Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 32

‘I said sit!’ 

The telegraph operator at Yank’s Station was aiming a cocked Colt’s Navy Revolver at me and his tone was firm. 

But I did not sit down to ‘wait for the Law’ as he suggested. 

Instead, I feinted to the left, dodged to the right, grabbed the rickety straight-backed chair on my side of the desk & swung at the Telegraph Operator with what I hoped was a blood-curdling Lakota war cry. ‘Aiiieeee!’ 

Normally you should not attack someone who is pointing a loaded firearm at you. 

But I was riled. 

I was riled at Ping.

I was riled at my dead & bogus Pa.

I was riled at Mr. Ray G. Tempest. 

I would search out the Truth and have my Revenge. 

And I was d-mned if anybody was going to get in my way. 

THUMP! I knocked the gun out of his hand. 

CLONK! It hit the raw plank wall and rebounded back onto the floor my side of the desk. 

CRASH! I smashed his telegraph machine with the chair. 

The gun was still spinning on the floor at my feet. I threw down the broken chair and had the revolver in my hand before he could react.

‘God d-mn,’ he said. ‘You busted my machine.’ 

‘Tear out the rest of those wires,’ I commanded. ‘And use them to tie your feet to the chair.’

He opened his mouth to protest. 

‘Do it!’ Using both hands, I cocked the pistol & raised it & pointed it at his heart. 

He tore out the wires & tied his ankles to the chair legs with trembling fingers. 

‘Take off your belt,’ I commanded. 

‘Stick your arms through the back slats of the chair,’ I added. 

And finally, ‘Wedge them in real good.’ 

When he had wedged his arms in real good, I went around behind him. Once I was out of his sight, I quickly uncocked the Colt’s Navy & stuck it in a pocket of my bogus pa’s greatcoat & used his own belt to tie his already wedged arms to the back of the chair. Then I came round to the front of the desk again & pulled the revolver out of my pocket. 

‘Close your eyes and count to one hundred,’ I commanded. 

Outside I heard the sound of a cavalry bugle sounding charge. 

‘What is that noise?’ I said, re-cocking the Navy. ‘Is it the cavalry come to rescue you?’

‘No,’ he said, his eyes still closed. ‘That is the 10 o’clock stage on its way to Virginia City. Major Micky is the driver. He always blows his trumpet when he is about to arrive or depart.’

‘Will they stop for lunch?’ 

‘They will stop for coffee, and stew if any passengers want it. Shall I carry on or start again?’

‘Carry on what?’

‘Counting to one hundred.’

‘Start again,’ I said. ‘And keep your eyes shut. I am going to stand right here. I will shoot you if you open your eyes before you reach one hundred.’

But as soon as he started counting again, I backed outside & dropped the revolver into a rain-barrel so he would not find it in a hurry. 

I glanced around to make sure nobody had seen me. Then I ran for the pine-woods. Once again I heard the blare of the bugle & also the jingle of harness & clop of hooves & knew the Virginia-bound Stage was pulling up in front of Yank’s Station. 

Soon they would all know about the half Injun fugitive, viz: ME

I went into the silent & dappled pine forest & circled west, going where the pine needles were thickest in case there were any trackers on my trail. I found a hiding place behind some big pine trees near the top of a rise in the road near where any Sacramento-bound coach would have to slow down on account of the steep grade. 

My plan was to jump onto the back of a stagecoach while it was going slow, and then slip inside the rear boot which is a big pouch of waterproof leather where they carry parcels & mail. I reckoned I was small enough to fit in. Unless I wanted to foot it one hundred miles or steal a horse, it was the only way I could get to Sacramento now that I was a WANTED desperado with a price on my head. 

The pine forest was still chilly in the shadows, but it was real quiet with no noise apart from the echoing knocks of woodpeckers deep in the forest and the occasional squitter of chickadees. I put up the collar of my bogus pa’s coat and took stock of my position. 

From my skin out, I was dressed in bloomers & chemise & 1 petticoat, and over that a gaudy yellow & green dress, and over that a purple velvet sacque trimmed with white ermine & cinched by a whang leather belt with a yellow velvet reticule tied to it, and over all that my bogus pa’s greatcoat, with the cuffs folded back & the hem pinned up so it did not drag on the ground. I had two guns that both took .32 caliber rimfire cartridges. In the pockets of my bogus pa’s greatcoat was his Smith & Wesson No. 2, a few coins, some greenbacks, a lion-head meerschaum pipe, tobacco, matches, this ledger book & a couple of pencils. In the medicine bag around my neck were my Muff Deringer, 5 spare rimfire cartridges, 3 Lucifers, my original ma’s flint knife, a silk butterfly, a $20 gold coin & my genuine pa’s Detective Button. 

Finally, I had my black button-up boots & a flat-crowned gray hat that had belonged to that murdering varmint Ray G. Tempest.  
It was a useful hat, but it had been described in the WANTED poster. That meant people might be on the lookout for a hat like that. Without a hat, my short hair would make me look like a boy. So I spun the hat up into a pine tree and watched it stick in some of the high branches above me. 

Then I sat still to wait for a lift to Sacto. 

I must have dozed for I woke with a start to the sound of whip cracks coming from the east and a rough voice yelling ‘Come on you beauties!’ Up the hill came six fine horses pulling a Concord Stage. 

They were heading the right direction, but I was dismayed to see not only a driver & conductor but about half a dozen people sitting on top. Some of them were facing out and two were facing back! Also, the mail boot at the rear was crammed full to bursting. 

A few moments later I heard another stage-coach. This one was coming from the west. It was the original Decoy Stage that had set out 24 hours before, with Icy riding shotgun but a new driver and a team of horses I did not recognize. They must have heard the telegraphed news that Dizzy was hurt & the silver stage wrecked. I reckoned they were heading back to investigate the scene of the crime. 

I caught a glimpse of Icy on his conductor’s seat as the stage raced downhill. His hat & little blue goggles hid his eyes but the rest of his face was ‘set like flint’. 

I thought As soon as they find the wreck and/or those horses they will come back this way. They will be looking for me!

I was about to have a bad case of the Mulligrubs when I heard another whip crack.


This stagecoach was going my way and it was not as crowded as the previous one. 

The conductor was dozing in the noontime sunshine and so were the two skull-capped, pigtailed Chinamen sitting on top among the luggage. I gathered myself and as it rumbled past I jumped onto the back like a tick on a deer. There was a gap in the fastening of the leather ‘boot’ and I wormed my way through just as the team topped the rise & we started to speed down the next hill. 

The inside of the mail boot smelled strongly of leather & faintly of ink. It was dark & warm. I spent the next half hour burrowing behind all the letter-sacks & canvas bags of printed matter. Some of the canvas bags were a bit spiky where corners of books & magazines were poking, but I had four layers of clothes including my bogus pa’s woolen greatcoat to protect me. I took a strange pleasure in being squished tight between the weight of the mailbags and the leather at the back of the stagecoach. I felt like a mole in its burrow: snug and safe. 

It must have been one of them new Concord coaches for the thoroughbrace made it rock like a cradle. I reckoned I had found the best place to ride in a stagecoach, viz: the hidden depths of the mail boot! 

I settled back & closed my eyes & offered up a prayer to the Good Lord. 

‘Lord,’ I said. ‘If you help me get to Frisco so I catch Mr. Ray G. Tempest and find out why he and Chauncy Pridhaume involved me in this crime, I promise I will not kill the lying varmint myself but will hand him over to the Law so that he can be hanged by the neck until dead. Amen.’ 

[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, October 16, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 31

I needed to see the WANTED notice to find out what it said about me so I could make myself look different. 

‘I have posted one of these outside your front door,’ said the young messenger, ‘and I will leave you this one. Make sure you tell all the stage drivers and passengers. I’m off to Strawberry to tell them, too!’

I heard the crinkle of paper as he passed over one of the WANTED notices to the old man. Then I heard the door of the stage house slam. Then I heard the sound of a horse’s hooves galloping west. 

I put the last piece of bread in my mouth but it was as dry a pine knot and I felt the lump of it go all the way down and sit like a pebble in my stomach. 

‘What did Toby want?’ asked the old woman who had been drawing water earlier. She had appeared from a back room. She wore a stained apron & was drying her hands on a towel. 

‘Them Reb Road Agents struck again,’ said the old man. ‘But this time they had helpers. Two men and a little girl.’ 

I heard the WANTED notice crinkle as he showed it to her.

‘A little girl?’ said the old lady. ‘Oh, Pshaw!’

‘Says it right here,’ said the man. ‘So it must be true. Prudence Pinkerton, aged 12.’

I winced at the mention of my girly name. 

‘Fur-trimmed purple cape?’ said the woman. ‘Yellow dress?  Lighthouse bonnet?’

I breathed a small sigh of relief. I was wearing Ray’s flat-topped gray hat and my bogus pa’s greatcoat buttoned over my dress and sacque. Yes, I was wearing girly-girl boots, but they were black and in that long coat only the toes were visible so they could be mistaken for a boy’s shoes. 

The lady’s voice went higher. ‘It says she is half Sioux Injun and of a sallow complexion.’ 

Dang! That was bad. There was nothing I could do about my skin. I stood up & mumbled my thanks & turned for the door. 

‘Hey, you!’ cried the old man. 

I froze. 

‘That will be four bits,’ he said. 

Fifty cents was a lot of money for rancid stew and stale bread and cup of water, but I did not object. I fished in the pocket of the greatcoat and found 2 quarters & put them on the table & went out as casually as I dared. 

On the outside wall of the stage house were half a dozen notices. I saw the newest handwritten one at once. It read as follows. 

for Robbery & possibly Murder!
Mr. Ray G. Tempest, aged around 30.
Tall and dark with mustache, sideburns & a bad tooth.
Last seen wearing gray flat-topped hat.  
Mr. Robert Pinkerton, aged around 35. Medium height, brown hair, mustache, speaks in a Scottish accent.
Last seen wearing a brown greatcoat & brown beaver-felt hat.
Miss Prudence Pinkerton, his daughter, aged 12, last seen wearing a fur-trimmed purple cape, a yellow dress & a lighthouse bonnet. She is half Sioux Indian with dark hair & eyes 
& of a Sallow complexion.
Reward: $100 each for their capture.

I felt queasy. Now all the stage drivers & passengers & pedestrians & riders travelling this road would be on the lookout for me.

The sleeves of my greatcoat were folded back and the pinned-up hem nearly touched the ground. This was not normal attire for a child. All a person had to do was imagine a 12-yr-old half Sioux girl in a man’s greatcoat and flat-topped gray hat, and they would have a mental picture of me. 

I had to get out to out of there. 

I had to get to Frisco to solve the mystery and prove my innocence.

But how? This was the only road in or out of the mountains. 
Standing there in the sunshine outside the stage stop, I looked around to get my bearings. Rising up behind the stables and a few other buildings stood thick ranks of pine trees all dense and dark. That gave me an idea of how to get to Frisco unseen. 

But first I had to find out if Ping had replied to my telegraphed plea for help. 

I sauntered towards the telegraph building, all careless-like.
As I neared the shack, my footsteps slowed down. 

My telegraphic message to Ping had named all three people on the WANTED poster, viz: Robert Pinkerton, Ray G. Tempest & me, P.K. Pinkerton.

Had the telegraph operator seen the poster yet? Or heard about the robbery? 

I went to the office & peeked into the doorway, ready to skedaddle. 

‘Your reply just came through,’ said the man, with only a cursory glance. He finished tapping something on his telegraph machine & held up a slip of paper with his free hand. 

‘Here it is,’ he said. He did not even look at me.

I breathed a sigh of relief. 

He had not heard the news. 

Or, if he had, he had not put two and two together, as they say.

I stepped forward and took the paper from him & read these words:

From: Hong Ping, proprietor Pingerton Detective Agency
To: P.K. Pinkerton, Yank’s Station
It is not true that I only care about money. I care about other things than money. But I think you only care about yourself. So I will NOT help you. We are no longer pards. You can go to the fiery place. Yrs, Ping

This surprised me in three ways: 

No. 1 – I did not know Ping’s other name was Hong.
No. 2 – I did not realize that Ping cared about other things than money. 
No. 3 – I had not thought Ping would hate me enough to want me to go to H-ll.  

Then I got a 4th surprise. 

I heard the sound of a gun being cocked & looked up to see the telegraph man on his feet. He had a Colt’s Navy in his hand & a glint in his eye. ‘Miss Prudence Pinkerton, I presume?’

The revolver was pointed at my heart. 

‘You didn’t think they would tell me first?’ he said. 

Inwardly I was cursing my stupidity, but I said nothing. 

‘I have just been telegraphing every stage station on both sides of the border that you are here,’ he added, ‘so you may as well sit down to wait for the Law.’ 

Read on...

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 30

I was following the tracks of murdering Ray G. Tempest AKA Jonas Blezzard when I saw that something had happened. 

A passel of wheel ruts & footprints & hoof prints on the muddy road told me that Ray & his nine horses had overtaken a big flatbed wagon pulled by two oxen. After some milling about, the horses had all gone down off the left hand side of the road in the pine trees & the wagon had carried on with just two oxen but much deeper wheel ruts. 

I deduced that Ray had either threatened or bribed the driver to help him transfer the gold and silver to that wagon. Then he had set the incriminating horses free, to fend for themselves. Then the two of them had carried on west. 

Ray had a good head start on me: at least four hours. But I reckoned I knew where he was headed. 

I reckoned he was going to meet Mrs. V. F. von Vingschplint in San Francisco! 

A bend in the road brought me to Yank’s Station where the only person in sight was a woman pumping water outside the stage house. I asked her if she had seen a man with a beaver-felt brown hat riding in an ox-cart just after dawn. 

She said yes there had been a man riding with ‘Dung’ O’Dowd. She told me Dung plied a flatbed ox-wagon from Placerville to Friday’s station. His habit was to fill that wagon with whiskey and head east, dropping whiskey off at all the stations. Then at Friday’s he would turn around and fill his wagon with manure so it was full when he got back to Placerville. She said she noticed the man because Dung usually travelled on his own. 

I reckoned Ray had hidden the leather mailbags full of gold and silver in the manure where nobody would care to look for it! 

I said, ‘Placerville is on the road to Sacramento, ain’t it?’

‘You bet.’

‘When is the next stage?’

‘Next stage to Sacto should be coming through in half an hour.’

‘Is there a telegraph office here at Yank’s Station?’ I said. 

‘Course there is,’ she replied. ‘Three doors down. Little one-room shack beside the stables at the base of one of them telegraph poles.’

I went three doors down and found a raw-plank, one-room building beside the stables at the base of one of them telegraph poles. The telegraph operator was snoozing with a slouch hat over his face and his feet up on a desk. On this desk was the machine for sending messages & a sheaf of forms & a tin can with pencils & a green blotter & a little bell with a dinger. 

I brought my gloved hand down on the dinger.


‘What?’ The man’s chair rocked back and almost tipped him out. 

‘How much to send a telegram to Virginia City?’ I asked. 

He pushed the hat back on his head. ‘Penny a word.’

I decided to save the $20 gold piece in my medicine pouch for the train and/or ferry to San Francisco. I fished around in my bogus pa’s greatcoat and pulled out 2 paper dollars & showed them to him. 

‘Two pennies a word if you are payin in greenbacks,’ he said, and spat into a corner of the room. 

He pushed a form forward. ‘Write the person’s address and fill it out,’ he said.

I paused for a moment to ponder. Whom should I wire for help? 

My first thought was Mr. V.V. Bletchley, but I wanted to solve the mystery and recover the treasure myself. 

My second thought was Jace, but a telegram might take a day or even two to reach Jace down in Steamboat Springs. 

I finally decided to ask Ping, even though he had claimed to be quit of me.

I said, ‘Do you know of a good and cheap hotel in Frisco?’ 

The telegraph opened a drawer in his desk & handed me a cherry red slip of paper. It read as follows:

San Francisco, Sacramento Street,
Between Montgomery & Sansome

B.B. WOODWARD, - - - - Proprietor.
This favorite and well-established House is now conducted on the Enterprise at New York Prices –
Guests paying for only what they order. 

and less Rates by the week

☞ An extensive Library, Museum & Reading Room free to all the Guests
☞ The OMNIBUS will take Guests & Baggage to the House Free of Charge
☞ Look to the name of the Omnibus to avoid imposition

Also, the CENTRAL RAILROAD CARS now connect with the Inland Steamers arriving at San Francisco, passing through Sansome Street, and crossing Sacramento Street, within half a block of the What Cheer House. Fare 5 cents.

BEWARE!! of a place adjoining the What Cheer House called the “Original House”. Said house is not in any way connected with this hotel. 

‘May I keep this?’ I said.

He nodded & yawned. ‘Sure,’ he said, ‘I got a whole passel of em.’

I folded the cherry red slip of paper and put it in the pocket of my Pa’s greatcoat.

Then I wrote my telegram.

From: P.K. Pinkerton, Yank’s Station
To:  Ping at the Pingerton (sic) Detective Agency,
South B Street, Virginia City

Need help. Rbt Pinkerton bogus. Real name Chauncy Pridhome? Shot & killed by bogus Pinkerton Det. Ray G. Tempest AKA Jonas Blezzard? Tempest left me for dead, took treasure. Come to Frisco. What Cheer House. Bring money & my trowsers. You said you were quit of me, but reward will bring you, as money all you care about. Yrs, P.K.

As I watched him tap out the message on the contraption before him, I imagined it whizzing along the wires to Virginia City in only moments. 

My stomach growled. I was ravenous for I had only tasted a little honey that morning. ‘I will be back in a quarter of an hour to see if there is a reply,’ I said. 

He nodded & leaned back & put his feet on the desk & tipped his hat over his eyes.

I went to the stage house.

It was empty as the stage had not yet arrived. 

I sat at the end of a long table & an old man brought me a bowl of stew. It was about the worst stew I had ever tasted but I forced myself to eat it because I did not know how long it would be until my next meal. 

I was wiping my bowl with a piece of stale bread when a young man came running in. 

‘They’s struck again!’ he cried. ‘Them danged Reb Road Agents!’

I froze in the act of wiping my bowl with a piece of stale bread.

‘What?’ The old man who had served me stew looked up from laying out spoons & cups on the table next to me. 

‘They found Dizzy a few miles out of Friday’s Station,’ cried the youth. ‘He had a ball in his chest and a busted up leg. He said it was them Reb Road Agents. He was babbling about a stage full of silver and bull-whippings and two men and a little girl and being thrown off the stage into a gorge. He lost consciousness and they do not expect him to live.’

‘Two men and a little girl?’ said the man who served the stew. 

‘Yup. She was in cahoots with them Reb Road agents!’

I was tempted to sprint for the door but I knew that would give me away. 

‘I got some WANTED notices here,’ said the youth. 

‘Dang!’ I thought. ‘I should have wired Mr. V.V. Bletchley. Now I am a fugitive on a WANTED notice.’

Then I thought, ‘I wonder how much I am worth?’

And finally, ‘I wonder if they want me “dead or alive”?’

Read on...

Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 29

What if a few sheets of paper could change the way you see the world? What if a Letter made your brain do a handspring, so that topsy became turvy and everything looked wrong? 

I had been patting my dead pa’s coat to see if there were any hidden pockets when something pricked my finger. It was a straight pin in the seam on the left front of the coat. Not just one pin, but six of them.

As I removed the 6 pins, the seam opened. An envelope fell out. It was folded lengthwise. It contained 3 things:
No. 1 - a newspaper clipping
No. 2 - a telegram
No. 3 - a page torn from a notebook

I looked at the newspaper clipping first. As I scanned it, I saw the names Pinkerton and Lincoln. It was an article about how my uncle Allan had thwarted an assassination attempt on Lincoln 2 ½ yrs ago. I remembered my Ma Evangeline reading me that very article. 

We wrote to Allan Pinkerton at that time, but never got a reply. 

Next I turned my attention to the telegram.  

It read as follows: 

From J.C. Harris, Chicago, to Chauncy Pridhaume, c/o Occidental Hotel, San Francisco. 

Dear Chauncy, You asked for facts about Robert Pinkerton of the Detective Agency here in Chicago. Have not been able to find many. The following are general knowledge: Robert started agency, not Allan. Robert resents his brother’s political ambitions. Angry when Allan accepted IOUs from Gen McClellan in return for spying out Reb positions and numbers. Robert still supervises some rail and stage protection operations, but is mainly concerned with Agency accounts. Works behind a desk. Wife named Bella (short for Isabella), four children all boys. Robert suffers poor health after taking bad chill during efforts to help slaves escape on the ‘Underground Railway’. Smokes Lucy Hinton, is teetotal, speaks with noticeable brogue. 

Finally I studied the page torn from the notebook. The notes were as follows:

Born 1815 in Glasgow, supported Chartist movement, involved in riots, warrant for arrest, hastily married Isabella AKA Bella, fled Scotland for America, survived shipwreck off Newfoundland and made way to Chicago. Worked as canal digger then est. Pinkerton & Co. in ’43; partnered w/ bro in ’50 to form Det Agency; resents younger bro’s fame & fortune; disapproves of his spying for McClellan as only being paid in IOUs. 

I did not understand what I was reading. 

Why would my pa have a telegram addressed to a man named Chauncy Pridhaume?

Why would he have a page of notes about himself? 

Had he caught someone trying to personate him and had he kept these documents as evidence?

I felt the seams on the other side of the coat in case there might be an answer there. 

There was.

I found no pins, but as I worked over the seams with my forefinger and thumb something crinkled in the lining of the right-hand side.
I used my Indian ma’s flint knife to cut some big uneven stitches and take it out. 

It was another envelope, also folded twice lengthwise. In purple ink & what appeared to be a feminine hand, it was addressed to a certain Jonas Blezzard, Esq. 

There was no address. 

A single sheet of stationery lay within. On the top it read: From the escritoire of Mrs. V. F. von Vingschplint, Occidental Hotel, Corner of Montgomery & Bush Streets, San Francisco

Dearest – You have asked me to jot down a few facts about the background of the person we were discussing at cards last night. Very well. Your three “trump cards” are these. Firstly: “he” is really a “she” a fact known to only one or two people. Secondly: she herself does not know what the initials P and K signify. Thirdly: she is worth a deal of money. She has three feet of the Chollar mine which people are clamoring to buy. I heard of a man who paid ten thousand for one foot! Other facts? She is twelve years old, born in the autumn of ’50 if I am not mistaken. She claims her father was Robert Pinkerton, older brother of the celebrated detective, and she longs to go to Chicago and work with him. They say her mother was a Sioux Indian. This must be true, for her sallow complexion, black hair and cold eyes betray savage blood. The mother was obviously wild and wayward, even for a heathen. Although the daughter is stoical of expression I believe she has inherited much of this savagery, so beware! Other facts? She drinks black coffee and is partial to layer cake. She carries two talismanic objects in a greasy leather neck-pouch: a flint knife and a small brass button with the words Pinkerton Railroad Detective on it. She has an extraordinary visual memory, yet she often forgets faces. If you–

I turned the page over but there was nothing on the back. If there had been more pages, they were missing. 

My stomach felt like a cold rock. 

I looked at the dead man lying by the shallow grave I had dug. 

He was not my father. He had never been my father. He was a man personating my father. 

I felt numb, like I did the time Doc Pinkerton dosed me with laudanum so he could remove a bullet from my arm. 

In the forest around me, woodpeckers were still tapping & the chickadees were still conversing & the early morning sunbeams were still slanting green-gold through pine boughs. 

But the whole world had changed. I had been looking at it wrong. I had been looking at the world as if ‘through a glass, darkly’. 

I thought, Of all the detectives in the whole wide world, I must be the worst.

The man lying at my feet was not my pa; he was a clever impostor.  
Or maybe not so clever, as he was now dead. 

My real pa – that is, the real Robert Pinkerton – was still in Chicago. 

You would have thought that discovering my pa was bogus might have dashed my spirits. But instead it lifted them on account of it made me mad. Real mad. 

I looked down at the man who had pretended to be my pa. 

I had all the clews right there in front of my eyes:

No. 1 – he was too young to be my pa. I knew the famous detective Allan Pinkerton was born in 1818 and so he was 45 yrs old which meant his older brother had to be at least 46 but the man lying at my feet was probably 36 at most. How had I not seen it?
No. 2 – I remembered how his Scottish accent had come and gone. Sometimes he said ‘ye’ and othertimes ‘you’. Sometimes ‘wee’ and other times ‘little’. It especially went when he was excited or not paying attention.
No. 3 – He had claimed to be ‘teetotal’ but had drunk champagne and asked for whiskey in his final hours.
No. 4 – Kepi had called him something like ‘Chance’ and I had not thought that strange. 
No.5 – he had a handkerchief with the initials C.P. on it. It was not a woman’s handkerchief, but a man’s. The initials were his. 

He was Chauncy Pridhaume. 

What fooled me was he knew facts only my pa could have known. And that he had pretended not to recognize me at first, which made me try to convince him, not the other way around. 

That made me even madder. I looked at the grave I had dug him. 

Then I yelled, ‘Come back, Bears! You can come eat this one. He is a piece of tasty carrion!’

My teeth were chattering & I was shivering hard.

My bogus pa was still wearing that warm woolen greatcoat. 

I bent down & I yanked it off his cold, stiff body. 

I rolled back the cuffs of the sleeves & pinned up the hem with the straight pins. Then I put it on over my velvet sacque & buttoned it up. 

Immediately I felt warmer. 

I would gladly have changed out of my yellow dress and put on some of his other clothes, but his trousers & jacket were too big and his shirt was stiff with blood.

I had been planning to leave his body lying there, but I remembered how he had asked me to forgive him with tears trickling down his face so I pushed his body into the hole I had dug & shoveled some of the earth back over the corpse & tramped it down.

‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,’ I said. ‘Amen.’

Up on the main road the early morning sun clearly showed me the hoof prints of nine horses, six of them deeper, as if carrying a heavy load. Ray G. Tempest and the booty-laden horses were heading west. 

As I followed those clear tracks, I thought about those documents, especially the letter. 

Who was Mrs. V. F. von Vingschplint? Why was she writing to a Jonas Blezzard? What did she have to do with my bogus pa & Mr. Ray G. Tempest? 

Walking always helps me think and after a mile or so when I remembered my bogus pa’s dying words. ‘Blizzard’s a coming.’

Suddenly I realized: it wasn’t ‘blizzard’. It was ‘Blezzard’. 

But it was an easy mistake to make on account of Blezzard sounds like blizzard and a blizzard is a kind of storm or tempest. Tempest! 

Also, the Reb Road Agents had spoken of someone named Jonas, who was meaner than a rattlesnake.

I stopped in my tracks. In the pine woods the woodpeckers stopped pecking, like they had realized it, too. 

How had I been so stupid? 

Just as Chauncy Pridhaume had taken the name Robert Pinkerton, Jonas Blezzard must have taken the name Ray G. Tempest. 

It was a pseudonym

I guess my bogus pa been struck by a spasm of conscience, for with his dying breath he had tried to tell me that Ray G. Tempest was really Jonas Blezzard. 

But who were those two men? Why had they plotted to deceive me? Were the Reb Road Agents involved in the scheme? And how were they all linked to Mrs. V. F. von Vingschplint?

I had to know.

Read on...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 28

Well, you have probably guessed that those bears did not eat me after all. You can tell by the fact that I am writing this bit in plain English – not squiggly worm-writing – and also because I am writing it in a new Ledger Book. A lot happened which I will try to recount here, even though it is painful to do so. 

After Pa died, I did something I cannot remember doing in my whole life. 

I cried. 

I was crying for my pa. 

But once I started crying, I could not stop. I cried for Ma Evangeline & Pa Emmet, for my dead Indian Ma & for Dizzy the stagecoach driver. 

I even cried for those two Reb Road Agents, especially the curly-haired one who had looked up at the stars. 

I confess I also cried for myself as I would soon be eaten by bears. 

Dawn was lightening the sky. 

By and by, all that crying tuckered me out. I curled up on the dirt floor of the cave near the body of my poor dead pa. While I was down there I realized that part of the ground was too flat & hard. 

I pushed myself up on one elbow & squinted down with swollen eyes. I thought I saw wood. I brushed at the earth. 

Then I brushed a tad more.

There was wood under there. 

A crate was buried with a little dirt sprinkled over it.

It was treasure. 

But not gold. 

Something better.

Inside the crate was a bag of coffee, a bag of sugar, a wooden spoon & another tin coffee pot. When I opened the lid I saw a big lump of fresh honeycomb. There was also a half-full bottle of whiskey.

I swallowed hard. 

If I had found that box of honey & coffee & whiskey earlier, could I have saved my pa’s life?

I dipped my finger in the liquid honey around the comb & licked it off. 

That honey was about the best thing I have ever tasted. 

It was like the honey Jonathan ate while fighting the Philistines near Michmash in 1 Samuel chapter 14. I dipped in my finger again & sucked off the honey & ‘mine eyes were enlightened’. 

Suddenly, I realized why the bears had been a-prowling and a-growling all night long.

They were not hungry for me: a poor skinny 12-year-old half-Sioux Misfit. 

They had a hankering for that honey! 

Bears have real good noses. They must have got a whiff of it even though it was closed up in a tin coffee pot & boxed up in a crate & sprinkled with earth. 

That is why the Dead Reb Road Agents buried the honey and not the gold. Bears will do almost anything to get at honey, but they are not bothered about gold. 

I tested my theory by tossing that sticky lump of honeycomb as far out into the clearing as I could. Sure enough, I saw those two bears come out of the trees and lumber after it. I licked the rest of the honey off my throwing hand while I watched them circle it for a spell, with gruntings & growlings & roarings. Then one of them finally grabbed it in his jaws and vamoosed towards Carson City with the other one in hot pursuit. 

I was safe for the moment. 

But my discovery had been too late for Pa.

I looked down at his body. 

I reckoned it was my duty to bury him, lest the bear who did not get the honeycomb return for a consolation snack of carrion. 

There was a spade over by the oyster cans & empty bottles, near the pit those Dead Reb Road Agents used as a latrine. 

I went to the latrine & while I was there I used it. Then I got the shovel & came back & dug a hole. In the forest around me, woodpeckers had started tapping & some chickadees were conversing & the early morning sunbeams were slanting through pine boughs. It was a frosty morning but digging warmed me up so much that I took off my velvet sacque. When I finished I got cold so I put it on again. 

I went back to the cave and looked down at Pa’s body.

‘I am sorry I let you down, Pa,’ I said. ‘I will try to be a good detective. If you are looking down from heaven, I will make you proud of me.’ 

I drug his stiff & spiritless corpse out of the cave until it was lying next to the grave. I was about to roll him into his last resting place when it occurred to me that he might have some personal effects on his body. Such objects might help me remember him when I was older. I patted him down. 

In the right hand pocket of his trowsers, I found his Smith & Wesson No. 2 & also his wife’s handkerchief with CP embroidered on the corner. 

In the left-hand pocket of his trowsers were some paper dollars, some Lucifers, a pouch of Lucy Hinton & his Lion-face Meerschaum pipe. I took out the pipe and looked at it. The lion’s chalky face, which had looked fierce before, now appeared stricken by grief. 

I thought, ‘I will have to take all these things to Chicago and give them to his grown up sons who are my half-brothers.’

Then I found the Letters. 

That was when I realized I had made the biggest mistake of my life.

Read on...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Case of the Bogus Detective 27

Two grizzly bears were shambling across the moonlit clearing. 

They were heading for me and my dying pa. 

When I saw them. My hair lifted up like a porcupine’s quills & my heart started pounding like a war drum & all the juices in my body were screaming ‘RUN!’

As everybody knows, the surest way of getting a bear to chase you is to skedaddle. Nobody can outrun a bear, especially when wearing girly-girl button-up boots. Also, I could not abandon my dying pa to their hungry jaws. 

I took a deep breath & mustered up my courage & stood up slowly. 

When the bears saw me rise, they stopped & stood up, too. That scared the bejeezus out of me. I had never been this close to a bear that was not a tame bear. 

My Indian ma once told me that if I should ever find myself face to face with a bear, not to run nor look him in the eye, but to sing him a special Lakota bear song. This tells the bear three things:

No. 1 – Where you are.
No. 2 – That you are not afraid.
No. 3 – That you are not a threat. 

I used to know the Bear Song, but I am not as good at remembering things I hear as I am at remembering things I see. Also, I had not sung the Bear Song a long time. It had flown plumb out of my head. 

So I sang the only song I could think of. 

It was the song whose lyrics had once helped me find a poor fugitive girl named Martha. 

It was the song that played day and night in Virginia City. 

You might say it was the state anthem of Nevada Territory.

De Camptown ladies sing dis song,’ I began. My voice kind of cracked so I cleared my throat, ‘Doo-dah! doo-dah!

At that, both bears slumped back down onto all fours. The smaller one tested the air with his nose. The bigger one turned his head a little, like maybe he wanted to hear better.

‘P.K.?’ came my pa’s feeble voice from the ground. ‘Why are you singing?’

I did not want him to worry, so I told a lie. ‘I thought a song might cheer you.’

I sang a little louder. ‘De Camptown race-track five miles long, Oh, doo-dah day!’ 

‘So kind…’ murmured my pa. But I did not pay him any mind. I was thinking about how to vanquish those grizzlies. 

My pa and I both had pistols, but their .32 caliber balls would have no more effect than a mosquito bite against a couple of grizzlies. (My friend Stonewall killed a grizzly in December and he said it took thirteen .44 caliber rifle balls to bring him down. And that was not even a full grown bear.)

I come down dah wid my hat caved in, Doo-dah! doo-dah!

I had Kepi’s big Remington New Model Army Six-shooter stuck in my belt. But it only had a single .44 caliber ball as he had not reloaded. 

I go back home wid a pocket full of tin,’ I sang. ‘Oh, doo-dah day!

The Henry Rifle I had taken from the Reb Road Agents also takes .44 caliber balls. But it was about ten paces behind me, in the cave.

Gwine to run all night! Gwine to run all day!’ I sang. (But I was thinking, ‘No, no, no. I must not run!’)

The bears started to move towards me again. 

There was only one thing to do. I pulled out the Remington & cocked it & fired its last remaining ball into the air.


‘P.K.?’ came my pa’s feeble voice. ‘Why are you shooting?’

‘To attract help,’ I lied. 

But my real reason for firing was to frighten off the bears.

And it worked! The bears had vamoosed. 

My knees were so shaky that I had to sit down for a spell. 

Sitting by pa, I could see his face looked deathly white in the moonlight. I feared he was dying. 

‘Do you want me to pray with you, Pa?’ I asked. 

‘Yes!’ he whimpered. ‘Pray that God will forgive me my sins.’ 

‘Heavenly Father,’ I prayed. ‘Please forgive my pa for all his sins. And please may he not die. Amen.’ 

‘Will you forgive me too?’ he said in his feeble voice. 

‘I ain’t got nothing to forgive you for.’

He kind of groaned. 

I said, ‘Can you tolerate me dragging you back into that cave?’

‘I reckon.’ His voice was barely a whisper. 

I got hold of his ankles and dragged him towards the dark mouth of the cave, going as slow as I dared so I would not hurt him.

My reasoning was this: if we were in a cave those bears could not perform a ‘flanking manoeuver’ & come up on us from behind. 

Pa groaned again, so I finished off the song to distract him from the pain.

I’ll bet my money on de bob-tail nag, Somebody bet on de bay.

Once I had got Pa safely inside the cave, I grabbed the Henry Rifle that was leaning against the opening. That made me feel better until the moonlight showed me the little brass follower underneath the barrel. It was right up near the stock of the rifle, which meant there was only 1 bullet left in the magazine.

Dang those Reb Road Agents! They had not reloaded. Everybody knows you should reload once you have fired. 

My pa was trying to say something so I brought my ear to his mouth. 

‘Whiskey,’ he murmured. ‘Is there any whiskey for the pain?’

‘I will look, Pa,’ I said. 

I leaned the rifle back against the wall of the cave. 

Before I searched for whiskey, I needed to find more cartridges for the Henry or balls for the Remington. And before I searched for more ammunition, I needed to make a fire. Fire would light the cave. Also, bears do not like fires. It might keep them at bay when they returned.  

For I was sure they would return.

I went and got some firewood from the stack near the cave. 

Using a Lucifer match from my medicine bag, I quickly kindled a fire just outside the mouth of the cave. 

When the fire was going good, I breathed a sigh of relief. It would make a useful barrier between us and the bears. 

Also, it lit up the inside of the cave. Its flickering light showed me two rolled up blankets in a low, dark niche of the cave. There were also some other things, viz: two greasy decks of cards, a cribbage board, a Ledger Book, a box of Lucifers, two pencils & a small Bible. 

Joy! There was a box of .44 caliber balls for a Remington revolver! 

Despair! There was no powder. Too late, I remember Slouch had worn a powder horn on his belt. Now all his big Remington pistol was good for was clubbing those bears. 

Nor did I find any cartridges for the Henry Rifle.  

However, in another niche I found 1 frying pan & 1 coffee pot & 2 tin mugs. There was water in the coffee pot but no ground coffee nor any other provisions to fry in the frying pan. 

‘P.K.?’ asked Pa. ‘Did you find anything to drink?’

‘No whiskey, Pa,’ I said. ‘But I did find a little water.’

‘Yes, please,’ he murmured. 

I poured water from the coffee pot into one of those tin mugs & knelt by Pa & helped him drink. Then I eased his head down one of the rolled up blankets and covered him with the other. He winced and kind of groaned. 

‘Does it hurt, Pa?’

‘Yeah. It hurts real bad,’ he said in a voice so faint I could barely hear him. Then he said, ‘P.K.?’ 

‘Yes, Pa?’

His lips moved. I brought my ear real close. He was saying something about his murdering pard, Tempest. Then he said something that might have been ‘Blizzard’s a coming.’

‘Don’t worry, pa,’ I said. ‘There ain’t no blizzard coming and you will see the sun once more.’ 

But he shook his head no & the firelight showed me tears dribbling from the corners of his wide-open eyes. 

Then I quoted Malachi chapter 4 verse 3 over him, viz: The sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings, and after that I said a prayer of my own devising. His eyes were now closed and he slept. 

I took the Ledger book out from under the cribbage board. When I opened it, I found it was a Wells Fargo & Co. Ledger Book, with only a few pages full of legitimate numbers. The Dead Reb Road Agents had filled the next few pages with scoring for their cribbage games. I saw for the first time that their names were Johnny and Jimmy. 

Most of the other pages were blank, so I took that as a Sign from God that I should write an account of how I came to be here.  

I sat down Indian fashion & started writing this account. 

That was about four hours ago. I have been using the Squiggly Worm shorthand that I learned last November in Carson City. I have used up two and a half pencils and am now on the last page of the book. 

The moon sank behind the trees a couple of hours ago and all I have is the light of this little fire, but I am almost out of wood & although the bears have stopped growling I can still smell them so I know they are lurking nearby. 

Like I said before: all I have for protection against them is this small fire and –– 

I just had to shoot the last bullet from my Henry Rifle in the air to frighten off those bears. 

They will probably get me at dawn but it does not matter.

Nothing matters any more. 

Pa is dead. 

Read on...