The Gilded Hour Page 153


Rosa nodded, the muscles in her throat working hard as she swallowed.

Anna spread the single sheet open. Rosa had written from margin to margin, each letter carefully formed and spaced.

Dear Mayor of Annandale Staten Island New York,

I write to ask whether you have living in your town Eamon and Helen Mullen, and their two children, a girl and a baby boy. Mr. Mullen is a blacksmith. If you know of them I would very much like to learn their address in order to write them a letter. Thank you. Yours sincerely,

Rosa Russo
18 Waverly Place
New York NY

Anna finished reading and handed the sheet of paper to Jack. Rosa was staring at the floor, her head bent. She was trying so hard to be a grown-up, it wouldn’t do for Anna to start crying.


The small face came up, slowly. Misery and determination fought for the upper hand.

Anna said, “You’ll need a three-cent postage stamp. I’ve got some in my desk.”

After some discussion they came up with a plan. Every week Rosa would write to another town, one she chose from the atlas she found in the parlor bookcases at Roses. One week she would write to a town in New York, the next in New Jersey. Anna would provide the paper, envelope, and postage stamp.

Margaret would help her with the wording, consulting now and then with Aunt Quinlan and the others. Rosa could continue writing these letters for as long as she liked.

Rosa asked Jack a question that another man would have had trouble answering. “Do you think I might find them this way?”

He reached out and put a hand on the crown of her head. “I’ve seen stranger things happen.”

Elise came in as Rosa left.

“I’m about to leave for the hospital,” Anna said. “If you want to walk with me you should get your things.”

“I will,” she said. “But I wanted to be sure you saw this.”

She put the New York Post on the table in front of Anna, and Jack immediately got up to come around and read over her shoulder.

•   •   •





Acting on an anonymous tip, Detective Sergeants H. A. Sainsbury and M. P. Larkin of the New York Police Department yesterday searched the home of Archer Campbell at 19 Charles Street and found a number of stolen bearer bonds. Campbell resisted arrest and sustained significant injuries in his struggle with the detectives. He sits now in the Tombs awaiting arraignment.

Just weeks ago Campbell appeared in court to testify in the inquest into his wife’s sudden and tragic death. At the same time the couple’s four young sons disappeared without a trace and are still missing. The city mourned with Mr. Campbell for the loss of his family, only to find that their sympathy was ill placed.

The bonds found in his possession were just three of a larger issue of fifty. The Boston and New York police will interrogate Campbell in an attempt to uncover the location of the rest of the bonds.

“The Boston police tell us this was an older robbery,” Detective Sergeant Larkin told the Post. “It’s possible the rest of the bonds will never be recovered.”

It took a great deal of stern self-discipline, but Elise never asked about the newspaper article; she kept all her questions to herself and ignored the burn of curiosity in her throat.

Instead they talked about Regina Sartore’s surgery, which Anna had missed. To Elise Anna’s many questions felt something like an exam that she hadn’t studied for, but she answered with what turned out to be satisfactory detail. Finally she got up the nerve to ask about a different matter, almost as difficult as the newspaper article.

“Has there been any progress in the postmortem cases we talked about?”

Anna glanced at her in surprise, as if she had already forgotten the long conversation of just two days ago. Then her expression cleared.

“There’s been another case,” she said. “And a little forward movement. A witness who has some information the detectives are pursuing. Did you find the cases interesting?”

“The circumstances are terrible, but the discussion was interesting. Did the detectives agree that the doctor must be well established, and considered trustworthy?”

At that Anna smiled. “Just the opposite. They have a suspect. An intern, very young and untried. I’m not sure why exactly but they are as sure about him as I am convinced that you have the right of it, and they should be looking for someone older.”

They walked in silence for a while, and then Elise said what came to mind.

“Why couldn’t it be both?”

•   •   •

ON THE WAY out of the squad room a runner brought Jack a message that he opened and read on the spot.

Oscar waited, worrying the end of his cigar. “Well?”

“From Anna. It says, ‘Why are you assuming there is only one doctor? Could it not be the man you suspect as well as a more established physician, the two working together? Elise suggested this to me, and it makes sense.’”

“I can see where this is going,” Oscar said dismally. “Those two are after our jobs.”

This time they found Neill Graham’s landlady up to her elbows in soapsuds, but she was all good cheer, made offers of tea and cake, begged just a moment while she changed her apron.

When she had finally settled on the very edge of a sofa, Oscar smiled at her. “Mrs. Jennings. We’re just trying to tie up some loose ends on a case, and we were wondering if you might answer a few questions for us.”

She had the bright dark eyes of a robin, but the way she was chewing on her lower lip gave her nervousness away.

“Well, now,” she said, her hands fluttering. “You know I’m not the youngest anymore, and my memory sometimes fails me.”

Jack caught on before Oscar. He introduced them both and left all details about their last visit unstated. It seemed possible that Mrs. Jennings had no memory of their earlier meeting; Anna wondered if that would work for or against them.

Mrs. Jennings seemed relieved not to be scolded, and sat up even straighter, an eager schoolchild wanting to please the teacher.

“We have a few questions about one of your boarders, Neill Graham. We are trying to locate his family, but without luck. Do you happen to know where they live?”

Vague enough, he hoped, to start her talking.

She knotted her hands in her lap. “Oh,” she said, “Neill Graham. A very good boy, very orderly, never late with his rent. Never tries to sneak girls into his room, which you must imagine, happens often with young men like these medical students. The things I’ve seen, I could make the seven sisters blush, I’m sure of it.”

She paused as if she had lost track of the subject.

“Neill Graham,” Oscar said gently.

“Oh, yes. Dr. Graham. No, he never has girls in his room, or I’ve never caught him at it, I should say. Young men do have their urges. But he’s never been any trouble.”

“Do you know if he has any family nearby, or any close friends who might come to visit?” Oscar leaned back, as relaxed as a Buddha, radiating calm acceptance of whatever she wanted to tell them. It was the only hope they had of getting anything useful from the conversation.

“Family. Family. A sister, I think. Or a brother? A brother-in-law. Yes, a married sister, she comes by now and then and brings him things, new shirts and socks and such. He never seems very happy to see her, but then brothers and sisters often quarrel. She was a very elegant type, tall and slim, but no furs or jewels. Spoke to me very politely and didn’t even blink when her brother was short with her.”

“And her name?”

The small dark eyes opened wide. “Sure, she has one. I don’t recall what it was he called her, she came in a fine carriage.”

“You don’t have any idea of her family name?”

“Well, Graham, of course.”

“Pardon me, Mrs. Jennings, but didn’t you just say she was married? Did her husband come to call with her?”

“He waited out in the carriage.”

“Did you catch the brother-in-law’s last name?”

“No, I don’t think I did. Shall I ask Dr. Graham when he comes in?”

“It’s really not important,” Oscar said. “No reason to bother Dr. Graham with it. If you happen to remember anything else about his sister, would you drop us a note at police headquarters? We’ll come again if you recall something new.” He fished a card out of his vest pocket and passed it over to her.

“I’ll try, but my memory does sometimes fail me. Oh. Dr. Graham’s sister might be a baker’s wife, she smelled of anise. Might that be of use?”

“It might just,” Oscar said.

On the porch Oscar shook Mrs. Jennings’s hand with great formality. As he was turning away he seemed to remember something—it always amazed Jack that no one ever saw through this little ruse—and came up with one last question.

“How often did the older gentleman visit?”

Mrs. Jennings smiled apologetically. “I can’t say. It wasn’t very often, and always on Sunday. Not a talkative man, the kind who don’t heap praise on a child. Or anybody, for that matter.”

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