Excerpts Page

Murder at the Olympics - Chapters 1 + 2 Excerpt 

Chapter 1

Clive Pippins stood at the window of his attic bedroom in Hartigan House, aware only of the ache in his knees, the pinch in his back, and the crick in his neck. An old man stared back at him from the reflection in the glass. Pippins blinked back. That poor fellow was as bald as a billiard ball, with droopy skin on his long face. Watery blue eyes squinted in the sunlight, nearly disappearing behind skin folds. Though tall and lean, the man's shoulders fell forward, creating a roundness in his upper spine. Pippins empathised with the bloke, feeling the pain in his own neck in much the same place.

Pippins became aware of the warmth in the room, and the green, leafy trees outside reminded him it was the middle of summer. One must open the windows and allow for a breeze in such instances. Of this, he was fairly certain. Unlatching the casement, he pushed the glass open like a small barn door, and peered out. 

In the garden—and it was such a beautiful garden. Who was responsible for that?—Pippins saw the man trimming the bushes. Clarence? Was it? Or Clem? Clements, yes, that was his name. 

A boy sat on a patio chair holding a little black-and-white dog. Scout and Boss. Pippins exhaled. Yes, he remembered. 

A man joined the boy and gestured to the door. It was clear he wanted the lad and the dog to go inside. Pippins sensed that something important was happening that day. There were so many things to remember. He pinched his eyes together as he tried to draw it up. How could he remember the state of the butler's pantry, where every bottle and jar was placed, every piece of silver, but he couldn't remember yesterday? 

His vision blurred when he reopened his eyes. Blinking back the dratted tears—why did his eyes water so much?—he stared at the people in the garden below. A red-headed little girl held a doll, her father crouching as he spoke to the child. Poor thing was in tears. 

Now Pippins remembered. Mr. Hartigan was taking the little miss to America. 

Pippins knew he'd better hurry and hobbled down that long set of narrow stairs in time to say goodbye. If only his blasted knees didn't hurt so much.

Chapter 2 

Hartigan House was a three-storey limestone residence in London's prestigious South Kensington district. The place had a sense of stillness and quiet that its owner, Mrs. Ginger Reed, found unsettling. Her discomfort wasn't as intense now as when she'd arrived five years earlier to claim her inheritance. Oh mercy, how time has flown by! 

The Mallowan Court house had sat empty for ten years. It had taken several weeks, even months, to freshen the old girl up with new paint, wallpaper, and décor fitting with the style moderne trends of the day.

Pippins had come with the house. Her beloved butler had been old then, already many years older than the average life expectancy, even in the new century. He was in his mid-seventies, and Ginger had finally convinced him to retire, though he insisted on keeping the attic bedroom. The climb up and down the staircase, he claimed, was responsible for his extended years.

The sitting room was Ginger's favourite. Not only did she love the warm-yellow, velvet settee and matching armchairs that sat next to the stone fireplace, the rich red Turkish carpet on the wooden floor, and the long window that let in the summer sunlight, she especially admired the Waterhouse painting of The Mermaid above the mantel. It was an exquisite piece of art and had enormous sentimental value. The painting had been a gift to her mother from her father, and Ginger had been told the red-headed siren had an uncanny resemblance to her mother, who had sadly passed away soon after Ginger herself was born.

Ginger had dressed in a simple cotton day frock, with a decorative band at the low waist, matching summer jacket, and plain white low-heeled pumps. Perfectly suitable for travelling. As she sat in one of the armchairs, Boss, her Boston terrier, jumped onto her lap and curled up, tucking himself against her abdomen. He, too, was getting on in years, having slowed down to where he no longer begged to come along for rides with her in the motorcar. It's a good thing this time, Ginger mused, as there was no way she could take him to where she, Basil, and their son, Scout, were about to go—Amsterdam and the Games of the IX Olympiad!

Ginger had had little exposure to the Dutch language, though she had mastered German and French through her studies at Boston University and her time spent in the war. When she'd expressed her concern about language difficulties, Basil surprised her by saying he could speak Dutch. "Enough to get by, love." Apparently, Amsterdam had been a favourite holiday destination for the Reed family.  

The dowager Lady Ambrosia Gold sat on the settee opposite Ginger. After what she described as a frightful lapse in judgement, her grey hair had grown out of the shorter bob—which, according to Ginger, had placed at least one of the dowager's feet into the twentieth century. It was now pinned in a small bun on the top of her head. She sat upright in the manner that would suggest a good corset, the lace collar of her starched blouse reaching the sagging jowls of her jawline.

Ambrosia carried herself with the air of someone who understood privilege and her place in British peerage. She, like Boss, was advanced in years and could thank her social status and good genetics for her extended time on earth, as well as her natural obstinance to refuse to let go of this life.

"I imagine you'll see Felicia," she said with a sniff. 

Felicia Gold, now Lady Davenport-Witt, the granddaughter and only living blood relative of the dowager, had moved with her husband to Amsterdam a month earlier, claiming that a home on the Continent was more convenient for travel, which she and her husband Charles had decided, rather suddenly, to do. Ginger wondered if this was their answer to easing a troubled marriage, and if so, she hoped it was working. 

Ambrosia wasn't that forgiving. She'd ranted for days after Felicia and Charles left, saying that Felicia had always been a difficult and selfish child. "I'm far too easy on my grandchild," the dowager was known to say. But how could Ambrosia be to blame for her grievances? If her son and daughter-in-law hadn't died in that carriage crash, Ambrosia would never have had to bring up two more children. One child, she'd proclaimed about her son Robert, was enough. And, one mustn't forget, Ambrosia had been on her own, a widow herself already.

"Yes," Ginger said, answering the dowager. "From what I can tell from her letters, she's very excited about witnessing the Games. Surely, she has written to you?"

Ambrosia's gaze moved to the window and a view of Mallowan Court and Felicia's empty house across the way. 

"My eyesight isn't what it used to be," Ambrosia said with a flick of her veiny hands, her bony fingers adorned with rings with large baubles. "Langley reads them to me, but perhaps I dozed off at that part."

Ginger doubted that. If anything, Ambrosia would be extra attentive to any news that came from her granddaughter. The dowager could express no pleasure in Felicia's life choices, even if they brought Felicia happiness . . . if such choices took Felicia from London.

The door to the sitting room pushed open, and Scout stepped in. "Oh, there you are. Dad says the taxicab will be here in ten minutes."

Ginger smiled at her adopted son. Once a street orphan, Scout was quickly turning into a handsome young man. His blond hair had darkened and, with the help of hair oil, no longer stood up, untamed in every direction. He'd always been small for his age, and though this would be a bothersome feature for other fourteen-year-old boys, Scout embraced his size, a positive attribute for the jockey he was determined to become. He was home from his special equestrian-focused boarding school for the summer. He was thrilled to attend the Olympics, especially since Ginger had pulled strings and got him a position in the stables at the Olympic grounds, grooming the horses.

Seeing Scout, Boss jumped off Ginger's lap and went to the lad. Scout, seated in an armchair, reached his hand out to the dog. Boss licked Scout's hand but didn't move to climb into his arms. Scout picked him up instead. 

Ginger's heart warmed, her mind going back to when she and Boss first met Scout. He had still been missing a front tooth and dropped his Hs in a pure cockney fashion. Scout had cared for Boss in the third-class deck of the SS Rosa, where the animals were kept, and had become fast friends with the dog.

"Are we ready?" 

Basil, Ginger's husband and a chief inspector at Scotland Yard, joined them in the sitting room. Ginger smiled inwardly as she stared up at him, always in admiration, not only of his stalwart character but his hazel eyes, which became more handsome, it seemed, by the advancing crow's feet and the greying of his temples.

"The taxicab is here," he announced.

Ginger rubbed Boss' ears, saying goodbye before Scout set him on the floor. She went to Ambrosia. "Don't get up, Grandmama." She kissed the family matron on a soft crêpe-like cheek. "We'll be back in less than two weeks."

Ambrosia didn't smile. Not long ago, she would've insisted on joining in the fun, but these days, she didn't want to be away from her own comforts. 

"I'll bring you back a souvenir," Ginger said.

"Unless that souvenir is Felicia," Ambrosia grumbled, "I don't want it."

Oh, poor thing! Ginger thought. I really must convince Felicia to come back to London for a visit soon. 

Pippins and Nanny Green waited at the front door, Pips holding Ginger's gloves and Nanny Green holding Ginger's wriggling year-and-a-half-old daughter Rosa. Ginger swooped Rosa into her arms and kissed her on the head. "I'll miss you, little one! Be good for Nanny." Ginger handed Rosa to Basil, who swung his little daughter in the air, much to the child's delight, producing a round of delightful giggling. 

Basil handed Rosa to the nanny, and Ginger watched dolefully as the two of them made their way up the curving staircase. High above their heads hung an enormous electric chandelier, which, when turned on, lit the black and white tiles of the entranceway with its sparkling reflection.

"Where's Digby?" Ginger asked, turning her attention to Pippins. Digby was the younger replacement butler.

"It's his day off, madam," Pippins said. Ginger's beloved retired butler considered her with his deep cornflower-blue eyes. Another ageing resident of Hartigan House, he'd long ago lost his hair, but Ginger noted he was also losing his height, his shoulders and neck moving incrementally forward. "It's my pleasure to see you on your way."

Ginger wanted to escort the man to a chair and insist he rest. 

"Thank you, Pips," Ginger said as she accepted her gloves and put them on. "I trust you to ensure everything runs smoothly while we're gone. Should something of concern arise, I've left our hotel's address and telephone number on the desk in my study."

"Of course, madam. You and Lord Gold have a lovely time away."

Ginger shot Basil a look of alarm. Daniel, Lord Gold, had been her first husband, now dead for almost ten years.


Death on Tremont Row 

Chapter 1 Excerpt 

Boston's chief medical examiner, Dr. Haley Higgins, was often accused of working too much. She had a suitable apartment overlooking Grove Street, a nice upper-middle-class neighborhood, which she shared with her friend journalist Samantha Hawke, Sam's young daughter, and a three-legged cat. Mrs. Berrymaple, the widowed neighbor, practically lived there too, hired by Samantha to babysit and by Haley to cook. And though Haley found comfort there, she greatly enjoyed her work at the hospital morgue. Maybe even more so, as it was predictably quiet and she could lose herself for hours studying the latest in forensic medicine. The thirties looked to be a promising decade for scientific advancement.

However, Haley understood that balance in life was beneficial, so she was on her way to see the play Whispers of Deceit at the Shubert Theater on Tremont Street. First, she was picking up her close friend Ginger Reed, who had flown into the Boston Airport from London, England.

Reaching the row of brownstones on Beacon Hill, Haley parked her 1929 DeSoto along the northern edge of the Common. The vehicle, with its flat roof, glossy curved lines, round, bug-eyed headlights, and white-rimmed spoked tires, looked handsome next to the greenery of the vast park. 

The brownstone in question had been Ginger's childhood home. Ginger had gone by Georgia Hartigan then and Lady Gold after her first marriage. A lady of fashion and sophisticated flair, Ginger was indeed gold to Haley's silver. Or, more accurately, Haley's bronze. Haley had little interest in fashion or sophistication, but their differences hadn't kept them from forging a strong and long-lasting friendship.

Heading to the front door, Haley paused to pat at her long faux bob, though she wondered why she bothered with anything other than tying her hair back, especially in this heat. Even though it was only May, the city of Boston was experiencing an unusual spike in temperatures, with the mercury hitting the nineties. Her curls were a constant menace, always coming loose, needing repeated pinning. At least tonight, along with her blue satin evening gown—the new styles were more form-fitting than in the twenties, with longer hemlines, and in Haley's opinion, more suitable for her tall figure—and low-heeled leather shoes with the fancy front ties, she felt reasonably put together. 

After a breath, she knocked on the door. It was opened by a maid who looked a bit frazzled. Haley thought anyone who spent more than two minutes with Louisa Hartigan, Ginger's much younger half sister, tended to share the look. 

"Dr. Higgins, for Mrs. Reed," Haley announced.

"Do come in, Dr. Higgins," the maid said. 

Haley followed the maid to the living room, grand-looking with dark wood paneling on one wall, bright wallpaper on the others, tall ceilings, and plenty of electric lights. It had been many years since Haley had been to this residence, and much of the decor had changed, presumably at Sally Hartigan's hand. Ginger's stepmother was an energetic force of nature, and with Louisa, the apple hadn't fallen far from the tree.


Haley stood as Ginger entered the room, looking almost otherworldly. Glamour and sophistication came easily to some women, and Ginger reigned supreme among them. Her gown fell in sleek waves over a slender hourglass form; her shoulder-length red hair, which always drew the eyes, was pinned expertly on a perfectly shaped head (as a pathologist, Haley noticed cranial structure). Long diamond earrings (and Haley was certain the diamonds were real) hung from delicate lobes. Haley would've shrunk into the shadows if she had suffered from a lack of self-esteem. But Ginger had a way of sharing the spotlight with those beside her, and her smile quickly pushed away such thoughts.

"Haley!" Ginger took Haley's arm. "You look fabulous."

"It's you that looks fabulous," Haley said as she embraced her friend. 

"We will agree that together, we are fabulous," Ginger said. "Oh, Haley, it's been such a long time."

"Four years since my last stay in London."

"I did mean to come back to Boston before now, but leaving the family for so long is difficult. I'm just happy that Louisa is finally going through with an engagement."

Louisa Hartigan had broken many hearts. Samantha often reported on society events, and Haley was kept up on the latest trail of suitors over toast and coffee at breakfast times.

"This gentleman must have something special," Haley said. 

"Mr. Harold Forrester, a successful businessman, made his fortune in railroads and other ventures. Louisa must be truly in love, as she's a real bear now, preparing for her wedding, which is going to take place at Tremont Temple Baptist Church. Sally isn't any better." Ginger lowered her voice. "What a splendid opportunity to go out tonight. Sally and Louisa have kept me busy these last two days since I arrived. Coming so quickly by aeroplane has made me more fatigued than I remember being after a longer journey by ship. That time shift is much harder to adjust to this way."

"I'm just glad you're in town and happy to accommodate your schedule," Haley said. "Are you ready?"

Ginger held out her embroidered clutch purse. "As I'll ever be."

They hadn't quite reached the door when a female voice cried, "Ginger!" Rapid footsteps followed down the stairs. "Ginger, what are you doing? There's still so much to do!" Belatedly, Louisa's eyes registered Haley's presence. "Do I know you?"

Haley smiled widely, the only way she could as God himself had given her a wide jaw. She reached out her hand. "Haley Higgins. I was your father's nurse in his last days. We met again when you and your mother visited London. I was a student at the medical school, taking advantage of Ginger's hospitality."

"Oh yes," Louisa said slowly. "I remember now." Her eyes darted from Haley to Ginger, then narrowed accusingly on Ginger. "Are you leaving me?"

"Just for a couple of hours, love," Ginger said. "It's opening night for Whispers of Deceit, and Haley was able to secure tickets."

"They sold out very quickly," Haley added. 

Louisa's eyes were piercing at that moment, like a wild goose, and someone who didn't know Ginger like Haley would worry that Louisa could coerce her to stay behind. As it was, she gave it a shot.

"I've seen it," Louisa said, raising her chin. "A preview matinee for dignitaries. It's not all it's cracked up to be. I wouldn't waste your time. The villain—"

Ginger raised a palm. "Don't tell us." She gave Louisa a quick hug before nudging Haley toward the door. "I'll be back before you know it."

As the crow flew, the Shubert Theatre was almost directly south of the brownstone on Beacon Street, just south of the Common. But by motorcar, Haley had to drive around the park and through it on Charles Street to reach the south end of Tremont Street. It was a pleasant drive through the greenery of the parks, the Common to the left and the public gardens with their large pond, a sanctuary for many birds, to the right.

"I can't believe you've been in Boston for three days already," Haley said with a side glance at her passenger, "and this is the first time I've seen you."

Ginger pouted prettily. "Please don't be cross. Louisa's wedding planning has been all-consuming. You've seen her. She inhales all the oxygen from the room, and everyone else is walking around like one of those Haitian zombies in The Magic Island." She cocked her head in Haley's direction. "Have you read it?"

Haley shook her head. "No, but I've heard a play, based on the book, opened, or is opening, in New York."

Turning the subject back to Louisa, Ginger continued, "I'm just grateful I'm old and married and don't qualify for the job of bridesmaid."

Haley commiserated, feeling sympathy for the girls who'd agreed to the roles. "Poor dears."

Ginger placed a gloved hand on Haley's arm. "We have so much to catch up on. I am thankful for your letters, but they are not the same as a tête-à-tête. Perhaps we can go somewhere for drinks after the show."

Haley chuckled. "If by drinks you mean coffee or tea, then yes. Don't forget you're now in the land of prohibition."

"Oh bother," Ginger said with a flick of her hand. "What a nuisance."

"I do have a little something stashed away at my apartment, though," Haley said. "We can go there."

"That would be lovely. I'd like to see where you live."

"You can meet Samantha."

"The intrepid lady reporter," Ginger said cheerily. "I can't wait."


Haley had been to the Shubert Theatre before. In fact, she'd been to every theater in Boston at least once, and usually on the arm of Dr. Gerald Mitchell. They'd had a comfortable friendship during the years that his wife had lain in a vegetative state. Gerald remained faithful to his wife while she was alive, but like Haley, he didn't want to attend social events as a single. At least not every time. But once his wife had passed away, he'd expressed a more serious interest in Haley, one Haley found she couldn't reciprocate. 

This was why, on seeing him at the Shubert Theatre in the company of another woman, she was confused by her feelings. Her chest tightened along with her jaw. Was she actually experiencing jealousy?

Haley snapped out of her emotional tunnel at Ginger's happy sigh. 

"I came here with Daniel once," Ginger said. "When we were courting. It feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened since."

Haley chuckled. "That's a bit of an understatement. Let's see, you studied at Boston University, married an English lord, moved back to your childhood home in London, volunteered in France during the war, lost your first husband, came back to Boston, went back to London, met and married your second husband, adopted a son and gave birth to a daughter."

"You're no slacker either, love," Ginger said. "Boston's Chief Medical Examiner."

Haley glanced at Gerald and added, "And married to my work." 

Ginger followed her gaze. "Do you know that couple?"

"He's a doctor who works at the same hospital as me, but I don't know the woman."

"I don't recognize anyone anymore," Ginger said. "At one time, I could name every socially prominent figure."

Haley had never been amongst the prominent crowd, but she did recognize a few faces. 

"Is Miss Hawke here?" Ginger asked. "I can't wait to meet her."

Haley craned her neck, searching for a glimpse of her roommate. She didn't find Samantha, but her work colleague Johnny Milwaukee was in attendance. Haley frowned at the sight of his pretty, young date. Though Samantha tried to hide it, Haley sensed her fondness for Mr. Milwaukee was more than just friendliness. Clearly, since the man was on a date with someone other than Samantha, he had different feelings.

"I don't see her," Haley said. "She's probably backstage. I know she hoped to get an interview from Bertram Calderwood before the show."

Ginger pointed at the brochure highlighting all the actors and actresses featured in the performance. "I've never heard of him," Ginger said. "Is he well-known in America?"

"A rising star," Haley said. "At least from what Samantha has to say about him. He's making a name for himself in the talkies. He's doing double duty as a director. Ambitious fellow."

"Veronica St. James I have heard of," Ginger said. "Hollywood silent films are readily available in England. The new talkies are all the rage, but I've not seen them all. What about these other actors and this young actress?"

Haley examined the brochure. Bertram Calderwood and Veronica St. James played a married couple, Adrian and Evelyn Trafford; Miss Flora Priestley played Clare Wilson, and Mr. Brian House was also part of the cast.

"I haven't heard of any of the others," Haley said. "But I assume they must all be talented to have gotten these roles." She found she was very much looking forward to a relaxing evening getting lost in the play and being proven right.

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