A door slammed open. "For the love of...!"
A tall, silvery man stormed down the hall into the foyer.
Spain looked up at his angry boss, Lent Montgomery, and clambered to his feet. He pulled off his hat, pointed to the bundle. "A little baby, boss."
The boss looked down at the bunched-up jacket, the dead infant, the bloody white shirt, the mess on his foyer floor. He cursed. "Where'd you find it?"
"South end, boss. In a shallow draw."
Montgomery squeezed his forehead, cursing again. He spoke in Spanish to Rosita. The cook nodded, wiped her eyes with her skirt, and left for the back of the house.
"Wait here, Joe, and then—"
"So this is how you turn me down, Lent?" A city gentleman in a well-cut black suit and city shoes walked with importance through the hallway door and into the foyer. He looked down at the floor. His face went white.
"Sorry about this," Montgomery tried to explain. "Joe here found a baby. All this blood...a dang mess."
The city man looked at Joe Spain. Looked back at the baby. "Well, curious...a colored baby." Thus, the man spoke what they all had observed but hadn't mentioned. He gestured to Spain, turned to Montgomery. "You don't mind me asking, Montgomery: is this cowboy ours?"
Montgomery frowned. "Ours? With all respect, Senator, you haven't bought the ranch yet."
"Of course. I'm trying to get an understanding. So I'm asking—is this cowboy part of the ranch?"
Lent Montgomery squared his back, peered at the man. "What difference does it make who he is? He works for me and he found a baby on my property. I'll take care of it from here."
But the city man wouldn't back down. "A colored boy finds a colored baby. Dead. And that doesn't seem strange to you? I know this is still your property, Montgomery. But the Douglas County sheriff is going to find this very strange."
Montgomery pulled to his full height. "What's strange is you standing in my house questioning how I handle my business! And you want to buy a ranch? You don't know a rat's tail about what it means to own a ranch. Or keep loyal ranch hands. In fact, you can get your—"
"You threatening me, Montgomery?"
Lent Montgomery stepped over the baby. "Get out of my house, Grimes. And get that big, ugly car off my property!"
The city man turned up his collar and pushed through the open doorway. He looked over his shoulder. "I'll be back to finish the contracts."
Montgomery slammed the big front door. But all in the house could hear the car spin on gravel and ice, then squeal onto the ranch road leading back to Denver.
Spain looked to his boss, knowing what he must be thinking. It was curious that Joe Spain, a colored cowboy, had found on his property a little colored baby. Dead.
But Lent Montgomery didn't mention it.
In fact, that morning was the last Joe Spain would ever see of his boss. Or Rosita. Or the city man. Or anybody else.
Because by morning the next day, Joe Spain, too, was dead.
Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook.
Sherlock Holmes, A Case of Identity
Chicago, November 1923
Sunday night and she was late beyond redemption. Professor Annalee Spain grabbed her bulging satchel off her desk, stuffed in her notes, checked the streetcar schedule, brushed lint off her good black suit—actually her only suit—and dared turn back to...what, to pray? As if prayer, of all things, would get her what she needed, let alone what she wanted.
But no time to bother over that. She'd do better to answer the knock rattling the devil out of her splintered, freezing, rent-by-the-week rooming house door.