One Too Many
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by Marie-Nicole Ryan
Description: Murder: Guaranteed to ruin a perfectly good honeymoon. When Miranda French finally emerges from a few days of connubial bliss with her new husband in an East Anglia inn, she eagerly checks out the local shop--and stumbles over a body. A mutilated body. The unfortunate victim was known to be a connoisseur of married women, so it's a good bet that one of the ladies' husbands is the culprit. If there's any hope of getting back to the "honey" part of her honeymoon, Randi will have to take matters into her own hands and get involved in the investigation. Detective Chief Inspector David French, Earl of Middlebury, has a lot more on his hands than an overly helpful new wife, planted DNA and more suspects than he can comfortably count. The killer isn't done. And sending Randi away to the safety of his estate may have been the biggest mistake of his life. She's next on the killer's hit list. Warning, this title contains the following: graphic language, lots of blood, violence, multiple felonious hair-coloring accidents and not-so-subtle hints of lesbian activity.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: December 2009
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [454 KB]
Reading time: 281-393 min.
It was quite dark and the air had a definite winter nip when David and DS Stafford pulled up in front of Richmond's Nursery. From the ground level windows, the light cast a cheerful glow on the snow in the front garden.
Nan Richmond Morgan admitted them without protest. She was five-ten and solid from all the years of hard outdoor work. Her hair, a mixture of blond and gray, was pulled back with a plastic headband. Her clothes were clean and serviceable, probably purchased in the men's department.
Once Stafford left the room to re-interview Freddie in another, David remained in the comfortable and cluttered living room with Nan. "Hope you've had your dinner," he said.
"We just finished. It's been a long time hasn't it, David?"
"Yes, it has. We're looking into the death of Riley Stubbs."
"I've heard about it in the village," she said with no affect.
"I hate to mention this, Nan, but your name has come up a couple of times in our investigation." He watched for her response.
She took a deep breath and clenched her jaw. "In what respect, Chief Inspector?"
No more friendly "David", but the more formal address "Chief Inspector".
"Were you or have you seen Riley Stubbs...intimately?"
She jumped up, her large meaty fists clenched at her sides. "That bugger? Someone said I was having an affair with him?"
"That's what a couple of people have told us, yes. He was reported to have closed his shop whenever you came in."
"That's because he didn't want his other customers to know what a foul, cheating, lying piece of shit of a dealer he was. Bastard sold me fake Staffordshire dogs. I paid a month's wages for them, too."
"You never had an affair with him?"
"No, I'd rather take a bath in sheep shit than let that sod touch me."
"This was seen to happen more than once."
"And well it should." Her face grew red. "I went there more than once to reason with him. First, I thought he'd been fooled and would reimburse me. 'Buyer beware' is what the bugger said to me. Buyer beware! I told him 'seller beware' because I'd see him in court."
"Did this have any effect on him?"
"Bugger laughed and said...never mind. Doesn't matter, now. He's dead."
"What did he say?"
"Just some rubbish about he knew my secret and I'd better be careful or he'd tell everyone."
Interesting. "What did he know?"
"How should I know?" Nan scowled and her posture remained tense. "He was full of it, that's all. I got no secrets."
"Everyone has secrets, Nan."
"Well, I got none I care for anyone knowing," she huffed and averted her gaze. "It's getting late. And I'm an early riser."
"I understand, but one more thing. Where were you yesterday morning?"
"Alibi? You want me to give you my alibi? Aw-right, I was working at Lord Hutton's place. That's where I was yesterday morning."
"Can anyone verify that?"
"Dunno. Lady Jane asked me to look over the winter veg beds and renew the mulch if it needed it. I works alone most of the time. That's the nature of my days."
Stafford came back into the room. He tugged at his ear which was their prearranged signal he'd learned nothing new from Freddie.
"All right. We'll leave you for the time being, but we need you to come down to the stationhouse for a DNA swab. Just on a voluntary basis as a way of eliminating suspects."
"I'm a suspect?" Her voice rose an octave, and again those meaty hands of hers were balled into fists.
"We just need to clear you, Nan. That's all."
"Yeah, I'll come down and let you swab anything you're a mind to. I got nothing to hide."
"As you said." David nodded. "That's it then. Sergeant Stafford and I thank both of you for your cooperation."
Outside, Stafford chuckled. "I thought she was going to pop you one, sir."
"So did I, Eric. So did I." * * * *
It was after ten when David and Stafford returned to the Green. David pulled up in front of the inn. "See here, Eric. I'm not bunking with you tonight after all. I'm going to make sure Miranda's settled at the country house."
"Of course, sir. I mean, it stands to reason that with all those servants, her ladyship's likely to get lost in the shuffle."
David noted the smirk on his sergeant's face. "All right. I admit it. I just want to see my wife."
"And no one blames you, sir. She's a charming lady."
"Thank you. I'm rather fond of her."
Eric hoisted his bulk from the vehicle, turned around and snapped a salute in David's direction.
He shook his head and gunned the motor. He was headed home to his wife.
Home. Wife. A year ago those words brought up only painful memories, and now they brought warmth to the very depths of his being. * * * *
After the travel arrangements were made and called back to Min, I had a cup of hot cocoa, then went to bed at nine. Strange house, strange bed, and no husband to keep me warm. It's no wonder I had trouble going to sleep. Right after dropping off, something, a bump in the night, woke me. I looked over at the clock and the red LED read ten minutes after eleven. I lay still for a moment and listened.
There it was again. I wasn't imagining anything. Surely all the servants had gone to bed. That could only mean someone was sneaking around the house and outside my room at that.
My heart pounding, I slid over to the far side of the bed and peeked over the edge of the mattress. I glanced around, but in the darkness, I couldn't see a thing I could use as a weapon. I felt around the table beside the bed. A lamp. And a heavy one at that.
I picked it up and scurried across the room to hide behind the door. I held it high over my head ready to bash whoever it was on the other side. My skin tingled and grew cold with the fear racing through my body.
The door opened. I took a deep breath--