written by David Kocourek
Note: This is a storytelling of a movie Danny, Sawyer and the others performed in.
It was a dark and stormy night. People and animals hurried home, casting anxious looks at the angry sky as the wind swirled about, picking up loose pieces of paper, scattering them and finally depositing them at the entrance to the Bay City Bank. This bank stood apart from the other buildings surrounding it, in that it was the pride and joy of Bay City. It was one of the first buildings built in the city. Its grand, huge pillars, one on either side of the entrance stairs, spoke of strength and security – an image the bank owners continually reminded their patrons of.
Now past closing time and with the last employee having left, the Bay City Bank sat quietly, deathly quiet in contrast to the growing storm outside. Lightning flashed outside, illuminating three figures inside stealthily at work, planting explosives on the huge vault door. Two of the figures, dogs in trench coats and masks, finished their task and hurried behind a counter as the third member of the trio, an opossum, laid wire from the explosives to the detonator.
Hammer, the older of the two dogs, watched for any security guards as Saw, his grizzled and scarred canine accomplice hurried to help connect the wire to the detonator.
Saw looked at the opossum. "You sure you got this set right, Lenny?"
The opossum, also in a trench coat and mask, nodded with a toothy grin. "I ever been wrong?"
Saw smiled and rubbed Lenny's head. "You ain't ever been wrong, Lenny. Youse our good luck charm."
Hammer growled quietly. "Get moving! We ain't got all night. The night watchman is coming in 15 minutes!"
Lenny braced himself. "And we'll be gone in 10!"
The opossum pushed the detonator's handle down. Outside, light and a roar thundered briefly through the windows of the bank. Inside, the three thieves grabbed thick sacks and ran inside the now-open vault, throwing money into the sacks as quickly as they could.
Saw smiled. "Gotta admit, Hammer! That was a great idea – waiting to rob the bank until a storm was brewing!"
Lenny finished filling up his sack and closed it. "Yeah! Ain't no one gonna think nuthin'. They's just gonna think it's the storm."
As the thieves ran for the door, a silent figure fell on Hammer from above, knocking the dog unconscious to the floor. Saw and Lenny stopped in their tracks as the figure cut off their escape route to the door. Outlined by flashing lightning from outside, all that was visible was a cloak and a floppy hat.
Lenny asked in apprehension, "Who is that? It ain't the cops."
Saw pulled out a knife and growled. "It ain't the night watchman, but I'm not gonna wait around ta find out."
Obscured by the dark, the cloaked figure made a lightning-swift move and something knocked the knife from the bandit's hand, sending it clattering across the floor.
Lenny swallowed hard from fear. "Who… who are you?"
The figure, still obscured by the night, replied menacingly. "The night has eyes and those eyes are not friendly."
Saw snarled, baring his teeth, and leapt at the cloaked figure. Lenny simply ran. The snarl abruptly ending, followed by a 'thud', told Lenny as he ran that he was the last one. Lenny ran, frantically looking for an escape, but a whistling sound followed by a blow to the back of his head ended that. Lenny lay still, instinctively playing opossum, hoping he could fool his unknown assailant. All was quiet, except for an occasional crack of thunder. A minute went by. No sound. No attacker. Another two minutes went by. Still no sound. Lenny knew the police would be there soon so he cracked an eye open. The cloaked figure stood by his head looking down at him.
Lenny gasped. "I… ain't fooling ya… am I?" The figure shook it's head. "I didn't think so."
The next morning brought a sweet smell to the citizens of Bay City as people and animals hurried to and fro, going about to their respective jobs. One such citizen breathed it in and sighed with a smile.
"I love mornings after a good rain. It makes me feel invigorated."
Beautiful by anybody's standard, human or animal alike, the feminine feline stood before a large building.
"Another day, another story."
She entered the Bay City Gazette, her place of employment as reporters and copyboys hurried about almost frantically. She raised an eyebrow. "Hmm? What's going on?"
"Miss White! Miss White!"
She looked as a short turtle wearing a reporters hat and garb hurried to her side. "Where have you been?"
She smiled. "Good morning to you too, TW. What happened? The boss miss his morning coffee again?"
"No, it's not that. There's been another crime scene again. Come on!"
She followed her nervous assistant to the editor's office where a cantankerous old goat paced back and forth in front of his desk. TW timidly knocked on the glass door, but she simply opened it and walked in, smiling to herself. When was he going to learn that their editor's gruffness was nothing but an act?
The goat grumbled as she entered, "Why couldn't you be on time like everyone else, Sawyer?"
She shrugged, her smile still on her face. "Part of my charm, I guess."
Cranston Zachary Moneyfeller was the editor and the brains behind the success of the newspaper. Although he owned half of the business, his unrelenting drive for achievement led him to take the position of editor, as well as CEO. He couldn't tolerate anyone else running the show – anyone except himself, of course.
Cranston handed Sawyer a sheet of paper. "Here!"
She looked at it, curious. "What's this?"
"Your next assignment. Didn't you see the paper this morning?"
TW shook his head. "Well, she was late…" She quietly motioned him to keep quiet. TW timidly replied, "But you were…"
Cranston handed her the morning paper. "If you had been on time, you'd already have seen this." This headline read, 'Night Knight Strikes Again – Underworld In Turmoil.'
She nodded. "This is the third time this week. I presume that's why you called me in here?"
Cranston nodded. "Darn right. I want you to interview Mrs. Golstine."
Sawyer blinked with wide eyes. "Mrs. Goldstine? THE Mrs. Goldstine? The richest animal in the country?"
"That's right. She's been yelling good and hard about crime lately. Maybe she knows something about this mysterious night guy." He paused just long enough for them to reach the door. "Well, what are you waiting for? Get going!"
TW ran out of the room, followed immediately by a loud crash as he ran into an orange tabby that was carrying supplies. Sawyer winced at the noise, then looked back into Cranston's office. "Don't worry. I'll take care of it." Cranston sighed and sat in his chair.
TW helped the young cat up. "Sorry about that."
Sawyer walked besides TW. "Knocking copyboys over again?" She bent over and helped pick up things. "Good morning, Danny. Sorry about that."
Danny Marks finished collecting his armful of supplies. "It was my fault, Ms. White." She added the last of his supplies to the top of his armful and walked with him. "So Ms. White, what's your new assignment?"
She smiled. "What makes you think I'm on assignment?"
"Mr. Moneyfeller always yells when you're late for a new assignment."
"I've been assigned to cover the Night Knight story. It's the hottest story in town!"
Danny glanced sideways at her. "You sound kind of excited. So… what do you think of this masked crusader?"
"I'm not sure. He could be just some kook, a vigilante, but my instincts tell me otherwise. Still…” she paused with a faraway look briefly in her eyes, "…it would be romantic if he really was some kind of crusader of justice."
Danny grinned. "Romantic, huh?" He quickly dropped the grin and stopped by the elevator. "I hope you get your story, Ms. White. I gotta go before someone yells."
She waited as TW hit the button for the elevator. "Romantic, Ms. White? Dangerous more likely. You don't know what type of fellow he might be."
She dismissed his suggestion with a wave of her hand. "Oh, TW…"
From his office, Cranston watched his star reporter exit the building and hail a cabby. He smiled to himself as he watched both of them drive off. Yes, she was a pain sometimes, coming in late like that but she was the best he had. If he had let little annoyances like tardiness distract him, he wouldn't be where he was. He picked up the paper, looking at it. Now, this was important.
Elsewhere, someone else was also looking at the morning edition of the Bay City Gazette. Reading the headline again for the third time, the person crumpled the newspaper and threw it into the wastepaper basket. The figure, a large, powerfully built pig, straightened his silk vest and entered through elegant, wooden doors into a board-style meeting room. Five well-dressed animals, all dogs, stood up in respect and perhaps a little fear.
The pig spoke. "I understand there was trouble yesterday."
They nodded. The dog nearest him spoke. "Um… yes, Mr. Fromage."
"That's Monsieur Fromage. How many times must I correct you barbarians?" He glared at his henchmen who shrank back. "Continue, Mack."
Mack cleared his throat and swallowed. "Uh… uh, sure, boss. The operation was perfect. Saw and Hammer pulled it off perfect and Lenny set the charge like you said."
"But all was not perfect, was it?"
"Uh, no. Somebody caught them even before they left the bank. Lenny even played dead. Didn't help him any."
Fromage narrowed his eyes. "And yet, once again, somebody stopped them?"
"Yes, boss. It wasn't their fault. It was the masked guy again."
Monsieur Fromage pounded he table with a fist, causing his henchmen to jump. "You are mistaken, mes amies. If they had perfectly performed my operation, they would not now be in the hands of the police!"
"But, boss, the masked…"
Mack didn't finish his reply because he was grabbed by the throat and lifted up off the floor. "Do not talk to me about masked men. Stories about the... bogeyman do not interest me." He dropped Mack, now gasping, into a chair. "I want results, not excuses!"
Fromage cleared his deep throat and regained his composure. "Now onto business. I have a new plan – one which will not fail because I am coming with you this time." He spread out a map on the table. "A gold shipment will stop in the city on its way to the US Gold Depository. The train will stop for only ten minutes. We shall have just these ten minutes to deal with the engineers and the guards, without being seen, substitute ourselves in their place and take control of the train."
One of the other henchmen held up his arms, puzzled. "But how?"
Fromage smiled. "The plan is as simple as you are. We shall use specially prepared gas bombs. Silent, odorless and quite effective. There will be no fight, no margin for error… if you follow my plan exactly."
The five henchmen nodded vigorously.
Meanwhile, in the home of Mrs. Francis Goldstine, Sawyer and TW sat in front of a table in a luxurious library while a butler served tea. Francis Goldstine entered, wearing a shimmering dress of deepest blue, draped in jewels and gold. Sawyer and TW moved to stand but she motioned them to stay sitting. "Please relax yourselves. Would you like anything else?"
Sawyer shook her head. "Thank you but no, Mrs. Goldstine." She gestured towards the butler. "Roberto here has been very kind."
Francis nodded in agreement. "Yes, Roberto is a jewel even amongst my wealth. You may go."
"Yes, Mrs. Goldstine." The butler bowed and left.
Sawyer reached into her purse and withdrew a pen and pad of paper. "Mrs. Goldstine, the reason we're here is to ask you what you might know of the masked crusader running about at night."
Francis paused and eyed Sawyer. "I see you are purely business, Ms. White." She sat down at the table and poured a cup of tea for herself. She kept her eyes on Sawyer as she sipped her tea. Sawyer suddenly had the feeling Mrs. Goldstine was studying her and knew everything going on in her head. After a minute of this, Sawyer quietly cleared her throat, feeling oddly uncomfortable and started to speak, but Francis cut her off.
"I want you to know, Ms. White, that I do not like reporters." She paused. "However, I can see you are not like the others. I will answer your questions."
Sawyer started to read a question from her tablet but was cut off a second time. "Ms. White, I do not wish to be rude but I have something to ask of you."
Caught off guard a second time, Sawyer was clearly uncomfortable now, but retained her composure. "Yes?"
"Do not ask me questions to trick me as if I were hiding something. You seem to have character, my dear. Be honest with me and I shall be likewise with you."
TW looked at Sawyer but she ignored him for now. Mrs. Goldstine was obviously opening herself up, but only if she didn't try to sneak any information out that wasn't offered. Besides, it was clear Mrs. Francis Goldstine would instantly recognize any attempt to do so. Mrs. Goldstine quietly sipped her tea but still watched Sawyer. She knew what was going on in her head indeed, Sawyer realized.
Sawyer smiled and Francis nodded. "Mrs. Goldstine, it is well known that you publicly applaud this masked crusader. Rumor has it that you support the crusader financially, as well." Sawyer watched Francis' reaction closely, but no surprise showed at all.
Francis smiled again, letting her know who was really in control of the conversation. "My dear Ms. White, as a respectable citizen, it would be unthinkable for me to sponsor a masked crusader working outside of the law. While it is true I applaud the efforts of this individual, which the police seem inadequate, or incapable of handling themselves, it would be unheard of for someone like myself to publicly do as you suggest. Wouldn't you agree?"
Sawyer nodded as TW continued to munch on muffins at the table. Mrs. Goldstine was obviously saying one thing, but suggesting another. "Mrs. Goldstine, may I ask what you think of such a crusader?"
Francis nodded, pleased at her question. "You may indeed. It seems I've judged you correctly, my dear. Such as individual would need to be outstanding, both in physical and moral fiber. Judging by your newspaper's articles, this crusader is strong, capable and competent – more than enough for common thieves or robbers. It would also indicate a strong dedication to justice, fairness and decency. Otherwise, he might very well find himself tempted to take the thieves ill-gotten goods for his own ends. I agree with your newspapers' evaluation. I would say such an upright fellow is a hero."
"Hero, Mrs. Goldstine?"
"Of course, dear. Your own words recorded in your newspaper reports say that not a single coin was missing from the stolen goods. If he had wanted to take anything, he could have… but didn't."
Sawyer pointed at Francis with her pencil. "But that doesn't mean he's a hero."
Francis took another sip of her tea. "My dear Ms. White, you are a reporter. One of the better ones from what I know of you. It is your job to not merely report facts but to get the truth. Look past the obvious. Do not settle for mere journalistic awards and accolades. Strive to get the whole story and you'll be a better person for it." Francis stood up. "I am sorry, but my attention is needed elsewhere." Sawyer and TW also stood up. Roberto entered the room. "Roberto will show you out. I have enjoyed speaking with you, Ms. White. I hope we meet again."
Sawyer and TW followed the butler to the door where a cabby was waiting for them. "Mrs. Goldstine had me get a ride for you. It is paid for already as a courtesy. Enjoy your ride."
Sawyer and TW got in and rode back to the Bay City Gazette. Sawyer wondered about everything Mrs. Goldstine had hinted at. And why was she even suggesting it to Sawyer who was a reporter?
She looked blankly to her side where TW was sitting it the cab. "What is it?"
"I've been talking to you for five minutes and you haven't said a word."
"I'm sorry, TW, but I was thinking. TW, what do you think Mrs. Goldstine meant?"
"TW, you were there the whole time and you don't remember what she said?"
TW looked sheepish. "Sorry, Miss White. I guess I was too busy with the snacks."
Sawyer gently scolded, "TW, you'll never be a good reporter unless you pay more attention."
TW nodded. "I guess so. So… what did she say?"
Sawyer didn't reply. She was already trying to decipher all that was hinted at in the conversation. 'Look for the whole story?' Perhaps there was more to this than a simple vigilante story. And how was Mrs. Goldstine involved?
She jumped and looked straight at Cranston who stood before her, looking impatient. "Uh, yes?"
"Good. You're back with us. I asked you how your interview with Mrs. Francis Goldstine went?"
Sawyer paused for a moment. "I, uh, I'm still working on it."
Cranston nodded slightly, more to himself than to her. "Nothing yet, huh? Never mind. I have a more important story for you. A train carrying a gold shipment is stopping by Bay City on it's way to the US Gold depository at 5 pm. It's only stopping for a little while so if you're late, you'll miss it altogether."
Sawyer smiled. "Got it. We'll be on it."
They turned to go when Cranston added, "Oh, and Sawyer?"
She half-turned, looking back. "Yes, sir?"
"Get some extra sleep tonight. I don't want you falling asleep on the job."
"Um, thank you. I will." Sawyer had just left the office when she heard a crash followed by Danny's cry of surprise. She sighed. "Not again." She hurried on and found TW and Danny in a pile of reports while a few on-looking co-workers laughed. "Oh, TW…"
Danny got to his knees and started picking up the reports while TW rubbed his head. Sawyer threw TW a disapproving look. "You have got to start watching where you're walking."
TW fixed his hat and put it back on his head. "Sorry."
Sawyer bent down, helping Danny collect things. "Twice in one day, Danny. Maybe you need flashing lights."
They both stood up, having finished collecting everything that had been dropped. Danny nodded to her, his arms full again. "Maybe. Thanks for helping, Ms. White."
She said with a pleasant smile, "Call me Sawyer."
He blinked, realizing she was offering him her friendship and grinned wide. "Sure! Thanks, Ms. Wh… uh, Sawyer." He started to leave then paused. "Say, Sawyer, I was thinking it'd be nice if we had coffee together some time."
"Sounds fine to me, Danny. I have to go. I have to report on the gold shipment coming in today." She hurried to the elevator where TW was waiting.
After the elevator arrived, both stepped inside. TW pressed the elevator button for the first floor and the doors closed. "Miss White, why do you have to be late for everything?"
"Why do you keep walking into people?"
Outside, TW hailed a taxi and managed to get the second cab passing by to stop. As they got in, the driver drawled out, uninterested, "Where to?"
TW replied, "The train yard."
The driver drawled back, "Hope you aren't in a hurry. Traffic, y'know."
Meanwhile, from a window, Danny watched the taxi leave as it weaved in and out of traffic. "Gold shipment, huh…"
A hectic ride through traffic and some moments when TW saw his life pass before his eyes and the taxi ride ended, all occupants safe and sound though a little harried by their ride. Sawyer paid the taxi driver and they hurried to join the growing crowd of reporters who were slowly trickling in.
Not far away, Monsieur Fromage and his gang were readying themselves for their upcoming attack on the gold shipment. They watched police and armed guards on the lookout for trouble. "Remember, gentlemen, use the grenades to deal with the police after the train pulls in. Then, we move in with our uniforms and take their place. I will deal with anyone inside the train."
One of the gang nervously asked, "Won't people notice the guards are animals?"
Fromage smiled, replying confidently, "Oui, but that is of little concern. They may be suspicious but I doubt there will be any questions. And by the time they do find out something is wrong, we will be, how you say, long gone."
"Boss, you make it sound so easy."
"It will be easy if you follow my plan. Now, quiet!"
The train carrying the gold shipment pulled into the train yard while the guards took their positions. After the police captain was satisfied all was ready, he signaled and the reporters were allowed in.
From their position, the Fromage gang watched the reporters. Fromage motioned with his hand. "Let us go." They donned protective gas masks and moved into position, away from the reporters prying eyes. Pulling the pins on the gas grenades, they rolled them as carefully as they could towards the guards and the police. On the far side of the train away from the reporters, the guards and police dropped almost as soon as they realized what was happening. The gang quickly dragged their unconscious victims out of sight and quickly took their place in appropriate uniforms. Two guards inside the train stepped out and looked around. Seeing the unfamiliar guards, they started to draw their firearms but two powerful arms KO'd them before they could finish.
Monsieur Fromage dragged them inside and tied them up. He looked outside and motioned to his gang, "Come, come mes ami! Time is short!" Fromage and his gang hurried through the train, making sure no on else was onboard to the engine car. The startled engineer only had time to turn around before Fromage laid him flat with two well-placed punches.
Meanwhile, TW had left the pack of reporters and looked for a place to buy a cup of coffee. Motion around the back of the train caught his attention and he went to peek. Uniformed animals had just finished dragging some guards into a railroad storage building. He started back when a hand grabbed his shoulder. TW gasped but Sawyer shushed him. "What do you think you're doing back here? You could get us both in a lot of trouble. Besides, the train is about to leave."
TW pointed and whispered tightly, "I think there's trouble. Some guards were dragged away and some animals got on the train!"
Sawyer cocked her head slightly, looking at him. "I didn't see anything."
TW frantically waved his arms. "It's true!"
She looked back to where TW had pointed. "Alright. You go tell the other police. I'm going to check this out."
TW objected, "But the train is about to leave!"
She shot back, "Then the sooner you tell the police, the sooner they can stop this train from leaving! Now go!"
TW hurried off as Sawyer quietly moved to the train car TW had pointed at. She tested the door and, surprisingly, it opened. "Strange. I would think it would be locked at all times. Maybe TW was…"
Two hands grabbed her, a third over her mouth, and pulled her inside. She struggled until a voice warned her, "Cut it, sister, or else we'll plug ya."
She immediately ceased struggling and a dog lead her to a chair where she was tied to it while she sat. More upset than scared, she angrily asked, "Who are you? You can't be the real guards." The guards did not answer but took their positions near the doors. There were at least four of them, and all of them were armed. She hoped TW would be in time…
Near the reporters, TW indeed hurried but tripped, sending him plowing into the reporters. Reporters collapsed amidst cries of surprise and outrage. The police captain looked on as TW tried to get his attention but a reporter kicked him while trying to get up, making TW see stars. The train whistle blew and the train started moving. TW's heart sank in him. "I hope I'm not too late! Captain! Captain!"
Not too far away from the train, a solitary figure hid atop the building nearest to the train yard's water tower. A cool breeze gently blew ruffling the figure's cloak. Having seen Sawyer's abduction and TW's failed attempt to warn the police, the figure watched intently the train's departure while concentrating on its acceleration.
Now! A grappling hook fired out and hooked on the outstretched drainage pipe attached to the train yard's water tower. The figure swung down and across, aiming for the departing train. As his speed temporarily exceeded the velocity of the still accelerating train, the figure let go and landed on the roof of the last car. The train's acceleration having caught up and matched his velocity as he landed, the figure did not lose its balance but hugged the top of the car so as not to be noticed by the police. Being mistaken for the train thieves would not be good. The train sped on its course unimpeded out of the city.
Inside, one of the henchmen arrived in the engine where Monsieur Fromage operated the train. "Everything's working out just like you said."
"Of course, mon ami. What did you expect?"
"Well, I sure didn't expect it to be this easy. And the guards were a piece of cake. I didn't know they'd be that much of a pushover."
Fromage smiled. "That is the difference between your planning and my planning."
"Well, yeah, of course. I just didn't think."
"And that is why vous are the lowly peasants whilst I am the king."
The train sped along its track for awhile until the thug spoke again. "Excuse me, Monsieur Fromage, but aren't we just gonna get caught, traveling like this down the tracks?"
Fromage smiled wider. "I am glad you asked that. Do you see up ahead? There is a switch I have prepared in advance which will allow us to change to a seldom used track. Furthermore, once we have passed the track, it will automatically revert back to the correct track. Even if the police search this track, it will not matter. I have also arranged for trucks to be hidden along the track. We shall simply stop, load our precious cargo onto the trucks and send the train on its way."
"Um, with no engineer, won't it eventually crash into something?"
"D'accord, but as you say in America: 'Who cares?'" Fromage laughed loudly.
One of the other dogs came in. "Excuse me, but I thought you should know we have a guest onboard."
Monsieur Fromage raised an eyebrow. "A guest, you say?"
"We caught her trying to sneak onboard just before we pulled out. We tied her up but she's giving us some lip. I thought we might throw her off the train, but I wanted to tell you first."
"I see. As soon as we change tracks, I will see our guest. Until then, do nothing."
Meanwhile, Sawyer sat uncomfortably in the chair while quietly trying to loosen the ropes, which bound her. One of the guard dogs growled at her. "Quit squirming. Ya ain't going nowhere and don't give us anymore of yer yapping, hear?"
She smiled innocently at the dog guarding her. "Why do you say that? Just because you're nothing but a low-down, mangy, street mongrel?"
The guard dog raised a hand to slap her and she closed her eyes reflexively, but before the blow came, the door opened and a dog barked, "Leave her alone!"
The guard dog lowered his hand. "But she's giving us lip again."
The dog, which had just entered, replied, "The boss said leave her alone till he checks on her."
Sawyer relaxed as the dog glared at her but resumed his post at the door to the end cars. She quietly felt around the back of the chair and located the knot. The rope was too tight, but fortunately the knot seemed poorly made. She could work this out, but what then? These guards were armed and obviously dangerous. She couldn't see outside the car as there were no windows, but judging by the noise outside, they weren't in the city anymore. A new clattering and slight rhythmic jarring gently shook the train. Sawyer blinked. It felt and sounded like they were changing tracks. A bit more anxious than before, she continued to work the knot. It wasn't well done and she would be free shortly. Beyond that, she wasn't sure what she'd do.
The door at the far end of the car leading to the front of the train opened and a muscular pig in a guard's uniform entered.
Sawyer turned her head and eyed him. "Funny. You don't seem like the guard type."
He approached with a smile. "It seems I was wrong. I was expecting ragweed but instead I find a fragrant flower. I recognize you from your brilliant work. You are Mademoiselle Sawyer White, n'est pas?"
She nodded. "I am and who would you be?"
Fromage gave a slight bow to her. "Ah! Excusez moi. I am so rude. Please allow me to introduce myself: I am Monsieur Fromage."
She looked at the ropes. "I would stand to greet you, but my schedule is currently tied up.""
"You have a sense of humor as well as beauty and you are a reporter so you must be intelligent as well. What a rare combination. Ah, but I am not being a gracious host." He snapped his fingers and a guard came forward. "Please release this beautiful creature."
"Wha? But, boss…" A glare from his boss made the dog stammer. "Uh, sure, sure!" The guard hastily untied Sawyer, who rubbed her arm a little.
Fromage gestured to the guards. "I hope my associates weren't too harsh with you. You must understand we can not allow unwanted guests onboard my train."
Sawyer furrowed her eyebrows. "Your train? Don't you mean the government's train?"
"D'accord, but you see there is a change here."
She nodded towards the back of the train. "I know. I felt it when we changed tracks back there."
Fromage laughed. "Ho ho! There is that wit about you again. I find you intriguing. No doubt you are wondering who we are?"
"The thought had crossed my mind. So, who exactly are you?"
Fromage gestured towards himself. "I am a businessman or pig, if you prefer. I am simply making a rather large and unscheduled withdrawal."
Sawyer shook her head. "You mean you're stealing."
"Tsk, tsk! Stealing is such a hard word."
Saywer asked, "What do you intend to do with all this gold? You certainly aren't planning on just hoarding it."
Fromage smiled, folding his hands behind himself. "I am sorry to disappoint you, but contrary to what you may or may not think, I am a simple individual. I am just fulfilling your American dream. I shall pay my associates here quite well for their work, take the rest of my fortune to a safe country and settle down. I shall live like a king for the rest of my days. Perhaps it is a small dream, but one I am satisfied with."
"You realize you won't be able to escape with a whole trainload of gold, don't you?"
"Not so. I have already planned for transportation of my ill-gotten goods. As for your police, your own newspaper have reported how weak and impotent they are, Ms. White."
Sawyer started to object. "Our government will…"
Fromage cut her off. "Your government will be too late. I may indeed be one of simple dreams, but do not underestimate my intelligence. I have already accounted for your government's interference long before I set my plan into motion. No, your government will not find me or the train until we are long departed with our cargo. My timing and plan cannot fail. As for you, Ms. White…"
One of the guard dogs stepped forward. "You want me to cancel her subscription right now?" Sawyer stepped back in fear.
"Barbarians one and all!" Fromage gestured towards Sawyer. "Do you not know a rare jewel when you see one?" He turned to her. "You intrigue me. If you wish, you can live a life of luxury beyond your dreams - as my queen."
Sawyer stepped away from him. "I usually don't date outside my species. Sorry."
Fromage snapped his fingers. "It is a pity. I usually give a second chance, but I cannot afford to be so generous today. But, as we say 'C'est la vie.'"
One of the guards closest to her aimed his gun at Sawyer. She stepped backwards a step and closed her eyes tightly. Suddenly, black smoke filled the train car from all points simultaneously. The Fromage gang coughed, as well as Sawyer, while looking for the source.
Fromage demanded, "What is this?!" He glanced through the smoke at Sawyer, but she was definitely not the cause of this disturbance.
The train door opened and the guard dog closest to it, who also happened to be the one who would have struck Sawyer, was struck by a figure flipping in from the rooftop and sent flying dazedly into Fromage, who cried in outrage as they collapsed.
The figure said aloud, "The night has eyes and those eyes are not friendly."
The other three dogs fired at the figure, but the smoke fouled their aim. Sawyer took this time to flee out the other far end door. At the same time, Fromage ordered his dogs, "Find him!" One guard looking for their intruder felt a sharp punch to the head and fell senseless to the floor.
Fromage started to hurry to the engine. Sawyer watched him for a moment then looked around. The gold shipments were completely against the wall and next to each other in their crates. Not finding much in the way to hide behind, she climbed the ladder leading to the roof. The dog who had been dazed followed Fromage, who paused. "The reporter is above us. Get rid of her and get rid of that intruder!" The dog nodded and climbed the ladder.
Sawyer looked behind herself and seeing the guard, tried to kick him as he climbed but he caught her foot and shoved her backwards. Unbalanced by the moving train, she fell to the roof as the dog finished climbing. Aiming his gun at her, he growled, "You should've stayed below. Monsieur Fromage doesn't like it when guests leave early."
She looked to the side of the train, but they were passing over a rocky gully. There wasn't even a place to jump! She swallowed then glared back at him. "Your boss may act like a gentleman, but he's no better than you - just a common thug!"
The guard growled again and aimed the gun at her slowly at her on purpose but a whistling boomerang harshly knocked the gun out of his grasp. Startled, both Sawyer and the guard looked at the figure who suddenly stood not more than six feet behind Sawyer. Dressed in a dull black and grey motif, the cat wore a floppy hat with a wide rim. His black domino mask, simple black shirt and pants were offset by a grey belt and non-reflective dark-grey shoes. The hands were covered by black and grey mesh-gloves, which reached up and caught the boomerang, even though Sawyer was sure it had disappeared some time ago. A large black cape, bordered with grey fluttered violently from the wind atop the train, giving the appearance of smoke rather than a cape.
The dog growled again menacingly. "Who are you?"
No reply came.
"I said, 'Who are you?!'" the dog snarled.
"Night Knight", came the response.
The dog leapt at Night Knight, who promptly sidestepped the tackle and delivered a blow to the dog's head as he passed. At the same time, Sawyer dodged so she wouldn't be struck as the dog attacked. Only a few seconds had passed since the dog attacked, but it was quiet so she opened her eyes and looked around. The dog lay stunned or unconscious. Night Knight, who moments ago had been grim and stern, now stood before her offering his hand, his face gentle and kind.
She hesitated, uncertain. He offered his hand again with a kind smile. She started to ask a question but he interrupted. "I think it would be safer talking below than on top of a train roof, wouldn't you agree?" She nodded and took his hand.
Helping her up, he started leading her to the ladder when she saw a shadow moving quickly. She cried out, "Look out!"
Night Knight spun around to face his attacker and pushed Sawyer out of harm's way in one motion. The dog had been merely stunned, but was now enraged. He lunged at Night Knight with a long knife. With no where to maneuver, he jumped off the train, grabbing onto the edge as the dog dove off the train into the ravine.
Sawyer White gasped, putting her hands to her face, until she noticed a hand holding on. She quickly but carefully looked to see who it was. Seeing Night Knight, who was already climbing back up, she pulled and helped him back on top. He glanced her way. "I told you it would be safer below." She nodded.
As they climbed down, she informed him, "The leader went to the engine." He nodded and started to proceed to the front when she grabbed his arm. "What about the other guards?"
"They won't be bothering anyone anymore."
Sawyer gasped. "You… you killed them?"
"No, but by the time they wake up, they'll already be behind bars."
Sawyer followed Night Knight to the engine where he stopped. "This will be dangerous. Stay here."
She started to object, but he was already opening the door to the coal car. The coal car lead to a Mountain 4-8-2 steam locomotive. It's powerful eight wheels pulled the train along, as inside, Fromage raged. "Unthinkable! My brilliant plan is in danger from some idiot in a cape and hat! It matters not! I will crush him with my own hands if I have to."
Meanwhile, Night Knight walked across the coal car carefully so as to not fall off. He moved close to the engine, watching Fromage's every move - waiting for the right time. A scattering of coal sounded besides him as Sawyer appeared at his side. "I thought I told you this would be dangerous! What are you doing here?" he demanded in a hushed voice.
She quietly and simply replied, "I'm a reporter. I'm just doing my job." Their eyes met and a battle of wills briefly ensued. Seeing that she would not quickly give in, he dismissed the issue with a sigh.
"Now is not the time to discuss this. Just watch yourself, Ms. White."
She started with, "How do you know my…", but he cut her off with a wave of his hand.
"When I count to three, we jump him. One… two… three."
She scrambled as best and as fast as she could over the coal to jump, but Night Knight was already tackling Fromage. She took a breath and readied herself for her jump as the struggle inside crashed against the controls. She leapt inside as Fromage threw his attacker away from himself, to fall against the exterior wall. Sawyer wasn't an engineer but she could tell the train was now accelerating quickly since the struggle began. Night Knight leapt at Fromage, who batted him to the side and withdrew a pistol, aiming at his opponent.
Night Knight froze, watching Fromage.
Fromage angrily gestured at him with the pistol. "I do not know who you are but you will not stop me."
"And just who do you think you are?" he replied.
"I am le Grande Fromage. That is who I am."
"The Big Cheese?"
Sawyer stayed where she was, but glanced out the window. The terrain was rushing past at an alarming speed and the train wheels were starting to screech, metal on metal. She turned to Fromage. "If we don't slow down, this train is going to jump the tracks!"
Fromage shook his head. "No, mes amies. It is not the train that will be doing the jumping. It is you - you will jump from this train."
"You can't mean that…", she replied in shock.
"It is either that or this", Fromage said nodding to his gun.
Sawyer fearfully looked at the terrain rushing past outside, but Night Knight walked up to her and wrapped an arm around her waist. She looked at him, startled. He looked at her calmly. "Trust me."
Fromage waved the gun at them. "You have until the count of twois."
Night Knight briefly looked back at him. "Save your counting." He leapt with Sawyer outside, causing her to scream, but as he did so a hidden grappling gun fired from his sleeve and connected with the top of the engine. The rushing wind outside the locomotive aided his feat of dexterity and skill, allowing him to swing around to the coal car, from which he quickly leapt to the top of the engine with Sawyer still in arm.
Sawyer was on hands and knees, gasping from fright but otherwise OK.
Night Knight heard a gunshot from below and thought to himself, "Fromage must be trying to shoot us through the roof. That wasn't too smart - the metal is too thick."
Inside, Fromage barely dodged the ricocheting bullet and cursed himself for being a fool. He watched the sides and the back of the engine for any attack, waiting for his adversary to make the next move. Above him, Night Knight prepared to make his next move. He glanced over at Sawyer, who had calmed down. "Are you all right?"
She nodded. "The train… it's going to derail."
"I'll take care of it."
"But Fromage is waiting for you."
"I know." Night Knight produced a small dark ball from out of thin air. Nearing the edge, he tossed it below. A gunshot went off, missing his arm. The ball however, did not miss its mark and exploded into a thick cloud of smoke. Night Knight looked briefly at Sawyer. "This time, stay here."
He flipped silently down and into the smoke cloud. Sawyer could hear a struggle starting as well as a couple of gunshots. The smoke was starting to clear, but the struggle continued. Another couple of gunshots echoed.
Sawyer called down, "The train is still too fast!" She looked ahead of the train and gasped. In the far distance, the tracks curved to round a bend. She shouted down, "The train is going to derail!"
No answer came but the fight continued. She shook her head and braced herself. Leaping to the coal car, she managed to keep her footing. The smoke having cleared now, she could see Night Knight and Fromage pitted against each other in a struggle of raw strength. Unfortunately, the gun was still in Fromage's hand. Fortunately, it wasn't aiming at anyone.
Size and mass assisting his strength, Fromage shoved Night Knight away into the engine's controls causing Night Knight to see stars. Fromage aimed the gun at his adversary. "And now, le mort…"
"No!!" A fist-sized lump of coal, hurtled by Sawyer, squarely struck his hand causing him to drop the gun.
Still recovering from seeing stars, Night Knight moved out of skill more than thought and fired his hidden grappling gun. His aim was true and pierced a pipe near Fromage. Scalding, high pressure steam vented its fury on Fromage, who screamed in pain and stumbled a couple of feet to escape.
"We're about to derail!" Sawyer cried.
Barely hearing her over the hiss of the steam, Night Knight grabbed the brake and started to apply pressure. "Can't… stop too fast or we'll… derail for sure." The braking action caught Sawyer a little unprepared and she fell into the coal. Still decelerating, the train hit the bend and the wheels fairly screamed. Continuing to have the brakes judiciously applied, the train nearly jumped but managed to stay on the track. After a while, the train finally came to stop and rested on the tracks. Inside, Night Knight rested from the struggle and the exertion on the brake. Fromage lay on the floor, moaning and incapacitated.
Sawyer climbed out of the coal, covered with coal dust. She coughed a little. "Well, at least this story will look good in the paper, even if I don't."
Night Knight reached to the controls and turned the valve, closing off the steam still roaring through the cracked pipe. Sawyer hurried to his side. "Are you alright?" He nodded. "You know you saved this train?" He nodded, proceeding to securely tie Fromage up. Saywer asked, "Not that I'm interested but will he be alright?"
"He'll survive. At least long enough to serve his sentencing", he replied.
About 15 minutes later in one of the cars, the Fromage gang was together and very securely tied up. Sawyer and Night Knight rested against a wall on the other side of the car. She looked at her rescuer. "How long do you think it'll take for the authorities to find us?"
"A few hours. They aren't really as bad as Fromage indicated." He stood up and opened the door, preparing to leave. Sawyer quickly hurried to him. "Wait! I want to ask you something!"
He paused and directed his attention to her entirely. "Yes?"
"Are you a vigilante?"
He showed no reaction but simply looked at her? "Are you asking or accusing, Ms. White?"
"Well, since you do…" she began then stopped, remembering something. "I'm… I'm asking. Somebody once told me to get the whole story, not just some facts."
"This person sounds quite wise. I'll answer your question, Ms. White. I am working to fight those criminals considering themselves beyond the law, those whom the law has not been able to reach. I take nothing which is not mine and I help those who cannot help themselves. I may be only one individual, but I am one individual, Ms. White. One individual, human or animal, can make a difference. It's not the size of the body which counts but the size of the heart."
"Those sound more like the words of a poet, not a masked crusader."
He turned to leave.
Sawyer hastily added, "Will… I see you again?"
He turned and gave her an amused smile. "Perhaps, Ms. White." With that, he jumped outside the still train car. She paused for a moment, then looked outside. Only the hills and forest terrain was in view. Of Night Knight, there was no sign. She stepped back in and locked the door. Finding a comfortable place to sit, she cleaned herself up as best as she could, then waited for the authorities to arrive.
The next morning, Sawyer arrived at the Bay City Gazette on time for a change, where TW happily awaited her. "Good morning, Miss White. Mr. Moneyfeller wants to see you. By the way, great story."
She smiled and walked to Mr. Moneyfeller's office, enjoying some more praise as she passed other reporter desks, human and animals alike. She entered the office after knocking and found him relaxing in his big chair, sipping a cup of coffee.
He smiled and stood up to greet her. "A great job on a great story, Sawyer!"
She smiled back. "Thank you."
He pushed the morning paper forward so she could see it. "'Mysterious Night Knight Saves Gold Shipment' This has got to be your best work yet."
She chuckled. "I'll tell you though… it wasn't easy."
He reached into his desk. "Good work deserves recognition, I say." He handed her a check. "Here you go and keep up the good work."
She looked at the check and grinned, obviously pleased. "Thank you!"
"Think we'll get any more stories on this guy? Hmmm?", he hinted.
"Honestly, I don't know but somehow I have a feeling he isn't stopping his night job anytime soon."
A crash in the distance caught her attention. She groaned. "Um, I have to go, boss."
As she turned to go, he replied, "Tell TW to watch himself or I'll tie a bell around his neck." She nodded and hurried to the back of the newsroom where a few people and animals were helping pick up the contents of some now empty boxes. TW and Danny were getting up off the floor, amongst a few chuckles from onlookers and profuse apologies from TW. She glared at TW briefly.
"The boss said to watch yourself." She turned to Danny. "Are you okay, Danny?"
He smiled upon seeing her. "Anytime you're around, I'm okay."
She brushed his shirt off a little, pleased at his compliment. "That's very sweet of you to say that. Tell you what, since TW caused this mess, we'll let him clean it up. Come on."
As they walked from mess, Danny said, "Congratulations, Ms. White, on a fine piece of journalism."
"Thank you, and you can call me Sawyer."
They stopped by her desk and he started to leave. Sawyer tapped his arm before he left. "Danny, are you doing anything tomorrow night?"
"Why do you ask?" he asked curious.
"The boss gave me a bonus and I thought maybe you'd like to have dinner."
Danny grinned. "I'd like that, Ms. Whi…, uh, Sawyer."
"Good. You can pick me up around six tomorrow. The dinner's on me."
He left to get back to work, smiling and humming to himself.
That evening, the sun shone a brilliant red across the clouds as Francis Goldstine sat in her luxurious living room. She took note of her limousine driving up and sipped her tea. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. The door opened and the butler walked in. "Excuse me, madam, but our guest has arrived."
She nodded. "Very good, Roberto. You may leave."
Roberto nodded and left as Danny entered.
Francis waved to him. "Please, come in and have a seat. The tea is excellent."
Danny walked over to her, took a nearby seat and poured a cup of tea for himself. "Thank you."
"I see from the newspaper that you were successful."
He sipped his tea and nodded. "It wasn't too difficult."
Francis nodded. "Good, good. I'm glad to hear it." She looked up and saw a question on his face. "What is it, dear boy?"
He looked at his tea for a few moments, then set it down. "Francis, is what we're doing alright? Am I a vigilante?"
She looked at him for a couple seconds, then put her cup of tea back on its saucer. With a sober look, she got up and walked to the window. "My dear boy, is that what you think?"
He shook his head. "No, I don't."
She turned to face him. "Good. Danny, in this big world, there are those, human and animal alike, who would deprive others of the good things they have worked for. They would think nothing of harming an innocent just to achieve their petty, selfish goals. And yet, despite the best efforts of the law - which is good - they remain beyond the law or so they think. Danny, there is much evil in this world, but there is also much good. We are simply helping good animals and people by bringing these miscreants to justice."
He nodded. "Thanks." He paused and chuckled. "Oh, by the way, I'd like tomorrow night off. I have a dinner engagement with a very lovely feline."
Francis smiled. "Of course. You enjoy yourself." She turned back to the window, watching the night approach as the sun continued to set. "But for tonight, you'd best be getting ready, dear boy. The day is almost past and it's going to be a long night."
Now for the usual stuff... Cats Don't Dance, "Danny," "Sawyer," "Tillie," "Cranston," "Frances," and "T.W." are © Warner Bros. "Night Knight" and his identifying line is © Frank Kocourek 1995.
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