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Authors: Julia Buckley

Tags: #female sleuth, #humorous mystery, #Mystery, #Small Town, #Suspense, #Ghosts, #funny, #Nuns, #madeline mann, #quirky heroine

Lovely, Dark, and Deep

BOOK: Lovely, Dark, and Deep
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Lovely, Dark, and Deep
Madeline Mann Mysteries [2]
Julia Buckley
Midnight Ink (2008)
Rating: ****
Tags: Mystery, Female sleuth, humorous mystery, small town, Nuns, Ghosts, madeline mann, quirky heroine, Suspense, funny

Only months after solving her first mystery, Madeline Mann is called to do God's work--or so says her former English teacher, Sister Moira--by investigating
the mysterious death of a young nun named Sister Joanna.

Joanna's death is ten years in the past, but Moira has been troubled by dreams
of her young friend, and she is convinced that Joanna was murdered.

Having heard of Madeline's investigative skills, Moira asks her to look into Joanna's death and find out if a murderer still lurks in the town of Webley, and if the dark secrets behind the death of a nun have somehow placed other people in danger.

PRAISE FOR JULIA BUCKLEY:

From Cornelia Read, author of THE CRAZY SCHOOL:
"Julia Buckley's character Madeline Mann is witty, brave, smart as a whip, and . . . downright cool."

From Barbara D'Amato, author of the Cat Marsala mysteries :
"Reporter Madeline "Madman" Mann is a great character: smart, warm, witty, and just wacky enough for spice."

From Hope McIntyre, author of the HOW TO MARRY A GHOST series:
"Welcome to Webley, Illinois, the background to this refreshing new mystery series. Madeline Mann could do anything and I would still want to read about her. She's warm, engaging, and fun--and the same goes for Julia Buckley's writing."

Lovely, Dark
and Deep

The Second Madeline Mann Mystery

by

Julia Buckley

Lovely, Dark and Deep
Copyright © 2011 by Julia Buckley
Published in the United States of America
All rights reserved
Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Cover Designer: Kelly Banos-Parra
Cover Model: Pamela Quimby-Costello
Digital Editions produced by
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. Contact us:
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eBook design by Rickhardt Capidamonte
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”
—Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
To all the Dominican sisters who were my teachers.

Lovely, Dark
and Deep

Then

It was twilight,
the last day of May, when Joanna went back to the fountain. She was breathless, fearful in a way she hadn't been before her visit. She normally prayed at the Mary statue for serenity, for strength, but today she prayed for her family and her friends while her feverish hands tended to her task.

When she heard someone call her name, she jumped, turned, and saw the old nun, Francis, in the doorway, beckoning to her. She could hear the distant sound of a car turning into the long drive. Parishioners had been bringing flowers all day to adorn the fountain, the statue, and she tuned out the sound of the motor as she tried to hear what Francis was saying.

“Joanna,” called the old woman again over the wind.

Joanna, distracted by the task she'd just completed, looked behind her once at the peaceful pond, the fragrant floating lilies, the fish that darted like rapid golden arrows. She turned back and began walking, one, two, three steps, and then the car was there, faster than she expected, a blur in her peripheral vision: the impact and the pain and she was flying, flying, soaring above the pond and looking down at herself, the Joanna who fell to the ground, blood running from her head onto her pristine white habit, her hands together as if in one final supplication to the Holy Mother.

Her spirit floated, watching the old nun push her old pained legs into motion. Even while she died, Joanna felt compassion for the living woman's anguish, evident in her cry for help as she knelt by the body, felt the pulse, kissed the hand. Joanna's spirit cringed at the laughter of the one who drove away, unnoticed and unrepentant, escaping into the spring dusk, a murderer.

Part One

Lovely

Chapter One

In October I'd
dyed my hair blonde on a whim. My mother hadn't been pleased, but I'd noted as the months passed that she seemed to be adapting to the new color, even mentioning it to her friends in a way suggesting that I wasn't, after all, shaming the Mann family with my capricious decision. Finally, in late January, I knew that my mother approved when she recommended that I go to her own salon, where, if I intended to perpetuate the color, at least, she said, I should have it done right.

So there I sat in the shampoo chair a week later, having my head pummeled by a hairy Hungarian man named Istvan, who worked at the salon part-time and who told me of his love for watching Magnum, P.I. re-runs on cable. His heavily accented voice spoke loudly in my ear. “I go to Hawaii myself, someday, I tink,” he told me, his unruly eyebrows floating above me as he palmed my head like a basketball. Istvan was not particularly gentle, but I'm sure not one customer had the courage to tell Miss Angie.

“It must be beautiful,” I murmured.

“What?” Istvan boomed.

“Hawaii. It must be beautiful to visit. All those flowers and such,” I said conversationally.

“Oh, yahh. And Magnum P.I. is such good detective. Handsome man, too, hey?” He winked at me, as though I might have a chance with the Tom Selleck of the past. Then he squeezed out the moisture in my hair so hard I felt a sudden empathy for all victims of scalpings.

As instructed by my mother, who understood the etiquette of these things, I handed a dollar to Istvan the torturer before staggering over to Miss Angie's chair.

It's true that my mother is kind of a control freak, but I find I can put up with it most of the time. I can't really complain, because when I do, my fiance Jack points out that I am perhaps even more controlling than my mother. It works for both of us, though, us Mann women. My mother is busy helping the new mayor put city hall in order (I had a part in deposing the old, corrupt mayor), and I find that my controlling instincts, my desire to put the universe in an order that I find pleasing, the desire, as I like to call it, to take vibe-restoring action, has been helpful in my role as an investigative reporter. In fact, it was since I'd gone blonde that things really started happening for me: I got engaged, I broke two corruption stories for the paper, and I got a raise from my boss, Bill Thorpe. I even got a call from the
Tribune
, offering me a chance to interview for a writing position. For now, though, I was happy to remain at the Webley
Wire
, a paper for which Bill Thorpe and I were determined to earn more and more recognition, and not just in Webley, Illinois.

“Your mom told me what you'd like, hon,” Miss Angie said now, as I settled in. The chair was simulation leather and made embarrassing farty sounds, so I stopped wiggling. Miss Angie tossed her own platinum curls, quite a bold look for a fifty-year-old woman, but she carried it off. “Your mom said something a bit more golden, like the old Hollywood girls.”

I shook my head. “I was thinking more white-blonde, like an ice princess. Like a Nordic Queen.”

Miss Angie looked nervous. She shuffled her house slippers on the floor. “Your Mom has already paid me,” she said apologetically. That had been the deal. My mom offered to pay if I'd promise to stop dying my own hair. Now, however, I had to dance to her tune. My mother was determined to have a color she liked for the wedding pictures. I was getting married in June.

I sighed. “Do you have some kind of shade chart?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” Miss Angie said, brightening at this potential way out of the problem. Perhaps there was a compromise in the little booklet with silver rings. She handed it to me and said, “Do you want to look for a while, hon? Because then I'll just run to the back and finish my Lean Cuisine. It'll take five minutes.”

I agreed maybe this would be a good idea. "Sure. And if I need to call my mom?" I asked.

"Right there on the counter, hon. You might want to look at 'Tropical Gold.' Or maybe 'Blonde Ice,' she said, trying not to take sides.

I watched Angie walk away and disappear behind swinging doors. As my eyes traveled back, I noted a woman getting a haircut from Darlene, another of the stylists at Hair You Go salon. The woman was getting a short, no-nonsense cut, and her eyes seemed to be looking, not at the mirror in front of her, but deep into her own thoughts. Her face was looking more and more familiar. Webley is such a small town that I'm always seeing people I think I should recognize. After a while I'd learned to just let it go. It would either come to me, or it wouldn't.

I looked back at the blonde heads in the flip-book. The models pursed their lips at me disdainfully, as if the colors they were wearing were too glamorous for my lowly noggin.

Finally I selected one that seemed a good compromise. It was called 'Blonde Minx.' I was smiling at the thought of telling Jack this name when Angie returned to me and gave the color her blessing. “I'll get things ready, hon,” she told me.

“Angie, who is that woman?” I asked.

“What woman?” Angie asked, wide-eyed.

“Darlene's. In the chair across,” I said, inclining my head toward the still-preoccupied occupant.

“That's Moira, hon. Sister Moira, I should say. From St. Roselles.”

My mouth opened, then closed again. Sister Moira MacShane. I hadn't recognized her out of her habit. She'd taught me English not once, but twice, when I was a freshman and a junior. She'd been one of my favorite teachers at St. Roselle High School.

“So—nuns get their hair done?” I asked.

Angie laughed. “Why, sure, now that they get to show their hair. She's got some kind of important meeting today, wants to look nice. Let me just get the colors together, hon, and I'll be right back,” she said, scuffing toward the back room.

Darlene was taking off the smock and saying, “Moira, dear, I think you're done, so you can pay Lisa on your way out.”

“Oh—thank you,” said my old teacher distractedly, standing and brushing clippings from her blue pantsuit. She got up and I did too, meeting up with her at the front counter, where a girl with purple hair stood waiting for Sister Moira's money.

“Sister Moira!” I said.

She recognized
me
right away, even though I was no longer a teen and had changed my hair color. “Why, Madeline! Would you believe I've been thinking about you lately? And now here you are, obviously a sign from God!”

I had never been called a sign from God; I was momentarily speechless.

“You look just lovely, dear, and I read about your engagement in the
Wire
—congratulations!”

“Thank you, Sister.”

“And how is Gerhard? And Fritz?” Her voice trembled slightly on the second name. My brother Fritz was a nightmare to teachers, even as a memory. Sister Moira taught him in her freshman literature class and was never quite the same afterward. Fritz had become so enamored of the play
Julius Caesar
that he chose to perform a scene as his class project. He selected the moment when the ill-fated Cassius throws himself upon his sword. Fritz's friend Sam Dickerson was Brutus, and he actually earned extra credit for standing there and holding a tin foil sabre while Fritz over-acted his soliloquy. Anyway, the traumatic part happened when Fritz bellowed, “Caesar, thou art avenged, even with the sword that kill'd thee!” and launched himself at the weapon, whereupon gobs of fake blood came pouring out of his side. He hadn't mentioned the fake blood to Sister Moira, although he'd actually "researched" the recipe for the stuff in a
Fangoria
magazine.

BOOK: Lovely, Dark, and Deep
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