In a soft, secretive voice the dapper man said, "Wyatt?"
"What Bat?" The lawman replied as if waking.
"What are we doing here?"
Earp looked around the train car from his vantage point in the last seat. "I don't know. Don't remember, but this isn't where I was last." He paused, "Come to think on it, I don't remember where I was last."
"I recognize some men around here, but some are new to me." Masterson pointed. "That's Pat Garrett and, if I'm not wrong, that's Hickock's tresses in the front seat."
Wyatt leaned over to address the man sitting on the bench to his left. "Aren't you Bass Reeves?" The distinguished man with a prominent mustache nodded politely.
From the next seat forward a man turned to address Bat and Wyatt. "Dallas Stoudenmire here—out of El Paso. I've been tryin' to fathom this out myself. One thing I can say is some of the lawmen here are from our years, but some are from later on. That's Frank Hamer sitting across from Hickock. He was a baby when you were in Tombstone. Have no idea how I know that, but whatever he did, it must have been something great to get him on this train.
Bass spoke up as he pointed to the window in the door behind them. "If I am not mistaken, Billy the Kid looked in here a time back." The four men stared at each other for a long minute.
"Well, we need to find out what is going on," said Bat. "I'll bet the conductor can tell us. Watch for him."
They sat pensively while the train clicked and clacked its way along. No one knew how long they were waiting—time had no meaning. Finally, a conductor entered the car from the far end and made his way down the aisle punching tickets. "Tickers please, have your tickets ready."
"Wyatt, I don't have a ticket," said Bat.
"Yes, you do, it's in your hat band,"
Bat reached up and took the ticket then commented, "There's one in your hat band too."
Just then the conductor reached the back of the car. "Sir," Wyatt addressed, "Can you tell us what we are doing on this train?"
The railroad man answered sardonically while punching Wyatt's ticket. "Just read your ticket." The conductor opened the door and left the car.
All four men read their tickets. ONE WAY—DESTINATION: DAMNATION.
The terrain outside was mostly flat, tan and featureless. Slowly, their knowledge and memories expanded, so eventually they knew all the riders and little details about their lives.
Wyatt rose and addressed everyone. "Gentlemen, it seems we have been brought here for some reason. Pat, Bill Bonney has been seen, so we can assume that our old foes are somewhere about."
Just then, a railroad clerk burst through the door. Winded with a concerned face, he caught his breath. "Oh! So good to see you here. I had to climb over the outlaw car back there, so they wouldn't see me."
With all eyes on the man, Wyatt asked, "Who are you sir?"
"E.C. Woodcock, express car attendant."
Stoudenmire looked at him hard. "You were the guy who wouldn't open the rail car for Cassidy up in Wyoming, so they blew up the car. "
"Yes, but this is more important," Woodcock answered. "In my car there is a chest, strapped in iron and triple locked. I've got word that it contains a map to the Great Mother Lode. Right now, the outlaws don't know this, but in time it will come to mind, and I fear they will attack my car and take it."
Hickock interjected. "That's supposed to be the biggest cache of gold and silver ever found. I thought it was just a story."
"Either way, it is addressed to the Purgatory Bank in Damnation. I hear it is the only place in Purgatory that the outlaws can't rob. You need to protect it until it gets there."
"Purgatory. So that's where we are." Bat mused.
There were twenty-three lawmen in all, and they gathered near the middle of the car. They were all men of action and not accustomed to taking orders, but as Wyatt had taken the lead, they agreed to follow him. "Whatever we do, we have to get to the express car and hole up there. It would be better if the outlaws don't see us."
"Why can't we just follow Woodcock back over the other car?" Pat Garrett said.
"Yes, that sounds right. I'll need half a dozen of you to go," followed Wyatt.
Garrett, Captain Jack Hayes, Bass Reeves, Frank Dalton, Heck Thomas and Bill Tilghman headed out, following Woodcock up the access ladder to the top of the outlaw car. This was the first time the lawmen could see the whole train. There was the engine and coal car, two passenger cars, the express car and a caboose. Going at full tilt, the train was rocking side to side and it was hard to hold on while moving across the roof. Several lawmen held onto Woodcock as he stood up and waved to attract the attention of engineer, Casey Jones. Woodcock signaled to slow the train and Jones let off the throttle. The guards made it to the express car, but as they filed into the car, they noticed Butch Cassidy watching them through the outlaw car's window. He realized what was up and turned to the rest of the outlaws.
Getting a jump on the outlaws, several lawmen from their car moved out onto the platform between the cars, brandished their pistols and donned threatening faces. Soon, several outlaws moved to their platform and scowled back at them.
Cole Younger pointed his piece at Bat. "Might have figured this was some Union trick."
"Not sure what this is but looks like an outlaw ruse to me. Either way, we seem to be stuck on this moving Mexican standoff." Bat doffed his Derby hat and wiped his brow.
The men in the express car barred the door and took defensive positions. It did not take long before the outlaws were pounding on the car. "Hey, open up! What you got in there?"
Hickock sent a round through the top of the door. "You ain't getting in here."
"When we get in there, you're all dead." Several shotgun blasts followed, destroying the door lock.
The guards opened fire, shooting through the wall and door. They wounded most of the outlaws, so the others backed down into their rail car. The bad men made a few more attempts to get into the express car. One time, the bandits went over the top of the car and tried to come through the back door. Anticipating this, the guards had barred the door with lumber they found in the car. The guards proved too much for the outlaws and things quieted down.
The uneasy truce lasted for an undetermined length of time until the train's whistle alerted them to their arrival at Damnation. The town was like hundreds of communities in the old west; a dusty main street lined with rough buildings, hitching posts, horse troughs, and the railroad tracks crossing the street at one end of the town. The Purgatory Bank was the only stone building. It was situated between a saloon and the dry grocer half-way down the street from the railroad platform.
The lawmen and outlaws jumped off the train before it came to a full stop. Each group claimed their turf. Woodcock opened the large side door of the express car and the guards jumped down to form a cordon around the door. The lawmen hurried over to support them as a few men pulled the strong box off the train.
Butch and his gang surrounded them, trying to pin them against the train.
"Hey," yelled Billy the Kid. "Is that the bushwhacker, Pat Garrett, I see there?"
Pat stepped forward, ready for action. "You were my friend once, but you were a killer then and by the look of things you still are."
The tension was thick. Rufus Buck, being a young hot head, had been twitching since the train arrived. He could not stand it any longer and bolted at Wyatt. Bat shot Rufus dead, no one moved. The attention returned to Billy and Pat.
'You need to think better of this Billy or that will be you in a moment," Pat's eyes fixed on Billy's eyes.
"Well Pat, I don't see any other way." With that Billy fired and Pat fired back. After several rounds both lawman and outlaw lay in the dust.
Several men picked up the chest and the rest gathered around them. They started moving as a block towards the bank.
"Wait up Wyatt," called out Cassidy, "We have a claim on what's in that box."
"Ain't gonna happen Butch,"
"Enough of this jaw flappin'," bellowed Bill Doolin as he leveled his shotgun and destroyed Seth Bullock.
After that, guns blazed as outlaws and lawmen scattered to take cover as best they could. After a few rounds all combatants found that no matter how many shots they fired, their pistols never ran out of ammunition. They just blasted and blasted and blasted away.
Wyatt stood out in the open and kept shooting. At first his luck held with rounds passing through his hat, his coat tails and pants. Then, a bullet found his middle and suddenly he could not breathe. Leaning over he kept firing wildly when shots tore into his shoulder and hip. No longer able to stand, he fell to his knees, then face first beneath the express car.
Hickock found shelter under the train platform and firing with both pistols downed more outlaws than anyone else. He might have survived except Jonny Ringo found some dynamite and blew up Wild Bill and the platform. Ringo had to get out in the open to toss the dynamite and Elfego Baca gunned him down.
Bat, Reeves and Stoudenmire had the chest and were making their way down the sidewalk heading to the bank when Black Jack Ketchum and five others opened up on them from an ally across the street. Bat and the others took turns dragging the chest and shooting. Eventually, Reeves and Stoudenmire went down and Bat was hampered by a bullet deep in his thigh and other wounds. There were only two outlaws left from across the street, Cherokee Bill and Black Bart They ran to Bat looking to finish him off. Bat watched them coming and as then they stepped up to the side walk, he ripped into them with a two-gun fusillade.
There was still the sound of sporadic gunfire around the train depot as Bat dragged himself and the strong box into the bank. There, several tellers took the chest and secured it in their ghost-proof safe where upon Bat died.
Time passed in silence, how long is unknown, then each of the gunmen felt something stir in their bodies. Bat struggled to his feet and stepped out onto the street. There, all the combatants stood were they fell, knocking the sleep out of their heads.
At the depot Butch also came back and watched those around him. "Wyatt, Wyatt are you out there?" He called out at top voice.
"Ya," responded Earp. "Down here by the tracks."
The two men came together. "Did we have a time, or did we have a time?" Butch smiled.
"Cannot remember having a better time. Did my heart good. Felt great," responded the lawman as he took the outlaws hand in a grand shake.
The rest of the gunman gathered at the train laughing and reminiscing on the gunfight. There was a lot of back -slapping, embracing, and light-hearted banter. Casey Jones, Woodcock and the conductor joined the festivities.
Cassidy put his arm around Earp. "Oh, Wyatt, we have got to do this again next year."
Wyatt looked at him quizzically. "Next year, Butch? Let's do this again tomorrow!"
"Yes, yes, yes! Next time bring Doc"
"And make sure Sundance comes too."