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Authors: Elisabeth Crabtree

Murder Games (6 page)

BOOK: Murder Games
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Wondering if his interest was game related or of a more personal nature, she asked, “Are you interested in artwork? An art critic or something—
in real life,” she added quickly.

He chuckled. “I’m interested in anything old.” Clasping his hands behind his back, he turned away from the portrait and strolled to the other side of the room
. He stopped in front of another portrait and tilted his head.

Grace walked over to where he was standing and l
ooked up at the plaque. “Lucinda Lee Graves.” She glanced back at Annalise’s portrait, comparing the two. Instead of the bright red of the other portrait, Lucinda was in an emerald green dress. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a severe bun, which only matched the severe look on her face. She appeared to be glaring across the dining room table at the other portrait. “It doesn’t seem quite the same. Something seems off.” Even to her untrained eye, the strokes looked hastily done; whole sections incomplete. “Different painter?”

“No,
the same painter, just a different subject. This is Annalise’s younger sister. The old Dutch painter threatened to quit several times while working on this portrait. Lucinda had a reputation for being quite quarrelsome. He rushed through it just to get out of here.”

“So, do these portraits have something to do with the game?”

Leaning back away from the portrait, he said, “No. At least, I don’t think so. I was just…” He shook his head. “So, you’re Rose.” He suddenly snapped his fingers. “Wait, there’s something I’m supposed to tell you.” Frowning, he lifted a long elegant hand to his forehead. “I’m supposed to pass along a secret.” Suddenly his face cleared. “Got it. I’m supposed to tell you that Ivy changed her will this morning. She cut everyone out but her youngest daughter, Daisy.”

“How do you know that?”

His smile fell. Groaning, he dropped his head back before running his hand across his eyes. “Oh, wait, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. Never mind. Forget I said anything.” He chuckled, tiredly. “It’s been a long day. The train was late and then it broke down half way here. I didn’t even think I was going to make it here tonight,” he said in a rush. Sticking his hands in his pockets, he took a deep breath and sighed. A bit more slowly, he said, “I’m sorry, Rose. I really haven’t had a chance to study my character’s biography in any great detail. To be honest, I just skimmed it.”

He looked so apologetic, Grace
quickly smiled to put him at ease. “It’s all right. My real name’s Grace, by the way.”

He took her offered hand and shook it. He seemed ready to say something
else, but snapped his mouth shut as his eyes flickered past her shoulder. His hand tightened on her own. He glanced back at her. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to run upstairs and go through my bio again and see if I can get any more details about this love affair of ours.” Before she had a chance to say anything else, he slid past her toward the kitchen door. Wondering at his sudden abruptness, Grace turned around to find Laura standing behind her.

Laura’s eyes narrowed. “What did Hunter say about an affair? Are you two back together? Did you ever really break up with each other? What did you do, Rose? Did you plan Ivy’s murder together?” She glanced around the room. “Just what have you both been doing in here by yourselves?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER
FIVE

 

 

“It was you
!”
Jerry pointed his finger at Molly. “You poisoned Ivy. I saw the way you were looking at Hunter at dinner. You want him, don’t ya?”

Blushing,
Molly froze. Her mouth dropped open slightly, as she glanced toward Hunter standing near the wrought iron circular staircase in the corner of the library. If Hunter heard Jerry’s accusations, he didn’t give any indication, as he continued to thumb through a worn leather book.

Quickly recovering from her embarrassment, Molly,
glass in hand, gestured back toward Jerry. “You’re not going to blame this on me, Uncle Cal,” she slurred. “I overheard you threatening to kill Mother this morning. You were angry with her because she wouldn’t pay your gambling debts.”

His eyes twinkling, Jerry said, “That’s a lie. I haven’t gambled in over a year. Not since Edward died
, and I didn’t threaten Ivy. We were talking about threats she had received from some anonymous villain.”

Grace, who had been watching the exchange with interest from the wingback chair in the corner, glanced over at the mahogany desk in the center of the room in time to see Kyle disappear under the desk.
Torn between watching Jerry and Molly go at it, or finding out what Kyle was up to, she bit her lip. Finally making up her mind, after seeing Kyle’s fingers poking out from the gap between the floor and the desk, she stood up and crept to the desk as quietly as possible. When she got close enough, she leaned over the top of the desk, rapping loudly on the wooden surface. She smiled when she heard what sounded like a head bang against the top of the desk.

Holding a hand to the top of his head,
Kyle slid out from underneath the desk and looked up at her. Rubbing his head, he smiled ruefully.

Grace leaned forward on her elbows
and looked down at him. “And just what are you doing, Mr. Cheatum?”

He stood up suddenly. Placing his hands on the desk in front of her, he leaned down and whispered in her ear,
“I’ve got a secret.”

She turned around
and sat down on the edge of the desk. “That’s interesting. What sort of secret?”

Kyle
walked around the desk and sat down next to her. “Ivy changed her will this morning.”

“Really?” She cocked her head to the side. “Let me guess. She left everything to Daisy.”

“How did you know that?” he asked disappointedly.

She glanced over a
t Hunter. “Just a hunch.”

Kyle
patted his coat pocket. “Well, Rose, your mother’s last will and testament is right here, safe and sound, for now.”

“Meaning?”

“Oh, just that I’m awfully forgetful. Always leaving things behind. It would be a shame if the will disappeared.”

“I’m shocked and appalled that you would think I would cheat my own sister out of her inheritance, Mr. Cheatum.”

“Me?” he asked innocently. “I wouldn’t ever—”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she said,
waving his protestations aside. She glanced over at the other participants. Dropping out of character, she asked, “So, which one do you suspect is actually an actor?”

Kyle shrugged.
“I haven’t got a clue.”

She glanced over at
Sabrina, who was carrying a serving tray into the room. “She’s certainly getting into her role, isn’t she?”

“I had a long
conversation with
Hazel
an hour ago. She didn’t let her accent slip once, which is more than I can say for Rupert.”

“That whole thing with Laura at the front door this morning could have been an act
, staged for our amusement. Maybe they’re both actors.”

“I think you’re becoming paranoid. Even if they are
actors, so what? How does that help us solve Ivy’s murder?”

“Well, don’t forget, the brochure said that there is a prize for the participant who can spot the fake guest among the real ones.

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” He began looking around the room in earnest. “Something about a free ski lesson with an Olympic gold medalist if you can
call out the actor.”

“There is a chance that there isn’t another actor here.”
She crossed her legs and leaned closer to him. “You know, one of the actresses didn’t show,” she said before telling him about the conversation she overheard between Rupert and Becky earlier that day. “Someone marked her name off of my program upstairs, but you can still read it.” A worried frown crossed her face.

“What’s wrong?


I was just thinking about that body they found in the pond today.”

“What about it?”

“They find a woman’s body in the pond and now we have a missing actress…”

“You think it’s the
same woman?” He glanced around at the others in the room and shook his head. “I don’t think so. If it was this Erica, someone at the hotel would have recognized her and would have let her co-workers here know.” He lifted up a hand and gestured to the others. “No one here seems that upset. Not to mention, I don’t care how much money the hotel has invested in these events, if one of the actors from Murder Manor was murdered, this place would be covered with police. At the very least, the cops would want to talk to her fellow actors.” Pausing, he tilted his head to the side. “Of course, that is if she was murdered and if they could identify the body.” He quickly filled her in on what little Jerry knew of the matter.

They turned to watch
Sabrina throw one of the drinks she was carrying in Jerry’s face and storm from the room.

“If the actors are here to help move the plot along,” Kyle said, “then my bet is on Jerry. He’s been blazing through this mystery since we started.”

“Well, if he’s one, then we can assume Caroline is one, as well.”

Kyle
looked over at Hunter who appeared to be inspecting the underside of the circular staircase. “What about him?”

“I don’t think
so. He’s shown practically no interest in the mystery since he arrived. Although, he did seem to know all about Ivy’s will. Who else have you told about it?”

“No one. I’m supposed to let it slip out to you
, and that’s it.” Kyle frowned. “I went back up and checked my packet a few minutes ago. There was no mention of a Fortune Hunter character. Who is he? What is he doing here?”

“I don’t know. I tried to find out in the dining room
, but Laura walked in and he ran off. All I know is that his real name’s William, he’s from Cambridge, his train was late, and anytime Laura gets within five feet of him, he takes off like the bats of Hell are after him. Oh, that, and he likes old things. How much of that is part of the game and how much of it is really him is anyone’s guess.”

Kyle pushed himself off the desk.

Grace grabbed a hold of his sleeve. “Where are you going?”

He nodded toward Hunter.
“I’m going to see if I can find out any more information about him.”

Grace nodded to Laura standing in the doorway. “Too late.

Laura walked
the rest of the way into the library and looked around. Spotting Hunter standing in the corner with his back to the others, she immediately made a beeline for the poor man. Some sort of sixth sense must have alerted him, because he suddenly raised his head. With two quick strides, he reached the bottom of the circular staircase and began to climb.

Sensing her prey was about to
escape, Laura quickened her pace. She wrapped her hand around the railing and was about to step up when Sabrina suddenly stopped her.

“Hazel! What do you think you’re doing?” Laura asked outraged.

Sabrina didn’t answer. Instead, she wrapped her hand around Laura’s wrist and dragged her from the room.

“I wonder what that was all
about.” Kyle asked.

Grace hopped down from the desk. “I’ll let you know in a little while.”

 

*  *  *

 

Grace pushed open the kitchen door and paused. She looked
questioningly at Rupert and Ivy sitting at the kitchen table, unsure if she was allowed in this section.

Ivy looked up from her computer tablet and smiled. “Oh, don’t mind me
, dear. Just pretend that I’m still dead.”

“Can I come in?” Grace asked
, spotting Laura and Sabrina in the corner of the room arguing. “I just wanted to get some tea.”

Ivy passed the tablet over to Rupert
, who gestured toward the counter near Sabrina and Laura. “Help yourself,” he said without looking up.

Grace let the kitchen door swing shut and walked up to the counter. She leafed through the tea packets arranged in a small wicker basket.

“This is supposed to be fun, Laura,” Sabrina said in exasperation.

Laura tapped at her
nametag. “Doctor Nightshade. I had to make a name tag so everyone would remember.”

Sabrina
’s eyes widened. “You’ve lost it. You realize that, don’t you?”

Searching for a cup, Grace opened the cabinet over her head. Finding
only plates and bowls, she shut it gently.

Sabrina
looked at her questioningly.

“I’m just looking for a cup
,” Grace said.

Nodding,
Sabrina walked over to another cabinet and brought down a flower teacup and saucer. “Laura, I’m just saying that you’re taking this far too seriously. It’s not healthy.”

Laura stubbornly crossed her arms.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a year.”

Sabrina
handed Grace the teacup before turning and gently grabbing her sister’s arms. “I know that. So, why aren’t you enjoying yourself?” She bit her lip. “Please, relax. Go have fun.”

Her face lighting up,
Laura said, “I am having fun. This is the most fun I’ve had in years. It took a while, but the others are finally getting into it. Someone actually stole my notebook.”

“You’re kidding,”
Sabrina said with a look of disgust. “Why?”

“What do you mean why? I take
very good notes. Not that it’s going to help them. It’s all written in code.”

Grace filled
her cup with hot water from a tea kettle on the stove. “I can’t imagine someone would be that desperate to win that they’d steal your notebook.”

Dropping the phony accent as well as his creepy butler persona, Rupert said,
“You have no idea. I’ve seen worse than that.”

Ivy nodded. “It can get pretty cut-throat at times. People really want that
Best Sleuth
trophy. Some will go to any lengths to get it, too.” Ivy motioned to the pie sitting in the center of the table. “Would you like some? It’s chocolate. I made it myself.”

Nodding, Grace dropped into an empty chair at the table. “But still, I can’t believe anyone would steal her notebook
.”

“It’s okay
. I remember everything I wrote,” Laura said nonchalantly. “The only person walking away with that trophy is me!” she declared as she swung open the kitchen door.

Sabrina
stood next to the table, staring at the door, apparently internally debating whether to follow her sister or not. She finally sat down at the table. Leaning forward, she took off one of her high heels and rubbed her ankle. “I really should have reconsidered this outfit.”

Ivy handed Grace a p
iece of pie. “I love it when everyone dresses up. There’s definitely a different vibe in the air when everyone’s in costume.” She smiled at Sabrina. “And I must say you are such a good sport. Most people don’t take to the maid role as well as you.”

Sabrina shrugged. “I’ve always wanted to be an actress
, and I figured that if I was going to pretend to be the maid, then I would be the best one you all have ever seen.”

Ivy nodded. “Oh, you are.”

Sabrina slipped her shoe back on and leaned across the table. She craned her neck as she tried to look at the tablet lying in front of Rupert. “Any news, yet?”

Rupert shook his head. “They said they’ll have to wait for the autopsy
‘till they know for certain. There’s no way it was an accident. I bet she was murdered. The cops are looking for some guy.”

Grace set her teacup down. “Are you talking about the woman they found in the pond?”

Ivy nodded. “Horrible. Nothing like that’s ever happened here.”

“Do they know who she was?”
Grace asked.


No.” Ivy slid the tablet back over to her side of the table. She swiped her finger across the screen. “It’ll probably be days before we know anything.”

“Could
she be someone who worked for the hotel?”Grace asked
.
She took a bite of the pie and closed her eyes. Absolute Heaven. “This is excellent, by the way.”

BOOK: Murder Games
11.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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