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The Lexington House Murder

~ Chapter Two

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Chief Constable Thomas Dobbins was seated in the Crane’s small downstairs reception room. He was a man of about 50 years with distinguished white hair, trim mustache and beard. He had been Chief Constable for both midtown and downtown Manhattan for over 10 years. Started out as a part of the street patrol unit almost 20 years before that. He had a reputation of patience, wisdom and fierce loyalty to his men.

The local magistrate, John Mailer, a tall lanky man, about 30, with dark hair and an outrageous handle bar mustache, was pacing anxiously up and down the room, nervously picking up and placing down objects from the mantel and tables. Mailer had only just taken the job of Magistrate of this district a few months before. Dobbins had received excellent reports from his former employer in Philadelphia. He liked Mailer, thought he had good instincts, but damned the man if he wasn’t such a restless jack-a-napes! Forever seeming to hop about from leg to leg, fingering every item within reach, or gesturing wildly in the air with his long thin hands. Still, the report from Philadelphia had been excellent.

Both Dobbins and Mailer looked up immediately when Ichabod Crane walked into the room. Dobbins remained seated, but extended his hand to Ichabod.

“Constable Crane, forgive us for barging in on you and your family so early in the day. But as Mailer here will tell you we have a most unusual problem. John Mailer, this is Constable Ichabod Crane. Crane, this is our new magistrate John Mailer.”

The two shook hands and Ichabod gestured for Mailer to be seated. He himself swung a desk chair around and took a seat, facing his visitors. “What is the problem you wish to talk to me about?”

Dobbins spoke first, “I have told Magistrate Mailer about your amazing work on the Sleepy Hollow case. With your particular skills and experience, we felt that you may be able to lend…”

Mailer leapt up from his seat, interrupting his superior, with a swooping motion brought his rather thin nose within an inch of Ichabod’s startled face.

“A heinous and dastardly crime, Crane. Murder most foul. A young housemaid has been viciously slaughtered. If in fact your eerie experiences in Sleepy Hollow did not discourage you from a career in criminal detection, than, surely here is a case which will test your metal.” Mailer stepped back and began to pace about the room.

Ichabod, forehead furrowed, reached for his notebook and pen. “Please gentleman, know that I am willing to help in what ever capacity the Chief Constable feels I may be useful. Can you give me the facts so far as you know them?”

Dobbins frowned at his young associate. “Mailer, you are no doubt about to wear a hole in Mrs. Crane’s new carpet or destroy some brick-a-brac with your flailing about. Please contain yourself, be seated and allow me to tell Crane the facts in a cool and orderly manner.”

Mailer, threw himself down in one of the chairs, but continued to cross and uncross his long legs, and stroke his mustache in such a vigorous manner, Ichabod half expected him to begin tearing bits of it out.

“Before you begin, may I have our Cook, bring you coffee or breakfast?” Ichabod asked.

Mailer was again immediately on his feet. “We have no time, man! We must return to the scene of crime and take charge before valuable clues are lost.”

To Dobbins, he said, “Can we not fill in the good Constable on our way back to the house? I fear for every moment we spend here, the police foot patrol will be tracking muck over everything, disturbing items. And moving the body.”

Upon hearing this, Ichabod also rose to his feet, “I agree then we make haste back to the crime scene. It is a grave mistake to allow anyone to disturb the scene of the crime, and of course,” with a nod toward Mailer, “you must never move the body. I’ll fetch my instrument bag and be with you immediately. Your carriage is outside?”

Dobbins nodded slowly. “Perhaps it would save time to tell Constable Crane the facts of the case during the ride back to Lexington House.”

Crane closed and locked the cabinet door from which he had removed his detecting bag. He turned slowly toward the elderly gentleman. “Did you say Lexington House? I assumed the crime took place in one of our more unsavory neighborhoods?”

Mailer clapped a hand on Ichabod’s shoulder, “No, my good man, that is the surprising part of this. The filthy deed was done right in the midst of one of New York’s most prestigious families. The venerable house of James Wellington-Trumbell. One of his young staff maids – that is our victim.”

Mailer gathered up his greatcoat and that of Dobbins, helping the older man into his. “We must hurry. Please, Crane, you must come with us now. We can tell you of the facts on our way.”

“Well, then I think perhaps we should be leaving. Cook!!” He came close to colliding with a pleasant middle aged woman who had appeared from around the corner carrying a tray of tea and biscuits. “Sorry Cook, we shan’t have time for tea. Please tell my wife that I have been called away on an investigation and remind Jonathan he is to meet me at my office at noon.”

Although in an obvious hurry to herd the others out of Crane’s front door, Mailer, none the less, paused to take two warm biscuits from Cook’s tray, stuffing one in his pocket and the other into his mouth. “Let us be on our way then,” he mumbled, mouth full of biscuit.

Crane and Dobbins exchanged looks of surprise at the younger man’s manner, but obediently followed him out of the door and climbed into the carriage at the curb.

Once seated inside the comfortable conveyance, Mailer stuck his head out of the window, and shouted to the driver, “Turn around, man, take us back to the Lexington House, as fast as you can.”

The carriage, bumped along the streets, at first full of the noise of peddlers, tradesman and shops. As it headed north the sounds quieted and the streets became lined with businesses, legal firms; then almost completely residential. Each block boasting larger and more elaborate homes. But the three passengers barely noticed the changing surroundings.

Mailer twitched and fiddled in his seat, looking at times like an over-eager greyhound, straining at the leash. But wisely he remained silent and allowed his superior to relate the story to Ichabod.

Dobbins drew a few sheets of notes out of his pocket, and begin to speak slowly and deliberately to Ichabod.

“Our office was contacted this morning at 4:30 am by a member of the Wellington-Trumbell household, a driver I believe. He was agitated and said he had been sent to fetch the police immediately. The body of a young woman in the employ of the Wellington-Trumbell’s had been found dead in the sitting room on the ground floor of the house. Three patrol officers were dispatched immediately to the house. Upon arrival the house was in an uproar, as you can imagine. One of the officers on site sent back a message to the Constabulary immediately, asking for senior officers to come as soon as possible. A young woman’s body was indeed lying in the middle of a large sitting room on the first floor of the house. Death apparently due to a deep penetrating wound to the neck. There were other wounds to the body, but I would prefer for you to see for yourself, before I comment.”

“Why call for me, Chief Dobbins, the Lexington House would come under the jurisdiction of the mid-town constabulary. Why come to lower Manhattan for me?

“That’s just it, Crane…” Mailer practically leaped into Ichabod’s lap. “That’s just it, you see. The entire household has lost its wits, one woman has even said…”

“For the love of god, Mailer, can you please shut it, while I tell Constable Crane the details in my own way?” Dobbins face was red with irritation.

Mailer immediately collapsed his extended frame into his corner of the carriage. With a shake of his head, Dobbins continued.

“You see, Constable Crane, there was a witness to the murder. The head housekeeper, who has been in Lexington House over 35 years. She told the police on scene that she was investigating a noise which had wakened her in the middle of the night. When she saw a light from the sitting room she looked in. She states that she clearly saw Thomas Wellington-Trumbell, the younger brother of James, bent over the body of the girl wielding a knife in his hand.”

Crane looked up, somewhat puzzled. “Excuse me sir, is this housekeeper quite sure of what she saw? No doubts? No chance of hysterics of any kind?”

Dobbins shook his head. “She seemed a sensible woman when questioned; she swears it was Thomas with the knife.”

Crane asked, “Is it known whether this brother Thomas is still in the vicinity? Has he been arrested?”

Again, Mailer pounced. “That is why we have come especially for you, Constable Crane. You see, Thomas Wellington-Trumbell has been dead and buried for the last five years!”


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