The Smoking Horse on the Iron Road
The Smoking Horse was larger than Kaya had remembered. It was all metal and smelled like gun oil. She shook off a sense of foreboding and watched the men, women and children milling around the depot. She noticed that the dark men gave the White-Eyes in a cage ten coins, pesos Dashante had called them. Then the man in the cage would give the men a piece of paper they showed to another man dressed in blue. He seemed to be a gatekeeper, for he let the people onto the train.
For most of China’s history, there was no police force. The District Magistrate, the bottom rung on the governmental pyramid, was the detective and judge in criminal cases. He had to investigate a crime, arrest, and judge the guilt or innocence of the suspect, then pronounce sentence. Without forensic science, he relied on his knowledge of human behavior, his skill at questioning witnesses, and his own ability to draw conclusions from clues. Eventually, if he performed well, he may be promoted to Prefect, and oversee ten or so Districts.
A locked room mystery is investigated
“Saints preserve us,” the sergeant repeated, lapsing into a deep Irish brogue, as he made the sign of the cross.
A scream like a raccoon in pain brought us both around. Miss O’Rourke and her two companions stood behind us. It was Miss McMasters who had let out the war cry. She then covered her mouth with her hand, turned and ran from the room. Miss O’Rourke went after her, but Miss O’ Shannahan was made of sterner stuff and, though pale, stood her ground.
“This is not a sight for a…
Master Bao rode his great ox, Xi, along a trail through a deep forest in the southern district of Lingnan. His pupil, Ping, walked alongside.
“This jungle if full of deadly snakes, poisonous insects, and vicious tigers, Master,” Ping said. “I think most travelers would avoid it.”
Master Bao stopped Xi and dismounted. “The nature of the snake is to strike,” he said, “just as the nature of the scorpion is to sting. The tiger hunts and kills because that is its nature. …
The Wicked Affair of the Golden Emperor
A Charles Goodfoote Mystery
A visit to a newspaper and a lady is snatched from the jaws of death
As I was only a few blocks from the offices of The Morning Observer, and the day was sunny and warm, I decided a visit to the paper was in order. In truth, the poster bearing Sam Clemens’s name seemed more a harmless puzzle than real threat, but I felt I should earn my wages by gathering as much information as possible.
The newspaper office, reached by a short flight of stairs…
A meeting in Chinatown brings a new task
Fong Leung San, as he was known when he arrived on the shores of California, lived above a druggist shop on Clay Street in the heart of Chinatown. Some months back I had stepped in after a swarm of out-of-work loafers, “scuppers awash with cheap hooch,” as Henry would describe them, went after Fong with pickaxe handles and bats. Fong was using a strange, but simple contraption of chains and metal balls to hold the rabble at bay, and I watched, entranced, for several seconds. Each time Fong flicked his hands, out…
A tale of the T’ang Dynasty (618–907 CE) in China
Master Bao rode his water buffalo, Xi, along a well-traveled road in Lingnan Province. His pupil Ping walked alongside.
“The weather is becoming warm, Student Ping, and we can rest in the shade just ahead. There is a well-known spring in a dove tree glade where we can get fresh water.”
Ping nodded in acknowledgment.
A short time later, the travelers arrived at the spring, unsaddled Xi, and led the ox to a watering trough. After seeing that the animal was well-cared for, Master Bao sat on a bench provided…
Night wrapped the lodges of the village of the Red Paint People in silence. The wikiup were lit from within by small campfires, for the Spring night brought a chill among the boulders and hills at the edge of the desert. Kaya, sitting cross-legged on a puma skin in the lodge of her friend, the Medicine Woman Dashante, turned her head to listen to the soft whoop of a night bird up among the rocks.
“Perhaps recalling your time with Goodfoote would help relieve the pain of your loss,” Dashante said. The dying embers of the fire bathed the two…
Master Bao rode his ox, Xi, along a road leading to the city of Pao-Chou in the providence of Jiannan. His student, Ping, walked alongside.
“This city has an able administrator with a reputation for clever decisions in complex cases, Ping. His name is Sun Pao, and we can learn much from such a man. Therefore, as the mid-day session of the Tribunal is about to begin, we will attend and witness the proceedings.”
The Tribunal was crowded and Ping noticed how people were laughing and smiling, despite the six constables at the front of the room who were lined…
Master Bao rode his great ox Xi along a river road in the district of Hue-Pen. His student Ping walked alongside.
“This is a wide river, Master,” Ping exclaimed. “with a lot of boat traffic.”
Master Bao turned to Ping. “Indeed, Student Ping,” Master Bao said. “Wide and long. The Hue River stretches over a thousand Li, from Shannandong Province to the sea. The next village, Peng Li, is well-known as a trading port.”
Just ahead, a group of six men dressed as merchants were huddled together deep in conversation. They stood on a dock to which a small boat…