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A brutal murder draws Hannah Ives into a mystery where to understand the present, she must uncover a dark past.
While at Calvert Colony, a life care community centre in Maryland, and at lunch with her friend, retired mystery author and amateur painter L.K. 'Naddie' Bromley and her neighbour Sophia Milanesi, who survived the closing years of the Second World War in a convent in Italy, Hannah meets Filomena Buccho, a personable young Argentine server. Her brother, Raniero, also works at the Colony as chef. But when Masud Abaza and his wife, Safa, move into the community and Masud is found murdered, his head bashed in by a croquet mallet, suspicion falls on Raniero, who has made no secret of his neo-Fascist sentiments. Hannah and Naddie agree to investigate, uncovering old crimes and reigniting ancient quarrels that know no boundaries of place or time.
About the Author
Marcia Talley is the Agatha and Anthony award-winning author of eleven previous crime novels featuring survivor and sleuth, Hannah Ives. Her short stories appear in more than a dozen collections and have been reprinted in several of The Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories anthologies. She is a past President of Sisters in Crime, Inc. Marcia lives in Annapolis, MD, but spends the winter months aboard an antique sailboat in the Bahamas.
Read an Excerpt
A Hannah Ives mystery
By Marcia Talley
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2014 Marcia Talley
All rights reserved.
'Continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs ... offer three types of senior housing in one location, so that older residents can move from one to the other as their need for care increases throughout retirement. These communities allow seniors to stay among friends and near their spouse during the aging process, and for that reason they have grown in popularity over recent decades. The number of older adults living in CCRCs has more than doubled between 1997 and 2007 and now totals 745,000 seniors living in over 1,800 CCRCs. With the boomer generation retiring, we can only expect this number to grow.'
Testimony of Senator Herb Kohl before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, July 21, 2010.
You can accomplish a lot on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay while stretching your calves in the downward-facing dog pose. What to buy your husband for his birthday. How to use up a bumper crop of early August tomatoes.
After a few minutes of staring at my feet, wondering in a Zen-like way whether I should replace my beat-up Nikes, I shifted to the sphinx position. Once my head cleared, I gazed out over the waters of the bay, tea-brown and placid beneath a cloudless sky baked to a pale blue by the sun.
A sailboat ghosted by as I arranged my limbs in the side plank pose, looking to the casual observer, I supposed, like a woman who'd been knocked to the ground while hailing a cab. I breathed deeply, tensing my abdominal muscles as I'd been instructed.
My stomach rebelled and rumbled, reminding me that it was almost time for the lunch I'd planned to have at Spa Paradiso, the spa that dominated the hill behind me, owned and successfully operated, I'm proud to say, by my daughter, Emily, her husband, Daniel Shemansky, and their relentlessly cheerful and capable staff. Did I want soup or salad, or both?
I folded myself into a lotus position, closed my eyes and tried to focus on my mantra – kerim, kerim, kerim – but other thoughts kept intruding, messing with my wah, like where the heck had I stored the folding beach chairs?
Sweat slithered down my temples and trickled into my hair. I considered, briefly, diving into the tepid water, but didn't fancy being stung to death by sea nettles, those nasty pearlescent jellyfish that invaded the upper reaches of the bay every mid-summer when the salinity got too high.
Kerim, kerim, kerim. I tried to ignore the splintered spot on my bamboo mat that was digging into my thigh and the dampness of the grass I'd spread the mat upon. Kerim, kerim, kerim ... Damn it! Did I really want to practice yoga three times a week?
Through half-slitted eyes, I considered the serpentine brick wall – about five feet high – that meandered gracefully along the slope of the manicured lawn down to the wide, white sand beach that Spa Paradiso shared with its immediate neighbor, Calvert Colony. Named in honor of Lord Cecil Calvert, the guy who'd founded Maryland back in sixteenhundred-and-something, the sprawling continuing care retirement community had only recently opened its doors. It was a geritopia so posh – according to my husband, Paul – that if you had to ask how much it cost to buy in there was no way you could afford it.
Kerim, kerim, kerim. The sun warming my cheek. The gentle buzz of bees flitting around a nearby bed of red valerian and golden coreopsis. The drone of a power mower in the distance and the smell of fresh-cut grass.
A jet ski rooster-tailed by, shattering the quiet. 'Damn,' I muttered again, giving up.
'You are alive, then, Hannah,' a familiar voice said.
I turned, squinting, shielding my eyes from the late morning sun. 'Naddie!'
'Am I interrupting?' my old friend asked.
I unfolded my legs and struggled awkwardly to my feet. 'Not really. I was about to call it quits anyway. Honestly,' I said, gesturing toward the jet ski that was departing with all the stealth of a Boeing B-57, 'those things ought to be illegal.'
'He had a kid with him, too,' Naddie added. 'No helmet, no seatbelt.'
As she rattled on about the irresponsible driving habits of jet skiers – getting no objection from me – I rolled up my mat and tucked it under my arm. 'Are you coming or going?' I asked, indicating the entrance to Spa Paradiso.
'I've just had a facial. Can't you tell?' she said, patting her cheeks with the fingertips of both hands.
Naddie – Nadine Smith Gray, retired mystery writer – was in her mid-eighties but had the clear, smooth complexion of someone half her age. From the fresh pinkness of her skin I could tell she'd had a facial, but I also suspected she'd had her hair done, too. Her silver waves had been coaxed into a neat pageboy cut that framed her face and curled gently under her ears, showcasing a pair of art deco earrings acquired, I was sure, at one of the craft shows she liked to frequent. Naddie wore what I always thought of as her summer uniform: an A-line denim skirt that hovered several inches below the knees, a pale pink three-quarter-sleeve scoop-necked T-shirt, and sensible leather sandals. I smiled. 'Join me for lunch?'
She slid her sunglasses up to her forehead, disrupting the orderly march of bangs across her brow. 'No thanks, Hannah. Gotta get home for an appointment with my decorator. Your nose is red,' she added.
I tugged on the brim of my floppy hat. 'And I slathered myself with SPF30, too. Skin cancer doesn't appeal.'
Naddie and I went way back. More than a decade, in fact, to the time I was hired to catalog the novels and personal papers she'd donated to St John's College. For various reasons I hadn't seen Naddie for months, so I was disappointed that she couldn't join me for a meal and some good gal-to-gal gossip. 'Can I walk you to the parking lot, then?'
'I didn't bring my car. I walked.'
'Walked?' My mouth hung open. Naddie lived in Ginger Cove, a retirement community at least eight miles away.
Naddie furrowed her brow. 'You didn't get my change of address card?'
I shook my head, puzzled. 'You've moved? My gosh! Where?'
Naddie stood at the head of a concrete path edged with liriope and pachysandra that curved gently down the hill from Spa Paradiso and led through a gate to one of the neat brick Georgian-style buildings of Calvert Colony. She pointed vaguely in that direction. 'I bought one of the town homes over there,' she told me.
I sucked in air. 'I thought you were happy at Ginger Cove!'
'Oh, I was, Hannah. No complaints. It's just that ...' She paused. 'Well, I'm one of Calvert Colony's investors, actually.'
'Well, I'll be,' I said, although the news didn't really surprise me. During her successful forty-year career as a novelist, the sales of such mystery classics as Death Be Not Proud and A Talent to Deceive – now in their umpty-dumpth printing – had earned L.K. Bromley – the name under which Naddie wrote her stories – a place on the list of America's Richest Women. And that was before Tom Cruise optioned her novel, Triple Jeopardy, and turned it into a blockbuster movie and popular video game.
Naddie had always been fiscally sensible. Rather than spend her money on a chateau in the south of France, luxury yachts or major league baseball teams, she'd invested in real estate.
'The Baby Boomers are easing into their seventies now,' Naddie explained. 'At least 800,000 older adults are already living in high-end communities like this. The demand can only grow.'
I had learned from my son-in-law that while the plans for Calvert Colony were still on the drawing board, Spa Paradiso had worked out an agreement with the developers to provide spa and health club services to their residents, and I wondered, with some affection now, if my friend Naddie had had anything to do with facilitating that contract. As part of the deal, Dante (the mononym my son-in-law had invented for himself) and his stockholders had ceded some of their land to the Calvert Colony development group.
'Have you toured our campus?' Naddie asked.
'Haven't had time, Naddie. I got an invitation to the grand opening but I was away on a cruise to Bermuda with my sisters, so I missed it. I wandered around a bit while the place was under construction, though. It's pretty impressive.'
Even in its earliest stages, Calvert Colony had sprawled over the old Blackwalnut Creek property, a twenty-acre campus at the end of Bay Ridge Road just east of Annapolis. Before the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened up the Atlantic Ocean beaches to vehicular traffic, Washingtonians seeking relief from the stifling summer heat had flocked to Anne Arundel county resorts. Blackwalnut Creek had been one of them. After the popularity of the resorts faded, the Catholic Church had purchased the Blackwalnut property for use as a Jesuit retreat and conference center. Early in our marriage, Paul and I attended a Marriage Enrichment Program at the center, but it had been a little too touchy-feely for us. Trust falls, blindfold walks and bouts of extended eye contact weren't exactly our style. We'd gone home, giggling like children, shared a bottle of wine, chased each other around the bedroom and ... well, let's just say that was all the 'enrichment' we needed.
After the Jesuits moved on, the Catholic Church sold the prime Chesapeake Bay waterfront property to a development company. According to the Baltimore Sun, they needed the money to replenish coffers sorely depleted by cash settlements to victims of pedophile priests.
The centerpiece of the Blackwalnut Resort had been a grand, sprawling, white clapboard New England-style hotel called Blackwalnut Hall. Calvert Colony architects sensibly preserved the hotel – including the charming chapel that the Jesuits had annexed onto its southern side – and it now served as the focus of a development which included an apartment building, six blocks of individualized semi-detached town homes, several dozen two-bedroom single family homes and a scattering of cottages, all connected by narrow winding roads that were just wide enough for two golf carts to pass.
Naddie interrupted my reverie. 'So, what did you think?'
'My first impression?' I paused for effect. 'Wow. Just wow.'
'There's still tons of work to be done, of course, Hannah, but folks have been gradually moving in. The old hotel is nearly full.'
'The newspaper mentioned it was to be a combination of independent and assisted living,' I commented.
'It is,' Naddie said. 'And they've added a secure wing near the chapel to house the memory unit. Blackwalnut Hall serves as our community center, too. Would you like to see?'
I indicated my ragged jogging shorts and stained T-shirt, both soaked with sweat, and spread my arms. 'Now?'
She hesitated a second too long.
'Love to,' I laughed, 'but for everyone's sake I'll need to change.'
'After lunch, then. I'll meet you at the main entrance,' Naddie said. 'Give you the fifty-cent tour.'
I grinned. 'If I don't get the full dollar tour I'll feel cheated.'
'Come to the reception desk in Blackwalnut Hall,' Naddie instructed. She started off down the path. 'Know where that is?'
'In the lobby of the old hotel, right? Hard to miss.' I wiped my face with the hem of my T-shirt.
'See you around two?'
'It's a date.'
Back inside Spa Paradiso, I made my way to the women's locker room, showered and changed back into the black jeans and striped T-shirt I'd arrived in. With my hair still damp, I wandered into the spa's restaurant, studied the specials board and ordered a chicken salad sandwich and a cup of gazpacho which Francois Lesperance, the spa's master chef, served to me personally at a small round table near the swimming pool. While I waited for two o'clock to roll around, feeling content and well-fed, I lay in the atrium on a lounge chair reading a well-thumbed paperback copy of Markus Zusak's The Book Thief that somebody had carelessly left behind.
After a while, I closed my eyes. Life was good.CHAPTER 2
'The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has observed: "Let that man be disgraced, and disgraced again and let him be disgraced even more." The people inquired: "O Prophet of God (peace and blessings of Allah be upon you) who is that man?" The Prophet of God (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) affirmed: "I refer to the man who finds his parents old in age – both of them or one of them – and yet did not earn entitlement to Paradise by rendering good service to them."'
Abu Umamah al Bahili.
'Mrs Ives. Mrs Ives.' A hand on my shoulder; a gentle shake.
My eyes snapped open. Ben, the pool boy, loomed over me. 'Sorry to bother you, but didn't you say you had to be somewhere at two?'
I leapt to my feet so quickly that my head swam. 'What time is it, Ben?' I asked, bracing one arm aganst the wall until the dizziness passed.
'Ten minutes to.'
'Oh, thanks! You're a lifesaver.'
Making a mental note to tip Ben double the next time he brought me a fresh towel, I gathered up my handbag, tucked the orphan paperback into it and headed out.
Blackwalnut Hall was much as I had remembered it from days gone by. A porch, long and deep, ran the length of the front that faced the bay. Eight tall white Doric pillars supported the roof. Rocking chairs were arranged at regular intervals along its length and, since it was mid-afternoon, half of them were already occupied by seniors resting their eyes, reading or simply enjoying the view.
Just as I reached the steps, my cell phone chirped. It was a text message from Naddie. She was running twenty minutes late. I texted back – OK – then located an empty rocker between a beautiful Muslim woman and a slumbering, elaborately mustachioed grandpop wearing a red plaid lumberjack shirt, and sat down to wait.
To my left was the dual span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, four-and-a-half miles long, the engineering marvel that connected Annapolis to Maryland's eastern shore and to the towns and beaches of the Delmarva Peninsula. Kent Island at its far end was a gray-green swathe on the horizon. I counted five container ships and a car carrier anchored in the mid-distance, awaiting clearance to proceed under the bridge and up into Baltimore Harbor some twenty-five miles to the north, where they would unload and perhaps take on more cargo. Sailing in the opposite direction was Woodwind, a seventy-four-foot, three-masted schooner, crammed full of tourists out for an afternoon sail.
'Relaxing, isn't it?' the Muslim woman said. She was dressed in a black skirt and a saffron-yellow, long-sleeved silk blouse. A white headscarf was draped loosely around her neck and completely covered her hair. If she wore the scarf out of modesty, it failed miserably. The hijab framed her face like the Madonna in a Renaissance painting, only serving to draw attention to the woman's extraordinary beauty.
She removed the oversized Jackie Onassis-style sunglasses she wore and turned her violet eyes on me. 'My name is Safa Abaza. Are you new here or just visiting?'
'Just visiting,' I told her. 'I ran into a friend over at the spa and she's promised me a tour. I'm Hannah Ives.'
Safa's pale skin wore the blush of a few too many minutes in the sun, but other than plum-colored lip gloss and something to darken her gracefully arched eyebrows, I detected no trace of makeup.
'Are you visiting, too?' I asked. She looked so fresh, so young that I assumed she couldn't be a resident.
'No, my husband and I live here. In one of the town homes.'
I stared at her for a moment, temporarily speechless. Safa couldn't possibly be as old as fifty-five! Had she discovered a Fountain of Youth somewhere on the property?
As if reading my mind, she said, 'My husband is a good bit older than I, as you probably guessed. I've just turned fifty-one, but Masud is sixty-eight.'
I couldn't believe Safa was as old as fifty-one, either, but decided to take her word for it. 'My husband and I live in downtown Annapolis,' I told her. 'He teaches math at the Naval Academy, so we aren't thinking about retirement just yet. When we do, though, I can think of a lot of worse places than Calvert Colony.'
Excerpted from Tomorrow's Vengeance by Marcia Talley. Copyright © 2014 Marcia Talley. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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