A Veiled Antiquity (Torie O'Shea Mysteries)

BOOK: A Veiled Antiquity (Torie O'Shea Mysteries)
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Also by Rett MacPherson

Copyright

 

To my mother,

Lena Blanche Justice

Thank you for watching old Agatha Christie movies with me and trying to figure out “whodunnit” first. You planted the seed.

Acknowledgments

I wish to acknowledge and thank the people who helped me get through the process of this book.

Thank you to my incredible friends who got me through this past year-and-a-half of my life! It hasn’t been easy. Thank you to Regina Hensley, lifelong friend, for holding my hand, wiping my tears, warding off evildoers, and giving the endless advice over and over. You never get tired of reassuring me. Thank you to Laurell K. Hamilton, for listening and agreeing with me when I needed you to, and offering such generous and selfless acts of friendship all the time; to Nikki Bess, for the midnight pep talks on the front porch; and to Matt Hawthorne and Beth McNeilly, who both have a certain calming effect on me, something I always desperately need.

Thank you to Joe Lange, who waltzed into my life and unveiled a world of peace and beauty. It was there all along, I just needed the right person to show it to me.

Thank you to my critique group, the Alternate Historians: Tom Drennan, N. L. Drew, Laurell K. Hamilton, Deborah Millitello, Marella Sands, and Mark Sumner; and the newcomers to our group, Gus Elliott and Sharon Shinn, who, so far, haven’t seemed to mind our discussions about serial killers and rare flesh-eating viruses. Welcome to the madness.

Thank you to Ms. Sylvia Gant, high school history teacher extraordinare who introduced many historical mysteries to me.

And special thanks to a fellow St. Louisan—my wonderful editor, Kelley Ragland, who is both beautiful and smart. Thank you for making this almost painless.

And last but not least, my agent, Ricia Mainhardt.

One

I marched across the street still in my vintage clothing from the tour I had just finished. I wore a pink paisley-print gown with wide lapels, a high neck, puffed sleeves, and straight skirt. On my head was a large flowered hat that matched the dress. In one hand I carried a lace-trimmed parasol. In the other hand was a copy of the town newspaper.

I was a woman on a mission.

My mission was to find and strangle Eleanore Murdoch, the town gossip and inkslinger. She and her husband Oscar owned the Murdoch Inn, which sported a glorious view of the Mississippi River. Eleanore also had a teeny-weeny column in the
New Kassel Gazette
that caused more trouble than it did good. She fancied herself a writer of the highest degree. Nobody in town agreed with her, except maybe Oscar.

I walked determinedly down River Point Road, watching Old Man River roll along with the enthusiasm of a languid mule and noting in the air the faint evidence of the changing of the seasons.

It was September in New Kassel, Missouri. September in Missouri is usually one of two things: extremely hot or extremely cold. Missouri is never down the middle of anything except the continent. Today, however, was extremely nice.

The shops and houses bordered the street on my right, the river ran on my left, and the Murdoch Inn sat directly ahead at the end of the street. It was not the oldest building in New Kassel, but it was definitely the most delightful. Alexander Queen had it built in the 1880s. A porch with particularly delicate lattice and spiral works wrapped around the large, two-story Victorian building. The building was white with two turrets and an attic that had been renovated for use as guest rooms in addition to the rooms on the second floor.

I marched up the front steps of the inn with a copy of the last issue of the
New Kassel Gazette
under my left arm. I opened the door, found several guests lounging in the cozy, peach-colored living room, and couldn’t help but think how ridiculous I must look. A few guests waved, recognizing me.

I am the tour guide for the historic buildings in New Kassel. I deck out in vintage clothing, even the shoes. I’m also a member of the Historical Society, and as a result, I’m often recognized by the tourists. I waved back at the guests seated on the ecru-colored sofa, sipping tea from a silver tea set that sat on a mahogany table.

Shoes clopping on the wooden floor, I walked on until I found the hallway that led to the small office where the customers checked in. Gilt-colored mirrors hung on cream-colored walls, with the doorways and woodwork trimmed in stark white. I entered the office, rang the tinny-sounding bell on the desk, and tapped my foot while I waited.

Out came Eleanor Murdoch from another door in the room. Now, I will give her some credit. Her column, until the last few months, had never been vicious. Inquiring to the point of invading privacy perhaps, but never vicious. She was overstepping ethical boundaries now. At least, my ethical boundaries.

She’s about forty-five, top-heavy, with a pretty face but terrible taste in jewelry. Big, bulky costume jewelry was all she ever wore, and it seemed as though she wore every piece she had all at one time.

She knew exactly why I was there, but still she smiled and said, “Hello, Torie. What can I do for you?”

Almost everybody calls me Torie. Not even my husband Rudy calls me Victory. My two daughters of course call me Mom, except when my oldest tried for a time to get by with calling me Victory. The only people who call me that are my mother and Sylvia Pershing. Both are women of consequence.

Eleanore stood with her hands clasped on the desk of the office, waiting for me to return her socially correct behavior, which I couldn’t do even if I hadn’t been completely furious with her. Most people who go by the laws of etiquette are actually as rude as the rest of us. They just disguise it.

I took a deep breath and swore I wouldn’t call her any names. I wouldn’t call her anything like hypocritical, vainglorious, snotty, gossiping battle-ax. No, nothing like that.

“Eleanore,” I began as I spread the newspaper out on the counter for her. “Perhaps you’d like to explain the meaning of this.”

Her brown eyes barely flicked down to the newspaper. “I was hoping you could explain it a little more to me,” she said as she pulled a pencil and paper out of the top drawer. She was actually preparing to take notes. “I’m missing the finer points that are required to form the illiterate details of good writing.”

“Literary.”

“What?” she asked.

“You mean, literary details.”

“Whatever. Get on with it,” she said.

“There is nothing to tell.”

She noted something on her paper. “It’s all true. Your mother is having an affair with Sheriff Colin Brooke,” she said, quite pleased with herself.

“She is not having an affair, Eleanore. She’s divorced. He’s divorced. They are two free people. Therefore it’s not an affair. She is … his friend.”

“Well, I can’t very well print
friend
in my column. It’s boring,” she replied.

“But it’s the truth.”

“Torie, Torie, Torie,” she said. “This is journalism. Nobody wants the truth. Or at least if they do, they want a stretched-out, barely recognizable facility of the truth.”

“That’s facsimile, Eleanor. Facsimile of the truth.”

She was focused as she went on like a detective reciting the facts. “On the night of August thirtieth, your mother was seen in the presence of one Sheriff Colin Brooke, leaving the movie theater.”

“She was?” I asked. Sheriff Brooke is about twelve years younger than my mother. I think that I’m open-minded enough to get past the fact that my mother is involved in a May/December relationship. But Sheriff Brooke actually arrested me one time. I suppose what really bothers me is that my mother doesn’t seem to have the least bit of loyalty where this issue is concerned. Of course, I could be overreacting and being slightly childish, as my mother has so delicately brought to my attention on several occasions.

“Yes,” Eleanore said. “They were seen leaving the theater, just after seeing the new Sean Connery flick.”

Sean Connery? That could only mean one thing. Mother had left the theater with a rapid pulse and labored breathing and not at all in her right state of mind. It would have been a perfect opportunity for the sheriff to take advantage of her.

“Eleanore, I don’t care what facts you have to corroborate your column. I want a retraction. No beating around the bush. What my mother does is her own affair. It’s not to be exploited like in the
Enquirer.
It makes it seem as though she is doing something wrong. If you want a job on
Hard Copy,
go get one. If you ever print anything about another member of my family that is less than complimentary, or less than the truth, I’ll…”

“You’ll what?”

I wasn’t sure what I could do. “I’ll start my own column,” I said.

“But, Torie. That’s not fair. If I can’t write about your family that will severely limit my subject matter. You’re related to half of the town.”

“I am not,” I defended myself.

“Yes, you are,” she whined and stomped her foot gently.

“Just drop it. I mean it. I want a retraction.”

Just then the doors of the Murdoch Inn burst open. A very distressed Tobias Thorley swept past the shocked patrons and into the office.

“Torie,” he said. “You’ve got to find the sheriff,” he said to me.

“Calm down, Mr. Thorley. What’s the problem?”

Tobias is our resident accordion player. Every German tourist town has to have an accordian player. And he is quite good. He’s about seventy years old, spare as a scarecrow, with a large hook nose and kind blue eyes. He also has a great pair of legs that I’ve seen on many occasions when he wears his Bavarian knicker outfit.

“It’s Marie Dijon,” he said. “Ransford Dooley just found her at the foot of her basement steps. She’s dead.”

*   *   *

Nothing like a death to get people out of their houses.

I’d called 911 from the Murdoch Inn. The sheriff’s office is located in Wisteria, which is about ten miles southwest of New Kassel. It serves the entire county, which is filled with tiny towns, Wisteria being the largest at a population of about four thousand.

I arrived at the home of Marie Dijon, on the corner of Hanover Road and Hermann Road. It was directly across from the firehouse, catty-corner to the New Kassel Cemetery, and next door to Pierre’s Bakery on one side and a private residence on the other. It was a story-and-a-half brick home, of no real grandeur, but nice nonetheless.

The paramedics brought out Marie Dijon’s body covered with a sheet. They put the gurney into the back of an ambulance and shut the door. At least half of the population of New Kassel was crammed onto the streets trying to get a glimpse of what was going on, though everybody kept their distance.

BOOK: A Veiled Antiquity (Torie O'Shea Mysteries)
2.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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