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mimi and nebuchadnezera were caught in a strong wind and blown all the way to north platte. they came down in the railroad yard. old bull bowline, the meanest railroad bull west of toledo, saw them come down and trembled. old bull wasn't afraid of anything human or animal, but anything the least bit supernatural terrified him
- even elves, leprechauns, fairies and sprites, also angels, archangels, demons, banshees, vampires, ghouls, ghosts and poltergeists but especially werewolves, succubi, zombies, witches and devil girls. he considered the devil girls the nastiest of all, combining many of the worst elements of the others.
but he was old bull bowline and he couldn't show fear. the sun was shining, the air was as clear as it ever got in the railroad yard, and he gripped his big club, which he named molly malone, firmly in his meaty red fist and strode forth to do battle.
mimi saw him first.
"put that club down, bull, you don't dare use it on us," she shouted.
"why ladies," bull replied, keeping his voice reasonably steady, "you know i just carry molly for luck - everywhere i go." he twirled the club and stuck it in his belt.
we're hungry," nebuchadnezera announced. "at least i am."
"likewise," said mimi. "what have you got for us?"
""i got some beans back in the shack." bull's voice, which had sent chills down the spines of the james brothers and the younger brothers in its time, wavered just a bit.
"beans!" mimi glared at him. "we didn't come here to be insulted."
"how about some nice pork chops?" nebuchadnezera added in a milder tone.
"ladies, I'm a poor man. you know the railroad don't pay, especially in these hard times. i only eat what i can steal from the boes, and ain't too many of them carrying pork chops. or even lamb chops."
"nebuchadnezera poked him in his big gut. "you're eating something. strikers maybe?"
"surely you can come up with some scrambled eggs at least," said mimi.
"well - we could mosey over to ma blanchard's rooming house. she's got some pretty good pie - fill you right up."
"pie?" mimi looked at nebuchadnezera. "does she have decent coffee?'
"ma's coffee is the best in western nebraska."
"i guess it will have to do then," said mimi.
'"lead the way," said nebuchadnezera.
they left the yard and headed for a small tree lined street filled with boarding houses with signs in the windows.
"you know, bull," said mimi as they walked along," you seemed pretty eager to get out of the yard. are you up to some skullduggery back there you didn't want us to know about?"
these little devils! old bull was indeed up to some mischief. he had captured clarence and otis eno, the most desperate bank robbers west of peoria, but instead of turning them over to mr hoover and the fbi, he was holding them in a shed in the yards and auctioning them off to the highest bidder. so far he had bids from the ku klux klan, the pope, the daughters of the revolution, the masons, the darwinism propagation society, and the emperors of china and the lost city of x. he had planned to wait a few days for more bids, but with the girls around he thought maybe he should speed things up.
"you girls planning on staying a spell?" he asked, his voice a little squeaky.
"no," said nebuchadnezera, "we plan on catching the first fast freight back to civilized parts. with your permission, of course."
"sure, sure, no problem."
"anything for old friends, right?" said mimi. "but you didn't answer my question, bull - you planning some dark and profitable deeds?"
"now,where would you get an idea like that? what could a poor servant of the railroad be up to in such wise?"
'you could be selling strikers to the emperor of japan or the king of barbary."
"that's not illegal! besides, the strike is over, it's been over for a while."
"looks like we're here," said nebuchadnezera. the sign in the window of the last house on the block said "mrs blanchards - clean beds - solid food" "i notice she doesn't advertise her great pie."
"she doesn't have to," laughed bull. he led them up the short steps to the white front door, entered without knocking and headed straight for the kitchen.
"good morning, mr bowline," said mrs blanchard without looking up from her oven.
"morning,ma. i brought some guests along."
mrs blanchard gave a little start when she saw the girls. "hmph. nice friends you have, mr bowline."
old bull gave her an anguished despair of the damned look and she relented a little. she shook her big spoon at the girls. "just to let you know, ladies, i know something of the arts myself. my momma schooled me. so mind your manners."
"we just want some pie," said nebuchadnezera, "and some coffee, if you please."
"aren't you a little young for coffee?"
"they don't have any age, " old bull said.
"of course. well, sit down."
mimi had already seated herself and nebuchadnezera sat across from her. the kitchen table was covered with a worn but spotless white cloth. mrs blanchard put plates and forks, and cups and saucers in front of them in what seemed one fluid motion.
"well, what's your pleasure?" she asked them. "i've got some rhubarb pie fresh baked."
"how about blueberry?" asked nebuchadnezera.
"i've got blueberry. but the rhubarb has good medicinal value."
"what do we need medicinal for?" asked mimi. "i'll have some blueberry too."
"rude little thing, aren't you? if i was the prince of darkness or whoever your master is," - mrs blanchard glared at mimi - "well he's got plenty of fire at his disposal, doesn't he, i'd apply some of it to your bare backside."
"that shows how much you know," mimi answered. "we don''t have any master."
"i know what i read in my bible."
"not the best place to learn magic," mimi laughed. "is that how your momma schooled you?"
"don't mind her, ma'am," nebuchadnezera said. "we''ve had some trying experiences. now we'd just like some pie and coffee."
mrs blanchard glared at mimi and went to the pantry and returned with a huge blueberry pie. she dished out hearty proportions to both girls.
"looks good, thank you ma'am' '" nebuchadnezera said. mimi just grunted.
"well, mr bowline," mrs blanchard asked as she poured coffee for the girls, 'have you heard from that brother of yours? how's things down south?"
"pretty quiet. they had a little ruckus about a week ago, tarred and feathered a darwinist and a papist."
mrs blanchard's mouth tightened. "you know i don't approve of such stuff."
"but a darwinist and a papist!"
"i don't care what folks do - as long as they don't stir up the negroes." she looked down at the girls. "you girls don't plan on stirring up the negroes, do you?"
"no ma'am," said nebuchadnezera. "we just want some more of this pie."
"it's pretty good," said mimi. "in fact, it's real good."