Rhys Bowen's characteristic blend of atmospheric turn-of-the-century history, clever plotting, and sparkling characters will delight readers in The Edge of Dreams, from her bestselling Molly Murphy series.
Molly Murphy Sullivan's husband Daniel, a captain in the New York City police force, is stumped. He's chasing a murderer whose victims have nothing in common—nothing except for the taunting notes that are delivered to Daniel after each murder. And when Daniel receives a note immediately after Molly and her young son Liam are in a terrible train crash, Daniel and Molly both begin to fear that maybe Molly herself was the target.
Molly's detective instincts are humming, but finding the time to dig deeper into this case is a challenge. She's healing from injuries sustained in the crash and also sidetracked by her friends Sid and Gus's most recent hobby, dream analysis. And when Molly herself starts suffering from strange dreams, she wonders if they just might hold the key to solving Daniel's murder case.
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The Edge of Dreams
By Rhys Bowen
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Rhys Bowen
All rights reserved.
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."
"Ah, well, we decided we'd had enough of Vienna," Sid said, glancing at Gus. "And we had a parting of ways with Professor Freud. Gus couldn't agree with his interpretation of dreams."
"He insisted that every symbol in our dreams is linked to sex," Gus said. "Absolute rubbish and I told him so. He didn't like being contradicted by a woman, I can tell you, especially a foreign one, so we thought we'd better make a hasty retreat."
"When did you come back?" I asked. "Why didn't you get in touch with me?"
"We arrived back a few days ago," Sid said as I brushed away tears of joy. "But Daniel wanted us to be part of the surprise. He asked us not to contact you before the house was ready. As a matter of fact, we helped him with the finishing touches."
I looked around at the dainty end table with a white cloth and a vase of flowers, at the clock on the mantel, and beside it even a china dog like the one we'd had before.
"It's not exactly as it was," Daniel said, coming to join us. "But we tried our best to make it look the way you remembered it. I've left the things that need a feminine touch for you — the drapes and the bed linens and that sort of thing."
Until I had a baby I had rarely allowed myself to cry. Now the tears trickled down my cheeks and I threw my arms around his neck. "You did all this without breathing a word to me, and when you are so busy at work too. You're a grand sort of man, Daniel Sullivan."
Daniel gave Sid and Gus an embarrassed smile. "I had quite a bit of help from various people at police headquarters. And your friends here. Everyone has been most kind."
"So you'd no idea that the house was almost rebuilt?" Gus asked.
I shook my head. "Whenever I asked Daniel, he indicated that things were progressing slowly and I'd have to be patient."
"It was lucky that she came home in the middle of a heat wave in July and was glad to go straight to my mother's in the country," Daniel said. "If she'd been living here in the apartment with me, it would have been harder to do everything without giving the game away."
"I'm quite overwhelmed," I said. "I don't know what to say."
"For once Molly Murphy is lost for words," Sid said dryly, giving Gus a nudge. "We never thought we'd see that day, did we?"
"Come and see the rest of the house," Daniel said. "I shouldn't be spending too long away from work."
"And I shouldn't leave Liam for too long with Mrs. Heffernan," I said. "She's a little old to be minding a lively youngster."
"Who is this Mrs. Heffernan?" Sid asked.
"The caretaker at the building on West Sixty-first Street where Daniel has been living," I said. "I've been staying out in Westchester with Daniel's mother but I decided it was time we came back into town so that I could look after my husband again. Not that it would have been easy in that tiny apartment with no real cooking facilities." I turned back to Daniel. "So can we really move back into our house?"
He led the way out of the front parlor and pushed open the back parlor door. "Like I said," he turned to answer, "there are still some finishing touches that only you can make. We need bedding, and drapes, and kitchen utensils. I have no idea what women need to cook with — apart from a stove. We have one of those, and some pots and pans."
I took in the back parlor with its mahogany dining table and chairs, a sturdy sideboard, and a desk like Daniel's former one tucked into a corner. The window looked onto our little square of backyard — now wild, and overgrown, and littered with builder's debris. Plenty of work to be done there. Then I went through to the kitchen — new table, new shelves holding a couple of pots and pans, and beneath them
"Well, what do you think?" Daniel asked me.
"We've never had a gas cooker!" I exclaimed. Until now I'd always had an old cast-iron stove, and I'd envied those like Sid and Gus who had been able to upgrade to a more modern form of cooking.
"You'll find it so much more convenient, Molly," Sid said. "And we'll look after Liam while you go shopping for the things you still need."
Dishes and silverware, I thought. And cheese graters, and washboards, and a meat safe — the amount of things I needed was overwhelming. And they all cost money. I had been told that the police department was helping out with the rebuilding of our house, since it was an act of retaliation against the arrest of a gang leader that had destroyed it in the first place, but would that largesse stretch to replacing everything I had lost?
Then I had a thought that brought a smile to my face. "Can we move back here in time for Liam's birthday?"
"Oh, yes, Liam's birthday," Gus said. "We were just talking about what presents we could buy him. And we'll give him a splendid party."
I laughed. "He's going to be one, Gus. What will he know about parties?" I looked at Daniel. I could tell he was picturing what Sid and Gus's idea of a birthday party might be, with belly dancers and all kinds of bohemian folk.
"And besides," I said. "I'd like to have his birthday right here in our own dear house. A proper affirmation that we've really come home at last."
Daniel nodded his approval. "Come and see the upstairs," he said.
Our bedroom at the front of the house had a fine new bed in it, and a wardrobe, and a chest of drawers. Liam's nursery had not been furnished yet; neither had the back bedroom.
Daniel shrugged. "I couldn't quite remember what babies need," he said, "and besides, he's grown so much recently. We can bring that borrowed crib down from the apartment but I'm thinking that maybe he'll be able to go into a proper bed."
"He needs something he can't climb out of," I said. "Or the Lord knows what he'd get into. He's turned into an escape artist, Daniel. He'll be outdoing Houdini any day now."
Daniel smiled. "He's certainly become an active little tyke."
"We can't wait to see him again, Molly," Gus said as we made our way downstairs again. "He must have grown in three months."
"He certainly has, and learned to make his needs known very strongly," I replied, sharing a smile with Daniel. "His current vocabulary is Mama, Dada, and no."
Sid and Gus laughed. Daniel opened the front door and we stepped out into warm September sunshine.
"Do you have time to come over to our house for a cup of coffee and a snack before you get back to Liam?" Sid asked.
I was dying for a chat with my dearest friends, but I hesitated, glancing at Daniel. Much as I wanted to hear all their news, I knew Daniel had been working day and night on a particularly complicated case recently. He never confided much to me about his work, but he had let slip that he was having a tough time with this one. A murder case, I gathered, and more than one murder involved.
"Thank you, but I think we should be getting back now," Daniel answered, before I could say anything. "I'm sure Molly will take you up on your offer to look after our boy so that she can finish equipping the house as she wants it."
"Molly dear, you can always borrow supplies from us to get you started. It would be too overwhelming to try to shop for everything you need at once," Gus said. "We have more dishes and pans than we need, don't we, Sid."
"Absolutely," Sid said. "And spare bedclothes and pillows. Come on over and help yourself."
"You're very kind, as always." I turned to smile at them. "And I'm so looking forward to hearing all about Vienna."
"Gus is becoming quite an alienist in her own right." Sid beamed at her proudly. "Some of the other doctors working with Professor Freud were really impressed with her theories. Maybe we should have stayed, and Gus could have become an eminent scientist, a second Madame Curie "
"No, we shouldn't have." Gus shook her head. "I'm not even a qualified doctor. Officially I'm not allowed to treat patients. Besides, you didn't like Austrian food — too much cream and dumplings."
"We must be going, Molly." Daniel touched my arm to lead me away. "I should be back at work."
"But you said yourself it's the first day off you've had in ages." I looked back with longing at Sid and Gus's front door. "Surely they can't begrudge you one day off."
"It's not a question of begrudging," he said. "It's a question of what is more important — my enjoyment or stopping a murderer before he kills again. I rather think the latter."
"You're chasing a murderer, Captain Sullivan?" Sid sounded excited. "You should enlist the help of your wife. She seems to have a knack for solving crimes. You should have seen her in Paris "
"Oh, that was nothing," I cut in, giving her a warning frown. I had decided not to tell Daniel about that harrowing business in Paris. At the time he had had enough on his plate to worry about, and when I returned I chose not to think about what I had been through.
"What are we talking about?" I sensed that Daniel was instantly alert. "Some business in Paris?"
"Oh, an Impressionist painter was murdered by a Jewish rebel while I was there," I said in what I hoped was a breezy manner. "It was in all the newspapers."
"And Molly figured it out before the police," Gus said proudly.
"Well done." I saw Daniel exhale in relief that this crime hadn't personally affected me. "Yes, I don't doubt Molly's skills as a detective, but I'd rather she kept a good distance from my police work in New York. I don't want to put her or our son at risk, as I'm sure you understand."
"I'll bring Liam to see you tomorrow," I said as I took my leave of my friends. "You can tell me everything about Vienna."
"Sid has learned to make a mean apfelstrudel," Gus said. "She can make one to go with our coffee and —" She broke off as a man came running toward us. It was a police constable and he came to a halt, panting, in front of Daniel.
"Captain Sullivan, sir. I'm so glad I've found you."
"What is it, Byrne?"
"There's been another one." The young constable was still trying to catch his breath.
"Another murder?" Daniel snapped out the words.
"Another note," he said and handed Daniel an envelope, addressed in typewritten letters to him at Mulberry Street Police Headquarters. Daniel opened the envelope and took out a folded sheet of paper.
I could read the words as Daniel unfolded it. They were typed with a typewriting machine in the middle of an otherwise blank page. Just one sentence.
I'm saving the best for last.CHAPTER 2
Daniel refolded the paper. "For last?" he said.
"At least that might mean he plans to stop this murderous spree, don't you think, sir?" the constable said.
"But he plans to kill once more first," Daniel said grimly. "He does this to taunt us, knowing we can't stop him, damn his eyes." He glanced across at us, realizing he had been swearing in the presence of ladies. He cleared his throat.
"We should go," Gus said. "We look forward to seeing you tomorrow then, Molly."
I nodded and went to follow Daniel.
"Byrne — please take Mrs. Sullivan and find her a cab," Daniel said. "I'm sorry, Molly, but you must make your own way home. You have enough money with you?"
"Don't worry about me, Daniel. I'm just fine," I said. "You go and do what you have to. I can take the El. The station is quite close by. I don't need a cab."
"All right, then. I'll see you when I can." He put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. Then he hurried off with the constable, leaving me standing alone on a deserted Patchin Place.
Excerpted from The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen. Copyright © 2015 Rhys Bowen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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