Most of the 248 travelers on the Sunset Limited were asleep, when a passenger, weaving slightly as the sleeper car rattled along at fifty miles-per-hour, moved along the passageway. At the end of the car, he saw Mitchell Bates, a twenty-year Amtrak employee.
“Don’t forget to get me up when we get to Palm Springs,” the passenger said. “Don’t wanna sleep through my stop.”
Don’t worry about a thing,” Bates responded, smiling. “That’s what they pay me for.”
Two cars back, Kelly sat wide-awake, fingers cupped around her eyes, the outside edges of her hands pressed tightly against the window. She could see the moonlit desert clearly as it careened by, the scattered mountains black against a star-filled night sky. She noticed the gentle rolling of the car, a strangely pleasant feeling. Kelly was not as panicked as she’d been when she first learned she’d be going to Los Angeles. A sense of calm surrounded her, a feeling she attributed to knowing that, for the first time since her father died, there were other people who cared for her. Kelly glanced over at Miranda, still engrossed in a two-month-old, dog-eared issue of Glamour Magazine, and wondered whether her mother had ever really had a friend.
The engineer watched as the massive headlight bathed the track ahead in bright white light. He’d been on this run hundreds of times. He knew they were nearing a curve that would lead the train onto a trestle, spanning one of the many washes between Phoenix and L.A. The headlight blazed, a star shooting in the darkness, wrapping the track in light as harsh as any clear desert day.
But the damage was under the rails, where no light could penetrate.
Ramm was one mile from the dirt road that would take him back to the cabin. That edgy, too-much-caffeine feeling gripped him again. He thought of Elect Sun’s concern for Kelly, and of his assurance that everything would be fine. But by making contact with the watchers, Ramm was putting himself in play again. He could only hope none of his people were working for others like himself. Still, it was a relatively small community in which he functioned, and there was always the possibility that word had spread about the debacle in Jerusalem. By contacting the watchers, he might have put himself in jeopardy, which could also bring harm to those around him. Ramm’s head began to pound, the migraine accompanied by a hazy aurora.
Questioning his logic again, he wondered whether he should have gone with Kelly. He knew his psychological state was fluctuating, and had no way of knowing how long he could stay ahead of the problem without medication. What if he blacked out again? What if he was hospitalized in Los Angeles and people started checking up on him? It was a risk he couldn’t take at the moment.