new york, autumn 1910
“Medick is dead!”
Jackson Barrett crashed through John Buchanan’s dressingroom door, waving the Cognac bottle they kept for opening nights and bankablereviews.
Buchanan was blacking his face for tonight’s Othello—hisMoor, opposite Barrett’s Iago. He tossed his greasepaint stick with a jubilant,“Best news we’ve had in a year!”
Nothing personal against Medick. That workman-like actorhad struck it rich playing the dual title roles in the old Mansfield–Sullivandramatization of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But hissudden death left the gold mine up for grabs, and they had a scheme to grab itwith an all-new, modernized Jekyll and Hyde that would clean up on Broadway andlaunch the richest cross-country tour since Ben-Hur.
They banged glasses and thundered toasts.
“Barrett and Buchanan . . .”
“Present . . .”
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!”
The brandy barely wet their lips. They worked too hardmanaging the Barrett & Buchanan Theater Company to be drinking men, andtheir temperate habits kept them ruggedly youthful. Tall andbroad-shouldered—“Lofty of stature,” in the words of the New York Sun criticpinned above Buchanan’s mirror—they bounded onstage like athletes a decadeyounger than their forties. Jackson Barrett was fair; John Buchanan, his neartwin, was slightly darker, his hair more sandy than Barrett’s golden locks.Both shimmered with the glow of stardom, and their intense blue eyes famouslypierced women’s hearts in the back row of the highest balcony. The ladies’husbands rated Jackson Barrett and John Buchanan as hearty men’s men—fellowsthey could trust.
“I’ve been thinking . . .” said Barrett.
“Never a good sign,” said Buchanan.
“What do you say we switch our roles back and forth—keep’em guessing who’s who. First night, I’m Jekyll, and—”
“Next night, you’re Hyde. Sells tickets, and might evenkeep you from getting stale.”
“Sells even more if we can talk Isabella Cook back on thestage.”
“Rufus Oppenheim will never allow her.”
Isabella Cook’s husband held the controlling interest inthe Theatrical Syndicate, a booking trust with an iron-claw grip on sevenhundred top theaters around the country. You could not tour first class withoutRufus Oppenheim’s syndicate, and you paid through the nose for the privilege.
“Why did the most beautiful actress on Broadway marry thespitting image of a bald bear smoking a cigar?”
“She would never go with us even if Oppenheim let her,”said Buchanan. “There’s no Jekyll and Hyde role big enough for the ‘Great andBeloved Isabella.’ ”
“Actually,” said Barrett, “I’ve been tinkering with themanuscript.”
“How?” Buchanan asked sharply, not pleased.
“I wrote a new role for Miss Great and Beloved—thebeautiful heiress Gabriella Utterson—which makes her central to the plot.Gabriella sets her cap for our handsome young Jekyll. The audience sees theevil Hyde through her eyes and fears for her.”
Buchanan understood immediately. His partner had gone offhalf cocked, per usual, but rewriting Robert Louis Stevenson’s stuffed-shirtnarrator into a beautiful leading lady was a crackerjacks scheme.
“Any other changes I should know about?”
“Added some biff-bang stuff,” said Barrett.
“Airplane? What will an airplane cost?” They had warredover money since they opened their first theater down on 29th Street.
Barrett said, “Stage manager at the Casino says they’reclosing He Came from Milwaukee. They’ll practically give us their biplane if wepay for removing it from the theater. Meantime, you better bone up on yourswordplay. We’ll give them a duel they’ll never forget.”
“An airplane makes the play too modern for sword fights.”
“The transformation potion makes Dr. Jekyll hallucinate.Jekyll and Hyde fight a Dream Duel.”
“Jekyll and Hyde onstage together?”
“Brilliant, isn’t it?” said Barrett. “Good and evilbattle for each other’s soul.”
“Any more biff-bang?”
“Mr. Hyde escapes a howling Times Square mob on thesubway.”
“Jekyll and Hyde is set in London.”
“London’s old hat. I moved it to New York. Jekyll livesin a skyscraper.”
Buchanan worried that erecting, striking, andtransporting stage sets for a subway train would cost a fortune. Except a NewYork subway was not a bad idea if you subscribed to the Weber & Fieldstheory that audiences were more apt to respond in familiar, “realistic”settings. It worked for laughs. Could they put it across for melodrama?
“We’ll cut down the subway for the tour..”
“Don’t patronize me with your cutting-down!” Barrett shotback.
“We’ll be carrying sixty people on the road,” Buchanananswered coldly, and they exploded into a red-faced, clenched-jaw shoutingmatch.
“Melodrama is whipsawed! Why else are we attemptingbloody Othello?”
“Cutting down saves money so we can make money.”
“Movies are driving us out of the theaters, and theateraudiences are nuts for vaudeville.”
“Your free spending will kill us.”
“Damn the expense! We’re dead without spectacle.”
Their stage manager stuck his head in the door with afinger to his lips.
“Angels,” he whispered.
“Thank you, Mr. Young. Send them in.”
The partners manufactured warm smiles for theirinvestors.
Joe and Jeff Deaver, almost as tall as Barrett andBuchanan and considerably heavier than in their college football days, wereheirs to their mother’s locomotive factories and their father’s love ofshowgirls. Decked out in capes and top hats, twirling canes, and trailing thescent of the perfumed blondes they’d parked in the hall, they could financeJekyll and Hyde with a stroke of a pen.
“Your timing is exquisite!” boomed Barrett.
“I’ll say. We just got invited to back Alias JimmyValentine. Broadway and a tour. They’ve got Vietor from England to playValentine. And Lockwood to play Doyle. We’re going to clean up.”
“Not so fast,” said Barrett.
“Opportunity has arisen closer to home,” Buchananexplained. “Poor Medick is dead.”
Jeff, the brains of the duo, asked, “Is your Jekyllready?”
Barrett nodded, arousing Buchanan’s suspicion that hispartner’s “tinkering” had included private negotiation with the moneymen. “Weare ready to go.”
“Do you have Isabella Cook?”
“We’ll find a way.”
“If you get Miss Cook on board, we say the heck withJimmy Valentine,” said Joe. “Don’t we, Jeff? Vietor wants too much dough just’cause he’s English. And Lockwood’s always getting chorus girls in trouble.”
“Wait a minute,” Jeff said. “Medick’s young. What killedhim?”
“They say he fell from a fire escape. Fourth floor.”
“That’s crazy. The man was terrified of heights. We hadhim in our Black Crook. Remember, Joe? They couldn’t get him near the orchestrapit.”
“Something’s fishy. What was he doing on a fire escape?”
“Exiting a lady’s back door,” said Jackson Barrett,“pursued by a husband.”
spring 1911 (six months later)
On the second floor of New York’s finest hotel, theKnickerbocker, at the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street, the Van DornDetective Agency’s Chief Investigator sized up a new client through thereception room spy hole. The Research Department had provided a snapshotdossier of a “stiff-necked, fullofhimself Waterbury Brass King worth fiftymillion.”
Isaac Bell reckoned they had their facts straight.
William Lathrop Pape looked newly rich. A broad-belliedman in his early fifties, he stood rock-still, gloved hands clamping agold-headed cane. His suit and shoes were English, his hat Italian. He boasteda heavy watch chain thick enough to moor a steam yacht, and his cold gaze boredthrough the front desk man as if the young detective were a piece of furniture.
Research had not discovered why the industrialist neededprivate detectives, but whatever William Lathrop Pape’s troubles, he had pullednumerous wires for a personal introduction to Joseph Van Dorn, the founder ofthe agency. As Van Dorn was three thousand miles away in San Francisco, it hadfallen to Isaac Bell to extend the favor requested by an old friend of theBoss.
“O.K. Bring him in.”
The apprentice hovering at Bell’s elbow raced off.
Bell stepped behind Van Dorn’s desk, cleared candlesticktelephones and a graphophone diaphragm out of his way, and laid down hisnotebook and fountain pen. He was tall and about thirty years of age, builtlean and hard, with thick golden hair, a proud mustache, and probing blue eyes.On this warm spring day, he wore a tailor-made white linen suit. The hat he hadtossed on Van Dorn’s rack was white, too, with a broad brim and a low crown.His madetoorder boots were calfskin, well worn and well cared for. He lookedlike he might smile easily, but a nononsense gaze and a panther’s gracepromised anything but a smile were he provoked.
The apprentice delivered Pape.
Isaac Bell offered his hand and invited him to sit.
Pape spoke before the apprentice was out the door. “I wasinformed that Van Dorn would make every effort to be here.”
“Sincere as Mr. Van Dorn’s efforts were, they could notfree him from previous obligations in San Francisco. I am his ChiefInvestigator. What can the Van Dorn Detective Agency do for you?”
“It’s imperative that I locate a person who disappeared.”
Bell picked up his pen. “Tell me about the person.”
William Lathrop Pape stared, silent for so long that Bellwondered if he had not heard. “The person’s name?” he asked.
“Pape! Anna Genevieve Pape,” said Pape, and fell silentagain.
“A member of your family?” Bell prompted. “Your wife?”
“Of course not.”
“My daughter, for pity’s sake. My wife wouldn’t . . .”His voice trailed off.
Bell asked, “How old is your daughter, Mr. Pape?”
“When did you last see Anna?”
“At breakfast on February twenty-seventh.”
“Did she often go away for long periods of time?”
“Of course not. She lives at home, and will until shemarries.”
“Is she engaged?”
“I told you, she’s only just turned eighteen.”
Isaac Bell asked a question that he was reasonably surehe already knew the answer to. “When did you report that the girl was missing?”
“I’m doing that right now.”
“But today is March twenty-fourth, Mr. Pape. Why have youwaited so long to raise the alarm?”
“What does it matter?”
“It is the first question the police will ask when theyget wind we’re looking.”
“I do not want the police involved.”
The tall detective had a steady, baritone voice. He usedit to speak soothingly as if explaining a disappointment to a child. “Policeinvolve themselves when the facts of a case indicate the possibility of foulplay.”
“She’s an innocent girl. There’s no question of foulplay.”
“Policemen suspect the worst. Why did you wait so long toraise the alarm if Anna’s disappearance was unusual?”
Pape gripped his stick harder. “I suspected that she ranaway to New York.”
“What did she want in New York?”
“To become an actress.”
Isaac Bell hid a smile. The situation was immenselyclearer.
“May I ask why you have come to the Van Dorn Agency atthis juncture?”
“She should have come home with her tail between her legsafter a couple of weeks.”
“Are you concerned for her safety?”
“But you still waited another week after those ‘couple ofweeks’?”
“I kept waiting for Anna to come to her senses. Hermother has persuaded me that we cannot wait any longer . . . Listen here, Bell,she was always a levelheaded child. Since she was a little girl. Eyes wideopen. She’s no flibbertigibbet.”
“Then you can comfort your wife with the thought that agirl with Anna’s qualities stands a good chance of a successful career in thetheater.”
Pape stiffened. “She would disgrace my family..”
“This sort of behavior attracts the newspapers. Waterburyis not New York, Mr. Bell. It’s not a fast city. My family will never live itdown if the papers get wind of a well-born Pape on the stage.”
Bell’s manner cooled. “I will have a Van Dorn detectivefamiliar with the theater districts work up the case. Good afternoon, Mr.Pape.”
“I demand you personally conduct the search if Van Dorncan’t.”
“The agency parcels out assignments according to theirdegree of criminality. Mr. Van Dorn and I specialize in murderers, gangsters,bank robbers, and kidnappers.”
At the moment, he was supervising investigations intotrain robbers derailing express cars in the Midwest, bank robbers crisscrossingstate lines in autos, Italian gangs terrorizing the New York docks, a Chicagojewel thief cracking the safes of tycoons’ mistresses, and blackmailersvictimizing passengers on ocean liners.
“A temporarily missing young lady is not the line I’m in.Or are you suggesting she was kidnapped?”
Pape blinked. Obviously accustomed to employees obeyinghis orders and his whims, the industrialist looked suddenly at sixes andsevens. “No, of course not. I checked at the station. She bought a train ticketto New York— Bell, you don’t understand.”
“I do understand, sir. I was not much older than Annawhen I went against my own father’s wishes and became a detective rather thanfollow him into the banking business.”
“Banking? What bank?”
“You made a mistake,” said Pape. “An American Statesbanker faces a lot more lucrative future than a private detective. Take myadvice: you’re a young fellow, young enough to change. Get out of this gumshoebusiness and ask your father to persuade his boss to offer you a job.”
“He is the boss,” said Bell. “It’s his bank.”
“American States. American Stat— Bell? Is your fatherEbenezer Bell?”
“I mention him to assure you that I understand that Annawants something different,” said Bell. “Your daughter and I have disappointedfathers in common— Now, by any chance have you brought a photograph?”
Pape drew an envelope from an inside pocket and gave Bella Kodak snapped out of doors of children in a summer camp theatricalperformance. Anna was a cherubic, expressive, fair-haired girl. Whether she waslevelheaded did not show—perhaps a tribute, Bell thought with another hiddensmile, to her thespian talent.
“Shakespeare,” said Pape.
Bell nodded, engrossed in memories the picture broughtforth. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“How did you know?”
“They made me play Oberon when I grew too tall for Puck—Anna’s a pretty girl. How old was she here?”
Pape muttered something Bell couldn’t understand. “Whatwas that, sir?” He looked up from the photograph.
The Brass King had tears in his eyes. “What if I’mwrong?” he whispered.
“How do you mean?”
“What if something terrible happened to her?”
“Young women come to the city every day,” Bell answeredgently. “They eventually find something they want or they go home. But, ineither event, the vast, vast majority survive, enriched, even happy. I wouldnot start worrying needlessly. We’ll find your daughter.”
Copyright © 2018 by Clive Cussler. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.