“Blackeyed Pete’s back in town, Sergeant. I saw him around Smurchy’s Saloon.”
My superior considered my remark while he smoothed his waxed handlebar mustache.
“Shall I make inquiries, sir?”
“No, if there’s a problem, we’ll know soon.” Sergeant Smythe unfolded his lanky frame, and poured himself a coffee from the pot on the woodstove. He jerked the pot towards me, but I declined. I’d had enough of the bitter brew for one day.
I examined my report, The Arrest and Imprisonment of Donald T. Jenson. We’d jailed the fellow the previous week for the selling of ‘bug juice,’ a vile concoction of whiskey, chewing tobacco, molasses, red ink, Jamaican ginger, and red pepper. Such a mixture was an offense in itself, but selling it to the natives made it doubly so. Jenson’s sentence had been light, and he was probably back peddling his wares.
I chewed on the end of my pen - a nasty habit - then scraped at the frosty window to peer out at the village. Fort Frenzy was a slap-up gold rush town consisting of four saloons, one church, the assayer’s office, and a livery stable. Plus a trading post, a brothel, and our police station.
Sergeant Smythe drained his coffee cup.
Suddenly, Sourdough Joe burst through the door in a flurry of swirling snow and frigid air.
“Sergeant Smythe! Constable! We got trouble!”
The sergeant and I grabbed our fur-lined parkas and headed into the icy blast.
“Blackeyed Pete came slitherin’ into town with a batch of bug juice. Weren’t long afore Big Falls got wind of it.” Sourdough paused to swipe snow from his eyes. “O’ course, Big Falls ain’t got nuthin’ to trade, and he fought with Pete.”
“That were 'bout noon. So, Big Falls, he’s mighty desperate. He went to the livery stable, stole a mule, and brung it to Pete. Big Falls got his drink, and Pete took off with the mule. There’s a hullaballoo at Smurchy’s.”
The short Yukon day was closing in, and light spilled onto the shadowy snow outside the saloon. Raucous hollering assaulted our ears as we entered.
The steamy air was rank with the odor of drink and stale sweat. Smurchy was behind the counter trying to subdue the yelling, but his pleas were going unheard. Oblivious, Big Falls was in the corner, sleeping off the effects of his ill-gotten prize, his enormous body quaking as he snored.
“What goes here?” Sergeant Smythe’s powerful voice boomed.
“Blackeyed Pete stole a mule, sir.”
“MY mule,” a grizzled prospector declared.
“It were Big Falls that stole the mule,” added a rough looking character.
“It were carelessness at the livery.”
“Big Falls snuck in,” the lad from the stables said defensively.
“Constable Jones, make ready the dogs. We’ll pursue Mr. Pete immediately.”
Pursuit at twilight was not going to be a picnic. However, I didn’t sign up with the North-West Mounted Police to be partaking in tea parties and pleasantries, so I set out at once.
With only one road out of Fort Frenzy, and guided by the light of a full moon and the whirling northern lights, it wasn’t difficult to follow Blackeyed Pete’s trail, albeit that he had had several hours headstart.
We were forced to rest at a trapper’s cabin. Twisting knots of moss and feeding in chunks of dry spruce, I made a fire in the tin stove, while Sergeant Smythe fried bacon and bannock with supplies hanging from the rafters. We spent a fitful night beneath woolen blankets and our heavy parkas, with visions of rampaging prospectors racing through our restless minds.
We arose before light and ate cold leftovers while checking the dog harnesses. Soon, icicles hung from our brows and Sergeant Smythe’s formidable mustache. Trees and snowy hillocks flew by as we continued our search.
At noon, we were finally successful. Leading the mule, Blackeyed Pete was sauntering along on the path ahead, as nonchalantly as if he were on a Sunday stroll.
Sergeant Smythe halted the dogs, who instantly fell into panting heaps.
“Unhand that mule,” commanded the sergeant.
“Whaa...?” Pete displayed a fresh black eye, his reputation for which was the reason for his moniker.
“You’re under arrest for the possession of said mule.”
“But this here mule was payment for...” Inadvertently, Pete had incriminated himself.
Blackeyed Pete was forthwith tied onto the dogsled, and we returned to Fort Frenzy, once more fulfilling the Mounties' Motto...
We Always Get Our Man!
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