Saturday, January 15,2022
You’ve reached The Armadillo Files. Stand by for zaniness.
It’s been a long time, but Chris Graham, the Story Reading Ape, and I collaborated on several short stories with my flapper character Paisley Idelle Peabody, aka Pip, and his character, a genius ape named Artie. It all started with Time Travel Esc-Ape. Then there was Pip in the Corn Maze, followed by the three-part Pip and Artie Meet Again. More recently we worked together in 2019 for Pip & Artie, Aghast at a Ghost. It was set during the time-line of my novel A Ghost in the Kitchen.
I suppose Auld Lang Syne had me reminiscing about those days. When Fang started blinking in and out of existence, I perceived the need for another “operative” character. One that may or may not be somewhat adversarial to our dear Mr. Tatu Pinkerton. Already thinking of Artie, (who may or may not have any connection to Dilly’s godfather, from Argentina, mentioned at the beginning), I asked Chris to name an ape/human operative character. As always, he went above and beyond with “Henry Apesly.”
Random Reader Things
I didn’t think I was going to use any random reader things in this episode, other than Henry Apesly. However, I got halfway through the writing… and got stuck. Much like Henry being stuck in mid-transformation. Fortunately, friend who’d rather have me read the story aloud than follow on the blog gave me three things to get my mind going again — emotional, spear, and backflip.
Previously in The Armadillo Files
Marie Browning’s name disappeared from the employee list for the Secret City. Then Fang started to fade in and out of existence. The feline pilots left Fang and Dilly somewhen in a barn, somewhere. Then a horse and rider crashed through the barn door. You can find all the past chapters by going to the categories on the right side of the screen. Click on Armadillo Files.
20 — Who’s that?
Sunlight blazed behind the rider. I couldn’t make out more than his vague shape, and the horse. The stocky figure dismounted. He seemed bowlegged as he led the horse to the water trough.
Taking a step closer to Fang, I saw that he dropped the bundle of clothes the feline pilots left for us. His nose wrinkled as he sniffed the air. In human form he was nearsighted, but his sense of smell continued to be heightened.
Teeth gritted, he grimaced and shuddered. Head still down, Fang gazed covertly at the newcomer. The thickset figure moved to close the barn door. He threw the heavy bar across, securing it from the inside. All the while he acted as if he hadn’t even seen us, but I was sure he had.
Seized by a sudden surge of distrust I began feeling through the pile of clothing. I hoped my fingers would land on some sort of weapon.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim-bright-dim changes of light. Brow furrowed with my squint, I finally saw the rider clearly.
He returned my gaze with narrowed eyes, clearly having suspicions of his own. Those greenish eyes were the only normal thing about his face. The bowlegged gait was due to the form to which he was partially transformed, a large adult male chimpanzee.
Chimps didn’t grow up cute, comical, and cuddly. Adults were nearly as tall as humans and usually stronger. Sometimes they were a lot stronger. The creature I beheld was larger, being stuck partway to his human form. He was as tall as Fang and very powerfully built. He looked more ape than human.
“Well, if it ain’t Pinky Pinkerton,” he drawled, one hand on hip, but also uncomfortably near the six-shooter at the holster. “Little fella, I hear you needed mommy TROLLEY to take care of you.”
He shrieked something I supposed was meant to be a laugh. Then he did a backflip, still laughing.
A saucy comeback came from Fang, but it was such a low mumble that I didn’t catch the words.
The newcomer’s words and tone sounded like those of a typical bully. Although I thought I saw a hint of concern in those oddly greenish eyes.
What a curious creature, I thought.
However, I still didn’t like the close proximity of his big hand to the gun. There had been gunfire just before Apesly crashed into the barn. He looked like a gunslinger, but I didn’t think he was the only one who had been doing the shooting.
“I heard shots just before you came in,” I started. “Is anybody else about to… join us?”
He pushed the brim of his hat back with a thumb and gave me a nod. I wasn’t sure whether or not his nod also included a discretely appraising look. It made me uneasy.
“Don’t you worry none, ma’am. Them varmints won’t be givin’ us any trouble,” he replied with a smirk.
If somebody was chasing Apesly, then they wouldn’t have said “Never mind” and simply stopped. I wasn’t sure what his remark meant. I took a breath to ask. However, when I noted the cold expression in his eyes, I decided that maybe I didn’t want to know.
He gave Fang a surprised look. When I turned, I could see straight through my companion. He was more transparent than ever yet — and it was lasting longer. Up until that moment the “thinness” had only lasted a second each time. Finally solid again, Fang groaned.
“When TROLLEY contacted me, I understood that I needed to save your bacon from something you screwed up,” Apesly said sulkily. “But I hoped I was the one who was going to get the real help — help getting human again. Now I see it wasn’t anything you did at all.”
Apesly waddled over to him. Leaning forward he squatted, fists on the floor. Then he lowered a shoulder and rolled over, laughing wildly. Or so I thought. After a moment I realized the sound wasn’t laughter. Rather he wailed tears.
An emotional chimpanzee-man was the last thing I expected. Fang seemed to share my reaction. I stooped down and placed my hand on his shoulder. Apesly sat up, still blubbering he wiped his runny nose on his sleeve. He reached into his vest and pulled out a tintype image.
“It’s all my fault,” Henry sobbed.
Angrily he jabbed at the woman in the picture as if his long thick finger was a spear. Then he cried that much harder.
Fang had moved to stand over us. He gazed down at the tintype and gasped. I took another look, wondering what he might have noticed that I didn’t. I supposed the woman might have looked familiar, but I wasn’t certain.
“I altered the timeline,” Henry Apesly moaned. “I did it to save Sally Bowen. Then when I couldn’t transform back into a human, she couldn’t give me the mitten fast enough. They’ve already got hitched too. And the codger is old and half-crippled. She’ll probably never have all those kids she wanted.”
Abruptly I knew what Fang saw in the tintype. The woman was the spitting image of Marie Browning, the missing girlfriend of Harry Morgan.
“Could Marie’s name have disappeared from the employee list because the past was changed?” I asked Fang who shrugged. “But that doesn’t explain you fading away…”
“Henry,” Fang began in a surprisingly gentle tone. “Just when and where are we?”
“Martinsburg, West Virginia,” Apesly began and his lips curled in sheepishly. “The year is 1877.”
That information meant more to Fang than it did to me. He sat down beside Henry and produced a flask. I raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, I took Peggy Sue’s vodka. I promise I’ll give it back,” he muttered as he handed Apesly the flask. “Henry, what was happening when you saved Sally Bowen?”
“Like you’ve figured out, it was the middle of the Great Railroad Strike. There was a fight in the street between the railroad workers and the strikebreakers. There were also some of the guards that were brought in to protect the facilities,” Henry paused and stared at Fang for a long moment before he continued.
“Sally was there, coming out of the general store. She couldn’t have known the violence would start then and there. I told her to go back inside. But she hadn’t gotten over the way I look now. She ran away from me and toward the trouble. Of course, I followed, trying to get her to go back to safety. Seeing her running and scared, one of those guards stopped her,” he ground his teeth while speaking.
“Because of that, the guard didn’t see that some of the workers had brought guns and were about to start using them. When I saw a man aim his pistol, I jumped as far as I could. I pushed Sally down, and out of the way. But the bullet that was headed for her hit the guard instead,” Henry stopped talking, but stared at Fang.
“Do you know who the guard was,” I asked, though I suspected where the story was heading.
“His name was Pinkerton,” Apesly said. “Pinkerton.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Tidbits of Truth
From Wikipedia, “The Great Railroad Strike of 1877, sometimes referred to as the Great Upheaval, began on July 14 in Martinsburg, West Virginia, after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) cut wages for the third time in a year. This strike finally ended some 69 days later, after it was put down by unofficial militias, the National Guard, and federal troops.” Among those guards, protecting facilities and other things were employees of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
♦ ♦ ♦
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to add a “freebie” to an episode of The Armadillo Files. However, today I found the perfect fit. The complete film of “The Ape” staring Boris Karloff is available on YouTube.
Tune in for more next weekend. Hugs on the wing!
Please remember that this is my sanctuary — a place for all of us to be safe and away from political and religious commentary. Kindly keep that in mind with your comments.
Meanwhile… The twelfth novelette in Dead of Winter is available. I’m thrilled to see this five-star review from fellow author D.L. Finn! She’s included several other great books too. Click here.
Dead of Winter — All the Journeys
Universal Purchase Links
Journey 12, Goddesses
Journey 11, the Sumelazon Escarpment
Journey 10, Pergesca
Journey 9, Doors of Attunement
Journey 8, The Lost Library
Journey 7, Revenant Pass
Journey 6, The Fluting Fell
Journey 5, Llyn Pistyll Falls
Journey 4, The Old Road
Journey 3, the Fever Field
Journey 2, Penllyn
Journey 1, Forlorn Peak
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2021 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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