My first fanfiction of the 1960s sci-fi/western, The Wild, Wild West. You’ll have to take my word that this is not a Mary Sue. Please note that this is merely a rough draft. A complete version will be re-posted eventually.
At thirteen years of age, Anna was as petite and skinny as a little green twig. Tousled brown waves framed her inquisitive blue eyes, and her face was often composed in a perpetual frown. Her raggedy skirts and sleeves did little to hide her scrawny limbs, which were often skinned or scabbed over – an unfortunate side-effect of tree-climbing.
Anna was always getting into scrapes and winding up in the headmistress’s office for “unladylike” behavior such as this, but the children at the Mrs. Hudson’s Home for Young Ladies, where she lived, adored her. Talk of the Orphan Train was but forgotten every time Anna comforted a frightened child from its nightmares or quieted a colicky baby no other could. The children’s heroine could not be sent away … yet.
At the Home, Anna, like all of the orphans, was healthy and provided for by the generous donations collected at annual fundraisers, but deep down inside of her, she felt the gaping space of a missing piece.
She’d watched other orphans pick up and leave with doting foster parents numerous times, but nobody seemed to want a skinny older girl who would rather climb a tree at a moment’s notice than sit quietly with a sampler. Of own her birth parents, Anna knew absolutely nothing. Girls had come to the Home after devastating fires and train crashes, but Anna had never been told what had happened to her family – if she’d ever had any.
Aside from all the younger girls who idolized her, Anna had made one close friend, an older girl named Rebecca. Tall, fair-haired Rebecca was fourteen, but as quiet and shy as Anna was adventurous. Yet, somehow, they’d gotten on well. Rebecca had been at the Home for as long as Anna, having arrived as an infant herself. Perhaps it was the mystery of their origins that had brought them together.
Although impulsive and careless, Anna could be a deep thinker when she felt like it. It had been a blustery day, and torrential rain had tormented the Home’s delicately shingled roof when Anna burst into the sitting room, rainwater seeping from her hand-me-down coat. A large kite was tucked under her right arm. Rebecca looked up from her well-worn copy of Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking Glass.
“Why, Anna!” she exclaimed. “What have you done now?”
Anna took a seat, readily accepting the knitted blanket she was offered. “Well, I didn’t get struck by lightning, and I didn’t destroy my new kite either. I did fly it, though.”
Rebecca sighed disapprovingly. “You could’ve been killed.”
“Nah,” Anna replied with a shrug. “Maybe just shocked. But listen,” she continued. “I had an idea while I was out that I think you’ll like.”
“I’m listening,” said Rebecca skeptically. The more she heard, though, the less certain she was that she’d like Anna’s latest scheme at all.
Two hours past midnight, the orphanage was quiet but for the gentle breathing of slumberers. No one would be awake to notice two girls clad in thin nightdresses quietly sneaking out of the dormitory room they all shared.
Anna held a lit candle, its dim shine lighting their way. She was fully alert, despite the late hour. Coffee does that to a person, she figured, recalling the “tea” she’d had with her supper. It was fortunate that nobody had paid any mind to her raucous giggling at seemingly unamusing things.
They stood outside a polished wood door, upon which was a shiny brass plate reading, Em. Hudson – Headmistress. Nobody knew what Em. stood for.
Beside her, Rebecca shivered. “I’m not sure I like this, Anna. What if we’re caught?” she asked worriedly.
Carefree as ever, Anna just shrugged. “So we’ll be peeling a few extra bags of potatoes tomorrow. How bad could that possibly be?”
Rebecca chose not to answer, but Anna thought she saw the older girl shudder.
The headmistress’s office was an intimidating place during the day, but in the dark, the long shadows cast by furniture and trees outside made it even scarier.
Mrs. Hudson had a massive wooden cabinet behind her desk. There, she was said to keep every orphan’s information. When a child was going to be adopted, she showed this file to the foster family, but never to the adoptee herself. Those who came with memories of the past kept them bottled up inside themselves, never to forget. Foundlings like Anna and Rebecca would never know. Or so they’d feared until now.
Anna placed her candle on the desk. “Hairpin, please.”
Rebecca procured a pin from her pocket and watched as Anna carefully inserted it into the cabinet’s lock. “What do you suppose she keeps in here?”
“Skeletons of the girls she catches snooping,” Anna replied jokingly, enjoying Rebecca’s initial wide-eyed reaction.
Moments later, Anna heard a satisfying click and the doors creaked open. “Let’s see what surprises Old Mrs. Hudson has hidden away in here.”
A few stray papers fluttered out of a thick stack of folders, organized in no particular order. “This may take some time,” Anna mused, handing Rebecca a few at a time.
The files were organized by first names, as many of the children did not even know their last names. Anna found her own name fairly quickly. There wasn’t much to say about her, except the approximate time and date she was found, and a few tiresome accounts of her incorrigible antics.
“Becky, do you remember the time I fed Lucy’s slippers to that bulldog?” Anna asked with a chuckle.
“Yes I do,” Rebecca replied wearily. “You should’ve been helping us weed the garden.”
Anna decided to remain silent at this. Just as she was about to return the folder to its place, a small object wrapped in thin paper fell out. Carefully, Anna unwrapped it. It was a thin, gold-plated timepiece with the initials JW engraved on its cover.
“Check this out,” Anna whispered, beckoning Rebecca over.
“That is the tiniest fob watch I’ve ever seen,” Rebecca mused, eyeing it curiously. “Why don’t you open it up?”
Anna pried open the cover and held it up to the scant light. There was a small inscription engraved on the inside. “A Gift to James West from Artie,” Anna read. “I wonder if this is a lead.”
Rebecca nodded her head, barely containing her excitement. “It could be!”
“But did you find anything about yourself, Becky?” Anna asked, suddenly concerned for her friend.
“No,” Rebecca replied dejectedly, forcing a smile. “Look, I’m at least happy for you. You’ve found a lead that could get you somewhere. I don’t know how far, but I know you well enough to be sure that you’ll try.”
“And try I will,” Anna replied with a determined grin, absently slipping the watch chain around her neck.
That grin faded, however, when the scullery maid, Jenny, wandered in to see two shadowy figures crouched beneath her mistress’s file cabinet. Jenny let out a great shriek before bringing her broom handle down upon their heads.
Sure enough, Anna and Rebecca spent the next morning not only peeling potatoes for the orphans’ supper, but diapering babies, weeding the garden, and cleaning Mrs. Hudson’s office. The latter of which was conducted, of course, under the headmistress’s hawk-like supervision.
The Fortune Teller
The combined smells of hotdogs, sawdust, and circus animals was overwhelming as Anna peered out from behind a pair of thick bushes. She’d seen this freak show setting up the week before on the orphans’ daily morning walk. Now, she had an excuse to check it out.
It had been easy to slip unnoticed out of the double-file procession that Mrs. Hudson led personally as soon as they’d rounded a corner.
Now, Anna had her sights set on a garishly-colored tent just across from her hiding place. A large banner hung over the entrance. It read, Madame Vastra’s Astral Readings. Anna hadn’t paid for a ticket and didn’t want to get caught, so she had to move carefully.
Quickly, Anna blended in with a trio of sisters – now a foursome, for the moment – who were being herded along by their governess.
Is it a coincidence that “shepherdess” rhymes with “governess?” Anna thought wryly, separating herself from them a minute later. She ducked under the fortune teller’s tent flap and stepped inside.
The interior of the tent was illuminated only by thick, scented candles. In the shadows, behind a large crystal ball, sat Vastra herself, her face cloaked mysteriously in an Arabic veil.
“Come learn the secrets of the great beyond, child,” she intoned in an accented voice.
Anna eyed a stray auburn curl that dangled idly from underneath the woman’s headdress. “Nice accent,” she remarked. “Where’d you learn to do it?”
Her comment elicited an unappreciative glare from the “world-famous” fortune teller.
“I’ll get to the point, then,” Anna continued hurriedly, procuring the watch from her pocket. “What can you tell me about this?”
Vastra examined the timepiece with great interest, turning it this way and that in her hands. Anna was about to warn her to keep her hands off when the woman thrust her head skyward and, in a trancelike tone, exclaimed, “The spirits tell me that this is something of … your father’s!”
Anna’s eyes widened in genuine surprise. This was too good to be true. “Are you sure?”
“It says so in the stars, my child,” Vastra replied calmly, returning the timepiece.
Anna took the watch and tucked it back into her pocket. “How can I be sure that what you’re saying is real?” she asked. “I mean, I’m not exactly what you’d call a believer in the occult.”
Vastra fell silent. Finally, she spoke. “Alright, kid,” she drawled in a more native accent. “I just recognized the name, alright? And I’m good with faces. Jim was his name…. Jim West. You’ve got his eyes.”
Anna frowned perplexedly. “I do?” she blurted. When Vastra, if that was her name, didn’t respond, she continued, “When was the last time you saw my fa– er, Mr. West.”
The fortune teller cringed. “It was years ago, and I never want to see that face again. But I’ll tell you one thing. He’s here, in this town, today, on a train.”
“How do you know?” Anna inquired.
Vastra shrugged. “When you travel a lot, you hear things.”
Anna smirked. “Not from spirits, I presume?”
Once more, Vastra was silent. Abruptly, she stood, throwing a velvet cloth over her “magic” ball and pulling off her veil, revealing thick auburn curls and a pale face darkened around the eyes with cosmetics.
“Git going, now,” she said, turning her back to Anna. “It’s my lunch break and I’ve got a feeling you ain’t payin’ me.”
“Well,” Anna admitted sheepishly, “you’re right, but I’ll pay you back somehow when I can.”
“Just don’t tell no one that I’m not really one of them gypsies.”
Anna nodded. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
Figuring her time was up, Anna slipped out of the tent.
The bright sunlight outside took some getting used to. Anna blinked a few times to let her eyes adjust, gripping the watch in one hand.
“Who are you, anyway?” Anna found herself asking the name on the cover. Idly, she flipped the watch in the air a couple of times, catching it each time.
The third time around, though, a different, grimier hand grasped the watch. Startled, Anna looked up to see a boy in a newsboy cap and a red scarf making off with her precious timepiece!
“Hey!” she called after his retreating figure. She could scream and fuss and cause a big scene, but that would only give him more time to escape. Her best bet, she figured, was to chase him herself. With that bright red scarf trailing over his shoulder, he was pretty easy to spot.
Knowing she was onto him, however, only made the thief run faster, but Anna couldn’t help shouting taunts and curses at his back. That watch was her only link to her past. She needed it back.
Her pursuit of the watch thief took her through a wide open field. At the very end of it was a set of rails, upon which sat the most beautiful train Anna had ever seen. But this was no time to be mesmerized by a locomotive, as the red-scarfed boy vaulted into the caboose!
Logic and common sense practically screamed not to follow vagrants into train cabooses unattended, but Anna didn’t care. Unnoticed, she slipped inside.
Anna stood silently in the doorway, watching. That dirty, rotten thief dangled the watch by its chain with his dirty, rotten fingers, visibly proud of his find. He didn’t even notice her. Well, Anna thought, he was also a dirty, rotten fool!
She pounced on him from behind, sending him tumbling to the ground on his stomach with a weak-sounding yelp.
“Get off me!” he whined feebly, his voice laced with a distinctly foreign accent.
“Give. That. Back!” Anna growled in his ear. “Then I’ll get off.”
“It’s underneath me,” the boy muttered. “I was putting it in my pocket when you decided to … clobber me!”
“How very ironic,” Anna sneered. “You’ve got some nerve, taking someone else’s things–”
“What seems to be the problem?” a masculine voice said from above them. Slowly, Anna looked up to see a middle-aged man in a green suit looking down at them, a look of disapproval on his worn face.
“She sneaked up on me from behind, Mr. West,” said the boy, his pleading voice muffled by the thick carpet against his face. “Please tell her to leave me alone.”
The man offered his arm to Anna so that she might get up, but she pushed herself up off the boy by herself. “Just have him return my timepiece and I’ll leave him alone as he requests,” she said tartly.
The man sighed wearily. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time this had happened. “Hand it over, Pepi.”
Pepi, if that was his name, grudgingly pressed Anna’s precious fob watch into her open palm.
“Thank you,” she intoned expressionlessly.
Heavy footsteps mounted the caboose stairs, accompanied by the sound of equally heavy breathing.
“How many times do I have to tell that boy not to run off?” a tall man cradling a paper bag exclaimed as he entered the train car. “All I did was step out to purchase some supplies for the trip. We passed this travelling show, and BOOM! He’s off, fast as the flames in St. Elmo’s fire!”
“He’s here now, Artie,” the other man informed him. “The sooner we get him back, the better.”
Artie, the taller man, heaved a great sigh. “I do hope he gets what he deserves, and that we get what we deserve.” Incidentally, Pepi chose this moment to scurry into the depths of the train car. Only now did they realize that Anna was still standing there with them.
“Who’s this, Jim?” Artie inquired, tipping his hat to her.
Jim, if that was the shorter man’s name, shrugged. “The boy’s latest victim, I suppose.”
“I’m not mute, you know,” Anna retorted. “And your friend correct; your charge stole my watch from me on the station platform.” Absentmindedly, she held it in her hand, the gold plating glimmering in the midday sunlight.
This caught both men’s attention. “Let me see that,” Artie requested.
Reluctantly, Anna allowed him to take it from her. “You’d better give that back,” she warned. “It was my father’s.”
At this, the two men paused abruptly, exchanging odd looks.
“Why, James my boy,” Artie said in a surprised voice. “You never told me you’d….”
“What do you mean?” Jim demanded. “That’s definitely my watch, but I don’t like what you’re implying one bit.”
“Yes, Jim,” Artie shot back, “it’s the watch that you said you lost more than ten years ago!”
“I told you I lost it, and I did!” Jim replied indignantly. “How it’s suddenly resurfaced in the hands of this young lady….”
All eyes fell on Anna.
“You’re not who I think you are … are you?” she asked uncertainly of the shorter man.
“I’m James West. I’m not sure who or what you think I am, and to be frank, I don’t believe I know who you are either.”
Furtively, Anna glanced over her shoulder. The caboose door was slightly ajar. This conversation was going in a pretty awkward direction.
“I-I-I’m just a friend,” she stammered, pushing the door open and backing out. “Goodbye!”
In the train, Artie chuckled. “James, call me meddlesome, but I believe you just gave that poor girl the fright of her life!”
He got no response, as his partner had fallen heavily onto one of the couches in what appeared to be a state of shock.
This only made Artemus Gordon laugh harder.
A few hours later, Anna lowered herself down from the tall brick wall surrounding the Home’s courtyard. By now, the sun had begun to set, casting the sky in hues of pink.
From inside, Anna heard the mesmerizing sound of Rebecca’s piano playing. With any luck, everyone was indoors for the concert; nobody would notice her hiding in the shadows.
But alas, luck was not with her.
“Oh, there you are, Anna!” exclaimed Lucy in a chiding tone, gliding like a debutante off the back porch steps. She chuckled sardonically as she added, “Matron’s been looking for you all day. You missed both of your kitchen shifts, and didn’t show up at lessons.”
Anna crossed her arms, her bravado coming back to her quickly. Lucy had that effect on people. “Who are you? My guardian angel?”
Lucy stuck out her tongue. “You’re gonna be in so much trouble, you hear?” With that, she took off, calling for Matron.
Anna sighed loudly. “Anna,” she said wryly to herself, “prepare to meet your Matron.”
“Well, Jim,” Artemus Gordon announced from in front of the coffee table, “this is either the watch I had made for you, or an incredibly clever forgery.” He held up the intricate gears he’d extracted from behind the watch face with a small pair of tongs. “I designed these mechanisms myself, I’ll have you know, and they cost me a pretty penny.”
Jim West stood behind him, holding a tin cup of coffee. Despite what he’d hoped, it had only made his unusually jittery nerves worse. Draining it quickly, he said, “I’m positive I’ve got no recollection how I lost it, Artie. And I’ll make myself perfectly clear – I haven’t the foggiest notion how or when she happened, assuming anything she’s saying is at all legitimate.”
Both men cringed awkwardly at the word legitimate.
“I refuse to acknowledge her as anything, Artie. Got that?”
Artemus frowned. “I don’t know, Jim. She does remind me an awful lot of you.”
Momentarily alarmed, West eyed his friend skeptically. “How so?”
“She’s got spunk,” Artie replied with a shrug. “It’s obviously a West trait.”
“We shouldn’t stay here much longer,” Jim said abruptly, hoping to change the subject. “The sooner we get Master Pepito out of here, the better.”
He was surprised to hear Artie chuckling. “What?”
“James, my boy,” Artie said smugly, “In all the years I’ve known you, you were never this chicken!”
Jim glared unamusedly at his partner.
Some hours later, Anna entered the girls’ bedroom, her hands puffy like raisins from submerging them in the soapy dishwater for so long.
At the foot of her bed, Rebecca ran a brush through her golden locks. “Where have you been all day?” she asked as Anna fell onto her own bed.
“You don’t want to know,” Anna groaned. “Becky, did the population here increase by over fifty percent?”
“I didn’t know we used up so many dishes in one day,” Anna deadpanned in response.
Rebecca eyed her friend quizzically. “Is that what’s really bothering you?”
“Noooo,” Anna replied slowly. She glanced over to Lucy’s bed, where the impudent girl was fast asleep before continuing. “I kind of ran into someone today.”
“Someone who I think is my father.”
Anna proceeded to recount the events of her day, from when she’d sneaked into the fortune teller’s tent, to when Pepi stole the watch, to when she’d followed him onto the train where she’d met “Jim” and “Artie.”
“And then I ran,” Anna concluded soberly. “As fast as the flames of St. Elmo’s fire.”
“What was that last bit?” Rebecca asked, confused.
Anna shrugged. “No clue. That was just random.”
Pulling the covers over her head, she rolled over on her side and tried to fall asleep. Rebecca, who was used to Anna’s abruptness, did the same.
Not five minutes later, Anna sat up abruptly in bed. “Rebecca?” she whispered sharply. “Are you still awake?”
“I am now,” Rebecca yawned. “Now what?”
“I left the watch on the train. With them. Oh, I can’t believe how foolish I’ve been! I bet I’m never going to see it again. To make matters worse, that man, Mr. West, thinks the watch is his!”
Rebecca rolled over to face Anna. “Then you can go explain to him what happened in the morning.”
“But they’re on a train,” Anna insisted. “A moving vehicle. They could be halfway across the continent tomorrow!” She threw herself facedown on her pillow.
“Well, you could at least try,” said Rebecca patiently.
“I don’t want to….” Anna moaned.
“I think you’re being chicken, Anna,” they heard Lucy say from the other side of the room.
Panicked, Anna jerked her head in Lucy’s direction. “How much of that did you hear?”
Lucy chuckled devilishly. “I’ll never tell.”
“Just ignore her,” Rebecca whispered. “She’s only– What are you doing?”
Anna climbed out of bed and made her way to the armoire. “Stuff,” she replied, donning a coat. “Want to come with me?”
Reluctantly, Rebecca followed. “Okay, but we’d better be back here before anyone–” she cast a cautious glance at Lucy, who appeared to be sleeping again “–notices we’re gone.”
“Shouldn’t you just knock?” Rebecca chided Anna as she, yet again, requested the services of a hairpin.
“Oh, you’re right,” Anna muttered, pulling yet another blade of grass from her hair. Next time we go out at night, she thought wryly to herself, we’re bringing a light.
Pressing her ear to the door, she heard faint voices. With uncharacteristic hesitance, she knocked on the painted green wood of the door.
Someone approached the door from the other side. Anna prayed silently that it would not be Pepi.
Alas, it was.
The boy squinted as his eyes adjusted to the difference in light before he recognized the visitor. “What do you want now?” he demanded grouchily.
Rebecca eyed the boy curiously. “Is this the boy who stole the watch?”
“Yes,” both answered at once.
Anna glared at Pepi. “I want my property back, got that?”
Pepi looked confused. “But didn’t you already–?”
“She left it here earlier, presumably by mistake,” she heard Mr. West say from behind Pepi. He’d been at the other side of the car, sending a dispatch – or, more accurately, staring into empty space while standing in front of a small telegraph machine. “Come in.”
Anna pulled a face at Pepi as she and Rebecca filed in. Pepi crossed his eyes back at her before sauntering off again.
West dug through the contents of his desk drawers before eventually finding Anna’s quarry. “While it has my name on it, this is technically yours,” he said, handing it to her. “Might I ask where you found it?”
Anna looked down at her worn-out shoes. “I kind of took it from somewhere I shouldn’t have, but I was found with it when I was a baby.”
“You see, Anna and I orphans, sir,” Rebecca volunteered, uncharacteristically talkative. “When she found this timepiece among this file of her things, we both figured….”
“Yes, I do see,” West interrupted, visibly perplexed. “Anna, you wouldn’t know anything about your mother, would you?”
Anna shook her head. “I was hoping you could tell me who she was.”
“I can’t,” West replied. “I’m afraid I’m as in the dark about this as you are. But believe me, I’m incredibly curious.”
Anna sighed and slipped her necklace back on. “Well, I’m awfully sorry to have caused you any distress. My friend and I had better be going now.” Taking Rebecca’s arm, she headed for the door, only to bump headlong into a gigantic masked man!
The barrel-chested brute shoved them roughly out of the way. “We come for the boy,” he intoned in a low, gravelly voice. He, too, spoke with a foreign accent which Anna could not place.
“‘We?’” West repeated, almost mockingly. “You mean there’s more of you?”
The masked man stepped aside as two other equally large persons entered the train. Each drew mean-looking pistols. “Hand him over, Mr. West, and you will not be harmed.”
“Oh, well,” West retorted airily, “what harm could a bit of harm do to me?” His hand fell quickly to the small brass model cannon on the mantlepiece, which rotated to face the intruders.
The last thing Anna remembered before she blacked out was a large puff of smoke shooting out from that cannon’s tiny bore and engulfing the room.
“I Dare You”
Anna awoke with a start. Her unfamiliar surroundings seemed to be … vibrating.
Instinctively, she picked up the timepiece from her chest. It was late, almost half-past noon! Somebody, probably that Mr. West, had wound it and set the time.
It all came back to her now. She was still on the train. But why?
Daylight peeped underneath the thick, velvet curtains that covered each window. Anna lifted one of them to see the sunlit landscape zooming past. In her disoriented state, she hadn’t realized why the car vibrated so.
Across the room, Rebecca was sprawled on an old, yellow sofa identical to the one Anna lay on. Anna stumbled over to her friend, shaking the older girl’s arm. “Rebecca? Becky? Hello!”
“I SAID NO, LUCY!” Rebecca screeched with uncharacteristic anger. “YOU’RE A BUSYBODY AND A–” She paused, blushing sheepishly. “Oh, hello, Anna.”
“I always had a feeling that demonic girl was the stuff of nightmares,” Anna joked.
“Where am I?” inquired Rebecca, looking about in confusion.
“The train,” Anna replied. “What we’re still doing on it is beyond me.”
“The last thing I remember were those awful masked men,” Rebecca groaned, propping herself to a reclined sitting position. “And then the smoke.”
“Knockout gas, most likely,” Anna figured, glancing up at the mantle. That model cannon was still there. “This is no ordinary train.”
“You can say that again,” Rebecca replied with a groggy yawn. “I’m still so tired….”
“You rest up,” Anna assured her. “I’m going to do some exploring.”
“Don’t get yourself killed, Anna,” Rebecca called after her as Anna opened the first door she saw.
Anna stood in the last place she wanted to find herself on an adventure: the kitchen. The sink was full of dirty pots, plates, and utensils.
“Well,” she mused aloud, “at least there’s nobody to make me clean this place up.”
Anna opened the small pantry and rifled through its contents. There were some canned goods, like beans and peaches, as well as an odd bag labeled Aunt Maude’s Pancake Flour in someone’s hastily-scrawled hand. She decided on a couple of English muffins that looked fresh enough, sticking one of them in her pocket for Rebecca.
“What are you doing in here?” a snobby voice asked from behind her. “I could tell Mr. West and Mr. Gordon that you’re stealing from their kitchen.”
Anna turned around slowly. Pepi stood there, clad in a worn but obviously expensive shirt and breeches. “Stealing? Moi?” She chuckled bitterly. “You’re to talk.”
Pepi bristled with annoyance, but Anna wasn’t finished with him yet. Without that scarf and hat that hid his features, Anna saw that he was fair in hair and complexion, despite how grubby he looked. The graceful blond ringlets that came down to his chin didn’t help matters.
“Aren’t you a Little Lord Fauntleroy?” Anna drawled, finishing off the last of her muffin. “You ought to get a haircut; you look like a girl!”
That was definitely a sticking point for Pepi. “If you weren’t a real girl,” he snarled, his face beet-red, “I’d punch you in the face.”
“Oh, would you now?” Anna challenged. “That shouldn’t matter. Come on. Try it. I dare you.”
Pepi balled his hands into fists. Anna could practically see the smoke coming from his ears.
“You know what?” Anna taunted, stepping slowly towards the kitchen door. “I bet you can’t!”
Pepi charged like a raging bull, but Anna was ready for him. Side-stepping quickly, she held open the kitchen door, which her opponent catapulted straight through.
When Rebecca hollered something unintelligible at the top of her lungs, Anna peered out into the next room, wondering if what she’d done had been such a good idea in the end.
Pepi had landed rather unceremoniously in Rebecca’s lap.
“Well, well, well,” she heard Artemus Gordon say behind her, “I guess we won’t be needing any smelling salts after all.”
James West stumbled into the room after Artie. “I heard a bang?” he said in a questioning voice.
Pepi picked himself up from where he’d hit the couch. Artie jerked a thumb in the boy’s direction. “I think that’s your answer.”
West groaned loudly before his eyes fell on the two girls. “Oh, good. You’re awake.”
Anna frowned. “Yeah. Aren’t there better ways to get rid of intruders?”
West shrugged. “Well, I wasn’t going to shoot them. You could’ve gotten hurt.”
“He has a point, Anna,” Rebecca murmured, getting a glare from her friend.
Self-consciously, Anna brushed some invisible lint from her dress. “When can Rebecca and I go home?” she asked.
At this, Artemus and West exchanged uneasy glances. Artemus seemed to be telling his partner, You tell them.
West cleared his throat. “I’m afraid we can’t just turn around and take the two of you back just yet. There’s some pressing business Artie and I must take care of first.”
Anna’s eyes narrowed. “And what business might that be?”
“I don’t think I’m at liberty to tell you,” he replied, looking cautiously at Pepi. “We’re agents of the Secret Service, so you’ll just have to trust me that this is all for good reason.”
Anna wrinkled her nose distrustfully. “So it’s a kidnapping, then, considering that Rebecca and I are here against our will.” Then, she grinned. “What a story we’ll have to tell when we get home!”
“If we get home,” Rebecca added uneasily.
“Now hold on a minute,” West protested. “We’re not kidnappers!”
“Yeah,” Artemus added. “Those goons we threw out of the train last night are kidnappers!”
Pepi looked alarmed. “What kidnappers? That wasn’t part of– Well, I just don’t understand how anyone would know where I am.”
“You must’ve been asleep,” West replied to the boy.
“Who can sleep in such a tiny room?” Pepi retorted. “I object to these conditions to which I am being subjected!”
“So do I!” Anna cut in. “Why don’t you throw him off the train, Mr. West?”
West let out an exasperated sigh. “I don’t care who you are, but if you – or anyone for that matter – harm that boy, no matter how much of a pain he can be, you won’t believe how complicated things could get for me.”
“Why?” Anna countered. “Are you planning on selling him as a slave or something?”
West took a deep breath and counted to ten. “Will you lay off about kidnappers already?”
Anna nodded grudgingly. “Won’t you at least tell us where we’re going?”
Again, West and Artemus exchanged looks of caution.
Finally, Artemus spoke. “Have either of you girls ever been to Washington?”