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The Lexington House Murder

~ Chapter Four

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The carriage carrying Chief Constable Dobbins, Magistrate Mailer and Ichabod Crane pulled up abruptly in front of a large Georgian mansion. Not so large as some of the others on the street, but imposing and handsome in a way the larger buildings were not.

Mailer opened the door and jumped from the carriage before it had come to a full stop at the front entrance. Despite the verbal rebukes he had received from Dobbins during the last half hour, his self-confidence returned as this, even Dobbins would have to agree, was his area of expertise.

The three were silent as they approached the front door, which was at least half ajar. Police patrol men stood near the entrance, some others of them coming in and out.

The two patrol men guarding the entrance, opened the door widely, and touched their caps as Dobbins approached with his two companions.

“Names, please?” Dobbins asked the two.

“Staley and Hawkins, Sir. The taller one stepped slightly forward.

“Were either of you one of the first police to be called to the scene?

“No, sir.” We’ve just arrived. The senior officer asked us to make sure no one but authorized persons, enter or leave the premises.”

“And just how many “authorized” persons have you allowed to trample in and out, Staley?” Clasping his hands behind him and rocking slowly back and forth, Mailer voice managed to be both commanding and condescending.

“Forgive my associate, patrolman” Dobbins, said quickly, frowning at Mailer. He clapped the patrolman on the shoulder. “Good work, Staley. Keep it up.”

They walked past the patrolmen, and entered the front hallway.

“Works well with others” Dobbins turned to Mailer when they had entered the hallway. “I seem to have read that comment from your previous employer. How about it, Mailer? Let us try not to bully everyone on the scene quite yet. Hummm?

Crane had ignored the exchange between the two. He noticed an elderly, pale man, obviously a butler or footman, standing to the side rather rigidly. His expression both forlorn and perplexed at the same time. Surely he had never encountered this type of predicament in any household he had worked in before.

Crane approached the man respective in his tone. “I am Constable Ichabod Crane, here with Chief Constable Dobbins and ummm, Magistrate Mailer. I have come to assist them with the investigation of his dreadful event. Would you perhaps, be the head butler?

“Yes, sir, Pierce is my name.” The man seemed to snap out of his reverie and stepped forward arms outstretched. Crane removed his coat and handed it to the man. “Then Pierce, perhaps you would be so kind as to take our coats and direct us to the senior officer here?”

“As you wish, Constable.” Pierce gathered the coats and nodded his head towards a large room to the right of the hallway. He disappeared into the back of the house.

“Ahh. Yes, Crane, follow me.” Mailer began to stride purposeful through the entrance of the room indicated by the butler. Although it would have been obvious to anyone by the level of activity, that something disturbing was going in that room,

At the doorway, Crane reached out and caught Mailer by the sleeve. “If you don’t mind, Magistrate, I would like to observe the room prior to entering it. If you would be good enough to direct the men currently in this room to step outside until I have finished.

So intense was Crane’s study of the sight before him, that he missed the look of incredulity on Mailer’s face. Mailer opened his mouth to respond, but caught a look from Dobbin’s, that left now doubt he was to do as Crane requested.

“Gentlemen, we will be asking you to step outside the room at this time, so that myself,
Chief Dobbins and our associate can examine the scene.” The sarcasm was lost on Ichabod. He was already concentrating solely on what was before him.

The room was good sized, comfortably appointed with the finest upholstered chairs and settees. Rich oil paintings adorned the wall, portraits of earlier owners and occupants of the Lexington House. It seemed to Ichabod, that even their haughty eyes were purposefully looking away from the gruesome object in the midst of the room.

Crane remained at the door way. He opened his case and then stood to look around as if deciding the best way to approach the examination. A motion near him caused him to turn his head quickly to his right, where Mailer had been replaced by a monstrous man-insect. Crane heart leapt out of his chest, but with a quick intake of breath, saw that it was indeed only Mailer, adorned with a large pair of Crane’s specially designed optical examination glasses. “I say, old man, what in the hell are these things? Magnifiers? By god, if I can’t see every whisker on your chin, Crane.” Mailer loomed in closer to Ichabod’s face.

“Well, Mailer, how well can see the look I am giving you now.” Crane was seething. Mailer quickly removed the eyewear and handed them sheepishly to Crane.

“Remain here.” Ichabod commanded to those around him. And at Mailer in particular he repeated slowly and clearly, “Here, meaning where you are standing now, at this moment.”

Ichabod donned cotton gloves from his bag and a chose a large magnifying glass. His visual study of the room had already revealed the following: The room had no door type entrance directly to the outside. Only windows in the front and side. They were mostly covered by elaborate hangings. The windows and sashes did not appear to have been disturbed in any way. The panes which could be seen did not show any shattering or scratches.

No furniture appeared to be out of place. Nothing in their arrangement or condition attested to the violence that occurred in the room.

Only the carpet silently testified by the presence of an enormous blood stain which covered almost a 4 foot radius around the head of what had been a young woman. The number of bloody footprints gave evidence that there had been more than one or two persons had approached the body. That fact, although expected, disappointed Crane, as now there would be know way of isolate any movements of the murderer or victim once the fatal blow was struck.

Mailer leaned over to Crane. “I have already had the house floors and steps inspected for any trace of blood, as well as ordering that the footwear of all residents and servants in the house examined for blood. Also had the men check the immediate vicinity, fireplaces, dust bins, etc for evidence of any type of shoe wear, in case the murder had realized they would point to his guilt and tried to discard them.”

Ichabod looked at Mailer, with a raised brow. For the first time, he began to believe that his lanky, fidgety companion might turn out to be a help rather than hindrance. With a nod, Crane indicated Mailer was to follow him into the room.

Slowly they approached the horrible sight. The victim had been in her early 20s. She was approximately 5 foot tall, slender, and wearing only a nightgown and robe. The neck and shoulder areas of the garments were soaked in blood. A large jagged wound appeared to have been made over her left jugular vein.

“Poor child. She would have died within moments. Thank god for that.” Mailer whispered. Again, Crane looked at his companion with some surprise. It appeared as though he may have misjudged the Magistrate. Or was it just that trait which is true of all persons; Mailer had more than one side to him.

The victim had brown curly hair, which had been loosen and combed out in preparation for sleep. Something drew her down to this room, just before she had intended to go to bed.

From the top of the left cheek bone to the jaw a gaping wound laid waste to what should have been an attractive face. Her eyelids were partially opened showing the enlarged pupils of death and blue irises which already had clouded over. Her full lips were bloodless and parted. Other than the hideous slashing of the face, the victim’s expression seemed calm.

“Obvious from lack of bleeding, the slash to the face was post mortem.” Ichabod said to Mailer.

Mailer nodded, “No obvious signs of a struggle.”

“She probably knew her attacker” Crane and Mailer pronounced the words at exactly the same time. They looked at each other slightly suspiciously from the corner of their eyes and then quickly turned to busy work.

Crane examined each of the fingernails for hair or blood. Mailer carefully checked the bare feet, lower legs and upper arms for any signs of trauma. Both men moved quickly and silently about their tasks. They were each extremely gentle in their handling of the body.

“No more to be done here. Just help me to roll her over slightly to see if there are wounds to the back.” Crane settled back on his heels, while Mailer rolled the body slightly towards himself. Crane looked carefully, but shook his head no, signally Mailer he could roll the body back to its original position.

Mailer, spoke up towards the group of police standing outside the room. “Come and get her, lads. You can remove her to the laboratory now.”

Crane stood back and stripped off his gloves, which he carefully placed in a gauze wrap, and replaced in his bag, along with his glass.

“I hope you can be along for my full examination of the body.” Crane said to Mailer. “I would find your insights most welcome.”

Crane picked up his bag, and walked back to the hall. Dobbins must have told Pierce the butler of their leaving, for he suddenly materialized before them with their coats.

“Do you wish to question anyone in the household before leaving, Constable Crane?” Dobbins asked.

“Not immediately. I would prefer to complete my physical examination first. Any of the residents of the house, family, friends and staff, should be told they must remain in the immediate vicinity and hold themselves available for questioning. Perhaps, we can conclude that tomorrow. Rather than split up the interviewing I would prefer that both Mailer and myself handle the questioning together. One questioning, one observing, in turn. I believe it will give us the best results.”

Crane looked at each Mailer and Dobbins. They answered by nodding. Dobbins was pleased to see that Crane and Mailer seemed to be developing some sort of understanding between them. It was a small sign, but a good one. Dobbins knew he needed to find the guilty party quickly and with as much discretion as the name Wellington-Trumbell could merit. Which was a good amount. But with Crane and Mailer, he felt he had as good a set of wits as could be gotten, to solve the crime.

With the increased activity of police making ready to remove the body, no one had noticed a slim young woman walk into the hall. Upon seeing the body on the pallet which passed in front of her, she reached down and pulled off the covering revealing the face.

Her ensuing screams where horrific. One policeman quickly replace the sheet over the victim and hurriedly accompanied the bearers out the door. The young woman had covered her eyes but continued to scream until she had no more breath to sustain sound. Mailer hurriedly approached the woman, who in turn collapsed into his arms. Hanging on to Mailer and sobbing into his shoulder. Mailer looked mortified and frozen. He looked over at Crane desperately. Crane made hugging motions with his arms. He continued the motions, until Mailer awkwardly lifted his arms to embrace the young woman. Again he looked over at Crane helplessly. Craned mimed patting an invisible person on the back and used his head to gesture wildly in the direction of the settee in the hall. In an almost comic tableau, Mailer aped Crane’s head wagging and shrugged his shoulders.

Crane rolled his eyes and stepped forward. “Perhaps the young lady would like to sit down, Magistrate Mailer.”

“Yes, of course. Miss, please take a seat and tell us why you are here. And Pierce, bring a glass of sherry, will you?”

The young woman, allowed herself to be half carried over to the settee. She was placed such a way as to block her view of the sitting room. She raised her head from Mailer’s shoulder, revealing a beautiful face with blue eyes, thick black lashes and delicate features. Pierce appeared with a glass of sherry which he handed to Mailer, who in turn urged it upon the woman. She obligingly took a swallow, and then began to cough. She turned away from the glass. Mailer placed the glass on the table aside the settee, and without any of his previous hesitation replaced his arm about the woman’s shoulders.

“Who are you, miss? Did you know the unfortunate victim?” Mailer bent solicitously towards the woman.

She responded in a very shaky voice. “My name is Janelle, and the…the…she is my sister, Margaret. Was my sister, Margaret. Margaret Jefferson. We both worked as maids to families on this street. I am employed by the Van Ernst household, not far from here. I came as soon as I heard there had been a killing. I just up and ran out of the kitchen, ran all the way as fast as I could. I knew something dreadful had happened to my sister.” Her sobs began anew, leaning back against Mailer’s shoulder.

Crane stood up right and again picked up his bag and cloak. “Chief Dobbins do you wish to accompany me back to the constabulary? It appears here that Magistrate Mailer can escort Miss Jefferson, back to her home and perhaps explain the situation to the Van Ernsts. And that we will need to speak at some length to Miss Janelle, when she had recovered from this dreadful shock.”

“Yes, yes. I quite agree.” Dobbins said.

As Crane moved towards the door, he glanced once more over this shoulder. Mailer was now quite happy in his role as comforter and strong shoulder. “Well, well, “whispered Crane to Dobbins “it seems love may have struck our Magistrate without warning.”

Dobbins shook his head as the two climbed into the carriage. “A romance evolving from a murder investigation? Most unlikely.”

Crane only smiled to himself. “Perhaps.”

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