Mr. V.V. Bletchley had squashed my pa’s plan of using me to convince Reb Road Agents that our stagecoach could not be transporting silver. It was too ‘gallus’.
But Pa did not give up. He tried a ‘flanking manoeuver’.
‘Sir,’ he said, ‘Have ye heard of a certain P.K. Pinkerton, a private eye operating on B Street?’
‘Everybody’s heard of him,’ said Mr. V.V. Bletchley. ‘He exposed a murderer last year and vanquished a bothersome outlaw name of Whittlin Walt back in September, even though he is just a kid.’
Pa put his hand on my shoulder. ‘This, sir, is P.K. Pinkerton!’
‘What?’ said Mr. Bletchley. ‘You are claiming your half Mexican daughter is the half-Injun Private Eye who has been working in this town for the past seven months?’
‘Aye,’ said my pa. ‘The P.K. stands for Prudence Kezia.’
‘And I ain’t half Mexican,’ I said in my normal voice. ‘I am half Sioux Indian.’
Bletchley shook his head slowly, like a boxer who has been punched one time too many. Then he looked at me.
‘You are P.K. Pinkerton?’
‘Yes, sir! You can call me Pinky.’
‘Pinky is a master of disguise,’ said my pa, ‘and skilled with all kinds of firearms. She will be perfectly safe, else we would not have suggested it. Her visible presence virtually guarantees the safety of the silver-coach.’
Mr. Bletchley looked at me. ‘Ain’t you afraid?’
I must confess I was a little afraid on account of my stagecoach-going-over-a-precipice nightmare, but I knew my inscrutable features would not betray me.
I sat a little straighter. ‘No, sir! I have been shot at, chased down a mine, sucked at by quicksand, almost buzzed in half and nearly froze, too, but I was never scared. I can shoot a gun and I can make a fire. I can ride a pony with or without a saddle.’
‘Although of course she won’t be riding a pony,’ said my pa. ‘She will be sitting up on top of the stagecoach for all to see.’
‘You sure you want to do that?’ Dizzy asked me. ‘You know those stages can be awful jouncy. I would hate anything to happen to a purty li’l thing like you.’
‘I am sure,’ said I.
Dizzy shrugged & nodded, but Bletchley was looking at me with lips like a trout. Poker Face Jace said if someone purses their lips it means they are pondering something & have not yet made up their mind.
Through the open window of the stage office came the smell sage brush & the sound of some quail. They were urging me to go to, ‘Chicago! Chicago!’
I could also see an outhouse.
‘Well, Mr. Pinkerton,’ said Mr. V.V. Bletchley at last. ‘I concede it is a bold plan, but I am afraid I cannot allow it. I will not risk harming a hair of this dear little girl’s head!’
‘H-ll!’ I said. ‘It ain’t even my hair! It is a _______ wig.’ (Here I used a strong adjective). I pulled off my lighthouse bonnet & wig in one swift motion and plunked them on the desk before Mr. V.V. Bletchley.
Then I snatched up his freshly-loaded Pocket Navy and – before anyone could object – I cocked it, aimed & fired five shots in quick succession through the open window.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Through the cloud of white gun smoke we all saw the door of the outhouse fly open. A miner dashed out. He was gripping a copy of the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in one hand and the waistband of his trowsers in the other.
‘Why, lookee there,’ wheezed Dizzy, as the gun smoke cleared. ‘That little gal made that crescent moon into a full one!’
I nodded with satisfaction & blew away a coil of gun smoke issuing from the barrel. I had used the five shots to make the semi-circular moon-shaped vent into a circle.
‘Goll darn!’ exclaimed Mr. V.V. Bletchley. ‘You sure can shoot. Well, that puts a whole new light on the matter.’
Here I noticed that Mr. Icy Blue had pulled the goggles up on his forehead so he could see better. Now he was watching me with his arms folded across his chest and his pale eyes narrowed.
It was like he was waiting for me to do something more.
I quickly set about re-loading the five-shooter. They were all watching me but I was not nervous. Everything I needed was right there on Bletchley’s blotter. I used his powder flask to drop a measure of black powder into each chamber & then added a piece of lint & then dropped in a .36 caliber ball & used the built-in rammer to jam it in real good. Finally I put caps on the nipples at the back of the cylinder.
When I finished reloading, I handed the revolver back to Bletchley, butt first.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mr. Icy Blue give a little nod and replace his goggles over his eyes. I felt I had passed a test.
‘Well,’ said Bletchley. ‘I do believe I have changed my opinion of your daughter!’ He put the pistol in his drawer & looked at Pa. ‘I think your plan might work after all.’
Dizzy scratched his belly and frowned. ‘I don’t rightly understand the Plan,’ he said. ‘Can you ’splain it again?’
Bletchley turned to him. ‘As I see it, these detectives are suggesting that you let the little girl and one of them ride up on top with you in shotgun position. The silver will be inside your coach. We will hide it under mailbags, as we got so many of those still left to deliver. But a decoy coach will set out first. It will appear to be carrying silver, but when the Reb Road Agents hold it up, half a dozen of my men will jump out and arrest them. Then you and the silver will ride on past to Sacramento in perfect safety.’
‘What is the point of that li’l gal, again?’ asked Dizzy.
‘To make your coach look harmless and ambling.’
‘All right, then,’ said Dizzy after a moment. ‘If you are sure you want to entrust so much silver to my care, I reckon I will do it.’
That is what he said, but I could tell from his feet pointing towards the door that he was not happy.
‘Blue?’ said Mr. Bletchley. ‘You all right with our plan? Can you rustle up five or six men for the decoy stage?’
‘Dam right,’ he growled.
‘And you, Miss Pinkerton?’ said Mr. V.V. Bletchley, turning to me. ‘Are you absolutely, positively certain you want to do this?’
I set my wig & hat back on my head, looked at my beaming Pa & nodded firmly. ‘You bet!’
[Don't have a clue what's going on? Start with chapter one.]
The Case of the Bogus Detective by Caroline Lawrence is the fourth P.K. Pinkerton Mystery. You can buy the first 3 real cheap HERE. And you can read the rest of this one HERE. Or just check into this blog, where I will be posting chapters weekly!