Authors: Anthea Fraser
The Rona Parish Mysteries
(in order of appearance)
BROUGHT TO BOOK
PERSON OR PERSONS UNKNOWN
A FAMILY CONCERN
ROGUE IN PORCELAIN
NEXT DOOR TO MURDER
A QUESTION OF IDENTITY
FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS
THICKER THAN WATER
THE UNBURIED PAST
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First published in 2006 in Great Britain and the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
19 Cedar Road, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM2 5DA.
eBook edition first published in 2015 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2006 by Anthea Fraser.
The right of Anthea Fraser to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A family concern
1. Parish, Rona (Fictitious character) â Fiction
2. Women authors â England â Fiction
3. Murder investigation â Fiction
4. Detective and mystery stories
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6351-5 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-9164-8 (paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-687-8 (ePUB)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
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tune was circling in her head, a senseless jingle that was somehow full of menace. Then she was falling, falling â¦
Suppose he hadn't gone after all, but was waiting, just out of sight, to catch her?
A scream clogged her throat as she scrabbled frantically for a finger-hold â but too late! Her arm was seized in a tight grip and shaken, gently at first, then with increasing urgency.e
Wake up â it's all right, honey, it's all right!'
Slowly, fearfully, she opened her eyes to see, in the dim light from the uncurtained window, Matthew's concerned face looking down at her.
âThank God!' she said shakily, feeling the sweat coursing over her body. âOh, thank God!'
âWelcome back. You frightened me to death with that blood-curdling shriek.' He smoothed the damp hair off her face. âThe dream again?'
She shuddered, gripping his hand. âIt was â annihilating. I was falling â¦'
âWell, you're not falling now, you're safe in bed with me. So turn over, there's a good girl, and I'll rub your back for you, then we can both get some more sleep.'
But she was sitting up, swinging her feet to the floor. âYou go to sleep, Matthew,' she told him, reaching for her dressing gown. âI daren't â not yet; I might drop straight back into the dream. I'm going to make myself a drink.'
He sighed resignedly. âAll right â I'll come with you.'
âThere's no need,' she protested, though not, he thought, convincingly. He shrugged into his own robe, taking her arm as they went down the narrow staircase. These nightmares were becoming a pain; this was the third she'd had in a week, and he couldn't imagine what had kicked them off.
The little kitchen looked alien at this hour, Freya thought, as though they were somehow trespassing. Or perhaps her vision was still distorted by the dream. She shivered, watching as Matthew filled the kettle and switched it on. âI'm sorry to keep waking you,' she said contritely. âIf you like, I'll sleep on the sofa for a while.'
âThen I'd have even further to dash to your rescue!' But the disturbed sleep of the last week was starting to tell, clouding his concentration during the day. He spooned chocolate powder into two mugs, filled them with the boiling water, and brought them to the table.
âWhat exactly do you dream?' he asked as he sat down. âMight it help to talk about it?'
She was silent for a while, staring down into her mug. Then she lifted it and sipped gingerly at the hot liquid. âIt's always the same,' she said at last. âI'm falling â I'm not sure where from, andâ'
âThat's one of the most common nightmares,' he interrupted, in an attempt to reassure her. âEveryone has it at some time or other. No doubt Freud would have an explanation for it.'
Freya shook her head. âIt's more than that. There's this tune going round and round in my brain.'
âI can never remember it afterwards. And someone else is nearby, someone who mustn't know I'm there.'
She considered. âI think so.'
âNot really.' She gave an embarrassed little laugh. âIt sounds pathetic, I know, but at the time it's terrifying, believe me.'
âWorth seeing the quack, d'you think? For something to help you sleep through, just till you break the pattern?'
âI'm not taking sleeping pills,' she said positively. Then she smiled, putting her hand on his. âPoor Matthew! You didn't expect this when you asked me to move in with you.'
He smiled back. âI'm prepared to take the rough with the smooth,' he said.
or the first time that she could remember, Rona Parish was not looking forward to Christmas. Nothing would be the same, she thought miserably. Her parents' marriage had recently broken down and her father was in the process of finding himself a flat while the divorce went through. Furthermore, the split had resulted in tension between herself and her twin sister, Lindsey, since they tended to side with different parents.
Admittedly, her mother had invited her and Max for Christmas lunch as usual, but Rona had still not committed them, fearful she might appear to be letting her father down. Nor had she felt able to ask him if he'd be spending the holiday with Catherine, the woman he proposed eventually to marry, though it was more than likely she'd be with her son and his wife in Cricklehurst.
âYou can't keep putting it off,' Max remarked one evening. âAt this rate, we'll end up in solitary splendour. What's Lindsey doing?'
âWe haven't spoken for nearly two weeks,' Rona said expressionlessly. âShe's as prickly as a hedgehog at the moment.'
âShe might opt out and spend it with Hugh.'
Hugh Cavendish was Lindsey's ex-husband; now, to the concern of her family, back in Marsborough.
âNo, I'm almost sure she'll go to Mum. She's still blaming Pops for all this.'
âWell, technically speaking, he is the guilty party.'
âWould you have put up with all he has over the last few years?' Rona demanded hotly, adding after a moment, âOn second thoughts, don't answer that.'
Max grinned. âCome on, love, lighten up. Find out what he's doing and we can take it from there.'
Rona was mulling over this conversation the next day as she walked along Guild Street, now festooned with decorations and coloured lights. The shop windows glittered with tinsel, fake Christmas trees were draped with scarves, belts and sequinned evening bags, and in Netherby's Department Store, children queued to see Father Christmas. And they were only halfway through November, Rona thought impatiently. But concerns about Christmas could wait: a more pressing worry was that it was only ten days to Pops' retirement, and since no one outside the family knew of the split, Mum would be expected at all the festivities. Rona was quite sure she wouldn't attend.
Max was right, she decided suddenly; she needed to know her father's plans, both for next week and for Christmas, and it was no use pussyfooting around waiting for him to volunteer them. A glance at her watch showed it had stopped again, and she swore under her breath, shaking her wrist and lifting it hopefully to her ear. Silence. Admittedly it had been a twenty-first birthday present, she conceded ruefully; perhaps it was unreasonable to expect a watch to last indefinitely.
Above the noise of traffic and the chattering crowds, the Town Hall clock helpfully relayed the three-quarter chime. Two forty-five, Rona thought; with luck, she'd catch him at the bank.
But luck was not with her. She was informed that Mr Parish would be in on only alternate days this week. âWinding down, as you might say,' Mavis Banister, his secretary, told her. âHe'll have a full schedule next week, though: on Monday there's a reception for key clients and their wives â some sixty-odd people; on Wednesday it's the presentation at Head Office, followed by dinner with the General Manager and
wife; and then on Friday, as you know, we have the farewell party here. A good excuse for your mother to indulge in some retail therapy!'
Rona smiled dutifully. âDon't worry,' she said. âNo doubt I'll run him to earth.'
At the other end of town, unaware of his daughter's frustration, Tom Parish stood in the middle of the room and looked about him. It wasn't, he told himself, as though this was a long-term project; he could manage very comfortably here for the two years or so it would take for the divorce to come through. The furniture and fittings, though not what he'd have chosen, were comfortable enough, and with his books and personal belongings, he could soon make it look like home. And though Guild Street was a fifteen to twenty minute walk away, Catherine's house in Willow Crescent was just round the corner. In fact he'd noted, with a lift of the heart, that the roof of her bungalow was visible from the kitchen window.