The Kaw Valley Scandal

       Napoleon Crews / History & Fiction
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By Napoleon Crews
Smashwords Edition
Copyright 2004 Napoleon Crews
Year: 1896
Day of the week: Tuesday
Place: Lawrence, Kansas

Lawrence’s newly appointed Police Chief Sam Jeans walked up the hallway toward the mayor’s office, recalling the first time he had stepped into the narrow corridor. Little did he realize back then as the jailer’s shackles rattled and clattered around his ankles that his life would drastically change. A similar foreboding feeling gripped the pit of his stomach on this day.
The mild and tolerably pleasant aroma of Mayor Gould’s customary afternoon cigar lingered in the air.
When Sam opened the door, the mayor sat engaged in deep conversation with a light-skinned Negro man who looked to be in his sixties. The man’s thin face and slightly rounded shoulders spoke of ill-health and tiredness. However, his piercing, almond-shaped eyes were still quick and discerning. Wavy-black hair and an Abe Lincoln beard contributed to an aristocratic appearance.
“Sorry,” Sam said, closing the door. “Didn’t know somebody was already in here.”
“No, come in, Sam,” the mayor said. “This meeting concerns the both of you.”
Sam walked into the room and closed the door behind him.
“Mr. Langston,” Mayor Gould said, “I want you to meet our Police Chief Sam Jeans. Sam, this is John Mercer Langston, attorney and former congressman.”
Mr. Langston stood.
“It’s a pleasure, Mr. Jeans.” Mr. Langston thrust out his hand. “Just call me John. My late brother, Charles, used to keep me abreast of the cases you solved. He even sent along newspaper clippings. Your methods are truly remarkable.”
Sam smiled. “I got a big scrapbook on you. It’s got everything from politics to the Edmonia Lewis case.”
“I’m glad the two of you know of each other,” Mayor Gould said. “A potential crisis faces the City of Lawrence, and I’m convinced that only the two of you can stave off the disaster that I am certain will come.”
Mayor Gould waved Sam into the vacant wingback next to John, and then he took out his pocket watch.
“In thirty minutes,” the mayor said, “Arthur Mitchell and his lawyer, Clarence Darrow, will walk through my door.”
“Arthur is the richest man in Lawrence,” Sam said. “At least that’s the talk.”
“He’s rich,” Mayor Gould said, “But there are many more who are richer.”
“Heard it ain’t even his money,” Sam said.
“Arthur married well,” Mayor Gould said, “Twice. He has a way with women and there’s no denying it.”
“What happened to the first wife?” Sam asked.
“She died unexpectedly several years ago,” the mayor said. “The cause of death was listed as accidental.”
“Marrying money also explains how he can afford to hire Clarence Darrow,” John said.
“I figured that you’d know Darrow,” Mayor Gould said, “Especially since both of you are prominent lawyers.”
John nodded. “Clarence was a lawyer for the Northwestern Railway Company, until a couple of years ago. Now he’s involved in politics and is part of the Illinois delegation. He’s a bulldog in court and loves the fight.”
“I heard he never loses,” Mayor Gould said.
“I don’t doubt that’s why your Mr. Mitchell hired him,” John said.
“What was Arthur Mitchell’s crime?” Sam asked. “I know there’s a reason for me bein’ here.”
“He killed his maid this morning,” Mayor Gould said. “She was a Negro, and he’s calling it self defense.”
Sam and John exchanged looks.
“Where’s the body?” Sam asked.
“Mr. Darrow has assured me that it lies undisturbed on the floor of Arthur Mitchell’s study,” Mayor Gould said.
“Why wasn’t I called in sooner?” Sam asked.
“As you probably can guess,” Mayor Gould said, “Arthur disclosed the killing through Mr. Darrow. I had no details until Mr. Darrow arrived and met with me just before lunch.”
Sam shook his head in disgust. “You sayin’ lunch was more important than gettin’ me started on the case? No tellin’ what evidence’s been destroyed by now.”
“Now wait a minute, Sam,” Mayor Gould said. “You know me better than that. Shortly after I was contacted by Mr. Darrow, I received news that the prosecutor had excused himself from the case. I spent the noon hour tracking down Mr. Langston and was fortunate to learn that he was in Lawrence visiting his sister-in-law.”
“Why did the prosecuting attorney withdraw?” Sam asked.
“He claims to have an undisclosed conflict of interest.” Mayor Gould nodded toward John. “I’m trying to convince Mr. Langston to take the case on behalf of the City of Lawrence.”
Sam looked at John, awaiting his answer.
“I am sixty-seven years old, retired, and my health is not good,” John said. “What is more, I’m a defense lawyer and not a prosecutor.”
“You are a great orator, sir,” the mayor said. “The prominent white clients that sought you out in your private practice all attest to your skill and few white lawyers carry the reputation you do.”
“With all due respect to you and to the maid’s family, Mr. Mayor,” John rose from his chair, “I must respectfully decline the representation. The case would probably be the death of me anyway.”
“Do you think it was murder?” Sam asked Mayor Gould.
“I know Arthur Mitchell,” the mayor said.
“There’s other lawyers in town who can try the case,” Sam said.
“There’s more to this case than meets the eye, and I need a prosecutor who’s not afraid of Arthur Mitchell,” the mayor said.
“Mr. Jeans is a potent weapon against Arthur Mitchell and Clarence Darrow,” Mr. Langston said. “I’ve no doubt that if a murder has been committed, Sam will get to the bottom of it.”
“What good does it do for Sam to prove that Arthur Mitchell murdered the poor maid if the jury won’t convict him?” Mayor Gould said.
“It sounds like you suspect that Mr. Mitchell would attempt to bribe a member of the jury?” John stroked his chin whiskers.
Footsteps at the door turned their heads.
A middle-aged man of medium height stepped into the mayor’s office, and Arthur Mitchell sauntered in behind him.
Clarence Darrow was quietly dressed in a dark vested suit, and he walked with a country swagger. Black hair swept across his head from left to right, and his mouth was thin and straight. But it was the eyes that set Darrow apart from most men; dark, narrowed, and piercing to such an extent that they gave the impression he had read every secret that you had tucked away in your heart.
Arthur was remarkably handsome for his thirty-plus years, in spite of the gash across the right side of his forehead. He was fair-featured, with cunning eyes, tousled red hair, and a tall, lean physique. The only facial distraction he possessed was the cruel droop of his mouth. It was easy to see how he might have managed to gain the favors and fortunes of two prominent women.
John Mercer Langston and Clarence Darrow met in the center of the room, where they shook hands and greeted one another with courteous familiarity and respect. Their fixed gazes and measured words spoke of two generals sizing up an adversary. Magically, John’s rounded back went straight and his appearance strengthened, like one would imagine him to look in his youth.
Clarence Darrow turned and offered Sam his hand. “You must be Mr. Jeans, the police chief,” Clarence Darrow said. “My client has told me all about you.”
Sam shook the lawyer’s hand, but his attention was on Arthur Mitchell. Sharp creases cut down the legs of Arthur’s well-tailored trousers but degenerated into bloodstained wrinkles at the knees. His shoes shined like mirrors, with the exception of the toe area, which appeared dull and scuffed. The edges of his shirt cuffs were bloodstained.
“Let’s get this over with,” Arthur Mitchell said. “There’s a dead nigger in my study, and I must arrange to have the room fumigated.”
Clarence Darrow looked sideways at his client, but his facial expression remained unreadable.
“I’ve just come from Judge Benson’s.” Clarence Darrow pulled a folded document from his vest pocket. “This is the order releasing Mr. Mitchell on his own recognizance. I convinced the judge that it would be unfair to hold one of Lawrence’s most prominent citizens in jail, while a new prosecuting attorney is being sought. I also informed the judge that the case against my client will soon be dismissed.”
“How did you reach that conclusion?” the mayor asked.
“My client has a clear case of self defense,” Clarence Darrow said, “He was lucky to have escaped the woman’s vicious attack with only the wound to his forehead.”
Arthur Mitchell tossed his head in arrogant affirmation.
“I intend to appoint another prosecutor,” Mayor Gould said, “And to have your client’s guilt or innocence determined by a jury.”
Clarence Darrow cast an amused glance at John Mercer Langston. “Perhaps Mr. Langston would agree to accept the case. I’m sure he would do an adequate job.”
Arthur Mitchell shook his head in disgust.
“A competent white lawyer couldn’t convince the jury to convict me,” Arthur said. “Hiring a whole passel of nigger lawyers won’t change that.”
The dark color in John’s eyes deepened, and he stroked his beard.
Clarence Darrow and Arthur Mitchell turned to walk for the door, and Sam stepped forward.
“I’ll be along within the hour to examine the body,” Sam said. “You shouldn’t have moved
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