A 1920s murder mystery to keep you guessing
“Anna!” Kenneth ran up to the figure in white who was cutting a few roses at the back of the garden. “I didn’t see you at breakfast. I was worried that you had left anyway.”
She didn’t look at him as she reached out for another soft yellow rose, resting it in the palm of her hand a moment, before cutting it and putting it with the others in the basket on her arm.
“Anna?” Kenneth studied her tight profile. “Is something wrong?”
“Of course not. I had breakfast in the kitchen earlier with the other servants. I was only at dinner last night because Mr Bryce-Rutherford wanted to make his revelation.”
“He can’t let you eat with the servants. You’re not like them.”
“How would you know?” Anna asked, but he saw the smile tugging at her lips.
Encouraged, he continued, “I’ll ask Uncle Malcolm if you can eat with us every day. I bet he’ll think it’s a great idea. He must like you. He doesn’t have any people around him who are…” Young, fresh, breathtaking. “Who can cheer him up. I think he needs that. He thinks he’s dying. But perhaps he isn’t. Perhaps he’s only depressed because everything is so sad here and everybody treats him like an invalid. We could make things different for him.”
“You honestly think he isn’t dying?” Anna asked. A frown hovered over her eyes.
Kenneth shrugged. “I would feel ill if everybody treated me like I was ill all of the time. Theodora with her things that he has to eat because they are good for him. And that darkened room. He needs to do something fun.”
Anna held his gaze. “Can we take him on our boat trip?”
Kenneth suddenly saw his whole boat trip where he would impress Anna with his skills and his strength ruined by the presence of a nagging old man. Or worse even, an old man who would look at him with knowing eyes, smirking at the schoolboy trying to win a woman of the world.
He said quickly, “I think that would be too dangerous. The sea could be rough and rock the boat. What if he fell out of the boat and drowned?”
Anna’s eyes were a deep endless blue. “Yes,” she said slowly, “what if…”
Here outside the house her smooth skin didn’t seem so porcelain-like but had more of a tan, a healthy glow, blending out her freckles. Her hands moved with quick determination as she chose just the right rose to snip off and put in her basket.
One threatened to slip off from the top of the bunch and she grabbed it. “Ouch!” She retracted her hand and a drop of blood sat on her fingertip. She stared at it with a pained expression.
Kenneth pulled out his handkerchief and offered it to her. She used it to dab at the blood, leaving a bright red stain on the handkerchief. She smiled at him as she handed it back to him. “Thank you. How clumsy of me.”
Kenneth put the handkerchief back in his pocket and studied the blue skies above. “We could go boating now. Uncle Malcolm doesn’t need you right away.” He said it in a blunt, confident tone.
Anna looked doubtful. “I promised to bring in these roses and arrange them for him in a vase.”
“Theodora can do it. There she is.” Kenneth pointed at the drab figure in grey which had come out of the house and stood on the terrace.
“She doesn’t like me,” Anna said. “I don’t know why. I take good care of my patient.”
Kenneth shrugged. “Some people think they can do everything better. That’s just the way they are. Let me take the basket to her. You go get a cardigan or something. It can be chilly on the water.”
Anna suddenly laughed out loud. She handed him the basket and the cutting tool and then threw her arms up in the air and cheered. “Ken, you’re a doll.” She ran off around the house to where the kitchen entrance was.
Kenneth stood motionless, his cheek burning as if she had leaned in and kissed him there and then. He thought she might have wanted to do that if Theodora hadn’t been watching them.
He turned to the woman with resentment clawing at his stomach. That ugly old witch had to ruin everything for everyone. If anybody ought to die here, it ought to be her.
He carried the basket to her, holding the tool out like a weapon.
Theodora was studying the view and only noticed him at the last moment. She yelped and clutched her hands together. “Kenneth! What are you doing?”
“Here are some roses for Uncle Malcolm. I thought you would like to arrange them in a vase and take them up to him.” Kenneth held the tool and basket out to her. “He’ll appreciate all the trouble you go through for him.”
Something lit in those dull eyes over the long, forever sniffing nose. She said in a surprised tone, “That’s very kind of you, Kenneth.”
He shrugged. Her eyes made him uncomfortable as if she could see right through him. “I think you care very much for him. And he needs that.”
The eyes lit even more. “Yes, he needs that.” Theodora ran a finger over the soft petals of one of the roses. “Even if he will never admit it.”
Kenneth pulled back his shoulders and repeated something he had heard his mother say to her friends, “A man will never admit he needs a woman.”
Theodora nodded. “How true. You’re extremely intelligent for your age.” She cast a long loving look at the roses and then turned away. Before she entered the house, she called to him, “Remember one thing though: Anna can’t swim.”
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Armed with cheese and chocolate, Vivian Conroy sits down to create the aspirational settings, characters with secrets up their sleeves, and clever plots which took several of her mysteries to #1 bestseller in multiple categories on Amazon US and Canada. Away from the keyboard, Vivian likes to hike (especially in the Swiss mountains), hunt for the perfect cheesecake and experience the joy in every-day life, be it a fiery sunset, a gorgeous full moon or that errant butterfly descending on the windowsill.