Story Sunday: Sweet Pickles and Fine Wine

This is the second half of the story, “Trouble in Fort Yale”

The following week, the Ricketts hosted a dinner for the Nuttalls and Edwin McCreight, the new Chief Inspector of Police.

TableFoodThe small wooden table was filled with hot dishes and Ricketts went to great lengths to have a wide selection of desserts, jellies and puddings as well as expensive wine brought up by his good friend King. Edwin McCreight ate heartily while Margaret Nuttall and Sarah kept up a pleasant banter. Ricketts distrust of Nuttall was unchanged and the smiles and forced laughs did nothing to diminish their mutual dislike.

McCreight recounted the sinking of the ship that was to bring him to North America and his tale of survival with only the clothes on his back.

“I am quite out of money at the moment so I am grateful for your excellent meal.”

Nuttall chuckled, “you know where to come if you want sweet pickles and fine wine.”

Ricketts ignored the remark. “Getting adequate funds from the Governor is quite a difficult task, but one must persist. Did the Governor inform you as to your new duties?”

McCreight nodded agreeably. “By the way, the Governor gave me a letter which I was instructed to pass on to you. It concerns your lot.”

“My lot?” Ricketts fought to maintain his composure.

“Yes, it seems that there is no record of your having purchased a lot.”

Ricketts could feel his neck redden. Nuttall smiled as McCreight handed him the letter.

Ricketts had no sooner finished reading the Governor’s familiar signature, when there was a knock on the door. It was one of King’s saloon keepers with an urgent message. All eyes were on Ricketts as he rose up from his chair and followed the man outside.

“King needs to see you sir, said it was urgent. By the usual spot.”

The dinner finished shortly thereafter with various parties making a hasty retreat to the door.

Ricketts put on his hat and headed to Moore’s Saloon where King kept his office. He had a good idea what King wanted to discuss. One of King’s trusted couriers had been arrested in Lytton by the Justice of the Peace, James Flott for shooting another man. All of the liquor was confiscated. This would have dire consequences on King’s profits.

Nuttall followed at a distance, keeping close to the buildings. He watched the side door of the saloon open as Ricketts approached.

King’s eyes darted around as he beckoned Ricketts inside and shut the door.

“I thought you said you could release Bole? He’s in jail and Justice Flott has all of my liquor.”

Ricketts scowled, “Why didn’t you bring up the issue with Flott? Lytton is in his jurisdiction and there is no oversight in his area unlike here where every miner who isn’t busy prospecting has made themselves busy writing complaints to the Governor!”

“Flott was lying on the floor, drunk. There wasn’t much point in dealing with him then, was there? I didn’t have all day to wait for him to become sober. He’s got two or three men who do his bidding and they wouldn’t let me get past.”

Ricketts shook his head, “I’m afraid at this time I cannot afford to do such a thing. McCreight is about to take over the jail as part of his duties and he’s already arranged for a constable to travel. I can’t release the man without raising the ire of Nuttall.”

“I saw Nuttall skulking around earlier. I hope he won’t put another dent in my profits. The saloons have had a steady business up to this point but I can’t guarantee you’ll get your share unless I can recover that liquor.”

Ricketts wasn’t swayed. “McCreight is sharing a room with the jailer for lack of decent accommodation. Bole will be travelling with the constable soon enough. There is plenty of wilderness between here and New Westminster to get lost in. I’m heading up to Lytton next week. I’ll talk to Flott then.”

King offered him a bottle of fine whisky and Ricketts took it. He knew he shouldn’t; it only increased King’s expectations, but it was there for the taking.

Ricketts kept glancing over his shoulder as he walked back, sensing a pair of eyes watching him.

excerpt from Mayhem at Rock Creek and more Gold Rush Stories