Everyone was giving Tommy a look of confusion and disbelief—including Sam. Tommy swallowed the lump caught in his throat as he felt each scrutinizing gaze.
“You know this young man?” The Conductor asked with furrowed brow and contemplative mustache.
“You know me?” Sam asked with even more skepticism. Tommy’s mind was working a mile a minute as he tried to work through his words. “Listen, guys. I’ve never seen this man in my entire life. No way you guys are handing me over to this sicko,” Sam lashed out.
“Officer, what is the meaning of this?” The Conductor leveled at Tommy. The man’s eyes burrowed into Tommy.
“Of course, I do, Sam. You can stop pretending, now. These men are allowed to know you have been working undercover for me,” Tommy said. Both Gusteau and the Conductor turned towards Sam whose face was a myriad of doubts. Once the attention was off of him, Tommy took the opportunity to mouth words to Sam.
“Well, young man. Is this true?”
Finally, recognition settled into Sam’s face as his face lit up with acknowledgement.
“Yes, yes! Of course. I am working undercover for Officer Tommy—.”
“—Perkins. You don’t have to use my secret name, Sam.” The Conductor tilted his head and gave Tommy a sidelong glance.
“Right. My bad. Office Perkins. Yeah. We work together. What’s it to you?” Sam’s voice, which was a lot twangier than his true voice, took on a hostile tone.
“What nerve,” Gusteau began, “don’t you know who you’re talking to!?”
“Do you mind if I steal him for a second,” Tommy interjected as he stepped forward. He could feel the tension in the train car building by the second.
“Steal?” The Conductor inquired.
“Or borrow. Whatever works,” Tommy said as he grabbed Sam by the arm. “I just need to…gather his intel and see if he knows anything,” he provided as he pulled Sam towards into empty room. Before the Conductor could object, Tommy whipped around and closed the door. Tommy stood staring at the door, a numbness crawling up and down his arms. He was in way over his head. He took a steadying breath before he turned around.
Tommy ducked as a fist came flying towards his face. It was purely on instinct as was the retaliatory blow that landed in Sam’s gut. Tommy could feel the air rush out of the young man’s lungs as Sam collapsed on the small bed.
“Listen!” Tommy said in a harsh whisper. “It’s me, Sam. It’s Tommy. The first time we met, I was reading a Hardy Boys book and sitting all alone at recess. You came up to me and told me that your favorite one was The Twisted Claw because you thought the way Sergeant Johnson came riding in on a horse in the middle of a forest fire was really cool,” Tommy said nostalgically. Sam was still struggling to catch his breath. His face was red and his eyes shimmered with pain. Panic struck out at Tommy. Did he just kill Sam? “Dude! Breathe!”
“You…me,” Sam said between gasps.
“What?” Tommy asked.
“You…hit me,” Sam accused.
“You swung at me! I couldn’t even control myself. I just reacted,” he responded. Tommy remembered the move like he’d done it a hundred times. Sam merely shook his head as he recovered himself. Finally, he got his breathing under control.
“What the heck is going on, Tommy? You’re in a grown dude’s body!” Sam shouted.
“Shhh! I am well aware, Nancy Drew. And that’s not the half of it. There’s a dead body—”
“—A dead body!”
“Yes. But, that’s still not the worst part about it.” Sam shot him an open-mouthed stare.
“Do I even want to know what’s worse than that?” Tommy took a deep, steadying breath.
“We’re on The Daylight, Sam.”
“The Daylight? You mean the train we were looking for in the woods?”
“Yes. And it’s November 2, 1941. The day it’s meant to derail.”
“Are you fricking kidding me!?” Sam shot at him as his face turned pale.
“Great. We’re going to die. I haven’t even had a girlfriend, and I’m going to die,” Sam said with tremendous dismay as he hung his head. As shocked as Tommy was to learn that Mr. Joe Cool hadn’t yet snagged a girl, he too was also struggling with the fact that their peril was looming ever closer. Tommy wanted to reach out to Sam—or at least the young man whom Sam inhabited—but his words seemed inefficient. With a jerk, Sam looked back up at him. “This is your fault, Tommy,” Sam volleyed.
“All my fault? How’s it my fault?” Tommy asked as he took a step back.
“Because you went looking for it. In the middle of the night!” Sam accused.
“Oh yeah? Who was waiting on me when I got there?”
“Because I knew you were a lunatic who’d go looking for a train…IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT! And then when you have a chance to escape, you wussy out and don’t take my hand.”
Tommy could feel frustration and annoyance clotting his thoughts together.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t have shown up.”
“Yeah. Exactly what I’m thinking,” Sam bit at Tommy. Tommy was fuming as Sam glowered at him. The room felt hot and sticky as their mutual hatred filled every corner. The train shook as it traveled over a rough spot on the track, and the swaying broke Tommy’s concentration.
“We’re not going to die, Sam,” he said softly. “I have a plan.”
“And what’s that, Scottie? You going to beam us back to 1997?” Sam asked sarcastically.
“No. I’m not the only Thomas Rice on the train.”
“You mean there’s clones of us, too?” Sam asked as horror stretched across his face.
“No, dork. I mean my great-grandfather is the Chief Engineer.” Tommy could see the recognition in Sam’s eyes.
“Ohhhh. You mean—”
“—Yes. I’m going to save my great-grandfather.”