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Posted 4 April 2011
The Otterholt House Massacre
An investigation by Inspector Stagg
& the State Police Criminal Investigation Bureau
of New Haven - 1926
Chapter 5
By Walter D. Reimer

The Otterholt House Massacre

© 2009 by Walter D. Reimer

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

Chapter 5

Friday May 21

        The Morning Star’s early edition was on his desk as he walked in.  The headline thundered “DEAD GIRLS REMAIN UNAVENGED!”
        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 deserves congratulations.”


        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 them?”
        “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.”



        Once again, 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 investigation.
        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 his room.”
        The red deer frowned.  “Any witnesses?”
        “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.  Next?”
        “We can write off Norquist,” Banner said.
        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 Morris Althouse.
        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 prove it.”
        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, including Huxley.”
        The buck nodded.  “Fast crowd.”
        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 about men.”
        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.”
        “What type?”
        Michaels glanced at a note.  “Rabbit.”
        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 for questioning.”



        “Come 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, please.”
        “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 now.”
        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.”
        “Thanks, Sir.”



        “Hello?  Oh, 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.
        Party lines.
        He hated party lines.



        “Hi, Paulie,” Frank DiAngelo said.
        Paulie frowned and looked at his watch.  “What happened?  He tried to run?”
        “Nah, nothing like that.  Little bucktoothed guy was at the station.”
        “Skipping town?”
        “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 trouble?”
        “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 more.”
        “You dated all of the dead girls, didn’t you?”
        “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 bit.  “Yes.”
        “All of them?”
        “Did you argue with any of them afterward?”
        Paulie smiled.  “After you had sex with them, did they argue with you about anything?”
        “I’m waiting.”
        Stevenson muttered something.
        “What’s that?  I didn’t catch that.”
        “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 correctly.”
        “That’s right.”
        “Do any work in the pathology lab?”
        “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, Wyatt?”
        “A pediatrician.”
        “Kids, huh?”
        “Good.  I’ve got five fawns myself – finding a good doctor for them can be a real chore, believe you me.”
        “I’m sure they’re beautiful children.”
        “Medical school’s pretty comprehensive, isn’t it?”
        “Yeah.  They ride us pretty hard.”
        “I can imagine.  You know what chloral hydrate is?”
        “Yeah, it’s a sedative.”
        “It was in a bottle of whiskey at the house.”
        “Was it?”
        “Why is it, I wonder, that no one saw you at the party?”
        Stevenson shrugged.
        “What size shoes do you wear, Wyatt?”
        “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 bathroom, Wyatt?”
        “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 rang.
        “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.”
        “Did you?”
        “I think you did.”
        “Yeah.  Care to hear how you did it?”
        “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 again.  “Yeah?”
        “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.”
        “Oh yeah?”
        “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 on it.”
        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.”
        “What for?”
        “For giving us your fingerprints.”
        “What did you have for supper?”
        “A sandwich.”
        “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.  “Yes?”
        “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?”
        “Yeah, Lieutenant?”
        “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 room.
        “I need to call my folks,” the buck heard Stevenson say.
        “Don’t worry, you’ll get your phone call,” Frank said.


Saturday May 22

        The Morning Star’s headline screamed the single word CAUGHT!
        Forward 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 be committed.
        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 wanted seconds).
        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 weeds.
        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 back porch.
        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. Stevenson.”
        “Couldn’t have done it without help, Sir.”
        “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 have.”
        “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.”