TB Excerpt 2

Chapter Six – pages 52-57 (The brothers’ introduction to Walton Junction – and the inhabitants!)

So this,” said Jackson with more than a little disgust in his voice, “is where Uncle Mac wanted us to go? This deserted, empty … I don’t even think I can call it a town.”

Jam allowed a small grin to spread across his face as they continued rolling slowly through the area. With his love for exploring and hiking, wandering through a long-forgotten village filled him with excitement. The idea of finding cool stuff like old beer cans or lost treasure intrigued him. He just wished he had his metal detector with him. “Well, I don’t know, I think this could be cool. Let’s find a place to park.”

They pumped the handcar up another block, found some level ground near a former road, and hit the brakes. Once stopped, they lifted the handcar from the tracks, set it down, and then rolled it off the road and into the tall grass.

Though the  pushing became tougher, they con-

tinued to move it until they were able to shove it inside a thicket of tall weeds and bushy trees. A bit of maneuvering later, and they stood back. “There! Now no one can see it,” said Jam with more than a little pride evident in his voice.

Jackson scratched his head as he gazed around at the emptiness. “Who exactly are you concerned about? There’s no one here! Are you worried about ghosts?”

Shrugging, Jam replied, “Or pirates. Who knows?” He looked at his brother and winked. “Better to be safe, yadda yadda.”

Removing the map from his jeans pocket, Jam unfolded it and held it out flat. “There,” he said, pointing at the spot on the map where the three sets of train tracks crossed, forming a slightly rounded triangle around a couple of miles in diameter. “The X is directly in the middle of this triangle. I’m guessing it’s over there,” he said, pointing up to where the two tracks split off.

The brothers walked around the area, trying to find any sign of the former town of Walton Junction. Jackson saw a couple of rusty cans and walked over to investigate. “Looks like they used to drink Carling’s Black Label and Goebel’s ‘round these here parts,” he said with a slight twang to his voice.

Digging in the debris, Jam unearthed a flat bottle. “Check it out! An old whiskey bottle! So sweet!”

“Hey!” shouted a loud voice in front of them. “What the hell are you doing? This is private property!” The boys looked up to see a large, unkempt man, arms crossed over his thick, muscular chest. His short, thinning grey-black hair ruffled in the wind as he scowled at them.

“Oh, sorry, sir,” responded Jam. “We didn’t know.”

“So ya thought you could just stomp into our little village, steal whatever you want, and take it back to the big city?”

A loud snort of a laugh escaped Jackson’s mouth. “You’re kidding, right? Are you afraid we’ll pillage your rubble piles? Abscond with your rocks? Steal …” he paused to think up another ridiculous item before looking at his brother’s hand. “An old bottle?”

Walking closer, the man continued, the bass in his voice ever deepening, “These heirlooms are not yours to take. This isn’t a junk pile. It used to be someone’s business or home. Respect it.”

Jam knew Jackson was about to continue his rant of disrespect, so he quickly set the bottle down, put his hands out, and said softly while backpedaling, “I’m sorry. We’re both sorry. No disrespect meant. We assumed this place was deserted.”

“Well, it’s not. Many people live here.”

With a wide sweep of his arms, Jackson replied, “Where, may I ask, are they living, exactly? In the weeds or in the rubble?”

The man unfolded his arms and pointed his meaty right hand at Jackson. “It doesn’t matter where. You need to leave.”

Putting his hand on his brother’s shoulder, Jam said, “Of course. We’re going. Sorry!” Then, smacking his brother on the back, he whispered, “This guy’s off his nut! Let’s get outta here.”

As they trotted back toward the handcar, they saw a few other faces peering out at them from the trees and around the few remaining buildings. While hurrying away, the brothers were not able to get a good look at the people, but Jam did notice their grime and overall unkemptness. Looking back, he said, “Nice meeting you. We’ll be going now.”

When they reached the handcar, they quickly pulled the weeds away and started pushing it toward the tracks. This caused the crowd to start murmuring amongst themselves. The closer to the rail they moved, the louder the people became.

As the brothers lifted the handcar up and inched it to the tracks, the man yelled, “Hey, wait a minute you two!”

When he started running toward them, Jackson screamed, “What the chud?! Hurry!”

Not wanting to wait around to see what the hairy, scary man wanted, Jam grunted, “Almost there,” as they dropped the car onto the tracks. They both leaped up onto the platform and began pumping as the man caught up to them.

Taking a long look at the handcar, the man muttered, “That’s what I thought,” before shouting, “Hey! Where the hell did you two get this handcar? Did you steal that too?”

In what seemed like a split second to the brothers, several men came running out from the shadows. Two of them jumped up onto the handcar, knocking the Trachsel boys from the platform. Before they could mount any offense, Jam and Jax were face down on the ground with their hands pulled behind them. Turning his head and spitting out a mouthful of dirt, Jam yelled, “Hey! Get off us!”

The men, strong and wiry with thick beards and wild eyes, pulled the brothers to their feet, dragging them toward the forest. Jackson whispered to his brother, “Where was Deliverance filmed, exactly?”

“Shut up!” yelled the man who had a grip on Jackson.

“Hey, I’m not dissing your lifestyle there, Grizzly Adams,” Jackson said to the man who possessed an even thicker beard than did the mountain man from the ‘70s TV show. “Just know I don’t swing that way.”

In a surprisingly quick motion, the man spun Jackson around, so the two were face to face. Pushing his face uncomfortably close to Jackson’s, the man said, “Not one more word from you. You feel me?”

Though Jackson had another snarky comment at the ready, he decided not to antagonize him any further. Instead, he nodded rapidly.

They continued to drag the brothers away from their handcar and further into the woods. Once the trees became too thick to see the train tracks, the men stopped, slamming Jam and Jax up against thick oak trees. Within moments, the bearded men had them tied to the trees with sturdy rope. Jackson could not help himself. “So, what, you people walk around the woods carrying rope, just in case you run across city folk with purdy mouths?”

“Dude,” whispered Jam, “shut it already!” Turning his head to stare back at the man who had first accosted them, Jam tried his best to calm his racing nerves before speaking again. “Look, I don’t know who you are –”

“Where did you get that handcar?” the man demanded.

“What?” Jackson yelled with as much defiance as he could muster. “That’s none of your business.”

Putting his hand on Jackson’s shoulder and squeezing, the man said slowly, enunciating each word. “Where did you get that handcar? And don’t lie to me or I will break your shoulder.”

“Ow! Dude! Our Uncle Mac! He willed it to us!”

Instantly, the man loosened his grip. “Mac? He willed it to you? Oh my God, Mac is dead, isn’t he? I didn’t want to believe that. How long ago?”

Jackson yelled, “Untie us, bufflehead, and we’ll tell you all about it!”

Shooting a quick glance at his brother before turning back to the man, Jam replied, “It’s been a week or so. They had the will reading last Saturday, the funeral a couple of days before that. How long had you known Mac?”

The big man gestured toward the others, and they started to untie the brothers. “Forever it seems. He was one of us.”

Rubbing his wrists, Jackson said, “One of what?”

In unison, several of them shouted, “The Rail Riders!”

“Oh chud,” Jackson muttered under his breath. “They’re not gonna sing now, are they?”