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Posted 31 January 2011
The Otterholt House Massacre
An investigation by Inspector Stagg
& the State Police Criminal Investigation Bureau
of New Haven - 1926
Chapter 2
By Walter D. Reimer

The Otterholt House Massacre

© 2009 by Walter D. Reimer
Illustration by Kjartan

(The Stagg Family courtesy of Eric Costello. Thanks!)

Chapter 2


        There was a copy of the paper on his desk when he got back to the office.
        Chief Stagg, the desk sergeant had reported in a hushed tone, looked unhappy.
        That in itself was enough to make Paulie reluctant to step into the whitetail buck’s office.  He squared his shoulders and knocked on the door.
        “Come in,” and he opened the door to find the Chief seated at his desk, looking at his own copy of the paper.  “I must concede that Mr. Stover’s prose style lends itself to the sensational.”  He glanced up at his subordinate.  “Close the door and sit down, Paul.  You look rather disturbed.”
        “Thank you, Sir.”
        Once he was seated Stagg sat back and fixed him with a steady gaze.  “How did this make the papers so fast?”
        “I believe the officer on the scene was bribed, Sir.”
        This elicited a resigned sigh from the buck.  “A common practice, and one I do not agree with.  So.  What have you got?”
        Paulie flipped open his notebook.  “Boarding house, used by student nurses employed at the Polyclinic.  Fifteen tenants out of sixteen available beds, all good paying customers.  The owners have never had any trouble with prowlers or even pushy boyfriends.”
        “But yet someone killed three of their charges.”
        The red deer cleared his throat.  “Five, Sir.”
        It ordinarily took a lot to pierce ‘Sir Frankie of Ass-Sit’s’ normally professional demeanor.  Stagg’s ears drooped and his eyes went wide.  “Five?”
        “Yes, Sir.  Two more found in a room on the second floor.  Er, one of them’s a Yank.”
        Stagg pinched the bridge of his nose between his eyes.  “I’ll have to go upstairs and tell them, then.  That’s my job, Lieutenant – to break bad news to those in power.”
        “Yes, Sir.  Evidence indicates that the girls were bludgeoned before their throats were cut, and someone – the killer, we believe – wrote ‘God Wills It’ on the first floor bathroom mirror in blood.  In Latin.”
        Stagg’s jaw muscles twitched.  “Disturbing.  Keep me informed of your progress, Paul.  Anything you need, day or night, and feel free to call me at the house if you must.  We will most likely be told to have this concluded with an arrest as quickly as possible.”
        “Yes, Sir.”  Paulie got up and left the office.
        As he sat down at his own desk his stomachs growled, reminding him that he hadn’t had lunch yet.  He pulled his lunchbox out of a drawer and opened it.  He smiled at the sight of two thick lettuce and tomato sandwiches and a banana for dessert.  Jane knew how to take care of him.  The thermos flask inside the box contained homemade birch beer.  
        The vegetables had been grown in their backyard greenhouse, and he relished the taste as he ate.  The banana was a rare and somewhat pricey treat.  He promised himself to chide her a bit about extravagance.
        But not too harshly.
        “Hey Paulie!” and he turned as Bill sat down at his desk with a grunt.  The bear’s uniform collar was open and he asked, “I just got off the clock.  Howza ‘bout you an’ me head over to Shipman’s for a beer?”
        “I’m still on the clock, Bill.”
        “Never stopped ya before.”
        “True, but they want us to get this mess cleaned up quick, which means no long lunches.”  He took a sip of his birch beer and smiled at the spicy taste.  “You can tell me something, though.”
        “Name it.”
        He pitched his voice lower as he leaned into his friend.  “If you needed money, Bill, you coulda asked.  I ain’t Silver-Paws Farkel, but if you need a five-spot – “
        “I figger I asked you enough times, Paulie,” Bill said with a shrug.  “The guy didn’t take no pictures, and he come high-tailing outta there like the Devil was on his tail.  I hear you found two more upstairs.”
        “We did.”
        The bear sat back and whistled.  “Damn.  Makes ya wish for the good old days, when all you had to worry about was a sneak thief or bar fight.”
        The red deer chuckled.  He and Bill had broken up just such a fight at a billiards parlor years back, and his nose was still slightly off-kilter after a drunken brawler had taken a swing at him with a pool cue.  The guy’s nose had been broken with a hard jab for his trouble.
        “Well, those days are behind us now, Billy,” Paulie said.  “Tell me something – you know this guy Stover?”
        “A little.  Why?”
        “I want to talk to him, on the quiet if you know what I mean.  See if he saw anything we didn’t – or took something out with him.”
        The bear nodded slowly.  “I think I can swing that.”
        He grinned and clapped his onetime partner on the shoulder.  “Good.  And later we’ll have a beer, okay?”



        Matt Stover, it turned out, was a chubby fox who stood all of five feet six.  Both policefurs towered over him as Bill escorted him into an alleyway near a waterfront bar frequented by sailors.
        The fox straightened his fedora and asked, “Whaddaya want from me?”
        “Just a question or two,” Paulie said.
        Stover’s expression grew shifty.  “An’ if I don’t spill?”
        “Then . . . let’s just say you might not like it.”  Bill smiled and massaged his right fist in a meaty left paw to underline Paulie’s words.
        “I knew I shoulda stood in bed,” the vulpine muttered.  “Whaddaya want ta know?”
        “I want to know exactly what you saw in the Otterholt House,” Paulie said.  He took out his notebook and a pencil.
        Stover replied, “Well, I get in there, an’ it’s a madhouse, I’m telling you.  Women screaming an’ crying, so I gotta take advantage, y’see?  So I go upstairs.”
        “Go on.”
        “First thing I sees is the blood.  I’m telling ya, it was everywhere in front of the dead pooch’s room.  I know my business, so I back off from it – I ain’t gonna end up getting fingered for this, nosiree.”
        “Smart fella.”
        “My Momma didn’t raise a fool,” Stover said.  “Lessee . . . I checked out the other two dead dames.  Both of ‘em cold as mackerel, blood everywhere.  I didn’t touch nothing, I swear.  I’m startin’ to get creeped out, so I start to go back down.”
        “Well, I sees a footprint on the stairs.”
        “Man’s, or woman’s?”
        “Guy’s.  Big print too, sorta wide, if you get my drift.”
        “So you left.”
        “Yeah, I figgered I seen enough.”  Stover leaned closer with a conspiratorial leer.  “Any of them dames get – you know?”  He made a circle with two fingers of his left paw, stuck his right index finger through the circle a few times, and winked.
        Paulie just looked at him.
        “Aw, c’mon, Boss, you can spill it – innocent young girls like that . . . why ain't they SAYING they wasn't assaulted?”
        “You little creep,” Bill grated, “I got a good mind ta throw you in the harbor.”
        “An’ I’ll put your name in my next story.”
        The bear gave the fox a push that sent him sprawling out of the alley.  “G’wan, beat it before I run ya in for vagrancy.”  Stover stumbled to his feet and hurried off as Bill turned to his friend.  “So, was they?”
        Paulie looked at his friend sourly and shook his head.  “Didn’t look like it, but we’ll have to wait on the Doc to tell us.  Thanks, Bill.”
        “Don’t mention it, Paulie.  Felt good – like old times.”
        The buck nodded and looked at his watch.  “Time for me to get home.  Say hello to Margie for me, will ya?”
        “Sure thing.”



        Jane Pentaleoni finished drying her paws after washing the dinner dishes and took off her apron.  Sounds of childish yelling outside indicated that the children were out playing, watched by her husband as well as the other parents on the street.  The evening was mild and sundown wasn’t for another half-hour.
        The two youngest fawns would likely need baths before they went to bed.
        The whitetail doe took a pitcher of birch beer from the icebox and poured herself a glass, then smoothed out her dress and walked out of the kitchen and through the living room to the front porch.  
        The screen door banged closed behind her and Paulie looked up at her as she leaned against the jamb.  “Hi,” she said.
        He grinned and patted the stoop beside him.  “Hi yourself.”  She sat and they shared a kiss.  “How was your day?”
        “Busy,” she said.  “Took the kids to the doctor, then went shopping.  Jack says that Old Man Grayson’s offered him a job sweeping up at his store.”
        “That so?”  Jack was their oldest, all of twelve years old.  “I’ll have a talk with Carl.  What’s he offering?”
        “Jack says twenty-five shillings a week.”
        “A half oak a week?” he echoed, giving a soft whistle.  “Not bad.”  He glanced out at the street, where his son was playing catch with some of the other boys from the neighborhood.
        She nuzzled him, taking advantage of their nearness to run her fingers along the velvet cloaking his antlers.  He shivered and chuckled.  “You should stop that.”
        “Oh?” she asked teasingly.  “Why?”
        “Because we might get a sixth fawn out of it if we’re not careful.”  They both chuckled at that, and she hugged him.
        “I’m in no hurry.”  They watched their children at play for a while, and finally Jane ventured, “I’ve been adding things up.”
        “And I think we finally have enough stamps to get a couple of things.”  New Haven’s economy included a network of co-operative stores.  Change for less than a five-shilling piece, or ‘shad,’ came in the form of stamps, and when enough stamps had been accrued they could be redeemed for consumer goods at the stores.
        “Oh?  Such as?”  He turned to look at her.
        “Well, we could get a week’s worth of groceries, or a new carpet for the front room, or that new dress I was looking at . . .” her voice trailed off and met his gaze.
        He leaned close and kissed her.  “Get the dress,” he suggested.  “You’ll look great in it.”
        Jane smiled, and snuggled a bit closer.  “Anything happen at work?”
        “Too much,” he said with a sigh.  “Depending on what happens, I might be missing mealtimes.”
        “No more than usual, I think.  Murder case.”
        She blinked, her tail flagging.  “Murder?  You mean what was in the paper?”
        He nodded.
        Jane was a policeman’s wife, and the daughter of a merchant seaman.  The Widow’s Walk was in her blood.
        She kissed him again and said, “You be careful, Paolo.  I want you to appreciate the dress.”
        He grinned and returned the kiss.


Thursday May 13
New Haven Polyclinic

        The morgue smelled of formalin, carbolic acid, cigarette smoke and dry rot, and Paulie grimaced as he walked into the main ward.  The lights were on, and a shrouded form was on the center table.  A tall and very thin mountain lion stood at a counter nearby, jotting notes on a clipboard.  A cigarette dangled from his lips and a thin haze of smoke surrounded him.
        The red deer stopped near the feet of the corpse.  “Morning, Doc.  Got anything for me yet?”
        Doctor Rivers stubbed the cigarette out in an ashtray, coughed, and turned to face the detective, blinking owlishly through thick glasses.  “Hi, Lieutenant.  Yes, I have a few things for you.”  He indicated a fat envelope resting on the counter.  “Photographs of all the girls, after I got them cleaned up.  I was just wrapping up the autopsy reports when you came in.”
        “I appreciate you calling me.”
        That elicited a dry chuckle.  “I figured that since I’d been up all night, why should others lie in?”  He walked up to the shrouded form and drew the sheet away as far down as the beagle femme’s cleavage.  Paulie recognized the dead girl as the fourth victim, Elaine Somerville.

Autopsy at the morgue - Elaine Somerville (deceased) Doctor Rivers,
The morgue: Doctor Rivers & Detective Lieutenant Paolo 'Paulie' Pentaleoni. Elaine Somerville (deceased)
Art by Kjartan - http://www.furaffinity.net/user/ karno/ - (Larger file here - 404 KBytes)

  “Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered to work so late,” Rivers said, “but this case is a doozy.”  He bent over and bestowed a kiss on the dead girl’s forehead.
        Paulie’s frown deepened.  Rivers had an odd sense of humor.  “Cause of death, Doc?”
        “Ah.  That’s all in the reports, but I’ll spare you the suspense.  Cause of death in her case was massive trauma to the head.  You see the bruising here?”  He turned her head slightly and thumbed back her fur to display a bruise on the back of her head behind her right ear.  “Enough force to shatter her skull and damage the brain stem,” he explained.  “Never knew what hit her.  The knife slash across the throat severed both carotid arteries and both jugular veins, but her blood loss was all post-mortem.  The skull’s fairly thin back there, you know.”
        “Any idea what caused the wound?”
        The cat shrugged.  “Any blunt object, really – hammer, maybe.  But look here.”  He tipped the Somerville girl’s head back to indicate the slash wound.  “Very clean slice here, meaning a very sharp knife.”
        “Hmm.  Not the usual thing a sneak thief might use?”
        “Probably not.  I heard that there had been a party that night.  Lab analysis of the stomach contents and blood will be ready for you after lunch.”
        “Great.  Um, was there, um, any sign of - ?”
        “Sexual assault?”  Rivers shook his head.  “A killer our boy was, but apparently a rapist he wasn’t.”
        “I’m sure that will be a great relief to their parents.  You can expect them this afternoon.”
        The feline sighed and nodded.  “I’ll try to be more presentable by then.”
        “What about the rest of the girls?  Same pattern?”
        “The Jones girl – the one that was with this one – had her throat cut before her head was bashed in.  From the positions of the bodies I’d say that the killer hit Somerville, then cut Jones’ throat to keep her occupied.”
        A chill went up Paulie’s back and he felt himself flagging.  “The first girl that was found, Sally Jones . . . why didn’t she die immediately?”
        “I think our boy was moving fast by this time, maybe afraid of getting caught before he’d finished.  None of her head wounds were fatal; hard enough to bruise, but not to break bone.”
        A nod, and the red deer moved to gather up the reports and photographs.  “I’ll be around for the lab results, Doc.  Thanks.”
        “Don’t mention it.”



        The other detectives at ‘Morning Prayers’ listened raptly as Paulie finished giving his summary of the case so far.  The papers that morning had already started calling it a massacre, and editors were calling upon the State Police to solve the crime as fast as possible.
        Chief Stagg had listened intently, taking note after note while looking at the photographs spread out before him.  Finally he looked up.  “Was Dr. Rivers able to establish a time of death?”
        “Yes, Sir.  His reports estimate that the killings took place sometime around two A.M., and definitely between two and six.  The Otterholts finished cleaning up after the party at about eleven-thirty, and the lights were out at midnight.  Mr. Otterholt says that he and his wife went to bed shortly afterward, and heard nothing.”
        “And the girls’ statements?”
        “Two of them turned in early, explaining that they were very tired.  One of the victims, Sally Jones – the one who lived alone – complained of stomach pains and another girl rang a local pharmacy for some powders.  They were delivered by the chemist himself, a Mr. Davies, at about one A.M.”
        Stagg nodded.  “And this was corroborated by Mr. Davies.”
        “Yes, Sir.  Taken all in all, at first blush it looks like we may be dealing with a maniac with a religious bent.”
        The whitetail buck scratched one of his antlers.  “How so?”
        “The evidence so far – the bloodletting, the words on the mirror and the fact that none of the girls appears to have been raped – would point to that theory.”
        A slow nod.  “As a preliminary theory, I’d say that it was sound, Lieutenant.  But keep an open mind, in case any new evidence disproves your theory.”
        “Yes, Sir.”
        When the meeting was over, Paulie collected his notes and headed back to his desk, only to stop when his superior cleared his throat.  “Yes, Chief?”
        Stagg waved him back into the conference room and closed the door before asking, “Somerville and Jones . . . they usually slept late?”
        After glancing through his notes the red deer nodded.  “According to the girls, they worked a late shift, getting in around twelve or one.  I’ll be following that up today before I head back to the morgue.”
        Stagg nodded, his expression drawn.  “Need some moral support, Paul?”
        “Well, I’m lead investigator on the case . . . but I’d be glad to see a familiar face, Chief.  The Ambassador won’t be any too happy, and I’ll have a bunch of grieving parents on my paws.”  He glanced behind Stagg and added, “And if it’s all right with you, I’d like to use the chalkboard in here.”
        “The chalkboard?”
        “Yes, Sir.  I want to get a few things set up so I can get a full view of how this happened.  So many victims, you know.”
        “Good thinking, and it’s an excellent idea.  It’s all yours.”  Stagg went back to his office, and Paulie started collecting his notes.  
        When he had everything he started by drawing rough diagrams of each floor, with Xs to show the locations of each dead girl.  To one side he wrote the name of each victim, and on the other side of the board he wrote a rough timeline.
        He studied the board for a few moments, then collected his squad of detectives and left the station.


Collegiate Medical School
Classroom 4-B

        The classroom was designed for fifty students and was designed as an amphitheater.  Just before the detectives walked into the room, they paused as someone within started to sing in a strong baritone:
“There ain't a damn thing I can do
Or nothing I can say
That folks don't give me hell
But I'm gonna do what I want to anyway
And I don't care just what people say
If I should have the notion to take a jump in the ocean
't ain't nobody's bizness if I do
If I go to whorin’ on Sunday then drink all day Monday
't ain't nobody's bizness if I do
If my gal ain't got no money and I say take all mine honey
't ain't nobody's bizness if I do
If I give her my last nickel just so she’ll sit on my pickle
't ain't nobody's bizness if I do.”
        Hoarse male laughter greeted this song, and Paulie shrugged at the others before opening the door and walking in.  Eight male students of various species lounged in their seats under the watchful eyes of the Dean and the head of the medical school.  “Dean Paulson, I’m grateful for your assistance.”
        The beaver shook paws with the red deer.  “No problem at all, Lieutenant.  These young gentlemen will be glad to assist you – and if they don’t, they know what will happen.”
        Paulie glanced up at the seats.  “Expulsion?”
        “Quite.  If you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave them to you.  Dr. Mason will help you.”  The beaver pulled a watch from his waistcoat and checked the time, then glared at the students before walking out.
        One of them, a lean hound, blew a raspberry as the doors closed.
        Paulie pointed at him.  “I’ll start with you.  Name?”
        “Albert Norquist.  What’s it to you, copper?”
        “We’re going to be asking you and the other guys here some questions about the party you attended at Otterholt House.”
        “We never touched any of those girls!” a slim stallion protested.  “I don’t care what they’re accusing us of – “
        “No one’s accusing you of anything, Walter,” Norquist said in a disgusted tone.  To Paulie he said, “You’ll have to excuse him – he’s an underclassman.”
        “Mr. Norquist is right, gentlemen.  None of you are being accused of anything.  But if you don’t answer our questions, you will be accused – of hindering a police investigation.”  He allowed himself a smile.  “And if you think expulsion is a bad thing, imagine the inside of our lockup downtown.  I expect your full cooperation.  Now.  I want to know if everyone is here.”
        A feline seated near the back raised a paw.  “Roger’s not here.”
        “And who is Roger?”
        “Roger Farmer,” the younger man replied.  “After the party he said he was headed to Gnu York.  Last I saw him, he was headed for Republic Station.”
        “How was he acting?”
        “Sick, like he was going to vomit.”
        Paulie made a note of the name, and the other detectives went to work.
        The going was slow, and more than once the students complained of how long the process was taking.  Paulie was patient, but firm.
        After half an hour of questioning, most of the medical students had been allowed to leave, leaving Norquist and two others.  Paulie asked the hound, “Where did you buy the liquor?”
        “There’s a shop over on Sixteenth and E.  Don’t worry, we’re all legal.”
        “I’m sure you are.  Med student.”
        “What are you studying?”
        The hound laughed.  “Gynecology.  I tell ya, some of the girls can teach you more about that than any textbook.  There’s this one little spaniel over there, Sally Jones – man, talk about fast!  She can trip you up and be under you before you hit the floor.”
        Paulie controlled himself with an effort.  “Miss Jones is one of the victims, Mr. Norquist.  S’matter, don’t you read the papers?”  
        The hound’s eyes bulged and he started to stammer something, but the door to the classroom opened and he stopped talking.  Paulie turned to see who it was.
        A gray-furred rabbit blinked at him.  “I’m sorry I’m late.  I was told that you were talking to us.”
        Paulie cocked an eye at Norquist.  “I thought you said that everyone was here who was at the party.”
        “I forgot about him,” the hound said.
        “Who are you?” Paulie asked the rabbit.
        The younger man shrugged.  “My name’s Wyatt Stevenson.”
        “And why are you late?”
        “I was cleaning up one of the labs.  I work as a teacher’s assistant for some of the junior classes.”  He sounded a trifle defensive.
        “And you were at the party Tuesday night.”
        “How come no one saw you then?”
        Norquist interrupted.  “That’s just him.  We call him Quiet Wyatt.”
        The rabbit’s ears dipped.  “Shut up, Albert.”
        Paulie noted the hound starting to bristle and he jerked a thumb at him.  “You can go, Mr. Norquist.  We have your address in case we need to ask you any more questions.  Mr. Stevenson, we’ll make this as brief as we can.”
        “All right.”  The rabbit moved to a seat, flagging slightly as Norquist walked by him.
        Paulie noticed the display.  “You don’t like each other?” he asked after the door had closed.
        “We both pledged the same fraternity.  He made it, I didn’t.  And he never fails to remind me.”
        “What fraternity was that?”
        “Phi Upsilon Kappa.”  Detective Banner sat down with him, and the questioning started.
        Paulie looked over the notes compiled by the other detectives as the rabbit was interviewed, then Banner flipped his notebook closed.  “You can go, Mr. Stevenson.  We’ll be in touch if we need anything else.”
        “Good.  I hope you catch whoever did that,” and the rabbit walked out.


NHSP Crime Laboratory

        The State Police’s crime lab was part of the Collegiate School’s police academy, a small warren of offices on the second floor of a building that had started life as a dormitory.  The wooden floors had a bit of spring to them, and the stairs creaked.
        It had taken a major effort by Stagg to set up the laboratory, and he’d had to make do with whatever accommodations, and whatever equipment, could be arranged.
        Paulie opened the door and walked in.  “Doctor?”
        “Hm?  Oh!  Lieutenant Pentaleoni, come in, come in!” Professor Braganza looked up from the knife he’d been examining and waved the red deer over.  “I’m glad you’re here.  I found out a few things.”
        “Yes,” the goat said.  “The knife’s been wiped almost clean, but I’ve lifted a small partial print from the handle, here,” and he pointed at the spot.  “The other prints that you see were Officer Redgrave’s, so we can eliminate them.  Another partial print was taken off the mirror.”
        “Do they match?”
        “Different parts of the finger, if in fact they came from the same fur,” Braganza said.  
        “Were you able to figure out if the knife was the murder weapon?”
        “Well, the blade’s joined rather oddly to the handle, as if it had been removed at some point and reattached.  The missing tip – I’d suppose it had broken off, and been repaired.”
        “Yes.”  He swung a magnifying glass into place and held the knife under it.  “Look here – the broken area’s been smoothed down, rather than simply reforging the blade after it was broken.  We recovered some dried blood from the joint between the blade and the handle, and we’ve sent that to the morgue.”
        “And the bottles?”
        “Samples of the contents sent on to the morgue, and we lifted a lot of prints from the bottles.”  The goat propped his chin on his left fist.  “We’ve asked the Registrar’s Office at Collegiate for copies of student records so we can match up the prints.  Any others we can probably connect to the landlord and the landlady.”
        “Great work, Professor.”  Paulie thanked him and left.