Today, I’m sharing the first chapter of my first book, The Poisoned Glass!
The morning of October 19, 1900, began inauspiciously for Marinus Garry. The quiet 38-year-old was a delivery driver for Alyea’s Ice House, which was a short walk from his home in the working-class neighborhood of Riverside in Paterson, New Jersey. He did not linger over breakfast; Fridays were always busy at work, and he left home before 6 a.m., intent on getting an early start.
Alyea’s Ice House and its stable were situated just across the Passaic River from Paterson, in the borough of Hawthorne. Marinus trudged across the Wagaraw Bridge and paused for a moment to look back at the city of Paterson. His morning ritual was to watch for a minute or two as lamps flared, doors and windows opened, and people emerged from their homes. He liked to watch the city awaken.
It was a few hundred feet to Alyea’s stables, and Marinus had already turned in that direction when something caught his attention. An object was lying in the weeds near the edge of the river, about 100 feet from where he stood. Though the morning was too dark to see clearly, it looked too large to be an animal.
Marinus took a few steps off the road into the grass, squinting at the object. The contours became clearer, and his steps quickened until he stood over a woman’s body. She was lying still in the weeds, with her head near the river and her shoes pointing toward the road. For a moment, he thought she must be sleeping. Her arms were at her sides and she appeared relaxed; her neat, modest clothing was undisturbed. Only her hair was out of place: it was unpinned and tangled, obscuring her face.
Marinus crouched down beside her. “Ma’am?” he asked in his husky voice. “Are you all right?”
She did not stir, so he reached for her hand gingerly and held her wrist a moment. The skin was cold, and he felt no pulse. He lifted the long dark- blonde strands from her face and saw she was certainly dead.
He allowed her hair to fall back over her face and got to his feet. A few workers were already at the ice house, and he informed them of what he had found. Then he telephoned the county coroner, Dr. William Vroom. Marinus could do nothing more.
The driver tried to shake himself out of the strange fugue into which he had fallen. People were expecting ice deliveries, so Marinus loaded the delivery wagon and saddled the horse. A few minutes later, the workers watched him drive away, on his way to make deliveries.
But he was not hard of heart. Before he left, Marinus found an extra blanket in the shed and returned to the lonely area to cover the woman’s body against the elements and curious gazes of people who were beginning to gather nearby. It was the last kind thing anyone could ever do for her.
The murder was news before the body was identified.
Just over a mile away, Dina Bosschieter was awake and making breakfast for her large family. She could hear her husband and the younger children stirring, and soon they would be up for work or school. Her mother and oldest daughter Susie were talking to each other as they came downstairs. Dina’s stepdaughter, whom she considered another daughter, was also there with her newborn child. They were living with the family temporarily, while her husband superintended their move to a new home.
Only one face was missing at the crowded breakfast table, and Dina noticed immediately. “Where is Jennie?” she asked Susie.
“She’s up at Klatte’s,” Susie yawned, rubbing her eyes.
Dina nodded; she remembered now. Before she left the evening before, Jennie had mentioned staying overnight at the home of her friend, Mrs. Lillian Klatte. The Klattes lived downtown over their confectionary store, which was close to Paterson Ribbon Company where Susie and Jennie worked. When she stayed with Mrs. Klatte, Jennie met Susie near City Hall and they caught the bus to the east side together.
Dina had locked up the evening before at 10 p.m. when she went to bed, knowing Jennie would have been home by then if she intended to come back.
If her daughter did return, she would tap on the window to awaken her father, who was a light sleeper. Johannes would get up and let her in. However, Jennie had not returned.
By 7 a.m., the house was chaotic. The children were finishing breakfast and in various stages of readiness to leave for school or work. A mixture of English and Hollandic Dutch dialect could be heard.
Dina had errands to run as well. She gathered her pocketbook and bags for the groceries she intended to buy then called out to no one in particular that she was going shopping.
In later years, she still remembered in crystalline detail the moment she opened the front door to find John Sicama, the traveling butcher, on the sidewalk in front of their house, looking at the door. Sicama was also an immigrant from the Netherlands, but Dina only knew him by sight. She greeted him civilly, but instead of returning her greeting, the butcher asked if Jennie was at home.
“No,” Jennie’s mother said coldly. She disliked his intense stare and the familiar way he referred to her daughter. “What did you want of Jennie?”
“There is something wrong with Jennie,” he replied.
Dina’s offended expression was replaced with one of bewilderment. “How can it be? She is over to Klatte’s— her friend.”
Sicama did not answer and went on looking at her in the same intense way. An icy fear washed over her, and Dina spun and ran back into the kitchen. She was frantically calling for her daughter Susie and did not notice the butcher had followed her into the house.
Susie paused in the act of putting on her heavy coat and stared at her mother in surprise. She took a step forward but stopped in confusion when she saw Sicama.
“Where is Jennie?” Dina demanded. “Suz, where is Jennie?”
“She’s at Mrs. Klatte’s—”
“No,” said Sicama, with a grim shake of his head. “Jennie is in the country.” He pulled his cap off and turned to face Jennie’s mother.
Though the butcher’s next words are not recorded, they settled the question of Dina’s 17-year-old daughter’s whereabouts definitively. A mile- and-a-half away, the lifeless body of Jennie Bosschieter had been discovered lying beside the Passaic River, placed there by unknown hands.
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