Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday's Opening from The Micro-Manager Murder by Janet Lane Walters

Since this is my latest release, I thought I'd jump a bit from the fantasy trilogy.

The Micro-Manager Murder


Chapter 1

A Bridal Bouquet Planned



During the second week of June, Lars arrived in the Hudson River village where I live and where he had a home. The houses in Santa Fe had sold quicker than he expected but he’d kept the ski lodge for his family and mine to use.

The time had come for our plans to marry to reach fruition. Though I suggested we elope, Lars wanted a wedding. I gave in to his desire. We set the date for a Wednesday in mid-August. While discussing where to live, a house I’d admired located just two blocks from my “Painted Lady” came on the market. Lars and I purchased the house jointly using my attorney for the deal. That’s when the problems began.

Lars called me on a warm June morning. “Katherine, are you free tomorrow?”

“I’ve nothing planned.”

He released a long breath. “Call Richard and have him meet us at Barnes and Jones.

“Why?”

“George is upset. He thinks we need some kind of prenuptial agreement.”

I sighed. While I’m no romantic, the thoughts of legal squabbling made me uneasy. “Must we?”

Lars laughed. “Wouldn’t want George to appear in the middle of the ceremony and protest.”

“I’ll call Richard. What time?”

“One o’clock.”



* * * * *

By two thirty on Wednesday, a scream rumbled through me, one I couldn’t let loose. Lars’ attorney droned on in a voice void of expression. Why had I agreed to this meeting? I looked across the wide, highly polished table at the man who would be my husband six weeks from today. Tall, tanned with a craggy face and hair now more gray than blond. His blue eyes twinkled and he pressed his lips together to hide a smile.

I clenched my teeth. I wouldn’t scream. This meeting was my punishment for marrying a man of wealth. Oh, I’m comfortable enough but my fortune runs to hundreds of thousands, not millions.

Just give me the papers and I’ll sign. Those words hovered close to my lips. My foot tapped against the thick carpet in an impatient rhythm.

Then the attorney mentioned the house. A sprawling ranch with a magnificent view of the Hudson River Lars and I had jointly purchased. I’d admired this house for years but never thought to own the place where I could sit in the living room, dining room or master bedroom and watch the river’s changing moods.

“Why wasn’t I informed about this purchase,” George Jones asked. “Lars, you must protect your assets.”

My patience evaporated like dew beneath the summer sun. “Excuse me. Lars and I are adults and able to make decisions. I don’t see why our joint ownership is a bad idea. We contributed equal amounts for the purchase.”

The pompous man huffed. “You must think of your heirs.”

“Why?” The question erupted like a shot from a gun. “Neither Lars or I will be around to worry about them when that time comes. Let them fight over the dregs.”

Lars burst into the laughter he’d contained earlier. “She’s right. Just split the house down the middle. Half to her heirs and half to mine.”

For a moment George sputtered. He ran his hand over his balding head. “But what if one of you outlives the other?”

“The same rule will apply.” I leaned across the table and snagged the large pile of papers.

Beside me Richard Broadhurst, attorney and fiancĂ© of my first floor tenant, nodded. “Mrs. Miller is right. Let them sign and we’ll be done.”

The next half-hour was filled with signatures, witnesses and the thud of the notary seal. I signed the last paper and turned to Lars. “Next time I’ll marry a pauper.”

He walked around the table and kissed my cheek. “We should have eloped.”

“I wanted to years ago but we didn’t. We still could. Blame our families for the delay.” I smiled.

He shook his head. “We’ve waited too long for this.” A moment of sadness slid through his blue eyes. I clasped his hand to show I understood. He’d thought about his only daughter’s betrayal and death. Though Bonnie’s tantrums had prevented our marriage fifteen years ago, he had loved her. “Let’s go.”

Lars nodded to George. “Golf next week.”

“What about Saturday?”

“Have a date.” Lars clasped my hand.

Richard gathered his papers and followed us outside. “Call you later.”

A warm breeze carried the scent of roses and raised my spirits. I walked with Lars to the parking lot where our cars were parked.

“That’s done.” He chuckled. “Never realized how boring George was. You’re the first person to force him into agreeing to stop pushing. I’m sure he had more points to negotiate. Where are you going?”

“Home to cook. Drink a gallon of iced mint tea.”

“I thought we could go for coffee. We have other decisions to make like where to honeymoon.”

My stomach churned. “Not today. I’m going home. Come to dinner. We’ll talk then.”

He shook his head. “Can’t. My oldest boys and their wives are joining Don and me to choose which pieces of furniture and knickknacks they want from the house. Come and select any of the furnishings you want.”

Though I knew he wanted my company, his house held his memories, not mine. I clasped his hands. “No need. We made a list, remember? I chose the things from my apartment and you choose from yours.”

“What if I select something you hate?”

“Why would I? This is a partnership.” I opened the car door. “Spend time with your family tonight.” I kissed his lightly. “Come tomorrow. I’ll make beef Wellington and there’s part of a chocolate cake in the freezer.”

“Could you make one for the groom’s cake?”

“I can do that. Until tomorrow.”

“I’ll be there.” He pulled me close for a warm kiss. “Until tomorrow. I’ll come around five.”

“I’ll have drinks waiting.”

By the time I reached the house, the desire for a mug of mint tea possessed me. I parked in the driveway and strode up the steps to the porch.

My tenant, Jenna, curled on the white wicker swing with a book. She waved. “Afternoon.”

I continued past. “Talk to you later. I need a drink.”

“Mint tea, of course.” She waved a cell phone. “Richard called. Said the session dragged on forever.”

"How right he is.” I fished my mail from the box and headed upstairs.

The moment I entered the apartment, Robespierre, my Maine Coon cat, butted my ankle. “Hello to you.” I bent and rubbed his head before opening the refrigerator. The level of tea in the glass container showed enough for a quick fix.

After draining the glass and pouring the remainder over the ice, I spilled some dried food in the cat’s dish. Moments later, a kettle sat on the fire and I filled a ball with one of my favorite blends taken from a jar on the pantry shelf. I blend my own teas and grow my own mints. I’d already planted several varieties in the garden at the new house.

By the time a fresh container sat in the fridge, the phone had rung twice. My daughter-in-law wanted to schedule a shopping day for wedding clothes. Ruth laughed. “Andrea wants you to wear a white gown.”

“No way.” Andrea is my granddaughter. She’s into ballet and thinks of every event as a show.

Next, Sarah called to set a date for the shower I didn’t want or need. She rattled on until I stopped her. “I’ll agree if we make the gifts items for the local food pantry.”

“Great.”

“I knew you would approve.” Sarah has a large social conscience and is mother to three and foster mother to two children.

I filled a tall mug with more ice and poured in the fresh brew. The ice crackled. The phone rang for a third time.

Maria, my next-door-neighbor, spoke. “Mrs. Katherine, I would show you the rings I have make for you and Mr. Lars.”

“I’ll come tomorrow. I’m bushed.”

She laughed. “What kind are you?”

Maria’s from Spain and often has confusion with idioms. “No bush, I’m tired.”

“Come for tea in the morning. I will ask Mrs. Sarah.”

I pressed the cool glass to my forehead. Too many cooks wanting to stir the broth of my life. What I needed was an escape, just for a day or two. An idea tickled my thoughts but the fourth call in twenty minutes firmed my resolve. Escape was on the menu. Edward, pastor of St. Stephens; called to finalize the ceremony and the use of Fellowship Hall for the reception, the first of two.

“Katherine, you know how delighted I am to perform this ceremony. Simply delighted. So delighted I have an idea.”

A smile teased. Delighted must be his word of the day. “And that is?”

“St. Stephens’ needs another Elder. I would be delighted to name Lars to help guard our affairs.”

“You’ll have to ask him.”

“I will. We’d be delighted to have the two of you for bridge Friday evening.”

“I’m not sure what we have planned.” Jolted by the desperate need to run away from these many managers of my time I sighed. “I’ll let you know.”

“Delighted. We can discuss the wedding arrangements while we play.”

The dial tone sounded before I reminded him I hadn’t accepted. I called Lars to warn him. This done I continued. “I’m leaving on Friday to visit Joyce.”

“Wish I could join you.”

“Why not?”

“Golf weekend with the boys.”

“Enjoy. Edward will call you.”

“I’ll make our excuses. See you tomorrow evening.”



3 comments:

Melissa Keir said...

Wonderful excerpt! What is your favorite genre to write in?

JL Walters said...

Melissa, My favorite is usually the one I'm working on. Right now it's spicy contemporary.

Kathryn Attalla said...

Can't wait to red the rest.