Serial novel: “The Plot to Kill Susan B. Anthony”

Editor’s note: “The Plot to Kill Susan B. Anthony” is a novel written by William Fleeman, a Cassadaga-area resident. This is the conclusion of Chapter 8.

MacDuff poked his head out into the foyer. “Okay, Millicent,” he said, “you might as well come in. There’s no one here who can hurt us?not anymore. Close the outside door, though, and, Millicent, throw the bolt.”

MacDuff was right, there was no one there who could hurt us. But there was someone else in the room. MacDuff was sitting on a parlor chair, his revolver dangling loosely from his index finger. He was staring down at a man of about fifty, well dressed, wavy hair graying at the temples. He lay in a heap on the floor in front of the hearth, dead of a gunshot wound to the head. It must have been a high caliber gun, there wasn’t much left of Eastman’s head.

I dropped down beside MacDuff and grabbed hold of his arm, and swallowed the lump in my throat. The odor of gunpowder filled the room. A cigarette end smoldered in an ashtray on the table next to the chair. MacDuff had already searched the premises before I came in, and found no one hiding under a bed or in a closet. Now he searched the body. The body was still warm.

MacDuff said he found the back door open when he searched that part of the house. He said he had seen a man running down the alley, saw him jump in a waiting coach and drive away.

There was something in the dead man’s hand. MacDuff carefully unclamped the fingers. A wadded up ball of paper fell out onto the floor. MacDuff picked it up.

“What is that, MacDuff?” I said.

He straightened out the paper, and handed it to me. It was a brief hand-written note.

“Next time, it will be you, MacDuff, you and your little black helper.”

“Obviously written by the killer,” MacDuff. He crumpled it up and put it in Eastman’s hand after killing him. How macabre!” I shivered.

We left Eastman’s house and hurried to an Uptown branch of the U.S. Postal Service. Using a sheet of Postal Service stationery, we composed a letter to the NYC Police Department, telling exactly what we found, when and where we found it, and nothing more. I stuffed the letter, unsigned, in a Postal Service envelope, stuck a stamp on it and dropped it in the letter slot. It would reach police headquarters by the second post, around two o’clock.

“Millicent,” MacDuff said, as we walked back to Fifth Avenue, “I need – I need a cup of coffee.” He made a face. “How ’bout you?”

I took his arm. “MacDuff, I thought you would never ask.”

We found a small cafe nearby, where we sat and drank coffee and smoked and tried to make sense out of Ronald Eastman’s murder.

“Why, MacDuff? Why was Eastman killed? And who killed him?”

MacDuff stirred his coffee with his index finger. He leaned back in his chair, closed both eyes and puffed smoke rings at the ceiling.

“Did Monk kill Eastman?” I said.

“What-?”

To MacDuff, thinking was like watching a play at Palmer’s Theater, except that he can step out of the audience, go up on stage and act as the Director. He says he can change the props around in his mind, and adjust the lighting by turning the gas up or down, or by changing the location of the lamps. He can tell the actors where to stand or sit, even tell them what to say. He says a part of him can go up in the balcony, and looking over the railing see himself down in the main floor audience watching the play. I had interrupted the play he was watching. I leaned back and waited.

“oh, yeah, Millicent.” MacDuff looked at me. “It could have been Monk. But why?”

“Well, maybe Eastman was the only one Monk named who actually knew anything,” I said, “and Monk was afraid Eastman would tell us something that might be, shall we say, embarrassing? Embarrassing not just for Monk, but perhaps to other people as well?”

“Yeah, that’s one possibility. Or maybe Monk was thinking more about his own hide. If certain other people who also maybe live Uptown, maybe some of those Tammany Hall politicians, found out Monk gave us names connected with the Anthony plot, then Monk could end up like Eastman. That is, if those other Uptown people have anything to do with the plot to kill Miss Anthony.”

“So you think it could have been Monk who killed Eastman?”

MacDuff made a face. “No, I don’t think Monk killed him. The man I saw running away from Eastman’s house didn’t look like Monk. He was taller, and built better.

“Of course, Monk might’ve hired somebody to do the job. Any new WHYO gang member would welcome the chance to prove himself. On the WHYO’s list of services, it’s called the Big One. The price: a hundred dollars.”

“That is what a man’s life is worth to one of those rats we saw at Monk’s place – one hundred dollars?” I was appalled.

It was time to meet with Mrs. Beecher Hooker at her hotel.

To receive a signed copy of “The Plot to Kill Susan B. Anthony,” send check or money order for $10.95 to: William Fleeman, PO Box 259, Cass-adaga, NY 14718. Visit williamfleeman.com or call 595-3884. You may also purchase the book including the Kindle edition at amazon.com