The Alienist: The Boy on the Bridge (Episode 1)

Ext. New York City, 1896.

A Winter Night. Snow covers the ground. A lone police officer walks down what at first appears to be a street. The sounds of lapping water and sea gulls gives away that it’s new water. The officer stops at the sight of a severed hand on the ground. The officer looks around but sees no sign of the rest of the body. He looks up in time for a drop of blood to strike his face from above. Whatever he then sees startles him. The officer runs to the nearest bit of metal and begins banging with his night stick. The sound is picked up by other officers who pass it along, presumably until it reaches some kind of office and more help is sent.

This is the ominous moment that begins this tale. And it isn’t the only one. The sound of clubs banging on girders and lamp posts morphs into the sound of pounding on a door. A man, Dr Kreizler, is roused from his sleep to find his maid servant Mary at the door. He follows her to the kitchen where two other servants, Cyrus and Stevie, wait with a urchin boy. The boy appears to be completely in shock, crying and breathless. Kreizler questions the boy and discovers that someone murdered a boy, cut him up and left him, dressed like a girl, on the bridge. Kreizler sends Stevie to find “Mr Moore” and take him to the bridge with his drawing tools.

Mr Moore is found, in the midst of enjoying himself with a woman. A paid woman. Despite having his evening of pleasure interrupted, Moore goes with Stevie. The boy drives them to the bridge where Moore cons his way to the top and gets a look at the victim. The body is a gruesome sight. And the attitudes of the cops present isn’t much better. They refer to the boy as ‘it’ due to his ‘dressing up like a girl for the pleasure of men’ and they are hesitant when asked to bring in the men that run the establishment that sells them to said men. They recognize the boy as one Giorgio Santerelli and slurs like Dago are tossed around over the boy’s Italian heritage. But when pressed with orders from Commissioner Roosevelt (aka future President Teddy R), the Captain can only agree to comply.

“What kind of dog could do such a thing?” is the very question on which the plot of this tale will revolve. Because this tale is one that could have been ripped out of an episode of Criminal Minds, if it was set in very late 19th century New York. And the methods used in this tale aren’t much different than those used in the modern series. But unlike Criminal Minds, which began in medias res in regards to the founding of their team, this story begins before the team does. And that tale of founding the very notion of ‘profiling’ adds an additional depth to the tale of solving a gruesome murder (or rather several).

Kreizler’s ‘day job’ is providing boarding care, schooling and therapy for troubled children. Moore even suggests that Kreizler knew the victim by virtue of that occupation, but he did not. However it seems that he was reminded of a prior patient, one who was murdered. Moore is not keen on being asked to provide details about what he saw, suggesting that he is likely to be haunted by the sight. And yet Moore accompanies Kreizler to Bellevue to interview an arrested suspect and then to police headquarters to converse with Roosevelt. There they encounter Sara Howard, a childhood friend of Moore and the first woman hired to work for the police (as secretary to the Commissioner).

Roosevelt refuses to allow Kreizler a look at the police records on the current or past murders. Kreizler pushes Moore to use his acquaintance with Ms Howard to convince her to get him the records. At first Moore refuses but makes the request, which doesn’t make Sara very happy. Moore gives her the drawing of the victim and leaves. The drawing of course convinces Sara to get them the information. She makes the delivery outside of the brothel Moore frequents, which results in an amusing protestation over Moore concerning himself with her delicacy. She demands that Moore share with her whatever information or conclusions Kreizler finds. But the file provides nothing. So Kreizler has the bodies exhumed and the bones examined by Marcus and Lucius Isaacson. The brothers are not particularly liked by other officers due to their progressive and modern methods of exam, which makes them fit in quite well with Kreizler’s modern view of psychology and psychiatry.

Meanwhile Roosevelt finds himself at an impasse when trying to speak to Ellison and Kelly, the owners of Parisse Hall (the ‘whore house’ where Giorgio Santerelli worked). These men are not shy about admitting that they have committed graft. In fact Ellison seems rather proud that they have provided so much money to the police and acts as though they should be rewarded for their contributions. Roosevelt refuses to fall for their pressure and demands they close their doors. Which they do, only to open a new house across the street.

 

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