Prologue: The White Whale
Jenny Lind City Hall, Police Department, Kearny Street, San Francisco. February 15, 1884
It was twenty past midnight when Clara and Ah Toy arrived at the police station on Kearney. As Clara suspected, Andrew Kwong was there, sitting on the long bench in the squad room. Uniformed sheriff officers and city policemen were busy booking new criminals. Mister Kwong stood up and waved. “Missus Foltz! Over here!”
Clara and Ah Toy walked over and sat down next to him on the bench. The attorney noted that her client’s eyes were red from weeping or, perhaps, a head cold. He spoke with his usual enunciated and perfect English, however, and there was no congestion.
“They won’t show me anything. My son was arrested in the middle of the night, and now I can’t see him, and they won’t give me any details about how he could have committed these brutal murders. You have to help me!” Mister Kwong grabbed hold of Clara’s dress sleeve with his right hand and pulled as if he could get a response from her by trying to break her arm.
“Please, Mister Kwong! Let go of me. I’m here now. I understand your problem, and as your authorized counsel, it’s now up to me to find out everything. By law, as George’s Defense Attorney, they must provide me with every piece of hard evidence, and each witness they have that they believe proves your son’s guilt. He is not guilty until they can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, inside a courtroom and in front of a jury, that he killed these women. I will do my best to counter each piece of evidence and rebut every witness.”
After Andrew Kwong released her, Clara gently patted his hand. “Please wait here. I’m going to first meet with the arresting officer, Sheriff Patrick Connolly, and then I will meet with your son. Right now, I don’t want you in the room with us, but I will bring you back later when we have to mount our defense strategy.”
Ah Toy spoke to Andrew Kwong in Cantonese, and he nodded his head and spoke to her vehemently.
“What did he say?” Clara asked.
“He said it was the White Whale who did this,” she told Clara.
Clara wondered who this White Whale could be as she walked over to the desk sergeant. She was asking him about meeting with Sheriff Connolly, when Captain Lees came up to her, grabbed her arm, and spun her around to face him. “I can’t talk to you here, but I’ll meet you later in the afternoon at your apartment. Is that clear?”
“Yes. I will be expecting you,” Clara said, and she watched Lees turn and dash off to the other side of the squad room.
“Go down that hall and turn right at the last door. The Sheriff’s expecting you,” the desk sergeant instructed her by pointing toward a long corridor on the right side of the building. “Walk right in. You don’t have to knock.”
Inside the Sheriff’s Office, Clara felt as if she had stepped inside a menagerie. There were at least fifteen different animal heads peering down at her from the mahogany walls: bears, mountain lions, deer, and one rhinoceros. Connolly was seated in back of his high desk, leaning back, his hands behind his head, a big cigar in his mouth. He wore the uniform of the Chinatown Squad, so she assumed he had arrested George Kwong, her client.
“We meet again, Missus Foltz! Please, take a seat,” Connolly pointed toward a small wooden chair near a long bench on the side of the room. Clearly this room was not meant for the comfort of visitors.
“I would prefer to stand right now, Sheriff,” she said. “I’m representing the Kwong family in this case, and I need to see George. But first, I want to know what you have on him. I don’t need the actual evidence right now, but my legal team will need it eventually. I just want to be aware of what we may be up against here.”
Connolly blew a perfect large smoke ring, then blew a smaller one that pushed through the center of the first. “Your pal Captain Lees did a lot of the work to nail this kid. He got the sworn testimony of Boscombe, the journalist who spotted George Kwong at the scene of the McCarthy murder. I was just putting two and two together. I interviewed a coroner across the Bay in Oakland. Name’s Goodbody, a fine name for a coroner, and he informed me that Georgie boy worked for him for a whole summer. He told me the lad was especially interested in how to use the U. S. Army post-mortem field kit that Goodbody used. In fact, when we arrested the lad, we found it hidden under his mattress. George Kwong quit his job suddenly, and he took the kit with him. I asked the Oakland doctor whether his little kit could strip a body down like that of Mary McCarthy, and I showed him the photo of her body. He’s willing to swear in court that his kit could be used for such purposes.”
“All right. I’ll eventually need to see that. Of course, that does not prove my client used it on anyone. What motive do you have? What witnesses saw him use it, or what reason would he have to kill those women?” Clara was fishing for clues in Connolly’s demeanor. How confident was he concerning all of this tommyrot about George working as a coroner for a summer? Young men need money—especially young Chinese men—and there weren’t many jobs that they were allowed to do.
“We talked to Miss Benedict at the Methodist Home for Wayward Women. She says Georgie boy had a big row with his girlfriend, Mary McCarthy, and it was a week before she was killed. Oh, and by the by, we won’t be pinning those seven other murders on your boy-o. He may have done them in too, but the mayor wants to hold off.” Connolly took another deep drag on his cigar. “One murder conviction will be enough with a white jury, don’t you think, Missus Foltz?”
Clara was livid. Without the reality of those seven other crimes, she had little with which to fight. She knew no Chinese court testimony was allowed in a courtroom, they weren’t considered citizens, and she wanted to use that fact to support her client. Also, what evidence could they provide to prove his hatred for his fellow Chinese women? This single murder of the Irish girl was different.
“This changes things greatly, Sheriff. I want to see my client right now.”
“Now don’t be getting your bustle in a bunch. I’ll take you to his holding cell.” Connolly stubbed out what was left of his cigar into an abalone shell ashtray on his desk. He led the way down the hall and out into the squad room. “Smith, I’m taking Missus Foltz up to see her client.”
Clara followed the two men upstairs where the jail cells were located. She could smell the foul odors of urine and feces, and she could hear the grinding noise of old plumbing. George Kwong’s cell was in the back where the Chinese and Negroes were kept.
Smith opened the door with his key, and Clara stepped inside. It was dark and shadowy, lit by a small gas lamp with a protective shield of wire mesh, and it was sitting on a table next to a threadbare cot. George Kwong wore the blue dungarees issued to all prisoners, and his last name was stenciled above his shirt pocket. He stood up when Clara came in, but she motioned for him to sit back down on the cot.
“Your father is outside. I’ll soon see to it so he can visit you. How are you feeling?” Clara placed her hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“I didn’t kill anybody, Missus Foltz! I was in love with Mary McCarthy, but she wanted to do things on her own. She didn’t think she was lovable. We argued about that, but I never threatened her.” Clara could see tears glistening on the young man’s cheeks. “I worked for Mister Goodbody because I wanted to learn a new trade. I don’t know how that post-mortem kit got in my room. Somebody must have placed it there.”
“All right, George. I’m going to ask you a series of critical questions, and I want you to give me an honest answer. Whatever we share is privileged and protected information. However, if you lie to me, even once, I will refuse to represent you from that moment on. Is that clear?” Clara watched him nod his head.
“Were you and your father working for Mayor Washington Bartlett or anyone else in city government?”
“No, the mayor just wanted us to keep the Chinese prostitute murders a secret. He was an old newspaper publisher, and he told us we could make a lot of money by keeping a record of all the details and photos, but we must not publish anything until he gave the word.”
“When did he tell you this?” Clara wanted to pinpoint the actual progression of this most significant negotiation.
“After the first murder. Father was ready to publish the story in The Oriental. But then the church officials said to hold off. They said the mayor wanted to see us first. He came down to Chinatown and told us he would put his best men on the case, but he wanted us to keep the murder a secret. When the second murder happened, he again visited us. He said if this story got out into the community, there would be fear and anger generated in the populace, and Chinatown could be invaded by the Vigilante Committee and others. He said his men had to find the killer before we could tell the story, so we agreed.”
Clara knew this information agreed with what Isaiah Lees had told them at the Italian restaurant. There wasn’t much more she could do until she heard from Lees. She needed to get all the evidence from Connolly before she did her own investigation.
“I’m going to go get your father so he can talk with you. I’ll meet with you both tomorrow so we can plan our defense strategy. Right now, I need to go home and get some sleep. Everything will be taken care of, George, so don’t panic.”
“If I were guilty, I would panic, Missus Foltz. Right now, I’m just afraid.” George’s dark eyes were staring at her with a fixed concern.
“Afraid? What scares you?” Clara took his two hands into her own.
“I’m afraid that when news gets out that I’ve been arrested for murder, then some person who knows about the other seven killings will try to profit by selling the stories to the press. When that happens, the entire city will be after me. It’s happened before, and the police could not stop them from executing mob justice on the men involved back in 1856.” Clara could feel the young man’s hands trembling. She knew the case about which George was referring. She had to study it for her bar exam.
James King of William, the editor of the Daily Evening Bulletin, tried to single-handedly clean-up the crime and corruption in San Francisco. One Charles Cora shot a U.S. Marshall named Richardson because Richardson was insulted by Cora’s prostitute girlfriend being at the same theater as his wife. King argued that San Francisco’s most successful prostitutes, like Charles Cora’s mistress, Belle, worked hand-in-glove with gamblers, like Cora, and corrupt politicians to dominate and corrupt city politics. King got many women to write to his paper about the problem and how it affected them and their families. It worked. However, because of the scandal in the press, King himself was gunned-down by another newspaperman, William Casey, about whom King had written a muckraking article concerning Casey’s involvement in the crime and politics of the day.
As a result, the Vigilance Committee raided the jail and captured both Casey and Cora, who were there to be retried because of a hung jury. As King’s funeral procession wound through the city on May 22, Casey and Cora were "tried" before the executive committee and hanged. Minutes before the hanging, Belle married Charles Cora in his cell inside vigilante headquarters. Afterwards, her fate, as well as that of James King of William’s broad-based reform crusade, hung in the balance.
During the next three months, the committee hanged two more men and exiled over two dozen others for alleged political crimes. Also, the vigilantes conducted illegal searches, suspended the law of habeas corpus, confiscated federal arms, subverted state and local militias, sought to oust elected city officials, and even imprisoned a justice of the state supreme court.
In response, the governor of California declared the city of San Francisco to be in a state of insurrection and attempted to crush the committee by force. Certain prominent citizens of San Francisco, including many Irish-Catholic politicians, organized a Law and Order Party, insisting on the rule of law above all else. In their defense, the vigilantes cited the right of revolution.
A sovereign people, they argued, whose government is not only corrupt but has resisted reform, has the right to rise up and replace that government. They claimed that they had the nearly universal support of the people–the "respectable people of all classes." To protect themselves from prosecution, the vigilantes supported the formation of the People’s Party in August 1856, which dominated city politics for the next decade.
In fact, Clara belonged to the party which evolved from the People’s Party because of their support of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. She spoke for their candidates, including Denis Kearney, who became its leader under the new name of the California Workingmen’s Party.
Clara understood why George and his father would be concerned. They, too, were involved in criminal activities in Chinatown and were newspaper men who were holding onto a story that would cause violent repercussions throughout the city. Finally, the mayor himself was involved, and he was going to soon run for Governor of California. If Bartlett decided to deliver his story to the press about the seven other murders, then Andrew and his son, George, could easily be seen as the Charles Cora and William Casey of 1884.
Chapter 1: Flayed
Jenny Lind City Hall, Police Department, Detectives Office, Kearny Street, San Francisco. February 12, 1884
“I tell you, Captain, she was flayed like a dressed deer. Clean down to the bone.”
Detective Sergeant Eduard Vanderheiden, or “Dutch” as his peers called him, was a tall, thin, bald, and agitated man with thick, auburn mustaches that curled on the ends like charmed snakes and flaming red chin whiskers. He also had a constant wink in his right eye. This nervous tic would often garner Dutch a drunken swing from a jealous husband’s fist if he were seated within arm’s reach of the Dutchman’s chin. At age forty-nine, Dutch was never afraid to gawk at a pretty lady. That was his problem.
Captain of Detectives, Isaiah Lees, was seated, manning the telegraph machine that connected each of the three San Francisco districts. Lees wore a brown frock coat and vest with checkered pants and spit-shined Oxfords. His face had the jowly redness of his fifty-four years, his hazel eyes were deep-set, and his brow was almost always in a contemplative frown. His graying goatee and full head of curly-brown hair were well groomed. His one affectation was to wear a cape whenever he was on a case, and, as a result, many of the beat cops referred to him as “Sherlock.” Captain Lees, after all, was born in England.
“Now that makes sense. Tongs use very sharp hatchets to enforce their will. I would wager she was probably keeping money from her handler, or else it was retribution for some other financial transaction. My twenty years working Chinatown have taught me that money is most likely at the bottom of these murders.” Lees stood up.
The First District of the San Francisco Police Department, with its station house at First and Mission Streets in Happy Valley, extended from California Street to Rincon Point. There was also a little lock-up or "calaboose" located in the First District station house. The Second District, with its station housed at City Hall at Pacific and Kearny, where Captain Lees and Detective Vanderheiden were now, was inside the former Jenny Lind Hotel, and it embraced the main business district. The Third District, with a station on Ohio Street, covered the area from Pacific Avenue north to North Beach.
Whenever a major crime was committed, the uniformed officer would send a message back to the Detectives’ Office on Kearny, the Second District, and a detective would be dispatched to the scene. When arrests were made, the offenders were taken to the main jail on Kearny.
“But she weren’t no Tong girl. She was working at 814 Sacramento, next-door to the rooming house. A white working girl. You know, most of the Tongs got their Chinawomen working over on Sullivan’s Alley or Bartlett’s.” Vanderheiden pointed to a location on a large map hanging on the wall in back of the telegraph machine.
“Those girls sometimes work alone. Who’s at the crime scene?” Lees picked up his holstered Colt .45 and buckled it around his waist. He felt for his Bowie knife behind his vest and attached his Captain’s badge to his cape, which was draped over the back of the swivel chair.
“Cameron was first on scene. Oh, and don’t be surprised if Cook shows up. Cameron knows to notify the Chinatown Squad when there’s a ruckus. This ain’t no ruckus, but we know Tongs can start a war over much less.” Dutch winked at Lees. He followed the captain out the door, and they rode the elevator from the third-floor office down to the street.
Inside the elevator, Lees scowled up at the taller detective, whom he had known for twenty years on the force. They had both been beat policemen after the Civil War and earned their detective appointments through hard work and many arrests.
“Jesse Brown Cook and his band of holy rollers don’t understand how it is now that they passed the Exclusion Act. These Asiatics had no rights to begin with, and now that they can’t get over here by boat, the competition between these men has escalated. I’m not surprised by this murder, and there will probably be a Chinaman behind it. But kid Cook gets his marching orders from Sheriff Connolly.”
“I seen Connolly call out the health team to fumigate every blasted gambling parlor, opium den, and hooker house in Chinatown. The mayor blames the chinks for every outbreak of typhus, malaria, and plague. But Connolly will poison the Chinatown rooms when the white kids in San Francisco so much as get the measles!”
Lees smiled. “You know how the excrement rolls downhill? Leland Stanford, the pope of the bluebloods, says the Chinese are inferior humans. He never liked it when the coolies defended themselves against the Irish workers who attacked them while working on Stanford’s railroad. And Stanford testified to Congress to get the Exclusion Act passed. He hand-picked Connolly, the Irishman, and Connolly picked Cook, the holy joe. The three of them think they’re saving Christian America from the Yellow Peril. America’s not supposed to exclude. It’s supposed to include. Everybody!”
“Okay, Captain, I know where you stand. You’re preachin’ to the choir here. Just don’t lose your temper with the kid the way you did last week when they fumigated the room where the baby was.”
“That baby died, Dutch! All because of Cook and his band of holy rollers. But he was just the proximate cause. The underlying cause is racist superiority by men who think they’re better just because they’re rich, white and Christian.” Lees returned the scowl to his brow, and they both stepped out into the chilly night air of San Francisco.
Detectives Lees and Vanderheiden walked the four blocks down Kearny to Chinatown. Once a crime scene was secured, they knew there was no rush. Unless suspects were reported on the scene, the methodical process of criminal detection would be usually slow and arduous. Witnesses, if any, needed to be interviewed. Evidence, if any, needed to be collected and classified. And, of course, the journalists were always there to provide a circus atmosphere.
Captain Lees had always enjoyed working the Chinatown beat. Sailing from his home in Lancashire, England in 1848, he was an eighteen-year-old immigrant looking for adventure. When he landed in San Francisco aboard the Mary Francis on December 20, the Gold Rush had just begun. He worked as a laborer and engineer until he was drawn to the profession of law and order by performing a citizen’s arrest when he saw a man stabbed for $300. He was hired by the newly established police department in 1854 and was promoted to captain four years later.
Now, as Captain of Detectives, Lees understood the social realities of being an immigrant in a strange land. Even though England was not China, he still believed the same fear and insecurities existed inside the men who came here to seek their fortunes. Captain Lees had advanced in his chosen profession because he read a lot, and he was, like all good detectives, a student of human nature. He understood that humans joined groups to protect themselves from perceived threats to their livelihood or their person.
In a strange way, Lees himself had joined the police department because he felt threatened by the burgeoning greed of San Francisco during the Gold Rush. He witnessed men behaving like monsters. Raiding gold mining claims, killing the owners or stealing their gold—or both. When the railroad construction began, he saw how the owners, like Stanford, would speak out of both sides of their mouths.
On the one hand, they enforced the Social Darwinism of the era by calling different races inferior and unworthy to share in this new-found wealth. On the other hand, if they wanted to maximize their profits, the way Stanford did, they turned around and imported Chinese workers from Guangdong Province in southern China.
Lees knew these rich bastards were sly, however, in that they contracted with the governing Manchu in China, who forced the men in their country to become indentured servants. These immigrants had to wear the Manchu pajamas and distinctive queue pigtails and swear their allegiance to their rulers back home. Lees wondered if Stanford or any of the other rich men ever thought about what life would be like if they had to forsake their civil rights, give up their families, and travel inside overcrowded steamships to a new world where they were accepted only by the greedy businessmen who would then run their lives and determine their fortunes? These Chinese had no human rights to vote, to organize, to marry, to testify in court or to even socialize with their superiors outside these Chinatowns.
Lees knew history. The first Americans were British subjects fleeing the Crown’s persecution of their religion and their strange ideas about independence and freedom. They became indentured to profiteering “companies” in England who sent them to the New World under contract. Why couldn’t men like Stanford see that these Chinese men were the same indentured citizens as their forebears had been? How was Buddhism any stranger than being a Quaker or a Catholic? Money! That’s what changed their tune.
According to Lees, who was a pragmatic realist, most of the ills of a society and its persecution of minorities, could be traced to the unholy quest for profit at the expense of others. It had always been this way, and it was continuing in his beautiful San Francisco to this very day.
Chinatown's twelve blocks of crowded wooden and brick houses, businesses, temples, family associations, rooming houses for the bachelor majority, opium dens, and gambling halls were home to more than 22,000 people. Even though the population had fallen after the 1882 Exclusion Law was passed, the atmosphere was still bustling and noisy, with brightly colored lanterns, three-cornered yellow silk pennants denoting restaurants, calligraphy on sign boards, flowing costumes, hair in queues and the sound of Cantonese dialects being spoken in the alleyways and outdoor markets. In this familiar neighborhood, Lees and Vanderheiden knew, the immigrants found the security and solidarity to survive the racial and economic oppression of greater San Francisco.
As they came up to the crime scene at 814 Sacramento, it was exactly 8 PM, and Lees saw that Cameron had roped off the front of the small door leading into the one-room apartment. Next-door, at the two-story rooming house, he could see several white women hanging their heads out of room windows, and they smiled and waved down at him and his partner as they ducked under the rope and shook hands with Officer James Cameron who was standing on the front step.
“Jimmy! You come up and see me after you’re done, you hear?” One of the women yelled down, and Cameron’s face reddened.
“Don’t mind those wenches, Captain,” said Cameron. “They get a toot on with that opium, and you can never tell what they’ll come out with.”
“I know, Jimmy,” said Lees. “Got anything for us?”
“No, when I arrived, there was just the body on the bed inside. One of the girls next-door knew where I was on my beat, and she come running up and told me about hearing a scream inside this little bungalow. You’ll see exactly what I saw when I entered. Of course, I didn’t touch a thing, but there was no visible weapon anywhere in plain sight. Only her gruesome corpse lying on that threadbare cot. No furniture. Just that bed and a small bedside table with a gas lamp. I tell you, Cap, I got sick to my stomach. I never seen nothing so horrible in me life.”
“We got an identity of the victim?” Dutch asked.
“Yes, it’s Mary McCarthy. She used to live at the Methodist Mission for Wayward Women, but I guess she decided to ditch the straight and narrow and try to make some money on her own. Don’t know if she had a handler, but it don’t seem like it. I asked a few of the girls next-door, and they said they never seen no men, besides Johnny boys, escorting her to or from the apartment. As you know, clients come inside. Pimps escort their dollies around town and are usually dressed like peacocks.”
Captain Lees opened the red door, and it squealed on its hinges. He stepped through, and the two other men followed him. The single gas lantern was glowing on a small table next to the cot. Lees motioned toward the lamp.
“Hold it over the body, Dutch. I want to inspect her,” he said.
The tall detective gently grasped the bronze lantern by its semicircular guards and held it up over the cot. The bright light shone down on what was left of Mary McCarthy, woman of the streets. In the corner of the room, the sound of what must have been a rat scurrying into a hole made Lees swallow hard.
Lees immediately saw that the face of the victim had not been harmed. In fact, he could still see the rouged cheeks and red lipstick, and Mary’s green eyes stared at him accusingly beneath heavy blue eyeshadow and dark brown eyebrows. Her reddish-brown hair was piled high and fastened with ribbons and a silver seahorse comb. However, beginning at the nape, there began a horrific display the likes of which Lees had never seen before on man or beast.
Dutch’s description of a deer flaying was hardly an acceptable comparison. The pulling from the outer epidermal layers was just the beginning. After removing the skin, the slayer had then removed all of the muscles, tendons, and intestines from the poor woman’s corpse, until all that was left lying on the cot was the skeletal remains of a once lovely, nineteen-year-old orphan by the Christian name of Mary McCarthy.
Lees’ eyes roved over the body like two searchlights. He stopped when he saw something exposed in the pelvic region, between the woman’s legs. “Bag,” he said, and Officer Cameron quickly took out a small paper sack, from a cloth container around his waist, and handed it to his superior. Lees bent down, reached out, and extracted a condom from the orifice, and he gently dropped it into the bag. “Mark it as number 1, Jimmy,” the Captain told the young officer.
“Looks like one of them new Sheiks. They sell for twenty-five cents apiece in the Examiner. Advertised as married women’s friends. Ha! That Comstock Law’s making a lot of rich businessmen,” said Dutch, chuckling.
“I guess she had a customer before this happened,” said Lees. “But there’s hardly any splatter on the floor, walls or even on the cot. How did this butcher do it? And, more importantly, what did he do it with?”
“I like the idea of a butcher, Captain. We should investigate all the butcher shops in Chinatown. Maybe a Tong hatchet done this, but I think you hit the nail on the head. Only a butcher would know how to keep the blood from running like a river all over the place.” Dutch winked.
“Yes, I think that’s a good proposition, Dutch. First, we’ll run through my Rogues’ Gallery of photographs to see if any butchers are there who’ve committed crimes. Then we’ll go to the butchers without a record of criminal behavior.” Captain Lees motioned for Dutch to put the gas lantern back on the little bedside table.
Outside, the Chinatown Squad wagon was pulling onto Sacramento with its loudly obnoxious siren and clatter of horses’ hooves. Detectives Vanderheiden and Lees looked at each other and raised their eyebrows.
“Kid Cook,” Captain Lees said.
“He will be cooking up something for certain,” Dutch replied.
The door opened, and a tall, dapper, twenty-four-year-old sergeant entered, followed by three of his men. With a black-brush mustache, wide-set, piercing brown eyes and a commanding demeanor, he immediately took up position in the center of the small room. His blue uniform was ironed and spotless, and there was a yellow insignia of an Asian tiger stitched on his hat’s crown.
“Gentlemen! I see you’ve secured the scene quite well, but now we can enjoin the real suspects. I’ll question Little Pete and Big Jim. They have most likely punished this lass for overstepping her bounds. You fellows know how these hi-binders feel about freelancers. Without getting protection money, they can become quite monstrous.”
Captain Lees let out an audible sigh. “Jesse, my lad, you know as well as I that Fong Jing Tong and Chin Ten Sing are old men now. They haven’t been active since the 1860s, and I would imagine they would readily confess to an assassination plot on Chester A. Arthur himself at this point in time. They are both senile, my good man.”
“I can see you don’t understand the ways of these pagan idolaters, Captain Lees. They worship their ancestors, and they always obey their wise elders. Sheriff Connolly has placed me in charge because I’ve studied their ways, and I’ve become quite proficient at weeding out the bad ones.”
“At the grand old age of twenty-four, you’ve been able to cast a wide net of noxious fumes. I know. . .” Lees began, but Dutch grabbed his arm.
“Captain, I think we need to get back to the station and look over those photographs.”
“All right, Detectives. We’ll be keeping you informed. If I get a confession, I’ll certainly let you know.” Cook stepped over to the bed and looked down at the victim. “Oh, my! Would you look at that. Did you know, Captain, their Buddhist and Taoist religions require that corpse bones be shipped back to China for proper burial? Indeed. They also believe that the skin emits evil spirits, and so they will never handle a dead body until it’s been stripped of the evil outer flesh. Our Christian coroners have been given that foul duty.”
“I know all about the religious practices of the Chinese, my dear Cook. And those Christian coroners get paid handsomely for their work. If you look closely, however, you’ll see that this woman is not a Chinawoman. I’m not saying there might not be a Chinese connection here, but as it stands right now, I’m open to any suspect—Chinese or other races.” Lees opened the front door. “Good night, gentlemen,” he said, and he stepped out onto the front step. Dutch followed him.
Outside, the local newspapermen were awaiting them. They had the new dry plate cameras, and they were busy taking photographs of the scene and interviewing possible witnesses on the street. Now Lees and Vanderheiden were part of their picture-taking. One young man Lees knew as Boscombe, from the San Francisco Examiner, wearing a blue suit and matching derby, stepped forward, pen and paper tablet in hand.
“Any suspects, Captain? Find a weapon? How long has she been dead? Can we also get inside to get a photo of the body?”
Lees was surprised by the young reporter’s last question. “Also? We have not allowed any person to come inside this crime scene, Boscombe. You know the rules. Nobody allowed in until we’ve gathered all evidence and questioned all possible witnesses.”
“But there was a reporter inside earlier. I passed him on my way here. His name is Kwong. George Kwong. He’s a reporter for The Oriental. He told me he got a picture of the white prostitute who was killed on Sacramento. His smile was wider than a Cheshire Cat’s. When I got here, your man already had the rope up.”
Lees knew that name. Kwong. Yes, that was the name of the leader of the Sam Yup Company, Andrew Kwong. Andrew also owned part interest in The Oriental, so that would explain how his son, George, got the job. Kwong was one of the Christian converts who got money from the Methodist Church to publish the only newspaper allowed in Chinatown. As the leader of the businessmen’s company, he was probably the wealthiest Chinaman in San Francisco.
“As to your first three questions, Boscombe, no, no, and we won’t know until the coroner gets here.” Lees stepped past the gathered reporters, who were shouting out questions to him, which he ignored. From experience, Lees knew that no matter how he would answer the questions put to him, they would, most of the time, get transformed into something outrageous, to attract readership for their papers. Besides, Cook would certainly give them enough nonsense to fill their papers for weeks.