The Russian Hill Murders

The Russian Hill Murders by Shirley Tallman

Book: The Russian Hill Murders by Shirley Tallman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shirley Tallman
suggestive little curtsy, plainly intended solely for the attractive minister.

    Chin snapped impatiently at her in rapid Chinese, then in broken English. “Lazy good-for-nothing. Bring pots. Now!”
    The girl turned sullen eyes on the cook, then, without hurrying, handed the pans to Chin. Muttering angrily beneath his breath, the cook stood on a stool and hung each pan carefully above the cast-iron stove.
    “That stove is Chin’s pride and joy,” Mrs. French explained, in an obvious attempt to draw attention away from the kitchen maid, who continued to stare openly at the minister. “Woe be it if anyone else so much as touches it.”
    “He’s a splendid cook, so you must forgive us if we humor him,” Margaret said.
    One woman in the group commented that she didn’t blame the cook one bit. “If I had a stove like that, I’d protect it with my husband’s pistol,” she exclaimed, her expression indicating she was only half joking.
    “Shall we proceed?” Margaret asked.
    She led us up a flight of stairs to the second floor, where the original warehouse offices had been located. Eventually, she told us, they would house not only the hospital’s administrative staff, but also a chapel and the promised playroom for hospitalized children and for the offspring of women who had given birth. The third, uppermost floor would be reserved for surgical operations, storage and a temporary morgue.
    Not surprisingly, Reverend Prescott showed particular interest in the chapel, and he looked around the room approvingly. I admit I’d been keeping an eye on Prescott since the tour began, curious to see if I’d imagined his amazing charisma. My interest turned to embarrassment when I realized every female eye in our group was also fastened on him. Margaret Barlow deferred to him as if he were a visiting potentate, while Adelina French hung on
his every word. Prescott appeared to be unaware of his appeal, but I suspected this was largely feigned. Behind those smiling eyes, I guessed he was conscious of every glance, every sigh, every whisper.
    Our next stop was the room—actually two small rooms joined by a connecting door—that Lily Mankin and her children would soon occupy. I admit I’d been concerned about the arrangement, fearing the board’s promise to house the Mankin family might have been forgotten in the excitement of opening the hospital. I’d even put off informing the widow of the planned accommodation in case it didn’t materialize. I now realized that, far from breaking their word, Margaret and her mother had given the family’s housing needs thoughtful consideration.
    “We chose these rooms for Mrs. Mankin because they catch the morning sun,” Adelina said, pleased by my delighted expression. “And they’re located close to the children’s playroom.”
    I was already picturing the rooms filled with Lily’s homey touches. “She’ll be so pleased, Mrs. French. And exceedingly relieved. I can’t thank you enough for your efforts.”
    Several more rooms on the second floor were also ready for occupancy or were already being used by staff members. Margaret showed us her own office overlooking Pacific Street, which was large and tastefully furnished.
    “This is only temporary,” she explained. “We’re in the process of hiring a hospital administrator, but it’s proving more difficult than we anticipated. When we do hire someone, this will be his office.”
    We were startled by the sound of loud voices erupting from the next room. When they turned into full-scale shouts, Mrs. Barlow excused herself and went out into the hall.
    “Kwei-chan!” I heard a male voice scream. “Villain! How you expect me cook without proper supplies?”

    I followed Margaret out of the office to find Chin Lee Fong facing off against Lucius Arlen, the hospital’s accountant. Although Arlen towered over him, Chin showed no fear. He glared up at Arlen as if he would have liked nothing better than to engage the accountant in

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