City of Darkness and Light (Molly Murphy Mysteries, #13)
New York City, May 1905
Like many Irish people I have always been a strong believer in a sixth sense. In fact I had prided myself on mine. I credited it with alerting me to danger more than once during my career as an investigator. So I can’t explain why it let me down on such a critical occasion, when an advance warning might have spared us all such grief. Maybe the perpetrator of this evil had not planned it in advance. Maybe it had been a last-minute order from above, so I had not been able to sense his intention or his presence … or their presence. I’m sure there must have been more than one of them. That was how they worked.
Anyway, there were certainly no uneasy thoughts in my head that bright May morning as I fed my little one his breakfast. He was eight months old now, a strapping boy with a shock of dark curls like his father and an impish smile. Now I think back on it I wonder if Aggie hadn’t been the one with the sixth sense, although she had no Celtic connections that I knew of. She came into the kitchen while I was feeding Liam, bearing two letters in her hand.
“Mail just arrived, Mrs. Sullivan,” she said. “Two letters for you. One with a foreign stamp.”
“That will be from my friends in Paris, I expect,” I said, taking them from her. “How nice.”
I took in Sid’s bold black script on the foreign envelope and noted that the other was my mother-in-law’s weekly missive. The former would wait until I had the proper time to savor Sid’s latest account of their adventures in Paris. The latter could simply wait.
“Aren’t you going to read them?” Aggie hovered at my shoulder, still fascinated by the foreign look of the envelope.
“Later, when I have time.”
“If anyone ever wrote to me, I’d want to read it right away,” she said wistfully. Then she shivered and wrapped her arms around her scrawny body. “It’s awful cold in here today, isn’t it?” she said. “Cold for May.”
“Is it? I hadn’t noticed.” I looked out of the window where early roses were climbing up a trellis. “It’s a nice bright day. You can come with me when I take Liam for his walk and you’ll feel warmer in the sun.”
“I need to be getting on with the laundry,” she said, eyeing Liam, who now had a generous amount of cream of wheat over his front. “That child gets through more clothes than a little prince and I expect I’ll warm myself up scrubbing away at the washboard.”
She stood there, still hugging her arms to her skinny body. Although she had been with me since Liam was born, and had an appetite like a horse, there wasn’t an ounce of flesh on her and she still looked like a pathetic little waif. I had taken her in out of pity, after she had been forced to give up the child she had had out of wedlock, but she had surprised me by being a hard worker and wonderful with the baby. She’d been the oldest of ten and had grown up taking care of the younger ones—a valuable asset to her family, but that hadn’t stopped her parents from throwing her out the moment they learned she was pregnant. She was pathetically grateful to come to us and I in turn was grateful for her knowledge in those first difficult weeks with the new baby.
“The laundry will wait,” I said, smiling at her. “Come on, get Liam changed out of those messy clothes and we’ll go out.”
She shook her head. “No, Mrs. Sullivan. I think I’d better stay and get those diapers out on the line, if you don’t mind. A morning like this is too bright to last. There will be rain by the end of the day, you mark my words.”
She had grown up on a farm in the Adirondacks so I believed her. “All the more reason for me to give Liam his daily dose of fresh air,” I said. “It’s been a gloomy spring so far, hasn’t it? I was beginning to think summer would never come.”
“It’s been gloomy enough around here,” Aggie said, “with Captain Sullivan going around with a face that would curdle milk and hardly a civil word in his head.”