The kid finally shoved by me and made his way through the aisles toward the door. Calvin saw the push and looked at me, but I shook my head and waved my hand in a shooing motion.
Calvin moved aside, watched the brat storm out, and then joined me. “Who was that?” he asked, leaning down briefly to remove Dillon’s leash.
He gave me an amused smile. “I see the inclination toward enjoying the company of our country’s youth skips a generation in your family.” He kissed me. “Why’d you call me here?”
“I like you.”
“You know how there’s no statute of limitation on murder?”
Calvin reached up to massage his temple. “It was my day off.”
“Look at this.” I tapped the Kinetoscope. “This is an Edison Kinetoscope.”
“Are we talking Thomas Edison?” Calvin crossed his arms, and his biceps flexed and bulged and… distracted.
“Uh—huh. Yeah. That’s the guy.” I looked at the cabinet. “But there was no contact information from the owner inside the crate. No documentation, letter—not even a postcard.”
“I’ve yet to see the correlation between a piece of furniture and murder.”
“It’s a movie viewer,” I corrected. “And—you’re absolutely certain it’s not for you?”
He gave me a critical look.
“Maybe someone sent you a really morbid birthday present?” I suggested. Not that I sincerely thought it was a gift, but Calvin did work homicide and he was going to be forty-three this Friday. And it had been established how susceptible the Emporium seemed to be to death and mayhem since the two of us met.
“No one would send me an Edison Kinetoscope. What is this about?”
I let out a heavy breath. “It came with a reel of film. It still works, Max and I watched it. It’s the final round of the Leonard-Cushing fight of 1894. It’s not supposed to exist, by all accounts.”
“And did Leonard kill Cushing?” Calvin asked dryly.
“No.” I paused for a beat. “Someone else died, though.”
“It’s a movie.”
“Not—no, the murder isn’t part of the film, Cal. Someone spliced two scenes together. It’s not staged or fake. A man actually died and someone recorded it.” I turned the Kinetoscope on and tugged Calvin close. “Watch it.”
With a sigh, he relaxed his arms and leaned over the peephole to watch the scene. I waited, anxiously studying Calvin’s body posture as the seconds ticked by. Louis Armstrong projected from the shop speakers, Max was chatting up customers, and Dillon wove around this and that across the showroom. When enough time had passed that Calvin would surely have reached the outdoor scene, I noticed his jaw tense. And that was the only reaction I needed to authenticate what I too had seen.
“So?” I asked, for the sake of nicety. Calvin straightened and looked at me. “It’s real, isn’t it?”
“I told you.”
“Don’t get carried away,” Calvin chastised. “We don’t know anything—when or where or—”
“Mid-1890s. It was filmed relatively close to the same period as the boxing match.”
“How can you tell?”
“The frame rates match, they were both shot with a Kinetograph camera, the film itself was precut—”
“All right,” Calvin interrupted, holding up a hand. “We still don’t even know where this occurred. It could be any city in America that had a camera in the 1800s.”
I looked at the Kinetoscope briefly. “It’s New York—the Flatiron site.”
Calvin narrowed his eyes.
“Before the Flatiron Building actually existed.”
He was quiet, scrubbing his face with one hand. “Sweetheart… how the hell do you know that?” Calvin asked in such a calm, polite tone, it was nearly comical.
“You can sort of see the triangle shape of Fifth Avenue and Broadway in the background,” I explained. “The illumination just out of frame—a man named Amos Eno owned the property until his death in 1899, and he used to project images from a magic lantern onto a canvas screen hung from a shorter building. It was used for advertisements, news bulletins, and even election results.”
Calvin didn’t say anything.
He put an arm around my shoulders, drew me close, and asked, “Anything else I should know?”
“The phrase ‘twenty-three skidoo’ likely originated from the Flatiron’s Twenty-Third Street location.”
“It’s a windy corner. It was suggested that men would stick around the Flatiron to watch women’s skirts get blown up so they could catch some hot ankle action.”
“Police would have to chase them away.”
“Hence, twenty-three skidoo,” I concluded.
Calvin smiled and lowered his arm.
“What’re we going to do about the—” I paused when a customer walked by us. “M-u-r-d-e-r?” I spelled out.
“No, not nothing,” I answered.
“That’s about all that can be done, Seb.”
“I know a thing or two about handling evidence in a homicide,” I pointed out. Not that I was a detective or had a degree in forensics, but my ex-partner, Neil Millett, worked for the Crime Scene Unit of the NYPD. Four years of “tell me about your day” had taught me some. Like for example, there were records kept on homicides, even in the 1800s. And if it was an unsolved crime, that evidence was to remain in police possession until the cold case was a closed case.
“You know a thing or two about most everything,” Calvin replied simply. “Which is why it makes it next to impossible to argue that you’re wrong.”
“This is one of those moments I’m not sure if you’re complimenting me or not.”
“Who’s to say this wasn’t solved a long time ago?” I stared at the Kinetoscope. Call it one of my hunches, but I suspected that wasn’t the case. Surely the evidence on film would have been used, even then, to catch the murderer. And after the crime was solved, it would have likely been destroyed by the police. Instead, over 120 years later, the footage was shipped to a moonlighting sleuth.
“But what if it wasn’t solved?” I countered.
Calvin crossed his arms again. “The oldest evidence I’ve heard of being held by homicide detectives only went back to 1909. And that was in the ’20s, before complaints of sanitary conditions and limited space were taken into consideration.”
“How do you know that?”
“Hi, I’m Calvin Winter,” he stated, reaching a hand out to shake mine. “I’ve been an officer of the NYPD for ten years.”
“I’m ignoring the sarcasm only because I’m incredibly turned on by you spouting random facts at me,” I answered.
Calvin smirked. “I’ll remember that.”
I looked around the Emporium, did a quick headcount of customers, and made sure Max wasn’t inundated at the counter, before saying to Calvin, “So there wouldn’t be a forgotten box somewhere in the Property Clerk’s Office?” I tried.
Calvin shook his head. “There’s very little, in terms of cold cases, prior to the 1990s.”
He shrugged. “A lot of reasons. Fires, auctions, improper storage and disposal… take your pick.”
“It feels wrong to not do something about it,” I said.
And thankfully Calvin agreed. “I know.”
“Maybe I’ll call the shipping company.”
“Hey, as far as I am concerned, I’m being held responsible for the condition of the Kinetoscope,” I said quickly. “I need to find the owner.”
“But that’s all,” Calvin answered with a touch of reluctance. “Okay?”
“Okay,” I echoed.
“If I get a call from an irate clerk at the property office this afternoon, we’re going to have words.”
Snow & Winter: Book Three
It’s summer in New York City, and antique shop owner Sebastian Snow is taking the next big step in his relationship with NYPD homicide detective, Calvin Winter: they’re moving in together. What should have been a wonderful week of playing house and celebrating Calvin’s birthday comes to an abrupt end when a mysterious package arrives at the Emporium.
Inside is a Thomas Edison Kinetoscope, a movie viewer from the nineteenth century, invented by the grandfather of modern cinema, W. K. L. Dickson. And along with it, footage of a murder that took place over a hundred years ago.
Sebastian resists the urge to start sleuthing, even if the culprit is long dead and there’s no apparent danger. But break-ins at the Emporium, a robbery, and dead bodies aren’t as easy to ignore, and Sebastian soon realizes that the century-old murder will lead him to a modern-day killer.
However, even with Sebastian’s vast knowledge of Victorian America and his unrelenting perseverance in the face of danger, this may be the one mystery he won’t survive.
Author C.S. Poe has graciously offered a chance for one member to WIN a FREE e-book copy of (your choice) in the Snow & Winter mystery series (in either mobi, Epub, or PDF format).
To enter the FREE drawing for Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Facebook group members only, send your name, email address to Jon Michaelsen via Facebook Messenger.
The Winner will be announced on Friday, October 5th @ 8pm EDT. Stay Tuned!
Learn more about author C.S. Poe and her amazing thrillers;
C.S. Poe is a Lambda Literary and EPIC award finalist author of gay mystery, romance, and paranormal books.
She is a reluctant mover and has called many places home in her lifetime. C.S. has lived in New York City, Key West, and Ibaraki, Japan, to
name a few. She misses the cleanliness, convenience, and limited-edition gachapon of Japan, but she was never very good at riding bikes to get around.
She has an affinity for all things cute and colorful and a major weakness for toys. C.S. is an avid fan of coffee, reading, and cats. She’s rescued two cats—Milo and Kasper do their best on a daily basis to sidetrack her from work.
C.S. is a member of the International Thriller Writers organization.
Her debut novel, The Mystery of Nevermore, was published by DSP Publications, 2016.