mile north, on flooded Van Ness, a soot-covered Ford zigzagged between columns of rifle-wielding troops and made a sharp turn onto Sacramento. It swerved into the driveway of the corner mansion and stopped near the stables. A frantic Rudolph Spreckels jumped out and ran inside, his face a mask of worry.
He bounded up the winding staircase to the second floor and slipped into the bedroom, where Mrs. Flaherty, the plump Irish housekeeper, attended to his wife. He sat on the edge of the bed and pressed Eleanor’s hands as her breath came in quick, short gasps.
“I tried t’ telephone the midwife, Mr. Spreckels, but none a’ the bloody things was working. Ain’t a doctor in the city not tendin’ the wounded and dyin’ somewheres.”
“I know,” Spreckels said, “it’s just the three of us.”
“It’ll be the four of us in a few minutes here,” Eleanor smiled, her face covered in sweat.
“This baby is not waiting for anyone.”
Spreckels placed his hand on her belly and felt the child move. Through the window he could see City Hall burning a mile away, the peak of the fire waving in his direction. He was jarred by pounding and shouts of “open up” coming from his front door.
“Stay with her, Mrs. Flaherty.”
He ran down the wide stairway and jerked open the front door. A tall man with a scar on his face and a badge in his left hand stared down at him.
“We’re clearing out these houses,” Scarface said. “We got orders from the city.”
“The fire is a mile from here,” Spreckels argued. “It
might not even make it this far.”
“I’m Rudolph Spreckels. You have no right to order me from my own home. You can tell Mayor Schmitz I said so.”
“We’ll be sure to let him know,” Scarface replied, fingering the Colt in his waistband. Scarface looked over his shoulder and spotted a detachment of soldiers. They stopped in the middle of Van Ness, fifty feet away. Several of them stared back at him.
He turned and glared at Spreckels. “Let’s get moving,” he hissed.