In a Gilded Cage - By Rhys Bowen


It is a well-known fact that we Irish are prone to bouts of melancholy, even without the help of the bottle. I suppose it goes along with the Celtic temperament and long, wet winters. Anyway, I was experiencing such a bout myself as I trudged home through a rainstorm that was wetter and colder than anything I had experienced at home in Ireland. March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers—that was how I learned it at school in Ballykillin. Well, it was now the middle of April and the gale that was accompanying the rain was worse than anything we’d experienced in March. I would never understand the New York weather! One minute it could be sunny and springlike and suddenly the temperature would plunge thirty degrees and we’d be back in winter again.

We had endured a particularly long, cold winter, with snow well into March. The bleak conditions had produced all kinds of sicknesses and people had been dropping like flies as influenza of the nastiest kind had turned to pneumonia. Even I, usually known for my robust constitution, had succumbed and spent over a week with a raging fever that finally subsided, leaving me feeling weak and drained. It had been almost three weeks now and I had hardly left the house until my small detective agency, P. Riley and Associates (I now being sole proprietor and associate rolled into one), received a job offer I simply couldn’t turn down. It was from Macy’s new department store, at Thirty-fourth Street and Herald Square. They wanted me to look into a case of shoplifting that even their own store detectives had not managed to stop. Naturally I was thrilled and flattered, and I accepted immediately. I would have crawled from my deathbed for such an assignment. If I was successful, who knew where it might lead?

The weather had finally been springlike when I set off for work that morning, which was why I’d worn my light business two-piece and not thought to take a top-coat or a brolly. Both of which I was now regretting as I came out of Macy’s to find that the temperature had plunged again and it was blowing a gale. Within seconds I was soaked to the skin, freezing cold, and thoroughly miserable.

I should have been feeling on top of the world. I’d just concluded another successful case. In the guise of a new counter assistant I had spotted the pilfered goods being smuggled out in the trash by one of Macy’s own employees and then retrieved from the big trash bins by an accomplice. I had been handsomely rewarded for my services and was glowing with pride, dying to share my news with somebody when I stepped out of Macy’s back door and into the gale.

I had hopped on a passing Broadway trolley and later regretted this move as well, as I had to walk home from Broadway with the rain driving straight into my face and one hand jamming my charming spring hat onto my head. By the time I was halfway home I was well and truly sorry for myself. I was still weak, of course. I was not usually the kind of person who wallowed in self-pity or thought of herself as a helpless female. But as I trudged onward I was overwhelmed with gloomy thoughts. I longed for home and family and someone to take care of me.

I suppose this wave of blackness and insecurity had something to do with my intended, Daniel Sullivan. We weren’t officially betrothed yet, but we had definitely reached the stage of an understanding. And it was this that was making me unsettled and jittery.

Had my mother still been alive, she would have relished telling me that I was never satisfied. I suppose she was right—when Daniel had been in disgrace and on suspension from his position as captain of police, he had shown up on my doorstep every single day, and I had found myself wishing he’d be reinstated quickly, not just for his sake but for mine too. I found myself seriously wondering whether marriage and domestic bliss were what I wanted for myself.

But recently he had been reinstated under the new commissioner of police and since then I had scarcely seen him. He had popped in once while I was at the height of my sickness, expressed concern, and then fled, not to be seen again. So now I was filled with doubts: did this lack of attention mean that