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The Lexington House Murder

~ Chapter Nine

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The next morning, dawned gloomy and dark. Ichabod opened the bedroom door when he heard the tray being placed outside. “Cook, we will be having Magistrate Mailer for breakfast. He looks like he hasn’t had a decent meal in a while, can you do up something special this morning?”

“Not a problem, Constable. One thing I know is how to feed a hungry man.” She walked down the stairs.

Jonathan came down the hallway, just as Ichabod was closing the door. He was rubbing his eyes with sleep. Ichabod smiled, “If you hurry, you can help Cook. Magistrate Mailer is coming for breakfast, and you can sit in on our discussion of the case. Katrina and I will be down shortly.”

Alone in their room, Ichabod was putting on his shirt. Katrina sat up and took a sip of her coffee.

“Katrina, when did the doctor tell you the baby was due?”

Katrina stood up and put on her dressing gown. “Early winter.” Her voice was very soft.

“Why did you tell me the child was but two months in your womb?”
“I am sorry, Ichabod. I guess I thought it would alarm you in some way. That you might not think it time to start a family.”

Ichabod just touched her cheek. “I know I have been pre-occupied with work lately. I can understand your hesitation. You owe no apologies to me.” Ichabod sat on the side of the bed. And Katrina placed herself on his lap.

“Ichabod, last night, Janelle Washington came to the house looking for you”

Ichabod looked up startled. Katrina put a finger to his lips. “She wanted to talk to you, but I convinced her to come in and have tea. I did not question the young woman at all. When she spoke to me, I believe she was forthright. I am not sure I understood all of what she was trying to say, but I wanted to tell you.”

“Katrina, do you think it was wise to question the girl when neither Mailer nor I had spoken to her?” Ichabod asked.

“Yes, I believe it was. She was extremely distressed; it would have to cruel to turn her back without offering her a chance to rest. I assure you, Constable Crane, I did not ask a single question. I only listened. That poor girl was scared. She too talked of spirits but not the kind that haunt. The kind that exist among the living, are allowed to torment others weaker than themselves. And still others with greed and pride in their hearts pretending that the very evil in front of them does not exist.”

“Katrina why did you not tell me last night, when I awoke.”

“Ichabod, I repeat that I do not intend to hide anything from you, ever. But I see how emotionally this murder has touched you. It is my job to care for you, and last night you needed rest. Something more than a ghost is troubling you about this matter. Some horror, to do with this death, has made you extremely uneasy, Ichabod.”

Ichabod’s hair had fallen over his face. His shirt hung open with the collar undone. The shadows made him seem gaunt and tired. And his eyes, his beautiful brown eyes. Katrina thought Ichabod the most beautiful man she had ever met. She reached out to brush back his hair, but stopped short. Instead she placed her hand on his cheek.

Crane sighed. “You are right, my sweet, Katrina. There is no ghost at work here. Just an evil miscreant in human form. I do not want to tell you this, but the victim, that young girl, Margaret, was brutalized in an unnatural manner.”

Katrina turned his face, so that he could see her eyes. She did not show shock or disgust, though she felt both sharply. “Do you mean that she was violated against her will, but not ….well, not the way one might think of ….”

Ichabod looked surprised. “Katrina, what do you know of these things?”

“Ichabod, I have no wish to disappoint your ideas of women, but we do know of molestation. Being the most likely victims, it is natural that maturing young girls would talk all manner of violence and defilement capable by men of unscrupulous character. That I do know.”

“What I do not know is how to kiss a man so completely, that he will instantly forgive all wifely transgressions.” For a moment they were silent. Katrina tentatively placed her lips on Ichabod’s. Than she kissed him and she touched the tip of her tongue to his lower lip.

He rolled her onto the bed and began to loosen the ribbons on her night gown. He pulled the gown down to the top of Katrina’s breasts. He moved his lips slowly over her shoulders, face and throat.

“Katrina, I must confess to you that I cannot go a single hour without thinking of touching you. The desire to feel your flesh on my flesh is continually in my thoughts.”

“Our thoughts are the same then.” Katrina blushed slightly.

Suddenly Ichabod was kissing her urgently. He reached down to undo his trousers, when he heard the bombastic voice of Mailer calling up the stairs.

“I say Crane, honeymoons on hold – work to be done here.”

“Damn the man!” Ichabod said. He sat up and took several deep breaths. “We had better dress; you will come down with me Katrina? Mailer will want to hear about your talk with Janelle.”

“You would leave your wife in such a state of anticipation?” Katrina smiled as she rose from the bed and moved to her wardrobe.

“Not for too long my love. That I do promise you.” Ichabod smiled and then whispered something in Katrina’s ear. They continued to dress in silence. Katrina kept her eyes down; so excited was she by his words. Together they went down to greet their guest. 


Mailer was looking down at a huge plate of eggs, ham, and biscuits. Cook poured steaming coffee into his cup and made a funny face behind him to Jonathan, who grinned back at her. “Enjoy, Magistrate. There is plenty more if you wish.”

For a moment, Jonathan and Mailer ate in silence. Half way through, Mailer leaned back and took a long sip of the coffee. “Crane has an enviable household. These biscuits are a wonder.”

“Cook is the best. Every Sunday she makes a huge roast with baked puddings.” Jonathan looked up rather slyly at Mailer. “Perhaps when this is over, you and Miss Janelle can come dine with us?”

Mailer frowned at him. “You are a quick witted lad, Jonathan. How do you know about Miss Janelle? Crane telling stories about me? Did you by any chance have anything to do with Ichabod and Katrina’s romance?”

“No, sir. They fell in love as soon as each laid eyes on the other.”

“Well, while we are waiting, why don’t you tell me your theories on the case? Crane believes you are the cleverest of lads. Do you believe the murderer is a ghost, Jonathan?”

“Well I have not heard all the evidence or statements given, but, no sir, I do not think ghostly creatures are in back of all that has happened. Perhaps a woman?”

“Hmmm.Where is heaven did you come up with an idea like that?” Mailer began to attack his breakfast again. But paused, fork half to mouth, when Katrina entered the room with Ichabod behind her.

Mailer stood at once. A choice bit of ham stuck to his shirt. “Mrs. Crane, I am very grateful for the kind invitation to breakfast with you.” He was completely taken aback by Katrina’s beauty. Her face glowed and her hair was the color of pale spun gold. ‘My god,’ Mailer thought to himself. ‘Crane has done himself well here.’

Ichabod drew a chair for his wife. “Sit down, my dear. Magistrate, you seem to be enjoying your breakfast to the extent that you have decided to wear it”

Jonathan burst into laughter. Katrina gave him a frown and slight kick under the table.

“Constable, your son, here was just suggesting that we “cherche la femme” instead of chasing any ghosts.” Mailer chuckled derisively at the idea.

Ichabod knew better.

He looked thoughtfully at Jonathan, “What” he asked, “would make you think a woman could have done this?”

“Well, I heard that she was cut with a long razor down one side of her face. I think that is something a woman would do. When they are fighting at school or in the street, girls delight in scratching the others face.” He looked up at the adults. “They don’t seem to know to use their fists or to fight properly at all. That’s what made me think that.”

Katrina rose and walked around to where Jonathan sat. She kissed the side of his face. “That is a very interesting thought, my son. I am sure the gentlemen will take it under their advisement. If you are finished, you can take your setting out to Cook and then leave us for a short while.”

Jonathan rolled his eyes at Ichabod, but did as he was told. He placed the heavy silverware, carefully across his plate and carried it rather genteelly into the kitchen. Katrina returned to her seat.

Crane allowed Mailer to describe the interview with the coroner and both of the Wellington-Trumbells from the night before. Mailer did not mentioned the sexual wounds. Ichabod quietly brought up the previous night’s discussion between Katrina and Janelle.

Mailer was on his feet. “What’s this about Janelle coming here last night?

Katrina poured more coffee for the Magistrate.

“Last night, Janelle Washington came looking to speak to Ichabod. She seemed unsure of herself. When she learned that Ichabod was not here, she tried to leave and asked me not to mention her coming at all. I persuaded her to come in. I did not prod her or question her. I just held her hand. After several minutes she began to weep. Then she talked to me about herself and her sister.”

Mailer looked her. “Why Crane? Why did she come to him for help? I would have thought she would seek me out.”

“A young woman would hardly seek out an unmarried man, even a handsome magistrate, unaccompanied, at night, at his bachelor’s rooming house. She came here because she felt comfortable,” answered Katrina.

Mailer sat down.

Katrina continued. “She did confirm to me that most of Mrs. Van Ernst’s early biography was accurate. Both Margaret and Janelle are from New Haven, and were made orphans when a carriage carrying both their parents, was run off the road. "

"Shortly afterwards, Margaret, actually met James Wellington-Trumbell at the home of one of her friends. Normally a guest would not even take notice of a housemaid’s friend. But apparently, James was all manner of kindness to Margaret. He asked her questions about her family and circumstances. Being flattered that such an important man would be interested in her, Margaret told him all about herself and her sister. It was James who offered the position of housemaid at Lexington House. Margaret was but fifteen at the time she joined the Wellington-Trumbells.”

“I can not tell you much about Margaret. You see, Janelle struggled to describe her sister. She told me that Margaret was always what one might call ‘an innocent’. Not feeble-minded in some way. Just that she was naïve, simple and not as quick to grasp ideas as others her age. Janelle had noticed it since they were children together. She always looked out for her older sister.”

“Janelle told me within weeks of her working at Lexington house, Margaret seemed to change. She became moody and quiet. Janelle tried to find out what was going on, but Margaret was stubborn, almost defiant in her refusal to answer her sister’s questions. Janelle began to believe that her sister was having relations with the master of the house. She had seen him only once, during a visit to Margaret, but the man had an overly-familiar way with her sister. It made Janelle uncomfortable; she said the whole household made her uncomfortable.”

“What do you think she meant by that, Katrina?” Ichabod leaned toward his wife.

“I am not sure. She may have been too frightened to say. Just that she felt somehow, James’ attitude was one of entitlement. If he was in love with Margaret, it was a love tainted by brutishness. Margaret did seem to get on with Mrs. Wellington-Trumbell. At least enough that she accompanied same on a two month visit to Mrs. Wellington-Trumbell’s sister’s home in Trenton.”

“Did she reveal anything else?” Mailer had begun to take notes.

“Just one other thing, that the brother who died, I don’t recall the name.”

Ichabod looked up. “Thomas, Thomas was James’ brother.”

“Well then, she told me Thomas, dead or alive, would never hurt anyone. In the beginning, she hoped it was Thomas that Margaret had developed feelings for. Janelle met him several times before the only meeting with James. Janelle was quite firm in her feeling that Thomas was as kind a man, as his brother was not. Janelle said she cannot imagine James as a father. Poor Megan. Living in a house where there is not much love, and now this?”

Mailer and Ichabod looked at each other in astonishment. Ichabod asked “Who is Megan?”

“She is their child.” Katrina responded. “Surely the Wellington-Trumbells must have mentioned it to you when they spoke to you.

Mailer fairly sputtered. “We talked to these people for almost half of an hour, they never once mentioned they had a child. Am I mistaken, Crane?"

“No, they did not mention it. But perhaps we should have asked,” said Ichabod. “And, by god, it is certainly my intention to ask them now.”

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