September, 2017

Chapter 4

I was the first to speak. “Is this a joke, Monaghan? Miss O’Rourke is as likely to commit a murder as she is to fly to the moon.”

For her part, Miss O’Rourke came to her feet and simply stared at the policeman with an open mouth. Apparently, the lady was struck speechless.
The inspector held his derby by the brim and turned it in his hands. “I’ve no choice, here, Mr. Goodfoote. She was seen by several reliable witnesses sneaking from the home of Mr. Clapper in the wee hours of this morning, shortly before hisself was found pinned to the floor like a beetle.”

“Pinned? What do you mean, ‘pinned?’”

“It was a savage’s lance, it were.” Monaghan’s brogue was getting thick, and his face was turning red. “Pulled down from the wall in the den where he kept it and driven into the poor gentleman like a Bengal lancer on the charge. Blood covered the room, Mr. Goodfoote, Sir.” The policeman pulled a red kerchief from his pants pocket and wiped his shiny face. “It were a fearsome sight,” he finished.

“And you’re saying this young girl, who weighs no more than a pennyweight dram, is capable of such a vigorous exercise? Have you gone mad, Monaghan?”

The inspector turned to the uniformed officers. “Perhaps Henry can find some cakes for you two,” he said. Henry, who apparently had been listening on the speaking tube in his cubby, appeared like a conjurer. He accompanied the policemen to his room where no doubt refreshments more suited to the coppers liking than tea and cake would be served.

The Inspector shook his head. “It’s not my doing, Mr. Goodfoote,” he whispered. “But you know I’ve been promoted only a month, and the Chief himself ordered me to fetch the lady. He has other evidence that points to Miss O’Rourke’s guilt. Or so he tells all who will listen.”

“What evidence, Monaghan? Her footprints in the blood? Perhaps a lace glove with her initials left at the site of the outrage?”

“No, Sir. He didn’t explain the nature of his information. I was told to fetch the lady, lock her up, and return to the house on Barstow Street.”

Emily found her voice. “Lock me up? Where? In that black hole you call a jail?” She stamped her foot. “I’ll not have it, Inspector. I’ll not have it.”

Monaghan rose to his feet. “I’ve a duty to perform, Miss. And I must see to it.”

I took Monaghan’s arm and led him to the window. “You have no facilities for women at the station. It’s a hellish place, and you know it,” I said quietly. “Here’s my proposal. Let the lady reside at the Mission House, with an officer at the door to see she doesn’t leave. She will be under arrest, but not subjected to the indignities of your hoosegow.”

The inspector thought about it for a long minute. “You’ll give me your word, Mr. Goodfoote? Your personal word that she won’t try to escape? I’ll be back patrolling the docks tomorrow if she does.”

“My personal word, Inspector. And you know that’s better than the bank.”

Monaghan nodded. He returned to Miss O’Rourke. “We’ll leave you to stay at the Mission House for now, Miss. But you cannot leave. Not for any reason, until this is all sorted out. You will be in custody, as sure as there were bars on your windows. I have Mr. Goodfoote’s word you won’t try to escape, and now I need yours.”

Emily looked the policeman directly in the eye. “You won’t need Mr. Goodfoote’s word, Sir,” she said. “You have mine.” With that she turned in a swirl of skirts, head held high, and departed my office.

Monaghan called to his uniformed officers as he clapped his derby on his head. “I’ll see her safe inside her building, Mr. Goodfoote,” he said, as his men clopped down the stairs. “ And if you’re of a mind, come down to the Barstow Street address. You’re keen eye will be appreciated.”


Chapter 5

Winslow Grayson Clapper was a name known to me, although I hadn’t met the man. Whispers of his activities as the most active blackmailer in California occasionally made their way to our Agency. However, we never had a client engage us to deal with him. Blackmailers, the lowest of criminals, in my book, profit from others’ shame and guilt. His death would send a sigh of relief, rather than grief or melancholy, throughout the City.  

But the involvement of Emily O’ Rourke made his murder of primary importance to me. Nearly a year past, Pinkerton’s had been hired to provide protection for Emily O’Rourke and her Sisters at the Mission House, and that was enough reason, if asked, to take her on now as a client. Within minutes, I was aboard a hired carriage clipping along smartly toward the murder scene. 

Barstow Street is one of the finest boulevards in San Francisco. The homes are not the palaces of Nob Hill, but are still substantial with extensive grounds. Clapper’s was set back from the street and served by a crescent carriageway, clogged now with police wagons and uniformed officers holding back a crowd of gawkers. I recognized more than one newspaper reporter talking to bystanders. Despite the colorful stories of the yellow press, the body of a man impaled by a spear was still unconventional enough to fire even the most jaded tabloid reporters.

Inspector Monaghan had apparently cleared the way for me, for I wasn’t detained as I stepped through the police line and stepped up to the door of the residence. A burly uniformed police officer was standing with his hands behind his back, but greeted me with a nod and swung the carved oak door open. The foyer was impressive, with a high domed ceiling, black and white tiled floor, and a sweeping curved stairway leading to an upper gallery. Daylight streamed through stained fenestella windows encircling the lower level, casting colored patterns onto the floor. Various doors led off the rotunda, all closed but for one. Framed in the open doorway was Inspector Monaghan, his derby pushed back on this head and his hands on his hips.

“Mr. Goodfoote, Sir. It’s a mystery as deep as any we’ve seen. Another foul murder in a room locked up as tight as an English landlord’s purse. We’ll need all of your craft on this one, Sir, if you’re going to prove the little lass didn’t corpse Mr. Clapper.”

‘We’ll see what the forest looks like, Inspector, when we walk among the trees, as my old uncle said. So, with your permission, I’ll just amble through the room you’ve so carefully guarded and check out its foliage.”

And amble I did. First, I checked the door to the rotunda. “You said the room was locked, Inspector. So this key was, as it is now, on the inside of the door?”

“Yes, Sir. The door was locked from within, and you’ll notice the two deadbolts. Both were thrown when the body was found.”

I nodded, then continued my walk around the room. Two of the walls were covered in floor-to-ceiling bookcases of dark polished wood. I pulled out a leather-bound book at random and noticed none appeared to have been opened and read. I suspected he bought the books for decoration, probably by the yard. A fireplace with a large mantle was incorporated into one of the bookcase walls, and I noted a few of the charred logs were still smoldering.

A third wall was more interesting. It held a large glass case with two wide glass doors, gold trim and fastenings. I tried the doors, but they were locked. The case was filled with what appeared to be Chinese porcelain tea sets and an occasional vase.

“He were a great collector of the Chinese pieces,” Monaghan volunteered, as I studied the artifacts through the glass. “The butler, Victor, said he was well known in Chinatown.”

French doors occupied the third wall, leading out onto a stone terrace. One of the panes of glass had been shattered, shards of glass inside on the thick carpet.

“That’s how the butler and the maid got in, Mr. Goodfoote. When they couldn’t get in the main door, they came around to the back, broke the glass with a walking stick, and the butler reached in to turn the lock. The mantle clock was just striking the three quarter hour. The butler dropped the walking stick in the blood, he was so alarmed.”

The body had been removed, but its position was shown by a large stain where the blood had soaked into the carpet. A second, smaller blotch could be seen, about where the dead man’s head had lain. Spatters of blood droplets were on the front of the desk and the bookcase near it. To me, the splashes showed again the position of the body on the floor when Clapper was attacked with the spear that now lay on the desk.

“I suspect Doc Thorp had some words of wisdom regarding the late Mr. Clapper, Monaghan. Like how long the corpse had lain here before the Coroner arrived. Surely he imparted that bit of knowledge to the representatives of the law.”

“That he did, Sir. The policeman pulled a black notebook from his pocket and scanned a page or two. “The body was cool to the touch, the Doc said. And it was beginning to stiffen. It were eight by the clock, Sir, when Doc Thorp  looked at the unfortunate cadaver, and he said the man had been alive and breathing the free air of San Francisco at six a.m. But by half past the hour of six, Mr. Clapper was shaking hands with St. Peter.”

“Getting his transfer notice, no doubt,” I muttered, when I considered Clapper’s chosen trade. I picked up the spear and examined its markings.

“It’s unusual for the coroner to be so precise,” I said, as I turned the spear in my hands. “He often gives a much wider range of estimates of the moment of death, like ‘somewhere between The Last Supper and the Clarion Call of Gabriel’s Trumpet’. But here he says at exactly half past six this morning. What do you make of that, Inspector?”

“Perhaps he was persuaded at the half hour when I told him the serving maid brought Mr. Clapper his morning coffee at six sharp, as is her duty, and the butler found the body at precisely a quarter to seven.”

“I take it the gentleman was alive and well at six, then, or the maid would have noted the misplaced spear.”

“Yes, Sir. The spear was on the wall, and Mr. Clapper was at his safe, just behind his desk. He told her to put the coffee tray on the desk. When Yvette, that’s the maid’s name, walked out of the room, the gentleman followed and locked the door behind her. She heard the key turn in the lock.”

Monaghan pointed to a spot in the pale gray carpet in the center of the large stain. “There’s where the spear stuck in the floor, Sir,” he said. “Driven right through him. It was still sticking up in his chest like the mast of a schooner, it were, when I arrived shortly after seven o’clock.”

“Well, the design and decoration on this spear are Arapahoe, all right. One of the trade iron points attached to a hickory handle. The markings show it was used for at least three hunts,” I said. I sat behind the desk and began to look through a pile of loose papers stacked on the blotter. Monaghan stood nearby watching me.

“Those are the papers found in the safe, Sir,” the Inspector said. “We haven’t had an opportunity to examined them yet, but I’ll be taking them with me to headquarters.”

Some of the documents were of particular interest, I discovered. “Inspector, if you’d be kind enough to fetch the butler, I would like a few words with him.”

As Inspector Monaghan walked out the door, I folded three of the sheets and carefully placed them in an inside pocket. I now knew why Miss Emily O’Rourke had an appointment to see the rapscallion Winslow Grayson Clapper at the crack of dawn on the day he was brutally murdered. And why she would hang before revealing the nature of her visit.

Next Month: Goodfoote questions the house staff and makes another startling discovery.



An Engaging Tale of Extraordinary Villainy Set in Old San Francisco

Chapters 4 & 5

Goodfoote and the Caper of the Crimson Cape


Tom Hanratty