Once again Polly found herself looking out of the window as the countryside rolled by. The terrain here was more undulating than broken and it was starting to get slightly greener; she had even caught the occasional glimpse of a house or small villages in the distance. She turned back to see Henry staring at her a slight smile on his face.
“What are you looking at, Henry Carter-Browne?” she asked self-consciously as she half-heartedly tried to straighten her hair.
“I’m looking at you,” smiled Henry.
“Well don’t…I must look a right scarecrow!” Polly joked.
“Oh I don’t know,” replied Henry airily, “I’ve heard you scrub up well and to be honest I’d not really noticed.”
Polly looked down at her once pristine blouse and skirt to find them smudged with dust, soot and oil, she gave her husband a disbelieving look.
“Henry?” she asked hopefully, “Do you think we can leave India soon?”
“Of course, don’t you like it here?” Henry looked concerned as he asked and reached over to take her hand in his.
“Oh it’s all right,” Polly explained wiping at some oil on her face with what had once been a lace handkerchief, “It’s just that there’s so many people here, I’m not used to it.”
“Of course,” Henry thought the problem through, “India must be a bit over powering. When you’re used to your closest neighbour being about a dozen miles away. Any idea where you’d like to go next?”
Polly thought about this for a moment, “Somewhere where there’s less people?” she suggested hopefully.
“I’ll see what I can come up with…cards?” Henry held up a dog eared pack.
“Poker?” Polly suggested eagerly.
“Not much fun playing Poker with just the two of us, well not in public anyway,” Henry smiled and looked around the carriage, “Peters,” he called, “care for a hand or two…table stakes?”
“Why not?” Peters got up to join them, “I might get to win back some of what I owe you from earlier…though I doubt it!” He smiled good naturedly as he sat down next to Polly.
“Do you mind if I sit in?”
“Lady Wyndham! I didn’t know you played!” exclaimed Peters.
“Mr Peters,” replied her ladyship, “there’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
She shared a secret smile with Polly as she sat down next to Henry as he started to deal the cards.
Half an hour later Peters looked at the little piles of Rupees in front of each player, some piles were smaller than others; he looked across the table at Henry.
“My dear fellow,” he drawled, “if I didn’t know better I’d say that the Ladies were playing as a team!”
“Now, now Mr Peters,” Lady Wyndham laid down three kings and two sevens, a winning the hand, “how could we possibly be playing as a team?”
They never found out how Peters thought that Lady Wyndham and Polly were playing as a team because just at that moment the door to the service compartment burst open.
“Everybody stand up where I can see you!” ordered Van Layden.
Slowly everyone got up and stood in the aisle, there was something odd about Van Layden’s voice. Only Lady Wyndham and Polly could guess why it had changed and Henry no doubt had a good idea. The three exchanged glances, Henry’s eyebrows crept up towards his hairline as it suddenly dawned on him what Lady Wyndham must be.
“Where’s the Prince?” demanded Van Layden with a snarl.
He sat in the doorway to the service compartment, he had somehow dragged the working Maxim Gun in from outside, and now he was pointing it down the length of the carriage. By some means he must have overpowered the Sepoy guarding him: Polly hoped the native soldier was still alive.
“He’s outside with Captain Scott,” Mrs Wyatt stepped forward to confront Van Layden.
“Call him in,” demanded Van Layden taking an even firmer grip on the Maxim.
Polly studied Van Layden from where she stood just behind Henry. The man was sweating profusely as if he was burning up from the inside. His eyes darted nervously from side to and his mouth seemed to tremble when he spoke. She had seen this sort of thing once or twice before. They were the signs of a hurried demonic possession; obviously whatever had taken over Van Layden’s body had not had enough time to do the job properly. If they could stall him for long enough Van Layden would self destruct.
“No!” said Mrs Wyatt bluntly, “I will not call him in.”
“I will not kill you if you call him in,” Van Layden promised.
“No,” repeated Mrs Wyatt, “and Captain Scott will never bring him in…I’ll scream long before he does!”
Polly noticed that Mrs Wyatt had slowly moved so that her body was between the Maxim and the door leading to the flat-car. Polly looked around weighing up her options, they were not good. There were too many people between herself and Van Layden for her to get a clear shot at him she needed someone or something to distract him.
“You don’t understand!” pleaded Van Layden, “He has to die so that India can be free…”
Maybe there was a little of the real Van Layden still in there, thought Polly. This could be useful if there was because it would distract the demon within.
“A Moslem India of course,” Peters stepped into Van Layden’s line of sight, Polly started to make her move, slowly worming her way towards the demon and his gun.
“I noticed your reluctance to touch Lady Wyndham’s pig skin case,” explained Peters, “then there was your refusal to drink alcohol, when I offered you a drink after that business with the refugee train.”
“YES!” cried the Van Layden demon, “What if I am Moslem?”
“I don’t care what you are,” replied Peters airily, he edged closer to Van Layden.
Polly was almost in position if she just pushed Mr Bridie out of the way she would have a clear shot at Van Layden.
“Call him in!” demanded Van Layden once more, “Can’t you see?” Van Layden sobbed, “The life of one small boy for the lives of millions!” a typical demonic bargain.
“Never!” called Mrs Wyatt dramatically.
“If you’re going to kill us all,” Peters was now in easy reach of Van Layden, “you’d better take your safety catch off!”
Peters lunged for the gun, as Van Layden glanced down automatically. Peters succeeded in knocking the gun to one side. Suddenly the air was full of the noise of gunfire as Van Layden pressed down on the triggers and kept them down. Flame and gunsmoke belched from the barrel of the Maxim as bullets riddled the ceiling of the coach. In his hurry, or ignorance, Van Layden had failed to adjust the gun’s elevation and now found he could not depress the weapon far enough to actually hit anyone who was not standing right in front of him!
Everybody in the carriage dived for the floor except Polly who shoved Bridie out of the way and drew her revolver. She pointed it at Van Layden’s head and pulled the trigger. The soft heavy lead slug hit him squarely in the middle of the forehead. Van Layden fell onto his back. However, he soon picked himself up and started to heave the Maxim round to point at Polly.
Peters crouched on the floor looking up in shock at Van Layden and the great hole in his forehead. Polly lashed out with her foot and sent the Maxim crashing into the door frame and yanking it out of Van Layden’s hands. She sprang at him knocking him onto this back again. They rolled across floor until she sat astride his chest and began to punch him in the face.
The demon grabbed hold of Polly’s blouse and pulled her down towards him, a leering smile on his face. As she tried to pull away he suddenly pushed at her and using her own efforts at trying to break away against her, hurled her against the carriage wall. In an instant he was on his feet once more while Polly lay in an untidy heap on the floor.
It was just then that Captain Scott burst into the compartment and emptied his revolver into Van Layden’s chest. The slugs hit Van Layden in the chest covering the front of his suit with blood, but, it hardly slowed him down. He rushed at Scott and tossed him with contemptuous ease the length of the carriage.
Henry frantically searched through their limited collection of magical weapons to find something that Polly could use to kill the Van Layden Demon. Normal bullets seemed to have little effect on whatever inhabited Van Layden’s body, they would need something special. Just then Lady Wyndham thrust the hilt of a dagger into his hand.
“Silver dagger!” she explained.
Polly climbed to her feet to see Van Layden standing in the doorway looking into the carriage. She jumped up and grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around, she hit him as hard as she could on the jaw. Her fist felt as if she had hit a block of granite! Trying to shake some feeling back into her hand she watched as Van Layden staggered backwards down the aisle to trip and fall over Captain Scott and Mrs Wyatt who was trying to help the officer up from where he lay in the aisle.
With a terrific roar Van Layden leapt to his feet, turned and charged at Polly. If he had just carried on through the door at the other end of the carriage he would no doubt have found Kishan outside and been able to kill him then and there! But the demon was angry now and was determined to kill this obstinate human female who dared to fight him.
He charged full tilt at Polly who deftly stepped aside as the demon ran at her. She put out a foot and tripped the demon as he blundered by. Van Layden stumbled and fell sliding across the floor until he crashed into the rear wall of the compartment.
“POLL!!!” yelled Henry as he tossed the silver dagger to his wife.
Polly snatched the weapon out of the air and turned to face the demon again as it bounced to its feet once more. She stepped into its next attack and slashed the hellspawn across the chest with the dagger. The monster screamed in agony as it staggered away from Polly. However, the pain seemed to penetrate the demon’s mind through its battle frenzy.
In a flash it appeared to realise what it was fighting and remembered what its real purpose was. It grinned evilly at Polly, turned and crashed through the rear door and started to climb up onto the roof of the coach. Determined to destroy this creature once and for all Polly didn’t hesitate to follow.
Henry pushed his way into the rear compartment; he was just about to follow Polly up on to the roof when he felt a restraining hand on his arm.
“I’m sure your wife can deal with Mr Van Layden,” Lady Wyndham pulled him around to face her. “It’s one of the hardest lessons you have to learn Mr Carter-Browne…to know when to let your slayer deal with things by herself.” Lady Wyndham smiled then nodded in the direction of the track behind them. “Anyway I think we have problems of our own!”
Henry turned to look where Lady Wyndham had gestured. Not one hundred yards behind the train was a mass of rebel cavalry slowly catching up to them.
“Bloody hell!” exclaimed Henry, and then, “Someone help me get the Maxim working…Lady Wyndham can you see if the Sepoy’s alright?”
Lady Wyndham went over and knelt by the Sepoy who had been lying unconscious in the corner of the compartment. Peters rushed in and helped Henry drag the Maxim over to the door and set it back up on its tripod. Henry sat behind the weapon and straightened out the ammunition belt, pulling back on the charging lever he flipped up the sights and let fly with a long burst. To his great satisfaction he saw rebel men and horses tumble to the ground as the bullets scythed into them.
“That’s better!” he yelled to Peters who fed the belt into the machine gun’s breach.
The demon turned at bay to face Polly as she scrambled up on to the roof of the carriage. As she stood and stared into the demon’s eyes she had this strange urge to say something witty or clever. Dismissing the thought she launched herself at the creature with a savage mindless scream of anger.
The demon back-pedalled from this vengeful harridan that came after him with a knife made of the ‘Deadly Metal’. Once again the knife raked across his chest cutting and burning him and dragging a scream of fear and pain from his lips. He struck out at the human female catching her on the side of the head and knocking her to the floor. Moving in for the kill he was surprised to be kicked in the abdomen as the woman jumped to her feet again.
Once again the female attacked with renewed strength and impossible speed. The knife sliced into his arms and legs as she used it to parry his attacks. If only he could get her to drop the knife he would be able to rip her limb from limb. Once more he lunged at her, desperation lending his attack new strength.
“DAMN!” Peters looked around desperately for more ammunition.
Henry pulled his revolver and fired into the crowd of horsemen who were now almost close enough to jump from their horses onto the train if they so wished. Wild return fire slammed into the woodwork behind him making him duck down. The Sepoy appeared in the doorway behind him and started to fire with his rifle at the cavalry that chased them along the track.
“PETERS!” Henry frantically reloaded his pistol, “find some bloody bullets damn it!”
“I’m looking,” Peters crawling across the floor towards a pile of boxes, “so much for the famous British reserve!” He smirked as he dragged a couple of boxes of ammunition out onto the platform.
The two men struggled to reload the Maxim, only to have to dodge a burning torch that was thrown into the carriage.
“Now they’re trying to burn us out!” complained Peters.
The demon leapt on Polly and felt as if his whole chest was a fire, he staggered back from her and looked down to see her small fist clutch the hilt of the dagger that was buried in his chest. He tried to push her away and stop the terrible burning agony in his chest. With a savage grin Polly pulled the dagger from the demons chest. The monster started to fall towards her holding out talon like hands that tried to drag her down with him.
Knocking the demons hands aside Polly slashed the beast across the throat causing blood to fountain across the roof of the coach and be caught in the wind of its passing. It stained Polly’s skirt with dark red-brown splotches. The demon crashed to the roof of the carriage, it looked up at Polly as its life force drained away, it tried to claw at Polly’s feet trying desperately to pull her down with him.
Daintily avoiding the demons last weak lunge Polly kicked the creature off the carriage roof and watched as the Van Layden Demon bounced along the trackside before coming to a halt in a ditch. It was only then that she noticed the bullets buzzing about her ears. She dropped to the roof and tried to make herself as small as possible.
Henry at last managed to fit a new belt of ammunition into the Maxim’s breach. While he had been doing this Peters had loosened the gun mount to allow the weapon to be moved freely. Henry hauled back on the charger once more and let rip with a long satisfying burst of fire that cut down horses and knocked men form their saddles.
He kept the triggers pressed down as Peters fed the insatiable maw of the Maxim. He scythed the fire from side to side until even the fanatic zeal of the rebels could not take this punishment anymore. Slowly, reluctantly, the horsemen broke off their attack. Henry sent a few more bursts of fire after the horsemen until the train suddenly plunged into the dark of a tunnel.
“Oh my God!” gasped Henry looking upward, “POLLY!”
Polly held onto the roof as bullets whizzed by her and the train swayed alarmingly from side to side. A cool calculating part of her mind wondered why she had not noticed any of this before. A panicking, terrified part of her mind told her that maybe it would be a good idea to get down from here and hide where people couldn’t shoot at her!
Still trying to keep as low as she could Polly cursed her ample bust and crawled towards the front of the carriage. Choosing her time carefully she swung herself down onto the flat-car only to be nearly shot by the Havildar. He’d been defending the area with Gupta as the rebels had thrown burning torches in amongst the coal. Up in Victoria’s cab she could see Captain Scott firing his pistol at the rebel horsemen while Mrs Wyatt picked off a few with a rifle.
A romantic part of Polly’s mind told her that the two would have to get married now. Now they had defended an engine driver’s cab from fanatic rebel horsemen they were as good as engaged. Suddenly the train plunged into the mouth of a tunnel.
“How appropriate,” giggled Polly to herself.
“I thought I’d lost you!” gasped Henry as he hugged Polly tightly.
“Takes more than a demon and a few hundred rebels to get rid of this ‘Wild Colonial Girl’,” she smiled up into his face.
They were just about to kiss when Captain Scott tapped Henry on the back.
“Well done old man!” he said brightly as he held out his hand.
“Think nothing of it,” Henry reluctantly disentangled himself from Polly and shook Scott’s hand, he noted the bandage around Scott’s head, “How’s the head?”
“Oh it’s nothing really,” Scott put his hand to his forehead; he smiled and turned to look at the assembled passengers. “You’ll no doubt be glad to hear that in ten minutes or so we’ll have crossed the Kalahar Bridge and we’ll be in Kalapur within half an hour!”
Everyone gave an exhausted cheer.
“It’s not fair!” sulked Polly as she sat in the corner of her seat, “I killed Van Layden and no one seems to remember!”
“That’s the wonder of the human mind,” replied Henry sympathetically, he sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulder and pulling her towards him. “People only remember what they want too. I really don’t think they want to remember you shooting Van Layden in the head and him not dieing!”
“You think?” Polly looked up at her husband and kissed him on the cheek, “It’s still not fair.”
The train started to clatter across the Kalahar Bridge, Polly glanced out of the window to see a great stone and iron bridge that past over a wide river.
“Soon be over,” Henry gave her a reassuring squeeze.
Their arrival at Kalapur Station was low key to say the least. There was no band or cheering crowds to great them, in fact it seemed like hardly anyone noticed their arrival. Captain Scott jumped down from Victoria’s cab and organised some soldiers to take Gupta to the military hospital and collect up all the military equipment from the train.
A group of native dignitary’s turned up and took Prince Kishan away. The boy solemnly thanked the Captain for saving his life and expressed the hope that he would not have to kill Scott Sahib in later years. Oddly Scott just smiled and walked off to stand next to Mrs Wyatt.
Peters was taken away by a Civil Servant who was asking him about the new field gun that Peters’ firm were marketing. Peters smiled resignedly and shrugged his shoulders as he walked passed where Henry and Polly stood.
Another harassed looking Civil Servant whisked Lady Wyndham off to a carriage; she hardly had time to wish Polly and Henry good luck before she was hurried away.
The last the Carter-Browne’s saw of Captain Scott and Mrs Wyatt they were walking along the platform arm in arm. Mrs Wyatt carried the basket with the orphaned India baby under her free arm.
“Well!” Henry and Polly stood next to the battered old engine, their few belongings at their feet, “this is a rum do!”
“Is that it?” asked Polly incredulously, “Not a word of welcome or thanks? Are we just supposed to fend for ourselves now?”
“I’m afraid so.” Henry picked up their things and led Polly to the station exit and out onto the street.
The Sepoy on duty by the station gate presented arms as the couple passed; Henry nodded his head to the soldier in recognition of the honour given.
“I’m afraid, old thing, that’s the only greeting we’re going to get!” Henry sighed and dropped their bags; he looked up and down the bustling street.
“What do we do now?” Polly held on tightly to her husbands arm; demons didn’t frighten her in the least, but towns full of people made her apprehensive.
“Well first,” Henry announced, “we book into the Kalapur Imperial Hotel. Then we have a bath, dinner and then I thought we could stay in bed until some time next week!”
“Henry!” exclaimed Polly in mock shock.
“Then I think I’ll see about leaving India.” He bent and picked up their things again and started to lead Polly along the street, “How does a trip to the ‘Occasionally United States of America’ take you? Los Angeles first I thought then maybe a trip across the Wild West…what do you think?”
“Bonza!” Smiled Polly resting her head on Henry’s arm.