A Deadly Restoration (Julia Blake Cozy Mystery Book 2)

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Julia Blake – A
Deadly Restoration

 

Chapter 1

 

The
radio blared out. I groaned. It wasn’t the best way to be woken up.

It
wasn’t even my radio, it was the one next door.

I
grumpily climbed out of bed and walked over to the window. I pulled back the
curtains and shot the builders next door an annoyed look. They didn’t even
notice me, they were too busy singing.

It
was too early for me to be up but there was no way I could get back to sleep
with that level of noise, not just the radio, but the banging and thudding that
the builders were making.

I
decided to make the best of it and got myself ready for the day.

My
client list of cleaning jobs for today didn’t look too bad, I might even have
time to pop to the supermarket.

After
breakfast I collected everything I needed and let myself out of the house.

Oh
no! Joan was trying to get my attention from across the road. I liked Joan but
I didn’t have time for a gossip.

Don’t
look at her! Look in your handbag, look at the ground. Just don’t look at her!

“Julia!”
she waved.

“Morning,”
I called back as I frantically grabbed my car keys. Perhaps I could drive away
before she got any closer.

It
was no use. Joan was determined to talk to me. She practically ran over.

“Have
you heard the noise? And look at the mess!” she pointed towards next door.
“It’s a disgrace, an absolute disgrace! When are those builders going to be
finished? And do they have to play that radio all day?”

Joan
asked questions but she never waited for answers.

“I’m
sure it won’t be forever,” I said. I moved my car keys towards the lock.

Joan
grabbed my arm. “You’re too soft, Julia! The noise must be worse for you,
living next door. It wasn’t like this when old Cora Roberts lived there, was
it? Gives me a headache this noise. How long does it take to renovate a house
anyway?”

I
shrugged and sneakily put my key in the car lock.

Joan
gave my arm a tug. “Look! That man’s here again, the shifty looking one with
the big nose.  Do you recognise him?”

I
looked over to next door. “He does look familiar. I think I’ve seen him around
here before.”

“He’s
from the council, building planning department. I bet he’s made a deal with the
new owner of that house. Planning permission should never have been given for
the work that’s going on now. We wanted a small extension on our kitchen, but
the council wouldn’t let us have it.”

I
nodded sympathetically.

“There’s
something fishy going on. I’ve a good mind to go over there and have a word
with that council man.”

“I
think you should,” I said hopefully.

Joan
let go of my arm, put a determined look on her face and said, “I’m going over!”

I
opened my car door and got in before she changed her mind.

I
almost felt sorry for the shifty looking man. But when I looked over at the
house next door, I realised that Joan was right. There was an awful lot of restoration
work going on, they were almost rebuilding the house.

 

Chapter 2

 

I
managed to get to the supermarket at lunch time. As I walked down the dairy
aisle I saw a familiar face, or rather a familiar back hunched over the ‘reduced
to clear’ section.

“Hello
there,” I said. I put my hand onto the stooped back of the elderly woman.

She
turned around. Her face crinkled up as she smiled. “Julia! How lovely to see
you!”

“We
were talking about you earlier, me and Joan.”

Cora’s
face crinkled even more. “I bet it was Joan talking, and you doing the
listening. I hope you were saying something nice about me.”

“Of
course. We were saying what a lovely quiet neighbour you were, compared to the
noisy man who bought your house,” I said.

“Are
you having that fish or not!” a voice rudely interrupted us.

Cora
glared as a young woman leant into the reduced item area and put her hand on a
piece of fish. Cora slapped the hand away.

“That’s
my haddock, young lady! I saw it first.” Cora quickly grabbed the fish and
dropped it into her basket.

The
young woman rubbed her hand and grumbled, “Can you stop chatting and let me
have a look at what’s left then?”

Cora
gave her a scathing look and then graciously moved to one side.

I
peeped into Cora’s basket. It was full of cut price food. I looked a bit closer
at Cora. She seemed to have aged a few years since I last saw her, and that was
only two months ago.

“I’m
just on my way to a cleaning job near your house,” I lied. “Would you like a
lift?”

“Oh
Julia, that would be lovely, if you’re sure you don’t mind? My legs seem to get
more tired every day.”

I
offered to carry Cora’s shopping basket but she stubbornly refused.

On
the drive home Cora asked how Chloe and Sam were getting on at university.

“Having
the time of their lives. They’re both coming back in the holidays so I’ll have
a noisy house again. How’s your Stephen?”

Cora’s
eyes twinkled. “He comes to see me as often as he can, but he’s very busy with
his work. You know how it is.”

I
didn’t say anything.

Cora
asked how the building work was going on next door. “I bet I wouldn’t recognise
my old home now.”

“You
wouldn’t. Leo Kennedy has done all sorts to it, new windows and doors. And you know
he’s having that extension built? I think he’ll have to dig up your lovely
apple tree because it’s in the way.”

“No!
But I planted that when our Stephen was young. Don’t let him dig it up Julia!”

Cora
looked as if she was going to cry.

When
we arrived at her house I quickly picked up her shopping bag and helped her along
the front path. She leant on me as we walked. I was starting to get worried
about how frail she was.

Cora
opened the door of her little bungalow.

When
I saw how it looked inside my heart almost broke.

 

Chapter 3

 

There
was rubbish piled everywhere. And there was an awful smell, like something had
gone off a long time ago.

Cora
still seemed weak so I helped her move by bags and boxes until I found a small
settee. I sat her down and said I’d make her a cup of tea.

She
tried to wave me away but I ignored her. I found the tiny kitchen, this too was
full of rubbish.

This
wasn’t like Cora at all. When she lived next door to me she was so house proud
that she was almost obsessive. I love cleaning but Cora’s efforts put me to
shame.

I
quickly put her shopping away and then put the kettle on.

A
few minutes later I took a cup of tea through to Cora and sat down next to her.
She took a few careful sips and then gave me a little smile.

“You
must be wondering what’s going on. If this really is my home? I know it looks
like a pig sty and I’m so ashamed. I didn’t want anyone to see me living like
this,” Cora said sadly.

“I’m
just surprised. Where did all these bags come from?” I asked.

“It’s
all my things from my old house. I didn’t have time to sort it all out before I
left. Leo Kennedy was in such a hurry to move in that he said he’d pack for
me.”

“But
you moved months ago. Didn’t Leo Kennedy offer to unpack for you when you got
here?” I said.

Cora
shook her head. “He left everything out on the road. I had to bring everything
inside as the neighbours were complaining. And now I haven’t got the strength
to sort things out.”

“What
about your Stephen? Can’t he help?” I asked.

Cora
said fondly, “I don’t want to bother him. He’s too busy.”

I
wouldn’t mind bothering him! And that Leo Kennedy too!

“Well,
Cora Roberts, this is your lucky day. You know I can’t stand a mess so I’m
going to help you sort these boxes and bags out.” I looked around. “Well, we
might not finish it all today, but we can make a start. We’ll sort out things
that can go to charity, stay with you or be thrown away.”

“Oh
no! Julia, I can’t expect you to do that!” Cora cried out.

I
stood up. “You don’t have a choice. I’ve nothing else to do today. I’ll just
pop to my car, I forgot to lock it.”

I
went back to my car and phoned my afternoon clients up to cancel my cleaning
jobs. There was no way I was leaving Cora living in that mess.

As
I worked at clearing the rubbish I got madder and madder at Leo Kennedy for
forcing Cora to move out of her home so quickly. I was ready to give him a
piece of my mind.

And
when I finally got home and saw what he’d done to my drive way I was ready to
do more than give him a piece of my mind!

 

Chapter 4

 

Piles
of roof tiles were on my driveway. I couldn’t park my car there, and as the
rest of the street had been taken up with builders’ vans, I parked on the next
street down.

I
got more annoyed as I walked back to my house. I was definitely going to give Leo
Kennedy a talking to!

But
someone had beaten me to it.

John
Thomas, the builder, was standing on the doorstep of Leo Kennedy’ house. His
face was bright red.

“You
ordered those tiles and you are going to pay for them!” John shouted.

Leo
Kennedy faced him, his arms folded. He was standing a few steps up and looked
down at the builder. “I’m not paying the price you’re asking for them. We
agreed a lower price a few weeks ago. It seems that your costs are going up
daily.”

“You
just don’t want to pay, you tight fisted sod! I’ve bought those tiles out of my
money and I want paying now!”

“No,
I refuse to pay,” Leo Kennedy said calmly. “And I think I’ll look into using
another builder. Your work is shoddy and not up to my standards at all. I’d
like you to get off my property now.”

John
Thomas went even redder in the face. I saw him clench his huge fist.

I
stepped forward and said as politely as I could, “Can someone move those tiles
off my drive. Please.”

John
Thomas turned around to me and snarled, “Nothing to do with me! Those are his
tiles, he can move them.”

Leo
Kennedy gave a little laugh. “I don’t think so, Mr Thomas. They’re your
responsibility.”

I
could see that I wasn’t getting anywhere and I didn’t want to get involved in a
macho argument so I went to my house.

The
tiles were piled up in stacks and there wasn’t much room to squeeze through. I
sucked in my tummy and tried to get through a gap.

Unfortunately,
I couldn’t suck in my bottom and it knocked into a pile and sent tiles crashing
to the ground.

“Oi!
My tiles!” John Thomas shouted.

“You
can pay for those breakages!” Leo Kennedy threatened.

I
looked over at the two men. I stood as tall as I could and said, “You’ve both
denied owning these tiles. I’m assuming that if they’re on my property that
they now belong to me. And if I want to, I can break the whole lot!”

The
men looked at each other for a moment. Then John Thomas gave a resigned sigh
and walked towards me.

“I’ll
sort these out,” he grumbled to me.

“Thank
you,” I said and I opened my front door.

As
I went in I’m sure I heard John Thomas add, “And I’ll sort that Kennedy out
too.”

 

Chapter 5

 

I
didn’t hear any more raised voices as I prepared my tea. I looked out of the
kitchen window and at the garden next door. I noticed that Cora’s apple tree
had already been cut down. There was only the stump left. There’s something so
sad about cutting healthy trees down.

I
settled down to eat my tea and soon forgot about the building work going on
next door. I hoped it would be finished soon.

I
phoned my dad to see if he’d got any telephone messages about new cleaning jobs
for me.

“There’s
a couple,” Dad said and he read out the addresses.

“Oh,
the better part of Leeds. I am going up in the world!” I said with a laugh.

Dad
asked how the work was going on next door. He wasn’t impressed when I told him
about the tile incident.

“Do
you want me to come round and sort them out?” he offered.

I
was almost tempted but I told him I was old enough to look after myself now.

After
tea I looked out at my drive. The tiles had gone. I didn’t want to leave my car
parked in the next street so I took my keys, left the house and headed down the
next street.

I
was two steps away from my car when I heard someone calling out my name.

It
was Joan. Twice in one day, what had I done wrong?

“Julia!
What are you parking here for? Is someone in your drive? I bet it’s those annoying
builders,” she said.

I
didn’t really want to get into the tile story so I just nodded and unlocked my
car.

I
got in and was quite surprised when Joan got in too.

“You
may as well give me a lift. I know it’s only the next street but my feet are
killing me! I suffer terribly with bunions. Have I ever shown you my bunions?”

I
drove as quickly as I could and was soon pulling into my driveway.

Joan
was pointing to Leo’s house. “Who’s that? It’s not one of the builders. He
looks familiar though. Is he shouting? I can’t hear anything sitting here.”

She
almost leapt out of the car and then blatantly moved closer to the fence
between my house and the one next door. She cocked her head to one side.

I
got out and tried to head towards my door. I didn’t want to get involved in any
more arguments that Leo Kennedy was having.

Joan
stopped me. “I know who it is. It’s Cora Robert’s son, Stephen. Listen to that!
He’s having a right go at that Leo Kennedy. Something about paying less than
what the house was worth, and something about forcing his mum to sell the house.”

“We
shouldn’t be listening,” I said and I tried to walk away.

“Shhh!
I can’t hear what they’re saying. Leo Kennedy is going on about all’s far in
business and that Stephen’s mum should have contacted a solicitor.”

She
didn’t need to tell me Stephen’s reply to that. I could hear him clearly
enough.

“You’re
a scumbag Kennedy! Taking advantage of a frail old lady. I don’t know how
you’ve got the nerve!” Stephen yelled.

“You’re
not bothered about your mother. All you want is her money. I bet you haven’t
been to see her for months,” Leo Kennedy retorted.

I
nodded to myself, that was probably true.

“I
see my mum as often as I can! She doesn’t want me bothering her all the time,”
Stephen defended himself.

I
couldn’t help myself. I leant over the fence and said, “She does want you to
bother her! She needs your help. Have you seen the mess she’s living in? Boxes
and bags of goodness knows what piled up in her living room.”

Stephen
glared over at me. “What the hell has my mother got to do with you, Julia
Blake?”

“I’ve
been trying to help tidy up her home. When you’ve finished arguing perhaps you
could pay her a visit. I think she’s lonely.”

Stephen
had the decency to look ashamed.

He
pointed to Leo Kennedy and said, “I haven’t finished with you yet.”

I
turned away from the fence.

Joan
said, “Stephen sounded just like his father then. Before you moved here his dad
used to shout at him and his mum constantly. Oh! The arguments I used to hear.”

“I
didn’t know Stephen’s dad used to live with them. Cora never spoke about him.”

Joan
sniffed and gave a disapproving look to the house next door, “Well she wouldn’t
would she? Not when he ran off with that floozy of his. No one’s seen him
since.”

 

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