Blue Moon (Mundy's Landing #2) - Wendy Corsi Staub

From the Sleeping Beauty Killer’s Diary

August 1, 1893

Perched, as I am in this moment, between childhood and adulthood, I have decided it might be wise to keep a journal over the course of my trip. One day, I will surely reflect upon this adventure with fond nostalgia. Perhaps, from that distant vantage, I shall even peer through the gray mists of age and time to view this very day as a pivotal crossroads in what I dearly hope will be a long and prosperous life.

I pen this entry from the famed Richelieu Hotel in Chicago, where I have taken up residence for the next two weeks. Too restless with excitement to adjourn to my room just yet, I sit in a conservatory that connects the front and rear wings of this massive building. Above my head is a skylight that allows me to see the waning moon above Michigan Avenue.

It has been a long day. I disembarked at Central Station just before dawn, thus concluding a liberating solo journey that began on my birthday last week, when Father transported me to the rail station in Hudson to board the New York Central.

He was reluctant to be left alone in the house so soon after the funeral, and I again encouraged him to accompany me as initially planned. He in turn begged me to reconsider. But despite the sad circumstances, I had no intention of forfeiting the opportunity to see the World’s Fair. If truth be told, I welcomed the opportunity to escape the house—always oppressive but now unbearably so.

As we stood waiting upon the platform, I clutched my favorite book, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, in my left hand. Father pressed several bills into my right. It was indeed an unexpected gesture, what with our recent loss, and the country itself in the midst of the worst depression ever seen. He bade me to return home safely and on schedule to resume my studies in September. Of course I promised that I shall, and he was pleased, I know. Yet he remains critical and I, in turn, found myself more resentful with every mile that fell between us.

The bitterness dissolved, however, when I received my first glimpse of the splendid midway, with the inventor George Ferris’s enormous rotating wheel as its centerpiece. I contentedly roamed among strangers until darkness fell.

An audible gasp went up in the crowd as the landscape was illuminated in a brilliant and instantaneous flash. There were at least two hundred thousand electric bulbs, enough to outline every manmade structure in the vicinity. The resplendent moon and all the stars in the heavens could scarcely compete with the shimmering White City.

I returned to the hotel for a late dinner in the sumptuous café, settling into a leather-upholstered mahogany seat surrounded by fellow fairgoers. Many were alone, as am I. A curious camaraderie sprang amongst those of us who had traveled for days to witness this modern marvel. Lacking familiar companionship, the others shared with me their day’s adventures, and some included tales of the lives they’d left behind. I refrained, unwilling to solicit sympathy, curiosity, or attention. It felt rather as if I were hiding in plain sight, a refreshing change from my stifling existence of late.

As I prepare to make my way up to bed, I shall close with a fitting quote from the great Whitman:

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best,

Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Prologue

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mundy’s Landing, New York

“Here we are,” the Realtor, Lynda Carlotta, announces as she slows the car in front of 46 Bridge Street. “It really is magnificent, isn’t it?”

The Second Empire Victorian presides over neighboring stucco bungalows and pastel Queen Anne cottages with the aplomb of a grand dame crashing a coffee klatch. There’s a full third story tucked behind the scalloped slate shingles, topped by a black iron grillwork crown. A square cupola rises to a lofty crest against the gloomy Sunday morning sky. Twin cornices perch atop its paired windows like the meticulously arched, perpetually raised eyebrows of a proper aristocratic lady.

Fittingly, the house—rather, the events that transpired within its plaster walls—raised many an eyebrow a hundred years ago.

Annabelle Bingham grew up right around the corner, but she stares from the leather passenger’s seat as if seeing the house for the first time. She’d never imagined that she might