Title: Mr. & Mrs. John Moore (aka Sara Howard Moore) VII: The Haunted House (1/8)
Pairings/Characters (this chapter): John/Sara (John does not appear in this chapter), Ellie Biggsby
Fandom: The Alienist (2018)/The Alienist: Angel Of Darkness (2020)
Genres: Drama, Holiday, Horror, Mystery, Suspense
Rating (this chapter): G
Warnings (this chapter): None
General Summary: Sara and John investigate a haunted house on Halloween.
Chapter Summary: Sara gets a new client.
Date Of Completion: May 22, 2020
Date Of Posting: October 18, 2020
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, TNT does, more’s the pity.
Word Count (this chapter): 806
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: All chapters of this installment of the series can be found here.
YELLOW OSTRICH FEATHERS AND HYSTERIA
“Women need to be heard.”
June 6, 1896
Sara read the latest edition of The New York Times at her desk in her office. It was a relief that the summer heat was gone, as it seemed to particularly gather in the rooms of this venerable old building, pressing down on the occupants like the inside of a cast-iron oven. It was cooler in the fall, a boon to women in long sleeves and skirts. Even men appreciated cooler weather with their suit coats and vests.
John was back from the war in Cuba and had settled down into his old routine, though she was keeping an eye on him. War could affect men in different ways, even war correspondents.
A board creaked out in the hall. Sara felt as if she ought to pay attention. Private detective instincts, that’s what they were.
Footsteps in the outer office: light and quick. A woman’s step. Her receptionist and other agents were out so Sara stood up and went to the office doorway.
A woman about thirty-ish was wringing her hands anxiously. She was dressed in the latest fashion: puffy sleeves, shirtwaist, waist sash, lightweight bodice and skirt, high-buttoned shoes with a sweeping, broad-brimmed hat and ostrich feathers. The colors were pale yellow and white, a good color combination for this woman of glossy auburn hair and big, brown eyes. She saw Sara and stopped pacing.
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“My name is Eleanor Biggsby. I need your help.”
“Certainly, Miss Biggsby. Come into my office.”
The prospective client followed Sara into her office. She took a seat in front of Sara’s desk.
“Now, Miss Biggsby…”
“Ellie. Though Miss Biggsby is fine if you prefer. I just need to, well, it’s hard to explain.”
“Take your time, Ellie.”
“Well, I inherited a mansion in Cloverdale. Uncle Titus left it to me.”
Ellie smiled nervously. She took off her hat, touching her pompadour, and put her hat back on. Sara noticed her nervousness and waited patiently. New clients were often shaky.
“It’s a house that’s been neglected for years. It’ll need some work.” The yellow ostrich feather bobbed as she shook her head. “More than just a little. But it’ll be beautiful again, I just know it.”
“Well, that’s nice, Ellie, but why do you need my help?”
“I’m afraid that the house is, well, haunted.”
Sara blinked. “Okay. Why do you think that?”
Ellie took her gloves off and wiggled her fingers. “I was in the mansion a few nights ago.”
Sara nodded. She was not sure if Ellie felt embarrassed to be telling this tale or was just flighty. She made a few notes on her pad of paper.
“I had gone to check out the property with my Cousin Edwin Frame, and it was late afternoon. We entered the house and it showed signs of neglect: peeling wallpaper, cobwebbed chandeliers, moth-eaten drapes…the usual casualties. Anyway, we were checking out the parlor when we thought we heard footsteps. Edwin thought it was a tramp making himself at home. He went upstairs and I waited by the foot of the staircase. I felt trepidation for his safety.”
“Did he find an intruder?”
Ellie shook her head. “He searched every room. He said it had probably been the house settling.”
“But you don’t think so?”
Ellie bit her lip. “Edwin went out to get a lantern from the carriage and I waited in the foyer. I heard low moans and loud creaking over my head. I glanced up the stairs and I swear I saw a shadow moving on the landing. I was so scared I went outside and told Edwin I didn’t want to poke around the house at night, lantern or no lantern. He was relieved, quite frankly, and so we left.”
“Have you been back to the house since then?”
“No.” Ellie blushed. “I was too spooked.”
“Well, that’s understandable.” Sara wondered what services Ellie was expecting her to perform.
Ellie twisted her fingers together. “Can you check things out?”
Sara put her pencil down. “It sounds like you need a spiritualist, not a private investigator.”
Ellie’s eyes were pleading. “Miss Howard, you have gained a reputation for helping women with their problems. I have a problem. It’s an unusual one, I grant you.” Ellie sighed. “My family thinks I’m suffering from hysteria.”
“Yes, it’s an unusual case, for sure.” Sara thought about it. She detested women’s problems being dismissed as hysteria. “All right, I’ll take the case, but it’s a waste of your money. There are no such thing as ghosts.”
“That’s all right. I’ll just feel better if you investigate.”
Sara penciled in the new case on her calendar. At least it promised to be an interesting one!
This chapter can also be read on AO3.
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