‘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!
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