A March to Remember by Anna Loan-Wilsey is the 5th Hattie Davish Mystery, where traveling secretary Hattie Davish takes her singular talents to Washington, D.C. to help Sir Arthur Windom-Greene research his next book, but in the winding halls of the nation’s capital, searching for the truth can sometimes lead to murder.
Hattie is in her element, digging through dusty basements, attics, and abandoned buildings, not to be denied until she fishes out that elusive fact. But her delightful explorations are dampened when she witnesses a carriage crash into a carp pond beneath the shadow of the Washington Monument. Alarmingly, one of the passengers flees the scene, leaving the other to drown.
The incident only heightens tensions brought on by the much publicized arrival of “Coxey’s Army,” thousands of unemployed men converging on the capital for the first ever organized “march” on Washington. When one of the marchers is found murdered in the ensuing chaos, Hattie begins to suspect a sinister conspiracy is at hand.
As she expands her investigations into the motives of murder and closes in on the trail of a killer, she is surprised and distraught to learn that her research will lead her straight to the highest levels of government…
“Sir, may I have a word?”
Sir Arthur checked his watch. A slight frown inched across his face. “Later perhaps, Hattie. There isn’t time now. The ses-sion is soon to begin.”
“Here’s your gallery pass.”
Sir Arthur handed me a small piece of paper with an etching of the Capitol and the United States Senate Chamber across the top. Next to the typewritten word ADMIT, Sir Arthur Windom- Greene and friends was handwritten. It was signed Meriwether Lewis Smith, U.S. Senator. After ordering my trousseau, I had met Sir Arthur at the Smith home on Lafayette Square. I’d ac- companied him on the ride to the Capitol, a massive white stone building dominated by a towering central dome flanked by two wings, in silence. Equally overwhelmed by the imposing presence of the iconic seat of America’s government and the daunting task of broaching the subject of my engagement with my employer, I’d said nothing during the entire ride. Now waiting outside the Senate Chamber, I drew up my courage to speak.
“And you have your map of the Senate floor so you know who is who?” I showed him the 53rd Congress’s Official Congressional Directory that Claude Morris had given me, with its map of numbered desks and list of the senators’ names who sat at each desk.
“Yes, sir. But—”
“Ah, Smith. Is it time?” Sir Arthur said, cutting off any- thing I was about to say, when he saw our host, Senator Smith, approaching.
The senator, a solid older man with a thick gray mustache, standing several inches shorter than Sir Arthur, nodded while looking up at me through his spectacles. The intensity in his eyes and the perpetual scowl on his face remained unchanged. “Sir Arthur.” The senator acknowledged him with the slightest bow of his bald head.
“Why is Miss Davish here?”
“She is going to record the session for me,” Sir Arthur said.
“Shouldn’t we go in?”
“Quite right,” Senator Smith said, wrinkling his nose in obvious distaste at my presence. And he continued to scowl as a young, handsome man with thick brown hair and a beard smiled at the senator as he passed.
“Fine day, eh, Meriwether?” the man said, in an obvious Southern drawl.
“Go to Hell, Abbott,” Senator Smith sneered under his breath. The young man laughed as he headed down the hall to the Senate Chamber.
Before Sir Arthur could question the senator about the incident, Senator Smith said, “Ah, Chester,” to a man of similar height, build, and sullen countenance as the senator making his way across the floor toward us. He too had a bald pate but a crescent of thick black hair encircled his crown. Sir Arthur glanced at his watch again.
“Chester, I don’t think you’ve met our houseguest,” Senator Smith said.
“No, I haven’t,” the new arrival said.
“Chester, this is Sir Arthur Windom-Greene. He’s a renowned historian staying with us while he conducts his latest research. Sir Arthur, this is my son, Chester Smith.”
As Sir Arthur shook hands with the newly arrived man, I ignored the senator’s snub of not introducing me and studied the new arrival. I had seen him before. He was the man I’d watched at the train station jab his carriage driver in the back with his umbrella for his presumed lack of haste. At the time, his resemblance to our host had struck me and now I knew why. My first impression was not improved upon as he began a discussion with the men without even looking at me in acknowledgment.
“Can you believe that counsel for Boss McKane filed an appeal today at the Supreme Court?” Chester said. “Do you think they’ll consider it, Father?”
“I should say not,” Senator Smith said, taking off his spectacles and wiping them with a handkerchief.
“Anyone associated with Tammany Hall, any politician at all, for that matter, caught defrauding the voters deserves to be in prison,” Sir Arthur said.
Did Chester Smith wince? If he had, the look was gone as quickly as it came.
“Shall we go?” Sir Arthur said, less of a question than a command. The men turned their backs on me. As was expected, I followed.
“This is where I leave you,” the senator said when we arrived at the gallery doors. “Must go and take my seat now.”
“Right.” Sir Arthur, not hesitating a minute more, stepped through. Chester followed and I came in behind, relinquishing my pass to the attendant.
“There’s the ladies’ gallery, Hattie.” Sir Arthur pointed to the other side of the room.
“I’ll meet you here when it’s over.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, turning to make my way past the rows of gallery seats.
As the chamber was built with the acoustics of a theater, I heard Chester ask quietly, “Who is your lovely companion, Sir Arthur?”
“Pardon me, Mr. Smith, but I’ve been remiss in not introducing you. Hattie,” Sir Arthur said, beckoning me back.
“Chester Smith, this is Miss Hattie Davish.”
“Miss Davish, how charming,” Chester said, bowing his head, the distracted look in his eye not matching the smile on his face.
“And how do you come to be here today?”
“Miss Davish is my private assistant and secretary,” Sir Arthur said, again pulling out his pocket watch.
“Oh, I see.” Chester Smith purposely glanced down at the chamber floor where the senators were gathering.
“Shall we find our seats, Sir Arthur?” He avoided looking at me again.
“By all means.”
The two men set off down the aisle. Unperturbed by the senator’s son’s cool reception, I navigated my way across to the ladies’ gallery. Armed with my pencil and notepaper, I settled myself in the front row next to a group of women all wearing National American Woman Suffrage Association stickpins.
As the men below were still standing about in clusters whispering, I took the time to look around me. The chamber was a large rectangular room, at least 100 feet long and almost that wide, with second-story public galleries on each of the four sides, all crowded by now, all painted in hues of gold and white. Below where I sat, the senators’ individual wooden desks, some dating back to the Old Senate Chamber almost a half-century ago, were arranged on a tiered semicircular platform facing a raised rostrum.
Above me, beautifully illuminated by the sun rays streaming through, was a skylight made of iron and glass panels painted in the symbols of the Union, the army, the navy, and the medical arts.
There he is again!
As my eyes rested on the press gallery, directly above the desk of the president pro tempore on the raised rostrum, I instantly recognized the man I’d seen outside the bawdy house this morning. Craning his neck as if to find a particular person in the adjacent gallery, he smirked when he spied who he’d been looking for. He left his spot, shoving his way through the crush of journalists crammed together in his row, and headed down the aisle. He reached the gallery where Chester Smith and Sir Arthur sat and headed straight up toward them, taking two stairs at a time.
I expected him to be greeted by Chester Smith, but Sir Arthur patted the man on the back. To my dismay, the two men shook hands. How could Sir Arthur know such a man? Could he know what that man was doing this morning?
I doubted it. When Sir Arthur, by his gestures, introduced Chester Smith, the reporter wagged his finger toward the scowling senator’s son. The two men obviously knew each other as well.
Whack! “The Senate will come to order.
Copyright © 2016 Anna Loan-Wilsey.
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As a librarian and information specialist, Anna Loan-Wilsey tracks down information every day that helps to solve mysteries. She earned her B.A. at Wells College and had several poems published in their literary magazine, The Chronicle. Readers can visit her website at www.annaloanwilsey.com.