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 The Resurrectionist 2009

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CD Roberts

Posts : 114
Join date : 2013-09-23

PostThe Resurrectionist 2009

“A friend of mine is dead, and it looks pretty suspicious to me. I want you two to check it out.”

“Silky,” said Heyes, “you mean you had us come all the way to San Francisco to look into the death of someone? Why can’t you ask the police or a detective to look into it?” Heyes exchanged a look with the Kid. The Kid shrugged his shoulders in return.

“Because they think he died of natural causes, and they won’t believe me when I say he didn’t! If I could get the police to investigate it I wouldn’t have to ask you two knuckleheads, now would I?” yelled Silky.

“OK, OK, Silky, calm down and tell us about it,” soothed the Kid.


“Alright Silky, we know that. Just tell us why you think it is suspicious,” said Heyes.

“Yeah, and why the police don’t,” muttered Curry.

Silky gave the Kid an angry glance before starting.

“I own a building downtown. I rent apartment rooms there on the second and third floors, and I rent the bottom floor to a couple of businesses. My friend, Champ, fell on hard times so I hired him to collect the rents. He didn’t bring them over like usual a couple of weeks ago, so I went to see him to find out why. Turns out, no one’d seen him for two weeks. Then a little later that day I get a letter from a doctor in which the doc said Champ left his body to a hospital in the name of science in his will, and they had his body at their medicine school with a certificate of death.”

“Uh, Silky, how old was this friend of yours?” asked the Kid.

“He was a youngster, only sixty-two years old, and in perfect health!” He glared at the two outlaws as if defying them to contradict him.

“Now Silky, he could have had a heart problem or an apoplectic fit, something you didn’t know about, maybe something he didn’t even know about.”

“Don’t you think I haven’t already thought of that, Heyes? But he didn’t, and I know he didn’t ‘cause the letter was a lie, and the will a fake.”

“Silky, if the will was a fake how come the police won’t look into it?” asked Curry.

“Because he signed it, that’s why, you idiot!”  

Heyes and the Kid exchanged another look.

“Look, Silky, if he signed it, it can’t be a fake then, can it?”

“Champ wouldn’t leave his body to doctors. He hated doctors. That’s how I know the will is a fake. He couldn’t read, but he could sign his name, so I figure he was told he was signing something else.”

“Ah,” said Heyes. “But if Champ depended on you for a place to live and a job, then he didn’t have any money, did he? So why would someone want to kill him?”

“Did he have any enemies?” asked the Kid.

“Champ?! Of course not! Salt of the earth.”

“Did he leave anything behind that might give us a clue?”

“Nope. I went through his room already; it’s clean as a whistle.”

Heyes and Curry rolled their eyes at each other.

“But it wasn’t natural, his dying like that, and you two are gonna investigate it. After all I did for you, dressing up as Grandma Curry, I figure you owe me a favor.”

The Kid and Heyes shrugged. “OK, Silky, I suppose it can’t do any harm to check into it.”

“But you gotta take our word for what we find out, even if his death was natural,” warned the Kid.

Silky’s face broke into a broad grin. “Now you two are talking. And I’ve got it all fixed on how you can start.”

“How’s that, Silky?” asked Curry.

“You’re gonna take Champ’s place,” Silky announced.

“Now wait a …”

“That’s a great idea, Silky,” said Heyes, “and I’ll look into the hospital.”

Curry stared at Heyes.

“It’s perfect, Kid. You’ll be the inside man, and I’ll be on the outside observing. I’ll keep you covered.”

“Exactly,” added Silky.

The Kid looked from Heyes to Silky. “Thanks, I suppose.”


Curry pulled out the bottom dresser drawer of the room he was in. “Empty.” He stood and stretched. “Yep, clean as a whistle,” he muttered to himself.

He walked over to the window and looked out at the street crossing below. It was a corner room, rounded in the Victorian fashion of San Francisco, and he could see the entire intersection as well as the buildings on the other three corners. Across the street was a three-story building. The bottom floor had double doors that opened onto the corner, and the sign above the doors read: Drugstore.

A young woman came out. Curry smiled. He watched her until she was out of his line of sight. He looked back at the drug store. Two more young women came out. His smile broadened, and he watched them walk off. As they walked away from the drugstore, another young woman approached it.

The Kid grabbed a chair, put it in front of the window and sat down.  


Hannibal Heyes, in his best suit, stood at the steps at the entrance to the medical school at the hospital and rang the bell.

After some few minutes an elderly porter opened the door. He looked down at Heyes with moderate interest written on his face.

“How may I aid or direct you, Sir?”

“I have some questions regarding the remains of Charles, known as Champ, Nelson.”

“Sir?” asked the porter suddenly startled.

“Perhaps I should introduce myself. My name is Joshua Smith. I am a friend of the family. They have written to me asking me to ship him home to be buried.” Heyes waved a letter in front of the man and returned it quickly to his inner coat pocket. “After inquiries, I have discovered that the body was brought to the hospital here. I would like you to tell me where it was shipped for burial after death was certified. I am requested to take possession of it.”

“Mr. Smith,” the old man’s voice quavered, “The body you are referring to was left by the deceased to the hospital for the purpose of instruction. To advance medicine, you must comprehend.”

Heyes blinked his eyes and looked surprised. “You mean he wasn’t buried?”

The old man nodded slowly.

“I am shocked. Mr. Nelson’s family would never have approved of such a disgusting procedure.”

“I am most sorry, sir, but the body, having been here some time, has already been…” The man’s voice trailed off.

“Already been,” repeated Heyes carefully, “already been…”

“…used for its intended purpose, sir.

The two men looked at each other momentarily. Then the porter continued.*

“I do not think, sir, that Mr. Nelson’s family would be ‘happy’ with it. In its current condition.”

“Perhaps, you…; I don’t know your name.”

“I am Phillips, Sir.”

“Well, Phillips, perhaps you could provide me with the written verification that Mr. Nelson provided for this shocking decision. I could show that to his family.”

“I can do that, Sir, if you will wait a few minutes.” Heyes nodded, and Phillips turned to leave.

Phillips trod slowly off, leaving Heyes at the door, and returned after some considerable minutes had passed. He gave the paperwork to Heyes. “I hope, Sir, that will be adequate for your needs.”

Heyes scanned the documents. He looked up at Phillips. “They look alright, but they’re a little dry. Hmm, cause of death: natural. Maybe you can give me more details.”


“For the family. Now, if you could give me some information about when Mr. Nelson was brought here; perhaps the, er, his condition, you did witness that, am I correct?”

Phillips shifted uneasily, and glanced over his shoulder. “Sir, I…”

“Maybe we could go over to the saloon across the street. A drink might help you discuss the matter.”

Phillips’ face brightened slightly. “Indeed, Mr. Smith, sir, the subject is not an easy one to address. A slight libation would be most welcome.”


A pretty young lady exited the drug store, walked hurriedly around the corner, tore open an envelope, and began to read. She held the letter to her chest, raised her left hand to her face and began to shake, wiping her eyes.

The Kid pushed back his chair and ran down the stairs to the pretty damsel.

“Ma’am, ma’am, are you OK?”

She raised her head to look at the man addressing her. She had dark hair, and large brown eyes, wet with tears.

“Ma’am, do you need some help?”

“I, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know anyone in San Francisco. I don’t know where to turn. Perhaps I should go to the police, but I don’t think they would take my story seriously.”

“Ma’am, there’s a little shop right across the street that sells coffee and cakes. Why don’t you let me get you something and if you want you can tell me about it, or you can think a little, and decide what you want to do.”

“I don’t know you. We haven’t been introduced,” she said in a faltering voice.

“My name is Thaddeus Jones, ma’am. And the coffee shop is right there in the open with lots of folks inside.” The Kid smiled encouragingly.

She gave a weak smile in return. “Thank you, Mister Jones. That is very kind of you.”


The Kid looked at the young lady as she sipped her coffee.

“My name is Maria Kennedy.”

“That’s a real pretty name, ma’am.”

“Thank you, Mister Jones.”

“Thaddeus, ma’am.”

She smiled. “Thaddeus it is, then. I have a sister named Anna. We are very close as she is only a year older than I am. She came to San Francisco for employment. My parents had no sons, and falling on hard times, we needed the extra income. She wrote twice a week until three weeks ago. Her letters stopped and we have heard nothing from her since. My father is too invalid to travel and Mother is his nurse, so it was decided I should take the train to San Francisco to find her. I took a room in the building she was living in,” Maria pointed to the building she had exited.

She took another sip of coffee and continued. “I went to her place of employment, a firm for whom she worked as a typewriter. I was told she stopped showing up for work four weeks ago. They knew nothing else. I have talked to some of the other people living in my apartment, and they can tell me nothing. She kept regular hours, was friendly with some of the girls in the building, closer to some than to others. I talked to the building owner, Mister Quince, the druggist, and he knows only that she was gone one morning. She left the night before without leaving so much as a letter. No one seemed to be able to give me any information as to how or why she left.”

“And then you got that letter?” asked Curry.

Maria nodded. “Yes, Mister Quince received it in the mail today.”

“It’s from your sister?” the Kid asked.

“No, and that is the trouble. It is from a man named Elias Stanford. He says he and Anna eloped and that they are married. But it makes no sense. Anna and I are so close. She would have told me if she was to be married. She would have written me, not this Elias Stanford.”

“Maria, sometimes when people are in love they maybe don’t think clearly,” offered the Kid.

“No, not Anna. Anna was entirely sensible. We are a close family. She would have told us. But she didn’t. And not one person here ever saw her in the company of a man socially.”

“You’re right,” said Curry, “it don’t add up. Maria, can I see the letter?”

She gave him the letter and he read through the contents. “Doesn’t say much except they eloped, does it? It doesn’t even say where they went.”

“No, and it has no return address. I think something has happened to Anna, but I suspect if I go to the police they won’t believe me.”

“Funny, that’s the second time I’ve heard about the police maybe not believin’ somebody about somebody else.”

“Mister Jones?”

The Kid shook his head. “Nothin’, I just…” His voice trailed off and he shook his head again. “It was nothin’, ma’am.”

“Well, I think I should at least report her as missing to the police.” Maria stood up.

The Kid stood as well. “Do you want me to go with you, ma’am? Me being a stranger, I don’t think it would help much, but if you want me to…” Curry swallowed.

“No, I can do this, but thank you for offering, Thaddeus.”

“Ma’am, I live in the building across from where you live if you need me. If the police don’t help, well, I’ve got a friend who is good at figurin’ things out.”

“Thaddeus, will you meet me here tomorrow at the same time? I can let you know what the police say.”

“Yes, ma’am.”


“I’d be happy to help you any way I can, Maria.”


Heyes and Phillips were on a first-name basis an hour and a few drinks later. Phillips leaned towards Heyes confidentially and spoke in hushed tones.

“He was brought in by a man the hospital often purchases ‘things’ from, you see, Joshua.”

Heyes pursed his lips and frowned. “‘Things?’”

“The ‘things’ that the students use for their anatomical studies. You understand?”

“Ah.” Heyes nodded. He glanced to the window and saw a shabbily-dressed laborer fixing a pothole on the street outside. The laborer raised his head and stared directly at Heyes with gray-blue eyes peering out from under his cap. Heyes coolly returned the stare.

Phillips continued and Heyes turned back to him, forgetting the worker, “We usually have a shortage as not everyone is as farsighted as Mr. Nelson to appreciate the needs of medicine.”

“Hugo,” this was Phillips’ given name, “are you saying that Nelson’s death was not natural?” Heyes whispered.

“No, no, Joshua. All above-board this instance. Natural demise; proper certificate. However, I expect it had to be, this time.”

Heyes raised his eyebrows and glanced sharply at Phillips. “What do you mean, ‘this time?’”

Phillips gulped more of his drink and leaned in again, even closer.

“The prior transaction, a young lady, was a resurrection job as usual, so he said. But it wasn’t quite right. Young Doctor Henderson examined the ‘thing’ and said it was ‘too clean.’ Caused a bit of a stir with the senior doctors. If it was reported, it could cut off our supply, so I think someone higher up may have had a word on the sly with the man.”

“Too clean?” questioned Heyes.

“Resurrection work is a dirty business; by the time the ‘things’ arrive they are normally quite dirty.”

“Ah, so this ‘thing’ wasn’t dug up.”

Phillips leaned in further in towards the former outlaw, and pressed his lips against Heyes’ ear. “That’s my opinion, sir. But I can’t prove it, can I? But I often wonder how the poor lady came into that condition so young.”

Heyes stared into his drink. “Hugo, can you give me a description of the man who brought the ‘things’ in?”

“He’s a rather ordinary-looking man, nothing unusual, about your height, not as slender. He has blond hair. I would say his only notable features are his eyes. They are gray-blue. I realize that eyes that color aren't out of the ordinary. But, the way he has of looking at you. That is, well, it’s different.”

Heyes looked out the window again but the laborer was gone.


“The fact that the character who brought Champ’s body to the hospital is unsavory doesn’t mean Champ’s death wasn’t natural.” Heyes was sitting on Curry’s bed reading the will and musing.

“Yeah, but isn’t it suspicious about the other body?” questioned the Kid, who was walking back and forth past the window. “And what about Maria’s sister?”

“You mean the girl who eloped?”

“She didn’t elope, Heyes. Maria said she would have never done that.”

“Young women elope all the time.” Heyes looked up with a slight smile. “How long have you known Maria? And how pretty is she?”

“Very funny, Heyes.”

Curry turned back to the window. “Maybe the body of the young lady was Maria’s sister. Maybe this fella who brought it in killed her and Champ.”

“And maybe San Francisco is a large city and lots of people die.”

“Well at least it’s an idea. I haven’t heard you come up with one yet.”

“Kid,” replied Heyes in a patient voice, “we don’t know that Champ’s death isn’t natural. The certificate says it is. We don’t know anything about that woman who died or how she died. Maybe it was unusual circumstances, and that resurrectionist just took advantage of having the body. That doesn’t mean he killed her, does it? And it’s a big jump from that corpse to Maria’s sister.”

“When you put it like that, Heyes, it does seem a stretch,” the Kid said in a deflated voice.

“Mm.” Heyes looked at the certificate again. “That’s true, just like there are lots of folks with gray-blue eyes.”


“Our body snatcher has gray-blue eyes. Our height, close to your build I imagine.”

“That’s something at least; I’ll let you know if I see anyone like that around here, or if Maria has.”

“There's something else you can do for me.”


“Bring me that letter.” Curry raised his eyebrows.

“I’m not going to rule anything out, even if it is farfetched. And even if it is your idea.” Heyes grinned.


The next day Curry was heading to the coffee shop to meet Maria. He waited as she walked down the street towards him, passing a workman fixing a pothole. The workman was tarring over the hole and as she passed he stopped working, turned and looked at her with piercing gray-blue eyes. He put his equipment down and appeared to be about to accost her.

The Kid hurried over, placing himself between the laborer and Maria. He glared at the worker and took Maria’s arm protectively.

“Let me walk you over to the coffee shop. There’s all sorts of people around here. They may not all be as trustworthy as me.”

“Thank you, Thaddeus,” Maria smiled at him as she responded. She glanced at the shabbily-dressed worker and back at the Kid gratefully. The worker raised his cap to scratch his head, exposing a shock of blond hair. Standing up fully, he matched the Kid’s height and build. The Kid glared harder at him, turned and escorted Maria.

They went into the coffee shop and choose a corner table away from the other customers. Maria sat down while the Kid fetched some coffee and pastries.

“What did the police say?”

“The police didn’t seem too concerned after they saw the letter. I explained that this wasn’t like Anna at all, but they seemed to put it under the category of feminine whims. They did say they will take Anna’s disappearance into consideration as I would not leave until they promised, but I am afraid it doesn’t rank high to them. They said they have other cases to handle that are a priority. It isn’t pleasant to be told your sister isn’t a priority.”

“I suppose not.” He paused and sipped his coffee.

“Maria, I told my friend about your sister. Can you let me have that letter to show him? He may be able to figure out somethin’ from it that we haven’t.”

“Yes, I carry it with me.” She took it out of her purse. “You will return it, Thaddeus, won’t you?”

“Maria, I promise I will. I’ll meet you again here tomorrow if you like and let you know what he says.”

“Thaddeus, I don’t know how to thank you. Just to have someone show concern about Anna makes me feel so much better.”

“Well, me and my friend, we’ll do whatever we can to find her.”

“Thaddeus, I am afraid it may not be only Anna who I must ask you to find.”

Curry looked up sharply. “What do you mean?”

“Mary Bridges, another of the boarders, left suddenly last night.”

“Another gal is missin’?”

“I don’t know if she is missing, Thaddeus. When some of us came downstairs this morning, her luggage was in the lower hallway. Mister Quince said she had left a note behind at his counter in the pharmacy. Apparently, her mother became ill quite suddenly and the family wired her to return home.” She shook her head, and repeated, “It was all very sudden.”

“Yep, sudden enough that she left her bags.”

“Yes, that is odd, isn’t it?”

“Maria, what’s this Quince fella like?”

Maria smiled. “Mister Quince is a very kind landlord. We all find him pleasant, and he is helpful if we have any little concerns. He is the druggist too, you know. He seems to be a successful businessman. He designed the building we live in and oversaw the building of it himself! It is a little dark inside, I admit. He apologizes for that. He says it is the first building he ever designed. He is a very intelligent man. And, like I said, he has been nothing but kind to all his boarders.”

“He’s an older fella then?” asked the Kid.

“Oh no, I don’t think he is that much older than you are.”

Curry frowned.

“Oh, you don’t think he has anything to do with what happened do you? Mister Quince?” she asked in an incredulous voice. “If anything, I believe he is unhappy this morning. From what we observed, he may have been courting Mary. When we asked her about it, she would turn red and say nothing.”

“Oh.” Curry’s face lost its frown. “Well, if he was interested in Mary then I suppose he would be in contact with her.”

“He did say he would write to the address she left. I guess I shouldn’t have even mentioned it. It really isn’t anything to do with Anna, is it?”

“I don’t think so, Maria. I think we need to work on what happened to your sister.”

He looked out the window. The laborer was gone.


Heyes sat on the Kid’s bed again that night as Curry walked back and forth in front of the window. He held the letter and the envelope in his hand as the Kid talked.

“Heyes, I saw a fella that fit the description today; he was working on a pothole…” Heyes sat up quickly, “…and I think he was gonna approach Maria. I got between ‘em and gave him a look, you know. I wanted to let him know to keep away from her.”

“Good. If you see him again, maybe you can follow him without him knowing.”

Heyes looked at the letter. “Not much here to help.”

“That’s what I figured.”

Heyes looked at the envelope. He put it down, and then picked it up again and examined it carefully.

He looked up at Curry and asked, “What’s this Quince fella look like?”

“Huh? Quince? I dunno, I never saw him. But it can't be him. Maria says he's been real good to the ladies. He was even courtin, one of them.”

“Was courting her? What happened?”

“Well, is courtin.' She left last night. Got a letter sayin' she had to go home to help her sick mother. Maria said he said he's gonna write her. She says he's real unhappy she left.”

Heyes' grunted.

“Well, never mind that. But, going back to my question, you’ve been here two whole days and you didn’t bother to go look at the owner of the building where you think a girl might have disappeared from?”

“First, Heyes, you didn’t seem to think Anna’s goin’ missin’ was so important or that even anythin' may have happened to her or Champ. And second, why should we care about Quince when we’ve got a suspect right under our nose. That worker sure don’t look right, and he fits the description of the man you are lookin’ for, and he was too interested in Maria for my likin’.”

Heyes nodded.

The Kid paced a little and then continued speaking. “Look, Heyes, maybe this fella killed Anna, and maybe Champ saw somethin’ or suspected. So then this fella killed Champ. Now he’s worried because Maria is here lookin’ for her sister. Maria looks a lot like her sister, she told me. So that’s what happened.”

“Uh huh. And this fella was outside the hospital’s medical school.”

“What! You didn’t tell me that.”

“Well, you just told me about seeing this worker outside the coffee shop, so I didn’t have a chance yet. But, your fella not only fits the description of our body snatcher, he also sounds like the workman I saw working on the road when I questioned Phillips.”

“That’s it then! We’ve got him!”

“Uh huh.” Heyes looked at the envelope again.

“Heyes, will you quit starin’ at that envelope? It won’t help any. It don’t even have a return address on it.”

“Nope, it don’t. Only a smudged postmark.”

“Uh huh.”

Heyes put the envelope down again. He leaned forward, stretched and scratched his back, before continuing.

“I think I need to be closer. I’m going to check into the building across the street. After all, it has a vacancy now.”

The Kid smiled. “I dunno, Heyes, most of the boarders are single young ladies.”


“Yep, that Quince sure is a smart fella, and he’s got good taste too.”

“I guess so.” Heyes paused. “I’ll send a telegram saying I am single and have a job waiting in the area.” He smiled. “I’ll sign it: Leslie.”

“Leslie?” Curry asked, smiling in turn.

“Leslie O’Hara,” said Heyes, grinning broadly.


Heyes stood in front of the counter in the drug store.

The druggist was turning a telegram over and over in his hands.

“That is your response to my wire, Mister Quince. You confirmed you had a room available and I wired a week’s rent in advance which you accepted.”

“Ah, yes I did, Mister O’Hara. Most of my boarders are proper young ladies. I would not want them molested in any way.” The speaker was an unassuming middle-aged man, about Heyes’ height, blond hair parted in the center. His gray-blue eyes were unblinking and steady as he looked at Heyes.

“Mister Quince, I am offended that you are implying that I would even consider disturbing your other boarders.”  

“Mister O’Hara, of course I don’t mean that. It’s just that it is unusual to have male boarders here. The ladies may be uncomfortable.”

“You are a man, aren’t you? Are they uncomfortable with you?”

“I will get you your key, Mr. O’Hara.” He turned and removed a key from a locked box on the counter behind him. He placed the key in Heyes’ palm, still holding the end of it.

“You are in room 25, second floor. If I hear any complaints, you must move immediately, Mister O’Hara.”

“You won’t hear any complaints, Quince.” Heyes took the key from him and picked up his bag.

He walked up a set of narrow dark stairs to the second floor. The hallway on the second floor was dimly lit with gas lamps. It was dark even though it was midday as the hall had no windows.

Heyes turned the key in the door of room 25, and opened it. The room was dark as well, having only one very small window located near the ceiling. He sat on the bed, and bounced up and down on it. The springs gave a slight groan.

“Not bad,” he muttered. He threw his luggage onto the chair. He threw it with some force and it pushed the chair into the wall, which it hit with a thud.

Heyes sat back on the bed and stared at the wall. He got up, walked over and rapped it. It made a hollow sound from top to bottom where the chair hit it, but was solid elsewhere. He grunted. He looked closely at the wood. He ran his fingers over it. Then he took out a penknife and pried between two pieces of board. He pried another spot. Soon he removed a square of board. Looking in, he saw a dark shaft extending from above his room that continued past it, heading downwards.

Heyes walked a few paces back and scratched his lower back. Finally, he put the wood back in place.


Curry waited for Maria at the coffee shop. He looked at the clock on the wall. He went to the counter.

“Have you seen Maria Kennedy today?” he asked the serving woman.

“You mean the young lady you’ve been meeting here? The one with the dark hair and brown eyes, very pretty?” the plump woman asked.

“That’s her.”

“She ain’t come in yet.” The woman looked at the clock. “She’s late, ain’t she? You two usually meet oh, ‘bout a half-hour earlier.”

Curry nodded. “Look, if she shows up, tell her I was here, but I left to look for her. Tell her to stay here and wait for me, will ya?”

“’Course I will. No one will ever say Amy Jenkins got in the way of true love and held it up.”

“Huh? Oh.”  The Kid left the shop. He looked up and down the street. Maria wasn’t anywhere to be seen, and the workman wasn’t out either. Curry walked over to the pothole. It looked as it had two days before, as if no repairs had been done by the laborer. He ran across the street to the pharmacy.

The store was empty. He ran to the counter to ring the bell for the druggist and in doing so tripped over some luggage. “Ow!”

He searched the luggage for the owner’s name. Finally he found a tag attached to one piece. It had a name and address: Miss Maria Kennedy. “No,” he swore out loud, “not Maria!”

He looked around the empty store and ran out to the street again.  It was bright daylight outside and Curry had to shade his eyes. He saw the workman heading his way. The workman stopped, dropped his equipment and turned around, running the other way. Curry chased after him.

The laborer turned the corner with Curry behind him, panting to catch up. The man ran to a deserted building and entered it. He ran up some creaking old stairs as Curry neared. Entering a room, the man reached for a gun lying on a broken down table. The Kid grabbed his hand before the workman could pick up the weapon, and the two struggled.

“Where is she? Where’s Maria?” the Kid shouted.

The man tried to push the Kid away but Curry grabbed his shoulders and thrust him against the wall. “Tell me what you’ve done with her! Tell me!” He squeezed one hand around the man’s throat.

Someone grabbed him from behind. “Stop! Kid! Stop! It’s not him! LISTEN TO ME. IT’S NOT HIM. IT’S QUINCE!”

Heyes dragged the Kid off the man.

“What are you doing here?”

Heyes answered, panting, “I came into the drugstore from my room and saw you run out. I saw the luggage, and guessed I had better follow you before you killed the wrong man. Lucky thing I did, too.”

The two partners turned to the workman who was gasping for air, coughing and sputtering. “Lucky thing,” repeated the man. He pulled a card out of his pocket and handed it to Heyes.

“Inspector Crowder, San Francisco Police,” Heyes read out loud.

Crowder gasped some more, swallowed and spoke, “I've been trying to find out what happened to Anna Kennedy. The rest of the force may not be interested in her disappearance, but I am. And she's not the only woman who has gone missing from that apartment building. Clara Thaw's family contacted the force after not hearing from her for three months. I convinced my superiors to let me investigate. They all seem to be disappearing after living at that building.”

“But where’s Maria?” asked Curry.

“I don’t know,” replied Crowder.

“I do,” said Heyes, “and we’d better get there fast. It may be too late now.”

“Let’s go then,” said the Kid and the three men left the building, led by Heyes. On the way out the room, Crowder picked up his pistol.

They ran back to the drugstore, and hurried past the counter to a back room. Heyes looked around wildly. There were two more rooms leading off from this one.

“I thought you said you knew where she is?”

“I do, Ki…Thaddeus, I just have to find the stairs.”

“There’s stairs in the hallway,” said Crowder.

“Not those.” Heyes strode into one of the little rooms, strode back out and then into the other. Crowder and the Kid looked at each other.

“Here!” Heyes shouted. The two men ran into the room after him. Heyes had found a narrow door that could barely be seen in the dim room. He opened it and started down an extremely narrow stairway. “These stairs go down to the basement. C’mon.”

They hurried down the stairs and found a locked door at the bottom. Heyes bent down and took a lock pick from his boot. He looked up at Crowder sheepishly, and gave him a wry smile.  

“Hurry man, just open the door,” Crowder urged.

Heyes worked at the lock diligently. He turned to the others before opening the door. “Quince may be right behind here,” he whispered. Crowder nodded and pulled out his gun.

“Ready,” he whispered back.

Heyes swung the door open. Quince was seated in a chair in front of a large brick chamber six feet high by three feet by three feet, with an iron door. He jumped up, and put his hand to his face.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“Where’s Maria Kennedy?” asked the Kid, approaching him.

“Maria Kennedy? She left early this morning. Her father is quite an invalid and the family called her home as he’s taken a turn for the worse.”

“You've already used the invalid story, Quince,” growled Curry.

“What’s in that thing?” asked Heyes.

“I keep some of my valuables in there, if you must know,” answered Quince blandly.

“Open it,” ordered Crowder.

“Why should I open it for you?”

“I’m a police investigator,” answered Crowder, pulling out his card with his left hand as he aimed the gun in his right at Quince.

“Quince, if that card don’t convince you, then maybe his gun will,” said Curry coldly.  

Quince looked at the Kid, calmly.

“I haven’t the key.”

“What do you mean you haven’t the key? Where is it?” shouted the Kid.

“It’s probably on him,” said Crowder. “Search him.”

Quince smiled.

Heyes and the Kid searched him while Crowder kept them covered.

“We’re wasting our time, aren’t we?” asked Heyes. “You swallowed it, didn’t you, when you saw us enter the room. That's why you held your hand to your face.”  

Quince remained silent.

Crowder waved his pistol at the brick box. “Can you pick that lock?”

“I think so.”

“Then for God’s sake, man, do it.”

“Heyes bent to the lock on the door to the chamber and started to work.

“Hey-a-Joshua, I don’t wanna bother you right now, but I think this is built solid. I don’t think there’s much air in there.”

“Thanks for letting me know,” responded Heyes dryly.

The Kid pressed his ear to the brick box as Heyes continued picking the lock.

“She’s in there. I can hear her, just barely. She must be hittin' the walls. Heyes, you gotta hurry.”

“I’m doing the best I can.”

“What kind of a monster are you?” Crowder asked. “You were sitting in this chair listening to her gasp for breath, crying out to you, pleading for you to open the door, I don’t doubt. How could any sane person do that?”

Quince didn’t answer. He simply smiled at the men.

“I’ve got it,” Heyes shouted and flung the door open. Maria’s head slumped out the door, her body curled up in the brick chamber.

The Kid raised her gently.

“Is she…”began Heyes.

“She’s breathing. She’s alive.”

Heyes rocked back, the barest hint of a smile on his face.

“I ought to kill you now, you monster. But if I did, we won’t find out what happened to the others. That’s the only reason you’re still alive.” Crowder took a pair of handcuffs out of his pocket and handed them to Heyes. “You do know how to put these on, I assume.”

“Yes,” answered Heyes quietly.

“Your name,” said Crowder, “I’m not certain I know it. It’s Joshua?”

“Smith,” replied Heyes.

“Of course,” said Crowder. “And your friend?”

“Jones, Thaddeus Jones.”

“Well, Mister Smith, Mister Jones, I owe you my deepest gratitude for your help in catching this,” he looked at Quince with evident disgust, “this person. With our evidence, the trial should be swift, and justice dispatched accordingly. I'll gladly see you hang, Quince. But why? Why would you do such terrible things? What could you gain from this?”

“I'm an innocent man; I've nothing more to say,” said Quince, without any emotion, to his captors.

The men looked at him, with incredulous glances.

“I think he liked killing them,” the Kid said very quietly, and very slowly, as if he couldn't believe what that implied.

“Inspector Crowder, my friend and me have to leave San Francisco on some important business.” Heyes changed the subject, and looked at Curry with sad sympathy. “I don't think we can stay to give evidence in a trial.”

“No, I imagine not.” Crowder smiled thinly. “I think with Miss Kennedy, and with other evidence I can gather here, there will be no reason for your testimony.”

Curry looked up at Crowder. “We’re grateful, Crowder.”

“As I said, I’m grateful and indebted to both of you. Without your help this man would have escaped justice, at least long enough to commit more horrible murders. I’m going to take him to the station now. I suggest you help that young lady-friend of yours.”

“Crowder, before you go. We have a friend who had a friend go missing. His body showed up at the medical school, name of Charles Nelson, called Champ. Anything you can find out, well, we’d appreciate it.”

“Who is your friend, Joshua, and where does he live?”

“Silky O’Sullivan. He lives at…”

“Oh yes. O’Sullivan at Nob Hill. We, the force, are familiar with him. He was quite a man in his day.”

The Kid gently picked up Maria, who was starting to regain consciousness. “Uh, yeah, I guess you could say he was.”

“Will you be at his house this evening?”

“Crowder, much as me and my friend would like to know exactly what happened, I think we’ll be leaving San Francisco as soon as possible. But we’d appreciated it if you’d talk to Silky.”

Curry began to carry Maria out of the room.

“I won’t tell anyone on the force about you two, and no one would ever believe ‘this,’thing, if he said anything about you that was questionable,” he said pointing to Quince. “Surely you will remain until I can thank you properly.”

Heyes shook his head as the Kid started up the stairs, and Crowder began to move Quince along. “Crowder, me and my friend know what temptation can do to a man. I think it would be better if we didn’t put any unnecessary temptation in your way by staying longer here. Am I right?”

Crowder looked over his shoulder, and gave a nod. He shoved his prisoner none too gently up the stairs.


On the train that night, the two friends talked quietly to each other.

“So what do you think did happen to Champ, Joshua?”

“Thaddeus, I think you were right. I think he found out too much and Quince had to get rid of him.”

“But how did he get a man like Champ into that box? I suppose that’s how he did it, as his death looked natural.”

“I dunno, maybe he drugged him first. Unless Quince talks, we may never know.”

“How would he convince Champ to go into the basement in the first place?”

“He didn’t have to. He could have shared a drink with him in another room, and then moved him.”

“And no one saw?”

“He designed and oversaw the construction of the building, remember, Thaddeus?”  

The Kid gave a nod.

“It had chutes built into the walls. I found one in my room. That’s when I figured there must be a basement, because there was nothing on the first floor they led to.”

“Heyes, I got another question. How come you were so interested in that envelope?”

“Well, Kid, you figured since it didn’t have a return address and since the postmark was smudged  it wasn’t any help in finding Anna, right?”

“Well, yeah.”

“But I saw it different. I was wondering where the postmark got smudged. It was done deliberately; I looked closely at it and you could see how it had been rubbed hard, probably with a wet thumb.”

“So? We already knew whoever wrote it didn’t want anyone to know where it came from.”

“Uh huh.  When and where is a postmark put on a letter?”

“At a post office after it is mailed, everyone knows that. So?”

“So it couldn’t have been smudged before it was mailed, right?”

“Yeah. I still don’t see what you are sayin'.”

“If the postmark was smudged after it was mailed it could only have been smudged by the postal worker at the post office or by the recipient.” The Kid nodded in agreement. Heyes continued, patiently, “Well, unless the postal service was in on the murders it had to have been done by whoever received the letter. And the person who received the letter was Quince. He received all the mail for the building and held it for the tenants.”

The Kid looked at Heyes blankly.

“Quince mailed and received that letter from San Francisco. He wanted it to look like Anna had eloped and left the city, so he had to hide that he had mailed it from San Francisco, didn’t he? He wanted to hide that he had mailed the letter himself.”

“So you knew it was Quince before you went to the building.”

“Nope. It was  suspicious about the women leaving suddenly from his building, and that he was the one who had the information about why they left. I guessed it was Quince. I couldn’t be entirely sure. But after I moved into the building and saw him I was certain, and then finding the chute in the wall proved it, as far as I was concerned.”

“I got one more question? Why? Why'd he do it?”

“I can't answer that one. He got any money they had; their belongings. He sold the bodies. But its more than that. Its like you said, he enjoyed it. And, he was making an art out of killing. Maybe that's something we shouldn't want to understand.”

Heyes spoke again after a short silence. “What about Maria Kennedy?”

“She’s goin’ home now. She wants to be with her parents.”

“I can understand that.”

“By the way, thanks, Joshua.”

“For saving Maria and figuring it out?”


Heyes looked surprised.

“For what, then?”

The Kid smiled broadly. “For sayin’ I was right."

*This story is based on two actual incidents, one in London and one in Chicago. You may wonder why the porter knows so much. All I can say is the porter of the medical school in London knew the details of what was going on.  Apparently, the porters at medical schools knew all the comings and goings, appointments, etc. I didn’t want to slow the story down by making up an explanation, and I can’t really see Heyes being bothered to ask as long as he was getting the information he needed.

Quince is based on a serial murderer in Chicago who committed an unknown number of murders around the time of the World's Fair held there at the turn of the century. He designed an rooming house with his shop on the ground level. In order to keep the design a secret he hired workers continually, and then fired them, or simply withheld pay so they would leave the work. In this way, no one knew the entire plan of the building except for himself, and one close associate who he later murdered. He married some of his victims. He spared some of his wives. Some of his murders were for gain, some out of fear of exposure, but the murders of the young female working women renting rooms from him appears to have no other motive than the  enjoyment of the act of murder.
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