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The Lexington House Murder

~ Chapter Seven


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The police laboratory for the midtown district of Manhattan was housed in a rather squat ugly building on the west side. Ichabod Crane and John Mailer had a long night ahead of them. First a stop at the laboratory to receive the early report from the coroner. Then an interview with James and Helen Wellington-Trumbell.

Ichabod felt strongly that the owners of the house probably knew the story behind what had happened in their home. He confessed these feelings to Mailer on the way over; and in fact, Mailer had agreed.

Ichabod knew something of the upper class and their inherent preference to distance themselves from any type of scandal or unpleasantness.

In some parts of New York, having insider knowledge of a tawdry murder might stand you a round of drinks at the local pub.

But not where the wealthy reside, with these people. Those who believe somehow they were better than anyone else. Ichabod thought for a moment of his own father, who had been a cleric and a cruel man. A man who made a pretense of looking inside the souls of others, blind to the fact he had no soul of his own.

These people would rather say nothing than to admit they may live in the same house where such a reprehensible act had happened. As if the murder will cast some question about their social standing. They were often hard to question, but he felt confident, that before the night was over, he and the Magistrate would know who killed Margaret Washington. 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Gowned and gloved, Mailer and Crane stood before the wooden table which held the nude body of Lower Manhattan District Coroner Case No. 147, Margaret Washington, spinster, lately of Lexington House. Ichabod nodded to the coroner, indicating that he was ready to hear his report.

“Twenty-one year old female, in reported good health, found dead at Lexington House, Midtown. Body discovered and reported by head housemaid Eloise Parker on or around 4:30 am the 20th of September of this year. Deceased was removed and delivered to police laboratory District 5 without incident and where at approximately 10:00 am this same date, was subjected to a noninvasive physical examination to determine the cause of death. Initial examination reveals the following: a large gouging type of wound directly over the left jugular vein. In incision wound approximately 4 inches in length, on left facial area. Wounds appear to have been made with the same knife like weapon.”

Crane raised his eyes to the coroner, and asked. “The wounds appear to be quite different, what are you basing your opinion on; that they are the result of the same weapon?’

The coroner bent forward and touched the incised wound on the cheek, “see here, the clean sharp blade made that, but it was a heavy blade. Evidence by the width of the wound. Now you take this same heavy sharp knife and plunge it directly into someone’s throat, but also twist the blade, you will end up with exactly the jagged wound on the neck.

“Makes sense,” said Mailer. “For a person to have two weapons at hand would indicate forethought. This, I am convinced was a crime of passion. Not planned.”

Crane began to circle the table slowly, hands behind his back. “Did not plan it.” He spoke slowly. “But wary enough to carry a weapon at all; perhaps expected trouble or planned to use it only to threaten the victim, when things got out of hand. But the viciousness of the wounds leads me to believe that whatever the victim spoke about produced a manic, frenzied response by the murderer.”

Mailer nodded. The coroner put his face down and added, “The neck wound was the direct cause of death, and it was a vicious blow, yes, but you’ve not heard the worst of it. The woman was attacked, in such a manner; I believe her attacker meant to make it appear as a rape.”

“ ‘In such a manner,’” Crane repeated. “What do you mean by that, exactly?”

“This is not an easy thing to report, even for a man who does what I do for a living, but she was vaginally penetrated. Brutally. But not in the usual manner. The attacker used an implement of some kind. Blunt elongated weapon of some kind…” the man’s voice trailed off.

Crane and Mailer swallowed hard. Mailer asked, “pre-mortem or post?” His face was a mask of anger.

“Post, definitely post-mortem” answered the coroner. “The lord had some mercy on the girl.”

Crane thought that here he would most heartily disagree with the coroner. In Ichabod’s experience mercy did not have degrees. It was absolute or it was not at all.

And there was absolutely nothing merciful about what had been done to Margaret Washington.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Katrina was discussing the week’s menu with Cook in the kitchen when they heard a tapping at the back door. It was hesitant and weak. The two women exchanged a look, and Katrina nodded. Cook wiped her hands and opened the door. Outside was a woman, barely a woman, more like a waif.

“What is that you want, young lady?” Cook asked.

“I wanted, please to speak to Constable Crane, if I might.” The girl answered.

“I am Mrs. Crane.” Katrina stepped in front of Cook, “Who are you and what is it that you seek.”

“My name is Janelle Washington, and I wanted to speak just a moment to your husband.” Janelle seemed suddenly very hesitant, “there is something I wanted to discuss with the Constable. I don’t know if you are aware, but it was my sister, killed this morning. I met your husband this morning, and he seemed to be kind and understanding. I just thought it would be best if I came along to him, if I had questions, or anything…”

Janelle tightened the shawl around her shoulders. “I do apologize Ma’am for disturbing you. I feel a little foolish. Perhaps you would be kind enough to just forget I came. Not tell Constable Crane, I came here. Is that possible, Ma’am?”

“Please come in.” Katrina opened the door. “Cook, can you make some tea, please.” She reached out for Janelle’s hand. “Please come in for a few minutes. It is a ways back uptown to the Van Ernst’s. You will be exhausted. Just come in to rest.”

Katrina had them sit at the long kitchen table. It was regularly where she took her evening tea; to talk to Cook about the menus, or the next day’s household needs, or just enjoying each other’s company. Cook had worked at some of the most well to do homes in her time, and kept Katrina entertained with her stories.

Katrina placed her hand atop of Janelle’s hand. “I have heard of your misfortune, from my husband, and of course what is written in the afternoon newspapers. You have my deepest sympathies. I can well understand what a shock.” Katrina poured out the tea. Cook yawned at the two women, rather theatrically, Katrina thought, feigning tiredness. “I will see you in the morning, Mrs., and mind you leave everything here for me to wash up in the morning. She nodded at Janelle, “Good night, Miss. Sorry for your troubles.”

When she had left, Katrina sat in silence with Janelle. Even when tears began to roll down the young girl’s cheeks, Katrina was silent.

The girl suddenly looked right at Katrina. “Mrs. Crane, did you ever need to tell someone a thing, but you were too mortified to even talk about it.” Katrina flashed back to her last few minutes with Ichabod in their bedroom.

But before Katrina could answer, Janelle asked another question. “Your husband and the Magistrate, if they find the person who did this, do you truly believe that they would see that person prosecuted, in a court?”

“Yes, I do.” Katrina answered firmly.



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