Murder, My Mistress (HEA Version) by Shadow

EXTRACT FOR
Murder, My Mistress (HEA Version)

(Shadow)


Murder, My Mistress - HEA

Chapter 1

 

Phil grabbed the ringing phone and answered it. "Phil Roppling."

"Good morning Phil, how ya' doing?"

"Harry! Good to hear from you, it's been too long. I'm fine, thank you. I hope you're the same. What can I do for you?" The man he was speaking to was Harry Tamblin, a long time very good friend and one of his stable of authors.

"Actually, nothing. I called to tell you something. I'm..." Phil interrupted. "No, don't tell me, let me guess. You called to tell me you finally finished the new book."

"No, sorry. Guess again."

Phil took a few seconds, then ventured, "You've met someone. You want to have a girlfriend but you think it's too soon."

"Nope. Not that either. Three tries for a quarter."

There was a much longer pause before Phil spoke again, this time with hesitancy. "I don't know... you're going electric. You bought a Tesla, or something. If not that, I give up."

"I'm putting the house on the market. I'm leaving Connecticut."

This time the response was immediate, forceful, but sad. "Oh Jesus, Harry, don't do that. Wait a while. Let your emotions settle. It's only been a couple of months. I know Carol was sick for a long time before she passed, but give yourself some time."

"Phil, it's been almost a year. There's nothing, really, holding me here and I want a change of scenery."

"Then close up the house if you have to. Drive around for a while, then go back. All your friends are in Connecticut. When Harry did respond after a few seconds Phil knew Harrys mind was made up and there would be no talking him out of the decision. Somewhat defeated, he asked quietly. Where do you plan on going?"

Harry began rattling off names rapid fire almost before Phil had finished the question. "Pennsylvania, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, North Dakota, Louisiana, Illinois, Texas..." Phil interrupted again.

"Fer Christ sake Harry, you're literally all over the map. How are you going to decide? Where do you plan on going?"

"I just told you. Add Montana and New Mexico, I've always wanted to see them too. Oh. Be sure to add Arizona. Ive always wanted to that state."

Somewhat snidely, Phil asked, "And how long to you plan to spend on this grand tour? When does it begin?"

"Begin? Almost as soon as I hang up the phone. He chuckled. Im kidding. But soon. Very soon. How long will it be? I dunno. A year at least. Probably longer. Maybe two or three. Until I get tired of roaming around."

"So you're just going to drive around with no idea where youre going."

"Well, I wouldn't see much if I flew."

"Smartass. Harry, I've been your publisher for about twenty years. I've been your friend for almost the entire time. As your friend I'm telling you that you're making a mistake. You need to rethink this whole idea."

"Look at the good side Phil. When I hit San Francisco I'll buy you and your wife dinner at Fisherman's Wharf. Unless you actually act on your threat to take Maryanne back to Texas. But before I take off Ill think about doing it. Or not doing it, I promise. Maybe I'll actually plan an itinerary. Whether I go or dont go and Im going, bet on it you have my cell number, we can keep in touch. I'll be working on the book. When I finish it I'll send it to you from somewhere."

"Maryanne misses Texas. She keeps reminding me that I can work from anywhere. Including Texas. Shes right, I can operate as well as there as I can from here. But wherever Im hanging my hat I'll worry about you. I'll try to call more frequently, just to keep tabs on you. Take care of yourself."

 


 

 

Chapter 2

 

Harry walked out of the bank, looked up at the sky and took a deep breath. It was done. Roland P. Eswein, "Rolly", his lawyer and a personal friend since high school came from behind and stood beside him. "Harry, it's not too late to change your mind. You needed to sell that mausoleum for many reasons anyway. If for no other reason, there were too many memories of Carol in it. It was her family's home before you married her and it was right for you with the two of you in it. She's gone, god rest her soul, but that's not a good reason for you to pull up stakes and leave all your friends behind. You didn't need a ten bedroom mansion anyway. Buy something smaller and stay here. Don't you know that you should never make major decisions within a year after a tragic loss? It's too soon Harry. Stay here."

With his firm decision to wander around the country made, Harry had put the house on the market almost as a whim, just to see what would happen. For some reason he disliked the only other option, which was to close up the house for long term vacancy. With Carol being the last member of her family and no offspring himself, there was no one to leave the house to. He priced it somewhat higher than his real estate agent had suggested and to both their surprises, he got three quick offers close to the asking price. Despite Rolly's characterization of it as a mausoleum, it was a choice property, set on eight beautifully landscaped acres. It was a jewel of a house in a land of magnificent homes. He had intended to separately sell all the furnishings and decorations, and had an auction house lined up to do that for him. Some of the furniture would have commanded a high price. The expensive art work and other decorations had been collected over three lifetimes and were perfectly suited to where they were placed. Carol had been the third generation of her family to live in the house, and had a decorating sense that her friends envied. What she had done with the house was worthy of it being featured in a magazine.

One of the bidders on the house learned that Harry intended to sell the furnishings at auction and offered to buy the house exactly as it stood. That came with on offer that was almost fifty percent higher. Laura, the would-be co-owner of the house knew that she could never come even close to doing as good a job with decorating and furnishing it if it were an empty house, even with an expensive professional decorator at her side the whole way. She prevailed on her husband to buy the house furnished and he had deep enough pockets that he was able to yield to Laura's entreaties without too much difficulty. Or maybe it was her offer of giving him a thousand blowjobs that won him over. But then again, maybe it was her threat to cut him off for ten thousand nights if he didn't.

When the revised offer came in, Harry made a snap decision and accepted. He didn't need the extra money, but accepting the offer freed him. He would finally just pull up stakes, leave, and wander around the country with no destination in mind, no end to wandering in his plans, no ties and no cares. He accepted the fact that at some point he would tire of doing that and would probably buy a small place to live in. But by then his wanderlust would have been sated and he would be ready to sink roots again someplace. Someplace other than Connecticut. With that decision firmly in his mind, he went through the house gathering personal items and artifacts of years of living there. When he was finished, he looked at the small pile of boxes he had assembled and made another decision. In total, the items he had just collected were too much to take with him on his wandering and he didn't need to take them, so he rented a small self-storage unit, signed a long term lease on it and put everything in the storage unit, saving only a few changes of clothing and other necessities to bring with him.

In divesting himself and the house of personal items, he gave away and sold some items that he knew the new owners didnt want. The majority of what he sold and gave away were his woodworking tools. As much as he prized some of what he had, it weighed a ton and would be cost more to ship to a new home than would buying replacements once he settled down. Besides, some of the friends he was leaving behind had expressed interest in having the larger, heavier tools, so it worked out well. He kept most of the smaller hand tools, packing them away for long term storage, because he knew that wherever he landed he would take up woodworking again as a hobby.

He had been an engineer in his professional life and that had often driven him into his workshop to either do something with his hands as a relief from the mental pressures of his job, or to create in miniature some of what he was creating in real life. He enjoyed bringing working models into the office.

He turned to Rolly, offered his hand and said goodbye. He promised to keep in touch frequently and to maybe someday return to Connecticut. Both men knew it was unlikely that either assertion would be fulfilled, especially the latter.

 


 

Chapter 3

 

Harry was enjoying the last of the glass of wine he had ordered with his dinner. That was somewhat unusual for him, capping off what had been an unusual few days. His normal evening routine was to have a beer and a steak or a hamburger in a steak joint, or maybe fried chicken in a diner, followed by a short drive back to his motel room. Tonight it was wine, a really good dinner in the hotel's expensive restaurant and an elevator ride down to his room. He gazed out the window, watching the snow fall gently, thinking. He had pretty much lost track of time. Not what hour it was, but almost what year it was. That number no longer mattered to him. The only number that really mattered to him was the bottom line in his portfolio, and that number, while it had always been quite large because of his salary and Carol's inheritance, was bigger now than when he had started his sojourn. His broker had done a really good job. His accountant took care of taxes, so all he had to really worry about was when to put gas in the car and where to have dinner.

About six months ago he got the first urge to end the wandering. It was a minor urge, but it was there. Thus far in his travels he hadn't seen any place that screamed 'settle here' to him. He had seen some very lovely places but no Harry-magnet. But with that urge he altered his plan slightly. Now, instead of having no fucking idea where he would go, he created a general plan. If he was going to think about settling someplace, he wanted to see where he might land in the worst time of year. Every place is nice during its best time of year. Accordingly, he headed to the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming in September. It was now mid-March in Montana and time to check out other climes. Next up was a tour of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, all during the summer months.

He went up to his room to identify areas he wanted to explore in each state. He spent a few hours on his laptop jumping into the rabbit hole, checking out what the web could tell him about where he might want to look. He compiled a list of potentially interesting places, ending the list with Tyler and Polk counties, both on the eastern border of Texas. If he had found nothing compelling by then he would continue east into Louisiana, Mississippi, and turn north again if nothing appealed to him in those states. There was Wisconsin and Minnesota in the winter awaiting. Satisfied with his plan of no real plan, he opted for an early night to bed and an early start in the morning.

 

***

 

Celine looked at the paragraph she had been reading without really reading it, again. She had read it four times in the past thirty seconds, now, she just stared at it without really seeing it. She was thinking about it. She didn't like the structure of it... the way the words flowed and fit together... but she was hesitant to change it to the way she thought it should read. She knew she could easily rewrite it, set it off with a different font color or a background color, which would make it easy for Maya to see. Maya could simply delete it if she didn't like the revision. And, Celine encouraged herself, that's what an editor is supposed to do, right? She's supposed to suggest changes as well as comment on the story development. But this was the first story Maya had asked her to edit and she was hesitant to tinker with Maya's writing voice. Maya had her own inimitable style and might take offense at Celine's attempt to put the paragraph in a more readable form,. But more readable in Celine's estimation, and therein lay the rub.

Celine looked up to glance at Maya, having decided on asking Maya before doing anything. She would simply ask what Maya wanted or expected. Maya, however, had her attention buried in the continuation of the story she was writing and was typing furiously fast, evidently on a good roll with whatever devious ploy she was concocting. She held her gaze on Maya for a few seconds, simultaneously hoping that the burst of creativity would end, and slightly fearful that it would. She knew she wouldn't interrupt if it continued, but then she couldn't get her answer if it didn't. Allowing Maya's creative flow to continue unabated was far more important.

She continued to hold her gaze on the author for many more seconds before deciding that she would write the revision and ask her question later. If Maya seemed to be resistant to Celine taking that much liberty with her writing, well then, Celine's computer had a delete button too. She set the font color to green, thinking red was too jarring, started her revision under Maya's version, and proceeded to essentially obliterate what Maya had written.

Celine became engrossed in her work again and got caught up in the story, so she never noticed that Maya's burst of literary outpouring had ended. She had often wondered why Maya's novels didn't sell more because, in her opinion, Maya wrote the best murder mysteries she had ever read. Maya's plots always seemed to be without logical flaw. That, and they were detailed. Intricately woven with no glaring loopholes. Yet the murderer, although murderess in this novel, always got caught at the end. Celine thought it was blatantly unfair that the mind of her friend, roommate, occasional lover and sometime mistress, was trapped in the body of a waitress at a very popular not-too greasy spoon diner in this dusty, less than exciting, albeit fairly large and quite affluent town in eastern Texas. But what a body to be trapped in!

All four of Maya's grandparents had been born and raised in Russia. One of her parents had also, and the other had been born in Texas. Her striking physique and blonde hair, which she wore rather long, was consistent with her ancestry. However, in Celine's opinion, Maya was just a tiny tad too zoftig. However, most men could not have disagreed more with that assessment. Men went ga-ga over her and she never lacked for a willing bed companion when she was in the mood for a man. Perhaps it was defensive on her part, but Celine preferred the more svelte, yet still busty, female figure such as her own. Both women would be rated as being very pretty if a man was asked. For that matter, men found her more than attractive too, and, with no difficulty at all, she could entice just about any male who liked females into her own bed.

The two had become roommates a few years back. That was before the other more intimate aspects of their relationship began. At the time, Celine had worked in the auto parts factory. She had held a middle management level position in the Accounting department. Their major customer relentlessly pushed for price reductions and the upper management of her company caved in to satisfy that demand and moved the production line to Mexico. Celine declined the offer of a transfer to Mexico. Then, out of work with no source of income and no real prospects for another job that paid anywhere near as well, she had cried on the shoulder of her best friend forever over a few beers one evening:

Maya had sympathized with Celine's plight and offered her use of her apartment as long as she wanted. Maya's two bedroom apartment was quite spacious yet affordable on a waitress's pay because it was rent controlled. When Celine demurred, saying she couldn't afford half the rent for very long, Maya shrugged that off, saying she was paying the entire rent by herself now and could continue to do so. She said that when Celine found her financial footing they could discuss the arrangement again then.

Everyone who knew them even slightly, knew that they were inseparable friends. Both women continued to date and bed men often enough that they banished all possibility of a rumor about them being lesbians. That aspect of their lives began almost by accident. But it did, and neither felt any jealousy or possessiveness when the other linked up with a man for a night or for a few weeks.

Celine never intended to become a real estate agent but she agreed to help another friend who was an agent, when the friend's child had to be rushed to a hospital, having fallen off a horse and broken a bone. Celine found she enjoyed the experience and felt that she was good at it, so she acquired a license and never looked back. She was now a top agent in the community, earning far more than she had at the auto parts factory, and much more than Maya. They were now splitting expenses.

Maya jerked Celine back into the here and now by asking if she would like a cup of tea, or something else to drink. That sounded good. Maya appeared a few minutes later, bearing the promised tea. She handed it to Celine, then sat on the couch, curling her legs under her, clearly taking a break from writing for a while. She sipped her own tea. "So what's the verdict?"

"I love the story so far. For the life of me I can't figure how you're going to get yourself out of this one. I know you will, you always do. So I guess I'm hooked. I corrected a bunch of typos, made a few minor wording changes, and rewrote a paragraph, but other than that... so far anyway, I'm less than half way through... I have no criticism other than you really have to control your comma use. I deleted a whole mess of them. Moved a few too."

Maya grinned and nodded. "That's why I need you as an editor. I concentrate too much on the story and details of what's happening. I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the things you just mentioned. I'm more concerned with my villainess committing the perfect murder."

"Could you do it?"

Maya laughed. "Could I? Sure, I can do anything I want. That's the power of being the author. I'm not sure I would want to, however. I don't think readers would accept a murderer getting away with it. I think they yearn for the surprise twist that the detective uses at the end to catch him. Her, in this novel."

"No. I meant could you commit the perfect murder in real life?"

"Of course I can. Doing that is laughably easy." She made a dismissive waving motion as she spoke.

Celine was intrigued by that answer, but for a reason she had not yet divulged to Maya. "How would you do it?"

"Without going into every niggling detail, if I wanted to use a knife I would take one of my kitchen knives, find and kill the victim, then grind the knife blade into sparks. If I wanted to use a gun, after shooting the victim I would cut the barrel into three or four pieces and toss each one in a different lake, then toss the rest of the pistol into another lake. For a victim in either case I would drive into another state, find a lone person in an isolated area, shoot him or her, then leave quickly. I wouldn't start cutting the barrel until I was a hundred miles away."

Celine frowned and said petulantly, "That isn't what I meant and you know it."