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A Greater Love
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A GREATER LOVE

the story of David and Rosalyn

by

Kate Hofman




©Copyright 2007 by

Romance at Heart Publications E-Novels

ISBN# 10: 0-9799423-4-1

ISBN# 13: 978-0-9799423-4-9  

Edited by Karen MacLeod

Cover Art by Jennifer Mueller


Publication by Romance at Heart  ©2007
http://rahpubs.com/



All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information and storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.



PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


Dedication:

 

I dedicate this book to my dear friend, Rose Brungard, who was so generous with her advice and help while I was writing David and Rosalyn's story. 

This is for you, Rose honey.

 

Many thanks to my friend, the wonderful writer Jennifer Mueller, who designed the cover art for this book. 

You're multi-talented, Jennifer.   Thanks again.

 


Greed is a very good motive for murder…

 

            “Miss Eversham, what on earth is the matter?  You’re shaking like a leaf.”

            “Oh, Rose, I’m so upset.  My stockbroker just sent me a letter that he has put my quarterly income into my bank account.  I particularly told him to bring it to me in cash.”

            “Well, any time you want some money, all you have to do is write a cheque, and I’ll go get it for you.  I doubt that a stockbroker would feel comfortable bringing you a whole bunch of money in cash?  If it got lost….”

            “Oh no, my dear, that’s impossible.  You see, I put the money into envelopes and I hide them behind the books in my bookcase.  Look for yourself.  Would you guess that I’ve got many thousands of dollars hidden behind my books?”

            Rosalyn briefly closed her eyes.  Dear God, this is much worse than I believed.  And if ever Gary Witherspoon finds out where Miss Eversham hides her money, he’ll climb over the balcony for sure. 

Aloud, she said, “Miss Eversham, your secret is safe with me.  But please promise me that you will tell no one else what you’ve just told me about where you hide your money?  A burglar could climb from one balcony to the other until he got to your balcony, force open your balcony doors, and steal your money.  Don’t you think it would be safer in your bank account?  We could count the money and I could take it for you, and bring you the receipt from the bank for that exact amount.”

            Miss Eversham showed every sign of severe agitation.  “Oh, no, Rose.  I’m afraid that banks are not as safe as you young people think.  In my youth….”

            Hastily, Rosalyn said, “Just as you like, of course.  Please don’t worry.  If this is what you want, then of course that’s how it will be.  Just promise me not to tell anyone?”

            “And by ‘anyone’ you mean that slimy Gary Witherspoon.  Don’t look discomfited, Rose.  I know you dislike him as heartily as I do.  The only likable thing about him is his little boy, Michael.  Yes, I know the other owners call him Mick The Mouth because he hollers the moment he’s left alone.  But he’s an enjoyable kiddie, really.”

            “Miss Eversham?  You don’t let Gary enter here, bring his son?”

            “No, of course not, my dear.  Just when I’m in the hall, walking.  If you can call it walking.  He says he is a single father, whatever that means.”

            “The story I heard from the superintendent is that he did father this child, and one day its mother brought the baby in its bassinet, with a bag of clothing and diapers, left it with the superintendent with orders to give the kid to Gary Witherspoon, its father.  The mother said she was sick of being the victim any longer.”

            “You don’t say,” said Miss Eversham, clearly excited to hear these astonishing details from Rosalyn.

            Rose nodded, saying, “If you’ve finished, I’ll take the tea-things away and wash up for you.  Then, I’m afraid I’ll have to go home, my Editor said he would phone after lunch, and I wouldn’t like to miss his call.  Will you be all right now?”

            “I’ll be just fine, my dear Rose.  And thank you for your many kindnesses to me.”

             Rosalyn made a negligent gesture and smiled at the old lady. “I hope you’ll feel a whole lot better when your masseuse has done her stuff.”

            After she had washed up, she gave Miss Eversham a little wave, and let herself out of the condo.

* * * *

            On Wednesday, around one o’clock, someone banged loudly on Rosalyn’s door.   Surprised, she opened, to see Gary Witherspoon with his son under his arm.

            “Please Rosalyn?  Could you help me?  There’s a serious emergency I’ve got to take care of, and I wonder if you could baby-sit my son for a few hours?  I promise I’ll be as quick as I can.  Please?  Oh, please?”

            Taken aback by the man’s frenzied tone and demeanour, Rosalyn said, “Very well, I’ll babysit him.  Is there anything…”

            Gary interrupted.  “Here’s his bag with diapers and stuff.  And he’s eaten.  That little bottle holds some apple-juice.  When he starts whining, just give him that.  I’m so very grateful to you.  Thanks very much.”  With that, Gary was gone.

            Unused to children, particularly very small children, Rosalyn sat down on her sofa, found a little blanket in the bag and laid it on her Shiraz rug.  She put little Michael on the blanket.  He seemed to be quite content to lie there, and quickly fell asleep.  Thank God.  I hope he sleeps until his father picks him up again…


 

 

 

A GREATER LOVE:

the story of David and Rosalyn

by

Kate Hofman


 

Ocean Breeze, Florida.

 

Chapter 1.

 

            The quiet, but insistent knocking at her front door finally penetrated Rosalyn Grant’s consciousness.  Deeply immersed in a pivotal chapter of her book, it took her several moments to realize that someone must be at the door.  Someone who knew her habits, was aware that, once involved with her characters, it would take a lot of persistent knocking to deflect her attention from her writing.  With a sigh, she rose, went to the door and opened it.

            When she saw Julie Harris’s dark curls dancing at eye-level, she was no longer annoyed at the disturbance.

She and Julie had been at college together.  Her friend was dressed in a black linen shift, an acid-green chiffon scarf girdling her hips, matching green sandals at her feet.  Typical of Julie, she even wore acid-green metallic eye shadow. 

            “Julie, honey, do come in.  Have you been waiting long?  I’m sorry it took me a while to realize someone was at the door.”  Rosalyn stood aside, gesturing to Julie to enter.          

“You were writing, of course.  Please don’t apologize, Rose.  I should apologize for disturbing you.  I remember you told me you’re down to the last three or four chapters.  I know you always find them the hardest to do.”

They walked into the living-room together, and Rosalyn gestured to the conversation-area, a big sofa in pale olive-green Italian leather, two matching easy chairs and one wing-chair in a darker olive-green, grouped around a coffee table of beveled glass, set in dark walnut wood.  There were small drinks tables in the same wood by the chairs.

“Wow, Rose.  I like the new furniture.” 

“I’m glad.  My old furniture was getting beyond shabby, and I finally decided to spend a little money on my surroundings.”

“Four weeks running on the New York Times best-sellers list.  I should think you could afford to splurge a little.  It’s beautiful, Rose.”

“Thanks.  I’m pretty partial to it myself.  Shall we have some tea?  Unless you prefer wine?”

“Well, if you’re planning to go back to writing later, then perhaps we’d better have tea.  Any chance of… Anchovy toast?”  They chorused the last two words.

“Anchovy toast it shall be,” said Rosalyn gaily, and went to the kitchen to put the kettle on.  Julie followed her, smiling at the memory of their favorite treat when they were undergrads.  

She quietly looked at her friend.  Long, elegant legs, her body very slender, perhaps a little too thin, she often forgot to eat when writing.  Chin-length dark blonde hair with sun-streaks made by the sun, not from a bottle.  A heart-shaped face, huge blue eyes with long dark lashes under silky, curved brows, darker than her hair.  A straight nose, and a luscious mouth.  Julie grinned quietly when she took in Rosalyn’s clothes.  A clean but threadbare sundress, bare feet…  Smiling, Julie shook her head.  Rose never gave a damn for prettying herself up.  Well, she didn’t really need to.

“Heard anything from Ada lately?”  she asked.  There was no need for her to expand upon the name.  Rosalyn knew Julie meant Ada Miller, who had been at the University of Northern Florida with them, and had adhered to them like glue.  She had been a fairly bright but gossipy, envious, unattractively spiteful undergrad, and hadn’t exactly improved with time.  In fact, she was worse at thirty-three than all those years ago.  Intent on making anchovy toast, Rosalyn merely shook her head.

“Well, I certainly dropped myself right into it with her,” Julie said ruefully.

“How did you manage that, hon?”

“Oh, well, you see, I had met this rather gorgeous man. Talk about tall, dark and handsome— He lives here.   But we met in Jacksonville, and he invited me to have dinner with him.  I had such a great time, he’s witty, intelligent, well-read, well-informed, has beautiful manners.”  Julie sank down on a chair in Rosalyn’s breakfast nook, her eyes dreamy. 

Making a little purring sound, she continued.  “I was planning to ask him to dinner at my place, praying that I had your recipe for Santa Fe stew somewhere.  But then he called to say he had to go back to Ocean Breeze that afternoon, an emergency had come up.  Emergency?  I wondered, was he a doctor, then?  But there was no medical conference anywhere at that time, so…?  But I didn’t like to ask, we had only had dinner that one time, rather formally, I may add.

“Imagine my surprise when he invited me to dinner in Ocean Breeze. Two weeks ago, that was.  He asked if he should reserve a room for me at the Hilton, the other motels here seem to be mom-and-pop operations, is that right?”  Rosalyn nodded, and Julie went on with her tale.   

“I said that I had friends in Ocean Breeze, women I had been at school with… I thought I’d better make the point that you and Ada were women.

            “Of course I had intended asking you for a bed.  You’d make David welcome, I felt sure.  But the next day I bumped into Ada, or rather, she made a point of looking me up, while she was in Jacksonville ‘on business’ she said.  Well, what with us making spaghetti bolognese all over the kitchen, drinking rather a lot of Chianti and letting our hair down, I told her about my new, gorgeous man, and yes, you guessed it.  She insisted that I come stay with her, she’d love to see my new man… and so on.   Like a fool, I agreed.”  Julie frowned at the memory, incensed anew at having given in to Ada.

            “Need I describe her nosy questions to him, the moment he arrived to take me to dinner?  Her close-to-rude remarks about men in general, who go out with women and then dump them… as if she had any experience of being asked out.  I don’t mind telling you, I spent the first half-hour of our date apologizing profusely to him.  Then he said calmly that I should forget about Ada, he certainly had.  And we had a very nice evening, just having dinner and talking.  But he wouldn’t come up for a night-cap, and who can blame him?”

            Rosalyn had meanwhile made the tea and the anchovy toast, putting it all on a big tray, which she carried into the living-room, placing it on the coffee-table.

            Almost without taking a breath, Julie continued.  “When I finally got to Ada’s condo – she’s in the Tahiti, did you know?”  She barely noticed Rosalyn nodding, intent on her tale.  “Well, then Ada began.  What did I know of this man.  Why did I have to stay with a friend, why didn’t he invite me to his own home, no doubt he had a wife and kids.  I said that he had told me he’s a widower, but that didn’t slow down Ada any.  Oh, Rose, it was just so ghastly.  She ruined the memory of a very pleasant evening, and you know how her nasty, poisonous barbs stay with you and make you wonder if you’re perhaps too gullible after all.”

            “Well,” Rosalyn said, “you know how envious Ada always was of men who asked us out, and how she spewed her sour-grape remarks over us when we got back.  And she told others that we must be sleeping with those guys, otherwise they wouldn’t be so keen to take us out.  I finally had enough and told her to keep her vicious, slanderous tongue to herself, or my father, a lawyer, remember? would sue her for everything she owned or would ever own.  That shut her up fast.  She’s never bothered me since.  Which is just fine with me, as you can imagine.

“So, next time your delightful man asks you out, you stay with me.  I’ll give you some privacy, which, after Ada, I’m sure he’d welcome too.  I’ll go stay with Dad.  He’s just bought a house in Mount Dora, the condo in Winter Park had begun to pall.  Or perhaps Cynthia White, the woman he’s been seeing, wanted to move because everyone in Winter Park remembers my mother, of course, and constantly mentions her to my Dad in Cynthia’s presence.  I can imagine that she’d get tired of that.  And Dad seems happy with her.  Anyway, I’ll call him and ask if he’ll have me for the week-end, whenever your fabulous man invites you again.  How would that be?”

            “Oh, Rose-honey… I knew I could count on you.”

            “Of course you can always count on me.  By the way, did you tell me that, so far, your dates with Mr Gorgeous have been rather formal?  He picks you up for dinner, you have dinner, he brings you back?”

            “Well, yes, but of course there was hardly anything else he could do.  In Jax, we had barely met, and when he picked me up here, he could hardly come back with me to Ada’s.  So, perforce, our dates have been quite formal, yes.”   

            Rosalyn nodded.  Privately, she felt that there were other possibilities, such as the man inviting Julie to his own home for a nightcap, if he were interested in taking the situation a step closer to intimacy.  Or he could have reserved a hotel room for her, for the same reason.  But apparently Julie hadn’t thought that far.  Or, the possibility that Julie wouldn’t want to hear… perhaps this man prefers to take things very slowly.  Fat chance, with Julie already quite smitten…              

She sighed, and extended the anchovy toast platter to Julie again.

            When Julie finally left, Rosalyn tried to get back to writing, but Julie and her Hottie kept intruding.  Rosalyn could foresee the problems that Julie could create by coming on to him too soon, too aggressively.  She shook her head, deciding to have an early night.  Tomorrow is another day, she thought wistfully.

* * * *

            On Tuesday morning, Rosalyn went to the mailroom to pick up her mail and that of old Miss Eversham, an endearing, eccentric shut-in, who could barely manage to get around her condo with the aid of a walker, after her most unfortunate fall down the concrete emergency stairs.  Why on earth Miss Eversham hadn’t used the elevator was a mystery to all her neighbours.

            Gary Witherspoon, who lived in the apartment next to Miss Eversham, greeted Rosalyn effusively. “Hey, let me take Miss Eversham’s mail up to her, save you the trip,” he said eagerly.

            “That’s so kind of you, but you have no key for Miss Eversham’s apartment.  I do, so I can bring her mail to her.”  Rosalyn nodded politely but coolly to Gary and concentrated on extracting the mail from the two boxes.  She couldn’t have said why, but she didn’t like Gary Witherspoon.  Always so effusive, trying to make himself useful to Miss Eversham, who disliked him heartily, for reasons she had never explained.

            She entered Miss Eversham’s condo, called out, “It’s me, Rose,” and went in search of Miss Eversham, who called rather feebly from the living-room, “Rose?”

            “Good morning, Miss Eversham, how are you?” Rosalyn asked.  She thought she saw lines of pain in the old lady’s face.  “When is your masseuse coming?   It looks to me as if you’re in serious need of her?”

            “Yes, dear, I am rather,” sighed Miss Eversham.  “But I mustn’t bore you with my many aches and pains.  I pray that you never fall down those wicked concrete steps, break a hip and suffer the most unfortunate consequences.”

            “If you’d like, I could call your masseuse and ask her to come a day early,” Rosalyn offered.

            “No, thank you, my dear.  I had better not.  She’s very busy, you know, and if I start making demands outside my appointed time, she might not want to do me any more…and then where would I be?”

            “I doubt very much that Miss Uhlmann would be so unkind.  She seems a most caring person.”

            “I hope so, my dear, I hope so,” sighed Miss Eversham.

            “Shall I make you a cup of tea, and some toast points with peanut butter?  It’s a good protein, so it’ll help you keep your strength up.”

            “But my dear Rose, surely you have better things to do?”  Miss Eversham seemed hesitant.

            “I assure you I’ve got lots of time.  My book is nearly finished, but I’ve got to let my ideas gel a bit before I can write ‘The End.’  So please tell me, would you enjoy a cup of tea and some toast points?”

            “Of course I’d love it, my dear, I’m just afraid to be a burden to you.”

            “But you aren’t, I promise.  Shall I slice open the envelopes for you, then you can read your mail while I’m making the tea, and when I come back I’ll clear away the envelopes, and so on.  All right?”  Rosalyn smiled at the old lady, so obviously in great pain, and began to use a paper-knife on the envelopes.  

            Some time later, when she came out of the kitchen with a tray, she saw that Miss Eversham was literally shaking.  Bad news in one of the letters?  Rosalyn quickly put the tray down and went to her.  

            “Miss Eversham, what on earth is the matter?  You’re shaking like a leaf.”

            “Oh, Rose, I’m so upset.  My stockbroker just sent me a letter that he has put my quarterly income into my bank account.  I particularly told him to bring it to me in cash.”

            “Well, any time you want some money, all you have to do is write a cheque, and I’ll go get it for you.  I doubt that a stockbroker would feel comfortable bringing you a whole bunch of money in cash?  If it got lost….”

            “Oh no, my dear, that’s impossible.  You see, I put the money into envelopes and I hide them behind the books in my bookcase.  Look for yourself.  Would you guess that I’ve got many thousands of dollars hidden behind my books?”

            Rosalyn briefly closed her eyes.  Dear God, this is much worse than I believed.  And if Gary Witherspoon ever finds out where Miss Eversham hides her money, he’ll climb over the balcony for sure. 

Aloud, she said, “Miss Eversham, your secret is safe with me.  But please promise me that you will tell no one else what you’ve just told me about where you hide your money?  A burglar could climb from one balcony to the other until he got to your balcony, force open your balcony doors, and steal your money.  Don’t you think it would be safer in your bank-account?  We could count the money and I could take it for you, and bring you the receipt from the bank for that exact amount.”

            Miss Eversham showed every sign of severe agitation.  “Oh, no, Rose.  I’m afraid that banks are not as safe as you young people think.  In my youth….”

            Hastily, Rosalyn said, “Just as you like, of course.  Please don’t worry.  If this is what you want, then of course that’s how it will be.  Just promise me not to tell anyone?”

            “And by ‘anyone’ you mean that slimy Gary Witherspoon.  Don’t look discomfited, Rose.  I know you dislike him as heartily as I do.  The only likable thing about him is his little boy, Michael.  Yes, I know the other owners call him Mick The Mouth because he hollers the moment he’s left alone.  But he’s an enjoyable kiddie, really.”

            “Miss Eversham?  You don’t let Gary enter here, bring his son?”

            “No, of course not, my dear.  Just when I’m in the hall, walking.  If you can call it walking.  He says he is a single father, whatever that means.”

            “The story I heard from the superintendent is that he did father this child, and one day its mother brought the baby in its bassinet, with a bag of clothing and diapers, left it with the superintendent with orders to give the kid to Gary Witherspoon, its father.  The mother said she was sick of being the victim any longer.”

            “You don’t say,” said Miss Eversham, clearly excited to hear these astonishing details from Rosalyn.

            Rose nodded, saying, “If you’ve finished, I’ll take the tea-things away and wash up for you.  Then, I’m afraid I’ll have to go home, my Editor said he would phone after lunch, and I wouldn’t like to miss his call.  Will you be all right now?”

            “I’ll be just fine, my dear Rose.  And thank you for your many kindnesses to me.”

             Rosalyn made a negligent gesture and smiled at the old lady. “I hope you’ll feel a whole lot better when your masseuse has done her stuff.”

            After she had washed up, she gave Miss Eversham a little wave, and let herself out of the condo.

* * * *

            On Wednesday, around one o’clock, someone banged loudly on Rosalyn’s door.   Surprised, she opened, to see Gary Witherspoon with his son under his arm.

            “Please Rosalyn?  Could you help me?  There’s a serious emergency I’ve got to take care of, and I wonder if you could baby-sit my son for a few hours?  I promise I’ll be as quick as I can.  Please?  Oh, please?”

            Taken aback by the man’s frenzied tone and demeanour, Rosalyn said, “Very well, I’ll babysit him.  Is there anything…”

            Gary interrupted.  “Here’s his bag with diapers and stuff.  And he’s eaten.  That little bottle holds some apple-juice.  When he starts whining, just give him that.  I’m so very grateful to you.  Thanks very much.”  With that, Gary was gone.

            Unused to children, particularly very small children, Rosalyn sat down on her sofa, found a little blanket in the bag and laid it on her Shiraz rug.  She put little Michael on the blanket.  He seemed to be quite content to lie there, and quickly fell asleep.  Thank God.  I hope he sleeps until his father picks him up again…

* * * *

            An hour later, there was another knock at her door.  I hope that’s Gary.  

            When she opened the door, she saw Julie, dressed this time in a fuchsia sun-dress with jacket, her mouth gleaming with fuchsia lipstick.

            “Rose – I had to come and tell you that my tall-dark-and-handsome has invited me to dinner for next Friday.  Today’s Wednesday already. Can I, may I, dare I impose on you?  Will you really leave us your condo and go stay with your Dad?”

            “Yes, of course I will.  I’ll call Dad tonight.  And now that you’re here, would you like a cup of tea?”

            “Sure I would.  But what have we here?  A hitherto unacknowledged love-child?”

            “Bite your tongue, Julie.  The poor kid was left here by his father, Gary Witherspoon, you know, the guy I can’t stand.  But what could I do, he stood here at the door bleating about a serious emergency and could I baby-sit his son for a couple of hours.  So, feeling driven into a corner, I said, Yes, I would.  Julie, meet Mick The Mouth.”

            Rosalyn went to make the tea, and Julie knelt by Mick, who had woken up.  She started playing with him.  Mick was delighted with the attention, and when he began to whine softly, Rosalyn dug the little bottle of apple-juice out of the bag Gary had left, stuck it into Mick’s mouth and was pleased to see him start to drink rightaway.

            An hour later, there was another knock at the door.  Rosalyn was bent over the dishwasher, so Julie said, “I’ll go.”

            When she opened the door, she saw a man looking stressed beyond description, one hand behind his back, the other dug deeply into a pocket of his jeans.

            “W-who the h-hell are y-you?” he stammered.

            Julie smiled frostily.  “I’m a friend of Rose’s, and you must be the father of the baby lying on the carpet there.  Will you go in and pick him up?  Rose and I have very little experience where small children are concerned.”

            Gary strode purposefully into the room, grabbed the bag and hung it over one shoulder, then he reached down and picked up his son and the blanket.

            “Thanks,” he called in the direction of the kitchen, and disappeared through the front door.

            “You’re welcome,” said Rose to the closed door, and turned to Julie.  “I assure you that’s the last time I do anything for that creep.  In fact, from now on I won’t open my door to anyone who knocks so loudly.  It’s usually an emergency—for them, not for me.”

            The two friends decided to have dinner together, and when Rosalyn invited Julie to stay over in her guest-suite, Julie did not need much coaxing.

            They went to La Casa Rosada, an authentic Mexican restaurant, run as a family concern.  Julie wondered how she would like this unfamiliar food but, to her surprise, she found her dinner choice delicious.  After they had finished their coffee, Rosalyn paid the bill, leaving a generous tip for the young waitress.  

            “Our compliments to the chef,” said Rosalyn.

            Mi padre,” the waitress whispered shyly.

            The women smiled at her and left.  They spent the rest of the evening discussing Rosalyn’s plans once she had finished the last few chapters of her book.  Talk became desultory, and at around eleven o’clock the friends decided to call it a night.

* * * *

            On Thursday morning, around eleven o’clock, Julie went back to Jacksonville.  She had a lecture that afternoon.  She taught art history at a college of art and design.  “I’ll come in on the five-thirty commuter plane tomorrow, but don’t bother picking me up, I’ll take a cab.  Give you some more time with your book.  Thanks again, Rose.”  A hug, and Julie was gone.

* * * *

            Late, that afternoon, there was another knock at her door.  When she went to open, to her surprise she saw two strangers, a man and a woman, dressed in business clothes.  The woman held out a small black leather folder, showing her ID and a gold badge.  “Police,” she said.  “I’m Detective Hanrahan, and this is Detective Davies.  You are Ms. Rosalyn Grant?”

            Rosalyn nodded and, swallowing her surprise, she asked, “Will you come in?”

            The two detectives followed her into the living room, where she gestured to the sofa and chairs.  

            “Please sit down.  Would you like coffee?”

            Detective Davies said, “We’d love some, but we’ve got to get on with our enquiries.  Could you please tell us whether you were home in the afternoon, and if so, did you hear anything suspicious?”

            Rosalyn stared at them.  “How do you mean, suspicious?  This condo-building is very well built, we hardly hear anything from our immediate neighbours, even.  Why?   What’s happened?”

            Detective Hanrahan said quietly,  “There’s been a murder here.  A Miss Emily Eversham in Suite 302.”

            Rosalyn went paperwhite and the two detectives hastily went to her side, afraid she might faint. 

            “M-Miss Eversham?  But… I brought her her mail yesterday morning, and…” Her voice was shaking, and tears she was unable to control slid quietly down her pale cheeks.  “She never did anyone any harm.  Please tell me she didn’t suffer?  But how could this happen?”

            Detective Hanrahan said gently, “No, she didn’t suffer.  It must’ve been instantaneous.  At the moment, we can’t be entirely sure, but it seems that someone managed to enter her suite, perhaps a burglar.  Miss Eversham surprised him and he killed her.  She had an appointment with a masseuse…”

Rosalyn nodded.  “Yes, Miss Uhlmann.”

            Hanrahan said, “The masseuse found her dead and called the police.  Ms. Grant, you seem to be familiar with Miss Eversham’s daily life?”

            Rosalyn nodded again, and made an effort to control herself so that she could answer the questions helpfully.  ‘‘Yes, I was probably the closest thing to a friend she had in this building.  She gave me a key to her condo and her mailbox, so that I could pick up her mail and bring it to her.  I used to make a cup of tea and perhaps some toast points for her while she read her mail….

“Oh, wait.  Something you should know… Miss Eversham had become a little eccentric, and had a distrust of banks.  She told me that she had most of her income – not, of course, her capital – distributed in envelopes hidden behind the books in her bookcase.  When she told me that, a few days ago, I begged her to keep this a secret, particularly from….” Rosalyn hesitated, not wishing to make the police suspect Gary Witherspoon more than he deserved.

“Gary Witherspoon?” said the male detective.  “Yeah, he looks good for it, but unfortunately he has an alibi.  And Ms. Grant, we’ll have to have the keys to Miss Eversham’s condo and mailbox.”

With a shock, Rosalyn realized that the male detective – was his name Davies? –  thought it suspicious that she had Miss Eversham’s keys.   

“Yes, of course, I’ll get them for you,” she said, and rose to get her handbag from the bedroom.  She rummaged for a moment, then held out the two keys on a key-ring with a big ‘E’ on it.  “Here you are,” she said, handing over the keys.

“Tell me, Ms. Grant,” said Detective Davies, “Why didn’t you go pick up Miss Eversham’s mail today?”         

“I haven’t picked my own mail up yet, either.  I had a friend staying over.  We had dinner together last night, and she left this morning around eleven o’clock.  I had got very much behind with my writing, so I went straight to my library when Julie was gone, and…”

“Julie?” Detective Davies asked with a leer.  “Sure it wasn’t Jules?”

Rosalyn threw him a glance of utter contempt, and said, deliberately turning to Detective Hanrahan,  “My friend’s name is Julie Harris.  She teaches art history in Jacksonville.  She had a few free days, meaning without having to give lectures, so she came to spend them with me.”

“I see,” said Detective Davies.  Do you?  thought Rosalyn.

Apparently Detective Hanrahan felt it was time she ended the interview.

“Ms. Grant, we’ll write up your statement from what you’ve told us, but you’ll have to come to the station to read the statement over and, if it is correct, to sign it.  We’d like you to come by tomorrow afternoon.  Say around three o’clcock?”

            “Of course I will, Detective Hanrahan,” Rosalyn said obligingly.

            “If I may, I’d like to say that I love your books.” said Hanrahan.

            “You do?”  Rosalyn’s smile lit up her small, intelligent face.  “If you knew what a lift it gives a writer to hear that someone has actually read and liked her books.  Thank you.”

            Detective Hanrahan smiled at Rosalyn and rose from her chair.

            “Joe, we’d better be on our way.  Be sure to get one of the officers to remain on guard on this floor.  We don’t want any surprises,” said Detective Hanrahan.  She smiled again at Rosalyn and walked to the front door with Davies, who most certainly did not smile, but gave Rosalyn an offensive leer.

Any hope that Rosalyn could go back to her book was now a forlorn one.  

Deeply upset at poor Miss Eversham having been murdered, and secretly convinced that Gary Witherspoon was somehow involved, Rosalyn bolted and chained her front-door, then checked her two balcony doors to make sure they were locked securely too.  Being on the third floor, she felt fairly certain that no one could hope to get into one of her windows.  She remembered that Detective Hanrahan had said she would leave an officer on guard on this floor, and this knowledge eased her anxiety quite a bit.

* * * *

When Rosalyn entered the police station on Friday, at five minutes to three, she gave her name and asked for Detective Hanrahan.

“You’re here to sign a statement, Ma’am?” asked the polite young officer at the counter.

“Yes, I am,” said Rosalyn.  She had never been in a police station, and was interested to note that she felt worried, not to say guilty.  How strange.

“I’ll take you to the Lieutenant’s office, Ma’am.  That’s Lieutenant MacGregor.”

The young officer opened a counter-height door and gestured that she was to enter.  He preceded her down a corridor, knocked at the third door along, and opened it.

“Ms. Rosalyn Grant, Sir,” he said to the tall, dark man standing by the window, staring out at the traffic.  He turned immediately, and gave a faint smile.  Rosalyn thought he was one of the handsomest men she had ever seen.  Black hair, neatly trimmed; black, winged brows over dark-brown eyes with long, thick lashes; high, sculpted cheekbones; a straight nose with sensitive-looking nostrils; a chiseled mouth; strong chin with a slight cleft.  She became aware that she was staring, and hastily averted her eyes.

“Ms Grant.  I am Lieutenant MacGregor.  I’m in charge of the team trying to find out who killed Miss Eversham.  I hope you will be able to help us.”  Not sure whether this was the correct thing to do, she held out her hand, and Lieutenant MacGregor gently shook it.  She felt comforted by the strength of his touch.  Strange.

Only then did she notice Detective Hanrahan, seated beside the Lieutenant’s desk.  She smiled at her, and Detective Hanrahan rose, pulling a chair forward, gesturing to Rosalyn to sit down in it.

The Lieutenant said, “If you don’t mind, I’ll just read over your statement.  On Wednesday afternoon, you were alone in your condo, your friend…. Julie Harris… having left you at about eleven o’clock, to go back to Jacksonville?”

“Oh, no…”

“No?”  The Lieutenant seemed to consider her answer ditzy, to say the least, because he frowned slightly.

“No, Lieutenant.  I thought that Detective-Sergeant Davies was asking me about yesterday afternoon.  He never said it was about Wednesday.  On Wednesday, around one o’clock, Gary Witherspoon came banging on my door, he said he had to leave on a serious emergency, and could I please baby-sit Mick The Mouth…”

“Mick Who?” said the Lieutenant, his sculpted mouth quirking in amusement.

“Oh, that’s the nickname the neighbours have given little Michael, Gary Witherspoon’s son.  He hollers unbelievably loudly whenever he’s left alone.”

“Yes, that was why we understood Witherspoon to have been home Wednesday afternoon, because the neighbours swore the kid was quiet.  Not a peep, they said.”

“He said he had to go out on this emergency, and left his son with me.  My friend Julie came a little later, making arrangements to stay at my place this coming week-end from Friday on.   She’s invited to have dinner with someone, and she asked if she could stay with me.  She lives in Jacksonville, you see.  Of course I said yes, and promised that I’d go stay with my Dad in Mount Dora, to give her and her uh…friend some privacy.  

“Anyway, she was still there when Gary Witherspoon came back for his son, he seemed taken aback when Julie opened the door to him, and said something like, ‘Who the hell are you?’  Then he grabbed Mick and went home.”

The Lieutenant and Sergeant Hanrahan looked at each other.

“I told you I liked him for it,” she said.  She turned to Rosalyn.  “You were lucky having your friend visit while Witherspoon was on the rampage.  If you had been alone, he’d no doubt have killed you too.  After all, you’re the only one who could destroy his alibi of having been home with his quiet son.”

Rosalyn went paper-white and slid forward, close to fainting.

The Lieutenant reached Rosalyn with one stride, lightly held her by the shoulders to prevent her falling, and said, reproach in his voice,  “Hanrahan.  How could you terrify this lady by telling her how narrowly she missed being killed?”  He bent his tall length to Rosalyn.  “Ms. Grant.  Will you be all right?  Do you need to lie down for a while?  You’re safe here.  Witherspoon can’t get to you.”

Rosalyn sat up with an effort. When she finally had her voice under control, she whispered, “Yes, I’m safe here, but my friend Julie… she’s coming in on the five-thirty commuter plane and said she’d take a taxi to my place.  You recall that I promised I’d go to my father’s?  If Gary listens at my door, he’ll think I’m home, and he’ll kill Julie instead. Oh, please, let me go to the airport to warn her?”

Lieutenant MacGregor said, “Please don’t worry.  We’ll do that.  I’ll send Davies right now to the airport to make sure your friend doesn’t arrive on an earlier commuter-plane.  What about a key to your condo?”   He lifted the telephone receiver.

“I gave her my spare key on Thursday.  But wait, your sergeant doesn’t know her.  I think I’ve a photo of Julie in my wallet.”   Rosalyn rummaged in her handbag, and soon found the photo.

Hanrahan took it from her and gave it to the Lieutenant, an inscrutable smile on her attractive face.  “A very nice-looking woman,” she said offhand.

Rosalyn sat quietly in her chair, hoping no one would want her to get up from her seat any time soon, because she was by no means sure that her legs would support her.

Then a thought hit her.  “I forgot to tell Julie that she should use my own bedroom, it has a queen-size.  Could your Sergeant please tell her that?”

“I’ll take care of it,” said Lieutenant MacGregor.

Rosalyn stared straight ahead, and for the first time noticed the discreet bronze name-plate on the Lieutenant’s desk.

‘Lieut. David MacGregor’ it said.   David.   Wasn’t that the name Julie had let slip as the first name of her new, fabulous man?  This police lieutenant certainly qualifies.   Tall, dark and so handsome, Julie said.  And I blithely chattered about Julie wanting some privacy…

            She became aware that Lieutenant MacGregor had said something to her.  She looked up, confused.  “I’m so sorry, my mind drifted for a moment…”

            “That’s not surprising, after what you’ve had to hear in the last little while.  Your neighbour murdered, someone for whom you babysat is the prime suspect.  Well, now.  Let me reassure you that we’ll pick him up for questioning well before your friend comes anywhere near your condo. What?”  The Lieutenant had noticed that Rosalyn was on the point of saying something.

            Hesitantly, she murmured, “I forgot to leave a note for Julie to tell her that I’ve left dinner for two in the refrigerator.  Could Sergeant Davies…?”

            “I’ll take care of it,” said Lieutenant MacGregor again.  “Now, Ms. Grant.  You’re definitely not going back to your condo, right?  You’re driving straight to your father, in Mount Dora?  If you would give his address to Detective Hanrahan?”

            “Oh, yes, I mean, I’m definitely not going back to the condo.  And I’ll give you my father’s address.  His name is Alexander Grant, and he lives on Oleander Crescent, a big white house.  Number seventeen.”

            Seventeen Oleander Crescent, Mount Dora.   Alexander Grant.  Got it,” said Detective Hanrahan.

            “I’ll go to the airport to take over from Davies, whom I’ll send back here to go with you to pick up Witherspoon for questioning.  Take a couple of officers with you, Hanrahan.”

            “Yes, Sir.”   

The Lieutenant went over to Rosalyn and held out his hand.  

“You’ve been most helpful in breaking the alibi of the man my Sergeants considered the most likely killer,” he said.  She put her hand into his.  Concerned, he looked more sharply at her.  “Your hand is ice-cold.  Hanrahan, order some hot tea for Ms. Grant, and let her stay here until she feels a whole lot better than she does now.  All right?”

“Yes, Sir.  Will you want us to call you once we’ve picked up Witherspoon?”

“Yes, do.  I must go.”  With that, Lieutenant MacGregor left his office.


 

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A Greater Love
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