Read Wicked Ways: Death at the DuMond (A Cozy Witch Mystery Book 1) Online

Authors: Ava Collins

Tags: #Thriller, #Romance, #Cozy, #Witch, #Mystery, #Paranormal

Wicked Ways: Death at the DuMond (A Cozy Witch Mystery Book 1) (2 page)

BOOK: Wicked Ways: Death at the DuMond (A Cozy Witch Mystery Book 1)
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In the apartment, Mom was sitting on the couch, writing on her laptop. She had been working on a romance novel ever since she lost her job. Newport was sitting next to her, watching TV. 

“Mrs. Abbott brought down some of her cupcakes. They’re on the counter, if you want one,” Mom said.

My eyes lit up. Mrs. Abbott’s cupcakes are sinfully good. Plush, sumptuous, and velvety smooth. It is impossible to eat just one. They are to die for. They are so good, there is a black market for them in the building. Tenants beg, borrow, and steal for Mrs. Abbott’s cupcakes. It’s well known that Mrs. Abbott only bakes cupcakes for people she likes. Which makes it painfully obvious to those deemed unworthy.

Of course, everyone wants the recipe, but she says she is taking it with her to the grave. She swears they are low calorie, low fat, low sugar. But I think she’s lying. Nothing that tastes this good can be healthy.

I’m only going to eat one, I said to myself.

“Are you going to the Holiday party?” Mom asked.

“Yes,” I mumbled, after stuffing the second cupcake in my mouth.

“Good, fill me in on all the gossip, I want to know if it’s true.”

“If what’s true?” I asked.

“You mean, I know something you don’t? That’s a first,” she said, amused, and slightly triumphant.

“Why don’t you tell me what you know, and I’ll tell you if I know about it.”

“Well, my sources say, that Roger DuMond was having an affair with Isabella Marlow.”

“The maid?” 

Mom nodded.

“But she’s like half his age,” I said. “Less than half his age.” I squinted at her, skeptically. “Where did you hear this?”

“I have my sources.”

I rolled my eyes. “That would explain Mrs. Abbott’s theory. But I’m not convinced.” I pondered this a moment while eying a third cupcake. “Did you hear this from Mrs. Abbott?”

Mom shrugged.

“Pure speculation,” I mumbled, with a mouthful of a cupcake that I told myself I wasn’t going to eat.

“Hannah, save me one,” Mom gasped.

“Sorry,” I said, sheepishly. There were just crumbs left on the tray. “I can’t help it. I swear, there is something in these.”

Mom scowled at me, playfully. So did Newport.

I did some homework for my criminology course, CJ 202,
Crime as Deviant Behavior
. Then I went down to the lobby for the Holiday party. 

Every year, Mr. DuMond threw a lavish Holiday party. Complete with a catered dinner, full bar, and Holiday carols. This year’s party, however, had a only a few hors d’oeuvres. They looked rather unappetizing, at best. And there were two cartons of box wine. Nothing near the gala event of previous years. It didn’t really surprise me that Mrs. DuMond didn’t go all out this year.  In fact, I expected there to be no food and beverages at all.

Still, everyone was in the lobby and was generally in good spirits. And speaking of spirits, Mr. Bancroft was present, taking it all in. He winked at me as I entered the lobby, as if to say the show is ready to begin.

Otto Von Hirsch, a renowned German art dealer, was blathering on to Charlotte Fox. Pontificating about the merits of various paintings hanging in the lobby. All of which he represented. It’s rumored that Otto has a Picasso in his personal collection, but I have my doubts. Otto’s unmistakable, thick German accent cascaded across the room. His voice had a self important flair. 

Otto is in his mid 50’s, always impeccably dressed, and very commanding. He has a handle bar mustache and small, round spectacles. He reminds me of an old German Kaiser.

Charlotte listened to Otto with rapt attention. Not because she has an interest in art, but rather an interest in all things expensive. Charlotte is engaged to Elliott DuMond. Roger DuMond's son from his first marriage.

Charlotte is beautiful, with sandy blonde hair and a perfect little figure.  She was a championship tennis player, known for her wicked backhand. But a knee injury derailed her career and dried up all of her sponsorship money. She was the youngest player to ever win Wimmelsdorf. You can still catch replays of her matches on the sports networks. She still has lots of fans, and I think she’s trying to make a comeback. I don’t think it’s going so well, though. At 28 years old, some are saying a comeback is impossible.

Charlotte is always very put together, dressed exclusively in designer clothes, with perfectly coordinated accessories. Her daily outfits probably cost more than what I make in a month of waiting tables at Bill’s Burgers.
 
She runs in those elite social circles where everyone’s singular focus is appearance, status, and wealth. I would think her quite out of Elliott’s league, if not for the fact that he is heir to the DuMond fortune. Tonight, she was wearing a ball gown with elbow length gloves. Honestly, she was a little over dressed for the occasion.
 

Across the room, Zoe Alexander had Elliott DuMond cornered. She was drunk, as usual, and about the pounce on Elliott. I couldn’t help but find the whole thing amusing. I wondered how long it would take Charlotte to see that Zoe was closing in on her fiancé. I glanced over to Mr. Bancroft, who shared in my anticipation.

Zoe is a gorgeous brunette, with piercing blue eyes and the body of a pinup queen. She’s exotic and exudes a certain sexuality, shall we say. She’s in her mid-30s, but I suspect she’s had some work done, so she might be a little older. Still, she’s everything most men want in a woman. At least, in the short term. And by short term, I mean, fifteen minutes. I’ve never seen Zoe sober, and this was no exception.

Elliot has brown hair, brown eyes, and a round, friendly face. He was wearing an oxford button down, navy sport jacket, and khaki pants. I like Elliott, but I don’t think he’s ever had to work a day in his life. Most of his time is spent at the country club. He’s one of those guys who thinks he’s just a little more important that he really is. Though, he’s never really accomplished anything on his own.

Elliott was visibly nervous, unsure of how to respond to Zoe’s advances. His face was flushing, and he kept shifting his weight. She’d move closer, he’d move back. 

As I was watching Elliott squirm, Isabella Marlow dashed out of the office in tears. She rushed through the lobby and out the main doors. Jake looked concerned and followed after her. Moments later, Mrs. DuMond emerged from the office, stern faced. It wasn’t unusual to see people drenched in tears after a meeting with Mrs. DuMond. 

I glanced over to Mr. Bancroft. He just shrugged.

Isabella Marlow has been the maid at the DuMond for the last several years. She is a gorgeous woman with olive skin, curly dark hair, and emerald green eyes. I’ve always thought of her as very nice and hard-working. But Mrs. DuMond seemed to turn up her nose at Isabella from the minute she arrived. Then again, Mrs. DuMond seemed to turn up her nose at just about everything. 

Mrs. DuMond did her best impression of a smile and welcomed everyone to the party. She wished everyone happy holidays.  Then proceeded to remind us that the new rents would be effective January 1st. 

She looked right at me, with a devious glint in her eye. My blood was boiling and I could feel my face heating up. I smiled back at her through gritted teeth. 

I caught sight of Mr. Bancroft exiting the lobby. He passed through a solid wall, presumably to eavesdrop on Isabella’s situation.  Mr. Bancroft has a way of acquiring vast amounts of information on a great number of people. Since no one else can see him, I’m sure the CIA would love to have Bancroft as an operative.

Not to be nosey, but I was just dying to get the full scoop from Banksy.

CHAPTER 3

WHEN I FOUND Mrs. DuMond's lifeless body, I was conflicted. I’m a little ashamed to admit my first thought wasn’t one of remorse. I would never wish anything bad on anyone. Not even Mrs. DuMond. But I did wonder if we were still going to get evicted.

During the party, I saw Jake push through the lobby doors and pull Mrs. DuMond aside. I couldn’t hear what he was saying. All the other voices were clattering away in the lobby, echoing off the marble floor. But his face was intense. Mrs. DuMond looked quite disturbed that Jake was holding onto her arm. She was leaning away from him. Her eyes were flicking back and forth between Jake’s tense face, and his firm grip on her arm. I was astonished. Mrs. DuMond seemed like the type of lady that didn’t ever like to be touched, and certainly not by a subordinate.

She jerked her arm free and then pointed toward her bureau. Jake backed down and sulked into her office like a scolded child. Mrs. DuMond composed herself and followed him. She closed the door behind her.

Mr. Bancroft strolled back into the lobby, passing through the wall. He glanced around. I was motioning with my head, trying to get him to go into the office and spy. I must have looked like a crazy person twitching and jerking.

“Are you okay?” Otto asked me, in his German accent.

“Oh, yes. I’m fine,” I said. “I went swimming earlier, and I must have gotten some water in my ear. Just trying to shake it out.”

“Rather cold for a swim, isn’t it?”

“Freezing. But it’s actually good for you. It helps boost your immune system. Or so they say.”

“Better you than me,” Otto said. “At my age, I don’t have much of an immune system to boost.”

“You look very healthy, Mr. Hirsch.”

“That is because I don’t go swimming in the middle of winter.”  He smiled and winked. I think he completely saw through my little fabrication.

Mr. Bancroft had taken my not so subtle hint to eavesdrop in the office. By this time, Charlotte had gotten territorial and was trying to fend off Zoe. Charlotte grabbed Elliott’s hand and whisked him to the other side of the lobby. 

At that point, Mrs. Abbott entered with a tray full of cupcakes. Everyone’s eyes grew wide. Conversation in the room evaporated. People drifted toward Mrs. Abbott like satellites falling out of orbit.

“Oh, how thoughtful,” Charlotte said, practically drooling.

“Keep your mitts off. These aren’t for you,” Mrs. Abbott snapped. 

Charlotte’s face crinkled up as Mrs. Abbott kept marching toward the office. The air was one of disappointment and disbelief. Was Mrs. Abbott really bringing cupcakes to Mrs. DuMond?

Mrs. Abbott gave a sharp knock on the door.

“I think she’s busy,” Charlotte said.

A few moments passed without the door opening. Mrs. Abbott gave another sharp knock. Suddenly, the door whipped open. Mrs. DuMond looked very un-pleased by the disturbance. “What is it?” Mrs. DuMond said. Then she saw the cupcakes. She eyed them like a pirate who found buried treasure.

“Happy Holidays, Mrs. DuMond. I baked these just for you. My special recipe,” Mrs. Abbott said.

 Mrs. DuMond looked stunned. Her cold exterior melted. “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” she said, taking the tray from Mrs. Abbott. “These look just divine. Thank you.” 

“You’re quite welcome, Mrs. DuMond. I hope you enjoy,” Mrs. Abbott said.

Mrs. DuMond stepped back into the office and set the tray on her desk. “That will be all, Jake,” she said. “I trust we understand one another?”

Jake stepped out of the office. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, through clenched teeth.

Mrs. DuMond closed the door behind him. Jake grabbed his toolbox and stormed away down the hall, toward the elevator. Everyone was a little perplexed, but quickly resumed their chatter. Mrs. Abbott was met with subtle sneers for not sharing her cupcakes. But that didn’t seem to bother her. She just smiled and marched back to her apartment. 

I mingled around the party for a little while and picked at the hors d’oeuvres. They weren’t the greatest in the world, but they were free. I made a plate for Mom and headed back up to the apartment. I looked around for Mr. Bancroft, but I didn’t see him anywhere.

On the way back, Jake was by the elevator working on the piping to the sprinkler system. He was standing at the top of a ladder. The ceilings in the lobby of the DuMond are probably sixteen feet tall.

“Hannah, can you hand me that wrench?” Jake asked, pointing to his tool box.

“Sure, which one?” I asked.

“That large, silver crescent wrench.”

I glanced down to the massive toolbox at the base of the latter. It was filled with an assortment of tools. Screwdrivers, socket wrenches, pliers, clippers, leather work gloves, power tools, and several crescent wrenches. I grabbed the largest one. It was over a foot long—and heavy. I stood on my tip toes and lifted the wrench up to him. Jake leaned down and took it from me.

“Thank you,” he said.

“My pleasure.” I smiled and watched his biceps flex as he lifted the heavy wrench. Jake was wearing a tight tank top, and his muscles glistened with a sheen of sweat. Not that I was drooling or anything. 

I pushed the call button for the elevator. While I was waiting, my curiosity got the best of me. “I hope everything is okay?”

“We’ve got a building inspection coming up. I’ve got to get this place in tiptop shape,” Jake said, working on the piping.

“No, I mean, with Mrs. DuMond.”

Jake didn’t respond.

“Isabella looked pretty upset,” I said. 

By the look on his face, Jake had a lot he wanted to say about the subject, but he bit his tongue. “Well, I’m sure Mrs. DuMond has her reasons,” Jake said. 

BOOK: Wicked Ways: Death at the DuMond (A Cozy Witch Mystery Book 1)
6.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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