Lenny put the rifle down and looked at the girl. What was she doing inside that carriage? Was she one of Cornwall's associates? Why was she dressed in that funny way?
"Don't kill me" she repeated.
He didn't want to kill her. He might have never killed her. Cornwall's associate or not, she was just a girl.
"What?" asked Arthur coming closer and looking inside the car.
"Ooh shit" he whispered when he spotted the blonde figure kneeling down in a prayer position.
Javier peeked inside too and then Lenny and him exchanged a puzzled look. What were they supposed to do? Leave her there? Bring her with them? They were in the middle of a job and right now she was just a complication.
"Miss" called Arthur leaning towards her skinny figure.
"Miss" he called again when she didn't answer.
She slowly raised her head and opened her eyes to look at him.
"Me?" she asked in disbelief.
"Yes, what's your name?"
She stared at him with those big brown eyes that reminded him of a deer. She was pretty. And scared, which made her even prettier.
"Come, come out of there" he said when he received no answer to his previous question.ù
He stretched out a hand expecting her to take it, but she didn't. She eyed him from head to toe and then stood up by herself, bringing her arms to her chest in an act that stated she was freezing.
Arthur couldn't help but notice the funny way she was dressed, and so did Javier looking at her tight pants and that shirt with the hood she had, not to mention those bizarre shoes.
"Where do you come from?" asked Arthur incapable to withhold his curiosity.
She moved her eyes from him to Javier and then Lenny, but just like before she didn't bother to reply. That lack of answer was starting to annoy him and at the same time he started to think she was hiding something. But they had work to do, he couldn't waste all day with a girl.
"Okay, listen, come with us, we have a camp, four walls and a roof, a place you can warm up and be safe" he said trying to convince her to get out of that damn train.
She kept studying them and the same did they. It was like they came from two different universes. At last, she took her decision, taking some steps forward and getting off the carriage.
"Come, Lenny here will give you a blanket" said Arthur leaning a hand on her shoulder and nodding towards the boy.
He wanted to show her to Dutch, he would surely know what to do with her.
As soon as she stepped out she immediately noticed the snow. Show! In May? How could that be possible?
The wierdo with the blue coat and the handsome face asked her her name and where she came from, but she didn't answer, she didn't want to tell them anything about her and at the first occasion she had had, her intention was to run away from that place and those people.
"Come, Lenny here will give you a blanket" said the man nodding towards the boy with dark skin.
Lenny, upon who she laid her eyes, just like the others was dressed in a very strange way, in an old way. Was she in some kind of play? A movie? Were they actors? Why were they dressed in that way and why were they looking at her like she was some kind of alien?
There was another thing that caught her attention as she admired both their clothes and the place she was: the train. It wasn't one of the new ones, but one of the old coal-powered locomotives. Those things were no longer working for at least fifty years, except those used in the train museums. How could it be there still was one on the trails? And, that day she had taken a normal train to go to work, a modern train, so how could it be she was in there?
The boy called Lenny was leading her to another group of men. She noticed they were all dressing in that way, with those cowboy hats, those long heavy coats and those shotguns hanging on their backs.
No, that couldn't be real, it must have been some kind of joke. And a bad one too, because the more she was seeing, the more she was getting afraid. Who did that had a terrible sense of humor.
"Who is this?" asked one of the men as they all turned in her direction and looked at her from head to toe.
He had a black coat and hat and a red and white checkered kerchief on his face, which he pulled down to speak.
"Found her in one of the cars" answered the handsome wierdo from behind her.
She moved her eyes on the other men who now where following the example of the wierdo with the picnic tablecloth and were revealing their faces: there was one with a blond walrus mustache, one pretty big and one who looked like a Native American but darker.
"What's your name, Miss?" asked the picnic-man.
That was the second time they called her Miss. It was a little old style, but there everything looked old style. Just like before she didn't answer and stared back at the man asking herself what they wanted from her. She felt a couple of hands on her and jumped, taking a step away from whoever was touching her. It was Lenny, who brought her the blanket and was leaning it on her shoulders.
"Whoah! Don't worry, I'm not gonna hurt you" he said.
"We don't mean you no harm, Miss. Why were you on that train?" asked again the picnic-man.
The truth was, she didn't know.
"Are you one of Mr. Cornwall' associates?"
Mr. who? Maybe this buddy was the other criminal, the one they were fighting, the mafia boss she pictured in her mind, the one who kidnapped her.
She shook her head vigorously.
The man who asked her all the questions sighed and then turned to look at the rest of his people.
"Okay, Lenny, take the Miss away from here. When we're done we'll bring her to camp" he said then putting the picnic kerchief on his face again and giving his back at her to face the other men.
"Gentlemen, let's go back to work" he added.
To camp? They wanted to take her with them?
"No" she exclaimed making the man turn to look at her again.
She wanted to go home, not to some God knows where camp, and to do that she had to finally break her silence. Criminals or actors or what the heck they were, she would explain them her situation and ask them to lend her one of their phones so that she could call home.
"I want to go home. Please. They took me, I don't know how, but they must have found a way to take me. If you… if you could lend me a phone, I would like to call my mom" she said all in one breath.
Dutch looked at the girl, without fully understanding what she was saying. Took her, phone, call her mom: what was she talking about?
"You've been kidnapped?" he asked.
"Yes, I don't know how, but they did" she replied more firmly.
"Who's they?" he asked again, thinking about some kind of lie she was making up to avoid being taken and questioned.
He didn't trust her one bit. Why should Cornwall's men kidnap an oddly dressed girl?
"I don't know. I woke up in there and then you people stopped the train and started asking me all this questions" she replied frustrated. She looked like she was telling the truth.
"Can I borrow a phone, please? I just want to make a quick call to my mum and tell her where I am so she can pick me up" she added addressing his men behind him.
Dutch looked at Arthur, at the girl's back, asking him with the eyes what the hell she was talking about. When he shrugged, making him understand he had no idea, Dutch exchanged a look with the rest of his men. None of them seemed to understand.
"Where you come from?" he asked to the girl.
He preferred to change topic than reveal he had no idea of what she was saying. The girl looked a little uneasy to divulge this information, but in the end she said: "Saint Denis."
So, she came from the city. Dutch quickly took his decision: they would have completed the job they went there for and then he would have brought the girl to camp. If she was telling the truth, they would have taken her home. A little trip to Saint Denis wouldn't be a burden on them.
"Lenny why don't you take her away from here. We have a job to finish" Dutch said to the boy.
On the girl's face appeared some worry.
"We'll all be back to camp for tonight and tomorrow we'll take you home, Miss" he added addressing her with a soothing voice.
She seemed about to say something, but he didn't want to waste any more time with her, he was there for something more important. He turned his back at her and addressed Cornwall's men inside the last carriage. He had to find a way to make them get out of there without a fuss.
"Hey! Inside there! Listen to me, we don't want to kill any of ya!" he yelled.
She wanted to tell him something, but the man turned his back at her and started yelling threats towards the train car. She didn't want to go with them. Why couldn't she just borrow a phone to call her mom? Was it so difficult to understand she had nothing to do with that Mr. Cornwall he seemed to hate so much?
Lenny pushed her away, but she didn't move her eyes form the group of men, who now were taking pistols and rifles and charging them, while the one who she thought to be the boss kept threatening the men in the train.
"Wake 'em up a little" he shouted and immediately after they started firing.
She jumped at the sound of the shots and couldn't help let out a loud squeaky scream. Then, she threw herself on the ground covering her ears with her hands and closing her eyes, wanting them to stop it.
"Hey, what are you doing? Stand up, you have nothing to worry about, they're just scaring them" said the boy of color taking her shoulders and trying to make her stand.
She shook her shoulders pushing his hands away. Why had they to use those guns so much? She reopened her eyes as soon as the noise stopped.
"Mr. Williamson, give Mr. Morgan and Mr. Smith some dynamite, you two boys, go blow that door open" ordered the gang boss.
Dynamite? Blow open? Who were those people? How could they think no-one was going to hear them and call the police? She thought that it would have taken little time for that to happen, someone who lived around there would have called the cops any time now, even though it seemed no-one lived around there, and she had no idea where "there" was.
She followed the movements of those strange men as one of them truly took some dynamite from his bag and handed it to the handsome wierdo with the blue coat, who approached the carriage with the dark Native. She kept staring at them in bewilderment while they placed the explosives, lighted them up and drew back.
She covered her ears again just in time when the explosion happened. Those dudes were crazy! Completely out of their fucking minds!
She stood up and her knees trembled a little, but she tried not to mind it. She wanted to go away, as far away as possible from those old style insane criminals who wanted to take her with them. She took a step backwards, tightening the blanket around her shoulders and trying to turn around to run away, but the boy called Lenny stopped her.
"No, no, listen, you have to let me go" she said looking straight at him and pushing his hands away.
"You can't go, it's too dangerous, with us you'll be safe" he replied grabbing her from her arms to stop her from running.
"No, no, you people are crazy, what the fuck is wrong with you? Guns and explosives, really? Who do you think you are?" she asked starting to laugh hysterically.
She couldn't believe what she was witnessing, that had to be some kind of dream, but it didn't look like a dream. Her dreams were generally confused and random, this was too real.
She took a piece of her skin under her sweatshirt and pinched it as hard as she could. They said to do it in order to wake up from a dream, but she always thought it was bullshit, and when it didn't work, and she found herself in that same situation, she knew for sure that it was bullshit.
"You are quite crazy, lady, you know that?" asked Lenny watching her with perplexity.
"Mr. Summers, would you bring the young Miss here, please?" asked the gang boss raising a hand and making sign to reach him.
Lenny leaded her to Dutch who in the meantime had made the three men come out of the carriage and kneel down in a line in front of him.
"Go search the train with Micah and Arthur" Dutch ordered him pointing at the blown up door.
Then, he addressed the girl with no name looking at her with suspicious eyes. Now, they would have found out if she was telling the truth.
"Do you know these men, Miss?" he inquired pointing his finger to the three people.
She seemed to study carefully their appearance before shaking her head.
"And you say these people kidnapped you?" he asked again moving his inquisitive eyes from the girl's face to Cornwall's men.
"Yes" she answered plainly.
Just as he expected the three men, after a quick glance at the girl, exchanged a puzzled look between them. They had no idea of who that woman was.
"Did you steal this lady, gentlemen?" he asked as the thing started to amuse him.
"We never saw her in our lives" answered the one on the right.
"But she came out of one of your cars" he said matter-of-factly.
The men exchanged another look.
"We know nothing about it" said the one on the left.
Now, Dutch looked again at the girl, who stared back at him, and it seemed she didn't know what to say anymore.
"Did you lie to me?" he asked.
He knew that by saying this he would disquiet her, but that was exactly what he wanted: he wanted her to reveal herself for what she really was.
"No, I didn't. I have no idea of who these people are" she replied firmly, looking at him right in the eye.
"She's not one of ours" said the men on the left, making Dutch look at him. She wasn't lying after all.
"Dutch" called Arthur from behind him.
"What did you find?" he asked.
"These" Arthur answered handing him some papers. "Bonds. They worth anything?"
Just what he was looking for.
"Oh, sure. I think we can probably sell these pretty easily. Well done" he answered.
Now, there was the problem of the train and the three musketeers there.
"Would you get rid of all of this?" he asked to Arthur.
"The train?" Arthur asked in turn.
"Yeah, and our friends here."
"What about them?"
Dutch, fixed his eyes on Arthur's covered face. He was sure he would have done the right thing, whichever it was.
"I don't know. It's up to you. Just make sure they don't send no folk after us" he said walking towards the girl with no name.
"Come, Miss. Let's take you to a warmer place" he added to her pushing her away.
Together with all the others they walked on the half frost ground to reach the horses. Dutch could feel the bones of her shoulder under his hand: she was pretty skinny and she must have been freezing. He had to admit she was really strange, and she still hadn't told her name.
"What's your name, Miss? If it's not too much to ask" he said pulling the bandana down from his face.
She took a little before answering, moving her eyes around and maybe considering if she could trust some complete stranger. She had to, she had no choice, and they were doing the same with trusting her.
"Emily" she murmured.
"I'm Dutch Van der Linde, Miss Emily, and these are my men. I must warn you, we are outlaws."
As soon as he said this, she turned her head with a snap to look at him. Her big dark eyes expressed all the terror she was proving.
"Oh, don't worry, we won't touch a hair on your head. You see, we're criminals, but we're not bad men. Not when we can avoid it."
They had finally reached the horses and pointing to them Dutch said: "You'll ride with Lenny."
A warmer place, that was all she could think about and if the price to pay to reach it was telling them her name, she was more than willing to pay it.
"I'm Dutch Van der Linde, Miss Emily, and these are my men" said the picnic-man pointing at the people walking around them. "I must warn you, we are outlaws."
She knew it! She thought looking at him with her eyes wide open.
"Oh, don't worry, we won't touch a hair on your head. You see, we're criminals, but we're not bad men. Not when we can avoid it."
Weren't they the same men who just robbed a train? How could they be criminals without being bad? It was a contradiction. She fixed her eyes on the ground as they kept walking, thinking about the nonsense that man was saying.
"You'll ride with Lenny."
Just when she lifted her gaze she understood what he was talking about. Right in front of her there were around three thousand pounds of well kept horse meat, including saddles, bits and stirrups.
They rode horses? In 2020? They were really old style criminals those ones, but she… she had never rode a horse. She didn't know where to start. She didn't even like horses.
It wasn't something personal, but since her father told her horses were dangerous animals she had always been afraid of them. They were dangerous under all aspects, he had told her: they had big teeth and powerful jaws that could cut your fingers with just one bite; they had four strong legs which they used to kick you if you went too close to them; they were big, but they were unaware of their force and got scared pretty easily and could throw you away from their backs any moment.
No. In no way they could have convinced her to get on one of those things.
"Don't you have a car?" she asked.
Dutch looked back at her with a perplexed expression.
"You know something less… alive?" she added nodding towards the animals.
"Don't worry, Lenny is an excellent rider" said Dutch.
"It's not him I'm worried about" she murmured taking a few steps in the direction of the boy of color.
He was next to one of the horses, petting its neck and whispering soothing words to it.
"Her name's Maggie" he informed her when she reached him.
Her eyes moved upon the strong muscular neck of that creature, then down its leg until she reached the hoof that it was nervously stomping on the ground, and then up again until she met its crazy bloody eyes that the creature pointed on her. That thing was warning her, it was telling her "if you only try to touch me, I'll show you how hell it's done".
No, she would have found another way, a bike, a moped, on foot, she didn't care.
Lenny raised a leg, put the foot on the stirrup and hoisted himself, sitting perfectly on the top of that dangerous killing machine.
"Now your turn, Miss. I'll help you" he said reaching out a hand signing her to take it.
Emily, without moving her eyes from the boy's face, shook her head with conviction.
"I'll help you, lady" said a voice from behind her back and a moment after she felt herself being lifted from the ground by two robust hands and pushed towards the horse.
Even though the last thing she wanted was to mount on a horse, as an instinct she grabbed Lenny's arm and sat astride on its back. They gave her no time to get used to the new sensation she was proving. Someone, who she thought to be Dutch the boss, yelled "let's ride" and she had to clutch around Lenny's waist not to fall back.
Emily tightened the blanket around her shoulders with one hand while with the other she didn't dare let Lenny go. She had to admit, it wasn't such a bad experience: apart from the constant up and down it was very similar to riding a motorbike; she just had to clench her legs around the beast and her arms around the boy's waist.
As they kept going, she felt the temperature of the evening air drop and that was the sign that they were taking her to a higher ground, up and up in the mountains. Just now she was understanding why nobody had heard neither the gunfire nor the explosion: they were in the mountains and, even though she wasn't very good with geography, she could still tell that the mountains covered with snow in May had to be somewhere in the North. Only, she had no idea how much North, nor how she got there.
She lost track of time, she couldn't tell anymore how long she had been on the back of that horse, moving her eyes from the sky to the earth, both of the same bluish white that made the landscape look all the same. The only thing that changed during the journey, and that could give her any idea of what part of the day it was, was the light: all around her darkness was falling and soon she wouldn't be able to see the tip of her nose.
Besides, the boredom was forcing her to focus on something else, like her frostbitten fingertips, her feet inside her soaked snickers, the smell of the ass of that horse. Yes, she hadn't noticed that before, but that horse really stank.
Something else that she hadn't noticed was that they weren't following any road, or if there was a road, it was completely overwhelmed by the snow. That was strange, too. What state was capable to neglect the safety of its citizens in such a way to leave the roads in that condition?
"We're almost there, Miss. We're camped a little more North, in an old mining town" said Dutch.
Old mining town. Was he talking about one of those towns of the past which afterward developed into industrial or trade cities? Why couldn't he just say 'we have a hotel room in the city'? Why they had to play all that trivia game about "old mining towns" and "camps"? Was it some kind of gang slang?
But when they slowed the horses down, that meant they had reached the "camp", what she saw made her understand they weren't making a wordplay: what she was looking at was a true old mining town, and as they got to the entrance, on a wooden sign almost completely hidden by the darkness, it was engraved: "Colter".
"You can get down, Miss" said Lenny turning to look at her as they all stopped the horses.
Emily looked first at the boy's face and then at the ground. It was covered with snow and jumping down she would have dipped down till her knees.
Next to her there was another one of those strange criminals: he had an old style bowler hat, a ridiculous parted thin black mustache and he had just dismounted his horse.
"Can you help me?" she asked reaching out a hand in his direction.
He looked at her like she was asking him to bring her to the moon, but after a moment of obvious confusion he said "sure" and walked closer, taking her from her waist and helping her to get down gently.
"Miss Grimshaw, we found this girl on the train, would you warm her up a little and find her a place to sleep?" she heard Dutch's voice saying.
"Ah, another one?" asked Miss Grimshaw looking at the blonde skinny figure who just dismounted the horse.
This was the second woman Dutch brought in in those last few days, without counting the O'Driscoll, who they weren't going to feed anyway, but he still was an addition to the group.
"She says she's been kidnapped" answered Dutch.
With a sigh and a gesture of her head she told him she would have provided for her, just like she had done for Mrs. Adler.
"Come with me, Miss. Let's get you warm" she addressed the girl.
Rising her lantern a little, so to spread the light even farther, she observed the girl as she walked in her direction, stumbling in the high snow and tightening the blanket on her chest, under which she could still make out those unusual clothes. Together they reached the main shack, where some minutes before she had left Marston's bedside to rush out when Mary-Beth informed her of their arrival.
"Here" she said pushing the rickety door that let them both inside the crowded room.
"There's the fire, so you can get warm" she said pointing at it and closing the door again to avoid that little heat inside the room to go away.
"Miss Jackson will bring you some dry clothes" she added putting out the fire of the lantern.
"No" she heard the newbie saying and she turned around to look at her.
Tilly froze in her place, with her legs still half bended in the act of standing up, hoping that the girl's objection would have changed Miss Grimshaw's mind, so that she didn't have to walk out of the room and face the snow, the cold and the darkness.
Everybody now was studying that odd figure standing in the center of the room and looking around her like she was in some kind of bad dream: she was terrified, but they couldn't understand why.
They had saved her, they were giving her a warm place to stay for the night and probably some food too, so why was she afraid? She should have been grateful, thought Karen frowning at her.
"Sorry, but… what year is it?"
Emily kept moving her eyes around her, focusing on the long wide skirts of the women, the hats of the men and the overall look of the people around her. Her nose caught all the shades of the moldy planks of the walls, the burning wood in the fireplace and the smell of badly washed bodies.
The clothes, the locomotive, the explosives, the horses, the old mining town, the camp. Why didn't she think to ask it before? It seemed impossible, but at the same time it was the only possible explanation. She just had to put two and two together.
At her question they all exchanged some puzzled looks.
"It's the year of our Lord 1899, what a question!" answered a male voice behind her making her turn around.
There were four men in the room: one, who seemed to have had some kind of accident, was asleep on a cot; one, with a pair of tiny glasses and a rat face, had his nose buried in a book; one with a reddish mustache, had his dark eyes lost in the air; and the last one, an old man with a white beard which made him look like a Santa Clause wannabe, was the only one looking at her, so Emily supposed that voice belonged to him.
"1899" she whispered analyzing the man's face to understand if he was making fun of her. He seemed dead serious and so did everybody else in the room.
That explained why she was there: she had made a jump in time and, unfortunately for her, she must have arrived inside that train, which brought her away from Saint Denis and right in the hands of those criminals.
1899. It was one hundred and twenty one years before. What a strange number, 121. She always thought time leaps happened with round numbers: 100, 200, 300. Actually, she thought time leaps only happened in the movies, sci-fi movies, like "Back to the Future".
Now what? She should have told them? They would have probably thought she was nuts. But how could she explain her situation? How could they help her?
She froze: no-one could help her, because in 1899 no-one had the slight idea of how to make a jump in time. What was she thinking about! She hadn't any idea of how to make a jump in time, either! Because it was impossible!
She was starting to panic. She was stuck in 1899, in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of dangerous outlaws and she probably would have never go back to her home, her family and her friends. So, what was she going to do?
Her heavy breath and her wide open eyes caught the attention of the people in the room.
"Are you okay, honey? You want to sit down?" asked a woman with red air and an Irish accent taking a step in her direction and putting a hand on her shoulder.
Emily moved quickly away from her when she felt her touch.
"Sit by the fire, we'll get you something to eat" she added.
She fixed her eyes on her freckled face.
"Fuck the fire, fuck the food and fuck you!" yelled Emily slapping her hand away.
Now the woman's look changed, she didn't take those words too good, but she couldn't care less. Emily started pacing the little space inside the room which wasn't occupied by a table a chair or a person. She was definitely panicking and she knew she wasn't good at controlling herself.
She had lost everything, everything! Her job, her family, her friends, her life, her future, everything! It was all gone! What was she supposed to do? Her limbs started to feel heavy and her eyes started to fill with tears.
"Don't worry, you are safe in here, no-one is going to hurt you" said someone, but she didn't focus on the person who pronounced the words.
They couldn't understand, no-one could understand what she was feeling in that moment. Everything was fucked up, gone to hell, destroyed, vanished from the world, forever. No. No, that couldn't be real. It was a joke, a bad joke someone was making to piss her off, and it was working.
"You!" she snapped pointing her finger to the face of one of the women in the room.
"What year is it! And don't you try telling me a lie, I want the truth" she said with a high pitched tone, the kind of voice she had when she was nervous, stressed, scared or any other moment of non-calmness.
"We already told you, it's 1899, so calm the hell down and don't point that finger to me" answered the girl.
Emily groaned with frustration and turned to look at the door. She had to get out of there, reach Saint Denis, go back home, look for her parents, look for someone who wasn't part of that act.
She took the blanket from her shoulders and threw it on the ground, looking at the people around her, those people who where doing her wrong for no apparent reason. Then, she took two big steps and reached out a hand to take the doorknob, but in that same moment, the door busted open.
Her screams had woken him up and with the conscience the pain came back too. Who was she? Why was she acting that crazy? Why was she dressed like that?
John made a grimace of pain when he felt a sting on his leg: he couldn't tell what was worst, the bullet hole in his thigh or the cuts on his face. He needed more morphine, but when he tried to move his head to look at the reverend, the front door opened letting both the cold air and four more people come inside the room.
Charles and Javier exchanged a look with the girl before heading to the back of the building. Charles took a sit next to the reverend, while Javier stretched his hands in front of the fireplace trying to catch that little relief it gave to his frozen fingers inside the gloves. Right after them, Dutch and Hosea entered the room, fixing their eyes on the troubled face of that girl.
"Hello Miss, my name is Hosea, Hosea Matthews, they told me yours is Emily" said the man with a nod of his head and laying his hands on his hips.
"I have to go" she said trying to move the man away to reach the doorknob again.
"Whoa whoa! Where you want to go, Miss? Outside it's freezing, dark and dangerous" said Dutch putting a hand on her shoulder and pushing her back. "Here you'll be more than fine. I told you, I promised you, we'll take you home as soon as possible" he added.
"You don't understand, I have to get outta here!" she exclaimed with that squeaky voice.
Why wanted she to go away so desperately? Was she hiding something? Dutch couldn't think about anything but the fact that, that girl was incredibly suspicious.
"To go where? Out there you'll freeze to death, if some hungry wolf doesn't find you first" replied Hosea.
His words made her eyes widen even more and while she took a step backwards she whispered a terrorized: "wolf?".
Was she as innocent and stupid as she looked? Or it was all an act she was making? That was the question that was buzzing in Dutch's head and that was what he had told Hosea some minutes before, and he knew Hosea would have helped him find out.
"Why don't you sit for a while? Warm yourself. Did someone bring you something to eat?" asked Hosea with the sweetest voice he could fake.
The girl shook her head with conviction.
"You don't understand, I can't stay here, I have to… check something. I have to go to Saint Denis" she answered.
"Miss, we'll take you there as…" Dutch tried to say.
"No, I have to go now!"
"You need five days to reach Saint Denis from here, Miss. If you ride night and day" replied Hosea rising his voice.
That girl was surely hiding something, otherwise she wouldn't try to run away like that.
"Five days" she whispered running one of her hands through her hair.
She looked like she was about to cry. The smartest thing to do was to gain her trust to make her talk. He and Dutch exchanged an understanding look.
"Miss, why don't you tell us what is going on? We can help you" Hosea said using again the sweet voice.
"You can't help me, no-one can" she whined.
"Is your family in danger?" asked Dutch, following Hosea's lead.
"No, my family is safe, I'm just never gonna be able to see them again" she answered in some kind of frustration.
Dutch and Hosea looked at each other again. What did she mean?
She had no choice, it was pointless to keep it from them and she didn't even care if they thought she was crazy.
"I come from the future" she said plainly.
At the beginning, she kept her eyes on the ground certain that she would hear laughs and snorts coming from the people around her, but after some seconds of complete silence, she couldn't help looking around her, at their faces, to understand what they were thinking of her.
The two men in front of her, Dutch and Hosea, were frowning; all the women in the room had an expression between surprise and disbelief, all but one, the one she pointed her finger at, who looked like she was about to laugh; the man on the cot had woken up and raised a little, leaning on his elbows and squinting his eyes to look at her. In the overall image, she had the eyes of everybody on her.
"Did you run away from an asylum, dear?" laughed Santa Clause.
She expected that. What she could say to make them believe her? Did she want to make them believe her?
"My name is Emily Richardson. I'm born on October the 18th 1997 from Agatha and Thomas Richardson. Only child. I come from Saint Denis, the suburbs of Saint Denis, precisely, and I live in the year 2020."
"It can't be. They say the world will end in the year 2000" said Santa Clause.
"It's all a superstition. We were told the world would end in 2012 according to a Maya prophecy, but I'm still here" she replied shrugging.
The expressions of the people around her didn't change, but she didn't care. Her purpose wasn't to make them believe her, she wanted them to let her go.
"I know you think I'm crazy, and trust me this is crazy for me too. I've just lost everything, I've lost my entire life for something I didn't believe to be possible."
She looked again at the people around her before keeping on.
"I want to go to Saint Denis to see if it's true. If I'm really in 1899 my house won't be there, nor my family. I want to check for myself."
She didn't wait for an answer, she took a step forward to reach the door, but she found Hosea's hand on her way.
"If what you say is true, what does it matter if you wait a couple of days more?" he asked.
She fixed her eyes in his.
"If you won't find your house nor your family, it won't make any difference if you get there tonight or next week. Tomorrow we'll all leave this place, move South, and we'll take you there."
She had to admit his way of talking was very persuasive and comforting, and he was right. Run outside now, in the snow and the darkness, without any idea of where to go, and the wolves he was talking about, and God knows what other creature… After all it was 1899 and things were different, if it really was 1899… And she hadn't any clue of where she was by the way, it was definitely better to wait until morning, at least until morning, and let them accompany her… And she could have slept on it and thought that through…
"Okay" she said in the end.
The entire room around her seemed to sigh in relief.
"Good. Now why don't you wear some dry clothes and eat something hot?" asked the man called Hosea with the same paternal tone she found so soothing.
Emily looked again at the long gowns all the women in the room were wearing. No, she wouldn't wear something like that, they looked uncomfortable and lousy. She learned that in history books: personal hygiene in 1800's was poor, and so was the cleanness of clothes.
"I prefer to wear my own clothes, thank you. What do you have to eat?" she asked politely.
Something hot would have been perfect, unless it was something disgusting they used to eat.
"I'll go check if Pearson still has some stew" said Mrs… Mrs… she couldn't remember the name of the woman who brought her inside the cabin.
She walked past Hosea and Dutch and went outside.
"Everybody else, we wish you goodnight. Tomorrow we'll leave this hellhole and find ourselves a new home" said Dutch before turning his back at Emily and following the woman outside, Hosea right after him.
"See, I told you she's hiding something" said Dutch as soon as they closed the door behind them.
"I don't know, Dutch. Seems she really believes in what she's saying" replied Hosea.
He turned his collar up to protect his neck from the cold wind of that night. He hated that goddamn mountain, that weather had a terrible effect on his old bones.
"Oh come on, Hosea. Don't tell me you believe in that crap of the time travel. I thought you were smarter than that."
"I don't say I believe that, but she does" he replied meaningfully.
Dutch narrowed his eyes looking at his friend. He had always trusted his ability in understanding people: if he was saying she was delusional, she probably really was.
"Anyway, we'll soon find out. In the meantime we'll tell the girls to keep an eye on her, ask her questions. You know what they say, lies have short legs, and if she's lying she'll probably contradict herself sooner or later."
Dutch nodded firmly at his words. Some footsteps made them both turn towards Miss Grimshaw walking among the snow to reach them with a steamy plate in her hands.
"What do you think of all that nonsense, Dutch?" she asked.
"Keep an eye on her, ask the girls to do the same, I want to know everything she does or says and we'll find out what's what" he answered with the tone he usually used to make people understand he would sort things out.
Miss Grimshaw nodded briefly looking at him right in the eye to show him her support and headed back to the cabin.
When they finally closed the door behind them, Emily took a deep breath.
Yes, they were right: she just had to calm down, think straight and wait a couple of days. Just like she had told herself on that train a few hours before: she had to be like that girl in the movie, calm and smart; don't rush things, don't make stupid mistakes, don't panic, a rule that she had already broken, and try to find the best way to get out of that situation.
"Do you really think we're gonna believe all that crap you just told us?" asked the girl she had pointed her finger at, distracting her from her thoughts.
She had clear eyes, but from the distance Emily couldn't tell if they were blue or green, blonde hair, of which some locks were visible under the dark cloth she used to cover her head, and a rude way of addressing her that she didn't like.
"No, I don't expect you to believe me, I don't even believe I said those crazy things, but I think that's what happened. It must be. The alternative is you're lying and we aren't in 1899."
"No, the alternative is you're crazy, lady" said the man on the cot.
"Or you're the one full of shit" added the girl with the rude tone.
Emily scoffed, shaking her head and giving her back at her to draw closer to the fireplace and stretch out her hands to warm them to the feeble burning fire, right next to the man with the ridiculous mustache.
They didn't believe her? Okay, it wasn't her business. They believed she was crazy or she was lying? She didn't care. Who were those people for her? No-one. On the contrary, they were strangers, outlaws, dangerous people, she shouldn't even have talked to them.
She still felt her feet inside her sneakers soaked just like the lower part of her jeans. She knew her shoes would have never dried if she didn't took them off and put them in front of the fire, but looking at the floor covered in dirt she thought she preferred to suffer rather than catch some kind of skin irritation, putting her bare feet on it.
"Are you all dressed in that way, in the future?" asked another girl.
"Mary-Beth!" exclaimed the rude girl as to scold her.
"What? If she's lying or not, I'm curious to know why she's dressed in that way" the girl called Mary-Beth answered in defense.
Emily looked at her freckled face. She had to be young, maybe younger than her, she still had chubby cheeks, just like the other girl in the room, the one of color, who still hadn't said a word and kept looking at her with wary eyes.
"Yes, most of the people of my age dress like this. This is a hoodie" she said pointing at her chest.
"These are jeans" she kept saying pointing at her legs.
"Yeah, we know what jeans are. We got them" the rude girl stopped her.
"Oh" Emily exclaimed. She had no idea they already existed. "And then snickers" she ended pointing at her feet.
"They look odd" stated Mary-Beth.
"And ugly. They make you look like a clown" added the rude girl.
This time was Mary-Beth's turn to scold her. The girl called Karen shrugged making Emily understand she didn't care if she had offended her. But Emily didn't care, either. She knew what kind of girl Karen was, there were plenty of people like her in the world: bitches.
She turned again to look at the fire. Why was she making small-talk with those people?
"So you come from the South" stated the girl of color.
Emily moved her eyes on her, studying her pretty traits and sweet eyes that did not fit with the cold voice she had used with her.
"Yes, I do. Is that a problem?" she asked in hostility. She couldn't believe they were all so grumpy inside that room.
"Usually it's Southerners who have problems with people like me" she replied bitterly.
Emily had no idea of what she was talking about, so she looked around at the other people in the room asking them for help. Everybody was staring at her.
"Black people" said the man she thought to be a Native American, with a deep voice that surprised her.
Her brain connected the two information she had received with her knowledge of history, which at least was better than her geography.
"Oh, shit. Sorry, I didn't…" she stammered looking first at the man and then at the girl.
She wasn't used to that kind of thinking. This was a different time, with a different mindset, a worse mindset under certain aspects.
"It wasn't my intention to offend you. In my time we… we are…"
Right at that moment the door opened and the woman she couldn't remember the name of went inside carrying a steamy plate of something.
"Oh, she's going to eat Pearson's mush?" asked Karen with a rhetorical mocking tone, and to it she added a look that Emily didn't like. It was like she was saying: "you better pray your God before eating that".
The woman got closer to Emily, handing her the plate and the spoon that she took with a little insecurity.
"Here, this is the best we have" she said.
Emily looked at the three pieces of grey meat swimming in the colorless sauce together with some sad peas and asked herself, if that was their best, what idea of worst did they
"Try some, you'll feel better" the woman encouraged her before aiming again to the door.
"I'll go find you a settlement for the night" she added.
"Thank you Mrs…"
But the woman had already closed the door behind her.
"It's Miss Grimshaw. Don't call her Mrs. or she gets angry" Mary-Beth warned her.
"Thank you for the advise" Emily said reaching the table right beside the fireplace and letting the plate on it before sitting on a chair.
She glanced again at it, taking the spoon and stirring that dirty hot water, when, under the light of the lamp above the table, she noticed both the plate and the spoon were stained and a little rusty.
If that wasn't going to kill her, nothing would have.
She wrinkled her nose in an expression of pure disgust and that sight amused Karen more than anything in the world. That girl thought herself to be smarter and better than them? She truly believed they were going to buy all that shit? Pearson's stew was a fair punishment, at least for now.
Some chairs away from Karen, Tilly was still thinking about what that girl had said before, how she apologized, and she had to admit, she wanted to hear what else she had to say about it. If she was crazy or lying Tilly didn't care, she was curious about her anyway.
"What were you saying before? About your time?" she asked.
"Tilly! Even you?" exclaimed Karen.
Tilly turned to look at her. She knew Karen had no patience for this kind of things, but she wanted to know all the same, so she just shrugged before looking again at the new girl.
"I was saying… In my time, we don't make these discriminations anymore. Black, white, man, woman, we don't care, we're all the same. For most of us, at least. There still are people who think they live in prehistoric times, but they are just a little part of the world population" she explained.
Tilly couldn't believe what she was hearing: a world where all people were the same. Nonetheless, women and men were equal! That couldn't be, she was certainly lying, such a thing could never exist, not now, nor in the future, nor ever.
"Right, and I am a princess ready to go to the ball and meet my Prince Charming" said Karen with strong sarcasm.
All the people in the room didn't move their eyes from the girl seated at the table, who now shook her head at Karen's provocation.
She had definitely lost it, delusional, making up things that couldn't exist. What would be the next fantasy? Unicorns? Leprechauns? Dragons?
"You have too much faith in the future" murmured Javier.
He had spoken so softly he didn't expect anybody to hear him, but the new girl did and turned on the chair to smile at him.
"Or maybe you don't have enough" she simply said.
The door distracted them, opening again for the hundredth time. If they kept going in and out all the heat would go away and that night John would have frozen sleeping inside that room, or at least that was what he was complaining about in his mind.
Miss Grimshaw came inside telling the new girl she had found a place for her in the girls cabin and at her words the newbie exchanged a look with Karen. Those two didn't seem to get along and that was probably going to be a problem if the new girl decided to stay with them. Karen already could barely stand Miss Grimshaw and Miss O'Shea, another hostile relationship could push her on the verge of cold blooded murder, both Tilly and Mary-Beth knew that.
Silence fell inside the room, just like they didn't know what to talk about anymore. In fact, there wasn't anything to talk about, anything positive at least. Those last few weeks had been tiring and a little rest and quiet was just what they needed.
Charles noticed the new girl kept scrambling Pearson's stew, but she didn't bring anything to her mouth. How could he blame her: that day the stew was even worse than usual, with just that little Pearson could put in the pot. But she had to eat something, she already was so skinny the bones of her shoulders were visible under her clothes.
She huffed and left the spoon on the table before she stood up.
"Okay, I think I'll go to bed" she said looking at the people in the room.
When no-one did nothing but simply stared at her, she cleared her throat with embarrassment and spoke again.
"Can someone show me were I should sleep?"
"It's the second cabin on the left when you go outside. The main room, next to Mary-Beth's things" Miss Grimshaw explained while she was seated in front of the fire warming her legs and hands.
"Okay" she mumbled, but still didn't move, looking around her and rubbing her hands together.
What did she want? Someone who held her hand? A good night kiss? Really, the more she looked at her the more Karen couldn't help but thinking she acted too childish to be in her twenties. Or maybe she wasn't and just looked older.
"Does anybody, erm, need to go outside for any reason?" she asked.
"Why, you afraid of the dark?" joked Karen.
This was irresistible for her, she was serving her those puns on a silver platter. But maybe she had pushed too far this time because the expression on the girl's face changed.
"Hey, that man talked about wolves. I have no intention to go out there alone" she said angrily pointing her finger at the door.
"Oh God… Are you really that stupid?" Karen scoffed shaking her head.
She couldn't believe she didn't understood Hosea was saying those things just to keep her inside that goddamn room.
Yes, Karen had pushed too far. With those last words, she had hurt the new girl and her eyes started to fill with tears. Tightening her lips and with a final look full of loath she run outside, slamming the door right behind her.
"Well done, Karen" Tilly reproached her, and Karen didn't reply.
She knew she had made a mistake, picking on her without a solid reason, but she was so stressed in those days. The run, the cold, the hunger, the people they had lost, Sean, who she still didn't know if he was alive or just captured. And moreover, there wasn't a goddamn drop of liquor on those mountains!
Emily ran out of that smelly shack full of assholes and stopped to dry her tears among the high snow.
Why they had to be so horrible with her? She thought she had clearly told them she had just lost everything. Her situation wasn't good so why were they acting so cruel? Were those the kind of people that existed in 1899? So cold, disinterested, selfish and mean? Or maybe only those people were like that, because they were criminals?
Of course, that was it! She had never heard of kind and compassionate criminals. So maybe, if she found some other people, they would have treated her differently.
Emily raised her gaze and looked around her. She could go, run away from that place and those people. But in the dark? In the cold? On foot? Without any idea of where she was? That would be stupid and the last thing she had to do was some foolishness.
And then, she had to admit, it was a beautiful view. The night was cold, but calm and silent. The sky was full of stars and the little light that came from the lanterns next the door of each cabin revealed the forest all around the village.
She wasn't used to that quiet. The city was always alive, every hour, day and night, with cars, bikes, barking dogs, crying children or yelling people who walked on the street under her window, waking her at night or disturbing her during the day.
The door behind her opened and Mary-Beth came out.
"Hey, how are you?" she asked.
"Do you really care?" Emily replied, turning her back at her and crossing her arms on her chest. She was freezing again.
"Come, I'll show you the way" said Mary-Beth walking past her.
In some sort of involuntarily obedience, Emily's legs started moving and she followed the girl in the semi-darkness. They passed the first cabin, from which windows came some light and voices, and peeking for a second through the glass, she recognized Hosea's back while seated in front of the fireplace.
"This is it" Mary-Beth informed her when they reached the second cabin.
It was smaller than the other two she had seen and it had no window on the front, so when they got inside, Emily was surprised to find a figure sitting in front of the fire.
"Hi, you must be Emily" said the girl with black hair turning on the chair to look at them.
"Emily, this is Abigail" Mary-Beth made the presentations closing again the door.
Emily gave her a small smile and a nod of her head. Was she going to be rude with her too?
That room was warmer that the other and this was because the fire there had bigger flames that spread both light and heat inside the small ambience. Looking around her, Emily also noticed there were no beds nor cots, just four blankets which looked a lot like sleeping-bags. Three of them seemed already used, one, which she supposed to be hers, was untouched.
So she had to sleep on the ground? Among all the dirt and the bugs? Very good, a new terrible experience, just like she hadn't had enough.
A sudden rustle of cloth from her left made her turn in that direction and she noticed another tiny room just next to the main one, but so dark she couldn't see anything on the inside.
"Mom" she heard a very young voice calling.
Abigail gave a quick glance at her before she stood up and walked to the other room followed by Emily's eyes. She disappeared from her sight, fading into the darkness and right after she heard more rustle of what now she thought to be bed sheets.
"What?" Abigail asked gently.
"A new girl."
"What's her name?"
"You'll meet her tomorrow. Go back to sleep."
Emily moved her eyes away from the door that leaded to the other room and took a step towards the fireplace watching the lively flames.
That girl had a son, and from his voice he must have been very young. How could it be? When she had met those men outside she could perfectly tell they were criminals: they had mean faces, tough looks, rough manners. But what kind of gang had so many women and even a child?
"I'm sorry for Karen's behavior. She ain't always like that. We're getting through a lot right now" said Mary-Beth.
Emily looked at her freckled face. So not everybody was like Karen, she was a special case.
"Never mind" she replied showing the palms of her hands to the fire.
"I think Miss Grimshaw settled you here" stated Mary-Beth pointing at the covers on the ground.
Yes, that night was going to be tough.
I warned you, the chapters are long! Maybe too long, but I don't want to split them, I like them like this.
I'm definitely more comfortable with the third person, it's way easier and it gives me the possibility to change the point of view among the characters, which is great!
This first chapter is a little more "serious", the nexts will have more funny parts, puns, and things like this. I wanted to keep it light.
From what we learn about Karen during the story she seems a practical kind of woman, the opposite of Mary-Beth who is more like a dreamer, so I used that little information I got to write them.
I guess that's all for now. Let me know what you think about it!
See you (not too) soon!