All She WroteBy: Josh Lanyon
(Holmes & Moriarity 2)
A murderous fall down icy stairs is nearly all she wrote for Anna Hitchcock, the “American Agatha Christie.” The cry for help from his old mentor cuts short mystery author Kit Holmes’ romantic weekend with his new lover J.X. Moriarity, and lands him an amateur sleuth gig in an elegant snowbound mansion in the Berkshires.
Unfortunately, a clever killer is still one step ahead of Kit...
“I knew it,” J.X. said. “I knew you’d do this.”
I held onto my temper, although that’s a comment guaranteed to fry anyone’s fuse—and mine isn’t the longest to start with. My fuse, I mean.
“No, you didn’t. I didn’t know I’d do this. How could I have known this would happen? Anna didn’t know this would happen. If Anna had known this would happen, I’m sure she’d have done her best to avoid falling down those twenty-two flagstone steps in her garden.”
“And if your old former mentor hadn’t taken a tumble down the garden path and needed you to fill in for her with this writing seminar in the Berkshires, you’d have come up with some other excuse for why we couldn’t get together this weekend.”
I think it was more annoying because J.X. was using that vastly reasonable tone of voice on me. Like my predictability was almost amusing. But the main reason it was annoying was because deep down inside I knew he was right. I had been thinking of possible reasons for canceling before Anna’s phone call.
I said vehemently, “Bullshit.”
“No, it’s not.” No trace of amusement now. “I wish it was.”
“Anna needs my help. She’s got a broken ankle and busted ribs. What was I supposed to tell her? No can do. I’ve got a hot date?”
“In three months we’ve seen each other three times—two of which times you had to cut the weekend short. It’s pretty obvious that this…relationship isn’t something you want to pursue.”
My heart sank like a stone. I could almost hear the lonely little plop.
“That’s not true,” I protested. “You’re not being fair. I’m just out of one relationship. Of course I’m proceeding cautiously.”
“That I could understand. The problem is, you’re not proceeding. Three times in three months is not proceeding. Your brakes are locked and your transmission is stuck in park. I think it’s bad timing, Kit. Again.”
J.X. didn’t sound angry. He didn’t sound hurt. He sounded resigned. A little wry. And I knew he’d been thinking about this—as he waited for me to cancel yet again—and that his mind was already made up.
And that was probably for the best, right? Because it was bad timing. It was too soon after David. I wasn’t ready to start up again—let alone with a guy five years my junior. It was doubtless a good thing that one of us had the presence of mind to see that it was not going to work between us. We’d had our shot and it hadn’t taken. That was that.
So why did my heart keep foundering in that arctic bath, trying vainly to gain some kind of purchase on the icy walls?
“What are you saying?” I asked. “I’m off your Christmas card list?”
“I’m saying…” J.X. took a deep breath and I understood that it wasn’t as easy for him as I’d thought. “I’m saying that if you ever…change your mind, give me a call.”
I opened my mouth, but the words didn’t come. Not because I didn’t want to say them, but I wasn’t sure I would be saying them for the right reason—and whatever J.X. thought, I cared too much for him to say them for the wrong reason. I was trying to make my mind up when he disconnected.
Like fine wine, I do not travel well. Sure, when I was young, fresh, low in acidity and not so tannic, I was a more adventurous spirit. But at forty, divorced—or as good as—and my career having been through the shredder and back, well, let’s say I had developed a taste for home and hearth. My own home and hearth.
Especially after being involved in a homicide investigation three months earlier. Of course every cloud has its silver lining, and the bright side of my being suspected of murder was that my books, featuring intrepid spinster sleuth Miss Butterwith and her ingenious cat Mr. Pinkerton, were once again hitting the bestseller lists. Well, some of the bestseller lists. As my agent Rachel kept reminding me, platform is everything in publishing these days, and my wobbly new platform was apparently that of amateur sleuth. Which was still an improvement over my previous platform of crotchety reclusive has-been. That platform had more closely resembled a scaffold.