Erwin started to stand up, but his legs were not used to the train's less-than-gentle rocking and had to return to his seat. "See here," he said with as much bluster as he could manage. "You seem to know who WE are. Who are you?"
"Not important," the man in front answered.
"What do you mean, 'Not important?' ", Erwin shouted. "You're the only one here who knows where we're going..."
"I know, " the killer said.
The Roman turned to him. "And how would you know?" he snarled.
"Probably because he has lived his life closer to our destination than you others," the man in front said. "Right, Joshiah Everard?"
"Reckon so," the killer said. "'N' call me Josie."
"But what about the rest of us?" Erwin said. Bead man nervously echoed, "Y-y-yeah".
"Hmmm. Well, lookit you," Josie said without ever turning toward him. "Stained, but not all the way. Green... and purple. You were a banker?"
A light seemed to flash on in Erwin's mind- a partial realization. "Why yes, yes I was. How..."
"Plump, manicured," Josie went on. "never did an honest day's work in your life, didja?"
"Now, see here..."
"Don' git yer ass up," Josie said. "Put that way, I ain't either. It's all about takin' from those who cain't do aught about it, inn'it?"
"I was a mortgage broker," Erwin defended himself. "If some people could not fulfill their obligations, it is not my fault if..."
"Y'ever go ta chuch, banker-man?" Josie interrupted.
""The name is Erwin," he retorted. "And yes, yes, occasionally."
"You ever read what the Good Book said about usury, ERRR-win?"
"Er, no," Erwin answered, put off by the abuse of his name.
"I reckon our friend, here, could set ya straight about it," Josie said, yanking a thumb at the man up front.
"Church? Good Book? What nonsense is this?" the Roman demanded.
Josie looked him over, then turned to the man in front. "How'd we get the old-timer in here?" he asked.
"Thought you might like a little variety on your way," the man in front smiled.
"How very kind of you," the Roman spat sarcastically. Josie laughed and leaned back in his seat.
"It really doesn't matter who you ride with," the man in front said, more seriously. "You all bought your tickets the same way."
"A-and how's that?" bead man asked.
"By not gettin' right with the Lord," Josie answered.
"What? But I-I-I worshipped Jesus! I did!" he sputtered.
"And Buddah, and Allah, and Shiva, and Morrigan," The man in front replied. Even Ahurumazda, I believe. But none of them fully, properly, or exclusively. There, Jerry Mason, lies your dilemma."
"I-I haven't used that name in years," Jerry protested. "I have a tantric name..."
"Takin' on a name ain't worship," Josie muttered. "And believin' a guy existed ain't faith."
"BAH! This, again, is nonsense!" the Roman roared. "I was faithful to the god of my fathers. I gave all the required sacrifices, more! I believed, and knew them with every fiber of my being!"
"And when ya died, you told everyone ta believe you were a god, too, di'nt ya?" Josie asked.
"How dare you!" the Roman snarled, face flushed with rage.
"Hmph. Here, I thought ya ALL did," Josie said as he stared out the window.
"A Consul of Rome is Jove's manifestation on Earth," the Roman said calmly, forcing his anger down almost phsyically. "It is only proper for the plebians to see us as divine."
"An' when didja figure that out?" Josie asked.
"That you were a god."
"I never said I WAS a god!" the Consul snapped.
"You said it was proper for the people to see you as a god," the man in front said. "How do you see yourself, Gaius Marius Italiensis?"
Consul Marius lifted the back of his hand, and turned from the conversation.
"So, first you say th-that you should only believe in one God," Jerry spoke up. ""Then, you say it has to be the right one? But if you believe in the goodness in all gods, all religions, all men..."
"Ain't but one way ta heaven," Josie said. "Rest of us ride the train."
"I'm actually quite impressed at your knowledge on the subject, Joshiah," the man in front said.
"Good Book says the daemons know 'im and fear 'im. It's us dumbass humans cain't figure it out," Josie answered.
"And you are a... a demon?" Erwin asked.
"No, I am not, ERRR-win," Josie answered with a smile. "But I was reeeeeal intimate with mine."
"Okay, but what about me?" Erwin said, turning back to the man in front. "I... I knew about Jesus. I went to church on most of the high holy days. I gave to the building fund!"
"We knew all that," the man in front said. "If you like, the Conductor will check your ticket."
Suddenly, a man appeared behind Erwin, dressed as a conductor on an old-time train. Probably a friend of Josie's, the thought skittered across his brain. "Ticket, please," he said. Erwin reached into his robe, pulling out the shiny gold ducat he'd found earlier. The Conductor gazed at it, and as he did, it corroded, rotting before his eyes until it resembled a fragment of a tin can that lie rusting in a dump for a lifetime. The Conductor handed it back. "Checks out," he smiled. "Have a nice trip." He then walked to the front, disappearing through the door.