The Gilded Hour Page 142

AT FIRST IT seemed she hadn’t understood him, but the color rose in her cheeks as if she had been slapped or insulted. Which, Jack supposed, she had been.

“Seven or eight women.” She shook her head. “All like Janine Campbell. How are they similar?”

He gave her what she needed: described the overlapping circumstances, age and marital status, social standing, childbearing history, autopsy findings.

“He won’t have to redo the Campbell or Liljeström postmortems, but the others he’ll start with tomorrow. They’ve already started on the exhumations.”

Anna leaned back against the pillows. “I can’t grasp this. I can’t believe something like this is really happening. Somewhere nearby there’s a doctor or midwife or—I don’t even know what to call such a person—who kills women because they don’t want to have children.”

“More children,” Jack said. “All of them already had children.”

“That’s even worse, in some ways. A woman who wants to be finished with childbearing has no right to live.” Her voice cracked.

He picked up a cup, half full, and handed it to her. For once she drank without wrinkling her nose. Then she let him smooth the sheets and adjust the blankets. All the time he wondered if he should mention Neill Graham, when he had so little concrete to offer.

Something in Graham’s tone of voice, the way he turned his head, the curve of his mouth, the connections he made between whore and woman and filth. There was something very wrong with the man, but he would have to keep that to himself for a while longer, until he had more concrete evidence to offer this woman who was a scientist before she was anything else at all.

He sat with her while she drifted off to sleep. He was about to get up when she roused.

“If Janine Campbell was the first, that would mean that there was one victim a week for eight weeks. Did they all happen on the same day of the week?”

Even in the middle of this god-awful case, she made him smile. “Did you think like a copper before I married you, or has that rubbed off?”

There was something almost shy about her smile, as if she wasn’t sure this was a compliment, and if it was, whether she had earned it. But she waited for him to answer.

“We’ll be more able to answer that question once Lambert is finished with the postmortems.” And then he said, “Oscar thinks Lambert likes you. I think he’s probably right.”

Now her smile shifted to plain disbelief. “Don’t be silly. He doesn’t know me.”

“Maybe he knows you better than you imagine.”

“Oh, I see,” Anna said, blinking sleepily. “This is that argument you think you can win because I’m losing my voice. And you know what, I’ll let you have this little victory. As wrong as you are.”


WITHOUT REAL WORK to do, unable to read because of a headache, awash in honey and lemon tea, Anna’s mind kept running off to Staten Island. Certain pictures came to mind and wouldn’t be banished: the priest’s smug expression, satisfied because he had managed to keep the children apart; the way Rosa had stood looking out at the sea, her shoulders rounded in surrender; Lia’s wet face and the small hiccups she couldn’t control. Their brother was truly gone and out of reach. Rosa had failed to do that one thing her mother had asked of her; they had no hope of finding Vittorio, and still not even a hint about Tonino.

And Jack, standing there in the middle of the half-built orphan asylum.

In theory Anna understood that he was capable of violence, and committed violence in the course of his every day. She knew too that he was capable of controlling his temper, but she saw what it cost him to keep his anger in check.

When they drove away from Mount Loretto, McKinnawae was standing just where they left him, his wrists crossed at the small of his back, his expression blank. Sometime, not today, she would ask Jack what he had said to the priest. When she was sure she wanted to know.

When she wasn’t thinking about Staten Island, it was the story she had told the girls on Sunday morning that plagued her. Now that she had opened that door, it wouldn’t be closed again so easily. During the day she drifted in and out of memories distorted by time and sorrow. She wondered now if her memory was faulty or if she had managed to really tell the story, to be factual and even blunt. She somehow managed to tell the truth, but not the whole truth.

With Jack she would have to say out loud those things she had kept locked up inside herself for more than twenty years. The terrible things she had never spoken aloud, not to her aunt, or Sophie, or even with much clarity or precision, to herself.

•   •   •

MRS. CABOT FED Anna broth, soft-boiled eggs, tea and toast. When she wasn’t bringing something to eat or refilling Anna’s teacup, she was at hand with compresses. The smell of camphor oil on warmed flannel was comforting and effective both, wrapped around her throat. She sweated through the bedclothes and sheets and then sat by watching as Mrs. Cabot changed it all so that she could go back to sleep in a cool, sweet-smelling cocoon.

All day while Anna was being pampered, Jack slept on a narrow bed in a room down the hall. When she woke in the later afternoon, she forgot for a moment why she was in bed in the light of day, alone. Then she swallowed and the ache in her throat—much better already—reminded her.

Jack was gone again, back to Mulberry Street to work on the Campbell case. On Thursday she would go back to her own patients and students, to staff meetings and consultations. She glanced at the stack of journals waiting to be read, turned over, and went back to sleep. To dream about the family she had lost, and the one she might make, with Jack.


WHEN JACK CAME home at six on Tuesday morning he found a note on the banister where he could not possibly miss it: Don’t you dare go to sleep until you come talk to me.

He went up the stairs at a trot, half expecting her to be asleep and wondering if waking her would make her more or less cranky. The simple truth was, he wanted some time with his wife, whatever her mood. The door stood open and showed him Anna sitting up in bed, reading. She hadn’t heard him and so he stopped to watch her for a moment.

She had tied her hair back and out of her face with a wide silk ribbon not equal to the task of subduing the riot of waves and curls. While she read—a medical journal, of course—she wound a finger through a long loose curl, tugging. There was noise from the street and the flutter of the curtains in a fitful breeze, but all her attention was on her reading. If he could paint, Jack thought, this was the painting he would want: Anna in sunlight, reading.

During the day sometimes the memory of her came to him as unanticipated as a flash of lightning: Anna underneath him, shoulders thrown back, throat arched, her gaze fixed on his as he inched her closer and closer to letting go. It had never really been clear to him before Anna, but he understood now what an act of trust it was, what a gift she gave him when she surrendered. Now the simple sight of her made him forget the weariness etched into his bones. He shook himself out of his daydream, and she looked up.

“There you are. Come talk to me.”

The ribbon in her hair was a deep copper color that somehow brought out the green in her hazel eyes. He would tell her so; he wanted to tell her so, but she would fluster and turn away.

He said, “You’re better.”


“You don’t sound so much like a seventy-year-old cigar fiend.”

First one dimple, then the other. “What a lovely image.”

He laughed and sat down on the opposite side of the bed, canted to face her.

“I think I’ll be able to go back to work on Thursday,” she said. “That leaves two days, and I promise you, I’ll go crazy if I have to stay in this bed the whole time.”

She picked up a teacup from the bedside table, wrinkling her nose at the taste. “I’ve never understood the concept of laziness. Doing nothing all day is torture.”

He said, “Maybe this will help,” and put a folder on the bed, a little grubby on the edges, Oscar’s handwriting scrambling over the surface like ants. “I thought you might want to see what Lambert came up with. I brought copies of the Liljeström and Campbell reports and the three he finished last night. He hopes to get the last three done by tomorrow morning.”

The smile she gave him took his breath away. He wondered what else would make her smile like that. Diamonds? A trip to London? A hospital of her own?


She looked up at him.

“What do you like to do for fun?”

Confusion flashed across her face. “What do you mean, for fun?”

And there, exactly, was the heart of the matter. Anna’s heart.

He said, “When you have an hour or a day to yourself and no deadlines and no place to be, when you can please yourself. What do you do?” And then: “This isn’t an exam. There’s no right answer.”

“But there’s always something that needs to be done.”

“This is a hypothetical question. All work done, everything sorted, people looked after, no deadlines. A day free. What would you like to do with that time? What would make you happy?”

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