Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Case of the Bogus Detective 45

The next morning I woke to the smell of coffee and doughnuts. 

‘Have you finished it?’ I heard Martha whisper.  

‘Just this very moment,’ said Zoe, and then I heard her give a big yawn.

I sat up to find I was on one of the camp cots, covered in a soft blanket. I had stayed up late talking to Miz Zoe and Martha about woman things. Then Zoe had let me take her cot as she had an ‘All Night Job’.

‘Look what Miz Zoe done made you last night,’ said Martha. She held up a beautiful quilted jacket. It looked like a soldier’s padded jacket if the soldier had been a gal. 

‘Martha helped,’ said Zoe. ‘We did it together.’

I blinked at them. ‘What is it?’

Zoe said, ‘It is a Zouave jacket, named after a famous infantry regiment from New York. Such jackets are all the fashion for ladies this season.’

I said, ‘That was your All Night Job?’

Zoe nodded. 

‘I got some sleep,’ said Martha, ‘but Zoe was up all night.’

I pushed away the cover & got up off the camp cot. My legs were stiff from all the hill walking I had done the day before. I splashed some water on my cheeks from the basin & dried my face using one of the towels on Miz Zoe’s Toilette Trunk. Then went over to where Martha stood holding my new jacket. It was made from different scraps of cloth. Most Zouave shirts have curlicues but this one had zigzags. 

I said, ‘I like this a lot. I am partial to zigzags.’

‘The zigzags were Martha’s idea,’ said Zoe. She was over at the camp stove, brewing a pot of coffee. 

I took it in my hands and felt it. ‘How did you make it so soft?’

‘We used old scraps,’ Zoe said. But they are clean,’ she added hastily. 

Martha said, ‘We have a special way of sewing seams so they do not rub. Put it on.’

I put my new Zouave Jacket on over the fresh cotton chemise and bloomers. Then I put on the things Minnehaha had given me the day before: the fringed buckskin trowsers & beaded moccasins. Oh, how good they felt! Finally I put on the wig. The shiny black hair was not pinned up but flowing down. 

‘Oh, Pinky!’ said Martha. 

And Zoe said, ‘How does it feel?’

‘It feels bully,’ I said. I swallowed hard. ‘But how do I look?’

‘See for yourself,’ said Zoe. She said it with a kind of hush in her voice as she turned me to face the mirror leaning against the wall. 

I could not believe my eyes. 

I saw a girl with fringed buckskin trowsers and a zigzag Zouave jacket & long silky black hair. She had slightly slanting black eyes & toffee-colored skin & symmetrical features. 

She was beautiful.

I said, ‘She is beautiful.’

Zoe said, ‘No, you are beautiful.’ 

Martha said, ‘You look like a buckskin butterfly.’

When she said that, I remembered something. A few months ago in Eagle Valley, I had dreamed of a beautiful half-Indian girl. And now there she stood reflected in the full-length mirror. Almost. 

‘I need a sombrero hat and some firearms,’ I murmured. 

‘What?’ said Zoe. 

‘Nothing,’ I said. And then, ‘Do you think I will attract much attention walking down Montgomery or Market Street dressed like this?’

‘I should say so!’ laughed Zoe.

‘You will attract forty kinds of attention!’ Martha giggled. 

‘Then do you have something I could wear that will help me not attract attention?’ I asked. 

Martha nodded. ‘I can adjust one of Miz Zoe’s old frocks,’ she said. ‘They are still a mite big for me but one of them might fit you.’ 

‘Red calico?’ I asked. 

‘How did you guess?’ asked Miz Zoe with a yawning smile.

I said, ‘I have got to go to the Willows and see if Minnehaha will help us in our plan to trap Jonas Blezzard. Will you come with me?’ 

Martha sighed. ‘I would love to go and watch them jig-dancers,’ she said. ‘Miz Zoe and I saw Little Jennie Worrell at the Melodeon one time. But I got to go in to work this morning on account of us getting ready for the big wedding dance.’

‘And I have got to catch forty winks before this afternoon,’ said Miz Zoe. 

After a breakfast of black coffee and chocolate layer cake, I put on the disguise of a red calico dress and a straw bonnet & went outside to find it foggy and cool. I caught the Mission Railroad Cars to the Willows. I stayed downstairs in a corner where nobody would notice me.

It was still early on a Monday morning and I found the Willows open but almost deserted and no shows starting until noon. It was foggy there too, and I was glad of it, for it offered a kind of protection. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found Minnie relaxing in her Medicine Show Wagon. She was reading the paper and smoking a pipe. A pipe! 

I told her my plan and asked if she could help. 

She said she was meeting an important Event Manager that evening for dinner but as it was very quiet on Mondays, I could use her equipment. She said her knife-throwing trick was easy & that she would show me how to do it.

She took me outside to her portable stage and showed me how to do it. 

‘Can you pack up this stage and move it?’ I asked. 

‘Sure. I do it every time I move on,’ she said. 

‘Can you let me borrow the actual stage for the afternoon?

‘Sure,’ she said, ‘Where shall I bring it?’ 

‘Lick House Hotel,’ I said. ‘About 2pm if you can. I will be waiting.’

The fog was just burning off when I got back to Montgomery Street and the Lick House Hotel. The lobby and dining room were a hive of activity and nobody stopped me or even looked at me as I went inside and up to Affie’s room. 

Ping and Affie were discussing the final arrangements over lunch in Affie’s suite and at 2pm we were downstairs as Minnie pulled up with her medicine wagon full of stage equipment. Affie had recruited some hotel staff to help us. 

When I got back to Sansome Street to change my attire, I found a lady coming downstairs carrying a pale blue ball gown. 

‘That was Mrs. Prendergast,’ said Zoe when I came in. ‘She just paid me for this job and two others! We are now flush not bust. Here are the sixteen dollars I owe you, Pinky. How are the arrangements going for our music hall?’ she added. 

‘Everything is all set up,’ I said. ‘Let us go and mete out some justice!’  

Read on... 

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