, the train was very light this evening.

“Oh dearie me, I thought we were all that was left aboard tonight.” A lady in her late-twenties put out her cigarette and approached them. She was dressed in the finest of eveningwear that seemed to be straight from 5th Avenue. She cocked her hip slightly. “Miss Delilah Johnson of the New Orleans Johnsons, how doooo you do?”

“Ted Ward and Mack Simmons, ma’am. The pleasure is ours,” Ted replied politely taking her hand.

She frowned, expecting a little more. “Well, yes. It is. I have to say I can’t believe this train is late again. My daddy invested a lot in this railroad, and I doubled our shares. I’d expect a little better. I’m a busy gal.”

“You can’t pay the sun to move,” a man piped up.

“Not yet,” she huffed and went back to her table.

“Pay no attention to her,” the man said. “She’s been talking everyone’s ear off since we left Emeryville. I hope she didn’t bother you Lucy.”

“Oh Billy, nothing’s ruining tonight,” the man’s wife said snuggling into his arms. She proudly showed off a shining ring to the two.

“Congratulations!” Mack shouted. “A round for the new couple!”

“Just coming back from our honeymoon actually,” Billy grinned. He was the definition of a cornfed country boy. His arms stretched his sleeves and Ted swore he could hear seams popping near his shoulders. His wide legs were clearly squeezed into his pants. “Headin’ home to Green River to start our new lives.”

“We’ve got an adorable little homestead,” Lucy gushed, “but our parents gave us a little weekend out in Santa Cruz to ourselves.” By the way she beamed, Ted figured it must have been a very productive weekend. Of course, her hand slowly inching up Billy’s thigh was a good clue. She was dressed in a simple homespun outfit, but somehow made it elegant by the gleam in her eye and the dazzle in her laughter.

Mack brought a few drinks from the bar when he almost collided with the last passenger. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. I didn’t see you there.”

“That’s alright. You remind me of my husband, dearie,” an elderly woman said, patting Mack’s hand. “Such a handsome strong man.” Mack floundered for a moment, unsure of what to say. “Oh dear where are my manners. Nancy Halverson, a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure is ours Mrs. Halverson,” Ted said.

“What two handsome men…” She said again, with a faraway look in her eyes. “You best be careful… you don’t know what could happen… that monster likes handsome men…”

She wandered off, a little lost. “You understand a word of that?” Mack whispered. “She’s not playin’ with a full deck if you ask me.”

“Perhaps not,” Ted replied. The train lurched into motion; the engine bellowing smoke as it began to climb out of Sacramento. The whistle cried as Mack set the drinks on the newlywed’s table. They toasted the happy couple and began the first of many drinks. Ted watched the city roll by but couldn’t help but feel a slight sense of unease.


A cry pierced the night, rousing him from his sleep. In a heartbeat, Ted was on his feet, hand on his Colt. He bolted down the coach knowing his companion was hot on his heels. He took only a brief moment to make sure his activities with Mack that night weren’t overly apparent. He threw open the vestibule, leapt the gap, and charged into the next car to find a group of people had already gathered around the Pullman section.

“Please, keep calm and return to your beds. We will sort this matter out shortly,” Mr. Hubbard said, gently trying to ease the passengers away from the sobbing woman on the lower berth.

“I’m sure we could be of service,” he said as he and Mack drew near.

“I’d certainly appreciate it, gentlemen,” the conductor whispered, “and so would Mrs. West.” He motioned to the sobbing lady, revealing it to be Lucy. She clutched a handkerchief to her bosom, hiccupping through her wails.

Ted caught a glimpse of Mrs. Halverson as the conductor sorted the other passengers away. He ignored her for now and knelt next to the sobbing bride. “Lucy, dear God, what happened?”

It took several minutes for Lucy to gather herself. “Oh Mr. Ward, it’s awful! I can’t find Billy! He’s gone missing.”

Ted shot a look over to Mack. “Lucy, perhaps Billy just went to, err, use the facilities or stretch his legs. We did have quite a bit to drink after all.”

“No, no! I saw him! He was being taken away by,” she paused to blow her nose, “by the Beast!” She now broke down in a new wave of sobs. Ted scanned over the berth, but there was nothing strange. The sheets weren’t torn off the bed, just moved to the side as anyone would when getting out of bed. The only thing of note was a couple missing shirt buttons. Just then the conductor returned with some whiskey to help her calm her nerves.

“We’ll do our best to find him, don’t worry.” Ted stood, knowing that it was best to let her rest for now. Suddenly he stopped. “Do you smell something Mack?”

“No, should I?”

“I thought I smelled something… almost like smoke.”

“We’re on a train, boss.”

Ted glowered at him. “Not like that, like cherry wood.”

Ted and Mack headed back to their car with the conductor. “Do you think she’s delirious? It could’ve been some nightmare that woke her? Surely, you’ve found Mr. West?”

The conductor shook his head. “I’m sorry but I haven’t. I directed the staff to search top to bottom. Mr. West is no longer on board.”

Ted pursed his lips. “How’s our schedule looking?”

“We’re behind, but so’s everything else on the line. All that snow back on the Sierras has everyone behind schedule. Even with Dispatch giving us priority, we should’ve been in Winnemucca hours ago.”

“Have we passed anywhere that Mr. West may have jumped off?”

“Doors have been locked tight ever since we snagged mail in Lovelace and we haven’t stopped once since then, only slow orders.”

“Any chance of him jumping off between stations?”

The conductor chortled. “Well, I suppose they could’ve but where would they go?” He waved his hand towards the window. “There’s nothing but sand and rock as far as the eye can see. Desert is mighty cold this time of year. If he went wandering on his own without protection, he’d be dead in minutes. Closest civilization from here is either Imlay down the line or the Lassens’ Ranch about a half-day horse ride away.”

“And this beast?”

“An old superstition in these parts. Same old story about some wild hairy man you hear west of the Rockies. Believe me gentlemen, there’s nothing like that Sasquatch fella anywhere near here.”

The conductor left as Ted and Mack sat down on the beds. “So, what are you thinkin’?”

“I don’t know Mack,” Ted muttered. Once he was sure they were alone in the quiet sleeper, Ted rested his head on Mack’s thick shoulder. “It’s strange…”

“Of course, but you’re workin’ on an idea.”

“How’d you know?”

“Only two reasons you ever reach for my cock. You’re horny or you need somethin’ to play with while you think.”

Ted stifled a laugh. “You kiss your mother with that mouth?”

“You didn’t have any complaints about my mouth a few hours ago.” Ted shoved him with a grin, stood, and began to pace. “Y’know, when you promised me a trip on the Overland Limited, I wasn’t expecting to work. Then again, I’ve never known you to turn down a case.”

“Never can in this business. You ever hear of that beast thing?”

Mack scratched at his beard. “Nothin’ worth mentioning. All I’ve heard is that it’s some monster that appears every now and then. Miss Lucy probably just had a nightmare like you said. With all the spirits she took I’m surprised she’s not seeing more than monsters.”

“Details, Mack, details.”

“Fine, fine. Folks say it’s a gigantic man, not so much Sasquatch. Old railroad workers say they saw entire trees knocked to the ground with the imprint of a fist in their bark. Other folks say it can carry a Texas Longhorn over one shoulder. Stories go back long before the good ol’ U.S. of A. moved out here. Honestly, nothin’ more than tall tales to tell around a campfire.” He studied his partner’s face. “You aren’t seriously considerin’?!”

“No, no… well, yes. But it’s definitely far-fetched. There’s a billion other possible reasons, say he decided he wanted out of the marriage? I’m more interested in why that was Mrs. West’s first response. There’s no such thing as monsters like that, and certainly none that would attack a train!”

Suddenly, the floor jerked and a terrible screech filled the air. Ted flew up into the air and crashed against Mack while bags and parcels were flung around the car. “What in tarnation?!”

“The emergency brake,” Ted muttered. “You alright?”

“Me?! You’re the one who did a somersault!”

“Good,” Ted grinned. “Let’s go see what the fuss is about.”

They dashed outside with several other passengers and made their way up along the tracks to the locomotive. The engineer and the fireman were already out of the cab of the hissing Atlantic. The headlamp shone brightly across the dark desert, but it made the problem all too clear. One of the rails had been bent a good two feet out of the way.

“I’ve never seen a thing like it!” The engineer roared. “We’ve had warped rails before, but this is some kind of madness.”

Ted walked up the ties and ballast and stared at the rail. He motioned Mack over. “What do you see?”

“It’s not possible!”

“My thoughts exactly.” Ted motioned to the heads of the railroad spikes, bent in half and torn from the wood. “It was intentional. Sabotage.”

“That’s all well and good, but I’m more worried about that!” Mack hissed. Ted looked closer at the rail and his jaw dropped. Clear as day, he could see four indentations in the metal. Four indentations as if grabbed by a mighty hand.
“That’s it, we can’t keep going tonight,” Mr. Hubbard said. “We’re heading back to Lovelace so we can telegraph ahead to stop all trains.” He began to shoo the passengers back inside while Ted and Mack stared at the rail.

“It can’t be,” Mack murmured. “It can’t… can it?”

“Tell me you know of some machine that can do that. A machine that can be assembled, used, disassembled, and moved without so much as a trace!” Ted motioned wildly to the desert sand, seemingly undisturbed. As he turned to Mack, he stopped. There was something strange on the wind… something familiar…

“Gentlemen, inside please!”

Ted and Mack relented, but Ted was still frowning as the train began to move again. “Tonight just keeps getting stranger…”

They boarded the train, just in time to hear Miss Johnson complain again. “I swear, I’m going to sell my shares as soon as I can tell my broker!”

Ted fought the urge to roll his eyes before taking a seat in the lounge car. Everyone else had gone back to bed, leaving only the two of them.

Mack eased himself onto a sofa. “There was a funny smell out there. You smelled it too, right?”

Ted nodded. “I can’t place it though. It’s like some kind of cologne or perfume. Cherry wood smoke… earth after a rain… new leather boots… Same thing I smelled near Lucy’s bed.”

“That’s not what I smelled. Smelled like cigars and pine to me. Smelled… good.”

Ted settled back in the chair. For a second, he frowned. His pants felt a bit small, and his shirt sleeves a bit short. “Strange, very strange. I definitely didn’t smell anything like that.”

Just then Ollie snuck out of a small storage room. “Oh, I’m sorry to bother you.”

“No, no Ollie, no trouble at all.” Ted paused. “Say, you haven’t smelled anything strange around here lately?”

“Well, um, I…” He shook like a leaf.

“C’mon and sit down with us,” Mack said warmly motioning to the spot next to him. Ollie quietly obliged. Mack placed his arm behind him. The young man looked like a scared rabbit but slid backwards ever so slightly to let Mack’s arm touch his back. “So, anything strange?”

“I… shouldn’t say. The railroad has been fine, nothing weird…”

“Nothing?” Mack said again, now gently letting his hand drape onto Ollie’s shoulder. At the same time, the buttons on his shirt seemed stretched to the limit, ready to snap.

“I… I…” Ollie stammered, eyes mesmerized.

Ted rolled his eyes though he did enjoy seeing the cute man squirm. “Mack, please, don’t torture him. Though, I’m sure we’d be willing to indulge him if he were to talk…”

Both men sent a smirk to each other as Ollie became very focused on the floor, but his pants had a very noticeable bulge. “Promise not to tell?”

Mack paused just long enough to undo the top button of his shirt. “We’re not gonna say anything unless you do.” His other hand drifted down and gave the valet’s bulge a gentle squeeze. The telltale sign of pre stained the pants punctuated by a needy groan. “Hmm, we’re your first huh boy?”

“Y-y-yes sir,” Ollie mumbled. “I was too scared to—eep!” Ted’s hand snuck down into Ollie’s pants, groping his supple cheeks.

“All you gotta do is tell us.”

He moaned into his fist. “Someone’s gonna see!”

“Not if you hurry up. Now spit it out.”

He nodded. “Mr. West wasn’t the first to disappear. At least one man disappears around Imlay on every trip I’ve been on.”

Both Ted and Mack looked at each other. “Every time?”

“Yeah, but the big wigs’ve been paying people to keep quiet. I… I saw one of them get taken away. I peeked in from the door and saw one burst outta his clothes, slowly tearing through them. It was so…” The valet moaned, openly switching between grinding on Mack’s hand and trying to let Ted grope as much of him as he could. “You should’ve seen it! He was huge! After he finished growing, he broke open the door and leaped off the train. Last thing I saw, he was painting the desert white and stomping off after a giant shadow north.”

“Good boy,” Mack growled in his ear, before capturing his virgin mouth in a passionate liplock. Ted teased his hole as he left a little love bite on his neck. Ollie cried out like a Reno whore and soaked his uniform in his seed.

The bliss on his face soon melted into embarrassment. “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t’ve-”

Ted and Mack squeezed him between them. “Nonsense. How about you come by a little later and we’ll finish what we started.”

Embarrassment morphed to sheer excitement, stars in his eyes. “Really?”

“Yeah, but we need to work on this case for a bit first.”

“Oh, right… yes!” With that, the valet skittered away to change into a fresh uniform.

Mack grinned and pulled Ted into his hairy chest. “We better hurry up, otherwise you’re gonna have to deal with this.”

Ted grinned. “Then you better hurry up with the case.”

“That’s easy! If the railroad is covering it up, then they probably have something to do with it.”

Ted chewed the thought over. “That’s excellent reasoning, but you’re forgetting one little thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Why would the railroad want to scare away potential customers? Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t put it past them to do something shady, even with that old bastard Huntington six feed under, but it doesn’t make sense.” He scratched at his scruff. “No… they’re covering it up, because they don’t want a scandal; protect their profits at all costs. The question is, are they reacting to it like we are, or do they know and can’t stop whatever it is that’s happening?

“The way I see it,” Ted continued, “there are three possible solutions. Number one, Mrs. West got rid of him. I admit it’s very simple, but sometimes the simplest answer is the truth. We know the door was unlocked. It wouldn’t have taken much for her to push him out. Number two, our southern belle is actually a beast – though I don’t mean that literally. She sure tried to make a scene. Could be purposely trying to drive down the stock price of the railroad.”

“Why would she do that?”

“Lots of companies want a piece of the pie in the Southwest. There’s lots of money to be made out of California. That then leaves us with solution number three.” Ted frowned.

“And what’s that?”

“The Beast is real.”

Mack crossed his arms. “You’re kidding. You actually believe that children’s fairy tale monster is real?”

“It’s crazy I know, but there’s definitely something driving the stories. That said, a man growing out of his clothes and going out into the desert in a sex driven frenzy? I don’t know if we can count Ollie as a reliable witness. We need more evidence, but it’s clear the stories exist for a reason.”

Mack snorted. “Kid’s stuff. Though I gotta say, wouldn’t mind growin’ like that.”

“Oh really?” Ted pressed with a crooked grin. “Are you saying you’d want to get even stronger? Grow so big that you tear your clothes to tatters? Have a cannonball for an arm?”

Mack’s breathing grew shallow. “You’re a fuckin’ tease, you know that?” He flipped Ted onto his back and pressed him into the sofa. “Maybe I’ll grow carry you around on my cock. Just flex and I’d make you cream yourself. I’d… I’d…” Mack trailed off.

“Aww, come on, whisper more sweet nothings to me,” Ted snarked, but he saw Mack grow pale as he looked out the window.

“Heaven’s sake, look at that!” There, just outside the window was a monstrous silhouette running alongside the train. “We’ve got to tell the conductor. Whatever that thing is we’ve got to get away!”

Instead, the emergency brakes came on and the train screeched to a halt. The shadow reared back for a moment but stopped next to their car.

Ted hardly had time to duck as a boulder smashed into the side of the car. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t a rock, but a fist. That same scent stronger than ever hung heavy and humid in the air. Before Ted could react, he was smashed back by a flying chair as the hand scooped up Mack and made off into the night.

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