The Edge of Dreams (Molly Murphy Mysteries, #14)
New York City, September 10, 1905
“Don’t open your eyes until I tell you.” His hand gripped my forearm as he half lifted, half dragged me down from the hansom cab. If the cabby thought it strange to be transporting a woman wearing a blindfold, he had kept quiet about it.
“Open my eyes?” I exclaimed. “Holy Mother of God, Daniel, how do you think I can open my eyes? I can’t see a darned thing through this.”
I heard him chuckle as I was steered forward, my feet moving cautiously over cobblestones. And then suddenly I knew where I was. Familiar smells wafted toward me—baking bread from the French bakery around the corner on Greenwich Avenue, the pink climbing rose that grew beside old Mrs. Konigsberg’s front door. And there were familiar sounds too—the distant clatter and rattle of barrows coming from the Jefferson Market, the bustling traffic on Sixth Avenue, the particular way that footsteps echoed back from the tall brick houses on our narrow backwater.
“We’re here, aren’t we? You’ve brought me home.” I could hardly make the words come out.
I was in Patchin Place, returning to what had been my home before it had been destroyed by a fire, when a gang had thrown a bomb through our window. I had been staying with my mother-in-law up in rural Westchester County since I arrived back from Paris several weeks ago, and had deliberately not been back to my house, believing it to be beyond repair and not wanting to see the remnants of my former life. Not wanting to sink into despair that it could ever be made whole again. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to see it now, but Daniel must have had a good reason for bringing me here.
I had sensed his excitement when he had asked Mrs. Heffernan to watch our son, saying that he wanted to kidnap me for a little while to show me something. Then he had insisted on tying the blindfold around my eyes, saying that he couldn’t trust me not to peek without it and he didn’t want to spoil the surprise. I had allowed myself to be helped into the cab, utterly baffled and dying of curiosity as to what this surprise might be. Daniel was holding me around the waist now, and I reached out to grip his sleeve for reassurance. It had to be something good, I told myself. Daniel was the fairest man I had ever met. And he loved me. He would never do anything to deliberately cause me distress.
“Four more steps,” Daniel said, leading me forward. “Now, stand still. Don’t move.”
He released my waist and I heard him walk away from me. I have never been the most patient of people so it was all I could do not to rip the blindfold from my eyes.
It was as if time stood still. I heard the pigeons that lived on the roof opposite cooing. The honk of an automobile. A baby crying far away. Then he was beside me again. I felt his warm breath on my cheek.
“Ready?” he whispered.
Then he was undoing the handkerchief around my eyes. I stood blinking in strong sunlight, looking at a newly painted green front door. This was my house as I remembered it—new windows with shining white trim, and only blackened bricks that no amount of scrubbing could clean to betray that the house had recently been a heap of ashes.
“Oh, Daniel,” I gasped. “It’s exactly the way it was.”
“Not quite,” he said. “But it’s a start.” He put his hand gently on my shoulder, urging me forward. “Go on. Open the door.”
I walked forward. My hand gripped the doorknob and the door swung open. The smell of new paint greeted me as I took my first cautious step into the hallway. New white-painted stairs rose up on my left. Straight ahead was my kitchen, with a new pine table just like the old one and a sparkling tile floor. There was new linoleum in the hall, and to my right the parlor door was half open.
“Go on in,” Daniel said, coming up behind me.
I entered the parlor. The first thing I saw was a sofa, almost like the one we had lost. I next noticed an armchair by the fireplace, and when I looked around the room, I almost jumped out of my skin. Standing behind the door were two people that I recognized—my dear friends and neighbors Elena Goldfarb and Augusta Walcott, looking as outlandishly flamboyant as ever, their faces alight with anticipation.
“Sid! Gus!” I squealed with joy as I rushed to their open arms. “I didn’t even know you were back in New York.” I tried to say the words as I was almost suffocated in their hugs. “I had no idea. I thought you were planning to stay in Vienna to study with Professor Freud.”