caw of laughter. âAnd I suppose you drove the last spike too!â
âI did,â said Will, tired of Mackieâs sneering.
âCrazy and a liar,â Mackie scoffs. âI seen that photo of the last spike, and you are not holding the hammer.â
âI wasnât in the photo,â Will says, ââcauseââ
âBecause Donald Smith bent the spike,â Sticks says, nodding. âIâve heard this story. They said a boy drove it in. So.â He looks at Will. âThat was you.â
âAnd this Brogan,â Sticks says, âwhat happened to him up there?â
âHe got attacked by a sasquatch. Thrown over the cliff. Everybody thought he was dead.â
âYou believe all this, then?â Mackie asks Sticks.
âI do. Iâve been around people long enough to know a liar. This boy is not lying.â
âWeâll find out, I suppose,â says Mackie.
âI doubt this Brogan fellow works on the train, though,â says Sticks. âThereâs all kinds of rough sorts hanging about the Junction.â
Will looks at the clock. âHow will I get back?â
âWell,â says Sticks, âthe Boundless is more than nine hundred cars long, and itâs a good five miles before you even get to colonist class. Itâs no easy stroll over the top of freight cars, unless youâre partial to jumping in the dark.â
Will knows the Boundless isnât scheduled to stop until tomorrow afternoon.
âIf your fatherâs the general manager,â Mackie says, âwhy donât he just stop the train for you?â
âHe wonât even know Iâm gone,â Will says, realizing. âHeâs driving the Boundless.â
âThen heâll know thereâs a freight close behind us, and the Intercolonial not far after,â Sticks says. âStoppingâs out of the question. We canât be blocking the whole track. And thereâs no siding long enough to hold us. Most likely youâre stuck with us until tomorrow.â
âWell, ainât that a joy,â Mackie mutters.
âMackie,â says Sticks, âanother unkind word from you, and you can sleep on the roof tonight.â
âMight prefer it, the stink coming off that boy.â
âWash the dishes. After that I want you to take a note up and tell the fellows to pass it forward.â To Will he says, âWe can work a message to the front to the conductor. Thereâs a brakeman every twenty cars.â
âThe fellas wonât like it,â says Mackie. âNot in the dark.â
âWeâve got a straight stretch for a good while,â Sticks says.
âEasy for you. You wonât be the one up top. And it looks like there might be rain.â
âRight now thereâs a full moon. Plenty of light. Anyway, this is important. If a guardâs been murdered, they need to know about it. Especially if the killerâs on board.â
Willâs insides clench. âYou think he might be?â
âCould be. But thereâs a Mountie aboard whoâll sort things out.â
âItâs Sam Steele,â Will says, trying to make himself feel better.
âThere you go. No one finer than Samuel Steele.â
Sticks walks over to his desk, picks up a pen, and starts writing a note.
Reluctantly Mackie gets up and pumps some water into the sink, sluicing the dirty bowls and cutlery. Will remembers a sink like that in his old apartment, before they were rich. He sees a dish towel and steps forward to help.
âMy father used to be a brakeman,â he says to Mackie.
Mackie grunts. âThen you know itâs pretty much the most dangerous job in the world, âspecially in bad weather. Them running boards get all slick. Rain drives into your face. You get a sudden rumble or curve in the track, you slip and get thrown.â
Before he can stop himself, Will glances at the