It has been said that man's greatest addiction is a woman. For some men this addiction is so strong that like any addiction it destroys them, then there are those that this addiction barely registers. I once knew a man who would be in the latter category. Some might even say he was celibate, no one ever said he was gay, not even a murmur. Unlike most men he was not very good when talking to the opposite gender, sometimes he talked a little to much to the point of just rambling and would smoke like a factory's stack. Most generally he was a quiet man seeking solitude inside himself which made him one of the best in his line of work. You see, Martin was one of the best private investigators to be found in the North West. The folk told stories that Martin had been hired by the U.S. Marshals and the Royal Mounties in Canada to help investigate a multitude of crimes that baffled them.
When I first met Martin I was just a young prospector who had come out to Montana Territory to make my lot. I had arrived in the Territory Capital of Virginia City on June 12th 1866, barely twenty-five of age I stumbled into a saloon. It was near mid-afternoon and the saloon was mostly empty except the bar-maid, a bulging red-headed man chatting it up with the bar-maid and a average sized man in a long brown duster with his hat pulled over his brow, this man I had nearly missed if it had not been for the unique smell of the tobacco he smoked. He sat in the corner of the saloon penning something in a notebook. I set my pack by a stool and took a seat at the bar, ordered a pint of beer. As I sat there enjoying the taste of a lukewarm ale two dusty men with rifles slung over their shoulders that I take to be some form of law enforcement here in the territory enter the saloon. One of them is an older gent, in his mid-fifties with a whitening mustache looks around until he finds the man sitting in the corner, writing in a note-book. Both riflemen walk over to the man and sat across from him after the younger man, a tall, skinny blond and blue eyed fellow around my age, order a bottle of whiskey to be brought over. Between me a the man in the corner is only a span of nearly thirty paces, just close enough where I can pick up the conversation but far enough not to draw attention. What I heard would change my life from that day on and in more ways than I could have ever imagine.
“We found another body up on Antelope Bluff, it looks the same as the last.” The older man tries to whisper to the man across from him but can't manage such a hushed tone.
“You and your boy thought it was one of the Crow trappers that came in. If I remember you even hung the half blood Crow two months ago. Stating that you have solved the crime of the murder on Antelope Bluff. Now you have a fresh kill, exact type to the first you say? So that means you hung the wrong man. What will you tell Mrs. Lewis now?” The man in the corner says in a voice barely audible tone but as cold as icicles pressed through one's heart.
“Who is Mrs. Lewis?” The younger man speaks up looking back and forth between the two men.
Once again the man in the corner speaks, raising his head a bit, “The half blood Crow's wife. Guess that detail never came up in you investigation, nor the fact that she is with child. So what do you want from me Mason.” He says turning to the older man.
“I would like you to look into this matter.”
“Why should I. I can't think of any reason for me to help with this. I am not a lawman.”
“Look Trigger. You are the only one that knows about these chinks. Hell you lived among them for years in their country. You understand them.” The older man states, which has drawn the most curious, quizzical glance from his younger partner. “Hell you were married to what two of them.”
“First of all Mason they are not chicks the are Chinese. Second I have little knowledge of the Chinese, I lived in Japan. Japanese and Chinese are very different in many ways. This I can assure you. Lastly who I was married to is none of your business.” The man in the corner snarls. “Anyways, why are you concerned about the Chinese? Do you think they have something to do with these murders now?”
“Yes, I believe so. It is something we found carved onto the body and this.” Mason says handing a small green pendant to the man in the corner.
The man in the corner exams the piece for a couple of minutes then raises his head so that he is eye to eye with Mason. “Okay. I will take it. On a couple of conditions.”
“What are they?”
“No one is to be arrested until I say. I want to be sure. Second I will need to receive some form of payment, half up front. I believe fifty dollars will be fine.”
“I can arrange the half of fifty to be sent to you this evening.”
“You misunderstand Mason. Fifty is half, the full amount is a hun.”
“Why so much? That is nearly double of what we paid you last year for the event with the stagecoach.” Says the young blond who's face has flushed red with anger.
“Calm down Wallace, I am sorry to create a stir but I thought you heard that I have taken on an assistant.” Says the man in the corner.
“Okay. I will make the arrangements for you to receive half payment of fifty dollar this evening. Thank you Trigger.” States Mason.
“Mason, have the body sent over with the payment.” Trigger says as the two visitors stand up and start for the door. “Oh and Mason. The pendant's writing is not Chinese but rather Arabic. The murder is not one of ours Chinese friends.”
At the mention of Arabic, Mason falters a step, turns towards Trigger and tips his hat as he leaves.
Nearly finished with my beer I start thinking about where I will stay tonight or if I would rather stay here and enjoy my first night in the real wild west. When I turn back to my beer I find a folded paper. Looking back to where the man they called Trigger was sitting, the chair was empty. Looking around the saloon, like a ghost he was gone. Unfolding the paper, this is what it reads.
Early morning tomorrow. Go to the inn at the end of the street, your room. Miss Lim Cleaner, Sunrise.
Folding up the piece of paper and stuffing it into my pocket, I place two coins on the bar when I notice the bar-maid give me an odd look before she speaks. “Your boss paid everything. You must be new in town.”
“Yes, ma'am.” Suspecting that the man she is referring to is the man called Trigger, “Where may I find Mr. Trigger?”
“You mean Mr. Martin. No not really, I don't think he has a home around here, but the rumor is that he lives with the Chinese types on the north-eastern side of town.” Says the bar-maid.
I thank her as I pick up my pack and head out the door toward the inn that I am supposing that my new enigmatic employer has arranged. It seems as if the world is in a spin, here I am in the frontier and instead of trying to pan out my riches I am now employed by some man name Trigger Martin. Investigating a murder? What have I stepped into? What kind of name is Trigger? Maybe I should have stayed in Boston.