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Authors: Roderic Jeffries

Troubled Deaths

BOOK: Troubled Deaths
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The Mallorquins had a saying: When a Mallorquin dies, he dies straightforwardly; when an Englishman dies, he goes out like a corkscrew.


Geoffrey Freeman, Englishman, was possibly the richest and certainly the most unpopular man on Mallorca, and when he died from eating a poisonous fungus, there was only one person who was sorry—and several who were openly glad. Any one of them could have killed him, but to Inspector Alvarez, there was one obvious suspect. The case seemed simple enough.

The trouble was that as one door shut, another kept opening wide; each time Alvarez built up a case against one suspect, it was demolished by evidence pointing to someone else. Nothing was as it seemed. In particular, Geoffrey Freeman wasn’t, and in exploring the Englishman’s past, Alvarez was drawn into an intricate web of lust, deceit, and greed.

With an extraordinarily resourceful and engaging detective-hero and an ingenious, exciting plot, TROUBLED DEATHS marks the American debut of a superb mystery writer.



Troubled Deaths



First published in the U.S. in 1978 by St. Martin’s Press

Copyright © 1977 by Roderic Jeffries

All rights reserved. For information, write:

St. Martin’s Press, Inc., 175 Fifth Ave.,

New York, N.Y. 10010.

Manufactured in the United States of America




Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data


Jeffries, Roderic.

Troubled deaths.


I.     Title.

PZ4J473Ts     1978     [PR6060.E43]     823’.9’14     78-4388

ISBN   0-312-81994-3



Troubled Deaths




Caroline Durrel stood on the eastern arm of the harbour of Puerto Llueso and looked at the calm waters of the bay, the mountains which ringed them, and at the vivid, blue, cloudless sky. It was a scene of great beauty and timeless peace. She remembered, with an inward chuckle, old Colonel Atkin who had said to her, after his fourth brandy and while out of earshot of his very angular wife, ‘You know, dammit, if it weren’t for the people, this place’d be Arcadia.’

She turned and walked slowly back along the arm. She passed on her right the Club Nautico, the small Guardia post, the restaurant known for the quality of the fish it served and its prices, and the storage areas where fishermen left nets, boxes, and small pieces of equipment: she passed on her left yachts, motor cruisers, the ferries which sailed to Parelona beach, and finally the open, beamy fishing-boats with overhead stern lights fed by bottled gas. A young fisherman who had been swabbing down his boat watched her. His full bearded face was sensual and when he smiled at her there could be no doubt what he was thinking. Her answering smile showed appreciation of the compliment, but refusal of the accompanying proposition. He sighed as he resumed the swabbing.

Just beyond the point where the harbour arm joined the road there were two stalls, one of which was open. The man behind the counter looked sad and bored, so she bought a hotdog because she thought it might cheer him up a little to do some trade. He tried to shortchange her, but as she asked for the remaining five pesetas she decided he hadn’t acted maliciously, merely from the force of habit.

As she bit into the hotdog, tomato ketchup squeezed out and slid down her chin. She laughed. A passing taxi almost crunched into the kerb. She began to cross the road and a French registered car slowed down and she waved her thanks, unaware of the fact that on the whole of the island he was the only French driver that day to show the slightest consideration towards a pedestrian.

On the far side of the road were several bars and when she came to the first one she sat at one of the tables set out on the pavement. It was mid-October, yet the sun was still warm and sitting out was a pleasure. A waiter, not as handsome as he believed himself, hurried out. ‘Good morning, señorita,’ he said, in heavily accented English. ‘It is a most beautiful day, no?’

‘Isn’t it? . . . I’m meeting a friend here so I don’t think I’ll have anything until she arrives.’

‘Maybe she shall be a long time?’ he suggested, dropping his voice to what he considered to be a husky, intimate, thrilling tone.

‘I don’t think so. She’s usually very punctual.’ She made it clear that she would not be going with him to the local discotheque on Saturday night.

He shrugged his shoulders and left, because past experience of English visitors had made him lazy and he couldn’t now be bothered to work in the pursuit of love.

She moved her chair round until she was directly facing the sun and then tilted up her head and closed her eyes. Back in England it was probably cold, wet, and windy, and everyone would be filled with the gloom of winter: out here it was warm, dry and calm, and winter was a season away.

After a time she heard the distant clacking of hard-soled shoes and she opened her eyes and looked to her left. She was in time to see Mabel knock into the only other pedestrian within a hundred yards of her.

Mabel was wearing a pleated dress which might just have suited her twenty years before, her shoes were thick and graceless, and her hair was dishevelled. She came to the table and slumped down on to the chair. Her face was long and thin, which made her mouth appear to be far too full of teeth. Her eyes were a warm shade of blue and could have been one of her more attractive features, had she not so often squinted because she was short-sighted yet from a pathetic pride refused to wear glasses. ‘Am I late? If I am, you can blame Norman. I tried to escape him, but he nobbled me and went on and on about that dog of his which is ill again. I told him, why not have the thing put down and save yourself all the trouble?’

Mabel would have meant the advice kindly, thought Caroline, but Norman could not have seen it like that. Mabel prided herself on speaking her mind. (‘In that case,’ someone had once said, ‘she ought to keep dead quiet.’) Locally, she was often referred to as Not-So-Jolly-Hockey-Sticks. It was not only an unkind nickname, it was also an inaccurate one. If she’d ever tried to play hockey, she’d have spent the entire game tripping over her own stick.

‘Where’s the waiter? They’re getting lazier and lazier every week.’ Mabel twisted round in her chair and waved at the opened door of the cafe. After a while, an elderly waiter wandered out.

‘I’m going to have a brandy. What do you want, Carrie?’

‘A sweet Martini, please.’

Mabel ordered in English since she refused to speak Spanish in case she made a mistake which left her open to ridicule. The waiter shuffled off back into the cafe.

Mabel, frowning as she screwed up her eyes, stared along the road in both directions. ‘Have you seen Geoffrey this morning?’

‘No. But then I’ve spent most of the time around the harbour.’

‘He said he’d join us here for a drink. I wanted to ask him about something . . .‘She became silent, as if she couldn’t be bothered, since only Caroline was present, to pursue the fiction that she’d only wanted to see Geoffrey to ask him something.

There were not many people in the world whom Caroline positively disliked: the friend of her father’s who had just put his hand up her skirt when she was twelve, the maths master who’d been so sarcastic about her inability to scale the Himalayan peaks of cube roots, the drunken man who’d been driving the lorry which had skidded into her parents’car . . . And Geoffrey. He treated Mabel with an open contempt which made Caroline want to kick him where his pride would be worse hurt. How could any man behave like that towards a woman who loved him, however ridiculous she made herself?

The waiter brought them their drinks. Mabel added soda, tasted the brandy, and then said sharply: Ts this one o three cognac?’

‘Indeed, señora.’

‘It’s señorita. And I don’t believe you. This tastes like something out of the bottom of the cheapest barrel.’

The waiter left, disinterested in her complaint, since the cafe’s trade was largely with tourists.

Mabel spoke abruptly, her voice rising as it so often did when she was about to say something unwelcome. ‘I saw Edward going into the baker’s before I came here. I don’t know what he was doing there in the middle of the morning.’

‘I expect he was getting a couple of rolls for his lunch.’

She sniffed. ‘I can’t understand why he doesn’t pull himself together and go back home and get a proper job.

I suppose he’s too shy of any real work.’

‘I’ve told you, his one love in life is boats and when he can’t work on them he’s not interested in anything else. Anyway, he’s just finished working all hours of the day and night on a yacht. And d’you know something, when the owner of that yacht came out two days ago from England, he said he’d never seen such a good job!’

She looked at Caroline and suddenly her voice softened. ‘Can’t you see, Carrie, this island just isn’t any good for a person like him.’

‘Why ever not?’

‘There’s too much manana, too much cheap drink, too little to do.’

And too many women willing to become friendly with Geoffrey. Poor Mabel, thought Caroline. What a different and happier life she might have lived if she’d fallen in love with a man who could have appreciated the person she really was under her clumsy, brash, abrasive exterior.




Ca’n Ritat stood at the far end of La Huerta de Llueso, just before the very rich, dark soil began to lighten and become more rock-strewn. Originally a three-hundred-year-old farmhouse, it had been very heavily restored and altered and, to the north, a servants’ wing and garages – which thus enclosed a small courtyard - had been added: looking at it now it was difficult to realize it had once been a simple house. The garden was large, its fruitfulness guaranteed by the well in the south-west corner. The swimming pool was immediately beyond the lawn of Bermuda grass and beyond that was a field, enclosed by a dry-stone wall, in which grew orange, lemon, tangerine, almond, and fig trees, and whatever ground crops were in season. About a kilometre away the mountain rose up to fifteen hundred feet, thereby helping to reduce the severity of bad weather which came in from the north. An urbanizacion started at the foot of the mountain and this straggled part of the way up its slopes, until these became too precipitous: by some alchemy of bad taste, there was not one attractive house amongst them so that they tended to reduce the cold majesty of the harsh slopes.

Geoffrey Freeman, just six feet tall, still slim, dressed in cotton shirt and slacks and local Yanko sandals, stood by the side of the pool and looked back at the house. It was attractive, even though so heavily restored and added to and thereby denied its true identity, but the pleasure he gained from looking at it was measurable solely in financial terms. He had bought it for four million - the previous owner had been taken very seriously ill and his wife had been desperate to sell - and now it was worth at least seven million.

Money maketh man. Back in England he’d lived in a mortgaged semi-detached, his car had been a clapped-out Vauxhall, his clothes had come from a chain store, as had his wife’s, and his two children had gone to the local comprehensive where they appeared to learn the law of the jungle and little else . . . Here, he was wealthy. He ran two cars, one a Mercedes, he had a seven-million-peseta home, and he employed a cook, a butler-cum-handyman, and a gardener, despite the fact that wages and insurance contributions had risen so high that many of the foreign residents had had to stop employing servants. He was the same man, but no longer unimportant. He knew everybody who was worth knowing, even if one or two of them did look down their noses at anyone not in Debrett. Lord and Lady Plichton had come to dinner more than once, as had Admiral Sir Alfred Postern who seemed to have won the last war single-handed . . .

BOOK: Troubled Deaths
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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