Danni California, Part 23

Continued from Part 22, here.
Start the story here.

* * *

When I arrived in the Iron Range, finally reaching my destination, obtaining the supplies I needed proved to be surprisingly easy.

Gunpowder and dynamite both were in no short supply, and in these areas, a little extra money could ensure no questions about the purchase.  I still made certain to buy from several different vendors, not allowing any of them to know the true amounts of explosive I obtained, but the extra caution didn’t seem necessary.

Some of the detonators and other equipment proved harder, if only slightly.  I needed some specific equipment for delayed reaction, and that meant clockwork.  I had many talents, but figuring out how to re-jigger a little bit of clockwork for a new purpose wasn’t one of them.  I was instead forced to rely upon visits at night to little old men with a shop full of tiny tools, paying in cash and hoping that I could afford their silence.

It took a while, but eventually I had all the parts.  It was a series of heart-pounding trips to get them all assembled and properly stored, ready to travel, but eventually I had it all complete.  Everything on my shopping list had been crossed off.

And then I once again climbed aboard a train.

This time, it was easier to move without attracting too much notice.  I still made sure to take every possible precaution, but the Organization was looking for a man and a young woman, traveling together.

I no longer fit that description.

A week later, after several back-tracking trips (like I said, it never hurt to be cautious), I arrived at my destination.  As soon as I climbed off of the train onto the platform, I felt the bustle of Philadelphia hit me like an ocean wave.

The city!  For so long, now, I had been out of the urban environment.  For a moment, I felt overwhelmed as I stared around at the thousands of people, all rushing off on their own errands.  I felt like a million eyes were on me, too many to track.

I took a deep breath, using those techniques I’d learned so long ago to force down the fear, the emotion.  I carefully threw away each emotion, pushing it down and out until only determination and an inner void remained.

And then I retrieved my precious trunk, filled with its explosive cargo, and headed into the city.

I got a cheap room, but it wouldn’t matter much.  I had many trips to make, and I wasn’t planning on returning to pay my bill at the room afterward.  I just needed a place of safety, somewhere I could duck back to between trips.

It took three days to put everything into place.

The whole time, I felt uncomfortably aware of those eyes on me, watching.  I had done my best to alter my description to make sure I no longer looked like the Jasper that the Organization knew and remembered.  My long beard itched, and I’d lost weight in some places and gained it in others.  I had long since discarded my black coat for prospector’s brown, and my flat-brimmed hat had been replaced with a shapeless lump of leather.  It shaded my eyes, but it was anything but fashionable.

I didn’t care about my looks.  The bulky brown coat hid the two revolvers – mine and Danni’s – that I carried beneath it.  The hat kept the sun out of my eyes as I prowled through the streets of Philadelphia, and helped to keep me from looking up.

Whenever my gaze did wander upwards, however, I couldn’t help but hiss and suck in my lips against my teeth.  There it stood, a black tower, rising up into the sky like a middle finger raised against the Lord.

The tower of the Organization.

Inside, I knew, were files, desks, records, and more.  An armory with weapons for the Priests inside.  A vault, built into the basement, containing the most secure information.  The building was an armored bastion against the forces of chaos in the world, a heavy hand of order on this new and growing nation.

My fingers itched as I stared up at the tower.  Unbidden, my mouth twisted into a scowl.

They had done this to me, had put me up against Danni, and then wrenched her away.  I didn’t waste any time grieving.

Not when there was work to be done.

After those three days, after I’d carefully slid the last little brown oilskin-wrapped package into place, I spent one last night in the hotel room, sitting with my legs crossed on the floor.  I had taken apart both revolvers – I’d pulled Danni’s from the wreckage, had carefully rebuilt and restored it – and put them back together, fully oiled and gleaming.  I’d checked every bullet on both belts that crossed my chest.

I knew that I wouldn’t get any sleep tonight.

Instead, I passed the long night’s vigil, staring at the bed in front of me and letting my mind go blank.  I embraced that blankness, the void.

It would serve me well tomorrow, until I could do no more.

To be continued . . . 

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