Though the rest of San Francisco lay beneath a white layer of fog, the sun was shining in Pacific Heights. The swells that lived in that neighborhood probably paid extra for the privilege. They could afford to.
Rafferty parked his gray Buick sedan on Washington Street in front of the block-long limestone French baroque chateau owned by William Lennox. He went through a wooden door in a tall white brick wall, crossed the long paved courtyard, and walked right up to the imposing front entrance beneath an ornate porte cochere and tall square columns. He wouldn't have been surprised if a division of household guards had rushed to intercept, but no one did. No one seemed to notice. He rang the bell.
After a calculated interval, a butler who looked like a close relative of Bela Lugosi came to the door and inquired, in a high-hat British accent, what Rafferty required. Rafferty required an audience with that man of affairs, William Lennox.
Dracula regretted that Mr. Lennox was not available.
"What about Miss Juliet Lennox?" inquired Rafferty. "Is she home?"
"I do not believe so, sir," Dracula drawled in a manner clearly designed to discourage tradesmen and others whose names were not found in the pages of the Social Register.
But you didn't get anywhere in the private investigator business if you took no for an answer. "Ask her if she'll see me. Tell her Mr. Brett Sheridan asked me to pay her a call."
Dracula could not be said to unbend, exactly, but he allowed Rafferty to step into an entryway that resembled nothing so much as a giant marble crypt. Left to his own devices, Rafferty resisted the temptation to take his hat off out of respect for the deceased. He strolled over to a gigantic window overlooking a formal baroque garden cascading down the hillside. Beyond was the green-blue glitter of San Francisco Bay.
He didn't know much about flowers, but he imagined it took a chain gang worth of gardeners to keep that jungle of roses and hydrangea and vines and ornamental grasses from swallowing the house whole.
The majordomo returned at last and indicated Rafferty should fall in. Rafferty followed him down a long corridor running east to west. Opening off the corridor were a lot of opulently and over-furnished rooms. The furniture looked like the kind of thing that would have had even old George V ringing for a cushion.
They trekked outside, hiking down a series of granite terraces. Bees hummed in drunken ecstasy, and a few birds warbled insults to the other tenants. It was about as tough a neighborhood as you could find in Pacific Heights.
Through the curtain of trees and shrubbery, Rafferty heard the flat rhythmic smack of a tennis ball and a girl swearing.
As they drew near, he saw his client and his client's fiancee in sparkling tennis whites playing on a clay court surrounded by a tall fence. The match appeared to be a fierce one. Dracula forbore to interrupt, and for a few moments they watched the young lovers at play.
Even with her hair in her eyes and her face shining, Juliet Lennox was a very pretty girl. She was blonde, medium height, and curvy in all the right places. She had the wholesome good looks of a girl raised on raw foods and fresh milk. She also had the look of a girl who liked to win.
Brett Sheridan looked like an advertisement out of Esquire magazine.
They seemed evenly matched, though somehow Sheridan managed to hit the ball each and every time so that, while Juliet had to work for it, she was able to return all his shots. He was either an indifferent player or he was a very good player. After a couple of minutes, Rafferty figured Sheridan was a very good player.
And maybe a pretty good judge of character--or at least of his fiancee.
The play ended. Sheridan won game, set, and match, but all by only the smallest possible margin. Juliet was flushed and pretty in defeat--her obvious chagrin tempered by her admiration for Sheridan.
Sheridan, as usual, gave about as much away as one of those JC Leyendecker illustrations. He really was a disconcertingly beautiful young man.
Arms loosely linked about each other's waists, they came to the fence, where Rafferty waited. Dracula, Rafferty only noticed then, had silently retreated from the field of battle.
"Hello," Juliet greeted him. "Are you Sherry's shamus?"
"That's right," Rafferty said. "I'm the shamus."
She threw a playful look at her betrothed. "Sherry didn't mention how handsome you were!"
Rafferty's eyes met Sheridan's, and Rafferty thought that the younger man's gaze seemed to pick up the green glints of the surrounding woodland. For an instant there was something intriguingly faunish in that wide, tilted regard. Then Sheridan was opening the fence gate, holding it for Juliet, saying with faultless courtesy, "Miss Lennox, may I present Mr. Rafferty?"
Juliet offered her hand, and Rafferty shook it. She had a firm grip. "Sherry said you're going to find my father's folio."
She tilted her head. "You sound sure of yourself."
"Mr. Sheridan assures me there's a short list of suspects," Rafferty said blandly.
She laughed. "Are you going to interrogate me?"
"Juliet is a great admirer of the work of Dashiell Hammett." Sheridan's tone was dry.
"Oh yeah?" Rafferty eyed her with new interest. "The Maltese Falcon, huh?"
"That's right. And The Thin Man." She smiled affectionately at Sheridan, perhaps picturing them as Nick and Nora Charles quaffing cocktails and trading quips as they solved murders in the smart set. If so, she had a more powerful imagination than Rafferty and Mr. Hammett combined.
"Juliet and I were together all evening," Sheridan said.
No sense of fun, apparently. Juliet pouted at him briefly. "Perhaps I had an accomplice."
Rafferty's mouth twitched. He repressed it determinedly. "When was the theft of the folio discovered?"
"Just after midnight." That was Sheridan again. Clearly hoping to get this over with. Rafferty didn't entirely blame him. Now that he knew more about Brett Sheridan, he could understand why he didn't want people sniffing around his affairs too closely.
Juliet said, "It could have been taken at any point during the evening. It was a garden party, but you know how that goes."
Rafferty could say with certainty he'd never been to a garden party. He didn't. "How many people knew about this folio?"
"Everyone." Juliet sounded certain of that.
"Everyone? That's a lot of people."
"Mr. Lennox is very proud of his collection," Sheridan said.
Juliet frowned at him. "Why don't you call him Daddy?"
The beautiful blank face went blanker still. "He's not my daddy."
"He's going to be."
"I don't call my own daddy Daddy." Sheridan's gaze slanted Rafferty's way. "Mr. Lennox has been collecting Shakespearean rarities for the past two decades."
"But the Tempest was the jewel in his crown. He's very fond of telling people how he outbid some English lord for it. Daddy's very proud of beating out one of those damned foreigners."
Rafferty happened to be looking right at Sheridan, so he saw the tiny ironic smile that crossed his face--before being instantly smoothed away.
"Daddy tells everyone that story," Juliet was saying. "And he shows everyone the folio."
"So everyone at this party knew about the folio. Did they know where the folio was kept?"
"Sure they did! Come on," Juliet said, linking her arm through Rafferty's and reaching to Sheridan. "You'll want to see the scene of the crime."
They marched arm in arm back up the steps to the house. Though Juliet was clinging to his arm, it was Brett Sheridan that Rafferty was conscious of. Pretty strange, considering Juliet was walking between them, but over her light flowery scent, he could pick up a hint of Lentheric aftershave and clean masculine sweat. He could hear Sheridan's light easy breaths over the quick, uneven breathing of the girl.
"Are you a fan of William Shakespeare, Mr. Rafferty?"
Rafferty quoted, "What light through yonder window breaks? It is the dawn and Juliet."
"Close enough!" Juliet was amused. "You should get on well with Daddy."
Over the top of her head, Rafferty met Sheridan's eyes.
Juliet never stopped chattering, so it was no surprise she was breathless by the time they reached the top of the hill. Most of the gab had to do with her wedding to Sheridan, which was only a couple of weeks away.
The bridegroom maintained a stoic, manly silence.
They went inside the house, and Juliet led the way up a curving grand staircase. There was a lot of glittering glass and marble and gold leaf and giant oil paintings of European nobility and landscapes that bore no resemblance to any place in America--the castles being the first clue.
"Nice little place you've got here."
Juliet chuckled. "I'll tell Daddy you said so."
Daddy seemed to figure into a lot of her conversation. Rafferty wondered how Sheridan felt about that. But then if anyone knew about cockeyed families, it would be Brett Sheridan.
"This way," Juliet said. "It was a garden party, so no one was supposed to be wandering inside that night, but..." She shrugged slim shoulders.
The library was huge. Rafferty had been in smaller public libraries. The walls were of the palest green. The forest green draperies were held back by gold tasseled ropes. The furniture matched the woodwork and was upholstered in green velvet. The thousands of leather-bound books displayed harmoniously coordinated spines of red and gold and green. It was impressive, but it didn't look like a room where people did a lot of reading.
"This is the display case where the Tempest was kept." Juliet led the way to what looked like a carved case about the size of a pool table. "Daddy says it's not a very good play."
"I like it," Sheridan said with an unexpected streak of stubbornness.
"You better not admit that! Mr. Rafferty will think you're a suspect." She smiled at Rafferty. "You can see where they broke into the case."
"And they only took the folio?"
"Only the folio." That was Sheridan. "It was the most valuable thing in the case."
The display case was lined with green velvet and littered with a number of objects that Rafferty was sure were also plenty valuable--drawings, maps, prints, books.
"These things all belonged to Shakespeare?"
Juliet laughed. "Oh no. There isn't anything left like that. Daddy would own it if there was. No journals or letters or old manuscripts. But there's an English translation of an Italian story called Rhomeo and Julietta which was published in 1567 and there are a couple of volumes of the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande published in 1587. Everybody thinks that those books shaped Macbeth and King Lear. See?" She pointed out the items.
"So Shakespeare was lifting his ideas from other writers?"
"He sure was, the old rascal."
"I guess you learn something every day. Can you get me a guest list for the garden party?"
"Of course." She gave the display case a fond pat.
Rafferty was watching Sheridan, who, despite his occasional comments, was busy examining the break in the glass lid of the case. Did he know what he was looking at? Because he was not looking at a break. He was looking at a cut. And not the cut of an experienced cracksman either. That was interesting. An amateur, but an amateur who knew where to get hold of a glass cutter--and had apparently brought it to a garden party.
Perhaps feeling Rafferty's gaze, Sheridan's lifted his lashes. He gave Rafferty one of those oddly unguarded glances. Rafferty felt a funny warmth pool in his belly.
"Gosh, I better change out of these things," Juliet exclaimed. "I'll leave you two to it. Don't solve the crime without me."
She was gone, and the room seemed loud with silence.
"Dashiell Hammett, huh?" Rafferty said.
Sheridan smiled faintly, straightening. "The twins are worse."
"Sebastian and Viola. Juliet's half brother and sister." Sheridan's half smile faded. "I don't understand why you're wasting time on this kind of thing when you know who the thief is."
"Because I don't know who the thief is. I know who you think the thief is, but that's not the same thing. Secondly, if you're right, you want to hide your sister's involvement, isn't that so? Which means I need to throw suspicion around a little. Ask a lot of people a lot of questions, not just talk to your sister and solve the crime."
"Oh. Yes. You're right of course. I'm just worried..."
That went without saying. Was there a more worried fellow in all of society? Granted, not without reason.
"Why is Lennox so sure this had to be an inside job?"
Sheridan's impatience showed again. "Because it was. Sader gained entrance to this house through my sister. When Julie says Lennox tells everyone about his collection, she means he tells people of our--"
Not in time, but he did stop. Rafferty grinned, enjoying his discomfiture. Probably enjoying it too much. Julie and Sherry. Wasn't that sweet? And in keeping with the level of naivete that imagined the underbelly of the city knew only what the upper crust was up to when the upper crust deigned to tell them.
Sheridan said suddenly, "Rafferty, I think I made a mistake."
Rafferty opened his mouth, but they were no longer alone.
"Brett, my boy." William Lennox filled the doorway. Almost literally. He was a big man. Rafferty recognized him from his photographs in the Chronicle and the Examiner, but the papers didn't do the man justice. It wasn't just his size, though add a bronze coating and he could have doubled for many a park memorial.
"Sir." Sheridan didn't quite click his heels, but only because he was wearing white canvas sneakers.
"Juliet tells me you've hired a private investigator." Lennox's eyes were bright and black as a raven's. They moved from Sheridan to Rafferty and back again.
"Yes. Mr. Lennox, this is Mr. Rafferty." Brett came around the display case to stand beside Rafferty. "I thought it would be the fastest way to wrap this matter up."
"No need to do that." Lennox made no move to shake hands. "The folio will be returned within the allotted time."
"You know that for a fact?" Rafferty asked.
"Yes." Lennox smiled--and Rafferty understood why he generally refrained. "I believe my reputation precedes me."
"Even so," Sheridan said, surprising both Rafferty and Lennox. "It won't hurt to have a little insurance."
Lennox didn't look pleased. "If you've the money to waste, I guess you can do what you like with it."
It was the mannequin immobility of Sheridan's expression that did it, that put Rafferty squarely and unexpectedly on his side. Maybe McNulty was right. Maybe he was too soft-hearted, but he liked a guy with guts, and he began to think Sheridan had one hell of a lot of guts to stick to the course he'd set.
"Cigar?" Lennox had made like a continental plate and shifted into the room. He offered a leather box of cigars. "Brett doesn't indulge." It was clearly a mark against Brett.
Rafferty declined. "Since I'm here, you mind if I ask a couple of questions?"
"Fire away," Lennox said, cutting the torpedo-shaped cigar.
"Mr. Sheridan says you're sure the, er, folio was taken by a guest and not a servant. How can you be so sure?"
"Everyone--and I do mean everyone--in my employ, whether in my home or one of my factories, is subjected to thorough investigation. No one gets close to me or my family that I don't know everything there is to know about them."
Lennox was looking straight at Rafferty, but Rafferty could feel the sudden tension in Sheridan's motionless figure.
"Yeah? Sometimes things get overlooked."
Lennox made a dismissing noise. "I doubt that. I hire the Pinkerton Agency to conduct my inquiries. I guess you've heard of them?"
"The name rings a bell." Rafferty glanced back at the display case. "You're probably right. I can't see why a servant would wait till the night of a big party to pull a job like this. It would be smarter to fake an ordinary burglary one night when everyone was out of the house."
"Exactly." Lennox looked almost approving.
"Unless they were hoping to throw suspicion on one of the guests," Sheridan commented.
It wasn't a bad thought, so Rafferty wasn't sure why he drawled, "I guess Miss Lennox isn't the only one who reads Mr. Hammett." He regretted the crack when Lennox laughed. He had a harsh laugh that seemed to take what little humor there was out of the situation.
"I like you, young man. What did you say your name was again?"
"Neil Patrick Rafferty."
"Ah. Irish." Lennox's bushy eyebrows drew together in a forbidding line.
Rafferty smothered the quick flare of irritation. Surely if there was one thing he'd learned at St. Finian's Home for Foundlings it was to let that kind of thing slide like water off a duck's back. "American. Born and raised here."
Lennox considered it and nodded. "Sure. Why not? What else did you want to know?"
"Quarto, isn't it?"
Lennox was taken aback. "Uh, yes. You're quite right. Are you familiar with the works of William Shakespeare?"
"I know how Romeo and Juliet ends."
He wasn't being smart, but Lennox seemed to think he was getting at something. He laughed that loud laugh that was like getting smacked between the shoulder blades. "Very good. You hear that, Brett?"
Rafferty pushed on. "Nobody could get rid of that folio through the usual channels. Who would pay--who could pay--for an item like that?"
"Another collector," Lennox answered immediately. "Folger's dead now, of course. Cochran and Huntington too. I suppose Emily Folger might take an interest. Lord Horn would probably give his eyeteeth for another shot at it. He's over in England."
"What about in this country? In this state."
Lennox frowned, thinking it over. "Howard Dobson. He's down Los Angeles way."
"And in San Francisco?"
"No one that I know of."
"Okay. Is it possible anyone would have taken the book for another reason?"
"Spite? Revenge? It's no secret you think pretty highly of this collection. A man like you makes enemies."
"That's true." Lennox looked thoughtful. "I've stepped on a few toes now and then." Stepped on a few necks, more like it, but Rafferty stayed noncommittal as Lennox added, "Nobody like that would have been at my girl's party."
He and young Sheridan had more in common than they knew.
"Sure. I guess that's about everything. Just one more question. You discovered the folio was missing around midnight. You told the remaining guests that you would wait three days before calling in the cops. Why was that?"
Lennox looked at Sheridan. "Maybe I wasn't born into San Francisco's old money, but I know how things are done. My daughter is marrying into the Sheridan family. I don't want any scandal, if I can avoid it. I don't want anything to spoil my little girl's happiness."
Sheridan looked steadily back at his prospective pop-in-law.
"Makes sense to me," Rafferty said easily. "What about the guests that left before the theft was discovered?"
"A number of people had left the party by then, right? What makes you think the crook wasn't one of them?"
Lennox looked like he still didn't quite understand the question.
"And if it was one of those guests who skipped out early, they're not going to know about the three days' grace period, right?"
"Nor will they care," Sheridan interjected. "Whoever stole that folio doesn't give a damn about the three days' grace period. The thief had to expect his crime to be immediately reported."
Lennox puffed his cigar and looked thoughtfully from one of them to the other.
"Let's not be too hasty," Rafferty said. "Maybe there's a way we can use these three days to our advantage."
"Two days," Lennox said. "That's all that's left now. I'm a man of my word."
"It's possible we can get the thief to cooperate."
Lennox shrugged, unconvinced.
"I'll see you out," Sheridan said.
Rafferty nodded. He nodded good-bye to Lennox as well, but Lennox had already forgotten him. He stood over the damaged display case, smoking his cigar and gazing down at his collection with an expression that did not bode well for the thief.
"Where are you going now?" Sheridan asked as they started down the grand staircase. Below them, a Chinese houseboy carried a silver tray laden with covered dishes toward the tall glass doors opening onto the terrace.
"As soon as I get that guest list from your fiancee, I'll start talking to people."
"You need to start with Kitty."
Rafferty threw him an easy glance. "I don't give you advice on how to do your job. I mean, if you had one."
Sheridan's face flushed with irritation. "I've paid you a great deal of money, Rafferty. You're wasting time we don't have to waste. Sader is not going to give that folio back out of the goodness of his heart."
As a matter of fact, Rafferty figured Sheridan was right about that--assuming he was right that Sader had the folio at all. Rare manuscripts were really not much in Harry Sader's line. "What was your sister thinking bringing a guy like Sader here that night?"
"I don't know." There seemed genuine anguish in that. "She seems to have lost all sense of...of propriety." He checked abruptly, and so, accordingly, did Rafferty.
A boy and girl in riding habits appeared at the bottom of the staircase, seemingly having wandered in from a Philip Barry play.
"Somebody lose a fox?" Rafferty asked of no one in particular. He could practically see his reflection in their shining black boots.
Sheridan made a sound like a smothered laugh.
"Hello!" The girl called up. She was about fifteen or so, blonde curls and angelic features--nearly as angelic as those of the boy with her. They were fraternal twins, but they could almost pass for identical.
"Hello," Rafferty returned.
"Is your name Rafferty?"
"Are you really a detective?"
"This is Fred and Ginger." Sheridan continued down the staircase. "But I'm going to marry their sister anyway."
Rafferty laughed. "Viola and Sebastian, I presume?"
"Hey, he is a detective," Sebastian drawled. He laughed and ducked away as the girl swiped at him with her riding crop.
"We're supposed to give you this." Viola trotted up a couple of stairs and handed over a crackling sheet of paper to Rafferty. "It's from Julie. It's the guest list." To Sheridan, she said, "Julie's having brunch on the south terrace."
He acknowledged it.
"Have you figured out who stole Father's folio?" Her eyes were big and blue but not guileless. In fact, she'd be quite a handful before much longer. Rafferty almost felt sorry for Old Man Lennox. This one would more than make up for daddy's girl Juliet.
"You know about that too, huh?"
"Everyone knows about it," Sebastian said.
"We were there," Viola said. "We're witnesses."
"Suspects," objected her brother.
"Don't mind them," Sheridan said. "They'll be weaned soon and go to good homes."
Viola stuck her tongue out at him.
Rafferty glanced down at the guest list. There were roughly twenty-five couples. It was going to be a very long day. He'd have to recruit Linda for this one.
"Nice meeting you," he said to the girl, and turned to Sheridan. "I'll talk to you later." He intended it as reassurance, since Sheridan was clearly beginning to doubt the wisdom of his investment.
"I'll walk out with you."
"Wait," Viola said quickly, nimbly retreating as the men advanced down the stairs. "Do you need an assistant? We could be your Watsons, Mr. Rafferty."
"You're late for your riding lessons now," Sheridan said.
Viola ignored him. "Well?" She gazed challengingly up at Rafferty.
"Sorry, kid. I work alone."
"We could be your apprentices."
"Told you. Come on, V. We're late." Sebastian turned away.
Viola pouted briefly. "Have it your way, flatfoot. See if we share any clues with you!" She turned and ran back down the stairs, following her brother down the corridor.
"Delightful," Rafferty remarked. "She handles that whip like she used to work for Pharaoh."
"You should have seen her before charm school."
Rafferty and Sheridan continued out to the marble mausoleum of the front entrance, where the butler returned his hat to Rafferty.
"Look, I've been thinking," Sheridan said as they went out into the spring-scented sunshine. They walked toward the white brick wall and the street beyond. "If you'll give me a chance to drive home and change my clothes, I could go with you when you talk to these people." He nodded at the list Rafferty held.
"Nah. That wasn't just a gag for the kids' benefit. I work alone."
"I wasn't suggesting we go into partnership." Sheridan brushed aside the vines and opened the blue door in the wall for Rafferty. "I simply mean that in this case--and with these people--it might make it easier if I went along and explained your...role."
"In this business."
Rafferty preserved a straight face. "You think they won't talk to me?"
"I can be a very persuasive fellow."
"Can you?" Sheridan sounded abruptly weary, weary for such a bright and beautiful morning.
"Sure I can. Buck up. We'll find this folio/quarto/thingamajig."
"When will you talk to Kitty?"
Rafferty thought about it. "If you're that worried about it, I'll start off with her. Do you know where she's lunching?"
Sheridan shook his head. "She was evasive this morning. On Sundays she usually brunches with her friends at Blanco's."
Brunches. "Huh. Is that so?"
It wasn't a question, but Sheridan answered anyway. "Yes. I don't know if she..."
Rafferty leaned against the side of his car and waited, watching Sheridan's handsome, mobile face go through successive, fleeting changes: indecision, worry, self-consciousness, resolution.
"You don't know if she..."
"I started to tell you earlier. I think I...made a mistake. Last night."
"I've made a few in my time. One of them cost me the price of a Florence Reichman hat." He didn't bother to explain the hat had been for his elderly landlady.
"Not that kind of mistake." Sheridan bit his lip. "I accused Kitty of being involved in the theft of the folio."
"You're right. That was a mistake."
Sheridan's gaze met Rafferty's--and fell. "I know that. But I thought that if I could convince her to talk to me, to tell me what happened, I might be able to resolve this without--"
"That's what you're paying me for, remember?"
"Yes." Sheridan continued to stare down the street. A yellow and red cable car was chugging slowly up the hillside.
"Will she tell Sader?"
"I don't know. She might. She probably will."
"You're probably right."
Sheridan's expression was wry as he met Rafferty's eyes again. "I know it was stupid. You don't have to say anything. In fact, I'd regard it as a favor if you didn't."
Rafferty laughed, amused in spite of himself. "All right. It could be worse. Sader knows he's bound to be the first person people suspect. Even if he was innocent. Your suspicions won't come as any surprise to him."
"You think I'm a snob."
"Sure." Rafferty shrugged. "It's only natural."
Sheridan offered that odd little twist of a smile. "I might surprise you, Mr. Rafferty."
Rafferty watched him disappear through the door in the brick wall.
"You might at that," he muttered.