The Arch Fiend

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

David Taylor receives a package of notes from his cousin concerning an investigation by their great-grandfather which turns out to be a run for his life in the Murder Castle in Chicago in 1893.

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

 The Arch Fiend


Brian Lee Clements


It’s been about ten months since David and Carol Ann Taylor had their last adventure.  After getting caught in an avalanche last March on Interstate 70, Carol has been a little bit reluctant about going into the mountains.  After all, she did see her late husband and David’s late wife while she was in a coma.


Since then, they've settled back into their routines.  David had donated some property in the Mountain Shadows area to the city last year to make into a neighborhood park. It was land that he owned where he and his late wife were going to build a house. They named it “The Grace Taylor Memorial Park” after his late wife.  Lots of trees and a small playground for the kids.  It turned out nicer than they expected.  Plus The city was able to complete the project in just three months.  Which is pretty fast, even for Colorado Springs.


One afternoon, in December, David received an interesting phone call from his cousin, Will, who lived in Portland, Maine.  Will is about 10 years older than David and has been in poor health for some time now.


“Hi, Will. How’re you doing?”

“I’m fine.  Considering what I’ve been going through.”

“I heard.  Sorry to hear that.  Prostate cancer, right?”

“Yea. It wasn't caught in time and it spread throughout my body.  The doctors say I have about six months to live.  But enough about me.”

“Okay. How can I help?”

“I recently received some private papers from our great grandfather, John Taylor.”

“Really?  I don't know anything about him.”

“Well, I just found out last year that he had worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency back in the 1880’s and 90’s.”

“He did?  How did you find that out?”

“It was in some of those papers that I received from that time period. There is so much information in it that I don’t think I would be able to read it all before I pass on.”

“Okay. What do you want me to do?”

“I would like to send it to you and take care of it for me.  Read all of it, decipher it and let me know what is in it.”

“Is there anything in particular that interested you?”

“Sure is.  There was a case that I am really interested in that he was working on in the early 1890’s in Chicago concerning a missing person’s case during the Chicago World's Fair.  He also told a story about how he got caught up with a man called H.H. Holmes.”

“You’re kidding.  Wasn’t Holmes a serial killer?”

“He sure was, David.  One of the first and most prolific killers They say he killed over 200 people across the country including Chicago, New York and even Toronto.”

“Wow.  I’m very excited to read his papers.  Maybe there is a book in it somehow”

“That would be neat. I’m going to get everything packed and ready and go to the post office.  I’ll let you know when I get it sent out.”

“Okay Will.  I'll be expecting it next week.  Hope to talk to you soon.”

“Talk to you later, David.”


After David got off the phone, he went down to the basement office to tell Carol what just happened.  When he got down there, Carol was just getting off the phone with one of her clients.  He went on to tell her about the phone call and the memoirs. 


“Wow,” Carol said, “Your family sure does meet some interesting people.”

“Yes, we have. So have you since you joined the Taylor Family.”

“Yea.  That’s right.  The guy from Tate’s Hell Swamp and our dance that wasn’t there at the Stanley Hotel.”

“And don’t forget when you talked with our late spouses while you were in a coma.”

“Yea, how can I forget that? When will the package get here?”

“Probably sometime next week.  Already excited about it.” 

“I can tell.  You’re acting like a child on Christmas morning.”

“Before I forget." Carol added,  "Two of my daughters are coming down next week.”

“Which ones?”

“Joyce and Terri.  Kay wanted to come also but couldn't make it.

“I hope I can get their names correct.  The last time I was here I had a hard time.”

“I remember.  You always got their names wrong.  I think you finally figured it out the day they left.”

“Yea, I did. They look very much alike to me. Do you know how I figured it out?”

“No. How?

“Their eyes.  One was dark blue, another was light blue and the third was hazel. And one of them had a slight  wandering eye”

“Really?  Which one was which?”

“Ummm….I don’t remember.”

Carol lets out a laugh.  “I hope you figure it out before they get here.”

“Oh I will.


A week later, the package from Will arrived and David couldn’t believe how much information there was in it.  There were about eight thick folders with hundreds of sheets of paper in each folder.


A lot of reading for David to do.


Luckily everything was dated.  Well, the first task for David was to put everything in sequential order.  No telling how long that will take.  So, David went down to the basement and started the long dreaded task. He did everything in one of the corners so hopefully nobody would disturb his work. First thing he did was to put everything on the floor by year, which pretty much took about a day.


That’s correct, a day.


Joyce and Terri arrived the next day and David wasn’t able to do much with the papers until later.  In the meantime, they all went out to eat at Outbacks and talked about anything and everything. 


“What are all those papers on the floor down in the basement?” asked Terri

John responded, “My cousin, Will, sent the papers to me which deal with some cases that our great granddad, James Taylor, worked on while he was with the Pinkerton's back in the 1890’s.”

“That’s cool. “What’s all in it?

“Really don’t know yet. Hopefully I'll find out before you leave.” 

“Mom said that she has some plans for us while we’re here.”

“Your mom really hasn’t told me yet what she has planned for us.”

“You don't know? I don’t either. She usually can’t keep a secret too well.”

“I know.  I remember that while we were dating in high school.”


The next morning, everyone went out to breakfast.  Carol and her daughters went in the other car so they could go off on their own after breakfast.


Well, as the ladies went out on the town, David went home and finished sorting out everything and started to read the papers.  There was so much information that he felt like his brain was going into overload.  Some of the pages were basic reports about missing persons and labor disputes.  He then came upon the information that he was really interested in..


The report was concerning a missing person named Clara Miller in late 1892.  The report stated that she had gone to Chicago after high school and went to work for an insurance company and wanted to work at the Chicago World's Fair when it opened in 1893 and which closed six months later.  It took David about a half an hour to get through that part of his great grandfather’s papers. By the time he was finished with all the papers, the ladies were back from their afternoon exposition of the city.


“David, We’re home.”

“I’m downstairs. I’ll be right up.”


It takes David a minute to stumble up the stairs.


“Hi ladies.  How did it go today?”

“We had a great time,” Terri said.

“We sure did.” Joyce added.  “Mom even took us to the park that you donated.  Looks really nice.”

“Thanks. The City did a good job with the park.”

“How did your day go?” Asked Carol.

“It went pretty good.  Went through all the papers and found a great story to tell you guys later on.”

“Really? Terri asked. “Why not now?”

“I want it to be dark when I tell you the story.”


Carol and her daughters gave David a weird look.


“I hope it’s worth the wait,” Joyce said.

 Jack replied, “Oh, it will be.”

Carol added, “I’m sure it will.”


Evening came and David got everyone on the back deck with some tiki torches burning to set the mood for the evening.  Terri was excited about what was going to happen but Joyce looked a little worried.


“Joyce,” Carol asked, “Are you ok? You look a little queasy.”

“My stomach’s a little upset.” Joyce replied. “So much going on.”

“I know.  I wish Bob would be more understanding. Hopefully this short separation will help both of you.”

“You guys separated?,” David asked, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. We can do this later if you want”

“I’m good.  I need some distraction. Which is why I came to see you guys.”

“Okay. Anybody need anything to snack on or drink?


Everyone shakes their head now and Carol answers, “Looks like we’re good.”


David turns down the lights and like a candle in the middle of the table.


“This is about my great grandfather John Taylor who worked for the Pinkerton Private Detective Agency back in the 1880’s and 90’s.” 

“I’ve heard of them,” Terri said,  “Didn’t they prevent an assassination attempt on President Lincoln before he was inaugurated?”

“Wow. You know your history. They snuck Lincoln into Washington by dressing him in some women’s clothing.  Got him into town without anyone finding out.  Unfortunately, the press found out about it weeks later and criticized and made fun of him up until the inauguration.”

“Was your great grandfather involved in that?” Joyce asked.

“No. He didn’t start with them until the late 1880’s’


David then continued his story, 


“As I was saying, John Taylor was working With the Pinkerton’s at their Chicago Office around the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition in late October of 1893.”

“What was that?” Terri asked.

“It was also called the Chicago World’s Fair.  It was open from May to October of that year. It was kind of a showplace for many new inventions that were coming out around that time. It was the first time electricity was really used on a large scala”

“Kind of like Epcot Center at Disney World?, Carol asked.

“I guess you could say that.”

“Well, he was working in the office in Chicago when he got called into the office of his supervisor, Ralph Jones”


‘Taylor, come in here.’

‘ Yes sir. Why are you raising your voice?’ Taylor asked 

‘You get so involved in your cases that you seem to tune everyone out.’

‘Sorry. How can I help you’

‘I have a new case for you.  Missing woman who came out here to Chicago to work at the fair going on right now.’

‘What’s her name?’

‘Clara Miller. Here’s her file’

‘Miller? Isn’t that a rather usual name?’

“Yea. I guess.  From the picture, she’s a very pretty girl.’


“John opened the file folder and uttered a soft sigh”


‘Yes, you’re right. She’s very pretty.’

‘Her parents are worried about her and are afraid something may have happened to her.  Chicago has seen its share of missing women during the fair.’

‘Do they know where she was staying or working?’

‘All they knew was that she wanted to get into advertising and was going to try to work at the exposition.’

‘I guess some of the advertising companies near the fair will be a good place to start and then try the fair itself.’

‘Too bad we don’t have one of those newfangled telephones.’

“I don’t trust those things yet. I heard that they aren’t too reliable. Besides, I can get more information by interviewing people in person.”


“Well, John got his jacket and hat from his desk and decided to head toward the exposition and find some advertising companies in the area.”


“What kind of hat did he have?”

“Uh..I think it was kind of a derby hat. They always wore hats of some sort back then.”

“Aren’t those the cute round ones?”

“Round, yes.  I don’t know about cute.”

“As I was saying. John rode his bicycle  to some of the advertising companies around there.  He found five near the exposition. When he got to the fourth one, he found some news that he was hoping for.”


Joyce asked, “Bicycle? Why didn’t he drive there or use the subway?”

“There weren’t many cars made yet and the Chicago rail system was still pretty new and didn’t go where he needed to go.”


David continued his story


John then entered Wilson Advertising and started talking to the receptionist.


‘Hi, my name is John Taylor with Pinkerton Detectives’ as he hands her his business card.

‘Why hello there. I didn’t think detectives looked so cute’

Feeling a little embarrassed, ‘Why thank you. I’m looking for a young lady who may have come here a few days ago looking for a job.’

‘If you can’t find her, I’m available.’

‘Thank you for the compliment but she’s been missing for a few days and her parents are worried about her.’

‘I’m sorry.  Where are my manners? What do you need to know?

‘Her name is Clara Miller. Here’s a picture of her.’ As he hands the receptionist the picture

of her.

‘Yea, I remember her. She was very pretty and had a very good portfolio. What do you need to know about her?’

‘Really? Did she leave you anything as to where she lives or any contact information?’

“Yes she did.  She lives somewhere on West sixty-third street. From what she said, she lives in some weird looking castle up there?’

‘Thank you very much.  First lead that I have here.  By the way, did she get the job?’

‘Afraid not. The boss was worried about her being a young woman in Chicago and being eaten alive by the vultures that live here. He even urged here to go back home, get married and have a family.’

‘How did she handle that?’

‘Not well.  She used some very colorful words that I never heard from a woman. But my boss deserved it.’

John chuckled, ‘Thanks very much.  I guess I’ll have my hands full when I find her.’

‘Good luck. But, I’m still here if you can’t find her’’


The next thing John did was ride his bike back to the office and find a map.  He wasn’t sure where 63rd street was located.


When he gets back to his office, John yells out, ‘Does anyone know where there is a castle on West sixty-third street?’


Most of the other detectives shrugged their shoulders but one person knew what John was talking about.


‘Mr. Taylor. I believe the castle you’re talking about is located in Englewood.  It’s supposed to be some fancy motel.’

‘How long will it take me to get there?’

‘Walking, about 3 hours. Bike, probably an hour’

‘Okay, thanks.’


Fortunately, John knew where Englewood was. He headed out there around two and got to the castle/motel around three pm. When he got there, he stood in front of the motel and wondered how he should proceed.


Was Miss Miller there or did she move on to a different motel? Was she alive? Dead? Only one way to find out. John went to the front door dressed up in his suit and derby hat.  Anybody looking at him would realize that he was some sort of detective or a policeman. 


So, he decided to walk back a few yards and removed his suit,vest and hat and placed them in the bushes near the front porch.  After unbuttoning the top of his shirt, he decided to enter the front door.


But, there was one problem.  The door was locked.


John then knocked on the door and waited a few minutes. No answer.  Waited a couple of minutes.  Still no answer.  He then started to look around the building to see if there was another way in.


As he was looking around, he found a back door which was unlocked.  He wasn’t sure if he should open the door and go in. He figured what could possibly happened.  John found out really quick.


When he stepped through the doorway, the floor beneath him gave away and he suddenly fell through a trapdoor. The trap door was attached to a slide which seemed to go on forever but only lasted about twenty seconds.


John yells out, ‘Oh Crap. What the hell is going on here?’


When he got to the end of the slide, he landed in some murky water.  Almost like a storm sewer underneath the motel.  But why?  What in the world is going on here.


As he walked through the water, there was a disgusting smell that got worse as he went farther into the murkiness.  What he found was not what he hoped for.  A body of a young woman.  He wasn’t sure how long the body had been there.  Probably a few weeks.  The hair color was different from the woman he was looking for. 


As he was wading in the water, he found four rooms that were partially flooded and had some furniture in them with rope loosely tied around some of the chairs. Taylor can’t figure out why there is all this water and furniture in the basement.  Almost like a storm sewer leak next to the building.


He decided to finally yell out, ‘Anybody down here? Can you hear me?’


He suddenly heard some tapping on a pipe.  But he wasn’t sure where it was coming from. Down in the basement? One floor up?  He then heard the tapping again.


“Do you know where you are? Tap on the pipe for what floor you think you are?


John then heard three taps.  Hopefully that meant the third floor which was also the top floor.  He then headed for one end of the hallway hoping to find some sort of stairs. Nothing at the first end he went to.   He then waded through the water to the other side. He didn’t see anything there either.


He then looked closely at the water next to the wall and saw some movement in the water as if it was going behind it. Studying it, John decided to slightly push against the wall and noticed that the wall gave way just a tad.


He then pushed it more and noticed that it was a false wall with some stairs. That’s a relief.  Instead of hurrying through the door, Taylor decides to walk slower in case there were any more traps.


As he took one step, he suddenly felt a light breeze and decided to take a step back.  When suddenly, a sharp-edged pendulum came down and swung across the stairwell. John falls back to safe himself and lands back in the water.


‘What more can happen?’ he said out loud.


John got himself out of the water.  His white shirt and t-shirt soaked to the skin.  He then headed back up the stairs. Slowly, like earlier.  But when he got up to the top of the stairs, John stopped, he heard a noise behind him. He quickly turned around, he noticed that the stairs was a sliding staircase. If he was on it, he would be back on the bottom of the stairs. 


He decided to quickly go up the rest of the stairs. Booby traps, be damned.


It took John about two minutes to get up to the third floor.  He went briskly but carefully.  When he got to the top floor, he looked for signs of any traps.  Once he felt safe, he moved forward slowly. As he was walking, he suddenly felt a wire by his foot that he just stepped on.


John heard a bang at the hallway and suddenly jumped down onto his stomach. As he did, two arrows flew by him and went into the wall at the other end.  He slowly got up and tried to make sure there were no many traps to contend with.


He made his way down the hallway trying to figure out which door to enter.


‘Can you hear me?’ John yells out loud.


John heard a crash at the end of the hall.  Moving slowly, he makes it to the last door in the hallway.  Afraid there might be another trap, he bangs on the door.


‘Are you in there?  Can you hear me?’

‘Yes I can.  Can you help me?’

“I will.  Can you see any booby traps anywhere?

‘The only thing I can see is a wire hooked up to the chair that I’m sitting in at the moment.  Can you please hurry?’

‘I’m doing my best.  Try to calm down.  What’s your name?’

‘Clara Miller.’

‘You’re in luck, Clara.  Your parents hired me to look for you’


‘Yes they did.  I’m coming in now.’


John entered the room and saw a wire running to the chair.  He noticed that it isn’t connected to anything so it should be pretty safe.  He walked over to Clara to untie her from the chair.


‘Hi, Clara. I’m John Taylor with Pinkerton’s Detective Agency. I’m here to find you and it looks like here to rescue you also.’

‘Thank you. I didn’t think anybody would find me.  How did you do it?’

‘I’ll tell you later. But first, we’ll have to get you out of this death trap. When I tell you, we need to run to the door. No telling what will happen.’




John looks at the door and realizes that it was a long three feet to it.  He grabs Clara and they make a mad dash to the hallway. Just as they cross the threshold, a metal sheet closes the entryway into the room.


‘That was damn close,’ Clara said.

“Yea. I’ve already had too many close calls this afternoon.’

‘Hopefully we won’t have anymore.’


As they headed downstairs, John was worried about the many traps that had been strategically placed throughout the building.  He feared there may be one or two more before they got out of the so-called castle. 


 When they got to the main foyer near the front door without incident, Clara wanted to run out the door, but John stopped her.


‘Don’t go yet. There may be another trap.’

‘You’re kidding. I doubt there is any more stupid assed traps.’

‘This door was locked earlier, but is not ajar. What do you think then?

‘That you’re probably correct. What do we do now?’

‘Let’s stand on both sides of the door and I’ll pull it open’


They both get by the door and John opens the door farther.  Suddenly, another pendulum, this time with pickaxe, comes down quickly, but misses both of them. Clara gasped loudly.


‘You okay?’

‘Yes, let's get out of here.’


They got out the front door to the street and John flagged someone down to notify the police.  He then grabbed his jacket and vest which he left in the bushes and put the Jacket around Clara’s shoulders to keep her warm.


A few minutes later, four or five officers showed up and took over the scene.  John and Clara give their statements to the officers as more people show up at the castle.


Before leaving, John and Clara start talking about what happened.


‘How long have you been here?’ John asked

‘I’ve been in Chicago  for a few weeks. But, I’ve been in this apartment for a long couple of days. Dr. Holmes was so nice when I first came and asked for an apartment.’

‘Dr Holmes, you say?  Does he have a first name/’

‘He signed the lease as Dr. H.H. Holmes.’ Have you ever heard of him?’

‘I haven’t. I wonder what happened to him.’

‘Beats me. Haven’t seen him since he tied me up this morning.’

‘The receptionist at one of the advertising companies remembered you due to your colorful language. I understand what she meant now.’

‘I was pissed at that executive.  He wanted me to do things that a young lady should not do’

‘Really? I don’t blame you for using profanity then. I’m going to take you back to our headquarters and you can send a telegraph to your parents and let them know that you’re okay.’


They got back to headquarters an hour later and the telegram was sent to Clara’s parents.  After the reports were filed, Clara went on her way back to the advertising companies and to find a new place to live.  Hopefully a more respectable place.


“And that’s the story of my great grandfather.”


“What happened to Clara? How long did John stay with Pinkerton’s after that?” Terri asked

“John stayed with Pinkerton’s for another five years until he got married and had children.  But here is the weird thing.  I don’t know if this is the same Clara Miller or not.  But then I looked at my family tree and came upon something very interesting.”

“What?” Joyce wondered.

“John Taylor married a young lady by the name of Clara Miller in 1896.”

“Get out of town.”


David pulls out a picture of Clara from John’s Taylor’s folder and then shows everyone a picture of John and Clara together.


“Oh my god! Terri exclaimed. Your great grandmother was rescued from Holmes by your great grandfather.  They get married. Have kids. If it wasn’t for a serial killer, you wouldn’t be here.”

“Pretty much.  It looks like you can find love anywhere”

“True. What happened to Holmes and his so-called castle?”

“Holmes was eventually caught and executed in Pennsylvania in 1896. The castle burned down in a mysterious fire in 1895.  There is a post office building there now” 


Everyone sat there for a couple of minutes thinking about the story and dumbfounded about what was just said.  As they were sitting there, Joyce’s husband, Bob called and she took it in the other room.


“I called my cousin, Will, what I found and he was just flabbergasted about what I found.”

“I told you this would be a good story.” Carol said.


Joyce came back to the room and said, “Bob and I are going to try to work things out when I get back. I think I’m going to tell him the story about your great grandparents. It’s a great story.”

“That’s good to hear, David said. “I hope it works out for you two.


For the rest of the evening, David and Carol told them the adventures they had together over the years.  What will happen next. Who knows?.


Submitted: June 17, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Brian Lee Clements. All rights reserved.

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A well written mystery thriller story.

Mon, August 10th, 2020 11:35pm


Great thriller chiller story.

Sun, October 25th, 2020 5:33pm


I liked how you wrote it as a family history well written as always

Sun, December 13th, 2020 6:24am

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