Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 7


I was not so much mad at Jace as I was mad at Mother Nature for changing me into a gal. I rode Cheeya hard until I cooled off a little. Then I turned him around & rode over to the hotel at Steamboat Springs like Jace had suggested. I had a private bath in a stone tank full of hot & sulfurous water from right out of the ground. After that I got my hair cut by Fritz the barber. I told him about the Cherry Tooth Paste & he sold me a small Tooth Brush & showed me how to brush my teeth. He left me to it & I stood in front of the mirror & spent about 10 minutes brushing my teeth & spitting into his basin. I used up about half the Cherry Tooth Paste that Jace had given me. I was amazed that my teeth went from black to white in no time. 


When I got back to Virginia City it was 5.30 o’clock and starting to get dark. I stabled Cheeya & went straight to the International Hotel & asked for Mr. Pinkerton’s room. 


I intended to present myself to my pa all cleaned up and see if that spurred his memory. 


But the clerk said they had no Pinkertons registered. 


I reckoned my pa and Ray had decided to stay in a cheaper place, but it was now dark & almost dinner-time, so I walked back to my boarding house up on B Street.


Mrs. Matterhorn currently has five boarders including me.

She would be riled if she knew I was a gal as she only takes male boarders & has rules against any females even visiting the house.

As I came in, the other boarders were just sitting down to supper. I started to go in to the dining room, but Mrs. Matterhorn gripped my upper arm & hauled me back out into the hall and looked me up & down. 


‘Good to see you cleaned yourself up,’ she said to me after close scrutiny. ‘When I went to make up your bed today I found your sheets to be filthy. Also, did I see a bloodstain on them? You know the rules here, don’t you?’ Her eyes were narrowed at me. 


‘I hurt my knee a few days ago,’ I lied. ‘It bled a little but it is better now.’


Her eyes were still narrowed into Expression No. 5: Suspicion.

‘Well,’ she said, ‘I changed the sheets and that means I will have to send two sets of yours to the Chinaman on washday. I will want extra pay for that. Two bits.’ She held out her hand, palm up. 


I fished a quarter out of my pocket & gave it to her. 


Then I went in & sat down at my usual place. The other boarders noticed I was clean & made me the butt of their jokes for a spell, but they are always joshing me so I ignored them as usual. 


Mrs. Matterhorn is a bully cook with one of the best front yards in Virginia City. It is full of beans & squash & onions, and even a watermelon patch. 


But I was not as hungry as I usually am & went up to bed without even tasting the chocolate layer cake, which is my favorite. 


That night I had a bad dream.


In my dream I was riding on top of a stagecoach. I was sitting next to Robert Pinkerton, who was driving. My foster ma and pa and my original Indian ma were down below, riding inside. We were high on a winding mountain road & going too fast when something spooked the horses & they started to go over the edge of the precipice and we were falling & falling & falling & everybody was screaming, even me. 


I woke up to a strange squealing sound, like a little animal caught in a trap. I realized it was me. 


I lay there in a cold sweat with my heart pounding like a quartz mill stamp. 


It was about 3 am, the time of night Ma Evangeline used to call the Hour of Bleak Thoughts. 


There was a knock on my door. 


‘P.K.?’ said Mrs. Matterhorn. ‘You got a gal in there?’


‘No, ma’am,’ I said. ‘There is just me. You can come in and see for yourself, if you like.’


‘That won’t be necessary,’ she said. ‘Just try to keep the noise down.’ 


I heard her footsteps going away. 


I did not fall asleep for a long time, for I was plagued by many
Bleak Thoughts. 


When I woke up the next morning I could tell right away that I was too late for breakfast. 


I splashed some water on my face and dressed in my normal clothes. When I went downstairs, I noticed Mrs. Matterhorn standing in the hall & watching me with narrow eyes & folded arms. 


As I started along the boardwalk towards my office, I still felt low from my stagecoach-going-over-a-precipice nightmare. I was still thinking those Bleak Thoughts. 


I thought, 
I am sure that Robert Pinkerton ain’t my pa.

Then I thought, ‘Is there even any point in me learning to be a Detective?’


And finally, ‘Why am I even alive?’


I slowed to a halt & stood there pondering the meaning of my existence. I had almost sunk into the Mulligrubs – which is a kind of bad trance – when I caught a glimpse of a man in a putty-colored plug hat standing on the boardwalk outside my office.


It was Robert Pinkerton. 


I did not know what to say to him, so I said nothing. 


I turned the handle & was surprised to find the door locked, as it was after 10 o’clock.


I said, ‘What have you done with Ping? Have you thrown him in jail?’


He said. ‘Who is Ping?’


I remembered I had been alone when he and Ray had burst into my office.


I said, ‘Ping is my partner.’


He said, ‘I have not seen him.’ Then he added, ‘Ye look different today.’ 


‘I have been to Steamboat Springs,’ I said, ‘where I was bathed, manicured, trimmed and deloused.’ I unlocked the door and went into my cold & empty Detective office. 


He followed me in.  


I could not think what he was doing there. 


‘What are you doing here?’ I asked him. 


He stared at the floor. ‘Ye must think me a wretched detective.’ 


I said, ‘What do you mean?’ 


He glanced quickly up at me, then looked down again. ‘Thirteen years ago,’ he said, ‘I was in the Black Hills of Lakota Territory. I was riding shotgun, as they say, for a stagecoach plying back and forth between Chicago and Fort Laramie.’


I looked at him sharply. He had taken off his putty-colored plug hat and was turning it in his hands. He was still staring at the floor. 

‘I met an Indian lassie of about seventeen.’ 

Hope leapt into my throat. Could it be that he was my pa after all? 


Robert Pinkerton said, ‘She was bonny and brave and I succumbed to her charms. Her name was Squats on a Stump. Nine months after we met, she popped out a wee lassie and called her Glares from a Bush.’ 


I started to tremble. My ma had named me Glares from a Bush and only about six living people in the Whole World knew that fact.

Not many people know that I am a girl, neither. 


He added, ‘Of course, I was the one who chose my daughter’s Christian names.’ 


Everything went real quiet of a sudden, like someone had stuffed lint in my ears. I could not hear the thud of the quartz mills nor the tinkle of piano music from the saloon nor even the tromp of footsteps on the boardwalk outside. All I could hear was a kind of high-pitched singing, like a bat. Or an angel. 


I remembered what Jace had said the day before: There is one sure way to find out. If he is your pa, then he will know what P.K. stands for.


I took a deep breath & said, ‘What were your daughter’s Christian names?’ 


‘Prudence Kezia,’ he said, without hesitation. ‘Prudence Kezia Pinkerton.’ His voice was kind of thick-sounding and his eyes were swimming with unshed tears. ‘Yer name is Prudence Kezia and ye’re me own wee lassie.’


Then he did a surprising thing.   


He stepped forward & put his arms around me & held me tight. 


I gave a start, as I do not like to be touched. 


But after a moment I found I did not mind being held in a strong bear hug of a long-lost pa who had finally found his child. He rocked gently from side to side & one of his buttons pressed into my cheekbone & the woolen cloth tickled my nose. The coat smelled strongly of Lucy Hinton tobacco smoke & faintly of camphor. I felt safe & protected. 


Tears welled up in my eyes, willy-nilly. 


They were tears of happiness. 


BANG! 


The loud report of a gun made us jump apart. 


Ping stood in the doorway with a smoking pistol in his hand. 


It was a little two-shot Deringer but it took those big .50 caliber balls. 


I did not even know that my Celestial pard packed a pistol. 


But apparently he did. Ping had fired the first shot into the ceiling. Now he lowered his arm so the remaining ball was aimed right at my pa’s heart. 


‘Make one move to hurt P.K.,’ he snapped, ‘and I shoot you dead!’

[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!  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 6



My hopes had been raised to the high heavens and then dashed to earth. I felt mighty low & needed to think. Also, I needed advice.

When I am low & need to think, I ride my mustang pony, Cheeya.

When I want advice, I go to Poker Face Jace. He is the only person in Virginia City who guessed I was a girl. Jace knows people better than anybody I ever met.

I found Cheeya in his stall down at the Flora Temple Livery Stable on C Street. He greeted me happily for I had not had the opportunity to take him for any rides during the blizzard.

It was about 11 o’clock when I saddled him & set out on muddy C Street towards Geiger Grade & Steamboat Valley. The warm sun was making everything steam and sparkle but it still had not dried that bog of a road. Just outside of town by the toll gate, a quartz wagon was stuck in the mud and had caused a log jam of wheeled traffic. But the side of the road was fine for horses so Cheeya & I carried on down beside gurgling rivulets of snowmelt. We soon had the road to ourselves.

I reached Jace’s ranch at the foot of the mountain about an hour later, at noon. I saw him right away. He was standing by the fence of his corral with one foot up on a rail & smoking a cigar. He was wearing a long black duster coat & watching his pal Stonewall break a mustang mare.

When he saw me riding up, he turned and touched his flat-brimmed black hat with a gloved forefinger. Jace always wears black.

‘Howdy, P.K.,’ he said. ‘Road from Virginia open?’

‘Just horse traffic,’ I said. ‘I reckon stages and wagons tomorrow.’

Jace nodded & turned to face the cookhouse. ‘Tim!’ he called. ‘Bring two cups of black coffee?’

A Celestial appeared in the cookhouse door. ‘Yes, boss!’ he said and waved at me.

I waved back & swung down off Cheeya & left him near the water trough with his reins dangling. I walked past a few pecking chickens to the corral & I climbed up to the third beam of the fence so my head was level with Jace’s.

‘Howdy, P.K.!’ called Stonewall from inside the corral. He is a big, scary-looking man with a soft heart.

‘Howdy, Stonewall,’ I replied.

The noonday sun was warm enough to make water drip from the eaves of the barn & cookhouse & ranch house. The air smelled of wood smoke & horses & hay & Jace’s cigar & fresh coffee as Tim Yung came out & handed me a cup.

The enamel tin cup was hot, but I was wearing my butter-soft buckskin gloves that Jace had bought me for Christmas. They had a ‘zigzag’ design on them in red & blue beads.

Four months ago I spent Christmas with Jace and Stonewall. On Christmas Eve, we sat in the parlor by the fire and Jace read A Christmas Carol by Mr. Charles Dickens & Stonewall cried.

The next morning we exchanged presents and that was when Jace gave me the buckskin gloves. I am partial to zigzags & I love those gloves.

‘What brings you here today?’ said Jace, sipping his coffee. ‘not that I ain’t glad to see you,’ he added.

I said, ‘About two hours ago a couple of Pinkerton Detectives came into my office. They are after those Reb Road Agents who have started robbing silver-laden stagecoaches to help fund the rebellion. One of the Detectives was Allan Pinkerton’s older brother, Robert.’

Jace turned so quickly that he slopped some coffee from the cup. ‘Your pa,’ he said. ‘He found you.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Only he did not recognize me.’

‘Did you tell him who you are?’

‘Nope. Him being a detective, I thought he should recognize his own child sitting two feet away.’

‘Maybe he does not know you are alive.’ Jace blew cigar smoke down. ‘Maybe you are the last person he expects to find out here. You sure it is the right Robert Pinkerton? I seem to recall reading that Allan has a son called Robert. Maybe it is the son you met, not the brother. Or maybe it is another Robert Pinkerton altogether.’

‘He is the right one,’ I said. ‘But I am thinking maybe my original ma lied to me. Maybe she found that button and made up a big story.’

Jace smoked in silence for a few moments. Then he said, ‘There is one sure way to find out. If he is your pa, then he will know what P.K. stands for.’

‘Dang!’ I said. ‘You are right. I did not think of that.’

I had always called myself P.K., but even I did not know what those two initials stood for on account of my indian ma could not remember the Christian names my pa had given me. I had confessed that secret to Jace one night last year when we were playing cribbage.

The only person in the whole world who knew what those initials stood for was the man who gave me my Christian names: my Pinkerton pa.

Something occurred to me.

I said, ‘A person could pretend to know what the P and K stood for and invent two names and I would be none the wiser.’

Jace puffed for a spell & then said, ‘But a person would not make up two names because nobody knows that you don’t know what the P and the K stand for. In the whole world, only you and I know that fact. Unless you have told someone else,’ he added.

‘I ain’t told nobody but you,’ I said.

He sucked in smoke & blew it down. ‘Course, there is another explanation for why he did not recognize you.’

‘What would that be?’

Jace turned to face me. ‘Your hair is greasy, your skin is grimy and your teeth are black. You stink to high heaven and I would not be surprised if you are lousy, too. If I had a long-lost daughter, I would not expect her to look and smell like you.’

‘I ain’t that bad.’

‘Yes, you are. And you ain’t getting better.’ Jace used his cigar to point towards the line of hazy green trees that marked the course of a brook.

‘See that steam puffing up from behind those cottonwoods? That there is Steamboat Hot Springs. There is a hotel and bath house there. For a dollar you can get a private room with a tub and soak in hot mineral water.’ He reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver dollar. ‘There is a good barber named Fritz who will trim your hair and your nails.’

I turned away from him. ‘I don’t need your money. I got plenty.’

‘Then take this.’ He reached into his coat pocket and brought out a round porcelain box. It said CHERRY TOOTH PASTE on it. ‘Buy a tooth brush when you get back to Virginia,’ he said, ‘and use a little dab to polish your teeth after you eat. It might not be too late to get the black off. I reckon it is only licorice. Then go pay your pa a visit and see if he don’t figure out who you are.’

A passel of emotions all jumbled in a bunch in my throat, the strongest of which was anger.

‘I do not want to dress like a dam girl,’ I said from between gritted teeth. ‘I goddam despise dressing like a goddam girly-girl.’

‘Nobody says you have to dress like a girl,’ he said. ‘Just clean yourself up. And it wouldn’t hurt to modify your cussing, neither.’

I shoved the tooth-paste box in the pocket of my blue woolen coat & jumped down off the corral fence. Then I stalked over to Cheeya & swung up into the saddle.

‘P.K.?’ said Jace as I rode by.

I reined in Cheeya and looked over at him.

‘You are becoming a woman,’ he said, ‘whether you like it or not.’

‘Well, I goddam hate it!’ I said, and galloped off without another word.


Read more...

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!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 5


For as long as I could remember I had thought my Pinkerton Railroad Detective pa was dead and gone.


My Indian ma told me he died bravely, defending a train against robbers. Later, I heard he died of being frozen to death in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Finally, I learned he was not dead after all, but alive and well and living in Chicago. That was why I had decided to become a detective: so I could join him in that far-off city.

And now here he was, standing before me & trying to shut down the agency I had established so I could become a detective worthy of his approval!

The folk here in Virginia have a word for that: ironikle. 

‘Come on, Robert,’ said his partner. ‘We’ll get the sheriff to deal with this pygmy bogus detective.’

Ray G. Tempest turned to go and so did Robert Pinkerton.

My long-lost pa was about to walk out of my life again!

‘Wait!’ I jumped up out of my chair. ‘Stop! I will burn my shingle. Only tell me: what are you doing in Virginia City? Maybe I can help!’

‘None of your business what we’re doing,’ growled Ray. His hand was already on the door. ‘You are no more important to us than a bug on a rug.’ As if to demonstrate my insignificance, he spat on the floor of my office even though he was not chewing tobacco.

Jace had once told me not to ride straight at people with my questions, but to use a flanking manoeuver. I reckoned I had rid at them too straight.

Once again I cried, ‘Wait! Please.’ I looked desperately around my narrow office. On the potbelly stove the coffeepot was steaming. I could smell its aroma. ‘Would you like a cup of coffee?’

The two hesitated & looked at each other.

‘It is fresh ground and fresh brewed,’ I said, ‘using water from a Patent Moulded Ceramic Carbon Filter made by F.H. Atkinson of London which they keep in the saloon across the street. The water here in Virginia is full of arsenic, plumbago and copperas,’ I explained.

‘Full of what?’ said Ray.

‘And cookies!’ I held up the waxed-paper parcel. ‘I have cookies! Fresh-baked oatmeal cookies.’

My long-lost pa took off the small plug hat he had been wearing. ‘I willna say no to a wee cup of java,’ he said. ‘It smells mighty good.’ He looked at his partner.

‘Sure,’ growled Ray. ‘I reckon a fresh-baked cookie and a cup of brew is the least you can do for causing trouble.’

He closed the door & they both came back & sat down in front of my desk.

Hallelujah! Ping’s theory was right. Fresh coffee did encourage people to linger.

Bee’s oatmeal cookies probably helped, too.

As I poured their coffee, I secretly studied Robert Pinkerton.

I had always imagined my pa would be tall, dark and good-looking, like Poker Face Jace. But the short man sitting before me was ordinary-looking. With his slightly bulging brown eyes & slicked back brown hair & little mustache, he reminded me of an otter.

But I know that appearances can be deceptive. 

He was a famous detective. Probably the best in the world.

Any moment he would deduce I was his long-lost daughter.

I saw my detective sign on the desk & nudged it forward a little to help him with his deductions.

I said, ‘What brings you all the way from Chicago to Virginia City? You did not come just to shut me down, did you?’

‘Course not,’ said Mr. Ray G. Tempest, munching a cookie & looking around.

My pa sipped his coffee, which he took black with no sugar like me. He said, ‘We got reports of a pair of Confederate soldiers in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Their plan is to rob silver-carrying stagecoaches and send the money to General Robert E. Lee.’

I said, ‘Are they the ones who robbed the Wells Fargo stagecoach a few days ago?’

‘A Wells Fargo stagecoach was robbed?’ said Ray, sitting forward.

I nodded. ‘Up by Strawberry, according to yesterday’s newspaper. The Sierras ain’t snowed in like us,’ I added. ‘Our blizzard was localized.’

‘I dinna think it could have been them.’ My pa glanced at Ray.

Ray shrugged. ‘It might have been them,’ he said. ‘You got a description? Or a newspaper?’

‘Yup,’ I said. I fished around in my big oyster tin which I use for waste paper & found yesterday’s Daily Territorial Enterprise. ‘Page three,’ I said, as they both scanned it. ‘But it only says they were wearing butternut-colored uniforms and bandanas over their faces.

‘Goll dang, it was them!’ cried Ray.

I said, ‘So they are like Confederate Robin Hoods?’

‘Those Reb Road Agents ain’t no dang Robin Hoods,’ said Ray G. Tempest. ‘They– Goll DANG!’ he jumped up so fast that his chair toppled backwards. ‘What is that?’

He was pointing at my shelf. Mouse was walking near my glass-fronted butterfly tray.’

I said, ‘That there is Mouse, my pet tarantula.’

‘No, not that. THAT.’

I said, ‘My butterfly tray?’ 

‘Yes!’ He took a step back. ‘I hate them things. Get it away!’

I stood up & scooted my butterfly tray right down to the end of the shelf.

‘Further away,’ he said. ‘Those things give me the fantods.’ He was wiping his forehead with his handkerchief. His face had gone pale.

I carried my glass-fronted butterfly tray to the back of my shop & put it out of sight behind the counter.

When I got back to my desk, Ray G. Tempest was standing behind the chair, putting it upright. I could see his hands shaking.

‘Why don’t you like butterflies?’ I asked.

‘He doesna like the wee beasties’ feelers and flapping wings,’ said my pa. ‘Nor their zigzag manner of flying.’

‘Had a bad experience when I was little,’ muttered Ray. He took his flask from his coat pocket and drank from it. ‘Tooth elixir,’ he said by way of explanation. ‘My tooth is panging me something awful.’

‘Would you like another cup of coffee?’ I said.

‘Nah,’ he said, putting away his flask. ‘I’m gonna ride on down to find a livery stable and a hotel. And maybe some clove oil for my tooth.’ He wrinkled his nose. ‘Besides, something stinks in here.’

‘Which hotel are you staying at?’ I said quickly. ‘The International?’

‘Is that a good one?’

‘Best in town,’ I said. ‘The Flora Temple Livery Stable is just a few doors along from it. If you turn right out my door and go three blocks north you can go in the B Street entrance of the International.’

Mr. Ray G. Tempest snorted. ‘Only if my boss here deems a room there worth the expense. He is a notorious skinflint. See you at the livery stable, Robbie?’ he said to my pa.

‘I’ll be there directly,’ said my pa. ‘Just finishing my brew.’

Mr. Ray G. Tempest exited the premises, taking my Detective shingle with him.

Heart thumping, I turned to my pa.

Should I reveal my true identity?

But he was a Detective. Probably the best in the world.

I reckoned I should give him a few more clews & let him deduce it himself.

He had opened his greatcoat & fishing around in his jacket. I noticed a little brass button on the lapel of his jacket. It said PINKERTON RAILROAD DETECTIVE in bumpy letters.

‘I have a button just like that,’ I said. ‘Just like the one on your lapel.’

‘Do ye?’ He took a match out of the jacket and sparked it on the bottom of his boot. 

I thought I should give him another clue. ‘My Indian ma gave it to me,’ I added. My heart was thumping hard. ‘She was Lakota Sioux.’

‘I guessed ye had a wee drop of Injun blood,’ he remarked, holding the lit match to the bowl of his pipe.

I thought How is it possible he does not recognize me? I’d best give him a real big clew.

I said, ‘My pa was a Pinkerton Railroad Detective, too.’

This last statement seemed to startle Robert Pinkerton to his feet. He had Expression No 4 on his face: Surprise.

I stood up, too, my heart thumping. I thought He has finally put two and two together. At last he has realized that I am his long-lost daughter.

But I was wrong.

‘Dang!’ he said. ‘That java has done the trick. I need the jakes!’

I stared at him. ‘You what?’

‘I need an outhouse!’ he said. ‘My bowels have been out-of-fix and I have been bunged-up for a week. But now I am ready, willing and able. Can ye tell me where is the nearest wee privy?’

‘Behind this building down the slope,’ I said.

‘Much obliged,’ he said, touching the brim of his silly putty-colored plug hat. 

And with that he ran out of my office.

As I watched the door shut behind him I tried to swallow, but my throat felt too tight.

I thought, ‘My long-lost pa was sitting less than a yard away from me with my name right there on the shingle. I gave him three big clews but he failed to recognize his own flesh-and-blood, viz: ME. He must be the worst detective in the world.’

Then I thought, ‘Maybe my original ma just met him once or saw him from afar and told me a big story.’


And finally, ‘That would mean that Robert Pinkerton is not, and never was, my pa.’

Read more...

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!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 4


I stared down the barrel of that Colt’s revolver and slowly put my hands up.

‘Why am I under arrest?’ I asked.

‘You are under arrest for working in a bogus Detective Agency!’ said the man with the gun.

‘I ain’t working in a bogus Detective Agency,’ I protested.

‘Then what d’ye mean by this?’ said the other man.

BANG!

He slammed a wooden shingle onto my desk.

It was upside down but I could see it was the sign from outside my door.

It had the words P.K. Pinkerton, Private Eye. We Hardly Ever Sleep painted on it along with a picture of an eye.

‘Why did you take down my shingle?’ I said.

‘Because it ain’t legal and it ain’t authorized!’ said the man with the gun.

The other man turned to him. In a Scottish accent he said, ‘This one’s nay more than a bairn. I dinna believe he’s in charge.’

‘Get your pa!’ commanded the man with the gun. ‘We are going to throw him in jail for the rest of time!’

I said, ‘I do not have a pa.’

‘Then get your boss. The man you work for!’

I said, ‘I do not have a boss. I am boss of myself.’ I spat some licorice juice to make me seem tough, but my mouth was too dry & some of it dribbled down my shirt.

I wiped my mouth with my sleeve.

‘HANDS UP!’

‘Dinna shout, Ray,’ said the Scottish one, putting a hand on his partner’s arm. ‘And put your gun away. He’s only a bairn.’

The man named Ray uncocked his big revolver and lowered it. But he did not put it away.

The Scottish one turned to me. ‘Will ye explain yerself, please?’

I took a deep breath & then I let it out slow. ‘My name is Pinkerton and I am a detective,’ I said, ‘but I am not a genuine Pinkerton Detective.’

‘Dang right you’re not genuine,’ growled Ray. ‘You are bogus!’

‘We’re from the Agency,’ the Scottish man said. ‘If we had operatives here, we’d surely know.’

I was confused. ‘Agency? Which Agency? Who are you?’

‘We are the Pinkertons.’

‘You are the Pinkertons?’

Ray stuck his revolver in his belt. ‘Yup,’ he said. ‘We are the Pinkertons. The genuine Pinkertons.’

I could not believe it. it was my dream to work for the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

I said, ‘It is my dream to work for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. I know all about it. It is located in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded by Allan Pinkerton. A few years ago he thwarted an assassination attempt against President Lincoln—’

‘Hang on a wee moment,’ said the Scottish man. ‘The Pinkerton Agency wasnae founded by Allan. it was founded by me!’

‘It was founded by you?’

‘Aye,’ said the man. ‘I set it up nigh on twenty years ago to protect passengers, goods and guards on trains and stagecoaches. Me brother didna come in with me till it was well established.’ He turned to his partner. ‘Everybody makes the same mistake,’ he said. ‘They all think wee Allan is the founder.’

‘You are Robert Pinkerton?’ I said.

‘Aye, that’s me. And this is Mr. Ray G. Tempest.’

I am usually inscrutable but I reckon my mouth was hanging open.

The man standing before me was the older brother of Allan Pinkerton, the most famous detective in the whole wide world.

He was also my long-lost pa.

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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!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 3


‘Nobody move!’ cried Mark Twain. ‘I will smish the varmint!’ He grabbed an iron plate from the stove. Immediately he dropped it. It struck the plank floor with a resounding clang. ‘Dam!’ he cried. ‘That’s hot!’

Then he saw the expression on Bee’s face & said, ‘I mean a mill dam, of course.’


I said, ‘Do not smish him. Mouse is my pet.’


I let my tarantula crawl onto my hand. His little claws felt like tickly pinpricks.


‘You dunderhead!’ cried Mark Twain. ‘That ain’t no mouse. That is a tarantula. I encountered a passel of them in Carson City a year or so back.’


‘Mr. Twain is correct,’ said Affable. ‘That is an arachnid of the Theraphosidae Family.’

‘I didn’t say he was a mouse, I said his name was Mouse. It is his nom de plume,’ I added. ‘If you can call yourself “Mark Twain” then I can call my tarantula “Mouse”.’

Mark Twain scowled and blew on his burned fingers. ‘It is no laughing matter! Those critters are poisonous. Why, an old Paiute chief died of a tarantula bite not three years back.’


I said, ‘Winnemucca was old and infirm. If you treat tarantula spiders right, they will not hurt you.’


‘Also,’ Affie Fitzsimmons pointed out, ‘they are venomous. Not poisonous.’


Ping spoke up. ‘I tell P.K. he should keep it at boarding house.’


I said, ‘Mrs. Matterhorn despises spiders of any description.’


‘I hate spiders, too,’ said Bee, who was hiding behind Affie. ‘They give me the fantods. Especially that one. Why, he is as big as a saucer!’


Mark Twain picked his pipe off the floor. ‘Come on, Affie! Let us hunt down your pa so I can collect my hot toddy. I need fortification badly. As soon as the roads are clear I have to flee the territory.’


‘Why?’ I asked him.


He puffed his pipe. ‘On account of something I wrote.’


Bee said, ‘Are you in “hot water” again, on account of the scurrilous & slanderous articles you often print?’


‘It was neither scurrilous nor slanderous,’ drawled Mr. Mark Twain. ‘It was a delicate, a very delicate satire. Coming, Affie?’


‘I will be there directly,’ said Affie. He was watching Mouse crawling on my arm.


Bee said, ‘Where do you live, Affie?’


Without taking his eyes from Mouse Affie said, ‘My father and I are staying at the International Hotel.’


Bee flapped her hand at Mark Twain. ‘You run along, Mr. Twain,’ she said. ‘I can show Affie the way.’


Mark Twain tipped his hat and exited the premises.


Bee hooked her arm in Affie’s. ‘Come along, then. It is almost eleven.’


Affie looked at Mouse. Then he looked at me. ‘May I come by later and examine your specimens?’ he asked me.


‘Sure,’ I said with a shrug.


Bee tugged Affie’s arm and together they exited the premises.


Ping stood up. ‘I cannot believe you do not wash in four month,’ he said. ‘Come! I take you to my uncle’s bath house.’


I tipped my chair back and put my feet on my desk. ‘It is a free territory,’ I said. ‘I reckon I will decide when and where to bathe.’


Ping narrowed his eyes at me. Then he exited the premises, banging the door as he left.


I raised my left arm & twisted my head so I could sniff my armpit. Yup. I smelled pretty ripe. But it was not as bad as a skunk.


And at least nobody would take me for a gal.


At that moment, the door of my office opened and two strangers in hats and long coats stomped in. Their boots left muddy footprints.


Through the open door I saw their horses tied to one of the posts that held up the awning of the boardwalk.


‘May I help you gentlemen?’ I took my feet off the desk and sat up straight.


‘You bet you can help us,’ said the taller of the two men. He had a flat-topped gray hat on his head and a bushy black mustache on his face and a Colt’s Army Revolver in his hand.


He aimed his big six-shooter at my chest.


‘Hands up!’ he commanded. ‘You are under arrest.’

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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!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 2


I could not really blame Ping for not guessing that I am a girl. 


From the day I was born my Indian ma dressed me like a boy. 


She put me in little buckskin leggings, shirt and moccasins. She taught me how to ride a horse and shoot a bow & arrow and how to hunt & skin a critter. She trained me to use boy-endings for words rather than girl-endings when I spoke Lakota and she would give me a stinging slap if I forgot. 


Not that I spoke Lakota with anybody apart from my ma. For she had lit out from her tribe before I was born and taken up with a fur trader. She traded him in for a railroad detective named Pinkerton a while later, and thus was I born. But soon it was just me & her again, out in the wild frontier. I was fine with that and I was fine with dressing as a boy. 


You might say, ‘Why did your ma dress you as a boy?’ 

I reckon she thought if anything happened to her I would be safer as a boy, knowing how to hunt and ride and suchlike. 


And sure enough, something did happen to her. 


She got herself massacred on a wagon train travelling west when I was 10 yrs old.  


I was out gathering buffalo chips and thus I survived. After that, a preacher & his wife adopted me. They thought I was a boy at first & were mighty surprised to discover I was a girl, you bet. But they let me keep on dressing like a boy, probably for the same reason as my Indian ma. 


Unfortunately, they got massacred, too. That was on my 12th birthday, just under a year ago. 


I fled to Virginia City to escape the desperados who kilt them & to avenge their deaths. I stayed on in Virginia in order to learn to be a Private Eye so I could one day join my long-lost pa, that railroad detective I mentioned earlier. That was the first time in my life I wore white girls’ clothing, as a means of Disguise. I hated the thin calico dresses with their itchy lace collars & cuffs. I hated the tight, tippy-tappy, fiddly buttoned boots. Most of all, I hated the pinching corsets and puffy hoop skirts I wore while pretending to be a widow woman.


After that, I vowed not to dress like a gal unless it was a matter of life or death. 


But recently my body has started changing. I have started my ‘monthlies’ and am beginning to develop. Not a lot, but enough so that I have to put a kind of bandage around my chest to keep myself flat. Luckily my poor dead foster ma Evangeline clearly laid out what was in store, so I was not too alarmed. The thing that worried me was this: Would I wake up one morning to find I preferred dolls to Deringers? Would I get a hankering to sew samplers instead of arrange my Tobacco, Bullet and Bug Collections? Would I stop feeling like a ‘Me’ and start feeling like a ‘She’? 


I surely hope not. 


I guess that is why I have taken to spitting & cussing & not stifling burps. I do not want to turn into a danged girly-girl. I may be a half-Indian Misfit, but I like me just the way I am. I do not want to change. 


‘I said give me two!’ snapped Ping, bringing me out of my reverie. 


I gave him two. 


‘I bet three,’ said Ping. He pushed three pieces of licorice forward. 


‘I’ll see your three pieces of licorice,’ I said, ‘and raise you a lemon drop.’ 


I showed the lemon drop to Mouse, who was perched on my shoulder, but he was disinterested. Mouse only eats live bugs, like crickets. 


Once more the door opened.


It was Miss Bee Bloomfield in her tippy-tappy button-up boots. School had been closed all week on account of the Big Freeze. 


Talk about girly-girls. Bee is about the girliest-girl in Virginia City. She uses Sozodont tooth powder & lilac toilet water & is always buying new bonnets. Worst of all, she is always trying to steal a kiss from me. If she knew she had been trying to kiss another gal, she would have conniptions, you bet. 


‘Good morning, P.K. and Ping!’ She put a waxed-paper packet on my desk. ‘I brought you some oatmeal cookies baked by my own fair hand.’ 


Ping opened the packet & took out a cookie & ate it.


Bee frowned. ‘What’s that on your shelf?’ She went to investigate my branch and then recoiled with a squeal. ‘Oh! What are those green things hanging on it?’


I said, ‘Those are butterflies in chrysalis form. I saw them last week. When it started to snow, I took pity on them & went up & broke off a branch & brought it back here so they wouldn’t get froze.’


‘Friz,’ said a familiar voice from the doorway. ‘First it blew, then it snew, then it thew and then it friz. That is what the wags are all saying. But the thaw is here, and I believe spring is finally on the way.’ The voice belonged to Mr. Sam Clemens, a local reporter. He had a skinny blond boy with him. 


‘Spring!’ Mr. Sam Clemens cried. ‘That fruitful time when young men turn their thoughts to bugs. P.K., this here is Affable Fitzsimmons.’ 


I nodded politely at the skinny blond boy. ‘Howdy,’ I said.


‘How do you do?’ said the boy in an English accent. I judged he was about 14. He was tall & thin with wire rimmed spectacles & straight blond hair. He wore a palm-leaf hat & beige linen knickerbockers & canvas shoes, none of which were suitable for the snowy climes of Virginia City in April. 


Bee Bloomfield stepped forward. ‘Are you from England?’


‘I reside in San Francisco, with my parents,’ said Affable, ‘but I am English by birth.’ 


‘I’m Bee Bloomfield,’ she said, showing her dimples. 


‘Affable is the son of the famous naturalist and jungle explorer, Sir Fitzhugh Fitzsimmons,’ drawled Sam. ‘Sir Fitzhugh promised to buy me a hot toddy if I could find some pals his own age.’


Affable Fitzsimmons looked around the room. ‘Mr. Twain said you have some interesting collections.’ 


I said, ‘Who is Mr. Twain?’


Sam said, ‘I am. It is my new nom de plume. I have started signing my newspaper articles “Mark Twain”.’ 


‘A rose by any other name,’ said Affable, ‘would smell as sweet. You can call me 
“Affie”,’ he added.

‘Something in here does not smell very sweet,’ said Bee, sniffing the air. She leaned towards me and wrinkled her nose. ‘P.K.! When did you last bathe?’


I confess I had to ponder this question. 


‘December,’ I said at last, ‘I reckon my last bath was in December.’


‘Which year?’ asked Sam Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, striking a match and lighting up his notorious ‘pipe of a thousand smells’.


‘Last year,’ I replied. ‘1862.’


‘P.K.!’ gasped Bee, clapping her hand over her mouth. ‘You have not bathed in four months! Why, that ain’t Christian!’


I pointed at Mark Twain.


‘I ain’t as stinky as his tobacco,’ I said. ‘Folk call it “The Remains” on account of it smells like a dead critter.’


Affable AKA Affie chuckled. 


‘At least it ain’t me who stinks,’ drawled Mark Twain, ‘but just my tobacco.’ He winked at me. ‘I was just being ironikle,’ he said, using one of his pet words. 


‘Oh, I say!’ Affable stepped forward to examine the pale-green chrysalises dangling from my butterfly branch. ‘Don’t keep them so near the stove,’ he advised, ‘or they will hatch too early. May I move them out of danger?’


‘Sure,’ I said. 


As he was carefully moving the branch away from the stove, he saw my glass-fronted butterfly tray on the shelf below. 


‘What a bully collection!’ he cried. ‘And you are only missing one.’ He bent closer and read the label. ‘A Buckskin Fritillary, native to Nevada & California.’


Bee said, ‘What is a fritillary?’


Affie said, ‘It is a kind of butterfly.’  


I said, ‘It was my foster pa’s collection. I am trying to finish it to honor his memory. I am hoping my branch will hatch out into Buckskin Fritillaries,’ I added. 


Suddenly Bee Bloomfield’s brown eyes went round as quarters.
‘P.K.!’ she squealed. ‘There is a giant spider crawling on you!’ 


Mark Twain’s eyes bugged out, too, and his ‘pipe of a thousand smells’ clattered to the floor. ‘That ain’t no spider,’ he yelped. ‘That there is a deadly tarantula!’

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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!