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Authors: Melodie Campbell,Cynthia St-Pierre

Tags: #Mystery

A Purse to Die For

 

A PURSE TO DIE FOR

Melodie Campbell & Cynthia St-Pierre

 

 

 

A PURSE TO DIE FOR

 

Copyright © 2012 by Melodie Campbell and Cynthia St-Pierre. All Rights Reserved.

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the authors.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the authors
'
imaginations or are used fictitiously. And any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead (or in any other form), business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

www.fashionationwithmystery.com

 

FIRST EDITION ebook

 

Imajin Books

 

July 12,
2012

 

ISBN:
978-1-926997-
71-1

 

Cover designed by Ryan Doan,
www.ryandoan.com

 

 

 

Praise for A PURSE TO DIE FOR

 

"
Page-turning pace, fascinating characters, sly wit, and a plot that will keep you guessing.
"

Janet Bolin, Agatha-nominated author of
Dire Threads

 

"
Fast-paced suspense, charismatic characters, and dialogue to die for. Brisk plotting with a deadly twist at the end.
"

Lou Allin, author of
She Felt No Pain

 

"
Campbell and St-
Pierre have style in the way they present, develop and portray their characters.
This novel grabs hold of you from the get go with its cast of wacky and malicious relations. A delightful novel with complex relationships and a series of shocking secrets.
The authors have a knack for wonderful turns of phrase, which are one reason why this novel is a delight to read. Then there is one mystery after another and suspense building to an unforgettab
le conclusion. Campbell and St-
Pierre create a delectable concoction of savoury and unsavoury characters, sex, delicious humour and suspense. This winning combination can
'
t help but delight readers.
"

Garry Ryan, Lambda-nominated author of
Malabarista

 

"
An old-
fashioned murder with modern sensibility; stylish characterization, and delicious plot; artistically woven.
"

Rebekkah Adams, author of
Front Porch Mannequins

 

 

 

Cynthia
'
s Dedication:

To Yves, for giving me the means to write, as well as the motive, and to Melodie for the opportunity.

 

Melodie
'
s Dedication:

Dedicated to Mom, the original fashionista, who walked the Rainbow Runway just
before this book was published.
Miss you every day.

 

Cynthia
'
s Acknowledgements:

Love to Becki, writer extraordinaire, for encouraging, inspiring, and being my sister. Thanks Gail, Sheila, Cathy and Karen for hanging with me all these years, and still you
'
re my gang. Paul, you
'
re the nicest collision reconstruction officer I know, and I promised, like, decades ago I
'
d thank you in a book. Finally, to the rest of my dear family and friends, in order for me to thank you all as you deserve, here
'
s hoping for plenty of follow-up books!

 

Melodie
'
s Acknowledgements:

Melodie wishes to thank
Vogue
magazine, a fixture in the parental home for over 60 years, plus her parents, who dressed her like a fashion princess from the age of one.

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Gina ran. Each pounding step took her further away from the death of her grandmother, the house full of relatives and thoughts of Tony.

Running in the early morning gave her a sense of peace and power that fuelled her entire day. Working under television cameras was insanely stressful. She cherished the relief that came with solitary running.

She moved at a moderate pace, taking in the vibrant foliage and clean air. This was not the time to think. This was cleansing time. She jogged along Centre Street into town with a plan to re-approach the house from the forest at the back.

The trees sparkled with morning sun bouncing off leaves. Gina kept to the path and slowed her pace to a walk as she entered the clearing that led to her grandmother
'
s property. Someone was sitting on the bench by the back fence.

She moved forward and then smiled.
"
Aunt Mandy! Tony will be pleased. When did you get in?
"

Aunt Mandy
'
s eyes were wide and fearful. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

"
What
'
s wrong?
"
Gina noticed Tony standing just a little ways off and there was something at his feet. A pile of something red.

"
Gina, don
'
t come any closer,
"
he warned. His voice was like gravel.

She moved as if something pulled her forward. She took in the gold purse, the red dress on the twisted female body and farther off, the baseball bat streaked with blood.

"
Gina,
"
Tony pleaded.

Far away, she could hear her own voice screaming.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

Four days earlier…

 

Gina brought her hand up to shield her brown eyes from the sun. The park was a splendour of deep green, red and gold, signalling the last few weeks of autumn. In the clearing, a dark-haired man wearing jeans and a tan golf shirt sat on the ground with his back against a maple tree. His good-looking face split into a grin as she approached.

"
Hi, Squirt,
"
Tony said.

"
Hi, yourself,
"
she said, grinning back. Nobody else called her
"
Squirt
.
"
"
Somehow I knew you
'
d be here.
"
She swung herself to the ground beside him. The leaves of autumn cushioned the hard earth beneath the tree.

"
Waiting for you, Cuz. Damn, but it
'
s good to see you.
"

She reached for his hand and squeezed. That
'
s as far as she would ever go. They weren
'
t kissing cousins. That would be too dangerous, for her heart, anyway. He would always treat her like a beloved kid sister, of course.
Of all the rotten luck, to have a crush on a relative.

She looked into Tony
'
s friendly blue eyes and felt right at home.

"
How
'
s my favourite Weather Network babe?
"
he asked.

She smiled.
"
Predicting stormy weather back at the ranch.
"

"
That
'
s a sure bet. Been to the house yet?
"

"
No. I came here to the park first. I figured you
'
d be at the old maple.
"

Tony pulled his knees up and folded strong arms around them.
"
My favourite tree in the whole world—yeah, I
'
ve got a special feeling for this old beauty.
"
He seemed perfectly at peace.
"
We spent every holiday up north here, didn
'
t we? Sometimes I think it was just being around all this wood that inspired me to be an architect.
"

"
There is a rather
tree-house
effect with most of your designs,
"
she said.
"
I love the mix of wood and modern and soaring light. When I walk into one of your houses, it does something to my soul.
"

Tony smiled.
"
Thank you, Gina. That
'
s high praise indeed.
"

They sat in companionable silence for a moment. Sparrows flitted across the branches overhead and dappled sunlight made a pretty pattern on the ground.

"
Still seeing Claudia?
"
she asked. She flicked a long strand of chestnut hair over her shoulder.

"
Nah, that ended a while ago. She was a little too
'
uptown
'
for me. No doubt you thought the same.
"

Gina relaxed and for once kept her mouth shut.

"
How about you and lawyer-boy?
"

"
Oh, that
'
s over,
"
she said.
"
I think he thought more of himself than of me. And I got a bit tired of being shown off all over town like a prize horse.
"

"
That
'
s what comes from looking the way you do, kiddo.
"

"
What, I look like a horse?
"

Tony laughed.
"
Only one with a goddess figure. You know what I mean. Take a compliment when it
'
s offered. Those are killer jeans, by the way. I like the sparkly thing on the back.
"

Gina smiled.
"
Rock & Republic.
"

"
Still the fashionista. I
guess
that
'
s supposed to mean something.
"

She smiled again and looked down at the ground. Tiny ants marched single-file a short distance from her feet, going about their business, oblivious to the threat only inches away. She would have to remember not to step on them as she stood up.
"
Do you know how she died?
"

"
I don
'
t know the details. Aunt Carla seemed…cryptic. Do you mind much?
"

She wriggled, uncomfortable.
"
Grandma was always scolding you and riding Ian. I can
'
t ever remember her telling anyone she loved them.
"

Tony scowled.
"
I
'
m not sure she was capable of love. But if she loved anyone, it was you. We all do.
"

Gina turned to face him, but he had closed his eyes.
"
You taught me how to burn leaves here.
"

"
What?
"

"
With a magnifying glass. Remember? It was about this time of year. You held it over a dead leaf to magnify the sun and it started to sizzle. The leaf, I mean.
"

Tony laughed.
"
Oh, that. Yup, I got in big doo-doo that time. Juvenile delinquent corrupting the pretty young cousin. Ian was such a tattle-tale.
"

"
He
'
s done pretty well for himself with that new cable show.
"

"
Who would have guessed that both my cousins would end up television stars? You a meteorologist, and Ian a big-shot interior designer.
"
He reached forward and ruffled her chestnut hair. Then he vaulted to his feet and held out a hand.
"
Come on, Squirt. Ready to face the dragons?
"

"
Will he be coming tonight?
"
Gina asked, rising.

"
Ian? You forget the will. If there
'
s money, he
'
ll be here.
"

 

Ian stared at his face in the motel mirror and shuddered. He looked all of his thirty-three years. Too much coffee and not enough sleep. Well, what could he expect? The train ride from the city had been harrowing. Too bad he
'
d never learned to drive a car, but if one lived in a civilized place like Toronto, surely it made more sense to leave the driving to professionals.

He sighed and surveyed the surroundings. Wouldn
'
t the
Design at Nine
production team just about drop dead to see him here? The worn carpet was a nondescript colour. Greige? Andrew would get a good giggle out of that. The shabby sea-foam green draperies and bedspread screamed 1980.
Did we really have such appalling taste in those days? Mother-dear would have a coronary if she could see this.

Why couldn
'
t they have a decent hotel in this town? He sat on the bed and heard a spring boing.

No way, though. No way was he going to sleep over in that demonic house, even if the parents stayed there. True, the old bitch was gone—that was the only reason for being here—but there would still be Uncle-Pompous-Ass to deal with. Better to stay in this no-class wasteland than have to rub shoulders with that disgusting bigot.

He placed his Louie Vuitton on the bed and opened it. So the old lady was dead. Well, about time. He sniffed, but not in sorrow. He
'
d always hated going there as a kid, being constantly measured for worth and found wanting. Was the grand-bitch even capable of love? Yes, he got the same as Gina and Tony every Christmas and birthday, fifty dollars in a cheap white envelope, but it was given grudgingly in the name of fairness. Surely there had to be something for him in the will. And if it were enough—dear God, it had to be enough—then he could keep Andrew from straying. Dear Andrew…so lovely to look at and so famous, now that the show had gone
inter
national. But money would make all the difference. Andrew was surprisingly addicted to comfort for one so young.

He pulled open a bureau drawer, sniffed it and wondered if it was safe for his Y-fronts.

 

"
Close the window, Jerry. It
'
s wrecking my hair.
"

Jerry grumbled and reached for the window switch of the old BMW. Now the smoke would stay in the car and within minutes he would be gasping. Why did he let her get away with bossing him around? He glanced over at Linda, beautiful, aging Linda, as she put out a cigarette in the ashtray. He wondered if he would ever be able to walk away, leave her for good.

"
Mind the black car, Jer—oh, what a jerk! Did you see that? Some people don
'
t deserve to live. How much longer have we got to go? I need the ladies, and I don
'
t want you stopping at some flea-bit place.
"

"
You didn
'
t have to come in the first place,
"
he mumbled.
"
What
'
s the point of it? I
'
m the one mentioned in the will.
"

"
What
'
s the point of it?
"
Linda turned in her seat.
"
What
'
s the point? Are you crazy? Did it not occur to you that I need to be there to protect your interests? And Ian
'
s, let me remind you. Even now, I
'
ll bet the vultures are circling, putting their dibs on the best stuff. I
'
ll bet sister-dear has her eye on the Lalique, and I
'
m damned if one of the kids is going to sneak off with the ruby set. None of your family appreciates good jewellery. None.
"
She flashed a slim hand laden with diamonds.

"
Ian can take care of himself,
"
he muttered.

"
Ian would want me there and you know it.
"

Jerry gazed at the road ahead. His thoughts were grim as he imagined the next few days. Relatives bickering over TV sets and antique china. It was sordid, that
'
s what it was.

"
And don
'
t give me any grief about caring about the old woman. She was a bitch. Look at the money she gave your brother to set up that business. Did she ever once give you a cent when you needed it? No! Poisonous old biddy. I couldn
'
t stand her and neither could you.
"
Linda snapped open the vanity mirror on the back of the visor and stared at herself.

He grunted but kept his thoughts private. They didn
'
t need a bigger house, anyway. Did anybody really need more than 3,500 square feet? Ian hadn
'
t lived at home for years. What was the point? Mother had been right—just more for Linda, as usual.

He kept his eyes on the road and tried to imagine his life without the woman sitting next to him. Did he love her anymore? He certainly had when they were younger. Jerry couldn
'
t believe his luck thirty-five years ago when he landed such a beauty. Indeed, all the other partners in the chartered accountant firm congratulated him. That magnificent black hair and blue eyes—such a rare combination. It felt good to be envied. To be fair, Linda was a still a looker and could pass for ten years younger. But it had come at a price, of course. A big price.

The CA in Larry kicked in.
That
'
s the trouble with life. Everything comes at a price.

 

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