Scotland Yard Chimes in (Short Story No. 36)
These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.
Thomas the fossil
Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald and dime novel author, accompanied Hannah to the site where she had excavated the latest fossil. They had emptied one of the group’s wagons and took it to transport the specimen.
Hannah had used cold chisel, mallet, spade, flat-headed trowel, and stiff brushes to accomplish the excavation. She had wrapped the fossil in cloth and then in a tarp and secured it such that an animal couldn’t drag it off or disturb it much.
“The fossil’s name is Thomas,” Hannah mentioned as they rode.
“Thomas?” Barnes questioned quizzically.
“Yes, Thomas,” Hannah repeated. “The creature had an extremely long neck as you will soon see. I had a suitor by the name of Thomas who had a very long neck and reminded me of a fish.” She handed him her journal with a drawing of the fossil.
“Oh, all right then,” Barnes muttered. “I understand, I guess.”
# # #
They arrived at the scene of the excavation and to Hannah’s consternation there was no fossil anywhere in the vicinity.
“So where is this Thomas bag of bones?” Barnes inquired.
“It’s gone,” Hannah concluded. “Somebody stole it.”
“But who?” Barnes asked. “Who would want a bunch of old bones? Of some ancient creature they know nothing about?”
Hannah was panic-stricken. They spent the next half hour searching the area for the fossil, but it was nowhere to be found. Any tracks had been brushed away.
“Where in the hell did Thomas go off to?” Hannah blurted, so upset she resorted to salty language.
“Dunno,” Barnes muttered. “This would appear to be a job for Scotland Yard. The theft. of a major fossil find.”
Hannah suggested, “A decade from now, two decades from now, we will see blood spilled over fossils and the bragging rights. Bone wars. Now there’s a subject for a book, Mr. Barnes. Why did you mention Scotland Yard? I mean, we already have Pinkerton agents and local law, a federal marshal and sheriffs, involved in apprehending the criminal element hereabouts. Also, a famous bounty hunter.”
The mark of the beast
Barnes added, “And a beautiful Arapaho princess who lives to whack off heads. And show them off.”
“She’s not the only one, I suspect, who likes to whack off heads,” Hannah said knowingly.
“Say what?” Barnes questioned, looking puzzled.
“That Chinese prostitute, May Ling?” Hannah responded. “I like her for committing some of those recent murders, the beheading of sheriff deputies Russ Lane and Ned Helm and the beheading of the pimp Ku-Lang.”
“What makes you say that?” Barnes inquired.
Hannah responded, “I overheard her and that Pinkerton agent Helen Strong whispering to each other about such things. May Ling was saying she had been sodomized by the deputies and pimped out by Ku-Lang, and beaten. Why did you mention Scotland Yard, out of the blue?”
Barnes said, “I have a friend who is a retired inspector with Scotland Yard, and he now is a private detective. I sent him a telegram inquiring about this Captain Taz. I heard stories that Taz once resided in England and was involved in some sort of crimes that got him sent off to a British penal colony in Australia. From there he wound up in San Francisco among the Sydney Ducks,” committing arson and murder.
“Yes,” I’ve heard those stories too,” Hannah said.
Barnes continued. “My friend the private detective’s name is Charles Frederick Field, who happens to be a friend of the writer Charles Dickens, who based his character Inspector Bucket of the novel Bleak House on Field.”
Hannah said, “Captain Taz named one of his giant snakes Fagin after one of Dicken’s characters in the novel Oliver Twist. Taz told me that himself during the time he had me and Sweet Water captive.”
“Did you and this Taz have intimate relations when he held you cap?” Barnes asked. “I don’t mean to get personal, but I need to know, for the dime novel I’m writing about you.”
Hannah snapped, “Oh hell no! Not that he wouldn’t have tried to force me eventually. But we were rescued by Mormons, of all people. They snuck into our camp and quickly slaughtered our Cheyenne captors as they lay inebriated on the ground. The Mormons would have likely forced us too, before or after they married up with us. Hex Hawkins, Bob Wells, and our Crow guide White Snake showed up waving dynamite and pointing rifles and the Mormons agreed to a deal for our release. The Mormons were allowed to keep the Chinese girls who were also held captive. Those girls wanted to stay with the Mormons and marry them, believing that was a better alternative than going back to a life of prostitution in Helena or Virginia City. No, I wasn’t intimate with this Captain Taz, but I suspect that Helen our Pinkerton agent has been.”
Barnes questioned, “What makes you say that?”
Hannah answered, “Helen told May Ling that Taz has a tattoo on his penis. Reverend Nelson advised her the tattoo was the mark of the beast or some such thing.”
# # #
Hannah and Robert Barnes returned to camp, without the fossil. Jimbo Walters, Barnes’ photographer from Helena, had shown up with some mail and telegrams. One of the telegrams was for Barnes from Scotland Yard. Barnes read it to himself and then he revealed the contents to the group.
Barnes reported that Taz’ real name, or the one listed for him on documents, was Asmodeus Taz. His last known address in England before his transportation, according to him, was 4 Whitehall Place, London. Incidentally, that is the address of Scotland Yard. He was transported to the penal colonies in Australia for the crime of . . . sheep stealing. Most of those transported committed petty crimes. Serious crimes in England were punishable by death, so no need to be sent to a penal colony.
“Sheep stealing?” Shorty blurted. “We know Taz is obsessed with exotic animals like those giant snakes that eat people, like my pal Sammy Short. But sheep? What is the worst thing about having sex with a sheep?” Shorty snickered and then answered his own question with, “Breaking its neck when you try to kiss it.”
Robert Barnes paused to instruct Jimbo Walters to take a photograph of Yellow Bear’s severed head for a newspaper article and/or dime novel. Sweet Water dumped the head out of the bag and it bounced around on the ground a few times. “Somebody hold the damn thing still!” Walters grumbled.
Shorty, who had been contemplating the situation offered, “I got a Scotland Yard story for you all. A Scotland Yard detective was looking for a lost sheep. After a couple hours he found it stuck in some briar bushes and covered with mud. He rescued the sheep. After several slanderous remarks about the muddy dumb sheep, the sheep blurted out, ‘What are you griping about, I almost drowned in the pond!’ Shocked at hearing the sheep speak, the detective asked the sheep why he was in the pond in the first place, ‘Don’t you know sheep can’t swim?’ he questioned. ‘We were not swimming,’ the sheep replied. ‘We were wallowing in mud and I stepped into a deep hole.’ ‘Who is we?’ the detective asked. ‘Me and the pig,’ The sheep said. ‘Why on earth would you wallow in mud?’ asked the detective. ‘Well, the pig said it would make me cooler. I was getting hot.’ The detective asked the sheep where the pig was. The sheep answered, ‘He went back to the barn.’ So the detective put the sheep on his shoulders and began his trip back to the barn. He did not own a pig, and he planned to take the pig to task for the mud wallowing incident. The next day a farmer came by and inquired if the detective had seen his pig. Soon the detective began telling the farmer about the sheep and pig story, and demanded compensation for the incident caused by the farmer’s pig. The farmer expressed his doubts to the detective, whereupon the sheep blurted out, ‘He’s right, it was your pig that did it.’ Just then the farmer realized that this was a talking sheep. He said to himself, ‘I can make millions with a talking sheep.’ He stopped the discussion and asked if the detective would take 500 dollars for the sheep. The detective replied that he would consider the sale on an as is basis, no guarantees. The farmer then bought the sheep and the trade was done. The detective turned and as he walked away the farmer heard him say, ‘Well that’s one less diseased and dying sheep I have to worry about. Your pig said he was full of shit anyway.’”
Robert Barnes scratched his head and said, “I like that story and I’ll put it in my dime novel, but I’m going to make it a Pinkerton rather than a Scotland Yard detective.”
Helen James, Pinkerton agent, looked angry, very angry.
“Anything else of interest in the telegram?” Hannah inquired.
Barnes replied, “Taz ended up at Van Diemen’s Land, the destination for the worst criminals and repeat offenders.”
“Does the telegram indicate what he did at the prison?” Hannah asked. “Pound rocks?”
“He was a shepherd,” Barnes answered.
“Those poor sheep,” Shorty murmured.
“He also trained Tasmania devils,” Barnes added.
“To do what?”
“To be devils,” Hannah suggested.
The wild west just got wilder
According to the summary on the back of the book.