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Authors: Susan Kiernan-Lewis

Murder in the Latin Quarter

BOOK: Murder in the Latin Quarter
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Murder in the Latin Quarter
Book 7 of the Maggie Newberry Mysteries
Susan Kiernan-Lewis
San Marco Press

Murder in the Latin Quarter

Book 7 of the Maggie Newberry Mysteries

Copyright 2016 by Susan Kiernan-Lewis. All rights reserved.

M
aggie's
much anticipated Paris holiday takes a dark turn when she ventures into the city's famed Latin Quarter to visit Laurent's ailing aunt—only to find a very healthy aunt and a very dead body.  

Does the murder have something to do with Aunt Delphine? Was she the intended victim? With her new baby daughter in tow, Maggie struggles to find the answers. In the process she learns more about Laurent's family—and stumbles across a terrible secret that would tempt anybody to commit murder.  

Can Maggie find the murderer without destroying the Dernier family name? And can she do it before the killer catches her in a dark, lonely alley in the Latin Quarter?

Books by Susan Kiernan-Lewis

The Maggie Newberry Mysteries

Murder in the South of France

Murder à la Carte

Murder in Provence

Murder in Paris

Murder in Aix

Murder in Nice

Murder in the Latin Quarter

Murder in the Abbey

 

The French Women's Diet
 

The Irish End Games

Free Falling

Going Gone

Heading Home

Blind Sided

Rising Tides

Cold Comfort

Never Never

 

Mia Kazmaroff Romantic Suspense

Reckless

Shameless

Breathless

Heartless

Finding Infinity
(Romance) 

1

T
here's
something about the way the air smells in Paris
, Maggie thought, taking in a deep breath.
Not exactly lavender and fresh baked bread, but not far off either
. She immediately started coughing until her eyes watered.

“Quit breathing so deeply,” her best friend Grace said. “Paris is having a garbage strike, for God's sake.”

Maggie nodded and rearranged her six month old daughter in her arms. Little Mila Grace blinked her cornflower blue eyes at Maggie and gave her a toothless grin.

“Mommy's choking,” Maggie said as she laughed and coughed again. “If I croak, you can tell your papa I died happy.”

“Laurent wouldn't believe it,” Grace said as she wiped the ice cream from her five-year-old daughter's face. They were sitting on a bench by the Seine. “He hates Paris, doesn't he?”

“Pretty much.”

“It makes no sense.” Grace wrinkled her nose. She was a stately blonde with a flawless complexion and perfect bow-shaped lips—a beauty in any language. “He was born here.”

“That's part of the problem,” Maggie said. “You know Laurent. He's got so many secrets, God knows what horrors he's hiding about his life here when he was a kid.”

“He really doesn't talk to you about his childhood?”

“Not a syllable. Really reinforces the whole
mystery guy
thing, let me tell you.”

“Well, I'm glad you and the baby came up for the week,” Grace said. “I can't wait for you to meet André.”

Maggie was glad to see Grace embracing her new life. After two long years of indecision and heartbreak over the dissolution of her marriage, it was time to move on.

The spring was cooler than usual although every bit as wet. From where she sat with her back to the Seine, Maggie could see the line of immaculate upper class apartments in front of her like a carefully crafted barrier of style and heritage.

She had been only too happy to escape her country life in Provence for Paris—even if just for a week. A two and a half year old toddler and a six month old baby kept her busy all of the time back in St-Buvard. She smiled at how she'd accused Laurent of getting her pregnant just so she'd stop complaining about having nothing to do. God knows, between the grape harvest and her two little ones she couldn't
remember
a time when she had nothing to do. She'd jumped at the chance for a week in Paris with Grace—and her built-in childcare. Except for missing Jemmy, Maggie was very much enjoying the break.

“Dinner Thursday?” Grace said.

“Don't we pretty much have dinner every day?”

“Silly. I mean with André.”

Maggie gazed down at the baby in her arms. Before she could respond, Grace said:

“No, Maggie. Just us. Darling Mila will be happy as two clams in a daiquiri with Beatrice and Zouzou.”

“You just made that up about the clams and the daiquiri.”

“I did.”

“Well, it sounds disgusting. But I guess I can untether for the duration of a single meal.” She looked at Mila. “Is that okay with you, puppy? If Mommy goes off with the grown ups?”

“Careful, darling,” Grace said. “I don't have a cast iron stomach. Come on, let's get these two lambs back to the apartment. I feel a nap calling.”

Maggie laughed and then dug out her vibrating cellphone.

“What time is it?” she asked. The screen showed a picture of her mother. With the time difference in Atlanta, Maggie always felt a tremor of fear if her folks called at an abnormally late hour.

“Two o'clock here,” Grace said, “so nine in the morning in the US. Aren't you going to answer it?”

Maggie shook her head. “I'll call her back later.”

Grace stood up and began scouting the sidewalk for a trash receptacle. “Something going on back home?” she asked.

“My mom wants me to bring the kids to Atlanta for the summer.”

“Oh?” Grace waited for Maggie to climb to her feet and resettle Mila in her carrying sling. “Didn't they come over when Mila was born?”

“They did, yes.”

“Does Laurent not want you to go?”

“That's just it. He says it'll be good for me to get away.”

“Well, he's not wrong there, darling. You know how the provinces wear on you. I can't believe you're hesitating. When was the last time you were stateside?”

“Right after Jemmy was born. Almost three years now.”

“So what's the problem?”

“I have a bad feeling about leaving.”

“Oh, please. You mean like you're worried about the airplane falling out of the sky?”

Maggie took a long breath. “No, I'm afraid I won't want to come back.”

T
he housekeeper stood
in the doorway of the kitchen and watched the old woman sitting in the living room. Was Madame breathing heavier than usual? Amelie felt a thin sheen of perspiration coat both her palms and she quickly wiped them against her apron. She could see Madame's eyes were closed even from here.

“Madame Normand?” Amelie said in a calm voice. “Are you all right?”

No answer.

A thrill of excitement needled between Amelie's shoulder blades.

“Madame?”

Amelie took two steps into the room. The thick carpeting underfoot eliminated any sound her heavy brogues made. The teacup was on the table with most of its contents drunk.

Amelie leaned across the old woman and carefully picked up the cup and saucer, her eyes never leaving Madame's face. Not a hint of a sound came from the old woman. Not a snore, not a purr.

Amelie crept back out of the room and down the hall to the kitchen. She noticed her hands trembled as she placed the cup and saucer in the sink and began to run water over them. As her hands worked to sudse and rinse the china, she looked out the window over the sink. She could just see the spires of Notre-Dame from here but she felt the menace of its gargoyles as if they were perched on the apartment window ledge.

She knew this wasn't the same apartment. Of course not. Madame hadn't been wealthy then.

She dried the cup and saucer and carefully replaced it in the cabinet with the others. Then she took the vial from her apron pocket and poured its contents down the drain.

How soon before she could safely call for the ambulance? It would look bad to wait too long.

2

T
he minute Maggie
and Grace opened the door, Grace's nanny Beatrice met them with arms held open to hug Zouzou and take the baby. A pretty girl in her mid-twenties, Beatrice had come to Paris from Le Havre on the western coast of France determined to be a professional au pair. Her fascination and love for little children beamed out of her.


Bonjour mes p'tits choux! Ça va
?” she gushed as she alternately kissed Mila and Zouzou's head. “Did
Maman
buy you ice cream?”


Mais oui
!” Zouzou said as she slipped her hand into Beatrice's. “And she said you'd read to us.”

“But of course,” Beatrice said with a laugh. She winked at Grace and Maggie and turned to disappear into the bedroom with the two children.

“Wow,” Maggie said. “She really loves kids.”

Maggie tried to remember her life before two children under the age of three dominated it. Did she really used to put her feet up and read a book? Or go to the bathroom or get dressed without an audience?

“Yes, and thank God for it,” Grace said as she draped her raincoat on an armchair in the living room. “Drinkie, darling?”

“It's not even three o'clock.”

Grace moved to the drinks cart by the fireplace. Her Left Bank apartment had been renovated in the late seventies preserving all the authentic and original details of a classic Parisian apartment, including carved moldings, curved doors, two working fireplaces, a series of gilt-framed mirrors, yards of glossy herringbone parquet throughout and—most amazing of all—built-in closets.

Grace's was the only apartment on her floor and with ongoing renovations being performed on the bottom two floors, she had the luxury of having the whole building to herself. While she was only renting, Grace was starting to talk more and more about making the owner an offer.

“So that's a no?” Grace said as she poured herself a whiskey and returned to the living room where she sat and kicked off her shoes.

Maggie had only been in Paris a day and already she knew something was off with Grace—and it wasn't just that she was in love.

“Heard from Windsor lately?” Maggie asked.

Grace made a face and took a long swallow of her drink.

“Turns out he doesn't know how to
spell
the word
amicable
,” she said sourly.

“Really? Over what? Alimony?” Maggie knew Windsor well. He was generous to a fault and until his marriage had come crashing down on his head, devoted to Grace.

“Child custody if you can believe it,” Grace said. She wore an original Valentino dress in deep green, its lines simple and streamlined on her slim body.

“Don't you have shared custody of Taylor and Zouzou?”

“Yes, but now he wants full custody. Bastard.”

Maggie frowned. “That doesn't sound like Windsor.”

“You don't know him as well as you think you do. It sounds exactly like him. And all because I suggested splitting Z and Taylor with him.”

“What does that mean? Splitting them?”

“Well, I don't have Taylor, do I? She's in Indianapolis with her father and happy to stay there.”

“So you asked for full custody of Zouzou and you offered to give up custody of Taylor?”

“And he's responded by trying to take Zouzou away from me!”

Maggie's head swam.

“I don't know, Grace. It might have sounded like you were trying to…abandon Taylor,” she said carefully.

“That's absurd. Although, honestly, she refuses to come over here.”

“She's only nine, Grace. Can't you go see her?”

“How can I, darling? You know how busy I am trying to get the business off the ground!”

Grace's online children's boutique had shown signs of promise at one point early on but Grace hadn't seemed too interested in it lately.

Not since she'd met André.

“Well, it's an online business,” Maggie said reasonably. “Surely you can take your laptop and visit Taylor in the States this summer?”

“You sound like Windsor,” Grace said, finishing off her drink. “My vendors are all in Paris and require face-to-face interaction. You know how business is done over here. I can't leave.”

“And so Windsor wants full custody of both Taylor and Zouzou?”

“Can you imagine? He's hinting I'm not fit.”

“That's ridiculous,” Maggie said, leaning forward in agitation. “You're a wonderful mother!”

“Thank you, darling. Can we please talk about something else? How about we go out tomorrow morning and get you something to wear to dinner on Tuesday that's a little less provincial?”

T
hat night after dinner
, Maggie took Mila into the bedroom to Skype Laurent and little Jemmy. She had been looking forward to it all day. She was rarely separated from Jemmy and she missed him keenly.


Maman
!” he squealed as soon as the Skype screen opened up.

“Hello, sweetie. How is my big boy?”

“We are fine,” Laurent said from behind Jemmy. The little boy squirmed on his father's lap, distracted. He didn't speak much yet but he was a lively, bright-eyed child who didn't miss a thing.

Laurent frowned. “Mila is sunburned, no?”

Maggie shifted the baby in her arms. “She is not sunburned, no,” she said. “She got lots of fresh air today and a little bit of sun. You're one to talk, Laurent. I'll bet you rode the tractor today with Jemmy on your lap, didn't you?”

Laurent shrugged but a smile tugged at his lips as if in memory of the day. “
Peut-être
,” he said.

“Exactly. We sat near the Café de Flore this morning. Didn't you used to live near there as a kid?”


Non
.”

“Come on, Laurent. You can tell me your neighborhood, can't you? I want to take a selfie with me and Mila in front of it.”

“Don't be
ridicule
.”

“What's ridiculous about wanting to see where you used to live?”

“There is nobody there now.”

“That's not the point. Why do you think we have museums and statues and stuff? Because it's cool to go back to places and remember what happened there.”

“I have no wish to remember.”

“I can't believe Paris is your hometown and you never want to come here. Do you know how cool it is to be from Paris?”

“Tomorrow, put a hat on the baby,
si
?” Laurent said. “She is fair like you.” He tossed Jemmy's hair. “Now, Monsieur Jemmy is like his papa,
non
? We were made for the Foreign Legion.”

“He's not even three years old, Laurent,” Maggie said. “He needs a hat too. In fact, it wouldn't hurt you to wear one.” Mila squirmed and let out a fretful whimper.


Ma petite
is ready for bed,” Laurent said. “We will let you go. Goodnight,
chérie
,” he said, smiling fondly at them both.

“Night, Laurent. Sleep well, darling Jemmy,” Maggie said. “Last separation until he's college age, okay? Hurts too much.”

“Je t'aime
, Maggie.” He kissed his fingers and smiled.

“Love you too, Laurent,” she said returning his smile.

There was a tap at the door and Beatrice stuck her head in.

“I have just put Zouzou to bed,” she said. “Shall I take Mila too?”

“No,” Maggie said. “I'll do it. Can you tell Grace to wait on me for that nightcap? Shouldn't take too long.”

M
ichelle Normand sat
at the café and drummed her fingers against the tabletop. The rain was coming down in a relentless deluge or she wouldn't be sitting here. She glanced at the interior of the café but the waiter was still engaged. As soon as he saw her he'd know she wasn't waiting to order. She hated that he'd know without even asking her, without even stepping out of the restaurant. And his face would tell her what his words didn't need to.

She wasn't welcome. She wouldn't be served even if she had money.

Michelle looked at the grey sheet of water pounding the cobblestones in front of her.

Was getting drenched better? Better than some stranger's disgust and revulsion?

She forced herself not to look in his direction again. She could see he was standing in the doorway now, watching her, waiting for her to look up so he could give her the sneer he'd prepared for her.

She wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

Let him come out here to throw me out
.

She waited, the sounds of the rain drubbing in her brain and the shadow of the waiter's figure stark in her peripheral vision. And then he vanished, clearly not to be bothered with her.

It was days like this, moments like these, she thought, that her stepmother would pay for the most.

Because in the end it was not so much about the money…

But the sheer humiliation of it.

And that was a debt Delphine would pay for in blood.

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