December 6, 1858 – Fort Yale, BC
Peter Brunton Whannell sat in the barber chair facing the rough hewn wall in front of him. He took off his military cap and carefully placed it on the floor, next to his sword. Some people said he was preoccupied over wearing his military uniform all the time, but he wasn’t adequately paid as Justice of the Peace of Fort Yale. Besides his tall riding boots had proved useful in the muddy streets in the fall and now that winter was fast approaching, they kept him warm.
Isaac Dixon, the barber, applied a greasy mixture to Whannell’s face.
“Those men I told you about, one of them came around yesterday, demanding a shave. He said if I drew even a drop of blood with my razor then he’d shoot me!”
“Hmm. And did you remind him that British law applies here?” asked Whannell.
“I didn’t say a word until he got out the door but I charged him double!” Dixon held up his razor as if to emphasize the point.
Dixon drew the razor along Whannell’s cheek, humming as he did so. Whannell sat still but he wasn’t relaxed.
“Have you heard anything more about Perrier?” Whannell asked.
“Nothing new, but then again that doesn’t mean that there’s anything good about no news. Judge Perrier is under the thumb of McGowan. Whenever McGowan wants something he just yanks on Perrier’s nose ring and there he comes.” Dixon laughed.
Whannell frowned. It was disturbing that his counterpart across the Fraser River in Hill’s Bar was being influenced by a former Californian politician.
“How can this Ned McGowan have so much influence? I fail to understand.”
Dixon smiled, “he’s been a politician for a long time. Some say he used to be a lawyer or a judge with high hopes until he got on the wrong side of the Vigilante Committee. They wanted him to hang for some crime or another but his friends got him out of there and up here to Fort Yale.”
Whannell turned his head and Dixon shaved the other side.
“It’s challenging enough to have these lawless miners around and now McGowan has to drag his party politics up here to our Crown colony. Do you think he’s intent on this manifest destiny?”
Dixon straightened up, “McGowan isn’t much of a miner and it wouldn’t take much for someone to round up some miners for a militia – back home I’m sure half of them already belong to one. The only lucky thing is that McGowan has enemies here and that’s why he’s had to stick to his camp across the river, although he’s been trying to make friends with the HBC factor Ovid Allard. I saw them having a friendly meeting in Foster’s saloon.”
“Hmm. Very interesting. Dr. Fifer, has also cast some doubt about McGowan’s character.”
Dixon snorted. “That’s no surprise considering Fifer is a Vigilante. If the Vigilante Committee had their way, McGowan would have hanged in California. It must irk Fifer to see McGowan walking around up here a free man. It irks me, come to think of it. Folks like me have only just seen their freedom and the politicians down there keep wanting to take it away again. That’s why I’m up here, happy to be freezing in the name of the Queen!”
Whannell took out a couple of coins and handed them to Dixon.
“If there is anything you need, consider me your friend and ally,” Whannell said as he patted Dixon on the shoulder.
“There’ll be trouble alright, you can be sure of that. You have a good day, sir.”
Whannell put on his military hat and with sword in hand, went out the door leaving a cold blast of air behind him. It was too bad Whannell insisted on wearing that outrageous uniform, thought Dixon. It didn’t give the least amount of credibility; instead he had become the butt of jokes.
As Dixon stoked the fire in the corner, he thought about what Whannell had said about McGowan dragging his party politics up to Yale.
Two weeks later, there was trouble just as Dixon had figured.
(to be continued)