The Gilded Hour Page 127

“We’re not worried,” Rosa said. “We’re confused.”


Lia leaned against his arm and pointed. “See that man over there?”

Jack recognized Ned from the way he held himself, a young man neatly if plainly dressed, his posture erect but his shoulders bent forward toward Anna while she talked, the very picture of manly solicitude.

“I do. His name is Baldy. Or Ned. What about him?”

All the brimming energy left them just that simply, because this information only confused them further. They wanted to know why he would have two names, and which was the right one? When it turned out that Jack had no satisfactory explanation for this strange state of affairs, they went ahead with their story, which had to do with Anna, Bambina, and Baldy-Ned. Jack winced but didn’t interrupt to correct them because they were off at a gallop.

It seemed that Baldy-Ned had walked right up to Anna, had smiled at her and called her Dr. Anna, and asked was it true she had gone ahead and married the Dago detective sergeant contrary to common good sense? Which had gotten Anna to laugh the way ladies laughed when they were being teased and liked it. The confusing part was Bambina, who, it seemed to them, had taken an instant dislike to Baldy-Ned. She didn’t like what he said, or the way he said it, or the idea that Baldy-Ned was going to teach Anna Italian—something that had come out, and wasn’t that good news, that Anna was learning Italian?—and then Baldy-Ned had just smiled at Bambina and called her cara.

“She didn’t like that at all, that he called her cara,” Rosa said. “But it’s a nice thing to call somebody.”

Lia, hopping in place, wanted to know what it meant that Bambina turned all red and her jaw got tight. Most important, what did it mean when Anna said that he, Jack, had introduced her, Anna, to Baldy-Ned with perfect manners, and that Bambina might want to follow her brother’s example?

It was all very confusing and sad because they thought Baldy-Ned was nice and they would like him to come around the house to talk Italian, to Anna and to them, too.

“So,” Rosa said. “Can you fix it?”

•   •   •

BEFORE HE COULD even get to Anna, the band started up and Baldy-Ned disappeared. There would be no fixing of anything or even any talking over the music, which would give Jack some time to think. He was glad of it.

Rosa and Lia plopped themselves down on the blanket where Anna had settled, and Jack followed their example. He leaned against Anna and bumped her shoulder with his own. She smiled at him and both dimples came to the fore, a welcome sight that put his worries to rest. Whatever trouble Bambina had stirred up, it hadn’t robbed Anna of her mood.

He wondered if he should talk to his mother about her youngest and most troublesome daughter and decided that it would only make things worse. Instead he leaned into Anna and threaded his fingers through hers. Despite the brass and drums, he was half-asleep himself and would have dropped off when the band took a break, if Oscar hadn’t come to crouch beside them.

“I’m going to talk to that Graham, the young ambulance doctor who testified in the Campbell case. I’ll fill you in tomorrow.”

Anna leaned across Jack to smile at Oscar. “Working on a Sunday evening in June?”

“Anna, my dear,” he said with a puff of breath that might have been sixty proof. “I love my work. Why don’t you two come along, Jack,” Oscar said. “She speaks doctor, after all. And she might find it interesting.”

“I would,” Anna agreed, nudging this time with her elbow. “Take me along, Mezzanotte. I’m interested.”

•   •   •

ANNA WONDERED AT herself, that she should find this so compelling. She would be quiet and observant, she promised herself, and hoped it was a promise she could keep.

Neill Graham had a room in a boardinghouse not five minutes from Bellevue, a rambling, threadbare place typical of the living quarters interns and medical students could afford. The carpet was worn, but there wasn’t a stain or stray dust mote to be seen anywhere.

The landlady introduced herself as the Widow Jennings and blinked at them while Oscar talked. Then she cleared her throat and straightened her shoulders.

“I’ve been letting rooms to young men studying to be doctors for twenty years now,” she said, leading them into the parlor. “Since the day Mr. Jennings did us all a favor and dropped down dead. Terrible mean, he was. Awful mean. There I was with this big house and no money—he was a drinker, you see, was Mr. Jennings, drank himself into an early grave. Just not quite early enough. So I said to myself, Hitty, young people would bring some joy into this vale of tears, and I’ve had every room occupied ever since I started. Because I’m fair, you see. I don’t overcharge and I cook good plain food, but plenty of it. My boarders don’t go hungry, and I don’t stick my nose where it don’t belong, I can promise you that.

“Now you have to tell me why you’re wanting to talk to young Neill Graham. I can’t say my boys never get in trouble, but I’m surprised to hear it’s Neill you’re fixed on. Can’t hardly remember a nicer boy, hardworking, polite. His grandfather lives way downtown, which is why he boards with me. A responsible young man. I always wanted a son, but instead I just had Mr. Jennings, and he gave me nothing but heartache and moneylenders at the door and crabs, more than once.”

Anna bit back a laugh, because really, it wasn’t at all funny. Unexpected, but not funny. It was only a very small comfort to see that Oscar had gone red in the face, too. Jack was better at hiding things.

He was saying, “Could we speak to him here in your parlor, Mrs. Jennings?”

“Yes, of course. Just set, make yourselves comfortable. I’ll fetch him.”

When the sound of her climbing the stairs faded away, Oscar drew in a hiccuppy laugh, shook his head, and took out a handkerchief to wipe his eyes. His shoulders were still shaking when Neill Graham came through the parlor door, one side of his face pillow-creased and his hair standing up.

“Keeping odd hours, Dr. Graham.” Oscar’s tone was vaguely accusatory.

Anna’s impulse was to explain that interns learned to sleep whenever the opportunity presented itself, but she stopped. Oscar might be provoking the young man on purpose.

Neill Graham gave a soft laugh. “You could say that.” With thumb and forefinger he rubbed his eyes for a moment and then opened them to focus on Anna.

“Dr. Savard. Is this about the Campbell case?”

“It is,” Jack said. “We want to hear about that day again, in as much detail as you can summon.”

Mrs. Jennings appeared in the doorway with a tray laden down with a teapot and cups.

“But first a cup of tea,” Anna said. “That will wake you up. Thank you, Mrs. Jennings. You are very thoughtful.”

•   •   •

THE CUP OF tea did its work. Graham talked for ten minutes, telling them when he got up that morning and when he reported for his shift on the Bellevue ambulance service.

“And your first call, when did that come?”

“I’d have to check my notes to be sure, but it was about a quarter past seven. An omnibus clipped a boy on the Bowery near Clinton. We got there about half past the hour, and I worked on the boy about ten minutes before we got him loaded into the ambulance.”

In Anna’s experience, interns were often not at their best in a critical situation like the one he was describing, but in his memory, at least, he had followed a sensible course of action. He talked about the boy’s death in the ambulance in the same measured tone, with some regret but without guilt, which said to Anna that he was competent and realistic, in control of his emotions when he was working. He talked about two more calls, about eating the lunch that Mrs. Jennings packed, the cost included in his room and board.

“And what time did you get the call about Mrs. Campbell?”

“I can tell you we got word from the Jefferson Market precinct desk sergeant at just before one. It was a baker’s boy who brought word to the station, but I only know that because I heard the neighbor lady say so on the stand.”

He took a swallow of cold tea, put down the cup very carefully, and placed his hands flat on his knees.

“The Campbell house is maybe three blocks from Jefferson Market, so we got there quick. The door was standing open and there were neighbors milling around, the way they do when there’s trouble. You must see that happen all the time.” He looked at Oscar, who gave him a curt nod.

Oscar was not exactly severe or disapproving, but he didn’t give Graham much indication of how he was doing. Jack rarely looked up from his note taking. Anna was curious about what it all meant, if the two men were exchanging information in some way she didn’t recognize.

Graham was saying, “I went in with my bag, through the parlor and a hall into the kitchen. The neighbor, I’m forgetting her name—”

“Mrs. Stone,” Oscar said.

“Mrs. Stone was standing in the bedroom doorway, wringing her hands. There was a pool of blood on the kitchen floor and a trail into the bedroom. I didn’t ask her direct, but I assumed that Mrs. Stone had helped Mrs. Campbell get from the kitchen into bed. I asked her to stay in the kitchen and I went in and examined Mrs. Campbell. Do I need to go over her condition again?”

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