The Gilded Hour Page 147

To All Ladies Resident in the City or Environs:

Be warned. An unidentified person claiming to be a physician has been advertising in all the newspapers offering his services to ladies who are seeking what is sometimes called the restoration of nature’s rhythms or the removal of obstructions. This person may sign himself Dr. dePaul or use other names. He is being sought by the police in connection with a number of homicides of a particularly heinous nature. For your own safety, do not communicate with anyone advertising such services unless the physician provides valid references from both patients and colleagues. Any information about this person should be directed to Detective Sergeant Maroney at Police Headquarters on Mulberry. A private citizen has made funds available to reward individuals providing information that leads to apprehension and conviction of the guilty party.

They talked about it for an hour, discussed the fine points and how to deal with what would certainly turn into a badgering by the press.

A runner came to the door. Jack took the message slips, read them, and then raised a brow in Oscar’s direction.

He said, “You want the good news or the bad news first?”

“Will we be able to tell the difference?”

“Probably not.”

“Then surprise us, go on.”

“There’s a man downstairs, Richard Crown, a brewer. He came in looking for his wife who fits the description of our Jane Doe. And we’ve got another one. Mamie Winthrop on Park Place—”

Oscar let out a low but heartfelt moan.

“—who died at home this morning from what her husband is calling medical malpractice.”

Larkin said, “Tell me that’s not Albert Winthrop you’re talking about.”

“And just when things were starting to slow down,” Jack said. “At least we won’t bore each other to death.”

Jack left Oscar and Larkin to question Richard Crown and headed uptown to Park Place. He hadn’t been in the neighborhood since the day Sophie and Cap left for Europe, though he had told Cap he would keep an eye on the house. He asked the cabby to pull over, paid him, and got out.

The house was closed up, the windows shuttered. He checked the locks on doors front and back, examined window frames, and, satisfied, set off for the Winthrop place. He was halfway there when he heard a patrolman’s whistle behind him and turned to see that he was being pursued not just by the cop, but two men. On the hunt, was what went through Jack’s mind. He waited, hands in pockets, until they caught up.

“That’s him,” said the shorter of the two men. “Nosing around the Verhoeven place, ready to break in. Arrest him.”

The patrolman had the good grace to look embarrassed.

“Fred,” Jack said. “How’ve you been?”

“Fine, Jack, we’re all in good shape. There’s some confusion here, Mr. Matthews—”

“No confusion,” said Matthews. “I saw him with my own two eyes. Now arrest him.”

Fred Marks was a friendly guy, well liked on the force, well thought of on the streets, but he wasn’t much for confrontation. He stayed on the job because his mother’s sister was married to the mayor, but they kept him out of trouble by assigning him the easy duties that would normally go to the men ready to retire. Now his good-natured face took on a scarlet tinge.

Marks said, “Mr. Matthews, this is Detective Sergeant Mezzanotte out of headquarters on Mulberry Street.”

“I don’t care if he’s the pope, he was trespassing.”

The second man said something in a low voice, and Matthews turned on him. Jack saw now that they were father and son.

“I never heard anything so ridiculous in my whole life. Like the Belmonts would let a wop look after anything. Like setting up a cozy bed for the fox in the middle of the henhouse.”

Jack had had enough, but he let Fred give it another try. “Mr. Matthews, I’m sure Mr. Verhoeven is glad to have you keeping an eye on his property, but you’re mistaken here.”

“Let’s go home,” said the younger Mr. Matthews. “You’ve done your duty, Father.”

Matthews looked like he was getting ready to make a citizen’s arrest, or more alarming still, to try to wrestle Jack to the ground. Jack held up one hand and with the other he got his shield out of his vest pocket and held it up. “Get in touch with Conrad Belmont,” he said. “He’ll tell you what you need to know. Now if you’ll excuse me—”

He wondered what Anna would say if he told her about this, being accused of trespassing and attempted burglary on a bright summer day. She’d be mad, and so he’d keep it to himself. In the twelve years he’d spent on the force things hadn’t changed much, but he was older and could keep his temper in check where Anna would not.

He was still thinking about this when he crossed the street to get to the Winthrops’ place. It couldn’t really be called a house, this monstrosity in redbrick bulging with cupolas and towers, carved marble facings, wrought-iron balustrades, velvet draperies at the windows, and a front door that would have been more suited to a dungeon.

There was no sign of reporters, but he erred on the side of caution and walked around to the back of the house through the stable courtyard. The kitchen door opened and closed, letting out a single swell of sound: female voices raised in alarm, frustration, fear. From farther away a man’s voice was raised in anger, too garbled to make sense of it.

Jack pushed through the crowd of servants and stable boys, put his shoulder to the door, and forced his way into the crowded kitchen. A wiry woman who was just tall enough to bite his elbow stood in front of him, a wooden spoon in her fist and murder plain on her face.

“Are you the doctor who cut up my mistress and left her to bleed to death?”

“No,” Jack said. “I’m the cop who’s going to track him down and see that he hangs.”

A grim smile divided her face in two, but her eyes were wet and her hand trembled when she took his wrist. “This way, then. Up those stairs.”

She talked so fast he only caught parts of the story she was trying to tell. Mrs. Winthrop had gone to see a doctor and come home half-dead.

“She’s a spiteful thing, mean as snakes. But nobody deserves to die like this, tore up like a fox at the end of a hunt.”

“Wait,” he said. “She’s still alive?”

“She is, but just barely.”


“In and out.”

“I need to talk to her.”

“I expect you do,” said the cook. “But you’ll have to get past Sir Albert first.”

Jack wondered that the cook felt free enough to call Winthrop by a nickname he must surely hate and decided she was past caring. Mamie Winthrop might be a wretched employer, but something about her had gotten the cook’s sympathy.

She pointed to a set of double doors and started to turn away.

“Tell me before you go, is there anybody in the house she takes into her confidence? Anybody at all?”

“Lizzy,” said the cook. “Her maid. If not for Lizzy the missus would be dying in the back of a cab or in a filthy hospital somewheres, all alone.”

A break, finally. The first real break. He said, “Where is Lizzy now?”

“Packing her things. Fired.”

“Don’t let her leave,” he said. “If you have to tie her down, keep her in the kitchen until I come to fetch her.” At the look on the cook’s face he said, “If you want us to catch the man responsible for Mrs. Winthrop’s state, you’ll keep her here for me to talk to.”

He waited for her nod and walked through the doorway into a sitting room that was crammed full of furniture, the flocked wallpaper barely visible under dozens of paintings and mirrors. He stepped around a sculpture of an Egyptian goddess, a set of couches upholstered in silk, a standing lamp in the shape of a heron with ruby eyes, through seating arrangements too delicate to bear the weight of anything larger than a cat, and arrived finally at the open door.

The stench in the room was familiar: infection, blood, human waste. Two men, almost certainly doctors, stood beside the bed, their heads bent together while they talked. Someone had pulled a sheet over the shape in the bed, blinding white but for the drops of blood that blossomed on the lower half.

Alfred Winthrop was on a stool on the far side of the room, bent forward, his palms on his knees. There were rings on every finger, like extra knuckles of metal and stone. An older woman stood beside him, dressed as though she were going to a ball or royal reception. Her jewels were around her neck and hanging from her ears.

Jack stepped into the room and closed the door behind himself.

•   •   •

NOTHING WAS EASY with old money, and the Winthrops were some of the oldest and richest of the Knickerbocker set. Lawyers came, surveyed the situation, and advised Alfred Winthrop to let the coroner’s office take charge of his wife’s remains, talking in low tones about inquests and investigations. A few well-chosen words and Winthrop dropped his protesting and even agreed to answer a few of Jack’s questions.

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