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!’


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 13, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 1

My name is P.K. Pinkerton and I will soon be breakfast for a couple of grizzly bears. 

I am trapped in a mountain cave with my dying pa. I have a small fire but not much wood left to keep it going and only 1 bullet left in my Henry Rifle. 

I can hear those grizzlies a-prowling & a-growling, and I can smell them, too. I reckon I only have a few hours to record how I came to be in this sad predicament. When my fire goes out they will gobble me up. And my dying pa, too. 

You may say, ‘Why are you wasting the final hours of your life scribbling in a Ledger Book?’

Here is my reply:

If I write an account, people will know who done it and they can avenge me.

You may also say, ‘Being half Sioux, why don’t you use your Indian skills to sneak past those bears and at least save yourself?’ 

My answer is this: 

I will not abandon my dying pa. 

It all started when two strangers rode into town. I was sitting at my desk in my Detective Agency on B Street in Virginia City. I was ordering the Butterfly part of my Bug Collection. Detective business had been slow on account of a localized snowstorm. But now a strong sun was out. 

The scent of melting snow swirled in as the door of my detective office opened. 

It was my 14-yr-old partner Ping, with a bag of sugar & a coffee pot. He had filled the pot with pure water from the new filter in the Shamrock Saloon across the street. I could hear someone playing Camptown Races on a piano.

‘Road dang muddy,’ Ping said. ‘Traffic should be running again soon.’ He put the coffee pot on our new stove & the bag of sugar on one of the shelves. 

Ping does not drink coffee, but he says the smell entices people in & encourages them to linger.  

‘You want game of poker?’ he asked, as he turned the handle of the little wooden coffee grinder. ‘While we wait for clients?’

‘H-ll, yeah,’ I replied. 

I try to keep up my skill, because sometimes I help a gambler named Poker Face Jace play cards for money. Jace is my friend & mentor.

I put my Butterfly Tray on one of the shelves on the wall. When my office was a Tobacco Emporium those shelves held tins of tobacco.

Now they hold my collections, viz: my Bug Collection, my Button Collection & my Big Tobacco Collection. I also had a branch with butterflies waiting to hatch out. 

I opened a drawer in my desk and got out some strings of black licorice, some lemon drops & a pack of cards. 

I tore off a piece of the stretchy licorice and put it between my cheek and gum, like people do with chewing tobacco. 

Ping left the coffee pot on the stove to brew.  He pulled up one of the chairs where clients usually sit. The door was still ajar so you could hear boots on the boardwalk & the curses of the first riders trying out the snowy thoroughfare. 

I divided the licorice strings and lemon drops between us. Then I shuffled the deck and we played a few hands of ‘five card draw’.

Even when I get dealt bad cards I usually win because I have learned to tell when people are bluffing. Ping’s natural expression is a scowl, even when he has a good hand, but my pal Poker Face Jace says the face is the lyingest part of the body.

So I ignored Ping’s scowly face & scooted my chair back a little & kind of slouched down so I could see his feet. 

Everybody has their own ‘tell’ and Ping’s is a common one. Whenever he has a good hand his toes point up and when he has a bad one he pulls his feet back under his chair. 

If the Face is the lyingest part of the body, the Feet are the most truthful. 

I spat some black licorice juice into a spittoon. I had tried proper chaw tobacco once but it made me feel queasy so I had taken to chewing licorice to make me look older & tougher. 

Ping’s nose wrinkled and his lip curled a little. My dead foster ma Evangeline had taught me how to identify five expressions. 

No. 1 - If someone’s mouth curves up & their eyes crinkle, that is a Genuine Smile. 

No. 2 - If their mouth stretches sideways & their eyes are not crinkled, that is a Fake Smile. 

No. 3 - If a person turns down their mouth & crinkles up their nose, they are Disgusted.

No. 4 - If their eyes open real wide, they are probably surprised or scared.

No. 5 - If they make their eyes narrow, they are either mad at you or thinking or suspicious.

Ping’s face was making Expression No. 3 – Disgust. 

I felt something tickle my arm. It was my pet, Mouse, crawling on my pink flannel shirt. 

Ping’s expression No. 3 got stronger. ‘I don’t like that critter. I afraid I step on him. Make him go crunch.’

‘That would be unpleasant,’ I agreed. ‘But he is usually in his tank when I ain’t letting him perambulate on me.’

Ping shifted his gaze from Mouse to my face. His eyes were narrowed. It was no longer Expression No. 3 – Disgust. It was now Expression No. 5, which meant he was either Mad or Thinking or Suspicious. Or all three. 

‘You can stare all you like,’ I said to Ping. ‘I am inscrutable. I can neither understand nor express emotions well. It is a Thorn in my Side. But it is useful for playing poker,’ I added. ‘People can not tell if I am holding a good hand or a bad one.’

‘I am not trying to tell if you have good or bad hand,’ said Ping, his scowl deepening. 

‘Then why are you staring at me?’ I asked him. 

‘Something bogus about you.’ He tipped his head to one side. ‘I can’t think what.’  

I pressed my lips together, wondering if he had finally guessed my secret. To throw him off the track, I wiped my nose with my finger. 

Then I spat some more licorice-tinted spit to make me look more like a tough detective.

Ping scowled at me. 

I scratched my armpit & burped.

Then I farted, just for good measure.  

I was not really surprised that Ping was trying to figure out what was ‘not right’ about me. I knew dang well. What surprised me was that in nine months of us being pards, he had not realized that I ain’t a boy.


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!