Alright, friends -- the On the Wrong Track Special Edition Extended Cut is almost done. Just print out today's assorted crumbs (along with those reproduced here the past two weeks), throw them into your cherished hardcover copy of the book and waaa-laaaa! You'll have a reasonable facsimile of the first, unedited, overlong draft of the book. Just what you've always wanted, I'm sure!
* My brother had made plain his distaste for the railroads on countless occasions over the years, steering us clear of their trains at every given opportunity. And unlike many men you'll meet, Old Red won't just flick his scruples aside like the soggy butt of a cheap cigar when there's money to be made. But this was more than a mere job we were closing in on -- it was his dream. Gustav's convictions and his ambitions were squared off against each other, and just which would win the fight I didn't know. It was bound to be one hell of a brawl, though.
* "Some folks just don't know how to take a little friendly encouragement," I said to my brother.
"Some folks ain't that good at givin' it," he replied.
* "When Lady Luck smiles on you," Old Red said, "you don't go lookin' for spinach in her teeth."
And presented here for the first time anywhere (well, other than the rough draft I sent to my editor way back when), an entire deleted scene: Big Red uses his head (ho ho!) to impress legendary "cowboy detective" Burl Lockhart
* Lockhart turned his full attention to me.
"Would you mind takin' off your lid?"
"Oh...I beg your pardon, Mr. Lockhart," I said, assuming he wanted me to doff my Stetson as a show of respect.
"Now would you bend down and look at the ground?" Lockhart asked once I had my hat off.
Showing respect's one thing, but now it looked like the man wanted to...well, let's just say it was a good thing we were in a crowded saloon or I might've got the wrong idea.
I shot a peek at Gustav. He looked as buffaloed as I imagine I did, yet he gave me a quick nod -- mostly out of curiousity, I imagine.
I reluctantly did as Lockhart asked.
Almost immediately, I felt a familiar, not unpleasant pressure on my scalp. This wasn't a new sensation, as I've had friends of the female persuasion run their fingers through my hair. But this was certainly the first time those fingers were calloused and course from working reins and rope.
"Yeah -- that's good," Lockhart said, pressing down hard just above my forehead. He slid his fingers up a few inches to the very top of my skull. "Oh, yeah. Very good."
I threw another glance Gustav's way. As all I could see were his knees, however, it was impossible to tell what he was thinking.
"Excuse me, Mr. Lockhart, but...what exactly are you doin' up there?" I asked. "Lookin' for lice?"
"Nothin' of the kind," Lockhart said. "I'm readin' your mind." His fingers dug in just behind each of my ears. "Or your head, actually. But they're really the same thing, if you know what to look for."
And then I understood. What I grasp of science you could fit in a thimble with room to spare, but then again you don't have to be Thomas Edison to have heard of phrenology -- the theory that the shape of a man's skull can show you the workings of his mind. Of course, some folks will tell you phrenology's about as scientific as stepping on an ant to make it rain, yet you'll find it practiced in doctor's offices and carny tents alike...as well as the occasional Pinkerton office, it turned out, since Lockhart obviously fancied himself quite the craniologist.
"Perfect!" he marveled, squeezing my head like he was checking to see if it was ripe enough to eat. "Absolutely perfect!"
"You sure it ain't too big?" Old Red asked.
"Oh, no -- big means brains," Lockhart replied. His fingers left my scalp, and I felt a pat on the back. "Thank you, son. I'm done."
I straightened up and found Lockhart beaming at me -- and Gustav scowling.
"Sounds like you saw something good up there, Mr. Lockhart." I combed my hair with my fingers and popped my Stetson back in place. "So am I gonna be rich, famous or both?"
"Phrenology ain't fortune tellin'," Lockhart said. "It's science. So I can't tell you what's gonna happen down the road. But I can tell you this: You are a natural-born detective."
As he explained this conclusion (something about "the organ of calculation" and "the faculty of comparison" and my astounding "supra-orbital development"), Old Red's expression grew increasingly curdled. Of course, I knew exacty what was souring him, since "natural-born detective" is a title he'd claim for himself. So when Lockhart began winding down his lecture, I asked him what he made of my brother's skull. Old Red glared at me but whipped his Boss of the Plains off all the same.
Lockhart gave Gustav's head a cursory grope.
"Yeah -- pretty much what I figured," he said. "Not much to see here." He turned back to me and grinned. "But you! I knew you had something special the moment you walked in and took off your hat. It's too bad that jackass Rodes hasn't made a study of the craniological sciences as I have -- he turned away the greatest detective since...well, since me, I reckon."
"Thank you, Mr. Lockhart. That's quite a -- "
"So can you help the great detective here land a job as a Pinkerton?" Old Red butted in, slapping his hat back atop his unremarkable skull.
"I wish I could. But Rodes and me, we ain't exactly on friendly terms. And...well, to tell you the truth, I don't have all that much pull with the home office anymore. Yeah...ol' Burl Lockhart's just about played out as a Pinkerton."
Then he brightened a bit and pulled a scrap of paper and a stubby pencil from his vest pocket.
"That don't mean I can't help, though. You -- turn around."
Lockhart's command was aimed at Old Red, who complied slowly, as if he was expecting a kick in the drawers.
Lockhart spread the paper out on Gustav's back and got to writing on it.
"Yessir, ol' Burl's still got himself a friend or two," he said.
After a moment, he folded the slip of paper over and kept on scribbling. He finished with a flourish -- a hard, stabbing period that evidently gave Old Red quite a poke in the back to judge by the way his eyes popped wide. Lockhart gave me the paper, then held out his hand.
"Best of luck to you, son," he said as we shook. "Like I said before -- phrenology can't predict the future. But I can tell you this: You've been blessed with a one-in-a-million mind. I'm givin' you a chance to put that gift to good use. I suggest you take it."
I wasn't so sure about my future as a detective, but this much I knew for certain: I sure as heck wouldn't be passing up my chance to razz my brother about this for the rest of his life.
Next week: The Black Dove "Stuff That Wasn't Good Enough for the Published Version of the Book" Special Edition begins!
Otto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer
December 12, 1893