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The Lexington House Murder

~ Chapter Fourteen

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Lunch had been consumed; during which Katrina had affirmed to Ichabod several times that yes, there were in fact two patrolmen watching the house and third who drove the carriage which brought her.

And then Katrina kissed her son and husband good-bye. She put her gloved hand up to Mailer's cheek. “Do not worry about Janelle; we are taking the best care of her. We will, of course expect you for dinner, Magistrate Mailer.” Then she pulled out her handkerchief to remove a bit of blueberry tart from the front of Mailer’s suit jacket.

“Thank you for the invitation, Mrs. Crane, but I have already promised Janelle that I would take her out to a quiet dinner. It is enough that you have offered to give her a bed for the next few nights.”

Katrina assured him that Jonathan would not mind sleeping in the parlor and Janelle would be made comfortable. “I will give Janelle my house key, in the event that you do not return until after we have retired.”

“I hardly think that necessary. Surely you are not abed before 10 o’clock and we will certainly return before then.”

Katrina looked away in fear of showing her blushes. Ichabod cleared his throat. “You know Mailer, Katrina has been sleeping more in her condition and we have gotten into the habit of retiring quite early.”

“Well, perhaps you and I could share a drink, then.” Mailer persisted.

“I think not Mailer, no. Now good-bye, Katrina. I shall see you later. Jonathan, help your mother out to the carriage.”

As soon as they left the room. Crane turned to Mailer. “you are a smart man but not a very subtle one.”

Mailer backed up a bit. “How so, Crane?”

Ichabod put his face up to Mailer’s. “When you have been married not yet six months, to someone you believe to be the most beautiful woman on earth, I shall make a point of inviting myself to your house for a late drink, having already been all the day with you, and then you will understand why I may be more interested in spending an evening with my wife rather than with you.”

Mailer shrugged. “Sorry, Crane. You know that I envy you. Marriage is something I look forward to myself, when it is right to do so.”

Jonathan had come back into the room. “When it is right to do what?”

Crane slid down in his chair and laid his head on his arms. “The right time to return to our work, so that some day Magistrate Mailer will have a wife who brings him generous amounts of blueberry tarts.”

Likewise, Mailer slumped down in his chair; his long legs stretched out before him. “You have me, Crane. I was done the moment I saw her. But it seems so ungentlemanly to try and make love to someone whose sister’s murder you are investigating.”

Crane looked up suddenly. “I forgot to ask, what about the routine checks on Megan?”

Mailer held up his hand, as if to assure Crane. “We have had one of the ladies from the office and a patrolman check on the child every day or so. But, honestly I believe that nonsense you threatened them with about ‘removal orders’ frightened them well enough.”

Mailer began to pace the floor. No one spoke and after a few minutes had passed, Crane said, “Magistrate Mailer, you are one of the most methodical and pragmatic policeman I have ever worked either for or with. You are a very, very good magistrate. Whatever has been bothering you all day, I would like you to know that there is no judgment here.”

In a low voice, Mailer responded, "Crane, I told Janelle about the note Katrina received this morning. She expressed alarm, but not much surprise. I assured her there would no danger to either of them. But, of course, I realize fully that I broke my word to you that the note would not be revealed to anyone.”

“You mean that vile note left for Katrina?” Jonathan asked.

Mailer turned sharply around. “And how is it that you should know about this, before you are even told?

Jonathan answered. “Ichabod taught me to listen when people are around and to watch their faces. I heard you talking to Miss Janelle this morning. I didn’t eavesdrop on purpose, but I did hear.”

“Before I climbed into the carriage, I myself, told Miss Janelle not to worry. She is frightened, but I do not think she is frightened for herself.”

Ichabod stood and walk behind Jonathan. He put his hands on the boy’s shoulders. “I agree with Jonathan. I do not believe Miss Janelle had anything to do with the attack on her sister. But she herself may be under threat. I also agree with Katrina, who is of the opinion that Janelle is closed to crumbling under some emotional weight. I think it best to let her stay with us and hope she unburdens herself to Katrina when she feels able.”

“All right then,” Mailer was on his feet again. “So, Crane. Let us take up the second part of your original question. Who are our suspects and why do we believe them to be.”

“We will do a round robin.” Ichabod said. “You first, Magistrate”

Mailer spoke with no hesitation: “James Wellington-Trumbell. Probable lover of the murdered girl. May have tired of her. An argument ensues, they struggle and he ends up killing her. Not sure I can see him doing the other…” For an anxious moment he glanced over at Jonathan. “But we do know he has displayed physical abuse against his own wife. Most of the servants harbor a low opinion of the Master as he takes to drinking and lechering after the younger girls in the house. Most don’t stay very long. But they all agreed that the Wellington-Trumbells paid a very good wage for household staff.”

“Thomas Wellington-Trumbell: If you are willing to believe his suicide was a fake, then I guess we can throw him into the mix. I am not inclined to think he would stay in hiding all this time only to come back to murder a housemaid. And for what reason? And if you are at all inclined to reconsider the ‘ghost’ theory, we can add that to the list.”

Ichabod shrugged his shoulders and indicated his deferral to Jonathan by looking over to him. Jonathon looked at his father and emphatically shook his head no. Ichabod looked back at Mailer and shook his head no.

“Helen Wellington-Trumbell: Could have been jealous due the affair between her husband and Margaret. Can’t see why she couldn’t have just insisted the girl be replaced. I am sure pretty young maids have come and gone from Lexington House at a brisk pace. But cannot see her doing, well, what was done, exactly.” Another anxious glance at Jonathan. “This woman seems so timid that she would hardly be able to do murder even to defend herself.”

“The Formidable Mrs. Pierce: As evil an eye that she casts; she is a woman used to getting her way without resulting to actual force. I can see her as cold enough to commit all aspects of the crime, if you understand what I am saying. But she is a woman who would only murder with forethought. She would have carefully worked everything out ahead of time. Our situation appears very much to be a crime of passion. The pieces do not fit.”

“Well, who have I left out? Ah, a mysterious intruder or some other person who has nothing to do with the household. A random thief caught by the innocent young housemaid who was killed in order to avoid alarm being raised.”

“Good job, Mailer” intoned Ichabod. He looked thoughtfully over the list Jonathan had made of the names.

“I have left out one suspect, Crane.” Mailer walked to the easel and took the pencil from Jonathan. He hesitated and then added the name ‘Janelle Washington’ to the list of suspects. “While it grieves me to do so, we do not know the complete background of the sisters; they may have had grievances unknown to us. And I am afraid that, while I have no proof, I do not believe she has been totally honest with us. Also, Janelle may seem delicate but she is passionate; I think she might be capable of murder if she felt she had to.”

“That’s my list, Crane.” Mailer handed the pencil to Crane.

“I happen to agree with your assessments, Mailer. And you are twice the man for being willing to question the actions of someone you obviously have feelings for. But, in the end, considering all aspects of the crime, they do not appear to match with any one of the persons listed here. And that may be our answer.”

Jonathan crawled up on the settee and closed his eyes. He had eaten a great deal of lunch. He quickly fell asleep.

While the boy slept, Mailer and Crane talked for a long time; reviewing statements, evidence, possible suspects, why the particular wounds may have been made and the inconsistencies in Mrs. Parker’s statements. And most especially the words of warning Mrs. James Wellington-Trumbell had given them. And, of course, the note.

By late afternoon, Crane and Mailer stood together before the window looking down at the street. They were tired. Mailer walked to the easel now full of lists and question marks. It had only been a few hours earlier that Jonathan had written ‘Margaret Washington–victim’ in the center of the board. But to Ichabod and Mailer it seemed as if a whole day had passed.

Mailer slowly crossed out Margaret Washington’s name and above it he wrote another. Megan.

Crane stood and stared at Mailer for several minutes. He walked over and put his hand to Mailer’s shoulder.

“We are agreed. It is enough for today. Go clean up and come round to pick up Janelle. Try to forget about the case for tonight, Mailer.”

Mailer left quietly.

Ichabod shook Jonathan gently. The boy woke slowly. “Come on son, we are going home now. Katrina will worry if we are late.” Jonathan obediently put on his coat and allowed Crane to shepherd him down to their carriage. They rattled off towards the warmth of their home and the comfort awaiting them there.



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