Table of Contents
Heading toward the lighthouse keeper’s cottage, Olivia felt a tightness in her chest. Something was wrong.
At the same moment she felt that sharp stab of fear. The beam of the flashlight sought out a darker patch of black in the shadow cast by the cottage.
Olivia’s heart nearly stopped. She broke into a run, her legs moving with agonizing slowness over the sand ...
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A KILLER PLOT
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / June 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Ellery Adams.
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eISBN : 978-1-101-18786-9
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For Mary Shirley Harrison, dear friend and kindred spirit
Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.
wo of Oyster Bay’s lifelong citizens were in line at the Stop ‘n’ Shop, gossiping over carts stuffed with frozen entrées, potato chips, boxes of Krispy Kremes, and liters of soda when Olivia Limoges breezed through the market’s automatic doors.
“Here she comes, Darlene. The grouchiest woman on the entire North Carolina coast,” the first woman remarked, jerking her head toward the produce department.
“And the richest.” Darlene watched as Olivia examined a pyramid of peaches, turning the fruit around and caressing the flushed, velvet skin of each golden orb before placing it in her cart. “She’s good-lookin’ enough. Doesn’t have the curves most men wanna hold on to at night, but with all that money, you’d think she could net at least
“She might have more money than Oprah, but she ain’t
a ray of sunshine,” her companion pointed out. “Half the town’s scared of her.”
“That’s because half the town works for her, Sue Ellen.” Darlene pulled a sour face as her friend dumped a family-sized Stouffer’s lasagna on the moving belt.
“She ever smile at you, Mandy?” the woman named Sue Ellen questioned the cashier.
Mandy cracked her gum and shrugged. “Ms. Olivia is nice enough, I reckon.”
“Maybe she likes
men. You know, one of those male models or somethin’. Or maybe she wants ’em to be rich and speak three languages and be as high and mighty as she is. She’s too fussy if you ask me. That’s why she doesn’t have a man,” Sue Ellen whispered, clearly impressed with her own insight as the cashier ran her friend’s check through the register. “Who knows what’s goin’ on in that big ole house of hers?”
Darlene’s dull brown eyes turned misty. “If
had all that money, I’d go on one of those cruises with them chocolate buffets. You ever heard of such an amazin’ thing? Whole fountains of chocolate! You can dunk strawberries or cookies or little bits of cake right in ’em. Lordy! I’d eat chocolate until I couldn’t move.”
Sue Ellen unloaded two jumbo-sized bags of potato chips and a bouquet of scentless carnations onto the belt. “She oughta give back to the community. After all, she grew up in Oyster Bay. Lots of folks kept an eye on her when her daddy was off on one of his trips.”
“Which trips?” Darlene snorted cruelly. “The fishin’ trips or the ones where he drifted along the coast with a net in the water and a case of whiskey by his side?”
“Either one. With her mama passin’ on when she was still at such a tender age, that girl needed folks to look in on her. I recall my mama bringin’ her a tuna casserole more than once. And how about that lighthouse cottage?” Sue Ellen was becoming flushed in righteous indignation. “The way she’s lettin’ it fall to pieces—it’s a disgrace! She should fix it up and let the town use it. It’s not
fault her daddy left her all alone out on that boat in the middle of a storm for—”
The woman’s words stuck in her throat as a twenty-pound bag of lams Premium dog food was slapped onto the belt, instantly flattening the potato chips and the tight cluster of carnations.
“Good morning, Mandy.” The tall woman with white blond hair greeted the cashier as though the other customers did not exist. “Just the peaches and the dog food, please. And whatever you’ve already scanned from my neighbor’s cart. You can charge me for the chips and flowers twice, seeing as they’ll both have to be replaced.”
Mandy nodded, biting back a smile. She rang up Olivia’s fruit and kibble as well as the other woman’s frozen dinners, rump roast, potato chips, flowers, cookie dough ice cream, and maxi pads. Olivia swiped a credit card through the reader, shouldered the dog food bag as though it was filled with helium, grabbed her peaches, and wished Mandy a pleasant day.
She walked out of the store, squinting as the sun bore down on her. She slid glasses over eyes that had been fiery with anger a moment ago but had now returned to a placid, lake-water blue.
Inside her Range Rover, Captain Haviland, her black-furred standard poodle, barked out a hello.
“You may find that a portion of your kibble’s been pulverized into crumbs, Captain. I’m afraid my temper got the better of me.” Olivia gunned the engine, drove seven blocks north, and swung into an available handicapped parking space. Haviland barked again and added an accusatory sniff.
“It’s tourist season. There’s no place else to park and if I do get ticketed, that’ll just add more funds to the community treasure chest. Apparently, I don’t give back enough,” Olivia snidely informed her dog and together, they marched into Grumpy’s Diner. Olivia established herself at the counter, ordered coffee, and perused the headlines of
The Washington Post.
However, her concentration was repeatedly broken by a group of people seated at the diner’s largest booth. They were tossing out words like “dialogue,” “point of view,” and “setting,” and since Olivia had been trying to write a book on and off for the past five years, her curiosity was aroused.
She kept the paper raised, as though an article on escalating interest rates was inordinately captivating, while she listened intently as a woman read aloud from what sounded like a work of romantic fiction.
“Maureen put her eye to the keyhole and gasped. There was her mistress, the duchess, in the arms of a strange man. His fingers were unlacing her gown, slowly, letting each piece of delicate silk slide over his powerful fingers.”
“What drivel,” Olivia Limoges muttered to Haviland as the reader paused for breath. The poodle sneezed. Feeling that her canine companion hadn’t been in clear agreement with her assessment, Olivia leaned to the right in order to eavesdrop further.
“He then turned her around, roughly, and pushed her frock to the floor I could hear her gasp as he caressed the ribbons on her petticoat, his dark eyes never leaning the duchess’s amber ones.”
Olivia snorted. “Cats have amber eyes.
do not” She cast a glance at the author who had abruptly ceased speaking, seemingly reluctant to continue. She was a pretty woman—small-framed and smooth-skinned, with hair the color of sunlit wheat, but her face was discolored and puffy, indicating a consistent lack of sleep.
“Go on, Laurel, my dear. I sense we’re nearing the
part,” a middle-aged man with carefully gelled hair, a peach silk shirt, and finely manicured hands urged.
“Maureen knew she should back away from the door but the stranger’s movements were hypnotizing. His hand, which resembled the calloused palm of a man engaged in trade, not the smooth, pampered hands belonging to a gentleman, eased apart my lady’s bodice. His eyes lingered on the heaving swell of her breasts
Olivia couldn’t contain herself. “Not heaving breasts!” she exclaimed with a wry laugh. “Anything but those!”
The woman named Laurel blushed furiously and dropped her paper onto the table in front of her.
“If you’d like to share your opinion, it’d be a mite easier if you joined their group instead of hollerin’ across the counter. It’s this kind of behavior that makes folks think you’re an odd duck,” a high-pitched voice emanating from Olivia’s left scolded. “Good morning, Captain,” the woman greeted the poodle warmly. “Your usual, sir?”
Haviland issued a polite bark and parted his mouth in order to smile at the familiar speaker.
“Good morning, Dixie.” Olivia folded her paper in half and smoothed out the wrinkles. “And for your information, people think I’m odd because I’m rich and single and perfectly content. All three of those factors are a rarity here in Oyster Bay.” Olivia lowered her empty coffee cup from the counter so the vertically challenged diner proprietor could fill it with her famously strong brew.
At a total height of four feet seven inches tall, including the two inches provided by a pair of roller skates and an inch of comb-teased, sun-streaked brown hair, Dixie Weaver had the body of a kindergartener. She was not as young or as well proportioned as a five-year-old however, being that she was a dwarf.