"An Agent For Judith" by Caroline Clemmons
Judith sat with hands folded in her lap in what she hoped appeared a patient pose. Inside she wanted to rail at the man to hurry. Her brother could be injured and dying as she sat here. She believed Josiah was still alive because she was certain she’d know in her heart if he had passed away.Finally, Mr. Gordon pushed aside the papers. “What is it you want us to do, Miss McAdams?”“I want to hire one of your agents to accompany me to the ranch and see what’s happened to my brother. If this bully of a neighbor is creating trouble, I want him arrested.”“Accompany you?” He shook his head. “Sorry, but we don’t allow civilians on our cases, Miss McAdams.”“I’m the client, Mr. Gordon. My brother is my only living relative and I insist on going with whomever you send. I assure you I’m quite competent in hunting with gun and bow and can even throw knives with precision. I’ve spent time camping and know how to track as well as any Indian or scout.”“Hmm. In that case, you should become an agent and marry him. I won’t have a man and woman traveling together in conditions that would ruin your name or put you in danger. The marriage is a paper one that you can have annulled after the case if you wish.”Good thing she was sitting because that knocked the floor from under her. She was glad she hadn’t mentioned Abigail yet. She sorted her thoughts before replying.“Becoming an investigator does appeal to me. I believe I have the skills needed to be a good agent.” She shook her head. “But, marriage to a stranger? I’m not sure.”Mr. Gordon rested his hands on the desk and met her gaze. “Those are my conditions.”She rose and paced back and forth in front of his desk. “It would only be on paper? You’re sure I can get an annulment?”“I am. The official who performs the wedding grants the annulments for those who wish them. I might add that most choose to remain married.”“Hmph, I can assure you that I won’t.” She resumed her seat. “All right, I seem to have no choice but to agree to your conditions. Who is this agent you wish me to marry? I hope he’s your very best investigator and quite strong.”Mr. Gordon signaled to someone behind her. “Send in Peyton Knight.”Soon a handsome man strolled into the room. He was above average in height—likely several inches over six feet—with dark hair and blue eyes. His wide shoulders gave the appearance of strength in spite of his trim waist.“You wanted to see me?”“Have a seat. Miss Judith McAdams, may I introduce Peyton Knight? Peyton, Miss McAdams has come to hire us to help rescue her brother in New Mexico Territory.”Peyton nodded to her and took a seat. “What part of the state and what kind of trouble is he having?”Archie slid the letters into a large envelope. “I’ll let her tell you after your wedding.”Peyton jumped to his feet. “What! Archie, I told you I don’t want to get married right now.”He looked at her. “No offense intended, Miss McAdams. When I do marry, I’ll choose who I wed.”The director sent him a stern stare. “Calm down. You know this will be a marriage on paper only, and your bride will be going along as your partner. If you plan to continue as a Pinkerton agent, that is.”Peyton stabbed a finger at him. “You know danged well I do. You also know I don’t want a woman partner to babysit while I’m on a case.”Judith stood up. “Babysit? I’ll be the one babysitting. I can out shoot, out hunt, and out track you any day. No one has to babysit me. In addition to going as an agent, I’m also the client. So, if I agree to marry you—a big if—then you’ll be working for me, understand?”He tapped his chest. “I work for Pinkerton Detective Agency and I take my orders from Archie Gordon, not some prissy redhead.”Archie put two fingers to his lips and whistled. “Stop this. You can continue this discussion after the wedding while you’re on the way to New Mexico. Right now, Peyton, go pack you gear. You’ll be going as a wealthy man looking to buy a ranch. Get outfitted as such.”Peyton glared at his boss then stomped from the room, muttering under his breath.