Just as the second shot rang out, a black-clad arm knocked Violetta’s wrist from below, causing her ball to fly up into the rarefied air of that big ballroom.
If you should ever dine in the Lick House Hotel, look up at the fancy ceiling square they call a ‘coffer’ between two other coffers with chandeliers in them. If you have eyes as sharp as mine, or a pair of Opera Glasses, you might perceive a tiny hole in the gilded wood. That hole was meant for me, but Poker Face Jace saved my life.
‘Jacey!’ cried Violetta when she saw who had thwarted her shot. Then she swooned into his arms.
I reckoned she was play-acting for I know that nothing short of being sawed in half would make that lady faint.
Jace caught Violetta in his arms. Then he took the empty Deringer pistol from her limp hand and slipped it into his pocket.
‘You all right, P.K.?’ he asked me.
‘Yes, sir,’ I replied, and then looked away. He was probably going to be Violetta’s next husband, but at least he had not wanted me dead. That was some consolation.
From beside the big target, Affie cried, ‘Mr. Jonas Blezzard is all right, too! The bullet only creased his shoulder.’
The ball-goers applauded.
(Later, Affie told me it was their clapping that gave him a Brilliant Idea.)
Affie stepped forward. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we hope you have enjoyed our presentation. Of course it was all “staged”. Nobody was ever in any real danger.’ He turned & helped Mr. Jonas Blezzard off the wheel & I saw him say something under his breath.
Jonas Blezzard was white as chalk, but he bowed and so did Affie.
Martha & Ping came out and they bowed, too.
I did not realize what they were doing. Affie slid me a sideways glance.
‘Bow!’ he hissed.
I bowed, too, just as the curtains closed.
Beyond the curtains, loud applause rose up and was lost in the cavernous ceiling.
I wondered if Violetta had been apprehended. But before I could go to the curtain and peep out, a man with a black beard like a big bib appeared through that tee-pee door at the back of the stage.
He went to Affie & shook his hand.
‘That was inspired, young man! You have turned a disaster into a triumph. I cannot thank you enough. This is Detective Rose. He is the best detective in this city.’
Behind him emerged the man in the rose-pink stovepipe hat and droopy gray mustache who had chased me from the Rev. Starr King’s Unitarian Church.
Two uniformed policemen came through the low door after him.
Detective Rose looked down at me. ‘You have played a dangerous hand, Miss Pinkerton,’ he said, ‘but it appears you got four aces.’
He nodded to his policemen and they each gripped an arm of Mr. Jonas Blezzard. Detective Rose turned to the man with a bib-like beard, ‘Mr. Lick, is there a private chamber where I might interview this man?’
‘My office,’ said the owner and proprietor of the Lick House Hotel.
As the band struck up again, we all repaired to a back room of the hotel to get the final pieces of the puzzle.