The dime novel hit the table and skidded across the top, scattering papers too and fro.
"What's the meaning of this libelous crap, Marcus?"
The brogue was thick and perilous to translate.
"... and you would be?"
The bowler did little to obscure the flintlike glance that chilled even a man like J.D. Marcus to the bone, "I, my good sir, am Alan J. Pinkerton and this piece of... piece of-"
The young assistant shuffling papers in the shadows piped up, throwing the comment over his shoulder, "fine story telling?"
Pinkerton's face turned turkey red in the ambient sunlight, "more like a piece of cccraaaaap, you insolent scalawag!"
The man's hasty reply was muffled by the load of papers in his arms, "So sorry, sir."
The head of the secret service huffed out a breath. "Can't you keep your help in line, Marcus?"
With a disapproving look, the clerk receded into the shadows.
Marcus leaned back in his chair, it was something magical that had brought such a legend into his offices, the fact that he was quite put out was another feat, Pinkerton was known for his cool head and calm demeanor.
"Exactly what is the problem, Sir?"
"This drivel you've published isn't worth spit!"
"Really now," Marcus was enjoying the man's ire, "it's one of our most popular issues. Why, we can't even keep up with the orders!"
Mr. Pinkerton's face had become even more ruddy as he held his breath.
Pulling out a well worn and marked copy of the issue, J. D. Marcus swiped his tongue over the pad of his thumb, "Let's see now... ah, here's a good example-"
Now, it wasn't wide knowledge at the time, but Alan Pinkerton could do little but sit idly behind his desk while the James Younger Gang cut a wide swatch of land through the railroad's path. His inability to even staunch the flow of the Rock Island's funds caused him no small amount of embarrassment. Not to mention incurring the blustering wrath of Thaddeus Raines as he stammered and paced the confines of his office in the East.
Setting down the issue, Marcus looked up into Pinkerton's face, "Which part of that would you take offense to?"
"The whole blasted part! It's all half truth and fancy words!"
Taking on a thoughtful look, Marcus picked up the book again and buried his nose between it's pages, "Hmmm. Let me see... ah!"
Pinkerton leaned a clenched fist on the desk top, "What is it now, Mr. Marcus?"
Smiling, Marcus looked up again, "Here's another section that I've heard raves about -"
Soon, just the mention of Jesse James or Cole Younger would set the knees of a Pinkerton agent to quaking or their hands to shaking fearing that they would be the next to fall before the justice of the simple farmers turned away from their quiet existence by the hardened businessman at the helm of Rock Island.
There was little the railroad or their hired guns could do to stem the tide of retribution as it swept across the land. The simple folk of neighboring towns would silently cheer as another payroll fell into the hands of the James Younger Gang. The valiant patriots would surely turn the money back into the hands of beleaguered farmers and hard pressed businesses. This small band of farm boys had become modern day Robin Hoods and had begun to sew the seeds of Thaddeus Reins' downfall.
"You paint them like they're bloody heroes!" Pinkerton's anger crashed against the wall like impotent waves battering at the rock of ages.
Then the rock pushed back, "There is such a thing as literary license, Mr. Pinkerton." Marcus leaned back in his chair to take full measure of his words, "Besides the fact that it's our best seller, I believe that this author has promise. There is a certain, 'voice' to the language, almost like... classic literature... like... like..."
Marcus gestured in the air with a hand, winding his fingers in circle after circle, searching for the words to express his thoughts.
Emery popped his ever present head back in and piped up his answer, "Shakespeare, sir?"
J. D. Marcus slapped the hard wood top of his desk, "That's it! Shakespeare, that's the name I was looking for."
Alan Pinkerton sucked in air like a landed fish, "You can't compare this.. this... to Shakespeare-"
"You know, I believe that given time, a story like this could find it's way to the stage! Imagine," Marcus watched as Pinkerton's face turned a slight shade of green, "One day, you could be sitting in a fine theater in Washington D.C. itself, and there..... on the stage, even.... YOU!" Marcus stretched his arms wide as he described the scene in detail, "Illuminated by the floor lights, slathered in grease paint, actors from all over the world will vie for the chance to play, you!"
Pinkerton loosened his tie, "Good Lord, I hope not!"
Eyes wide with excitement, Marcus continued on, "Night after night, across stages all over America... maybe even England, France.. the royal theaters of Europe!"
Alan Pinkerton looked as though he was about to choke on his own dismay. "Stop..."
"Just think of it, Pinkerton!"
"I'm trying not to, thank you."
"And... as the hero rushes off to be with his beautiful bride and start life anew, they'll quote this beautiful section of the book-"
Quickly thumbing through the pages, Marcus' eyes alight on the passage he had in mind:
There is little I can say to you, young James. For I would be remiss should I turn my back on the simple and undeniable fact that you have bested me. In every battle, in every skirmish you have proven yourself my better. I feel myself a much altered man for my entanglement with you. The valor you and your men have shown eclipsed the effort we have put out to stop you. Truly, your courage and bravery have earned you a respite from my hounds. Go, take your bride, live in peace and plague me no more."
Marcus let out a great sigh and set the book down on the desk. Running his hands reverently over the worn cover of the novel he slowly brought his gaze back up to the face of the fallen legend looming over him. "It is a wonder you survived the conflict, Pinkerton. I should think you've pledged your gratitude to the Lord himself for his protect-"
"Oh, blast and double blast! Marcus, you will cease selling this trivial piece of tripe, immediately or face legal action from my office!"
J.D. had painted his best shocked expression on his face, "Surely, you can't mean this threat! We, my dear sir, are in the throes of a great rush of public interest and opinion, they are clamoring in the streets for copy after copy of this great work and who are we to deny them!" There was a grating sound of glee in the writer's voice. One, that was not lost on the flustered agent.
"I can see that you have no inclination to be at all reasonable about this." Pinkerton leaned across the desk challenging Marcus with the language of his body as well as his words.
Pushing back his chair, Marcus leaned toward his verbal sparring partner and let loose the gleam in his eye, "On the contrary, surely a man as intelligent as you can understand that a work such as this is for the good of the many. You can not expect that your discomfort should stall the spread of a legend as this."
"Legend!" Gasping in air in desperate gulps, Pinkerton floundered for words, "I have never.. been so put upon! You, Mr. Marcus have not heard the last of me!"
Pinkerton stormed out of the office and slammed the door behind him. Framed certificates and awards rattled on their hooks before falling to the floor with loud reports.
Setting down the papers in his arms, the clerk choked on the laughter that popped into his throat as Marcus plopped back into his chair.
Marcus felt the circumference of his collar tighten around his neck as his anger grew to a boiling point. "What's so funny, Collins?"
"It just seems that finally, there's another author that has a chance to compete with your gift of blarney sir."
Marcus leaned an elbow against the desk and leveled an imperious glance at the tedious little man he kept around as a favor to his brother, "and who would that be?"
'Emery Collins' felt the corners of his mouth turn up in a near hysterical grin, one that had left many a union soldier quake in his boots. Taking of his glasses and layin' it on the table he pointed at the byline of the novel that had caused such angry controversy, "Me, I'm Jesse James."