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) (7 page)

BOOK: Wicked Ways: Death at the DuMond (A Cozy Witch Mystery Book 1)
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“Isabella, I don’t think you killed her,” I said, trying to comfort her.

“I have no way to prove I’m innocent.”

“You don’t have to. We just have to prove who’s guilty.”

Isabella looked up at me with her weepy green eyes.

“Are you willing to help me?” I asked.

She nodded.

“With access to everyone’s apartment, I bet you see a lot of things.”

“You have no idea,” she said. “Most people ignore the help. It’s like we’re invisible. Like we don’t matter. So, people don’t seem to hide anything from us. I think I know almost everyone’s dirty little secret.”

“What’s my dirty little secret?” I asked.

“I’d rather not say.”

“That sounds intriguing,” I said. “Now you have to tell me.”

“I don’t want to offend you. Besides, shouldn’t we be focusing on finding the real killer?”

“You’re right, we should.”

“And how do I know that you didn’t kill her?” Isabella asked.

“I guess we’re going to have to trust each other.”

“That’s not something I’m good at. But I’ll give it a try,” Isabella said. 

“Speaking of little secrets, what was your relationship to Mr. DuMond?” 

Isabella’s eyes widened. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything?”

“It’s not like you’re on trial here,” I said.

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Okay, but you know what people say?”

“No, what do people say?”

“That you two were having an affair.” 

Isabella gasped. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Why?”

“Because.” Isabella burst into tears. “Mr. DuMond was my father.”

My jaw dropped. Her words hung in the air as she sobbed.

“How is that possible?”

“Do I need to teach you about the birds and the bees?” Isabella said. “Mr. DuMond had an affair with my mother 25 years ago.”

“And you’re sure about this?”

“Yes, I’m sure about this.”

“Can you prove it?” I asked.

“My mother told me about it right before she died. That’s all the proof I need.”

“Did Mr. DuMond know about this?”

 “Yes, how do you think I got the job here? Why do you think he paid me so much? Why do you think I got my rent for free?”

I was dumbfounded. “Did Mrs. DuMond know?”

“Yes. That’s why she hated me. She wouldn’t let Mr. DuMond acknowledge me. Said it would bring disgrace to his name. She said I was just trying to scam him.”

“Does anyone else know about this?”

Isabella shook her head, no. She was still sobbing. “When Mrs. DuMond cut my pay and said I’d have to start paying rent or get out, I was furious,” she said. “I’m not going to lie. In that moment, I wanted to kill her.”

Isabella grabbed a tissue from the coffee table and blew her nose. Her eyes were puffy and her nose was red. “I would never have actually done it,” she said. “You have to believe that. But let’s just say I’m not terribly upset that she’s dead.”

CHAPTER 10

I FELT LIKE what I was doing was wrong. But it had to be done. Rummaging through Mrs. DuMond's underwear drawer was both humorous and horrifying. I would never have figured her for leopardskin G strings. The vision of her wearing those popped in my head and I couldn’t get the sight out of my mind. Banksy raised an eyebrow when he saw those. I’m sure he was plagued with the same visions I was.

Isabella had given me a set of master keys to the building. So, at least for now, I had an all access pass. I don’t know what I was looking for in Mrs. DuMond's apartment. I was just hoping to find something that would stand out as unusual. Something that might indicate a motive, or an individual. 

Mrs. DuMond kept her apartment impeccably clean and decorative. It was quaint and homey and had a welcoming vibe. Quite a stark contrast to her exterior persona. 

On top of the dresser was a picture of Mr. DuMond. He was smiling, with rosy cheeks and a jolly twinkle in his eyes. My heart sank, and my eyes got misty. I really did miss him.

Mr. Bancroft milled about the room. I kept rummaging through the drawers. They smelled like moth balls. I found an art history book hidden among her stockings. Why would someone hide and art history book? “Banksy, come take a look at this.”

 He drifted over as I was turning through the pages. I felt his cool presence as he was looking over my shoulder. I imagine for someone unable to see ghosts, the feeling would be unnerving. Spine tingling. 

Bancroft chuckled as he looked at the pages.

“What do you make of this?” I asked.

“I find it humorous,” he said.

“Why?”

“Because I think Mrs. DuMond didn’t know a thing about art. But she always seemed to make herself out to be an expert. I think she used this book as a cheat sheet. That’s why it was hidden under her knickers.”

 I kept flipping through the pages. It was full of stunning reproductions of some of the great masterworks. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, Picasso, Kandinsky, Chagall, and more. 

“Wait, go back,” Bancroft said.

“What is it?”

“Just go back.”

 I turned a few pages.

“There,” Bancroft said, pointing. “The Picasso.”

“What about it?”

“I’ve seen it before.”

“You mean, you’ve seen it before in pictures? Or, you’ve seen it in person?”

“In person, silly,” Bancroft said. He stepped back with a smug smile. He just loved to withhold information.

“Do I need to ask where?”

“You should already know where.”

“You saw that painting in Otto’s apartment?”

Bancroft nodded.

“Do you think it could’ve been a fake?”

“I’m not an expert,” Bancroft said. “But it looked real to me. I did think it odd, though. It wasn’t on display. He had it in his closet.”

I read the description in the book. The painting was titled Le pigeon aux petit pois (The Pigeon with Green Peas). It was valued at $123 million.

“Banksy, I don’t think Mrs. DuMond was hiding this book because she was embarrassed. That painting was stolen. I think Mrs. DuMond found out about it.”

“You think Otto killed her?” 

“He’d certainly have a reason,” I said. “If I know Mrs. DuMond, I’ll bet she was blackmailing him.”

“It’s not like she needed the money,” Bancroft said.

“It was never about the money. I think she enjoyed it. Just like she enjoyed raising the rent and cutting the staff’s salary.”

 “So, you think Otto is our man?”

“He had motive, means, and opportunity,” I said.

“Just because Mrs. D had an art book doesn’t mean Otto is a killer,” Bancroft said. “You’re going to need more proof than that.”

“He had more than enough time to commit the crime. According to Charlotte and Elliot’s statement, they were in their apartment by 10pm. Charlotte and Otto had already escorted Zoe to her apartment by that time. I saw Otto in the hallway around 10:40pm. He could have easily gone to the maintenance closet, put on Jake’s shoes and coveralls. Then grabbed the wrench and done the deed in the basement.”

 “He hides the wrench where it could be found. Then goes back to the maintenance closet and deposits the shoes,” Bancroft said. “But why hang on to the coveralls? Why not leave them in the maintenance closet?”

“I don’t know. It looks more incriminating against Jake if the coveralls are found in his apartment.” 

Bancroft agreed.

The door handle to the apartment started to jiggle. Banksy and I looked at each other, curiously. Then I heard a key slip into the lock. My heart was pounding. My eyes darted about the room, looking for a place to hide. I slid under the bed just as I heard the door open.

Footsteps clattered against the hardwood floor in the living room. I couldn’t see where Bancroft had gone. It wasn’t like he needed to hide. I lay silent under the bed, below rusty mattress springs and cobwebs. 

My heart was racing, and my pulse was thumping hard in my ears. I was sure whoever was in the next room would hear. I don’t normally consider myself claustrophobic. But being squeezed underneath the mattress, with a potential killer in the next room, was freaking me out. 

My body was starting to mist over with sweat when I saw it. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t. It dangled above me with its shiny black abdomen of hate, emblazoned with a red hour glass. Its long black legs crept through the rusty springs. I stared at it in terror. The black widow spider stared back at me with multiple eyes. 

Let me be perfectly clear. I hate spiders. I’m sure that venomous spiders serve some ecological purpose. But that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I know, as a witch, you’d think I’d be okay with spiders and cobwebs. But it’s not like that at all. Modern witchcraft is not about cauldrons, summoning demons, and turning people into toads. Well, not usually.
 

I love Halloween, but it kind of gives us a bad rap. Witches aren’t green with crooked noses and unsightly warts. We don’t fly around on brooms either. Being a modern witch is about being in touch with nature, the elements, and the universe. 

But for some reason, this spider didn’t get the memo. I tried to will her to go away, but she was defiant. She just scampered around with her fangs of fury. I could hear her thoughts, and they weren’t pretty. One bite from her and I would be in a world of hurt.

 The footsteps moved from the living room into the bedroom. At this point, I was trembling with fear. I didn’t want to take my eyes off of the red hourglass. But I was desperate to see who had just entered the room. I sensed that the instant I looked away, the spider would pounce.

 I tried to calm my breathing. I tried to reassure myself that everything was going to be okay. Deep down inside, I knew it was going to end badly.

CHAPTER 11

THE FOOTSTEPS GREW closer. Soon they were clanking about the bedroom. The spider hovered above me. I kept perfectly still. 

Out of the corner of my eye I could see brown loafers and grey slacks. The loafers walked through the room to the nightstand by the bed. Inches away from me. I got a scent of the familiar musky cologne. It was Detective Gibbs.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Getting caught in Mrs. DuMond's apartment hiding under the bed wouldn’t be good. But at least Gibbs wasn’t a killer. At least, I didn’t think he was.

Gibbs fumbled about the room for a few minutes. He looked through the drawers, the closet, and the bathroom. Then he moved back into the living room. 

My close encounter with the spider had reached a tipping point. I couldn’t stay stuffed under the mattress any longer. I quietly slid out from underneath the bed. I figured it would be relatively safe, since Gibbs was in the next room. But I hit my head on the nightstand, rattling the lamp that rested upon it. Gibbs dashed back into the room with his gun drawn.

“What are you doing in here?” Gibbs asked.

“Investigating,” I said, rubbing the bump on my head.

“Breaking and entering.” Gibbs holstered his weapon.

“There was no breaking involved.”

“How did you get in?”

“I have my ways,” I said. 

Gibbs eyed me suspiciously. “Hand them over.”

“What?”

“The keys.”

I shrugged and tried to look innocent. “I don’t have any keys.”

“You’re a bad liar.  Hand them over.”

I dug into my pocket and handed Gibbs the set of master keys.

“Who’d you get these from?”

I shrugged again.

“Never mind,” Gibbs sighed.  “You can’t do illegal stuff when you’re trying to solve crimes.”

“But you’re in here rummaging around?”

“I’m a cop. You’re not. Now, get out of here.”

I reluctantly started for the door. 

“You know, I ran a background check on you,” Gibbs said. He crossed his arms and looked down his nose at me.

“And what did you find?” 

“Nothing,” he confessed.  “Try to make sure it stays that way.”

I nodded. “Oh, I think you should look into Otto.” I told Detective Gibbs about my suspicions. He rolled his eyes and thought the whole theory to be a little far-fetched.

“You want me to get a search warrant and look for a stolen painting?” Gibbs asked, mocking me. “All because someone, who’s name you won’t reveal, said they saw a Picasso in Otto’s apartment?”

I nodded.

“I’m going to need more to go on than that.”

I frowned. “What were you looking for here?”

“Just a routine check,” Gibbs said. “Charlotte reported some items stolen from her car. I thought I’d look over Mrs. DuMond's apartment again while I was here.”

“What was stolen?”

Gibbs pulled out his tiny notepad from his coat pocket. He flipped through the pages, then read from a list. “One ladies gold Rolex watch. One diamond engagement ring. $50 in cash. One smart phone.”

BOOK: Wicked Ways: Death at the DuMond (A Cozy Witch Mystery Book 1)
8.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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