A detective enlists help to sting a fraud on a train. First place in Twisted Tales.
Dr. Whoa-ha’s Spiritual Treatment
I wanted my own business. For that to happen, I needed a partner to finish one last job. I found one.
I knocked hard. The sound of my bones striking polished oak barely registered above the clatter and hissing of the steam locomotive crossing the prairie.
Waited and waited.
I nearly rapped the forehead that appeared. Bushy eyebrows rose below my fist. The eyes scanned my face, for they didn’t recognize me.
I introduced myself as I displayed my badge. “I’m Detective Steve Brewers of the National Medical Society. Excuse my interruption of your valuable time, Mr. Qwerty. I’d like to discuss a matter of law and justice that, inconveniently, happens to exist on this train.”
The door yawned open. The fragrance of cedar and tobacco welcomed me.
“Come in, Mr. Brewers.” Qwerty pointed to the four chairs and dining table. “Please, take a seat.”
“Thank you, Mr. Qwerty.”
Just then, a young female voice, preceded by chimes, announced. “We will be entering a tunnel in a few minutes. If the window in your cabin is open, please close it to avoid smoke fouling your cabin.”
“Do you need to return to your cabin, Mr. Brewers?”
“No, I’m traveling common class.”
“If you had informed us beforehand, I would gladly have offered you something better.”
“I would have turned it down, for I boarded this train when I saw my quarry had.”
“Where is the hunted to be captured?”
“Here, on this train, one of many that bear your name.”
The owner and President of Qwerty Railroads, bowed. “You need not ask for my permission to lock the handcuffs on a scoundrel.”
“If the law permitted me to arrest him on simple hearsay, I would. However, I need to catch him while he is endeavoring to fatten his pockets with lies on the efficacy of his wares.”
“I have a plan that requires acting and some amount of money on your part.”
“When you knocked on my door, I was contemplating the woeful nonexistence of heart thumping adventure. Count me in. Now, what’s your plan?”
Half an hour later, Qwerty summoned one of his manservants.
There was a knock on the door. “Come in,” shouted Qwerty. “Now, come over here and listen carefully.”
“There’s a man in the last car listed as a Dr. Whoa-ha. He’s about 50 years old, short, wears thick bifocals, and has long white hair that makes him look like he’s been hit by lightening. Can you picture him?”
“Good. I want you to go to him and request that he urgently come here, for I am in great pain.”
“You don’t look sick, boss.”
“I’m not really in pain. We’re just going to play a prank on an old acquaintance.”
“What if he don’t wanna come?”
“Tell him he’s the only doctor on the train and a fellow human being who is suffering needs him.”
“What if he still don’t come?”
“Do your utmost. Beg if you must.”
“What if that don’t work?”
“Then, you lose your job, you moron. Now, go and bring him here.”
Qwerty looked at the ceiling as he shook his head. “Why am I surrounded by people of low mental capacity?”
It took about a quarter of an hour for the door to deliver another knock. “Come in,” said I.
In walked Dr. Whoa-ha with a large black bag weighing down his left arm. Someone must have left their windows open, for the odor of burning coal followed him like a shadow.
I noticed his eyes lingered on the crystal chandelier, silver candle holders, and the ornate bronze jug adorned with naked Greek soldiers.
Qwerty groaned under his bed sheets as he lifted himself to a sitting position. “Doc, thank you for coming.” He shifted a chin in my direction. “That is my nephew, Mr. Brush. Can you give me something for this pain, doc? Ouch.”
I took the doctor’s bag and offered the chair I had placed next to the bed. “How did you earn your name? You’re an Injun, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am. I was the first in my tribe to drive a stage coach.”
Sitting down, Whoa-ha motioned for the bag to be placed on the floor. “Where does it hurt, Mr. Qwerty?”
“All over, but particularly in my upper body.”
Whoa-ha nodded. “I’m going to investigate this condition by probing with my fingers. Tell me where it hurts the most.”
Qwerty jerked. “There, doc.”
I keenly watched, as Whoa-ha with his probes, and Qwerty with his groans, went through their acts. I honestly couldn’t say who was the better actor.
After he was done poking, Whoa-ha took what looked like a compass glued to a copper pretzel out of his bag and placed it on Qwerty’s chest. Tapping it, he mumbled to himself as he moved the device in a circle. I had to admit he knew how to grab attention.
Eventually, Whoa-ha was done. He rested his hands on his lap. “You have an inflammation of the interior inferior colonnade. Perhaps the articular pivotals on your dialectal pinions have been infected via snails.”
Qwerty cried out, “No, not them!”
“I’m afraid so. I’m not a surgeon, but this might require surgery.”
“No, I don’t want my victuals on my pintail removed. Can’t you do something?”
Whoa-ha took a deep breath. “I’m not a typical, regular kind of doctor nor have I ever attended a class in a medical college.”
Whoa-ha picked up his bag and turned for the exit. I blocked his way. “If you have any humanity, you won’t leave a man in pain.”
Qwerty added, (with a croak and two hacks), “Doc, I think I’m dying.”
Turning back to face Qwerty, Whoa-ha said, “I am a psychic, a medium through which the mystical powers of the heavens flow. I am a hypnotist who can channel the inner you to achieve your dreams. However, medical societies object to my methods. I don’t practice medicine, but to save your life I can offer the spiritual treatment.”
I asked, “What is this treatment you speak of?”
“I have unique ways to heal the sick. I have invented a device from the secrets of the pyramid builders. This used in conjunction with a potion made from the recipes of Navajo medicine men applied at the site on your body where the energy from the infected organ reaches the skin can, if done properly, cure you. But, all may fail if faith is lacking. Do you believe in me?”
Qwerty nodded. “Yes!”
“The cure may take a while and my fee is steep. Two thousand dollars.”
“Well, I guess I’m worth that expense.”
“Good. Let us proceed.”
Despite my complete disbelief in any curative power within his treatment, I watched the proceedings with fascination.
The room filled with the scent of peppermint as Whoa-ha rubbed the potion on Qwerty’s shoulder.
“Mr. Brush, there’s a black tube inside my bag. Take it out and place it where I am applying the potion.”
Opening the bag, I saw the tube. Colorful stones adorned it in a barber’s pole pattern. I placed it on Qwerty’s shoulder.
“Mr. Brush, blow into the tube until I say the treatment is done.”
I didn’t know if it was having any effect on Qwerty, but it had a soothing one on my throat.
Whoa-ha raised his hands, closed his eyes, whispered in a strange language, then said, “The spirits have spoken. I will begin. Mr. Qwerty, you must imagine a mighty knight in majestic armor riding a snorting steed. He has a magical sword raised gleaming above his helmet.”
He waited for a response. None came. “Mr. Qwerty, do you see the knight?… DO YOU SEE THE KNIGHT?”
“YES, I SEE THE KNIGHT!!”
“Good. Next, you must imagine your affliction has transformed into a dragon.”
“Yes, yes. I see the dragon.”
“Now, listen keenly. The knight digs his heel into the steed. The steed charges. The dragon snorts steam and exhales smoke.”
“Enraged, the dragon roars out searing fire. Miraculously, wings appear upon the steed. It flies above the flames. The knight urges his steed to fly higher and behind the dragon’s neck. With a shout, the knight jumps off and falls upon the reptilian beast. His sword plunges into the dragon’s neck. The beast is pinned to the floor. It curls itself again and again.”
“The treatment is done. As the dragon weakens so will your pain so long as you keep that image.”
I stopped blowing into the tube. “Do you feel better, Uncle?”
“Actually, I do feel better. I believe the treatment is working.”
Whoa-ha smiled. “In that case, I think I’m entitled to my fee.”
“Yes, you certainly are. Johnny, could you hand me my wallet. It’s in the inner pocket of that jacket.”
I gave him the wallet. Twenty one-hundred dollar bills were taken out.
“Bring the receipt, Johnny.”
Whoa-ha signed the receipt and took the cash. I put the receipt into my inside pocket.
Qwerty smiled. “Officer, arrest that swindler.”
I grabbed Whoa-ha’s right hand, twisted it behind his back, and clinked handcuffs on it. “You’re under arrest, James Shoemaker, alias Dr. Whoa-ha, for practicing medicine without authority under State law.”
“Who are you?”
“I’ll tell you who he is. He’s Detective Brewers from the National Medical Society. And, you’re his down payment to put him into private business.”
“Put your other arm behind.” I locked the handcuffs.“We’re getting off at the next stop. I’ll hand you over to the sheriff there.”
I took the bills out of his pocket. They had been marked by Qwerty. “I’ll have to turn these over to the sheriff to be used as evidence in the trial. He’ll send you a receipt.”
“That’s fine. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Well, if you don’t mind, I’d like a couple of those Havana cigars you have on your desk.”
“Take the whole box.”
“I always travel light, so just two will do. Thank you.”
“Thank you. In fact, both of you, for an entertaining afternoon.”
As soon as the train departed from the next station, I took the handcuffs off my partner.
He rubbed his sore wrists. “Arnie, hand me one of those cigars. Do you think he’ll get his hounds after us?”
“No. Two thousand dollars is peanuts to him, and I believe he enjoyed his part in our little drama. If so, he figured I was a fraud and that we were out to trick him.”
“I guess you’re right. After all, he’s the biggest fraudster of all…Hey, Arnie, let me see those bills!”
I dug out those twenty bills and handed them over.
Jimmy inspected the top one. His eyes looked as if they would pop out. He looked at the next three then looked at me with trembling eyes. “Arnie, they’re counterfeits.”
Tears welled in my sockets. I felt so sorry that I nearly confessed. Still, that cigar sure was nice.
Around 1850 words