The Gilded Hour Page 99

“I would like to hear the truth,” she said. “No matter what it is.”

He inclined his head. “That’s good to know. The truth is, I don’t have any information that isn’t in the papers, at this moment. If and when I do, I will share that information with you. No matter how distressing.”

Satisfied, Sophie sat back. She said, “What do you think should happen with Vittorio?”

This was a question Jack could answer without hesitation. “I think he should stay where he is.”

“Does Anna know you feel that way?”

“No, but then she hasn’t asked me directly. If she does, I won’t lie to her.”

“She isn’t sure herself what would be best.”

“Yes, she is,” Jack said. “But she’s not ready to acknowledge it.”

“You do understand her,” Sophie said. “I’m glad.”

“Don’t congratulate me yet,” Jack said. “I’m sure to fall on my face sooner or later.”

“You’ll pick yourself back up, and let me tell you a secret about Anna. She doesn’t hold a grudge. At least not with people she loves.”

•   •   •

AT HOME—AT what used to be home—Jack spent a half hour being peppered with questions, some of which he answered, many of which he ignored. It was a familiar dance with his mother; he ignored a question, she stepped away and then swung around to approach it from another direction.

“I like her,” his mother said. “You know that I like her.”

“I know that you wouldn’t hesitate to tell me if you didn’t,” Jack said. “Married or not.”

His father barked a short laugh, then went back to his newspaper. In the kitchen there was sudden silence, because his sisters were listening. Which meant that the little girls were listening, too, something his mother was well aware of.

“But we are married,” he went on. “For better or worse.”

Some of the tension in her face retreated.

“Mama,” he said then. “She’ll never be a housewife. Not even when we have a family.”

That got him a smile. “She wants a family.”

“Yes,” Jack said. “Though I don’t know why you would mind if she didn’t. You’ve got too many grandchildren to keep track of as it is.”

“Never too many grandchildren,” his father said from behind the pages of il Giornale.

“Never,” his mother echoed.

Jack stood up. “My work here is done.”

“We still have things to discuss,” his mother said. “But go back to your bride.”

•   •   •

INSTEAD HE WENT to the station house and took the time at the duty desk to write a note and arranged for it to be delivered to Anna at home.

Called into the station house, may be very late but I’ll be there to walk you to work in the morning. Ever yours, JM

•   •   •

UPSTAIRS OSCAR WAS leaning back in his chair, his feet crossed at the ankle and one heel propped on the edge of the desk. It was how he did his best thinking, but it was also how he napped. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference. In either case Jack didn’t see the need to disturb him straightaway, so he sat down to the pile of paperwork that had appeared on his own desk.

Arrest reports, most of it. He had been reading for a few minutes when Oscar said, “You leave for three days and I get stuck with two homicides, three assaults, and pulling Baldy out of trouble. Yet again.”

“Anna has rechristened him Ned,” Jack said. “He’s in the Tombs, I take it.”

“I’ll let him go tomorrow. No real evidence, but I thought he needed a night to cool off.”

“Your note said he pulled a knife.”

“Which disappeared.”

Jack whistled under his breath. “Where was this?”

“Outside the Black and Tan. He went looking for one of the younger boys and found him exactly where he didn’t want to find him. It got ugly.”

“As it always does.”

Oscar nodded and pulled his hat back down over his eyes.

He was an excellent detective, but not overly hampered by the letter of the law. Jack wondered if he should tell Anna about this newest situation with Baldy, and decided that the matter could wait. He needed to talk to Oscar about the Campbell boys, but instead Jack turned his attention to the paperwork and waited for his partner to rouse himself for the next conversation.

If he submitted the arrest reports as they stood, the whole pile would end up back here on Jack’s desk because nobody else could make out Maroney’s handwriting. He picked up a pen and uncorked an ink bottle.

Oscar’s feet hit the floor with a thump. “So what happened with McKinnawae?”

Jack put the cork back in the ink bottle and told him about Mount Loretto and Vittorio Russo. He watched as Oscar’s expression shifted from weariness to surprise.

“I’ll be damned,” he said. “You did it. You found the baby.”

“I’m just as surprised as you are. But it’s far from settled, and there’s still the older boy. Now, are you going to tell me about the Campbell case?”

Oscar said, “I’m hungry.” He got up and walked out of the office, fitting his hat to his head as he went. Jack followed him, raising a hand in greeting to a couple of other detectives bent over paperwork on the other side of the room. He wasn’t sure if his getting married was general knowledge yet, but he didn’t want to find out at the moment.

By the time he got downstairs Oscar had already disappeared down the hallway that led to the rear exit. Jack found his partner in the corner booth at MacNeil’s, with a cup of coffee in front of him.

The only door into the diner was in the alley behind police headquarters, which was why every man he’d ever seen in the place either had a badge now or had had one in the past. MacNeil himself had been a cop about a hundred years ago, before he lost a leg at Spotsylvania. Now he stumped around the diner’s kitchen shouting at everybody, good mood or bad. He worked the night shift alone and his sons took the day shift.

Jack paused at the counter to get the cup of coffee the old man poured for him, took a couple of minutes to be shouted at about the follies of marriage, and then slid into a booth across from Oscar.

“Any luck tracing Mrs. Campbell’s movements?”

MacNeil thumped a plate of eggs and bacon down, so Jack sat back to wait while Oscar ate. At the halfway mark he wiped his mouth and started to talk.

“You know what Grand Central’s like. I talked to every ticket seller, flower girl, bootblack, and baggage man that I could find who was working the depot that day. A few think they saw her with the boys, but nobody’s sure. I’m thinking now they traveled some other road.”

“A steamer?”

“I looked into that. Don’t seem likely, not for somebody watching her pennies.”

They were quiet while Oscar finished his plate. He had a dainty way of going about it for a big man with an appetite, something Jack hadn’t figured out until he had known the man a good six months: Maroney was vain about his mustache and lived in fear of getting food caught up in it.

He ate the last of his bacon, crossed his knife and fork over the plate, and leaned back in the booth, trying to look casual as he ran one knuckle over the brush on his upper lip.

Jack hid his face in his coffee cup for as long as it took to get rid of a smile.

“What are you thinking?” he asked, finally.

“Well, I don’t think she drowned them. That’s the rumor, you know. She went to the shore to toss those boys in the drink.”

Jack hadn’t been around long enough to catch up on the gossip, but it made sense that people would be anticipating the worst. A rumor was like an army on the march, no stopping it.

“But the timing just doesn’t work out,” Oscar went on. “She was home when Campbell came in from work on Wednesday. Don’t see how you could drown four boys and come away looking like nothing fails you. And then there’s what the Stone woman had to say, that business about her husband finding her when he got home.”

“Hawthorn didn’t seem to take any note of that,” Jack said.

“That’s because he owns a string of lumber mills and doesn’t know what he’s doing, questioning somebody on the stand. Boston went ahead and got rid of the coroner system, you’d think we could do the same.”

Jack had had the exact same thought, listening to Hawthorn question Mrs. Stone. He might be well-meaning and thoughtful, but he was also uninformed and untrained. If Janine Campbell had said Archer will find me when he gets home, then that was as good as a confession: she knew she was dying, and she wanted her husband to find her dead. A lawyer would have homed in on that and asked Mrs. Stone a dozen more questions, trying to get her to clarify the deceased’s state of mind.

Oscar said, “She figured it was less trouble killing herself than it would have been to kill him. So I’m wondering, if she was that angry, maybe she did find a way to kill the boys.”

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