Murder the Tey Way: A Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery (The Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mysteries 2) (8 page)

BOOK: Murder the Tey Way: A Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery (The Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mysteries 2)
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I continued. “As Felicity pointed out, we like Brat Farrar.” I smiled at Felicity, who offered me a wan smile in return. “Loding tells Brat he’s an Ashby, and Brat insists he isn’t. At the end of the novel we learn, along with Brat, that he
is
an Ashby, though he grew up without a family. The more Brat learns about Patrick, the more he identifies with him and wants to be part of
this
family. At the same time he feels guilty for impersonating someone he’s never met.”

“He’s playing a role,” Joy chimed in.

I nodded. “We see evidence of Josephine Tey’s theatrical background throughout the novel. Alec Loding, an actor himself, coaches Brat Farrar so that he can play the role of Patrick.”

The professorial aspect of my nature pushed forward. “We see this theme occasionally in literature. The film, ‘The Return of Martin Guerre,’ is based on a true story that occurred in the 1600’s. A man arrives in a French village, claiming to be someone who left some years earlier. In the end, we discover he’s an impostor. In
Brat Farrar
we see most of the story from the impersonator’s point of view. We know from the start that Brat’s not who he says he is.”

In full gear, I charged ahead. “Brat falls in love with the Ashby family, especially with Aunt Bee and Elinor.”

Sadie laughed. “But not with Simon, who tries to kill him.”

“How?” I asked.

Marge fielded that one. “Twice in incidents involving horses. Horses play an important role in this book.”

We talked a bit about the showdown between Brat and Simon and about the ending.

Sadie sighed. “
Brat Farrar’s
a wonderful read, even by today’s standards.”

I nodded. “It’s a classic, with great characters, a fantastic setting, good pacing, and a satisfying conclusion.”

Everyone murmured in agreement. The perfect moment to end our meeting, I thought, until I caught Joy’s mischievous grin.

“Why do we love to read mysteries?” she tossed out to the group, pretending a fierce curiosity.

Tim laughed. “That’s easy. We enjoy the suspense as we try to ID the guilty party. When he’s unveiled at the end, we feel a sense of closure and justice fulfilled that’s rarely achieved in real life.”

Joy shrugged. “Or maybe we’re all potential murderers and experience a vicarious thrill when we read about people getting away with it—at least for a while.”

“And imagine we wouldn’t get caught because we’re smarter than the killer in the book,” I added.

Silence. Would no one agree for fear of being branded Len’s killer?

Joy charged ahead. “Any of us will kill when pushed to the edge. We’re all prospective murderers. We’ll kill to protect our children. To protect ourselves.”

Her cheeks were rosy with emotion as she looked at each of us. “’Fess up. When did you feel the urge to murder someone but didn’t give into it, of course?”

Sadie pursed her lips as she silently debated the question. Tim gave a devilish grin. Evan and Marge exchanged worried glances.

“I wanted to kill someone once!”

We all stared at Felicity.

“Be quiet!” her sister growled.

I tamped down the twinge of guilt, and urged Felicity to answer. “Whom did you want to kill, Felicity, and why?”

“Johnny! For killing Oscar, my pet ferret!”

“How awful!” I looked about for Puss, and sighed with relief when I saw him fast asleep in the corner against the baseboard

“A pet killer,” Joy said with distaste. “Who could blame you?”

Corinne shot her an angry look. “The creature was sick and dying. Our father asked a family friend to put it out of its misery.”

“Oscar wasn’t sick!” Felicity insisted. “Don’t you remember? It was because Daddy hated—”

“Felicity!”

Felicity whimpered.

“We don’t air family matters in public.”

I expected Felicity to burst into tears. Instead she bowed her head and murmured, “I’m sorry, Corinne, but thinking about Oscar upset me all over again.”

Corinne put an arm around her sister and marched her out of the room and into the hall. “Good-bye. Thanks for everything, Lexie,” she tossed over her shoulder as she slammed the door behind her.

Good job, Lexie,
I told myself, convinced I’d just lost two members of the mystery book club.

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

“What do you make of Felicity’s ferret story?” Joy asked the following Wednesday afternoon as she handed me a steaming cup of coffee.

She’d called, asking me to come over ASAP, when I was driving home from teaching my morning classes. I fed Puss, ate a few tablespoons of tuna salad standing at the sink, and hurried over. I was still glowing from last night’s date with Brian. I’d called to tell him about Felicity’s relationship with Len Lyons, and he asked me to meet him for dinner at our local diner. Afterward, we shared a long, lingering kiss in my car, both of us grinning like fools when we said good-night. My heart soared because I had the definite sense our feelings for each other were mutual.

“Lexie?”

“Mmm?”

“I thought I lost you on another planet.”

“I’m here,” I said, struggling to retrieve her question. I stirred in a dab of milk and sipped.
Heavens! The Soccer Mom made awesome coffee.

“Felicity’s story has me mystified,” I said. “What kind of father asks someone to kill his daughter’s pet?”

“And why was Corinne so intent on shutting her up?” Joy asked, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “I’ve an idea I’m working on. Meanwhile, I’ve learned a few things about our fellow members you’ll find interesting.” She crooked her finger. “Come with me.”

I followed her into the small room off the kitchen that she’d turned into an office. I noted the pile of pages beside the printer.

Joy picked up the sheath of papers. “This is the info I’ve gathered so far.”

“All that. I’m impressed. Anything of interest?”

“Uh-huh. Everything’s of interest. I’ll start with Sadie.”

“Sadie?” I moved some books to the floor so I could sit on the chair next to a small bookcase.

“She’s pretty much what she claims to be, a guidance counselor at the local high school. Though she has some DWIs from over ten years ago.”

“Really! I’ve never seen her drink.”

“Probably doesn’t any longer. Sadie’s divorced. No children. Three months ago she arranged for a loan to buy a bigger house.”

“The one she’s living in is beautiful!  And certainly large enough for one person.”

“Haven’t you noticed? Sadie likes having the biggest and the best: perfect hair, beautiful clothes. She drives a Mercedes. Her expenses far exceed what she earns on a guidance counselor’s salary.”

I nodded. “I suppose. Maybe she’s inherited money. Or got a great settlement when she divorced.”

“Neither. Sadie’s maxed out her credit cards and owes money to the bank. The loan I’m referring to was arranged by Len Lyons.”

“Oh? He set her up with a loan shark?”

“Looks that way. It seems Len Lyons had his finger in quite a few pies. Tim settled a minor case for our Dearly Departed Handyman a few years ago. I’m willing to bet Tim introduced Sadie to Len.”

I shuddered. “What dirt you dug up about Tim?”

“Nothing much. He’s not making the big bucks you’d expect a lawyer from an ivy league law school would make. Mainly because he’s rarely in his office. He likes to play poker for high stakes. Runs up debts to unnamed sources.”

“To friends of Len Lyons?”

“Coincidentally, yes.”

I frowned. “I can’t reconcile what you’re telling me about Len Lyons with a guy who was romantically involved with Felicity.”

“Me, neither, but that part seems genuine. I spoke to Carol Barnes, who owns the shop where Felicity works. Carol said Len stopped by at least five times to see Felicity. He seemed enchanted by her. Once he brought her flowers. When he left, Felicity asked Carol if she could keep them in the shop because she didn’t want Corinne to ask where they came from.”

“The Roberts sisters sound odder and odder. But getting back to Sadie, even if she knew Len Lyons, as most of us did, that doesn’t mean she killed him.”

“Of course not, but her dealings with the man were illegal, and often one crime leads to another. Len probably wanted a kickback for arranging the loan. What if she didn’t want to give it to him?”

I pictured petite and elegant Sadie in my mind. Could she stab a man? “It’s possible,” I admitted. “She’s in good physical shape. I think she works out with a personal trainer. What did you find out about the Billingses?”

Joy rifled through several sheets of pages. “The story of their lives, but nothing that links them to Len Lyons.”

“Care to share?” I prodded

“They’ve been law-biding citizens all their lives. No arrests. Pay their taxes on time. Three years ago, they sold a thriving dairy farm and moved to Long Island to live near their granddaughter and her young family.” 

Joy pursed her lips, a sign I was in for bad news. “The Billingses have no money problems, but they’ve had bad luck regarding their personal lives. Only one of their four children, a son Daniel, is alive and well.”

I sighed. “Poor Marge and Evan. What happened to the others?”

“Their oldest boy died in a farming accident. A daughter’s dead because of a botched liposuction procedure. Their youngest, a girl named Dahlia, went to Peru four years ago and ended up living with the rebels.”

“With members of The Shining Path?” I asked incredulously.

Joy nodded. “Dahlia and one of the leaders fell in love. They had a child—a little girl. In July, the Billingses got word that Dahlia had died.”

I shuddered. “How awful! What did she die of?”

“The letter didn’t say. The father’s probably dead, too, because the letter writer said a woman was taking care of the child, but she couldn’t for much longer. Now Marge and Evan are spending every cent they have to bring the child to the United States.”

I stared at Joy, both impressed and saddened that she had access to this kind of information. “How did you find all this out?”

Joy laughed and waved a hand. “Don’t ask.”

“The man Evan met at the bowling alley looked like a thug.” I shuddered. “If that’s who they’re dealing with, the child’s being brought here illegally.”

“Probably,” Joy agreed. “It doesn’t sound like he’s an official in our state department.”

“Do you think Len Lyons arranged that connection for them?”

“I couldn’t find out, and not for want to trying.”

I closed my eyes and tried to process what Joy had told me about the other members of our mystery book club. Everyone had baggage, be it family tragedies, addictions, or plain bad luck.

“The most intriguing of all are Felicity and Corinne Roberts.” The Cheshire Cat grin returned. “If that’s their names.”

I opened my eyes in astonishment. “What are they, impostors?”

“Could be.”

Suddenly Corinne’s veiled references, which I never understood, made sense. The many times she told Felicity to stop talking when she’d brought up something regarding their childhood. “You mean like Brat Farrar?”

Joy shrugged. “I Googled Corinne. Didn’t find out much. Nothing on Facebook. She doesn’t tweet. Just a few articles about her bank VP job, and that she went to college in Indiana. Which proved very interesting.”

“Oh?”

“I have a friend who accesses college yearbooks for investigators. She checked out the school’s yearbooks every year Corinne supposedly went there. Guess what?  No photo. No mention of a Corinne Roberts.”

A chill snaked down my back. Still, I wouldn’t think the worst. “That doesn’t mean anything. Corinne strikes me as the type of person that hates being photographed.”

“Yeah. Add that to their general weirdness.”

“Maybe they’re hiding from their father. He sounds like an awful person.”

“He does,” Joy agreed, all humor gone from her voice. “I’ll get to the bottom of their story sooner than later. And I haven’t had time to check out Gayle’s story,” she said in the same somber tone. “I’ll work on that next.”

“Don’t bother. Gayle’s done plenty of dumb things in her life, but she’s no liar.”

“Everyone lies, about one thing or another. Speaking of which, I’m getting nowhere tracking down Mike’s bimbo.”

I swallowed. “Did you ever stop to think there is no bimbo?”

“Last night he was on the phone again, talking in that excited, secretive way.”

“Joy—”

“Let me finish,” she snapped.

I was about to snap back, then I saw the pain in her eyes.

“He mentioned The Lion’s Head Inn.”

He was on the phone talking about Joy’s surprise party. Obviously, the idiot still hadn’t made things right!

Joy sniffed. Was that a tear I saw in her eye? “I’m dying to eat there, but Mike always insists it’s too expensive. And now he’s taking a bimbo to stay in one of the rooms! I’ll kill him!”

I was saved from answering, because Zack and Ruthie burst into the house with the pent up energy of two kids who’d been in school all day. As though on schedule, little Brandon let out a bellow to let the world know he’d awakened from his nap.

I was glad to leave the Soccer Mom to her charges. I walked home, worrying about Gayle. Then I mulled over the dirt Joy had unearthed about the members of our book club. What a sad bunch they turned out to be! We had a gambler, a compulsive spender, a couple who’d lost children and were paying some goon to smuggle their grandchild out of Peru, and two sisters with mysterious pasts.

All I had to do was find out which one killed Len Lyons and clear my sister of his murder.

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

A white pickup truck in sad need of a scrub down sprawled across my driveway. Its arrogant angle prevented any car parked inside the garage from driving off. My heart leaped to my throat when I caught sight of the orange and white Utah plates. I was about to floor the gas pedal and drive away when a bearded bear of a man stepped down from the truck and walked towards me. He wore jeans, boots, a fringed leather jacket, and a cowboy hat, and appeared to be in his early thirties. A toothpick jutted from his mouth.

BOOK: Murder the Tey Way: A Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery (The Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mysteries 2)
5.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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