Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Diana, a poem


Of golden sunlight,
Pools of green,
Dapple her skin like
A fawn's
As she runs
Through the glade.

Of silver arrows
Flash in the quiver,
Rattle in their case like
The shards
Athenians scratched 
To vote.

Of startled birds 
Fly up into the blue;
Her arc
Is in her hand,
An arrow notched
And ready.

Scatter, wet and gleaming,
As her golden-sandalled foot
splashes in the brook,
A warning
To the prey
She seeks.

Sparkle on her cheeks
Like angry diamonds,
Splash onto sunburned arms 
And dusty knees;
Weary she returns
To her garden.

Begin to prick
The violet dusk;
Bathed and clean
She sits in the fragrance
Of evening jasmine, henna, myrrh,
Under a crescent moon.

And he comes
To her there
In the secret place,
Tiny brazen hooves and silver horn,
pushing his velvet nose
Into the hollow of her neck,
Bowed in prayer.

Caroline Lawrence 1998

Nothing is lost! This poem I wrote in 1998 bore a kind of fruit nearly 20 years later when I did a re-telling of an ancient Roman tale for Barrington Stoke. Virgil's tragic Camilla story is found scattered out of order in books 7 and 11 of The Aeneid. I tried to put it in order and fill in the blanks. Queen of the Silver Arrow is written in simple prose for reluctant or dyslexic teen readers. But although the vocabulary is easy enough for a 7-year-old to read, some of the themes and images are better suited to children 11+

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Case of the Bogus Detective 50

A week later, I found myself standing on the stage of Minnehaha’s Medicine Show, listening to hearty applause. 

It was Sunday May 10th and we were all at the Willows Amusement Park celebrating the capture of the criminals & the recovery of the money & our reward. Minnie had invited me to help her with the final part of her act. It was her last day in the city as she was bound for Sac City and parts beyond. 

She was wearing her tight buckskin top and her puffy skirt with the stripes & zigzags on it. Her hair was wavy & glossy & black & fell down to her shoulders. She was not wearing war paint so you could see her freckles and pale skin. 

I was wearing my fringed buckskin trowsers & beaded moccasins & beaded buckskin gloves & my red, blue and yellow zigzag jacket. I was also wearing the wig of straight black hair. (I had bought it from Minnie.) I was using my bogus pa’s Smith & Wesson No. 2 with its 6in barrel and rosewood grip. I like it because it fits my hand real good and also because it takes the same .32 rimfire cartridges as my 4-shooter Deringer. That means I do not need to bother with cap & ball & powder. 

Minnie and I had been shooting tin cans. 

My ears were still ringing with the sound of gunfire and my nose was full of the pungent smell of gun smoke. We had hit every can!

I had also been using my fine new Henry Rifle which takes fourteen .44 caliber cartridges and makes a bang like a shout. It was engraved thus: To P.K. Pinkerton, with thanks from the Overland Stage Co

Mr. V.V. Bletchley had come all the way from Virginia City to present it to me, along with a generous reward of $2000. I had given $500 to Martha & Zoe & $500 to Ping & $500 to Minnehaha. (That was when she had invited me to be part of her show for just one afternoon.)

As the cloud of white gun smoke cleared on that fine May afternoon, I could see the people looking up at us and clapping. 

I saw Ping & Affie & Martha & Zoe. Mr. Sam Clemens AKA Mark Twain, was there, too, with his friend The Unreliable and also Mrs. John D Winters who was smiling and not looking down her nose. I saw my new colleague Mr. Detective Rose & half a dozen of San Francisco’s finest. They were clapping as hard as anybody else. 

Mr. Icy Blue was there, too, all in black. And Dizzy, with his leg in plaster! He was making a good recovery. He had verified my side of the story & was now ‘Yee-Hawing’ on account of he could not clap as he had to use both his hands for his crutches.  

Best of all, Ping had got an indebted Virginia City client of his to ride Cheeya to Frisco in easy stages. So I was now reunited with my beloved pony. 

I was about to jump down off the stage to join them when a man with oval spectacles ran up. He pointed to me. ‘You! Stay up there!’ he commanded. ‘I am Mr. H. W. Corbyn. I am going to make photographic cards of you. I will sell them and make a fortune. It will only take a moment or two and I will give you half the proceeds,’ he added.

So while Minnehaha was going round and collecting tips in her quiver, I remained on the stage. 

Mr. H. W. Corbyn heaved his big black camera up onto the stage & drew the red velvet curtains so that the people in the audience would not disturb us. The sun was right overhead and it was shining for all it was worth. Mr. Corbyn made me stand with one foot up on Minnie’s ammunition box, like when a hunter stands over the prey he has just killed.  

While Mr. Corbyn was making adjustments, a dark figure stooped to enter through the tee-pee door at the back of the stage & then stood tall. 

It was Poker Face Jace.

I could not move because Mr. Corbyn was making adjustments. 

Jace stopped about two paces away from me. He had his hands behind his back.  

‘Go away,’ I said. ‘I am quit of you.’

‘Hear me out,’ said he.

I said nothing. 

He said, ‘Remember when you came to Steamboat Springs end of last month and I said how in the whole world, only you and I knew the secret of your initials?s’

I gave a curt nod.

He sighed. ‘Well, after you left, I got to thinking. I remembered when I was with Violetta in Carson.’ He paused & took a breath. ‘She was interrogating me about you and we had been drinking and I might have mentioned something to her. About you not knowing what the P and the K stood for, that is.’

He still had his hands behind his back & suddenly his pale cheeks were pinkish. I had to look at him to make sure I was really seeing this. It was the first time I had ever seen Jace discombobulated. He even remained cool & collected under fire. But danged if he wasn’t blushing or flushing or something.

‘Keep your head still,’ Mr. H. W. Corbyn told me. ‘I am almost ready.’

‘That was why I came here to Frisco,’ said Jace. He spoke quickly & without his usual drawl, like he wanted to get it out fast. ‘I wondered if Violetta might be scheming against you. I had just got into her hotel room and was about to search it when you showed up.’  

‘A likely story,’ said I. 

But part of me wanted him to convince me I was wrong.

‘P.K.?’ he said. His voice was kind of thick and he had to clear his throat and start again. ‘You are kind of like a daughter to me. Or a son. Or – I don’t know – maybe both of those combined. As you know, I lost my own… And I just wanted to say… I am sorry. I would like you to have this.’

From behind his back he brought out a straw hat of the kind they call ‘sombrero’. Only it was not as big as most sombreros. 

The photographer was fiddling with his camera again, and had his back to us, so I reached out my hand & took it. 

It was made of pale-gold straw and had a red hat-band and on that hat-band was a buckskin butterfly all embroidered with beads. 

It was like the hat in my dream. 

Had I told him about my dream? I could not recollect. 

I looked at him and he looked at me. 

I looked back down at the hat. I said, ‘It is a bully hat.’

‘Ain’t it?’ said Jace. ‘I saw it in on a Mexican gal near Sacramento on my way here and I thought it might suit you. She made me pay five dollars for it,’ he added. 

‘Put it on!’ cried Mr. H. W. Corbyn from his device. 

I put it on. 

‘Yes!’ Mr. H. W. Corbyn called out to me. ‘But further back on your head, so it don’t shade your face.’

‘Let me,’ said Jace. He stepped forward & set the small sombrero a bit further back on my head & then he folded the front brim up a mite. 

‘There,’ said Jace in a low voice. ‘That looks fine.’ For a moment he lingered to brush a strand of wig hair away from my face. 

Then he stepped back. 

‘Perfect!’ cried Mr. Corbyn once more. ‘That is the finishing touch we needed. Now put your left hand on top of the rifle barrel and put your right hand back so I can see your pistol and gun-belt.’ 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jace moving away. 

‘Don’t go,’ I said. 

He stopped moving away. 

‘Freeze!’ cried Mr. Corbyn. Then he took away the cover of the lens & I stood as still as a jackass rabbit even though I could see Jace out of the corner of my eye. I could see him taking a cigar out of his coat pocket & he had some trouble lighting it as his hands were shaky.

In front of me, Mr. H. W. Corbyn replaced the cover on the lens and cried ‘Got it! These are going to sell like glasses of iced lemonade in Hell!’ he exclaimed. Then he added, ‘Pardon my French.’ 

Mr. H. W. Corbyn took the photographic plate and hurried out the back exit, leaving us alone on the curtained stage.

I turned to Jace. ‘We are all going to have a picnic down by the duck-pond,’ I said. ‘The one by the emeu cage. Ping and Affie and Martha. Miz Zoe, too. Will you join us?’

‘I would be honored,’ he said. He puffed his cigar and blew smoke up. ‘Can Stonewall come, too?’

‘Sure.’ I took a deep breath. ‘Jace?’ 


‘You know you said I was a bit like your son or your daughter or both?’

He nodded. 

I took a deep breath. ‘Would you maybe give me a bear hug like a pa gives his kid sometimes?’

Jace opened his mouth. Then he closed it. Then he tossed the cigar away & stepped forward & put his arms around me in a safe bear hug. 

I usually do not like being touched but sometimes a bear hug is necessary.

This one felt good. 

It felt safe. 

I thought, ‘I do not need to find out who my real pa is. No pa could be as good as Jace. He is true. And he likes me just as I am.’

My eyes filled up with tears & I felt a sob wanting to come up. Dang my changing body! 

Just in time, my new hat fell off & we laughed & I bent down to pick it up & put it on & when I looked at Jace danged if his eyes weren’t damp too!

‘Bit dusty today,’ he remarked, taking out a pristine handkerchief and dabbing his eyes. 

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘I noticed that, too.’

‘Dang,’ he said, putting the handkerchief back in his coat pocket. ‘You look mighty fine in that getup. How does it feel?’ 

‘It feels good,’ I said. ‘It feels like me.’ 

Then I took out my pistol & cocked it & fired it into the blue San Francisco sky & shouted, ‘Yee-haw!’

The End

[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

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Case of the Bogus Detective 49

Mr. Lick’s office was not plush like the other rooms in the Lick House Hotel, but simple. It had leather chairs & a workbench at the back with woodworking tools & sawdust on the floor. 

Two policeman helped Mr. Ray G. Tempest AKA Jonas Blezzard into one of the leather chairs. Detective Rose let me come in, and also Martha, Zoe, Affie & Ping. The five of us stood with our backs to the workbench. 

Two more policemen came in, along with Mr. Isaac ‘Icy’ Blue. They held some familiar-looking leather mailbags. 

A distinct smell of horse manure pervaded the room. 

‘The stolen silver ingots and gold coins,’ I cried. ‘You found them!’

‘Where were they?’ asked Detective Rose. 

‘In two big travelling trunks,’ said one of the policemen. ‘Just like he said.’

‘There were tags on the trunks,’ said the other. ‘It appears the two of them had tickets on a cruise to the Sandwich Islands departing this very evening.’

No wonder everything had been done in such a rush. They were going to take that gold and silver with them, you bet!

‘I will get you for this!’ gasped Blezzard. He was looking at me. 

‘If you confess now,’ said Detective Rose to Blezzard. ‘In will go easier for you. You might not swing.’ 

‘Swing?’ said Blezzard, his face blanching. ‘Do you mean at the end of a rope?’

I fished in my medicine bag for my silk butterfly but Mr. Jonas Blezzard was already co-operating. 

The double threat of death by hanging and butterflies made him Spill the Beans, as they say. 

Right there in that sawdust-scented workroom he told us how he had come up with the plan. 

‘It all started with that half-Injun,’ he said, glaring at me. ‘She riled Violetta who became intent on revenge.’

‘Start from the beginning,’ said Detective Rose. 

‘Just after Christmas last year,’ said Blezzard. ‘Chance and I were playing poker in the Bella Union saloon here in Frisco. There was a new lady in town, a shapely widow named Violetta De Baskerville. We got ourselves places on her table. She was drinking Pousse Lamour cocktails and by the end of the night it was only the three of us. We got to talking about how much gold and silver was pouring out of those Comstock mines. She was tipsy, and told us about a scheme she had once devised. She and a lawman friend of hers in Virginia City had planned to hire a couple of roughs to rob the stages. He would “capture and arrest” the desperados and split the takings with them, allowing them to “escape” on the way to custody. The traitorous lawman would then tell the authorities that the robbers got away without revealing the location of the stash. 

‘Deputy Marshal Jack Williams,’ I said to Affie under my breath. ‘Violetta shot and killed him.’ 

Blezzard continued, ‘Violetta told us her lawman pard had been killed in a shooting affray. She did not know anyone stupid enough to play the dangerous parts of Reb Road Agents. I told her we knew a couple of bit-part actors who would pretend to be brigands for a spell. I said me and Chauncy could play lawmen. You got any whiskey?’ He asked Detective Rose.

‘When you finish telling us.’

Blezzard took a deep breath. ‘Violetta said she would fund us if we promised to exact revenge upon a brat in Virginia City. Violetta told us the kid was training to be a detective in order to join her pa’s agency. Well, I have a friend in Chicago, owns a jewelry store near the Pinkerton Agency. I asked him to tell me everything he could about them. He sent me a letter full of useful information about Robert and Allan Pinkerton. Chauncy was good with accents so he decided to play the kid’s pa.’ 

Jonas Blezzard shot me a glare. ‘We had briefed Johnny and Jimmy to stop a stage with a little girl riding on top. That was how they would know the one with the silver.’

‘How?’ said Detective Rose. ‘You could not telegraph a couple of Reb Road Agents hiding out in the high Sierras.’ 

‘It was our plan from the beginning,’ said Blezzard. ‘Violetta thought if we could get her to admit she was a girl it would serve three purposes; it would hurt her friends and help mark out that stagecoach.’

‘And the third purpose?’

Blezzard shrugged. ‘It would be easy to shoot her dead.’ 

I thought, Dang! that Violetta is a clever one.

‘What happened to Chauncy?’ said Detective Rose.

‘He threw down on me,’ said Jonas. ‘I shot back in self-defense. It was justified.’

‘That is a bald-faced lie!’ I cried. ‘You killed him in cold blood and with no warning. You tried to shoot me, too.’

Detective Rose turned to me. ‘Where is Chauncy Pridhaume now?’ he asked. 

I said, ‘You will find the body of my bogus pa in a shallow grave near a cave in a place called Grizzly Gulch a few miles west of Friday’s Station. ‘I had my account all written out,’ I added. ‘But it was in the pocket of my greatcoat and I lost that.’

Detective Rose smiled. ‘We got your greatcoat,’ he said. ‘With all the incriminating documents and also a ledger book and a fine pair of buckskin gauntlets.’  

At that moment the door opened and in came Violetta de Baskerville AKA Mrs. von Vingschplint AKA Mrs. Jonas Blezzard. 

Her bosom was heaving and her violet eyes were flashing sparks. She looked mighty pretty. I heard all the men in the room exhale & even Ping & Affie were staring with their mouths open. Violetta was in the custody of another uniformed policeman. Jace was behind them. 

It was now fairly crowded in that room. 

All eyes were on Violetta. She looked around at us all & her gaze fell on me. 

‘I wish I had let you die up in the mountains last year,’ she snarled. 

I said, ‘If you had not sought revenge you would now be living in peace and prosperity. I hope you have learned your lesson.’ 

‘Why, you sanctimonious little blank!’ she spat out. (Only she did not say ‘blank’.)

‘Ladies, ladies! That is enough,’ said Detective Rose. ‘I believe I see the way of it.’ To the policemen he said, ‘Take Mr. Blezzard and his wife and lock them up. In separate cells,’ he added. 

‘Jacey, help me!’ pleaded Violetta. Once again she swooned.

However, this time he made no move to catch her & she fell to the floor with a thud. One of the policemen helped her up and escorted her – now writhing and cursing – from the premises. 

Detective Rose turned to me. ‘Thanks to your resourcefulness and bravery we have apprehended two possible murderers and nearly half a million in stolen gold and silver. Ever thought of setting up a branch of your detective agency here in San Francisco? I could use some operatives like you and your friends. That is, resourceful kids with a knack for disguise.’ 

‘Ping, too?’ I said. 

‘Of course,’ said he. ‘We have a big Celestial population and not enough good men to help us there.’

‘Martha and Zoe, too?’ I said. ‘And Affable?’

‘You bet. You are all good detectives.’ 

I nodded happily. It looked like I was going to remain a Private Eye after all. 

Read on...