Updated: Jul 14, 2022
The smell of the grain was warm and comforting. Intoxicating, even. Mollie tilted her nose in the air to take in even deeper, and as she did she thought about emptying the grain sacks in a pile and jumping into it, so she could be absorbed by the stuff.
But that was the last thing she could do. Mollie knew she had to be careful—she wasn’t supposed to be in the grain car, even though sneaking in hadn’t been all that hard.
It was necessary, though, if she was going to execute her plan. She needed to know every inch of this car. How it was laid out, how many bags there were—more or less, given that they were everywhere—and where the best hiding place would be.
It was that last part that was the hardest. There were plenty of places to hide, but Molly had to outguess the guard, who was nowhere in sight at the moment.
Maybe I’ll get lucky, she thought. I’ve heard the railroads are short of guards these days.
There was good reason for that. Train robbers were everywhere, although they weren’t Molly’s immediate concern. She would be carrying a small pistol, most likely, but would-be robbers would focus automatically on the guards.
Mollie focused on the bags. The way their tops tilted, the tightest clusters, and most of all the ones in the corners.
Those represented the best opportunities, to the point where Molly almost had too many choices in a way.
She tried not to think about the rest of it. Her father was trying to force her into an unwanted marriage to save the family farm.
It made sense, but Molly had no desire to become a sacrificial lamb, for she’d been fighting with her father about her future for years.
Angus Carter was a hard man, but Molly did love him, even if he called her a stubborn cuss every now and then. It wasn’t exactly a fair thing for a man to call his daughter, but she also knew he was right. Molly did have a stubborn side, after all.
She tried to push all that out of her mind as she poked and prodded the grain bags carefully, knowing she’d be in big trouble if she accidentally opened a hole in one of them.
Even a pinhole would be enough for mice, and they’d feast for the entire ride if she allowed that to happen. Molly had no idea where she was going, but she was darn sure she didn’t want four-legged company.
Finally the layout made it obvious where the best hiding place was. Back in the corner, tucked in the middle of three large bags, all of which were standing tall at the moment.
There should be just enough room for me, Mollie thought as she charted a path for herself. If I can duck down and hide the guard will never see me, and if I’m lucky I can push them around and make a bed for myself after that.
She knew she was getting ahead of herself by even thinking about making a bed, but Molly couldn’t help it.
All the fighting with her father had taken its toll on her, and her mother had chosen to be a bystander in their battles, which was smart but hardly helpful for Molly.
She made her way gingerly between the bags, although there was one she had to climb over. It was fat and wide, just like Thomas Tuckerton, the man who’d tried to take their land, but Molly immediately shook her heat at the thought of him.
He’s a different problem for a different day, she thought as she awkwardly rolled herself over the bag. And that day is in the past. Water under the bridge.
Molly got past the bag, but she nearly paid a price. She felt her boot heel start to dig into the bag, which was made of coarse fabric, and for a moment she was stuck.
Oh no, Molly said to herself, resisting the urge to pull her heel away. If it was caught the hole would be open before she could do anything about it, and if that happened Molly would have to flee the car and wait for another opportunity. Which she wasn’t about to do.
She forced herself to take a deep breath, and that helped her stifle the impulse to pull hard. Instead Molly looked around to see where she was actually going, and as she relaxed a little she felt her heel slip free.
Much better, she thought as she flexed her leg. That could have been a disaster.
It took a few more gyrations to find an open spot in the wooden floor of the car, but finally Molly was able to stand.
She picked her way back through the last few bags, and then she was in the corner, standing in the middle of the three bags she’d targeted.
Perfect, Molly thought as she craned her neck and looked down the hole in the middle of the three bags. I can get in there. I’m sure of it.