Umas undoing, p.1
Uma's Undoing, page 1part #2 of Cryptic Cove Mystery Series
Cryptic Cove Mysteries
A Cryptic Cove Mystery Book 2
Copyright © 2019 Dallis Adams
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All Rights Reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This eBook is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidences are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Any and all errors are my own, although I did take some of that special leeway called "fictional license."
Note: Cryptic Cove is a fictitious town, located in the vicinity of Crescent City, California.
To my sister, Alice, who is my hero!
Cryptic Cove, California
Early Spring, 1879
Doctor Elroy Traver — a swindling, deceiving, bottom-feeding ingrate — stood on the street across from Thistle Do Nicely general store.
Uma MacKissick came to an abrupt halt, causing her friend, Lala Zorsika, to bump into her.
“Umph. Uma. Stars above!” Lala exclaimed, reaching out a hand to steady herself against Uma’s shoulder. “You could have warned me you were going to stop. Uma?”
She couldn’t answer. Instead, she stared at Traver, a ghost from her past. What was he doing there? He looked the same, his barrel-like chest covered with a charcoal-gray waistcoat. Matching trousers completed his ensemble. Instead of a cravat, he’d donned a necktie, which was now the fashion. Seven-year-old Zada stood nearby with her mother, Rosia Cruz. Zada hadn’t been in school again, but instead had stayed home to take care of her ailing father. As the only teacher in Cryptic Cove, Uma felt responsible for ensuring her students attended school.
Cryptians were slowly getting used to her as an authority figure for education in the five months since she moved to Cryptic Cove and married Jack MacKissick, the town sheriff. Note to self — she must visit the Cruz family, give Zada homework to make up for her lost school days, and emphasize to her parents the importance of Zada’s continued education.
Pauline Ludermann — waitress at The Vine, and mother of nine-year-old Rush — was also listening to the fake doctor. She leaned against a hitching rail in front of Thistle Do Nicely, favoring the leg that had been injured years ago during a fall from the trapeze. Other women of whom Uma didn’t know, stood around to listen.
Pauline must be on her break. Why she would waste her time off by visiting a charlatan like Doc Travers was a mystery to Uma.
Oh, and there was Celeste Kincaid, standing in the street on the other side. Celeste married Uma’s grandfather, who had been almost thirty years older than Celeste. Even though gossipers thought Celeste had married for money, those close to her knew she’d been deeply in love with George Kincaid.
Celeste stared at Doctor Traver, her face and lips pale. Before Uma could approach her, she swiveled and scurried back to her brougham — a sleek-looking, four-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage, painted in a deep burgundy shade. Uma frowned. Maybe Celeste had experienced something bad with Traver, too. Oh, well. She was scheduled to have tea with Celeste later in the week. She would grill Celeste then.
As she half-listened to Traver’s spiel, she wondered if she should report the charlatan to Jack. But she hesitated, not wanting to bother him. Everybody approached Jack when something went wrong — whether it was an argument between neighbors or married couples or in-fighting with the Cojocaru Medicine Show members. It was up to Jack to resolve the conflict. And there was a time or two that he’d vented to her about the cantankerous personalities that made up Cryptic Cove. Some days she wondered if Jack really wanted to be Sheriff.
He had told Uma how he’d purchased The Vine when his father was still the Sheriff, never expecting to follow in his father’s footsteps, at least, not until his father’s death nearly two years ago. Even though Jack denied it, Uma believed that Jack became Sheriff because he wanted to keep his father’s deathbed promise to protect Buddy, Jack’s brother. Buddy was an innocent who had been brain damaged due to loss of oxygen during his birth.
Now that the secret of her mother’s death had been resolved, and Buddy was no longer a suspect, would Jack resign the office? Not that there was a lot of crime in Cryptic Cove. Jack made running the restaurant as well as keeping the peace look easy.
Since their marriage, one of the more serious so-called crimes had been when Orchilo Zorsika, Lala’s mother, dumped whitewash over Luther’s head. Orchilo had claimed Luther flirted with Catalina Navarra, which Luther vehemently denied. Another incident had occurred when Harvey “Wild Hog” Harper, former trick rider and now the town drunk, stole a one-ounce bag of gold from Luther — which amounted to about nineteen dollars. Harvey claimed Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and drunken revelry, gave him the money for booze by having the bag fall from the sky. Actually Harvey had used his Bowie knife to cut the strings where the bag hung from Luther’s belt.
For reparation, Jack had Harlan Wolfe, owner of the town tavern called The Wandering Axe, prohibit Harvey from entering the tavern for a month. Jack had warned the whole town against either giving or buying Harvey any spirits for that month. Any offender would have to spend a night in jail, and Harvey’s dry spell would be extended another week. What was more, Jack got Harvey a job at the Kincaid Copper Foundry to pay back the stolen money and start making a living of his own. Now Harvey worked odd jobs around town.
Why not lock Harvey up for a month, Uma had asked. Jack had told her that Harvey usually sought out a jail cell for himself when he was drunk. So being locked up wouldn’t be much of an atonement for him.
As Uma watched the so-called Doctor Traver speak animatedly to the crowd, she decided she could take care of the problem with the fake Doctor herself.
Suddenly his speech faltered, and he froze as he stared over Uma’s head at something … or someone. Uma followed his line of sight. The only people in the back were Rick Ridley, the musician, Harlan Wolfe, Luther Boudreaux and Harvey Harper. Doc cleared his throat and resumed his spiel. Uma internally shrugged. She’d bet a bowl of The Vine’s halibut stew that Doc had a history with one of them.
“Can you fix my leg?” Paula called out. “It was injured in a trapeze act about twenty years ago.”
Wizard Oil? What a bunch of hogwash. Pauline’s expression as she listened to Doc Traver, eyes wide with what could only be described as awe. Uma had always considered Pauline as a no-nonsense woman.
She harrumphed. Why were females so blind? Then as well as now, women fawned over the fake doctor. If not fake, he was certainly lousy in his profession. Maybe he was handsome. Sort of. If a woman liked the smarmy, ne’er-do-well charlatan appearance.
“Never trust a man with a handlebar moustache,” she muttered to herself.
With a scoff that sounded like a hissing cat, Lala shook her head. “If you judge a man by the hair on his lip, you’ll be calling half the men in Cryptic Cove charlatans.”
Doc Traver gestured toward rows of bottles filled with medicinal elixirs “Ladies, these are the latest remedies for all kinds of ailments.”
A wooden plaque had the name Doctor Elroy Hancock painted on it in red and gold. So. Doctor Traver had changed his name.
She studied him. Even though it had been eleven years since she’d laid eyes on him, she had never forgotten that face with the aristocratic nose, high cheekbones and dark hair with a widow’s peak. Nor had she forgotten how his brows would wrinkle in so-called sympathy — like they were now as he listened to Rosia describe her husband’s cough. No, the charlatan hadn’t changed. Although now Uma could see streaks of silver at his temples.
Two billboards stood on tripods on either side of the caravan. One read the following:
Hancock Wizard Oil, patent. From here to Brazil, there is no sore it will not heal, no scar it will not conceal.
On the other end was a wooden sign that advertised:
Panacea’s Elixir Salutis for colic and griping.
“What a dimwitted fool, calling his medicine a mixture Greek and Latin,” Uma muttered.
“What?” Lala asked, stepping closer to Uma to hear what she said over the Doc’s loud hawking.
Uma rolled her eyes, irritated over the Doc’s misuse of languages. “Panacea is the Greek goddess of universal cures. Salutis is Latin for salvation.”
“He loves to add Greek and Latin words for his concoctions, as if doing so will make him appear smarter. But mixing languages merely underscores his stupidity.” Of course, curvy ladies in the most modern dress styles were depicted on the advertisements, smiling while they held the labeled poisons coyly to their cheeks. When she’d met him years ago, the elixirs were called something else. Most likely the concoctions were essentially the same.
“So you know Doc Hancock?” Lala asked.
“Oh, yes. I know him.” Uma was transported to a dark time at the orphanage. The memory of her nine-year-old stepsister, Tiffany Wigg, and her small wan face after battling typhoid fever, swept through Uma’s internal vision. The Miracle Apollo Oil hadn’t helped at all. Nor had Venus Elixir Viribus — Latin for strength — helped. In fact, she wondered if the elixirs had hurt her dear sister. Because Tiffany had been recovering. The fake doctor had convinced Madam Wigg that his concoctions would help Tiffany during convalescence. But that evening, Tiffany had died.
Even at nine years of age, Uma had caused such an outcry over the medicines and their false claims, cajoling all twenty-four of her stepsisters to join her in her protests, that Madam Wigg had been compelled to complain to the New York City Governor, Honourable John T. Hoffman, about Elroy Traver, (now alias Elroy Hancock), which had resulted in Traver’s exile from New York. Uma had believed that had been the end of the con artist’s peddling days.
Evidently the banishment hadn’t stopped the pretend doctor’s penchant for lying, or for profiting on others’ suffering. Because there he was, once again hawking his wares. And now more Cryptians were gathering to listen to his spiel … as well as out-of-town guests. One man in particular caught her attention. Gray hair, streaked with white, was swept back from a sharp widow’s peak on his broad forehead. A straight toothbrush moustache connected to his beard at the corners of his severe mouth. That his ice-blue eyes bored holes into her had her frowning. What was his problem? Well, she could only tackle one issue at a time.
Determination swept through her. Perhaps she couldn’t make him stop selling his false products. But she could very well chase the rat out of Cryptic Cove.
“Uma? Your face is beet red. Talk to me. What’s wrong?” Lala asked as her glance bounced from Uma to the tricked-out caravan.
What was wrong? Everything. Uma didn’t have time to explain. Her friend would understand once she called the faker out. “Stand back, Lala. You’re about to witness the fall of an evil peddler.”
“Ah, Uma? Whatever you’re about to do, don’t! And don’t speak what’s on your mind. Because you’re gonna regret this. In fact, this whole scene reminds me of a vision that I know is about to happen. You’re going to say something bad that will affect your life as well as Jack’s.”
“So dramatic,” Uma said, rolling her eyes. “Lala, it will be alright.” She patted Lala’s forearm.
Lala was Cojocaru’s Carney Show’s fortuneteller, just like her mother, Orchilo. In Uma’s opinion, Lala and her mother tended to be over-dramatic. And many of the things they predicted never came to pass. Lala said it was because the future wasn’t set in stone. The future was fluid. She claimed several of her predictions would have occurred if Lala hadn’t told Uma the future, thereby affecting what was to pass.
Uma remembered Orchilo’s trance earlier in the week. Lala and Orchilo had been hanging clothes behind Caravan Row, where mother and daughter lived, and Uma helped. Orchilo had suddenly dropped the dress she was holding and stiffened. With jerky movements she’d turned toward Uma, her face slack, her eyes vacant. In a monotone voice she’d said, what should not be, shall be. Lies are readily believable because the truth lies in shadows.
Then Orchilo had snapped out of the trance, not even knowing what she’d prophesied. And she certainly hadn’t known what it meant.
The whole episode was creepy, but not much help. Although Uma adored Lala and her mother, she didn’t have time for fortunetellers. Not then. Not now. As she watched Traver spin his malarkey, she knew she must nip the bud in the head.
Lala grabbed Uma’s skirt. “But — ”
Brushing Lala’s hand away, Uma said, “Just stay here.”
“Uma!” Lala cried.
Ignoring her friend, Uma stepped forward, pushing her way through the dozen or so people. “Doctor Traver! You were run out of New York because of your false claims. Why are you here, spreading the same lies?”
Traver froze for a few seconds. Then he turned to look at her. A flash of something … Recognition? Guilt? … darkened his hazel eyes and then was gone. His arched brows traveled up his forehead, emphasizing his balding hairline. His rather thin lips curved into a smile. “Pardon me, miss, but you must be related to Suzette Stark. Your resemblance to her is uncanny.”
Uma blinked, his comment liquidating her righteous indignation into a molten mass, like the copper at Kincaid’s Foundry. “What? You knew my mother? Her name was Suzette Stark Kincaid, by the way.”
“Of course. I knew your father as well. But your mother I knew quite well. As a matter of fact, I courted her before she married your father.”
What an uncanny coincidence that he would also cross her path at Wigg Foundling School in New York. Wait. He could be fabricating his courtship with her mother. Suzette Stark had been a well-known swinging trapeze artist in her day.
Did he think he could bamboozle her? Throw her off track? Well, he had another think coming. She decided to play into his game. “Were you a con artist back then, as well? Is that why my mother severed the courtship?”
He glanced at the crowd that was listening, a crowd that was getting restless. “Can we visit privately after I deliver my message?”
“Do you think I’ll allow you to give a speech so you
The doctor held up his hands in a placating manner. “But —”
“And whether or not you courted my mother doesn’t matter. You, sirrah, are a fraud, and I will not allow the good folks of Cryptic Cove to be cheated by your so-called medicines, which are nothing but a mixture of whiskey and morphine and maybe something poison. Like arsenic. Or maybe cyanide. You need to leave Cryptic. Now.”
He straightened the lapels of his waistcoat and stood a little taller. “Why would I poison my own clients? I assure you, Miss Uma. I —”
“That’s Mrs. MacKissick to you.”
His eyes grew round. Then he smiled — actually smiled. “You must have married Jack. He is a catch, and worthy of you. Congratulations, my dear. I’m so very happy for you.”
Worthy of her? What in all Hades was his angle? He was trying to unbalance her, obviously. Derail her. Well. She wasn’t about to get diverted from her mission. “Listen here. You aren’t going to sway me with your false cheer. You need to leave, and take your poisons with you.”
“Perhaps I wasn’t a refined doctor then. But I am now. Just to mention a couple prestigious medical establishments, I have been trained in London at the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and I completed the Practical Anatomy course — which lasted two years, mind you — from the Andersonian University of Glasgow. I have several other certificates to prove my legitimacy as a doctor. Two are posted. See?” he said, gesturing toward the side of his wagon. “They are encased on the wall of my caravan next to the medicines.”
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