A young male prostitute is found dead and dismembered on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1896 New York City. A young boy visits alienist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler in the middle of the night, and tells him that a boy dressed up like a girl has been cut to pieces. Kreizler sends his houseboy Stevie to fetch illustrator John Moore, his old college friend. Moore is with a prostitute. Since Kreizler is disliked by the cops, he sends Moore to sketch the murder scene. To gain access, Moore drops the name of another old Harvard classmate, newly appointed Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. Captain Conner identifies the boy as Giorgio Santorelli. Kreizler grilled Moore about what he saw on the bridge. Kreizler interviews Henry Wolff, the man the police think killed Giorgio, but Kreizler decided that he didn't do it. Kreizler and Moore head to the police station, a place where he isn't welcome. They meet Roosevelt's new secretary, Sara Howard, and barge in to surprise Roosevelt. Kreizler tells Roosevelt he thinks there's a link between Giorgio's death and those of Benjamin and Sofia Zweig. Benjamin was his patient, and the case haunts him. Roosevelt refuses him access to police records or resources. Kreizler asks John to see if Sara will get those records for him, but she refuses. Roosevelt orders the brothel owners to shut down. Instead, they just change locations. The murderer is cooking up Giorgio's body parts. Sara meets John outside his favorite brothel, handing him the Zweig file Kreizler sought. It doesn't have the detail he needs, so he arranges to have the Zweigs' bodies exhumed. Roosevelt lends Kreizler brothers Marcus and Lucius Isaacson, scorned at the police department for their interest in modern forensics. He assigns them to autopsy the Zweigs' remains. The killer leaves Giorgio's tongue in Kreizler's carriage. Kreizler chases him but he escapes.