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Authors: Nancy Herriman

No Pity For the Dead

BOOK: No Pity For the Dead
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Praise for

No Comfort for the Lost

“You'll be transported back to old San Francisco as you walk those dangerous streets with Celia Davies, who has dedicated herself to saving lives but ends up seeking justice for the helpless.”

—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author of the Gaslight Mysteries

“Herriman's historical details provide a rich framework for a gripping mystery and engaging characters.”

—Alyssa Maxwell, author of the Gilded Newport Mysteries

“Weaving together an intriguing mystery and a fascinating clash of cultures,
No Comfort for the Lost
will keep readers turning the pages long into the night.”

—Anna Lee Huber, national bestselling author of the Lady Darby Mysteries

“Herriman crafts a finely detailed series debut with a sympathetic protagonist and impeccable, colorful depictions of 1860s San Francisco—from Chinatown slums to the violent docks of the Barbary Coast. This atmospheric mystery is just the ticket for anyone who misses Dianne Day's Fremont Jones series as well as readers of Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy historicals.”

Library Journal
(starred review)

“Entertaining. . . . Readers who like independent heroines should welcome this historical series.”

Publishers Weekly

“Very finely written and highly recommended reading.”

—The Best Reviews

Also by Nancy Herriman

No Comfort for the Lost


Published by New American Library,

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

This book is an original publication of New American Library.

Copyright © Nancy Herriman, 2016

Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

Obsidian and the Obsidian colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Names: Herriman, Nancy, author.

Title: No pity for the dead/Nancy Herriman.

Description: New York: New American Library, [2016] | Series: A mystery of old San Francisco | “An Obsidian mystery.”

Identifiers: LCCN 2016000400 (print) | LCCN 2016004533 (ebook) | ISBN 9780451474902 (softcover) | ISBN 9780698192270 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Nurses—Fiction. | Murder—Investigation—Fiction. | San Francisco (Calif.)—History—19th century—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION/Mystery & Detective/Historical. | FICTION/Mystery & Detective/Women Sleuths. | FICTION/Medical. | GSAFD: Mystery fiction. | Historical fiction.

Classification: LCC PS3608.E7753 N63 2016 (print) | LCC PS3608.E7753 (ebook) | DDC 813/.6—dc23

LC record available at


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


To my grandparents,
whose immigrant story endlessly inspires


San Francisco, June 1867

I'm in for it for sure. Dan and his buried treasure. Dang it all.

Owen Cassidy glanced over at Dan, the lantern dancing the man's shadow over the cellar wall. He didn't know how long they'd been digging, but they were both down to their sweat-soaked shirtsleeves, and Dan had been cursing under his breath for at least the past quarter hour.

Dan Matthews swore again as another hole revealed only sand and rocks and bits of broken construction rubble that had been used to level the building lot. “Anything there yet, Cassidy?”

“Nope,” Owen said.

Soon. Dan would give up soon, and they could stop and pretend they'd never been looking for gold. It
to be soon. Owen was tired of breathing in the dust they'd stirred up, most of it from the coal heaped in the corner, and his left palm had an ugly
blister that was sure to burst. Plus, he was scared Mr. Martin would discover that two of the workers he'd hired to refurbish his offices had been down in the cellar poking around. They'd lose their jobs for sure.

Worse still, if Mrs. Davies found out what he was doing, she'd scold the skin plumb off him. And Owen never wanted her mad at him. She was the closest thing to a parent that he had, since his real ones had gone and vanished.

“You sure Mr. Martin would bury gold down here?” Owen asked. “I mean, beneath his offices and all?”

“Where better? His house, where some nosy maid might find it?” Dan replied. “Who'd ever come looking down here? And why do you think he's in an all-fired hurry to have this cellar bricked over when it's been fine as it is for so long, huh? 'Cuz he wants his money covered over for safekeeping and none the wiser, that's why.”

Dan sealed his commentary with a nod. It did make sense. Sorta.

And then it happened. If only Owen hadn't shifted to his right and begun a new hole.

The sound his shovel made was suddenly very different from the clang of metal on stone. “Dan?”

Dan almost fell in his haste to reach Owen's side. “You've found it!” he crowed. “It's old Jasper Martin's bag of gold!”

He dropped to his hands and knees and started clawing at the ground, forgetting about his own shovel in his haste to reach the wealth he was certain they'd found.

“What the . . .” Dan drew back, his face turned the color of a lady's fine handkerchief. “Shit!” he shouted, jumping to his feet. “Why won't he leave me be?”

“Who, Dan? What?” Owen asked, trying to get a look past the man's broad shoulders. He couldn't believe what he saw peeking around the peeled-back edge of a length of oilcloth.

Owen felt his stomach churn, and he clapped a hand to his mouth. Because what he saw sure did look like part of a blackened, rotting arm.

*   *   *

rs. Kelly, you must stay off your feet if you do not want this baby to come prematurely.”

Celia Davies sat down, the cane-seated chair creaking beneath her, and clasped the hand of the woman grimacing on the bed. Maryanne Kelly's skin was clammy and her pulse rapid. In the adjacent room, the Kellys' young daughter bawled, adding to the tension. Fourteen months since that child had been born and already another was on the way, more quickly than it should have been.

“But I've nobody to help, Mrs. Davies.” Maryanne pressed her lips together as beads of sweat popped on her upper lip. She'd been experiencing night pains off and on for the past week, and Celia worried for her and the baby. From what Celia's examinations had revealed, the fetus was small and not particularly energetic; an early birth might threaten the child's survival. Worse, it had yet to turn head-down.

Maryanne exhaled as the current pain passed. “John leaves early and gets home so late from his work, especially lately,” she said. “He can't help with the baby. And he can't help with the cooking and the cleaning, either.”

If Celia had a penny for every time she'd heard the like from her patients, she would have been wealthy by now.

“And don't tell me to hire a nurse,” Maryanne added. “You know we haven't any money to spare.”

That truth was easily observed by a quick scan of the cramped bedroom where Maryanne lay. The meager contents consisted of a rope-strung bed topped by a straw mattress, the chair Celia occupied, and one chest of drawers that looked as though it had been rescued from a rubbish pile. The linens were clean, however, and the damp air coming through the window was fresh and smelled faintly of the ocean. Celia had seen worse lodgings. Far worse.

“Yes, I know.” Celia released Maryanne's hand and stood. She folded away her stethoscope, returning it to the portmanteau that served as her medical bag. “But you must spend more time resting. Ask a neighbor to help. Surely there is someone nearby who can stop in for an hour or two.”

“To help a Mick and his wife?” Maryanne asked. “We should've stayed among the Irish rather than live near the Italians and the Spanish and their endless guitar playing. But no, John had to move up here, after we'd had that nice set of rooms off Market and I'd thought we'd finally stay put someplace.”

Her daughter's bawling increased in pitch and volume, and Maryanne looked toward the door. “And that one with the colic. What am I to do? Some days I think you're a lucky one with no children, ma'am.”

Celia would not call it luck. And she expected she never would have children, especially given her singular lack of a husband residing with her.

“You will feel more cheerful after the baby is born, Mrs. Kelly.”

“That's what John says, too.”

“Take some sage tea to ease your pains or a teaspoon of paregoric if the tea does not work.” Celia snapped shut the
portmanteau and tossed her mantle over her shoulders. “For your daughter's colic, you can try some ginger tea, if she'll have it. Otherwise, a warm compress on her belly might help.”

“I just wish John could be here more often,” the other woman said. “I'm worried he won't be with me when the baby finally does come. But I wouldn't want him to lose his job because he's tending to me. He had such poor luck at work before we came to San Francisco.”

“Do ask a neighbor for help, Mrs. Kelly. You might be surprised who is willing to assist a woman in labor.” It was a common enough condition among the women who lived in the lodgings that spilled down the hills toward the Golden Gate, and many would be sympathetic.

be surprised,” said Maryanne, hauling herself to her feet, a hand on her protruding belly.

“There's no need to show me out,” said Celia.

“Do you need a candle to light your way home? The fog's coming in thick tonight.”

“I've only a few blocks to walk, Mrs. Kelly.” Celia fastened her blue wool mantle atop her garibaldi and grabbed her bag. “I will be fine.”

“You've more courage than I do to walk these streets alone at night, ma'am.”

“They are not so bad.” Which was what she always told her housekeeper as well. Addie Ferguson tended not to believe Celia, either.

Maryanne thanked her, and Celia let herself out the front door. The fog was indeed thick, thick as the fogs she'd experienced in London, the corner gaslight a fuzzy spot of yellow in the distance. Mist swirled around a horse and rider passing on the
intersecting street, a shadow moving through the blanketing white like a specter. After an anxious inhalation, Celia descended to the street, clutching her portmanteau close.

It was only a few blocks to reach home, she reminded herself. She was well-known in the area and would be perfectly safe.

Better still, she was a very fast walker.

*   *   *

side from a cat startling her as it darted across her path, Celia turned the corner onto Vallejo Street without incident. Up ahead, the lights of the houses on Telegraph Hill winked through the mist. Beyond, a cliff plunged to the shore below, and Celia wondered anew at the tenacity of the homes that clung to the hill's sides like barnacles on a boat, some perilously close to the rocky edge; one good shake and they might tumble into the sea. But the homes were much like their inhabitants—strong-willed. Unyielding. And Celia was proud to count herself among their number.

She climbed the steep road, nearing home. The wind was such that she could hear the ding of the fog bell moored off Alcatraz Island, clanging in time to the rhythm of the swells. Next door to her house, the sound of her neighbor scolding one of her children in a burst of Italian echoed along the street, and a nearby dog found something to bark at. Life was normal, safe and sound.

Celia ascended the stairs to the comfortable brick home she shared with her cousin and their housekeeper. She passed beneath the sign that read
just as the front door swung open.

“You've missed supper, ma'am,” said Addie, her hands fisting on her hips.

“I trust you have a bowl of mulligatawny at the ready for me.” Celia stepped around her housekeeper into the warmth of the entry hall.

“I ought to let you starve if you canna keep normal hours like other doctors.”

An idle threat, coming from a woman who enjoyed mothering Celia, even though she was three years younger and, moreover, a servant. “I am not a doctor, Addie, only a nurse, as you well know. And as my patients do not keep normal hours, neither can I.”

“I can dream.”

Celia dropped onto the chair in the entry hall in order to remove her boots and slip her feet into the soft leather mules she kept near the door. Surrounded by the bits and pieces of her everyday life—the umbrella stand and the patterned rug on the floor, the case clock, and the tiny painting of a rolling green landscape that her husband had purchased on a whim, saying it had reminded him of his home in Ireland—she felt the tension leave her shoulders. It was always good to be home, the scent of Addie's cooking in the air and the sound of her housekeeper tutting over her.

“Any news from the Chinese quarter while I was out today?” she asked.

“None, ma'am,” said Addie, gathering up Celia's boots.

“Ah well.”

It had been several months since one of her Chinese patients had died while under Celia's care; she'd hoped that by now she would be welcomed back. But the anti-coolie movement continued to stir up hatred in the city, and Celia reminded herself it was too soon to expect the members of the Chinese community to welcome an outsider's ministrations.

“They'll return, ma'am. Dinna fret.”

“I hope you are correct, Addie.”

Piano music drifted through the closed doors to the parlor off to her left, followed by peals of girlish laughter. Despite Celia's fears that her half-Chinese cousin would never have friends, Barbara was entertaining that evening.

“Have the girls eaten?” Celia asked.

“Aye,” said Addie. “And that Grace Hutchinson, for all she's as slender as a thread, has a healthy appetite. Maybe they dinna feed her at that fancy house of theirs.”

“I am certain Jane feeds her stepdaughter. You know she dotes on the girl.” Jane had become as dear a friend to Celia as Grace was to Barbara. She'd also become an ardent patron of Celia's clinic, going so far as to gain others' financial support.
We are both fortunate, Barbara and I.

“But who else makes a mulligatawny like you do?” Celia added.

Another burst of giggling erupted in the parlor.

“Och, those two! They're like as not still laughing over their little joke about Mr. Knowles from the butcher shop.” Celia's mantle joined the boots in Addie's hands. “Asking me if we're to get our meat delivered for free if I marry him.”

“It is a reasonable question. I hope we do,” teased Celia.

“Me, marry that galoot? What a thought. Even if he is . . . Och, nae you mind that.”

Before Celia could ask what Addie had meant by her curious comment, her housekeeper hung the mantle on a wall peg and marched with the boots into the kitchen at the end of the hallway. Celia slid open the parlor doors and went through to
where the girls, both seated at the rented piano, had their heads bent close together.

BOOK: No Pity For the Dead
12.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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