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The Bavarian Airship Regatta - Page 7: October 3, 2011 - November 6, 2011

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An Honorable Endeavor
Back to Paris
The Pecos Incident
The Parisian Party
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig


An Honorable Endeavor

Entry for October 3, 2011 Written by Katherine L. Morse

“Dies ist nicht Paris. Holen Sie sich ein Zimmer.” Drake and McTrowell unlocked from their kiss and looked around sheepishly to see a policeman making a good show of indignance at their public display of affection. He didn’t seem terribly serious about his order, probably owing to the jubilant atmosphere of the street. Drake instinctively reached up to tip his bowler at the cop, but wound up flapping his hand around his temple in the absence of his customary cover. To save Drake any more discomfort, Sparky saluted the policeman smartly and, taking Drake by the hand, headed back in the direction of the airfield.

There was too much commotion to talk for most of their walk. It didn’t help that Sparky was immediately recognizable in her leather duster and aviator’s cap. Despite Drake’s injuries, exhaustion, and general disorientation from his meeting with the queen, he had to extricate Sparky a couple of times from overzealous fans and well-wishers. When they reached a calm spot at the bottom of the docking tower and out of the maelstrom, they said at the same time, “Are you all right?”

They both paused for a beat and Sparky got her bearings first. “It still hasn’t fully sunk in that Ivan is gone. This was supposed to be his last flight, but not like this. I’m beginning to feel like my life is one crisis after another, punctuated by writing letters of condolences. He had such big plans for returning home and starting a new life. What am I going to tell his family?”

“Ah yes, about that. I’m afraid you will have to be a bit creative. You may not tell them about the pirates.”

“What? Why can’t I tell them the truth? On whose orders?”

“Her Majesty’s.”

“Her Majesty? Her Majesty Queen Victoria? And how did Her Majesty come to convey these orders to you?” She grasped his wrist surreptitiously while looking closely into his eyes. She moved her head back and forth slightly to determine if his eyes were tracking. His pulse was strong and his breathing slightly elevated, but no more than would be warranted by the walking and recent “excitement.”

“She spoke them to me directly just a few moments before I met you on the street just now.”

“Let’s find a place to sit down. You may have lost more blood than I realized. Are you feeling at all dizzy?”

“I believe there is no part of my person that does not hurt at this moment…except perhaps my lips.” He paused a bit awkwardly. “However, I am quite lucid. Her Majesty is here in Munich. She summoned me and provided some explanation for today’s events that I may share with you later. I believe her presence is a secret, as is the pirate attack.”

She looked directly into his face, vacillating between pursuing the line of questioning about Queen Victoria and further exploring the state of his lips.

“I had almost forgotten. Her Majesty has a missive for you as well.” He reached for the inside pocket of his jacket. Before he could retrieve the purple envelope, their attention was diverted by a farm wagon rattling onto the airfield. It was driven by an older woman neither of them recognized. From her dress and demeanor, she appeared to be a farm wife. Seated next to her on the plain wooden bench was none other than Sergeant J.B. Fox, considerably the worse for wear, but essentially intact. They ran to meet him, or at least moved as quickly as they could manage in their present state.

By the time Drake and McTrowell reached the wagon, Fox had managed to climb down. Sparky threw her arms around his neck and gave him a big hug. She was rewarded with a response that consisted mostly of “oo,” and “ouch.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just so glad to see you alive! Are you injured? Do you require medical attention?”

“It’s nothing that a hot bath and several stout pints of beer won’t cure.” He indicated the woman sitting on the wagon’s bench. “This is Frau Fitzpatrick. She was watching today from the ground. She’s looking for her husband.” Drake and McTrowell stared blankly at him. “A certain Tobias.”

Realization dawned on Drake’s face. He had forgotten all about the prisoners on the Burke & Hare! He had no idea whether the local authorities had taken them into custody. He turned to Frau Fitzpatrick. “Please wait here.” He headed up the docking tower without considering whether she understood a single word of English. Fortunately, farm wives are a patient lot by necessity.

Fox turned to McTrowell. The look on his face was very grave. “Ma’am, we have a motto in Her Majesty’s Aerial Marines: no man left behind.” She looked at him evenly, hoping further explanation would be forthcoming. When he walked around to the back of the wagon, she followed. “Normally I wouldn’t show a woman a sight like this, but you’re a medical doctor and as stalwart as any Marine I’ve ever known.” She nodded slightly at the compliment. He pulled back the corner of a tarp lying across the bed of the wagon to reveal the pulverized body of Ivan Krasnayarubashka. In spite of her medical training and stalwartness, she gasped. It was different when it was a friend.

He replaced the temporary shroud. She took a slow breath in an out. “Thank you, Sergeant Fox. You have done a fine service to his family today. I hope it will bring them some small amount of comfort.”

Drake crossed the gangplank onto the Burke & Hare and dashed into the main hall. There was no one there. He poked his head into the cockpit. No one there either. He had a very bad feeling about this. He was heading out of the main hall to search the rest of the ship when he encountered Wilkinson coming in.

“Wilkinson, do you know where the prisoners are?”

“Why, yes. Ole’ Maximillian’s troops come and ‘auled ‘em away.”
“All of them?”

“Yeah, all three. That one, she spat an ‘issed like a rabid cat. Wouldn’t want to be meetin’ ‘er in no dark alley.”

“Three?”

“Beg pardon?”

“Oh, nothing. Thank you.” Wilkinson continued on his path to the cockpit and Drake headed down the passageway to cabin nine. He rapped once on the door and opened it. Tobias was lying on the bottom bunk, snoring softly. Aldrich Fremont was nowhere to be seen. Drake shook Tobias slightly and held a finger to his lips.

When Tobias stirred, Drake asked in a whisper, “Where’s Fremont?”

“Don’t know. He was complaining about needing to use the head before I nodded off.”

Drake stepped back out into the passageway and looked around. No sign of Fremont. He leaned back into the cabin. Still speaking softly, he said archly, “I’m surprised you didn’t escape.” He jerked his head back over his shoulder slightly.

Tobias just rubbed his eyes and replied sleepily, “Huh?”

“I said, ‘I’m surprised you didn’t escape.’” He enunciated each word clearly and gestured more strenuously backward with his head, also engaging his shoulder this time.

“Oh, yes, right.” He shambled off the bunk and out of the cabin, patting Drake on the shoulder as he went past.

He was just nipping into the main hall when he heard Drake’s voice raised in reproach, “Fremont, where is your prisoner?”

“I left him sleeping in my cabin.”

“Unsecured? Do you not understand the meaning of the word ‘prisoner’?” Tobias was out of earshot before Fremont could muster a reply.

By the time Drake had finished remonstrating Aldrich Fremont and returned to the base of the tower, Tobias, his wife, his wagon, and Fox were gone. Sparky was leaning against the tower with a bundle rolled up in canvas at her feet.

“I believe one of your prisoners escaped.”

“Most unfortunate. It seems Mr. Fremont is no better a guard than a defender. What is that?” He indicated the roll at her feet.

“Don’t look. It’s Ivan’s body. Sergeant Fox was considerate enough to return it. I’ve sent him to determine if any of the Krasnayarubashkas traveled to Munich for the conclusion of the race.”

He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and she rested her head on his collarbone. Neither of them said anything for a few minutes. When she regained her composure somewhat, she said, “Would you please stand guard over Ivan? I should get to the purser’s office and make arrangements for a coffin. It would not be respectful to return Mr. Krasnayarubashka to his family wrapped in an old tarp smelling of hay and pigs.” He just nodded and she trudged off across the airfield.

Not surprisingly, the purser was very efficient at his job. He had carpenters assembling a plain pine box within the hour. Sparky retrieved some sheets from the Burke & Hare. She and Drake had Ivan neatly wrapped in the sheets and nailed into the coffin by the time dusk was setting in. Fox returned to the airfield in the company of the man Drake had seen drinking with Krasnayarubashka in Salzburg. Sparky saw him glance at the rapidly assembled coffin. She walked toward him, extending her hand. “
Здравствуйте, меня зовут Спарки MкTрoвeлл.”

Здравствуйте, меня зовут Юрий Краснаярубашка.”

She continued in Russian. “You’re related to Ivan?”

“He is my cousin.” He eyed the coffin again. “What happened?”

“There was…an accident. A crew member failed to secure your cousin’s safety line when he went out to perform a repair. I am very sorry for your loss. Your cousin was an excellent pilot and it was an honor to fly with him.”

“Thank you.”

“Western & Transatlantic Airship Lines will make all the arrangements to send his body home and pay for everything.”

He thanked her again, but he was no longer really engaged in the conversation. He was just staring at the coffin. Drake waited for McTrowell to precede him up the stairs to the Burke & Hare. Fox trailed behind them. She commented, mostly to the air, “I am sorely in need of several days of sleep.”

Unfortunately, she could not afford several days of sleep. By the time she awoke in the morning and crawled achingly out of her bunk, Wilkinson and Sevilla were already well underway making the Burke & Hare ready for the return journey, including disconnecting the disabled boiler. She encountered Jake Fremont in the passageway. He was attempting nonchalance with zero success.

“Good morning, Mr. Fremont.”

“Good morning, Captain.” Ah, so that was what this was about.

“Mr. Fremont, as you well know, we are tragically without a first mate and must make haste back to Paris and London. Are you willing and able to serve?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Meet me in the cockpit in twenty-five minutes.” He fairly scampered toward the main hall. She expected he would be in the cockpit in less than one. She nearly bumped into Drake as he came in from the catwalk. The dressings on his head looked fresh and his bowler was back on his head, albeit tipped back somewhat to avoid too much contact with the bandage.

“I would have changed the bandage for you when I changed the sutures.”

“Um, that will not be necessary.”

She looked at him quizzically for a moment. “Why not?”

“Her Majesty sent her physician to examine me.”

“And what did he say?”

“How do know Her Majesty’s physician is a man?”

“They always are.”

“Yes, well, he said that he could not do a better job than had already been done, and that I should return to the physician who performed the original suturing when my face healed and have ‘him’ remove them.”

“I’m sure ‘he’ would be happy to do so, and to change the bandage as it heals.” She wasn’t sure whether to smile or scowl at the exchange, and so just settled on getting to the bridge. She turned on her toes to leave.

“The letter from Her Majesty.”

“I beg your pardon,” She said, stopping mid turn.

“Her Majesty sent a message for you last night, but I failed to deliver it amidst the arrangements for Mr. Krasnayarubashka.”

“Oh, yes, I’d forgotten as well.”

He handed her the envelope and stepped into the gondola on the way to his next mission of the day. She read the address on the outside of the envelope and felt like she was being choked.

Drake stepped up to the door of cabin one and knocked smartly. He heard a mumble from inside that he chose to interpret as an invitation to enter. Wallace was still in bed and looking like he’d been ridden hard and put away wet. Drake entered and closed the door smartly.

“Mr. Wallace, it is past time to face your situation like a man and take action to correct it. Why did she leave you?”

“My wife? I don’t know.”

“Every investigation must begin with facts. What did she say when she left?”

“She said she was bored and that she wanted to ‘do something.’”

“Did she indicate what she meant by ‘something?’”

“Some business thing. Why would she want to do that? I bought her a beautiful new townhouse in Belgrave Square and gave her an unlimited budget to decorate it any way she wants. She travels to Bath every summer for the waters. She lunches every day with her lady friends. We have a Christmas Ball every year that everyone wants to attend. What more could she want?” He practically sobbed the question.

“Do these activities sound interesting to you?”

“Well, of course not! I’m not a woman.”

“Nor am I. Nor do I claim to be an expert on women.” Neither, he thought to himself, do I wish to become an expert on such women. He continued, “But these activities do seem repetitive and tedious to me.”

“What is your bloody point, Drake?”

“As I said, every investigation must begin with facts. The only fact in evidence at this time is that she has stated that she is bored. I recommend pursuing this line of questioning with her when you return to London.” Drake stood up crisply to leave. “One more thing. I strongly advise listening to the answers to your questions.” He exited the cabin without waiting to hear Wallace’s reply that seemed to be forming, slowly and incoherently, on his lips. Drake was sure he didn’t want to hear it, nor would it be further illuminating.

Standing alone on the catwalk, Sparky swallowed hard. There was no avoiding the letter. Drake had delivered it and one didn’t forget or lose a letter from a queen, even if it wasn’t her queen.

Dr. McTrowell –

I have ten thousand eyes and ten thousand ears. Do not mistake a lack of action on my part for a lack of knowledge. Soon you will be called upon to further aid Chief Inspector Drake, a commission in which I believe you will be strongly invested. Endeavor to honor the memory of your grandfather in this task.

Victoria Regina




Back to Paris

Entry for October 10, 2011 Written by David L. Drake

Sparky read the letter from the Queen a couple more times, both to extract every possible meaning that the Queen may have placed in her words, and also to memorize the letter. She proceeded directly to the boiler room, and secretly deposited the letter into the glowing coals of the boiler fire. No good could come of retaining the letter. She took a good deep breath, and let it out slowly. She realized that she had drawn the attention, even for a moment, of a very powerful woman. After watching the last remnants of the letter disappear into ash and smoke, she turned and proceeded to the Burke & Hare’s helm, to make their way to Paris.

Erasmus and J.B. sat across from each other at their table in the common room as Luis-Miguel served them breakfast. They had the appearance of patients at an infirmary. They did their best to look stout-hearted, but no reasonable person would have bought the fraudulent demeanor. J.B. had newly-applied gauze wrapped about his hands, both of which apparently took a dreadful beating the previous day when he landed in a spruce tree, clawing as he descended to get a hand hold. Erasmus’ head was still swollen, his bandages adding to its girth. They didn’t speak much, avoiding the obvious conversation regarding their level of discomfort.

The airship moved gently under them as it was released from its moorings. The quietness of the engine was noticeable to Erasmus, compared to the roar of the last four days.

At the next table, Reginald Wallace held court with a few new passengers who wanted the privilege of flying to Paris on the regatta-winning airship, paying handsomely for the pleasure. He elaborated on beautifully embellished tales of the regatta, stringing together narratives of high-speed heats and break-neck maneuvers, midnight engine overhauls, scheming pilots, and grand racing strategies and tactics. It wasn’t that the stories were incorrect, for there was more than a drop of truth in each bit of it, but rather that each had been fluffed like an oversized pillow, until it was soft and safe for the public to ease back into.

A few times, Erasmus and J.B. responded to Reginald’s patter by rolling their eyes, and giving each other an “I can’t believe he just said that” look. After finishing their meals, J. B. stood and signaled Erasmus to follow him. Erasmus wiped his mouth on his napkin, stood, and followed J. B. Just within his cabin, Sergeant Fox picked up two items that were secreted under his bed, and held them out for Erasmus. “I recovered these from the fields of Melköde. The locals saw them fall, and gave them to me when they saw that I survived my descent. I placed them in the cart, and pulled them out last night while you were looking for Tobias.” The items were both dirty, and J. B. handled them with just his fingertips, to try to keep his bandages clean. The Colt 1849 revolver looked like it had landed in the dirt, barrel first. The dirt was packed hard into it, and it was obvious that J. B. had knocked off and brushed off as much as he could. The saber hadn’t faired as well. It was irreparably contorted in the middle of the blade. “I wasn’t sure if the blade was important in some way, so I retrieved it. The revolver looks like it doesn’t have a scratch. Even the wooden handle is unbroken.” Erasmus accepted the lost items with acknowledgment of his gratitude, and the words expressing his appreciation that J. B. was thinking of more than just himself after his rough landing.

Erasmus placed the items in his cabin, planning to clean them later that evening while docked in Paris. He then proceeded on to visit cabin number two, and see in what activity Lord Ashleigh was engaged. After his knock, Virat opened the door to reveal that the sitting room was magically transformed into a homely suite, with standard issue blankets used as throws over the sofa and footstools. There was not a pillow in sight, given that they all had given their exterior fabric to save J. B.’s life.

Lord Ashleigh was sitting quietly and reading the morning papers from Munich, which he set aside at seeing Erasmus’ smiling face.

“Come in! Come in! Can we get you anything, my friend?”

“Señor Sevilla’s breakfast was more than enough. However, I would like to talk to you about the fine art of throwing knives ...”

The Paris airship field was busy that day, with the Western and Transatlantic Airship’s Fidelis preparing to leave for London, freeing up docking tower number eight for the incoming Burke & Hare. The Fidelis was a commuter airship, with nothing more than rows of seats in the passenger hall. The well-attired steward was making his rounds, checking on the comfort of his travelers.

He proceeded to the next row of three seats. “I pray that you are comfortable. May I see your tickets?”

A twig of a man with a shock of wild, frizzy brown hair looked up from a notebook covered with drawings and notes. He produced three postcard-sized tickets from his jacket’s breast pocket, and held them out for the steward.

“Welcome aboard, Monsieur, and your companions, Mr. Hedgley and Mr. Martin. If you need anything during your trip, please let me know.” He moved on to the next row of passengers, unaware of the danger that was about to be transported to London.

Erasmus watched the Fidelis gracefully leave the airfield from the window of the Burke & Hare common room, glad to be back in Paris. “I wonder if Sparky knows how I got that scarf to her,” he chuckled to himself.



The Pecos Incident

Entry for October 14, 2011 Written by Katherine L. Morse

Considering the unfortunate outcome of the regatta from the perspective of the French, Wallace didn’t object to Sparky’s request to stay on the Burke & Hare throughout the day, allegedly supervising repairs while Luis-Miguel Sevilla put the passenger cabins back in order. In truth, Wilkinson had the whole matter completely under control. Sparky spent the day wandering aimlessly around the ship, catching up on some technical reading, and trying with little success to get the blood out of her lovely new yellow scarf. Not that she objected to the reminder of its critical role in saving Drake’s life, but wearing a bloody scarf in public was, at best, in bad taste, and at worst, ghoulish. It still had some faintly rusty stains when it came time for dinner, but she chose to wear it anyway. When she took her seat at dinner, the seat she had come to consider her “usual” seat in just the last few days, Lord Ashleigh noticed the state of her scarf.

“It’s a shame that such a lovely item should get damaged so soon. Especially considering how fond of it you seem to have become.” He winked at Drake, and none too subtly.

“Yes, and it’s not as if I haven’t really tried to get it clean.” A dejected expression settled on her face. Despite everything that had happened this week, the stains on the scarf just seemed to be one thing too many.

“Among his other considerably impressive skills, Virat has a method for cleaning silk that is unmatched. In fact, I believe it saved his life once.” He flashed his broadest, warmest smile at Sparky, hoping to cheer her up. And it did. “Come by my cabin after dinner and we’ll see if he can affect a rescue. And maybe we can persuade Chief Inspector Drake to join us for a spot of port at the same time.” And then he invoked that smile again. It occurred to Drake that such a smile was a dangerous weapon, not that he minded having it wielded against him at the moment. Some port and some time relatively alone with Sparky would be a delightful close to the day.

By the time Sparky arrived at Lord Ashleigh’s cabin, Erasmus was already seated comfortably. No sooner had Virat opened the door for her than he held out his hand for the scarf. Obviously Lord Ashleigh had already apprised him of the situation. She handed over the scarf and Virat disappeared into the bedchamber to work his magic. Sparky took the third seat with a glass of port in front of it.

Ashleigh raised his glass in toast, “To the amazing events of this week, may we never see their like again.”

“Here, here,” Drake chimed in enthusiastically.

Ashleigh continued, “My dear friend, Dr. McTrowell. Mr. Wallace tells me that this is not your first eventful voyage. He referred to it another adventure as ‘The Pecos Incident.’ I am in the mood for a story about anything other than this week’s trials. If it would not be too taxing, would you be willing to relate the tale?”

Sparky thought about it for a moment, took a somewhat generous swallow of her port, and began, “As you probably all know, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American war was signed on February 2, 1848 in Mexico City.”

“Yes, it was in all the newspapers.”

Article in the Boston Emancipator, February 2, 1848
Article in the Boston Emancipator, February 2, 1848

Citation: Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
Citation: Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo [Exchange copy],
February 2, 1848; Perfected Treaties, 1778-1945;
Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government,
1778-1992; National Archives.


“Ah, yes, the newspapers. You can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.” She rolled her eyes.

“There was an attempt to sign the treaty in December 1847 in Santa Fe. I was the first mate on a small ship that was secretly taking the Mexican ambassador to Santa Fe for the signing. His name was Don Raul Ascencio Archuleta Pacheco de Fuerte y Calvados, but he preferred to be called Jorge. He spoke perfect English, but he tended to lapse back and forth when he got excited, which he did quite a bit.

Little did we know that Don Jorge had a beautiful, high-maintenance, mestiza mistress, Catalina, in Albuquerque. We were forced to make an unannounced stop to collect her. The woman brought on a dozen heavy steamer trunks full of dresses, jewelry, lotions and potions, and different shoes for every dress. She had two dozen mantillas!”

“Lace doesn’t take up that much space.”

“I think you’re missing the point.”

I warned the pilot, Captain Burrows, that the extra weight would make it difficult to maintain the elevation necessary to get to Santa Fe safely. As we approached La Bajada, it became clear that my dire prediction was going to be realized. Burrows kept insisting we could make it, but I knew we were going to slam into the precipice. If we crashed into the cliff face, the gondola would tip backward, upsetting the engines, setting the ship on fire, and sending us all plummeting to the base of the cliff in a ball of fire.

Captain Burrows realized too late that I was right. He screamed and covered his face with his hands. I spotted a culvert in the cliff face off to the port side that was wide enough for the gondola and I drove straight into it, shouting back to the engine room to shut down the engines. We slammed into the culvert, wedging the gondola tightly. The envelope jerked back and forth on its tethers, but it held. The walls of the gondola groaned. Glass popped out of portholes, shattering and tinkling strangely musically to the bottom of the cliff. Captain Burrows slammed his head into the console, knocking himself out cold. It was probably a blessing in disguise because I expect his leadership in the subsequent misadventures would have resulted in an even greater debacle. I heard Don Jorge’s mistress scream all the way up on the bridge.

Brave Captain Burrows Saves The Day
Article in the Albuquerque Daily, December 1847

I turned my head just in time for my leather cap to deflect the flying glass of the cockpit window that couldn’t flex as readily as the wooden gondola. Fortunately it mostly popped out and showered across the prow that was skewering the pumice. I had just verified that Burrows was unconscious rather than dead when the entirety of the crew, Enrique and Filiberto, tumbled into the cockpit cursing and crossing themselves repeatedly.

“Madre de dios, what happened?” blurted Enrique.

“We didn’t die. Let’s see if we can keep it that way. Haul Captain Burrows onto solid land. I’ll get the ambassador and his trollop.”

Of course she was still screaming despite Don Jorge’s attempts to calm her. I wondered whom his family had bribed to secure his diplomatic post.

“If you’re quite through watering the deck with your crocodile tears, I suggest we abandon ship before it abandons us.” I marched back to the bridge without awaiting her answer. It only took a couple of moments for them to join me on the bridge.

“Don Jorge, help me give her a hand up. Señorita Catalina, crawl to Enrique and Filiberto.” I pointed.

“No, no, no. ¡Me voy a morir!”

“Yes, probably, possibly by my own hand.” The ship creaked obligingly to emphasize my point. She shrieked and scrambled across the prow into the able hands of Enrique and Filiberto. Don Jorge followed her. The look on his face suggested he was even more terrified than she was, but at least he opted for maintaining his manly composure without whimpering. Which is not to say that he wasn’t trembling like a half-drowned cat when I reached the cliff top and I really didn’t think it was that cold.

Having secured the crew and passengers, I surveyed the area in hopes of spotting signs of habitation rather than having to perform more complex navigation. And that’s when I spotted the old Indian with the donkey, both standing perfectly still at a short distance, watching our unintentional circus. He was probably from Cochiti. Sadly, my knowledge of Keres was completely non-existent beyond the single fact that I knew the name of the language itself. Hoping that he spoke at least a little Spanish, I shouted, “¿Puedo comprar el burro?”

Don Jorge shook his head, mystified. “Why do you want to buy the burro?”

The old Indian slowly shook his head.

I turned back to Don Jorge. “Because you still need to get to Santa Fe to sign that treaty.”

“¿Y yo qué?” Señorita Catalina demanded. Ah, so she did actually understand English and it was, once again, all about her.

“¿Puedo contratar a el burro?” I shouted. The old Indian stared blankly at me, so I waved him over.

“We almost died and you still want me to go to Santa Fe to sign the treaty?” Don Jorge whined.

“If you don’t sign the treaty, all of this,” I waved my arm at the entombed ship, “was for nothing.”

“Este hombre necesita ir a Santa Fe,” I explained to the Indian. He held out his hand. Ah yes, some things are universal in all languages. “Don Jorge, give him some money and explain that you’ll give him some more when he gets you to Santa Fe.”

“I am not going with this dangerous indio. He’ll probably kill me the minute you’re not looking and steal all my money. And why should I pay? Yo soy a guest of the gobernment of Los Estados Unidos. My government already paid your company to take me to Santa Fe. So take me to Santa Fe.” And then he crossed his arms over his belly like a spoiled four-year-old. One wonders how someone so spoiled and lazy got to be so rich, but then it was his family’s money and they probably got it oppressing peasants like me. I considered throwing in with the “dangerous indio” on the murder and theft plan, but my conscience got the best of me. I fished a half dime out of the pouch on my tool belt and handed it to the Indian.

“Enrique and Filiberto, start a fire and keep the captain warm. As soon as I get to some kind of settlement, I’ll send help. Don Jorge, get on the donkey.”

“El burro duerme,” the Indian said. I looked at the donkey. He seemed to be awake. Not really wide awake, but obviously not asleep. I didn’t know what to say in response, so I just pointed in the general direction of Santa Fe and we set off. Since the Indian and I were walking, it was slow going. Don Jorge complained that the blanket over the donkey’s back wasn’t a proper saddle, completely ignoring the fact that he was riding while we were walking. I was about to offer to switch places with him when the donkey stopped in his tracks, locked his knees, and keeled over toward me. I jumped back just in time to avoid being flattened. Don Jorge wasn’t so lucky. Not only did he hit the ground, but he landed right on a cholla cactus. I stifled a giggle.

“El burro duerme,” the Indian repeated. Even Don Jorge’s shrieking wasn’t enough to wake the donkey. The Indian reached under his zarape and came back with a handful of salt that he held under the nose of the somnolent pack animal. It snuffled a couple of times, opened one eye, and hungrily lapped up the salt. The donkey was narcoleptic!

I pulled a pair of tweezers out of my tool pouch. “Hold still.” I started removing cactus spines from Don Jorge’s tender hide, each extraction being accompanied by an “ouch” or an “hijole.”

“I’m not getting back on that treacherous beast.”

“Very well, I’ll send them on their way.”

The reality of walking the rest of Santa Fe must have dawned on him because he changed his mind instantaneously. We trudged along for another half an hour during which Don Jorge grew more impatient…and cold. I offered that the walking was keeping me warm and I would be happy to switch places with him. Failing to appreciate the generosity of my offer, he decided to put heel to the donkey to motivate him. It served only to motivate the donkey to fall asleep again. I saw its knees lock up which was enough warning for me to assist Don Jorge this time. Maybe it was the cold, but I was just not quick enough to catch him. There was no cactus this time, but he was still sporting a few small stickers from his previous encounter with the succulent’s self defenses and he got to relive some of the suffering. I also shan’t repeat what he said about the snoozing creature, but it did involve the animal’s name in the vernacular.

“Sin sal más,” the Indian said after he resuscitated the burro the second time.

“At the rate we’re going, we won’t make it to Santa Fe without more salt. ¿Dónde está el pueblo más cercano?”

“Agua fria.”

“Yes, some cold water would be very refreshing right now!” Don Jorge screamed. “Where is the nearest village?!”

I pointed to a wisp of smoke about a mile ahead of us. “He meant that we’re near the village of Agua Fria.”

He huffed at me rather than admit his lack of knowledge of the local area. “I do not trust that animal. I will walk.” And so we did, with Don Jorge wincing every step of the way like a debutante who has worn a pair of shoes too small to the cotillion.

Agua Fria was not more than a couple of small adobes with adjacent corrals, and kitchen gardens reduced to twigs and shreds by the dry autumn and winter frost except for the dried hollyhock stalks standing sentry. The only color other than earth was the partially used ristras hanging under the protection of the tiny porches.

“¿Hola? ¿Hola? Hay alguien en casa?” I hollered, but there was no reply. “No one seems to be home.” I walked around the back of the house and peered in a window. I saw a neat little kitchen that looked like it had been recently used, but no one was home.

“Now what are you going to do?”

“I think I’ll just sit down on the ground and cry.”

Don Jorge was absolutely stunned. “Really?”

“No, now that you’ve cheered me up, I think I’ll go see if there are any salt licks in that tack box by the corral.”

“Oh, good idea.” Apparently irony was not part of his formal education.

No horseman who wanted to stay a horseman in this climate would have been without a salt lick, but I didn’t expect the really excellent good fortune that lurked in the tack box. Rather than a huge block that would have required chipping, there was a bag of fist-sized licks. I guess it made sense that you might need to take one with you just as we needed to at that moment. I looked around again, but no one had returned and we couldn’t afford to keep waiting. I grabbed the smallest one from the bag and closed the tack box. I pulled a half cent out of my tool pouch and placed it right in the middle of the lid where the owner would be sure to see it the next time he opened the box.

Don Jorge trailed me back to the front of the house where the Indian and the donkey were waiting patiently, or at least the Indian was waiting patiently. The donkey was making hors d'oeuvres of the hollyhock seed pods still clinging to the stalks. I nudged the salt lick under its nose to lure it away from its snack, and also to make sure it got a bit more salt before we trekked the last few miles to Santa Fe. Once he got bored with the salt, I handed the rest to the Indian and wiped the donkey slobber off my hand.

Efficacy of Sodium Chloride for the Treatment if Narcolepsy in Equus Africanus Asinus

When we finally arrived at La Fonda on the plaza, I told Don Jorge to pay the Indian for all the extra fuss he’d caused. I glared at him meaningfully before he could start his “Yo soy a guest…” tune again. When he pulled out his purse, one of the coins in it was a half cent. Now why would a Mexican ambassador have an American half cent? So, I asked him, “Where did you get that coin?”

And he replied, “Oh, I just found it lying around.”

“Lying around? I left it to pay for that salt lick. We’ve stolen a salt lick!”

“You should mind your tongue. Yo soy a guest of the gobernment of Los Estados Unidos and an ambassador de Mexico. And I’m not the one who took it.” I wanted to smack the smug smile right off his face.

We went inside to wait for Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Sumner to arrive from Fort Marcy. Someone in a nearby kitchen was simmering a pot of posole which made my mouth water. I hadn’t had a bite to eat since our stop in Albuquerque early that morning. Don Jorge went up to the desk and demanded a bath so he could soak out the rest of the cholla spines. There was a very beautiful young woman also waiting in the lobby. Although I’m far from an expert on women’s fashions, I believe the clothes she was wearing would be described as tasteful and expensive. This detail seemed to escape the esteemed ambassador because he invited her to come help him in his “time of need.” As you have probably come to realize, I’m no more of an expert on diplomacy than I am on fashion, but I was certainly not surprised when she slapped him, lucky her. I was preparing a face-saving apology for my tactless ward when the Territorial Governor, Donaciano Vigil, entered. Consistent with our “luck” that day, the young lady proceeded to complain about Don Jorge to Vigil. Her uncle. The beautiful, refined young lady was his favorite niece who was engaged to be married the next week at Mission San Miguel to Vigil’s military aide. I began inspecting the floorboards for a crack large enough through which to crawl. Don Jorge then proceeded to suggest that a young woman so near her nuptials should not be so free with her favors, which motivated the territorial governor to slap Don Jorge on the other cheek.

Wedding Announcement for 06 de Diciembre 1847

I was assessing the availability of exit routes when Lieutenant Sumner arrived just in time to hear Don Jorge challenge Vigil to a duel. And blast the luck, but Sumner was standing between me and the door. Vigil proceeded to relate the exchange so far, and to his credit, his account was unflinchingly fair and accurate. Sumner listened to Vigil’s story without interrupting. He thought for a moment, and then said, “Very well. I will serve as your second if that will suit you.”

Completely nonplussed, Don Jorge replied, “As my other retainers are regrettably indisposed, Dr. McTrowell will serve as my second.” You know that I’m rarely at a loss for words, but I was struck dumb at the horror of being involved in a duel. It was way past time to take matters into my own hands. I realized that the least disastrous outcome would be to get Don Jorge out of Santa Fe before the duel, but I needed an excuse to just get out of the room.

“Gentlemen, I failed to anticipate the need to bring my dueling pistols, so I will need to go purchase replacements. If you’ll excuse us.” I marched Don Jorge back out onto the Santa Fe Trail. As soon as we were out of earshot of Vigil and Sumner, I explained to Don Jorge that our only hope was to flee.

“But, Señorita McTrowell, that would stain my honor and endanger the treaty.”

“At this point your honor is as stained as your chaqueta and the treaty is as endangered as the dodo. And more than your honor is likely to get damaged in a duel with a man who was raised in the dangerous environs around Santa Fe and a lieutenant colonel of the US Army. Discretion is the better part of valor. We need to get out of town.”

I dragged Don Jorge pouting to the stables where we picked out horses and had them saddled. I told him I’d ride out and scout around a bit to make sure we could get away without being seen. And I expressly told him to pay for the horses. I had just determined that neither Vigil, nor Sumner, nor any of their aides were about when Don Jorge came riding up almost at a gallop, yelping “Estupido cholla, estupido cholla.”

“Don Jorge, we’ll attract less attention if we ride at a pace more suitable for town.” He glanced nervously over his shoulder when I caught sight of the stable boy running around the corner waving and shouting, “Horse thieves!”

I glared at Don Jorge ferociously. “Horse thieves!? Didn’t you pay him?”

“Yo soy a guest of the gobernment of Los Estados Unidos.”

“Horse thieving is a hanging offense, you spoiled, pompous calabaza! Ride like your life depends on it…because it does!”

Fortunately, we still had the element of surprise on our side, more or less, as we rode southwest out of town, back toward La Bajada. Unfortunately, our path would take us right by Agua Fria again. We weren’t three minutes into the return trip when I saw a cloud of dust rise behind us; we were being chased as I had expected. We rode by the same little adobe farmhouse where I had “provisioned” the salt lick. My stomach sank as I realized that the woman of the house was standing outside with two men. She was gesticulating at the ground where the salt lick had been. She held up her hand three times to indicate the heights of the three recent, unwelcome visitors. She pointed meaningfully toward Santa Fe. When the threesome looked toward Santa Fe, they spotted me and Don Jorge, bearing down on them. That’s when both of her hands went into action. I won’t describe her hand gestures, nor will I repeat the colorful terms in which she described us, but she left no doubt that she had seen us pilfer the precious salt and expected satisfaction. Her two male benefactors scrambled in the direction of the corral. They were saddled up and on their mounts in time to join the posse from Santa Fe. The rising cloud of dust behind us grew larger and more menacing.

As if we didn’t already have enough problems, I realized the dust cloud was not the only ominous harbinger in the sky. The clouds ahead of us were low, gray, and opaque. And then the wind picked up. And then it started blowing wet flakes of snow the size of silver dollars. I pulled down my goggles to keep them out of my eyes. I could barely see where the horse was taking me. That’s when I realized that the blizzard was obscuring our path not only from us, but also from our pursuers. I wrestled my compass out of my belt and took a bearing back toward the ship. I shouted to Don Jorge, “Fall in behind me and stay close!” I took a sharp turn to the west and rode for what I judged to be about two minutes before pulling up sharply on the reins, bringing my steed to an abrupt halt. Needless to say, our two horses almost had an unpleasantly personal encounter.

“Médico estúpido,” Don Jorge spat at me.

“Shhhhh!”

“What are you doing?”

“If you want to live to see your annoying mistress again, you’ll shut up now,” I hissed. I continued in a whisper, “The blizzard is holding down the dust and obscuring our tracks. The posse doesn’t know where we’re going. I have taken a bearing toward the ship. So long as we ride slowly, and in silence, we can get back to the ship without being discovered.”

“And what will we do once we get back to the ship?”

“I only perform one miracle at a time. Now be quiet.”

If we had continued at a gallop, we could have been back to the ship in ten minutes, but at a slow walk in the blizzard, it took thirty. We had to stop a couple of times because we heard the posse in the distance. I was sure the stamping of the freezing horses would give us away, or maybe it was just the pounding of my heart. At one point I thought I heard a scream and another sound like an avalanche. This was followed by considerable shouting and the sound of receding hoof beats. That was the last we heard of them.

Unexpected Blizzard Thwarts Posse
Article in the Santa Fe Chronicle, December 1847

The ship and the crew made for a pretty forlorn sight when we found them, a task made easier by the waning blizzard and the way that Señorita Catalina’s shrill voice carried. She had obviously forced Enrique and Filiberto to unload her trunks, but now she was berating them because the trunks were getting snow on them and the dirt was turning to mud. They had obviously given up caring because they were huddled around a tiny, hissing campfire that the snow was striving mightily to extinguish. Captain Burrows was conscious, but both of his eyes were blackened and he was staring in fascination at the snowflakes. I didn’t need to examine him more closely to know that he had a concussion, but that would have to wait until we got back to the safety of Albuquerque. The ship’s gondola looked like a crushed almond shell and the cockpit window was now completely broken out, but the ship was still wedged firmly in the cliff face and the envelope was still inflated. There were long scrape marks on the prow of the gondola. I envisioned poor Enrique and Filiberto dragging the trunks out through the broken window. Perhaps I hadn’t gotten entirely the worst of the day.

Enrique leapt to his feet. “Señorita McTrowell, you are alive!”

“Barely, and thank you for sounding so surprised.” He looked a little sheepish.

“Capitan Burrows is not so well.”

“I can see that. Please take charge of the horses and see that they don’t get away. We may need them.”

“How are we going to get back to Albuquerque?”

“Miracle number two, coming right up.”

I walked up to the edge of the cliff and along the starboard side, checking the contact of the ship with the cliff. I repeated the process on the port side, my inspections accompanied by the alternating expressions of affection and threats of disembowelment from Señorita Catalina toward Don Jorge.

“Enrique, is the engine still operating?”

“Si, but the mounts are a little loose.”

“That will have to do. Fetch me as much spare line as there is on the ship. Filiberto, get everyone on the ship and start up the engine.” I took the reins of the horses and loosened up their flank cinches just enough to slip out their saddle blankets before re-cinching their saddles.

Señorita Catalina turned to Filiberto and said something to him in Spanish. I didn’t hear all of what she said, but the tone of her voice and the way she pointed toward her trunks and the ship made it clear that she was ordering him to put her trunks back on the ship. Before Filiberto had to face her wrath or disobey a direct order, I said to her, “Your trunks are staying here.” As I expected, she started screaming, stamping her feet, and saying some very unflattering things about me. “Or you can stay here with them and die in this snow storm.”

Sensing it was time to engage his diplomatic skills, finally, Don Jorge said, “Mi palomita, te voy a comprar ropa nueva.” Apparently the only thing better than a dozen steamer trunks filled with expensive, fashionable clothing is the promise of a dozen new steamer trunks with new, more expensive, more fashionable clothing. She still retrieved her mantillas before allowing Filiberto to help her across the prow and through the broken cockpit window.

Enrique returned with about a hundred feet of line. I handed him one end of the rope. “Hold on to this and don’t let go, no matter what.” I walked to the prow of the ship and laid down on the edge of the cliff with just the top half of my body resting on the prow and my arms draped around its sides. I lowered a few yards of the other end of the rope down with my right hand and started swinging it back and forth. I banged my right hand on the rocks a few times before I managed to catch the other end in my left hand. I threaded several more yards through my left hand before scooting most ungracefully back onto the cliff top. My mother would have fainted in horror if she had seen my contortions, all while Enrique was watching my backside in stunned silence. I continued threading until half the rope was on either side of the prow, at which point I tied a fairly snug loop. Then I slipped one of the horse blankets between the rope and the prow to even out the pressure.

I rolled up the other horse blanket and threw it through the cockpit window to Filiberto. “Filiberto, knock off all of the broken glass you can and drape this over the edge of the window. Enrique, tie that end of the rope to the saddle horn of the roan.” I tied the other end to the saddle horn of the appaloosa. They both looked perplexed and dismayed.

“Here’s the plan. Pay close attention because we’re only going to get one shot at this and if we fail, some or all of us are going to come to a messy end, including the horses. Enrique and I are going to lead the horses down the opposite sides of the culvert until the rope is taut. Filiberto is going to put the engine on full reverse. Once the gondola starts to pull loose, I’ll give the signal and we’ll spook the horses toward the edge of La Bajada. The horses should provide enough muscle to pull the ship loose. You and I will only have a few seconds to run back to the top of the culvert and jump through the cockpit window.” I tried smiling nonchalantly as if I hadn’t just suggested diving off a thousand foot cliff after a receding, and mostly unpiloted, airship. They were clearly not fooled.

I tried to breathe evenly as I led the appaloosa along the cliff edge. I could hear the engine turning and rattling on its loose mounts. It hadn’t occurred to me that the ship might just tear itself apart once relieved of the compression of the culvert. I stroked the horse soothingly while I waited for the engine to build up enough steam. And then the gondola gave a creek and a crack, sending tiny bits of pumice down the cliff face. “Now!” I yelled. I slapped the appaloosa as hard as I could on the rump and sprinted back to the head of the culvert.

The prow was still touching the cliff face, but it pulled free just as I got there. I managed to take two skittering steps on it before unceremoniously flopping torso first through the window. I allowed myself an instant to congratulate myself for the foresight to have Filiberto put down the horse blanket. Enrique had a harder go of it because he was a few steps behind me. He fell forward on his first step but managed to get a grip on the window frame. I grabbed the inside edge of the blanket and rolled away from the window, dragging Enrique into the cabin with it. He rolled over me and wound up in a tangled bundle with the blanket on the deck. There was no time to worry about him. I grabbed the helm and shouted back to Filiberto, “Full ahead.”

The ship convulsed and shuddered, but it turned and headed in the direction of Albuquerque. I just had time to look back for the horses. Sensible creatures that they are, they had stopped at the cliff edge. They tugged back and forth on the rope a couple of times before walking back toward the top of the culvert. If they kept going the same direction, someone in Agua Fria was going to get a couple of nice horses. Maybe it would make them forget about the salt lick. Señorita Catalina cried at the receding view of her trunks of dresses and shoes.

Fancy Dress Blessing on Cochiti Pueblo
Article in the Santa Fe Chronicle, December 1847

There wasn’t a proper airship port in Albuquerque, just a dusty field with a few rails sunk in the ground. It was more like an airship hitching post. I brought the ship in as low as possible and threw a line overboard. I slid down the line as fast as I could without burning through my gloves or boots, although my hands and feet were still so frozen I probably wouldn’t have noticed. I’d just finished lashing up the ship when Don Jorge stuck his head overboard.

“Señorita McTrowell, how am I supposed to get down?”

“You’re no longer my problem, but I suggest the rope ladder rolled up by your feet.”

“Oh, si.”

I was almost away from the field when I heard his squeak. Apparently he hadn’t accounted for the fact that the ladder, like everything else on the ship, was wet from the snow. I turned around in time to have the pleasure of seeing him fall the last four feet to the ground, or rather the mud. Did I mention he hadn’t yet had time to remove the rest of the cholla stickers? I quick marched to the tanner and ordered the warmest, sturdiest leather duster they made.

C. de Baca Tanning

“Until last Thursday, it was the longest day of my life.”

The cabin echoed with Jonathan Lord Ashleigh’s baritone laugh. “My dear friend, you become more colorful with each passing day. But, I’m curious. Why does Mr. Wallace refer to this as ‘The Pecos Incident?’”

Before Sparky could finish her sip of port, Chief Inspector Drake spoke up. “I believe I have solved that mystery. You haven’t mentioned the name of the small airship.”

“Bravo, Erasmus. It was
Los Pecos.




The Parisian Party

Entry for October 30, 2011 Written by David L. Drake

With a break in the narrative, Erasmus, Sparky, and Lord Ashleigh took a few seconds to stop and sip their port. Without warning but with perfect timing, the bedchamber door swung open and Virat appeared, a perfectly clean yellow scarf draped over his forearm.

“You got it clean! I could kiss you!” Sparky exclaimed and jumped up from her chair. Virat simply scooped it off his arm and holding it with both hands, offered it to Sparky with a slight bow. She accepted it, exuding delight in the miracle he had performed, and flipped the middle of her prized possession to the back of her neck. Virat simply retreated back into the bedroom with a very slight smile.

Sparky’s face suddenly went serious. She looked from Erasmus back to Lord Ashleigh and back to Erasmus. “Erasmus, how did you obtain this scarf? And get it wrapped in time for me to get it before we left Paris?”

Erasmus smiled broadly, making the curls in the ends of his mustache climb slightly higher on his cheeks. His eyes twinkled, and he glanced quickly at Lord Ashleigh, who echoed his grin. There was a perceivable pause as the two men were stalled in a standoff to see who would offer an explanation first.

Sparky’s patience wore thin in a second and a half, and she coaxed them again. “Well?” She dragged the word out a bit in an accusatory tone.

A small knock came from the door to the hallway. It was the type of knock made by a diminutive hand, trying its best to be loud enough. Virat was in the room and answering the door faster than any of the three could stand up, demonstrating a precision to the movement that made Erasmus think that Virat must practice this feat on his own to execute it so effortlessly. When the door swung open, a boy in his early teens dressed smartly as a messenger stood in the doorway, holding a few small, brightly colored blue envelopes. Virat politely gestured for him to announce himself.

“Chief Inspector Drake, I am here to deliver your invitations.” His voice gave away his French accent, but his English was perfect. Everyone in the room instantly understood that this young man had delivered messages to many people visiting from many countries during his tenure as a messenger, and he could have spoken Italian or German just as well as English.

Erasmus stood and replied, “Excellent! Please come in.”

The lad stepped into the room with confidence and handed invitations to each person, including Virat. Erasmus, who received his invitation last, asked, “Are all of the arrangements set?”

“Yes, sir. Precisely as you requested. It was a pleasure doing business with you.” With that, the young man extended his hand for shaking, which Erasmus took and shook hardily. The lad stepped back, took the door handle, bowed deeply, and closed the door as he backed into the hallway.

It seemed that everyone except Erasmus had been infected with a look of puzzlement. They looked at Erasmus, and then at their envelopes, and then slowly ran fingers under the flaps to open them. The card inside was simple and elegant.

Invitation to Les Troís Frères Provençaux

Sparky broke the silence first. “Erasmus! This is rather ...” She trailed off, realizing that if she stated that this seemed unusually formal for him, it might be off-putting after the work that he had put into organizing the get-together. And if she stated that it was astoundingly unanticipated, it may sound like she thought he was stodgy. Instead, Lord Ashleigh helped finish her languishing sentence with “... intriguing.”

“Friends,” Erasmus started, “I know this is unexpected. As it turns out, I recently came into some money and I thought that our last evening in Paris shouldn’t be spent sitting on an airship. I have made arrangements, using the services of the young gentleman that you just met, to have us treated to one of Paris’ finest dining establishments. At least that is what I’ve been informed. I couldn’t get a supper arranged in time, but I thought this would make a great ending to the evening.”

Lord Ashleigh was delighted. “Jolly good! I’ll get out my top hat and jacket. Will it be just the four of us?”

“Oh, no. There will be a few more.” Erasmus opened the door to the hallway, and there was a line of passengers waiting to disembark, all dressed in their fineries.

Lord Ashleigh turned to his manservant. “We haven’t a moment to lose! Virat, my friend, please find us sufficient garments of fashion and finish. We are going out!”

Erasmus formed a crook in his arm, which Sparky took without hesitation. “Come, my dear. I will guide you all the way to your cabin door. We have a party to attend.”

When Sparky rejoined Erasmus in the hallway, she had on a white blouse subtly fringed in lace, a gold necklace with a feminine brooch, a mustard-colored skirt, and a jaunty brown jacket with smart lapels. He was dressed in his black frock coat, a vest of striking blue, and a black cravat that Sparky hadn’t seen before. Erasmus’ bandages and dressing had been changed earlier that evening, so he still had a gauze halo that didn’t quite fit into the rest of his ensemble. He was holding a black top hat.

Sparky enquired, “How do you plan to wear that?” gesturing at the top hat.

“It is borrowed from Jonathan. His head is ... well, I’ll show you.” Erasmus placed the hat on his head and it easily fit over his bandages and came to rest on his ears. Sparky did attempt to hide her snicker, but failed. Erasmus stood firm. “A gentleman needs a proper hat,
especially if he’s accompanying a lady.”

Sparky thought of firing back a retort about her being a “lady,” but instead did her best curtsy with a touch of sarcasm. Erasmus stood tall and offered his crooked arm again, which she took.

Eight cabriolets were waiting near the base of tower number twelve where the Burke & Hare was moored. They were glossy black, and had the shine of being recently polished. Passengers were still boarding when Erasmus and Sparky descended the stairs of the tower. By the demeanor of the driver of the closest cabriolet, it was clearly reserved. He stood, guard-like, in front of the door, waving others past.

“This one is for us,” Erasmus said. The driver stepped to the side and opened the door to the vehicle. “Evening, Doctor. Evening, Chief Inspector.” Erasmus guided Sparky up the step and into the conveyance, removed his borrowed hat, handed it in to her, and climbed in. They were soon joined by Lord Ashleigh and Virat, both dressed handsomely. Lord Ashleigh sported a midnight blue jacket and top hat, complemented with a royal blue tie. Virat’s gold and burgundy sherwani was beautifully embroidered with swirls and detailed designs. The door closed and the clacking of horseshoes began; the coach got underway with a slight lurch just as Lord Ashleigh was tipping his hat to Sparky.

The procession of cabriolets through the streets made a unique sound, with all of the horses going at the same speed and separated by the same distances, they proceeded train-like through the cobbled avenues. Knowing who was paying for this expedition, the young organizer had stationed Erasmus’ coach to be last in the line, so that he would be the man joining the ongoing party.

The conversation in the carriage was lively and animated, and the travel time went by quickly. Soon, it seemed, they slowed their pace and took over the avenue in front of the restaurant Les Trois Frères Provençaux. The cabriolets deposited their passengers as efficiently as they had picked them up. The driver lent a hand to Sparky as she descended the coach, and the men stepped out. Sparky tried her best to stay demure, but her entire disposition was oozing “Ooo, fun!” Once they had all exited, Erasmus adjusted his top hat to sit a bit straighter, and offered his arm once more, with a cheerful, “Shall we ...?” Sparky took his arm again, and Lord Ashleigh responded with a soft “Yes, yes, yes,” and his customary grin. They all proceeded inside.

It was a party atmosphere. The large, beautifully appointed hall had been rearranged to have table after table, each with their own special offering: one crowded with glasses of champagne, another with chocolate desserts of varying shapes and sizes, one with
digestifs, one with ramekins of crème brûlée and similar custards, and of course a table of cakes, tarts, and pastries. To a person, everyone in the room was milling about and pointing out and discussing the latest offering that caught their eye. Everyone from the Burke & Hare was there.

Erasmus started to make a few mental notes. Luis-Miguel looked like he was memorizing some presentation tricks. Reginald had his pants on, thank goodness. Jake took on a schoolboy look. Somewhat retrograde from the maturing he had done over the course of the regatta, but perfectly acceptable for this evening. Mr. Wilkinson apparently had an unexpected weakness for
bon-bons. Slightly out of character, but it made the engineer seem all the more human. Ahh, and Aldrich Fremont was having a good time. Erasmus thought, “Perhaps he’ll change his mind about me a little, … just a wee bit.”

Sparky leaned in toward Erasmus, whispering, “That’s enough, you can stop scrutinizing the room. This looks impressive and ... expensive. How did you recently come into money, if I may ask?”

“Indirectly through the Queen. King Maximilian had a price on Ishild’s head. It was known throughout his military and security force, but apparently not outside of that circle. He paid it through to Queen Victoria since it was her countrymen that brought Ishild to them. The reward was passed on to me. It was delivered by Her Majesty’s physician when he saw me, although I don’t think that he realized that he was passing an envelope full of gulden notes to me. I thought that this was a pleasant way to repay everyone involved.”

“This is very ... nice of you. Let’s go over there and get some champagne!” She dashed ahead to scoop up a glass.

The festivities carried on until well past midnight without slowing down, except when the chocolate
soufflé came out, and everyone hushed for the cutting. The night ended with the final bottle of champagne being sabred, and everyone giving the Chief Inspector a toast for his generosity.

The party-goers all slowly exited for the awaiting carriages. The chill of the Parisian night had settled in, and jackets were pulled closely as each of them patiently lined up to get back into their vehicles.

When all four of companions were back in their seats, Erasmus had a wry smile. Lord Ashleigh couldn’t ignore it for long. “My dear Mr. Cat, I think you have a bit of canary feather on your lip. Would you like to tell us what’s on your mind? Great party, by the way.”

“Why, thank you, my good friend. As for my story, I think I have had enough bubbly and sweets to loosen my tongue. I want to tell my tale.”

Sparky chimed in, “Your tale?” She had a fairly good idea of what he was about to explain, but wanted to feign some polite ignorance.

“Yes, my tale. The whole Ishild-Tobias-Tuttle story. I’ll see if I can finish it before we arrive back at the Burke & Hare. I’ve only been able to put it all together with the addition of a few of the things that Tobias and Ishild said during the last few days. And I’ve been keeping this story rather quiet for fear that I may lose my position at Scotland Yard if it got out. I no longer have that fear.”

“Pray, go on. You have my ear,” Lord Ashleigh coaxed.

“This tale starts, simply enough, as early as one can: my very first memories. I was brought up on a sailing vessel that navigated the oceans of the North and South Atlantic. We were on the mercenary ship the Fearless, a wooden 240-foot vessel made for speed. She counted on wind and sails for most her power, but we had a crude steam engine and screw propeller in case of dead calm. I was told since my earliest memories that I was the son of the captain, the proud Benjamin Tuttleford III. Although he treated me as such, I could tell that many of the other lads he called ‘son’ were from many a country and race, that I was just another of a collection of children that ended up on the ship. Around the age of eight, I got to witness a new boy being brought on to the ship and be being told that he was Tuttle’s son, so I just figured that this was how I had come aboard.

A bit of history now. Slavery had been outlawed in England since early in the twelfth century, and western Europe had given it up long before that. But it was still a raging trade between Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas. The ship’s mission was simple enough. We sailed under the English flag and stopped as many of the slaver ships as we could, returning their captives back to their native countries. We had papers for our privateering, signed by King William himself, which were posted outside of the captain’s quarters. I learned my letters and how to read from those papers.

I mastered the ropes and could climb like a chimp, and spent many days in the crow’s nest looking for our next target. As with all on board, I learned how to wield a sword and knife, and how to fire a canon. The crew also knew a number of other beneficial arts. A Portuguese sailor, unfortunately no longer with us, taught us lads his country’s form of stick fighting, which was as beautiful as it was deadly. I was planning to get a brace of pistols when I turned fourteen, but I didn’t get the chance, as you will soon learn. Oh, yes. Tobias was our cook. He held his own in hand-to-hand, but the man could turn any exotic meat or fruit into a gourmet meal. He had an astounding collection of dried spices, which he gave me the privilege of learning each by its appearance and aroma.

I could ramble on for a long time, but here is the crux of the story. The Americans saw our activity as pirating, and took steps to stop us in the Caribbean. We took serious damage, and limped back to England, pumping all the way. There was a bit of a scuffle as soon as we docked, and everyone on board was separated by the local navy personnel. All of us children were placed in an orphanage. Four of my best friends were there. Within a year and a half, we escaped, and I don’t think the orphanage wardens tried too hard to find us. We lived as entertainers on the street for a while. During that time, I helped an older gentleman who was in a scuffle with a robber, and he took me in. My friends, François, Henri, Charles, and René, left to go back to France, their native country.

After that, I attended classes in the British school system, but the truth is that my time on the Fearless taught me more about geography, maths, history, and languages than I ever would have obtained in a classroom.

What I learned from Tobias a couple of days ago was that England had rescinded our papers while we were at sea. We were actually operating as pirates without our knowledge. The King wanted to make amends with the Americans, and see if they could help resolve their slavery issues politically. We were caught in the middle of that transition. Tobias said that while the crew was on bond awaiting trial for our ‘crimes at sea,’ they hopped the next ship to Europe and settled the Town of Melköde. Tuttle got married, and had a daughter, Ishild.

Lord Ashleigh wrinkled his nose. “So Ishild is, in a way, your sister?”

“In a way,” Erasmus chuckled. “Because she heard stories about me, she must have thought that I was the older brother that abandoned the family, a traitor of sorts. The one who stayed in England, the country that turned its back on their brave sailors.”

Sparky chimed in. “So, what is your real name?”

“Good question. I was always called ‘Drake’ while on the Fearless. It means ‘dragon’ and that’s a whole story in itself. The orphanage wouldn’t let me have only a single name, so they called me ‘Erasmus,’ which ironically means ‘beloved,’ which is not quite the way they treated me. The man who took me in was Edwin Llewellyn. For all that I owe him, I took his last name as my middle name.”

The carriage slowed. “Ahh, we’re here! I hope you have enjoyed my little story. You can see why I was concerned if Scotland Yard found out. I am a criminal of the high seas. It is not something that looks good on one’s CV.”

Lord Ashleigh smiled and winked, adding, “Your story is safe with us.”

As they piled out, Erasmus thought, “My friends are in good company, since the Queen also seems to think I’m worthy enough.”




Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Entry for November 6, 2011 Written by Katherine L. Morse

“Mr. Wilkinson, shut down the engines.”

Sparky gently steered the Burke & Hare toward tower 3 as the lack of power caused the air ship to lose momentum. The ship’s crew threw the mooring lines down to the tower crew who efficiently lashed them down. She waited for the slight tug back against the mooring lines that would tell her that the ship was held fast. The ship gradually inched closer to the tower as the tower crew winched in the mooring lines so the gangplank would reach. She would rather have slept after Drake’s delightful soiree, but Jake Fremont was not ready to handle the ship alone at night crossing the English Channel and docking in London was not for the feint of heart.

“Mr. Fremont, I am forever indebted to you for your valor and steadfastness. Although we can never speak of the events of the last few days publicly, always remember that everyone on this ship owes you their life. If you will accompany me, I believe I can repay you in some small way.”

Not knowing what else to do, Jake merely nodded, said, “Yes, ma’am,” and followed her off the bridge. McTrowell marched straight to the office of Western & Transatlantic Airship Lines. She had the vague sense that something was amiss or a little different when she walked through the door, but she was tired and intent on her task, so she dismissed it out of hand. Without waiting for the civil pleasantries of a greeting, she said directly to the office manager, “Mr. Littleton, this is Mr. Jake Fremont. Young Mr. Fremont has shown a preternatural talent for airship piloting. Please see to it that he is sent to the pilot training school at Wiltshire with the highest recommendation from Western & Transatlantic, and provide him with a guarantee of employment when he successfully completes the course.” She turned to shake the hand of the dumbfounded young man. “Mr. Fremont, I look forward to flying with you again. Please contact me as soon as you have completed your training. Mr. Littleton here always knows how to reach me, regardless of where I am.”

He repeated, “Yes, ma’am,” in the same tone as earlier and shook her hand. And then the two of them stood there awkwardly because the office had gone silent and everyone was staring at them. Sparky looked around and realized, much to her embarrassment, that she must have just interrupted a conversation, and a lively one at that. There was another woman in the room, a formidably proper Victorian woman who probably would have stood as straight as an iron rod even without her corset, Annabelle Wallace. Although no one in this office would have dared to refer to her thusly. She might be only half the mass of her husband and admirably trim for her age, but everyone knew Mrs. Reginald Wallace to be the equal, or perhaps superior, of her husband when it came to will.

“Mrs. Wallace, what a surprise to find you here. I apologize for interrupting.” No sense antagonizing the owner’s wife, regardless of their marital situation. The look on Annabelle Wallace’s face was more intimidating than anything Ishild could have mustered.

“Mr. Littleton and I were just reviewing the improvements I have made in the efficient operation of this office.” McTrowell hazarded a quick glance about. If pressed, she would have to have admitted that there was markedly less clutter and chaos about the place. And that Mr. Littleton looked quite discomfited about the situation. But Mr. Littleton was no fool; he took advantage of the diversion to usher Jake Fremont into a side room where he could afford himself the relief of executing Sparky’s orders and extricate himself from further “review” with Mrs. Wallace.

Mrs. Wallace continued, “I would like your opinion as another woman who engages in airship travel. I find the enterprise to be unsuitable for women of quality and station. Women of means in these times are considerably interested in enlightening travel and providing the benefits of an experiential education to their offspring. However, they require comforts and security that are not currently offered by my husband’s enterprise. He must add educational, sightseeing tours for women of quality that include suitable comforts, and reliable, trustworthy chaperones and tour guides.”

Although it wasn’t, strictly speaking, a question, McTrowell felt obliged to offer some reply, so she said, “Indeed,” and hoped that would be sufficient to keep the conversation moving.

“This will be a boon to his business.” Mrs. Wallace was no longer speaking hypothetically and Sparky felt an uncharacteristic sympathy for Mr. Littleton and, at the same time, some antipathy for his having escaped and left her with no exit. Mrs. Wallace had paused in her proclamation, obviously waiting for an affirmative reply. Why was there no pirate attack when you needed one? She was on the verge of actually stammering when the door opened and Wallace himself entered, followed closely by Drake.

“Annabelle, my darling, to what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” Sparky’s eyebrows shot up in astonishment. Who was this man and what had he done with Reginald Wallace? From behind Wallace’s back so that only Sparky could see, Drake made a motion of passing his hand down in front of his face, leaving his face an emotionless mask. Thankful for the warning, Sparky settled her expression before Wallace saw it. She saw her escape route.

“Wallace, your clever and enterprising wife has identified a new business opportunity for you: educational, sightseeing tours for women of means and their children. No doubt she has already identified several customers for this offering from among her estimable friends.”

Quickly taking his cue in this little pantomime, Drake chimed in, “What a capital idea. Wallace, you are a fortunate man to have married a woman with such keen business acumen and an eye for new opportunities.” And then he gave Wallace a little nudge in the back for good measure. Sparky ducked around the couple to follow Drake who headed toward the side offices the instant it looked like their little improvisational drama was working.

Before they could congratulate themselves on their handiwork, they heard shouting in the adjacent side office. They opened the adjoining door to find the elder Fremont shouting at Littleton who was obviously bewildered about the source of Fremont’s acrimony. They entered just in time to hear Fremont shout, “This was supposed to be a pleasure cruise. I was assaulted by one of your buffoons, pressed into service as a jailer, and nearly killed. I demand a refund in full!” Given the secrecy of the week’s events, Mr. Littleton had no idea what Fremont was going on about, and it showed clearly on his face. McTrowell entered, followed by Drake.

“Mr. Littleton, may I be of assistance?”

Before Littleton could muster a sensible reply, Fremont pointed a finger at Drake and barked out, “That buffoon!” Of course, Wallace could also hear the tirade from the adjoining office and came to investigate the source of the confrontation. He had an uncharacteristically serene composure.

“Mr. Fremont, what seems to be the trouble?”

“I demand a refund! I am never doing business with this company again!”

Wallace smiled. “It is my fondest wish. Please see the cashier in the front office who will provide your refund. In the future, might I suggest the services of Occidental and Oriental Travel Lines.” And he stepped back out without another word. Sparky had to slap her hand over her mouth not to laugh out loud to hear Wallace recommend the services of his chief competitor. Apparently she and Drake were not the only ones who had had quite enough of Aldrich Fremont. Littleton just threw up his hands and dropped his head on the desk. It had all just been too much for him.

Virat was loading the last of Lord Ashleigh’s belongings onto his coach by the time Drake and McTrowell returned to tower 3. Ashleigh greeted them with his usual warmth, “Well, my good friends, it has certainly been an eventful week. What are you planning next?”

“I have a meeting first thing in the morning with Sergeant Fox at which my future will become more clearly defined,” Drake replied. Ashleigh and McTrowell exchanged a look of curiosity at the vagueness of this answer.

“I have well and truly burnt my bridges with Mrs. McCreary, so my most urgent business is to find new lodgings until my next assignment.” Ashleigh and Drake exchanged meaningful and awkward looks. The silence stretched. Even Virat stopped his packing duties to hear what would transpire next. Drake opened his mouth to speak, but Ashleigh deftly cut him off.

“My good Dr. McTrowell, as I have a commodious residence and a female servant who may serve as an appropriate chaperone, might I offer you my hospitality.” He waited for her answer. Sensing that she might be wavering, he added, “And Virat would be able to prepare chai for you at any time.” She smiled back at him. He was dangerously clever and insightful.

“You are too kind, but this time I think I shall accept your generous offer.”

“Excellent! Chief Inspector Drake, would you care to join us for dinner this evening, at say six? I trust that will give you sufficient time to resettle yourself and report in.”

“Yes, thank you. I look forward to seeing the both of you then.” He tipped his hat to both of them, but it was clear to all of them which of the two he was most looking forward to seeing.

No sooner had the coach lurched to a start than McTrowell looked Ashleigh straight in the eye and said, “All right, no more stalling. Tell me about the scarf.”

“It’s quite lovely and complements your hair color nicely.”

“That is not what I meant and you know it. Where did that scarf come from and how did it get on my bunk?”

“I might have been meddling…or matchmaking a bit.”

“Go on.”

“It seemed to me that you and the good Chief Inspector had an affinity for each other, but I feared the reticence for commitment that you two share would prevent you from taking action in time.” She nodded, not giving him the respite of a conversational interruption. “I bought the scarf during my shopping excursion our first day in Paris. I wrote the note and had it wrapped. When I saw you kiss Drake on the forehead that night, I knew I was right about the two of you.”

“You saw that?”

“It’s amazing what you see when you look. I gave the wrapped package to Drake the next day and bet him a good bottle of port that, if he gave it to you, you would kiss him on the lips before the trip was over. He’s a logical man. Either a kiss from you or a bottle of port. He couldn’t lose.”

“You troublemaker, I ought to flatten you like the Duke of Milton the day we met,” but she was smiling nevertheless.

He winked and smiled, “
Was the kiss not to your liking?

This concludes the second adventure of Drake & McTrowell:
The Bavarian Airship Regatta.”


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