Slaying is Such Sweet Sorrow

A Far Wychwood Mystery

LIST PRICE $21.99
About The Book

File "M" for Murder

Librarian and former New Yorker Catherine Penny has already sleuthed out the truth behind a deadly house fire since settling in the tiny English town of Far Wychwood. But nowhere is too far for painful memories to find her when her ex-husband, who left her single in her sixties, arrives with his new lady love to attend a family affair. Catherine can't avoid him at the awards ceremony honoring their son-in-law, Peter, who is a shoo-in for a prestigious appointment at Oxford's Mercy College. But the shock of Peter not being chosen is matched only by who is: pompous, womanizing scholar Edgar Stone. And when Stone is found murdered, Peter's guilt seems hardly academic....

Patricia Harwin, who introduced a "charming, compassionate" (The New Mystery Reader) heroine in Arson and Old Lace, shows once again why an American woman in an English town can unearth a whole lot of trouble.

Excerpt
Chapter One

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part.

Nay, I have done, you get no more of me,

And I am glad, yea, glad with all my heart,

That thus so cleanly I myself can free.

Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows,

And when we meet at any time again,

Be it not seen in either of our brows

That we one jot of former love retain.


-- Michael Drayton

It was no use lying to myself, the baby was not in the house. I had searched every nook a sixteen-month-old boy could fit in, and Rowan Cottage had far more nooks than most houses. He was gone.

And it was my fault. What kind of grandmother leaves a toddler sleeping on the sofa and goes out to dig a damn perennial border, just because a sunny April day is a rarity in England? Although Archie had never shown any ability to reach, let alone turn, a doorknob, I knew how determined he was to figure things out. Emily was right, I wasn't fit to watch him. This time she would cut us apart.

When I had moved to this Gloucestershire village almost two months before, the plan had been for me to take care of him almost every day while my daughter practiced psychotherapy at the hospital in Oxford. But when I unwittingly put him in mortal danger not once, but twice, she had revised it to a visit or two a week. Not that I'd ever intended to put him in harm's way, but Archie, at barely a year and a half, and I, at sixty, were so alike in our impulsiveness -- our need to pull back veils had caused us to stumble through one where a murderer waited.

I went to the front door and grabbed hold of the lintel, weak with apprehension, looking out at the one road through Far Wychwood, a two-lane that connected with a main route to Oxford a mile beyond the village. People went down our little road pretty fast, although there was a four-lane several miles away that got most of the traffic.

The scruffy black cat that had adopted me peered around the door of the potting shed by the stone wall. It was his favorite place of refuge when Archie visited, though I had also known him to simply disappear for days. He was so easily spooked that I hadn't yet been permitted to touch him. I had no doubt he deeply resented that I gained his trust with tuna fish and then brought in a toddler on him.

"Where's he gone, Muzzle?" I murmured.

That ridiculous name was the one he had come with, given by the old man who had lived across the road when I first moved to Far Wychwood, the only person the cat had ever completely trusted. I glanced over at the piece of ground where his cottage had stood, just an empty rectangle of tall weeds under the April sun. The ruins of the burned-out building had been cleanly removed, as if George Crocker's long life there had never been. "Muzzle" was the old man's country pronunciation of "mouse hole," the cat's field of operations in that ancient cottage.

I stepped out into my front garden, and he came toward me warily, tail in the air. The scar on my right arm throbbed dully as the sight of the old man's property raised subconscious memories of the day I'd been caught in the blaze that destroyed the cottage.

A few seconds later a shock went through my whole body at a screech of brakes and a shout off to my right. I ran into the road, my heart knocking the breath out of my chest, knowing what I would see.

A tiny shape lay unmoving on the shoulder of the road by the waist-high stone wall in front of the old village schoolhouse. I knew it was Archie by the overalls and the ringlets of yellow hair, and despair slumped like a sinkhole into my brain.

Running toward him, I was vaguely aware of some kind of car sitting slantwise across the road and a male figure with something red about him, standing there looking down at Archie.

I stopped a few feet from the man and screamed, "Stupid, stupid -- Couldn't slow down, could you? You've killed my baby!"

"No, no, I didn't, I swear!" he stuttered. "I didn't hit him, he fell -- "

I sank to my knees beside Archie. His quicksilver presence, incessantly searching and questioning, seemed utterly stilled. He was sprawled on his stomach with his blue eyes closed, his soft pink lips open, even the curls seeming to lie lifeless against his head. My faithless husband, my brilliant Emily -- it seemed to me at that moment I'd never loved them or anyone except this child lying like a piece of refuse beside the road.

I heard the man babbling on, "I was driving along, at the speed limit, I assure you, and I saw the little boy standing on the wall there, and then as I reached it I saw him lose balance and fall. He hit his head against that large rock, do you see? I stopped to help him..."

Then, incredibly, Archie made a little moaning sound and turned on his side. His features puckered into a frown, his eyes still shut.

Relief flooded through me. The man exclaimed, "There, he's not -- He's knocked himself out, that's all! Best to take him round to your local GP. Let me carry him for you."

"There's no doctor here anymore," I answered breathlessly. "The one we had's been gone ever since the murder."

"Murder?" he repeated, startled.

"But somebody has to examine him," I went on. "Look where his poor little head's starting to swell, behind his ear. Concussion, it must be, oh, Archie, oh, God -- "

"Oxford's less than half an hour away," he said. "We'll take him to the main hospital." He slipped his arms under Archie and lifted him from the ground. "If you'll just hold the door," he began, stepping toward his car. I scrambled up and jerked the passenger-side door open. "No, best let him lie on the rear seat -- " he began, but I broke in.

"I'm going to hold him, don't try to stop me."

"Very well, get in and I'll give him to you." We accomplished this, and I sat cradling Archie while the man got in beside us and started the car. He glanced over and said reassuringly, "There, his color's coming back, isn't it?"

"Just drive!" I snapped.

But as we headed through the village I had to admit that Archie's cheeks were pinker now, and he had started making mewing noises, scowling, closing his fingers around the bottom of my cardigan. After a few minutes he tried to sit up, pulling on the sweater. His eyes popped open as he got nearly vertical. He grabbed the right side of his head, where the swelling was increasing rapidly, stared at me indignantly, and said, "Ow!"

"Just be quiet, baby," I said. "I know it hurts, but we're going to make it all better."

His face scrunched up and he wept in soft whimpers, knowing another outcry would hurt just as that one had.

My panic had begun to subside and now I felt sorry for my rudeness. It hadn't, after all, been the man's fault. I glanced at him for the first time. He was, at a guess, in his early twenties, thin and lanky, dressed in jeans and a red sweater under a tweed jacket. His straight brown hair kept flopping over his forehead, so he had to push it back every few minutes. If I were his mother I'd make him get a decent haircut, I thought fleetingly.

"Sorry," I said. "I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions, but I tend to do that."

"Not at all," he said with that embarrassed air the English get when accepting an apology. "Quite understandable. I'm Tom Ivey," he added shyly.

"Catherine Penny. And Archie Tyler." I nodded toward my grandson.

"Oh, I say, is that who -- " His amiable young face was filled with amazement. "Peter Tyler's son! Of course, and you're the American mother-in-law. Peter has often mentioned you, said you lived in Far Wychwood, but somehow I never connected -- I'm Peter's colleague, well, that's to say, I'm only a postgraduate student, a junior research fellow, while Peter of course is a lecturer and, we're all sure, will be named to the headship tonight, as our current head's retiring at the end of this term. If anyone at Mercy College would be an excellent head of faculty, he would. And of course you'll be there to see the presentation, I mean to say, I'm sure the little chap will be completely recovered well beforehand -- "

"I'm not going," I said brusquely. "Can't you drive any faster, Mr. Ivey?"

"Call me Tom. 'I hold he loves me best that calls me Tom.' Sorry, couldn't resist, that's from Thomas Heywood, one of the minor Elizabethans. But you probably don't know of him. Frightfully irritating habit we all have, coming up with these quotations, but our heads are simply stuffed with them. Did you say you're not coming to the ceremony? Oh, do reconsider. Peter thinks the world and all of you, he'll be -- "

"Before you go any further, I'm telling you I won't be at the ceremony, and before you ask why, I'll tell you it's nothing to do with Peter, who I'm crazy about. I'd have to be in the same room with my ex-husband, Emily's father, and his -- dolly-bird, isn't that the expression? The woman he left me for a year and a half ago, in America. They're visiting Peter and Emily for a couple of weeks, and I'm not going near Oxford during that time, not for anything. Well, except an emergency, like this."

"Oh, I do apologize for prying," he said, in an agony of embarrassment. "Peter hadn't told me -- I didn't mean -- " He fell silent.

We were soon climbing a steep hill to the enormous white rectangle of John Radcliffe Hospital, in the suburbs of Oxford. Then down a driveway to a door labeled ACCIDENT AND EMERGENCY. Inside, about half a dozen people in various stages of misery occupied a row of uncomfortable chairs in a narrow hallway near the reception desk.

"Yes, may I help you, Madame?" inquired a young black woman behind the desk, in a crisp Oxbridge accent.

"The baby fell and hit his head on a rock," I told her breathlessly. "He's got a big swollen place on the side of his head there -- "

"He's on our records, is he?" she asked, turning to her computer.

"Yes, Archie Tyler. Can't somebody see him right now?" I begged. "Just look at that swelling!"

"Must follow proper procedure, mustn't we?" she said coolly, typing.

Another woman, dressed in nurse white, came through a set of swinging double doors, consulted the list of names, and shouted, "Thatcher!" An old man got up and limped after her through the doors.

"While you wait," Tom Ivey said behind me, "mightn't I ring Peter up and let him know what's happened? He said he'd be at home today."

I nodded distractedly, and he set off for a bank of phones down the hall.

"Do you know Emily Tyler?" I asked the guardian of the gates. "She's on the psychiatric staff here."

She smiled for the first time. "Oh, I know Emily very well indeed."

"Well, this is her boy. She should be here this afternoon, seeing a private patient. I've really got to go and tell her about this."

"You'd be best advised to remain here, Madame," she replied. "They might call you and you'd miss your turn. But I'll ring her consultation room if you like."

"No, no, I have to see her face-to-face to explain how I let it happen. Somebody else told her the last time, and it was awful."

"Very well. You can take any of the chairs in the corridor."

I gave up and carried Archie to a chair. During the ten or fifteen minutes we waited, his weeping subsided and he succeeded first in sitting up, then in scrambling to the floor, uttering an absentminded "Ow!" every few minutes. When he crawled down the line of chairs to start untying the shoes of a woman too sunk in discomfort to notice, I dragged him back.

"Feeling better, I'd wager!" said Tom, beside us again, and I had to admit the boy was recovering at a rate I'd never expected when I'd seen him lying by the road.

When my name was finally called the nurse took Archie from me, assuring me firmly that I'd be allowed in after the doctor had finished his examination. So I went back to the reception desk and got the directions I needed, took the stairs to the next level two at a time, and burst into my daughter's consulting room. She was sitting in a leather wing chair, dressed severely, as she always was at work, in a plain black pantsuit with her long blonde hair pulled tightly back in a chignon, horn-rimmed glasses perched on her nose. Despite her best efforts, she still looked like a teenager, although she was a licensed psychotherapist as well as a wife and mother.

My lingering apprehension must have showed, because as soon as she saw me she jumped up from the chair and her face went white.

"Oh, God, what's happened to him now?" she cried.

There was another woman in the room, sitting opposite Emily, but I hardly noticed her as I stuttered out an account of the accident.

"Now, it's okay!" I finished. "He's conscious, he's crawling around and causing trouble already. And the swelling will go down, I'm sure, bad as it looks -- "

Emily was already headed for the door. The other woman came after her, protesting in a voice stretched taut as a bowstring, "You can't leave me now. You can't draw those terrible memories out of me and then just walk out on me!"

Emily turned to her for a second. "We will reschedule, Mrs. Stone," she said shortly. "It's my child!"

"What about my child?" the woman called after her as Emily went out the door. Her curiously deep voice broke with desperation. She grabbed my sleeve and stopped me as I hurried past her. I saw now that she was tall, thin, with jet-black hair piled on top of her head in a messy bun, and piercing dark eyes that held me almost as irresistibly as her fingers.

"He killed my child," she said. "That's what she has to help me deal with. He killed Simon! And I think he's planning to kill me too..."

A shiver went down my spine. I had never encountered any of Emily's patients before, and of course she never talked about them. This woman was speaking to me from another realm of consciousness, one I hoped I would never understand. I pulled loose and hurried down the stairs after Emily.

We went down a hallway, like the rest of the hospital all gray linoleum and white walls in need of repainting, and into a windowless cubicle furnished with an examining table, a sink, and a metal cabinet with lots of shallow drawers. Archie was on his feet now, a stethoscope hanging around his neck, pulling open one drawer after another and exploring among the sharp instruments inside. A young man in a white coat was trying frantically to pull him away from the cabinet, but Archie was small enough to dodge him and, obviously, well enough to enjoy the game.

Emily approached from behind and swiped him up before he saw her. She looked him over and gasped at the swelling behind his ear.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Tyler," the doctor said, lifting his stethoscope off Archie.

"Dr. Barnes," she said with a distracted nod.

"I don't see any sign of concussion," he told her. "Young children easily develop these startling swellings, but they recede quickly. I think you're quite safe taking him home now. In fact, as quickly as possible."

People were suddenly crowding through the door behind us, filling the little room. I turned and saw Tom first with my son-in-law, Peter, beside him. Rose, Archie's young nanny, trailed behind them, and then I caught a glimpse of the man I had loved and trusted for thirty years. A curving, green blur was now attached to his left side, and that was all I wanted to see of the woman who had broken up my marriage. I quickly fixed my eyes on the far wall. I had never seen her, didn't even know her name. Emily and I always referred to her as "Barbie," knowing she had to be the kind of sexpot the dolls were modeled on.

Archie leaned out from his mother's arms and enumerated, "Papa-Danda-Zanny-Vofe!" He pointed at Tom and said, "Dat?"

Rose ran over to embrace him, tears running down her cheeks. He ignored her, still pointing at Tom and demanding, "Dat? Dat?" until Tom realized what was needed and said, "Oh -- Tom."

"Ta," said Archie with satisfaction.

He started squirming, trying to get down from Emily's arms. Her father stepped over and took him, raising him way up over his head. Archie shrieked with delight, Emily gave a strangled cry, and I yelled, "What do you think you're doing, he's got a head injury!"

Shock and anger forced my eyes to Quin, although I'd sworn I would never look at him again. There was the same cocky grin I knew so well, the thick, wavy hair, not yet all gray like mine, but grayer than the last time I'd seen him, the sharp blue eyes that met mine with an expression I'd never seen in them before, like a challenge he wasn't sure that he could carry off or that I would meet. He lowered the baby against his chest.

"Calm down, Kit," he said quietly. "He's okay. When Emily hit her head on that swing it swelled up just as big and it went away within an hour. Remember?"

That damned overconfident grin, the nerve of that demand that I share a memory with him, and, most of all, that blur of green attached to his side, filled me with poisonous vapors that threatened to explode and take the whole room out, until I released it in a voice that betrayed me by cracking: "Shut up!" I shrilled.

"Shup!" Archie echoed with delight.

"Archie!" Emily cried. "No, no, nice little boys don't tell people to shut up." She glanced at me indignantly.

The doctor, obviously anxious to be rid of the lot of us, broke in, "As I was saying, it will be quite safe to take him home so long as he's watched for signs of concussion. Those would be excessive drowsiness, confusion -- "

"That's ridiculous," I interrupted, driven into a fury at everybody, myself included. "You haven't had him x-rayed for a fractured skull, and something has to be done about that swelling! How can you say people with no medical training can recognize symptoms of concussion? He needs to be here, with proper medical supervision!"

"I assure you, this child does not have a fractured skull," the doctor said with growing annoyance. "He is anything but lethargic." He gestured toward Archie, now bouncing up and down in Quin's arms, chortling, "Shup! Shup!"

"He shows no sign of dizziness or disorientation, his pupils are normal -- in short, he doesn't require an X-ray and, as we do have other patients waiting to be seen, I feel quite confident in releasing him."

"What are you, an intern?" I demanded. "I want him evaluated by a specialist."

"Come along, Catherine," said Peter, obviously embarrassed. "You're making too much of a bit of a bump. I'm sure we can trust the doctor's diagnosis."

"Yes, Mother," Emily said. "He is our child after all, and if Peter and I are satisfied that he's not seriously hurt, that's an end to it."

"We'll be with him till it's time to go to Peter's award ceremony," Quin had to put in, "and we'll watch him all the time. And of course little Rosie will call us if there's any problem later." Rose, standing across from me, blushed and smiled shyly. "You can even come back with us, Kit, and help us watch him. How about that?"

I hadn't thought the level of anger inside me could rise any higher, but now I felt the way Krakatoa must have just before it leveled Sumatra.

I shouted, "Don't you tell me what I can do! And don't call me Kit!"

"Mother, stop it!" Emily commanded.

"I really must ask you to take your discussion to some other area," the doctor said stiffly, "as this room is needed. And should you require a consultant -- "

Blundering out the door, I heard Emily saying earnestly, "Certainly not, Dr. Barnes, and do let me apologize -- "

The woman who had been with Emily upstairs was now standing beside the reception desk, tearing a tissue to shreds as she watched the door to the examining rooms. Her hair had come loose and was falling around her face. Her black eyes kindled, looking over my shoulder, and then I heard Emily again, her voice soft and steady: "Have you been waiting all this time, Mrs. Stone? Everything's all right, we'll be able to finish our session after all."

She came around me and took the woman's arm, deftly removing the shreds of tissue from her hands and putting them on the desk. Mrs. Stone's tense face relaxed, and she clutched Emily's hand as if it were a lifeline. They moved toward the doors.

"Mrs. Tyler is such an excellent therapist," the young black woman said to me, and a smile again softened her ultracompetent manner. "She has a real gift for coping with disturbed patients. But of course you know that."

I hadn't known. Her profession had always been a bone of contention between Emily and me. I believed neurosis was just another name for self-indulgence, that a no-nonsense attitude and plenty of outdoor exercise were of far more use than complaining to a psychologist. But it was good to hear that people who worked with her thought she had "a real gift."

"Now," I heard Peter say softly, "you've got it over with, you've seen and dealt with him, so you'll be able to come to the presentation of the headship tonight, won't you?"

I turned and saw him looking down at me with genuine eagerness in his intelligent brown eyes. He was a tall, angular young man, rather good-looking once you got past his scholarly stoop and self-effacing manner. I had always been fond of him, and I was touched to see that he really did want me there at his big moment.

"Oh, Peter." I sighed. "Are you sure you want to take the chance of another scene like that one? I knew if I was forced to be in the same room with them, I'd behave badly."

"You'll not need to go anywhere near them," he assured me. "There will be nine people there besides you and them. Please say you'll come. It means a lot to me."

How could I refuse that? It was true, the first encounter had to have been the worst. I vowed silently that I'd stay on the other side of the room and prove to everybody that I could control my emotions.

Tom Ivey drove me home, chattering nervously, glancing over occasionally to be sure I was not going to burst into another temper tantrum.

"I am glad you've agreed to come tonight," he said as we pulled out of the hospital's parking lot. "I'll be able to introduce you to Gemma, my -- my fiancée, even if just now things have been rather put on hold. She'll come to her senses, of course. She's also a junior fellow at Mercy. We've both worked with Peter, although of course Edgar Stone ultimately heads the area the three of us work in." He was frowning now, and his hands had tightened on the wheel.

"Stone? Wasn't that the name of that woman Emily was treating?"

"Ah, yes, she's his wife. Everyone at the college feels most awfully sorry for her -- everyone except for her husband, that is." His scowl deepened. "He's a cruel bugger, always doing the poor woman down. There" -- he pointed at the windshield -- "we're about to pass their house."

I saw a two-story brick house, much like the others on the street leading out of Oxford, except that it was the only one with a tiny front yard encircled by an iron fence about the height of the average man. All the blinds were drawn too, creating a generally unwelcoming effect.

"So you and Peter work for this Edgar Stone?" I asked. "I didn't know they had that kind of working relationship at Oxford."

"Well, as I'm sure you know, we're part of Mercy College's staff for 'Elizabethan Dramatists Other than Shakespeare,' " he said, with a self-deprecatory laugh. "A small, select faculty, as one might say. Edgar Stone is something of an authority on an author called John Ford. Very rum fellow, Ford, and exactly right for Edgar -- his plays are full of women driven mad by sadistic men," he finished bitterly.

"I knew Peter's specialty was Elizabethan authors," I said as we swung onto the four-lane road that led to Far Wychwood. "He sent me copies of the reviews for that book he published last year, from the Times Literary Supplement and half a dozen other illustrious places. I got the impression it made quite a splash."

"Oh, absolutely! The Heroic Villain was the book of the year in academic circles. It's the reason Peter is sure to get that full professorship tonight. He's the only one of our faculty who's published anything at all noteworthy in the past decade. Apart from myself and Gemma, who are really still apprentices, in a manner of speaking, the rest of our little group are in the sere, the yellow leaf, as the Other Fellow says -- middle-aged, I mean," he amended with another little expiatory laugh.

" 'The Other Fellow?' "

"Oh, that's our name for Will Shakespeare. Bit of a joke, you know."

"And though Peter's made such a name for himself, he's still considered a sort of employee of this Edgar Stone fellow?"

"Well, I shouldn't put it quite like that. Makes us sound a bit like tradesmen," he said with guileless snobbery. "You see, in order of Oxford rank, we junior fellows, who are not yet through our course of studies, are hoping for eventual promotion to lecturer, a permanent teaching position. Eventually a lecturer can become a reader, with less teaching to do and more chance to concentrate on one's own research. That's the highest position most dons achieve. Only the most accomplished are appointed full professor."

"But Peter can become head of the department without being a full professor first?"

"Oh, quite. It's up to the current chair to make that decision. At present, Peter is a lecturer, so he, as well as Gemma and I, are rather expected to help one of the readers like Stone with research and the like. The other two readers on our faculty are pretty somnolent, haven't published for years, while Peter's already made a name for himself. Well, Edgar Stone is involved in this long-term project trying to prove that his chum Ford had a hand in the Other Fellow's Titus Andronicus. But between you and me, the rest of us think it's what I believe you Americans call a 'boondoggle' -- just a way for Edgar to claim he's still working!"

We were turning off the main road, onto the two-lane that led through Far Wychwood. I felt a surge of happiness every time I came home to my village. I had lived in New York City for over thirty years and loved it, but I had never had the sense of belonging on its streets that I had among these ancient cottages of golden stone and gray tile, the dark forest of giant beeches and oaks that gave the place its name, the fields stretching out on all sides in countless shades of spring green, and the little group of friends gathered in front of my gate with anxious faces as Tom's car drew up.

"Ah, your friends have turned out," he said with a smile. "And there's my father coming to join them."

Beyond the little group of women I saw a lean, white-haired man hurrying along the road from Church Lane, his black cassock fluttering in the breeze.

"Your father -- oh, of course, Ivey!" I exclaimed. "Talk about not making connections -- you're the new vicar's son!"

"Yes, that's why I was here this afternoon -- filial visit, you know."

He waved to the old man as I got out of the car, then drove off toward the Oxford road as my friends gathered around me with questions about Archie's condition. I hadn't seen anyone around when the accident had happened, but by now I knew the mysterious way news travels in a small village.

"He seems all right," I told them, "the intern who examined him thought so, anyway. I'd rather have had a specialist, but I was outvoted." I was still a little sore about that.

"What sort of person examined him?" asked Alice White, a fluttery silver-haired lady dressed in her usual lacy dress with gloves and hat. " 'Intern' -- that doesn't sound like a proper doctor!"

"I believe it is the American term for a houseman," the new vicar said breathlessly as he reached us, "one taking medical training in hospital."

"Well," said my best friend, Fiona Bennett, "I'd not worry about it anymore, my dear. Emily and Peter are the last people to take any chances with that baby. Come along down to my house and we'll have a nice strong cup of tea to settle your nerves."

She was a plump, earthy woman who, like me, was amazed to be entering upon her sixties. She had lovely blue eyes and gray hair in a pair of braids wrapped round her head. She and her husband, John, a detective sergeant in the Thames Valley police, had moved right into my life like the oldest of friends during my first days in the village.

"Oh, I wish I could," I answered. "But I have to go to this party tonight, where Peter is supposed to be awarded a headship. I agreed in a weak moment, and now I can't get out of it."

"Ah, your son-in-law is to be made head?" the vicar exclaimed. "How gratifying! I read The Hero Villain last winter in one sitting, really quite thrilling, I could not put it down."

I couldn't help smiling at him, his pale blue eyes alight with scholarly excitement. He was so much the idea I had always had of a rural English vicar, it was almost funny. Our previous vicar had been a loudmouthed young modernist, detested by the entire village. When he was gone, after the murder, we had expected something as bad if not worse, but miraculously we got the Reverend Henry Ivey, a gentle and studious septuagenarian, and such a traditionalist in liturgical matters that some of the villagers muttered about "popishness."

"Well," said the remaining member of the group, our shopkeeper-postmistress, Enid Cobb, "I got the best thing for a blow to the head, Hawkins' Bruisin' Compound, only eighty p the bottle. I'd wager they don't know about it at that hospital. If you really want to help the little feller, you might come by the shop on your way out."

I thanked her without committing myself, and she sniffed, giving me a knowing look from her small, squinted eyes.

The sun was getting low, and I knew I needed a shower and maybe a bite to eat before heading back to Oxford. When they had left I opened the gate and went up the worn brick path. The rose vine that climbed beside the door was green now, and I stopped to check for buds among the leaves. Surely there would be some soon, and I felt certain they would be the old-fashioned, cabbagey kind, with that strong, sensuous perfume.

If only I could stay home, have a peaceful evening with my music and books as the the antique mantel clock chimed off the hours -- instead of trying to make conversation with people far more intellectual than I was, and to control my temper in the presence of a pair of people I hated!

I caught sight of Muzzle, almost concealed in the uncut spring grass, just outside his favorite refuge. He must have been watching to see if Archie was still around before he ventured into the house.

"Oh, Muzzle." I sighed. "I wish I could hide in the potting shed too!"

Copyright © 2005 by Patricia Harwin
About The Author
Photo Credit:

PATRICIA HARWIN is the author of the national bestseller Arson and Old Lace, the first novel in her acclaimed Far Wychwood mystery series. Like her heroine Catherine Penny, she is a librarian. She lives with her husband in Rockville, Maryland, where she is hard at work on the next Far Wychwood mystery.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (November 2010)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451628128

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