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Clinically Curious

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“Lazlo, I don’t have time to satisfy your every curiosity; did she kill them or not?”

Sara couldn't hear Kreizler's reply, muffled as it was by the door to the Commissioner's office.

“And what exactly should I do with that information? ‘Sorry, Mr Dorner, all the evidence still points to your daughter as a murderer, but did you know she was aware of her husband's affair?’”

The muffled speech continued. 

“I don't care about what happened in the Montroses’ bedroom. What I care about is that influential people in this city are putting pressure on me from all sides to announce that Diana Montrose did not, in fact, kill her husband, her maid and herself. What I care about is you making absolutely sure there is no possibility that something else happened, no tiny loophole through which they can stab me when I close this case. Until you have that for me, you're wasting my time with your presence.”

The door swung open with force as Kreizler swept out of the room and past Sara without even a glance to bid her goodbye. Commissioner Roosevelt seemed to have a unique way of aggravating the good doctor, and Sara resigned herself to getting nothing useful from either of them for the rest of the day.

As she collated the final witness statements and reports, the Commissioner called for her.

“Shut the door,” he snapped as she entered. For the fourth time that day alone she bit back an acerbic comment, doing her best to keep her resentment of being spoken to like a child to herself, beyond a brief grimace. 

“Sara, I need you to keep him on track.” Before she could even agree, Roosevelt barreled on, pacing the room. “The Dorners are everywhere. They have the journals printing every conspiracy possible, the 100-”

“Commissioner,” she began

“-claiming my incompetence is to blame, and even the constables-”

Commissioner' ” she interrupted, more forcefully

“What!”

She waited, keeping her countenance the picture of patient annoyance.

“I'm sorry, Miss Howard. Please continue”

“I can assure you that Dr. Kreizler is working on this case. He has reduced his private practice and most evenings are spent poring over any updates.” The tension appeared to leave Commissioner Roosevelt’s body, although his expression was no less aggravated. “Now that we have the final statements, I am sure we will come to a swift and certain conclusion.“

The Commissioner sagged back in his chair, eyes skyward.

“Just...just be certain. We have to be certain.”

Sara said nothing, returning to her own office to check and double check the final file. It would be enough. It would have to be.

*************************

As Sara handed her coat to Lazlo’s latest maid, she contemplated the girl’s blonde hair and pale skin. They tended to find placements in respectable houses after now standard half-year stints with Kreizler. And they never had dark hair. Not anymore. 

“They’re in the library. Want some coffee?” This one was only a month in, but the welcome was far better than the “Who are you?” she’d offered at their first meeting. 

“Thank you. It could be a long night for us all so coffee may be a good idea…” Sara found herself struggling to remember the new maid’s name.

“Sally, miss.”

“Sally.” She always regretted forgetting their names. With their current case at the forefront of her mind, the feeling was all the more acute. 

Sally sped off for the kitchen, leaving Sara to approach the salon, the crack in the doors letting out both the light of the fire and the raised voices contained therein.

“Lazlo, I will draw you back once again to the facts. This murder is clearly the work of a man!”

“Which man? The Isaacsons are clear that the cyanide...ah, good evening, Sara.”

John stood immediately and smiled her way. Always a smile for her, even in the depth of an argument with Lazlo. One day she might even let it work. 

“Sara, you look beautiful this evening, as always.”

“Thank you, John. And you look frustrated, as always.”

“Lazlo, while having great esteem in many of my skills, does not believe me to know anything of crime,” he said, glaring at Kreizler as he spoke. The fact that Lazlo showed no reaction to this amused Sara greatly.

“And on what particular aspect of crime are you demonstrating your great experience?” she said, maintaining her well-practiced poker-face.

John shot her a look. “That Diana Montrose is innocent of this crime. Women don’t kill this way. They do not take guns and shoot people.”

“And you gather this from your unrivaled contact with women? I’m impressed that you can gather so much about us one hour at a time.”

“Sara!” John exclaimed. She couldn’t see his face, but Sara was willing to wager Lazlo was smirking.

“Yes, John? A further insight, perhaps?” she teased.

“All that I am saying is that men confront their victims, whereas women do not.” 

“Are women so weak and feeble in your mind that a gun is quite beyond them?” Sara could feel her blood rising, John getting under her skin as only he could. ”Is a trigger too heavy a weight for them to pull?”

“John is right,” Lazlo said quietly. Sara shot him an aghast look, having expected his support in the face of John’s foolishness.

“Women tend to be poisoners and employers of assassins, not the shooters themselves.” 

“Thank you, Laz-”

Sara could hardly believe her ears. These two supposedly educated men had learned absolutely nothing in their time working alongside her. 

“And employees of the constabulary tend to be men,” she snapped “and yet here I stand before you.”

“Sara, I am not ruling Mrs. Montrose out." Kreizler responded "All I am saying is that at this point, none of the evidence makes sense. We have the maid, Joan, shot days before the others and left on the hallway floor. We have Mr. Montrose shot on Monday evening, and all the evidence pointing to Mrs Montrose killing herself soon after, with the murder weapon next to her. Do you have the witness statements from the neighbor?”

“Yes,” she handed them to him, feeling conflicted. “The neighbor heard Mr. Montrose call out ‘No’ to his wife before he was shot several times.”

“Did the “no” come before the first shot or afterwards?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes, it does.”

Sara skimmed the statement until she found the right line “Mr. Montrose shouted ‘Diana, no, God no!’ before there were several gunshots. And the scent of cyanide was still fresh on her lips when the Isaacsons arrived, suggesting it had been taken a short time before.“

Lazlo made an unconvinced noise.

“Oh, not the will again, Lazlo.” John sounded exasperated, and on this, Sara was in agreement.

“The will on its own proves nothing, but the will with the letters is important. I am now more convinced than ever that Mrs. Montrose knew of her husband’s affair. In fact, I believe she condoned it.”

“On what grounds?” Sara asked. This was a great leap, and she was curious to hear if there was any evidence to support it. 

“I have been perusing the language used in the love letters along with a linguist colleague of mine.” He rolled down the blackboard, showing it to be covered in snippets of phrases from the letters recovered from beneath Joan Dunne’s bed. “It is a peculiarity of the English language that the Plural and Singular ‘You’ are the same word. If written carefully, a letter could be addressed to two or more people while appearing to be addressed to only one.”

“Do you have any way of demonstrating which was the case here?” Sara tried to recall the content of the letters, searching for any indication that two were referred to and not one.

“The third letter written by James Montrose, when he was in upstate New York. He writes ‘How I long to feel myself surrounded by you, the contrast of smoke and roses all around, with me at your command.’ I suggest that smoke referred to Joan's maintaining the hearth and fires, and the roses to Diana’s well recorded passion for her glasshouse roses.”

“I agree with John that this is unconvincing,” Sara stated, wondering what else Laszlo had to support his theory.  

“Then perhaps the two mistakes in the fourth and ninth letter. The same mistake twice. I almost missed it on the first reading. “And I am enslaved entirely to you, to my goddesses’ whim I am bound.’ I do not believe he even realized that he had written it incorrectly.”

Sara sat on the couch and considered what Kreizler was saying. The will clearly stated that Diana would only inherit on the condition that she retained Joan for the rest of Joan’s natural life. If James was indeed professing his love for both women, in a single letter, then she could see the only rational circumstance was that both women would be reading the letter together. So Diana knew about Joan. But was she accepting of it, or was the will a way to force her to look after Joan if James passed? Had she perhaps expressed displeasure with the arrangement leaving James with no other option to protect both of his loves?

“Lazlo, if your theory is correct, I believe that you have succeeded only in giving Diana an even stronger motive.”

“Jealousy,” John said, flatly. She could see from the corner of her eye that his blank expression masked his own reflected pain. Not for the first time, she considered reaching out to offer comfort, but John’s manner wouldn’t have allowed it. He was the strong man, the provider after all. Allowing himself weaknesses was beyond the pale, much less comfort.

“I believe that Diana became aware of Joan’s pregnancy. It could have been her breaking point,” Kreizler continued. 

“There were no children in the marriage.” John offered. “Seeing her husband’s child in the maid might have been too much. Joan was shot in the womb as well as the head”

“And this makes sense,” said Lazlo, beginning to pace the room. His words were positive but his tone distinctly frustrated. He swung around on them both. “But why kill Joan elsewhere and drag her body afterwards to the hall? Why not leave her wherever she lay? And if Diana was comfortable with a gun, why did she use cyanide to kill herself?”

Sara puzzled over these questions, before adding a final one. 

“And why did no-one hear the shots that killed Joan?”

Both men’s eyes bored into her. “The final witness statement confirmed that no-one in the neighbor’s home heard any shots before the Monday.”

“There are too many questions and not nearly enough answers.” Lazlo said. “Tomorrow we will return to Rosewood House. Perhaps a tour of the murder scenes will provide us with what we need."