"Write what you know," it's been said. And I usually stick to that dictum myself. I know how to shoot my mouth off, and my writing often shows it. If only I could trim back what I say the same way I do what I write. I'd probably get in a lot less trouble.
Anyhow, the first draft of The Black Dove was as full of hot air as all my other first drafts. So hang onto your hats, friends -- here comes a big gust of that air I've kept bottled up till now.
* The highbinder watched us approach with all the apparent concern of a statue in the path of an oncoming gnat.
* Though christened Gustav and Otto by our parents, to our cow-country friends we're "Old Red" and "Big Red." To our enemies, I suppose, we're probably just "those god-damned Amlingmeyer brothers" or, if formal introductions haven't been made, "that little, quiet asshole and that big, loud asshole."
As Old Red, Diana Corvus and I escape from roly-poly Chinese dick Wong Woon....
* The man simply wasn't built for speed, though -- he had about as much chance of catching us as a fellow chasing jackrabbits in a Conestoga wagon.
"Soiled dove" Ah Gum breaks down while talking about her missing friend Hok Gup....
* Now, when a gal goes all weepy, it's usually best to let another woman handle the consoling whenever possible. "There, there," a pat on the back and the offering of a handkerchief are about all most of men are good for -- and the handkerchief's usually not even clean. So I was happy to hang back and let Diana jump in with the comforting. And I assumed Old Red felt the same, of course, since solace-giving hardly comes naturally to a fellow with all the sensitivity and social grace of a rabid badger. Yet when Diana reached out to place a comforting hand on the girl's shoulder, my brother, of all people, beat her to it.
I blinked at the tender-hearted impostor who had so obviously taken my elder brother's place. Just where this fraud had come from was yet another mystery to throw on the pile we'd been so busy building up.
And last (for today, anyway) and certainly least: a heapin' helpin' of back story and exposition.
* The Year of Our Lord 1893 had not been kind to us so far. In fact, I wouldn't even attribute the year to "Our Lord." Let the Devil take credit for it. Certain days sure felt hellish enough.
First, The Panic gobbled up what little trail-money we'd saved. Then we hired on with a cattle outfit that turned out to be crooked. When my brother tried to straighten it out Holmes-style, he got a bullet through the belly for his trouble. He survived -- then almost immediately set about remedying that by signing us up to be railroad dicks just in time to [blah blah blah synopsis of On the Wrong Track here].
All this left Gustav bruised not just in body but in spirit, and he spent the weeks after our railroad misadventure moping around like an old dog waiting to die. I tried cheering him up as best I could, reading him the Holmes stories he'd collected over the last year and even making him a gift of a mess of new ones (for I'd spotted a used copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in a bookpeddler's stall). After I got him bucked up to something approaching tolerable (though still a far sight from cheerful), I took him across the Bay so we could try our "luck" at the local Pinkerton office. [We are promptly thrown out.]
Oh, well. The way things were going for us, it probably didn't matter. If we hadn't showed up to be insulted in person, no doubt the Pinks would've taken it upon themselves to track us down and send us a telegram sooner or later: DEAR GUSTAV AND OTTO STOP DON'T BOTHER STOP WE DON'T WANT YOU STOP P.S. YOU'RE UGLY AND SMELLY TOO NYAH NYAH NYAH FULL STOP.
Next week: more of the same! Yup, we haven't reached the bottom of the barrel yet....
Otto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer
December 17, 2008