Welcome to chapter 13 of Arena of Souls, my new, Doc Savage-style, pulp adventure. A new chapter every week! If you missed the previous chapters, you can start at the beginning here:
Arena of Souls
Chapter 13: The Train Again
Stone moved with the speed of a striking viper. He snatched the assailant’s wrist and forced it away before the man could react. Clutching the man’s arm in a vise grip, he yanked the attacker toward him. His fist flew out to meet the man square in the face. He felt the satisfying crunch of the man’s nose breaking. The man yelped and struggled to get away. Stone grabbed him by the hair, yanked his head down, and drove a knee into the man’s face. He went limp and collapsed to the ground.
It had all happened in a matter of seconds, but the train car was already filled with cries of alarm.
“Stone, what’s going on?” Alex cried.
“Take Trinity and get out of here.” Stone opened the overhead compartment and rifled through his bag. His hands closed on the leather pouch where he’d stored his the map and the notes he and Trinity had taken. Hastily, he stuffed them into his shirt and felt around for his Webley.
A boom reverberated through the cabin and the window beside him shattered. Someone was firing at him. In the muzzle flash, he spotted his pistol, snatched it, and hit the ground as another shot rang out. Stone dared not risk firing in the midst of the crowded train car. Instead, he kept low the the ground, working his way backward, his weapon at the ready. All around him, people cried out in fear and confusion. Someone trod on his back and fell forward, falling into another dark figure who shouted in anger and fired a shot into the ceiling as he fell.
Stone reached for the fallen man. His hand closed around the pistol and he yanked it free. The man uttered a confused yelp and Stone drove the butt of the pistol toward the sound. He was rewarded with a solid thump as he struck the man on the skull.
Another shot rang out from the far end of the car. The assailants were growing desperate. Stone sprang to the nearest window. Still holding the captured pistol, an Enfield from the feel of it, he struck the window with the butt. His powerful blow shattered the glass on the first strike and he ducked at someone fired in his direction.
Not willing to risk hitting innocent passengers, Stone fired twice into the ceiling, and then squeezed his bulk out the window and swung up onto the roof.
Clutching a pistol in each hand, he dashed along the roof of the car, heading toward the back of the train. The assailants seemed to know exactly what he was doing, because a hail of bullets ripped through the roof of the passenger car. Stone had anticipated this, and kept to the side, while his attackers fired through the center. He sprinted to the end of the car, leapt over the gap, hit, and rolled to his feet atop the dining car.
“Come and get me,” he whispered. Up ahead he saw the lights of Charleston turning the night sky a dull gray. It didn’t provide much visibility, but it was sufficient for him to see the dark shape that clambered up on to the roof of the passenger car.
Stone flattened himself out but held his fire. If he shot the first man he saw, the others might stay in the passenger car. He couldn’t risk that. He wanted them all out in the open. A second figure appeared, and then a third. They all kept low, looking all around. They forced his hand when a fourth man appeared from the doorway of the passenger car and climbed up the dining car ladder right in front of him. Stone punched him in the face, sending him tumbling to the ground, but his cries drew the attention of his comrades who turned and fired as one.
Bullets whizzed past, one taking a bite out of the roof near where Stone lay. He didn’t flinch- he’d been under fire before. Instead, he fired off two shots in the direction of the nearest muzzle flash and then rolled to the side as a torrent of bullets buzzed past. This time he saw only two muzzle flares, telling him he’d hit his target. He fired again, two shots with each pistol, each aimed at a different target. In the dim light, he saw both men fall and tumble to the ground.
“Fine shooting,” a cold voice said from behind him. “But not wise to leave your back unprotected.”
Stone froze. He lay prone, arms extended in front of him. Not a good position.
“Please, try to shoot me. I assume you’re familiar with the Thompson submachine gun?”
Stone didn’t reply.
“Make one wrong move and I’ll fill you with so much lead we could use you for a boat anchor. Now, toss your weapons over the side and give me the map.”
“I’m supposed to believe you’ll let me go then?” Stone asked.
“I don’t care what you believe. Give me the map.”
Two things happened at once. The dining car door below Stone swung open just as the train passed between two steep hills. As the faint city lights disappeared, plunging them into darkness, Stone pitched the Enfield back toward the sound of the voice, and rolled off the edge of the train.
As he fell, he caught the lip of the train with his left hand. He dangled there, holding on with his powerful grip, as the man on the roof opened up with his Thomson. As the machine gun sang its deadly song, Stone took careful aim and squeezed off a single shot. The man went down in a heap, his Thomson clattering to the roof and falling uselessly over the edge.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Stone tucked his Webley into his belt and, not a moment too soon, grabbed on to the roof with both hands. His fingers and shoulder burned from supporting all of his weight and he took a moment to breathe.
That was a mistake.
He’d forgotten about the open dining car door. As the city lights reappeared, he saw the gleam of a machine gunpistol barrel pointed at him.
“Give me the map or I’ll shoot you in the liver,” a voice said.
“Shoot me and you lose the map,” Stone said. Could he possibly keep the man talking until a way out presented itself?
“We’ll go back for your body at our leisure. Now…”
The sound of bone on flesh cut off the man’s words in mid sentence. He pitched forward and tumbled onto the tracks, revealing a familiar form standing on the platform between cars.
“Stone,” Moses said, “you sure do get yourself into some situations.”