The Otterholt House Massacre
2009 by Walter D. Reimer
All had been young, between twenty-five and twenty-eight.
They would remain so, because the dead grow no older.
Doctor Rivers had cleaned them up, arranging their headfur to conceal the bruises and keeping the sheets drawn up to obscure the scars on their throats. He himself was dressed in a clean white lab smock and appeared quietly professional. As the next of kin came forward, one by one, he would bring a body forward and almost reverently draw back the veils over their faces.
Paulie stood by stolidly, trying not to listen to the mothers crying, seeking comfort from their mates. Four of the couples had been accompanied by priests, friends or family members, while Miss Somerville was identified by the American Ambassador to New Haven, who used her passport photo. He had arrived with the Deputy Chief and the Interior Minister (the Chief of the State Police was out of the country, vacationing with relatives in Martha’s Vineyard).
Chief Stagg stood by his subordinate, quietly reassuring the grieving parents that their children had felt no pain, and that every effort would be made to find the murderer. More than one of the fathers offered to help hang the “son of a bitch” when he was caught.
Stagg had merely nodded, and ushered them aside where Paulie’s squad waited to ask a few gentle questions about any boyfriends the women might have had.
When the viewings were over the Ambassador walked up to Stagg. “Chief,” he said, “I’d like to make arrangements to ship Miss Somerville’s body to her family in Pennsylvania as quickly as I can.”
“Of course, Your Excellency. Dr. Rivers will have the papers drawn up for you.” The Interior Minister walked out with the envoy.
The Deputy Chief paused at the door. “Find this bastard, Stagg.”
“We’re working as hard as we can, Sir.”
“Good.” The fox left the room as Rivers closed the curtain on his side of the viewing room’s window.
“How are you progressing, Paul?” Stagg asked once they were alone.
“I’m supposed to get the lab results later this afternoon.”
The red deer nodded. “Everyone realizes the urgency. We need to catch this guy before he strikes again.” He started to leave, then paused. “One of the people we want to talk to is in Gnu York.”
“Hmm. Give me his name and I’ll see what I can do.”
Chief Stagg parked his small but serviceable police-issued Locomobile in his usual spot behind the Headquarters building and got out, stretching slightly. He had stopped by All Saints Cathedral on his way back from the Polyclinic to light a candle and say a few prayers for the victims.
Fortunately he’d had lunch earlier. Right now he didn’t have any appetite.
He stepped into his office, sat down and picked up his phone. “Hello, operator. This is official State Police business, number 233 . . . yes, good afternoon. I need to place a call to Gnu York City . . . the number is EMpire 6-4114, and the call back number is NEw Haven 4-7233 . . . half an hour? I’ll be waiting.”
Less than half an hour later the phone rang. “Hello? Yes . . . Hello, Allan. Yes, it’s me . . . yes, I’m sorry about the connection . . . I’m sure you’ve heard about the murders here in New Haven City . . . no, there were five victims . . . yes . . . I need your assistance, old friend. One of the people we want to question should be in Gnu York, a medical student named Roger Farmer... yes, Farmer... “
Stagg gave Allan Minkerton III a description of the man and where he might be located before the conversation turned to each other’s families and other small talk.
“Not ready yet?”
“Sorry, Lieutenant. Having a bit of trouble separating out whose blood belonged to whom.”
“So it’s a mixture, then?”
“Yes. I’ll be able to give you specifics when I’m finished.”
“Come back tomorrow afternoon.”
The tinny sound of the radio greeted Paulie as he entered the Otterholt House. The music was the latest in the New Haven Broadcasting Company’s new afternoon service, and the orchestra was playing the Charleston.
He had heard it as he parked his Strnad at the curb.
As he closed the door behind him he heard Mr. Otterholt calling out from the rear of the house, “Sylvia! Stop that sinful dancing! You know it’s naughty!”
“It’s the modern style, Lucas,” came the querulous reply.
“I don’t care if it’s the modern style,” the badger said, “it’s still – oh, hello, Lieutenant,” he said as he came out into the front parlor. The music died down but didn’t stop. “I thought I heard someone come in. What can we do for you?”
“I just wanted to look around a bit, Mr. Otterholt. I take it the rooms are still closed?”
“Oh my yes, and they’ll stay that way until you say so. We had to throw out a lot of things, and Heavens know when we’ll be able to afford new ones.”
Paulie nodded. The hallway carpet and a good deal of the furnishings were soiled with blood, and after photographs had been taken things like mattresses had been discarded. “Tell me about the rooms, Mr. Otterholt. Do you charge the women for electricity?”
The badger nodded. “All of the rooms have separate meters.”
“May I go downstairs to check the basement?”
“Oh, of course, of course,” and Otterholt led Paulie to the kitchen at the rear of the house. A door opened onto a series of steps leading downward, and he switched on the light.
Typical cellar, with the fuse box looking rather new. Oil-fired furnace and shelves holding tools and canned goods. He looked around at some of the labels and was about to go back up the steps when he paused, looking down at the concrete floor.
A bare outline of a shoe.
Moving carefully to avoid disturbing it, he went back out to his car and got his camera and a ruler, then took a picture of the footprint. He then looked for and found the footprint that Stover had told him he’d seen on the landing. Part of the print on the stairs was gone, apparently swept away by Mrs. Otterholt.
He refrained from telling her about it as he went back out to his car.
Later he studied the diagrams he’d drawn on the chalkboard. There were gaps in the timeline, but he hoped to get those resolved.
“Now,” he murmured to himself, “if I were a murderer, where would I start?”
“On the second floor.”
He turned to see his superior standing in the doorway. “Sorry, Chief, I was woolgathering.”
“Good time for inspiration to strike,” Stagg remarked. “I was on my way home and I saw you in here.” He looked at the floor diagrams. “Interesting that the deaths are all on the west side. Historically, ‘to go west’ meant to die,” he said quietly.
“So, you think he started on the second floor?”
The whitetail buck nodded. “It would make sense, insofar as any murder makes sense. Working downward enables him to have an escape route, if we assume that he left the crime scene via the front door.”
“Same way he came in, eh?” Paulie nodded. “The lab won’t have the test results until tomorrow, Chief. Sorry.”
“Can’t be helped. Oh, that reminds me – have you seen the afternoon editions yet?”
“No, can’t say as I have.”
“I left a copy on your desk. The Forward’s editors have a decided liking for composographs, it seems.” Stagg walked out of the room.
Paulie studied the chalkboard for a moment longer, then went to his desk. He picked up the paper and frowned.
The picture was obviously a staged recreation of the crime scene on the second floor, showing what the editor thought would be the most sensational depiction possible. Two young women (closely resembling the victims, although where they’d been found was anyone’s guess) dressed in flimsy nightgowns cowered together on a bed while a looming shadow of a knife hovered over them.
He tossed the paper into the wastepaper basket without reading the accompanying article. Red rag.
Friday May 14
Paulie woke up as the telephone started ringing, and blinked at it before recognizing what it was. He reached out of bed with both paws and plucked it off the bedside table, lifting the receiver as Jane rolled over, murmuring indistinctly.
He held the receiver to his ear. “Yeah?”
“Sorry to call you, Paulie. This is Forrest, the night sergeant.”
“No problem, Al. If I didn’t want to be woke up in the middle of the night I’d never have put in for detective. Hopefully, Mrs. Nussbaum slept through it.”
The Doberman at the other end of the line laughed. “Listen, one of my boys brought in a guy for peeping in windows, and I think he may be the guy you were looking for.”
That woke Paulie up completely. “You think so?”
“Squirrel, about five-nine. Lady on the south side caught him looking at her. She came storming out in her nightie and caught up with him in the middle of the street.” He chuckled. “Had the devil’s own time pulling her off him.”
“Happy or mad?”
“She had a skillet in her paw. You figure it out.”
“Where is he now?”
“Down here at Central. We got him in the tank for right now. You coming down?”
Paulie thought a moment before saying, “Nah. Let him stew for a while. I’ll have a chat with him in the morning.”
“Okay, Paulie.” The red deer replaced the receiver and placed the ‘candlestick’ phone back on the table. He snuggled back down beside his wife and went back to sleep.
The cell door opened with a squeal of unoiled hinges and Paulie stepped into the cell. “Get up. I want to talk to you.”
The gray-furred squirrel, a student from Collegiate named Ira Richards, sat up on his cot. One eye was swollen and he looked like he had bruises under his fur. He moved slowly. “What’s with the third degree? I ain’t done nothing.”
“Listen to you. College boy and you say ‘ain’t.’ Sheesh. I haven’t done a third degree on you – yet. But I might change my mind if you don’t start talking. You play cards, Ira?”
“Well, I got four witnesses whose descriptions match you, my boy. And that’s not counting your arrest. That’s four out of six, so I got four aces, which beats anything you got.”
The squirrel sagged on the cot. “Damn bitch – “
“That’s what you get for peeping in on a moose,” and the red deer could hear the patrolmen outside the door laughing. He consulted his notes. “You like looking at big girls, huh Ira?”
“So what if I do?”
“Window-peeping’s against the law here in New Haven City, in case you didn’t know. If you’re that hard up, you could’ve checked out one of the joy houses.”
The rodent’s fluffy tail drooped. “I ain’t allowed in there.”
“Oh? Why not? Underage?”
Richards mumbled something.
“I caught something from some streetwalker down by the docks. Word got around.”
“Uh-huh. Yeah, I’ll give it to our girls – if you get the pox, they’ll tell each other fast. Strong union. You getting it looked after?”
“Okay, Ira, here’s what’s what: We’re gonna slap you with four counts of prowling. Each one’s good for a month in stir. Have fun.” At his signal the door opened and he walked out.
After ordering the squirrel booked in, Paulie went to his desk and started filing his report. A lot of people would sleep better knowing that the Peeping Tom had been caught, and he could at least concentrate fully on the murder case.
He got up from the typewriter and went down to Booking.
Richards was being fingerprinted when Paulie got there. “I need him for a minute, Officer.”
“Sure thing. Bring him back in one piece, okay?”
“Sure.” He grabbed the squirrel by the scruff of the neck and propelled him around the corner. “I got a few more questions for you.”
“What? I didn’t do anything but look!”
“Ever do any looking at the Otterholt House?”
Richards thought for a moment, then his eyes bulged. “Oh, no, no way! I didn’t kill those girls, I swear!”
“I didn’t say you did. Tree rat like you has gotta like climbing up to look in, huh? So – see anything while you were out Tuesday night?” He punctuated the question with a none-too-gentle shaking of the prisoner.
“Leggo me! I gotta think!” The rodent blinked as he thought and finally said, “This a big place, ‘bout three floors?”
I seen . . . I saw . . . lights in the windows, so I went round back. Too many people can see from the street.”
“So you went round back.”
“Yeah. Big tree in the back yard, so I went up it. Saw this spaniel dame.”
I almost went back down – she’s too thin, y’know? – when I see she starts coughing. Then she claps a paw over her mouth and ducks outta the room.”
And when was this?”
“’Bout midnight. Heard the bells over at All Saints.”
Richards squinted up at him. “What do I get for helping you?”
“If you played right by me, I put in a good word for ya with the prosecutor. If not, I put this into your teeth,” and the red deer raised a clenched fist.
“It’s all true, I swear!”
Paulie left the squirrel with the officer and went back to his desk.
“So, the blood on the towel and mirror was a mixture?”
“Yes, of all the dead girls,” Braganza told Paulie later. They were going over the results from the Polyclinic’s laboratory. “A similar mixture was isolated from the knife.”
Paulie looked up with a grin on his face. “So it was the murder weapon. Okay, what else do we have?”
“Analysis of the blows to their heads.” He passed the buck a paper. “Small diameter, which would tend to concentrate the impacts, and the areas where the bone is broken, not shattered, show that it was a hammer with a very distinct edge to the head.”
“Not a regular hammer? Y’know, a hardware store job?”
“Nope. A clawhammer has a rounded edge to the head. Look at this X-ray of the King girl – the displaced bone looks as if it was hit by a cookie cutter.”
“We also have the results of the blood tests, and you’re not going to like this.”
Paulie dipped his antlers. “Doc, I already don’t like this. I haven’t liked this since it dropped in my lap on Wednesday.”
The goat laughed. “Okay, okay. The girls were doped.”
That made the detective blink. “Doped?”
“Yes. One of the bottles contained chloral hydrate, a sedative. The same chemical was present in the blood of all the victims.”
“We had a report that the one girl, Sally Jones, had been vomiting.”
Braganza nodded. “Sure. One of the effects of an overdose of chloral hydrate. Alcohol would only aggravate matters.”
“So whoever killed them – “
“Was probably at the party.”
“What bottle had the stuff?”
“It was in a fifth of Housatonic Blended Whiskey.”
“I see. Pretty cheap stuff. Where can you get chloral hydrate?”
“You can’t get it from a pharmacy.”
The goat nodded. “Possibly. Or at the Polyclinic.”
Monday May 17
“Drugged.” Stagg said the word as if it left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Yes, Sir. Judging by the survivors, several of them had had drinks from the bottle, and from our interviews with the young men it’s possible that the one who went to Gnu York, Farmer, may also have been affected,” Paulie said.
“Hmm, yes. I expect something on Mr. Farmer soon, and when it comes I’ll make sure you get it.”
“Thank you, Sir. My squad is already re-interviewing the medical students, and will be doing the same with the nurses in order to find out who bought the liquor and to tighten up the timeline.”
“Good.” Stagg looked at his subordinate. “Anything else?”
Paulie’s ears dipped. “I need to talk to someone who has an insight into life at Collegiate – any rumors, gossip, something that can provide us with some additional leads. I’d like to interview your daughter. I mean, your oldest one. She’s a student there, isn’t she?”
“Grace? Grace is pre-law; she may not have had any contact with them.” Almost as an afterthought he added, half to himself, “I would hope not, anyway.”
“I know, Sir, but if she can’t give me any direct information, perhaps she can point me to someone who can.”
Stagg considered it and nodded. “Come up to the house tonight for dinner, if your wife will let you. I won’t tell Grace the reason for your being there.”
“Thank you, Sir. I’ll phone up Jane and talk it over with her.”
After lunch Paulie found an envelope on his desk, addressed to him from Chief Stagg. He slit it open and read the contents.
Minkerton agents had made contact with Roger Farmer at his parent’s home in Gnu York. The weasel had admitted to being at the party, and had had several drinks of whiskey. He had not bought the bottle of Housatonic, and didn’t know who had. He had been violently ill on the train, a fact corroborated by the conductor on duty that night. Farmer had been among the first to leave at ten o’clock, and had taken a trolley straight to Republic Station.
Apart from accounting for his whereabouts, Farmer’s statement didn’t do much for the investigation. He did confirm everyone who was present at the party.
He filed the statement with the others and picked up a set of newspaper clippings, also forwarded to him from the whitetail buck. News of the murders had hit the United States, with the Times and the Globe asking pointedly if New Haven was considered a safe place to travel. The Foreign Ministry was doing its best to allay their fears, a statement supported by the American Ambassador.
As he read the clippings, Detective Proctor walked in. “Hey Boss,” the rat said, “I got something for ya.”
“Yeah. One of them nursing students told me something about one of the dead girls.”
“Ramsey, one of the otters. Says that she was seeing some older guy on the side, some kind of sugar daddy action, I guess. Says her boyfriend was steamed about it.”
“Who’s the boyfriend?”
Proctor consulted his notes. “Norquist.”
“Maybe we should have a chat with him.”
The rat smiled. “Way ahead of ya on that, Boss. Soon’s I heard that, I called over to Collegiate and they tell me that he’s gone home for the summer. Lives down the coast with his folks in Milford.”
Pentaleoni smiled. “I think you need to take a little train ride, Danny.”
“An’ if he won’t talk?”
“Let me know and we’ll see about getting him locked up as a material witness.”
Proctor grinned and walked out, whistling By the Beautiful Sea.
14 Old Mill
The dinner dishes had been cleared away, and the cook had prepared a very fine lemon-cream gelato for dessert. It was certainly tasty, and the Staggs did their best to put Paulie at his ease.
The two younger fawns were excused, with instructions to stay out of the dining room until further notice. The red deer finished his gelato and put his spoon down. “Miss Stagg – “
“Grace,” the younger doe said with a smile. She laid aside her napkin.
“Grace. I want to ask you a few
questions, if it’s all right.”
“Well . . . “ she glanced at her father, who nodded, and her mother, who looked disapproving but nodded. “Go ahead.”
“This is about the murders last week. Did you know any of the girls?”
“Only indirectly, through friends and friends of friends,” Grace replied. “They moved in sort of a fast crowd.”
Paulie nodded, writing down the questions and responses as he asked her about the medical students who had been at the party. At the name Albert Norquist, she gave an unladylike snort. “There’s a piece of work for you.”
“Hear anything about him?”
“Enough to know not to let him come within a mile of me.” She leaned closer and said, “I heard a few things about him.”
“Oh?” Paulie glanced to his left and saw Chief Stagg listening intently.
“I heard – I heard that he performed an abortion.”
“Grace!” Diana Stagg exclaimed, looking shocked. Abortion was a major felony in New Haven. Mrs. Stagg’s reaction was an indication of how the act was viewed overall.
“It’s only what I heard, Mother,” Grace said. “One of the girls came to him, so I heard, and he did it for her.”
Paulie looked down at his paws, then up at the doe. “Would the girl have been Charlotte Ramsey?”
“Interesting crowd at Collegiate.”
“I’m afraid so.”
Tuesday May 18
Paulie and Detective Michaels stood in the station’s terminal awaiting the morning train. Michaels was fidgeting and he said, “Boss?”
“Think we’ll catch this guy?”
The loudspeaker cut in. “Announcing arrival of the Seagull Express on Track Three.”
The buck consulted his watch. “Couple of minutes late. Oh well. Let’s go meet our train.” He and the terrier headed for the platforms.
Detective Proctor stepped off the train, one paw gripping the younger hound by the elbow. The canine looked extremely unhappy at both the rat and the pawcuffs on his wrists. He caught sight of Pentaleoni and said, “What the hell’s this, dragging me all the way up here?”
“We’ll tell you in private,” the red deer said. “Now shut up.”
“Or what? You’ll hit me?”
“Nah, we ain’t gonna hit ya,” Proctor chuckled, “but ya might fall down the stairs a few times. Mess up your good looks.”
Norquist looked sourly at Proctor and was led through the station to the waiting NHSP sedan.
Once in an interview room Paulie said, “I need to ask you some questions.”
“What am I charged with?”
“Actually, you’re only here as a material witness. That means you may know something, but we’ll hold you here until you spill your guts. And I might get enough evidence to charge you with conspiracy.”
The buck nodded. “That’s just the hoof in the door. Now, talk – tell me about Charlotte Ramsey.”
“She was a friend. We went out to a few movies together, had some laughs.”
“I heard that you were mad at her.”
“Yeah, I was.”
Norquist bristled. “She started seeing someone, older guy. He had more money so she preferred him.”
“And that made you angry.”
“Damn right – but I DIDN’T kill her.”
“I’m not saying you did. Did you see her stepping out with this older guy?”
He looked away. “Yeah.”
“That before or after you did the abortion?”
The hound’s head snapped back to face the buck, his eyes wide and his nosepad gone pale. “Who - ? How did - ?”
“Word gets around.” Paulie leaned forward, resting his paws on the table. “Now, listen and listen good, pup – performing an abortion can get you twenty years in prison, and you’ll do every second of it if I have anything to say about it. But, if you cooperate, I’ll just chalk it up to rumors and you can go on playing doctor.”
“Wh-what do you want to know?” The self-assured façade was gone. Norquist looked scared now.
“First, was it yours?”
The hound gulped and shook his head.
“Second, I want to know who Miss Ramsey was seeing.”
“Otter guy, maybe twice her age. She told me later his name was Bob Hart.”
Paulie raised an eyebrow. “And that’s all you know.”
“I swear on my mother it’s all I know! You gotta believe me!”
“Just a couple more questions. You drink Housatonic whiskey?”
“Hell no! That stuff’ll kill ya. I told the other guy that I brought two bottles of Imperial Gin that night.”
“You know who brought the whiskey?”
Paulie stood up. “Okay. But if you left anything out this time, Albert, you’re looking at a very long time in a very nasty place – and you can kiss your medical career good-bye.” He walked out, closing the door behind him as the hound gaped at him.
“What do you want us to do with him? Book him?” Proctor asked.
“No evidence,” Paulie said. “Let him stew for a while, then put him on the next train for Milford. Let him know we’ll be watching if he tries to leave the country.”
“Okay. So what now?”
“Now we find out who this guy