Otterholt House Massacre
2009 by Walter D. Reimer
Stagg Family courtesy of Eric
Paulie stepped out of the courtroom to find Chief
Stagg, dressed in his gray State Police uniform, standing out in the
corridor. The whitetail buck looked ill-at-ease as he caught
sight of the red deer, and Paulie recalled that the Chief didn’t like
wearing his uniform. “Chief?”
“Hello, Lieutenant,” Stagg said. “They have recessed for lunch, I take it?”
“Yes, Sir. What are you – “
“Doing here? Ah, I was
subpoenaed as a witness in Mayor Stevenson’s suit. So far, things
are going well.”
“Perhaps I should have worn my
uniform,” he muttered. “I’m not looking forward to giving
testimony this afternoon.”
“You’ll do well,” Stagg reassured him.
“I hope so, Sir. It would have helped if he had confessed.”
“True. We will simply have to hope that our evidence sways the jury.”
“Yes, Sir. I’m going to get some lunch. Care to join me?”
“Impossible,” said a booming
voice behind them. “Chief Stagg will accompany ME to lunch, or I
shall be gravely insulted!” The two bucks turned to see a raffish
bulldog, dressed impeccably and sporting a waxed mustache and an
eyepatch over his right eye. “Of course, I shall be even more
insulted if my friend of yore should have forgotten me.”
Stagg gave a wry smile. "As
if anyone could forget you, Whitney." The two shook paws and
Stagg said to Paulie, "May I introduce Captain Whitney St. James, late
of London. What are you doing here?"
Whitney paused to sniff at the
poppy in his lapel. "I resigned my commission, dear boy.
That frightful ass Baldwin will be the ruination of us all, if we're
“Which brings me to my original question, old friend – ?”
"Why, covering the trial, of
course." Whitney flourished a small press card. "I have the
honor of being a Special Correspondent. Which, of course," he
said in aside to Paulie, “means that I am abusing expense accounts in
the name of journalism."
“You’re still doing stories for The Spectator?” Stagg asked. “I think they would have finally figured out what you were doing.”
St. James laughed. “They
knew back in ’15, Franklin. But since I’m a better writer than
any of the young nincompoops they have on staff, they have no choice
but to retain me. Besides, when the news of this case reached
Blighty, I had to go. A compelling case, with just a hint of dark
and salacious undertones,” he added with a wink.
“Same old Whitney. May I present one of my lieutenants, Paul Pentaleoni.”
“Charmed, sir! Charmed,”
the bulldog said, vigorously shaking paws with the red deer.
“You’ve acquitted yourself quite admirably on the stand against the
defending counsel. Tell me, is he always that abrasive?”
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Paulie assured him.
Stagg agreed. “Mr.
Galbraith’s one of those furs who feel that the New Haven government’s
level of competence and integrity leave much to be desired.” St.
James chuckled as the whitetail buck added, “I believe he and the
attorney for Mayor Stevenson are working together.”
“Ah! Determined to expose
the venality and corruption at the heart of the Republic, eh?”
The bulldog snorted. “Seen it all before, old chap, seen it all
before. Even played a part in doing it, too – and thereby hangs a
tale!” He favored Paulie with a wink before laughing loudly.
“But come,” he said to Stagg,
“let us go to lunch. I have a table reserved at Justin’s.
Order what you will, old friend, and leave everything to me – or,
rather, to the good offices of the accountants back home.” He and
Stagg walked off.
Paulie shrugged and headed off to
Shipman’s. He could get a quick meal there to settle his stomachs
before taking the stand again after lunch.
“The Defense wishes to recall Lt. Pentaleoni to the stand.”
The red deer took his seat in the
witness box as Galbraith thought for a moment, a forefinger touched to
his lips. “Lieutenant, I will remind you that you are still under
“Good. You have been with the State Police for twenty years?”
“In all that time, Lieutenant,”
and the bulldog smiled, “have you ever known a suspect to not confess?”
“Yes, Sir, I have.”
“Really. I should think
that, with the reputation of the State Police, more furs would have
confessed than not. Have you ever threatened a witness?”
“I remind you once you’re under oath.”
“Years ago, yes.”
“How many years ago?”
“Seven years ago.”
“Tell us the details, please.”
Paulie took a breath, but stopped
as King rose. “Objection. Counsel is straying from the
point of this case.”
Galbraith took up the thrown
gauntlet with relish. “Your Honor, the absence of any confession
begs the question that, given the past history of the State Police in
threatening witnesses and forcing confessions, why didn’t the good
Lieutenant beat a confession from my client?”
The hawk shot back, “The burden
of proof of physical coercion is upon the Defense, Your Honor. No
such evidence, testamentary or physical, has been proferred." He
glared at Galbraith. "Furthermore, it is hardly unusual that
there is an absence of a confession. That is why many defendants
plead not guilty."
Judge Kilbride frowned.
“Objection is sustained. Counsel for Defense is admonished to
stick to the point.”
“Very well, Your Honor,”
Galbraith grumbled. “Lieutenant, why did you make no effort to
get my client to confess to these crimes?”
“We gave him the opportunity, but
in the end it was the evidence,” Paulie said, feeling somewhat
rattled. “It pointed to him, and to no one else.”
“I see. And no one else fit the evidence?”
“Walter Huxley . . . it says
here,” the bulldog said as he read from a file, “sniffs ether for
diversion. Perhaps he had the chloral hydrate?”
“Half of the label was found in
Stevenson’s dorm room, and the bottle aboard the Blue Line trolley.”
King stood again. "Does my
learned friend wish to abandon his career as advocate, for that of a
detective?" The gallery chuckled.
Galbraith riposted, "Surely, such
theories are improper during the Republic's case, and should be left to
the Defense's case."
"And, perhaps, for other learned members of the Bar who are experts in criminal libel."
"Your Honor, the Defense is
entitled to raise reasonable misgivings as to the identification of the
murderer or murderers." Galbraith raised a finger.
"On its own case, Your Honor,” King said. “And the term is ‘reasonable doubt.’"
"I am well aware of the term my
learned friend is using. I was using the term when he was a chick
and far less eloquent." The bulldog beetled at the hawk.
"And learned counsel's point regarding criminal libel is well taken."
“That’s as may be,” Kilbride
rumbled, “but if you have another suspect who fits the evidence
presented, produce him, Counsellor. There’s no need to go through
“Very well, Your Honor. Lieutenant, you may step down, subject to recall.”
“One moment!” King said,
rising. “Lieutenant, just one quick point, if I may - To your
knowledge, have any convictions been thrown out by the High Court
because of coercion since the War?"
“To my knowledge, no.”
“Thank you. You may now step down.”
As the red deer left the witness
box, Judge Kilbride jotted a note and glanced at Galbraith. “Any
further witnesses, Mr. Galbraith?”
“I have one or two, Your Honor,
but I wish to recess until tomorrow before having them on the stand.”
“I see. Very well.
Court stands in recess until tomorrow morning at eight A.M.” He
brought the gavel down.
Tuesday August 1
“Is the Counsel for
the Defense ready?” the judge asked after gaveling the court to order
the next day.
“I am, Your Honor. The Defense calls Professor Charles Braganza.”
The goat, already having been
sworn in as part of the Republic’s case, sat down in the witness box
and Galbraith said, “Tell me, Professor, was your analysis of the blood
found on the mirror comprehensive?”
“As comprehensive as we could get. There was a lot of it, and it was a mixture – “
“Thank you. And according
to your testimony a small amount of my client’s blood was found amidst
all the others?”
“How is that possible?”
“I beg your pardon?”
The bulldog spread his
paws. “Well, there was so much blood. How were you able to
find my client’s blood amid so much?”
“We determined it through blood typing.”
“Ah, blood typing. Can you explain that to the jury?”
The goat nodded and said, “Blood
typing is a fairly new science. It started being used during the
Great War as a means of making sure that the right species got the
right blood when being given a transfusion.”
“I see. And all five of the victims were represented?”
“Yes. Avian, canine and lutrine.”
“And one rabbit.”
“A very small amount of blood.”
“Could it have been put there after the fact?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Could it have been planted?”
King ruffled his feathers. “Objection.”
“I’ll rephrase the question,”
Galbraith said smoothly. “Professor, is it within the bounds of
possibility that the rabbit blood at the crime scene could have been
placed there after the murders?”
The goat considered the question
as the rabbits in the gallery (and the two on the jury) looked at each
other uneasily. Finally Braganza replied, “It is possible.”
“Do you know, offpaw, how many rabbits currently live in the Republic of New Haven?”
“I have here the latest report of
the New Haven Bureau of Vital Statistics,” and Galbraith lifted a piece
of paper, “stating that as of 1920 there were 18,764 rabbits living in
“Well, I am told they breed readily, sir.”
This was greeted with some
laughter from the gallery, and Judge Kilbride gaveled for order.
“Indeed. But can you
scientifically state that the rabbit blood on the knife is that of the
“It is of the same blood type, sir.”
“Yesss . . . a type common to every rabbit in New Haven?”
“Can you scientifically state that the rabbit blood must have come from the murderer?”
“None of the victims were lepine, sir.”
“Could the blood have already been on the knife?”
“I could not say, sir.”
“Was there a lot of rabbit blood?”
“No, sir. Only a small amount.”
“Would you be able to tell, sir,
if this hypothetical rabbit cut himself badly or only nicked
“I could not say, sir.”
“So the rabbit could have gashed himself quite a bit?”
“Were there any serious gashes on the defendant when he was arrested?”
“According to the arrest report, no, sir.”
“Were there any significant cuts?”
“There were some minor cuts,
yes. They were discovered after a minute examination of his paws
following his arrest.”
“You have handled such a knife many times in your career, Professor?”
“Have you ever cut yourself on one?”
“Did you bleed a lot?”
“Well, I usually wore surgical
gloves, of course; when you cut yourself like that, the rubber stops
most of the blade.”
“Was a pair of surgical gloves, in fact, found in my client's residence?”
“At the murder scene?”
“My client is a medical
student. Would he have worn a pair of rubber gloves when
performing a procedure in class?”
“No further questions for this witness. The Defense calls Detective Michaels.”
The terrier sat down as the goat
returned to his seat. “Tell me, Detective, about the chloral
hydrate bottle - do you know exactly when that bottle was placed there?”
“Isn't it a fact, based on your
testimony, that the cleaning of the Blue Line car was
indifferent? Could not that bottle have been there for some
time?" Galbraith squinted at the terrier. "Did you plant
the bottle there, Detective?"
"Objection, move to strike!"
Galbraith gave a smug look as the
objection was sustained. “Isn't it a fact, Detective, that the
torn label from the chloral hydrate bottle could have attached itself
to the defendant's shoe in the dirty trolley car, there to be carried
home to the closet?"
"Unless he's in the habit of walking on his paws, no."
Several in the gallery tittered.
Galbraith smiled as the courtroom
quieted. "Could not the fingerprints have been on the torn label
from removing it from the shoe?"
"Then how did the prints get on the bottle as well?"
"Your Honor, I ask that the witness be admonished against asking questions."
"The witness will answer questions, not ask them."
"Sorry, Your Honor."
"Detective, let me show you the
bottle and the label in evidence. How would you describe the
condition of the bottle?"
"And the torn label found in Mr. Stevenson’s closet?"
"Detective, isn't it possible
that the defendant, having encountered a piece of trash equally as
repulsive as a prophylactic, picked it up and tossed it under the
"Oh, of course, in theory."
Galbraith sat down and King stood
up. “Detective, just a few questions. What else was found
in the defendant’s dorm room that was out of the ordinary?”
“A styptic pencil, sir.”
“Describe to the jury what a styptic pencil does.”
“Um. Well, a styptic pencil is used to close up small cuts and nicks.”
“Similar to a cut from a knife?”
“Objection,” Galbraith drawled, “counsel is leading the witness.”
“I’ll rephrase my question.
Detective, what type of cuts are usually closed up by the use of a
“Well, a small cut, sort of what you’d get if you were shaving with a sharp razor.”
“I see. And is shaving a common thing?”
“No, sir,” and Michaels promptly
blushed as a few in the gallery chuckled. “There’re some in a
wild crowd who shave, well, certain parts of their bodies.”
“Let’s hold that thought,
Detective. Your Honor, I wish to recall Sergeant DiAngelo.”
“On what grounds?” Galbraith asked.
“To support Detective Michaels’ testimony.”
Kilbride glanced at his notes and nodded. “I will allow this.”
The raccoon took the stand.
“Sergeant, according to the testimony that you’ve already given, at one
point in his questioning you escorted Mr. Stevenson to the
bathroom. Is that correct?”
“Did you observe the defendant as he answered nature’s call?”
“And were his, ah, nether regions shaved?”
“Not that I could see. I didn’t look too long – I ain’t no pervert.”
The laughter that greeted this
was general and loud, with catcalls and derisive whistles that prompted
Judge Kilbride to (as Whitney St. James would later write) ‘wield his gavel like Thor wielding Mjolnir’
and proclaim, “Order! I will have order in this courtroom.
Another outburst and I shall order the gallery cleared.”
After things settled down King said, “So the defendant wasn’t shaved?”
“Tell me, were any cuts found on the defendant’s paws?”
“Yes, sir. A small cut was noted on a finger while he was being fingerprinted.”
“Thank you, Sergeant. No further questions.”
“I have one for the good
sergeant,” Galbraith said. “Sergeant DiAngelo, Walter Huxley was
dismissed as a suspect because he was supposedly unconscious at the
time of the murders.”
“That’s right. We have statements from his buddies that he was high on ether.”
“Wasn’t that a rather perfunctory acceptance of the alibi?”
“Not in my judgment, no sir.”
“The Defense calls Father James Keppler to the stand.”
The priest walked stiffly,
supporting himself with a cane, and after the mallard was sworn in
Galbraith asked, “You are Father James Keppler.”
“And you were, until recently,
the parish priest for the Parish of Saint Thomas in North Haven?”
“Yes. I retired in 1924.”
“And do you know of the defendant, Wyatt Stevenson?”
The avian smiled, squinting
through thick-lensed glasses. “Yes, I know Wyatt. I
presided at his baptism. He was an altarkit of mine at Saint
Thomas’. It was with some regret that I never convinced him to go
“I see. And were you aware
of any changes to his character after he began attending Collegiate?”
“No. I would have to defer to the chaplain there for that.”
Galbraith frowned slightly. “Thank you, Father.”
“No questions for this witness,” King said.
“The Defense calls Father Henry
Smith to the stand,” and the fox was sworn in. “Father, you are
the chaplain of the Collegiate School?”
“For how long?”
“Thirty-two years come next March.”
“So you’re quite familiar with the students under your pastoral care?”
“Tell us about Wyatt Stevenson, please.”
The fox leaned forward slightly,
clasping his paws together as he replied, “Wyatt came to me several
times – outside the seal of the confessional – and I did speak with
Father Keppler with the young man’s permission. Wyatt had been an
altarkit, and a very good child. College life was proving to be a
bit of a strain on him, so he had grown somewhat withdrawn and kept to
himself a bit.”
“Thank you, Father. No further questions?”
“I have only a few questions for
you, Father Keppler,” King said. “You did not see the defendant
at any time on the night in question?"
"Is it a fact, Father, that your testimony goes solely to the defendant's character?"
“Oh, that’s quite true, young man.”
"Father, have you ever been
surprised by the behavior of a parishioner? Behavior of a kind
you would not have expected?"
"Objection! Calls for opinion."
"Your Honor, the purpose of the
testimony is well within the knowledge of the witness."
"Overruled. The witness will answer."
"Well, yes. There was that
woman who stripped off all her clothes and danced on the main
quadrangle during the winter solstice . . . but she claimed she had a
reason." The fox blinked as a prolonged chuckle erupted from
several in the audience.
"But you were nevertheless surprised by this throwback display of paganism, Father?"
"Yes, sir. I did ask her the reason for her behavior, but she refused to tell me."
“Bearing that in mind, do you
feel, Father, that you are able to accurately predict the behavior of
all of your parishioners?"
"I would think that is beyond my capabilities, sir, even with my experience."
King opened his beak to say
something further, but paused and turned to look up at the
gallery. Someone had rushed in and excited whispers and murmurs
presaged a mass exodus from the chamber.
Judge Kilbride frowned and asked, “What is this commotion? Bailiff?”
The chief bailiff stepped into
the hallway behind the Bench and returned after a moment.
“There’s been a decision in the civil case next door, Your Honor.”
“I see,” and the wolfhound raised
one eyebrow. “Mr. King, does the Republic have anything further?”
“No further questions, Your Honor.”
Kilbride nodded. “Then the
Court shall stand in recess until tomorrow morning, at which time
closing arguments shall be heard.”
As the gavel struck the Bench
Paulie stepped out of the courtroom to find Chief Stagg, this time in
his usual suit, standing in the hallway with a bemused expression on
his face. “What was the verdict, Chief?”
“Hmm? Oh, Paul. Judge
Masters ruled that Mayor Stevenson had no case, but ruled that Prescott
Stagg and the Civic Union had to pay court costs for both sides,” and
he smiled as a snorting, wild-eyed buck was led out of the adjacent
courtroom and down the corridor. The older brother (half-brother,
if one listened to the rumors) seemed to have exhausted his store of
invective but was clearly warming up for another round as his
colleagues hustled him away. “How is the case going in there?”
“Not too badly,” Paulie said. “The closing statements are tomorrow.”
“Good. I think we’ve made
our case, and the rest is in the jury’s paws – “ The whitetail
buck abruptly stiffened as a slim, gray-furred paw came to rest on his
Paulie’s ears stood straight up
as he heard Bernyce Pratt say, “Franklin! How simply wonderful to
see you again!”
Stagg turned to face the
raccooness, who was wearing a smartly-tailored suit and accompanied at
a discreet distance by her wisent bouncer, Bobby. “Bernyce,” he
said, blushing red to the tips of his ears. “It has been a very
long time, yes. Doctor Bartrop’s German class?”
She smiled. “Yes, it truly
has been that long, dear Franklin. You haven’t changed a bit,
though – still handsome, and just as shy.”
Paulie suppressed a chuckle at
the sight of his usually self-possessed boss turning even redder.
He managed to control himself sufficiently to ask, “German class,
“Er, yes, Lieutenant. I was
a junior in Collegiate when Miss Wallingford – now Mrs. Pratt, my
deepest condolences – was a senior. And I want to thank you, Mrs.
Pratt – your help was valuable.”
The raccooness grinned, the cameo
on her little finger gleaming as she smiled up at him. “I’m so
glad I could be of assistance,” she said.
A bulldog came rushing up to
Stagg from the courtroom. “Dashed inconvenient of you New
Havenites, to have two trials and thus divide my valuable time,” he
huffed. “I scarcely knew which one to watch, but rest assured my
paper shall be billed for both.” His expression changed the
instant he saw Bernyce. “Franklin, who is this charming young
“Mrs. Bernyce Pratt, Captain Whitney St. James.”
“Enchanted, Madame,” the bulldog
said, gallantly taking her outstretched paw in his and bowing over
it. “I heard Franklin say ‘Mrs.’ It seems quite a shame
that one man should have sole access to such beauty.”
Bernyce smiled. “I am a widow, Captain. Do you still write for the Spectator? I have always found your articles . . . inspiring.”
“Inspiring!” St. James
laughed. “I’ve heard them called many things, but hardly
inspiring. Madame, you do me far too much honor.”
“You simply must come to my house for dinner tonight, Captain.”
“Bernyce, then. Bobby,
please take a note, dear – Whitney will be coming for dinner, say seven
The bulldog nodded, then squinted
at the wisent. “Bobby? Robert . . . Robert Springs!
Good Lord, the furs one meets and in the unlikeliest places!”
The wisent rolled his eyes and Stagg asked, “You know him?”
“Know him! My dear
Franklin, this is Robert Springs, the All-Empire boxing champion for
five straight years until 1919. Although I think that your loss
to that oryx was simply wretched – it was a flagrant blow below the
belt and everyone with half an eye could see it.”
“The referee didn’t see it that way,” Bobby rumbled.
“Bosh,” St. James sneered.
“We shall discuss it further – after dinner.” The trio moved off,
leaving Paulie and his superior standing apart as the rest of the furs
in the hallway left the courthouse.
“Will you attend the closing statements, Chief?”
“Hmm? No, I can’t.
The Interior Minister has requested a meeting tomorrow morning with me
and the Deputy Chief regarding the Squadron Scandal. I expect it
will be a relatively short meeting – the Interior Minister has little
love for the State Police, still less for me.”