"Yah, who's this?"
"It's Max." Max knew he needed some inside information on this case. Barney was a member of the force but had helped Max out a few times, like on his case with the gal from the Midwest, the one he fell hard for. She wasn't what she appeared to be. Still...she was hard to forget. Unlike that case, this one didn't have a good looking dame involved ... at least not yet. Max could only hope.
"Barney, I need some inside info on this murder case of the old dame on Nob Hill, Eleanor Abbott." Max could just picture Barney sitting at his desk smoking one of his fat cigars with the end half chewed off. He half imagined the smoke pouring out of the phone receiver. Max coughed and cleared his throat.
Barney was quick to respond, "That case! It's open and shut. It was the Chinaman!"
"What makes you so sure?" Max cleared his throat again.
"The evidence, of course," he replied, puffing out the words.
"Is it possible, Barney, ... that the evidence was planted?"
"Well, anything is possible, but it's not likely. The houseboy has scratches on his face like he had a fight with a wildcat. A piece of skin was found in the murder scene that is his. He says he cut his finger on a broken window but there is no broken window. And a piece of rubber was found that matches a missing spot on the bottom of his right shoe. A button was picked up on the floor that matches his blue shirt which police found in the alley with her blood on it."
Max let out a long whistle. "This looks bad...really bad. Now I wish I hadn't taken the case. Jaden swears he's innocent and all of Chinatown is in a whirl."
But Barney wasn't done yet. "Max. Remember that time we broke into that opium den on Spofford Alley? Remember how it smelled?"
"Yah, sort of strangely sweet?"
"You got it! Well, I smelled it at the scene of the crime. And the Chinaman is into it, he's hooked."
"Barney! You're killing me here! You've got to throw me a bone. The Chinese Six Companies are paying me to prove this guy's innocence, not his guilt."
Max heard Barney give a loud sigh and then a snort. "You've really got yourself into it guy...."
Max heard something in Barney's voice that gave him an opening. "Come on Barney, what is it?"
"Ok. Ok. A couple of things don't fit. The old dame looked like a steam roller had hit her. I mean ...her teeth were broken, her chest was caved in, ribs broken, she was really worked over."
"Soooo..." Max was impatient.
"So ... this houseboy is all of five feet tall and 115 pounds. It just doesn't seem like he could do that much damage," Barney replied. "The old girl was actually bigger than he is."
"And..., what else?"
"A few more things. The old gal had a lot of jewelry that was stolen. It looked like a robbery. There was a diamond brooch, a ruby ring, a pin shaped like a bird with pearls in it, and more. The murder, as I said, was violent and took place in several rooms - more like an emotional thing, like maybe someone she knew. But this Lok Chu, the houseboy, could have easily stole from her over the years without the murder. That part doesn't fit. The robbery, I mean. If it was him."
"Why do I get the feeling you're hiding something from me Barney?" Max finally felt like he was getting somewhere.
"You wanted a bone Max? Ok, I'm throwing you one. The old dame was a player. Even though she was a high society Nob Hill lady, she had a penchant for younger gents. There was this colorful side to her and I'm not talking posies, but maybe poppies. Look - I can't say any more. If you want to dig in you might want to start with her landlady, Myra Moretti."
"You're a real peach! I owe you one Barney!"
"Aw...I didn't know you cared Max. Next time you see me bring a box of cigars."
Pictures: Pine Street in SF, 1930s from Pinterest. Old Dior ad.