Home > Murder on Pleasant Avenue (Gaslight Mystery #23)

Murder on Pleasant Avenue (Gaslight Mystery #23)
Author: Victoria Thompson


   The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” Maeve whispered to herself, deliberately striking each key on the typewriter as she said it. Why had she thought working in Mr. Malloy’s private investigator’s office would be exciting? The first thing he and his partner, Gino Donatelli, had wanted her to do was learn to use the typewriter. She would never get the hang of this. She should have been content just being a nanny to the Malloy children. Taking little Catherine to and from school and getting her and her brother, Brian, ready for bed was so much easier than this. At least being a nanny didn’t require using machinery.

   She looked up when the main office door opened, grateful for the interruption.

   To her surprise, a lovely young woman came in. She looked nothing like their usual clients. She was obviously Italian, and she wore what must be her Sunday best, including an interesting little hat. She twisted her gloved hands nervously in front of her.

   “May I help you?” Maeve asked brightly.

   “Is this Mr. Malloy’s office?” she asked without a trace of an accent. She glanced around uncertainly at the utilitarian office space with its plain wooden desk and chairs and a pair of windows that provided a stunning view of a brick wall. She’d probably been expecting something grander.

   “Yes, it is.”

   “And Gi—I mean, Mr. Donatelli, too?”

   Maeve somehow managed not to wince. This beautiful young Italian woman was looking for Gino Donatelli, and Maeve didn’t even want to know why. She also shouldn’t care, so why did she?

   Should she lie? Did she dare send the woman away? But that was foolish. She’d only come back. Besides, the door to Gino’s office was open, and he’d apparently overheard the woman’s question, because he’d already come out.

   “Teo?” he asked, surprised but also much too pleased to see her. Of course he was. Any man would be happy if a woman this lovely had sought him out.

   “Oh, Gino!” she cried, hurrying to him and giving him both her hands, which he took with a familiarity that made Maeve furious.

   “What’s wrong?” Gino asked. “Is it—?”

   “No, no, nothing with the family, but Gino, it’s something terrible,” she said, bursting into tears.

   “There now, don’t cry,” Gino said, which is what men always said, but only because it made them feel helpless to see a woman cry. He slipped his arm around her shoulders without the slightest hesitation—they knew each other very well!—and led her into his office. “Maeve,” he called back over his shoulder, “would you get Teo a glass of water?”

   How dare he ask her to wait on his paramour! But the washroom was just next door to their offices, so Maeve was back in no time. By then Mr. Malloy had come out of his office to see what all the commotion was about.

   “What—?” he began, but Maeve cut him off.

   “Gino has a lady visitor.” Did she sound disgruntled? Mr. Malloy’s eyebrows rose, so she must have. Oh dear, that would never do.

   Gino hadn’t closed the door, though, so Maeve went right in. Teo—what kind of a name was that?—had produced a handkerchief to dry her tears, and she gratefully accepted the glass of water Maeve handed her. Her face, Maeve was annoyed to see, did not blotch up when she cried, and when her tears had dried, she looked as lovely as ever.

   “Can I get you anything else, Miss . . . ?” She glanced expectantly at Gino, waiting for an introduction.

   “It’s missus,” Gino said with a sly grin. “Mrs. Donatelli.”

   Maeve usually prided herself in her ability to conceal her emotions, but this time, she couldn’t stop her jaw from dropping or her eyes from widening in shock. Mrs. Donatelli, and she certainly wasn’t his mother! Was it possible? Anything was possible with these Italians. She couldn’t imagine Gino had gotten married without telling them, but hadn’t he mentioned that his parents had found a bride for his brother? If they arranged marriages for their children . . .

   “Mrs. Donatelli?” Mr. Malloy echoed, having followed her into Gino’s office. “How do you do? I’m Frank Malloy.”

   Mrs. Donatelli gave him an uncertain smile.

   “And this is Miss Smith,” Gino said, still smiling slyly. “She’s learning to typewrite.”

   Maeve glared at him, but his grin never wavered.

   “And which brother are you married to, Mrs. Donatelli?” Mr. Malloy asked.

   “Rinaldo,” she said proudly. “He is the oldest.”

   Rinaldo? Of course. She was married to one of Gino’s brothers—he had about twenty-seven of them, if she remembered correctly—so of course she would be Mrs. Donatelli. What had she been thinking? “So nice to meet you, Mrs. Donatelli,” she said with complete sincerity.

   “Teodora was just going to tell me why she’s here,” Gino said. “Something terrible, you said, but not something with our family.”

   “No, not with our family, but terrible, yes.” Her uncertain smile vanished. “Miss Harding has been kidnapped.”

   Maeve and Mr. Malloy looked to Gino for an explanation, but he was apparently just as puzzled as they were.

   “Who is Miss Harding?” Gino asked.

   “She is a worker at the settlement house. You know what that is?” she added to all of them.

   They all nodded. Mr. Malloy’s wife, Sarah, had been involved with The Daughters of Hope Mission, which was where Maeve had found shelter when her grandfather’s death had left her alone in the world. Maeve had first met Mrs. Malloy there, and that had eventually led her here. Do-gooders of all types were opening settlement houses all over the city, so called because volunteers from more prosperous neighborhoods would “settle” there, living among the poor so they could more accurately discern their needs and therefore meet them. And of course Mrs. Malloy had recently opened a maternity clinic on the Lower East Side.

   “What do you mean, she was kidnapped?” Maeve asked. “Has there been a ransom note or something?”

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