Table of Contents
A Bump in the Night ...
It was a sound that had awakened me, and it seemed to come from Marjorie’s room.
I came into the hallway, stepping gingerly as the ancient floorboards creaked beneath my feet, a sound I hadn’t heard since waking.
I stood outside Marjorie’s bedroom door. It was ajar, not enough so that you could see through the opening, but certainly not closed tight.
I placed my fingertips against the door and pushed. It was heavy and did not swing open, had to be pushed more. I did that and peered into the room. Marjorie’s bed was a king-size four-poster. The room was dark except for a sharp shaft of moonlight that poured through an opening in the drapes.
I stepped into the room and walked over to the side of the bed, like a moth drawn to a summer candle. A whole arsenal of grotesque sounds rose up inside me, but stopped at my throat—sounds of protest, of outrage, of shock and horror. Yet not a sound came from me as I looked down at the body of Marjorie Ainsworth, the grande dame of murder mystery fiction, sprawled on her back, arms and legs flung out, a long dagger protruding from her chest like a graveyard marker....
Murder, She Wrote
Knock ’Em Dead
Murder at the Powderhorn Ranch
A Little Yuletide Murder
Murder in Moscow
Murder on the QE2
The Highland Fling Murders
A Palette for Murder
A Deadly Judgment
Martinis & Mayhem
Brandy & Bullets
Rum & Razors
Manhattans & Murder
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First Signet Printing, April 2000
Copyright © 1989 Universal Studios Licensing LLLP.Murder, She Wrote
a trademark and copyright of Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Lyrics on page 14 from “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” copyright 1936 (copyright © renewed 1964) by Robbins Music Corporation. All rights of Robbins Music Corporation assigned to SBK Catalogue Partnership. All rights controlled and administered by SBK Robbins Catalogue, Inc. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
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eISBN : 978-1-440-67350-4
Dedicated to the memory
of Richard Levinson
To my daughters, Laurie and Pamela, who are, on occasion, delightful mysteries to me; and my wife Renée, who keeps me honest.
And special gratitude to an editor’s editor, Ellen Edwards; agent and friend for thirty-five years, Ted Chichak; treasured friends Phyllis James, Rosemary Goad, and Craig and Jill Thomas; the ebullient Sally Bulloch of London’s superb Athenaeum Hotel & Apartments; the entire crew of that grand lady, the
and, of course, my collaborator, Jessica Fletcher.
“Care to take a closer look, Mrs. Fletcher?”
“Well, I suppose so,” I said.
“Hold on, then, here we go.”
My heart, which had been nestled securely in its usual place, now moved up to my throat and lodged there, beating as though a crazed bass drum player were doing a paradiddle on it. I reached over and touched him on the arm. “Please, maybe we shouldn’t ...”
He banked the Cessna 310 into a tight turn, forcing me back against my seat. “There it is, Mrs. Fletcher, right down there in that clump o’ trees.”
My eyes were closed. I forced them open and looked in the direction his finger was pointed until I spotted my home in Cabot Cove.
“There’s the firehouse,” he said, guiding the small aircraft down closer to the trees. His name was Jed Richardson, and he operated Jed’s Flying Service out of our small airport.
“Yes, I see. But maybe we should land now, Jed. I have an appointment.”
“Right you are, Mrs. Fletcher,” he said, laughing and bringing the aircraft back to a straight-and-level attitude.
Jed had flown me to Bangor, where I’d been interviewed on a local television station about the publication of my latest novel. I’d offered to drive, but the station had insisted upon flying me in.
Seth Hazlitt, my good friend from Cabot Cove, was waiting for me at the airport.
“You all right, Jess?” he asked as we walked away from the plane.
“Yes, I think so.”
“You look a little green.”
“It must be the light.” He didn’t know how rubbery my legs were.
“Mort’s at the house waitin’ for you. He says he’s come up with some new clues.”
“Really? I hope they make more sense than the last batch. Do we really have to get into it now?”
“Won’t take long, Jess. He’s pretty eager to wrap it up.”
“How did you identify the murderer so fast, Jessica?” Mort asked as we sat in Seth’s living room.
“Elementary, my dear Metzger. The initial clues pointed clearly—too clearly, I think—to the Oriental woman who owned the shop, but then I learned—and it really was made too easy for me—that the letter opener used to kill Marc Silbert was missing from the ornate holder in which it usually sat. The art collector certainly had a motive, too, but it had to be the brother, and that’s the problem with the whole case.”
Seth patted our sheriff and friend, Morton Metzger, on the back. “It just needs some more refinement, Mort, that’s all.”
“I’ve been refinin’ it forever.” Mort looked at me. “Maybe you’re not the best one to make a judgment about it, Jess. You write murder mysteries, and solve ’em, too. You’re a professional. This here game is for people who don’t know anything about murder mysteries.”
I smiled at him; he looked dejected. “Maybe you’re right, Mort, maybe I’m being too picky. I think you’ve invented an absolutely wonderful murder mystery board game. You just need to iron out a few wrinkles.”
“Maybe if I figure a way to use dice,” he said. “People like to roll dice in games.”
“Yes, that might be a good idea,” I said. “I have to run home now. See you both tonight at the church supper?”
“We’ll be there,” Seth said.
I returned to my house and sat at my kitchen table. It was a little past noon; crisp, cool air sent my white curtains fluttering and heralded the coming of fall to Maine in all its peacock splendor. I looked through the open window to a clump of white pine trees that had always given me particular pleasure. They stood majestically, and every time I looked at them I felt, at once, gratitude for their beauty and sadness at knowing the state’s powerful lumber interests were methodically seeing to it that there would be fewer of them in coming years.
I forced myself out of my reverie and went to work on a speech I was to give in London to the International Society of Mystery Writers. I was making good progress when Josh, the mailman, approached the house. I knew when he was coming because he whistled, always the same tune—“Tea for Two”—and always off-key. I jumped from my desk and met him at the door.