The Gilded Hour Page 154

“And his name?”

“Don’t fathers and sons always have the same last name? Dr. Graham, I suppose.”

“Wait. I’m confused. Neill Graham’s father comes to call, is that right?” Oscar’s voice came a little hoarse: a hound on the scent, Jack thought.

“Not very often,” said the landlady.

“And his father is a doctor, like he is. How do you know that he’s a doctor?”

She nodded eagerly, as if she had finally come across something that might please him. “He carries one of those doctor bags. I’ve been boarding medical students for many years, and I’d know one of those bags anywhere.”

•   •   •

JACK SAID, “SHE could be wrong on both counts. The old man might not be Graham’s father, and even if he is, she could be mistaken by the bag.”

“No,” Oscar said. “She had it right, except I think the man she remembers was the grandfather she mentioned last time. An older doctor, established, experienced, trustworthy. A woman paying him a visit would be assured by all that. Once she’s under, she doesn’t know who actually does the operation, does she?”

Jack shook his head. “I don’t know. It feels too pat, like a big bow on an empty box.”

“Do you have a better idea where to start?”

The ultimate argument. When you were stuck, you worked the clues.

•   •   •

THEY SPENT THE rest of the day interviewing clerks at hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries from one end of the island to the other, jumping in and out of cabs until they came across a driver they knew and hired him to drive them for the day. So far no one had any memory of a Dr. Graham who met the landlady’s description; getting a hit going about it like this was unlikely, but they plowed on.

Jerking through traffic from St. Luke’s to Women’s Hospital, Oscar raised the subject of Archer Campbell.

“Does Anna know they booked him?”

Jack shook his head.

Oscar said, “He doesn’t realize how lucky he is to be sitting in the Tombs where you can’t get at him.”

“He can’t make bail,” Jack said. “So he’s safe where he is for the time being.”

“Unless you want to grease old Fish’s palm, so we could pay Prisoner Campbell a visit.”

“I admit it’s tempting. But Anna wouldn’t like it.”

Oscar stroked his mustache thoughtfully. “All right,” he said. “We’ll table it. For the moment.”

In the late afternoon they went back to Mulberry Street with just three names: Michael Graham, house physician at the Protestant Half-Orphan Asylum, Ulrich Graham, on the faculty at the Eclectic Medical School, and Andrew Graham, who had a small practice near Stuyvesant Square. None of them old enough to be Neill Graham’s father or grandfather, but they’d have a look anyway. They’d find something to eat and start calling on hospital night porters. Most of them liked to talk, all of them were bored, and they saw a lot.

What Jack wanted to do was to go home to Anna, to stay close so she didn’t start to imagine that the things she had told him in the night were weighing on him. As if anything could make him think less of her. He wrote her a note, one that he put in an envelope and sealed.

Anna my love, I’ll be very late but it’s your own fault. The suggestion you made earlier today has us rushing around Manhattan looking for that second doctor, and we’re making progress. Oscar thinks you’re after his job. I ask myself now every day how I got so lucky. Love you, J.

•   •   •

ALL DAY LONG Anna wondered if she had imagined the newspaper article about Archer Campbell, a question that could have been answered by a short trip to the corner where six different daily newspapers could be had for pennies each. She could read the news in German, if she pleased, or Italian, or Hebrew. And then as soon as the opportunity presented itself, she had some very specific questions for Jack and Oscar.

But she didn’t go get a paper, not so much because she conquered her disquiet but because she had one emergency after another that kept her in the operating room. It began with a woman whose hand had been caught up in the machinery at a steam cleaners, mangled and scalded both. There was no choice but to amputate, which meant that she was robbing the woman of her livelihood. She explained this to her husband, still young enough that he had very little beard, and watched his eyes fill with tears that he blinked back furiously.

Elise was serving as the circulating nurse that day, and was doing a very good job ignoring the stares and whispers that came her way. They were referring to her as the little nun with the hard fist. Apparently Anna wasn’t the only one thinking about Campbell’s visit.

“I hear you were assaulted in the hall yesterday,” Judith Ambrose said when they were scrubbing in together. “A red-haired demon, the story goes. Nurse Mercier came to your rescue with a very professional one-two punch.”

Anna had to laugh. “She says she was taught how to fight by her brothers.”

“She’s a tough one, all right. Let’s see how she handles this sad mess.”

The patient was a woman of about thirty, a charwoman so strong that it took three orderlies to restrain her. She was howling, a terrible mournful wail that cut right to the bone.

“You can’t have my baby.” Her voice was tear-clogged and hoarse. “You can’t, you can’t, I won’t let you.”

Judy Ambrose crouched down so that the patient could see her face.

“Mrs. Allen. Listen, please, Mrs. Allen. Your baby is no longer alive. Its heart stopped beating at least a month ago. I’m sorry for your loss, truly sorry, but we have to think of your health now. The medicine we’ve given you will help you deliver the child. Don’t fight it, please. If you don’t deliver the child you’ll get very sick and you will die of blood poisoning.”

“No, it’s not dead.” She strained against the restraints, her whole body arching into a contraction. When it passed she said, “I feel it kicking. Just leave it be, just go away and leave me alone. Please.”

Anna finished scrubbing in and saw that Elise was watching this exchange very closely. She was biting her lip as if to keep herself from speaking.


“Just a thought.”

“Go on.”

“She might be comforted by prayer. If someone prayed with her for the soul of her child. Can a priest be called?”

“You don’t want to pray with her?”

Elise put a hand to her lower face and shook her head sharply.

“Then find someone who will,” Anna said. “We’re about to get started here.”

•   •   •

NOT A HALF hour after the conclusion to Mrs. Allen’s labor Anna was scrubbing in again, this time for a slack-faced young girl who refused to give a name. Her problem was easily diagnosed.

Elise said, “This seems to be a common . . . ailment.”

“Women who are desperate do desperate things,” Anna said. “You will see a lot of this, I’m sorry to say.”

“I thought I understood about poverty.”

“You still don’t. You won’t, until you start going out with the visiting nurses. That’s where many women give up medicine.”

“Not men?”

Anna looked at this young woman who showed so much promise, who learned so eagerly and quickly, and who still was completely unprepared for the trials to come.

“Primarily women. Few male doctors will visit patients in the worst of the tenements. I don’t know of any who treat the outdoor poor unless they come to a clinic. I personally think that all male medical students should be required to pay home visits to the poorest and most desperate for a month at least, but nobody asks my opinion.” She managed a small smile. “So let’s see to this girl. I think her case will take a happy ending.” She stopped herself.

“That’s entirely the wrong word. What I mean is, we will probably be able to save her life.”

•   •   •

ON THE WAY home she stopped to buy a variety of newspapers, and then sat on a bench in the small cemetery behind St. Mark’s to look through them. She found mention of Archer Campbell’s arrest in all of them, the articles prominently placed. There was no new information beyond the fact that he had been arrested when three stolen bearer bonds were found in his possession. The gossip rags were speculating on his role in the disappearance of his four sons. In that they were entirely wrong, and also absolutely correct.

The names of the detectives were familiar, for the simple reason that Jack had introduced her to both Michael Larkin and Hank Sainsbury the last time she had been to police headquarters. They had been both polite and terribly awkward, because, Jack told her later, they had no experience of respectable women in their squad room and feared the wrath of Maroney if they failed to meet his standards of proper behavior.

She thought of Archer Campbell sitting in the Tombs. With his visit to the New Amsterdam he had crossed a line of no return, in Jack’s view of the world. She asked herself if she should be objecting for moral or ethical reasons. Then she thought of Mabel Stone and four little boys, and decided she should not.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies