Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 10

A "lighthouse bonnet"         

I was facing the biggest challenge of my career as a detective. To act like a convincing girly-girl.

It was vital to our Plan. 

Even dressed in the girliest dress west of the Rockies I was not convincing.

Pa smiled at me through a cloud of his own pipe smoke. ‘Don’t ye worry,’ he said. ‘I will teach ye to walk and talk like a lassie in no time. It is still afternoon, but what do ye say to an early supper at Almack’s Liquor & Oyster Saloon? They tell me it is the best restaurant in town.’

My stomach growled for I had eaten nothing all day. ‘All right,’ I said. ‘But only oysters. No liquor.’

‘Of course no liquor!’ said Pa. ‘I am teetotal.’

‘Well, I ain’t teetotal,’ said Ray, ‘and I need a few stiff drinks. So I hope you don’t mind if I dine elsewhere. I will see you both tomorrow at the offices of the Overland Stage at ten o’clock sharp.’

He exited the shop while I paid Mrs. Wasserman what I owed her. 

As my pa and I emerged into the late afternoon sunshine and set out south on the C Street boardwalk I felt kind of queasy in my stomach. 

I had worn a girl’s disguise before but I always had a poke bonnet to hide my face. That lighthouse bonnet made me feel exposed, especially in the bright afternoon sunshine. Also a ruffle at the back itched my neck. 

Pa took my left hand and tucked it firmly under his right elbow. 

‘This is how a respectable lassie walks with her escort in Chicago,’ he explained. ‘That is to say, a wife with her husband, a sister with her brother, or a daughter with her pa.’ 

I nodded and dutifully hung on to the crook of his elbow.  

There was a line of people waiting outside the office of the Cal Stage Company. I reckon they were waiting to buy tickets now that the stage would soon be running again. I noticed Mr. Sam Clemens AKA Mark Twain, standing there with his friend Clement T. Rice AKA The Unreliable. 

I did not want to be recognized so I hung my head. 

‘Head up,’ whispered Pa. ‘Gracious expression.’

‘I only have one expression,’ I said. ‘Inscrutable.’

‘That will do at a pinch. But lift your head.’

We were past the line of people, so I lifted my head. 

‘Don’t stomp,’ whispered Pa.

‘I cannot help it,’ I said. ‘These dam boots are so noisy.’

‘Walk on the balls of your feet,’ said Pa. ‘That is, the front part. Take two wee steps instead of one big one. And ne’er blaspheme.’

I tried walking on the boardwalk in little tappy steps without blaspheming. 

I hated every step. 

I missed my silent, butter-soft moccasins.

I missed my shielding slouch hat with the black felt brim I could pull down low against the slanting sun. 

I missed my pockets, and the comforting weight of a gun in one of them. 

Almack’s Oyster & Liquor Saloon was only two blocks south so I sent up an arrow prayer that I would not meet anyone known to me. If Sam Clemens and his friend were leaving town on account of a ‘delicate satire’, how would the townsfolk treat me when they discovered I had been pranking them all for nearly a year?

Then I saw Bee Bloomfield and Affable Fitzsimmons walking arm in arm straight towards us. 

I wanted to dive behind a nearby barrel. 

I wanted to squeeze underneath the boardwalk. 

I wanted to do anything to get me out of their path. 

When I thought Pa wasn’t paying attention, I made a sudden lunge towards the swinging doors of the nearest saloon. I almost got away but Pa caught me & reeled me in & clamped my hand between his arm & his side. There was no escape.  

I lowered my head as Affie and Bee approached, and tried to make my black ringlets hide my face. 

We were almost past them when I heard Bee’s voice, ‘P.K.? Is that you?’ 

I made as if to keep walking but my pa stopped & turned to face them & touched the brim of his new brown hat made of beaver felt. ‘Good afternoon,’ he said in his Scottish burr. ‘Are ye friends of my daughter Prudence?’

‘Pinky,’ I mumbled, keeping my eyes firmly on their feet. ‘Please call me Pinky.’ Bee was wearing her little white button-up boots and Affable had exchanged his canvas shoes for sturdy brogues. 

‘Daughter?’ cried Bee. 

I took a deep breath and looked at her face. She was staring at me with Expression No. 4 – Surprise. 

Then her face relaxed & she said, ‘Oh, you are in disguise!’

Abruptly she clapped both hands over her mouth. 

Affable was staring at me, too. His eyes looked extra-big behind his spectacles. ‘You are the same P.K. Pinkerton who collects bugs and butterflies?’ he said. 

‘Shhh!’ hissed Bee in a barely audible voice. ‘He is in disguise.

‘Pinky is not in disguise,’ said my pa in a mild tone. ‘We thought it time to let the world know that Pinky is a lassie.’

‘A lassie?’ said Bee with a frown.

‘A lassie?’ said Affable, wide-eyed.

‘Aye! That is to say, a girl.  She always has been and always will be. Only she has finally decided to admit the fact and “come clean”. By the way, I am her father, Robert Pinkerton.’ He gave a little bow. 

‘Of the world-famous detective agency?’ Affie extended his hand. ‘Honored to meet you!’ 

My pa smiled & nodded & shook his hand.

‘You’re a girl?’ squeaked Bee. She was staring at me with eyes as round as banjos.  

I nodded & felt heat rise up into my face. My throat was tight. I did not know what to say. 

‘But I…’ said Bee. ‘I wanted to… I almost… Oh, you creature!’

I saw her nostrils flare, which usually means someone is going to wallop you. I reckoned I deserved it so I braced myself & closed my eyes. 

Sure enough, Bee Bloomfield slapped my face. 

[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, May 15, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 9

Two hours later, at 4 o’clock, I was standing in front of a full-length mirror in Wasserman’s Emporium wearing a balloon-sleeved, puffy-skirted merino-wool dress of a vivid yellow color. 

Pa had told Ray G. Tempest our ‘gallus’ plan & Ray had liked it so much that he had gone to get us an appointment to meet with the owner of the Overland Stage Company as soon as possible. We had to act quickly as the road out of Virginia would soon be passable for stagecoaches and the first silver shipments would be double-sized. 

Mrs. Wasserman had shown us three made-up dresses in the store. The one I now wore was the closest to my size & also the most girly. 

It was mainly yellow, but had a kind of bib & cuffs & a waistband & pleated hem all in grass green. There were some green tongue-shaped flaps hanging down from the waist that the storekeeper called ‘flounces’. I was also wearing my black wig with ringlets and my pink poke bonnet that I use for my ‘Prim Girl Disguise.’

I said, ‘I look like an Indian brave who had just massacred a little white girl and dressed in her clothes, scalp and bonnet for a hideous jest.’

‘Oh pshaw!’ said my pa. ‘It ain’t that bad.’ 

‘Try smiling,’ said Mrs. Wasserman, who had just returned with some girly undergarments.  

I turned to them & bared my newly-whitened teeth. 

They both took a step back. 

‘Ach! That is mare a grimace than a smile,’ said my pa. 

‘You look like a wolf trapped in a hole,’ said Mrs. Wasserman. 

I stopped smiling.

Mrs. Wasserman said, ‘I believe part of problem is that bonnet. You can’t really see her face. Just those glittering black eyes and gleaming teeth.’ 

‘Ye’re right,’ said Pa. ‘We need to see that bonny wee face.’

Mrs. Wasserman reached up to a shelf & brought down a bonnet. It was tall rather than deep, and made of yellow straw. It had two yellow flowers on top and a kind of yellow sash that poked through the straw to tie under your chin. 

‘This is the new style Skyscraper Bonnet for May,’ she said. ‘Some folk call it a “lighthouse bonnet”. It is all the fashion. Go on. Try it.’

I took off my poke bonnet and put on the lighthouse bonnet.

‘Why, there!’ said Mrs. Wasserman, adjusting one of the flowers on top. ‘It suits you down to the ground.’

Instead of hiding my face, it framed it. 

‘There’s me bonny wee lassie!’ said Pa. 

But I could not bear to look & had to avert my eyes. Pa was nodding happily & turning his putty-colored plug hat in his hands. 

Among some other men’s hats on a shelf, I saw a hat with a flat top and a flat brim like Jace’s only it was brown not black. ‘How much is that hat?’ I asked Mrs. Wasserman. 

‘That one is ten dollars,’ she said, ‘on account of it is real beaver felt.’

It looked like a regular hat to me, but when Pa tried it on it made him look fine, and not a bit silly.

‘It makes you look fine, and not a bit silly,’ I said. ‘I will buy it for you.’ 

‘Ach, nay. I cannae let ye do that.’

‘Sure you can. I have plenty of money at Wells Fargo & Co just across the street.’ I pulled out my medicine bag and took out some gold eagles. Because the dress was already made up and store bought, it was more expensive than I thought it would be. So was that lighthouse bonnet. What with buying those things & new undergarments & my pa’s new beaver felt hat, I would have to pay another visit to Wells Fargo & Co. in the near future. But if it could help me catch those Reb Road Agents and earn me a place in Pa’s Agency, then it was worth it. 

‘Let me just alter your frock,’ said Mrs. Wasserman. ‘Come with me. It will only take five minutes on my new Singer Sewing Machine.’

I went into a back room with her. She had one of them new Singer Sewing Machines that looks like a giant black ant with a wheel on its backside. She also had two dressmaker’s dummies in there: one was wood & the other was papier maché. She made me stand still while she put pins in my dress & made me take it off & stand in chemise & bloomers. 

She put the dress under the metal ant’s nose & used her feet to make it take little sips of the cloth with its needle tongue. When she brought back it out, why there was a new seam! Now the dress fit perfect. 

When I came back into the shop, I saw Ray standing by a window with my pa. They were at the far end of the shop smoking & talking. They had their backs to me, but I have excellent hearing. 

I heard Ray say, ‘It a perfect plan; better than we could have imagined.’

They must have heard my tippy-tappy boots for they turned to look at me. 

‘There’s me wee bonny lassie!’ said Pa. ‘Guess what? Ray is just back from the Overland Stage Company. We have a meeting with the owner tomorrow morning at ten o’clock. Come closer.’

I went over to them, feeling awkward in my yellow balloon sleeves & puffy skirt & flounces & furbelows & lighthouse bonnet. 

‘Her walk ain’t quite right,’ said Ray, blowing smoke down. 

To me, Pa said, ‘Try to walk like a lady and not stride forth like an angry teamster.’ 

I took little tripping steps & held my arms straight down by my sides with wrists bent so my palms faced the floor. 

Ray shook his head & blew more smoke down. ‘You have come up with a bully plan,’ he said. ‘But she has got to be a dam sight more convincing than that, or the owner of the Overland Stage Company will never buy it.’

Read more HERE...

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, May 08, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 8

I was ‘over the moon’, or at least ‘over Virginia City’. 

I had explained to Ping that the man hugging me was my long-lost pa.

Ping had apologized & had put away his piece. Now my pa and I were climbing Mount Davidson on account of Virginia is awful crowded & he thought a hike up that barren mountain would afford us a chance to talk without being interrupted and/or overheard.  

As we ascended, my long-lost pa told me his life story. 

He told me how he had been shipwrecked off Newfoundland on his way from Glasgow, Scotland to Chicago, Illinois. 

He told how in the early days he had first established an agency to protect stagecoaches and then trains. But later he wanted to help the Poor & Oppressed.

He told me how his younger brother Allan had become his partner after exposing a counterfeiting ring at a place called ‘Bogus Island’ near Chicago, Illinois.

‘Bogus island?’ I echoed. ‘Was it not a real island?’

‘No, it was a real island. They called the island “Bogus” on account of the fake money produced thereon. Wee Allan is a good detective. Maybe even better than me, who didnae even recognize me own wee lassie.’

My Pinkerton pa was good at telling about his many & varied adventures. He was good at mimicking other people’s accents & voices. I was entranced by his tales of helping the Poor & Oppressed & fighting Grizzlies & catching Desperados & taking Slaves to Freedom on the ‘Underground Railway’ just like in Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. 

My pa told me how he caught a bad chill when coming back from Canada after one such trip & how it took the stuffing out of him. After that his ‘wee brother Allan’ took over the day-to-day running of the business and my pa mostly sat behind a desk. 

Even though he was not tall and handsome like Poker Face Jace but short and otter-looking, I was proud of my Pinkerton pa, now that I knew of his exploits. 

I thought, 
If I could go back to Chicago with him to be a proper Pinkerton Detective, then I would be happy.

We had just reached the summit of Mount Davidson where a tattered flag fluttered bravely on a 20-foot flagpole. 

Pa was breathing hard and sweating a little. He took out his handkerchief and pressed it to his forehead. I observed it had the initials C.P. on the corner. 

I pointed at the handkerchief, ‘Who is C.P.? 

He looked at the handkerchief & frowned. Then his brow grew smooth again & he nodded. ‘Ye will make a good detective,’ he said. ‘Ye are mighty observant.’ He looked west towards the jagged snow-tipped mountains called Sierra Nevada. ‘C.P. stands for Caroline Pinkerton,’ he said. ‘My wife.’

‘You are married?’ I asked. He had not mentioned that once in our 2-hour hike up the mountain.

He nodded. ‘We married young, in Glasgow, Scotland. She sailed with me. She has been my wife nearly thirty years.’ 

I swallowed hard. ‘Then you never married my original ma?’

He was concentrating on folding up his handkerchief again. He shook his head. 

I felt the heat rising right up from my feet until my face felt like it was on fire. ‘Do you have children?’ 

‘Aye,’ he said. ‘Four big laddies.’

I swallowed again, but could not get rid of the bunch of emotions in my throat.

‘So I could probably never go back to Chicago with you, could I?’

He shook his head. ‘I dinna see how.’

We both stared out at the mountains. 

Although I stood on a peak nearly 8000 feet high, I felt lower than I had ever felt. 

As I looked down, I saw a tiny stagecoach far below. It was heading north on the road from Steamboat Valley to Marysville via the Henness Pass. 

I said, ‘There is a stagecoach on the road from Steamboat Valley to Marysville via the Henness Pass.’

He said, ‘By God, I have just had a gallus plan! If it succeeds I might be able to take ye to back to Chicago with me! As an operative, mind ye, not me daughter.’

Hope leapt into my throat. I said, ‘What is a gallus?’ 

He said, ‘Gallus means “bold”. Would ye be willing to help me and Ray catch those Reb Road Agents?’

I said, ‘You bet!’

He told me his Plan. 

It was a good one, full of danger & excitement & a trip across the Sierra Nevada. If it succeeded, I would be able to go back to Chicago with him and work as an operative for the world famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. 

There was only one problem. Pa told me that it was absolutely necessary that from that moment on, I dress like a girly-girl. 

I scuffed at the ground with my moccasin. The last thing I wanted to be was a girly-girl. But going to Chicago with my real pa was my dream. 

Somewhere in the sagebrush behind me, a quail called out ‘Chicago! Chicago!’

That clinched it. 

I took a deep breath & nodded. 

‘All right, Pa,’ I said. ‘For you, I will try to be a girly-girl.’

Read on...

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!  

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. 


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!’

Read more here...

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.


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.’


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!