Authors: Carola Dunn
BOOKS BY CAROLA DUNN
Manna From Hades
A Colourful Death
The Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries:
Death at Wentwater Court
The Winter Garden Mystery
Requiem for a Mezzo
Murder on the Flying Scotsman
Damsel in Distress
Dead in the Water
Styx and Stones
Rattle His Bones
To Davy Jones Below
The Case of the Murdered Muckraker
Mistletoe and Murder
A Mourning Wedding
Fall of a Philanderer
The Bloody Tower
A Cornish Mystery
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A COLOURFUL DEATH
. Copyright © 2010 by Carola Dunn. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A colourful death : a Cornish mystery / Carola Dunn.—1st ed.
1. Widows—Fiction. 2. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 3. Cornwall (England : County)—Fiction. I. Title.
First Edition: June 2010
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Port Mabyn is a fictional village in a fictional world lurking somewhere between my childhood memories of Cornwall and the present reality. Though in many cases I have used the irresistible names of real places, the reader should not expect necessarily to find them where I’ve put them. The topography resembles the North Coast of Cornwall in general, but not in particulars. The Constabulary of the Royal Duchy of Cornwall (CaRaDoC) has no existence outside my imagination. For information about the real Cornwall, I refer the reader to countless works of non-fiction, or, better still, I suggest a visit.
My thanks to: librarians Claire Morgan and Joanne Laing of the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth and Paula Nederpel of Padstow Library; Beth Franzese, for advice on Aikido moves; D. P. Lyle, MD, creator of
as well as several books on forensics for writers; Larry Karp, MD, author of the Ragtime Historical Mystery Trilogy; and last, but not least, to my sister Helen for her patience in driving me (I’m terrified of driving in England) to Launceston and Bodmin and waiting while I explored, and my son Joe, daughter-in-law Terri, and grandkids Maggie and Colin for taking me to Padstow and leaving me to explore the town while they went on to reconnoitre Trevone Bay for me (and for picking me up in the right place at the right time—not easy when it meant abandoning a beach on a sunny day).
Eleanor parked the aged pea-green Morris Minor in the Launceston station car-park, next to a snazzy red Mini. Teazle, perched on top of a bag of donated clothes on the back seat, gave a questioning yip.
“Yes, you can come. Wait a minute, you need your lead. Where did I put it?”
The lead was found on the floor by the passenger seat. Eleanor clipped it onto the Westie’s collar and they went into the station.
“Afternoon, Mrs Trewynn,” said the porter. “Beautiful day. Off to London, are you, you and the little dog?” He chirruped at Teazle, who was sniffing the turn-ups of his uniform trousers. She gave a perfunctory wag of her perfunctory tail.
“Good afternoon, Mr Lobcot. No, I’m meeting the down train. My neighbour, Nick Gresham, has been in town.”
Lobcot glanced at the station clock. “Five minutes to wait. She’s on time, seemingly. Ah, they’ll be shutting us down any day now and you’ll have to go to Bodmin Parkway to catch a train. At least, till they close that, too.”
“Well, it is a bit closer to Port Mabyn, but the train journey takes longer and the fare’s more. Besides, my niece works in Launceston. When I brought Nick to catch his train to London, I met her for lunch.”
“That’ll be Detective Sergeant Pencarrow, I expect?”
“That’s right.” Having spent her working life travelling the world, Eleanor was often amazed at how country-people seemed to know everything about everyone. She didn’t even live in Launceston. But then, the papers had made hay with that nasty business … Better not to think about it. She still shuddered at the memory of the dreadful photo that had seemed to show dear Megan arresting her. At least that one had been printed only in the
, not the
North Cornwall Times
She nodded to the chatty porter and took Teazle for a stroll down the platform. It was indeed a glorious June day. A slight breeze ruffled Eleanor’s white curls, flapped her cotton skirt, and gently herded puffs of cloud across the sky like a border collie with a flock of sheep. She would have liked to break into a few of her Aikido exercises, not having had time to practise today, though she had walked Teazle. How Lobcot would have stared!
As they turned at the end of the platform to head back towards the ticket office and waiting room, a whistle tooted in the distance. The train slid round the curve, pulled by a sleek diesel engine with far less noise, smell, and dirt than steam, though none of the charm.
“Nick’s coming home,” she said to the dog, who looked up at her expectantly with a vigorous wag. Teazle approved of Nick, a reliable source of scraps of batter from fried fish and other interesting tidbits. “I wonder how he’s fared. The trouble with recommending one friend to another is that if it doesn’t work out, one feels ridiculously guilty.”
Quite a few people descended from the train, though nowhere near the crowds that would arrive later in the tourist season, after schools broke up. Eleanor spotted Nick’s tall, lean figure as he waved to her and jumped down from the rear carriage, his long pony-tail swinging. For once his clothes appeared to be free of smears and splotches of paint. In fact he looked quite smart in his tan slacks and blue shirt, even though he wasn’t wearing a tie. Eleanor wasn’t sure he possessed one.
He carried his rucksack by the strap in one hand. He must have put his picture-carrier in the luggage van under the care of the guard rather than try to cram it into the rack. But he came to meet her rather than turn back to retrieve it.
Eleanor frowned. Nick was an even-tempered chap, surely not the sort to do anything drastic like destroy his best work because the gallery had turned him down. Besides, as he approached, she saw he was grinning.
He dropped the rucksack and picked her up in a hug. She yelped, and so did Teazle as the lead tightened.
“Sorry, girl!” He put Eleanor down, and stooped to ruffle Teazle’s little white head. “I see Mrs Stearns gave you my message about the train. Thanks for coming. I tried to ring you from Paddington but you were always out, you gadabout.”
“Probably walking Teazle. The weather’s been so lovely, almost too warm for exercise in the afternoons, so we’ve been walking in the mornings. Nick, where are your pictures? What—”
“I didn’t want Mrs Stearns to know before you did. Your friend Mr Alarian kept both of them. He’s going to hang them, and if they sell reasonably quickly, he’ll take a couple more. And if
sell reasonably quickly, he’ll give me a show—”
“At least a shared one. He sent his kindest regards. What did you do for him, Eleanor, that he should be so grateful?”
“Heavens, I can’t remember. It was in the Sudan we met—or was it South Africa? Anyway, he wouldn’t have taken your paintings just for the sake of that old story. He’s far too canny a businessman.”
While they talked they had walked through the ticket barrier, Eleanor giving the ticket collector a smile in lieu of a platform ticket. The machine had been broken since before her return to Cornwall, and no one wanted to be bothered collecting tuppences, though he did take Nick’s return stub.
“Alarian wouldn’t have accepted the pictures at your request,” Nick agreed, “but without it, I doubt he’d have given the work of an unknown a second look.”
“Why not? How else is he to discover up-and-coming young artists?”
“Yes, he’d give a first look, but if the appeal wasn’t obvious—I took a couple of the music pictures, you know. My best,
The Lark Ascending
and Brahms’s second
. Risky, I suppose. If you don’t know the music, you wouldn’t know what they’re about, though they might appeal on other levels.”
“I like them,” said Eleanor staunchly, though her travelling life had given her no opportunity to become familiar with classical music, let alone to learn to appreciate abstract art.
They paused to let Teazle take advantage of the long grass growing along the base of the car-park fence. The station staff had lost heart for keeping things spruce when they found out the line was to be closed.
“Alarian obviously hadn’t a clue, but he asked if he could hang them in his office for a couple of days. I think he must have got someone who knows both music and art to take a look. I wish I knew who. I wonder if the Wreckers has a bottle of Aussie champagne at a price suited to my present budget rather than my great expectations.” Nick’s spirits were bubbling like Champagne. “Shall I drive?” he asked as they reached the car.
“Do. I left room in the boot for your rucksack.”
Eleanor unlocked and opened the boot, congratulating herself on having remembered to lock it, and gave Nick the car keys. She went round to the passenger side and opened the door—Oh bother, she thought, she hadn’t locked that! Teazle jumped in and scrambled between the seats onto the well-stuffed bags on the back seat. She didn’t need help as Eleanor had been careful not to pile it high with donations, to allow for Nick’s paintings in their carrier.