Tommy helped Sam to his feet. Sam winced as he rose and his arm hung uselessly at his side.
“You alright?” Tommy asked thickly. His body ached and he could taste blood in his mouth.
“Yeah. My arm…How bad is it?” Sam couldn’t even look at it. Tommy glanced at the protruding bone and felt his stomach tighten.
“It’s going to have to be amputated. They’ll probably take your leg, too,” Tommy said sarcastically. Sam chanced a brief grin. The train swayed and Tommy’s body moved with it. Sam stared past him at the Chief Engineer’s body and the man still kneeling next to it.
“Did you know? Did you know the Conductor was your great-grandfather?” Sam wondered. Tommy shook his head. He had no idea. So many clues, and he hadn’t seen a single one of them. “Well, he’s better looking than you’ll ever be, so it makes sense that you missed it,” Sam said weakly. Tommy smirked.
“Here. Can you walk?” He asked as he extended his hand. Tommy wrapped his arm around Sam and offered his larger frame as support.
“Thanks,” Sam conveyed as he fell silent. They started walking towards Thomas Rice. “You know, you didn’t have to do that,” he said softly.
“Offer up your life for mine,” Sam said.
“Why not? That’s what friends do, Sam,” Tommy replied. Sam didn’t respond, but nodded his head knowingly in return. Tommy changed the subject. “How’d they even find you in the first place? One second you’re standing outside the door as we’re searching the sleeper, and the next I look out and you’re nowhere to be seen,” Tommy probed.
“Funny story,” Sam started. “I was out there trying to solve the crime on my own, and trying to beat you to the next clue, and it hit me—one of the guys we met earlier had to be in on it. It happens all the time to Frank and Joe. The people they meet early on in the story usually end up as undercover cops or the villain. And those guys weren’t cops. So, when one of them past me in a hurry, I put it all together and knew I was right.”
“You just knew you were right? Could smell it?” Tommy goaded.
“I knew it. So, I followed him. They must have picked up my scent because the next thing I knew, I was being ambushed. I put up a fight,” he said as he indicated to his bruises and his split lip, “but I’m just a young buck and not some strapping gentleman like you.”
“Being an adult does have its perks,” Tommy said. “But, I’m glad you’re safe, young man.”
“Are we safe, Tommy?” Sam asked with apprehension crawling across his words. Tommy didn’t have an answer as the two of them drew up beside Thomas Rice. The man was still beside the Chief Engineer. Tommy couldn’t help but look at the gaping mouth that was touched with foam, the vacant eyes still opened wide, and the syringe protruding from his chest. The three of them were silent as the train continued to rattle down the tracks.
“What do we do?” Tommy finally asked. The question went unanswered as Thomas Rice lifted his left hand and brought it to the Chief Engineer’s eyes. Tommy watched him close the man’s lids as his great-grandfather bowed his head. He watched the man’s lips move as he prayed silently. When he was finished, he looked up at Tommy. “What do we do, Thomas?” Tommy asked with intimate uncertainty. A frown creased from behind the Conductor’s mustache.
“I do not know. The Chief’s speech was meant to buy him time, and now we have very little of it left. Everyone on board is as good as dead, including ourselves. Our fate, it seems, is the grave.”
Tommy refused to give up hope.
“We have to think of something.” The Conductor did not move. His gaze had returned to the body that was growing more and more pale as the color drained from the corpse. Tommy could feel frustration building up in his heart. He was not going to let his great-grandfather be defeated so easily.
“Thomas,” he said evenly. Thomas Rice peered up at his great-grandson hidden behind the mask of his friend. “We have to do something. You…you have to do something,” Tommy pleaded. A resolute fire returned to the man’s eyes.
“Right. Help me up, Harold,” Thomas said as he extended his hand. Tommy let go of Sam’s shoulder and gripped his great-grandfather’s hand in his own. He felt the worn grooves of a man who’d worked hard his whole life as he lifted the Conductor to his feet. Once he was up, Thomas Rice smoothed out his uniform and twiddled his mustache. “We have to make sure this train does not make it to its destination. That’s our only option,” he said confidently.
“Could we not apply the brakes and stop ourselves on the track? Maybe then we could signal for help and get the antidote into the right hands,” Tommy offered, though as soon as it left his lips, he knew it was a bad idea.
“And wait for help to arrive so we can infect them?” Sam retorted. Tommy looked at him and saw great fear and uncertainty in his eyes.
“He’s right. We can in no way infect anyone else, especially not this close to San Francisco,” the Conductor stated with a shudder. The idea of a disease this terrible getting out made Tommy sick to his stomach. He could practically taste his fear—like something rotten on the back of his throat.
“We have to slow the Daylight down. We need to buy some time,” Sam said with a hint of fear.
Inspiration lit up behind the Conductor’s eyes.
“No, quite the opposite.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have an idea. But, we must hurry!”
The Conductor started off on a run.