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A Novel Mystery

Marcia Morgan

Copyright © 2021 Marcia Morgan.

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Names, characters, and places are products of the author’s imagination.

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Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

About the Author


Ben had agreed to the location under protest, the dismal weather adding to his aggravation. Too much noise combined with the smell of beer and damp clothing made him wonder why his agent had picked this place for a meeting. A decent interview in this pub was an unrealistic expectation. The environment annoyed him, and given that the interview was to be conducted by a female, all he could seem to think about were the three things he disliked most about women in general. Number one would always be a woman who shows up late. Next is the woman who shows up right on time and turns out to be a terminal bore. Last, but not least, is the woman who seems afraid to eat anything that isn’t green. Not to say that Ben disliked women, quite the contrary. His tastes had been formed through extensive experience with the fairer sex.

He sat at the cluttered bar, sipping at a pint of ale while mentally kicking himself for agreeing to the meeting. He scanned the crowd with a rather blank expression until his attention was drawn to a scruffy-looking man who approached and sidled up to the bar. He crowded another patron aside and stood next to Ben, who noticed the damp musty smell of the wool coat he was wearing. The man removed his cap, exposing a balding pate framed with a fringe of stringy brown hair. He turned toward Ben and raised his chin in a gesture of acknowledgement. The barman took his order and soon returned with a pint of stout. The man laid the book he had been holding on the bar then pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, asking the barman for a napkin to dry it off. Just then it rang. The man answered, listened, and hung up without saying another word. He managed one long gulp of his beer, paused before taking a final swig, paid and made a quick exit.

Ben’s scrutiny of the man had helped pass the time, but for some reason, he found the man’s actions and his demeanor rather sinister. He blamed the impression on his habit of looking for a story in the minutia of life. Ben noticed that the man had forgotten the soggy book, so he picked it up and saw that it was a London pub guide. He thumbed through it and began to read to himself: The English pub has always been an institution, a gathering place— a group of second family. He observed the crowd and concluded that it had evolved into a venue that provides opportunities to seek social interaction. That’s a polite way to put it, he thought.

* * *

The patter of light rain on the taxi windows made Ana wish more for a novel and a glass of Cabernet by the fire than for an arranged meeting in a pub with a no-doubt egotistical author. There were three things she couldn’t abide in men. A man who arrives too early topped her list. No matter how punctual she may be, she appears to be late. Second is the man who arrives late, leaving her to imagine she has been stood up. Running a close third would be a man who, less than halfway through the evening, makes it clear that he knows they’ve connected and would she like to go somewhere private. If Ana were to list her relationships, even the temporarily successful ones, there would be few entries. Months ago she had declared a moratorium on dating and taken refuge in her decision.

The taxi pulled up in front of her destination in Kings Cross. Ana was a bit anxious about the whole thing and hesitated before stepping out into the unseasonably drizzly night, leaving her borrowed umbrella behind. She looked down the dark and dingy cobbled alley in front of her and noticed lighted windows. Still confused, she turned back toward the taxi, shrugging in doubt and asking the driver whether that location could possibly house a trendy gastropub. He rolled down the window and confirmed he had delivered her to the right address, explaining that what was once a red-light district was now an upscale area. She thanked him and turned back toward her destination. As he sped away she remembered the umbrella and scolded herself for being so distracted. Nothing to do about it now, she thought, and then looked skyward, feeling the touch of light rain on her face.

Reassured by the appearance of a young couple walking toward her, Ana proceeded down the alley slowly, navigating through the puddles, trying to save the heels of her boots from the cobblestones, until she reached the lights and noise. She saw the establishment’s sign and leaned forward to peer through the smudged glass windows at the animated faces of people enjoying each other. What would they all be doing without alcohol to loosen the tongue, she thought. Returning to the matter at hand, she took a minute to adopt her professional stance before walking toward the entrance.

* *

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