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Authors: Ellery Adams

The Last Word

BOOK: The Last Word
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Table of Contents
Praise for
A Killer Plot
“Ellery Adams’s debut novel,
A Killer Plot,
is not only a great read, but a visceral experience. Olivia Limoges’s investigation into a friend’s murder will have you hearing the waves crash on the North Carolina shore. You might even feel the ocean winds stinging your cheeks. Visit Oyster Bay and you’ll long to return again and again.”
—Lorna Barrett,
New York Times
author of the Booktown Mysteries
“Adams’s plot is indeed killer, her writing would make her the star of any support group, and her characters—especially Olivia and her standard poodle, Captain Haviland—are a diverse, intelligent bunch.
A Killer Plot
is a perfect excuse to go coastal.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A fantastic start to a new series . . . With new friendships, possible romance(s), and promises of great things to come,
A Killer Plot
is one book you don’t want to be caught dead missing.”

The Best Reviews
“[An] exciting new killer of a series . . . It’s one of those ‘don’t bug me, I’m reading’ books you’re going to savor from the first page to the last.”

Feathered Quill Book Reviews
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Ellery Adams
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / December 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Ellery Adams.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
ISBN : 978-1-101-55919-2
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group
(USA) Inc.

This book is dedicated to teachers everywhere,
but especially to John Bowden, Gilbert Tippy, Jonathan
Stapleton, Jan Chock, Frank Brogan, and Roger Erickson.
These men inspired and challenged me from an early age.
I wouldn’t have had the courage to become an author
without their guidance. Thank you.
Chapter 1
Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.
ll houses have secrets.”
Olivia Limoges was surprised to hear such an enigmatic statement from her contractor, but there wasn’t a hint of humor on Clyde Butler’s weathered face. Perhaps the seasoned builder was merely trying to make a point to the eager first-time homebuyer who stood nearby, one arm wrapped possessively around the porch post.
Harris Williams gazed toward the front door of the aged bungalow with a look of pure devotion, and Olivia could tell he was already visualizing himself living there.
“Regardless of what you’ve discovered, Clyde, I don’t think you can talk Harris out of purchasing this place,” Olivia stated with amusement. “He’s clearly fallen in love.”
Captain Haviland, Olivia’s standard poodle, sniffed around the foundation of the 1930s home and then trotted around the corner, conducting a canine version of a house inspection.
Wearing a hopeful grin, Harris watched the poodle until Haviland disappeared from view, and then picked at a flake of peeling paint with his fingernail. “Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I can feel that this place has history. That’s important to me. There’s more character in this rusty nail than in all the other places I’ve seen put together.”
Olivia surveyed the facade of the two-bedroom bungalow. It had whitewashed brick walls and rows of large windows with black shutters. Olivia’s favorite feature was the wide and welcoming front porch. Leaves had gathered in between the railings and there were rents and holes in the screen door, but the slate steps felt solid under her feet. She’d been inside with Harris a few days ago and had liked the house. Harris was right. The place had a warm personality. Its modest design spoke of simpler times, of family traditions, hard work, and perseverance. She believed Harris was making a good choice.
Harris continued to defend the bungalow even though no one had argued with him. “I’ve seen a dozen new houses in my price range and, yeah, sure, they all had pristine white walls and stainless steel appliances and shiny light fixtures to go along with the flat lawns and four little bushes and a pair of ornamental trees, but they had
personality.” He puffed up his cheeks. “They were all like the straw house from the
Three Little Pigs
, but the wolf doesn’t stand a chance against this place. It’s a rock.”
Clyde nodded. On this, he and Harris agreed. He gestured toward the front door. “If you want strong bones and a solid foundation, you’ll find them here. Houses are like women. The new ones might seem attractive because no one’s touched them and you feel like they’ll treat you well without giving you an ounce of trouble.” A snort. “But they’re built out of cheap materials and will start falling down the second you move in. This old girl is sagging in places and, yes, she’s a bit wrinkled, but she can be made over until she looks like a June bride. She’ll be faithful to the end, but it’ll take lots of labor and expense on your part, my boy.”
Harris’s grin expanded. “Did you know that all the houses on this street were moved during the late sixties to make way for the highway’s expansion? Twelve houses were trucked right down Main Street and brought back to this stretch of empty land like horses being set free on an open pasture.”
Olivia rolled her eyes. “This is one of those times I’m thankful you write science fiction, Harris. If you had put a metaphor like that in your recent chapter, I would have sliced it out with a box cutter.”
Harris pushed a strand of unruly, ginger-colored hair away from his eyes. His looks were often compared to those of Peter Pan, and Harris was constantly striving to prove that he was a man, not a boy. Olivia knew her friend believed that being a homeowner would make him appear more of a bona fide adult, and he certainly behaved like he wanted to acquire this house without delay.
As though sensing her thoughts, Harris eased back the sleeves of his shirt and flexed his left bicep. “This property has half an acre bordering on three more acres of woodland. Think of all the manly man activities I can do here. I can chop wood, refinish furniture, spackle walls, grout tile!” He held out his arms, encompassing the house. “I’ll be like Ty Pennington. A bachelor handyman with mad computer skills to boot! Before you know it, I’ll have my own reality show.”
Clyde shook his head. “Before you start rewiring ceiling fans and installing A/C units, we’d better go over my inspection list.”
The two men moved into the house, which Harris’s real estate agent had unlocked a few minutes earlier before retreating to the comfort of her Cadillac. Her daughter, who happened to be nine months pregnant, had phoned shortly after the Realtor had turned the key in the front door. Gesturing for the threesome to enter without her, she’d hurriedly rushed off to take the call in the privacy of her car.
Inside the bungalow, Harris listened carefully as Clyde pointed out flaw after flaw, from the presence of mold behind the wallpaper to wood rot on the stair treads. Pulling back a corner of the stained and faded blue carpet running down the stairs and into the living room, Clyde showed Harris a series of water stains and areas of damage permeating the subfloor. From there, the contractor reviewed every item in his report, explaining how to address each problem and offering an estimate as to what it would cost to fix.
When they were finished, Olivia joined them on the back patio. Haviland reappeared from a copse of trees and settled on his haunches, his warm caramel-colored eyes darting from one face to another, his mouth hanging open in a toothy smile.
Harris rubbed the black curls on the poodle’s neck and then walked over to the brick retaining wall and sat down. He gazed first at the house and then toward the woods, which bordered the scraggly patch of lawn.
Winter’s chill had abated for good and the sun lit the pines, dappling the soft needles on the forest floor with a ruddy light. Squirrels raced up and down the rough bark, and birds twittered from the branches.
Olivia sat beside Harris on the wall, relishing the peacefulness of the moment. Her life had had little quiet of late, and this patio of cracked flagstones surrounded by a garden of weeds was an oasis of blissful calm.
Clyde’s focus remained on the house. He glanced from his notes to the structure and back at Harris. “I know I took some of the wind out of your sails, boy, but I don’t want you to think this is going to be easy. She’s going to make demands of you, but all houses do. In the end, she’ll be worth the work you’re going to have to put in.”
BOOK: The Last Word
2.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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