‘Good morning, Miss Pinkerton!’ snapped Ping the next day. ‘You late.’
It was only a quarter past 9.00 but I let that pass. He was sitting in my chair behind my desk. I also let that pass.
‘Happy May Day,’ I said. (It was Friday the 1st of May.)
Ping scowled at me. ‘That is stupid hat.’
I was wearing my new lighthouse bonnet with its silk flowers & sash & ruffles. And also my daffodil-yellow, merino-wool dress with only one petticoat so it was not too puffy.
His words stung me but I pretended not to care.
‘I don’t care,’ I said. ‘This get-up is vital to a gallus plan of my pa’s devising.’ I held up my new adoption papers. ‘Also, I have just been down to the recorder’s office with my pa and I am now a genuine Pinkerton detective and no longer bogus.’
‘I think you very bogus.’ said Ping. He rose up from my chair & stood with folded arms. ‘You lie to me. All this time.’
He stood facing me with the desk between us as if he was the Detective and I was the Client. He wore his smart gray worsted suit with the white shirt & jade silk cravat & he smelled faintly of jasmine soap or hair tonic. His black hair was very clean & shiny. When he wore his suit he tucked his long pigtail in the jacket so it looked like short hair.
For the first time it struck me that he was good-looking, even handsome.
He said, ‘Why is our account at Wells Fargo one thousand dollar emptier than two days ago?’
I said, ‘When I got home last night I found that Mrs. Matterhorn had heard about my being a gal and evicted me from my boarding house. I had to take a suite at a hotel.’
He said, ‘What hotel?’
‘Why Suite?’ His black eyes almost sparked with fire.
‘So pa and Ray can stay there, too, in their own rooms. They were lodging at a cheap boarding house down on D Street.’
He said, ‘Suite at International for how long?’
I said, ‘Only one night.’
He said, ‘That is not thousand dollar.’
I said, ‘I had to buy some new clothes.’ I felt my face grow hot. Dang my body for betraying me!
‘Those clothes?’ He looked me up and down. His nose wrinkled on one side. Expression No. 3 - disgust. ‘Anything else?’
I said, ‘I had to pay a clerk upwards of two hundred dollars to get these adoption papers cleared extra quick.’
I said, ‘Five-course dinner at a high-tone restaurant last night.’
He looked at me, his arms still folded across his chest.
‘With champagne,’ I admitted.
He said, ‘Fool! Do you forget we are partners? I handle business side? You should have check with me first.’
‘I should have checked with you about getting adopted?’ I said.
‘Yes!’ he said. ‘You are now his chattel.’
I did not know that word.
I said, ‘I do not know that word.’
He said, ‘If anything happen to you then he get all your money.’
‘And if anything happens to him, I inherit a fifth of his wealth.’
I shrugged. ‘I reckon.’
‘Then why you pay for hotel, clothes, dinner, champagne and adoption bribe?’
‘Bribe? What do you mean ‘bribe’?’
‘You pay extra to rush something through, it is called “bribe”.’
I said, ‘It was not a bribe. I had to pay two hundred to the clerk to get these adoption papers cleared extra quick. My pa keeps the accounts for the Pinkerton Agency and he says they are very strict on expenses. But I know they are rich. They are a famous detective agency. They are world-renowned.’
‘That does not mean they have money in their coffers.’ Ping’s scowl deepened.
‘If we catch those Reb Road Agents,’ I said, there will be a big reward. ‘Two percent of whatever we recover. Pa said the stolen money might be as much as five hundred thousand. So our cut would be ten thousand dollars if we catch those Reb Road Agents.’
He said, ‘If.’
I said, ‘Did you see our shingle is up again? We are back in business.’
He said, ‘I not sure I want to be partner with liar.’
I said, ‘I ain’t a liar.’
He said, ‘You should have trust me. I do not care if you boy or girl. I only care about success of business.’
I said, ‘You do too care if I am a girl. Would you have worked with me if you’d known?’
‘Yes,’ he said. But for the first time his gaze slid away.
I said, ‘You only care about money.’
He said, ‘A business with no money will not last long. Look.’ He opened a ledger book on the desk. It was a proper ledger book with numbers and dates meticulously recorded. It had all our income from the past seven months we had been doing business.
‘Before you take out that thousand dollar,’ he said. ‘Our balance was good. Nearly four thousand. Now it is only this.’
He pointed at a column on the ledger book & I looked.
I saw the remaining balance in the Pinkerton strongbox was $2,784.20
He said, ‘I want fifty percent.’
I said, ‘Beg pardon?’
He said, ‘I do not want to work with lying female.’
‘You just said it didn’t matter if I was female.’
‘Female does not matter. Lying does.’
I was flummoxed. I did not know what to say. I had not thought Ping would be this riled at me for deceiving him.
His re-folded his arms across his chest. ‘You soon go back to Chicago with your pa, correct?’
When he said that, I felt a mite queasy, like when I stand too close to the edge of a precipice. I would be abandoning my life as I knew it. But Chicago was my dream. I had to make that leap of faith sometime.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I will be going to Chicago.’
‘Then split business assets fifty-fifty,’ he said.
The whole room seemed to swell and then shrink back again, as if it had taken a deep breath, not me.
He said, ‘You still have those feet of Chollar Mine which bring you about one fifty a month. They are yours. Good income. Do not sell them.’
‘All right,’ I said. ‘We will go to the bank right now, and I will give you your half of the money.’
He said, ‘I could also ask you to pay back thousand dollar you just spend, so we could split that, too. But if you sign over deed of this office to me, we will call it even.’
‘You want this office?’
‘Yes, I want this office. After you go, I rename business Pingerton Detective Agency.’
‘Pingerton? As in Ping?’
He nodded curtly.
‘That is clever.’ I looked around the narrow room with its shelves & desk & chairs & sky window & wood-burning stove & the branch with butterfly chrysalises & the hat-tree & the counter at the back & the door to the little storeroom-bedroom where I had lived for a month or two before moving to Mrs. Matterhorn’s. I felt a bunch in my throat but I swallowed it down.
‘All right,’ I said.
I do not usually like to be touched but this was important so I spat on the palm of my right hand and held it out.
He spat on the palm of his right hand and we shook.
Then we went down to Wells Fargo & Co. and apart from necessary yesses and noes required to get a clerk to withdraw $1,392.10 in gold from my strongbox and hand it over to him, we did not speak another word to each other.
I left the bank without saying goodbye, for it was almost ten o’clock.
I had somewhere to be.
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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