Joan Hess Presents Malice Domestic 9

Joan Hess Presents Malice Domestic 9

by Joan Hess



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380804832
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/28/2000
Series: Malice Domestic Series
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 4.27(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.66(d)

About the Author

Joan Hess (1949) is an American mystery writer who is best known for her two cozy mystery book series, The Claire Malloy Mysteries and The Maggody Mysteries. Both series take place in Arkansas, where Hess had been a long time resident. She currently resides in Austin, Texas.

Read an Excerpt

Major Wilbraham hesitated outside the door of Mr. Parker Pyne's office to read. not for the first time, the advertisement from the morning paper which had brought him there. It was simple enough:


The major took a deep breath and abruptly plungedthrough the swing door leading to the outer office. A plain young woman looked up from her typewriter and glanced at him inquiringly.

"Mr. Parker Pyne?" said Major Wilbraham, blushing.

"Come this way, please."

He followed her into an inner office-into the presence of the bland Mr. Parker Pyne.

"Good morning," said Mr. Pyne. "Sit down, won't you? And now tell me what I can do for you."

"My name is Wilbraham—" began the other.

"Major? Colonel?" said Mr. Pyne.


"Ah! And recently returned from abroad? India? East Africa?"

"East Africa."

"A fine country, I believe. Well, so you are home again-and you don't like it. Is that the trouble?"

"You're absolutely right. Though how you knew—"

Mr. Parker Pyne waved an impressive hand. "It is my business to know. You see, for thirty-five years of my life I have been engaged in the compiling of statistics in a government office. Now I have retired and it has occurred to me to use the experience I have gained in a novel fashion. It is all so simple. Unhappiness can be classified under five main heads-no more, I assure you. Once you know the cause of a malady, the remedy should not be impossible.

"I stand in the place of the doctor. The doctor first diagnoses the patient's disorder, then he recommends acourse of treatment. There are cases where no treatment can be of any avail. If that is so, I say quite frankly that I can do nothing about it. But if I undertake a case, the cure is practically guaranteed.

"I can assure you, Major Wilbraham, that ninety-six percent of retired empire builders-as I call them-are unhappy. They exchange an active life, a life fun of responsibility, a life of possible danger, for-what? Straitened means, a dismal climate, and a general feeling of being a fish out of water."

"All you've said is true," said the major. "It's the boredom I object to. The boredom and the endless tittle-tattle about petty village matters. But what can I do about it? I've got a little money besides my pension. I've a nice cottage near Cobham. I can't afford to hunt or shoot or fish. I'mnot married. My neighbors are all pleasant folk, but they've no ideas beyond this island."

"The long and short of the matter is that you find life tame," said Mr. Parker Pyne.

"Damned tame."

"You would like excitement, possibly danger?" asked Mr. Pyne.

The soldier shrugged. "There's no such thing in this tin pot country."

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Pyne seriously. "There you are wrong. There is plenty of danger, plenty of excitement, here in London if you know where to go for it. You have seen only the surface of our English life, calm, pleasant. But there is another side. If you wish it, I can show you that other side."

Major Wilbraham regarded him thoughtfully. There was something reassuring about Mr. Pyne. He was large, not to say fat; he had a bald head of noble proportions, strong glasses, and little twinkling eyes. And he had an aura-an aura of dependability.

"I should warn you, however," continued Mr. Pyne, "that there is an element of risk."

The soldier's eye brightened. "That's all right," he said. Then, abruptly, "And your fees?"

"My fee," said Mr. Pyne, "is fifty pounds, payable in advance. If in a month's time you are still in the same state of boredom I will refund your money Wilbraham considered. "Fair enough," he said at last. "I agree. I'll give you a check now."

The transaction was completed. Mr. Parker Pyne pressed a buzzer on his desk.

"It is now one o'clock," he said. "I am going to ask you to take a young lady out to lunch." The door opened, "Ah, Madeleine, my dear, let me introduce Major Wilbraham, who is going to take you out to lunch."

Wilbraham blinked slightly, which was hardly to be wondered at.

The girt who entered the room was dark, languorous, with wonderful eyes and long black lashes, a perfect complexion, and a voluptuous scarlet mouth. Her exquisite clothes set off the swaying grace of her figure. From head to foot she was perfect.

"Er—delighted," said Major Wilbraham.

"Miss de Sara," said Mr. Parker Pyne.

"How very kind of you," murmured Madeleine de Sara.

"I have your address here," announced Mr. Parker Pyne.

"Tomorrow morning you will receive my further instructions."

Major Wilbraham and the lovely Madeleine departed.

It was three o'clock when Madeleine returned.

Mr. Parker Pyne looked up. "Well?" he demanded.

Madeleine shook her head. "Scared of me," she said. "Thinks I'm a vamp."

"I thought as much," said Mr. Parker Pyne. "You carried out my instructions?"

"Yes. We discussed the occupants of the other tables freely. The type he Ekes is fair-haired, blue-eyed, slightly anemic, not too tall."

"That should be easy," said Mr. Pyne. "Get me Schedule B and let me see what we have in stock at present." He ran his finger down a list, finally stopping at a name. "Freda Clegg. Yes, I think Freda Clegg will do excellently. I had better see Mrs. Oliver about it."

The next day Major Wilbraham received a note, which read:

On Monday morning next at eleven o'clock go to Eaglemont, Friars Lane, Hampstead, and ask for Mr. Jones. You will represent yourself as coming from the Guava Shipping Company.

Obediently on the following Monday (which happened to be Bank Holiday), Major Wilbraham set out for Eaglemont, Friars Lane. He set out, I say, but he never got there. For before he got there, something happened.

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