Today, Leandra is continuing her Fifth Avenue Twins stories with “The Hudson Murders.”
Leandra and Gwen
The Hudson Murders
Josephine Garfield stepped delicately out of the carriage, grasping the carriage boy’s hand to keep her balance as her heeled boot hit the rough cobblestones. She turned almost immediately so that she could assist her brother, who had decided to neglect his mask today. He nearly fell when his thin prosthetic leg failed to find flat ground, but, between her and the boy, they kept him upright.
“See, Josie?” James’ handsome face quirked into a laugh, “Tommy makes an excellent carriage boy.”
“Yes sir!” exclaimed Tommy happily, keeping his grip on James’ good arm as the three walked down the street to the Precinct Office.
“A better carriage boy would stay with the carriage,” snarked Josephine, fanning the stench of the street away from her face. Tommy looked abashed.
“Let the boy stay, Josie,” requested James, smiling abating slightly as they trudged across the rough street. His bad leg scrabbled again, and both Tommy and Josephine steadied him. “I may have need of him.”
Josephine considered for a second before nodding. Her brother’s breathing was picking up already; he probably would need two people’s assistance before the excursion was over. Luckily, they had reached the building. The flat floor would be welcome.
Upon entering the office, they were immediately approached by a policeman.
“Mr. and Ms. Garfield!”
“Pleasure to see you, Officer,” panted James through a smile. Josephine nodded.
“Nurse Freedman and Inspector O’Malley are waiting for you in the morgue. You know where it is?”
“We do,” replied Josephine, “And please ensure that a chair is present for my brother.”
James opened his mouth to protest, but was quickly chastised by Tommy and Josephine’s glances and his own heavy breathing.
The officer nodded. “Yes m’am. I should tell you, though,” he glanced at Tommy, “The scene in there is not fit for a child,” his eyes wandered back to Josephine, “or a lady. I barely could hold myself together.”
“I assure you, Officer,” replied Josephine, raising her nose and snapping her fan closed, “my stomach is stronger than yours.” She pushed past him toward the hallway, sweeping her fan to summon her brother. James and Tommy followed (though their pace was much slower than Josephine’s clicking heels), and the offending officer hurriedly grabbed a chair and took up the rear.
The stench greeted them as they approached the morgue, as it always did, though it was much more bearable in the cool air than in the summer months. As they entered, Josephine’s eyes were drawn to the body in the middle of the room. A man lay on the table, his lips blue and his eyes closed, with nothing to cover him but a sheet for his genitals. Nurse Freedman, a young, dark-skinned woman in a practical nurse’s dress, stood at the table’s head, and the red-headed Inspector O’Malley faced the door from the corpse’s feet.
“Mr. and Ms. Garfield,” began the Inspector, shaking Josephine’s hand and then striding over to shake her brother’s and help him collapse into the newly-deposited chair. At the sight, the nurse was also quick to walk over.
“Are you well?”
Once seated, James waved off the assistance despite his heavy breathing. “Nothing out of the ordinary, Delilah. I’m sure Tommy can help me from here.” At that, Tommy, who had been sticking his tongue out at the chair officer, who was quickly retreating from the smell, stood back at attention behind his struggling employer.
Nurse Freedman and Inspector O’Malley nodded and returned to the grisly centerpiece.
“This is the second body found like this in a month.” The Inspector shined his badge on his shirt. “Both have been trussed like pigs and left in the streets.”
“They’ve died of cold,” added the nurse, opening a drawer, “after being plunged in water and left in the night. Here’s their belongings” She gave two foul-smelling bundles to Josephine, who immediately passed them to her brother in favor of studying the police reports on the shelf near the door.
“Any clue who they were?” she asked
“No one claimed the first body, and no one’s stepped up for this one,” replied the Inspector. “Probably some of the same easy targets.” Silence passed for a few minutes as the twins worked.
“Delilah, is this blood the victim’s?” asked James, peering at a rust stain on some brown pants.
“I believe so,” interrupted the Inspector, “or the murderer’s.”
Nurse Freedman rolled her eyes. “I’ve told you, Inspector. There’s no sign of a struggle on the body. It’s not from the victim, and probably not from the attacker either.”
James nodded. “If you don’t mind, Inspector, Nurse, I will take this for further testing. Perhaps I can figure out where this blood is from.” Inspector O’Malley and Nurse Freedman both gave their consent. James smiled. “Sister?”
Josephine returned the papers to their shelf. “If you don’t mind, we will take our leave.”
James stood with Tommy’s assistance, and the Fifth Avenue Twins turned to leave. Just as James was about to disappear, Nurse Freedman called his name.
“Yes?” James turned, smiling crookedly.
“I know you’re handsome.” She raised her eyebrows. ”Wear your mask next time and save us the worry.”
“Yes m’am!” James laughed as he left.
~ ~ ~
Further examination revealed the blood to belong to a cow, which lead to the twins sending their butler to the slaughterhouses near the Hudson for some meat and work schedules, which lead to a revelation, which lead to Josephine and James (with his mask this time) standing in cold, muddy streets late one Wednesday night outside of the South Tip Slaughterhouse.
“So, brother,” asked Josephine, “How’s Delilah?”
James snorted, “Waited until I couldn’t run away, huh?”
“Waited until I was bored.” Josephine tapped his cane with her shoe. “You cannot run very fast. ‘I know you’re handsome; save me the worry’?”
“I was happy to hear that.”
Josephine rolled her eyes. “She was right; you should’ve worn your mask.” She paused for a second and played with her bracelet, considering, before wrapping her arm around her brother’s and catching his eye, “You will be kind to her, whatever you do. She’s far too talented to annoy.”
“Who do you take me for, Josie?” James laughed. “I’m not Collin Keng-“ James went silent, then pointed toward a figure moving along the river, dragging a body. Josephine immediately began to fiddle with her bracelet, and a small mechanical butterfly glided off of it towards the figure as she pulled her goggles down.
“I don’t think that’s a pig,” offered James. The butterfly hovered about fifteen feet above the target.
“You’re right about that,” replied Josephine. “That’s our man.” She fiddled with her bracelet again, and, this time, a mechanical wasp buzzed up. “Shall I sting him?”
James shook his head, metal tubing clanking slightly, “He might fall in the river.”
“He’s a murderer, James.”
“But he still deserves a fair tri-“ James trailed off in shock as the figure hoisted the body in the river. Josephine gripped her brother’s arm harder, correctly predicting he would rush toward the scene. He made it half a step before he stopped, fearing he’d drag her along the cobblestones before she’d let him go.
“Wait, “ she hissed, “He doesn’t drown them. He’ll pull him back out.”
“This is still torture.” James attempt to extricate his arm, “Let me go.”
“And it will be murder if we startle him into dropping the body! Neither of us can swim, James. We must wait until the victim’s out of the water.” James took a shuddering, heavy breath, which was exaggerated by his mask, but did not move forward. The water splashed as the figure struggled as best he could. James looked away. Josephine did not.
“Sister, as soon as the victim’s safe, knock that bastard out,” muttered James, fists clenched.
“It will end well, brother,” replied Josephine, tightening her arm around his. The wasp moved into position.
Ten more seconds of struggling passed. Then, the figure was returned to the street. Gasping breaths were obvious even from the twins’ position.
Without further ado, the wasp swooped down and stung.