The Gilded Hour Page 83

Jack had heard all of this before, and so he concentrated on the faces of the men around the table. There was little to make out about the coroner’s mind-set, hidden as he was behind his beard. The clerks—three of them, Jack counted—wore identical blank expressions as they scratched away. John Mayo gave away only slightly more, but Heath’s and Manderston’s feelings about what they were hearing were plain to see. When Anna mentioned working in England with a Dr. Tait, Manderston sat up straight and pointed at her.

“Your name was familiar to me, and now I realize why. You tried to poach one of my patients. A Mrs. Drexel. You tried to get her to leave my care.”

Jack saw Anna’s brow crease in confusion, and then just as suddenly, clear. “You are mistaken,” she said calmly, but two red spots had appeared on her cheeks. “Dr. Tait referred Mr. Drexel to me, and he wrote asking me to consult on his wife’s case. I replied. I never heard from him again, and I never approached him or his wife. In fact, I suspected that letter to be one of Mr. Comstock’s falsifications designed to entrap doctors.”

Jack wondered if Anna and Sophie would be relieved to know for sure that the referral had not been one of Comstock’s tricks. Instead it had just been a man’s reluctance to let a woman physician treat his wife.

Manderston sat back, arms crossed on his chest. “So you say.”

Hawthorn rapped on the table with his fist. “Dr. Manderston, please remember why we are here. Whatever issues you have to discuss with Dr. Savard must wait. Now Dr. Savard Verhoeven, may we hear from you?”

Sophie’s description of her training and experience met with even less approval from Manderston and Heath, who had begun to shift in their chairs. A question from the coroner changed all that.

“Dr. Heath, you were Mrs. Campbell’s physician of record until recently. How long had you been treating her?”

“She was my patient from the time of her marriage when she first came to this city. I last saw her in February, when she was near to term on her last pregnancy.”

“But you didn’t attend that birth.”

“No,” Heath said. “I had to be out of town. Miss Savard—Mrs. Verhoeven agreed to go in my place.”

“Dr. Verhoeven,” Conrad corrected, his voice carrying sharply.

“Dr. Verhoeven,” Heath echoed with a sour twist of his mouth. “Dr. Verhoeven attended the birth. That was all it was supposed to be. I didn’t think she’d have the gall to steal my patient.”

Belmont said, “Dr. Heath is making unsubstantiated accusations. Unless he has evidence that Mrs. Campbell was somehow coerced into seeing Dr. Verhoeven?”

Heath frowned, but had nothing to say.

“As I thought,” Belmont said. “If I may ask a question, Dr. Heath. How did you find Mrs. Campbell when you last saw her?”

He seemed ready for this question. “She was healthy, no sign or indication of trouble.”

“And her state of mind?”

Now he did look surprised, as if he had never heard such a question before. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“It’s not an unreasonable question,” the coroner said.

“She seemed herself. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Jack sat back and folded his hands across his midsection, ready to sit through what promised to be one of Belmont’s infamous wandering explorations, designed, it seemed to Jack, to extract information by artful prodding. Within a half hour he had Heath tripping over his own tongue, admitting that he didn’t know about Mrs. Campbell’s state of mind because he hadn’t asked her, and he hadn’t asked her because, well, he said, turning a hand, palm up, what difference did it make?

After a short silence the coroner turned to Sophie. “Dr. Verhoeven, you delivered Mrs. Campbell in March, as I understand it.”

Sophie agreed that she had.

“Did you see her after she gave birth in March?”

“Yes, I called on her two days later to make sure she was healing, and then she came to see me in my office some weeks ago.”

All heads came up abruptly.

“I don’t think I had that information,” said Hawthorn. “She came to see you in your office, for what reason?”

“She asked me to examine her.”

“Aha. And what were your findings?”

“She was a healthy young woman about a month postpartum. That is, she was physically healthy, but very melancholy and even despairing.”

“As is common after any birth,” Heath interjected.

“Not to this degree,” Sophie contradicted him.

Heath gave a dismissive wave of the hand.

The coroner said, “Did she give a reason for her state of mind?”

Sophie didn’t hesitate. “She believed herself to be with child, and she was terrified about another pregnancy so soon.”

“She said that exactly?”

“No,” Sophie said. “As I remember her words, she said, ‘I just can’t have another baby so soon, it will be the end of me.’”

Jack saw no surprise or even concern on the faces around the table, and for the first time got a sense of what Anna and Sophie meant when they talked about men’s willful blindness.

“Mrs. Campbell was with child.” The coroner was asking for confirmation of what he believed to be true, but Sophie was not so easily led.

“She may have been,” she said. “But it was too early to tell by examination.”

“She had an active imagination.” Heath ignored the sharp look that Sophie sent him, and Hawthorn seemed not to notice.

He said, “Did you operate on Mrs. Campbell, Dr. Savard?”

Conrad cleared his throat.

“Pardon me,” the coroner said. “Dr. Verhoeven.”

“I did not,” Sophie said.

“Did she ask you for the name of someone who would perform an abortion?”

“She did not.”

“Did you volunteer names of such persons?”

“That is a leading question,” Conrad said. “Please rephrase, or I will instruct my client not to answer.”

“I’ll let it go for the moment. Dr. Savard, you did operate on Mrs. Campbell.”

“Yesterday,” Anna said. “Yes.”

“And previous to that?”

“I never saw Mrs. Campbell previous to her arrival at the New Amsterdam yesterday.”

“You’ve read Dr. Manderston’s report. Do you agree with his finding on the cause of death?”

Jack was glad that they had finally come to the heart of the matter. It seemed Anna was glad too, because she spoke in the calm, matter-of-fact voice she had used in her laboratory classroom. “I found Dr. Manderston’s observations to be similar to my own, but I don’t agree with his conclusion that an operation was carried out by person or persons unknown.”

Mayo leaned forward, his long nose twitching as if he had caught the scent of something interesting. “The operation was legal?”

“Don’t answer that until and unless District Attorney Mayo clarifies what he means by ‘operation,’” Belmont said.

Mayo inclined his head. “Would you say that Mrs. Campbell underwent an abortion?”

“I couldn’t say that with certainty,” Anna said. “It’s unclear to me whether she was pregnant in the first place.”

“You wouldn’t recognize pregnancy at this early stage upon opening the reproductive organs?”

“If the uterus had been intact, certainly. But the damage was extensive, and at least a day old.”

“Then let’s say it this way. Did she undergo an attempted abortion?”

Anna looked the man directly in the eye. “In my professional opinion, the procedure in question was meant to interrupt a pregnancy. If there was a pregnancy. When undertaken for that specific purpose, such operations are illegal. As you well know.”

Mayo was running a finger back and forth over the tabletop as if he had found something etched into the wood that he needed to understand. To Jack it looked like a mannerism developed to distract and disorient a witness, but he had misread Anna if he thought she was so easily unsettled.

Mayo said, “You have never performed this operation yourself?”

“Do not answer that,” Belmont said, sourly. “It’s not relevant to the case at hand.”

“I agree,” Hawthorn said. And: “Dr. Savard, on what point exactly do you disagree with Dr. Manderston’s findings?”

“I believe Dr. Manderston was incorrect when he wrote ‘person or persons unknown.’”

Mayo widened his eyes in mock distress. “You know who operated on Mrs. Campbell? If you had said so to start with, we wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Anna looked at Manderston for a long moment, then spoke to him directly. “In my opinion, Mrs. Campbell’s injuries were self-inflicted.”

Heath gave a startled laugh. “That is utterly ridiculous.”

“I would say patently impossible,” Manderston volunteered.

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