Read Never Buried: A Leigh Koslow Mystery Online

Authors: Edie Claire

Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Thrillers, #Koslow; Leigh (Fictitious Character), #Pittsburgh (Pa.), #Women Cat Owners, #Women Copy Writers, #Women Sleuths

Never Buried: A Leigh Koslow Mystery

BOOK: Never Buried: A Leigh Koslow Mystery
8.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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NEVER BURIED

 

Copyright © 1999 by Edie Claire

 

Originally published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

Digital edition for Kindle published in 2010 by the author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.

 

 

DEDICATION

For my friends at IUMC

Chapter 1

 

The sounds filtered through Leigh's sleeping brain, nagging her into consciousness. She knew them all too well. First the series of short, wet, hiccups—then the muffled splat. Her cat, Mao Tse, was throwing up. Again.

Leigh groaned and pried up an eyelid just long enough to read her clock.

3:37 AM.
Wonderful.

She was almost asleep again when she remembered she wasn't at home.

Get up, you ingrate. Now.

The bed was warm, the mattress comfortable. Leigh's eyes remained closed as she rationalized. The mess was probably in the kitchen on the linoleum. It wouldn't matter if she waited till morning. It wouldn't matter at all.

She lay quietly a little longer, trying to believe herself as she nestled more deeply under the covers. It didn't work. In her mind all she could see was her cousin's favorite throw pillows—liberally laced with cat vomit.

She sighed and opened her eyes. "Who am I kidding? Blasted diva heads for upholstery at the first sign of nausea."

She swung her legs over the side of the bed, letting the momentum pull her upright, then slipped on her house shoes (a lesson well learned) and hoisted herself up. The corridor outside her room was pitch dark. Yawning, she slumped over against the wall and fumbled for a light switch, using a brass sconce for a head rest. Her fingers soon found a switch. Unfortunately, it was the switch for the sconce.

By the time the dancing dots had faded, Leigh was alert. She remembered her mission and looked down. The hardwood floor seemed an unlikely place—it would be too easy to clean. The other upstairs doors were closed. She padded down the front staircase and flipped on the light in the entry hall.

Not on the Persian rug. Anywhere but the Persian rug.

Experience led her to the room with the densest concentration of fine fabrics—the parlor. The cat was there, of course, resting comfortably on one of the antique wingbacks. Leigh resisted the urge to throttle her. "All right, girl. Give me a hint. I'm really not in the mood for this."

Mao Tse, a large black Persian with an imperial attitude, turned up what little nose she had and stared blankly.

Leigh's eyes scoured the rug, the furniture, the pillows.
Nothing. Good girl
. She moved into the dining room and turned on the chandelier. The floor was clear. Perhaps the cat had settled for linoleum after all? The hope faded as her eyes traveled upward.

Fabulous.

Right in the middle of the handmade tablecloth.

Spouting curses, Leigh shuffled off to clean up. Two swinging doors led her to the large kitchen, dimly visible by moonlight. She sighed. She hadn't a clue where her cousin kept anything. With Cara's sense of organization, the paper towels would probably be next to the dill weed. Once again her fingers fumbled for a light switch. Nothing.

After a few more moments of grumbling, she found a set of switches by the back door, and flipped one. The outdoors turned bright as day. Squinting through the back window, she counted no fewer than six stadium-sized spots trained on the patio. Her brow wrinkled. Sure, the patio had a nice view of the Ohio River, but weren't six lights a bit excessive? Perhaps she shouldn't be surprised—most everything about her cousin was excessive.

Leigh was about to turn away when she noticed movement. It happened quickly, but she could just see the back of a head and shoulders—a person standing on the bluff below the level of the patio. One second the figure was there, the next it was gone. She shook her head and blinked her eyes. There was nothing more to see.

Her heart beat fast. She wasn't into bravery, but she did try to avoid panic. Panic could be terribly embarrassing. She took a deep breath and tried to think of legitimate, nonthreatening reasons why someone would be wandering around her cousin's back yard in the middle of the night. It took a while, but eventually her creativity won out. Someone had been walking down the Boulevard and cut through Cara's yard to see the river.
No problem
. She smiled. Sure, Pittsburgh’s borough of Avalon had its share of wacky residents, but most of them were harmless. The doors were locked and the security system was on. Hysterics were not called for. Neither was waking up Cara in the middle of the night.

Promising herself she would get butch and check out the back yard in the daylight, Leigh found the paper towels (next to the pancake mix) and headed back to the dining room. She tore off a few sheets and began sopping up the mess.

Damnable cat.

Mao Tse appeared in the doorway to the parlor, stretched her front paws gingerly,

and let loose with a dignified yawn. Leigh wanted to throw the roll of paper towels, but her conscience forbade it. She couldn't be too hard on the beast. After all, she had missed the embroidered trim.

 

***

 

Leigh walked into the breakfast nook the next morning feeling less than vital. The ecstatic chirping of her finches, who were enjoying the morning sunshine from their cage in the bay window, only vexed her. Cara sat at the table looking bright-eyed and energetic, savoring a pastry with the morning paper. Leigh groaned. "I'm glad somebody got a good night's sleep. Hey, aren't pregnant women supposed to eat healthy? You keep this kind of food in the house and I'll gain more weight than you will."

Cara, seven months along and still leaner than Leigh would ever be, smiled cheerfully and held out the bakery box. "Consider it a special occasion—your first breakfast in the March house. Eat. I got cake donuts."

"Maggie Mae's Bakery?"

Cara nodded.

"You know me too well," Leigh sighed. "I can't fight you and Maggie Mae both." She pulled out a chocolate-frosted and sat down. Moving in with Cara temporarily had seemed like a good idea. With Gil March off globetrotting and the baby's due date fast approaching, Leigh's normally independent cousin had had a sudden yearning for companionship. Leigh, after spotting a family of roaches under her apartment sink, had had a sudden yearning to move out before her lease expired. Unfortunately, the night's events made her wonder how long her menagerie could coexist with antique furniture and parquet floors. "Um... Cara, about the tablecloth..."

Cara dismissed the subject with a wave of her hand. "No problem. I've already got it soaking in Woolite."

Her generosity only made Leigh feel worse. "You shouldn't have done that. She's my cat and we're your guests. I'll clean up after her." On cue, the cat strolled into the breakfast nook, contentedly licking her lips. Leigh knew what that meant. "You shouldn't have to feed her either, Cara, even if you are up first."

"I didn't have much choice," Cara laughed, reaching for another pastry. "She was driving me nuts meowing and pawing up my legs. I haven't had my shins attacked like that since Tiger Lily."

Leigh smiled at the reference to their shared childhood pet. She and Cara had grown up like sisters, but since high school graduation, they'd seen very little of one another.

Cara stretched out a toe and stroked Mao Tse's shaggy back. "You didn't sleep well?"

Leigh started slightly, her eyes drawn over Cara's shoulder to the window. "The bed was heavenly," she answered, "but Mao Tse kept me up. You didn't—hear anything, did you?"

"I heard you moving around, but don't worry, it didn't bother me."

Leigh got up and walked over to the big bay window.

Cara's house, perched on top of the high northern bluff of the Ohio, stood a few miles downstream from the river's birth at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers—known to Pittsburghers as "The Point." The Victorian had once stood in good company along the old brick River Road, but time and progress had been its enemy. When River Road was replaced by the busy Ohio River Boulevard, the bluff houses were cut off from the rest of Avalon and rezoned commercial. Most either fell into disrepair or just plain fell, but this one had been stubborn. It had also been lucky—Cara had wanted to fix it up and live in it ever since she was a child. And what Cara wanted, Cara generally got.

Leigh looked out the window to the East, where she could just see a sliver of brown water flowing lazily from the point. Carefully placed trees obscured the view across the river to Neville Island, whose looming smokestacks were a dead ringer for those in Dr. Seuss'
The Lorax
. She walked into the kitchen and opened the back door, sniffing tentatively.

Although the Pittsburgh air was practically sterile compared to the glory days of the steel industry, the blue-collar borough of Avalon could not escape an occasional foul blast from Neville Island. This morning, thankfully, the breeze was from the East. It was, in fact, a perfect warm August morning. Leigh allowed herself a deep breath. Had she really seen someone outside, so close to the house? A gray pigeon flapped down from above and landed on a patio chair. Nothing appeared amiss. Nevertheless, last night's trespassing nagged at her.

"That pigeon is aiming right for your loveseat," she called to Cara, " I'll go out and manhandle him." She walked out the back door and closed it quietly behind her.

Cara, used to such inane comments, returned to the morning paper.

Leigh stepped out onto the concrete patio, looking down at the intricate swirling pattern on its shiny new surface. The old Victorian seemed more of a plaything than a home. Gil's high-profile consulting work had provided plenty of cash to fix it up, but little time to enjoy it. And because nothing short of advanced pregnancy could keep Cara from tagging along with her husband, the house had, up until the last month, been little more than a weekend hideaway.

Walking purposefully around the expensive patio furniture, Leigh tried to remember if everything was in the same place it had been the night before. She came within two feet of the pigeon, which didn't seem to notice her.

Take a number, beakface
.

If the furniture had been moved, she couldn't tell. Remembering where she had seen the figure, she crossed to the patio's edge. Had he been standing on the steps to the terrace?

Beyond the patio, the yard dropped off suddenly in its descent to the railroad tracks and river below. Trees and thick undergrowth blanketed the lower portion of the slope, but the upper part had been cleared to make the river visible. Jutting out from the hillside below the patio was a narrow terrace, just wide enough for a hammock with a tree-top view. Leigh leaned over the short stone wall that bordered the upper yard and glanced down. She would say she didn't jump. But she did.

BOOK: Never Buried: A Leigh Koslow Mystery
8.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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