2009 by Walter D. Reimer
courtesy of Eric
The Morning Star’s early edition was on
his desk as he walked in. The headline thundered “DEAD GIRLS
The Socialist Forward was a bit less
lurid today (no composographs), but minced no words in blaming the
murders on the exploiting classes. One Anarchist on the leftist
paper’s editorial staff even went so far as to hint that the murderer
might be considered a Hero of the People.
Paulie spat on the paper and
tossed it into the trash before going in for the morning staff meeting.
He and the others grew attentive
as Chief Stagg sat down. “I’m sure we’ve all seen the papers,” he
said in his usual dry manner. “Lt. Pentaleoni, any progress?”
“Yes, Sir. We started out
with ten possible suspects, and that list is now down to six.
We’re concentrating on them now to see if they have alibis.”
“Good. Lt. O’Dell?”
The gray-striped feline
smiled. “My report will be on your desk as soon as we’re done
here, Chief. We have definite suspects, and will be starting the
warrant process as soon as you give the green light.”
That netted a smile from the
whitetail buck. “Excellent work, Lieutenant, and your team
Paulie stood near the chalkboard, his team assembled around him.
“Okay, we’ve whittled it down to six. What do we have on them?”
Banner piped up. “Two of
them went straight back to their dorms, and I’ll be talking to their
roommates to pin down when they showed back up.”
“Who were they?” Paulie
crossed off their names. “Okay, that leaves four, including our
friend Albert Norquist.” The others chuckled. “What about
“Proctor, Banner an’ me are going
over there today to talk to any friends, an’ we’ll see if their alibis
hold up,” DiAngelo replied. “Michaels will be haunting the lab
waiting for the test.” He coughed and asked, “You seen the Reds’
paper today, Paulie?”
“Yeah, I saw it.”
“Think maybe – just maybe – we’re
barking up the wrong tree on this?” the raccoon asked, cocking an eye
at Michaels. The terrier merely smirked.
“If none of these guys is our
boy,” Paulie said carefully, “we’ll have to widen the field.
Check the blotter and see if there’s any ‘Heroes of the People’ who
specialize in second-story work or worse.”
Pentaleoni had lunch while seated at his desk, using the time to good
use by going over the files again and also reading the list DiAngelo
had compiled for him. Yes, there were a few leftists who might be
of interest. Alvin Harrier, for example – the canine was a member
of a fringe party that had taken to calling itself the Red Fist, and
supposed to be quite good with a knife. Inside information held
that the Socialists in the General Assembly wanted nothing to do with
the Red Fist’s extremist views.
He made a note of that.
That information might come in handy if he had to widen the
He was drinking the last of his
birch beer when the phone rang. “Criminal Investigations,
Pentaleoni speaking . . . Yeah, Michaels, it’s me . . . you got the
test results? Great. Yeah? Okay, so what did . . .
oh, really? Ask Doc Braganza to please check out the bloodstains
on the mirror one last time for me . . . yeah, that’s right. Bye.”
Later in the afternoon the squad
gathered again in the conference room. “Okay, what have we got?”
Paulie asked DiAngelo.
“We can cross one of the four off
our list – the horsie, Walt Huxley,” the raccoon said. “Seems
he’s an ether-sniffer, an’ was dead to the world after getting back to
The red deer frowned. “Any
“Yeah, his roommate and two
others. Says he got all frisky after getting a snoutful and they
had to put him to bed. Slept all night.”
“So we’re down to three.
“We can write off Norquist,”
Banner chuckled. “Don’t
sound disappointed, Boss,” and the others laughed. “He says he
bought a hooker down on Dock Street an’ was with her at the time.”
“He know the name of the girl?”
“Yeah. We know her, too –
Mary Althouse.” He grinned as the others all winced.
Mary Althouse had been born
Paulie waved for quiet.
“Takes all kinds to make a world.”
“A few we can do without,”
Proctor grumbled. He added, “That leaves us with two, a mink
named Chuck Greengrass and Wyatt Stevenson.”
“That’s the rabbit, right?”
“Yep. Greengrass got on the
train for his hometown up in Beacon Falls, an’ has the ticket stub to
While each man was eliminated,
Paulie had been marking through the names on the chalkboard.
“That leaves Stevenson. What’s his story?”
“Says he went back to his room.”
“Uh huh. Anyone see him?”
“No. He has a room to
himself ever since his roommate left Collegiate to go somewhere
else. The other guys in his dorm say he keeps to himself a bit –
parties like they do, but a bit of a wallflower.”
“Family lives up in North Haven;
dad, mom, brothers and sisters. According to statements, he dated
all five of the dead girls – but so did Norquist and a couple others,
The buck nodded. “Fast
A patrolman stuck his head into
the room. “Hey, Michaels! Phone call for ya!” The
terrier walked out.
While the others waited, Paulie
said, “Okay. We have one guy without a good alibi, wallflower but
dated all five of the victims. Do we have anything on him from
any of the other girls? Gossip? You know women love to talk
Everyone chuckled and DiAngelo
consulted his notebook. “One of them said that Stevenson . . .
let me see here . . . ‘was always real quiet, except in the sack’ . . .
and she went on to say that he usually ended up arguing with the girl.”
“What about, I wonder,” Paulie
said. He looked up as Michaels came back into the room.
“What was the call?”
“Doc Braganza at the lab,
Boss. He found a really small spot of blood on the knife tang
that didn’t match the dead girls.”
Michaels glanced at a note.
No one spoke for a moment.
“Did he get anything else off the mirror?” Paulie asked.
“He’s still working on it.”
The red deer nodded slowly.
“Okay. I’m saying here and now that the Stevenson kid’s our
suspect. I’m going to tell Chief Stagg. Frank, bring him in
Chief Stagg’s office was a mirror
of its occupant, painfully neat with a few understated personal touches
– a family photograph on the desk and several framed diplomas on the
walls. He didn’t feel the need to be ostentatious.
“Ah, Lieutenant. What can I
do for you?” he asked as Paulie entered the office. “Sit down,
“Thank you, Sir. I came
here to let you know that we have a definite suspect now.”
Stagg visibly brightened.
“Great work, Paul. Who is it?”
“Wyatt Stevenson. Crime lab
just picked up a spot of rabbit blood on the knife tang, and he’s the
only lepine in the group.”
“I see. You’re bringing him
in for questioning?”
“Sergeant DiAngelo is on his way
Stagg fixed him with a steady
gaze. “I want no mistakes on this, Paul. In fact, I want
you to take the lead in questioning him.”
Paulie nodded. Since Stagg
took over the Bureau, the practice of occasionally ‘persuading’ a
suspect to confess had fallen distinctly out of favor. The new
breed of detectives understood what their superior wanted, and
generally tried to comply.
“Do the best you can, of
course. I have confidence in you.”
hello, Mrs. Nussbaum . . . no, everything’s fine . . . I was trying to
reach my house, yes . . . would you, please? That’s very kind of
you . . .”
“Hello, honeyfur . . . yes, it
was nice of her, yes . . . Look, Jane, don’t hold supper for me . . . I
might be late tonight . . . no, no trouble, just working late . . .
That’s very sweet of you, Mrs. Nussbaum . . . Jane – Jane? I’ll
talk to you later. Kiss the kids for me.”
Paulie hung up the phone and
breathed a low whistling snort.
He hated party lines.
“Hi, Paulie,” Frank
Paulie frowned and looked at his
watch. “What happened? He tried to run?”
“Nah, nothing like that.
Little bucktoothed guy was at the station.”
“Headed back to his folks’ place
in North Haven for the summer. Acted surprised when we caught up
with him. We’ve got him waiting for ya.”
“Great. He give you any
“Not a bit.”
The red deer nodded.
“Good. Do me a favor, willya?”
“Here’s a five. Can you go
on over to Shipman’s and get a couple of sandwiches and drinks?”
“You thinking on feeding him?”
“Got to eventually, I guess.”
“Okay, gimme. What’s the
world comin’ to if ya can’t sweat a confession outta a guy, I ask you.”
Paulie stood at the
one-way mirror and watched the rabbit carefully for almost fifteen
minutes before entering the interrogation room. Stevenson had
walked around the bare little room, unfurnished save for a table and
two chairs and had finally sat down, fidgeting slightly. He was
dressed in slacks, a white shirt and a light-gray sweater vest.
Curious for a late spring day.
His luggage, a small satchel, had
been seized when he’d been picked up at the train station and carefully
examined. It held no weapons and nothing incriminating, just a
change of clothes, toiletries and an opened pack of gum.
Frank DiAngelo stood beside
Paulie. “How long you think this’ll take?”
“As long as it takes. Keep
an eye out.”
Stevenson looked up as Paulie
entered the room and closed the door behind him. The buck placed
his notebook on the table, then sat. After making a few
preliminary notes he said, “Do you know why you’re here, Wyatt?”
“No. I thought I answered
all of your questions.”
“Well, you did, but we have a few
“You dated all of the dead girls,
“Yes, but so did Albert.”
“Yes, but we’re talking about
you, not Albert. Now, you dated all five of the victims.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Take any of them to bed?”
Stevenson hesitated, and then
said “Yes.” He blushed.
“Did you have sex with them?”
The red deer leaned close, his
rack looming over the rabbit’s head. “I said, did you have sex
with them, Wyatt?”
The rabbit shrank back a
“All of them?”
“Did you argue with any of them
Paulie smiled. “After you
had sex with them, did they argue with you about anything?”
Stevenson muttered something.
“What’s that? I didn’t
“I said you can wait till Hell
freezes solid,” the rabbit said sullenly.
The buck nodded. “It’s
okay, Wyatt. We’re all guys here, and I know how women can get –
especially if you don’t quite, heh, measure up.”
The younger man ground his teeth
and looked away, but said nothing.
Paulie raised an eyebrow at
Stevenson’s reaction. “Let’s let that alone for a minute.
You work at Collegiate while going to classes there?”
“Teacher’s assistant, if I recall
“Do any work in the pathology
“Some. I work wherever they
want me to.”
“Ever have to use a boning knife?”
“Sometimes. Everyone has to
use knives if we want to become doctors.”
“What are you studying to be,
“Good. I’ve got five fawns
myself – finding a good doctor for them can be a real chore, believe
“I’m sure they’re beautiful
“Medical school’s pretty
comprehensive, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. They ride us pretty
“I can imagine. You know
what chloral hydrate is?”
“Yeah, it’s a sedative.”
“It was in a bottle of whiskey at
“Why is it, I wonder, that no one
saw you at the party?”
“What size shoes do you wear,
“What size shoes do you wear?”
“Size eleven. Rabbits
usually have big feet.”
“I see. Big feet, big –
well, you know.”
The lepine shifted in his
seat. A bit uncomfortably, Paulie guessed.
“Do you need to go to the
“Okay. Wait here a
moment.” The buck stood and stepped out of the room.
Frank said, “What are you aiming
at in there, Paulie?”
“I’m just feeling him out,
Frank.” He winked. “Like a boxer. Tell you what – go
with him to the bathroom and stay in there with him.”
“Watch him take a leak?”
“Yeah. Take one too, if you
can.” He leaned close and whispered in the raccoon’s ear.
Frank looked at him oddly.
“Okay, if you say so.” He went into the room and escorted the
rabbit out to the bathroom.
The raccoon escorted
the rabbit back into the interview room and as he passed Paulie he held
up the little finger of his right paw. Paulie suppressed a smile
as he went back into the room.
As he closed the door, the phone
“Feeling better, Wyatt?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“You know why you’re here?”
“You said you wanted to ask me a
few more questions, but I think you think I killed them.”
“I think you did.”
“Yeah. Care to hear how you
“Okay, here goes. You
drugged the whiskey, and hid until the party ended and Mrs. Otterholt
shut the lights off. After all, you’ve been there a lot, dating
those girls. You probably know your way around the place well
enough to move around in the dark.”
“A lot of the guys did.”
“But they didn’t kill five girls,
Wyatt. So you went upstairs, and since you wanted to be able to
get out in a hurry you started on the second floor. Since
Somerville and Jones were the last ones to go to bed you killed them
first. You hit Somerville with a surgical mallet, and then cut
Jones’ throat to shut her up while you finished your dirty work.
“How did it feel, Wyatt?
Did it make you feel good to finally shut those girls up?”
“I didn’t kill them.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“After killing Somerville and
Jones – Elaine and Sandy – you went downstairs. You killed
Charlotte and Lacey.”
“Then you were in a hurry.
You had to get finished and get out.”
“You hit Sally, but didn’t hit
her hard enough.”
“You cut her throat and let her
bleed her life out on the carpet – “
“I SAID NO, DAMMIT!” Stevenson
shouted, rising from his chair and slamming both fists on the
table. “I did NOT kill them.”
Paulie forced himself to stay
calm at the rabbit’s outburst. “Oh come on, Wyatt,” he said
affably, “you can tell me. Why did you do it? Got tired of
them making fun of you because you’re small? Got tired of arguing
with them when you couldn’t satisfy them?”
Stevenson sat brooding, glaring
at Paulie from under his brows. His ears were laid back and his
fists were clenched.
A silence grew.
Frank rapped on the one-way
mirror, and Paulie got up and stepped out, leaving the rabbit alone
“He almost came at ya, Paulie.”
“Heh. Day I can’t fight off
a guy like that is the day I turn in my badge, Frank.”
“So you say. Look, got a
phone message from the lab while you were in there.”
“Yup. Here,” and he passed
Paulie a slip of paper. The red deer read it and smiled.
“Tell you what – give him his
supper now, it’s just past nine o’clock – and after he’s done eating
I’ll have at him again.”
“Where will you be?” Frank asked.
“Eating my own supper,” Paulie
said, and he headed down the hallway that led back to the office.
“Enjoy your supper?”
Paulie asked as he settled back into his chair.
Stevenson looked at him
warily. “Wasn’t bad.”
“Sorry we couldn’t do better, but
you know how it is. What do you know about blood typing, Wyatt?”
“We covered it in class – “
“It’s a method of determining
what species a fur is by their blood, isn’t that so?”
“Would it interest you to know
that the murder weapon had blood on it?”
“I imagine it had a lot of blood
Paulie chuckled. “You’re
right, it did. Well, guess what we found on the knife? We
found rabbit blood, Wyatt.”
“Yeah. And I’m told that a
few drops of rabbit blood were found on the bathroom mirror and the
towel that was found.” The red deer’s expression was carefully
neutral. “You have any cuts on your paws, Wyatt?”
“I’ll bet we could find one, if
we really looked hard – oh, and by the way, thank you.”
“For giving us your fingerprints.”
“What did you have for supper?”
“A bottle – “
“Yep. Now, I’ll make a bet
with you, Wyatt – I’ll bet you my pay for the month that your
fingerprints match what we’ve found. You game?”
“No bet? Suit
yourself. Just another question, Wyatt.”
The sullen look came back.
“What does ‘Deus lo vult’ mean?”
“It means ‘God wills it.’”
Paulie nodded. “I knew
that. I just wondered why you wrote it on the bathroom mirror in
the dead girls’ blood.”
Paulie nodded and closed his
notebook, then stood up. He made a come-here gesture with his
right paw and Frank stepped into the room. “Sergeant DiAngelo?”
“You’re here as a witness.
Wyatt Stevenson, you’re under arrest. Capital murder, five
counts. Sergeant, take him over to Booking.” He drew close
and whispered in DiAngelo’s ear.
“Right. Okay, you, on your
feet.” The raccoon took Stevenson’s arm and escorted him from the
“I need to call my folks,” the
buck heard Stevenson say.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get your
phone call,” Frank said.
The Morning Star’s headline screamed
the single word CAUGHT!
featured a full-page editorial on the front by ‘A Special
Correspondent’ that excoriated New Haven society in particular and
capitalism in general for creating the environment for such a crime to
The oldest paper in New Haven,
the Evening Mail, hadn’t
announced the arrest yet, but it was confidently predicted that the
news would be safely and discreetly buried on Page Ten.
Paul Pentaleoni slept in that
Saturday morning. He had been at his desk until just after
midnight writing the affidavit charging the young rabbit with all five
murders. Everything had to be as letter-perfect and legally sound
as possible. He would go in later in the day to make sure that
all of the evidence was correctly packaged for the trial.
He sipped at his coffee and read
the papers as Jane made breakfast, a thick stack of buckwheat pancakes
with syrup and butter. This was the second stack of pancakes, the
first having already disappeared thanks to the efforts of his five
fawns. The second stack was for him and Jane (and anyone who
Afterward he helped his wife with
the washing up before going out to the back yard. The vegetable
garden needed to be cleared of weeds, and the task fell to the three
middle fawns. The eldest, Jack, was working at his new job at
Grayson’s Market and the youngest, Eliza, was only three. Still,
the work required careful supervision to keep plants such as the young
tomato and cucumber vines from ending up on the compost heap with the
The screen door at the rear of
the house opened. “Paolo?” Jane said. “You have a visitor,”
and she stepped out of the doorway as Chief Stagg stepped out onto the
Paulie had been on his knees in
the dirt, helping his fawns; now he got to his hooves, paws brushing at
his trousers. “Good morning, Chief.”
“Good morning, Lieutenant.
I wanted to offer my congratulations on the arrest of young Mr.
“Couldn’t have done it without
“True. You realize that the
hard part is just starting.”
“Yes, Sir. The trial.
I plan on having Proctor and Michaels visit Collegiate on Monday and
tear Stevenson’s dorm room apart, as well as doing additional work on
the evidence. Banner and DiAngelo will go up to North Haven to
talk to his family and see if they can give us any insight.”
“Hmm. Good course of
action. You may find the family uncooperative.”
“We’ll do the best we can,
Sir. I think that the family will be as cooperative as possible.”
“Why?” The look on Stagg’s face
told Paulie that the whitetail buck was testing him.
“Simple, Chief. They’ll
want their baby boy out of jail – or away from the hangman’s noose – so
they’ll want to impress us with how innocent he is.”
Stagg nodded. “Good.
Again, I just wanted to congratulate you and the others on an excellent
job.” He looked around at the garden. “Very nice garden you
“Thanks. We do all right,
and even have some extra to sell to the neighbors.”
He walked Stagg out to his car
after the buck had paid his respects to Jane, and before Stagg got into
the car he said, “We haven’t had a murder trial in a while here in New
Haven. I hope things won’t get too hard on you.”
Paulie shrugged. “Part of
the job, Chief.”