“Look,” Spreckels said, “my wife is about to deliver her child. I’m not moving her.”
“If your missus is about to drop a foal, you better get her the hell out before things get burned up. Now get movin’. And don’t plan on cartin’ anything with you.”
Spreckels slammed the door and hurried outside to the stables, where two Chilean grooms were trying desperately to calm the horses.
“We have to move Mrs. Spreckels,” he yelled.
They followed Spreckels back into the house and dashed to the bedroom.
“Rudolph, what’s happening?”
“We’re going to move you Eleanor.”
“Oh, God. No.”
“We have no choice. We’re being ordered to evacuate.”
“Can’t they wait? Please!”
Spreckels nodded to Mrs. Flaherty and the two nervous grooms. They hoisted the corners of the bed sheets and struggled down the hallway.
“Rudolph. Rudolph! Put me down.”
Near the back door, Spreckels saw the tattooed man and several others staring at his car and examining his stables. “Let’s take her out the side door toward Clay Street,” he said softly.
Halfway to the street Mrs. Spreckels gasped and her breathing quickened.
“She’s not going to make another meter,” Mrs. Flaherty warned him. They set her gently on the lawn. Mrs. Flaherty knelt and pulled the blanket up. “This little one’s got a mind all its own,” she said. “It ain’t waitin’ for no one.”
Spreckels looked at the throng hustling down Van Ness toward the bay. “Let’s raise one of the bed sheets and at least give her some privacy,” he ordered.
“All right,” Mrs. Flaherty said, “the head’s comin’ through, we need you to push, ma’am. Push!”
Spreckels looked toward the attic, where he often had met with Fremont Older, Byron Fallon, and Charles Feeney. Documents crucial to the investigation were stacked about the room. A figure scampered past the dormer window: moments later, flames raced up the curtains, through the dormer window, and began climbing up the bone-dry roof.
Spreckels looked toward the rear of his home, where the scar-faced man leapt from the back porch and hurried toward his surly companions near the stables.
The flames spread rapidly, fanned by the hot wind. By the time Mrs. Flaherty tied the umbilical cord with a shoestring, the house was engulfed in flames.
Eleanor Spreckels clutched her daughter to her chest and squeezed her
She looked into her husband’s damp eyes and saw the reflection of the flames devouring her home.