The Gilded Hour Page 50

“We could go up on the new bridge. We need to do it today or tomorrow, as I’m leaving Monday and I’m going to be away for a week or ten days.” Watching her expression closely, all he saw was a vague fluttering of her eyelids.

“I see,” she said finally.

“I was hoping you’d be able to visit the Catholic agencies with Sister Mary Augustin while I’m gone.”

“Of course,” she said, quite stiffly. “I’m quite familiar now with the way things work. I’m sure I can handle further inquiries without you. You’ve spent too much time as it is—” She was pivoting to go around the desk and sit down, but Jack stepped forward to take her wrist. She turned back to him with a jerk and looked at his hand as if it were contaminated. He couldn’t help it, he laughed.

“Mezzanotte, please let go of me.”

Instead he pulled her closer and then, holding on to her upper arms, swung her around so that her back was against the door. He put his hands flat to either side of her head, but she was looking down, all her muscles tensed.

“Look at me.”

She raised her head, her eyes flashing with anger and what he thought might be disappointment.

She said, “I see I amuse you. Do you want to let me in on the joke?” Her gaze fell to his mouth and then jerked away.

“I’m not leaving to get out of helping you.”

“It’s none of my business why you’re—”

He leaned down and caught her mouth in midlie. After she gave in with a small sigh, he kissed her again.

“Do you remember I told you about the swindle the Deparacio brothers were running?”

Her expression cleared. “The train tickets. To—Chicago?”

“Yes. They sold somewhere around five hundred forged tickets from Grand Central to Chicago for ten bucks apiece.”

She nodded, curious now.

“We put out a bulletin. Today we got a telegram from the Chicago police; all three brothers are sitting in their jail. You know how they caught them?”

“They spoke Italian to them.”

“That’s my trick. No, the mopes were hanging around the train station selling fake tickets to Grand Central.”

“You have to go to Chicago to bring them back here.” Her color was rising. “And it’s still none of my business, but I wish you a good trip.”

Jack gave her a narrow look and then, bending down, put his mouth to her ear. “It is your business, Savard. And I can prove it.”

She stiffened. “I have a reputation to uphold here.”

“Then stop lying to me or face the consequences.” He pressed his mouth to the soft skin just beneath her ear.

“I forbid you to take advantage of me in this office.”

He touched his tongue to her throat and felt her shiver.

“If kissing your neck is forbidden, how about—”

She grabbed his ears and pressed her forehead to his. “I have work to do. Let me go.”

“Just as soon as you admit—”

“Yes, all right. It’s my business too.”

He kept waiting and after a good while, she relaxed against him.

“Now that you’re listening I have a couple things to say. First, if you get word from Baldy—”


“Ned. If you get word from Ned, don’t go anywhere with him alone. Wait for me to get back. Are you going to be stubborn about this?”

“Oh, no,” she said. “I know better.”

She did know better—she regularly saw hard proof of the damage done to vulnerable women. And yet he had needed to say it.

“Second, there’s one advantage to this assignment. I’ll have a couple extra days free over the summer. In June sometime I want you to come with me to Greenwood.”

Her expression went blank as she tried to place the name.

“Greenwood is where I grew up. My father’s farm is a few miles south of the village.”

“You want me to come to Greenwood,” she said, a hitch in her voice so that she swallowed visibly before she went on. “You want me to meet your family?”

“I’ve met yours, Savard. Seems only fair.”

She was studying him. “Why?”

“Why do I want you to meet my family?” He gave her his best frown. “That’s a question for a longer conversation.”

Jack stepped away just as someone knocked on the door. He watched Anna gather her thoughts and remind herself who she was. Then she opened it to find the same student nurse standing there.

“Dr. Morris and Dr. Sweet need a surgical consult on a patient who just came in,” she said, her eyes darting to Jack and then away. Anna looked at him over her shoulder as she left the room.

“I’ll come by for you tomorrow at seven,” he said. “As soon as I’ve finished my shift.”

•   •   •

“JUST GO AWAY,” Sister Xavier said to Mary Augustin. “And leave me to my headache.”

“A headache is quite common after surgery, but it can be treated.” She added two more drops of laudanum to the glass of water she had ready, aware that her patient was watching every movement.

“I see now how it is with you,” said the older nun, refusing to take the glass Mary Augustin offered. “Meek as a mouse until you’ve got the weak and vulnerable to bully.”

Mary Augustin allowed herself a small smile. “Yes, you’ve figured me out. I’m here to bedevil you. You can suffer in silence, or you can take the medicine that will relieve some of your discomfort and let you sleep. Which do you think I’d prefer?”

“Insolent,” Xavier snapped. “Give me the glass.” When she had drained it she sat back against the pillows. “Disgusting.”

Mary Augustin poured another glass of water from the pitcher.

“This too,” she said. “It’s important to keep your humors in balance.”

When the second glass had been emptied, Mary Augustin checked her dressing and went about the small things she could do to make the older nun comfortable.

“You watched the whole operation, I suppose.”

“I did.”


Mary Augustin sat down on the stool beside the bed. “What do you want to know?”

Sister Xavier flapped a hand impatiently. “Don’t be dense. Tell me what she did. Your Dr. Savard.”

It was difficult to know where to start, how much detail to provide, whether it was her place to offer conclusions or if she should simply refuse to talk about the surgery itself. But it seemed to her that Sister Xavier had a right to know.

“Dr. Savard made room for me to stand beside her and watch,” she began. Every minute was fresh in her memory, but Mary Augustin had the sense that it didn’t matter how much time passed, she would remember it all, detail by detail. It was a revelation to watch Dr. Savard’s hands moving very quickly and surely while she explained exactly what she was doing in a calm, methodological way. She had pointed out different types of vessels and tissues and the tumor itself, an encapsulated mass the size of a lemon.

“A lemon!” Sister Xavier interrupted her. “It felt far bigger to me.”

“It was easily removed, which is good news. No blood vessels involved.” She used a fresh cloth to wipe the perspiration from Sister Xavier’s forehead until her hand was batted away.

“Where is it?”


“Where’s the tumor they took out of me?”

“It was dissected and is being studied under a microscope.” And she hoped that this would be enough information, because as curious as Sister Xavier was, Mary Augustin doubted she wanted to know about the tumor that had broken open like a bad egg on the laboratory table.

When she turned to look, the pain lines between Sister Xavier’s brows had lessened and she blinked.

“You are a good nurse,” she said, in an almost pleasant tone of voice. “I hope you won’t regret giving it up.”


ON SATURDAY MORNING just before ten, Sophie turned onto Park Place and came to a stop. For more than a year she had been avoiding this corner for fear that she might see Cap, and for fear that she might not. Now she took a moment to catch her breath.

The house was as it had always been, classical in its lines and elegant, the counterpoint to new mansions springing up along Fifth Avenue, where excess had become a religion. Here nothing had changed, and nothing was the same.

For days she had been reminding herself that the Cap she knew so well was gone. This man she was going to marry would look nothing like the boy she had grown up with. Where her Cap had been strong and lithe and restless, this man would sit quietly. He would be gaunt and flushed and feverish, and he would cough until he was bloody with it. What she could do for him medically was limited, but she could give him some peace of mind. She would look at him and not see the illness; she would put that aside, and concentrate on the man held hostage by the disease.

The familiar gave her some comfort: the gardens that framed the front of the house, perfectly kept, backed with blossoming magnolia trees. Each flower stood proudly upright like a fat pink candle on a leafless branch. Mrs. Harrison’s beloved pansies overflowed the pots standing sentry to either side of the door, as old-fashioned and sweet as the housekeeper herself.

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