Then something occurs that turns a pleasant sabbatical into a nightmare Faith discovers a diary, written in 1946 and hidden in the attic, that reveals an unspeakable horror. Suddenly dark secrets seem to permeate every room. And with Richard guarding strange secrets of his own, Faith is soon caught up in solving more than one troubling mystery ... with a murderer lurking a little too close to home.
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The Body in the AtticA Faith Fairchild Mystery
By Page, Katherine Hall
William Morrow & CompanyISBN: 0060525290
Over the years, Faith Fairchild had occasionally let herself imagine what it would be like to meet Richard Morgan again. But nothing like this had ever crossed her mind.
Richard Morgan. They had had a heady whirlwind affair in the waning days of the self-indulgent eighties, meeting just before Christmas and parting before the New Year. They were both living in Manhattan -- the perfect backdrop for romance, especially during the holiday season. And they were both single. Children, mortgages, gray hair were all things that happened to other people -- older people.
Faith had been on a city bus returning to Have Faith, the catering firm she'd started that fall. Richard had taken the seat next to hers, and as the other passengers boarded, the strains of a Salvation Army rendition of "Good King Wenceslas" filtered through the open door. Richard had started humming along, Faith smiled, and he began to sing -- he had a pleasant tenor voice and an even more pleasant appearance: tall, dark brown hair, and very blue eyes. "I only know the one verse," he'd told her, and she'd confessed the same. They'd talked, and he'd almost missed his stop. When he left, he'd said, "Want to trade cards? I might suddenly remember the rest of 'Good King Wenceslas' and wouldn't know where to find you." She'd handed hers over with her own line: "True. Or you might need a caterer."
Standing in front of her now, Richard Morgan did need a caterer. In fact, he needed a meal. They were at Oak Street House in Boston, a shelter for homeless men, and Richard had just slid his tray in front of Faith, a volunteer, so she could hand him a bowl of beef stew. Stunned, she stood with the ladle in one hand, the half-filled bowl in the other. The last time she'd seen him, they'd been at the Top of the Sixes, that elegant bygone Gotham hot spot at 666 Fifth Avenue. They'd drunk champagne, Perrier-Jouët, and the lights of the city had sparkled about them like jewelry from Tiffany. Richard was drinking coffee now. A thick mug rested next to two packaged rolls on his tray. Faith started to speak, then stopped as he put his finger to his lips, shaking his head slightly.
"Hey, lady, wake up! You gonna gimme some stew or what?" The man next to Richard pushed him aside. Hastily, Faith filled the bowl and passed it over to Richard. Their hands touched briefly. His nails were dirty and his skin looked chapped from the cold. She filled another bowl -- and another. It had been thirteen years since they'd said good-bye.
"You're kidding, right?" Faith said to her husband, the Reverend Thomas Fairchild.
But she knew he wasn't, and he confirmed it.
"I know it all sounds very sudden, but we wouldn't go until the end of January. That's almost two months away. Classes start on the thirtieth."
"I don't understand why you can't teach the course and commute from here."
Here was Aleford, Massachusetts, a small town west of Boston, where the reverend held sway at the First Parish Church and to which locale he had lured his bride, Faith Sibley, almost ten years earlier. Faith, born and bred in the Big Apple, had had a thriving catering business and had been loathe to leave it for the bucolic orchards of New England, but she had fallen head over heels in love with Tom. That meant "whither thou goest," and she did. If you had told her at that time that in the future she would be protesting a move from Aleford to Cambridge, Massachusetts, a veritable metropolis, two words would have sufficed to express her feelings: No way. Yet here she was, raising an army of objections over what would be a temporary move, a sabbatical.
Tom was sitting across from her in one of the two wing chairs that flanked the living room fireplace. They'd tucked five-year-old Amy into bed, then, an hour later, eight-year-old Ben. Faith had been looking forward to having Tom home for the evening -- no meetings, and maybe some bed for themselves. She'd been surprised when he said he had something he wanted to talk over with her, then slightly alarmed when he downed a healthy slug of brandy before speaking. She sipped hers slowly, figuring she might need it.
"I could teach the course and commute, but Idon't want to." He sounded ever so slightly petulant, and, more certainly, blunt. "It's not just the course, although that's what started the whole thing -- having lunch with Ralph and his asking me if I knew anyone who could pinchhit for the spring semester. The guy who was supposed to do it has to have knee-replacement surgery or something like that. He can't postpone -- "
"Wait a minute." Faith put her snifter down. "You had lunch with Ralph over two weeks ago. Are you telling me that you've known about all this since then? That you've been thinking about it and never said a word to me?"
Tom put his glass down, too, and folded his arms across his chest. Faith immediately did the same. If he wanted body language, she'd give him body language. For a moment, they stared at each other like Russian dancers before the balalaikas started.
"I didn't want to raise the issue until I had something definite to propose. I didn't see any reason to upset you unnecessarily," explained Tom, speaking coolly.
But that's not us, Faith said to herself. We tell -- told -- each other everything.
Instead of speaking her mind, she let the anger just below the surface break through and push away her regret. "And why were you so sure I'd be upset? Because you're proposing taking the kids out of school for four months? Because you've assumed I can go back and forth to the catering kitchen from Cambridge, without consulting me?Continues...
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