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"Nothing worse than a Rocky Mountain blizzard." Dana Logan complained. "Not even our San Joaquin Valley fog."
Her friend whimpered like a frightened puppy when the motorhome swerved on the ice. A massive storm had assaulted them without warning, spattering the windshield with flakes the size of sand dollars. They had already decided that March was not the month to travel Colorado.
"We should have listened to the weather report."
"That wouldn't have stopped me, Sarah. I have to know why Georgi died."
"But they said it was suicide." Sarah Cafferty's grip on the safety handle was turning her fingers blue.
"My sister would never kill herself, and I'm going to prove it."
"If we don't get off this highway soon, we're going to kill ourselves."
Dana lifted her foot from the accelerator. "If I pull off now, we could wind up in a ditch. Or hit by an eighteen wheeler." Activating emergency lights, she squinted to locate the centerline, which had already disappeared under a thickening layer of snow.
Snowfall increased, forcing Dana to adjust the wipers. At their highest speed, they clattered like a band of castanets. The motorhome swayed, causing something to crash to the floor behind them.
"The TV set," Sarah wailed. "We forgot to strap it down."
Snow was swamping the wipers. Their only hope was to prevent the coach from leaving the northbound, two-lane highway. Wind picked up, driving snow in hypnotic swirls. Nauseated, Dana blinked repeatedly, feeling trapped inside a kaleidoscope. Snow was falling so heavily that it seemed they were standing still.
"We'll never get out of this," Sarah yelled over the wiper's clatteringnoise.
"Sure we will," she shouted back, doubting her own words. "Watch for exit signs and delineator posts."
"I can't see until we're on them, Dana." Her voice bordered on hysteria.
The lonely stretch of interstate between Denver and the Wyoming border had already drifted in, with visibility reduced to less than twenty feet. If they managed to survive, Dana vowed she would never leave an RV Park again, without a weather report. A brief glance at the temperature gauge told her it was twelve degrees. So why did she feel that she had just stepped out of the shower?
Hours seemed to pass before visibility increased. Then intermittent lights appeared in the midst of a blinding whiteout.
"Snowplow," Sarah said. "Stay a ways behind him."
"Women don't drive snowplows, Dana. Not while I lived in Nebraska."
"That was before the snowplow was invented, Sarah."
Their laughter helped to relieve the stress, but her fingers would have to be pried from the wheel when they reached their destination. If they reached it.
"Steer into a skid," her friend advised. "At least I remember that much."
"Maybe you'd like to drive."
"No, no, you're doing fine." Peering through the side window, Sarah said, "An off ramp should be coming up. I can't wait to wade through all that white stuff in my tennis shoes."
"And I can't wait to reach Wyoming. My sister loved life too much to have taken her own."
Snow had tapered off by the time they reached Cheyenne, where an early lunch at a truck stop revived them. Sarah replaced her shoes with boots while Dana fueled the motorhome. Impatient to resume their trip, she hurriedly removed ice from the wipers and swiped at the windshield. Road grime coated the front of her parka and their new RV appeared to have developed Progeria, rapid aging disease. Dana sighed, feeling a similar fate.
Snowflakes disappeared a few miles north of Wheatland, and she relaxed enough to loosen her grip on the wheel. Checking the map, Sarah said they had less than two hours remaining. Reaching across the console to pat Dana's arm, she said, "Illnesses often cause people to react in strange ways."
"Georgi would have told me if she were sick."
"Tell me again what her husband said."
"Rob was nearly incoherent when he called. He found her in bed when he arrived home at noon. Georgi was still in her nightgown and had a hand to her throat as though she were choking."
"What kind of sickness would cause that?"
"I wish I knew, Sarah. That's something we need to find out. We also need to talk to her doctor and insist on an autopsy."
"What if her husband objects?"
"I assume he'll agree, but I really don't know him that well."
They rode the rest of the way in silence. Before they reached the outskirts of town, Dana called her sister's number. Her brother-in-law answered and gave her directions to a rural subdivision. Before they reached the circular drive, they stopped to stare in awe at the elaborately built house with its towers, wings and gables.
"Dana, this place looks like Queen Elizabeth's castle."
"It's actually a Queen Anne colonial. Breathtaking, isn't it?"
A shiny black sports car, with its engine running, was parked in the three-stall garage.
"Nice car," Sarah said. "Looks like somebody's leaving."
Georgi had mentioned the sports car, a birthday gift from her husband. Why was it running now when Rob was expecting them? Dana climbed from the motorhome and opened the passenger door. "Take a deep breath." she said, "We've got some investigating to do."
A tall, tanned, well-built man opened the entry door. For a moment she didn't recognize him. He seemed older and more haggard than Dana remembered. Rob Turnsby gasped when he noticed her standing on the expansive wood porch.
"I thought you were expecting us, Rob."
"I'm sorry, I forgot how much you look like Georgi."
"I'm a year older but some thought we looked like twins." We were once as close as twins, she thought as she stepped across the threshold.
She wasn't sure why Rob made her uneasy. Maybe it was his standoffishness, as though he didn't want anyone invading his space. He led them into the living room, motioning them into two matching arm chairs. After introducing Sarah, she glanced about the well-appointed room with its mahogany mantle, landscape paintings, and Oriental rug. The oak floor gleamed as though recently polished. Rob had done well for himself since marrying her sister.
"Can I get you something to drink?"
"Thank you, Rob. I'll have some herbal tea." She glanced at Sarah, who nodded her agreement.
"I was thinking of something a bit more relaxing, after your long trip," he said.
"Tea's fine, if you have it."
"I'm sure there's some in the cupboard." His eyelids appeared to twitch.
Glancing again at Sarah, she noticed her questioning expression.
Rob started from the room but turned back to say, "If you don't mind, I'll have a drink."
"Of course not. You look as though you need one."
His face seemed to have lost its previous tan. "What are you implying, Dana?"
"Nothing, you just seem on edge."
His sigh was drawn-out and heavy. "It's been a nightmare since Georgi's death."
"Please sit down. The drinks can wait."
"No, I insist." He turned and left the room.
Sarah leaned toward her, whispering, "What's going on?"
"I don't know but we're going to find out." She left her chair and moved to a large, elaborately draped window. From the corner of her eye she noticed a young woman carrying a packing box into the garage. She turned to watch as a shapely redhead slid into the car and backed it from its stall. Who can that be? Isn't that Georgi's new car?
Dana resumed her seat. "Keep your eyes and ears open," she whispered.
Patting her short blond curls into place, Sarah nodded and glanced about the room. "What did you say Rob does for a living?"
"He owns a construction company."
"He built this gorgeous house?"
"I believe he did."
"Very expensive house and furnishings. He must be quite successful."
"Yes, ten years younger than Georgi."
"Sounds like a novel plot."
Dana shifted uneasily in her chair. "Strange that you should say that. Are you aware that Georgi was a writer?"
"Yes, you mentioned it."
"Did I tell you she's been writing mystery novels?"
"No, is that why you had so many in your library?"
"Partly. Her books piqued my interest in the genre. She was a very gifted writer." Dana quickly wiped the dampness from her eyes. She then nodded in the direction Rob had taken. Raising a finger to her lips, she settled back in her chair, resting her head against the leather back. Within seconds Rob returned with a tray.
"I hope you don't mind that I microwaved your tea," he said. "The kettle takes forever."
Sarah smiled. "As long as you don't microwave dinner."
"My friend's been reading alternative medicine books," she said, reaching to squeeze Sarah's arm. "We need to discuss Georgi's death certificate as well as the funeral arrangements."
"Already taken care of." He set the china tea service on a marble-topped coffee table. "I wasn't sure you would arrive in time, so I took care of the arrangements, myself."
"But Georgi's only been gone two days."
Rob excused himself and made his way to the bar in an alcove adjoining the living room. He returned with a cocktail. "I knew you would be exhausted from your long trip and I didn't want to burden you with it."
"What are the arrangements?"
"Cremation tomorrow morning."
"Cremation? But Georgi wouldn't--"
"She said that's what she wanted, Dana. I'm surprised you didn't know."
"She had a living will?"
"No, but there's an estate will. I thought that would interest you."
"She left you some money as well as her books. You're her only blood relative, other than your daughter, Kerrie, so naturally she would leave you something."
"By the way, where is Kerrie?"
"Working as an editorial assistant for a news magazine in California. I haven't called her yet."
Rob seated himself in a burgundy leather recliner. "Georgi didn't leave you much because the majority of our assets are tied up in the construction business."
Dana felt her scalp prickle. "I didn't expect--"
"The housekeeper's packing her books so you can take them with you."
"We'll have to put them in storage for the time being."
"In that case, you're welcome to leave them here until you've finished traveling." He smiled benevolently.
"Thank you, Rob. That's very accommodating. By the way, was that the housekeeper I noticed leaving in Georgi's sports car?" She watched him wipe his shiny upper lip.
"Uh-yes, I'm allowing her use of the car until her pickup is repaired. She's been very helpful about packing Georgi's things."
"What are you planning to do with them?"
"Give them to charities."
"Would you mind if I go through them and keep a few mementos for Kerrie and myself?"
He shrugged. "By all means. I know that sisters have a special bond. I'm sure you'd like some of her things."
"You're most generous." Dana rose and offered Sarah her hand.
"You can do that tomorrow after the memorial service," he said, sitting upright.
"Would you mind if we look through them before the housekeeper finishes packing?"
"Not at all. I'll show you to her room." He glanced at his watch. "I have a business meeting in half an hour. I should be back in time for dinner."
"You're not taking time off to grieve Georgi's death?"
"We all handle grief in our own way," he said. "I have a business to run and I need to stay busy."
Dana shivered as he guided them up the oak stairs to his wife's room, which was filled with packing boxes. He left before she could ask about the official cause of death. Mentally tabling the question for his return, she opened the closet door.
Shocked, she turned to Sarah. "It's empty. My sister has only been gone two days and he's already getting rid of her clothes."
"I wouldn't be surprised if the housekeeper's making off with them, Dana."
"From the looks of her, she's taken Georgi's place, including Rob and the sports car."
"We need evidence to go to the police."
"I have to stop the cremation so cause of death can be determined."
"I'll think of something. Let's go through these packing boxes to see what we can find."
The first carton contained leisure clothing, the second high-heeled shoes. Five additional boxes were filled with formal wear wrapped haphazardly as though dirty laundry. Dana cringed when she noticed the expensive labels. Her sister must have worn them while married to her former husband, a San Francisco lawyer.
While sorting through a box of designer jeans, Sarah said, "Look at this! A locked, black velvet box."
"It must be Georgi's jewelry. I'm surprised it's still here."
"It's heavy, Dana. Do you think we should open it?"
"How? Pry it open? I don't feel right about that."
"The key must be here somewhere." Sarah opened dresser drawers to feel beneath them. Disappointed, she turned to the white Victorian desk that matched the four-poster bed. Opening the drawer, she extracted a carved wooden pill bottle, which rattled when she shook it. Removing the lid, she discovered a key.
"This has to be the one."
Dana was surprised when the box opened. Carefully lifting the lid, she discovered a matching book, its black velvet cover etched in gold with the name Georgiana Turnsby. Hands trembling, she opened the cover and discovered a diary. The beginning entry was dated June 21st, which she quietly read aloud: I had serious misgivings about moving to Wyoming, but its beautiful here. I miss San Francisco Bay, but the air is so clear that you can see the mountains forever. I'm glad I allowed Rob to talk me into moving to his home state...?
"Sounds like she was happy, Dana."
She scanned the next few pages and stopped. "Listen to this:" I can't tell anyone that I've made a terrible mistake. I should have listened to my friend, Angela. Now, I'm too embarrassed and ashamed to tell anyone. How could I have been so blind that I allowed myself to be fooled and rushed into this. What am I going to do?
"Oh, my." Sarah dropped a black sequined dress back into a packing box. "What do you think she's referring to?"
"If my instincts are right, she's referring to her marriage, but the entry was written nearly two years ago. Why didn't she confide in me?"
"She said she was embarrassed, Dana."
Turning the page, she noticed the next entry was dated four days later:
I've decided to make the best of it. I've secretly transferred half my divorce settlement to an offshore account. The rest has been loaned to my husband for the business. He promised to build me the most beautiful home in the state, and seems so eager to please me. How can I turn him down?
"Sounds as though she changed her mind." Sarah picked up another box and set it on the bed.
"Georgi was a generous person. I'm sure she was willing to help Rob establish himself in business."
"Then why would he kill the proverbial goose?"
"The housekeeper, maybe. Georgi may have discovered they were having an affair and threatened to divorce him."
"Wasn't there a prenuptial agreement?"
"I would hope she was smart enough to have one, but Rob's a former salesman and a very charming guy. He could have talked her into nearly anything." Dana had turned another page when she heard a door slam somewhere in the house. Thrusting the diary into its box, she hid them under a pile of clothing.
The bedroom door burst open and the same redhead she had earlier seen appeared. Her reaction was similar to Rob's when she noticed Dana, who rose from her chair, towering over the young woman.
"I'm Mrs. Turnsby's sister. My brother-in-law gave us permission to go through her things."
The redhead held a hand to her chest. "I thought you was--"
"I didn't know there was two of you."
"We did look very much alike."
"Rob-Mr. Turnsby-didn't tell me about you."
Impatient, Dana said, "Are these all her things or have you disposed of some of them?"
"All but a few boxes of clothes."
"Where did you take them?" Dana noticed she was wearing a wedding ring.
The housekeeper hesitated. "The thrift shop."
"We're going to need them back."
The woman's expression changed. "Oh, so you're one of them relatives who rushes in and takes everything before the others get here. I know your kind."
"Really? I noticed you're driving my sister's new sports car."
"Rob said I could use it till my truck gets fixed."
I'll bet that never happens.
Sarah stepped between them. "Ladies," she said, holding her hands in a peaceful manner, "there's no reason to argue. We're here to see that Georgi is put to rest and her things disposed of in the best way possible."
Dana sighed. "You're right. We need to work together, and we need those clothes back, if only temporarily, Mrs....?"
"Beardsly," the woman said grudgingly.
"Please drive back to the thrift shop and retrieve the clothing. Tell them you'll bring them back tomorrow."
The housekeeper glared a moment before turning to leave the room. They could hear her stomping down the stairs before the front door slammed. It wasn't long before Georgi's sports car roared down the drive and onto the road.
"I doubt Rob's seriously involved with her," Sarah said as she picked up another box. "She's too--"
"Yes, and married."
"Marriage doesn't stop some people. Especially if the lover has a nice home and even nicer bank account."
"So I've heard," Sarah said.
"Why don't you continue going through the boxes while I read the diary."
"Better hurry before someone else gets here."
"Rob probably won't be back for hours and the housekeeper will take her time."
"I'll bet she's going home, instead of the thrift shop."
"My thoughts exactly." Dana turned another page in the diary and read an entry dated September 3rd:
The foundation has been poured and it's exciting to see our house plans beginning to take shape. Rob really loves me or he wouldn't go to all this trouble to please me. I'm so happy!!!
Dana sighed and turned the page. Dated September 30th, Georgi had written:
Nothing seems to be getting done and Rob's excuses are getting tiresome. He comes in late and claims to be exhausted. He goes straight to his computer to play solitaire. He didn't even notice my new hair style. No matter what I do, I can't seem to please him.
"Sounds like the honeymoon was over." Sarah said, carefully repacking a box of dresses.
The next few cartons, containing lingerie, were placed against the wall. Dana put the diary aside to help Sarah sort through the remaining boxes. Half an hour later they heard the sound of brakes as the sports car came to a stop below the bedroom window. A car door slammed, as did the entry door a moment later.
"Sounds like Tonya wears combat boots," Dana said, as the housekeeper stomped up the stairs.
The bedroom door flew open and the housekeeper dropped a box to the floor. "There's another one in the car." Before they could answer, she left the room, the door banging closed behind her.
"No combat boots but she's definitely wearing heavy wedgies, with a temper to match." Dana shook her head and reached for the box, which had obviously been hurriedly packed. A dark green velvet sleeve hung from beneath the lid, along with a silk ruffle. Opening the lid and sorting through the clothing, she gasped.
"Look at this." She carefully pulled a blue silk scarf from the box and examined the fringed border.
"That looks like dried blood."
"It sure does."
"Do you think it was Georgi's?"
"Who else could it belong to?"
"Maybe he strangled your sister with it. That would explain her hand on her throat."
"I think the examining doctor would have known if she were strangled."
"Unless the two of them are in cahoots."
"That's pretty far-fetched, don't you think, Sarah?"
"You're right. Rob would have gotten rid of the evidence instead of tossing it into a box. And if the housekeeper's involved, I don't think she'd return it."
"Maybe she forgot about it being there."
"She's no genius but I doubt she's that stupid."
They heard the entry door close and the sound of carefully placed shoes on the oak stairs. They waited for the door to open and realized she was listening on the other side.
Dana held a finger to her lips and nodded toward the door. Projecting her voice, she said, "I don't think it will take long to go through the rest of these boxes, do you, Sarah?"
"There's nothing here of real value here, unless you're planning a yard sale."
"I think the housekeeper can take them back to the thrift shop later this afternoon. I haven't found anything that I want to keep."
The door opened and the redhead stood on the threshold, holding another box. "This's the last of 'em," she said.
Dana forced a smile. "Thank you, Mrs. Beardsly. Just put it down anywhere. We'll be finished soon. You can return later this afternoon for all of them."
The woman stood uncertainly for a moment, then placed her box near the door. "I'd be glad to help."
"That's not necessary. I don't want to keep you from your family. Thanks again."
They said nothing more until they heard the sports car's engine.
"She's definitely got a heavy foot." Sarah glanced through the window. "I hope there no kids playing in the road ... I wonder if she has some of her own."
"She may have and I doubt she's more than Rob's temporary plaything. He must already be looking to replace Georgi with another wealthy woman." Dana's hand moved to her midsection. "This entire affair is literally making me sick. Georgi didn't deserve to be betrayed by her own husband."
"The husband is always the prime suspect, Dana."
"I know, but I still can't believe that he would--"
"Kill her in her own bed? It's not that uncommon."
"Her own bed! Why did they have separate rooms?"
"Maybe Rob snores."
"Knowing Georgi, she would have found a way to help him overcome a snoring problem. I find it hard to believe that she would solve the problem by sleeping in another room. They haven't been married that long."
"None of us are spring chickens, Dana."
"I don't think that was the problem. Rob may be ten years younger, but Georgi was heavily into exercise, health food, and youthful procedures. She could have kept up with him."
"I have a feeling we'll find the answers in your sister's diary."
The following entries chronicled the building project with little, if any, references to Georgi's relationship with her husband. Frustrated, Dana put the diary aside to help Sarah sort through the remaining boxes. Before they finished, they heard a car pull into the driveway. Sarah peered through the lace curtains and quietly announced that Rob had returned. Hiding the diary under Georgi's bed, Dana stood to straighten her sweater and jeans. They would finish looking through the few remaining cartons after dinner.
Rob seemed agitated when they found him in the living room. Dana wondered whether the housekeeper had called him to complain. She decided to wait for Rob to bring up the subject.
"How was your day?" she asked, taking a nearby chair.
He grumbled something inaudible.
"Things not going well at the office?"
"No, everything's fine."
"Georgi's death has taken a toll on both of us, Rob. We need time to recover."
He waved his hand dismissively, avoiding her gaze.
"I'm worried about you. Something's obviously wrong."
"Nothing I can't handle," he said gruffly, rising from his chair. Walking rapidly to the alcove, he poured himself a drink.
"Can I get you ladies something?" he called over his shoulder.
They both declined.
"Going through Georgi's things must have been tiring," he said when he returned with his drink. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
Rob sat on the edge of his chair. "I had a call from Tonya, the housekeeper. She was upset that you were rummaging through the boxes, as though you were searching for something."
"I'm searching for answers, Rob. I can't believe my sister took her own life."
He repositioned himself in the chair, nearly spilling his drink. Sighing, he said, "Georgi's been depressed. I urged her to get professional help, but she wouldn't listen. She thought she could handle whatever was bothering her."
"Depressed? About what?"
He briskly rubbed his chin. "I've been so busy with the construction business that I haven't spent much time with her lately."
"I see." Dana leaned to touch his arm "Forgive me for asking, but is that why you had separate rooms?"
"That wasn't my idea. I sometimes talk in my sleep."
Dana leaned back in her chair. "Were you having marital problems?"
"I don't think that's any of your business."
"I'm simply trying to understand what happened."
"That's immaterial now, isn't it? She's gone and nothing will bring her back."
Her reply was interrupted by the housekeeper, who announced that dinner was ready. Tonya Beardsly was working overtime. Dana wondered whether she also served as a bed warmer.
Rob rose from his chair and offered them each an arm. He seemed relieved that the conversation had ended. Once they reached the formal dining room, he pulled a chair for them both, then placed himself at the head of the mahogany table. The housekeeper appeared as though on cue, carrying a platter of roast pork. Dana didn't miss the brief, intimate smile exchanged between them.
Groaning inwardly she glanced across the table at Sarah, who seemed more interested in the platter of food than what was happening at the table. Rob filled his plate before he brought up the subject of Georgi's cremation. Dana thought it was an inappropriate subject to discuss during the meal. Even Sarah stopped eating long enough to gape at him.
"We'll be holding a brief memorial service at two tomorrow afternoon, following cremation," he said, pushing his potatoes around on his plate.
"It's too soon." Dana gripped the edge of the table, her voice rising.
"We haven't determined the cause of death."
"The attending physician signed the death certificate. Georgi swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills."
"I know my sister. Suicide was never an option, no matter how depressed she might be." Dana rose from the table, flinging the napkin to her plate.
Ever the gentleman, Rob rose to his feet, seemingly stunned. "I can't drag this thing out," he said. "There's no reason to prolong it any longer."
"I'm going to call the authorities to have cremation delayed long enough to conduct an autopsy."
"I can't allow them to slice up Georgi's beautiful body."
"You're planning to burn her body. That's much worse."
"Fine, I'll get you the number. The sheriff's my brother, Will."
"I suppose the coroner is your Uncle Larry."
"Actually, he's a cousin on my mother's side."
"This is no time for jokes."
"I'm quite serious."
"Then why aren't you interested in getting to the truth?"
"I told you, Dana. The matter is settled."
"Not as far as I'm concerned."
"It's too late," he said, resuming his seat.
Dana swallowed hard and lowered her voice. "We still have a few boxes to go through. Do you mind if Sarah and I spend the night in Georgi's room?"
Rob hesitated. "As long as you leave after the memorial service."
"Agreed. By the way, what time is the cremation?"
Rob clenched his jaw. "First thing tomorrow morning."
Or sooner, if you can arrange it. She motioned her friend to accompany her upstairs, but Sarah hung back, finishing the food on her plate. Once the door closed behind them, she complained that she had missed dessert.
Irritated, Dana said, "I'd be worried about the food. I'm glad I didn't eat dinner."
"Aren't you being paranoid?"
"Not at all. Rob doesn't want us raising questions about my sister's death. There's too much money at stake."
"I wondered why he didn't show you her will. Aren't you interested in how much money she left you?"
"You heard him. The amount is insignificant. What matters is how and why Georgi died."
Sarah rushed to lock the bedroom door. In a near whisper, she said, "I'd be more comfortable sleeping in the motorhome. We could be murdered in Georgi's bed."
"Or the motorhome could be tampered with."
Sarah's blue eyes widened and she appeared panic-stricken. "Let's get out of here. I won't sleep a wink."
"Not before we go through the rest of these boxes."
In the last carton Dana found her sister's address book. Slipping it into her purse, she knelt on the plush carpet to retrieve the diary from under the bed. Quietly opening the door, they crept down the stairs and stopped to listen. Muffled voices could be heard from the dining room, and Dana was undecided whether to move close enough to listen. A moment later she handed her friend the diary and motioned her to stay in place. She then tiptoed to the dining room door. The voices were audible and she held her breath to listen.
Rob's voice was angry. "If you interfere again, I'll fire you on the spot."
"But I'm leaving Johnny to move in with you."
"How would that look?"
"Lotsa housekeepers live in."
"You're not bringing your brats here to live."
"They're good kids. They won't cause--"
"Go home to your family, Tonya."
"I told Johnny I'd be late. I thought we'd--"
"Not tonight with my nosy sister-in-law in the house."
"Is she leaving tomorrow?"
"She'll leave, all right."
When a moment passed in silence, Dana put her ear to the door. She heard dishes rattle before the door was jerked open
"Hear something interesting?"
"Excuse me, Rob. I came downstairs to ask where the service is being held." Dana's crossed fingers hid behind her back. "I was afraid we might miss you when you leave in the morning."
"I see." He straightened to his full height, several inches taller than his guest. "Is that the only reason?" His voice took on an arrogant tone, one she had never heard before.
"Of course. I apologize for my behavior at dinner. You must realize how upset I am."
"No more than I am. I loved your sister more than--"
Her money? "Georgi told me how good you were to her, building this beautiful home."
"I'm glad you changed your mind," he said, drawing her into a hug. "We need to mourn her death together."
She resisted the urge to pull away. "You're right, Rob. I'm sorry I upset you."
Releasing her, he gripped her chin, turning her face upward. "Seeing you is both hurtful and exhilarating. It's like having my Georgi back." He lowered his head and began to cry.
Stunned, she reached to pat his back. "Get some rest," she said. "We'll talk in the morning."
Nodding, he made his way to the foyer. Remembering that she left Sarah at the entry door, she hurried after him, but her friend was nowhere in sight. Maybe she had retreated to Georgi's room when she heard their voices in the hall. When Rob's bedroom door closed, she quietly ascended the stairs, but Sarah wasn't there. She must have retreated to the motorhome. Relieved that she had taken the diary, Dana retraced her steps.
The motorhome door was locked and no interior lights were visible. Tapping lightly she waited for the door to open. When it did, a night light illuminated someone perched on the landing, holding a weapon in striking position.
"It's Dana," she whispered. "Put the bat down." She heard a sigh of relief.
"Georgi's car is still in the garage. Is the housekeeper spending the night?"
"Rob told her to go home but she's clearing away the dishes."
"Maybe we were wrong about your brother-in-law."
"I hope you're right, but I'm not convinced."
"Come inside. It's colder than a frozen pizza."
"Don't you ever take your mind off food?"
"Not when I'm nervous." She closed and locked the door. "What did you find out?"
"There's definitely something going on between Rob and Tonya. And Rob seems anxious to break it off."
"You think the housekeeper's blackmailing him?"
"That's a possibility."
"What do you plan to do?"
"Set the alarm for six o'clock. I'll call the coroner's office first thing in the morning. If that doesn't work, I'll call the state attorney general's office to stop the cremation and force an autopsy."
"What can I do to help."
"Just being here for moral support means a lot. Keep your eyes open and jot down anything you think might be relevant."
"By the way, Dana, it's getting hard to swallow. You think the housekeeper put something in my food?"
"I'm sorry I was paranoid about dinner. You probably have a strep throat." Dana opened the refrigerator. "All that snow and wind would make anyone sick." Pulling a carton of cottage cheese and leftover pineapple from a shelf, she placed them on the table. When she looked up, her friend had a hand to her throat. Within seconds she was gasping for air.
She slapped Sarah's back repeatedly but it didn't seem to help. Wild-eyed, she was choking as though something were caught in her throat.
Frantic, Dana reached for her phone. Punching in 9-1-1, she hurriedly told the dispatcher what had happened and gave her the address. She then tried pulling Sarah from the small dining booth. She seemed to be losing consciousness and was wedged in so tightly that Dana was unable to start CPR.
By the time the ambulance arrived, Rob and Tonya were banging on the motorhome door. Dana yelled at them to make room for the EMTs, realizing she had lost control and possibly her best friend. Bursting into tears, she found it difficult to communicate with the ambulance crew.
An hour later in the hospital, her recollections were a blur. Rob had driven her to the emergency room, following the ambulance, asking what had caused Sarah's collapse. She couldn't remember whether she had accused him of poisoning her friend or if she had imagined it. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye. Seated next to the ICU, his head cradled in his hands, he appeared to be shaking. He was probably crying again. She didn't know and at this point didn't care. All that concerned her now was Sarah's survival. Something in the food must have caused her throat to swell and she had nearly asphyxiated. And was she, not Sarah, the intended victim?
The door opened and the attending physician appeared, looking older than his apparent years. He's exhausted, she thought, or has bad news.
"How is she, doctor?"
"Time will tell," he said. "She's going to have a restless night. We treated her with Epinephrine but she came very close to needing a tracheotomy, a tube inserted in her throat."
Dana's lip quivered. It's my fault. I shouldn't have dragged her into this. "Do you know what caused it?"
"The lab's very busy tonight but we should know by morning."
Dana thanked him and noticed Rob standing nearby. He had obviously heard what the doctor said, and apologized again for Sarah's plight.
"We ate the same food and nothing happened to me."
"I'm aware of that."
"Does she have any food allergies?"
"None that I'm aware of. She eats too much of everything." Dana got to her feet and began to pace the lobby.
"You're welcome to stay at the house until your friend's out of the hospital."
"Thank you, Rob, but I need to find an RV Park."
"No need for that. You can stay in Georgi's room."
Dana shuddered. "I don't think--"
"Not afraid of ghosts, are you?"
"Of course not, but what happens in the next 24 hours will determine what I do."
He hesitated. "I understand. Your friend's condition is most important right now."
"Yes, it is." That's what you want me to concentrate on, isn't it, Rob?
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a set of keys. Selecting one from the ring, he handed it her. "This will open the front door. Use it whenever."
"That's very generous."
"We're still family as far as I'm concerned."
"Yes." A slight smile curled the edges of his ample lips.
"In that case I think you should fire your housekeeper--"
"I've already taken care of it."
"You gave her notice or a temporary vacation?"
"She won't be coming back and I don't intend to furnish a reference."
"Is there a possibility that she was responsible for Georgi's death?"
The expression on his face was one of shock. "Of course not. She had no reason to harm Georgi."
"Are you sure? We've both heard of women murdering their rivals, or attempting to get rid of them."
Rob sighed and hung his head.
"This is not the place to discuss your indiscretions, Rob. Let's wait until we're back at the house."
He nodded and they took the elevator down to the lobby. Dana glanced at her watch, which said nearly midnight. She didn't know how she was going to get through the following day. And by the looks of Rob, he was in no better shape. Physical strength aside, she thought, men are the weaker sex.
Posted May 7, 2012
Diary of a Murder by Jean Henry Mead is a must-read if you like action and thrills.
Dana Logan’s sister, Georgi, is dead and no one wants to believe she was murdered. Dana and her friend, Sarah Cafferty, investigate and find danger around every corner. Georgi’s husband and housekeeper appear to be in a hurry to dispose of the deceased and all of her possessions. Dana finds her sister’s diary and reads it while traveling a dark and dangerous road to discoveries and a murderer.
When Sarah becomes ill, apparently poisoned, she’s hospitalized and Dana is on her own. An agent tries to help, but… Read the book, I don’t want to give the story away. Trust me when I say this story will keep you on the edge of your seat.
This is another wonderful chapter in the lives of Logan and Cafferty. You won’t want to miss all the adventure. Ms. Mead has done it again, and I highly recommend this story.
Posted December 3, 2011
Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty are two of mystery's most unlikely investigators. Both in their middle years, they share a home and an appetite for crime detection. When they get word that Dana's sister, Georgi, has died unexpectedly, they travel from California to Wyoming in their RV.
Immediately upon arrival, Dana is struck by inconsistencies in the story surrounding her sister's death. The pair decide to investigate. This resolve is strengthened when Sarah falls ill at dinner, from what appears to be a near fatal allergy. Could it be something more?
Spurred by this incident, Dana contacts the state authorities when she discovers that the county sheriff is her late sister's brother-in-law.
While going through Georgi's things, Dana discovers her sister's diary. This proves to be an invaluable tool, leading them to other clues.
Diary of a Murder is a well crafted, fast paced novel. Jean Henry Mead beautifully captures the wily intuitiveness of her two senior sleuths. I highly recommend this book for any lover of mystery. Five gold acorns!
© Dellani Oakes 2011
Posted October 28, 2011
"Fans of Dana Logan & Sarah Cafferty are sure to love this second novel in the Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series. Non-stop action with an ever-growing cast of suspects keeps this Wyoming mystery moving as fast as its gale-force winds. The murder victim, Dana Logan's sister, Georgi, is said to have taken her own life but Dana and her friend Sarah Cafferty set out to prove that it was murder. Dana and Sarah are believable protagonists, and this story is a fun read. No doubt the first book in the series, A Village Shattered, is equally entertaining."
~Mark W. Danielson, author of Danger Within and other mystery novels
"Driving blind in the Colorado blizzard that opens Jean Henry Mead's DIARY OF MURDER could be a metaphor for trying to find the truth about a mysterious death.
This is the second book in a series featuring two San Joaquin Valley retired widows, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty.
They're caught in a Colorado blizzard on a stretch of interstate between Denver and the Wyoming border. Sarah is scared out of her mind. Dana, driving their motorhome, presses on, determined to reach Wyoming and the house of her sister Georgi, who has committed suicide.She doesn't believe the suicide story.
According to Georgi's husband Rob, he found her in bed with her hand to her throat as if choking. Dana takes an instant dislike to him. He informs them that he has arranged for cremation the following morning.Outraged, Dana stops it.
Going through Georgi's room for mementos, Dana finds a diary and starts to read. It sounds as if Georgi's marriage was on the rocks.Dana suspects murder, resulting from an affair between the husband and the housekeeper, and wants to hold up settlement of Georgi's estate
until she can find the truth.
Add in the young, red-headed housekeeper, a couple of attractive agents from the attorney general's office, and suspects who keep turning up as bodies, and you have a mix for a story that skips right along.
Sarah is almost poisoned and spends most of the book in the hospital,leaving Dana to look for her sister's murderer as the unofficial partner of an agent from the attorney general's office. She's nothing if not persistent, guided by what she reads in the diary.
Dana's amateur sleuthing and her refusal to be scared off has its high and low moments. She's smart and methodical. She doesn't take unnecessary chances, protecting herself with a baseball bat, a guard dog and finally a Smith and Wesson snub-nosed .38 special. All of them come in handy."
~Pat Browning, author of Absinthe of Malice