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The Lexington House Murder

~ Chapter Eight

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Crane and Mailer sat in the small back parlor of Lexington House. They were waiting for the owners come down and be interviewed. The men had agreed on the way over, that Mailer would ask the questions and have Ichabod observe. They both would be respectful and differential to these persons.

Mr. and Mrs. James Wellington-Trumbell walked into the room. Crane felt half inclined to bow. James Wellington-Trumbell was in his forties with a handsome head of red hair. His face was not handsome in the classic sense, but he was dressed impeccably and had a certain air of authority about him. His wife was at least 10 years his junior. She must have been a pretty girl at one time, but her face was thin and pallid. Her eyes were dead. They were not a happy couple.

Mailer introduced himself and Ichabod, and shook hands with James Wellington-Trumbell. As they took their seats, Mailer frown slightly when instead of asking his wife to leave the room for a few moments, both James and Helen seated themselves on the matching chairs before the fire. They turned and looked at Crane and Mailer sitting next to each other on the settee, with an affected pleasantness.

“I hope it is not a problem to talk to both me and my wife at the same time. I understand, you often want to question people separately in these types of matters, but since my wife and I were with each other at the time of the incident and I am assuming you do not think either of us is a likely suspect, there is no need to drag this out longer than necessary.”

Although they did not know it until later, when they compared notes, both Crane and Mailer’s hearts sank when they heard that statement by Mr. Wellington-Trumbell.

Unfortunately, the master of the house’s tone of condescension, meant to make it clear, who he felt would be in charge of this interview, had the opposite effect.

Up until this point, both detectives thought the Wellington-Trumbells’ only association with this crime was a misfortunate choice in housemaids. But now, by being so defensive, they knew the man before them was going to lie to them. And lie not only to distance his family from the idea of the crime, but to distance himself or someone else from the crime. This meant he knew something about why and how the crime happened. 


Over at the Crane’s household, Katrina had been silent the whole time Janelle poured out her heart. She held many things back, but Katrina did not ask any questions or make any comments.

When the young girl had finally stopped talking, she lay her head in her hands and cried. Katrina went to the kitchen cabinet and took out money from a jar. She retuned, put her arm about the girl and kissed her lightly on the cheek. Katrina then called to her son Jonathan, and sent him out to the street to fetch a cab to take Janelle home.

When Jonathan returned from his task, he was slightly surprised to have Katrina fairly crush him with an enormous hug. She must have kissed the top of his head five times. Murmuring comforting sounds into his hair. Finally, Jonathan managed to extricate himself from her grasp. Katrina was scared about something. This is what she did to him or to Ichabod, whenever she was scared. Scared and angry. 


Mailer took out his note book. “Well, shall we begin then, first allow me to thank both of you for agreeing to this late interview, but we sincerely want to close this case as quickly and efficiently as possible. And of course to cause as little disruption to your house.” Mailer’s voice was smooth and professional.

“First can you tell us where you were when you first heard of the crime”?

“My wife and I were awakened early, very early this morning, by our under-butler, to say that the head housekeeper had found one of our maids, apparently dead, attacked by an intruder. I asked my wife to stay behind, while I accompanied the man back down to the main sitting room. I saw at once, the poor creature was dead. I sent my driver to the local police station to report the crime. I believe I told everyone to leave the room and not attempt to move anything. I returned to my wife and told her of the unfortunate incident..”

Crane crossed his arms and glanced over at Mailer. He knew Mailer must be screaming in his own head, ‘Dammit man, she was not a creature or an unfortunate incident, she was a human being!’

But Mailer did not even flinch as he responded, “yes, yes, must have been extremely upsetting to you Mrs. Wellington-Trumbell. Did you come downstairs at any point or after the police arrived, Ma’am?”

“My wife did not come down until the police had removed the body and the room had been shut off. She then instructed the staff to make sandwiches and coffee for all of the patrol and police officers on the scene.”

“How considerate of you, Ma’am, to think of our men at such a shocking moment.” Mrs. Wellington-Trumbell lowered her eyes. Mailer temporarily gave up trying to get a word from Mrs. Wellington-Trumbell.

“Can you tell us a little about Margaret, how old she was, how she came to work for you; anything you think might help.

“Well of course these things would best be asked of our head housekeeper Eloise, who heads our entire staff. Unfortunately she had retired early on doctor’s orders. The day was particularly disturbing to her.”

“Anything at all, sir. About any problems during her employment with you or any unusual recent behavior she may have exhibited.”

This last question finally elicited a sound from Helen Wellington-Trumbell. A strangled sound, half moan and half sob. Her husband quickly bent over his wife solicitously, successfully shielding her face from Mailer. But not from Ichabod. He saw clearly the woman was frightened. And it was quite clear to him, it was her husband she was frightened of. Could this be a romance gone wrong between the Master of the house and little Margaret. Had it gone too far? Perhaps, Margaret if scorned by her employer-lover had threatened James Wellington-Trumbell in some way. But what could she possible hold over his head which would anger him enough to commit such mayhem on this young woman?

“I am most sorry, gentlemen, but as you can see my wife is exhausted. There really is nothing else I can tell you. As I suggested before, I think you should talk to our Eloise, she will be much more able to help you with your inquiries. If you will excuse us please.” James led his wife out of the room.

Ichabod stood up and motioned to Mailer. “Let’s go, Mailer. I believe I have had my fill of the Wellington-Trumbells for the day.”

Mailer waited until they were in the carriage, before he said to Crane. “ Obviously, this is not going to be as easy as we anticipated. I made a few notes, I think we may wish to question servants other that this Eloise, they have practically shoved at us. It may be best to do this at the precinct, where they may feel more open to tell us what they know, if anything.” Mailer leaned forward. “Are you listening, Crane? Do you have any suggestions to add?”

“No, your thoughts are fine, Mailer. We can meet tomorrow at 10:00 at my office and we will work it out then. We are both exhausted. I need to clear my head, and I need desperately to see my wife.”

“Just so, then Constable.” The carriage pulled up in front of Crane’s modest, narrow brownstone. “My best to Mrs. Crane.”

Crane turned back once more, “Better yet, Mailer, come by at 8:30, you look like you could stand a hearty breakfast. We will talk then. Good night, Magistrate.”

Mailer envied the man who walked up the path, took out his key and opened the door. Crane hesitated in the doorway. He bent over to stroke a small cat who greeted him. The both of them silhouetted against the lit hallway. Then the door shut and Mailer’s carriage drove away into the darkness.

Ichabod came home to a sleeping family. Only Kitty was up and prowling her nightly patrol. She was curious enough to follow Crane up the steps into Jonathan’s room. Kitty sprang onto the foot of the bed. For several minutes, Ichabod stood over the boy’s bed and watched him sleep. He bent down to stroke Kitty.

Later after he had crept gently into bed, so as not to disturb Katrina, he fell asleep rather quickly. But his sleep was uneasy. He kept seeing Katrina before him naked. He would remember how he felt when he looked at her pubis and belly. Even in his dream, the thought of it filled him with a mixture of wonder and desire. But as he looked up, he realized the head of Katrina’s body had been replaced by that of Margaret Washington. He jumped awoke and cried out. He was sweating.

Katrina immediately woke up and sat up. “Ichabod, what is it. What has disturbed your sleep like this?”

“A dream. It was not important. Just a dream.” He slid down against his pillows, and pulled Katrina towards him, placing her head on his shoulder. “ Close your eyes, love, and go back to sleep.”

“Was it about your father again? Are you sure you do not wish to talk about it, Ichabod?”

Crane shook his head in the dark. “Let me hold you, Katrina. I must feel you in my arms.” Katrina did as he asked. She snuggled next to him. One arm cradling her, Ichabod lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. He played with the curls in her hair. After a while he did close his eyes, but continued to move his fingers slowly through the ends of her hair.

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