Death of Riley (Molly Murphy Mysteries, #2)
New York July 1901
“You want me to do what?” I demanded so loudly that a delicate young female walking ahead of us glanced back in horror and had to reach for her smelling salts. I burst out laughing. “For the love of Mike, Daniel—can you picture me as a companion?” Then I looked up at Captain Daniel Sullivan's face. He wasn't smiling.
He gave me an embarrassed half-smile, half-shrug. “I was only thinking of you, Molly. You do need a job, and you haven't exactly been successful in your search so far.”
“So I haven't come up with the perfect job yet.” I picked up my skirts to avoid the wet patches around a grand-looking fountain. It had a fine bronze statue of the Angel of the Waters on top, but at this moment the scene was anything but grand. A host of little boys, some of them naked as the day they were born, were scrambling in and out, standing under the curtain of spray before being evicted again, squealing and yelling as they avoided the nightstick wielded by an overzealous policeman. It was Sunday afternoon and we were doing what most
New Yorkers did on hot summer Sundays—we were strolling through Central Park. For once Daniel's day off had actually fallen on a Sunday, and there had been no incidents to drag him away with an apologetic peck on the cheek.
It seemed as if pecks on the cheek were all I was getting these days from Captain Daniel Sullivan. Yes, I know that pecks on the cheek, properly chaperoned, are all that decent young ladies should expect before marriage, but propriety rather went out of the window when I was with Daniel. And I had hoped our romance might have blossomed into something more substantial by now, but as New York's youngest police captain, Daniel threw himself wholeheartedly into his job. I, on the other hand, had no job to keep me occupied.
It wasn't as if I hadn't tried. After my somewhat dramatic arrival in New York, I had looked for something suitable. The saints in heaven will attest that I really put my heart into it. I wouldn't have minded a governess position, in fact I'd have been good at it. But it didn't take me long to discover that an Irish girl, fresh off the boat, and with no references—or at least no references that could be verified (I had made some very convincing forgeries), would not be hired to teach the children of a good family. Nursemaid maybe, but I didn't think I'd last a week as a servant.
After that, I tried my hand at any job I could find, short of gutting fish at the Fulton Street fish market. I did draw the line at standing up to my elbows in fish entrails.
“You have to admit that there have been some rather spectacular disasters.” Daniel voiced my thoughts for me, making me wonder whether he could actually read my mind.
“I wouldn't say disasters.”
A breeze blew off the boating lake beyond the fountain, sending a fine curtain of spray in our direction. The cool tingles on my hot skin felt wonderful and I was tempted to stand there for a while until Daniel pulled me clear. “Molly—you'll get soaked to the skin.”
“But it feels divine.”
“It might feel divine “ he said, looking down at me with those alarming blue eyes, “but that's a very fine muslin you're wearing, my dear. We wouldn't want other men ogling you, would we?” He led me firmly away from the fountain terrace, along the edge of the boating lake. I paused to look longingly at those rowboats. A couple came gliding by, the girl's face hidden by a deliciously decadent parasol—all frills and lace and froufrou—as she trailed a hand languidly through the water. Her beau, pulling manfully at the oars in rolled-up shirtsleeves, didn't look as if he were enjoying himself quite as much. Undignified rivulets of sweat streaked the beet-red face beneath his boater.
“You wouldn't say disasters?” Daniel repeated, chuckling as he led me away. “The shirtwaist factory?”
“So I got a needle through my thumb. It could have happened to anyone.” I tossed my head, almost losing my straw boater into the water.
“And who sewed all those sleeves on inside out?” Those alarming blue eyes were twinkling.
“That wasn't why I was fired and you know it. It was because I stood up to that brute of a foreman and wasn't about to take any of his nonsense. All those unfair rules— docking their workers' pay every time they so much as sneezed. I knew right away that I'd never be able to hold my tongue for long.”
“Then there was the cafe “ Daniel reminded me.
I gave him a sheepish grin. “Yes, I suppose that counted as a spectacular disaster.”