Jeremy Pike angrily dismounted from his horse and stalked into the hotel. Frank followed, close at his heels, and banged on the bell to get the clerk's attention.
"May I help you gentlemen?" The clerk hurried out from a door behind the counter.
"I'm looking for two men named James West and Artemus Gordon, seen them?" Jeremy spouted.
The clerk smiled. "Yes, I've seen them, but they're not here anymore. Lit out of town couple of days ago on account of some trouble they had with the law."
"Oh that's just great, Jeremy. What are we going to do now?" Frank sighed, annoyed.
"Are you Mr. Jeremy Pike?" The clerk looked at him sharply.
"Yes," Jeremy answered, surprised.
"I have a telegram for you." He pulled it out of a mail slot and handed it to Pike.
DROP CURRENT CASE STOP NEED YOU IN SACRAMENTO STOP URGENT RICHMOND STOP
Jeremy handed it to Frank and turned back to the clerk. "What kind of trouble were West and Gordon in?"
"Wanted for murder. Rumor has it the U.S. Government wants them. But Mr. Rending had to drop the charges the other day on account of West and Gordon killing his star witness."
"Where does Mr. Rending live?" Jeremy persisted.
"Well, at this time of day you'll find him in his office, right across the street."
"Thank you." Pike headed out the door.
"Jeremy?" Frank cautioned once they left the hotel. "What are you doing? Colonel Richmond said to drop the case and get to California as soon as possible."
"I know what he said," Jeremy snapped. "And we will, just as soon as I find Rending, and ask him a few questions."
"Whatever," Frank shrugged.
The Rending & Company sign was hard to miss, and Jeremy had no problems finding the building. He entered and made his way for a desk, behind which a young man was sitting.
"Excuse me? Can you tell me where I might find Mr. Rending?" Jeremy asked, addressing the young man.
"Upstairs in the office normally, when he's here, only he ain't there right now," he replied, looking up from a stack of papers.
"Where is he?" Jeremy asked slightly impatient.
"Left his business affairs to Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Rending left for Kansas he didn't say when he'll be back."
"When did he leave?" Jeremy asked in surprise.
"Short notice," Frank mumbled.
"It was rather," the boy agreed. "If you ask me, I think he left to track down those two government agents who were here."
"Oh?" Jeremy queried.
The young mam nodded his head. "See, they killed his friend, Mr. Baker, and I think he went after them."
"Do you think he'll catch up with them?" Frank asked.
The boy glanced around then leaned in close. "Mr. Rending normally accomplishes what he sets out to do. I think he will in this case, and I hope he does too."
"Thank you for your help." Jeremy smiled.
The boy returned the smile. "Any time, mister."
Walking back to their horses, they mounted and rode out of town.
"Well, are we going to do what Richmond wants or are we going to go after Jim and Artemus?" Frank asked a sullen Jeremy.
"What Richmond wants of course. Those two can take care of themselves; I'm tired of chasing them all over the place." Pike set his jaw in a determined way.
"Okay, just making sure."
"Besides, any trouble they get into, I say it serves them right. And I think Richmond's directive is far more important than those two."* * *
For Jim, the trip away from New Westminster went much faster than the trip there. Two weeks later they arrived in Sacramento, California. Their end goal was to reach San Francisco, but Loveless had forced them to stop early. Most of the missions Jim had been on in that part of the U.S. had taken him to San Francisco, and although he had traveled through Sacramento many a time, this was the first time he had ever spent time in the city. It looked much like San Francisco, so he was not impressed one bit. But it was good to be out of the saddle so he kept his dislike to himself.
"I'm sorry to say, gentlemen, that I won't be taking you to see some of my favorite spots in this city. I wouldn't want you to use that against me some day," Loveless said as they walked down the busy streets of Sacramento.
"That really is too bad, Loveless. I would have been very interested to know where you spend your free time," Artie replied sarcastically.
"Humph! Mr. Gordon, you can be rather bothersome," Loveless snapped back.
"Is this place you're taking us to eat very far from here?" Jim asked, breaking up the glaring contest.
"Just around that corner, Mr. West."
"Good, because I'm starved."
They were rounding the corner as they talked, and Jim happened to glance up just as Colonel Richmond stepped out of a coach directly ahead. Grabbing up Loveless, Jim quickly ducked back around the corner with Artie in tow.
"What are you doing?" the dwarf snapped as he struggled to make Jim set him down.
"Richmond," Jim responded, as he peeked around the corner to see if they had been spotted.
"Richmond, here?" Artie asked.
"Did he see us?" Loveless asked, the anger gone from his voice.
"No," Jim reassured them, then boldly stepped around the corner.
Cautiously they walked the length of the street until the busy city swallowed them in its crowds. Loveless was well-liked at the restaurant to which he took the two agents, and they were given extra attention by the waiters. Expensive was the word Artie used when he saw the outside of the building, and he quickly learned that was an understatement. However, it was not him footing the bill, so he happily ordered what he wanted. When it was all said and done, Loveless didn't pay a penny either. The headwaiter was so honored by Miguelito's presence that he told them it was on the house. It was puzzling to Artemus how the dwarf could get in with anyone's good graces, but one never knew with Loveless.
After taking their leave, they walked mindlessly threw the city and somehow ended up down by the railway station. Loveless stood on the platform excitedly and pointed out trains to the agents as they idly watched them come and go. The fascination that Loveless had with steam engines startled Jim. How that dwarf ever knew half of what he did had always amazed West.
"And look there; is that one not a beaut? And…oh my gentlemen," Loveless jumped down from his seat. "Is that not your train, the Wanderer?"
"Why…I believe you're right!" Artie agreed as he spotted the familiar train.
Loveless smiled widely, then began to laugh. "Oh, this is much better than I hoped. Now we can take your train down to Kansas. How very convenient."
Mystified, the trio walked over, and found Orrin Cobb at the engine.
"Why, Mr. West! Mr. Gordon!" he smiled broadly. "I've been wondering when I would see you two again."
"Orrin, what are you doing here? I expected you to be in Washington by now."
"Oh, I was Mr. Gordon, but Colonel Richmond had to come down here on official business and so he took the Wanderer.
"How very convenient for us," Loveless clapped his hands.
"Mr. Gordon, are you planning to borrow this train?"
"We are," Loveless smiled. "So make ready, for we want to leave as soon as possible."
"It's ready now," a mischievous smile played on the engineer's face as he thought about the situation.
"Then we shall leave now, once our belongings are loaded."
It didn't take Loveless long to have the train underway, and they were soon speeding along for Kansas.
"Jim, when Richmond finds us, he's going to kill us. You know that, right?" Artie asked.
"Yup. And all I can hope for is a fair trial."
"Just so long as we're on the same page," he smiled.
"Absolutely," Jim smiled back.* * *
The head of the Secret Service office in Sacramento, sat uncomfortably as Colonel Richmond paced his office.
"This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard," Richmond mumbled as he walked back and forth. "You actually lost the train?"
"Yes, sir. The Wanderer is un-locatable," Sadler sheepishly replied.
"How does one lose a train?" Richman looked incredulous.
"Well I…I don't know, sir."
"Oh, that's rich. You'd better come up with a better answer than that, or you can start cleaning out your office."
"Yes, sir." He gulped.
"Telegram for you, sir." An agent walked in, quickly delivered his message and left.
Richmond snatched it from his hand and tore it open.
LETTER WAS A HOAX STOP RETURN TO WASHINGTON STOP GRANT
"What?" Richmond glared at the telegraph. "A wild goose chase! I've been sent on a wild goose chase. Well, I hope whoever invented this game had a good laugh, because when I find them I will personally rip them apart."
"Sir, please sir," Saddler walked sheepishly over to Richmond. "It hasn't been a total loss, has it?"
Richmond turned upon him angrily. "All I have discovered since I have been here is your complete incompetence as the head of the Secret Service in Sacramento."
Mr. Sadler backed away from Richmond, and sank into a chair. Richmond watched him, irritated. If there was one thing he couldn't stand, it was a man who wouldn't stand up for himself. Disgusted, Richmond made for the desk and seated himself behind it.
"A hoax," Richmond muttered. "Why? What was there to gain? Unless of course they're the same ones who stole the train. No, doesn't make sense," he muttered to himself as he considered the problem.* * *
"Jeremy?" Frank tried again for the third time in two hours to get a reply from him. He was rewarded with a grunt.
"What do you want, Frank? Can't you leave me alone?"
"Sure. Just as soon as you tell me where we're going."
"To see Richmond, of course," Jeremy glared at Frank.
"Well, that's what I thought, but we've been going around this block for the greater part of an hour, and I for one would like to get out of this saddle."
Pike glared at him, and directed his mount through the streets of Sacramento. They had arrived in the city less than three hours ago, and a day after Jim and Artemus.
Despite the foreboding look of the federal building, Jeremy was inclined to go into it. Richmond's telegram had said it was urgent, so he hurried up the stairs to the foreboding-looking office. The tension in the room matched it's austere look, and Jeremy instantly wished he could be miles away. Richmond didn't notice them at first, for his head was buried in his hands as he stared at the telegram on the desk. Mr. Sadler was the one who finally became brave enough to break Richmond's concentration.
Richmond looked up with some frustration at Saddler, then turned his attention to his agents. "Ah, Mr. Pike, Mr. Harper. Did you to just arrive?"
"Yes, sir," they replied in unison.
"Good. How is your case going?"
"Well, we were able to locate West and Gordon, but then they got away again," Frank mumbled.
"I see. Any idea where they might have gone?"
"Maybe," Frank smiled.
"But, sir, what has all this got to do with your telegram?" Jeremy interrupted.
"Well, I was in need of some assistance on another case, but that has now all been taken care of. You are hereby reassigned to your former case."
"Yes, sir." They started to leave, but Richmond called them back.
"However, I do have a small problem you might be able to solve."
"Sir?" They sat back in their chairs.
"I came here on the Wanderer and left it in the rail yard waiting until I returned. Yesterday it went missing and we have been unable to locate it as of yet." Richmond looked sideways at Sadler.
"We tried our best, sir," Sadler mumbled, hanging his head.
"Yes, Mr. Sadler, I know all about your best," Richmond scoffed.
"You know, sir, I found the train in San Francisco, and had it sent back to Washington," Jeremy began.
"Yes, Mr. Pike, I am well aware that it was you who found it." Richmond rolled his eyes and folded his arms.
"Perhaps West and Gordon were on their way to San Francisco, but stopped here instead?" Jeremy looked questioningly at Richmond.
"They took the train?" Richmond considered this.
"I think it quite possible, sir. I know Mr. Cobb, and he wouldn't have let just anyone on bored the Wanderer."
"I was wondering about that," Richmond mumbled as he walked about the room.
"True, but with a two-day head start, how are we to locate them?" Sadler asked, rising from his chair and joining in the conversation.
Richmond glared at him and the look sent him back to his chair.
"I have reason to believe that they might be headed for Kansas," Jeremy offered.
"Yes, sir, I acquired this information in New Westminster."
"Well, Kansas is as good as any place to start. I'll have a train ready and waiting for you gentlemen in an hour," Richmond waved them off, and the two rose to leave. "Mr. Pike, see that you get them this time," he warned.
"Yes, sir." Pike gently shut the door, and started after Frank.
Turning back to Mr. Sadler, Richmond frowned at him. "Now, Mr. Sadler, do you think you could have a train ready in an hour?"
"Yes, sir," Sadler mumbled, jumping to his feet and starting for the door.
Richmond watched him go, then wearily sat at the desk. "How did he ever become a Secret Service agent? Head of a department, too." Again, he sighed and picked up the telegraph he had been studying earlier.
"All a hoax? I think not," Richmond smiled. Jumping to his feet, he hurried out the door, stuffing the telegram in his pocket as he went.