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.
[Don't have a clue what's going on? Start with chapter one.]
Fun facts, research, news & topics linked to the children’s books of Caroline Lawrence: The Roman Mysteries and The Western Mysteries.