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The Lexington House Murder

~ Chapter Thirteen

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Jonathan was trying to help Cook down from the carriage. Cook, being a somewhat full-figured woman, was not easily detached from the conveyance. With the driver helping her on one side and with many comments about the wretched state of every joint in her body, Cook was at last deposited firmly on the sidewalk.

They walked up to the entrance. The door opened before them and Ichabod came forward and hugged Jonathan quickly. Katrina swallowed him up in her arms and gave him a motherly amount of kisses. To be truthful, Jonathan felt less and less uncomfortable about these intermittent shows of affection. He had missed Katrina. He missed her smell. Even her hugs.

He saw Magistrate Mailer sitting in the dining room with the lady who had been here before. She was very pretty. Jonathan knew something horribly sad had happened to her and she was trying very hard to disguise it. And the look she gave the Magistrate was not quite the same as the way Katrina looked at Ichabod.

Jonathan was very interested in people and the things they revealed, even just by a gesture or look. The way they sat or didn’t sit. He learned it from Ichabod.

Jonathan walked on into the dining room and sat at the table. He took the same seat at the head of the table that Ichabod had sat in.

“Good morning Miss. And Magistrate Mailer. I am back. With Cook. We’ve just came back." He picked up Ichabod’s half filled coffee cup and drank.

Mailer frowned. “Should you be drinking coffee at your age? Stunt your growth. Or give you a case of nerves.”

“Oh, my father doesn’t mind.” Jonathan said airily.

A heavy hand clapped him on the shoulder.

Ichabod said “I certainly do not mind, Jonathan. As long as you are willing to bring some fresh from the kitchen.” Jonathan was up and off, when Ichabod grabbed hold of his arm. “And as long as it is the last time.”

Jonathan would only shrug his shoulders with a grin and continued on into the kitchen.

He found Cook looking carefully in one of her cabinets; she pulled down a bottle of sherry and studied it closely. “Hummm. Constable owes me a new bottle of my favorite.”

“Favorite what?” Jonathan asked.

“Nothing, Mr. Nosey-Parker. Just a little game we play the Constable and I.” Cook began to walk about the kitchen muttering. “Smells like Mrs. C was burning biscuits again. Well go on. Nothing for you to do here. I’ll bring out fresh coffee to the lot of them in the front parlor. And do not stand about listening to things not proper for a boy to hear.”

By the time Cook did indeed deliver a tray of hot coffee, it appeared the men were readying themselves to leave. Mailer was just handing Jonathan his coat. Ichabod was putting on collar and coat. Apparently, Ichabod, Mailer and Jonathan were off to the Constabulary.

Jonathan did not even glance at Cook. This time he was going. Period.

“The boy should remain here, if you’re going about your police work, Constable.”

“No Cook, ‘the boy’ is coming with us. You may expect us back no later than 6 o’clock and we shall expect to dine at 7 sharp. I believe I am partial to lamb shank for this evening. Good-bye, Katrina.” He kissed her cheek as usual. And then with a sly look at Cook, he turned and embraced Katrina firmly, kissing her deeply. Jonathan stifled a laugh. Ichabod added, “Not to worry, Cook, your sherry was much appreciated and will be replaced.”

Jonathan walked ahead of Ichabod out the door and approached the carriage. At the rear of the carriage was the tender scene of Mailer giving and receiving a modest kiss from Janelle. They did not notice the boy approach. “My dear,” Mailer whispered. “Do not let on to Katrina that I showed you the note. Not until I have had time alone with Crane.”

Janelle looked off into the distance. Her voice was very low. “I cannot believe…it has come to this. A vile letter left for Katrina. So much deceit.”

“What do you mean, my dear?” Mailer started to ask and then looked up to see the boy. “Oh, well, here are Jonathan and Crane. We will be off.”

Mailer somewhat clumsily kissed Janelle’s hand and cheek. “Do not worry. Katrina promises to amuse you for today. Come along, Jonathan; look smart if you are to be our detective in training.”

Mailer and Ichabod climbed into the carriage first. Jonathan hesitated a moment and then reached out to touch Janelle’s hand. “I promise you, Miss, what the Magistrate says is the truth. Very soon it will be known what happened and it will all be for the better.” Janelle looked at the boy cautiously as he climbed in to join the others. Overwhelming fears gnawed at her. She would not be able to take much more of this.

As the three drove away, Katrina came out with a heavy shawl which she draped over the girls thin shoulders. “Come in, Janelle. I have lit the fire and you should rest now.” 


Ichabod sat at his desk. Mailer as usual, sprawled in the leather guest seat. Jonathan sat beside an easel and board. He held a pencil ready in his hand.

“Before we review the evidence and statements I wish to repeat the following: crime is undeniable fact. Evidence is a matter of proof and corroboration. Everyone lies to the police even if they are innocent. Never make the mistake of resolving the facts of the crime to the evidence; always the evidence must resolve itself to the facts of the crime”

Crane continued, “That being said, Mailer, you have had a chance to read through the statements supplied by the initial police reports and those from the past and present household staff. What did they tell us? And who are our suspects?” Crane asked.

“I will summarize. The weapon was never found. No shoes of the family or staff match with any of the blood prints, although they were so smeared over, this is valueless to rule anyone in or out.”

Crane looked down at his boots, “How about method of entry?”

“Non-conclusive. Both Parker and Mr. Wellington-Trumbell claim they thought the other had agreed to lock up. Convenient, but hardly an unusual thing to happen. I myself am forever forgetting where I left my boots, my pipe, my keys. I must confess I have left my own entrance unlocked on several occasions.”

Jonathan yawned. “That would never happen in our house. I think Cook checks our doors, three times every night before she will retire.”

Ichabod arose from his chair and walked over to rumple Jonathan’s hair. “Jonathan, you have all the makings of a very good detective. You only need to learn to trust your instincts. Continue, Mailer.”

“Staff has its likes and dislikes. But to a man uh, or woman, they were not fond of James Wellington-Trumbell and positively despised that Parker woman. Most felt sorry for the wife and little girl. Some few brave souls ventured that the master of the house was not above knocking his wife about. No eye witness accounts that he ever struck his daughter.”

“By-the-by, the ones who had been there before the present staff, are quite sure that Megan – the child was adopted. Said that they adopted her in Quebec about 3 years ago. Approximately a year old at the time. Seems the Mistress could not bear any children, so they adopted. James was very enamored of the little girl. Helen, they described as somewhat dispassionate about the child. Almost frightened of her. Maybe not as enthused to play ‘mommy’ as James would have her. Parker pretty much ignored the child.”

“Financially, the Wellington-Trumbells are of very old money. For the most part it had always been handled carefully. However, some of the household mentioned hearing the odd fight between Thomas and James, about money. Around the time Thomas left for Europe."

Ichabod interjected. “How did the money come to them, in some sort of trust or was it equally divided outright between the brothers? Do we know?”

“Yes. Their solicitor handed over the Will as it is now a public document. Its dispositions had been carried out and as a legal matter it is closed. A lump sum of $2500 was left outright to Thomas. The Lexington House and all residual holdings of the father were left to the older brother James.”

“What are ‘residual holdings’?” Jonathan asked.

Ichabod turned to the boy. “Residual holdings mean all cash, securities, notes that are left minus other bequests and real property. How much was it, Mailer? The mention of $2500 made me wince with envy, but I am sure that the amount left to James will make me positively groan.”

“How would you react to interest and gains only which amount to about $700 a year?” Mailer asked.

Ichabod sat up quickly in his chair. “But what of the capital sum?”

Mailer spoke very slowly. “Held in trust. To be inherited by the first grandchild of either brother. No conditions as to whether the child is natural or adopted.”

“My head is spinning, sirs.” Jonathan spoke up. “When does Margaret come into this and Miss Janelle?”

Crane sat forward and raised his hand to his brow. “Ah, a time-line is an excellent idea! "

"Mailer, you are the fact-keeper, pull out your notes and let’s compare some dates of the recent and not so recent comings and goings of Lexington House.”

Mailer sighed and got out his pocket notebook. He flipped back and forth through some pages. Then he nodded to Jonathan to be ready to mark his words on the board.

“Most of this we wormed out of the prior employees, which were not too difficult to track down as most seem to move among the same set of families.”

“Well, to begin, James and Thomas had lived in Lexington House all their lives. Mother died shortly after Thomas was born. They were both unmarried at the time of the father’s death about 12 years ago, leaving the money as I described. At the time the brothers both lived in Lexington House. Old Parker puss – has been there since the brothers were children. None of the current staff have been there over 3 years.”

“James married some 10 years ago to Helen née Smith of Trenton, NJ. Quite a beauty if her wedding portrait bears any true resemblance. Some years go by and Thomas and James began a continuing argument over money. Seemed James was going through his quarterly allotment fairly quickly. While he responsible for the upkeep on the property, a good bit of it was spent on gambling and women. Still he should have been able to balance his expenses and extravagances with an income of $700 a year.”

“Now it is time for Margaret to enter the scene. James meets her by accident at the home of an acquaintance in New Haven. Margaret happened to be out with one of the housemaids, and when she returned to the house, the introduction was made. "

"Apparently, James was quite overcome with Margaret’s beauty and her simple naïve charms. He hired her to work for he and his wife almost immediately. So she leaves her home with Janelle and goes to New York. There is a blank spot here as it becomes mostly speculation. With in a short time after Margaret’s arrival to the household, Thomas and James quarrels increased. Thomas apparently felt the rift was great enough for him to move to southern France.”

“Several months following this Helen, Mrs. Wellington-Trumbell, had a miscarriage, not her first apparently, and she went to Trenton to stay with her sister taking Margaret with her. They remained there almost two months. During which time James made one trip to Europe to speak to his brother.

Now, back to the sister of Helen, we have not had time to interview her, but an investigator from Lower Manhattan is traveling to New Jersey and is due to report back tomorrow. Of course there were the usual speculations that it was really Margaret who had the miscarriage or had the child and the child given away. But it is hard to see Mrs. Wellington-Trumbell be so sympathetic as to offer her own sister’s house as a sanctuary to her husband’s pregnant mistress.”

Mailer took a breath. “About then Janelle takes a position at the Van Ernst’s. Megan is adopted sometime later. James and his wife return to Europe, several months later supposedly to reconcile with Thomas. The outcome was apparently not good. Shortly after James and his wife leave the south of France. Thomas kills himself. Threw himself off some rocks I believe. He left a note, but as James and Helen were traveling they were not aware of the death or the note until they returned from their extended trip. Several years pass. No problems to report, except Janelle tells me her sister is increasing downcast and frustrated. Then last week Margaret is found murdered at Lexington House. Follow me so far, Jonathan? He glanced over at the list the boy had written:

1. Father dies—larger portion of estate to Thomas than James? Why?
2. James meets/hires Margaret Washington. Brothers quarrel. Money?
3. Thomas to Europe.
4. Mrs. W-T loses baby – she and Margaret gone two months.
5. Who lost baby – Margaret or wife?
6. Janelle takes position in Van Ernst house.
7. Megan adopted.
8. James and Helen go on long trip, stop to see Thomas.
9. Thomas kills self.
10. Margaret found dead – stab wounds. Face slashed. No weapon, no break in.

Mailer flopped back in the chair while he surveyed the list. “Well seems you have the gift of summary. That’s an important trait in a detective, Jonathan. Always look at the facts and evidence in the order they occur.”

"Did Thomas leave a will?" asked Crane.

"No, so everything went to James."

There was a knock at Ichabod’s office door. Then Katrina entered carrying a large covered basket.

“Gentlemen, I come bearing gifts. It is lunch time.” Ichabod quickly rose to take the basket from her hands. He placed it on the desk. Katrina kissed his cheek and pulled off her gloves.

She touched Jonathan on the shoulder. “I think Jonathan; you will find a blueberry tart in there from Cook. She has been in the kitchen all morning making you a feast. Meat pies, cold chicken, biscuits, sweet cakes.”

Mailer had already begun to pull items out of the basket, “Only one blueberry tart? I am very partial to them.”

Jonathan handed it to Mailer, “You have it sir, I’ll get more at home.”

Katrina laughed. “Never fear. There is one for each.” She took Ichabod by the hand. “I need a word with the master of the house. Enjoy.”

Katrina led Ichabod into a darkened side office and closed the door when she was sure they were alone. “Janelle is resting. She did not reveal anything new, exactly. Except the John had told her about the note we received this morning. The idea seemed to frighten her more than it had frightened us. She just kept mumbling about deceit. I truly believe this woman is about to breakdown completely. I made an herbal tea for her and she is sleeping soundly. Ichabod what can this mean?”

“I am not sure, but for now, I am not going to let on to Mailer that we know about the note business.”

Suddenly Katrina clasped her belly and gave a quiet yelp.

“Katrina?” Crane asked.

Katrina did what a thousand thousand mothers-to-be had done before and would again. She guided Ichabod’s hand to the upper side of her stomach. Ichabod felt a tiny strong kick. He kept his hand there and took on a look of astonishment. Katrina was smiling. “The babe is happy and active today.”

“Are you always so sure of everything?” Ichabod placed both his hands against the wall behind Katrina effectively trapping her between his arms. He kissed the side of her throat.

“Yes. Besides, Constable Crane, mothers-to-be know these things. And I do hope you are not thinking of accosting me at this time of the day?” She looked up at Ichabod’s face, a bit mischievously.

“My dearest, I would happily take you this very minute. But I fear old Mailer might walk in and have apoplexy.” He continued to kiss her. “I promise I will be home for dinner tonight.”

Katrina hugged him hard. She kissed the side of his face and whispered in his ear. “Please take care, Ichabod. I wouldn’t know how to be without you.”


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