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  • The bandit and the brakeman
  • I met Jerry during the last robbery we pulled off with me still part of the gang. At least, I guess you could say we met. Jerry always gave me a look when I used to put it that way, but I don't know how else to say it, really. The Bell Creek Siding Robbery was back in `77. That set up was such a natural, I couldn't figure out why nobody'd ever pulled it off before. Of course, once we'd done it, they fixed the place with a guard so nobody'd try it again and get away with it, but it seemed like we was the first to see how the way they ran the train made everything so easy.

    Bell Creek Siding was halfway up the mountains from Les Pubes down in the valley. Every couple of weeks, the night train carried the payroll for the mining camp. The train itself, of course, went on through and down the other side, heading for the delta. The train ran once a night, passing the Bell Creek Siding a little after midnight. Bell Creek was nowhere. The siding was just there for times when they needed to put some worktrain off to the side to let the night train go through. They kept a brakeman there full-time, though, because two months before some drunken pranksters had switched the tracks just before the night train passed and sent it off onto the siding. The engineer was a good man and he got the train almost stopped before it hit the end of the rails. Nobody was hurt, thank god, but the repairs cost the line a bundle. They added a quarter mile of track for safety and from then on they kept a man stationed all the time in the little shack up there. It was a boring job, nothing to do but make sure the switch was turned the right way when the trains came through; they'd put a man up there for a week and then take him off for a month, rotating four or five fellows through like that.

    It was reading about the accident in the paper that gave Jake the idea. It hadn't seemed to occur to the bosses of the line, but Jake saw right away that all we'd have to do would be overpower the brakeman, turn the switch, and then the train would be off on a siding. Robbing the pay car would be easy. Jake hung around the town for a week or so, listening to the gossip here and there, sounding out what the payrolls were like. He had us up at the siding for that month's payroll train, but we didn't do nothing, just watched the brakeman do his job and the train go through. Jake had heard that the next pay car would be carrying a shipment of gold headed for one of the big banks out on the coast as well as the mining payroll, so we waited for the two weeks to go by.

    It was a cold, October night, a short while before nine o'clock, when Stan and I road up the canyon toward Bell Creek. We tethered our horses in a little grove of live oaks a couple of hundred yards back from the brakeman's hut. He and I had pulled the job of taking the brakeman prisoner and changing the switch. We'd decided there wasn't much to it, really, and we just walked easy as you please up to the hut. We both had our big bandanna neckerchiefs pulled up over our faces as masks. There was a bright three quarter moon that night and a pretty strong wind blowing the branches of the trees with a rush in the leaves, so I don't know if the brakeman heard us coming. Stan stood to one side and I went up to the door and knocked. I heard the man's footsteps as he crossed the floor and then he was standing in the open doorway, his lantern in his hand and a puzzled look on his dark-bearded face.

    "Evenin'," I said and pulled out my gun. "What the hell do ya want, mister?" the brakeman said. "I don't have no money out here."

    "Ya just do as yer told, son, and things'll be fine." I found myself calling the fellow `son', since, bearded or not, it was obvious he was just a youngster, thirty or so, and I was fifty myself. "Now, put that lantern down." As I spoke, Stan, his gun also drawn, moved into the fellow's view, and, after looking at both of us for a second, the man obeyed my order. "Step outside, son." He did, and I holstered my gun and then took him by the shoulders to turn him with his back to me and facing Stan and his gun.

    Jerking the man's arms behind him, I took a short length of the rope I had ready on my belt and used it to tie his wrists together, pulling the rope snug and tying it off in a tight knot. Then from my vest pocket I took a wad I'd made out of two of my big bandannas. Reaching over the fellow's shoulder, I held the big ball of cloth in front of the brakeman's mouth.

    "Open up, son," I said. He hesitated, but a little lift in the muzzle of Stan's gun convinced him. He opened his mouth, and I stuffed in the gag, forcing it in deep between his jaws until he moaned softly. Reaching into my hip pocket, I dragged out another of my bandannas. I folded it on the diagonal into a thick roll, and I tied that through the brakeman's mouth, knotting if off as tight as I could behind his head.

    "Good boy," I said, when I was done. "Now," I continued, taking him by the arm, "let's go back in yer little hut, shall we?" I pushed the fellow ahead of me, stooping for a second to take up the lantern, and Stan followed us in. There wasn't much inside. a bunk with blankets, a little table with a wash bowl and pitcher and a towel, the man's denim coat and a second shirt on pegs in the wall, a desk with the telegraph key on it and some papers and magazines, a single wooden chair, a little cupboard for his food and dishes. In the corner was a little round stove for heat and for cooking. a low wood fire burned in it, almost gone to coals. I shoved the man over to the bunk and pushed him onto it face down. Taking more rope from my belt, I lashed the fellows arms together behind his back, pulling the rope tight so he grunted into his gag and knotting it off. Then I tied his legs together just above his knees and at his black-booted ankles. I finished off by dragging his feet up and roping them to his bound wrists, putting the man into a tight hog-tie. When I was done, I stepped back and looked down at my handiwork. The fellow lay on his belly, his head turned to one side, peering back at me above the thick bandage of the gag. He looked pretty helpless, and pretty scared. Behind me, Stan put up his gun.

    "Let's get the switch turned," he said, and I nodded and followed him outside. We walked the twenty feet to the switch, our boots crunching in the gravel. I carried the lantern and set it down when we came to the tall brake handle. Stan had done this sort of thing before, and after a glance to make sure he knew which way to set the rail, he took hold of the handle and pulled the thing over. With a glance over at the hut, he pulled his bandanna down and grinned at me. "That's it, Bill." I nodded. "So, ya wanna stay with that bucko or me?"

    I shrugged, pretending I didn't much care. "Ya go on and tell Jake and the rest. I'll stay here and keep an eye on the brakeman." I pulled at my watch. "In two hours the train'll be along and I'll swing the lantern like a good boy. When it's time, I'll join you fellows. "Sure thing, Bill," Stan said, and he headed off to get his horse while I went back to the hut.

    When I came in with the lantern, the brakeman looked up with wide eyes from where he lay tied and gagged. I went over and checked on his bindings, but I know my work. The fellow was still trussed up good and tight, and the gag was secure. I ruffled up the fellow's dark hair and turned to set the lantern on his little desk. I looked over the papers that were there. a few schedules and pay sheets was mostly all, and a copy of the local newspaper. There were also several copies of "Nick Carter's Weekly," one of them open in the middle. I picked that one up and turned back to my prisoner.

    "Like this stuff, son?" I asked him. Craning his head around, he looked up at me, his eyes a bit less wild but still scared and puzzled above the wide band of the gag I'd tied through his mouth. I grinned under my mask and sat in the chair. For a moment or two, I studied the brakeman. He was, as I said, only about thirty or so, tall, husky in build, with a thick head of dark hair and a thick and neatly trimmed dark beard, and bright blue eyes. He was a nice-looking youngster, with a short nose and red lips. He was dressed in a clean denim shirt and clean overalls, a big blue bandanna knotted around his neck with the middle hanging on his chest in a big triangle. I could have used his neckerchief as a part of his gag, I suppose, but I don't count on fellows having neckerchiefs and I always come prepared with plenty of bandannas to gag my man. The fellow shifted a little in his bindings as I watched and grunted softly into the gag.


    "Uncomfortable, son?" I asked him. His eyes flicked up to meet and hold mine. "Well, it won't be too long before the train comes past." I glanced down at the magazine. "Chapter 14," I read aloud, "In the Villain's Grasp." I looked up at the brakeman who stared back above his gag. "Well," I said with a chuckle, "I reckon that fits yer case, don't it, son?" I flipped the magazine closed and then, with rising interest, studied the cover. Obviously, the cover illustrated Chapter 14. Nick Carter himself was shown bound into a chair with yards of rope and gagged with a handkerchief tied tightly over his mouth. He was glaring up in defiance at the old man who was the villain, who looked back with a gloating smile. They were in the basement of some building, with a lamp flaring down from overhead.

    My dick had been stiff, of course, since we had approached the brakeman's hut. I always made sure, when we pulled a job, that I was the man who tied and gagged our victims, and, since they knew I was good at it, the rest of the gang never objected. I don't think any of them knew that I liked doing it. They just knew I was good at it and left it at that. But I did like doing it, I liked doing it a whole lot. That some of our captives got abused while they were tied and gagged, well, that was something else and it happened all the time, the gang knew that. Some of us liked the boys, that's all. When some good-looking fellow found himself roped and muzzled during a job we pulled, well, if there was time, there were a couple of other fellows besides just me who were likely to take advantage of the situation. I don't think the fellow being tied really added anything to what happened for the other men in the gang who liked the boys. But I liked my men helpless, I liked my men tied up and gagged, and I liked being the fellow who made them helpless, who tied them up and stuffed the gag into their mouths.

    Stan wasn't one for the boys, but he had known that I would probably have my fun with this youngster. I planned on taking my time about it, though. I looked up from studying the picture on the cover of the magazine and met the eyes of my prisoner. He looked scared again, those blue eyes of his wide above the broad swath of the bandanna gag. I grinned at him, not that he could see it under my mask.

    "Poor boy," I said quietly, "yer really all trussed up, ain't ya?" He stared back at me. "And gagged pretty solidly, huh?" He stared still. "Ya married, son?" He looked at me for a minute more and then slowly shook his head. "No? a good-lookin' boy like you? Do tell, son." I grinned again, and then I turned to the magazine. The description of Carter getting captured and trussed and gagged wasn't much, really. I'd always found those tales real exciting and real disappointing, both. I liked it when the hero got captured and tied and gagged, but they never went into enough detail for me. It was just, "The villainous crew tied our hero hand and foot and gagged his mouth," and that was all. I wanted to know how they tied him up and how they gagged him. Sometimes the pictures on the covers were a lot more interesting. The artist fellow had to make up what the writer didn't say, if he was going to draw a picture of the scene. Usually it was clear, like on the cover of this one, that the hero was tied with ropes and gagged with handkerchiefs, those white handkerchiefs dudes and fellows from the East have, not big bandannas like fellows of my sort carry. But he looked good to me, trussed up and gagged like that. I opened up the fly of my trousers as I read about the capture and then looked at the picture again, and slipped my hand inside to stroke my dick. It was rock hard from having that bearded youngster across from me tied up and gagged and from the picture. I heard the fellow moan into his gag, and I looked up to find him watching me. He looked scared, but he was watching me real close. I put the magazine down and brought the chair over to sit beside him on his bunk. I reached out and played with the fellow's hair with one hand while I pulled my dick out of my dungarees and slowly rubbed it up and down with the other. The brakeman stared at what I was doing with wide eyes. I grinned at him and kept on stroking my cock, careful not to let myself get too excited but enjoying myself very much. The fellow's hair felt soft and strong in my fingers, and I enjoyed petting him while I rubbed my dick. "Mmmmmummmph! Mugulummmmmph!" The youngster grunted into his gag. "Nobody out this way to hear ya, son," I said companionably. The brakeman suddenly struggled in his bindings quite desperately, jerking and pulling at the hampering ropes and grunting into the thick gag.

    "Mmmmmph! Mummmmmmph! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmph!!"

    I looked down at him, my hand still on his head. "Sorry, son," I said when he slumped down, defeated by the tight bindings and the packed in gag, "yer tied to stay until I let you go." I stood up and bent over my prisoner, taking him by the shoulders and hips to roll him over onto his side.


    I unfastened the fly of his overalls and reached inside to unbutton his long johns. He jerked in his ropes, trying to pull away, but he was too tightly bound up to do more than squirm. I put my hand inside his crotch and got a welcome surprise.


    "Well, well, what have we got here, son?" I said softly. The fellow's dick was stiff in my hand. Gently I stroked it inside his clothes, and he moaned into his gag. I stroked his cock more vigorously and he moaned once more. I grinned down at the man and he stared up at me, eyes still scared. After a moment, I pulled my hand out and sat down in the chair, looking down at my prisoner the while. "My O my, son," I said. "My O my. Just what were ya doing when we came up here, anyway? Reading those magazines?" I glanced over at the stack of Nick Carter dime novels on his desk and his gaze followed mine. He looked back to meet my eyes. After a moment, he nodded, and then he shut his eyes hard. I saw a tear leaking and I shook my head as I bent over him, stoking his thick hair softly.

    "Hey, there, hey there," I said gently. "Don't ya start crying on me, son. It's bad for a man to cry with a big gag in his mouth like ya got. It's all right to cry, son,, but not with that gag in yer mouth. Come on now, son, stop it."

    The sight of this big husky fellow, all trussed up and gagged and with tears in his eyes, excited me more than I can tell you, but I didn't want to have to take out his gag, and I also didn't want the boy to smother. I like my men tied and gagged and I don't mind taking my pleasure with a man who's my captive, but I don't want him dying on me, or even coming close to it. Crying makes me want to hold the fellow, though, take him in my arms and rock him like a young one, and him all helpless and tied and gagged. I can't explain it to you, but there it is. The tears of a man, and him bound and gagged, well, they make me all excited and yet all friendly like, as if I were the fellow's partner, his bunkie. I took out my pocket bandanna and wiped at this youngster's eyes. He got control of himself and his tears stopped.

    "Good boy," I said, and stuffed my bandanna back in my pocket. I studied my prisoner, but he refused now to meet my eyes. After a moment, I went over to the desk and leafed through the magazines. They weren't all the latest ones, like I'd figured they were. Some of them were from quite a few years past. But the cover of every one, and there were a half dozen or more of them, showed either Nick himself or some other fellow tied up and gagged. I was beginning to get an idea, an idea that had to be just loco, but one that I couldn't stop myself from having. I was thinking that maybe my brakeman captive here liked being tied and gagged the way I had him. After all, he had all these pictures of fellows trussed and gagged, and his dick was stiff in his pants like mine was.

    I sat down in the chair, those dime novels in one hand. With the other hand, I gripped the brakeman's hair and gave his head a shake. He looked up at me, and there was something so hangdown puppy-like about his expression that I wanted to pull him up into my arms and stroke him like a little one. Instead, I held the dime novels under his nose and gave his head a gentle shake once more.

    "That picture there get ya excited, son?" I asked. "Ya like looking at pictures of men all tied up and gagged? I just bet ya do, don't ya, boy?" I gave his head another shake and then let go. "Well, son," I said, "I'll tell ya something. I like looking at those pictures, too, and better yet, I like doing what those pictures show, and then more. I like taking a nice-looking fellow like you and having him my prisoner and tying him up like I tied you and gagging him like I gagged you and then getting my pleasure out of him while he can't do nothing but wriggle and moan like you can't. Ya get me, son?"

    The brakeman stared up at me. He looked scared to death now, but, when on an impulse I reached back into the front of his overalls, I found his dick was still stiff. I rubbed it slowly, excited by how I could get him excited. He shifted in the ropes and moaned softly into his gag.

    "Yer a real prize, son," I told him softly. "Big, good-looking man like you, all man, ain't ya, but tender-hearted like a little boy, too, ain't ya, and all excited by being my prisoner and having them ropes on ya and them bandannas stuffing yer mouth. Yeah, son, yer a real prize for a man like me who likes to have men like you in my arms." As I spoke, I took out my knife. The brakeman's breath hissed in his nostrils and he struggled.


    I cut the rope that tied his feet to his wrists. As I put away my knife, I stroked the man's hair.

    "Hey, it's all right, son. I'm not minded to cut ya. Hell, I've never cut a man in my life. Never shot one, neither. And I like ya whole and handsome, just the way ya are." I eased his legs down and helped him to stretch out on the bunk. His arms and legs were still tightly bound, but I wanted to release him from the cramping hogtie I had used on him at first. I put the fellow flat on his back. There was some rope hanging on a nail on the wall, and I cut off a length with my knife, that boy watching me with scared blue eyes above his gag all the while. I tied his shoulders down to his bunk, threading the rope under his armpit, up over his shoulder, and down around the board at the top of his bunk, then back up, over his opposite shoulder and under his other armpit. I pulled the rope back up from behind his shoulder, down once more to the bed frame and then back to where I had begun. I'd kept the line drawn tight, and now I tied it off as hard as I could, lashing the boy down securely. With a wink at him above my mask, I took another length of the rope and used that to fasten his feet down, passing the rope between his boots above the bindings at his ankles and snubbing it down firmly around the bed frame at the bottom of his bunk. When I was done, the poor fellow was completely unable to move, his hands and arms tightly bound behind and under him, his legs tied at the knees and the ankles, and his shoulders and feet lashed down firmly to the bed frame, keeping him stretched taut from head to foot and pressed down hard to the thin mattress of his bunk.

    I sat down on the edge of the bunk beside my captive brakeman and leaned over him to gaze into his blue eyes. With a rough hand, I caressed his thick head of hair a moment, and then I took his chin in my fingers and shook his head from side to side.

    "Got ya, don't I, son?" He stared up at me, utterly helpless. "What do ya think I should do with ya, till that train comes by in a hour or so?" He simply stared at me, his eyes wide and frightened above the brutally tight bandage of the bandanna I had tied through his mouth. I let my hand slide down him in a slow caress, feeling the firm muscles of his shoulder and arm beneath my fingers. Still holding his gaze, I brought my hand down to his groin and slipped it inside the open fly of his overalls. His dick was stiff, hard and warm and tight up to his flat belly. I wrapped my fingers around the thick shaft and squeezed. "Mmmmmugulummmmph! Mmmmmmummmmph!" The man moaned into his gag and I increased the pressure on his cock, sliding my grip up the shaft and back down.

    "Like that, do ya, boy?" I said quietly. "Like having that cock of yers played with while yer tied and gagged, don't ya, son?" The poor fellow simply stared at me. I enjoyed having the youngster under my control that way, tied up so tight he could hardly breathe, a big gag of my bandannas stuffing his mouth full, completely my prisoner. I would have liked having the boy bound and gagged that way even if it hadn't excited him as well. But the fellow's own excitement, surprising as it was to me, increased mine tenfold. The man couldn't tell me himself, not in words, anyway, not with that big wad of gag filling his mouth, but it was clear that he was excited, frightened, oh yes, but also excited by being my trussed and gagged captive. His hard cock in my hand said what he could not.

    I gently drew the boy's dick out of his fly. It was so stiff it slapped back against his belly when I let it go. I shook my head at him as I reached into a pocket and pulled out some soft leather strips I always carried. I used one to tie up the youngster's privates. First I made a couple of loops around the base of his dick and balls together. Then I pulled his balls out from his cock and wrapped the soft leather over and over between them and his shaft, drawing them out into a round globe with the thin skin stretched taut and tender over them. I tied the leather off tight, looking up at my captive, who had his head craned up painfully, trying to watch what I was doing. Gently I took his dick into my hand, rubbing with my thumb at the spot just under the cleft in the head. With my other hand I cupped his balls, squeezing them slightly and rubbing the taut thin skin over them with a light touch.

    The man's head fell back and the breath hissed in his nostrils. After a moment, a soft, guttural moan trembled in his throat behind the cruel gag. I watched, my own arousal increasing, as he writhed in the tight ropes that bound him down to his bunk. He strained hard at his bindings, plainly trying to move from side to side or up and down or any way that would let him have some release from the tension. I saw with satisfaction that he could do no more than twist slightly from side to side. He moaned again, and, suddenly aroused yet more by the sound, I let go of his cock and balls and moved up to bend close over his head, pulling out my bandanna and stuffing it between his red lips, in front of the bandage tied savagely tight between his jaws. He stared up at me, the fright plain in his blue eyes. I untied the big bandanna neckerchief from his throat and pulled it free, folded it roughly, and bound it over his mouth in wide band from nostrils to chin, sealing his mouth up over the double gag. For a long moment, then, I stared down into his eyes, and he stared back, unmoving and silent. Then I reached behind me to take his cock once more in my hand and began to stroke it in earnest.

    The youngster stared back at me, trying, I knew, to control himself, but it was no good. The insistent friction of my hand on his shaft was too much for him, and his eyes lost their focus on mine.

    "Mmmmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmmph." The double gag further muffled his moans and I grinned down at him before turning my attention more properly to his privates. I spat into my hand and began to work on his dick, sliding my tightly encircling fingers up and down the shaft with a slowly increasing speed while the fingers of my other hand pressed and stoked the taut globe of his bound up balls.

    "Mmmmmmugulmmmph! Muuuugummmulummmph!" Beside me, the youngster strained and struggled in his bindings and groaned and grunted into his thick gags. I brought him close, I could feel the juice trembling in his balls, and then I eased off, and he moaned pathetically. After a moment of simply caressing his taut and heaving belly, I went to work on his cock and balls once more. Again he strained and groaned, and once again I took him just to the brink. But not over. I was enjoying my control over the fellow, the way he was so completely helpless, tied up so completely, brutally gagged, at my mercy and command. His breathing was ragged, his deep chest heaving, the sweat was beaded on his forehead and cheeks, and he looked up at me fuzzily, as if he only half knew where he was or what was happening.

    The man moaned as I started in on his privates a third time. I worked more slowly this time, bringing the boy to a height of pleasure and then easing off for a few seconds before bringing him back up once more, each time drawing him a little closer to the point of no return. I used my thumb below the head, I rapidly twisted my finger and thumb in a ring beneath the head, I tickled the opening of his pisshole, I ran my fingers lightly and then tightly up and down his shaft, I tickled his balls, I squeezed them hard, I squeezed them gently, I rubbed them like slick jewels between my thumb and fingers, I cupped them and pumped them and twisted them ever so gently on their leather-wrapped stem. The brakeman struggled in agony beside me. Sweat and tears ran off the sides of his face into his thick beard. Through the thick layers of bandannas gagging his mouth, his moans became a continuous whimper of desperation. He lifted himself all he could against my hands, straining to bring himself off. I brought the fellow closer, closer, then eased off one more time.

    "Mmmmmmmmmmmmugulmmmmmmmph!" He moaned hopelessly into the gags, tossing his head from side to side and jerking at the ropes that bound him.

    I took pity on him at last.

    "That's it, son," I said softly, "that's my good boy, come on, I'm gonna take you over the cliff now, come on, that's a good boy." As I murmured on in a coaxing whisper, I stroked his cock with increasing pressure and massaged his taut balls. The man jerked his head up and stared into my eyes and then down at his own privates, bucking into the ropes that held him down to his bunk.

    "Muguuuuuuguuuuummmmmmmmmmmph! Mumummmmmmmmmmugummmmmph!!" He shouted helplessly into his gags and then, with a great shudder shaking his whole frame, he shot his cum up and out in an arc that flung over his shoulders and onto the wall above him. His cries were choked off by his gags, and his body lifted up into a taut bow, held rigid by his bindings.


    I held his cock in my hand and felt it shake with his jetting cum half a dozen times. It was all I could do to wait for him to sink back with a muffled groan as the last spurt of his cum fell onto his belly before I jerked my own cock out of my fly. With a speed learned with much practice, I bound up my own cock and balls as I had bound my brakeman's, and then I spat into my hand and began to pump my cock. Beside me, the youngster lay in a daze, and I gloated over him in my mind, taking in the sight of him so tightly bound up, so cruelly gagged, so much my helpless captive, and one I had just made to cum at my beckoning, at my pace, at my command. I felt the juice rising in my own cock almost immediately and I would have slowed and enjoyed my pleasure for longer, but my own excitement was too much for me and almost before I knew it, my gism was jerking out of my cock in a long ribbon of thick white, spattering on the blanket of the bunk and on the wooden floor.

    "OH MY GOD IN HEAVEN!!!!" My shout of pleasure startled the youngster out of his cum-daze, and he stared up at me, those blue eyes wide above the taut blue and white band of the bandanna sealing up his mouth. "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god in heaven, oh my god." I sank back onto the brakeman's bound form, my breath gasping, my hands slick with spit and cum, my head ringing with a sound I couldn't hear but which drowned out every other sound I might have heard. After a moment, I felt the boy stir under me, and I slowly dragged myself up to look down into his face.

    "Mmmmph?" he mumbled into the gag.

    I reached down and loosened the knots in the leather strap that bound up the fellow's privates, easing if off and then gently tucking his cock and balls back into his pants. I did the same for myself. The I stood up and got the towel from his wash stand, damped it in the water in the pitcher, and came back with it. First I wiped the youngster's sweaty face with it, pushing back the thick dark hair from his forehead. Then I cleaned up his privates as best I could and then my own and my hands. When I was done, I threw the towel into a corner. I pulled out my watch. The train was due in ten minutes.

    Stoking my bound captive's hair, I looked down into his blue eyes. "Good boy," I said softly. He stared back at me. "I tell you what, son. The train's due here in a few minutes, and I'm gonna be out there to swing the lantern, just like you would yourself. I don't think you're in no position to do it your own self right now, are you?" "Mmmmmph!" For the first time, I saw anger in those blue eyes of his. ""Mmmmmmph' is about all you can manage through them bandannas gagging you, ain't it, boy? Well, don't you worry none, cause we don't aim to hurt nobody. The boys'll probably tie and gag the engineer and the fireman, and if the fireman's good-lookin' like you, well, what's happened to you might happen to him, knowing some of those boys and what one or two of'em like, but that's all. We're just aimin' to take the loot and skedaddle out of here, son." I stroked his hair, gentling him like a spooked horse as I talked. He kind of relaxed under my hand. "I'll come back some night, but I got to go now." I stood up and picked up the lantern. When I reached the door, I looked back. The brakeman lay staring after me, his eyes bright and wide above the tight wide band of the gag.

    "Some one from yer train company'll be along, after they get wind of the robbery, son, and they'll come get ya loose. Ya just lie there for now, youngster, and don't bother to struggle none. Ya can't get loose yerself, I promise ya that, and ya'll just hurt yerself if ya try." I paused a moment. In the distance, I could here the train on the tracks. "Ya sure are a nice-lookin' boy, brakeman," I said. Then I went out, leaving him behind me, trussed and gagged.

    Of course, that wasn't the end of it. Oh, the holdup went smooth as glass, there wasn't any problem there. I swung the boy's lantern and the train went off onto the siding, just like we planned. By the time the engineer got the train braked, the gang had the engine surrounded. They jumped up and took the engineer and fireman prisoner, tied their hands behind them and stuffed and tied bandanna gags in their mouths, and took them off the engine. The guard in the pay car put up a bit of fuss, but not for long. We were in and out in less than half an hour, leaving the guard trussed and gagged beside the engineer and his brakeman. The conductor found them there a quarter hour later when he and a few of the male passengers got bold enough to stick their noses out of the passenger car and see what had happened. Someone ran back to the brakeman's hut and found my poor brakeman bound and gagged the way I'd left him. Of course, I learned all what happened after we left from the accounts in the newspapers. We always got a kick out of reading about ourselves.

    "Daring Robbery of the Midnight Pay Train," the headlines read. I didn't think it was so daring, just sharp. They were just trying to cover up how dumb they'd been to let a setup like that happen, if you asked me. They mentioned my poor brakeman, too. "The brakeman was overpowered and left in his hut brutally bound and cruelly gagged." Well, I guess he was, too, but then, he enjoyed it, as it turned out. I knew he had, and I remembered that real well two days latter, when Jake and I had our final falling out, and I took my split of the take and left. I headed back to that canyon in the hills where the brakeman's hut stood. It was after dark on the second day of riding when I got there. After tending my horse, and leaving him in the same grove of live oaks Stan and I had used the night of the robbery, I walked up to the shack.

    When he opened the door in answer to my knock, he had the lantern in one hand and a gun in the other. My gun was in my holster, and my bandanna was down on my chest, not up over my face

    "Evenin', son," I said softly.

    He stared at me for a long moment.

    "I said I'd come back, " I went on. Slowly I reached out and took the muzzle of the gun in my hand. "Ya don't really wanna use that fool thing, do ya, son?" He let me push the gun down, and I grinned. "Hope ya ain't too sorry to see what I look like under the bandanna." He shook his head.

    "Ain't ya gonna ask me in?"

    He just stood there, staring at me. After a moment, I stopped smiling. I let my gaze fall, and I realized my chest felt funny, sort of hurting and hollow. I turned and started to walk away. Behind me, I heard his footsteps, and there was his hand on my shoulder pulling me around.

    "Wait," he said, and as I turned, I found myself in his arms. There's not much more to tell, or else, yes, there is, long years' worth to tell, but not in this story. I'll just say that a couple of hours latter I was walking that good-looking fellow back to where I'd left my horse. I had his hands bound good and tight behind him and a gag of a couple of his own bandannas stuffed and tied in his mouth. After I'd gagged him but before I'd tied his hands, I'd made him send a message on the telegraph, saying I'd taken him off and not to follow or he'd get hurt. Of course, the train company never did and maybe they wouldn't have bothered. He was just some lonely brakeman, orphaned young and put to work not much older. He wasn't valuable to them. But he was valuable to me, more valuable to me than I can say, and he stayed that way for more than twenty years after, till he died in my arms of a fever. But like I said, that's another, longer story. This one's just about how him and me met. And that's how we did meet, when I tied him up for that hold-up, and found the best man I ever knew in my life.

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