In the prolog we meet an assassin with a "contract," but all we know about the contract is that "the game's afoot" as Sherlock would say.
A trip on the California Zephyr will be won by one of the crews that work in Ammunition Supply, one of the departments in Herlong, a defense outpost in the northern California desert.
As the men on the ammunition crews work to get the most "tonnage" to win the trip the Zephyr leaves Chicago with three passengers that have some connection with Herlong. What that connection is remains to be seen.
A gaggle of Herlong characters look forward to and finally board the Zephyr. Mark has been relieved of having to kill Dude Shibeley as he and Dude's wife board the Zephyr.
Harry Witmore, the assassin, uses his false FBI credential to send a message he hopes will allow his confederates to mount a diversion that will give him the chance to execute his contract on Smith/Wiggington.
And then there's the revenge that Shorty Cummings wants to take on Jones.
Will any of the killings take place on the train? We'll have to read on for the answer(s).
Some of the mystery surrounding Whitmore has been resolved, but not in the way he foresaw.
Mark Sheffield appears to have fulfilled Helen's desire to be rid of her husband.
The ongoing needling that Shorty lays on Wine is relentless. As he torments Wine for his use of "improved Spanish" Shorty plots to get his revenge on Jones for the death of Shorty's cousin at the hands of a Jones' relative.
Smith/Wiggington appears to have been relieved of the threat on his life. His view of the threat might be a reinforcement of the adage that "it seems too good to be true."
Are there more twists to the story? We'll have to finish the last quarter of the book for the answer.
Shorty's plot to take revenge on Brett Jones takes an unexpected twist.
Ballard, the conductor, is beset with one problem after another. It may well turn out to be the worst trip he's ever taken on the Zephyr.
Elaine Higgins retains her secret and begins to enjoy the train ride. She will be surprised and not pleasantly when the train arrives in Sacramento.
Ben Cranna, Mr. C.Z., is appalled and amused by the events that have caused Ballard so much heartburn.
The Herlong crews enjoy the scenery, the food and the ride. They appear to be the clientele the operators had in mind when they amalgamated their routes to form the California Zephyr.
This trip on the Zephyr will be one that all the riders will remember, some more enjoyably than others.