Blue Russell by Will Bryant A novel with dust jacket
Blue Russell by Will Bryant A novel with dust jacket
Blue Russell by Will Bryant A novel with dust jacket

Blue Russell by Will Bryant A novel with dust jacket

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Blue Russell by Will Bryant A novel with dust jacket
Blue Russell by Will Bryant with dust jacket   Copyright 1976    310 pages
ONE MISTY AUGUST MORNING IN 1899, A PASSENGER-MAIL TRAIN OF THE FRISCO line was stopped by a fallen black walnut tree between Neosho and Seneca, Missouri. As the locomotive slowed and nudged into the tree branches, a masked man sprang up the gangway and jammed a revolver into the engineer's backbone. When the startled fireman protested, the man slapped him across the jaw with the pistol barrel and dropped him to the steel floor of the cab.
The train was strung out along a curve, with a small bridge just ahead. The masked man leaned out of the cab and waved. A second man, waiting at the rear of the express car, broke the coupling linkage there.
"Plow that tree out of the way and run her across the crick," the engineer was told. The locomotive's cowcatcher scooped the tree aside. Drive wheels grumbled, steel on steel, and the locomotive chuffed across, separating engine, tender and express car from the rest of the train. As the express car cleared the bridge, the second bandit dropped off and struck a match to a fuse taped to a steel girder. He fired two shots over the heads of curious passengers who had alighted from the coaches, and then ran after the express car. Thirty seconds later a dynamite charge exploded and dropped one end of the bridge into the stream.
A nine-year-old farmboy was turning some cows into a pasture nearby. Terrified by the explosion, he switched his mule to a gallop and headed for home, a quarter-mile away.
The two bandits, lately known in a Carthage, Missouri, boarding house as John Mullins and Russ Burrows, left the engineer and still-unconscious fireman bound with wire and pounded on the door of the express car with pistol butts.
"Roll the bastard back if you want to live!" Mullins shouted, and heard a muffled "Go to hell!" in return. Mullins took a stick of dynamite from a satchel slung over one shoulder, lighted the fuse and placed it on the slotted doorsill, then ducked back to the shelter of the tender as the charge blew the door to splinters and ripped away the steel frame and part of the roof. The agent rose tottering to his feet in the wreckage, smoke curling from his hair and clothes. He was holding his sawed-off shotgun in one hand, though he was too stunned to lift it. Seeing the shotgun, Mullins fired. The agent fell. The two bandits vaulted into the car, but stopped where they stood when they glimpsed the massive black safe through the smoke and blown dust.
"Judas!" breathed Russ Burrows.
"Will you look at that son of a bitch!" Mullins growled.
The safe, centered squarely over the car's forward trucks, squatted within a framed crib of timbers like a sullen, brooding idol, its combination dial gleaming through the gloom like a single baleful eye. Above the dial, in an arc of gold leaf and vermilion, was lettered THE INVINCIBLE. On the doorframe above was the legend Kruger Safe Co - Chicago.
Mullins unslung the satchel from his shoulder. "I'll blow the guts out of her, by god," he said. Kneeling, he taped four sticks together in a single-fused charge, placed them under the safe and lighted the fuse. Turning to run, Russ Burrows tripped over the agent's body. On impulse he snatched the coat collar and dragged the body to the blasted doorway and dropped it onto the cinders. "What the hell!" complained Mullins, but Burrows leaped down and pulled the body into the bushes off to one side. The two men dropped into a ditch and seconds later the charge exploded. The blast blew out the end of the express car, ruptured the tender's water tank and drove the engine forward several feet; but when the bandits staggered dizzily back through the smoke and wreckage, they found the safe fallen through the floor onto the axles of the trucks, where it now sat undamaged.
In the next seventeen minutes they exploded four more charges of dynamite. At the end of that time the safe lay intact on its side in a hole blasted in the cinder roadbed, flanked by bent rails amidst the mangled fragments of what had been the express car. The two bandits were crouched in the hole, shakily fumbling a last charge into place when police officers arrived aboard a switch engine from Seneca, summoned by the farmboy's father, who had ridden his mare bareback to town for help.
The bandits had scorched faces and hair and their clothes hung in tatters. They were too dazed and deafened to hear the approaching switch engine or to resist capture.
Because of the fallen bridge the prisoners were taken to Neosho in a borrowed surrey and thrown into jail. They gave their names as John Mullins and Russ Burrows, but otherwise refused to answer questions. That night a mob gathered, threatening to lynch them for the brutal murder of the express agent. The prisoners were secretly put aboard a train and transported to St. Louis and there lodged in the old Four Courts city prison to await trial.
Newspapers celebrated the event. BANDITS HUMBLED BY MIGHTY SAFE trumpeted one story and the district superintendent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency was quoted as saying, "Crime ceases when it cannot be made to pay. I foresee a twentieth century delivered from the clutches of criminals by the mailed fist of science." An editorial headline put it more simply: Iron Nerve and Dynamite No Match for Cold Steel. Diagrams of the Invincible's construction showed that even had the bandits penetrated the outer doors, there were still not merely one more set of doors, but two, inside the first set; multiple layers of hardened steel with burglarproof bank locks on each pair of doors; and a time lock on the inner chest.
A reporter thought to interview the safe's manufacturer, Herr Kruger, who said in a marked accent, "Quite simply, the Invincible cannot be broken by the hand of man. Every conceit of the criminal mind has been foreseen."

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