by  Ljoyce

The Night of the Storm copyright © Ljoyce
Absolutely no reprint or use of this material, partial or otherwise, without
the prior written consent of Ljoyce & -



APPROX. 65 pps (monotype 12-point)


go to PART TWO

PART ONE (of 4)

"Artie, I'm telling you, you're going to be surprised." Secret Agent James West commented as he and his partner, Artemus Gordon, entered the train car they called home.

Home. Now there was a nice word, thought Jim. Without Artie, the train, also known as the Wanderer, had hardly seemed like home for the last three months.

"Jim, please tell me there is no welcoming committee in there. I had enough visiting in the hospital. All I want is some time to relax."

"And relax you shall, buddy. Take a look."

Artemus looked around the parlor suite. The table was elegantly set, and a small Christmas tree decorated one corner of the room. Presents were beautifully wrapped and placed neatly beneath the tree.

"Jim, when did you do all of this? This is absolutely wonderful! Thank you!"

"I managed. And you're welcome." Jim aimed a dazzling smile at his partner. "Come on, let's get you settled at the table. Dinner is almost served."

Jim escorted Artie to the table which had been set with their finest dinnerware, linens, and candles. "Jim, are you sure we're to meet President Grant in Denver? From the looks of things, he could be joining us for dinner tonight."

Jim lit the candles as he spoke. "Artie, no one is joining us tonight. This is Christmas Eve and this night is just for us." Jim sat down next to his partner and looked directly into his eyes. "For three months we knew nothing but that hospital. I thought this would be a nice change of scenery."

Artie knew Jim meant to say more. "It's a beautiful change," he commented softly.

"I knew you'd approve. Now, let me get dinner. Can't have you starving."

Jim disappeared into the galley and Artie was left alone to absorb the atmosphere in the room. The Christmas tree, adorned with small white candles, glowed brightly in the corner. All the colors in the room were warmed by the firelight, and Artie felt that warmth run through his soul. No doctors, no cold rooms, and no barren hospital hallways here, he thought. Just friendship and good food. Artie smiled to himself. Of course I do miss those nurses...

Artie continued to look around the room. Jim, buddy, you've outdone yourself this time. You are always there for me, no matter what. I'm so lucky to have you for a friend.

Jim, working in the galley, placed the finishing touches on the meal he had prepared for himself and his partner. There was fine aged steak, fresh vegetables, and a decadent chocolate cake for dessert. In lieu of fine wine, there was hot apple cider -- not Artie's first choice, Jim realized; but pain medication dictated the beverage of choice for this evening.

Jim placed their meals on a large serving tray and prepared to take them out to the table. This is a night to celebrate, Artie. I'm so glad you're celebrating with me.


"Jim, that meal was just delicious." Artie took a sip of cider, then swirled the warm beverage around in his glass. "Whoever taught you to cook is a person of exceptional culinary skill."

"Artie, you taught me to prepare that dish."

"I rest my case."

Jim grinned at his partner. "You're modest, too. Seriously, you are a great teacher. Ever feel you missed your calling?"

Artie shook his head. "Yes...and no."

"You want to clarify that?" Jim got up from the table and made his way to a window. He peered out intently.

"Well, teaching is fascinating. During my days in the theater, I enjoyed sharing my insight with the young thespians. Had I delved into that field full-time however, I wouldn't have gotten stuck with you for a partner."

"You're all heart." Still looking outside, Jim changed the subject. "Artie, do you think it's gotten colder in here since we started eating? I don't know if it's my imagination, but we've been traveling for almost two hours, and it seems colder. It's snowing outside, too."

"Yes, it does seem cooler in here, now that you've mentioned it." Artie adjusted the emerald green smoking jacket he was wearing. It did little to quell the cold he suddenly felt. He shivered inwardly as a chill ran down his spine.

"Are you okay?" asked Jim as he walked over to the tree and presents beneath. He noticed his partner's uneasiness and could not keep the concern from his voice.

"Oh sure, James, I'm fine. Sounds like the wind is picking up too, huh?" The howling sound of the wind was intensifying as the train sped along through the night.

"It's windy, for sure." Jim refused to elaborate further. He had seen the blowing snow outside already, and felt no need to concern his partner with the details. Focusing on other matters, he picked up a present from beneath the tree and brought it over to his partner, who had moved to the couch to relax.

"Merry Christmas, Artemus!"

"Thank you, James. You know, you shouldn't have."

"Yeah, I know -- but this time I couldn't help it."

The two men sat side-by-side on the couch and Artie took the box from his partner and began to remove the wrapping. Jim provided assistance since his friend's left arm was in a sling and mobility was rather restricted.

"You'll never guess what's in the box, pal." Jim smiled as his friend carefully opened the package, the outer wrappings now adorning the floor.

"No, I guess not. I can't possibly figure out..." Artie paused. He was stunned. He couldn't believe that Jim would give him this.

"What's wrong, buddy?" asked Jim softly.

"Oh, my God, Jim -- you didn't?" Artie realized what was in the box. "You did! I can't believe this..."


From the box, Artemus removed his present -- a beautiful violin. Not a man who ever found himself at a loss for words, one Artemus Gordon was finally speechless.

"Well, what do you think?" Jim watched his partner closely.

"It's beautiful, James. I absolutely love it. But you shouldn't have..."

"Enough! Yes, I should have! I've been meaning to replace your old violin for months now - ever since Winslow broke in here and wrecked the place." Jim lowered his voice. "I know how much it hurt you to learn that the other one had been destroyed. It destroyed me too -- I love to listen to you play."

Artie fought the mist that threatened to cover his eyes. He nodded in appreciation, "I love it, Jim. I'll treasure it always. I only wish I could play it now. Stopping three bullets can surely mess up a guy's day."

"True. Especially bullets meant for me." Jim put an arm around Artie's shoulder. "I'm telling you buddy, you ever do that again and I will..."

Jim's empty threat was left hanging in the air as a violent gust of wind shook the train. Dinner dishes, still on the table, clattered from the vibration, as did various other items on the train. The agents looked at each other in concern.

"I think I'd better clean up everything out here and secure the galley." Jim got up and made his way to the dinner table.

"Right. Any more wind like that and we'll be stepping over broken plates and dodging flying objects." Artie settled back on the couch. "I wish I could help, considering all the work it took for you to do this. I really appreciate it, Jim. Thank you."

"You're welcome, pal. And as for helping, never mind. You sit and relax. I'll clean this up in no time." Jim picked up a tray loaded with dishes and disappeared into the kitchen. The wind outside howled around the parlor car as the train cut through the night. The temperature outside had fallen; Jim could feel the chill in the air as he worked. God, I hope we're not steaming straight into a blizzard, he thought.

Dinner dishes put away and galley secured, Jim returned to his partner, who was engrossed in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was the issue that featured an in-depth report about the hold-up and Artie's shooting. Artemus looked up as Jim entered the room.

"Hey, buddy," said Jim, "reading about your heroic exploits?"

"Yeah, I guess." Artie put the paper down. "You know, we find trouble without even searching for it."

"You mean trouble finds us." Jim sat down next to his friend.

Artie sighed. "Yes. I mean, here we were, running an errand at a bank and several gunmen had the same idea at that very time -- different agenda, of course."

"Of course."

Artie shook his head. "Then one of 'em escapes, learns about the train through a clever plot meant to draw him out. It works. You fight the scum and rearrange the furniture and everything else in here in the process. You subdue him, like always, and the guy's hauled off to a jail cell within the next hour. Done deal. We find trouble, but clean it up so quickly. We are so efficient..."

"... and damn lucky," added Jim.

"Yes, and that worries me, James-my-boy. That the luck'll run out one of these days."


The agents discussed the newspaper reports for several more minutes until a shrill whistle sounded in the parlor suite. Artie was the first to react to the sound. "It must be getting worse out there. The engineer doesn't call without a reason."

"We'll soon find out." Jim walked over to the speaking tube, a device that connected the parlor car to other areas on the train. Jim spoke with the chief engineer for a minute, then returned to his partner. He sat next to Artie, slightly closer this time, and chose his words carefully. "We're slowing down, buddy."

"It's getting worse out there, isn't it? The wind is gaining in strength and the temperature is falling steadily. Am I right?"

"Right you are." Privately, Jim weighed the pros and cons of sharing the engineer's full report with his partner. He and Artemus were usually very honest and open with each other, so Jim felt uncomfortable withholding information. This was not work-related however, and considering the ordeal Artie had just been through, Jim opted to keep quiet about the drifting snow and ice building up around the tracks. Distraction for Artemus was the key, and Jim was an expert at that.

"Okay, Artie, enough weather talk. It's been a long day and I think we'd better get you settled." Jim pointed, thus indicating the way to Artie's room.

"Yeah, I suppose. Jim, there's no reason to be concerned, is there?"

"You mean about us slowing down? No, it's just a precaution. We'll make it to Denver with no problem." This answer seemed to satisfy Artie, much to Jim's relief. "Let's go, pal. We still have your favorite ritual to do."

"Aw, James, not the bandage detail."

"Yes, the bandage detail. You heard what the doctor said; and I promised to see to it that his instructions were followed. Bandages changed every day, wounds bathed, left arm stretched and exercised." Jim helped his partner to his feet. "Besides, the sooner we get that arm of yours working, the sooner I get a violin recital." Jim smiled at his friend.

"Ah! I knew you had an ulterior motive!" Artie returned the smile and allowed Jim to escort him to his sleeping quarters. Outside, the wind blew... and the snow continued.


The parlor suite was not the only area on the train that Jim had prepared especially for his friend's return. Artie's sleeping quarters had also received the once-over -- cleaned and polished from top to bottom, with fresh new linens and coverlet on the bed. There was also another small, perfectly wrapped present atop one of the pillows. Considering all the work Jim had done, Artie didn't know what to comment on first.

"Speechless again, buddy?" Jim filled a wash basin with water and gathered towels and new bandages for the operation at hand.

"You are incredible, James. I honestly don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything." Jim pointed to a chair he placed near the wash basin. "Just sit here so we can take care of that arm of yours." Artie obliged and within five minutes his arm was bathed and wrapped in new bandages. Jim wasted no time when he worked. "Okay, let's get you into bed so we can deal with everything else." Jim helped Artemus up and led him to the edge of the bed. The coverlet was turned down and Artie finally noticed the holiday present on the pillow.

"Jim, what did you do?" He picked up the small box. "The violin was more than enough."

"I'll be the judge of that." Jim sat next to his partner on the edge of the bed. "Go ahead, open it."

Neither man spoke while Artie opened the box. Only the sounds of unwrapping paper and howling wind penetrated the peaceful stillness of the room.

"Tickets?" Artie scrutinized them closely. "You are cordially invited to a performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on January 15, 1873 at the Chicago Opera House. Aw, Jim..."

"Well, we're there on business next month anyway, so I figured why not."

Artie closed his eyes and shook his head, deeply touched by all that his partner had done for him. "Jim, this is truly wonderful. Thank you. I only wish I had something for you." Artie spoke in quiet tones. "You've helped me with everything for the past three months." A tear escaped his tightly closed eyes. "How can I ever repay you?"

Jim stood up from where he was sitting on the bed and placed his hands on his friend's shoulders. "Artie, I want you to lie down."

"Yes, but what can I do?"

"I'm going to tell you. Just lie back against the pillows and relax." Jim brought the coverlet over his partner, tucked him in, and sat down alongside him. Moving in closer, Jim leaned over his friend so that they were face to face, inches apart. He brought his left hand to Artie's face, where fallen tears were brushed away. The touch was fiercely gentle; the moment intense. Artie hardly dared to breathe, lest the moment be disturbed. Finally, Jim whispered. "Just get better."


"That's what you could do for me, buddy." Jim's fingers slowly massaged Artie's forehead. "Just get well."

"That's it?" Artie allowed new tears to fall.

"That's everything, partner." Jim wiped the tears away. "You feeling better; the two of us working together again... that's all I want."

"Then I guess I'd better heal quickly."

Jim nodded. "I guess you'd better. And on that note, we still have some details to attend to here."

"The bandages?" Artie winced.

"The bandages." Jim moved the coverlet down and prepared to help his partner with the more private ministrations. He worked with caring efficiency, mindful of Artie's dignity and the depth of trust between them.

Artemus was overwhelmed by his friend's compassion. Jim rarely let his vulnerability show, as criminals needed to see James T. West as a lethal force to be reckoned with. It touched Artie deeply to see that Jim was comfortable enough with their friendship to share a side of himself that he shared with no one else. The Secret Service may have James T. West, Artie thought. But I have Jim.

"You okay, buddy?" Jim noticed his friend's complexion was more pale than usual.


"I know. Just take it easy -- we're almost finished." Jim's hand touched Artie's face gently in a gesture of comfort. "There. You're all set for another day, Artemus." Jim replaced the coverlet and tucked his partner in a second time. He was about to get up when Artie grabbed his arm.


"What is it?"


Jim smiled. "You're welcome, pal. Are you warm enough?"

"Yes, fine. Just my medication, that's all I need." Artie snuggled deeply into the bed in an effort to get comfortable. "Say, shouldn't you call the engineer again? See what's going on with the storm."

Jim gave Artie his medication and sat beside his friend once again. "Yes, I'm going to check in with the engineer as soon as you fall asleep. And don't worry about the weather, I'm sure it's nothing serious." Artie reached for Jim's hand and squeezed it gently. Jim returned the gesture and held the hand in his own. "Sleep well, partner."

Artie soon fell asleep.

back to top


It was just after 9 p.m. when Artemus fell asleep. Jim left his partner and walked back to the parlor suite. Calling Alex, the chief engineer, was foremost on his mind. He summoned Alex, who answered via the speaking tube.

"Mr. West, we may have ourselves a situation here. The visibility has decreased in the last half-hour, and we stopped earlier to clear away the snow and ice accumulating on the tracks." Jim listened intently as the engineer spoke. "I've got concerns about what may be ahead. They got snowsheds around Donner Pass, I just hope we get there before we have ourselves a real blizzard."

Jim knew all about the snow and what it could do on Donner Pass. His thoughts drifted back to his childhood. I was only four years old, but I can remember... Alex's words were cause for concern. "How's the fuel holding out?"

"I recommend conserving as much as possible. Cutting the heat by half will be helpful. Coal is holding out so far; so is the water supply. With the water, there is the danger of freezing, of course."

Jim did not like what he was hearing. His mind quickly formed a strategy for survival. "Alex, I'm going to lower the heat out here, saving what we have for Artie's room, the crew quarters, and the water supply. Also, I'm going to wire Colonel Richmond in Denver to apprise him of our situation. I'll also see if I can contact San Francisco. I'd like to get us turned around and headed back to the city."

"Sounds good, Mr. West. How is Mr. Gordon? Is he doing okay with this?"

Jim smiled. "He's okay, Alex. Thanks for asking."

"Sure. Say, there is one more concern -- that new switch over at Miner's Corner. The trestle there is under repair. There is also the siding, as well as an unfinished portion of track in addition to the regular route heading east. You may want to check with the stationmaster, Mr. West. I wouldn't want to steam us onto the wrong route, provided that we get over the pass first."

Damn. I forgot all about the switch at Miner's Corner. "I'll telegraph them too, Alex. I'll keep you informed."

"Okay, Mr. West."

"Thanks, Alex."

Jim ended the conversation. The wind roared outside. With determination, Jim set forth on his duties to secure the train. The night of the storm was destined to be a long one.


After speaking with Alex, Jim fired up the telegraph and proceeded to wire Denver, Miner's Corner, and San Francisco. Confirmation of the wireless to Denver was received immediately, much to the agent's relief. Confirmations from Miner's Corner and San Francisco, however, were not immediate in coming.

Not wanting to waste a minute, Jim made his rounds on the train, all the while listening for the tapping noise of the telegraph. He made the necessary adjustments to the heat, lowering it by half in all unoccupied areas. The galley had been secured following dinner, so Jim proceeded to the lab and his own quarters. Everything that could be tied down was fastened securely; small items were stowed away in cabinets; and the cabinets were then secured. I saw a train wreck once, he thought briefly, then dismissed the thought - the telegraph was finally tapping out a message.

"'Danger. Poor track reported. Ice accumulation. Proceed with caution. Route to San Francisco impassable,'" said Jim, reading the message aloud. He reread the words several times, the full impact of them gradually sinking in.I can't believe it, he thought, we just passed through that area less than an hour ago. Jim sent a wire to San Francisco, confirming receipt of the message. As he did so, a strong gust of wind swirled around the parlor car, blowing snow against the windows. The snow had crystallized into tiny pellets of ice, and clattered against the window glass in a desperate attempt to enter. Jim looked up from where he was sitting at the telegraph. Just what have we gotten ourselves into...

With still no response from Miner's Corner, Jim decided to look in on his partner, who, as it turned out, was sleeping soundly. He watched Artie for a moment and quietly whispered a promise into the night. "I'm going to get you through this, buddy." Artie did not stir. "We'll get through this together." Jim left the room, softly closing the door behind him.

After checking on his partner, Jim returned to the telegraph. Miner's Corner still returned no confirmation, and Jim, quite frustrated, signaled Alex to inform him of the situation.

"No one answers, Mr. West?"

"No. I got through to Denver and San Francisco -- there's been a report of ice build-up on the tracks, so making a turnaround back to the city is impossible. No report yet from Miner's Corner."

"We'll continue on, Mr. West. There are miles of snowsheds around the pass -- that should help get us over." Snowsheds had been built on Donner to keep the tracks free of snow. There were miles of covered track, making transportation through the area viable, even in the midst of winter. "You cut the heat, Mr. West? We're going to need every ounce of steam for the engine to pull us through."

"All set. How's your crew holding up?"

"Okay. We're working in shifts to ease the burden. It may be a long haul."

"I appreciate all your efforts, Alex. I'll keep you posted about any wires that come in."

The conversation ended. Jim had one more stop to make before he could collapse in the chair in Artie's room -- the horses needed tending.


Putting on a heavy cape over his burgundy smoking jacket, Jim entered the stable car. Blackjack and Mesa, the agents' horses, looked up at him as he entered. "Hey there, easy now. It's just me," he reassured the animals.

Jim cared for Blackjack first. He watered, fed, brushed, and blanketed him and the horse nudged Jim with his nose, neighing in appreciation. Artie's horse, Mesa, was next. She snorted loudly in greeting, and as Jim fed her dinner, the horse whinnied in response, rubbing her muzzle against his chest. "Yeah girl, it's okay. Artie's here. He's with us again," said Jim to Mesa. "And he'll be with us a good long time." Jim patted the animal. "Gotta bring Artie in to see you, girl. He missed you too..."

Screech. Jim's thought never finished. The Wanderer came to a halt, wheels screaming against the icy track in an attempt to find traction. Jim lost his balance and fell against one wall of Mesa's stall. He regained his footing quickly and grabbed the horse's tether. Mesa was agitated by the incident and was whinnying loudly. "Easy, girl! You're okay," he soothed. "Alex and his crew are putting in overtime on this trip." Mesa bobbed her head up and down as if she understood. "Think I'll check on them and see what it's like outside." Mesa snorted in response. "I'll be back girl, don't worry," said Jim as he patted the horse and left the stable car.

For Jim and Artie, traveling aboard the Wanderer was like living in the lap of luxury. The agents had never encountered any difficulty with the private train; their travels had always been safe, smooth, and fast across the mountains and plains of the wild American West. I can't believe this... thought Jim as he made his way outside. Three-foot drifts had piled up around the tracks and ice had formed a shimmering glaze on the train's exterior. Slowly, Jim approached the engine and was stunned to find the crew facing the predicament at hand. Alex, leaning out of the engine cab's window, was barking orders to his crew, who were shoveling snow away from the tracks. He shouted more instructions, then stopped abruptly when Jim appeared under the window, shovel in hand. "Mr. West, get back inside! The crew can handle it!"

Jim shivered against the biting cold and the snowdrifts that piled up around him. The night was pierced only by the glow from the Wanderer's headlight, which illuminated the snow-covered trees and rocky terrain for several yards before being swallowed by darkness. "Artie's onboard, Alex, and he's been through hell! You can bet I'm gonna help shovel us out!"

"As you wish, sir!" replied the engineer. Alex knew that absolutely nothing could stand in the way of Jim helping his partner, or anyone else for that matter. There's no better team in the Secret Service than those two, he thought. Alex continued to watch the men shovel away the snow. He prayed that the lull in the storm was permanent.

James West shoveled snow off the tracks and tried to ignore the bitter cold that was numbing his hands and feet. Wonder if Artie could invent something to blast us out of this situation? Finally, after much struggling, Jim and the engineering crew, along with Alex who'd also picked up a shovel, freed the snowbound train. "You guys are doing one hell of a job up here," complemented Jim. "Hopefully, we'll be able to keep going now. The snow's stopped. You all try to get some rest."

Alex smiled. " We'll sleep in shifts, Mr. West. We'll be watching what's ahead."

"Thank you," replied Jim, then left the engineers for the stable car. Blackjack and Mesa greeted the agent as he entered. "Easy," he said softly. "Mesa-my-girl, I'm back. Told you I'd be back." Jim tended the horse and was nearly finished when the train jolted forward on the track. The Wanderer was moving again, making slow progress through the night. Mesa was startled by the sudden movement of the train, and whinnied loudly. She stamped a hoof against the floor of her stall, and snuggled her nose against Jim's chest. Jim stroked the horse's muzzle and spoke in calming tones. Suddenly, he was overcome by a deep need to check on Artie. "Gotta go for now," he told the horses. "I have a feeling my brother needs me."

Mesa bobbed her head up and down. She was in complete agreement.


"Jim! Jim, where are you?" Artie's scream sliced through the quiet train -- and Jim's heart -- like a knife. It was the first sound the agent heard upon leaving the stable car. Removing his heavy cape along the way, Jim rushed to his partner's side. Artemus was deep in the throes of a nightmare -- the coverlet grasped in his hands in a death-like grip. "Jim? Where are you? Can't move...trapped!" Artie tossed and turned violently; sweat collected on his brow; his breathing labored.

"Artie, wake up!" Jim sat next to his friend and shook him gently by the shoulders. At the touch, Artie jolted awake and sat up in bed as quickly as his body could manage. He was momentarily disoriented until he felt the presence of a warm embrace. Jim's arms held him close. "Easy buddy, easy. I'm right here. You're okay." Artie relaxed into the embrace, trembling as the final vestiges of his dream lingered in his mind. "It's okay. Easy now," Jim soothed.

It was a few moments before Artie found his voice. "Jim... so damn real..." he whispered.

"I gathered that, buddy. What was real?" The embrace lingered.

"We derailed."

Oh God.

"We derailed and I was trapped. There was absolute darkness." Artie swallowed hard as he relived the dream. "The hissing steam from the engine was all I could hear. I called out to you, but I couldn't hear anything over that damn steam." Jim, mindful of the storm outside, tightened his embrace as his partner continued. "The cold was numbing; I couldn't feel anything. The snow and sleet were falling, burning my eyes; and the wind cut like a knife. I shouted to you over and over, but you never answered." Artie shivered. "I was so utterly alone -- and terrified for you."

"Okay buddy, that's enough. It's over now," said Jim quietly. Derailed! God, Artie, you don't even know what's happening outside! How can I tell you your nightmare has potential for reality? Just then the wind howled around the train, punctuating Jim's thoughts. The sound of the storm was not lost to his partner.

"Jim, it sounds bad out there. What's been going on?"

"I've got a lot to tell you, buddy, and it won't be easy to hear, especially after that dream."

"I can handle it," said Artie, regaining his composure. "Just tell me the truth."

Jim knew that he must be honest with his partner. The bond they shared was all about honesty, and a deep respect and trust in one another. Their friendship dictated that the truth must be told. "Artie, look at me." The two separated slightly and Jim placed a hand on either side of his partner's face. "Now, you listen to me. The weather is a problem. We have heavy snow and wind, with snowdrifts and ice accumulating on the tracks." Jim gazed steadily into his partner's eyes. "I've been outside once already, helping Alex and his crew dig us out of a drift."

"You were out there?" asked Artie incredulously.



"To help my partner." Jim still held his friend's gaze. Artie's chocolate brown eyes melted into a mixture of deep concern and affection. "We were stuck Artie, I had to help get us moving again." Jim paused. "We can't go back to San Francisco, the track is iced over; could be a snowslide, too, the wire wasn't specific."

"A wire? Then they know where we are?"

"I was able to reach Denver, so Colonel Richmond must be aware of our situation. San Francisco is aware as well. Miner's Corner I'm not sure of. Still waiting for word. In fact, if you're okay, I'm going to go wire them again."

Artie nodded. "I'm okay. Didn't expect this though. The guy in San Francisco said the weather would be fine."

"I know." Jim got up from the bed. "Oh, there's one more thing. I did take some precautions. I battened down the hatch really well, so don't worry. Everything is secure."

"You thought of everything, James."

"Yes. And I'm thinking something else, too. Lie down." Jim sat beside Artie and helped lower him to the pillow. He made the downward motion with him, so he was leaning over his partner. After adjusting the blankets and making Artie comfortable, Jim placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "We're going to be okay. The goal is to reach the snowsheds, then it will be clear sailing. We will make it." Jim squeezed Artie's shoulder, conveying strength in the touch.

Artie reached up and covered Jim's hand with his own. "I know we'll be fine. Now go telegraph. I'll be waiting for you."

"Don't go far." Jim smiled and got up from the bed.

"Where would I go?" Artie returned a slight smile.

Jim left the room.

back to top


All was quiet and cold in the dimly lit parlor car. Jim surveyed the room. It was deathly silent save for the rumble of the steam engine waging a war against the elements. We climbed a few steep grades in the last hour, thought Jim. I wonder how the coal is holding out? Lighting in the train had been reduced to preserve precious fuel, and the subdued light cast eerie shadows around the room. The Christmas tree, a symbol of Artie's homecoming and beautifully lit with candles several hours before, now stood shrouded in darkness. Out, out, brief candle.... Jim looked at the tree and felt a chill race down his spine. Why does it feel as if we are really on our own out here? The train's whistle blew just then. It was a lonely, distant sound that the wind strangled into silence. Jim listened, then shrugged off his uneasy feelings. Not a man thwarted by omens and superstition, Jim swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat and walked over to the telegraph. As he prepared to send off several messages, winds buffeted the train from every angle, swaying the parlor car on its springs. Hang in there, Artie, we'll get through this.

Jim completed the wireless message to Denver, informing Colonel Richmond of their current position and estimated arrival time in the city. Denver's so far away, he thought. If we get stuck out here, help could only come from San Francisco. Still, Jim felt the urgency of getting the message out to his superiors. He was very relieved when confirmation came from the Colorado city. The other wireless messages were next. As Jim wired Miner's Corner and San Francisco, Jim thought of his partner alone in the other room. He imagined the terror of Artie's dream.

Derailed... trapped... cold... darkness... blizzard... alone.

"Why don't you answer?" he muttered out loud as the telegraph remained quiet.

Outside, sleet poured from the sky and pelted the windows. Jim looked out into the darkness; the icy glaze that had formed on the glass was all that was visible.

Still, the telegraph was silent.

Jim was about to wire San Francisco and Miner's Corner again when a whistle disrupted his concentration. It was Alex. Jim prepared to answer the call, and as he did so, the lights in the parlor car flickered and went out. A suffocating darkness engulfed the room.

"Alex, what's going on up there?"

"Power, Mr. West. We handled a few steep grades within the last hour and it was tough going 'cause we had to move so slowly. We used up quite a bit of fuel to get us going uphill - more than I expected. Considering the distance we still have to cover, coal is dangerously low. There are no refueling stops, so we've had to take drastic measures. As we discussed earlier, lights and heat are down to save on coal, and Mr. Gordon's quarters now have partial heat; same for the crew's. The fresh water supply is also being looked after."

"How 'bout the telegraph, Alex? Battery back-up is functioning - that's the first thing I checked. I sent several wires just now and received confirmation for only one of them. I haven't heard back from Miner's Corner or San Francisco since I last spoke to you. I'm concerned 'cause any hope of assistance will have to come from San Francisco, and right now they have no precise away to locate us and no update on our position."

"They may still have received the message, Mr. West. If the battery's in order, my guess is the problem lies with the weather. The lines could also be down due to possible snowslide, but I doubt that. It hasn't been snowing long enough for that to occur. It's probably just the weather, in which case your transmissions could've been received with no problem. There's just no way to be certain right now. Full steam is what we need; and full steam is what we don't have. We must keep moving -- that's priority. Our power situation could be part of the problem, but if you wired prior to the power failure, and checked the battery, I'm sure the message got through."

"Let's hope so, Alex. Let's hope so." Jim paused. "Listen, I'm going to check in on Artie. Keep me informed, chief... and thank you."

"No problem, Mr. West."

The conversation ended. Jim carefully made his way through the parlor. He picked up a kerosene lamp in the galley, lighted it, and proceeded to Artie's suite. His partner had been in the dark long enough.


Sleep was a lost prospect to Artemus after Jim left the room. Gotta distract myself with something, he thought. Looking around the room, he spotted his small leather-bound journal on the end table beside the bed. Artie had kept a journal for years, but found that he'd never written quite so much since he'd partnered with Jim.

Carefully sitting up just enough to reach the book, Artie grabbed it and settled back on his pillow. He flipped through the pages, some of which he'd shared with his partner. There were sketches of his many disguises - disguises that had saved Jim on numerous occasions. There were passages of poetry and prose; and more than one anecdote about the villains they'd had dealings with. The pages told the story of wonderful dates, beautiful ladies, and more than one lost love.

Artie also wrote about his friendship with Jim, whom he considered to be the brother he never had. There were tales of fun and adventure, on the job and off; plus thoughts about quieter times when Jim had been a source of strength and understanding. Tonight will make for a good entry, he thought as he perused the pages, reading excerpts here and there. We've got suspense, danger, a villain personified as Mother Nature, Jim being his usual efficient self, and God knows what else before it's over.

Artie turned another page and muttered the date out loud. "September 2nd through the 12th, 1872. Day of the shooting and the week following." He'd written the entry just about a month ago, around Thanksgiving. He had much to be thankful for. Artie scanned over the entry and found himself drawn to the passages. He began to read:

Journal entry for September 2nd through the 12th, 1872. There isn't much I can recall about September 2nd, 1872 other than the fact that the events which transpired profoundly affected my partner and I, and the friendship we share. It was a normal day -- too normal, if you ask me. Something was bound to go wrong. Jim and I were at a bank down in San Francisco, running an errand for an old friend we were visiting, when all hell broke loose. Everything happened so quickly: three gunmen entered and quickly commandeered the building. One of the employees -- a hotshot young man out to save the world -- refused to cooperate, and before Jim and I could intervene, gunfire erupted through the place. There was no time to think, only act, which is exactly what I did when one of the robbers, a slick dude named Winslow, aimed a shotgun at my partner's back. Jim, taking aim and firing at the two accomplices (which he hit, of course) was oblivious to the impending danger. I shouted Jim's name, and as I did so, ran to push my partner out of harm's way. Gunfire erupted as Jim and I hit the floor together. Everything was a blur at this point. Slow motion. People were screaming, and Winslow -- I had no idea where he went. All I saw was my partner leaning over me. He was begging me to breathe and relax. I didn't know I'd been shot until that point.

Jim held me after the shooting -- my head rested in his lap. I remember nothing other than his eyes looking down at me. I think he yelled for help once or twice, I don't know. My entire world was the strength I saw in his eyes, and Jim never allowed the gaze to waver. He was quiet, calm, and gentle; and his confident spirit willed me to live.

Jim stayed at my side and the doctor soon came. There was blood everywhere. I've never seen my partner covered in blood. It scared the living hell out of me. Jim and the doctor took me to the hospital. Jim's hand was on mine the whole way -- it was the only thing I felt. Strange to be shot and not feel anything but your best friend's presence. We got to the hospital and Jim had to let me go. That's when my world went black.

For several days, I was out of it, or so Jim tells me. Ten days after the shooting, on the 12th, I awakened in the evening. A storm raged on outside: thunder, lightning, hail, wind. My room was a stark contrast: warm, dry, comfortable. There was only one thing wrong: my intense pain.

Jim was sitting next to me, holding my hand. He told me everything would be all right and encouraged me to relax. The painful spasms merely intensified and became worse as I tensed up. Jim placed a hand on my forehead and smoothed back my hair. I tried to focus on the touch. The spasms eased. What I really wanted was another dose of the marvelous painkiller they had given me; but Jim said no. I'd have to wait two hours. God.

Meanwhile, the storm raged outside. It competed with the war of pain surging through my body. A loud thunderclap shook the whole building and startled me so badly I nearly jumped out of my skin. My sudden movement triggered a violent pain reaction, and I was powerless to control it. Jim said he had an idea that might help, and the next thing I knew, my partner was holding me in his arms. I leaned against his chest; my head resting on his shoulder. When each spasm overwhelmed me and threatened my sanity, my partner and I held onto each other. Jim softly told me to relax, and I allowed him to take over. ' Give me the pain, Artie,' he said. 'Relax and trust me. '

I know I cried. I don't remember it; but I cried. My partner and I fought the spasms of pain together, and soon they were less intense and less frequent. Even the thunder outside died away, leaving only a gentle rain in its wake. We sat together the rest of the evening, just holding each other, both glad that the night of the storm was over.

Artie closed the journal and held it close to his heart. Jim and I can get through anything, he thought.

Then the lights went out.


"Artemus-my-boy, we've got trouble now," muttered Artie into the darkness, still holding his journal tightly in his hands. The book was an anchor in the darkness and a source of strength and comfort. Just holding the memories in his hands was a calming influence. Anything to keep that nightmare out of my mind, he thought.

Jim had been gone quite some time. I wonder if he got those wires confirmed. Artie listened to the storm outside. He knew all too well what could happen during a storm out in these mountains. I was 19 years old then, and had no idea my future partner was suffering the same terror that I was. He was only four years old. I can't imagine Jim as a child of four. A gust of wind surged at the car then, blowing sleet and hail against the windows. The rattling noise was disturbing to Artie, whose nightmare returned with a vengeance. Jim, where the hell are you? He considered getting up out of bed, but dismissed the thought. His mind once again focused on the situation. We've outwitted the cunning Dr. Loveless, the flamboyant Count Manzeppi, and countless others -- but how can one outwit the weather? Artie thought about Jim digging the train out of a snowdrift. A guy can't throw punches at Mother Nature and expect to win. Artie shivered. Oh God, the heat has been lowered. What's next? Suddenly, a light appeared at the door and Jim entered with kerosene lamp in hand. A lamp... and extra blankets. "Jim, what's going on?" He noticed what Jim was carrying. "Extra blankets?"

"Yes. It's going to get much colder in here, Artie. Power has to be directed to the engine to keep us moving toward the snowsheds on the pass. We made it up a few steep grades earlier, and it was not a good thing for the coal supply."

"How did it go with the telegraph?"

Jim explained everything that had happened earlier, and updated his partner on the conversation with Alex.

"You know, Jim, I wouldn't worry about Miner's Corner at this point. If we can't get over the pass, we won't even reach the new switch over there. San Francisco though... that worries me. They need to know where we are."

"I know. And it's snowing again. Icing too." Both men were silent for a minute and listened to the sound of nature's fury outside. The train's whistle blew in defiance to the overbearing wind, sleet, and snow that refused to quit. Jim sat beside his friend. "The windows out front are all glazed over. I've never seen the parlor look so, I don't know, empty. We're always working, relaxing or entertaining in there; but tonight I think even the Christmas tree can feel the loneliness." Jim paused. "And that reminds me, Merry Christmas, Artie."

"It's after midnight already?"

"Yep, 12:30."

"Merry Christmas, Jim." Artie clasped his friend's hand. Brown eyes merged with green and the rest of the world dropped away. The brother of my heart; the brother of my soul. The essence of something indefinable passed between them; and neither Jim nor Artie flinched at the presence. The bond they shared was visible in each other's eyes; and neither wanted to break away from it. Jim finally did so, but only to move closer to Artie. He gave his friend a warm hug. The embrace lingered, for how long, neither could guess. The storm raged on outside, as it had done for hours. A low rumble came out of the wind, and Artie picked up on it first. "Jim?"


"Jim, wait a minute. Do you hear that?" A low rumble was growing into a quiet roar.

Jim listened. "Yeah. I hear it." He was puzzled. The sound was not part of the storm. He and Artie separated slightly and looked at each other. Realization hit them at the same instant. "Artie, move back against the headboard and put the pillows behind you!" Jim got up with lightning speed as Artie followed the instructions.

"What are you doing?"

"Grabbing something to hold onto. If we collide head-on, we'll be thrown forward. If we're lucky, we won't go far." As long as we don't jump the track. Jim dismissed the thought and grabbed two belts and looped one inside the other. "We're not traveling fast, so hopefully this'll be all we need." Jim looped the bottom belt around one leg of the bed; and looped the other belt around his wrist. He was about to sit next to his partner, when Artie noticed the lamp.

"The lantern, Jim, turn it off! We don't need a flash fire added to the problem."

Jim doused the lights, plunging the room into darkness. The rumble from the mountaintop grew louder.

"Jim, get over here! What are you doing?"

"I'm here!" Jim sat beside his partner, facing him, and squeezing him into the pillows. "I've got the belt around my wrist now. I'm going to hang onto it, and to you." Jim wound the leather strap tightly around his left wrist. His right arm snaked around his partner, his hand resting on the back of Artie's neck for comfort and support. Each rested their head on the other's shoulder. "Just hang on!" Jim whispered fiercely into his friend's ear. "Tightly!"

"There's not much strength left in me, but what I have, you've got." Artie grabbed onto Jim hoping their combined strength would be enough to keep them both upright.

The rumble was now thunder straight from the mountain itself.


In the engine cab, Alex was on duty when the low rumble became discernible over the sound of the storm. Slowing the train even more, the engineer looked above for any ominous signs, but he could see nothing. The roar became deafening, and as the train took the next turn, Alex felt his blood run cold. "Oh, dear God!" he muttered to himself, and fell on the whistle in warning.


Whoo! Whoo! Whoooo!

Two short; one long -- Alex's danger signal! Jim tightened his hold on Artie and prepared for impact. The signal was not a mystery to his partner.


"Don't! We'll be fine!"

Screech! The Wanderer's brakes squealed and slipped on the icy track and plunged forward into an avalanche of snow and ice that had once been the mountain's summit. Jim strained against the leather belt and held Artie in an iron-like grip. The leather tore into the flesh at his wrist, but Jim barely noticed the pain. All that mattered was his partner. A second screeching sound pierced the night, as the train desperately groped for traction. This time, she found it. Items on board were pitched forward as the Wanderer connected with the avalanche of snow.

For some reason, Jim thought of their Christmas tree.

Artie leaned heavily on Jim's shoulder. A violin came to mind.

Neither could speak.

The train skidded again.

"Oh God," whispered Artie.

Then all was quiet.

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Silence. The first thing James was aware of was the silence. Slowly, another feeling crept into his consciousness -- the warmth of his friend. "Artie?" He whispered into the darkness. "You okay?" Jim's right arm was still wrapped around the older man; his hand still at the back of Artie's neck, fingers gently massaging the stiff muscles. Artie did not respond. "Hey, buddy? Don't do this. Answer me?" Slowly, Artie nodded his head and Jim breathed a sigh of relief. "You ready to move, partner? Be nice to get some light in here; I need to see you. Hope we didn't lose that lantern."

"Thank you, James." The voice was a whisper.

"You're welcome." Jim knew he'd saved his partner from further injury during the collision. His bloody left wrist was a testament to the force of the accident. "I'm going to let you go now," he warned his friend; and the two separated.

Carefully finding his way in the darkness, Jim located the lantern on the hook where he'd placed it. He lighted it and took in his surroundings. Small items were strewn about the room and Jim picked them up. Artie's journal had fallen to the floor. Jim picked it up and brought it to his partner. Artie noticed Jim's wrist.

"What on earth? Jim, get over here and let me see that!"

"It's not bad. Looks worse than it feels." Okay, that's a lie.

"Help me up."


"So I can patch you up, James-my-boy. It's the least I can do."

Jim smiled and knew better than to argue. Within minutes, ' Dr. Gordon ' was tending to one injured wrist. "Ouch! It stings!" Jim winced as Artie gently cleaned the area and bandaged it properly. "Why do I think you're enjoying this?"

Artie grinned mischievously. "Maybe I am; maybe I'm not." The ' doc ' completed his treatment. "There. Better?"

Jim nodded. "Thanks."

Artie's eyes, though tired, sparkled with affection. "You're welcome." Sitting on the edge of the bed, he chose his next words carefully. "I'm going with you."

Jim faced his partner. I swear he can read my mind. "I'd rather you didn't."

"You're going outside; I know I'm not up to that, but I'm going with you to see how we fared. We should check on the horses, and while you're outside, I'll pick up the pieces in the parlor." He looked at Jim intently. "We're going to deal with this together -- no matter what's out there."

In the dim light, Jim could see the determination on his friend's face. He's always willing to go the extra mile, even at the end of the road, he thought. He's ready for this though - I can see it in his eyes. My partner is back. "Okay, we go together. Just watch your step!" Jim picked up the lantern and helped Artie up from the bed. After putting on warm capes, the two left the room.

The rest of the train was brisk with the cold from the storm. The agents slowly made their way to the stable car, where Blackjack and Mesa whinnied in greeting. "Hello, Mesa-my-girl," said Artie, stroking the horse's muzzle and calming the animal. "We're here now, everything is okay." Not wanting to be left out, Jim's horse, Blackjack, moved closer to Artie. "Hey boy, how you doing? You been taking care of Jim?" In response, the horse rubbed its nose against Artie's chest, nodding in affirmation.

"You know, Mesa did that to me," said Jim, lighting three more lanterns. "She made me feel like I should look in on you. I walked out the door and heard your screaming. Mesa sensed your nightmare."

Artie felt a chill race through him, and the cold had little to do with it. "Thank you, Mesa," he said quietly to the horse. "Thank you."

"You ready to go, buddy?" Jim held two lanterns and gave his partner the other two.

"Yes." He patted both horses and the animals snorted in response. "You know Jim, I'd like to take a look at the telegraph. Why don't I do that while you check out the wilderness. You can meet me there."

"Okay. Just take it easy. You could try to call Alex, too. I'm worried about him; haven't heard from him in awhile."

"He's probably trying to dig us out, but I'll call him anyway. Oh, and James?"


"You be careful. I am in no mood to dig you out of a snowdrift."

Jim smiled. "I'll watch it." He patted his friend on the arm, then left to check on things outside.

You'd better watch it, my friend. How many times in a lifetime can one survive a blizzard on Donner Pass?


Slowly, Artie made his way down a narrow passageway to the parlor. The lanterns he carried did little to chase away the darkness. A strong gust of wind was the only sound to punctuate the bone-chilling silence that permeated the train. Artie shivered as he entered the empty parlor suite. A sense of isolation could be felt within the walls. Jim was right, he thought. It is lonely.

Artie peered through the dim lantern light. Furniture had slid across the room during the collision, and various small items were strewn about the floor. The telegraph desk was intact, as was the device itself. The desk lamp met a tragic fate, however, smashed to pieces on the floor.

"Guess I'd better check that machine," muttered Artie as he carefully walked over to the telegraph. He placed the lanterns on the desk and quickly inspected the device. Jim had engaged the emergency battery earlier, so the unit was powered and awaiting transmission. "Okay baby, you send this to San Francisco. Tell 'em where we are." He sent the wire and sat down at the desk to wait. There was only silence. Come on! Someone, hear us...please! The silence grew louder with each minute. Frustrated, Artie got up to call Alex. He whistled through the speaking tube and waited, but no reply came from the engineer. He's outside with Jim, that's all. The thought provided some reassurance.

Discouraged by the futile attempt at communication, Artie walked back to the desk and sat down. He fired off two more wires, just in case -- one to Denver; and the other, once again, to San Francisco. There was no reply.

The wires must be down. Artie rested his head in his hands. He listened to the storm outside. The wind vibrated the walls of the car and hail pelted the windows. Pain and fatigue began to gnaw at him, and he wished he hadn't left the warmth of his room for this little adventure. He sighed. I'm out here because I'm Jim's partner, and as long as I'm able, I'm gonna do whatever I can to help. Artie thought about Jim. He was hesitant to let me handle things alone on this end while he went outside. Still, he agreed to the suggestion. Couldn't have been easy for him, giving me the gift of independence after all we've endured together these past three months. He was so confident that I could handle this alone. Artie shifted uncomfortably in his chair and looked at the silent telegraph. "I could handle this a whole lot better if you'd start tapping out what I want to hear," he muttered to the machine. The device was unresponsive. Artie looked away and rubbed the fatigue from his eyes and forehead. Realization hit him then -- his left arm was free of the sling. Never even thought to put it on, he marveled. His arm and shoulder were sore where one bullet had found its mark, but mobility was returning. Thanks to the diligent care of one Jim West, he thought.

Time passed slowly. Artie rested his head in his hands as he manned the telegraph. At one point, he looked up hoping to see Jim had returned, but he was still alone. Artie allowed his thoughts to entertain him again. He looked around the parlor suite as far as lantern light would allow, and into the darkness beyond. So many ghosts here. He was reminded of what his partner said about this room. Celebrations, meetings, presidential visits and visits from dignitaries the world over, dates -- many lovely young ladies, and quiet moments of friendship with Jim were all here, spectres floating in the darkness beyond reach of the lantern light. They were so real, Artie felt he could reach out and touch them. Just then, a glimmer of something caught the corner of his eye. He got up, picked up the lanterns, and carefully moved toward the shiny object. It was the star from the Christmas tree. Artie placed the lanterns on the floor, picked up the star from the chair where it lay, and sat down. At his feet, ornaments and candles, which had once adorned the tree, were now strewn about with reckless abandon. The tree itself was crushed beneath the table upon which it had stood. The collision had destroyed all but the star, which Artie still held gently in his hands. Starlight, starbright, only star to see this night, he thought, staring at the twisted branches and crushed glass decorations. Jim worked so hard to make my homecoming special. Artie's heart ached at the sight of their tree.

Still holding the star, Artie wondered how Jim was doing. Has he talked to Alex and the crew? Sure is taking him long enough to come back. Artie remembered the delicious dinner Jim had prepared and another thought came to him. Placing the star aside, the agent got up and carefully moved the Christmas tree. He was looking for something and he found it beneath the heavy, overturned table. The violin was damaged beyond repair.

For Artie, time seemed to stand still. The precious instrument, freed from its protective case during the collision, was little more than a pile of junk. Gingerly, he picked up the violin and sat down in the chair with the instrument on his lap. Delicately, his fingers traced its outline. Jim's thoughtful gift would never be played. Artie swallowed hard. The pain he felt now had nothing to do with his injuries. He fought the urge to give in to his emotions. Sssss! The sound of escaping steam from the train's engine screamed into the night, but Artie barely noticed. The specter of Jim, the violin, the tree, and the whole celebration haunted him. How quickly can all that's precious be lost. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, completely oblivious to Jim's presence in the shadows a few yards away.


Jim entered the parlor suite with caution to avoid startling his partner. He entered the room shrouded in darkness, his lanterns giving out in the preceding corridor. The situation outside was grim, and seeing Artie surrounded by wreckage did not make him feel any better. Artie was holding something and it took several seconds for Jim to realize what it was. The violin had been destroyed in the collision, and Artie was clearly devastated. As if he hasn't endured enough...

Jim thought about how to proceed. I can't let him know I've been watching him, he thought. I gotta give him time to pull it together. Silently, Jim walked back into the dark corridor. Steam was escaping from the engine, so he knew he'd have to be loud to make himself heard. Pretending that he'd not already seen his partner, Jim moved forward and called to his friend. "Hey buddy," he said, reentering the parlor suite. "Any luck with the telegraph?"

Artie looked up, not the least bit startled. "No. It's working, but there's been no reply from anyone." He looked down again. "Steam's escaping. I don't suppose it looks good out there."

"No, it doesn't. I talked with Alex and the crew. They were trying to shovel us out, but there's just no way. At least the snow's stopped. For a time it was really coming down." Jim noticed his partner did not look up. "Gonna be stuck out here for a while."

Artie did not respond.

Jim moved in closer, kneeled in front of his friend, and studied Artie's face. His partner's eyes were closed. Slowly, he reached up to touch the violin and rested his hand on the instrument. Artie, with eyes still closed, sensed his friend's concern. He opened his eyes and looked at his partner. "I'm sorry, buddy," Jim whispered. "I'm so sorry."

Artie covered Jim's hand with one of his own, and squeezed gently. "Wish I could've played it just once, you know?"

Jim nodded, clasping his partner's hand. "I know." He paused. "I wish I could've heard it."

The friends were quiet for several moments, each gaining strength from the other. The steam escaping from the engine stopped abruptly, leaving the agents alone with their silent thoughts. Outside, the wind picked up; and inside, one of Artie's two lanterns went out, leaving the room in heavy shadows. The temperature was dropping and both shivered. Thoughts returned to the situation at hand.

"We've received no new messages," said Artie quietly. "Lines must be down, but I want to set up the secondary unit just in case." Artie had built a second telegraph for emergency purposes, and there was no better occasion to use it. "We'll set it up in my suite." He shivered again. "Too cold to sit out here and wait for messages that may be a longtime coming."

"Good idea. Come on, pal," said Jim as he helped his partner to his feet. "Give me the violin; you pick up the lanterns. We got a lot to do." Artie handed the instrument over and Jim placed the violin next to the star his friend had been holding earlier.

"You know, Jim, that star was the only thing from our celebration that wasn't destroyed in the collision."

Jim looked at the star and then at his partner, noticing for the first time that Artie's arm was free of the sling. "It's not the only thing, buddy," he whispered, looking deeply into his friend's eyes and placing a gentle hand on Artie's injured shoulder. Artie returned the gaze as the warmth of Jim's friendship flooded his soul. He nodded in silent agreement.

"C'mon," said Jim leading his partner by the arm. "Let's get that telegraph set up and get you back to bed so you can rest. Tomorrow you can help dig us out of here."

"Oh sure. A couple hours without an arm harness and the man has me picking up a shovel," muttered Artie to himself and making sure his partner heard every word. "You are joking...right?"

"Maybe I am; maybe I'm not," replied Jim as the agents left the parlor suite, their banter fading as the two left the room. The star and the violin were now shrouded in darkness, surrounded only by the spectres of the past. Outside, storm clouds moved in...and once again it began to snow.



go to PART TWO




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