Authors: Marcia Talley
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Women Sleuths
Agatha and Anthony Award-Winning Author
A Hannah Ives Mystery
In Death’s Shadow
Resounding praise for
"A writer and a character we want to see again—and soon . . . Hannah is one of those resilient women who puts down roots and springs back whenever the world rolls over them."
"A shining new talent. . . Marcia Talley's Hannah Ives tackles life's ups and downs with humor, intelligence, and courage."
"[Her] people [are] so real they must exist somewhere beyond the page."
"Talley's thoughtful handling of Hannah's bout with breast cancer and the emotional and physical recovery . . . add depth . . . [Her] characters shine."
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"There's much to admire in Talley's writing. [Her] characters are well drawn and the dialogue sparkles."
"A writer to watch . . . Hannah Ives is . . . smart, brave, wonderfully human, the kind of woman you want for your new best friend."
Hannah Ives Mysteries from Marcia Talley
SING IT TO HER BONES
OCCASION OF REVENGE
IN DEATH’S SHADOW
THIS ENEMY TOWN
THROUGH THE DARKNESS
DEAD MAN DANCING
WITHOUT A GRAVE
ALL THINGS UNDYING
A QUIET DEATH
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2004 by Marcia Talley
First Avon Books paperback printing: September 2004
First Nook edition: April 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address [email protected]
For my kind, funny, most generous friend,
Sara Ann Freed
"Even the death of Friends will inspire us as much as their lives. They will leave consolation to the mourners . . . and their memories will be incrusted over with sublime and pleasing thoughts, as monuments of other men are overgrown with moss; for our Friends have no place in the graveyard."
Henry David Thoreau,
A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers: Wednesday
"Come like an evening shadow, Death!
So stealthily, so silently!
And shut mine eyes, and steal my breath."
A million thanks:
To my husband, Barry, who supports me every day in every way.
To my writers groups—Sujata Massey, John Mann, Janice McLane, and Karen Diegmueller in Baltimore, and Janet Benrey, Trish Marshall, Mary Ellen Hughes, Ray Flynt, Sherriel Mattingly, Bert Brun, and Janet Martin in Annapolis—for tough love.
To my editor, Sarah Durand, who rescued Hannah when she was "between publishers" and loves her as much as I do.
To my agent, Jimmy Vines, who never gave up on Hannah, either.
To Joe Jacobs, who has been an insurance professional for more than two decades, working as an independent broker for many fine companies. If I got it wrong, it's my fault, not Joe's.
To my friends, Bob and Pat McNitt, who lent Mrs. Bromley their apartment, and to my many other friends at Ginger Cove who bear absolutely no resemblance to any of the characters in this book.
To April Henry. There isn't anything she doesn't know about vanity plates, and she writes darn good mysteries, too.
To Barbara Parker, lunch buddy and web maven extraordinaire. (
And to Kate Charles and Deborah Crombie, dearest of friends, confidantes, and advisors, who read every word, sometimes more than once.
That black hole in my cerebellum that's sucked up my PIN number, my password on Yahoo.com, the location of my car keys and the answer to questions like why am I standing in front of the refrigerator holding the door open? How else to explain why I didn't recognize the woman when she bopped up to me in Dr. Wilkins's waiting room with a cheerful, "Well, Hannah Ives! How wonderful to see you!"
I looked up from my magazine—
was advising me to rub cornstarch on salad dressing stains—into a pair of designer sunglasses that reflected my own startled eyes back at me and the most gorgeous mop of apricot curls I think I've ever seen.
And drew a complete blank.
"Oh, hi!" I enthused, matching her delight for delight. "How
"Just great," she said, plopping herself down in the empty chair to my right. "And you?"
“Terrific," I said, stalling for time. She'd come from the direction of the staff lounge.
I nodded toward the lab where one of the hematology technicians had just separated me from several ounces of my blood. "Especially now that Vampira is finished with me."
Frowning, she drew shiny pink lips into an O and peeked under the Band-Aid on her own, gloriously suntanned arm. “Tell me about it."
Not a nurse then. A patient. But where had I seen her before?
While she pressed the Band-Aid back into place, I looked her up and down, desperate for clues.
Everything about the woman screamed
Sex and the City
, like she had a key to Carrie Bradshaw's closet. Late twenty-something, she wore a light blue, distressed denim jacket over a white cotton tank top, the hem of which hovered a good three inches above the waistband of a pair of olive-colored Sharagano low-rise flares with floral patches. Perfectly manicured toes were cradled in a pair of Kors sandals. I checked out her hands. Yup, fingernails to match, and . . .
. . .
a wedding ring!
"So," I ventured, praying she wasn't recently widowed. "How's married life?"
She hugged her handbag, a kidney-shaped leather pouch, to her chest. An envelope from Farmers Bank of Maryland peeked from an outside pocket, and I found myself praying for a diversion—a fire alarm, an earthquake, a total eclipse of the sun—anything that would distract her long enough for me to slide the envelope out and read the name and address, but no such luck.
"Brian has just been incredible," she gushed. "You won't believe what he did!"
Brian. Was she a faculty wife, then?
I raised my eyebrows to encourage her to go on with whatever unbelievable thing it was that Brian had done while I skimmed through a mental Rolodex of my husband's colleagues at the Naval Academy. Paul was a math professor. Did he work with anyone named Brian? I remembered a Bruce and a Bob, but no Brian.
"Well, Hannah," she drawled, turning sideways in her chair to face me. She grinned, relocated her sunglasses from the bridge of her nose to the top of her head and threw me an exaggerated wink. In a flash, I recognized her. Valerie Stone. Ovarian cancer. Stage IV. Advanced. The last time I'd seen her, she'd been thirty pounds thinner and completely bald. We'd bonded over a toilet bowl at Anne Arundel Medical Center.
"Valerie! You look absolutely wonderful! I almost didn't recognize you, with . . . with . . ." I was tap dancing as fast as I could.
I laughed. "Yeah. The last time I saw you . . ." I paused again, searching for the right word.
"The last time you saw me, I looked like an extra for
Night of the Living Dead
"Not exactly." I smiled. "But close."
"The doctors were telling Brian I should get my affairs in order. I took it as a challenge. You know me!"
There was a time when Valerie and I knew each other very well indeed. We'd shared a hospital room during chemotherapy, but after she checked out, she moved back to her parents' home in New Jersey and we'd lost touch. I remembered Brian now, a gangly, fair-haired type. If Sweden had cowboys, they'd look like Brian. The couple had a daughter, too, but we'd never met. The little girl had been shipped off to Grandma's house and hadn't been allowed to visit her mother in the hospital.
"I did it for Miranda," Valerie said, as if reading my mind. "I heard about this clinical trial at NIH, so I applied . . . and now, praise God, it's a miracle. My cancer's in remission." She giggled. "Heaven will just have to wait!"
glad," I said, leaning back in my chair and setting the magazine aside. "My breast cancer's in remission, too. Or so they tell me!"
"Have you gone back to work yet?"
I shook my head. "I got riffed. At first I was in shock. Then I got angry. I was all set to organize the breast cancer lobby and sue Whitworth and Sullivan up one side and down the other. Make 'em pay for laying me off." I sighed and leaned back in my chair. "Now I think losing my job's the best thing that ever happened to me. Life's too short to spend it commuting from Annapolis, Maryland, to Washington, D.C., just so some idiot office manager can dump all over you." I laid a hand on my chest. "I hyperventilate just thinking about it. Now I do volunteer work. Pick up a temp assignment now and then. How 'bout you?"
"I'm staying home with Miranda."
"How old is she now?"
"Four. And I'm going to see that little gal walk down the aisle if it's the last thing I do!"
I have a daughter, too, but Emily is twenty-four. The closest I'd come to seeing her walk down the aisle was a digital picture—sent via e-mail attachment—of Emily and Dante smooching in front of a wedding chapel in Las Vegas. At least there had been no Elvis impersonators mugging in the background. That would be a moment to cherish: "The Hawaiian Wedding Song" performed by a live professional singer from the Las Vegas Strip.
"Miranda's wedding will come sooner than you think," I reassured her. "Kids. One minute you're handing them a pacifier, the next minute it's the car keys." I chuckled. "But you were going to tell me something about Brian."
"Wait till you hear this, Hannah!" Valerie bounced in her chair like an excited child. "Brian took me on a cruise. Around. The. World!" She tapped my hand. "What do you think about
I thought it was absolutely marvelous and told her so.
"On the QE2," she continued. "One hundred and twenty glorious days! And every minute of every day I was pinching myself. I just couldn't
While she raved on about the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Pago Pago, and Fiji, I multiplied a couple of hundred bucks a day, times two, times 120, and couldn't believe it, either. Who could afford such a trip? "Pago Pago?" I asked. "There really is a place called Pago Pago?"
She nodded, her bright curls bouncing. "In Samoa. It was
"I've dreamed of visiting the South Pacific," I said. "But a four month cruise? I'd have to talk my husband out of a sabbatical."
"You could always play the cancer card," she suggested.
"You know." She put a hand to her forehead and fluttered her eyelashes. "Oh dah'ling, ah'll jes' be miserable if ah can't see the Great Barrier Reef before ah die!"
I laughed out loud. "You didn't!"
"Oh, but I
,” she said, "And it worked just as well for my new car." Her eyes ping-ponged about the waiting room as if checking for eavesdroppers before she leaned toward me and confided, "A Mercedes SLK320. Convertible."
"Hannah? Hannah Ives?" A nurse had wandered into the waiting room, brandishing my pink sheet.
"Oops, gotta go." I hooked a thumb in the direction of the examination rooms. "The Inquisition awaits within."
"Wait a minute." Valerie scrabbled around in her bag, retrieving a hairbrush, a lipstick, and a Palm Pilot before producing what looked like a business card. She pressed it into my hand. "Here's our phone number. Please stay in touch, Hannah."
I studied the card:
. Brian's logo was a cartoon elephant seated at a typewriter, its trunk rolled up in the platen. Cute. I waved the card and tucked it with elaborate care into my purse. "I'll call you next week," I promised. "We'll do lunch."
Valerie smiled. "I'd like that. Very much."
, I thought, as I followed the nurse toward the examination room. I kicked off my shoes and stood obediently on the scales while she slid weights back and forth along the bar.
I wonder what he writes?
"One hundred twenty-five pounds." She consulted my chart before making a notation. "You're almost up to your pre-chemo weight."
"Hallelujah," I said, stepping backward off the scale onto the cool linoleum.
"Open up," she said, and poked a thermometer into my mouth. I held it under my tongue, still thinking about Brian and Valerie Stone. That cruise must have cost a small fortune. How did they do it? Maybe he's writing travel articles for
Condé Nast Traveler
. The thermometer beeped. Next came the blood-pressure cuff.
Maybe he's got a trust fund, I thought as the cuff grew plump around my arm. Or a rich relative who obligingly croaked.
By the time I'd shucked my clothes, draped myself in a hospital gown—"ties up the back, please"—and settled myself uncomfortably on an ergonomically hostile examination table, I'd decided that unless Brian was ghostwriting thrillers for Tom Clancy, there was no way on earth he could have paid for that trip.
Not that it was any of my damn business.