Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Excerpt: Murder My Neighbour by Veronica Heley

Murder My Neighbour (Ellie Quicke Mysteries)Murder My Neighbour (Ellie Quicke Mysteries) by Veronica Heley
Severn House Publishers

Find Veronica Heley on FamilyFiction.com
Find Murder My Neighbour on FamilyFiction.com
Detectives: Veronica Heley: ELLIE QUICKE

It came naturally to Ellie Quicke to look after her family and friends but there were no easy answers to the problems of those around her, and one of these was about to get way out of hand.

Ellie Quicke’s twelfth adventure, in which she solves another neighbourhood crime.

One of Ellie Quicke’s neighbours has gone missing. She was supposed to have moved to a retirement home, but never arrived. A walk round the block reveals that someone is still tending the vegetables in Mrs Pryce’s garden. Perhaps the house is not as deserted as it looks? So where is Mrs Pryce, and who knows more about her departure than they are prepared to tell? And how can Ellie deal with her difficult daughter’s latest financial disaster?


Rose screamed.

Prompt on cue, the front doorbell rang.

Ellie rushed out into the garden to find her old friend and housekeeper lying in a flower bed. Rose tried to get up and failed. ‘Aargh! Just . . . minute.’

The doorbell rang again. Ellie knew there was no one else around to answer the door, but Rose was her first priority. She didn’t seem to have broken anything, but she was bleeding from some deep scratches, nursing one wrist and trembling.

‘I was tying back that rose and I saw . . . it gave me such a fright!’ Rose gestured to where a neighbour’s house could be glimpsed over the garden wall. ‘A face . . . at the top window. I don’t believe in ghosts, do you?’

No, Ellie didn’t believe in ghosts, either. Of course she didn’t. She helped Rose to the garden bench and the doorbell rang again, this time with a longer, insistent peal.

‘You see to the door. I’ll be all right in a minute,’ said Rose, who hated to make a fuss and would have said she was all right even if she’d broken her wrist – as looked likely.

Ellie dashed back through the house and into the hall to open the front door.

A strange young man pushed past her into the house. ‘Took your time, didn’t you? Miss Quicke, please.’ He danced around on his toes, eyes into everything. Hard eyes. A brutally short haircut, a single earring, piercings through lip and eyebrow. Casually dressed.

‘I’m Mrs Quicke, but–’

Colour surged into his face. ‘Don’t waste my time!’

Ellie took half a step back. ‘Look; our housekeeper fell off a ladder just before you came and I need to get her to the doctor’s.’

He shrugged. ‘I’ll wait.’

From the kitchen came Rose’s voice. ‘I’m all right, Ellie. Having a little sit down.’

If Rose had got herself indoors, then she must be all right. At least till Ellie  had got rid of the intruder . . . who had walked into the sitting room and was looking around him. Ellie had been about to tidy up in there when her difficult daughter Diana had arrived with news of her latest disaster . . .and no sooner had Diana swept out than Rose had fallen off the ladder.

Ellie told herself she wasn’t prejudiced by young men with piercings  – though she wondered how he could manage to eat with a ring through his lower lip – but she did deplore his lack of manners. And it was unnecessary to be frightened, wasn’t it?

‘You wanted to speak to Mrs Quicke, and I’m Mrs Quicke. So how can I help you?’

‘Don’t give me that.’ A sly twist to his lips. ‘I know what Miss Quicke looks like. My great-aunt described her. She used to meet Miss Quicke regularly, often gave her a lift to board meetings.’

‘Ah. You mean my aunt. She was indeed active in the world of finance. I’m sorry to say she died some months ago.’

That wiped the smile from his face. ‘So you are–’

‘Her niece.’ She glanced at the clock – was that really the time? Was Rose all right?

‘But you know my great-aunt? Flavia Pryce with a “y”. She lived over there.’ He went to the French windows and pointed towards the multi-gabled mansion which could be glimpsed over Ellie’s garden wall.

Yes, there was the attic window in which Rose swore she’d seen a face, which is why she’d fallen off the ladder. Ellie didn’t believe in ghosts. Certainly not. Pure superstition. ‘I never knew the people in that house. I heard that the old lady who lived there–’

‘My great-aunt, Flavia Pryce.’

‘Left some time ago. So I must ask you to go.’

‘I used to drop in to see her every now and then. The last time I saw her, she told me she was going into a retirement home and that when the house was sold she’d let me have a little something to be going on with. So yesterday I went down to see her, with a box of her favourite Liquorice Allsorts. The people at the retirement home deny all knowledge of her. So where is she?’

Well, not at an upstairs window, for sure. Why on earth should she be up in an attic? Ridiculous.

Ellie tried to think straight. ‘I suppose she’s moved on, and the home will have  a current address for her.’

‘They said not.’ He took out a pack of cigarettes and a disposable lighter.
‘Please don’t smoke in here.’

‘Oh, keep your hair on.’ He walked out through the French windows into the garden and lit up. ‘The thing is that I’m in a bit of a fix. Flavia promised me some money, was going to let me have what she’d intended to leave me in her will. And now, my sister’s pregnant, been left high and dry. I said I’d rent a flat where we could live together for a while, so that I could look out for her.’

Except that he didn’t look the selfless, caring type. He looked the type who’d kick a cat or a dog who got in his way, or laugh if an old woman fell off a ladder.

‘I wouldn’t ask if I weren’t desperate . . .’

He was certainly desperate about something. There was a sheen of sweat on his forehead. The thought that he might be on drugs terrified her not a little. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you. Now, will you please go.’

‘No need to get your knickers in a twist. You attend to the ancient retainer and I’ll see myself out.’ He stood back to let her pass through the French windows in front of him.

It was only much later in the day that Ellie discovered her morning’s visitor had helped himself to more than a few minutes of her time.

Buy online: Murder My Neighbour (Ellie Quicke Mysteries)

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