Chinawoman’s Chance (Portia of the Pacific Mysteries Book 1)
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense>Mystery>Historical
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense>Mystery>Occult
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense>Thriller>Historical
First California woman lawyer solves crimes
Clara Shortridge Foltz, Esq. is the first woman admitted to the State Bar of California. It is 1884 in San Francisco’s Chinatown. This is the first murder case in which Clara must defend her Chinese client in court. After she loses her murder trial in a male-dominated, racist kangaroo court, she must trap the real killer. Captain Isaiah Lees assists her and teaches her the methods of street detective work. Will her young client be hanged before she can trap the real killer?
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 behind 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.”
“Right. 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.”