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.’
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!