Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 24

I grabbed the shotgun & whirled to see what was coming into the firelight. I was kind of crouched and my scattergun was cocked and ready for action. 


It was my Pinkerton Pa. 


He was aiming a small pistol at my heart. 

I remembered I was wearing my disguise of Ray’s hat and a belt around my sacque. 

‘Don’t shoot, pa!’ I put down the shotgun & stretched out my hands. ‘It is me! Pinky!’

‘Prudence!’ cried my Pa. He dropped his piece back into the pocket of his overcoat. ‘You’re alive!’ He ran forward & shmooshed me in his pa’s bear hug for a long time. 

At last he held me out at arm’s length. ‘I canna believe it!’ he said. ‘Are ye really all right?’

I nodded. I suddenly felt like crying.

‘Praise the Lord,’ he said. ‘I heard gunshots and rode back as fast as I could. Then I saw firelight, but when I saw ye from behind – wearing that hat – I dinnae recognize ye. Where’s yer own wee hat with the daffodils? Why are ye dressed like that?’ 

I said, ‘I am dressed like this so those Reb Road Agents would take me seriously and not try to escape nor kill me.’ 

‘Reb Road Agents?’ he cried. ‘What Reb Road Agents?’

I pointed to the foot of the pine tree. 

The moon had made the tree’s thick branches cast an inky black shadow on Slouch and Kepi. They had seen Pa, but he was only just now noticing them. 

His face looked white in the moonlight. Now he was the one wearing Expression No. 4 – his mouth & eyes open wide in surprise. 

He looked down at me. ‘This was your doing?’ 

I nodded. 

‘What did they say?’

‘Not much,’ I said. ‘I gagged them with their own smelly socks.’

My pa gave a crooked smile & shook his head. ‘Dang! You are a one. What happened?’

I said, ‘We were about five miles out of Friday’s Station and it was getting dark when they jumped out of the gloaming and told Dizzy to stop the stage. But Dizzy bullwhipped the one in the kepi and got the team moving again. We almost got away. Then the one in the slouch hat shot Dizzy. I took over the reins. We were going downhill when–’

‘Where was Ray all this time?’ 

‘He was inside the coach sleeping on the mailbags. He had drunk a lot of Tooth Elixir. But then he climbed out of the window and pulled poor Dizzy right off the driver’s box even though he might have still been alive.’

‘By Dizzy, d’ye mean the driver?’ asked my pa. 

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘Ray climbed up to the box even though we were still going a mile a minute. He told me to stop & surrender to the Reb Road Agents as we would never get away. I was all for driving the team on to Yank’s Station but he tried to wrassle the reins from my grip and then it happened, just like in my nightmare.  We went off the cliff and down into this gorge.’

‘That dam fool,’ said Pa. ‘Where is he?’ 

‘Dead, most likely.’ 

Pa shook his head. ‘It is a miracle ye’re still alive.’

I said, ‘Yes. It was a miracle. A branch caught my sacque –’

‘Your what?’ 

‘This velvet cape. I reckon it’s the only thing that kept me from breaking my neck. Ray was not wearing a sacque,’ I added. ‘So his neck is probably broke.’

‘I never should have suggested this plan,’ said Pa. ‘Ye could have got kilt.’

I said, ‘Never mind, Pa. It would have been a good plan if it had worked.’

‘But it did work!’ he said. ‘Thanks to you. Look at that. You captured them single-handed.’

‘Where is the decoy stage full of agents?’ I asked. ‘Did you bring them back with you?’

‘They are probably halfway to Sac City by now,’ he said. ‘I was hanging back to see where ye were and they got well ahead of me. I don’t understand why these rascals did not try to stop them.’ He narrowed his eyes at the bound & gagged Reb Road Agents. 

I nodded. ‘It is almost as if they were expecting us,’ I said. Then I thought of something. ‘Pa, do you know what a “shebang” is?’

He nodded. ‘It’s like a rough shelter or hut.’ 

I said, ‘Then I know where they are keeping the rest of the stolen money.’

‘Ye do?’

I nodded. ‘They were talking about it before I threw down on them,’ I said. ‘They have stashed some booty at a place called Grizzly Gulch which I think it is less than a mile from here.’

He said, ‘We had better find it quick.’

I nodded. ‘We still have a few hours of moonlight. If we start now with the horses and the silver, we could get there before the moon sets. Once we have found their shebang we can turn in these two and get the reward. Then I can go back to Chicago with you and be a detective,’ I added.

Pa looked at me with a strange expression. I could not read it. He picked up the champagne bottle that Kepi had been swigging from and took a suck. Then he held it out to me. 

‘Here!’ he said. ‘Dutch courage.’

I said, ‘I got my own courage.’

‘Then drink a toast to us: Pinkerton and Daughter!’

I hesitated. 

‘Go on!’ he said with a wink. ‘Remember? The bubbles mean it ain’t spirituous.’  

I lifted the heavy bottle to my mouth and took a sip. It was warm & sweet & fizzy. It reminded me of the previous night when we had dined & drunk champagne & then danced the Schottische. 

I drank another swallow, then held it out to him. 

‘To Pinkerton and daughter!’ said my Pa, holding the bottle aloft and then taking a drink. ‘Now you say it, too.’ 

I said, ‘To Pinkerton and daughter!’ I took another sip, but I swallowed wrong and it fizzed hotly all the way down to my chest and made me cough. 

He patted me on the back, laughing. 

Suddenly everything felt fine. I was with my pa. We had saved the silver & vanquished the Reb Road Agents & would soon find their stash. Best of all, I was going back to Chicago with Robert Pinkerton as his savior & legally adopted child. 

I held out the bottle to Pa. He swigged the last of the champagne & tossed the bottle into the trees. 

‘Yee-haw!’ he cried. 

‘Yee-haw!’ I agreed. 

Then he stood up & grabbed me & waltzed me round the campfire among the scattered letters. He was humming the tune of the Schottische we had danced to the night before. 

We must have seemed a strange sight to those two Reb Road Agents tied up to their pine tree. A humming Pinkerton Detective aged about 45 dancing with a 12-year-old half-Indian girl in a too-big, flat-brimmed hat & button-up boots & a fur-trimmed velvet sacque belted with a piece of whang leather with a Remington Revolver stuck in the front & a yellow velvet purse dangling from the back. 

The almost-full moon was directly above. It seemed to smile down on us. The golden sparks from the fire hurried up to join the wobbling stars. 

I felt bubbles of happiness rising up in me, too, like a thousand tiny hot air balloons. My pa & I were dancing together in a silent glade beneath a million stars. 

But as my pa spun me around I caught a flash of a something emerging from the shadows into the flickering firelight. It was Kepi. Somehow he had got free.

‘Watch out, pa!’ I cried. ‘Behind you!’ 

Read on...

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 23

When I came out into the firelight with the double-barrelled shotgun, the two Reb Road Agents stopped and stared at me with Expression No. 4 – Surprise – across both their faces. 

‘Drop em. Now!’ I said in my most commanding voice. I held the gun beside my hip, my grip relaxed but not loose.

They looked at me & then they looked at each other & then they started to laugh. 

‘Lookee there! It is that strange little girl from the stagecoach!’ cried Kepi. ‘She is dressed up as a midget Marshal, you bet.’ 

‘I reckon if she pulls the trigger the kick will knock her off her feet,’ said Slouch. 

They were laughing so hard they did not even bother to draw their sidearms. 

I pointed the double-barrelled shotgun at the branch above their heads & pulled the trigger. There was a gargantuan explosion that echoed and re-echoed in the mountain night and sent pine needles drifting down into the clearing. The gun had indeed given a powerful kick, but I had been holding it slightly away from my body so it did me no harm at all apart from the ringing in my ears. When the gun smoke dispersed I saw their sidearms on the ground before them and their hands stretched high in the air. 

‘You,’ I said to Kepi. ‘Take off your pard’s belt and cinch up his hands real good behind his back. But first, back away from your guns.’

They backed away from their guns.

While Kepi was undoing Slouch’s belt, I walked over towards them and kicked their revolvers back towards where I had been hiding. Keeping the barrel of the shotgun trained on the two outlaws, I backed up. Then I used my left hand to pick up the biggest revolver. It was Slouch’s. One glance told me it was a Remington Army which takes a .44 caliber ball. I stuck it in my whang leather belt. 

After Kepi bound Slouch’s hands real good, I gestured at Slouch’s feet. ‘Take off his boots,’ I said. ‘Then take off yours.’ 

‘No!’ whimpered Kepi. ‘Not that!’

‘Take off your boots,’ I insisted. ‘Or I will blow you out of them.’

With much grunting and glaring, Kepi took off Slouch’s boots & then his own. 

‘Now, take those leather reins and use them to tie him to that tree trunk,’ I commanded. 

 ‘Listen,’ said Slouch, as he backed up to the tree in his stocking feet. ‘We got lots of silver here. We are happy to share it with you if you will just let us go.’ 

‘Nope,’ I said. ‘And stop talking.’

‘We were supposed to shoot her dead,’ muttered Kepi as he tied his pard to the tree. 

‘I did my best,’ said Slouch.

I only had one shot left in the scattergun so I took that big Remington revolver from my whang leather belt & cocked it & fired another warning shot into the tree trunk a few inches above Slouch’s head. 


‘Dang!’ yelped Slouch, ducking down. 

‘Cheese it!’ I commanded. ‘Now, sit down with your back against the tree. Tie him up good,’ I said to Kepi.

Slouch sat at the foot of the tree & Kepi tied him to it real good. 

‘Now take off your belt,’ I said to Kepi. 

Kepi took off his belt. 

‘Use it to bind up your own ankles real good,’ I said. 

He bound up his ankles. I noticed he had a hole in his sock where his big toe poked through.  

‘Sit on the other side of the tree from your pard,’ I said. 

Kepi hopped over to the other side of the tree & sat down awkwardly, with his back to the leather-bound trunk and his belt-bound legs straight out before him. I stuck the revolver back in my belt, transferred the shotgun in my right hand & took the end of the leather traces in my left hand. I tied it to the strip of leather already wound around the tree. Then I made three circuits of the tree, wrapping them both up real tight. 

The fire had died down to a reddish glow so I threw a few more pieces of wood on the embers & stood with my back to it & examined my work. They could both see me if they turned their heads but they could not see one another. 

‘One word from either of you,’ I warned, ‘and I will take off your socks and stuff them in your mouths as a gag.’

‘You goddam blank!’ said Slouch. ‘You would not dare.’

I put down the double-barrelled shotgun & went over to him & tugged off his smelly socks and stuffed them both in his mouth. 

‘Try to spit them out and I will shoot you in the foot,’ I warned. 

Then I went round to do the same to Kepi. 

‘Please no,’ he whimpered. ‘I promise I will be quiet.’ 

But Ma Evangeline taught me never to make a threat unless you are prepared to carry it out. So I took off his threadbare socks and put them in his mouth, too.

I almost felt sorry for them until I remembered the .44 caliber bullet hole in my bonnet. 

It was now chilly, even with my velvet, fur-trimmed sacque. I went over to stand by the revived fire. I warmed my hands above it and pondered what to do. They had mentioned a stash of ‘booty’ at ‘Grizzly Gulch’. 

Then I remembered Slouch saying the ‘shebang’ was ‘less than a mile’.  

I reckoned they were talking about their camp. If I set out now with the silver-laden horses, I could get there before the moon set. I might even see another stage or rider on the road and send for the Law. Then they could put Slouch and Kepi in jail to await a trial. 

I glanced over at them. They sat barefoot & gagged & back-to-back with a big old pine trunk between them. They could not see each other but they both had their heads turned & were staring at me. With their socks poking out of their open mouths it looked like they were angrily sticking out their tongues at me. 

But even as I watched, I saw their expressions change. Their eyes got wider & their eyebrows went up. They were giving me Expression No. 4 – Surprise. 

Why were they looking at me like that?

Then I realized. They were not looking at me.

They were looking beyond me. 

Someone – or something – was coming up behind me!

[Don't have a clue what's going on? Start with chapter one.]

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!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 22

I was outnumbered and outgunned. There were two Reb Road Agents & only one me. They each had a big revolver and at least one rifle. I only had a Muff Deringer.

But I had the advantage of not being dead like they probably thought I was.

And I had my Indian skills. Using these skills, I scanned the camp and spotted the Henry rifle leaning against the trunk of a pine tree not too far from the fire. Dizzy’s double-barrelled shotgun was there, too. Ray must have left it inside the coach when he climbed up to help me. 

I put my little four-shooter back in the inner pocket of my sacque & made my way carefully back into the darkness of the pine forest & circled round real stealthy & slow, so as not to alarm the horses. 

When I came up behind the leaning gun pine, I reached my hand around kind of groping-like & took first the Henry & then the double-barrelled shotgun. Tucking both guns under my arm, I melted back into the darkness of the forest and returned to my first vantage point. 

By now the Rebs were tipping letters out of the leather sacks and filling the empty bags with silver ingots. There were letters scattered everywhere but at least they had stopped burning them. 

I was about to step forward & throw down on them, when I remembered I was wearing a velvet sacque and a wig of swinging ringlets beneath a lighthouse bonnet. I would not make a very imposing figure thus attired. At least I could take of the danged wig & silly bonnet. 

I took off the danged wig & silly bonnet. 

As I was about to toss away those two hated objects, I saw something that made my blood run cold as snowmelt. 

There was a bullet hole in the sticking-up part of the bonnet! A hole made by a .44 caliber ball, I reckoned. I remembered how something had knocked my bonnet forward when they had been shooting at us. 

‘Dang!’ I said to myself. ‘They were shooting to kill.’

They were pretty drunk by now. I could tell because they were weaving around as they lugged leathern sacks full of silver bricks over to the horses. I reckoned I might as well wait until they finished loading the silver on the horses. Otherwise I would have to do a lot of heavy lifting myself. 

The moon was high now and I judged it to be around 10 pm. My stomach was growling but my last few pieces of jerky were in my yellow velvet purse which I had left hanging on the front rail of the stagecoach. I peered at the ruined coach and thought I saw something yellow in the moonlight. 

While they were busy loading the last of the silver onto the stage horses, I snuck over to the wrecked body of the stagecoach & got my yellow velvet bag and fished out a piece of jerky. Then I looked inside the coach. I saw Ray’s flat brimmed gray hat lying on top of a letter-sack that was half spilling out its letters. There were also some lengths of whang leather that had bound the mouths of the mail sacks. 

I lowered myself down through the open window of the door & I put on Ray’s hat. It was a mite too big so I stuffed a few loose letters in the crown to make it fit. But what to do about my puffy sacque with its bell-like outline? 

Then I had another idea. I took one of those strips of whang leather & tied it around my waist over the sacque. In the darkness they might take me for a short man in a belted coat. I also tied my yellow velvet purse to the belt of whang leather, but I made sure it was hanging down behind me. 

Quiet as a bug on burlap, I climbed out of the ruined stagecoach & lowered myself onto the moon-dappled ground & melted back into the inky shadows of the pines.

Over by the horses, Kepi stretched & yawned. ‘Toting those silver ingots has tuckered me out,’ he said to his pard. ‘Can’t we take a little kip?’

‘Nope,’ said Slouch. ‘We gotta put some distance between us and the wreck while the moon is still up. If Chauncy or Jonas find us slacking there will be h-ll to pay.’

‘They ain’t the boss of us,’ said Kepi.

‘No, but they promised us a good piece of the pie for our help,’ said Slouch. 

‘H-ll,’ said Kepi. ‘We got about seventy-five pieces of silver pie right here on these horses. We ought to keep the booty and skedaddle to Frisco. Or we could lay low in Angel’s Camp.’

‘Better not,’ said Slouch. ‘They would hunt us down and kill us dead if we betrayed em.’

‘Aw,’ said Kepi. ‘I could take em easy.’

‘You could maybe take Chauncy,’ said Slouch. ‘But not Jonas. He is as cold-blooded as a rattler.’

‘He is most likely dead of a busted neck,’ said Kepi.

‘Maybe,’ said Slouch. ‘Maybe not. You willing to take that chance?’

‘Nah,’ said Kepi, ‘I reckon not. Where was we supposed to meet em?’

‘Grizzly Gulch,’ said Slouch. ‘Where we stashed the booty. We can make it back to our shebang easy before the moon sets. I reckon it is less than a mile.’

‘Better mount up, then,’ said Kepi, starting towards their horses. 

My heart was pounding in my chest. It was now or never. I could not show any fear or they might throw down on me.

I picked up the double-barrelled shotgun & checked it was capped & loaded. 

It was. 

I took a deep breath & stepped out into the firelight. 

‘You ain’t going nowhere,’ I said, making my voice as deep as I could. ‘Throw down your sidearms and reach for the sky.’

Read on...

Sunday, August 07, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 21

I must have passed out because everything went black for a time.

When I came to, I found myself still falling through the night.

Yes! I was still falling. 

But I did not splat.

This confused me.

Then I had a notion of what was happening. 

I was suspended between Glory and the Fiery Place! 

I had tried to be a Good Methodist but now all my sins came rushing back into my memory, viz: I had killed a man & told lies & played poker & tried whiskey once & a Pousse Lamour cocktail another time & ignored every single one of my foster ma’s dying wishes. Also I had pranked the people of Virginia City for over nine months, making them believe I was a boy not a gal. 

That might have been the worst sin of all, for they were my friends.

I reckon I was in a place called Limbo. 

Methodists do not believe in that place, but Mr. Hazard O’Toole at the Shamrock Saloon across from my office is Catholic. He told me all about it. 

He told me that Limbo is where you go to wait while the angels plead your case and the imps of the Fiery Place accuse you. 

Gradually, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I perceived that I was not in Limbo. I was still in the high Sierras, surrounded by the looming black shapes of whispering pines. Why had I not splatted onto the ground? 

Was I dreaming? 

My arms were hanging limp. I moved my right hand over to pinch my left. 

I pinched hard. 

It hurt. 

That meant I was not dreaming. 

Then I realized that I was kind of tipped forward. I could feel something tugging my underarms & the seams of my coat sleeves straining tight. Someone was holding me up. 

Someone… or something!

I knew there were bears in these mountains. Was it a man-eating grizzly bear holding me aloft?

If a prey animal is in trouble, he does one of three things. 
No. 1 – He fights
No. 2 – He runs away
No. 3 – He freezes, so that he will not be seen or so that his enemy will think he is dead.

I could not fight. And I could not run away. So decided to use method No. 3 and ‘play possum’. Maybe the grizzly bear holding me up thought I was dead. Maybe he was not hungry enough to devour me in my velvet sacque & yellow-straw lighthouse bonnet with its silk flowers & ribbon & ruffles. 

I must have been dazed with terror to imagine such a foolish thing. By and by I realized it could not be a grizzly bear holding me so still. Or even a person.

It was one of them whispering pines.

Yes, I was caught by tree. 

My velvet and fur-trimmed sacque must have puffed out as I fell through the air and got caught on a branch. 

There was no sound except the wind in the pines and further off the jingling and snorting of horses. 

The horses! Had they survived? What about Ray, who had been up on the driver’s box with me?

If only I could see!

I reached my arms up over my head and after some groping I clasped on to the branch holding me. I could feel it through the satin-lined velvet fabric of the sacque which was straining under my weight.  

It felt brittle and prickly, like an old branch. A dead branch. 


That was the sound I heard as I found myself tipped forward a little more. My efforts to free myself had caused the branch that was holding me to bounce up and down a little. It was going to break and send me hurtling to the rocky gorge three thousand feet below!
I considered yelling for help but then I reasoned that the only other people for miles around were two Road Agents and one Pinkerton detective, viz: Mr. Ray G. Tempest. The road agents might be nearby. And the Pinkerton detective was probably dead. 

So instead of yelling, I sent up an arrow prayer to the Lord. 

‘Dear Lord,’ I prayed, ‘please forgive me for pranking my friends and help me to be a good girly-girl, if that is your desire. Only save me in my moment of need! Amen.’

As if in answer to my prayer, some pearly white rays poked up through the inky black branches of a pine tree below me. Those rays were like the halo of a saint, all fanned out. A moment later a light shone in my face. It was the moon, rising in the east and shining up through the gulch. 

That blessed moonlight showed me that it was indeed the branch of a fir tree holding me. 

I looked down. 

Hallelujah! I was only about six feet off the ground. 

(But I still might have broke my neck if that branch had not caught me.) 

The next question was: how to get down? 


I could use the weakness of the branch.

I flapped my arms to make the branch bob up and down. 


My plan worked. I fell the six feet but landed awkwardly on account of I was wearing those button-up boots and not my usual moccasins. The ground was padded with pine needles, which cushioned my fall, but it also sloped gently down so I rolled a few times. The prickly savior branch dug into my back but thankfully it did not pierce the daffodil-yellow frock nor break my skin. 

I got up on my hands & knees and straightened my wig & bonnet & pulled the branch out from under my sacque. 

Hallelujah! My little 4-shot Muff Deringer was still firmly in the hidden pocket. I took it out & cocked it & crept down towards the sound I had heard earlier, viz: the sound of horses snorting & voices in the pines. 

I am used to sneaking in the dark & when I put my mind to it I can go over crispy leaves & crunchy pine needles without making a sound. I crept forward, as silent as a cat on a velvet cushion. 

Presently I came to where I could see the flickering yellow light of a fire. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. 

Here is the picture the golden firelight & the silvery moonlight showed me: 

One papier maché torso wearing a pink shawl & a flower-bedecked sunhat on her watermelon head & balanced on the ground as if sitting before the fire with her back to me.

Two Reb Road Agents sitting at the fire facing the dummy & also me & reading letters. 

Three wheels scattered in various places around them. 

Some pieces of a busted up old Concord Stage & a tangle of reins & a whippletree & some other tackle lying between me and the Reb Road Agents. 

Seven letter-sacks sitting near them. 

Eight horses standing whole and unharmed, loosely tethered a pine. 

Seventy-eight gleaming bricks of silver piled up beside the fire. 

This is what that picture told me:

The stagecoach had crashed but the whippletree had broke loose from the singletree & all the horses had survived. I could see the drop was not as steep as I had feared, though it was still enough to cause the coach to roll over a couple of times and break up, probably on account of the heavy silver bars inside. The Reb Road Agents had obviously come upon the site of the wreck as they pursued us. They had seized all the silver bars and were now relaxing. 

I could see no sign of Ray. 

I reckoned he was dead. 

The decoy stage full of guards and also my pa riding behind were probably ten miles further along the road. Maybe more.

I was on my own. 

I focused all my attention on the Reb Road Agents. The one with the slouch hat was older. He was smoking a pipe & reading a letter. The one with the kepi was younger. He was swigging from a bottle of champagne & reading a letter. I noticed they had an open letter-sack beside them.

I wormed forward to the trunk of the tree closest to their fire. 

I was close enough to hear them talking. 

‘Hey, darlin,’ said Kepi to the dressmaker’s dummy. ‘Listen to this: Dear Ma, It is Bonanza here on the Comstock. They struck it rich in the front ledge in Gold Hill the other day. Tell little Pete and Edward they must come and join me. I have got a job working for the Yellow Jacket mine. It is hot and tiring but I get four dollars a day and I have feet. Give Betty my love and tell her she will not have to wait much longer.’ He took a swig of champagne & then he tossed the letter into the flames.

‘Hey!’ I got a good one, said Slouch. ‘It is a love letter from a gal to her betrothed: Oh Roderick I count the hours until I see you again.’ He was making his voice all high like a lady’s. ‘I have not heard from you in three weeks and I fear you have stopped caring for your sweet Elspeth. Are the girls prettier in Frisco? Please write to me, dear one!’ 

He also tossed his letter in the fire. 

I was outraged. They were burning letters from sons to their mothers & lonely gals to their sweethearts!

Silver could be replaced, but not letters. 

I had to stop them! 

But how?

Read on!