The Deadly Diary

Written by SWW

May 2, 2006



This story is a sequel to Puzzles and Pearls, which was inspired by Loch Lomond.  To avoid any confusion, Puzzles and Pearls and The Deadly Diary occur along a parallel time line or what you could call an alternate reality as does Anne’s wonderful Legends and Songs trilogy.  This story also makes references to Anne’s story End Game.


With that said, I would like to start by thanking anyone who takes time out of their busy schedule to read this story.  I hope that you enjoy it and I look forward to reading your comments, whether good or bad.


I would like to extend a special thank you to Anne for her comments, advice, editing, and support, all of which were necessary in order for me to finish this little tid bit of MSW fan fiction.  You wouldn’t be reading this right now if it hadn’t been for Anne’s guidance. 


As always, thank you to Donald Bain for having created the wonderful character of George Sutherland, one of my personal favorites, as if you hadn’t guessed that already.  I hope no one takes offense to my having used this story as a vehicle for all of us, including Jessica, to get to know George a little better.  Also, thank you to Universal Studios for the character of Michael Haggerty, who is another personal favorite of mine. 


Warning!  Before you read any further, please note that this story does contain some mild to moderate violence, adult situations and potentially controversial material that should probably not be read by anyone under the age of 13.




Cool, smooth strains of music, filtering up from the lower level jazz room, softly surrounded Jessica and her dinner companions, who were seated at a cozy table covered with a crisp white table cloth in a small dining room known as the “Bank Vault”.  The Blue Water Grill, a renovated bank building located in Union Square, was quickly becoming one of Jessica’s favorite restaurants in the city.  The music and ambiance always seemed to sweep Jessica away from the hectic city located just beyond the restaurant’s towering columns.  Along with the soft sounds of a live jazz ensemble, the trio, including Jessica’s publisher, Vaughan Buckley and his wife, Olga, enjoyed a first-class seafood dinner on this, Jessica’s final night in New York City after a week of promoting her newest book, Snow White, Blood Red.    

“Jessica, I feel guilty even asking this of you, but is there any possibility that you would consider coming back to New York for a few days when you finish up in London?”  Vaughan asked, holding up a hand.

“Before you answer,” he continued, “I fully understand that you are planning on going on vacation and it certainly wasn’t your fault that both the Today Show and Larry King decided to cancel your interviews to cover Governor Finley’s most recent scandal, but I think that we should take advantage of the fact that they want to reschedule before the holidays.   I promise I’ll make it up to you,” Vaughan vowed.

“I’m sorry, Vaughan.  I understand how important those interviews are, but I’m not the only one going to Venice and I would hate to back out so close to the trip,” Jessica answered, hesitant to provide any further details about her upcoming and much anticipated holiday abroad.    

Not only was Jessica looking forward to relaxing and absorbing the beauty and serenity of Venice, but she was also looking forward to spending some time with her close friend George Sutherland.  Their rooms at the hotel Cipriani in Giudecca had been booked several months earlier.  The 17th-century-style hotel offered views of both the Piazza San Marco and the Canale della Giudecca and even boasted its own vineyard.  Exotic landmarks such as the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale were high on Jessica’s list of attractions to visit, but she was also looking forward to simply relaxing and exploring all that the “city of canals” had to offer.   Because exploring Venice must be done on foot, it was fortunate that both Jessica and George were avid walkers.  Anywhere that they couldn’t walk, they would go by water, using water buses or the more traditional gondola ferries.  Two peaceful weeks in Venice was far more appealing to Jessica than returning to New York City for more interviews.

Vaughan, I told you that you would never talk her into it.  Jessica’s been talking about going to Venice since last spring,” Olga said, giving her husband a gentle nudge with her elbow.  “You would never get me to cancel a vacation to Venice.”

“Jessica, you know that I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think that it was important.  I’ll even spring for another trip for you to Venice including an extra week, all expenses paid, if you say yes,” he bargained.

Vaughan, you don’t need to do that,” Jessica answered, considering his request.

“But I want to.  What do you say, Jess?” he pleaded.

At length, Jessica agreed with a slight sigh.  “Okay, you talked me into it but I have two conditions.  First I have to call a couple of people and make sure that rescheduling will work out for them and second, you and Olga have to join us when we reschedule,” she finished with a slightly devious smile and wink in Olga’s direction.

“It’s a deal,” Vaughan replied, smiling rather smugly at his wife and feeling quite pleased with his negotiating abilities.  Olga on the other hand was ecstatic and thanked Jessica with a huge hug.


Jessica arrived home in Cabot Cove early the following afternoon.  She immediately busied herself, opening several windows to let in the warmth and the light breeze of the beautiful September day.  In a little more than a month the scarlet and gold splendor of fall would dominate the landscape.  After unpacking and eating a light lunch, Jessica called her travel agent to cancel her and George’s plans to visit Venice and to book new travel arrangements, which would allow her to salvage some personal time with George before returning to New York for her interviews. 

Only one more call to make, she thought to herself, before retrieving a small address book from her briefcase and dialing George Sutherland’s home number.

“Sutherland here,” a deep, groggy voice answered.


“Ah, Jessica, it’s good to hear your voice,” he replied dreamily.

“Did I wake you?” Jessica asked with uncertainty.

“Aye…must have fallen asleep watching the news on the telly.”

“George, it’s only seven thirty there,” Jessica reminded him.

“I’m afraid it was a rather long, problematic day, Jess,” George explained as he stretched and tried to suppress a yawn. 

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Jessica replied sincerely.   

“Quite all right, love.  It just took a turn for the better,” he said, sounding much more awake than he had just moments earlier.  “Now, to what do I owe the pleasure of your call?”  he asked.  “You haven’t found yourself in the middle of another…adventure, have you?” he teased. 

“No, but I’m afraid that I do have some bad news,” she began to explain reluctantly.

“Jessica, please don’t tell me that you’re not coming to London next month.  I don’t think that I can take that after the day I’ve had.”

“No, I’m still coming.  It’s not that,” Jessica continued, wrapping the telephone cord around her finger as she stalled for a minute longer. 

“Good because I’m in dire need of some time away from the office” and some time alone with you, he added to himself.  What could be better than two weeks alone with Jessica in Venice - a city of unearthly riches and the most romantic city in the world?  If that last fact had escaped Jessica, it certainly hadn’t escaped him.  A gondola gliding beneath the stars, open air cafes, the ancient architecture of the city mirrored on the sea and a gondolier serenading them in the moonlight.  That was how he envisioned their upcoming holiday in the “City on the Sea.”

 “Now, what’s this bit of bad news, Jess?  It certainly can’t be too terrible if you’re still coming to London.”

Enough stalling, Jessica thought.  “George, I’m so sorry, but I can’t go to Venice, at least not this trip,” Jessica explained, cringing slightly as she remembered how much work George had done to plan their holiday while accommodating her schedule.

Instantly disheartened, the only thing that George could manage in response was a simple, dispirited, “You can’t?”

“No, I’m afraid not.  I have to be back in New York by the sixth and we aren’t scheduled to return until the twelfth, but don’t cancel your holiday,” she added hastily.  “We’ll still be taking a vacation, but it will be my surprise to you,” she added enthusiastically.

“Is there any chance that you are going to let me in on this surprise of yours?”

“No. I’m not.  That’s why it’s called a surprise.  You’ll just have to trust me.  I also have someone very special that I want you to meet,” Jessica added.

“I believe we can manage that, as long as I have your word that this is merely a postponement of our Venetian holiday.”

“Of course,” Jessica assured him.  “We’ll discuss it in more detail when I get to London.”

“If I have to wait nearly two months for this surprise, surely I’m entitled to a clue or two about where we’re going?” George asked good-naturedly.   

“Not a chance, Inspector,” Jessica said, laughing softly.  “It’s more fun if it’s a surprise.  Now, off to bed with you, George.  You sound very tired.”

“I am, Jess, but I rather enjoy hearing your voice.”

“I’ll see you in a few weeks.  Now, go to bed and pleasant dreams,” Jessica said.

“Guideen nicht, Jessie,” George replied before they both hung up.  George fell back to sleep on the couch, where he did indeed have pleasant dreams.



            While traveling to Chicago and San Francisco, Jessica’s schedule was extremely hectic and she managed to find very little time to enjoy the attractions of either city before departing for Australia.  Much to her relief, she was able to enjoy a two day mini-vacation in Hawaii as she traveled from San Francisco to Sydney.  Jessica suspected that she had Vaughan to thank for the much needed tropical respite and made a mental note to be sure to thank him profusely once she returned to New York.

            Jessica had traveled to Australia in the past, but never to promote a book.  She was pleased to find that Sydneysiders in general were laid back, friendly, and smart.  Her schedule had allotted plenty of time for Jessica to enjoy the Opera House, the Circular Quay and the three-hour climb over Harbour Bridge in Sydney as well as the art and architectural sights offered in Melbourne.  In particular, Jessica enjoyed the Melbourne Museum and its Carlton Gardens, which she visited on her final day before returning to The States. 



            A gentle breeze rustled several crisp, gold maple leaves across the sidewalk as Jessica exited Loretta’s beauty salon nearly a week later.  After spending one week each in Chicago and San Francisco followed by two weeks in Australia, Jessica had relished a much too short week at home.  Unfortunately, that week was quickly drawing to a close and she still had several errands to cross off her list before Seth would pick her up for the drive to the Portland airport later that afternoon.  Traveling to London did however have its advantages.  Besides being her favorite city to visit, she would also get to spend some quality time with George.  Much as they had tried in the past, somehow things had never quite gone as planned. 

Jessica glanced quickly at her list before folding it and tucking it back into the pocket of her cadet blue Adirondack barn coat and walking north along Maine Street.  The dry cleaners, drug store and travel agency comprised what remained of what had been a very long list just a few days before.

            Back at Loretta’s salon, Eve Simpson settled herself into the beautician’s chair that Jessica had vacated a few minutes earlier.  “What’ll it be today, Hon?” Loretta asked as Eve made herself comfortable.

            “Same as always, Loretta, just a little touch up,” Eve replied with a sigh as she looked at herself in the mirror and brushed her hand through her light brown hair. 

            “There you are,” Loretta said as she secured a pink cape around Eve’s neck.  “We’ll get started in just a minute.”

            “Jessica leads such an exciting life,” Eve commented to no one in particular, although the salon boasted several of its regular patrons.  “She gets to travel to all of these exotic places while the rest of us are stuck here in Cabot Cove where nothing exciting ever happens.  Why, I bet she meets some of the most interesting…people.”

            “Don’t you mean interesting men, Eve?” Loretta corrected with a chuckle as she returned, pushing a wheeled cart covered with bottles of hair dye, bright purple latex gloves, a box of foil wraps and other miscellaneous items. 

            “You know, Loretta, on second thought,” Eve said contemplatively as she looked at herself in the mirror, “why don’t we try the color that you use on Jessica’s hair.  I’ve always wanted to be a blonde.  You know what they say about blondes having more fun,” Eve commented with a cunning smile.

            Eve’s momentary excitement over the idea of becoming a blonde quickly dissipated when she noticed Loretta shaking her head “no” in the mirror from behind her.  “Jessica doesn’t color her hair, not even highlights.  She’s a natural blonde,” Loretta revealed.

            “Of course she is,” Eve muttered to herself.  “Okay, just touch it up then, same as always, but you can’t blame me for desperately wanting to try something new.  The list of eligible bachelor’s in this town is practically nonexistent.  Why, if I was Jessica, I’d have a man in New York City, another in Chicago and a third in San Francisco.”

            “I just bet you would,” Loretta replied as she used a long, pink tint brush to mix hair color in a small black mixing bowl. 

            “Maybe Jessica does have a man in some exotic place that we don’t know about,” Phyllis suggested surreptitiously from her seat at the manicurist’s table where Corinne was buffering her nails.

            “I bet she does.  And I bet he lives in Paris,” Ideal Malloy speculated from under the hair dryer, where she had been straining to hear the conversation.

            “Really, Ideal, Jessica hasn’t been to Paris in years,” Loretta informed her.  “I think you’re starting to confuse those cheap, trashy romance novels that you read with real life.”

            “I think that she met somebody in Australia,” Eve suggested dreamily.  “You can’t deny that she was in an especially good mood this morning, even for Jessica.”

            “Maybe it was love at first sight,” Ideal suggested hopefully.

            “I bet you’re both wrong.  I think he’s an inspector with Scotland Yard and they met in London.  They’re probably planning a romantic getaway once she finishes promoting her new book,” Phyllis suggested.

            “What color would you like today, Ms. Grant?” Corinne asked as she finished massaging a small amount of cuticle oil into each of Phyllis’ nails.

            “I think I’ll try that new color, Calienté,” Phyllis answered with a flare of Spanish as she waved her freshly manicured hand through the air. 

            “I’m sure you’ll really like it” Corinne said as she selected the bottle and began to apply bright red polish to Phyllis’ nails.

            “I bet Phyllis is right,” Ideal agreed.  “I bet he’s like that James Bond character and Jessica helps him when he goes on secret missions,” Ideal continued as she clutched the most recent edition of Cosmopolitan magazine to her chest and closed her eyes as if she were dreaming. 

            “Don’t be ridiculous,” Loretta interjected.  “Jessica Fletcher is not having a romantic liaison with some mysterious man from some exotic country and if you know what’s good for you, you’d better hope that none of this gets back to her,” Loretta warned as she dabbed hair color onto the roots of Eve’s hair.

            “Then would you like to explain to me why two tickets in the names of Jessica Fletcher and George Sutherland arrived at Cabot Cove Travel earlier this week?  Tickets from Cunard Cruise Lines, I might add,” Phyllis burst out, no longer able to contain herself. 

            “They did?” Eve and Ideal exclaimed in unison as their heads whipped around in Phyllis’ direction.  Both ladies sported wide eyes and expressions of utter shock and disbelief.

            “Phyllis, how do you know what did or did not arrive at Cabot Cove Travel earlier this week?” Loretta asked.

            “Because the tickets were delivered to my office by mistake.  Cabot Cove Travel, Cabot Cove Cruise & Travel.  It happens all of the time,” Phyllis explained matter of factly.

            “That may be so, but even if it’s true, he’s most likely just a good friend like Seth,” Loretta assured them all as she removed her latex gloves and tossed them in a small, pink trash can.  “Twenty minutes, Eve,” she said as she set a small timer and placed it on the counter. 

            “Scotland Yard Inspector George Sutherland.  I know that name,” Eve said, pausing to think for a moment.  “Isn’t he the one with the castle in Ireland?” Eve finally asked.

            Scotland,” Phyllis corrected.  “And both Susan Shevlin and Maureen Metzger said that the Inspector was quite smitten with our Jessica as I recall,” she added.

            “And I remember overhearing Roberta Walters and Charlene Sassi saying how he was tall and handsome and very charming.  Why, I bet his accent just makes a woman melt,” Ideal swooned.

            “Let’s get you out from under that dryer before you get any more overheated than you already are,” Loretta said to Ideal as she raised the hair dryer to a vertical position.

            “Ideal is right!” Eve proclaimed.  “And as I remember it, Jessica was staying with him in Scotlandalone… when she dislocated her shoulder last year,” Eve continued conspiratorially.

            “Oh, I can’t believe it!” Ideal exclaimed.  “Do you realize how cozy one of those little cabins is on a cruise ship?” she asked.  “I’m feeling faint just thinking about it.”

            “Actually, now that you mention it, they’re not sharing a cabin,” Phyllis said, slightly disappointed, but with renewed hope as she revealed her final bit of factual information, “but their cabins do have an adjoining door.  I checked.” 

            Adjoining cabins?  Well now, that is a completely different story all together.  Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” Loretta asked as she joined the trio in further speculation over Jessica’s love life.    


            As usual, the crisp sunny days and cool nights of fall had been ideal for creating the delightful panorama of bright colors for which Maine was famous.  The blazing splashes of scarlet, ginger and gold had been nearly distracting enough for Jessica to tune out Seth’s latest sermon regarding her very demanding schedule. 

Seth slowly released his foot from the accelerator and eased the red Volvo sedan onto the exit for the Portland International Jetport.  “You know, Jess, you should count yourself lucky that you haven’t gotten sick, running yourself ragged all over the globe.  You do know that they re-circulate the air on those planes and if that isn’t enough you could easily develop a blood clot, sitting for hours on end like that.  I have a mind to call that publisher of yours and inform him that as your doctor I insist that you take another full week off,” Seth lectured as he came to a stop, checked traffic and turned west onto Congress Street.

            “Seth, I appreciate your concern, really, I do, but that won’t be necessary.  Before you say another word,” Jessica started, raising her hand to effectively stop him from starting to lecture her again, “I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little bit worn out when I got back from Australia, but after a solid week of blue skies and good Maine sea air, I feel completely re-energized.”

            “Five days, woman.  You’ve been home for exactly five days and I know for a fact that you didn’t spend a single one of them relaxing and soaking up the sunshine and sea air,” Seth corrected as he navigated through traffic.

            In an attempt to placate him, Jessica decided to offer a compromise.  “Okay, Seth.  Not another word and I promise to make sure that I get up and move about while on the plane and I’ll even try to catch a short nap everyday while I’m gone.”

            “That would be a start,” Seth responded, “but not good enough.”

            “What would be good enough?” Jessica asked wearily.

            “Well, you could see to it that you keep yourself out of trouble and that you come home in one piece this time, although that might be difficult as I suspect that that Sutherland fella will be around a good part of the time.”

            “Of course he’ll be around, he lives there,” Jessica reminded him unnecessarily.  Seth was acutely aware that George lived in London.  “And what exactly does that mean anyway?”  Jessica asked.

            Seth stopped briefly at the next intersection and once it had cleared turned left into the airport entrance. 

            “Seth, I want to know what you meant by that comment just now,” Jessica insisted when he failed to answer.

            “Jessica, need I remind you that the last time you visited London” and Sutherland, Seth thought to himself, “you came back with a dislocated shoulder and spent months in therapy after it froze up on you,” he said as he stopped at the security gate.

            “Oh, Seth, that was hardly George’s fault,” Jessica said in defense of her friend.  “It was just an unfortunate accident and if I hadn’t overdone it after I got home there never would have been a problem.”

            After stopping briefly, Seth proceeded to the ground level ticketing area where he parked in front of the Continental Airlines entrance.

            “Of course it was his fault.  It never would have happened if he hadn’t beguiled you into going to Scotland with him,” Seth accused before opening his door and walking to the back of the car to open the trunk.  Reluctantly, Jessica collected her purse and climbed out of the car.    

            “Jessica, you packed enough clothes for a small army,” Seth complained once she joined him.  He grabbed the handle of a large gray suit case and heaved it out of the trunk.  “It’ll be a right miracle if you don’t throw your back out lugging all of these bags onto that ocean liner,” Seth continued as the pair loaded Jessica’s luggage onto a cart that sat on the sidewalk, next to the car. 

            “Fortunately, they have porters for that,” Jessica informed him.  “Besides, I’m sure that George will be more than happy to help me with my luggage when he unloads his own,” Jessica said as she removed her carry-on bag and placed it on top of her suit case and garment bag.

            “Sutherland is going with you?” Seth exclaimed. 

            “Yes, he is.  I told you that,” Jessica said.

“Jessica, you haven’t been home enough to tell me anything,” Seth complained.  “I should have figured as much,” he continued to grumble under his breath, just loud enough for Jessica to hear. 

“Should have figured what?” Jessica asked. 

“Spit it out, Seth,” Jessica demanded when he didn’t answer.

            “Well considering that you and Sutherland are…” Seth paused uncomfortably, stuffing his hands in his pockets.  “I just figured that since Sutherland would probably be around that he would see to it that you made it to Southampton safely and I guess I was right,” he finally finished rather smugly.

            “No, that’s not what you were going to say,” Jessica said as she stepped up onto the curb and turned to look at him.  “Seth Hazlitt, you’ve been as grumpy as a bear since you picked me up this afternoon and I want to know why.  Now, spill it,” Jessica demanded.        

            “All right, then,” Seth started, stepping onto the curb to join her, gathering his courage and looking her straight in the eye.  “You and Sutherland are…well, you’re…involved,” he finally spit the words out.  “And you never told me,” he finished with hurt trickling out along with his words. 

            “Honestly, Seth, where did you ever get such an idea?  You know very well that George and I are nothing more than close friends,” Jessica assured him.

            “Close friends?” he asked, skeptically, eyes narrowed and squinted slightly.

            “Yes, Seth, close friends, nothing more.  What could have possibly made you think that George and I are a couple?” she asked. “And why didn’t you just ask me?”

            By now, Seth was beginning to realize that he had let his own fears about the nature of Jessica and George’s relationship ignite that little flame of jealousy that he held deep inside. 

            “You don’t want to know,” he finally answered after careful consideration.

            “No, Seth, I do want to know,” Jessica said firmly.

            Beverly, by way of Caroline Phelps,” Seth answered with a slight cringe of embarrassment at having believed anything that had come through the Cabot Cove gossip wires.

            “Who heard it from…?” Jessica guessed.

            “From Phyllis Grant down at Loretta’s this morning,” Seth filled in the blank.

            “Oh, Seth, you mean to tell me that you’ve been all bent out of shape because of something that you heard third or fourth hand about me and George, something that started with Phyllis Grant.  I can’t believe that you, of all people, would believe that if I were having a romantic relationship with George Sutherland, which I’m not, that I would tell the scandalmongers at Loretta’s before I told my best friend?”

            “Well, no.  I suppose you wouldn’t,” he confessed uneasily.

            “Good.  Now, that we have that all cleared up I need to get inside and you need to get downtown to pick up that package for Mort before closing,” Jessica reminded him before giving him a big hug and a peck on the cheek.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” she offered, looking back over her shoulder at him as she entered the lobby of the airport.


            Jessica’s flight arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport almost exactly on schedule.  As always, the experience of traveling on British Airways had been a very pleasant one.  After finding her way from terminal four  to the baggage reclaim hall, Jessica quickly located her luggage, loaded it onto a small cart and headed for the ground transportation area where she hired one of London’s famed black cabs. 

            Forty-five minutes later she was safely delivered to the main entrance of The Savoy, in the Strand area of London, where a very efficient bellman had her bags unloaded and neatly organized on his cart even before Jessica had paid the driver and exited the cab.   She was quickly and proficiently checked in and escorted to her suite, but not before the concierge remembered to give her a message that had been left for her earlier in the day. 

            As Jessica entered her suite, she was, as always, slightly awed by the traditional palatial English décor of the one bedroom Riverview suite.  The spacious suite offered a sitting room with cherry wood walls and plush green carpeting, accented with a burgundy sofa, two cream armchairs and a magnificent fireplace framed in the same cherry wood as the walls.  A simple, but well-equipped desk sat in front of one of two windows.  The living room and bedroom were separated by a set of large double doors.  Jessica’s bedroom was bright and airy with cream walls and the bedding and window treatments had been tastefully decorated in a bright yet pleasant floral pattern.  The room also boasted a large walk-in closet, a second desk and a private bathroom.  After taking a moment to enjoy the views of the courtyard from the bedroom and The River Thames from the living room, Jessica unpacked her things and placed the empty suitcases, garment bag and carry-on in the bedroom closet.

            As she returned to the living room with hopes of ordering up a cup of tea from the early tea service, she noticed a dark blue box sitting on the living room table next to one of several beautiful bouquets of fresh flowers that decorated the suite.  Curious, she carefully untied the ivory bow and removed the lid of the box to reveal a collection of fresh fruits, cookies and chocolates. 

Realizing that the box not only contained all of her favorites, but was also missing any sort of card to identify the sender, Jessica was reminded of the message that had been given to her by the concierge.  She retrieved it from her purse and opened it.

            Inside the envelope was a short, handwritten message from George.


        Dearest Jessica,


Welcome to London.  Unfortunately, I am unable to see to your arrival in person, as I’ve been called to Glasgow for a few days.  Thus with much regret, I will also have to cancel our plans until I return. 

I imagine that you have already unpacked and are getting settled in so, I suggest that you enjoy a cup of tea (it should be arriving any moment), something sweet and a relaxing afternoon before you begin that insanely chaotic schedule of yours tomorrow.



            Almost as if on cue, there was a knock on the main door of the suite.  Jessica checked the safety viewing hole to find a young woman, dressed in the black and white uniform of the hotel’s food service staff.  Jessica welcomed her into the suite, where the young lady immediately went about her job of setting up the tea service, which Jessica had yet to order, on the small table that sat in front of the sofa.  After the young woman had excused herself, Jessica closed the door and returned to the living room where she sat down on the sofa and chose a bag of Lady Grey from the large selection of blends.  As the tea seeped, Jessica found herself smiling at George’s thoughtful and intuitive gesture, but as she read the note again, she found herself wondering why he had neglected to include a closing with his signature.  Was it for the same reason that she herself struggled to close her letters to him or had he simply been rushed?

            If Jessica were to be completely honest with herself, she would soon have to acknowledge the mystery that was her and George’s present relationship.  It was not a romantic relationship, nor was it still a simple friendship.  And when exactly had that happened, she wondered?  Last spring in New Hampshire or perhaps the previous year in Scotland. 

As always, when Jessica’s thoughts began to wander down this particular road, her practical, sensible side came to her heart’s rescue.  Friends.  They were simply close friends.  Anything else would be impractical, not to mention emotionally confusing, Jessica thought as she worried her wedding band and waited on her tea. 


Considering George’s very accurate description of her schedule for the upcoming week, Jessica decided to spend the afternoon relaxing and reading a new book by a promising young author that Buckley House had recently taken on. 

Later that evening, she enjoyed a light dinner of mini haddock fish cakes with wholegrain mustard dressing in the Savoy’s American Bar and a stroll in the courtyard before returning to her room to read a few more chapters of her book and turning in early for the night. 

            The following morning, Jessica woke refreshed and full of energy.  After an early morning walk, she showered and dressed for a breakfast meeting with her publicist, Susan Rogers.  Susan was a veteran in the publishing world and Jessica had always enjoyed working with her during her past visits to London.  The two met in The River Restaurant, on the lobby level of the hotel, for breakfast after which they reviewed Jessica’s updated schedule for the week.

            Jessica’s first stop was an interview with the popular women’s magazine, House and Garden.  Her next appointment was a late morning visit to the Open Air Theatre, where her novel, Yours Truly, Damian Sinclair had been adapted to the stage and would open in just a couple of days.  Despite knowing the outcome of the play, Jessica quickly found herself engrossed in the rehearsal and before she knew it, Susan had returned to drive her to her afternoon book signing, despite Jessica’s previous insistence that she could hire a taxi and that Susan needn’t feel responsible to drive her to each and every one of her appointments.



Jessica scribbled a short message on the end leaf of her new book and signed her name.

“I hope that your wife enjoys it,” she said to a middle-aged man who accepted the new book with deep appreciation.

“Thank you so much, Mrs. Fletcher,” he said.  “I’m certain that she will.”

“Henry, would you possibly have another pen? Mine seems to be dying a slow death here,” Jessica said to the owner of Waterstone’s Books, located on Oxford Street in the Marble Arch area of Westminster.

“Certainly, Mrs. Fletcher,” he said as he searched the pocket of his white shirt followed by the pockets of his gray tweed jacket.  “I’ll be back in just one moment,” he said as he terminated his search and headed toward the checkout counter in hopes of finding another pen.

“Maybe I have another one somewhere,” Jessica said as she bent down to retrieve her briefcase from the floor.

“Ah, this will do,” she said to herself as she located a blue and white pen advertising the Cabot Cove Chamber of Commerce.  Before Jessica could turn back to her task, another copy of Snow White, Blood Red had been slid onto the table in front of her with its front cover open.

“Please inscribe it with ‘My deepest love an’ devotion, forever an’ always, Jessica,” said a familiar voice from her past.

Jessica fixed the man with a stern look.  “I will do no such thing, Mr.……”

“Haggerty, my girl, “he replied.  “Michael Haggerty.”

“Yes, of course, Mr. Haggerty.  I’m never quite sure about that,” she replied as she shook her head and a slight smile crept across her lips.

“In that case, I guess I will have to settle for dinner later this evening then.  Pick you up at seven at your hotel?”

“Michael, could we possibly discuss this in a little bit?  I’m busy at the moment,” Jessica answered with a slight tilt of her head to indicate that there were people waiting in line behind him.

Thirty minutes later, Jessica finished signing books for Henry McEwan’s patrons, placed her glasses and pen in her briefcase and set out to look for Michael.

“Michael, there you are,” she said as she spotted him leafing through a book in the mystery and crime section of the small, antiquated shop.

“Ah, Jessica, darlin’, you’ve finished,” he replied with an expansive grin and a great deal of charm.  “Now, we can discuss our dinner plans.”

Our dinner plans?” she asked.  “And who would you like me to masquerade as this time?” she offered with an obvious note of insincerity.

“Can’t a dear old friend simply ask you to dinner for no other reason than he wishes to spend an evening in your delightful company?” he replied, feigning insult at her accusation.

“Michael, I’m not buying it.  Why are you here?”

“To invite you to dinner.  No other reason.  Don’t you trust me?”

“Trust you?”  she guffawed.  “No, as a matter of fact, I don’t.”

“Jessica, no tricks, I promise.  I simply wish to invite you to dinner,” he repeated very convincingly.

“In that case, Michael, I would love to join you for dinner,” she decided, although still having some reservations about the idea.  Despite their history of misadventure, Michael Haggerty was still a good friend and a very charming man; and since George was not available for dinner this evening, Michael would most certainly provide a pleasant and undoubtedly interesting distraction.

“May I give you a lift back to The Savoy?”

“How did you know I was staying at the Savoy?” Jessica asked with a quizzical expression on her face.  “Never mind, I don’t want to know,” she said, shaking her head before taking his arm and allowing him to escort her from the small shop.



            Once again, walking arm in arm, Michael guided Jessica toward the discreet marble entrance of Varanasi, an Indian restaurant located on Berkeley Square.

            “Mr. and Mrs. Haggerty, we are so very pleased that you will be dining with us this evening,” the hostess said, greeting them with a smile after they had checked their coats.  “If you will follow me, please, I will show you to your table straight away.” 

            “Michael, why do I get the distinct impression that this isn’t just dinner with an old friend?” Jessica asked as they followed their hostess, Victoria, into the spacious dining area.

            “I’m afraid that something came up at the last minute, “he began to explain as they passed the candlelit stone stairs that led to a second level, “and as I am certain that it will not detract from the lovely evening that we have planned, I didn’t think that you would mind,” he finished.

            Of course you didn’t, Jessica thought to herself as they were seated at a small table for two, which offered a lovely view of the flower-strewn reflection pool located in the center of the dining area.  The table was covered with an elegant white table cloth and was illuminated by two simple, white, tapered candles.

            “I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this restaurant,” Jessica said after the hostess had seated them.  “I’ve also heard that it is impossible to get a reservation in any fewer than six weeks so, I’m curious just how you managed to get one in only a few short hours,” Jessica asked.

            “Jessica, darlin’, some things are meant to remain a mystery,” he replied as he reached across the table and patted her hand.  “But you are correct, it has become a hot spot for rich and famous couples as of late,” he commented as he scanned the room.

            Sitting in a cozy corner booth, just to their left, Jessica had already recognized British pop music sensation, Ariel, and her American film director husband, Ron Griffith.  Also seated in the main dining room was American television tycoon, Robert Cirius, who was accompanied by his most recent of four wives, each of whom seemed to be progressively younger than the last and at another table across the large room, British businessman, Sir Donald Thorndike and his wife.

            “Good evening and welcome to Varanasi, Mr. & Mrs. Haggerty.  My name is Joan and I will be your server,” the waitress said as she placed their menus on the table.  After taking their drink orders, white wine for Jessica and whiskey for Michael, she excused herself.

            Having noticed, but choosing not to comment on the waitress’ greeting, Jessica resumed their conversation.  “Michael, who is the gentleman sitting at the table for four on the other side of the reflection pool?” Jessica asked in hushed tones.  “I know I’ve seen him somewhere before.”

            “Ah, yes, that would be Mr. David Littlewood.  You have probably seen his photograph in the Times.  Prior to a month ago, Mr. Littlewood was nothing more than a semi-successful businessman with a questionable history of shady dealings.  Now, he has somehow produced a journal, which he claims proves that he is a direct descendant of Queen Elizabeth I.”

            “But Elizabeth was the ‘Virgin Queen.’  She neither married nor had a child, which is why the crown was passed to James VI, King of Scots, upon her death,” Jessica said, recalling her history lessons.

            “Very good, Jessica,” Michael praised.  “Supposedly, Mr. Littlewood’s journal details a secret marriage that occurred when Elizabeth was sent away by her step-mother, Catherine, in order to protect her from the sexual advances of Catherine’s fourth husband, Thomas Seymour.”

“Catherine was Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife?” Jessica clarified, already very intrigued by the story.

“Yes.  Elizabeth went to live in the Seymour household after her brother, Edward VI, ascended the throne to replace their father after his death.  The journal reportedly goes on to say that Elizabeth’s secret marriage produced a daughter, who was born eleven months after the wedding ceremony.  Elizabeth’s husband died in a riding accident and she returned to the Seymour house before the child was born. Catherine and Thomas took the child, named Mary, and agreed to raise her as their own.   A week or so later, Catherine was reported by her husband to have died as the result of complications from the child’s birth, which of course couldn’t be possible.  In the journal, Elizabeth accuses Seymour of murdering his wife so that he could then pursue Elizabeth.  At that point, Elizabeth left Seymour’s house, but he refused to allow her to take the child.  Seymour was executed sometime before the child’s second birthday, for what, I cannot recall, and baby Mary was taken to live with the Duchess of Suffolk, who operated an orphanage.  After that, she disappears from the historical record.  Until now, historians have believed that she died at some point during her childhood but Littlewood claims to have additional documents which cast doubt on those beliefs as well.”

“So, Mr. Littlewood is claiming to be the direct descendant of Elizabeth I and her child, Mary?  I assume that the journal is being examined to determine whether or not it is authentic,” Jessica asked.

“Yes.  The Museum of London is overseeing the initial examination.  They have on staff one of the premiere forensic document examiners in the world. “

“And what will happen if the journal is deemed to be authentic?  Will Mr. Littlewood become King of England?”

“It would seem that he would have a legitimate claim to the throne, however, I believe that the documents would have to be authenticated by more than one expert and after that the process becomes unclear.  It is possible that the task of determining who the rightful sovereign is would then fall on the Accession Council.”

“And in the mean time?”

“A bloody mess, I suspect.  As you may have noticed, Mr. Littlewood appears to have begun the transition already.  Along with his wife, Margaret, the brunette seated on his left, who was at one time an anchorwoman at his television station, he has begun to hire a staff befitting a member of the royal family.  William Green, who is seated across from Littlewood, is his publicist and social secretary and he has also hired a security team headed by Simon Williamson, who is the other man at their table.”

David Littlewood was a man of medium height and build, with salt and pepper hair and a ruddy complexion.  He wore his exquisitely tailored, black suit very well and made up one half of a very attractive and distinguished looking couple.  His wife, Margaret, wore a sharply cut ivory and black pant suit, which was accessorized with beautiful gold jewelry and an ivory leather clutch purse which was suspended from the back of her chair by a gold chain strap.  Her lovely, heart-shaped face was accented with high cheek bones and dark brown eyes.    

“They seem rather confident in their claim,” Jessica observed.

“Indeed, they do,” Michael agreed before finally turning his attention to his menu for a moment.

“Now, if I may,” he said as he tapped his finger on her open menu, “I believe that you might enjoy the karara kekda, to start, followed by the lagasta xec xec with the bahpi doi for dessert.”

            “Michael, I have no idea what you just said, but for tonight at least, I’ll have to trust you,” Jessica replied before closing her menu.

            A few moments later, Joan, their server, returned to deliver their drinks and to take their order.  After she had excused herself, a young woman dressed similarly to their hostess, Victoria, approached the table. 

            “I am terribly sorry to intrude on your evening, but you are J.B. Fletcher, the American writer, are you not?” the young woman asked in a near whisper.

            “Yes, I am,” Jessica answered politely, “but you needn’t whisper.  This is Michael Haggerty,” Jessica said, nodding in Michael’s direction.

            “Of course,” the young woman said. “It is a pleasure to meet you both,” she said, turning toward Michael.  “And I mustn’t forget to offer you congratulations.  I heard earlier this evening that you had just recently been married.”

            “Thank you very much,” Michael said to the young woman before Jessica could comment.  “I am a very lucky man,” he added, giving Jessica a look that seemed to say ‘play along.’

“Have we met somewhere recently?” Jessica asked.  “You look very familiar.”

            “No, we haven’t met, but you may have seen me during rehearsal earlier today.  My name is Sophie Potter.  I have a supporting role in Yours Truly, Damien Sinclair.  This is my other job, the one that actually pays the bills while I try to finish my degree and work on my acting career,” she said with a smile.    

“Yes, now I remember.  You were wonderful in the part of Kimberly.  You really captured her spirit.  I was very impressed,” Jessica added. 

“Thank you very much,” the hostess said, beginning to blush.  “You might also recognize Joan Dearlove, your server; she also has a part in the play.”

“I’m afraid that I don’t remember her, but I was only able to see the first act before I had to leave for another engagement,” Jessica explained.

“That explains it then.  Joan is playing the part of Celeste, who is only a minor character.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take any part that I get cast in, but Joan is used to being cast in more prominent roles.  She even had a lead in a production this past summer.  Unfortunately, that play closed after only a few weeks.”

“How unfortunate,” Jessica commented before finally asking the young woman how she could be of help. 

“Oh, yes.  Actually, it’s a little embarrassing and I don’t want to take up any more of your time, but I was wondering if you might autograph a copy of the playbill for me,” she asked, hopefully. 

“Certainly, I’d be happy to,” Jessica said.  The young woman pulled the playbill, along with a pen, out of the pocket of her skirt and handed it to Jessica who inscribed a note of best wishes and handed it back to her. 

“Thank you so much, Mrs. Haggerty.  I hope you enjoy your evening,” she added as she turned to leave.  “Oh, I almost forgot,” she exclaimed as she turned back to Jessica.  I have an extra copy, if you would like it,” she said as she pulled another copy out of her pocket and held it out in Jessica’s direction.

“Yes, thank you very much.  That is very kind of you,” Jessica said, accepting the extra copy and sliding it into the outer pocket of her purse after the young woman had once again excused herself.

“Does that happen frequently?” Michael asked, clearly amused.

“Thank goodness, no,” Jessica answered.  “Now, Michael, I do believe that it is time for two old friends to catch up with each other.  Personally, I’m dying to hear about all of your colorful adventures since I last saw you including the one that I seem to find myself a part of this evening,” Jessica said focusing her attention squarely on her dinner companion once again.

            “Actually, Jessica, that is the primary reason that I invited you to dinner tonight,” he divulged before taking a hefty swig of whiskey.  Here goes, he thought to himself. 

“Do you by chance remember the evening that we first met in Jamaica?”

            “Yes, I certainly do,” Jessica laughed.  “How could I forget?  You picked me up in the hotel casino.”

            “Indeed I did,” he admitted.  “Do you also recall your response when we said our goodbyes and I asked what would happen if someday I should show up on your doorstep?” Michael asked.

            “That an exception might be made,” Jessica answered, remembering the conversation very clearly.  “Are you finally going to come and visit me in Cabot Cove?” she asked.

            New York City,” he answered, “but I’m not coming for a holiday.  I’m transferring there permanently.”

            “Permanently?” Jessica asked in astonishment.  “You’re kidding. I never thought I would hear the name Michael Haggerty and any word remotely close to permanent in the same sentence.”

            “I’m very serious.  It’s time for me to get out of the field.  I’m becoming a bit too recognizable and that can be downright dangerous in my business.  Anyway, I’ve accepted a post in New York,” he explained.  “I’ll be arriving in December and I was hoping that we could see each other once I get settled in.”

            “Of course, it will be wonderful to have another good friend with me in New York.  Seth doesn’t come down nearly enough,” Jessica commented.  “We will have to be sure to go to Rockefeller Plaza before Christmas and you will have to come to Cabot Cove for the holidays.  My friends and I take turns hosting Christmas.  It’s my turn this year and we also have a wonderful New Year’s Eve party,” Jessica said, brimming with excitement. 

            This isn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be, Michael thought as he regrouped.

            “Jessica, love, do you know what I remember most vividly about the evening that we first met?” he said as he reached across the table, took Jessica’s hands in his and looked deeply into her eyes. Michael’s gentle, amorous gesture suddenly made Jessica very aware of the seductively romantic atmosphere that surrounded them.  Before she could answer, he began to speak again.   

 “What I remember is walking with you in the moonlight.  You wore a beautiful peach colored gown and a barrette in your hair.  There was a gentle breeze and talk of some very lovely waterfalls that as I recall, I never did have the opportunity to show you.”

            “And as I recall, you told me that you couldn’t be trusted in the least,” Jessica reminded him with a slightly forced laugh. 

            “Yes, I believe I did say that, and it was probably true,” he acknowledged before pausing for a moment.  “Jessica, what I am hoping is that when I come to New York a month from now that you will consider picking up where we left off that first evening.”

            Before Jessica could answer, Joan returned with their appetizer, which she placed in the center of the table.  As she excused herself, Victoria, the hostess who had seated them, approached the table.

            “Mrs. Haggerty, I’m sorry to interrupt but you have an urgent telephone call.  If you would like, you can take it on the house phone in the lobby.”

            “I’m sorry, Michael, hold that thought,” Jessica said as she began to stand up.  Hold that thought?  Why did I say that? Jessica thought to herself.  Distracted, she didn’t notice Michael’s nimble fingers lift the playbill from her purse as she passed him.

            That was an easy drop, Michael thought smugly to himself as he tucked Jessica’s playbill into the inside pocket of his suit coat while Jessica followed Victoria to the house phone, which was located next to the hostess’ station.  As she began to raise the receiver to her ear, an angry young man, dressed in white, ran into her as he hurried past.  Without a word of apology or stopping to help her, the man disappeared around the corner while Jessica found herself tumbling into a chair that sat next to the phone.

            “Oh, Mrs. Haggerty, are you all right?”  Victoria exclaimed, rushing to Jessica’s aid.

            “Yes, I think so,” she answered after taking a moment to inventory herself.

            “Here’s your handbag,” Victoria said, handing Jessica her purse.  “You must have dropped it on the floor when you fell.”

            “Thank you so much, Victoria, but I think that perhaps you should check on that young man.  He appeared to be very upset,” Jessica observed.

            “I’ll do that,” she assured Jessica.  “Most likely, Andrew just received a rather severe dressing down from our executive chef.  Unfortunately, that happens on occasion.  Once again, I’m truly sorry,” the hostess said, apologizing again before leaving to check on her co-worker.

            Suddenly remembering why she was in the lobby, Jessica picked up the receiver and raised it to her ear.

            “Hello, this is Jessica Fletcher.”

            “Hello?” she repeated when there was no response.  Strange, Jessica thought as she returned the receiver to its cradle.  It must not have been urgent after all.

              “Jessica, is something the matter?  You look a little shaken up?” Michael said as he stood to pull her chair out for her when she returned to join him.  Jessica sat down with a sigh before beginning to tell Michael about her mishap in the lobby.

            “And your telephone call?” Michael inquired as he took his seat once again.

            “I’m not quite sure.  By the time I answered it, there was no one there. “

            “On second thought, Michael, perhaps I should take a moment and go to the powder room,” Jessica decided.

            “Certainly,” Michael agreed as he stood up, walked around the table and helped her up again.  “Are you sure you’re not injured?” he asked, evidently very concerned for her welfare.

            “Yes.  I’ll just be a few minutes,” she assured him as she went in search of the ladies restroom.  Jessica took a seat at a small woman’s dressing table and touched up her make up before walking into the adjoining bathroom to splash cold water on her wrists.  As she turned to reach for a towel to dry her hands, she noticed a women’s shoe lying on the floor. 

Upon closer inspection, she realized that it wasn’t only a shoe that was protruding from beneath one of several bathroom stalls, but a leg as well.  Jessica pushed open the door to the stall, which was slightly ajar, to find the young, promising actress, Sophie Potter, staring blankly up at her.  Even though Jessica feared that the young woman was already dead, she kneeled down next to her body and checked for a pulse.

            Suddenly Jessica heard a scream from directly behind her.  Looking up, she saw Margaret Littlewood, squeezing her purse to her chest, eyes gaping at the scene before her.

            “I’m afraid she’s dead,” Jessica told her.  “Someone needs to call the police,” Jessica instructed.

            “Yes, that would certainly be the proper thing to do,” she agreed, tucking her strapless clutch purse under her arm and disappearing quickly from Jessica’s sight, her fashionable heels clicking on the marble floor as she went.

 Within minutes the manager rushed into the ladies room and nearly fainted when he saw his young hostess, lying dead on the bathroom floor.  By the time Jessica had helped him to a bench in the adjoining powder room, word of the incident had begun to spread throughout the main dining area and soon Michael was at the door, looking for her.

            “Jessica, are you in there?” he asked from outside the door.

            “Oh, Michael, thank goodness,” she said when she opened the door to allow him to enter.  “Has someone called the police?”

            “Yes, I believe that they have,” he answered after stepping into the room and closing the door behind himself.  “Jessica,” he said quietly, “are you all right?”

            “Yes, I’m fine.  I was just about to come back to our table when I found her.”

            For the first time since entering the room, Michael noticed the manager, who was still pale as a ghost.  Without saying another word, Jessica motioned Michael into the bathroom, while she remained with the manager of the restaurant.  On an oath, Michael assessed the scene before bending down and checking the pockets of the woman he now knew to be Sophie Potter.  a.k.a. Elizabeth Regina, Michael thought.

            The police arrived fifteen minutes later and once the ladies room had been evacuated and cordoned off, the primary investigator, Inspector William Henderson, began to study the scene while his aide, Constable Mills, along with two other uniformed officers, began taking names, contact information and statements from each of the dozens of employees and patrons.

            After speaking briefly with the inspector upon his arrival, Michael and Jessica were asked to wait for him in the dining room area along with everyone else.  Nearly an hour later, they still waited patiently. 

As she was prone to doing, Jessica used the time to replay the evening’s events in her mind and to retrace her own steps that evening while she attempted to put together at least a few pieces of the puzzle.  She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she hadn’t noticed that Michael had disappeared for a brief time.  Jessica was in the hallway just outside the restroom, deep in thought, when Michael emerged from behind the door of a secondary entrance to the ladies powder room.    

            “We’re free to go,” he announced as he offered Jessica’s coat to her.

            Fixing him with a suspicious stare, Jessica asked in an accusatory tone, “What did you do, Michael? You know very well that considering the circumstances they’re not going to allow me to leave until I’ve given a full statement to Inspector Henderson,” Jessica told him.

            “Jessica, the hour is growing very late.  The inspector has our names and contact information in the case that he needs us yet tonight,” he explained.   

            “We can’t just leave,” Jessica argued.

            “We have an appointment at seven thirty tomorrow morning with the Inspector at his office at Scotland Yard,” Michael said trying to appease her as he helped her on with her coat before taking her by the elbow and leading her through the lobby and out of the restaurant. 

            After they had walked nearly a block, Jessica finally spoke.  “Speaking of names, Michael, may I ask exactly who has an appointment with Inspector Henderson tomorrow morning?”

            “I’ll explain everything in the morning,” he promised as he opened the car door and helped her in.

            “Why don’t you explain it right now?” Jessica suggested as she secured her seat belt.

            “All in good time, my girl,” Michael answered as he started the engine of the Mercedes.

            “In other words, you’re planning on keeping me in the dark until you clean up tonight’s mess?” Jessica speculated, obviously irritated by his answer, as Michael eased the car out of its parking slot. 

            “Something like that, yes,” he answered.    



Chief Inspector George Sutherland of New Scotland Yard stopped briefly in his office where he deposited his trench coat and briefcase before heading down the hall toward the witness interview rooms.

            “Where are we on this, Henderson?” he asked his most junior inspector, who was just about to open the door to one of the rooms.

            “Not sure, sir.  We haven’t been able to locate any of the victim’s family as of yet, but the neighbor will be here shortly to identify the body.  Preliminary findings from the scene indicate a blow to the back of the head as the most likely COD, but there were strange marks on the neck so, strangulation is a possibility as well.  I was just about to finish my interview with Mr. and Mrs. Haggerty.  She was the one who supposedly discovered the victim, but now we have a statement from another woman claiming to have found Mrs. Haggerty kneeling over the victim with her hand on the front of her throat.”

            “Why weren’t they interviewed last night before leaving Varanasi?” George asked, slightly irritated that a likely suspect had been allowed by leave the scene without being interviewed in greater detail.

            “I spoke to them personally when I arrived, but it wasn’t until much later that the second witness gave her statement to Mills.  By then, Mr. Haggerty had already requested that we wait until this morning to speak to his wife further so that she could have some time to recover and to get some rest.  Apparently, the stress of discovering the victim was a bit much for her to handle.”

            “Poor chap, she still looks to be upset,” George said, slightly distracted by the scene on the other side of the one-way window, which offered them a view of the interior of the interrogation room.  Although he could only see the woman from behind, it was clearly evident by her body language that she was not a happy woman.

            “What do we know about them?”  Sutherland asked his young colleague.

            “They’re newlyweds apparently.  He claims to have business here in London before they depart on their honeymoon.  He’s Irish, but works primarily in New York City in the financial sector.  She’s American, a writer of some kind, also in London on business.  So far, it all checks out.”

            “Is she your only suspect?”

            “No, sir, there are others.  Along with Mrs. Haggerty, there is an ex-boyfriend, by the name of Andrew Fast, who was working at Varanasi last night as well.  He’s an apprentice chef and according to several other employees, he and the victim had an argument earlier in the evening.  One of the hostesses reported having seen him storm through the lobby in the general direction of the restrooms not long before the victim was discovered.  There is also an actress by the name of Joan Dearlove, who also works there.  Apparently the victim beat Miss Dearlove out for a major role in a play that is opening in a few days.  Those three top the list for now, but there are dozens of others that haven’t been cleared yet.” 

            “Well, Inspector, I suggest you get started then.  I think you can handle this without any interference from me and I could use a good, strong cup of coffee.  I’ll be in my office reading your initial report,” Sutherland said as he turned to leave.

            George set his cup of coffee in the center of his desk and sat down heavily in his chair.  He stretched his arms overhead and yawned expansively as he leaned back.  He was exhausted and a bit annoyed at having had to cancel his plans with Jessica to go to Glasgow and then being called back before he could finish what he’d been sent there to do in the first place.  Before he had read a single line of the report sitting on the desk in front of him, there was knock on the door. 

            “Excuse me, sir,” said the young inspector, who had been left to interview the arguing couple.

            “Aye, what is it?” George asked, as he looked up from the report. 

            “Sorry to interrupt, sir, but I believe that I may require your assistance with Mr. & Mrs. Haggerty.  I’m not certain exactly what the problem is, but I’m afraid that this woman might be a bit…unstable, sir.”

            George sighed internally, rose from his chair and followed his young colleague into the hallway, which led to the interrogation room.

            “Sir, please remind me of this if I am ever fool enough to want to get married.”

            “You’ve just to find the right lady,” George replied as he gave the young man a fatherly slap on the back of the shoulder and his thoughts briefly wandered to Jessica.

            “Her statement is clear, concise and unusually observant, but she hasn’t added anything new to it and continues to tell her husband to ‘straighten out this mess.’  He indicated to me privately that she may be on the verge of a breakdown and requested to take her back to their hotel.

            George took a moment to watch the couple from his vantage point outside of the small room.  The woman rose from her seat and began pacing; walking away from the window, while continuing to berate her husband.  She continued pacing with her eyes fixed to the floor, glancing up only briefly when she turned around to face the window.  Her blonde hair and attractive features could have belonged to another, but not those bright, piercing blue eyes.

            That is Mrs. Haggerty?” George said in near shock.

            “Yes, sir.”

            “Are you sure about that, Inspector?”

            “Yes, sir.”

            “And she’s the woman who discovered the body at Varanasi last night?” George asked, suddenly feeling like he needed to sit down.

            “Yes, sir.”

            “You verified her identification?”

            “Yes, sir, her passport, she claims not to drive.”

            “And you said that they are married and leaving shortly on their honeymoon?”

            “Yes, sir.  It appears that way.  His passport and driver’s license have the same address as hers, 698 Candlewood Lane, Cabot Cove, Maine, USA.  That is their primary address, but they also have a loft in New York City.  They’re registered here in London in the honeymoon suite at The Savoy,” he said before handing a file and two passports to George.

            George inspected the documents carefully.  He closed his eyes and rubbed them wearily, perhaps hoping that when he opened them again the information staring back at him would have somehow magically changed.  As luck would have it, it didn’t.  He began pacing back and forth in the hallway himself.

            “I’m sorry, George, but I can’t go to Venice…I have a surprise for you…someone special I want you to meet,” he thought to himself.

            “Bloody ‘ell,” he exclaimed, much louder than he had intended.

            “Sir, is there a problem?”

            “No,” he lied, as he once again took in the scene through the one-way window of the interview room.

            Jessica was still on her feet, pacing.  Her hair was slightly messed from running her hand through it in frustration.  Michael, relaxed and calm, sat at the small table in the center of the room.


“Michael Haggerty, I want you to straighten this out immediately and I want you to tell them who I really am,” she said.

            “They already know who you are, Jessica Beatrice Fletcher…Haggerty,” he said, his eyes smiling at his own cleverness.

            “You used my real name?”  she asked somewhat in disgust.

            “It was necessary at the time, Jessica.  Varanasi is not a place where a man dines alone.  It’s rather intimate, if you recall.”

            “Yes, I recall just fine.  Michael, I can’t believe that I’ve let you drag me into another one of your schemes.  You promised me that it was just dinner with a good friend.”

            “Jessica, I’m sorry to have put you in the middle of this, but at the time it couldn’t be avoided.”

            “Oh, yes, Michael, it could have been, by leaving me completely out of it,” she said sternly, “and I want to know exactly what’s going on, every little detail – the phantom phone call, my missing playbill and why Sophie Potter is dead.”

            “Jessica, my girl,” he said, trying to coax her into calming down a bit.  “Just tell the young inspector everything that you saw last night and leave it at that.  I’ll explain everything when we get back to the hotel.”

“I’ve already told him everything that I know,” Jessica answered.

“Well, I certainly can’t tell them that MI6 was conducting an operation at Varanasi last night, now can I?  It could put other people in jeopardy.” 

            “Fine, Michael, I’ll help you, but I will not lie to the police and I want to know everything, and I mean everything, as soon as we are finished here,” Jessica said.


            Henderson, give me a few minutes and then escort Mrs. Haggerty to my office.  I will interview her there,” George instructed after watching them a little while longer.

            Your office, sir?” Henderson asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

            “Aye, it’s highly unlikely that she is too terribly dangerous and I think that I’m more likely to get someplace with her if we conduct this interview in less intimidating surroundings.”

            “Not dangerous, sir?  Are you sure?”

            “Aye, just give me a few minutes.  I’ll take her and you can have Mr. Haggerty.”

            George returned to his office while Henderson collected Jessica and escorted her down the hallway as per his instructions. 

            “Yes, Mrs. Haggerty, so good of you to come in this morning,” George said with a slightly forced smile as he rose from his desk and greeted her formally at the door.  Please, sit down,” he said, indicating one of the two chairs positioned in front of his desk.

            “Thank you, Inspector Henderson, I will let you know when we are finished,” George said, excusing the young detective, closing the door and turning to face Jessica.

            “Oh, George, I am so happy to see you,” she said as she rose from the chair, crossed the room and hugged him before letting out a noticeable sigh.  “But what are you doing here? I thought you were in Glasgow?” she asked as she released him.

            “I was in Glasgow.  I was called back late last night, but perhaps I should be the one asking you what you’re doing here?” he responded.

            “Of course, you’re right,” Jessica answered, suddenly remembering that she was there because of the murder of a young woman the previous evening.

            George Sutherland was a very composed individual and a very skilled interrogator.   Both of these qualities served him well in his employ as a criminal investigator, but over the duration of their friendship, Jessica had developed the ability to read him quite easily and accurately, or so she thought.  His eyes usually gave him away, but not today.  At the moment, they were flat and dark.  Serious cop’s eyes, she thought. 

            “George, is there something wrong?” she finally asked.

            “I’d say so,” he answered.  “What’s going on, Jessica?”

            She seated herself once again in one of the chairs in front of George’s desk and began to relate the events of the previous evening beginning with being approached by the young woman for her autograph and ending with finding her on the floor of the ladies room.  George watched Jessica with great interest and listened, without interrupting, from where he stood, with arms crossed, leaning against the door, as Jessica described what she had observed including her analysis of the scene.

            “George, aren’t you going to write any of this down?” she asked after finishing.

            “Jessica, I’ve already read your statement, which was nothing less than clear, observant, concise and objective, as I would expect.  If I had wanted to ask you any further questions about that, we wouldn’t be in the privacy of my office right now,” he explained.

            Jessica considered that for a moment, looked closely at George and noticed something else in his eyes that she had never seen before and which she was not sure that she was reading correctly.  At length, she finally asked, “Does this have something to do with Michael?  You’re certainly not jealous of my friendship with him, are you?”

            “Do I have reason to be?” he answered with a question.

            “Of course not.  Michael and I are just old friends,” she explained.

            “Jessica, I certainly understand that you have male friends.  As a matter of fact, I happen to like Seth and Mort, but this is a tad different.  Varanasi is not exactly the type of place that you take a casual friend for dinner,” he said.  “It’s the type of place that I…that Frank would have taken you for your wedding anniversary or an equally intimate evening,” he explained.

            “So I discovered,” she replied.  “George, I assure you that Michael is just a friend, nothing more, and I certainly had no idea where he was taking me to dinner.  He simply showed up at my book signing yesterday and asked me to dinner.  That’s all.”

            “Aye, but there’s more to it than that, I suspect.  Who is he, Jess?”

            “George, I just told you that he’s a friend,” she said, starting to become slightly annoyed by his persistence.

            “I understand that…now…although I would have appreciated knowing about the events of last night before you arrived in my interview room this morning.  What I really want to know is who he is exactly.  I’m fairly certain that he is not some banker from New York City and I am also fairly certain that the two of you are not recently married.”

            “Of course we’re not.”

            “Good,” George commented bluntly.  Jessica noticed a wave of relief cross his face and his eyes almost instantly transformed back to the kind, gentle green with which she was so familiar.  “That means that he is probably in the intelligence community then?”

            “What makes you say that?” Jessica asked, intrigued by his observation.

            “Because they are the only ones who can make counterfeit passports of this quality,” he said as he handed two small blue books to her.  “Unless of course Mr. Haggerty is now living in Cabot Cove at your address?”

            He didn’t.  Not again, Jessica thought to herself.

            “Is he with your CIA?” George guessed.

            Jessica let out a deep breath, blowing air upward toward her bangs before answering.  “He’s MI6,” she finally divulged, causing George to smile.

            “Thank you, Jess,” he said as he crossed the room and finally sat in the chair next to hers.  “Forgive me for having to interrogate you.  I imagine you were sworn to secrecy?”

            “You could say that,” she answered.  After a long pause, she continued.  “His name is Michael Haggerty.”

            “That’s the infamous MI6 agent, Haggerty, is it?”

            “You know him then?”

            “By reputation only.  He’s a bit of a rogue, Jessica.  If you don’t mind my asking, how did you manage to get yourself mixed up with the likes of him?”

            “Let’s just say that our paths have crossed a few times over the years,” she said.

            “Well then, I guess that gives us something to talk about over dinner tonight.”

            “We’re having dinner tonight?” Jessica asked.

            “Unless you already have other plans, we still have a reservation that I neglected to cancel before I left for Glasgow.”

            “No, I don’t have any other plans.  What time shall I be ready?”

            “Half past six, our reservation is at seven o’clock.”

            “Where are we going?”

            “It’s a surprise.”

            “George, if you don’t tell me where we’re having dinner, I won’t know what to wear.”

            “Hmmm,” he thought out loud.  “Did you happen to pack that blue gown that you wore to the theater the last time you were here?”

            “The strapless one with the matching jacket?”

            “Aye,” he said, raising his eyebrows slightly.  “That would be perfect,” he added with a mischievous smile. “Now, I’ll have someone take you back to your hotel and I’ll pick you up tonight for dinner,” he said as they stood and taking her by the elbow, guided her to the door.

            “George, that’s not necessary.  Michael can drive me back to the hotel.”

            “Actually, Jessica, Agent Haggerty is going to be tied up with Henderson for a bit longer” if I have anything to say about it, he said as he reached to open the door.

            “George, you didn’t really think that Michael and I were married, did you?” she asked almost apologetically as she reached for his hand to delay him from opening the door.  To be honest, she sort of liked the idea that he might have been the tiniest bit jealous of Michael.

            “Perhaps for a moment.  You did catch me somewhat off guard,” he answered.

            “How did you know?”

            “Ah, Jess, it was elementary really, but that’s one mystery that I’ll believe I’ll gladly let you solve on your own and be happy knowing that you’re not in any danger while doing so,” he answered before opening the door and escorting her to the entrance where a uniformed officer waited to drive her back to The Savoy.




            Jessica returned to the hotel just in time to meet Susan who had arrived only a few minutes earlier.  When the publicist noticed that it was Jessica getting out of the police car, she dashed back out of the lobby in a near panic.

            “Mrs. Fletcher,” she exclaimed, excited and short of breath.  “What happened?  Are you all right?”

            “Yes, Susan, don’t be alarmed.  I’m perfectly fine,” Jessica assured her.  “I simply had an early meeting at New Scotland Yard this morning and my good friend, Chief Inspector Sutherland, felt obliged to provide my transportation back to the hotel.”

            “Thank goodness.  I’m so glad that you are okay,” Susan replied, obviously very relieved.  “For a moment, I was afraid that you had been mugged or even worse that you had found yourself involved in another murder?”

            “Actually,” Jessica began before pausing. 

            “Murder?” Susan asked in disbelief, her jaw dropping for a moment before she quickly collected herself and hurried Jessica inside where she asked for more details.  To the publicist’s immense relief, Jessica had yet to receive a single telephone call or other request for an interview regarding the incident, which most likely meant that word of her involvement had not yet leaked to the media.  “Yet” being the key word, Susan thought to herself.

            Fortunately for both of them, the remainder of Jessica’s day, including interviews with reporters from the London Times book review and a talk radio station, went smoothly.  That was at least until she returned to her suite to find Michael reclined on the sofa, waiting for her. 

            “Ah, Jessica, my girl, there you are.  I was beginning to worry,” he told her, with a great deal of charm as he sat himself up.

            “Michael, what are you doing in my room?” Jessica asked, only half pretending to be surprised and annoyed by his presence as she had suspected that he would resurface sometime soon, as he was prone to doing.

            “I wanted to make sure that you were all right and of course to apologize for dragging you into the middle of company business again,“  Michael said, managing to sound sincere.

            “You might have considered using the telephone instead of breaking and entering,” Jessica pointed out as she removed her coat and hung it in the closet.

            “Yes, I might have,” he agreed, “but I also wanted to make up for last night and for you having to deal with those blokes from The Yard this morning,” he explained as he stood up from the sofa and walked toward her. 

            “Make up?  Just like that?” Jessica asked, sounding only slightly amused.

            “Well, I could grovel, of course,” he replied as he took her hands in his and looked into her beautiful blue eyes, “but that would be a waste of time now, wouldn’t it?” 

            “If you really want to make it up to me, you can fill me in with all of the details of your little escapade last night, over breakfast in the morning,” Jessica suggested amicably.

            “Actually, Jessica, I was thinking that we could get started tonight,” he said as he took her by the elbow and guided her across the large room to the window, overlooking the river.  “We’ll begin with the London Eye where we can enjoy a stunning view of the city followed by a quiet dinner and then…”

            “Oh, Michael, that is very sweet of you,” Jessica said before giving him a peck on the cheek, “but I already have plans with George this evening and I’m running a little late as it is,” she explained before patting him on the arm and leaving him at the window while she walked to the bedroom to discard her shoes. 

            “Who?” Michael exclaimed, the shocked surprise in his tone not being lost on Jessica.

            “George Sutherland, one of those blokes from Scotland Yard,” she answered as she poked her head out of the bedroom.  “Michael, I promise we’ll catch up in the morning but for now would you be a dear and let George in when he arrives and tell him that I won’t be too terribly long,” Jessica said as she closed the door. 

That’ll teach him for pulling another one of his stunts, Jessica thought as she retreated into her private bathroom.  As she showered and dressed for the evening, she couldn’t help but think about Michael’s genuine surprise when she mentioned her plans with George.   Was it possible that Michael Haggerty was actually serious about changing his ways and settling down?  Jessica would never have believed it was possible, but perhaps he was serious.  Maybe he wasn’t merely trying to distract her with talk of moving to New York City and picking up where they had left off so many years before.  No, Jessica decided, not Michael.  He would never settle down in one place.

            Meanwhile, Michael paced back and forth in front of the two large windows that overlooked The River Thames.  One morning at Scotland Yard and she has a bloody date, Michael thought.  And who the bloody hell is George?  Tell her that you’re transferring to New York then tell her how you feel about her.  Be charming and sincere and everything will work out perfectly, Michael thought, mocking himself.  How could such a simple plan have failed so miserably, he wondered as he watched the river below.  “Because it’s Jessica,” he answered aloud, rubbing his temples as he contemplated the situation further.   

            Eventually, he came to a conclusion.  A challenge then, is it, he thought smugly to himself just as the telephone began to ring.


            Michael answered with a simple, “Hello.”

            “Who is this?” the caller inquired gruffly.

            “Doc Hazlitt,” Michael replied cheerfully, “I’d know that voice anywhere.  It’s Michael, Michael Haggerty.  We met a couple of years ago in Cabot Cove.”

            Ayuh, I remember,” Seth answered.  “What are you doing in Jessica’s room?”

            “I just stopped by to see if she was available for dinner, but unfortunately, she has other plans this evening,” Michael explained.

            “Well, can I talk to her?” Seth asked impatiently.

            “Actually, she’s unavailable at the moment,” Michael said, glancing at the bedroom door, which was still closed.

            “Well, where is she?” Seth asked.

            “She seems to be preparing herself for a date and she has asked me to entertain the fellow until she’s ready,” Michael explained.

            “I suppose that her date is with George Sutherland?” Seth asked sharply.

            “Exactly, how did you know?” Michael responded. 

            “That’s not important.  What’s important is what’s going on over there.  I just heard a CNN report that said that Jessica has somehow managed to become involved in another murder,” Seth said.

            “I’m afraid that yes, indeed, there was a murder, but I can assure you that Jessica is fine and there should be no reason for her to get involved,” Michael said, knowing from Jessica that Seth was likely to over-react and be on the first flight to London.

            “That’s never stopped her before,” Seth pointed out.

            “There’s no denying that, but I promise you I’ll keep an eye on her and keep her out of trouble,” Michael assured him.

            “Well, just tell her I called,” Seth said, his mood not having improved one bit despite Michael’s assurances.

            “I’ll do just that,” Michael answered before saying goodbye.  Just as he hung up the telephone, he heard a knock on the door.

            Jessica, too, heard the knock and instantly realized the potential for trouble on the other side of her bedroom door.  She quickly finished putting on the first of a pair of earrings and hurried into the living room, but not before Michael had already reached the door.

            “I’ll get it,” Jessica said as she rushed to the door, causing Michael to pause as he reached for the handle.

            “Jessica, darlin’, it would be my great pleasure to welcome your guest,” Michael told her.  “Go on now,” he said, shooing her back to the bedroom.  “And, Jessica, my girl, you’re missing an earring,” he added as he watched her go back into the bedroom before finally opening the door.

            “You must be George,” he said as he extended his hand in greeting while doing a masterful job of concealing his amusement at the puzzled expression on George’s face.  Obviously, he hadn’t been expecting Michael to be in Jessica’s suite much less answering her door.

            To his credit, George recovered quickly and extended his own hand to shake Michael’s.  “Aye, and you must be Haggerty, Michael Haggerty,” George replied, causing Michael to laugh at George’s reference to the world’s most famous secret agent.

            “So, you’re the one,” Michael acknowledged as he motioned for George to come in.  “You must know Jessica quite well if you were able to pry that particular bit of information out of her in such a short time.”

            “Aye, well enough,” George answered without providing additional details about his and Jessica’s relationship.  “Based on the events of last evening, I’d say you obviously know Jessica very well yourself,” George added.

            “Very well, indeed,” Michael confirmed with a sly grin as he led George to the sitting room and took a seat in one of the arm chairs, indicating for George to do the same.

            “Speaking of the lovely Jessica, where is she?” George asked, glancing casually around the suite.

            “The last time I saw her, she was in the bedroom,” Michael answered, indicating the double doors behind them.  “She hadn’t quite finished dressing when you arrived.”  Apparently, Michael wasn’t above a sucker punch although he did find some comfort in the fact that his statement, while certainly misleading, was after all the truth.

            “You’ll have to excuse me for talking shop,” Michael continued after a moment, “but out of professional curiosity and in the spirit of interagency cooperation and all of that, I must ask what minor detail I overlooked this morning?”

            “A bit of interagency cooperation would have saved me a boat load of man hours over the past twenty-four hours,” George pointed out, none too impressed with Michael’s self-serving attitude.

            “I was afraid that that might be a problem,” Michael said as he reached into his pocket, withdrew several tri-folded papers and handed them to George.  “That’s everything we know about your vic.  Now, how about being a sport, Sutherland?”

            George unfolded the pages and began to read each carefully.  “Her ring,” George finally commented off handedly as he continued to read, mentally filing away details to create a picture of the life of the young woman who now lay in the morgue.

            “What does Sophie Potter’s ring have to do with anything?” Michael asked.

            “No,” George replied, looking at Michael as though he was a complete idiot.  “Jessica’s wedding band.  It’s the same one she’s always worn.  I should hope that even you would buy her a new one had the two of you actually married,” George added, his comment having the same effect as if he had just landed a powerful left jab to Michael’s jaw. 

            “So, in other words, there was no real detective work involved, just dumb luck that you happen to know Jessica,” Michael observed, landing his own right hook.  Fortunately, he was saved from George’s scathing reply when they both heard the door to Jessica’s bedroom open.

            Both men stopped abruptly, when she entered the room wearing a long strapless, navy gown with a matching sheer jacket.

            “Are you boys playing nicely?” Jessica asked, eyeing them both suspiciously before welcoming George with a kiss on the cheek.

            “Jessie, you’re stunning,” he said as he stood to greet her.

            “Thank you, George.  You’re…weill-faured yourself,” she replied with a smile, remembering the Gaelic term for “handsome.”

            Jessie?  Weill-faured?  Michael thought to himself as he watched their exchange with great interest.  I’d say that that definitely qualifies as “well enough.”  A challenge indeed.

            “Sorry to rush you, Jess, but we should be going if we’re going to make our dinner reservation,” George suggested as he refolded the papers and tucked them into his pocket.  “Why don’t I get your coat?”

            “Oh, dear, you’re right,” she answered when she realized the time.  “It’s in the closet by the front door.” 

            As George retrieved her coat, Jessica turned to Michael, who was still sitting.  “Michael, thank you so much for entertaining George while I was getting ready.  It really was very sweet of you.”

            “Think nothing of it,” Michael responded, standing up from his chair.  “And George is absolutely right.  You are bonny, as usual …and that’s quite the little bauble you’re wearing,” Michael observed, indicating her necklace.  “It matches the dazzlin’ blue of your eyes,” he added, the charming Irish lilt of his voice becoming much more prominent.     

            “Really?” Jessica responded, reaching up to touch the sapphire pendant of her necklace.  “I’ve never noticed.  It was a birthday present from George this past spring,” Jessica explained just as he returned with her coat. 

George helped her into it and the threesome left the suite together, stopping to say their goodbyes in the lobby.  “Sutherland,” Michael said, extending his hand and nodding his head slightly.  “Haggerty,” George replied, mimicking Michael’s gesture.

            Turning his attention to Jessica, Michael suddenly remembered Seth’s telephone call.  “I nearly forgot, Jessica.  Doctor Hazlitt called while you were getting ready.  I believe that he would like for you to return his call.  He seemed a bit concerned about a news report that mentioned your having discovered Sophie Potter’s body.”

“Oh, goodness,” Jessica responded.  “He didn’t say anything about coming to London, did he?”

“No.  I assured him of your safety and pointed out the fact that there was really no reason for you to become involved in the matter any further,” Michael explained.

“Thank you,” Jessica said, reaching up and giving his arm a light squeeze.  “In that case, I’ll be sure to return his call when we get back from dinner,” Jessica said.

“Then my duty is done here,” Michael replied.  “Jessica, my girl, have a most pleasant evening.  I’ll pick you up at seven thirty tomorrow morning for breakfast,” Michael said before kissing her goodbye.

            “Yes, seven thirty,” Jessica answered in agreement, watching him leave in the direction of the American Bar.


            My girl, George thought as he and Jessica drove toward the restaurant. 

            “George, is there something on your mind?” Jessica asked.  “You’re awfully quiet.”

            Before he could answer, his cellular phone rang.  It was obviously The Yard and he didn’t seem extremely happy about taking the call.

            “Well, Jessica,” he said as he closed the phone and returned it to his pocket.  “I’m afraid there’s a bit of a problem at The Yard and I’m going to have to handle it in person.”

            “How long will it take you?” she asked.

            “A couple of hours, at least,” he answered.  “I don’t know whether we’ll be able to salvage any of our evening or not.”

            “Actually, I think I might have an idea about that,” Jessica said after a moment’s thought.  “What do you think about dinner at your place?  We’re not that far away, are we?”

            “No, just another half kilometer or so, but by the time I get back and start dinner, it’s going to be quite late.  Are you sure you don’t just want me to take you back to your hotel or try to get us a later reservation?” he offered.

            “No, I don’t want to go back to my hotel or to reschedule our reservation for later.  I’ve never been to your loft and I was thinking that I would do the cooking,” she explained.   



Several hours later, George slid his key into the lock, turned it and after hearing a metallic click, opened the door to his loft.  He was instantly met by a medley of delicious smells emanating from the kitchen. 

“Jess, I’m back,” he announced as he hung his coat on a brass hook next to the door and headed for the kitchen where beautiful cherry wood cabinets accented with mustard walls and an earth-toned ceramic tile backsplash added to the warmth already being generated by the stainless steel oven.  Not finding her there, he set the small bag of groceries, which he was carrying, down on to the countertop.  After placing the contents into the refrigerator, he proceeded to open the oven door and lifted the lid from a large pot, which was keeping their dinner warm.  Ah, Yankee pot roast, he thought, before replacing the lid, closing the door and leaving the room in search of Jessica.

“Jessica?” he said, a bit louder as he entered the living room.  “Where are you?”  he called. 

“In here, George,” she responded from the master bedroom.

Hmmmm, he thought to himself hopefully, as he headed toward his own room.  As he entered the room, which was decorated with walls the color of milk chocolate and accented with ivory draperies, Jessica emerged from the bathroom, wearing one of George’s classic white button-down oxfords, which fell to her mid-thigh, partially covering the gray sweatpants, which she had found in the bottom drawer of his mahogany dresser.  Her shirt was open at the collar and the sleeves were rolled to just below the elbows.  A white pair of athletic socks, bunched at the ankles, completed the impromptu ensemble.  She carried her navy blue evening gown over her forearm.

“George, do you have someplace that I can hang this?” she asked.

“Certainly, let me take it,” he said as he collected the gown from her.  He opened the closet, slid several shirts to one side and hung it on the rod before closing the door.  “What happened to your dress?” he asked.

“I splashed beef broth on it.  I had to clean it before the stain set,” she explained.  “I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed some of your clothes?”

“No, not at all.  It’s a good look for you,” he joked good-naturedly.

She smiled, shook her head and tried to ignore his teasing.  “If you don’t mind my asking, who decorated your apartment?  It’s wonderful.”

“Not what you expected?” he asked, looking around the room.

“Well, yes…and no.  I knew that it would be tasteful, but there is something else about it that is…well, cozy and inviting.  It’s definitely masculine, but with just a hint of…I guess I don’t know what it is, but it’s very appealing and I like it very much,” she said as she sat down on the edge of the antique pewter bed, which was made of welded steel and covered with a beautiful red quilt, stitched with a gold and ivory Scottish paisley pattern.  Two mahogany bedside tables were placed on either side and held antique pewter lamps with ivory shades and numerous hard cover books in varying shades of red and cream.  Jessica also took notice of several scenic photographs which were displayed in silver-plated frames, with red and ivory matting.  The pictures hung on the wall above the bed and contrasted beautifully with the chocolate walls.

“My niece, Elizabeth, is a designer,” he explained.  “She started out with the living room, as an experiment of sorts, and just never stopped until the entire loft was finished.  Actually, I think she took pity on her poor uncle.  If it wasn’t for her, you’d probably be staring at nothing but four white walls.”

“Well, regardless of her reason, it’s wonderful.  I hope you’ll tell her so,” Jessica said sincerely.

“Of course I will,” he responded.

“Ready for dinner?” Jessica asked as she popped up from the edge of the bed.

“Of course, it smells wonderful,” he replied as he followed her out of the room.  Nyod, he thought to himself as he stopped for a moment, cocked his head to one side and watched her lead the way.  “What is it about Jessie wearing my clothes that is so…cricket, George…bloody sexy, it is…cricket…think cricket,” he reminded himself.

Minutes later, the pair was seated at a small, but handsome cherry wood table with plates of pot roast, potatoes and carrots in front of them.  The small dining room was located just off the kitchen and was decorated with chairs upholstered in burgundy with champagne accents and elegant draperies of the same wine color.  One wall was lined with a built-in wine bar while another was dominated by a large buffet above which a mirror and two small sconces were positioned.  Jessica had set the table with simple white china and placed two flickering candles in the center.

“George, is there something wrong?” Jessica asked once she noticed that he had barely touched his food.

“Quite the contrary, Jessica, everything is perfect.  I was just thinking that I have never seen you quite so…casual and relaxed before,” he explained.

“Well, you don’t look the least bit casual or relaxed.  Why don’t you at least take your jacket off?  I feel completely underdressed and my pot roast certainly doesn’t call for a suit and tie,” she commented.

“You’re right, but not about your roast.  It’s excellent,” he said as he stood, removed his navy, pin striped jacket and hung it casually on the back of his chair.  He sat back down and loosened his blue and red tie slightly.  “There, is that better?” he asked.

“Not quite,” she replied before boldly reaching over and loosening his tie further and unbuttoning the top button of his white shirt.  “There, that’s a little bit better,” she said before lifting her fork and taking another bite of tender carrot. 

You’re killing me, Jessica, he thought silently.  Cricket, George thought, willing himself to not read too much into her actions.  He knew very well that if she had changed her mind about what she wanted out of their relationship, she would tell him.  She was a very direct woman and he liked that about her. 

Over dinner, they talked about her new book and all of the traveling that she had been doing over the past couple of months to promote it.  Eventually, the topic of her book signing the previous morning at Waterstone's Books, where Michael had shown up without warning, came up.

“And what is on your agenda tomorrow?” George asked, suppressing every urge that he had to question her further about either their chance encounter or their relationship in general.

“Breakfast with Michael, of course, a meeting with my publisher and then I thought I might do some Christmas shopping in the afternoon,” she answered.  George’s avoidance of the topic of Michael certainly hadn’t escaped her, but she had no idea what to make of it.  “George, are you sure everything’s okay?  You’ve been a bit more quiet than usual this evening,” she observed.

Without answering her, he stood, laid his cloth napkin on the table and reached for her hand.  “Let’s go in the living room where we can talk,” he said, leading her out of the dining room.

Talk? Jessica thought.  “What about the dishes?” she asked hastily.  “We really should clear the table and get them cleaned up,” she added, stalling for a minute because of a sudden onset of nervousness.

“Later.  You cooked,” he said.  “I’ll take care of the dishes, but not right now.  Come with me.  There’s something that I need to discuss with you,” he explained as he led her into the living room, where they sat down next to each other on the sofa.  This room too was wonderfully warm and more than any other room in the house, fit George to a tee, Jessica thought. 

The couch was the color of clove spun honey and was very comfortable with its high back, extra-deep seats and neatly pleated English roll arms.  Two chairs of dark brown leather, similar in style to the sofa, were positioned to the left, creating an open area where the sofa and chairs all faced a fireplace, it too surrounded in dark oak.  A tasteful entertainment center filled one corner of the room.  A large area rug splashed an autumn color palette across the hard wood floor, accenting the neutral colors of the room.  Along with two small rectangular coffee tables, it filled the open space between the other furnishings.  The dark cardinal walls were inlayed with several bookcases. She could easily imagine George lounging comfortably here, reading a book or smoking his pipe, an image which brought a small smile to her lips.

“Jessica,” he said gently, laying his hand on hers and looking into her eyes.  “I owe you an apology for my behavior this morning.”

“Apology?  For what?  You were right.  I should have let you know that I was going to be there and what I witnessed at the restaurant last night,” she interjected.  “It certainly would have been beneficial for you and your investigation to know as much as possible, as early in the investigation as possible.”

“Actually, Jess, you had no way of knowing that I had been called back to London or that I was involved in the Varanasi case so, there was no reason for you to have let me know that you would be there, but that’s not the issue at hand.”  He paused and looked down before continuing.  “Jessica, I feel black affrontit of my behavior.  You know how much I care for you, but frankly, the nature of your relationship with Michael Haggerty, past or present, is none of my business and I made the mistake of thinking that it was.  I hope that you can forgive me for that.” 

Sensing that he was not finished with what he needed to say to her, Jessica continued to listen quietly.

“It just seems to me that Mr. Haggerty feels free to take certain liberties with you that I don’t much care for, specifically the fact that he is willing to put you at risk to suit his own purpose.”  He once again looked up and met her gaze.  “Tell me if I’m wrong, but I have a pretty good idea that that is exactly what happened last night at Varanasi and from what you said, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he’s done it before.  It would just set my mind a bit more at ease if I knew that you at least trusted him not to put you in harms way again.  If past history is any indication, you seem to do pretty well at that without anyone else’s help,” he finally concluded.

Jessica couldn’t help but to smile at him.  “Apology accepted, but not necessary, George.  You were simply doing your job and trying to protect my interests and to be quite honest, you’re not completely off the mark as far as Michael is concerned.  He has been known to…take advantage of our friendship to further his own cause, but I can’t say that he has ever intentionally put me in danger.”

Intentionally?  George thought to himself.  Better not go there, he thought wisely. 

“As long as you trust him, Jess, then I have no other option, but to trust him, too,” George conceded.  “Thank you for taking it so easy on me, I really don’t deserve it, you know,” he added before finally smiling at her and giving her hand a squeeze.  “No wonder I love her so much,” he thought as he looked deeply into her bright blue eyes.  “Jess, are we all right?  I didn’t muck this up too badly, did I?”

“Of course not.  We’re fine, George,” Jessica assured him before leaning forward and giving him a small kiss on the cheek.

After a moment’s pause, George rose from his seat on the sofa.  “If you don’t mind, I think I will go change into something more suitable.  I wasn’t planning on us having a quiet evening here tonight or else I wouldn’t have worn a suit.”

“Of course,” Jessica answered.

“I’ll be right back,” he said before disappearing into the master bedroom.

While he was gone, Jessica busied herself with clearing the dishes from the table and didn’t notice George enter the kitchen behind her.  He gently placed his hands on her shoulders and leaned his head forward slightly.  “Jess, I said I would take care of the dishes later.” He reached around her, removed a plate from her hand and set it down on the counter top.  “We’re not going to spend our abbreviated evening together cleaning up the dishes.  Come on,” he said as he returned his hands to her shoulders, turned her around and marched her back toward the living room.

“Now, would you prefer to take the grand tour or would you rather just retire to the living room?” he asked.

“Oh, by all means, I would love to have the grand tour,” she replied, turning her head slightly and looking at him over her shoulder.

“Well, let’s see then.  You’ve already become intimately acquainted with the kitchen.  You’ve seen the dining room, the living room…the master bedroom and bathroom.  That doesn’t leave much.”  He paused, deep in thought.  “Come with me, I have something to show you,” he said as he took her by the hand and lead her into the master bedroom.

“Have a seat,” he said.  “I’ll just be a minute.”  George opened a pair of ivory draperies, which covered a large sliding glass door and then returned to the closet where he retrieved a large black case.  Jessica watched closely as he disappeared onto the balcony.

What is he up to? she wondered to herself as she waited for him to return.

“Okay, Jess, come on out,” she heard him call from outside.

As she approached the threshold to the door, George took her hand and guided her onto the balcony, where he had set up a black metal telescope.  He bent down, looked into the eyepiece and made a few adjustments.

“There, take a look,” he said as he stepped back from the scope.

“Oh, George, it is absolutely beautiful.  What is it?” she asked, turning and looking back at him.

“Aquarius and Pegasus, the origin of the Greek myth of the Mares of Diomedes, I found it a few nights ago.”

“I thought you told me that you didn’t have time for star gazing any more,” she said, still looking over her shoulder. 

“I guess you could say I have had a renewed interest since last spring.  Now, for something extra special,” he said as he leaned in over her shoulder, peered into the eyepiece and made a few more adjustments.  Try that,” he said enthusiastically as he relinquished the eyepiece to her once again.  Feeling her shiver against the chill in the late October air, he instinctively wrapped his arms around her.

“We’d better get you back inside before you catch a chill, Jess.  Ms. Rogers won’t be very happy if you catch cold and have to cancel any of your obligations.”

“No, George, I’m fine,” she said as she continued to peer into the scope.

“Jess, I can feel you shivering.  We can do this another time,” he said, leaning his head in close and speaking quietly next to her ear.

Jessica turned her head slightly and smiled at him.  “I’m much warmer now,” she said, giving his arms, which were still wrapped around her, a squeeze and returning her attention to the scope.  Cricket, he thought to himself.  They remained on the balcony for a few minutes longer before George once again insisted on returning to the warmth of the loft.  Once Jessica was inside, he settled the telescope back into its case and then returned it to the closet.

Jessica sat quietly on the edge of the bed, her attention drawn once again to the pictures, which hung on the wall above George’s bed.  She inspected each carefully and noted how similar they were in style despite the differences in subject matter.  The same photographer, she concluded to herself.  “George, these prints are wonderful.  If you don’t mind my asking, who is the artist?”

“Just a local chap,” he answered as he joined her at the side of the bed.

“Well, do you know where I can see more of his work?  I might be interested in purchasing a piece for my guest room.  I would love something from the highlands of Scotland or the County Cork.”

“Really?” he asked, very surprised by her comment.

“Yes, really.  Now, which gallery do you suggest I try?” she asked, still entranced by the pictures before her.

“Afraid you’re standing in it,” he said, letting a slight smile cross his lips.

“What?  You…”

“Aye, me, but they’re really just snapshots, nothing special,” he explained humbly.

“No, they’re not.  They’re art,” she said, now looking even more closely at the pictures.

“My own private collection of amateurish art,” he remarked before grabbing her hand and turning to leave the room.  “Now, if you’ve finished snooping, we can continue our tour,” he said, suppressing a smile.  She likes my photographs, fancy that.

“How could I possibly be snooping with you standing right here next to me?  Besides, I’m not finished admiring your niece’s work,” Jessica said, coming to a stop and causing George to stop as well.

“It’s just a bedroom and it’s not like you haven’t already seen it,” he pointed out, giving her hand a little tug.  “Come on.”

Jessica wiggled her hand out of his.  “On the contrary, Inspector, I’m learning a great deal about you by spending time in here.  For example, the books on your bedside table…hmmm,” she said as she craned her neck to peer at their titles.  “’Greatness:  Reagen, Churchill and the making of Extraordinary Leaders, nonfiction, your serious side and ‘All Things Wise and Wonderful,’ your not so serious side,” she observed.  “And your dresser…”

“That’s quite enough, Jessica, I know what’s in my bureau, as do you, I’m guessing.”

Jessica looked at him with the most innocent expression that she could manage.

“Jessica, you’re wearing my clothes, remember?” he said, raising one eyebrow slightly.

“Speaking of, I thought you were going to change into something more comfortable,” she said, taking note of his neatly pressed khakis and long sleeve polo style shirt.

“Well, considering the fact that you’re wearing the only pair of sweat pants that I keep here at the house, it’s either this or if you would prefer, I could parade around in my boxer shorts for you.  I didn’t think so,” he said after a pause.  “Now, if you don’t come with me I won’t be held responsible for my actions,” he threatened before bending his head down and kissing her gently on the neck.       

Jessica couldn’t help but shudder a bit as her entire body began to feel warm.  “George,” she said, barely able to get his name out even after she thought that she had regained her composure. 

“Yes, Jessica?” he responded, looking very much like he intended on kissing her again.

“That’s just plain devious,” she finally said.

“But apparently necessary and highly effective.  Now, out,” he said, fixing her with a rather serious look and cocking his head toward the door as he forced himself to think of cricket once again, while simultaneously wishing that she hadn’t given in quite so easily.    

Jessica couldn’t help but smile when as she turned and began to leave the room, she noticed George retrieve something from the top of his dresser and put it in his pocket.  “George, what was on the dresser that you didn’t want me to see?”

“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about, Jess.”

“Of course you do.  You just slipped it into your pocket.”

Ignoring her observation, he continued with the tour.  “Now, I believe that the only other rooms that you haven’t seen are the guest room and the den,” he said as he took her by the elbow and led her down a short hall to one of the two doors located opposite each other at the far end.  He opened the door, allowing them to enter a moderately sized room, which was decorated in hunter green, dark red and caramel.  One portion of the room included a large antique roll top desk in walnut.  The roll top was up and a black flat panel screen and two small silver speakers were centered on the writing surface of the desk while a mouse was positioned slightly to the right.  The screensaver showed the rugged cliffs of northern Scotland, overlooking the North Sea.  True to his roots, Jessica thought. 

The remainder of the room was occupied by a dark brown leather sofa and two wing back chairs in dark green leather.  One wall was dominated by pictures of the highlands of Scotland while another contained pictures of the English countryside.  A third wall contained a small display of armor, swords and other items, which reminded her of both Sutherland Castle and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.  Like the other rooms in the apartment, Jessica immediately felt comfortable in her surroundings and instinctively took in everything around her.

George muttered something to himself as he rifled through the desk.

“What did you say?” Jessica asked as she continued to soak up the atmosphere of the room.

“Oh, nothing,” he said in disgust.  “I was just looking for this broach that I found for you a couple of months ago.  Now, where did I put it?” he asked, seemingly to himself.

“Bottom right hand drawer, next to your handgun,” Jessica answered without thinking.

George whipped his head around and stared at her in amazement.  Words were certainly not necessary for him to convey exactly what he was thinking at the moment.

“I was looking for your telephone book,” Jessica replied in self-defense.

“And did you find it?” he asked, now slightly amused.

“As a matter of fact, I did.  You know, your niece really is a fabulous decorator.  She certainly seems to know you well,” Jessica observed, obviously attempting to change the subject.

“And did you also read my files on the Varanasi murder?” he asked, looking down at his desk and tapping his index finger on the top of several manila folders.

“I might have glanced at them,” Jessica admitted.

“And what do you think so far?” he asked.

“I’m not quite sure.  Sophie Potter seemed to be a very hard working young woman with many friends and no one who had an obvious motive to kill her.”

“You know as well as I do that motives aren’t always obvious and very rarely are they justified,” George replied.

“Yes, I know.  I just don’t buy the idea that it was the ex-boyfriend, who has no previous history of violence, or the rival actress, who was significantly smaller and weaker than the victim.”

“There’s always Henderson’s number one choice,” George said.

“Who?” Jessica asked, “I didn’t see any other obvious suspects in that file.”

“Well, Henderson seems to think that you’re a likely candidate,” George informed her, suppressing a smile.

Stunned, Jessica responded with a simple, “Me?”

“I guess it would be more accurate to say that Henderson thought that you were a likely candidate, at least initially,” George said.

“Don’t scare me like that,” Jessica said, clutching her hands to her chest. 

“It’s a good thing I came back from Glasgow or you’d probably be locked up in a cell about now,” he said, continuing to tease her.

“George Sutherland, you’re awful,” she said as she grabbed a small pillow off the couch and threw it at him.

After deftly catching the tossed pillow, he asked, “Any other impressions?”

“Could it have been an accident?” Jessica asked.

“No.  I spoke with the medical examiner tonight and he has ruled Miss Potter’s death as a homicide.  Cause of death is strangulation; the weapon looks to have been some sort of chain.”

“What about the head wound.  There was blood on the outside of the stall door, on the stool and on the floor.”

“Definitely pre-mortem, probably the result of a struggle with her attacker, during which she struck her head on the stool.”

 “Do you have any good leads?”

“Until tonight, nothing promising, but I believe that we might have something fairly solid.  Henderson is working on it right now,” George answered. 

Is that why you were called back to The Yard tonight?”

“No, that was an entirely different matter altogether.  Actually, our one solid lead just happened to fall in my lap earlier this evening.”

“Michael?” Jessica guessed, although it wasn’t really much of a guess.

“Aye.  Your friend, Haggerty, finally decided that a little bit of interagency cooperation was to his liking.”

“And I assume that he wanted something from you in exchange,” Jessica surmised.

“Of course, he did.  Apparently he was still a bit puzzled about this morning.”

“You mean Michael still hadn’t figured out that you recognized my wedding band?”

Jessica’s comment brought an instant smile to George’s lips.  “You’re so bloody smart,” he said as he stood, picked up the folders from his desk and stepped toward her.  “Bloody smart, indeed,” he added, meeting her eyes and lingering there for a moment before holding the files out to her.  “These are for you,” he offered.

“You made me a copy of your files?” Jessica asked, a bit surprised.

“Aye.  I seemed to be a safer alternative than you running around London investigating on your own,” he explained.

“Did you find anything else of interest while I was out?” he asked.   

“Actually, I did, but not in here,” she said as she grabbed his hand and lead him back down the hallway to the main entrance of the loft.  “This,” she said indicating a gold cross patonce enameled in pale blue with a central ring of crimson, which surrounded an image of King George V.  The cross was suspended from a wide ribbon collar of rose pink with pearl gray edges and appeared to have been professionally framed.  “What is it?” she asked inquisitively.

“Nothing really, just my commander’s badge.  Why don’t we go have dessert before it gets much later and I have to take you back to your hotel,” he suggested as he gently directed her toward the living room.  “You get comfortable.  I’ll be right back.  It will just take me a couple of minutes,” he said before disappearing into the kitchen.  He returned a few minutes later, placed a small crystal bowl on one of the coffee tables for Jessica and cleared his throat before sitting down on the couch.

“You’re not snooping again, are you, Jess?”

“Of course not,” she said turning her attention away from the framed photos, books, compact disks and DVD’s that filled the shelves of the entertainment center.  Once she joined him on the couch, she noticed the dessert bowl sitting on the coffee table.

“Is that what I think it is?” she asked.

“Aye, a guilty conscience, or at least the best I could do on short notice,” he confirmed. 

“Jessica savored the first spoonful of brownie, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream.  “Samantha would have approved.  I know I do,” she declared before taking another bite.  “Aren’t you going to have some?”

“No, thank you,” he declined politely.

“Well, I’m certainly not going to eat it all by myself,” she said before offering him a spoonful of the delicious concoction.  “George, you hardly ate anything for supper and now you won’t even eat a bite of this irresistible sundae.  What’s wrong with you?”

“There’s nothing wrong with me, Jessica.  I’m just not particularly fond of chocolate.”

“You’re not serious?  You don’t like chocolate?” she asked in utter amazement.

“Well, maybe hot cocoa in front of a warm fire, but that is way too much chocolate for me,” he explained.

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” she said before having two more bites and declaring that she would certainly have a guilty conscience herself if she ate any more of it.

“Aye, a very fitting title, especially for you, Jessica,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“Jessica, I truly adore so many things about you.  You’re intelligent, beautiful, compassionate and inquisitive…but perhaps a bit too inquisitive.  Aren’t you feeling the least bit guilty about all of the…exploring that you have done here tonight, especially while I was gone?”

“Well, maybe a tiny bit, but you’ve always agreed with me that we should try to get to know each other better, haven’t you?”

“I guess I can’t argue with you about that,” he responded before reaching up and brushing a small lock of hair away from her eyes.  “You know what, Jessie?  I’m glad that we didn’t go out tonight.  I’ve rather enjoyed staying in with you,” he said quietly as he peered deeply into her captivating blue eyes.

“So am I.  It has been a very enjoyable evening, but I should probably be getting back to my hotel before it gets too much later,” she said.

“You don’t have to go,” he said as he gently ran his finger down her cheek, causing her pulse to quicken.  He framed her face with his hands and leaned forward, kissing her tenderly on the lips.  To his pleasant surprise, she responded by kissing him back.  Their next kiss was deeper and caused Jessica to flush with warmth once again.

What am I doing? she thought to herself.  I can’t think. 

Jessica placed her hand against George’s chest, but didn’t immediately pull away.  When she finally did, she was more than a bit flustered.

“I’m so sorry, George.  I really can’t.  I’m just not …”

“I know, Jess, you needn’t apologize or explain,” he said, preventing her from finishing her sentence.  George groaned internally as he eventually stood up and helped her to her feet. 

Thirty minutes later, he dropped her off at her hotel with a promise of dinner and a night at the theatre the following evening.


Tired and a still slightly confused by her emotions, Jessica pushed the button for the tenth floor and leaned back against the wall of the elevator.  Before the doors closed, an arm shot through the opening causing them to jolt and then open again before allowing Michael to slip in.

“Jessica, you’re getting in rather late,” he observed, glancing at his watch as the doors closed behind him and the elevator began its ascent.

“Michael, why are you following me? And don’t bother, I saw you waiting in the lobby.”

“Just making sure that you made it home safely and it’s a good thing as Sutherland obviously doesn’t have the common courtesy to escort you back to your room.”

“Michael,” Jessica said as the doors opened, “it took me several minutes to convince him that it wasn’t necessary.  I can certainly manage to get myself from the lobby to my room.”  The elevator doors opened and Jessica stepped out and turned left, toward her suite with Michael only a step behind her.

As she scanned her key card, Michael noticed the unusual combination of women’s heels and baggy sweatpants below the hem of her coat.

“Jessica, what are you wearing?”

“What?” she asked, distracted as she re-inserted her key card a second time.

“He better not have laid a hand on you,” Michael said, suppressing a sudden surge of temper.  “He didn’t hurt you, did he?” he asked as he gently placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him.

“Of course not, what are you talking about?”

“Your dress, the one that you were wearing when you left with Sutherland,” Michael responded.

“Oh, that,” Jessica said nonchalantly, “I spilled something on it and borrowed some of George’s clothes while I rinsed out the stain,” she explained before having to open the door again.

“Where is your dress?”

“Probably still hanging in George’s closet.  He insisted on having it cleaned for me,” she answered as she entered her suite.

“Sutherland’s closet?” Michael asked as he followed her into the suite.

“Yes, George was called back to The Yard for a couple of hours so I offered to cook dinner for the two of us at his loft.  It was a nice change of pace for us, we always go out to eat dinner.  It ended up being a very pleasant evening.” 

Michael helped Jessica off with her coat and hung it up in the closet while she went into the bedroom and put away her purse and took off her shoes.  Barefoot and still very comfortable in George’s sweatpants and oxford, she returned to the living room and sat down in an arm chair opposite Michael.

“Jessica, why didn’t you tell about Sutherland last night at dinner?” he asked at length.

“Tell you what?” she asked in return.  “Believe me, Michael, if I had known that you were going to get us hauled into The Yard to be interrogated, I certainly would have told you that George worked there.”

“No, not that.  Why didn’t you tell me that you and Sutherland are…”

“Stop right there, Michael,” Jessica warned as she leaned slightly forward toward him.  “Why do people keep saying that? First Seth, now you,” she said, slightly exasperated.  “George Sutherland and I are just friends.” At least I think we are, she added silently to herself.

“Friends?” Michael clarified, still unsure.

“Yes, good friends.  Now, I would really like to get to bed.  I’m exhausted,” she said as she stood and stretched.

“Of course,” he answered, as he too got to his feet feeling a little bit better by Jessica’s assurances.  “I’ll see you for breakfast, seven thirty,” Michael said, before giving her a peck on the cheek and walking toward the door to leave.  “Good night, Jessica.”

“Good night, Michael,” she said as she closed and locked the door behind him.

What am I going to do, Jessica thought to herself as she lay in what suddenly felt like a much too large and empty bed.  She had always acknowledged that her relationship with George was complicated, but at least it had remained manageable over the years.  Why did I let him kiss me… and why did I kiss him back, twice? she thought to herself and she rolled over onto her other side.  And now, Michael had thrown himself into the mix.  Good Lord, Jessica, what have you gotten yourself into?  



            The following morning Michael arrived at Jessica’s door at seven twenty-five.

            “Good morning, Jessica, you look as lovely as ever,” he said cheerily as he stepped through the doorway.

            “Why, Michael, you’re in a particularly good mood this morning,” Jessica observed, before closing the door behind him.

            “And why shouldn’t I be?  I am in the company of the fairest woman in the city,” he answered, causing Jessica to merely shake her head and smile at his charming over exaggeration.  She picked up her purse from where it sat on a small table located behind the sofa and Michael retrieved her coat and helped her into it.

            “Shall we?” he asked, offering his arm to her.

            “Yes, of course,” she answered, “but you really didn’t need to come all of the way up here.  I could have met you downstairs.”

            “No trouble at all, Jessica,” Michael said, neglecting to mention that he was staying in the honeymoon suite, which was registered under the names of Mr. & Mrs. Michael Haggerty, and which was located just down the hall.  “I thought that we might enjoy our breakfast elsewhere this morning,” he suggested as he opened the door.

            “What did you have in mind?” she asked.

            “Oh, just a little spot that I think you will like,” he answered as the door to the elevator opened and they stepped into it.

            A short time later, they were settled at a table in the Winter Garden at the Landmark with two cups of steaming coffee.    The soaring atrium, filled with an abundance of colorful vegetation, afforded a spectacular view of the hotel’s formal gardens.   While Jessica was certainly impressed by the beauty of her surroundings, she also felt that it was time for some straight answers.”

            “Okay, Michael,” Jessica said, fixing him with a stern look.  “Enough pleasantries, you owe me an explanation, and I want to hear it right now.”

            “Jessica, darlin’,” you’re not still upset about that, are you?” Michael asked as he added a small amount of cream and sugar to the rich Columbian roast served by the hotel.

            “Stop stalling,” she warned.  “You can start by telling me why the playbill that Sophie Patter gave me is missing and who has it.”

            “Okay, Jessica, I guess I owe you at least that much,” he agreed before taking a contemplative sip of his coffee.

            “Yes, Michael, you do,” Jessica answered.

            “The playbill, then,” Michael began.  “A few days ago, a woman calling herself Elizabeth Regina contacted MI6 claiming that she had information that was vital to protecting the crown.  It was supposed to be a simple drop with her giving you the playbill, on which she had written the location of a safety deposit box, which contained proof of her claim.”

            “So, you asked me to dinner under false pretenses, tried to distract and charm me with your reminiscing and suggesting that we ‘pick up where we left off,’ and then stole the playbill from my handbag,” Jessica elaborated for him.

            “Not exactly,” he answered.

            “Not exactly?  Then what exactly did you do?” she asked as she spread a small amount of strawberry preserves onto a piece of seven-grain toast, which she had selected from a basket of pastries, muffins and breads that the waitress had just delivered.

            “Jessica, my girl…”

            “Don’t you dare call me ‘Jessica, my girl,” she warned, waving her butter knife for emphasis. 

            “Jessica,” he began again.  “I invited you to dinner with the hope that we could talk…about us.  Miss Regina, or rather Miss Potter, as we now know her to be, requested the time and place for the drop shortly after I delivered you to your hotel.  You were correct about the difficulty in securing a reservation at Varanasi, but as she worked there, she was able to arrange that part of it.  The fact that you are a celebrity and easily recognized was helpful and the fact that she had a role in your play was simply a fortunate coincidence that gave her a plausible reason to approach you.”

            “So, how and why did she end up dead in the ladies room?”

            “The most logical conclusion would be that someone else had her under surveillance as well,” Michael answered as he considered whether or not to indulge in a pastry.

            “Why would anyone be watching a young woman, working her way through college while pursuing an acting career?”

            “Now that we know who she really was, we’ve turned up some rather interesting information about the identity of Miss Potter’s father,” Michael answered before choosing a light pastry from the basket.

            “Who is her father?”  Jessica asked, now thoroughly intrigued.

            “His name was Samuel Potter, a.k.a. Samuel Portsman,” Michael answered.

            “The famous forger?” Jessica asked in surprise.

            “One and the same,” Michael verified.

            “I did some research on him for one of my books a few years ago,” Jessica remembered.  “You said his name was Samuel Potter.  What happened to him?”

“He was killed in an auto accident last month and even though he and his daughter had been estranged for some eight or nine years, she likely took possession of his personal belongings and property as she was his only living relative.  My theory is that she stumbled across information that gave her reason to believe that he was involved in a plot against the crown.  One likely scenario may be that he forged passports or other documents for others who were more intimately involved in a conspiracy.  Regardless, she tried to pass that information on to us and was killed because of it.”

            “But why kill her?  She had already handed off the information, in plain view of pretty much everyone in the dining room.  Why not go after me or my purse?”

            “I believe that they did,” Michael answered as he noticed their waitress approaching with their orders, a full English breakfast for him and Special K, fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt for her.

            Jessica came to a sudden realization as their food was placed on the table before them.  “The phantom phone call.”

            “Yes. It would have been easy enough for either the apprentice chef, Andrew, or the hostess, Victoria, to lift the playbill from your handbag during the commotion.”

            “I assumed that you had taken it,” Jessica admitted as she poured skimmed milk over her cereal.

            “I had, but most likely that went unnoticed, another little talent of mine,” he added.  “Also, we have to assume that Sophie knew who at least some of the other players were so, even though she had handed off the playbill, she was still a liability to someone.”

            Jessica nodded her head in agreement as she ate a bite of her yogurt.  “Now that you have the playbill, you have surely discovered who else is involved,” she speculated.

            “Unfortunately, no.  The playbill that I lifted form your purse was the same one that you had autographed for her and when I checked her body, the other copy was gone,” he continued as he cut a piece of sausage.

            “So, whoever killed her probably has it,” Jessica decided.  “What do you do now?” she asked.

            Michael took a bite of his poached eggs and pondered her question.  “We keep looking, anywhere and everywhere that we can think of.  There is always a slim chance that she made a copy or that she missed something in her father’s belongings that may give us some idea of what he was involved in,” Michael said as he added salt and pepper to his hash browns.

            “Sophie’s father, is that the information that you happened to exchange with George last night?” Jessica asked as she spooned up her last bite of mixed berries.

            “He mentioned that, did he?”  Michael asked, not the least bit surprised.

            “Yes, as a matter of fact, he did.” Jessica verified.

            Michael chose a piece of grilled bacon from his plate, took a bite and chewed while he considered his mistake from the previous morning.  “I still say he was bloody lucky,” Michael finally commented, referring to George having recognized Jessica’s wedding band.

            “You know, Michael, this all would have been much less complicated if you would have trusted me and told me what was going on from the very beginning,” Jessica reminded him.

            “It usually ends up being that way,” he admitted before finishing off the last bite of his meal.

            “Usually,” Jessica agreed, before daintily wiping her mouth with a white cloth napkin. 

She looked down at her watch and realized that she was due at her publisher’s office within the hour.  “Michael, thank you so much for this delicious breakfast, but I’m afraid I must be going if I’m to get to my meeting on time.”

            “You’re very welcome, Jessica.  Just let me take care of the check,” he said as he signaled their waitress, “and I will drive you,” he offered.  After he had paid the check he helped Jessica don her coat and escorted her to his car.  Twenty minutes later, they arrived in front of the building, which housed Tudor Publishing.

            “Before you go, may I suggest that we start fresh this evening with dinner?” Michael proposed.  “I was thinking room service either on the terrace of my suite, if it isn’t too chilly, or perhaps inside, in front of the fireplace.”

            “I’m sorry, Michael, but I have plans to go to dinner and the theater with George tonight.  It’s opening night for Yours Truly, Damian Sinclair, Jessica explained.

            “The Embassy social tomorrow evening, then,” he suggested, trying to pin her down to a specific time and place.  “I believe we will both be there.”

            “Yes, I will be there,” Jessica confirmed.

            “Is Sutherland accompanying you?” he asked.

            “No, he has another commitment that evening,” Jessica answered.           

“Good.  Afterwards, we can enjoy a late dinner” and finally talk about us, he thought.

            “That sounds wonderful,” Jessica said before climbing out of the car.



            Grace Young was an energetic woman in her early fifties with short, chestnut brown hair.  She wore a stylish black suit, accented with satin lapels and flecks of metallic sparkles.  Grace was an intelligent, hard working businesswoman, who Jessica admired and with whom she enjoyed working.

            Like Vaughan, she had never tried to dictate story ideas to Jessica, at least not until today.  Apparently, the anticipation surrounding the opening of the theatrical adaptation of Yours Truly, Damian Sinclair and now the murder of the young actress, Sophie Potter, had sent sales of the already bestselling books, featuring the fictional thief, skyrocketing.

            While Jessica had intended on Yours Truly being the final book in the series, Grace was of the opinion that Jessica’s next novel should resurrect the character.  Jessica, on the other hand, was already planning on using the famed Sydney Opera House as a backdrop for her next book, which would feature a librarian as the amateur detective.

            Much to Grace’s dismay, Jessica was not to be swayed regarding her next book.  In the end, the best that Jessica could do was to offer to consider Grace’s request, although she made it clear that another novel featuring Sinclair was unlikely.

            After her meeting, Jessica returned to The Savoy for a short nap and a light lunch before changing into more comfortable clothes and more sensible shoes for some afternoon Christmas shopping.

            Despite her busy schedule, Jessica only had three more gifts on her list.  She hailed a cab in front of the hotel and instructed the driver to take her to a children’s toy shop called All Aboard, where she purchased a train for Little Frank.  One down, two to go.  Thank goodness for the Internet, Jessica thought as she settled into another cab for the ride to Jesters, a small shop specializing in antique games.  There, she purchased an inlaid travel chess set for Seth.  Knowing that she would have limited time to finish buying Christmas gifts, Jessica had spent a solid hour shopping online before leaving Cabot Cove.  While she hadn’t actually purchased any gifts over the Internet, she was able to locate the shops that were most likely to offer the items for which she was looking.

            For George, she had settled on something practical, a Dublin hand carved pipe, but as she wandered through the shop, she came upon a beautiful black leather compendium case, which she purchased as well.  As the shop’s owner was ringing up her purchase, Jessica realized that she still had one more person to buy for…Michael!  Not only would she be seeing him on a much more regular basis after he moved to New York, but she had invited him to Cabot Cove for the holidays.

            As Jessica collected her purchases and walked toward the exit, she asked herself, What in the world do you give a spy for Christmas?  This was going to take some thought.

            Having been unable to think of something appropriate on such short notice, Jessica returned to the hotel where she enjoyed afternoon tea in the tea room.  Just as she exited the elevator, she caught a fleeting glimpse of Michael entering his own suite.  I should have known, she thought as she scanned her key card and opened the door.  Not five minutes later, there was a knock on the door and when she looked through the security peep hole she saw Michael, as she had expected she would.

            After inviting him in, she excused herself for a moment while she went into the bedroom to put away her purchases.  When she returned, she found Michael standing next to the desk, casually looking out the window.  Too casually, she suspected.

            “Did you find whatever it is that you’re looking for?” Jessica asked him.

            Michael managed to do a masterful job of hiding his surprise that she knew exactly what he was up to with a very convincing look of both innocence and insult.

            “Michael, we’ve tried this your way several times.  Now, let’s try it my way.  Can I help you find something?”

            “Okay, Jessica.  Have you received anything in your post from Sophie Potter?”

            “No, I don’t think so,” Jessica answered before picking up several envelopes and sorting through them.  “There is nothing except a note from Susan Rogers, probably my schedule for the remainder of the week, theater tickets, and a letter from my agent, probably my new contract with Tudor Publishing.  No, I don’t see anything,” she concluded.  “Why do you think that Sophie Potter would mail something to me?”

            “We found a scrap of paper in her loft that not only had her handwritten notes regarding the drop at Varanasi, but in addition to your name and description, she had written The Savoy’s mailing address and your room number.  To me, that means that she may have considered contacting you here.  The paper was sitting on a pile of post supplies, envelopes, stamps, that sort of thing.  I was hoping that she had made a copy and mailed it to you,” he explained.

            “I’m sorry, Michael, but there is nothing here,” Jessica said, setting the small stack of mail back onto the desk.

            “I had to look,” he explained, feeling slightly guilty.  “You’ll keep an eye out and contact me immediately if you receive anything?” he asked.

            “Of course, I will,” she assured him.



            Later that evening, after a quiet dinner, Jessica and George sat comfortably in a private box at the theater.  As the lights dimmed and the curtain began to open, George wrapped his arm around Jessica’s shoulders, leaned in close and whispered into her ear.  “The ambassador’s wife did it, didn’t she?”

            “I already told you.  I’m not telling.  Now, shhhh,” she answered, holding her finger to her lips and suppressing a smile, happy that George had become so wrapped up in the story.

            When the curtain closed again, signaling the end of the second act, and the house lights came up Jessica moved to stand, in anticipation of walking down to the lobby for the intermission.  Before she was all of the way up, George quickly looked around to make sure that everyone else had exited their boxes.  “Hold it,” he said as he grabbed her hand and gently pulled her back down, causing her to sit directly on his lap.

            “Now, tell me,” he insisted.

            “No,” Jessica answered, playing at being stubborn, as she tried to stand again.

            “Uh, uh, you’re staying right here until you tell me whether or not the ambassador’s wife did it.”

            “You don’t really want me to tell you, George,” she said patiently.  “That would spoil the entire play for you,” she explained as she patted his cheek.  After standing, she pulled him up and led him to the lobby.  “If you’d wanted to know, you should have read the book,” she added, to which he responded, “I would have, but I didn’t want to spoil it.”


            “Very clever, Jessica,” George said as they began the short drive back to her hotel after the conclusion of the play.  “You were right.  I didn’t want to know.  I never thought for a moment that the maid was the killer.”  Jessica’s only response was to smile.

            “You look pretty pleased with yourself,” he observed as he parked the car.  As he turned off the engine and turned to face her, his beeper began to vibrate.  “Sorry, Jessica, duty calls,” he said, frowning and removing the device from his suit coat pocket.  He instantly recognized the number as that of Inspector Henderson.

            “Do you mind if I return this from your suite?  I purposely left my cellular phone at home this evening.”

            “Certainly,” Jessica responded.

            As they walked through the lobby, they both noticed a sudden silence when they passed the registration counter.  “George, did you notice something odd just now in the lobby?”  Jessica asked after the elevator doors had closed.

            “Aye, like we were being watched,” George answered.

            As they stepped out of the elevator and turned toward Jessica’s room, George nearly collided with Inspector Henderson and Constable Mills, who had just exited Jessica’s suite.

            “Chief Inspector Sutherland,” Henderson said, “how did you get here so fast, I just paged you,” he said, surprised by George’s sudden appearance on the scene. 

            “I’m aware of that, Inspector, I was just going to return your call,” George said.  “What are you doing here?” he asked the young detective.

            “I’m afraid that Mrs. Fletcher’s suite is the scene of a murder,” Henderson explained.

            “What?” Jessica exclaimed as she quickly stepped past them to get to her room.  When she looked inside, the living area was a mess, with drawers open, flower vases upturned and papers scattered on the floor.  As she headed for her bedroom, she didn’t hear Henderson voice in a vain attempt to stop her.

            “Mrs. Fletcher, you can’t go in there,” he yelled after her, having no affect whatsoever.  The look on his face seemed to be pleading for George to stop her. 

            Jessica’s beautiful bedroom was a complete disaster.  Her clothing was scattered throughout the room, her bags were open and lying in the center of the room, nearly every drawer was open, the mattress was overturned and what looked to be a man’s body, dressed in a maintenance man’s uniform, lay motionless on the blood soaked carpet next to the desk.

“Jess, are you all right?” George asked as he approached her, gently laid his hands on her shoulders and took in the scene.

            “I’ve been better,” she admitted.  “Who is he?” she asked.

            “I don’t know yet.  Give me a few minutes and I’ll see what I can find out,” he told her, before turning to walk back out to the hallway to talk to Henderson, disregarding the fact that she would be tempted to begin investigating herself.  Several minutes later, she heard George’s voice, which was becoming quite loud and was bordering on livid.   When she poked her head out of the bedroom to see what had him so enraged, she saw Michael, who seemed to be holding his temper only slightly better than George was.

 “Just remember this, Haggerty, if any harm comes to Jessica, I’m holding you personally responsible,” George threatened, jamming his clenched fists into his pockets to keep from punching Michael.

“Don’t worry yourself, Sutherland, if any harm comes to Jessica I’ll hold myself personally responsible,” Michael responded disdainfully, glaring back at George.

            Before they could continue their row, the crime scene investigators arrived and chased everyone out of the suite.  Inspector Henderson, Inspector Phillips from the crime scene squad, George and Michael continued their discussion in the hallway, while Jessica watched the suite being processed.

            “Jessica,” George said after the group had broken up and he had joined her in the doorway.  “Get your carry on bag and whatever you need for the night.  We’re leaving,” he instructed.


            “Jessica, please do what I ask.  Phillips needs to inventory your bag before you remove it from the suite,” he added.

            “George,” Jessica started, planning to protest his unilateral decision.

            “Jessica, when have I ever insisted on anything?” he asked pointedly.  “Never,” he answered for her as she simultaneously came to the realization that in all of the years that she had known him, George had never once insisted on having his own way. 


Jessica, being a well seasoned traveler, had long ago learned to pack her personal travel necessities in a small overnight bag, which she could carry onto the airplane with her.  Inspector Phillips, the crime scene manager, released her bag once the technician had finished processing it and they were finally able to leave the Savoy. 

She was quiet but seemed to be growing more and more tense with every passing minute as they drove through the streets of London toward George’s loft.  Her body language made it evident, to George, that she was definitely more upset than she had let on back at the hotel.  Fortunately, traffic was light this time of night on a week day and they arrived at the loft a mere twenty minutes after leaving the hotel.

            “Jessica, are you cross with me?” George asked, breaking the silence as he parked the vintage, British racing green Jaguar.  “I wish that there was another option, but there simply is no chance of getting police protection assigned to you until morning and forensic services will be processing your suite throughout most of the night.  Who knows when they will even allow you back in to retrieve the rest of your things?”  George explained, clearly rationalizing his steadfast insistence that Jessica stay with him for the night.

            “No, George, I’m not angry with you,” she answered, somewhat exasperated.  “I’m angry with…the situation,” she continued, and with myself for allowing Michael to put me dead center in another one of his exploits, she added silently to herself.

            George climbed out of the car, walked around to the passenger side and opened her door.  Offering his hand, he helped her out of the car.  He quickly retrieved her bag from the trunk and escorted her up to his loft, where they had spent the previous evening having dinner together.  Once inside, George made Jessica comfortable in the living room before disappearing into his bedroom.  “Okay, Jessica, you’re all set,” he said as he returned to find her browsing through his music and DVD collection.  “You can sleep in my room and I’ll take the guest room,” he suggested.

            “I can’t let you do that,” she replied, shaking her head slightly as she turned to face him.  “I’m sure that the guest room is perfectly lovely and will suit me just fine.”

            “As a matter of fact, yes, the guest room is perfectly lovely, but I have a couple of phone calls to make yet tonight and at least an hour or more work to finish up in the den and I don’t wish to disturb you so it’s really best if you take my room,” he explained politely, but clearly indicating that there would be no further negotiations on the matter.

            “If you insist.  I’m far too tired to argue with you,” she answered, retrieving her bag from where she placed it on the floor next to the couch. 

            “I insist.  Now, I believe that you know where most everything is located.  Just help yourself to whatever you need.  As for me, I’ll be in the kitchen rustling up something to eat.  Can I offer you anything?”

            “No, you go ahead.  I’m not the least bit hungry so I think I’ll just go to bed.  I’m sure that I’ll be asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow,” she assured him.

            “In that case, I will see you in the morning,” he said as he stepped aside to allow her to enter the master bedroom.  “And I promise we’ll do our best to get you back to The Savoy as soon as it is safe for you to do so, Mrs. Fletcher.”

            “Thank you, George, I know you will,” Jessica said with a slightly forced smile as she sat down on the edge of the bed. 

            “Good night,” he said as he closed the door and headed to the kitchen where he made himself a sandwich of leftover roast beef on wheat with tomatoes, lettuce and mustard.  He added Red Mill cheese curls to the plate and grabbed a Coke from the refrigerator before heading to the den.  Good thing Jessica isn’t witness to this nutritionally void midnight snack.         

            Mrs. Fletcher?  Jessica thought to herself, feeling more confused than ever.  Too tired to contemplate George’s formality, she got herself ready for bed.  Having neglected to pack a nightgown, Jessica chose a blue oxford from George’s closet.  After changing her clothes, she climbed into bed and pulled the red quilt up to her chin.  This really is a wonderful room.  It almost makes me feel like I’m at home.  Jessica reached over to the bedside table to turn off the lamp, but stopped short when she noticed a picture, framed in sterling silver, sitting on the top of the tower dresser that was positioned directly across the room, next to the door.  The picture was of George and Jessica with the San Francisco Bay Bridge in the background.  She couldn’t help but smile for a moment before finally turning out the light.  Nestled snuggly in the fresh, crisp bed linens, Jessica felt warm and safe and fell asleep quickly, but her sleep was soon disturbed by the dreadful images from the past few days.  First was young Sophie Potter staring blankly at her from the floor of the ladies powder room at Varanasi and now a strange man, who had been found slain in her own ransacked suite at The Savoy.

            Jessica opened her eyes and focused on the red digital numbers of the alarm clock.  Two thirty six a.m.  Resigned to the fact that she was not going to be able to get back to sleep, she slipped out from under the covers and went in search of something to read.

            A small pair of sconces on the near wall of the living room, which George had apparently forgotten to turn off, provided just enough illumination for her to browse through the contents of the bookcase located next to the fireplace.  The dark oak shelves were filled with numerous titles, which were supported by heavy, stone bookends.  Most were in hardcover including a few, which were bound in rich burgundy or brown leather.  Jessica knew that there was a larger selection of books in the den, but did not want to wake George by venturing down the hallway, where the den and guest room were located, so instead she contented herself with browsing through the works on display in the living room.  Most of the books could be classified as classics, biographies or historical nonfiction and to her pleasant surprise, there was also a small collection of what appeared to be first editions of Jessica’s own books. 

Interesting, Jessica thought as she chose a tall, thin book with a faded green spine, which stood out from the other volumes.  The Real Mother Goose.  Jessica opened the cover of the book, which she concluded was relatively old by the fragility of the pages.  The book leaf was inscribed.  For Thomas, Love, Mummy and Daddy.  Jessica smiled as she paged through the classic children’s book.  A family heirloom, she thought.  She returned it to the shelf and continued to browse, stopping when she noticed two pictures on the near end of the mantle.  The first was of a much younger George, with his arm wrapped around the shoulders of a very beautiful young woman and laughing heartily.  Emily, George’s wife, Jessica guessed.  The second picture was of what Jessica surmised to be several generations of Sutherland men, all dressed in kilts and standing in front of the expansive wooden doors of Sutherland Castle.  She could not find George in the photo and surmised that he must have been the photographer. 

            Next, Jessica selected a large photo album and began to remove it from its space on the bottom most shelf.  The deep voice resonating from the darkness behind her startled her for a moment.

            “You couldn’t sleep either?” George asked from where he had been quietly watching her, slightly amused by her ceaseless sense of curiosity.

            Jessica quickly slid the album back into its place and turned to see George who was reclined comfortably on the couch.  He sat up and motioned for her to join him.  “Come, sit down.  You must be chilly,” he said as he stood and began to leave the room.  “Let me get you a blanket.”  He returned a few moments later with a fleece throw, which Jessica unfolded and laid over her legs.

            “George, can I ask you something?” she inquired after he had returned to his seat next to her on the couch.

            “Certainly, anything you like.  Just consider me an open book.”

Anything I like.  That is an interesting idea.  Choosing to play it safe, Jessica chose to ask the question, which she had originally intended.  “Could you really not sleep or are you actually my police protection for the night?”

            “Aye, I am your police protection for the night,” he said matter-of-factly.

            “I figured as much,” she replied.

            “And what, may I ask, tipped you off to that fact?” George asked.

            “Well, first of all, you’re supposed to be sleeping in the guest room, if I’m not mistaken.  Yet, here you are on the couch, less than fifteen feet from my door.  Secondly, you’re still wearing your work clothes, including your tie, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you haven’t called me ‘Mrs. Fletcher’ since we first met,” she continued as she laid out her evidence before him.

            “Did I really call you that?” George asked, somewhat surprised.

            “Yes, you did.”

            “Please forgive me then.  I’ll try not to be so polite and respectful in the future,” he said with a hint of a smile.  “So far your evidence is pretty thin…Jessica…it would never hold up in court.”

            “You’ve also been drinking very strong coffee.  It looks like tar, by the way, and you’ve been playing solitaire, which leads me to conclude that you have no intention of going to sleep and finally, I believe that that is your handgun sitting on the end table.”

            “Guilty as charged,” he replied after considering her list of evidence.  “Now we know why I’m not sleeping.  Why are you not sleeping?  Thinking about that poor chap in your hotel room are you?” he asked.

            “Yes, I guess I was,” she admitted.  “You never told me if you found out who he was.”

            “His name was Geoffrey Adams and he was with MI6.  Haggerty thinks that he may have leaked information regarding the operation at Varanasi to a third party, but he can’t prove it and he doesn’t know who that third party was.  He thinks that Adams was searching your room for something that Sophie Potter may have tried to send to you through the post.” 

            “Is there a reason that you didn’t tell me that on the drive over here?” Jessica asked.

            “You didn’t really look to be in the mood to talk,” George answered. 

“You’re right, I probably wasn’t.”

“Does it give you any new ideas?” George asked, always curious to see how her mind worked.

“No, not really,” Jessica admitted.

“In that case, may I recommend that we discuss something else, anything else as a matter of fact?  I’ve already broken my cardinal rule of not bringing work home, quite literally, I might add.”

            “You do tend to keep work at the office, don’t you?” Jessica asked.

“Aye, as much as I can,” he answered, nodding his head.

“In that case, why do you keep your commander’s badge here instead of hanging in your office at the Yard?”

            George contemplated her question for a moment.  “Well, to be truthful, Jessica, in my opinion, displaying it at work glorifies being a clot, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got himself shot.  Keeping it here serves as a reminder of sorts to try not to do anything too terribly idiotic in the future,” he explained, looking slightly embarrassed.

            “You were shot?  Where?”  Jessica asked, somewhat surprised by George’s disclosure. 

            “Once in Edinburgh and once in London.”

            “I meant anatomically…you were shot twice?” she asked.  Jessica had always known that George’s job was dangerous but the idea of being shot on two separate occasions made her feel a bit uneasy.

            “Aye, unfortunately…or fortunately, I guess it depends on how you look at it.”

            “Fortunately?  I take it the criminals were apprehended then,” Jessica speculated.

            “Aye, they were, but getting myself shot also happens to be how I met Emily,” George explained.

“And was it love at first sight?”  Jessica asked before realizing what she had said.  He did say “ask anything” though, didn’t he?

            “Your curiosity certainly has transcended to a new level this evening, hasn’t it?” he joked before answering.  “No, it definitely was not love at first sight.  Emily was one of the emergency room nurses when they brought me into the hospital.  Honestly, I don’t even remember the very first time that I saw her and I don’t think that she was too terribly impressed by the cheeky…how would you Americans say it…ah, yes…cowboy, I think you might say…with the gunshot wound.”

            “Really?  That doesn’t sound at all like you.”

            “Ah, but you happen to know the much older, much wiser me and in my own defense, I had been shot and apparently narcotic pain meds and I don’t mix well, or so I am told.”

            “Is that Emily?” Jessica asked, indicating the picture that she had previously been admiring on the mantle.

            “Aye, it is,” he answered.

            “She was a very beautiful woman,” Jessica observed.

            “Ay, that she was,” he answered nostalgically.

            At length, Jessica decided to venture further into previously uncharted territory.  “What was she like?”

            “Stubborn,” George replied immediately and with a light laugh, “and practical… intelligent…kindhearted and fearless and very, very passionate about life.”

            “She sounds wonderful.  I think I would have liked her,” Jessica commented.

            “Aye, I think you would have indeed,” George confirmed.

            “So, how did you manage it?”

            “What? Convincing Emily to marry me, you mean?”  George thought for a moment before answering, “Well, I guess she liked me a tad better the second time we met, when she rear-ended my car.”

“Well,” Jessica prodded, eager to hear the rest of the story.

“Well…are you sure you really want to hear this?”

Jessica nodded enthusiastically.

“Okay then, she was headed home to London for the weekend and I was headed back to Wick.  Apparently, when she hit me the radiator was so badly damaged that there was no way that she could drive her car back to London so I asked her to join me in Wick.”

            “You did?  Then what happened?” Jessica asked on impulse.  “Without a chaperone?”

            “Of course there was a chaperone.  Half the clan was home that weekend.  Anyway, we’ll just call the rest history, if you don’t mind?”

            Jessica looked at him for a long moment, amazed by his easy manner when discussing his wife.

            “What is it, Jessica?”

            “Nothing,” she answered, feeling too awkward to ask the question that danced on the tip of her tongue.

            “Aye, Jessica, I do miss her, everyday.  That’s what you were going to ask, wasn’t it?”

Jessica nodded.

“It was months before I could bring myself to even talk about her after she was killed, but if there was one thing that she taught me in life, it was to live in the present, not the past.  Unfortunately, it took being shot a second time for me to remember that particular piece of wisdom and now that you’ve heard my life story, why don’t you go back to bed and get a couple of hours of sleep,” he suggested.

            “I’m not tired,” Jessica replied, stifling a yawn.  With an open invitation, there was no way that she was going to pass up this opportunity to find out everything she could about him.  Jessica continued to pepper George with questions about books, travel, music and a myriad of other things until she finally fell asleep a couple of hours later with George keeping watch over her. 

Yes, he did occasionally listen to the Rolling Stones, as his CD collection suggested, but he much preferred the Beatles, jazz legends Duke Ellington and Louie Armstrong, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra as well as blues artists B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Eric Clapton.   He didn’t read crime novels, except Jessica’s, because he spent far too much time everyday dealing with true crime.  He preferred historical works including biographies, but also enjoyed fiction and at the urging of his nephew had recently read the first two books from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  He liked older movies such as the Manchurian Candidate, Lawrence of Arabia and the Maltese Falcon, but had to admit that he also enjoyed Monty Python (what Brit didn’t) and also liked the Wallace and Grommit shorts.  His favorite holiday destinations, aside from Wick, were Florence, Vancouver, Crete and Machu Piccu and he hoped to visit Banff, Glacier and Waterton in the future.   

It was nearly dawn when George carefully slipped his arm out from behind Jessica, gently laid her down on the couch and covered her again with the fleece blanket.  He showered, shaved and dressed before going into the kitchen to start coffee.  Jessica was still sleeping soundly when he returned to the living room with a steaming cup of French roast. 

“Jessica,” he said as he gently shook her shoulder.  “Time to get up.”

It took her a moment to remember exactly where she was.  “What time is it?” she asked without opening her eyes. 

“Half past six,” he answered.  For just a moment, he allowed himself the luxury of losing himself in the image of her ageless beauty, something he had not permitted himself to do while on duty throughout the night.  “We need to leave by a quarter past seven if you are going to get back to The Savoy to meet Ms Rogers in time to get to your first interview.  You are still planning on keeping all of your appointments today, aren’t you?”

Jessica opened her eyes to see George’s handsome face, smiling down at her.  “Of course, I am, but I don’t think that I am to meet with Miss Rogers until ten thirty,” Jessica said, dreamily as she closed her eyes. 

“Sorry Jess, we have a stop to make first and I have to be back to the office by eight thirty for a meeting.”

Jessica slowly sat herself up on the edge of the couch next to him.  “Just give me a few minutes to get myself straightened up and I’ll be ready to go,” she said, standing and stretching.

At promptly eight o’clock, George parked the car in front of Harrods and escorted Jessica to the front doors.  “George, what are we doing here?” Jessica asked. 

“Sorry, Jess, I forgot to tell you.  Forensics isn’t releasing anything from your room for at least another forty-eight hours so, you’re going to have to do some shopping, I’m afraid.”

“George, I don’t think they’re open,” Jessica informed him as they neared the doors.  The store still appeared rather dark inside.

“Not to worry, they are for you, at least today,” he said as a tall, distinguished looking man of about fifty appeared at the door and allowed them inside.  The two men exchanged greetings and shook hands.  George introduced Jessica to Mark Phillips, manager of Harrods’s Knightsbridge store and thanked him for making special arrangements for Jessica to replenish her wardrobe for the next few days.  Mr. Phillips escorted them to the ladies department and explained to Diana, the sales associate, that Mrs. Fletcher would need numerous outfits ranging from casual wear to professional attire to evening wear.

“I’m afraid I don’t even know exactly what my schedule is for the next few days,” Jessica said, feeling a bit overwhelmed.

George reached into his breast pocket, retrieved a folded piece of paper and handed it to Jessica.  “Ms Rogers called this morning, while you were in the shower, after she heard about last night.  After I explained the situation, she insisted on faxing your schedule for the rest of the week.  Now, you’d better get started.  I imagine you have quite a bit to do before your driver gets here at ten o’clock.”

“My driver?  George, may I speak with you in private for a moment,” Jessica asked politely, smiling but failing to conceal her mounting irritation.  “Are you trying to handle me, George Sutherland!” Jessica asked once they were out of hearing distance of Diana.

“Absolutely not,” he answered emphatically.  “You would never put up with it,” he added.  “I’m just doing my job.”

This is your job?  I can understand that you want me to have police protection after last night.  I don’t like it, but I understand it, but keeping tabs on my schedule and assigning me a driver…” 

“Jessica, just calm down for a minute, please,” he pleaded, gripping her shoulders firmly.  I’m not your publicist.  Ms Rogers is.  I’m not monitoring your schedule and I certainly didn’t assign you a car or a driver” although I would have liked to, he thought.  “If you have a problem with that, I suggest that you take it up with her.  I’m just the messenger.  As for this, yes, this I did arrange.  Mark Phillips is a mate and is simply doing me a favor and you do need a few things if I’m not mistaken.  We’re just fortunate that I let Mark beat me in our tennis match last month.  Now, you’d better get started or you’re going to be late for your interview.  I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he said as he released her and strode away purposefully toward the main entrance, leaving her without anyone with whom to argue. 


Diana was a wonderful sales woman and by the time George returned fifteen minutes later, Jessica was actually enjoying herself and was even feeling a bit pampered.  She heard a soft rapping on the door of the changing room.  “Jess?” George asked.

“Come in,” Jessica answered as she turned the handle and opened the door.  George’s jaw literally dropped when he saw her standing before him in an elegant, red evening gown.  “What do you think?  I have to attend a social at the American Embassy tomorrow night.”

Finally able to think clearly, George stepped further inside the small room and closed the door behind him.  “Jessie, you are absolutely stunning,” he said, smiling as he stepped closer to her.  He placed his hands on either side of her face, leaned down and kissed her deeply on the lips, catching her completely off guard.

“George…I…George…what are you doing?” she stammered but once again, she didn’t pull away from him.

“Sorry, Jess, completely inappropriate, but I couldn’t help myself.  I promise to never again kiss you in the changing room at Harrods,” he promised, as he slowly lowered his hands from her face and gently grasped her hands instead, his green eyes still looking a bit glossy.

“You’re off duty now, aren’t you?” Jessica asked, certain that she had a plausible explanation for his sudden change in behavior.

“Aye, Constable Fields is right outside.  He’ll be with you most of the day,” George said, resuming a slightly more business-like manner.

“There is no way of talking you out of this, is there?” she asked.

“No, there isn’t,” he said firmly.

Deciding it was better not to argue with him, Jessica returned her attention to the gown.  “Well, if you really like the dress that well, I believe I shall get it,” Jessica decided.

“Do.  It’s very flattering on you,” he said, looking very much like he wanted to kiss her again.

“George, you’d better get going,” she said, wiggling her hands free from his.  “You’re already going to be late for your meeting,” Jessica reminded him, “and I have a lot more shopping to do,” she continued as she opened the door.

“You’re right, Jess, I’ll call you sometime later today,” he said, lingering for just a moment before leaving.  


            While Diana rang up the last of her purchases, Jessica opened her purse and retrieved her credit card.  When the saleswoman read the final total from the digital readout on the register, it caused Jessica to pause as she handed the woman her card.

            “Is there a problem, Mrs. Fletcher?” she asked when she noticed Jessica’s hesitation.

            “Yes, I think that there may be,” Jessica said.  “May I see the receipt?”

            “Certainly,” she answered and handed the piece of paper to Jessica.  “If you would like, I can certainly ring everything up again,” she offered.

            “I don’t believe that will be necessary,” Jessica said, returning the receipt and her credit card to the saleswoman.  “I believe that the evening gown, shoes and accessories were missed somehow.  I don’t’ see them on the receipt,” Jessica informed her. 

            “Oh, Mrs. Fletcher, I’m sorry for the confusion.  Mr. Philips sent down a note a short time ago indicating that you were not to be charged for those items as Chief Inspector Sutherland insisted on paying for them before he left.”

            “He did?” Jessica responded, surprised.

            “Yes, ma’am.  I got the distinct impression that he was quite fond of that gown or more likely he was fond of you in that gown,” she added with a smile indicating that she was very perceptive about such matters.

            “I believe he was, too,” Jessica agreed, blushing slightly, as she signed the credit slip.

            Jessica’s publicist, Susan, approached the sales counter just as Diana gave Jessica her copy of the receipt and thanked her for her business.  “Anthony will carry your purchases to your car,” Diana explained as a very pleasant looking young man appeared and began to collect her items.

            “Perfect timing,” Susan commented, “and we still have plenty of time for you to return to your hotel for a bit before your interview.”

            “That would be wonderful,” Jessica said as they walked to the exit.  “I could use a few minutes to put these things away, change my outfit and catch my breath before starting the work day,” Jessica admitted.

            “Your car is right outside,” Susan informed her as she opened the door.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining and already warming the cool, autumn air.  The driver assisted Anthony in loading Jessica’s purchases and opened the rear door of the car for the two women as they continued to chat.

            “You really didn’t need to arrange for a private car,” Jessica said as she settled into her seat.

            “On the contrary, Mrs. Fletcher, the media will begin to swarm as soon as the buzz about last night gets out.  Also, your safety is at least partly my responsibility.”

            “But Scotland Yard has already assigned police protection, which personally I think is a little bit drastic.  You have so many other things to do that you needn’t concern yourself any further with my safety,” Jessica assured her.  “I believe it’s already been well taken care of,” she concluded.

            “Actually, Jessica, it’s just my nature and I guess you could say that it’s in my blood as well.  My father is the head of security for the Prime Minister.”

            “That’s very impressive,” Jessica commented.  “He must be very good at what he does,” she added.

            “Yes, he is.  That’s why I took his advice and made arrangements for you to have a driver after he called to tell me what happened in your suite last night,” she explained.

            “Your father called you?  He doesn’t happen to have worked for MI6 in the past, has he?”  Jessica asked.

            “No, but he did work for MI5, like your FBI, before becoming head of security for the Prime Minister,” she explained.

            “Our driver wouldn’t happen to be in his late fifties, about 5’10” with blond hair and a charming Irish accent, would he?” Jessica asked, wishing that she had been more observant.

            “No, Martin is in his mid-thirties, maybe, with dark hair.  I don’t think he has an accent,” she answered thoughtfully.  He does come highly recommended, and is not only supposed to be very good at what he does but very discreet as well,” she added.

            “I’m sure that he is,” Jessica agreed.  There was no question in her mind that Michael had his hands all over this most recent development.  At least Constable Fields was keeping a reasonable distance, Jessica thought as she looked out the back window.  The last thing she needed or wanted was an entourage.



            When Sarah Barnes locked the front doors of her shop and escorted Jessica and Susan to the back exit and their waiting car, Jessica sighed with a sense of relief at having wrapped up her afternoon book signing commitment.  With only a couple of hours of sleep, she had been running on empty for most of the afternoon.

            Jessica’s morning interview had been pleasant and uneventful and at noon she was still feeling energetic enough to spend her extended lunch hour in a restaurant on Anne’s Court in Central London, not far from Barnes’ Bookshop.  After enjoying a simple lunch, she began making notes regarding the murder the previous evening in her hotel room and re-creating her notes from the murder of Sophie Potter, including what she had learned during breakfast with Michael and from George’s files.  After she had finished, she ventured next door to an Internet café where she went to work refreshing her memory regarding the famed forger, Samuel Potter, but had no luck in uncovering any new or useful information.

            By the time she arrived at the book store, fatigue had begun to set in.  Normally, Jessica enjoyed book signings, especially in small, independent stores, but today the media had made the experience much less enjoyable.  Not only had the reporters, who congregated outside the shop, been very distracting, but a few of them had managed to make there way inside under the guise of being actual customers.

            Despite the distractions, Jessica maintained a great deal of professionalism and patience as she chatted with customers, signed books and politely declined to comment on the murders.  By the end of the afternoon, however, her patience was wearing thin.  Not only was she beginning to feel a bit smothered by the combined presence of Susan, Constable Fields, Martin (her driver) and the media, but several times since leaving Harrods that morning she had experienced the uneasy feeling of being watched.  Fatigue resulting in paranoia, she assured herself.

            Once back in her suite, she poured a cup of tea, propped her feet up and closed her eyes.  After a few short minutes of peace and quiet, she nodded off to sleep only to be awakened by a knock on the door a short time later.

            It took her a few moments to orient herself and before she reached the door there was a second knock.  Seeing that it was both Michael and George, she reluctantly removed the chain and opened the door.

            “Hello, Jessica,” George said as he bent his head down and greeted her with a kiss on the cheek.  “How was your day? Uneventful, I hope,” he said cheerfully.

            “For the most part,” she answered with a slightly forced smile, still not quite awake.

            “Jessica, darlin’, how are you?” Michael said before greeting her with a kiss on the hand.

            “A bit tired,” she admitted as she led them into the living room of her new suite, where she sat down in one of the room’s very comfortable chairs.

            “An equally lovely suite,” Michael observed as he took a seat on one of the two sofas.  The suite, which was actually larger than her previous one, offered a large fireplace with two loveseats and two comfortable armchairs, a dining room table with seating for four, a working desk and two bedrooms, each with a king size bed and its own private bathroom.  The suite was once again decorated in a traditional English style, with plush carpet, beautiful woodwork and several vases filled with fresh flowers.

            “Yes, it is,” Jessica agreed, “and I plan on taking full advantage of it later this evening after George and I have dinner and listen to some wonderful live jazz,” she added.  For some reason, as she spoke to Michael, she was drawn to his appearance, which was far more casual than usual.  He was dressed in khaki trousers, a white oxford shirt sans tie and a navy blue jacket.

            “Actually, Jess, why don’t we order from room service,” George suggested.  “You could probably use a quiet evening and some rest after last night.”

            “Why don’t you look tired?” she asked, realizing that he should be just as fatigued as she was.

            “I caught a couple of hours on a cot at The Yard this afternoon,” he admitted.

            “I think Sutherland may be right, Jessica, you look like you’ve had a very busy day,” Michael concurred.

            Suddenly Jessica realized what had been so interesting about how Michael was dressed.  “Out, Michael,” she said, pointing toward the door without getting up.

            “What?” he responded, surprised by the sudden change in her demeanor.

            “I would like for you to leave, now,” she repeated, getting to her feet.  “Not only did you somehow convince my publicist to hire a body guard, without my consent, but you’ve been following me, lurking in the shadows ever since I left Harrods this morning,” she said before pausing to catch her breath.  “I just figured it out.  You were sitting in a corner booth at the restaurant during my interview; hiding behind a newspaper in the back of the Internet café; and loitering in the history section of the bookstore this afternoon.

            Jessica’s accusations and obvious annoyance not only had Michael on his feet and retreating for the door, but had George cringing and feeling slightly sympathetic for him.

            “I warned you,” George said, shaking his head.

            At his words, Jessica’s head spun immediately in George’s direction.  “What?  You knew what he was up to?”  she charged while willing herself to remain calm.

            “I certainly never thought he’d go through with it, especially after agreeing that there was no way that you would allow it,” George explained in an attempt at self preservation.   

            “Okay, you two,” Jessica said after collecting herself.  “I have just decided to spend the evening enjoying the wonderful amenities of this lovely hotel…alone,” she said, emphasizing the final word.  “I don’t want to see either of you before noon tomorrow, at the earliest, and only after you dispense with the body guard,” she continued, eyeing Michael, “and you cancel the orders for police protection,” she said, looking at George, who was now on his feet.

            “But Jessica,” Michael said, ready to defend his actions.

            “Out,” Jessica said, remaining firm in her resolve.  “You, too, Sutherland,” she added before he could utter a word.

            The stunned expressions on their faces were priceless and gave Jessica the satisfaction of knowing that she had gotten her point across.  Pleased, she left them in the living room, went into the bedroom and closed the door behind herself.  She certainly appreciated their concern for her well being and understood that they had both acted with good intentions but, enough is enough, she thought as she began to run a hot bubble bath.


“You know a good pub nearby?” Michael asked as the two men exited Jessica’s suite.

            “Aye, Knight’s is down the block,” George answered sullenly, kicking himself for not keeping his mouth shut.

            “Good, I’ll buy you a pint,” Michael offered as the elevator arrived and the doors opened.



            After enjoying a long, hot, relaxing bath, Jessica toweled off her hair and donned her most comfortable slacks along with a navy blue cable knit sweater, which she had packed in anticipation of the chilly winds that were nearly guaranteed to be a part of her upcoming North Atlantic crossing.  A hint of jasmine and lavender from the complimentary bubble bath provided by the Savoy to their guests still lingered in the air as she dried her hair and finished dressing.

            Shortly thereafter, her dinner was delivered and she enjoyed a wonderfully prepared breast of chicken, roast potatoes, salad and Yorkshire pudding.  She contemplated starting the gas fireplace, but decided instead to curl up on one of the sofas with a warm blanket, a cup of herbal tea and a good book, one of several that she had brought along.  Before she had finished the first chapter, the telephone rang.  Setting her book down, Jessica got up from the sofa and walked to the desk where she picked up the cordless receiver.

            “Hello,” she answered.

            “Mrs. Jessica Fletcher-Haggerty, please,” a young feminine voice asked.

            “This is Mrs. Fletcher,” Jessica replied, slightly irritated by the reminder of Michael’s shenanigans.

            “Mrs. Fletcher, thank goodness,” the voice said, clearly relieved.  “I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find you.  Fortunately, the front desk clerk was kind enough to tell me that you had changed rooms.  My name is Chloe Cook.  I am…rather was Sophie Potter’s neighbor,” the young woman explained.

            “Yes, of course, how may I help you?” Jessica responded politely.

            “I was hoping that we could meet tonight, if at all possible,” the young woman asked tentatively.

            “Miss Cook, I’ve really had quite a long day,” Jessica explained.  “Would it be at all possible for us to meet sometime tomorrow, for breakfast perhaps,” she suggested.

            “Mrs. Fletcher, it is very important that we meet as soon as possible.  Ever since Sophie was killed, I feel like someone is following me, watching me and I’m scared.  Please, if there is any way that we can meet tonight,” she pleaded.  Finally, Chloe’s persistence and Jessica’s own sense of curiosity won out and she agreed to meet the young woman at a small coffee shop, not far from her apartment building. 



            The bartender slid two foaming pints of Twait’s Golden Charmer onto the bar in front of Michael and George.  “I’ve got this one,” George said, removing a ten pound note from his wallet and placing it on the black granite-topped bar.  The pub, which was frequented by locals and travelers alike, was located next door to one of The Savoy’s many restaurants.  The designer had used taupe, silver blue and black in an art deco style, which created a comfortable, cool atmosphere in which to enjoy a variety of food and beverages including sixteen versions of the classic martini. 

            George raised his glass in Michael’s direction.  May yerr glass be ever full.  May th’ roof over yer head be aye strong.

            An’ may you be in ‘eaven a full ‘alf an ‘our before the devil knows you’re dead,” Michael finished.  Both men laughed and enjoyed another drink before continuing their conversation.    

            “Once your man, Henderson, wraps up his investigation and has the murderer in custody, Jessica will be just fine.  She never holds a grudge, for too long,” Michael said confidently.  George, still sullen and far from convinced, didn’t respond but instead gave Michael a look of uncertainty regarding his assurances before swallowing another drink of his beer.

            “Believe me, Sutherland, if she were one to hold a grudge, I would be the one to know.”

            “In other words, this isn’t the first time she’s been less than pleased with you,” George asked, ever the understated Scotsman.

            Michael laughed.  “Of course not,” he answered, “and she always comes around, eventually.”  Michael paused in thought for a moment.  “You mean to tell me you’ve known Jessica for what, seven or eight years and she’s never once been angry with you,” he asked.

            “Not that I’m aware of,” George answered.  “She’s certainly never called me ‘Sutherland’ before.  That I know for sure,” George added as he looked down at the bar and slid his glass of ale from one hand to the other and back again.

            “In that case, I have a distinct advantage and you’ll have to take my word for it, mate.  If I can have her held in jail on murder charges for several days without any repercussions, I’m fairly certain that she’ll let this pass,” Michael said presumptuously.

            “You had her jailed…on murder charges…for several days?” George asked, astonished.

            “It was for her own good,” Michael rationalized.

            “I’m guessing that Jessica didn’t see it that way,” George speculated.

            “No, as a matter of fact, she did not, but I’m sure that you will.  You see, it just so happens that we were both in San Francisco and…”



            “Mrs. Fletcher, thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me,” Chloe said as she stood and greeted Jessica, offering her a seat at her small table in the back of the long, narrow, shop.  Like the front of the shop, the back had several small tables for its patrons, but the back had a more relaxed atmosphere, including more subdued lighting and two small group conversation areas, each made up of two small sofas, which faced each other across a large coffee table.   

The waitress, a young, dark haired woman in her early twenties, arrived to take their orders.  Chloe ordered a second cup of espresso roast while Jessica decided to indulge in a decaf mocha latte.

            Jessica noticed immediately that Chloe was extremely nervous and now seemed very tentative to talk.  “Miss Cook, can you tell me why you needed so desperately to meet with me tonight?” Jessica finally asked.

            Chloe glanced around the shop, took a deep breath and then exhaled before reaching beneath the table to retrieve her backpack, from which she removed a small, manila envelope.  “Mrs. Fletcher, I found this under the front seat of my car,” she explained, sliding the envelope under the table to Jessica.  “It’s addressed to you,” she added.  “Sophie borrowed my car to drive to work the night that she was killed.”

            “What’s in it?” Jessica asked, her curiosity piqued.

            “I don’t know for sure,” Chloe admitted, “but I think it has something to do with Sophie’s father and possibly both of their deaths.”

            “Why didn’t you take it to the police?”

            At length, Sophie answered, “I’m not sure.  You see, Mrs. Fletcher, about a month ago Sophie’s father was killed in an auto accident.  They hadn’t been close for many years but she ended up having to be the one to go to his house and pack up his things because there was nobody else to do it.  It took most of the weekend,  Anyway, she cleaned out his safety deposit box a few days later and afterwards, she started acting strangely…nervous and edgy.  She started spending all of her free time reading through her father’s personal papers, newspaper clippings and such.  No, it was more like she was studying them.”

            “Did she tell you what she found?” Jessica asked.

            “Not the details, but she did say that she thought that her father had been involved in some kind of conspiracy.  Sophie claimed that according to his papers he was having second thoughts about it and was planning to alert the authorities.  She also thought that his auto accident wasn’t an accident, if you know what I mean?”

            “She thought that he was murdered?” Jessica said, understanding exactly what Chloe had meant.

            “Exactly, at least that’s what Sophie said.”  Chloe stopped for a moment to catch her breath and to take a sip of her coffee.  “I spoke with her late in the afternoon on the day that she died, when she asked to use my car.  It was the first time in weeks that she seemed like her old self, happy and maybe even a bit relieved.  She told me that she had found the name and number of a man that her father had planned to contact at MI6.  She said that she rang him and he had arranged for you and your husband to meet with her that night, to help her.”

            “Did she indicate what proof she had?”  Jessica asked as she began to open the envelope.

            “Please!  Don’t open it here,” Chloe exclaimed in a loud whisper, looking around to see if anyone was watching them.  “I really need to go,” she said, hastily collecting her things and rushing out of the coffee shop, leaving Jessica alone.




            “To Jessica not being one to hold a grudge,” Michael offered as a toast when he had finished telling his tale and they had been served another pint of ale.

            George happily returned Michael’s toast.  “Absolutely no repercussions?” he asked in amazement.

            “Well, not initially anyway,” Michael answered, “and she probably never would have returned the favor if the perfect opportunity hadn’t presented itself when I tailed Patrick O’Hansen to Cabot Cove and was arrested for his murder.”

            “Ah,” George said, “and I imagine that Jessica left you cooling your heels in jail ‘for your own good’?”

            “That was her official line,” Michael agreed.

            “Now, that sounds like the Jessica that we both know and love,” George said with a hearty laugh.

            “Yes, it does,” Michael agreed.  “She really is quite an amazing lady, isn’t she?”

            “Aye, she is at that,” George replied, echoing Michael’s observation.

            “Yes, indeed,” Michael said.  “If it wasn’t for Jessica, I’d most certainly remain here in London instead of transferring to New York City in December,” he added.

            Well, bloody ‘ell, George said silently to himself as he drained the rest of his beer.  Haggerty’s transferring to New York to be near Jessica.  Bloody wonderful news that is! 



             Once back in her suite, Jessica opened the envelope, removed its contents and began to read Samuel Potter’s personal papers including his journal and what appeared to be notes added by Sophie.  As Jessica read, many questions popped into her mind.

Had Sophie Potter been followed and killed by the people that her father had been involved with or had it been the former boyfriend, Andrew, the rival actress, Jane Dearlove, or someone else entirely? 

Did Samuel Potter’s colleagues suspect or even know that his daughter had made a copy of her father’s papers and that she intended to send them to Jessica?   It certainly was reasonable to think so, especially considering that Michael had suspected that very thing and Geoffrey Adams had been murdered in Jessica’s suite, most likely while trying to locate them. 

Had they been following Chloe?  No, Jessica decided, if they had known that the envelope had been left in Chloe’s car, they most certainly would have broken into the vehicle and simply stolen them.    Was Jessica herself being followed?  For a moment, she thought that perhaps she shouldn’t have insisted that Michael and George call off their guard dogs.  Don’t be silly, Jessica, she told herself.  You’re just letting Chloe’s paranoia get to you. 

As Jessica read, she jotted down several items that were of particular interest.  By the time she had finished, it was clear to her that Samuel Potter had indeed been involved in creating forged documents for a small group of individuals who intended to threaten the Queen.  There were no specifics and Jessica had no way of knowing the form that the threat would take, but she was able to determine that at least three other individuals were involved.  While Potter hadn’t used their names, he had left several clues to their identities.  She added those clues, written in the form of questions, to the bottom of her notes.

1.      Who is Samuel Potter’s ‘old housemate, Sy’ at Bradford House?

2.      Who is ‘Sy’s mate, L’?

3.      Who is ‘LU’?

Jessica folded her notes and placed them into the manila envelope along with the other items that Chloe had given her.  She placed the envelope in her handbag and got ready for bed.  As she lay in bed, Jessica couldn’t help but to think about Samuel Potter, his daughter, Sophie, and the others. 


            After a peaceful night’s sleep, Jessica awoke feeling well rested and refreshed.  She showered, dressed and ordered up tea and toast for breakfast.  As she ate, she reviewed her notes once again in preparation for a free morning and an opportunity to unearth some answers of her own. 

            Before leaving the hotel, she decided that she should leave a message at the front desk for Michael.  She had promised to tell him if she received anything from Miss Potter, but the details could wait until the Embassy party later that evening.  Where Michael was concerned, she still had a point to make and there was still the possibility that one of his men was lurking around the next corner.  George, on the other hand, had been unfortunate enough to be caught in Michael’s wake, something that she would hopefully rectify before the morning was over.

            Jessica’s first stop was the London Library, with its eclectic façade, on the corner of St. James’ Square.   She settled herself in at a computer terminal in the North Bay of the Reading Room, removed her notes from her bag and went to work, diligently searching for any reference that she could find for a Bradford House, located on the campus of an unnamed boarding school somewhere in England.  At least she hoped that it was in England.  And what if it wasn’t? she thought.

            Eventually though, she did find two matches.  The first was at Hargrove College and the second was at Ellington College.  Unfortunately, all alumni links, including the alumni directories for each school, were restricted to registered users.  Having exhausted that avenue of investigation, Jessica decided to stretch her legs for a few minutes and while doing so, explore the grand building.  Jessica soon decided that she could easily spend the entire day exploring every nook and cranny, but since her time was limited, she decided to focus on the area dedicated to local history of the past century.  As she had hoped, she found a collection of school yearbooks archived there.  Mentally crossing her fingers for luck, she scanned the stacks for Hargrove and Ellington Colleges.  Based on Samuel Potter’s age, she calculated that she should be looking for the 1973-74 through 1977-78 school years.  This could take some time, she thought as she loaded ten books onto a wheeled cart, pushed them out of the stacks and to a nearby table. 

            Midway through the second book, Jessica found exactly what she had been hoping for, a picture of Samuel Potter and several of his housemates at Bradford House.  As she scanned the faces of the other boys, she found one who looked familiar to her.  Consulting the caption, she found the boy’s name to be Simon “Sy” Williamson.  Very interesting, she thought.  Samuel Potter had been forging documents under the direction of David Littlewood’s Chief of Security.  Was Littlewood’s claim to the throne a fraud?  A very likely possibility, she decided.

            Certainly, the forensic document examiner at the London Museum should be made aware of her findings, especially since they seemed to indicate a likelihood that the diary that David Littlewood claimed belonged to Queen Elizabeth I was a forgery.  

The outside of the London Museum featured a large façade with soaring spiral towers.  Rounded arches, which appeared to be Scottish to Jessica, marked the grand entrance of the Romanesque building.  Upon entering the imposing Central Hall, Jessica’s gaze was drawn upward, where she was amazed to find hundreds of intricately painted panels that decorated the ceiling.  She ascended the grand staircase to the second level.  There, she decided to join a guided tour that included the opportunity to observe the document examination laboratory, where scientists were working to authenticate a variety of documents, including David Littlewood’s journal. 

The lab was bordered on one side by the exterior wall of the building and on the other three sides by floor to ceiling glass walls to allow patrons to observe the work being done.  As her group moved from the large open area outside the lab to an adjoining room, Jessica lingered behind in hopes of speaking with Lawrence Underhill, who according to the guide was one of the premiere scientists in his field and the man in charge of analyzing the Littlewood diary and related documents.

            “Excuse me,” Jessica said to a middle aged woman with dark hair, who she noticed exit the lab.

            “Yes, madam, may I help you?” the woman in the white lab coat asked.

            “As a matter of fact, you may.  My name is Jessica Fletcher.  I was wondering if Mr. Underhill might be available to speak with me,” she asked.

            “I believe that Mr. Underhill is in a meeting at the moment, but if you remain here for a moment, I will try to find out when he might be available to speak with you.”  As asked, Jessica waited outside the lab while the woman, identified by her name tag as Christine Lu entered what appeared to be a series of staff offices, which were connected to the southern end of the lab.  Lu, Jessica thought.  Was she LU from Samuel Potter’s papers? 

            Christine returned a few minutes later.  “I’m afraid that Mr. Underhill will be unavailable for the remainder of the day.  Is there something that I can help you with?” she asked.

            “No, I’m afraid that I really need to speak with Mr. Underhill, personally,” Jessica explained.

            “If you would like, you are certainly welcome to leave him a message along with your name and telephone number and he will contact you sometime tomorrow,” Ms. Lu suggested as an alternative.

            “I think I’ll do that,” Jessica replied.  After locating a small note pad and pen in her purse, she dashed off a brief note to Mr. Underhill indicating that she was hoping to speak with him regarding his work on the Littlewood documents – research for her next novel.  After doing so, she thanked Ms. Lu and hurried to rejoin her group for the remainder of the tour.



            “She just left and she knows something,” a nervous voice reported into the telephone.

            “You’re sure?” a voice on the other end responded.

            “Of course, I’m sure.  She’s snooping around the museum and she wants specifically to know about Littlewood’s documents.”

            “Then we’ll have to take care of her, like the others,” the second voice said with an air of indifference.     

            “Like the others?” the first speaker asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

            “What?  Did you think that they were accidents?” the second individual asked sarcastically.

            “Well, no, but…,” the first person stammered.  “I didn’t sign on for this…for murder.”

            “Just do your job and keep your mouth shut and as promised, you will be very rich when this is all over.  Don’t…and you’ll be next,” the second voice threatened.



            George had just returned to his office and settled in at his desk to begin chipping away at the mountain of paperwork that seemed to be continuously growing.  It was a good thing that Inspector Henderson was proving to be a very able investigator or George would most likely not be able to free himself for his scheduled holiday with Jessica in just a couple of day’s time. 

            The ring of the telephone caused him to cringe for a moment before he realized that it was no longer as loud or grating as it had been at eight o’clock that morning.  “Sutherland,” he answered.

            “Excuse me, sir, but there is a Mrs. Fletcher here to see you,” the young woman on the other end of the line informed him.

            “Of course,” George answered, slightly perplexed by Jessica’s unannounced presence, particularly after the events of the previous evening.  “Show her in as soon as you can,” he added.

            “No need, sir, she assured me that she knew the way,” the young woman explained before hanging up and only a split second before there was a knock on the door. 

            Before he had even stood from his chair, the door started to open.  “Come in,” he answered, finally standing up from behind his desk.

            “Good morning,” Jessica said in friendly greeting as she opened the door fully and stepped into the room, closing it behind her. 

            “Jessica, what are you doing here?” George asked, slightly thrown and very hesitant to move toward her and greet her as he usually would.

            “Is this a bad time?” she asked, sensing that something was off.

            “No, of course not, I just didn’t expect to see you until…well, later today,” he answered.  “Please, sit down,” he offered, motioning her to one of the chairs in front of his desk before sitting back down in his own chair.

            “George, are you feeling okay?” Jessica asked, concerned that he looked a little tired and that he wasn’t acting quite like himself.

            “Yes, I’m well, thank you,” he answered.  Confused, he thought to himself, definitely confused.

            “Good, I was afraid that perhaps you and Michael may have…how do you say it…cocked the wee finger too many times last night,” she said.  “I heard Michael ask you if you knew of a good pub nearby as you were leaving last night,” Jessica added when she noticed the puzzled look on George’s face.

            “You don’t miss a thing, do you?” he commented, finally starting to feel a bit more at ease.  “Actually, I think that we both managed to stop well short of being foolish,” he assured her.

            “In that case, are you up for lunch?” she asked hopefully.

            Haggerty was right, he thought to himself.  “Certainly,” he answered, “but it’s not noon yet,” he observed, glancing at the clock, a hint of a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

            “Oh,” Jessica responded with a chuckle, glancing at the clock, too.  “About that, I’m sorry that you managed to get caught in the middle, but every once in a while Michael goes a bit too far,” Jessica began to explain.

            “No matter,” he responded.  “Is it safe to assume that you’re not cross with me any longer then?” he asked.

            “Of course I’m not,” she answered.

            “Good,” George said as he stood and walked around the desk.  “I didn’t much care for it,” he admitted as he offered to help her up from the chair.  “Jess, do you think you could do me one little favor,” he asked once she was on her feet.

            “I’ll try, what is it?”

            “Please don’t ever call me ‘Sutherland’ again,” he asked in all seriousness.

            “I can do that,” she agreed before reaching up and giving him a friendly kiss on the cheek to let him know that there were indeed no hard feelings.

            “Now that that is settled, where are we off to?” he asked as he opened the door to the office and ushered her out. 

            “That’s up to you.  It’s your city.  I’m just a visitor,” Jessica replied.

            “Are you up for a walk?” he asked, thinking for a moment before closing the door behind them. 

“Always,” she answered.

“How much time do you have?” he asked as he turned a corner toward a side entrance that opened to the employee parking area. 

            “I have an interview at a LBC late this afternoon,” she answered, “at four o’clock.  How much time do we need?”

            “I’d say two or three hours,” George answered.

            “Three hours for lunch?” Jessica asked, surprised.

            “I thought you wanted to experience London,” he answered as he opened the passenger door of the car for her.

            “You’re right, I do,” she answered once he had joined her inside.

            “Where are we going?” 

            Greenwich,” he answered simply.



            After parking as near to Island Gardens as they could, George and Jessica walked toward Greenwich market, arm in arm.  Their route took them through a quaint foot tunnel that passed under the Thames River and toward Greenwich market.  After having lunch at Goddard’s Pie House they strolled leisurely through the market and finally made the uphill climb to the observatory at the top of Greenwich Park hill, which George proclaimed to offer the best view of the city that could be had from land.  Jessica certainly couldn’t argue with his proclamation.

            “Sometime, when we have a full day, we’ll have to take the Red River Rover downriver,” George suggested.  “You haven’t truly seen London until you’ve seen it from the Thames.”         “So, Jess, are you planning on telling me where you took off to last night after we left?” George asked as they began the descent, causing Jessica to be the one to be surprised. 

            “I saw you walking back into the hotel late last night when I was walking back to get my car,” he explained.

            “Of course, I was having such a good time, I nearly forgot,” Jessica answered before launching into a long story beginning with Chloe’s telephone call and ending with her morning visit to the London Museum.

            “So, you spent the morning sleuthing?” he asked.  “I’m not the least bit surprised,” he added. 

            “Well, I would hate to disappoint you,” Jessica responded playfully.  “You know, I really should talk to Inspector Henderson, shouldn’t I?” she added. 

            “Yes, you should.  He should be back in his office by the time we return to The Yard,” George said, “unless you need some time to rest at your hotel before going to your interview.”

            “Actually, walking like this usually increases my energy level,” Jessica said as they continued down the hill.  “Do you know what I think, George?” Jessica asked as she took in the clear blue sky and the sights and sounds of the market below.

            “No, what do you think, Jess?” he answered contentedly.

            “I think that this was the perfect way to experience lunch in London.”



            After passing along her findings and suspicions to Inspector Henderson, which required a little convincing by George as Henderson still wasn’t sure about her, Jessica departed New Scotland Yard for her interview at LBC 97.3, the top rated commercial talk radio station in London.  Once there, she was greeted warmly by Anna Bell, who hosted a program called “The Wish List,” which featured interviews with special guests such as the prime minister, the mayor and other public figures.  While she waited, Jessica observed intently as Anna and her producer prepped for their program. 

            The booth was far larger than she had anticipated.  Anna sat behind a large L-shaped console with her back to a window, which looked out to the west.  Jessica was seated opposite the show’s host in a comfortable, high-backed chair on casters.  After being provided with a glass of water and checking her microphone, they were ready to begin the interview about Jessica’s most recent novel, Snow White, Blood Red.



            Meanwhile, George, Inspector Henderson and Constable Mills were gathered in a small conference room, where they worked to build a dossier on Simon Williamson and tried to find a link between him, Samuel Potter, Geoffrey Adams and the others who might be involved in the death of Sophie Potter.  Also involved now was Scotland Yard’s Fraud Division, which was in the process of reviewing Samuel Potter’s papers and arranging a meeting with Lewis Underhill to apprise him of Potter’s accusations.



            Close enough for a head shot, the sniper thought, identifying the target through the rifle’s scope, from a vantage point across the street from the radio station.   



            “Mrs. Fletcher, could you tell us a little bit about how you developed the character Harrison Mark, the secret agent in Snow White, Blood Red?  Is he modeled after a real person?”

            Jessica thought for a moment before answering.  “It would be accurate to say that during my travels, I do meet many very interesting people who would make wonderful characters for my books, but I try to limit myself to borrowing only one or two unique characteristics in order to keep my characters fictional, but in this case, you are correct.  The character Harrison Mark is modeled very closely after a close acquaintance of mine.  Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to reveal his true identity.”



            “Mills,” the constable answered after picking up the telephone.

            “Chief, an urgent call from dispatch for you,” the young officer said as he held the phone out to George.

            Urgent, George thought, slightly perplexed as he walked around the table and took the receiver from Mills.

            “Chief Inspector, 999 just received an anonymous tip concerning Mrs. Fletcher.”

            “I need details,” George said, impatiently.

            “No details available, sir.  The caller simply said that Mrs. Fletcher’s life may be grave danger,” Malinda Frye, a 999 dispatcher, explained.

            “Where did the call originate from?” George asked as he began to pace the short distance allowed by the telephone’s cord. 

            “A telephone booth on the southern end of St. James’ Square.”

            “Any indication that it might be a hoax,” he asked hopefully, even though he knew it didn’t matter what her answer was.  There was no way that he was willing to take a chance whether it was Jessica or anyone else who had been threatened.

            “No, sir.”

            “Listen very carefully,” George said calmly.  “I want a minimum of three officers, in plain clothes, dispatched to the LBC radio station.  One each at the front and rear entrances and the other inside the building, outside the interview booth.  Are you getting this?”

            “Yes, sir.”

            “I want LBC’s security notified that the MPS is in route and I also want that anonymous caller tracked down ASAP,” he ordered before hanging the phone up, grabbing his coat and heading out the door. 



            Michael, too, rushed through the heavy London traffic after having monitored the 999 dispatcher’s request for plain clothes officers to report to LBC as soon as possible.  Horns blared as Michael’s silver Mercedes dodged through traffic like a bullet, cutting off several other drivers and sideswiping a BMW, which resulted in two demolished side mirrors, one being his own.



            Patience, the gunman thought, pulling the rifle stock’s cheek piece close and holding gentle pressure against the trigger.  If not here, the Embassy party.  Patience. 



            “Mrs. Fletcher, you seem to have quite a reputation as an amateur detective in your own right and it seems that yet again you have found yourself involved in a murder here in London.  Would you care to tell the listening audience how your investigation into the death of Sophie Potter is proceeding?”

            Jessica was surprised by the question and formulated her answer carefully.  “Oh, Ms. Bell, I believe that that matter is best left in the capable hands of the men and women at New Scotland Yard,” Jessica offered.

            Not one to miss an opportunity, the reporter segued into her next question.  “Speaking of New Scotland Yard, today’s edition of The Star links you romantically to one of The Yard’s senior investigators, a Chief Inspector George Sutherland.  Do you care to comment on that rumor?” Anna asked.

            Jessica, distracted when she noticed George enter the producer’s booth, didn’t hear the question.

            “Mrs. Fletcher?” the interviewer asked when there was no response to her question.

            “We’ll be right back to hear J.B. Fletcher’s response to that question and many more in just a few minutes,” she said before cutting away to a commercial and pushing her microphone aside, looking into the producer’s booth for some indication as to why she had been instructed to go to commercial. 

            Suddenly, the door to the booth burst open.

            “Hey, you can’t come in here.  I’m in the middle of a show,” Anna said as she rose from her seat in front of the window.

            Jessica pushed her chair away from the console and turned to see who Anna was addressing.  “It’s okay, Ms. Bell.  I know him,” Jessica assured her.  “George, what are you doing here?  What’s going on?” she asked, both confused and concerned by his presence.

            “Jessica, you need…” he started to say as he stepped toward her.  At the same instant Anna stepped away from the window and now having a clear shot, the sniper squeezed his finger against the trigger.  A sudden, loud CRACK reverberated through the booth causing glass to be showered over everything and everyone.  The second shot hit George in the shoulder, spinning him partially around and causing him to fall to the ground, striking his head on the edge of the console as he fell.  Two more rounds followed but lodged into the wall.

            Both women instinctively covered their heads with their hands and dove to the floor.  Anna crawled beneath the large console and waved for Jessica to do the same.

Seeing blood coming from both George’s head and shoulder, she crawled over to his side instead.  Fortunately, there had been no additional shots and the console seemed to provide some protection from the gunman outside.



            Michael, having haphazardly parked his car behind the building quickly manipulated the electronic keypad to the employee entrance and entered the building.  Hurrying down the hallway toward the booth, he heard the commotion that followed the gunshots.  Cursing loudly, he ran in the general direction of the chaos, worried that Jessica might be injured, or worse.      



            “Oh, George, no,” Jessica exclaimed when she saw that he was unconscious.  She began frantically searching for his pulse, but before she could find it, Michael charged through the doorway. 

            “Jessica, we have to get you out of here,” he exclaimed, relieved that she appeared to not be injured.  He tried unsuccessfully to pull her toward the door.

            “I’m not going anywhere,” she snapped at him, “not until I know he’s okay.”  She paused for a moment to control her breathing before speaking again.   “You find the person who did this, Michael,” she added with tears beginning to well up in her eyes as she turned her attention back to finding George’s pulse and then applying pressure to his bleeding shoulder.

            Deciding that there was no further immediate danger and that it was very unlikely that he was going to change her mind, Michael helped Anna to the relative safety of the hallway and then hurried outside to assist in the search for the gunman.

            “It can’t end like this, not now,” Jessica said quietly while praying that George would be okay.  “Why didn’t I ever tell you?” she asked absently.

            “Tell me what?” George mumbled as he struggled to open his eyes.

            “Oh, George, you’re awake,” she said, clearly relieved.

            “Tell me what?” he mumbled again. 

            At length, Jessica finally answered, “That I’m in love with you.  I am very much in love with you, George,” she repeated as tears of sadness became tears of happiness.

            “Music to my ears,” he said with a weak smile before his eyes rolled back and he was out again.

            “George, wake up,” Jessica said, gently patting him on the cheek.  “You have to wake up,” she repeated but to no avail. 

Time seemed to pass very slowly until finally Jessica heard sirens in the distance.  At about the same time, George finally began to stir again.  “Jessie,” he murmured, “what are you doing in Wick?”

            “George, we’re not in Wick,” she answered softly.

            “We’re not,” he replied before looking up at the ceiling and then around the room as if he was lost.

            “Jessica, why are you pinning me to the floor?” he finally asked as he began to become slightly more coherent. 

            “Sorry, George, it can’t be helped.  You’ve been shot.”

            “No, I haven’t,” he argued.  “I think I can get up now, if you’ll let me,” he announced before trying to sit up, which caused him to become immediately lightheaded.

            “You’re not going anywhere, not until the paramedics get here,” Jessica told him, placing a hand gently on his chest.

            “Okay, whatever you say, love” he agreed contentedly, lying his head back down on the floor and closing his eyes again.

            Jessica glanced toward the hallway when she heard voices and the clatter of metal wheels approaching.  “Here he is,” Jenson, who Jessica judged to be a paramedic, said as he motioned to his co-worker to follow.  “Ma’am, I’m afraid you’re going to have to step back,” he instructed as he set down his blue emergency kit, opened the top and knelt next to George.  He immediately began assessing George’s vital signs.  “Strong, steady pulse and regular breathing,” he told his partner.  “Normal BP.”  He looked as closely as he could at the wound on the back of George’s head and then began an assessment for a head injury.

            Jessica, having followed his orders, now found herself standing in the far corner of the room, which suddenly felt cramped and cold.  She braced herself against the chilly breeze that blew in through the shattered window, and watched as the second medic, Barnes, began to cut away George’s bloody coat and shirt sleeve.  

            “Has he come to yet?” Jenson asked, glancing back in Jessica’s direction.

            “Yes, a couple of times, but he was definitely confused,” she answered.

            “I bet he was,” Jenson speculated as he pulled a pen light out of his pocket.

            “He was awake and trying to get up just before you arrived,” Jessica added.

            “Sounds like him,” Barnes commented as he began to apply a Bloodstopper trauma dressing to George’s shoulder.

            “Get that bloody light out of my eyes,” George cursed while instinctively turning his head and raising his hand to shield his eyes when Jenson attempted to use the pen light to check the reactivity of his pupils.

            “It’s about time you came around again, Inspector,” Jenson said.  “Don’t even think about trying to sit up,” he added in warning as he finished checking George’s pupils.

            “Okay, sir, I believe you know how this works.  I need you to answer a few questions for me,” Jenson instructed.  “We’ll start with your name.

            “Sutherland,” George answered before lifting his hand to feel the back of his head.  As he brought it back down, Jessica could see a great deal of blood on his tips of his fingers.

“Christian name?” Jenson prodded.

“George Quinn.”

Quinn, Jessica thought, making a mental note as George had never before divulged anything more than his middle initial.

“What is today’s date?”

“October…no, November…the first,” George answered, after some contemplation.  It was actually October 30th.  They were scheduled to leave for New York on November 1st.

“Date of birth?”

“New Year’s Eve,” George replied, cringing in pain and turning his head to curse at Barnes, who was still working on his shoulder. 

At George’s unusual response, the medic turned and glanced at Jessica to confirm that George’s date of birth was actually December 31st.  Her response was a simple shrug – until now, she had only known that his birthday was in late December.

Jenson continued to ask basic questions in order to assess George’s mental orientation and memory.  “You know, Sutherland, this sure is a hell of a way to try to impress a woman,” Jenson commented just loud enough for George to hear him.

“She’s a lady and I wasn’t trying to impress her,” George mumbled back at him, “but since you mentioned it, did it work?”

“I’m not sure, but you had better hope so because as soon as the adrenaline wears off, you’re going to need every ounce of sympathy that you can get, mate.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, but you’re going to need to step out so we can bring in the stretcher,” Barnes said as he stood.

“Of course,” Jessica answered, stepping out of the corner and into the hall, where Michael was now waiting.

“How is he?” Michael asked.

“Awake and talking, but I’m not sure how coherent he is.  I couldn’t make out everything that he was saying.  He certainly wasn’t lucid a little while ago.”

“Come on, Jessica, why don’t we get you a little fresh air?” he suggested, taking her by the elbow.

“That’s a good idea,” Barnes said as he maneuvered the stretcher through the narrow doorway.  “We’ll be a few more minutes yet,” he added.  “And by the way, ma’am, you did a nice job controlling his bleeding.  He’s going to be fine,” Barnes told her before Michael escorted her down the hallway and outside.

A short time later, Jessica was seated in the back seat of a police car with Michael standing next to her open door.  “What could be taking so long,” she asked impatiently.  Jessica had already given a statement to one of the officers who had been dispatched to the scene initially and the paramedics still hadn’t brought George out to the ambulance.

            “Don’t worry, Jessica, the medic said that he was going to be fine.  Besides, Sutherland has a pretty hard head.”

            Michael was saved from her reply when she saw George exit the building.  He certainly looked worse for wear, but with some help from Jenson, was on his feet and walking under his own power.  At least it looked like he was walking under his own power.  Barnes followed with the stretcher and the pair helped George up into back of the ambulance.

            “Why don’t you stay here, Jessica?  I’ll go find out which hospital they’re taking him to,” Michael said, turning to leave. 

            “Wait, I’m coming with you,” she insisted as she climbed out of the car and followed.

            When George saw Michael approach, his first thought was to ask if the perpetrator had been apprehended.  “Hi, Jess,” he added, glancing over Michael’s shoulder as he saw her approach.

            “No.  I’m afraid he was long gone before anyone could catch a glimpse of him,” Michael explained in response to George’s question. 

            “Hey, watch it,” George scowled a warning to Barnes who was trying to clean up the wound on the back of his head. 

            “You’re definitely going to need stitches back here,” Barnes informed him.

             “But other than a few nicks, I’m tip top, right, Jenson,” George asked solely for Jessica’s benefit, giving the paramedic a look that dared him to say anything to the contrary.

            “Yes, tip top, sir” Jenson agreed, completely stone faced. 

            “I’ll call you at your hotel once they have me properly patched up,” George said, directing his comment to Jessica. 

“I’d like to come with you,” Jessica responded, stepping forward with the intent of climbing into the back of the ambulance.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible, ma’am,” Jenson informed her.  Good man, George thought.

            “Where are you taking him?” Jessica asked.  “Michael and I will meet you there.” 

            “Can we have a few minutes,” George asked, indicating that he wanted to speak with Jessica, alone.  The two paramedics both climbed down from the ambulance and Barnes helped Jessica up into the back where she could speak with George privately.

            “Jessica, you heard Jenson, I’ll be fine as soon as they stitch up my head and clean the glass out of my shoulder.  Why don’t you have Michael take you back to your hotel and I’ll call you when I’m able?” he asked very diplomatically. 

            “George, this happened because of me.  I can’t just go sit in my hotel while you’re in the hospital,” she argued.

            “You know hospitals, Jess.  There’s no telling how long it will take and you have a commitment at the Embassy this evening,” he reminded her, “and don’t even suggest not going,” he added, knowing full well that that was exactly what she was going to say.

            “You’ll call me as soon as you can?”

            “I promise,” he assured her.

            “Okay, George, if you insist,” she finally agreed before giving him a kiss on the cheek and climbing down from the ambulance.

            “Ready?” Jenson asked.

            “Aye,” George answered, returning a quick wave to Jessica as she began to walk away.  “Haggerty,” George yelled, before Michael had turned to follow her.    

            “See that Jessica gets back to her hotel, will you?” he asked when Michael had stepped within speaking distance of the ambulance once again.

“Of course,” Michael answered.

“And no detour to the hospital,” George added.

“What makes you think…” Michael started to ask before George cut him off.  “She gave in far too easily.  Could you also see to it that she makes it to that Embassy party tonight, with plenty of security,” he added.  “Try not to let her talk you out of it.  She’ll be better off there than sitting about worrying over me.”

            “You know that’s not going to be easy to manage,” Michael pointed out as Jenson prepared to close the doors. 

            “Check the guest list.  If David Littlewood is on it, it shouldn’t take much effort to convince her to attend.  If not, be creative,” George suggested just before the doors closed completely.

            Inside, George raised a hand to his throbbing head.  “You’re a good man, Jenson. I owe you one,” he said.  “Now, how about something for this headache?” he added as he laid himself down on the stretcher.  “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.”


Wherever you go and whatever you do, may the luck of the Irish be there with you.

Fortunately for Michael, he had the luck of the Irish with him and David and Margaret Littlewood were indeed on the guest list for the Embassy party that evening.  Despite this good fortune, it had taken a great deal of Michael’s charm and a telephone call from George to convince Jessica to go. 

Jessica was still feeling a bit uneasy about attending the party, but felt much better after George assured her that he was feeling well enough that his doctor had agreed to release him from the hospital later that evening.  It also didn’t hurt George’s cause that he had suggested that she might be more effective than he, a Scotland Yard inspector, in extracting some important bit of information from the Littlewoods – information that might aid him and Henderson in their investigation.  So, by seven thirty she had showered, dressed and was ready to leave the hotel. 

When Jessica greeted Michael at the door and he got his first look at her, he was speechless, a major accomplishment when it came to Michael Haggerty.  The long, delicate red dress flowed gently to ankle length and featured a surplice neckline.  A matching waist length jacket, decorated with an intricately beaded pattern, added to its elegance and immediately drew Michael’s attention to the bust of the gown, which was also accented with the same delicate beading.     

“Lovely Jessica,” he finally said, taking her hands in his, pulling her gently forward and kissing her on the cheek.  “You are as pretty as a picture,” he added, stepping back to take a very appreciative look.   “Just lovely,” he said again.  “Let’s see the rest of it then,” he suggested.  

“Oh, Michael, you’re quite the flatterer, but of course you already know that.”  Jessica paused in thought for a moment before honoring his request. 

“It is a lovely gown, isn’t it?” she added, as she gave a quick turn that showed off the beading that like Michael’s eyes traveled down the center back of the dress before dividing and continuing along a lengthy slit that was lined with sheer, red tulle. 

“You are very handsome yourself,” she offered sincerely as she adjusted his tie slightly, once she had completed her revolution.

“Yes, the gown is lovely indeed, but not nearly as lovely as you, Jessica,” Michael observed, causing her to blush.

“Michael Haggerty, you really are quite impossible,” she laughed, glancing to the ceiling and shaking her head.  “Shall we go?” Jessica asked as she picked up her small matching purse from a table near the door.   


A short time later Jessica and Michael found themselves in a large, stately ballroom on the main level of the American Embassy.  The oval shaped room featured fabulous gold leaf mouldings, marble pillars, stunning crystal chandeliers and a spectacular domed ceiling.

They were surrounded by what Jessica guessed to be at least one hundred other couples, all dressed in formal attire.  The orchestra boasted a large brass section, keyboards, guitars, bass, percussion and a full string section and performed an amazing repertoire of songs, many of which reminded Jessica fondly of her late husband, Frank.  The room was full of energy and Jessica was happy to see so many couples dancing and enjoying themselves.

Those who were not whirling around the ballroom floor could be found sipping champagne and nibbling on chicken roulades with mascarpone cheese, shrimp ceviche or other assorted hors d’oeuvres, socializing in small groups or both.

This was not Jessica’s first visit to the Embassy and as such she recognized several familiar faces.  She was greeted warmly by Peter and Sarah Lundeen.  Peter worked in the Cultural Office and was responsible for organizing the evening’s event.  Also in attendance were Ian and Priscilla McMasters.  Ian was a very successful publisher of children’s books and Priscilla was not only his wife, but one of his best-selling authors as well.  The final couple who made up their small group at the moment was Edmond and Jane Tanck.  Jessica had met them some years earlier at a small party, following a theatre production in London. 

“It seems as though Jessica knows nearly every person in attendance this evening, “Michael joked after he had been introduced to Edmond and his wife.  The conversation was pleasant and upbeat and revolved primarily around Ian and Priscilla’s children’s literacy project, which was the reason for tonight’s fundraiser.

“Have you had the pleasure of meeting the esteemed David LIttlewood, Jessica?” Peter asked with a not so subtle hint of contempt.  Dismayed, Sarah Lundeen gave her husband’s elbow a hard squeeze.  “Peter, behave,” she admonished.  “David LIttlewood may very well be the next King of England.”

“Oh, poppycock,” Peter replied before the razor sharp glare that he received from his wife effectively cut off the remainder of his intended words. 

Trying to ignore their exchange, Jessica answered, “Actually, no.  Neither Michael nor I have met Mr. Littlewood or his wife, but if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, we would love to, wouldn’t we, Michael?”

“Yes, of course,” he answered, offering Jessica his arm after Edmond had graciously agreed to do the honors.  After bidding the others farewell, Jessica, Michael and the Tancks made their way around the perimeter of the now crowded room to where David Littlewood, with his wife on his arm, chatted with Reginald Brosnan, Minister Counselor of Political Affairs.

When Reginald noticed Jessica, he greeted her with great deal of affection, kissing her on one cheek and then the other.  “Jessica, how wonderful to see you!  It has been far too long…and what may I ask are you doing with this scoundrel?” he added, smiling broadly, when he recognized Michael.

“Good to see you, Reggie,” Michael said, gripping the man’s outstretched hand and shaking it.  Next, Reginald greeted Edmond and Jane, who he also knew, with equal enthusiasm.  “Mrs. Fletcher and Mr. Haggerty were hoping to meet Mr. and Mrs. Littlewood,” Edmond said after he and Reginald had shaken hands.

“By all mean,” Brosnan said, turning to acknowledge the couple in question.  “Mr. and Mrs. David Littlewood, please let me introduce Mr. Michael Haggerty and Mrs. Jessica Fletcher.”

“Margaret Stone-Littlewood,” Mrs. Littlewood said, correcting Brosnan sharply as she transferred her ivory clutch purse from under her right arm to her left and offered her freshly manicured hand to Michael.  Mrs. Littlewood was dressed in a striking cream colored number that was accented with small sparkling gold colored beading.  She wore her long brown hair up, showing off a pair of spectacular ruby and diamond earrings and a matching necklace, which Jessica noted must have cost a small fortune.  

After greetings had been exchanged and more hands shaken, Margaret addressed Jessica in a very concerned tone.  “Mrs. Fletcher, I was so very upset to hear about the dreadful incident at LBC earlier today.  It must have been a very terrifying ordeal for you.”

“Yes, it was,” Jessica agreed whole heartedly, nodding her head.

“How is your friend, Chief Inspector Sutherland, is it?” she asked.  “I heard that he saved your life.”

“It seems that trouble follows you wherever you go, Jessica,” Reginald observed before Jessica could answer.

“Chief Inspector Sutherland will be fine,” Jessica assured them all, “and yes, Reginald, unfortunately, it seems that way sometimes,” she admitted wearily.

“It has been a rather dreadful week for Jessica,” Michael added, protectively wrapping his arm around her shoulders.

“That’s right,” David chimed in finally, “you were the unfortunate woman who discovered that young woman at Varanasi, weren’t you?”  he asked Jessica before turning his attention to the rest of the group.  “Has anyone heard whether Scotland Yard has arrested the perpetrator yet?  I’m afraid that I have been far too busy as of late to stay up on such news.”

“Then you’ll be glad to hear that Inspector Henderson and I spoke earlier today and he seemed very encouraged about the investigation.  Apparently, he has a couple of new leads,” Jessica volunteered.

“It’s about time,” Margaret commented, “I’ve already told David that I absolutely do not feel safe dining there any longer, which is a complete shame because it used to be one of my favorite restaurants,” she said, shuddering slightly as if there was a chill in the air.

“Did you know Miss Potter?” Jessica asked, looking slightly toward David. 

Before he could respond, his wife answered for him.   “No, not on a personal basis although I do believe that she may have been our hostess on several occasions when we have dined at the restaurant.”

“Did you know her well, Mrs. Fletcher?” Margaret asked.

“No, I’m afraid that I had never met her prior to that evening, but I assumed that you might have known her through Mr. Williamson.  I understand that he and Miss Potter’s father were well acquainted,” Jessica explained.

Just as her husband began to respond, Margaret answered for him, “No, I’m afraid not, Mrs. Fletcher. We aren’t in the habit of socializing with our employees or their boyhood friends,” she explained rather arrogantly.

Knowing exactly what Jessica was up to, but sensing that there wasn’t much more information to be gleaned from the further discussion of Sophie Potter’s murder, Michael very adeptly steered the discussion toward the topic of the alleged diary of Queen Elizabeth I.

 “We feel very confident with the expertise of the document examiner at the London Museum and although there certainly are no guarantees, we obviously hope that he finds the diary to be authentic,” David answered when asked about the diary and other documents, which were thought to prove his lineage.

“How long do you expect the examination process to take?” Edmond asked with great interest.

“We were notified by the museum just today that they plan to release their findings within the next few days, probably Tuesday of next week,” David informed them.

“Oh, how thrilling, don’t you think?” Jane asked excitedly.

“Yes, very,” Jessica agreed.  “You will have to excuse me for not being fully informed as I have only been in London for a few days, but wouldn’t it be expected, considering the ramifications, that ultimately more than one analysis of the diary would be necessary to prove its authenticity beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

“Yes, of course, but Mr. Underhill is one of the foremost examiners in the world, which is why we chose for him to be the first to examine it,” Margaret informed them.  “Personally, I am very confident that his findings will not only prove that David is indeed the direct descendant of Queen Elizabeth I but that they will also be integral in restoring Tudor House to its rightful place on the throne.”

“Can I assume then that since you are in attendance tonight that children’s literacy is an important issue that you plan to support in your new roles, whatever they may be,” Jessica asked. 

“Yes, of course, children’s literacy is very important to us,” David answered.

“Are there any other specific causes or issues that you, Mrs. Littlewood, plan to give your attention to?” Jessica asked, directing her question to Margaret.

“Stone-Littlewood,” she said, correcting Jessica.  “And yes, much like the late Princess Diana, I am primarily drawn to humanitarian causes which involve children, but there are also other issues that will be on my agenda.  You can be certain that the next time you visit London, you are not likely to find a hotel maintenance man murdered in your suite,” she added boldly.

After a few more minutes of chit chat, Reginald and the Littlewoods both excused themselves in order to continue mingling amongst the other attendees.

“Well, Jessica, what do you think of David and Margaret Littlewood?” Edmond asked.

“I don’t know if I’ve drawn a conclusion as of yet, but they do seem to be very sure of themselves,” Jessica replied.  Too sure, she added to herself. 

Edmond and Jane soon excused themselves, leaving Michael and Jessica alone.  “Jessica, I do believe that we should enjoy a dance together before this evening draws to a close,” Michael said as the orchestra began to play The Blue Danube by Strauss.

“Certainly, I’d love to,” Jessica said, allowing Michael to guide her onto the dance floor where they also danced to Chopin and Ravel. 

“Michael Haggerty, I had no idea that you were such a wonderful dancer,” Jessica said to him when La Valse had concluded.

“There is much that you don’t know about me, Jessica,” he answered suggestively.

“Well, I’ll have to take your word for it because I am exhausted,” Jessica said, laying her hand on his chest as she turned to leave the dance floor.  “I think that all of the excitement from this afternoon has finally caught up with me,” she added, looking back at him.

“Just one more dance?” he asked, grabbing her hand before she could escape from the dance floor.

Turning toward him again, she smiled before answering.  “Okay, Michael, one more dance and then we go back to the hotel and have dinner as…Oh, no, Michael,” she exclaimed, shaking her head and holding up a hand as though trying to stop traffic, when she heard the dramatic music of the tango begin.  “I’ve never been able to do the tango.”

“Then I’ll teach you,” he insisted, smiling broadly. 

“Michael, I don’t think that this is the best time or place to learn.”

The soothing Irish in his voice calmed the hint of panic in Jessica’s eyes when he answered, “Trust me, Jessica, before we’re finished, you’ll be addicted.”

“The starting position then,” he said before she could argue any further, “is a close embrace,” he instructed, pulling her in much more closely than he had earlier and making Jessica slightly uncomfortable by the intimacy of the position.    

“Relax, it’s just like walking” he assured her, “and don’t forget, we’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves.”   

How hard could it possibly be, Jessica thought to herself as she took a deep breath and tried to relax while following Michael’s graceful steps and complex figures.  Little by little, she soon found that she was enjoying the infectious dance very much. When the music stopped and the couples around them separated, Jessica was reminded that she had once heard the tango described as passion, as two people telling a story using only the music and their bodies.  An apt description, she decided as Michael escorted her from the dance floor.    



            As Michael pulled out from the underground security entrance, Jessica inquired as to why they hadn’t used the main gate, like the other guests.

            “Considering this afternoon’s events, it seemed the prudent thing to do,” Michael answered.  “Whether you are willing to admit it or not, Jessica, Sutherland and I were right,” he added.

            “Yes, I know,” Jessica admitted.  “I truly appreciate your concern and I undoubtedly owe you an apology for ordering you out of my room last night,” she added.

            “No apology necessary,” Michael said.  “I believe that both George and I are just happy that you are safe,” Michael said as he signaled and made a right hand turn.

            “Speaking of being safe, how did you know that something was going to happen at the radio station?” Jessica asked.

            “A wonderful little device called a police scanner,” Michael answered.  “From what the officers at the scene told me, 999 received a tip that your life might be in danger.  Nobody knew for sure, but when 999 contacted Sutherland, he ordered that officers were to be immediately dispatched to LBC, just in case.  I simply heard the dispatch from Scotland Yard.”    




            “You idiot,” an angry voice bellowed into a cellular phone.  “Not only did you miss her at LBC, but now you allow her to waltz into and out of the Embassy, right under your nose and poking around for evidence along the way.”

            “The target has neither entered nor exited the Embassy or I would have removed it, as per your orders.”

            “You fool, she just spent the past five minutes dancing the tango in front of two hundred people and stop talking that way.  Of course, she’s entered the building…just not through the main entrance,” the angry voice said, realizing the mistake that had been made. 

            “The main is the only entrance being utilized tonight and the security is just as I predicted, heavy but poorly trained and managed,” the assassin argued.   

            “Then there is obviously another means to entering the building.  Just forget it.  I’ll take care of her myself, when the time is right.”



“Dinner will be up shortly,” Michael said as he helped Jessica off with her coat.  After hanging it in the entry closet, he did the same with his own.  While Jessica indulged herself with exploring the dining and living room areas of the opulent suite, Michael turned on the gas fireplace.  It wasn’t as romantic as a wood fire would have been, but it would have to do.  He filled two champagne flutes with the sparkling golden liquid, which had been chilling in a silver ice bucket, and joined Jessica where she stood next to the French doors, which led to the balcony.  He handed her a flute and said exactly what she had been thinking, “The view from the balcony is lovely tonight.”

            “Yes, it is,” Jessica agreed.

            “I hope that it isn’t too cold to keep us from enjoying it for a few minutes while we wait for dinner to arrive,” Michael said.

            “Not for this New Englander,” Jessica replied, answering what Michael’s eyes clearly conveyed to be a challenge. 

            London certainly is a beautiful city,” Jessica observed as they leaned against the railing and looked out over the city.

            “How does it compare to New York?” Michael asked in response, gently beginning to probe the topic that was foremost on his mind – was Jessica as interested as he was to pursue a romantic relationship, now that he was moving to New York?

            “I do enjoy living in New York, but New York is where I work.  It isn’t home, not like Cabot Cove is anyway.  London, on the other hand, well,” she said before pausing to think for a moment.  “There is something about London that makes it more than just a city where I sometimes work.  I think that there must be something about the British Isles in general that draws me right in and makes me feel at home, much more so than New York does,” Jessica said, trying to explain a feeling that she couldn’t quite put into words.

            For a moment, the pair stood together in silence, looking out over the bright city lights and the sparkling stars in the clear sky above, each alone with their thoughts.         

Was George standing on his own balcony at that very moment, looking through the eyepiece of his telescope in search of some interesting star or constellation? Jessica wondered.  No, she decided, if he wasn’t still working, he was surely fast asleep, most likely on the leather sofa in the den, she imagined.

            Michael was thinking solely of Jessica, of how beautiful she was, standing there in the moonlight, and of how much he wanted to kiss her right at that moment. 

“Jessica, darlin’, dinner has arrived,” he announced when his thoughts were disturbed by a light rapping on the French doors, which separated the balcony from the living area of the suite.

            “Jessica?” he said again, reaching out to, gently touching her on the arm.

            “Oh, Michael, I’m sorry,” she said when she realized that she had mentally wandered off.

            “Where were you?” he asked as he opened the doors and ushered her inside, where the lights had been dimmed slightly and dozens of candles now shimmered around the room, adding to the warm glow emanating from the fireplace. 

“Just lost somewhere in the city, I guess,” Jessica answered.

Once they were seated at the table, which now sparkled with fine china, crystal and silver, their discussion returned to New York City and all of the wonderful things to do there.  After finishing a superb chocolate soufflé for dessert, Michael suggested that they enjoy their after dinner coffee in front of the fireplace. 

            “You certainly have outdone yourself, Michael.  Thank you so much.  I definitely needed a quiet end to a very frantic day,” Jessica said after they were both seated. “And I’m sure that George thanks you also, for providing me with a distraction for the evening,” she added with a knowing smile.

            “Well, George needn’t thank me.  It was my pleasure besides, as I recall, we had already planned this evening.  And as far as you are concerned, you can consider it a long overdue apology,” Michael said.

            “Apology?  Whatever for?” Jessica asked in surprise.

            “Well, for starters, following you around London the other day, leaving you sitting in jail in San Francisco, abducting you at gunpoint in D.C., and then there was Athens.  Need I go on?” he asked.    

            “No, no, you’ve made your point, but all of this,” Jessica said, gesturing around the room, “certainly wasn’t necessary.” 

            “Actually, Jessica, it is necessary.”  Here goes nothing, Michael thought.  “Jessica, I have something that I’ve been wanting to discuss with you, but before I do, I want you to promise me that you’ll think about what I have to say before you respond.“

            “But Michael,” Jessica started to say.

“Please, Jess, it’s rather important.”

            “Okay, Michael, go ahead.  What is it that you have to tell me?”

            “Jessica,” he said, picking up her hands in his and then looking directly into her striking eyes.  “If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk through my garden forever.  An old Irish saying, but very accurate none the less,” he began.

            Suddenly, everything became crystal clear, but even if Jessica had not agreed to consider what Michael had to say before speaking, she doubted that she would have been able to utter a single word, not after that particularly charming opening line at least, so she sat in silence while Michael continued.

            “I have never met another woman who is anything like you.  You are incredibly intelligent, persistent beyond belief, caring, very forgiving, and I mustn’t forget outrageously beautiful.  But what is probably most important is that you not only put up with me, but when necessary, you draw a line and stand firmly behind it.  You keep me in check and nobody has ever done that, not that I’d let ‘em, of course,” he added before pausing for a moment.

            “Michael, this is all very flattering…,” Jessica responded before he interrupted her.

            “I’m not finished yet,” he said, reaching up as though he was planning to cover her mouth with his hand, but then setting it back down again when she didn’t say another word.

            “You’re absolutely everything that has been missing in my life for all of these years; everything that my lifestyle would never accommodate; everything that I need and want now, more than ever.  I guess, what I’m trying to say, Jessica, is that I am in love with you.”

            Why didn’t I see this coming sooner, Jessica asked herself.  This certainly wasn’t the first time that Michael had indicated that he was interested in pursuing more than a casual friendship with her, but it was the first time that she was absolutely certain that he wasn’t simply being a harmless flirt.  Had she encouraged him?  No, she didn’t think so, but she had certainly never discouraged him either.   

            “Jessica, Parliament doesn’t take this long,” he commented when she failed to respond once he had finished, instead choosing to look into the dancing flames of the fireplace while gathering her thoughts. 

            Turning back to face him, she finally spoke, “Michael, I am so very sorry, but…”

            “But what?” Michael asked, clearly dreading her response.  Nothing good could possibly begin with those particular words.

            “But I’m…” she started again, her words trailed off as she turned away and looked into the fire again.

            “But you’re in love with Sutherland,” Michael finished for her.

            Jessica’s head quickly snapped back to Michael.  She couldn’t help but stare at him for a moment.  “How did you possibly know that?  I didn’t even know it until this afternoon.”

            Michael smiled weakly before responding.  “I was hoping that I was wrong, but it’s fairly obvious, especially when the two of you are together.  I think I just didn’t want to see it,” he added.  After pausing for a moment, he asked, “Does he know?”

            “I don’t know,” Jessica answered at length.

            “What do you mean, you don’t know?  Either you’ve told him or you haven’t,” Michael said, simplifying a very complex matter.

            “I told him, but it was after he hit his head.  I have no idea if he understood me, much less if he will remember.”

            “Then you’ll have to tell him again,” Michael suggested.

            “Wait a minute,” Jessica said, now thoroughly confused.  “This doesn’t make a bit of sense.  A minute ago, you’re telling me that you’re in love with me and now you’re encouraging me to tell George that I’m in love with him?  And I thought that falling in love with a man an ocean away was complicated,” she said, shaking her head.

            “That’s exactly what I’m suggesting that you do,” Michael replied.  “I wouldn’t be a gentleman if I didn’t step aside,” he explained.  That doesn’t mean I like it, he added silently to himself. 

            “And you and I?  We can still be friends?” Jessica asked hopefully.

            “For now, but you can be sure that I’ll be right there, waiting for the day that Sutherland mucks things up with you,” he answered with a roguish grin.

            “Oh, Michael,” Jessica scolded before playfully slapping him on the shoulder.  Fortunately for Jessica, she didn’t realize just how serious his statement had been.

            “Go on, Jessica, you’d better get some sleep.  Something tells me you’ve got a big day ahead of you tomorrow,” he said as he stood and reached down to help her up from the couch. 

            They were both silent until they reached the door.  “Thank you, Michael, for understanding,” Jessica said before giving him a peck on the cheek and opening the door to leave.

            “You’re welcome, Jessica, and be sure to tell Sutherland he’s a very lucky man,” he replied before closing the door behind her.  Lucky, but an ocean away, while I’ll be right there in New York waiting, he thought as he leaned back against the door.





Sensing someone’s presence, George awoke slowly from where he had fallen asleep in the den after completing his report in the early hours of the morning.  He was slightly confused, but pleasantly surprised to see Jessica standing in the doorway.

“Jessica,” he said sleepily as he struggled to sit himself up. “What time is it and what are you doing here?” he asked as he craned his head to get a clear view of the clock.  Six o’clock in the morning.  “You should be at your hotel, sleeping.”

“I did sleep, just not very well,” she answered.

“Well, come and sit down and tell me why you didn’t sleep very well,” he offered, stifling a yawn and patting the brown leather cushion beside him. 

Jessica joined him on the couch before explaining the reason for her early morning visit.  “I couldn’t sleep because I was worried about you, George, and I needed to make sure that you were okay,” she told him with worry pouring out along with her words. 

“I’m fine, Jess, just a few stitches and a mild concussion, that’s all,” he assured her, giving her hand, which rested in her lap, a gentle squeeze.  “I told you that when I rang you last night,” he reminded her.

“I needed to see for myself and you don’t look fine to me.  You’ve bled through your bandage,” Jessica noted, looking at his left shoulder where a dark red stain had penetrated his shirt.  

“Jessica, I really am okay,” he assured her.  “How about if I shower and change this dressing and then we can go have that breakfast I promised you last night.  Brown’s Hotel?” he asked with a smile. 

“How about if you get yourself cleaned up and I’ll cook breakfast right here,” Jessica countered.  “You certainly need more than a couple of hours of sleep and I doubt if you should be driving so soon after a concussion.”

“You’re right.  I probably could use a bit more sleep,” he admitted.  “Give me fifteen minutes,” he said before struggling slightly to stand up from his seat on the couch and escorting Jessica out of the den, down the hall and toward the kitchen.

The hot water that pulsated from the shower head slowly began to work at George’s sore, bruised muscles and relaxed the tension that surrounded his traumatized shoulder.  A long, hot shower was exactly what he had needed.  Too long, he thought as he remembered that Jessica was cooking breakfast and was probably waiting on him.  George stepped out of the shower and dried off as quickly possible.  He donned a fresh pair of boxer shorts and was in the midst of pulling on his trousers when he heard a soft knock on the bedroom door.


“Aye, Jess, I’ll be out in a minute,” he answered through the closed door. 

“I thought you might need some help with that dressing.  Can I come in?” Jessica asked as she slowly began to open the door.

“Aye, but I think I can manage,” he said as he retrieved a fresh shirt from the closet and laid it on the bed.

“You could just sit down and let me change it for you, since I’m here,” she suggested as she crossed the room toward him.

“Jessica, thank you for offering, but I really can do it myself,” George assured her.

“George, I’ve already figured out that that isn’t from flying glass.  I’m guessing that this is the entrance wound and this is the exit wound,” Jessica observed, indicating two stitched areas on the front and back of George’s shoulder.  “Now, stop being a stubborn Scotsman and sit down please,” she said firmly.

Unable to formulate any further argument, George sat down on the edge of the bed as she had instructed.  Jessica sat down next to him and began to apply a fresh dressing.    

“Were you planning on telling me that this was a gunshot wound?” she asked, eyes focused on the chore at hand.

“Honestly, I’m not sure,” he answered, wincing slightly at the pain in his shoulder as Jessica worked.

“That sounds suspiciously like a no to me,” she observed.

“I’m sorry, Jess, I just didn’t want to scare you unnecessarily.  It’s just a little flesh wound.  It barely grazed me,” he said, attempting to downplay the severity of the injury.

Oh, really?  That’s not what it looks like to me, Jessica thought to herself as she continued to work quietly. 

Before George could remind her of withholding information about her own injured shoulder earlier that same year, Jessica finally spoke again.  “George, do you remember everything that happened yesterday at the radio station?”

“Aye, but a few parts are a bit fuzzy still,” he answered.  “Why?”

“What do you remember from the time you entered the booth?” Jessica asked as she placed the final piece of tape on the bandage and looked up at him.

“Well…I remember seeing you…and then glass shattering as I stepped toward you.  Then, I remember hitting the ground and hearing Haggerty come in and then…”

“Then what?” Jessica prodded as she gently placed a hand on his.

“Then it was…well, dreamlike actually…until the paramedics arrived and Jensen tried to blind me with his pen light,” he added nervously, averting his eyes.

“And what happened in your dream?” Jessica prompted.

George was silent for a moment as he considered how exactly to answer.  He certainly couldn’t tell her that he had imagined that she had come to his side and comforted him as he lay on the floor, pain and fire shooting through his shoulder, blood flowing down his arm, his head throbbing and unclear.  He was almost certain that she had, but had she really told him that she was in love with him?  He wasn’t sure.  

His confused struggle passed visibly across his face, causing Jessica to smile and reach up to gently trace her finger along his jaw.  “It wasn’t a dream, George,” she said as she gazed deeply into his bright green eyes.  “I’m in love you.  I’m sure of it.”

“Oh, Jessie!” he exclaimed as he picked her up and whirled her around in a circle, despite only being able to use one arm.  His smile was broad and his eyes sparkled as he lowered her back to the floor.  “There are absolutely no words to tell you how happy I am to hear you say that.  I was afraid that I had imagined it all.” 

Jessica framed his face with her hands and kissed him gently on the lips.  “Then perhaps you would show me instead,” she said softly as she slowly ran her fingers through his damp hair.

George held her gaze, trying to read the emotions reflected there.  “You have no idea how much I would like to do exactly that, but I need to know that you’re sure, Jess, that you’re really ready.”   He gently cupped her chin in his hand and held her gaze on him.  “Are you?”

“I wouldn’t be here now if I wasn’t,” Jessica answered simply, “but I need you to understand something.  It’s been a very long time,” she confessed, suddenly nervous, her cheeks flushing as she tried unsuccessfully to look downward.

“You’re not going to get shy on me now, are you?” he chuckled.  “It’s been a long time for me, too,” he assured her.  “Fortunately, I don’t think it’s changed,” he added with a rascally grin. 

Sliding his hands down to her waist, he drew her close against him and lowered his mouth to hers once again.  Drawn deeply into the kiss, Jessica found herself overwhelmed with emotions and sensations that had been absent from her life for many years.     

Gently, he pulled her blouse free of her skirt as he continued to kiss her tenderly, all the while slowly and smoothly working the buttons of her blouse.  Jessica returned his tenderness, gently brushing his neck and shoulder with her lips.  The pleasure of feeling her warm, smooth skin beneath his hands as he finally slid her blouse from her shoulders surged through him.   

He fumbled at the back of her skirt, searching for a zipper that wasn’t there and causing her to laugh.  “Over here,” she whispered, gently leading his hand to the side.  Lifting her up from where her clothes were now pooled on the floor, he gently laid her down onto the bed, his bed. 

“I love you, Jessie,” he whispered before letting his lips journey along the slender column of her neck.  Her breath caught and released, shuddering as his clever hands swept over her.  In response she pulled him down against her. 

            “Not yet.  I want to look at you for a minute,” he said as he eased back.  “You’re as beautiful as a painting.  I can hardly believe how perfect you are,” he said quietly as he explored her face softly with his fingertips. 

Removing his hands from her for only a moment, he managed to discard what clothes he had pulled on earlier.  Desire, pleasure and indulgence intertwined with the feel of flesh against flesh as she moved smoothly beneath his slow, easy hands.  With unbearable tenderness, her hands roamed over him as well, causing his heart to pound feverishly.  He waited, patiently watching her face, filling himself with her vision while keeping his pace slow and easy until finally with her murmured approval, he buried himself with one smooth, intense motion.   

Flooded by a wave of passion, Jessica’s heart felt ready to burst.  Opening her eyes, she looked deeply into his as they climbed together, steadily, brilliantly, until she plunged off the edge, falling freely.  His mouth came to hers as he tumbled with her.    

George couldn’t speak when Jessica’s hands finally slid from his back.  His mind, still lost in her, seemed to be barely conscious.   Only his heart seemed to be functioning as it still pounded rapidly in his chest.  Eventually, he shifted his body, drew her close, and kissed her again before listening quietly to the morning rain until they both fell asleep.

Jessica awoke some time later.  She could feel George’s arm across her waist, his warm breath on her hair and the warmth of his chest against her cheek.  Feeling no awkwardness, only a deep tranquility, she snuggled closer to him and lay quietly.  Each of them had given the other something of themselves that couldn’t be taken back.  I could stay right here forever, she thought to herself. 

She lay awake for a short time, completely content, but without allowing herself to doze off again.  It was the middle of the morning, certainly not a good time for a nap, she struggled to convince herself before beginning to slowly and gently disentangle herself from George’s embrace.  After yesterday, George would undoubtedly be exhausted and was sure to sleep for several hours.  She, on the other hand, had left a mess in the kitchen that needed to be cleaned up.   

“Nae oan yer life, Jessica.  Yoo’re nae gonnae anywhaur,” George said in his deep brogue as he caught her, pulled her close again and looked down into her beautiful blue eyes.   

“Guid laird, Jessie, yoo’re bonnie,” he whispered quietly as he traced finger along her cheek.  Ur ye aw reit?” he asked as he brought his gaze up again to meet hers.  When she didn’t answer him immediately a slight panic set in.  “Jessie, ur ye aw reit?” he asked again, fearing for a moment that her silence indicated that something was terribly wrong, that perhaps she regretted what had transpired between them.

“Yes...yes, I’m fine,” she finally responded with a smile.  With a contented sigh, Jessica closed her eyes and let her head fall against his chest once more.  “I’ve just never heard your accent come through so strongly,” she explained, playfully mocking him.  “For a moment, I wasn’t even sure you were speaking English,” she added teasingly.

“Of course, I’m ‘spikin English,” he responded, bringing his mouth down to her ear and nipping it gently.  “It only happens when I’m exceedingly tired or exceedingly happy and I happen to be both at the moment,” he added.  “Now, are you sure you’re all right?  You’re not…hurt in any way?” he asked cautiously. 

“Heavens no, I’m perfectly fine” she said, smiling and tilting her head back so that she could better see his face.  “Absolutely terrific,” she repeated faintly.

“Then where were you off to in such a hurry, may I ask?” he said, suddenly looking very serious.

“Just to put a few things away in the kitchen and I also thought that I’d let you get some rest,” Jessica answered.

“Aye, our breakfast, I forgot about that,” he said.  “It’s no wonder that I adore you so, my ever practical Jessica.  I guess we’ll just have to have brunch instead,” he added before pausing for a moment.  “Did you just say ‘terrific’?” he asked before kissing her lightly on the forehead.

“Yes, I said terrific,” she answered with a light laugh.  He continued to kiss her, nibbling along her jaw line and nuzzling her neck. 

“George, what are you doing?”

“I think that’s fairly obvious, Jessica, but since ye asked, ah was thinkin’ that noo we’d try for ootstandin’,” he replied, letting his voice slide back into a deep burr.  “Perhaps magnificent,” he continued between kisses, “or maybe even phenomenal,” he said, meeting her eyes and grinning.

“Now?” Jessica asked weakly.  “I have an interview today and your shoulder…”

“I believe we’ve established that my shoulder is doing quite well, thank you, and…,” George paused as he peered at the clock briefly, “your interview isn’t for another four and a half hours.  And unless my memory is failing me, there isn’t anything else on your schedule the remainder of the day.”

He brought his lips to hers in a deep kiss, which he deepened slowly and convincingly, drawing in not only her body, but her heart and mind as well. 

“No, not a thing,” she finally replied with a dreaminess in her voice, her breathing deep and relaxed.    

“Guid.  Then we should ‘ave plenty ay time fur phenomenal,” he said before kissing her again.


            Later that morning, Jessica was seated comfortably in the den, in front of George’s computer.  At his insistence, she had left him alone in the kitchen to prepare lunch for the two of them.  After following his instructions and connecting to the Internet, she logged onto her e-mail account in hopes of catching up with a few people from home.

            Seth and Mort had each left a short message several days ago, letting her know that all was well in Cabot Cove and wishing her a safe trip home.  Vaughan Buckley had sent a message once again thanking Jessica for agreeing to return to New York.  He also mentioned the fact that Olga now had several of the flat surfaces in their home covered with travel brochures and books about Venice and that she had also been on the telephone with the travel agent repeatedly, planning their upcoming trip.  The final message of importance was from Grady and Donna and included their itinerary while in the United Kingdom and a new photo of little Frank, playing with a toy dinosaur.  Grady and Donna would be meeting Jessica and George in Southampton before boarding the Queen Mary 2 for a westward transatlantic crossing.  Jessica replied with a short message to each.  To Seth and Mort, she included added assurances that all was well in London despite any news reports to the contrary.  After hitting the send button, she found George’s “favorites” list and double-clicked on the London Times with the intention of catching up on some current events other than those that she had been personally involved in over the past week. 

            Oh, my goodness! Jessica nearly exclaimed aloud when her most recent publicity photo downloaded on the screen in front of her.  She shook her head slightly as she read the accompanying headline, “American mystery writer saved by Scotland Yard inspector.”  As she skimmed through the article, she noticed that both her name and George’s name were highlighted in blue indicating that each had a separate link to another web page.  Moving the cursor over George’s name, she double-clicked and was rewarded with an impressive list of archived articles.  She scanned the headlines, opened several articles and skimmed each.  Chief Inspector George Sutherland was most definitely a successful and well respected homicide detective.  Jessica returned to the list of articles and scanned more titles until she found one that was decidedly different from the others.  She double-clicked and the full-text version of the news report soon appeared on the computer screen.   


Lady Sutherland dies following automobile accident.   

Lady Emily Sarah Sutherland, 39, died Thursday evening at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.  Surgeons performed an emergency Cesarean Section, but were unable to save either mother or son, the Hon. Thomas Baker Sutherland.  Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the accident and will continue to investigate.

Lady Sutherland was the wife of New Scotland Yard Inspector, Sir George Sutherland, who was appointed to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire after single-handedly thwarting the attempted kidnapping of Lady Elizabeth Phillips, wife of Lord Charles Phillips, in Edinburgh in 1978.  Sutherland suffered a life threatening gunshot wound during that incident. 

     At the time of her death, Lady Sutherland was employed as a nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington.  She was an active member and volunteer for several local community organizations and the only child of Donald and Sarah Baker, London. [8 April, 1980]


            Jessica’s heart began to ache for George as she read the short article. She was suddenly reminded of the inscription that she had noticed in the Mother Goose book in George’s living room.  For Thomas, Love, Mummy and Daddy. 

            “Jessica, lunch is ready,” George announced as he poked his head around the corner and into the room.

            Sir George Sutherland?  Jessica thought.   What had he called it?  ‘…just my commander’s badge.’ 

            “Jessica? Is there something wrong back home? ” George asked, concerned when she didn’t answer. 

            His deep voice jolted her from her thoughts.  “Oh…no…everything is fine back home,” she said as she quickly began to close the windows on the computer screen, but not before George got a quick glance of the current day’s headlines as he joined her at the computer. 

            “Jessica, you made the front page of the Times!  Well, that certainly has the potential to cause some distractions during your interview this afternoon, now, doesn’t it?” he commented.  “But that’s not what’s the matter, is it?”

            “No,” she answered and then paused for a moment to collect her thoughts.  “No, there’s nothing the matter,” she said with a forced smile as she closed the final window and disconnected from the Internet.  “Let’s have some lunch.  I’m starving,” Jessica suggested as she stood up and began to step toward the door. 

George stepped directly into her path and gently placed his hands on her arms.  “Jessica, I know there’s something wrong.  I can see it in your eyes,” he said very gently.  “Something has made you very sad,” he continued as he leaned his head forward and rested his forehead against hers.  “I don’t like to see you sad, Jess, but I will respect the fact that you don’t wish to discuss it, for now.  Just remember that when you do, you can talk to me about it, whatever it may be,” he said before kissing her forehead and drawing her into his arms. 

“Ready for lunch, then?” he asked as he released her a few moments later.

“Of course,” Jessica replied enthusiastically.  “I’m famished.”

“Lead the way,” he insisted and followed her from the room.


“George, where in the world did you learn to cook like this?” Jessica asked as they began to clear the kitchen table after a hearty lunch of breakfast fare including croissant French toast with soft caramel apples, perfect scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, orange juice and coffee.

“Where did I learn to cook?” George repeated, clearly stalling.  “I guess I just picked it up somewhere,” he replied none too convincingly, as he began to load the dishwasher. 

“You’re stalling,” Jessica pointed out.

“You mean specifically, then?” he asked.

“Yes, I mean specifically,” Jessica answered.

At length he finally answered.   “I guess I’d have to say in my grandmother’s kitchen.”  

“Your grandmother’s kitchen?” Jessica asked, somewhat surprised.

“Aye, it just so happens that peeling potatoes in my grandmother’s kitchen was the Sutherland equivalent of the modern day grounding,” he explained.

“Just how much time did you spend being grounded because that French toast was scrumptious?” Jessica asked, as she placed the orange juice back into the refrigerator.

“No more than any other Sutherland lad,” he answered with a bit of a grin.  “I wasn’t a little hooligan by any means, Jess, although my sisters might disagree with that statement,” he added as he closed the dishwasher and began to fill the sink with warm, soapy water.

“I nearly forgot,” Jessica said as she soaked a washcloth in the soapy water and began to wash off the table.  “You sister, Alana, stopped by while you were in the shower earlier.  You know, she had quite a scare when she read the morning paper.”

“I’m sure she did,” George said, not really believing it as he had made certain to call at least one of his sisters the previous night to spread the word that he had escaped yesterday’s incident without serious injury.  He had learned long ago that it was best to keep his sisters in the loop about certain things thus avoiding the likelihood of having to deal with six mother hens.

“And after you assured her that I was perfectly fine?” George asked, suspecting that there might be something more behind his youngest sister’s impromptu visit. 

“Actually, we had a very pleasant conversation,” Jessica recalled as she exchanged her washcloth for a dry towel.

“In that case, I imagine we’ve been invited to afternoon tea later today?” 

George laughed at Jessica’s quizzical expression.  “How did you know that?” she asked.

“Jessica, my love, you are clearly about to be ambushed,” George said as he crossed the room and gave her a light kiss on the forehead. 

“Ambushed?” Jessica asked contemplatively.

George nodded.  Ambushed,” he reiterated, emphasizing the word.

Jessica considered that for a moment.  “George, there is no possible way that she could have known that we…” Jessica started, but then trailed off.

“Of course not, but they certainly suspect it.  Think about it, Jessica.  You answered the telephone the other night when Collette called and the door today when Alana dropped in unexpectedly.  Surely, if our positions were reversed and I answered your telephone and your door, whether it was true or not, your brothers would suspect that something was up.”

“Yes, I’m sure they would,” Jessica decided.  “But, George, you have to be exaggerating just a bit.  I’m sure that having afternoon tea with your sisters will be a very pleasant experience.  It might even be fun.  Alana and Collette both seem like very nice people.”

“Yes, they are, and so are Rebecca, Tessa, Ailsa and Brigitte and I have every confidence that you can handle the lot of them.  Now, enough about my family for a bit, it’s getting late and I have something I’d like to give to you before we head back to your hotel,” he said before Jessica had a chance to tally the names that George had rattled off.  George guided Jessica into the living room, retrieved a small wooden box from the top shelf and handed it to her.

“It’s beautiful, George,” she said as she turned the delicately carved box over in her hands, admiring the craftsmanship.  “Now I remember!  This is what you hid in your pocket the other night.”

George couldn’t help but smile at her.  “Aye, it is.  As I’ve said before, you never do miss much, but the box is only one half of the gift.  Open it,” he urged.

At Jessica’s noticeable hesitation, George slowly began to raise the hinged lid of the box.  “It’s not going to bite you,” he assured her.

“The broach!” Jessica exclaimed.  “It really is lovely, George,” she said before rising up to kiss him on the cheek.  “Thank you.”

“You recognize it then?  The very same broach that you unearthed when you were snooping through my desk the other night,” he teased.

“I really was looking for your telephone book,” Jessica replied, eliciting a deep laugh from George.

“It makes for a good cover story, but that’s not important.”  As he removed the broach from its box he continued, “I found this in a little shop in Edinburgh and it made me think of you,” he explained.  “Do you know what it is?”

“I can’t say for sure.  It looks like a shield knot, but is isn’t Celtic, is it?” she wondered aloud.

“No, it’s Scottish, but the idea is the same,” he explained as he turned the silver broach over in his fingers.

“And you thought of me when you saw it because you think that I need to be protected,” she surmised.

Actually, Jessica, the fact that you are a fiercely independent woman happens to be one of the things that I adore about you.  Mostly, I thought that you would appreciate and enjoy a beautiful piece of jewelry, but the other did play a small part.  I must admit that on occasion… well, quite a bit over the past few days to be honest, I do feel the need to protect you.”

“My brave, gallant knight, Sir George,” Jessica responded, slightly amused by his explanation.  Reaching up, she touched his cheek softly.

George froze instantly.  “What did you just call me?” he asked with eyes narrowed slightly.

“My brave, gallant knight?” Jessica answered with a smile playing about her lips.

“No, Jess, the rest of it,” he said, gesturing for her to repeat the rest of her words.

“Oh, you mean the ‘Sir George’ part,” she answered with a triumphant smile.  “You are ‘Sir George,’ aren’t you?”  she asked, clearly pleased with the baffled expression on his face.

“Less than four bloody days!” he exclaimed with a hearty laugh.  “I was sure it would take a week, maybe a month, but not four days.  I can’t believe it,” he said, shaking his head.

“You’re not the least bit annoyed that I inadvertently dug into your past then?” Jessica asked, slightly relieved.

“Of course not.  I love you too much to intentionally keep secrets from you, Jessica; besides, you’d just dig them up eventually anyway.  I might consider it under the most extreme of circumstances, to keep you safe, but otherwise no.  Actually, I was going to mention it the other night, but I was hoping to save it as a sort of surprise,” he explained.

“What kind of surprise?” Jessica asked, confused.

“Well, each June, there is a formal ball at Windsor Castle, to which I am invited. I thought that you might enjoy attending and I was hoping that I could entice you to accompany me this year.  Aside from enjoying the ball, it never occurred to me that it would be important to you.  It’s just a title, one I don’t even use unless absolutely necessary because it’s really not who I am,” he finished.  “Now, tell me how you figured it out,” he said before pausing for a moment.  “You “Googled me, didn’t you?” he asked before she could answer.

“Not exactly, the London Times has a fairly extensive online version of its archives.  There was a link from this morning’s front page," Jessica explained. 

“I should have guessed that,” he replied.  “Jessica, what are you staring at?”

“You,” she answered simply.  “You really don’t see it, do you?  That is exactly who you are.  Not the fussy title, but everything else.  You’re selfless, loyal, humble, honest, and brave.”

Jessica was slightly amused when she noticed George attempt to loosen his collar with one finger.  He’s embarrassed, she thought to herself.  She couldn’t remember ever seeing him embarrassed before.  She continued to observe as he reached up toward his collar again, this time loosening his tie. 

“Jess, we should be going,” he suggested, glancing at his watch.  He placed the broach back into its box, closed the lid and gave it back to Jessica before leading her to the front door. 

“George?”  Jessica asked as he helped her into her coat. 

“Aye,” he answered quietly, his face still slightly flushed with embarrassment.

“Your gift is lovely and means a great deal to me. Thank you,” she answered before kissing him gently on the lips. 



A short time later, George pulled the car up to the front entrance of The Savoy.  “Sir George,” Jessica said aloud as if giving the name a great deal of consideration.

All George could do was groan audibly and roll his eyes as he laid his head back against the headrest.

“You don’t mind if I call you that, do you?” Jessica teased. 

“There would have to be specific conditions,” George responded as he slowly rolled his head to face her. 

“Let’s hear them, then,” Jessica invited.

“Only in private,” he said, sitting up straight and facing her.

“Done.  Next?” Jessica prompted.

On impulse, George answered, “My second condition would be that you agree to be Lady Jessica.”

“Very funny, George,” she said, patting him on the arm.  “Now, I really need to run or I’m going to be late for my interview.  I’ll call you when I get back?” 


She didn’t say ‘no,’ George thought to himself, stunned. 

Don’t be daft, Sutherland, she didn’t even think you were serious.  Then again, her first instinct wasn’t to say ‘no.’ 

What could you possibly have been thinking?  

I wasn’t thinking.  The words just came out.  

Is this good or very, very bad?  I have no idea. 

Okay, George, perhaps a bit more planning and preparation are in order next time and make sure you’ve got the bloody ring with you!


“George?” Are you all right?” Jessica asked when he simply stared at her.

“Aye, sorry, Jess.  What were you saying?” he answered, suddenly snapping back to the present.

“I’ll call you when I get back,” she repeated.

“Aye, when you get back,” he confirmed, nodding his head, but clearly clueless to what she was talking about.

“George, are you sure you should be driving?  You are on mandatory medical leave and you did hit your head pretty hard yesterday,” she reminded him.

“Yes, Jessica, I’m perfectly fine,” he assured her.  “If I’m not at home when you finish, you can ring me on my cellular.  I have a couple of errands to attend to yet today so I’ll be out for a bit.”

After helping her out of the car and escorting her up to her suite, despite her insistence that he not, George headed for his office.  Medical leave or not, he had work to do, but much to his dismay, his mind kept wandering back to Jessica and the fact that she hadn’t said ‘no’.



After a quick shower, Jessica donned a plush white robe, which had been provided by the hotel, and began to dry her hair with a towel.  Hearing a faint knock, Jessica rushed into the outer room to find Susan at the door, a full hour earlier than planned.

“Susan, you’re an hour early,” Jessica said after opening the door to allow her into the suite.

“And we’re going to need every minute of it,” she said, hurrying into the room and depositing her briefcase on the dining room table.

“For what?” Jessica asked.

“To prep you for your interview,” Susan answered without looking up.  After emptying her briefcase, she doffed her coat and hung it on the back of a chair.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Jessica said as she took a seat across the table, instinctively using one hand to hold the top of her robe closed.

“This should help to explain it,” Susan said as she slid several newspapers across the table.

The first was a copy of the most recent edition of the weekly tabloid paper, The Star, which was folded open to page three.  In the lower right hand corner was a photo of George leaning in close to Jessica and speaking into her ear.  Obviously, it had been taken during intermission at the opening of “Yours Truly, Damian Sinclair.”  As Jessica looked at the photo, she realized how easily it could be misinterpreted, especially with the accompanying headline “Famed mystery novelist cozies up to Scotland Yard inspector.”

Setting The Star aside, she picked up the morning edition of the London Times.  She was not at all surprised to see her photo along with the same article that she had already read online earlier that morning.  After considering how the two stories could affect her upcoming interview, she asked, “How much control do we have over the questions that I am expected to answer?  I would really prefer to stick to discussing my book.”

“I can try to establish some boundaries, but they are going to want something, especially if they’ve read today’s society page,” Susan explained, reaching across the table to find the correct section of the newspaper.  There, on the center of the page, was a full color picture of Michael and Jessica dancing at the Embassy party the previous evening.  Not only were they dancing, but they were dancing the tango.

“Oh, my!” Jessica exclaimed.  “I see what you mean.  Why don’t I get dressed and then you can tell me exactly how we should handle this, if it comes up,” she added optimistically.

Two hours later, her interview now over, Jessica sat down heavily and sighed.

“I think that went rather well,” Susan commented as she finished gathering her things from the table and placed them back into her briefcase.

“Thanks to you,” Jessica said, very relieved to have avoided any questions about Sophie Potter, the incident at LBC, George or Michael.  “How did you know that she would accept our terms?”

“With your track record for solving murders, she would have been foolish not to agree.  We got what we wanted, no questions about Inspector Sutherland, Mr. Haggerty or anything else unrelated to your new book and she got what she needed in order to write her article plus the added bonus of an exclusive interview if you are the one who solves Sophie Potter’s murder.  As long as you don’t do that, you’re finished with all of your commitments for this trip.”  



            After Susan and Jessica had exchanged farewells, Jessica retrieved a small address book from her handbag, sat down at the desk and called George on his cellular phone.

            “Sutherland,” he answered as was his habit, especially when working.  As Jessica told him that her interview was finished and that she was ready to leave whenever he was, she heard several voices in the background, voices that clearly indicated that he was working.

            “Almost finished here,” he replied, obviously distracted.

            “I thought you were running errands this afternoon.  It sounds to me like you’re working.”

            “Just trying to wrap up a couple of things before we leave on holiday,” he answered as Jessica noticed the background noise stop abruptly.

            “I won’t bother to remind you that you’re on mandatory medical leave,” Jessica said as she heard a knock on the door.

            “You just did,” George pointed out.  “Better answer the door, Jess,” he suggested as she began to cross the room with that very intention.

            As she reached for the door knob, she wondered just exactly how he could have possibly heard someone knocking on her door unless...  “I don’t think I should,” she responded.  “It might not be safe,” she added with a laugh.

            “Just open the bloody door, will you?” George asked, feigning annoyance.

            “Hi, Jess,” he said with a playful grin once she finally opened the door.

            “Where were you just now?” Jessica asked once he had stepped inside and she had closed the door.

            “Down the hall,” he replied, indicating Michael’s suite.  “Haggerty might be able to help us match the slugs that the crime scene lads collected from LBC.”

            “Michael?” Jessica asked, slightly surprised.

            “Aye, he has access to some information that I don’t.”

            “Are you saying that you think that it was a professional assassin?” Jessica asked, suddenly feeling a bit uneasy.

            “I’m just covering all of the possibilities,” George answered, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and squeezing gently.

            “And that’s why Constable Fields is posted outside my door again?” Jessica surmised.

            “Aye, how was your interview?” George asked, trying to change the subject.

            “Good, thanks to Susan’s creativity and quick thinking,” Jessica answered.  When George looked at her with a curious expression she suggested that they relax in the living room for a few minutes while she explained about the deal that she and Susan had struck up with the reporter. 

            “Have you seen the Times’ society page today?” Jessica asked after having already shown him the most recent edition of The Star, which included a picture of the two of them at the theatre.

            “I don’t generally read the society page,” George answered in response.  “Where is it?” he asked, now quite curious.

            “Right here,” Jessica said, picking up the newspaper from the end table next to her and handing it to him.

            “Ah,” George said, nodding his head slightly.  “I can see where this might have caused some problems, considering the photo of us in The Star.  Your Ms. Rogers certainly handled the situation well,” he acknowledged.

            “Yes, she did,” Jessica agreed.

            After an uncomfortable moment of silence, George finally asked, “Jessica, are you concerned that I might be upset by this photo?”

            “The thought had crossed my mind,” she admitted.

            “Well, based on all of the evidence in my possession, I’d have to say that that particular photo depicts nothing more than two friends enjoying a dance together at the American Embassy party last night.”

            “All of the evidence in your possession?” Jessica asked.

            “Aye, all of the evidence.  First off, I can tell you for a fact that Haggerty is more than a wee bit cranky today, not his usual cheery self, you could say. And second, I know you well enough to realize that if there was anything more to that photograph than meets the eye, you never would have come to my loft this morning and we never would have…done our own version of the tango,” he finished.

            Jessica couldn’t help but laugh, as George had intended for her to do.  “I am curious about one thing, though,” he admitted.

            “What’s that?” Jessica asked hesitantly.

            “When am I going to get to see you in that red dress again?” 

George leaned in close and kissed her tenderly on the lips.  “Do you have any idea how amazing you look in that dress?” he whispered in her ear before starting to kiss her on the neck, sending shivers through her body.

            “I’m starting to,” Jessica answered.  “George, we’re going to be late for tea,” she reminded him

            “We don’t have to go,” he murmured.

            “Of course, we do,” Jessica asserted.

            “What if I told you I’ve had a pounding headache all afternoon?”

            “I’d offer to get you some aspirin and recommend that you get a good night’s rest…after we have tea.”

            “Okay, you win, Jess,” he said reluctantly as he pulled away from her, “but I will remember exactly where we left off,” he assured her before kissing her one last time.

            “I have no doubt about it,” Jessica responded.  “Do you still need that aspirin?”

            “Aye, if you have it.  I wasn’t putting on about the headache.”



            George parked the car in front of a two story brick home, which like its twin on the far end of the block, formed bookends for a row of closely packed houses.  The sky was overcast and had released a few drops of rain during the drive, but the downpour that had been predicted had yet to become a reality.  George grabbed his umbrella from the back seat, just in case.

            As they walked toward the front door Jessica said to George, “You look nervous.”   

            “Me?  Not a bit,” he answered, loosening his collar with one finger.   “As a matter of fact, I just realized that this might very well be fun,” he added with a sly smile.

            “Good, I’m glad you feel that way,” Jessica responded, “you were starting to make me nervous.”

            “No reason to be nervous, Jess, I’m sure I won’t be too far away,” he said as they climbed the four concrete steps that led to the front door.  At Jessica’s baffled expression, George couldn’t help but laugh.  “You don’t honestly think that they’re going to allow me to hang around, do you?  They will likely have dispensed with me in no more than five minutes,” he added before knocking on the door.

            “Now you’re trying to make me nervous,” Jessica replied before the door opened and Alana invited them into the quaint foyer.  Before they could all finish exchanging greetings, a tall, lanky boy of about seventeen bounded down the oak stairs that led to the second story.  “Bravo, Uncle George,” he said, handing a copy of another tabloid newspaper to George.  “Keys?” he asked, turning his palm up and smiling excitedly. 

            “Quinn!” his mother exclaimed.  “That’s not a proper welcome for your uncle and Mrs. Fletcher?” she scolded.

            “Sorry, mum,” he pouted, “but Uncle George promised that I could drive his Jaguar,” he explained before extending his hand to Jessica and introducing himself properly.

            “As I recall, there were conditions,” George reminded him. 

            Before the words were even out of George’s mouth, the young man withdrew his provisional license from his wallet and handed it to his uncle. 

            “You’ve written your theory test?” George asked.

            “Aye, and I figured you’d want to be my licensed driver,” he added.  “Keys please,” he asked again, clearly pleased with himself.

            “Jessica, do you mind?” George asked not yet sure if he wanted to leave her alone in order to take his nephew driving. 

“Not at all,” she answered, giving his arm an affectionate squeeze.  “You boys have fun while we ladies enjoy our tea.” 

George reluctantly removed his keys from his pocket and tossed them to his nephew.  “Not a scratch,” he warned as the boy bolted out the door and down the steps.

The whistle of a tea pot could be heard coming from the kitchen.  “George, you’ll show Jessica into the dining room before you go, won’t you?  I should tend to things in the kitchen,” Alana said, excusing herself.

“Of course,” he answered.  “You’re sure?” he asked again, once his sister was gone.

“Positive,” Jessica answered before giving him a kiss on the cheek.  “I’ve been looking forward to meeting all of your sisters.  Now, you’d better show me to the dining room before Quinn leaves without you,” Jessica teased.

“Good point,” George replied before escorting Jessica into the dining room, introducing her to Colette, Rebecca, Tessa, Ailsa, and Brigitte, and assuring each of them he hadn’t been injured too badly.  “I trust you ladies will be on your best behavior while I’m gone,” he cautioned them before he left.

            “George must think we’re planning to interrogate you or something?” Brigitte commented once he was gone.

“I believe he used the word ‘ambush’,” Jessica replied.

“He did?” Brigitte said with a laugh.

            “He’s always been overprotective,” Rebecca reminded her.  “If he hadn’t gone off to university, none of us would ever have had a date.”

            “I wouldn’t complain if I were you, Becca.  George has always been a good judge of character,” Colette reminded her sister.  “You might have ended up married to that McGregor lad if George hadn’t scared him off.”

            “Don’t remind me,” Rebecca said.  “You know, I really should thank him for that one of these days.”

            “Don’t listen to them, Jessica,” Ailsa assured her.  “They’re exaggerating terribly,” she added before offering to help Alana serve the tea, cucumber sandwiches and scones.

            “Believe me. I understand exactly how they feel.  I have two older brothers myself,” Jessica said as Ailsa offered her a selection of tea bags.

            “Truth be told, Jessica, we simply wanted to meet the woman who is responsible for making our brother so happy,” Alana said giving Jessica a knowing look as she set a platter of scones in the center of the large, oval table.

            Before Jessica could respond, Tessa spoke.  “Shush, Alana, for all we know Jessica and George are merely friends,” she said sympathetically.   

            Sensing all eyes on her, Jessica couldn’t help but blush a little.   “Actually, George and I have been friends for many years,” she said noncommittally before selecting a sandwich from a second platter.

            “Well, if that’s the extent of it, George had better find a way to remedy the situation because he’d be a fool not to,” Brigitte chimed in, causing Jessica to blush even more.

            “I agree, but I think we’re embarrassing Jessica,” Colette said, “She’s not here to be grilled by us,” she added as she poured a small amount of milk into her tea. 

Jessica sighed inwardly and gave Colette a silent look of ‘thank you.’

            “If you don’t mind, I would like to talk about Jessica’s new book,” Tessa said eagerly.

            “Not another word while I’m in the room,” Alana said, covering her ears with her hands.  “I still have two chapters left before I’m finished.”

            “We could use some more cream,” Tessa suggested, causing Alana to retreat into the kitchen to refill the creamer.  “You’ve got two minutes, Tess.”

            Until that moment, Jessica had no idea that one person could ask so many thought provoking questions in a two minute span of time, but somehow they managed to touch on at least a few of the more intricate details of Jessica’s new book in the time allowed.

            “You’ll have to excuse Tessa,” Colette said, “If the title didn’t already belong to George, we could call her our resident Sherlock Holmes.”

“I prefer to be compared to Lara McClintoch, myself,” Tessa replied, referring to the protagonist in Lyn Hamilton’s The Celtic Riddle. 

The whirlwind of conversation created by the seven women remained light and friendly and soon shifted from mystery novels to the theatre.

“Speaking of the theatre, did everyone see the picture of Jessica and George in The Star this week?” Rebecca asked.

“You’re joking!  George in The Star?  I have to see this.  Where is it?” Brigitte exclaimed excitedly. 

“Right here,” Alana said, waving the folded paper toward her sister. 

“Has he seen it?” Brigitte asked brightly after she had unfolded the paper and looked at the photo.  “It’s completely innocent, of course, but knowing George, I bet he’s beyond mortified,” she said.  “It’s nothing personal, Jessica, but the lads at The Yard are relentless about this sort of thing.”

“I imagine that they are,” Jessica agreed before taking a sip of her tea.

“But he’s seen it?” Brigitte asked again gleefully as she handed the paper to Tessa, who hadn’t seen it yet either.    

“Oh, yes, he’s seen it,” Jessica assured her, “and it didn’t seem to bother him a bit.”

“George?” Alana asked.  “I bet he started loosening his tie the second he saw it.”

“That’s the first thing he does when he gets nervous or embarrassed,” Ailsa explained for her sister.

“Are you sure?  I seem to remember that he loosens his collar with his index finger first,” Jessica commented.

“Jessica is absolutely right,” Colette said after a moment’s thought.  “He does do that first,” she added while at the same time thinking to herself that that was a rather intimate observation on Jessica’s part.  Meanwhile, all Jessica could do was to pray that no one had seen the picture of her and Michael. 

“Maybe the lads at The Yard will forget about it by the time he returns from holiday,” Ailsa offered.  “By the way, Jessica, I know it’s none of our business, but I still have to ask.   Where are the two of you going?  George won’t tell any of us,” she complained as she dribbled honey onto a piece of her scone.

“That’s because I haven’t told him where we’re going yet,” Jessica answered.

“But you’re leaving tomorrow, aren’t you?” Ailsa asked.

“Yes, we are.  There have just been so many other things going on that we haven’t found time to talk about it,” Jessica explained

“So, it’s not really a secret or anything?” Brigitte asked, making no effort to hide her curiosity.

“No, I guess it isn’t,” Jessica agreed before divulging that she and George would be enjoying five days on the Queen Mary II followed by a week in New York City.  “My nephew and his wife will be joining us on the crossing,” she added in an attempt to stifle any potential comments about how romantic ocean liners were thought to be.

“You’ll have chaperones, how cute,” Brigitte observed teasingly.

“Brigitte!  Jessica will never visit us again if you keep teasing her,” Alana warned gently.

“Blame George.  If he had provided us with a few more details we wouldn’t have to ask Jessica everything,” she replied in self defense before polishing off the last bite of her sandwich.

“It sounds to me like there may not be anything to tell,” Alana replied.

“You don’t believe that for a minute.  We all know he’s completely bonkers over her,” Brigitte said, forgetting for a moment that Jessica was present.

Tessa leaned toward Jessica and offered a whispered, “sorry.”

“That’s all right,” Jessica whispered back.

Rebecca set her tea cup down on its matching saucer before chiming in, “’Bonkers doesn’t even begin to describe it.  I can always tell when he’s headed to The States.  I don’t even have to ask where he’s going any longer and now I know why.”

“That’s true,” Colette agreed.  “Did you know that he almost accepted a university appointment there last year?”

“No, he’d never do that,” Ailsa said, brushing a stray crumb from her blouse.

“He said that the only reason he didn’t accept it was because the timing was bad,” Colette explained.

“Jessica, you have to tell us,” Brigitte pleaded.  “Are you and George involved, romantically speaking, I mean?”

“Oh, no, no, no,” Jessica said, shaking her head and waving the question away.  “That’s not for me to tell.  You’re going to have to ask your brother about that yourself.”

“Maybe it’s time we gave Jessica a chance to ask us some questions of her own,” Tessa suggested, coming to Jessica’s rescue.

“I was wondering who George and Quinn are named after,” she admitted.  “I assume that ‘Quinn’ is a family name,” Jessica said.

“Well, Quinn is actually named after George.  His given name is George Quinn, but he prefers to use his middle name because it’s less confusing,” Alana explained.

“True, but George usually calls him by his initials,” Colette reminded everyone.

“GQ, like the magazine?” Jessica asked.

“Yes, ever since he started taking notice of the young ladies,” Colette confirmed with a laugh. 

“And ‘Quinn’ is our grandfather’s name,” Rebecca explained.

“Speaking of relations, what do you think of David Littlewood’s claim about being the direct descendant of Queen Elizabeth I, Jessica?” Ailsa asked.

“I’m not sure what to think,” Jessica admitted.  “It does seem to be a very bold claim if he doesn’t have the evidence to back it up, but I must admit I’m a bit skeptical.”

“Peter thinks he’s a complete fraud,” Alana offered, referring to her husband.  “He knew David Littlewood when they were at Glenhurst together and he didn’t think much of him back then either.”

“Glenhurst?” Jessica asked.

“The Royal Armed Forces Academy, it’s like your West Point,” Alana explained. 

“Peter and David Littlewood were in the same first year class,” Rebecca said.  “Littlewood and one of his mates, Whitaker or Williams, something like that, were expelled during their second year.  Peter says that Littlewood never should have been admitted to Glenhurst in the first place,” she explained.

“Would your husband happen to have some type of yearbook from his first year?” Jessica asked, very interested in finding out anything more she could about David Littlewood or his friend.

“I’m almost certain that it is in the den,” Alana said before standing.  “I’ll be right back,” she added, hurrying out of the room and returning just a minute or two later.

“Here you are,” she said, handing the book to Jessica.

 The conversation about David and Margaret Littlewood continued as Jessica paged through the book. 

“I wouldn’t be too concerned about David Littlewood,” Tessa said.  Lewis Underhill is one of the most highly respected forensic document examiners in the world,” Tessa assured everyone.

There, Jessica thought as she scanned through the names of the young men on the rifle team.  Simon Williamson had not only made the team in his first year, but he had consistently led his team in scoring.

“If it’s a fake, he’ll prove it.  I just wish that I could be here next week when he announces his findings and unveils the journal to the public.  I’d like to get a good look at it,” Tessa said.

“Next week?” Ailsa said.  “The press conference is this afternoon at six o’clock.  I heard it on the radio on the way here.”

“Today?” Jessica and Tessa exclaimed together.

“I believe so.  They re-scheduled it because Mr. Underhill finished his analysis ahead of schedule,” Ailsa explained.

“Jessica, would you like to join me at a press conference?” Tessa asked conspiratorially. 

“It’s very tempting, but I couldn’t,” Jessica said, not wanting to be rude by leaving early.

“Actually, Jessica, you’d be doing us a favor by going with her and keeping her out of trouble,” Alana assured her.  “Tessa’s natural curiosity has been known to get her into trouble now and then.” 

“I resent that,” Tessa replied as she retrieved her coat.

“Go ahead, Jessica. It will only take us a couple of minutes to clean up here and we can tell George where you’ve gone when he and Quinn get back.”

“Okay,” Jessica said in agreement.  “I guess we’re going to a press conference then,” she announced when Tessa returned.

“Before we leave, might I use your telephone?” Jessica asked Alana, who was starting to clear the table.

“Of course, Jessica, there is one in the kitchen next to the oven or if you need privacy, Peter’s den is down the hall, the second door on the left.”

Jessica opted for the latter and tried George’s cell phone first.  As it rang, she couldn’t help but wonder why she hadn’t tried Inspector Henderson first.  He was, after all, the lead investigator on the case.  Was it because she knew that he wasn’t as likely as George to willingly accept any information that she might have to pass on or was it because she felt obligated to George, now that the status of their relationship had obviously undergone a significant change?  Before she could consider the question in any detail, she heard George’s voice mail message, which informed her that he was unavailable and invited her to leave a message.  After hanging up without leaving a message, she remembered that George had said that Michael was now assisting in the investigation.  Whether that was in an official capacity or not, she did not know for sure, but decided to call him next.

“Jessica, are you absolutely positive that Williamson attended Glenhurst?”

“Yes, I have photos.”  After a long pause on his end of the line, she asked, “Michael, is there something wrong?”

“It’s probably better if you don’t know,” he answered.

“Don’t you dare, not this time.  I want to know if you think that he’s the one who tried to kill me,” she said adamantly, “and I want the truth.”

“Okay, Jessica, how much did Sutherland tell you about Geoffrey Adams?”

“That he was one of yours and that he was searching for whatever information Miss Potter might have sent to me,” Jessica answered.

“I guess that’s probably everything that I told him at the time,” Michael said before pausing. 

“What didn’t you tell him?” Jessica asked.

“Well, Jess, we’ve been tracking a freelancer, an assassin, who goes by the name of The Scorpion.  He had disappeared for about a year, but we now think that he has resurfaced and is responsible for killing Adams and for the attempt on your life.”

Jessica listened quietly as he continued.

“We’ve never been able to dig up very much on him, other than knowing that he operates out of Great Britain and there is also a rumor that he attended Glenhurst at one time.  It’s easy enough to alter or completely destroy university, records, even military ones, if you know what you’re doing so, we’ve never been able to confirm that, but with your photos, that journal of Potter’s that you dug up and the information that The Yard and I have been able to put together, we might just have enough for the lads from Scotland Yard to dig a little deeper and maybe even to get a search warrant.“

“Wonderful,” Jessica said with a sigh of relief.  “Michael, I have one other question.  Did Williamson leave his table at the restaurant between the time that Miss Potter approached us and the time that I found her in the bathroom?”

“No.  As a matter of fact, he was the only person at that table who didn’t get up at some point or another.”  After a moment’s pause he came to the same conclusion as Jessica.  “That means that…”

“…someone else murdered Sophie Potter,” Jessica said, finishing the thought.  “And I think I might know who.  Now, I just have to prove it.”

“Jessica, what are you going to do?” Michael asked apprehensively.

“I’m just going to ask a few questions,” she assured him.  “Nothing dangerous,” she assured him before hanging up the phone.  Using a pencil and a scrap of paper that she found on Peter’s desk, Jessica wrote a brief note to George and stuck it in the yearbook to mark the page with the photograph of Simon Williamson while he was a member of the rifle team at Glenhurst.

When she returned to the dining room, the table had been cleared and George’s sisters, minus Tessa, continued to partake in a very lively conversation. 

“Alana, could you see that George takes a look at this when he returns?” Jessica said as she handed the book back to her.  “I think that he may find it very interesting,” she added. 

“Certainly,” she agreed as she stood to accept the book and to escort Jessica to the door.  After thanking Alana for her hospitality and bidding everyone farewell, Jessica and Tessa left for the museum. 


 “So, Uncle George, are you planning to marry her?” Quinn asked as he made the final turn on the return drive to the house.

“Just pay attention to what you’re doing and watch the bloody road,” George answered, shaking his head slightly.

After a moment’s thought, the young man asked his uncle rather pointedly, “So, it’s all right if we discuss my love life, but we can’t discuss yours?”

Quinn slowed slightly as he checked the intersection for oncoming traffic.

“You don’t have a love life,” George pointed out, also checking for traffic.

“Well, not at the moment, but that’s not the point.  You’ve always told me that we can talk about anything and that I can ask you anything and now you’re changing the rules,” he protested as he slowed and parked the car in front of the house.  “So, are you?” he asked again undeterred. 

George looked at his nephew, considering his very valid argument.  “Do you think that I should?” he answered in response.

“How am I supposed to know?” Quinn answered.

“Well, some help you are then,” George replied as he opened the door to get out.

As Quinn walked around the car to meet his uncle on the cobble stoned sidewalk, he considered the question.  “Well, mum says she’s beautiful and looks much younger than she probably is.  That’s obviously important, but she should be able to cook as well.”

George looked at his nephew in disbelief.  “Are those your only criteria for marriage?” he asked as they started up the walk.

“Well, a nice personality is always an added bonus,” he answered much to the dismay of his uncle.

“We need to have a serious talk, lad,” George said as they reached the base of the steps, “a serious talk.”

“You still haven’t answered my question?” Quinn pointed out. 

“Does your mother have anything to do with this?” George asked, eying his nephew suspiciously.

“Of course not,” the young man answered.  “I’m no traitor.”

“Between us then, yes, I intend to marry her, but don’t tell your mother that.

“Why not?”

“Because, if history is any indication, it may take a great deal of time to convince her,” George explained as he reached for the door knob and opened the door.

They both removed their coats and hung them in the hall closet.  Having noticed that Tessa’s car was gone, George asked, “I wonder where your aunt has run off to?”

“You never know with her,” Quinn replied as they headed for the kitchen in search of something to eat.

“Mum, where did Aunt Tessa go?” Quinn hollered into the dining room as he rummaged through the refrigerator, retrieving a plate of extra sandwiches and handing them to George.

“A press conference at the London Museum,” his mother answered when he and George entered the dining room where she, Colette, Ailsa, Brigitte and Rebecca were still enjoying each other’s company.

“Not much trouble she can get herself into at a museum,” Quinn commented as he sat down next to Rebecca.

“Jessica seems to be a responsible woman.  I’m sure she’ll keep your aunt from getting into too much trouble,” Alana assured him. 

“George, are you okay?  You don’t look well,” Colette observed.  “Why don’t you sit down.”

“No, I’m fine,” he said shaking his head.  “Where did you say they went?” he asked, addressing Alana in a very serious tone.

“The London Museum,” she answered.   “Don’t worry, George, I’m sure Tessa will be just fine.”

“It’s not Tess that I’m worried about,” he admitted.  “Unlike our dear sister, Jessica doesn’t have to go looking for trouble to find it.  It just sort of follows her around, wherever she goes, and it’s usually far more serious than any of the trouble that Tessa has ever gotten into.  I think that I should probably set off,” George said.  “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Before you go, Jessica asked that I give this to you.  She thought that you would find it interesting,” Alana said, holding the book out to George.

George opened it to the page bookmarked by Jessica’s note.  As he read the note and looked closely at the photograph, his expression clearly reflected his increased concern over her safety.    

“He’s clearly in love with her,” Brigitte whispered to Ailsa. 

“I know.  If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be over-reacting right now,” Ailsa whispered in return. 

“You know, it’s sort of sweet when it isn’t one of us that he’s worried about,” Brigitte added quietly before George looked up from the book.

Ignoring his sisters, who were obviously whispering for his benefit, George said, “I’m going to have to take this with me.”  Not waiting for a response, he hurriedly retrieved his coat from the hall closet and rushed out of the house to his car. 



Jessica removed her notes from the manila envelope, which she still carried in her purse, and added her latest finding.  Reading through them once again, she tried to assemble the bits and pieces into a viable theory.


David Littlewood – businessman w/ holdings primarily in media, technology and defense; heavily in debt; claims to be a direct descendant of Queen Elizabeth I; dining at Varanasi the night Sophie Potter was killed; expelled from Glenhurst along with Simon Williamson


Margaret Littlewood – foreign correspondent prior to becoming an anchorwoman at television station owned by David Littlewood; now manages her husband’s media interests; present at Varanasi the night S.P. killed


Samuel Potter/Portsman - notorious forger; father of Sophie; killed in motor vehicle accident (suspicious?); claims to have been part of a conspiracy against the crown; attended Hargrove w/ Simon Williamson


William Green – publicist and social secretary to David Littlewood; present at Varanasi the night S.P. killed


Simon Williamson – D.L.’s chief of security despite background in finance; attended Hargrove College w/ Samuel Potter; attended and expelled from Glenhurst along with D.L.; The Scorpion?


After reviewing her notes, Jessica theorized that David Littlewood along with his friend, Simon Williamson, and Samuel Potter had conspired to forge the diary.  If that was the case, how could they be assured that the diary would pass the examination of a world renowned forensic document examiner?  Suddenly, Jessica remembered a clue from Samuel Potter’s journal that she had not yet had verified to her own satisfaction, but added to her list anyway.  Christine Lu.  Jessica added the name to the bottom of the list. 


Christine Lu – employed at London Museum in document analysis lab; LU from Samuel Potter’s journal?


 Did Ms. Lu work closely enough with Lewis Underhill to alter any suspicious findings before he could be made aware of them?  Had she been at Varanasi that evening?  More questions, Jessica thought.

            She replaced her notes as Tessa located an empty parking slot and maneuvered her little, green VW Golf into it.

            “If you don’t mind my asking, Jessica, what were you studying so intently?” Tessa asked as she turned off the ignition and removed her keys.

            “Just a theory that I have,” Jessica answered.

            “A theory that would disprove David Littlewood’s claim to the throne?” Tessa asked as she opened the door and climbed out of the car.

            “I’m afraid that the most it would do is to cast a shadow of doubt over it, but I’m sure that if Mr. Underhill is as good as his reputation, nobody need ever hear my little theory,” Jessica answered as she closed her door and several drops of rain began to fall.  By the time they reached the building, they both wished that one of them had thought to bring an umbrella. 

            Once inside they climbed the grand staircase to the second level and followed a sign, which pointed them in the direction of the news conference, which was being held in the large open area just adjacent to the document lab.   A podium stood front and center on a portable stage with a view of the lab as its backdrop.  Before it, a sea of chairs, divided by a narrow aisle, had been assembled.  The room was easily nearing its maximum capacity, but those in attendance acted in an orderly fashion as they took turns viewing the contents of a glass display case, which was positioned to the far right of the podium and which Jessica assumed contained the diary and assorted other documents that were supposed to prove Mr. Littlewood’s lineage.

            The two women slowly worked their way to the front of the crowd, where they eventually took their turns viewing the papers.  The book had been opened to a page on which the author had expressed her deep regret and sorrow for having abandoned her daughter many years earlier.  The entry covered nearly two pages and was indeed signed with the name Queen Elizabeth I. 

“Something doesn’t look quite right to me,” Jessica said, speaking very softly. 

            “What do you mean?” Tessa asked.

            “I’m not sure yet,” Jessica answered just as a woman, whom she did not recognize, stepped to the podium and asked everyone to take their seats.  The tall, thin blonde was flanked on one side by Lewis Underhill and William Green and on the other side by David and Margaret Littlewood, all of whom had already take their own seats.  The Littlewoods were accompanied by an armed security officer, who stood close to the very dignified looking couple.  Mr. Underhill wore a finely tailored suit in charcoal gray with a subdued burgundy tie while Mrs. Underhill was dressed in a lovely ivory portrait-collar skirt suit and carried a matching leather clutch purse, which was accented with a gold chain shoulder strap. 

The audience’s seats filled very quickly and Jessica and Tessa were forced to take two of the very few seats which remained vacant, in the rear of the room.  Once everyone had been seated, the woman who now identified herself as Monica Stark, the director of public relations for the museum, welcomed all of those in attendance and thanked them for their patience.  After explaining the reason for the press conference, she introduced Mr. Lewis Underhill, the director of the museum’s document analysis lab.  Ms. Stark began her introduction reviewing Mr. Underhill’s academic credentials, which included an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Oxford, a master’s degree in forensic science from the University of Teesside, and a Diploma of the Forensic Science Society in Document Examination.  She also provided a history of the highlights of his prestigious career as one of the foremost scientists in his field including numerous papers and publications.

            Underhill joined her at the podium and thanked her for her very kind introduction.  Once she seated herself in his empty chair, giving him full command of the room, he offered thanks to both his staff and everyone else for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend.  Finally, he thanked David Littlewood for the honor of being allowed to lend his expertise to analyzing such important historical documents.

            Underhill continued by providing the audience with a brief biography of Queen Elizabeth I, which he said was important to understanding his findings.  Jessica, doing her best to weed out the scientific mumbo jumbo, tried to focus on Mr. Underhill’s key points as he began to delve into the technical aspects associated with the process of analyzing the diary.

            “The events referred to by the author of the diary are consistent with other events that have been well documented throughout the same time period…The punctuation habits of the author and the lift of the penmanship are consistent with those found in other documents known to have been written by the hand of Queen Elizabeth I…Based on the yellowing of the paper…the rag of the paper…the type of writing instrument employed…the feathering of the ink in the paper, the diary is consistent with the time period of the late16th century.  Thus, without hesitation, I must conclude that the diary was indeed transcribed by Queen Elizabeth I.”

            “I don’t believe it,” Tessa said in a whispered exclamation as hands shot up all throughout the room.

            “I’m glad, because it’s a forgery,” Jessica said, causing Tessa to look at her with wide eyes and a very confused expression.

            “It can’t be genuine.  The signature in the diary uses a Roman numeral,” Jessica pointed out.

            “Oh…you’re right,” Tessa agreed, suddenly understanding the importance of Jessica’s observation.  “She wouldn’t have needed to use a Roman numeral because she wasn’t known as “the First” until Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne nearly 400 years later.”

“Exactly,” Jessica said, suddenly realizing that the only way that Lewis Underhill was likely to have missed such an obvious error was if he was a co-conspirator, which meant that LU wasn’t Christine Lu, but rather Lewis Underhill.

            After answering a few technical questions, Underhill turned the podium over to William Green, David Littlewood’s publicist and social secretary.  After the crowd quieted and gave Green their attention, he finally spoke from what was obviously a statement that had been prepared in advance.

            “Speaking on behalf of Mr. & Mrs. Littlewood, I will begin by saying that we are very excited by Mr. Underhill’s findings and we look forward to working with the Accession Council to ensure that Mr. Littlewood is recognized as the rightful heir to the throne.”  His words caused voices to murmur and hands to be raised in question once again.

            “In light of today’s announcement, I am sure that you will all understand that Mr. Littlewood has numerous tasks that require his immediate attention.  We will be planning a press conference for sometime next week.  Thank you,” he added before turning to the security guard and signaling that is was time for them to depart.  Despite Mr. Green’s assurances that all of their questions would be answered in the upcoming press conference, questions shot out from the crowd as the Littlewoods and their entourage made their way to the closest exit. 

“That’s it!” Jessica said as she watched the group disappear behind the door with the security guard remaining behind to prevent anyone from following.

            Before Tessa could ask what she was talking about, Jessica asked for her help.  “Tessa, I need you to call Inspector Henderson at The Yard.  Tell him that he is needed here and please, tell him to hurry.” 

            “Of course, but why is he needed here?” Tessa asked.

            “Because I know who murdered Sophie Potter,” Jessica said, “but before you do that, I need your help.”

            “Certainly, what do you need me to do?” Tessa offered eagerly.

            “Can you distract the security guard, the one who is standing next to the exit over there?” Jessica asked, “and then wait here for Inspector Henderson.”

            “Of course,” Tessa agreed.  “Where are you going?” she asked. 

            “To prove my theory,” Jessica said simply, using a phrase that would have resulted in a great deal of worry by anyone who knew her well.

            With a little song and dance about having had her purse stolen, Tessa not only distracted the security guard, but had him searching for the fictitious handbag.  After the coast was clear, Jessica slipped through the door and began down a long, poorly lit hallway, following the sound of voices far off in the distance.    

            Trying to remain as quiet as possible, Jessica moved as quickly as she could, turning one corner and then the next, until she neared the voices, which seemed to be coming from a room at the end of another long corridor.  A small shaft of bright light escaped from the room through a small gap, where the door had been left slightly ajar.  Slowly and carefully, Jessica peered through the opening.  Although she was unable to see anyone, she was able to make out two male voices, which she recognized before hearing another familiar voice from behind.    

“Somehow I knew you’d keep poking your nose into our business.” Before Jessica could turn, she felt the hard metal of a handgun being pressed against her back.  “Open the door and get inside,” the voice instructed before using the handgun to push Jessica into the room and down into a chair.

            “Surprised, aren’t you Mrs. Fletcher?” Margaret Littlewood asked.  “Well, don’t be.  There’s no way that a man like David could pull this off.”

            “Pull what off?” David asked, but his question went unanswered by his wife.  “Margaret, what are you doing?” he exclaimed when he saw the handgun that she was pointing directly at Jessica.

            “I’m not surprised at all,” Jessica answered.  “It was very smart of you to make it look like your husband was the one who had conspired with Mr. Williamson and the others.  That way, the finger of suspicion would most certainly be pointed at him in the case that the diary is determined to be a forgery, which it is,” Jessica commented.

            “The diary is authentic,” Underhill declared from where he sat on the edge of a small desk. 

            “I’m afraid that the signature proves otherwise,” Jessica explained, causing Underhill to begin to stutter.

            “Control yourself, Lewis.  Clearly, she knows more than what we gave her credit for.  There’s no need for concern however, because she won’t be telling anyone.  Don’t worry, Lew, you’ll still get your money,”

            “I already told Simon that I wasn’t going to be part of another murder,” Underhill said nervously as he stood up and stepped toward the door.

            “Shut up and sit down,” Margaret yelled at him, resulting in his immediate obedience.   

            “Actually, this might be a good time for Mr. Underhill to start talking, as he had nothing to do with Miss Potter’s death,” Jessica said.

            “Of course, I didn’t,” Underhill answered adamantly.

            “You don’t have any proof that any of us had anything to do with her death,” Margaret shot back. 

            “But I do.  I am sure that when Scotland Yard analyzes the shoulder strap on your purse that they will find that you used it to strangle her,” Jessica said, indicating the ivory leather purse that was now resting haphazardly on a chair.  “I imagine that it was an impulsive act.  The chain was probably broken when you struggled with her and after she struck her head, you used it to strangle her.”

            “You can’t prove that,” Margaret challenged boldly, glaring at Jessica.

            “I think I can,” Jessica said.  “Early in the evening when you were seated at your table, your purse looked much as it does today, with the strap intact, but when you found me in the ladies room with Sophie Potter’s body, the chain was missing.  It didn’t register until today when you placed the strap over your shoulder before leaving the press conference.  You must have repaired it.”

            “Very observant, Mrs. Fletcher,” Margaret admitted.  “You’re surprisingly accurate in your assessment of the events that led to Miss Potter’s demise.”

            “Margaret, how could you do this?” David asked.  “Are money and prestige so important to you that you’d murder someone?”                         

            “Four someones,” Underhill corrected, from where is sat on the desk, sulking.

            “Simon took care of the others,” Margaret clarified, “and I’ll probably let him take care of Mrs. Fletcher, too, to make up for his mistake at the radio station.  That is unless she gives us any more trouble before he arrives.”

            Suddenly realizing his friend’s absence, David asked, “Where is Simon and what do you mean he ‘took care of the others’?”

            “He’s cleaning up a few loose ends.  You know, David, destroying the paper trail, like he’s done for you so many times in the past with your businesses,” Margaret answered. 

            Suddenly, they were all startled by a deep voice originating from just outside the door, which had remained open.  “I suggest you drop your weapon, Mrs. Littlewood.” 

Turning, Margaret saw George with his own weapon drawn and pointed directly at her.  After considering her limited options, she eventually placed her handgun on the floor.

“Jessica, would you be so kind as to slide that over this way?” George asked without lowering his gun.  Using her foot, Jessica slid Margaret’s weapon across the floor where it came to rest in the hallway, just beyond George’s feet.  “And now, if I may, I suggest that you come out here, too,” he said to Jessica who was more than relieved to do so. 

The sound of shoes pounding on the tile floor echoed down the hall as Inspector Henderson, Constable Mills, Michael, and Constable Fields, all with weapons drawn, ran toward them.  Tessa, having discarded her heels, followed closely behind.

“Slow down, lads,” George said, not looking at anyone other than his three suspects.  “Everything is under control here.”

“Have you read them their rights,” Henderson asked, once he had joined George just outside the door.

“I was just getting around to that,” George said, “but I seem to be a bit short on handcuffs.”

            “If you don’t mind, sir, I’ll take it from here,” Henderson suggested.  “I’m sure you’d like to make sure that Mrs. Fletcher is unharmed.”

            “Aye, it’s your show then,” George said as he lowered his weapon and turned to find Jessica still observing the scene from close by.

            “Jess, are you all right?” he asked quietly as he rubbed his hands up and down her arms. 

            “Yes, I’m fine,” she assured him.  “How much did you hear?”

            “More than enough,” he answered before pausing.  “I was a bit worried about you,” he said before sliding his hands down to her waist, drawing her close and kissing her on the lips.


            “Oh, look at that.  Brigitte was right,” Tessa said to Michael as they watched Jessica and George.  “They’re so sweet.”

            “Yes,” Michael agreed reluctantly.  “They’re perfect for one another.”


            Two additional uniformed officers arrived and assisted Mills and Fields in escorting the trio of suspects outside to the waiting patrol cars.  After Jessica had given her account of the events, Inspector Henderson informed her that because of the information that she had provided, a warrant had been issued for Simon Williamson, who was now being detained at New Scotland Yard for suspicion of murder as well as numerous other charges.  Before leaving, the young investigator not only apologized to Jessica, but thanked her profusely for her assistance in cracking the case.


“I knew that tea with my sisters was a bad idea,” George said with a slight grin as the foursome of Michael, Tessa, George and Jessica exited the museum. 

“What do you mean? Tea was a wonderful idea,” Jessica said.  “Next time you’ll just have to stick around so you don’t miss any of the fun,” she added with a laugh.

“George, would you mind giving Jessica a lift back to her hotel?” Tessa asked.  “I have a dinner engagement at eight thirty and I don’t want to be late.”

“Of course,” George answered.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he added as he wrapped his arm around Jessica’s waist.

“Haggerty?” George asked, indicating that there was room for him as well.

“Thank you, no.  I have transportation,” Michael said, declining the offer.

As George and Jessica pulled away, Michael offered Tessa his arm and asked, “What would be more to your liking, Petrus, Chez Bruce or The Ivy?” 



After Jessica and George had arrived back at her suite, she quickly discarded her coat and opened the closet to hang it. 

“What time shall I pick you up in the morning?” George asked as Jessica manipulated the hanger into the coat.  Surprised, Jessica turned to him and asked, “You’re leaving?”

“Jessica, love, you know that I would rather stay,” he began as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and walked her into the living room, “but we’re leaving in the morning and I still need to pack, which may prove to be a monumental undertaking as you still haven’t told me where we’re going?”

“You should at least stay and join me for dinner,” Jessica suggested after they were seated on the sofa.  “You can pack after,” she added.

“I can’t believe that I’m about to say this to you,” George muttered.

“Say what?” Jessica asked.  “That you’re exhausted and you still have a headache?” she answered for him.

“How did…”

Jessica reached up and placed her hand on his cheek.  “Because you look dreadful,” she said with complete sincerity.  “And it’s hardly a surprise after a concussion and only a few hours of sleep last night.  That is why you are going to take some time to eat something and relax for a bit before you leave.”

“But Jessica…”

“No ‘buts’, George,” Jessica said, effectively halting his protest.  “Now, I’m going to order us something for dinner and you’re going to lie down on the sofa and rest until it gets here.  Better yet, why don’t you go lie down in the bedroom?” she suggested.  “If you lie down here, you’ll probably add a sore neck to the mix.”  

Not having the energy to argue with her, George reluctantly stood up from the sofa.  “Promise you’ll wake me if I fall asleep?”

“Yes, I promise I’ll wake you,” Jessica said as she, too, stood and patted him on the arm.  “Now, go lie down.”

After he had gone, Jessica located the room service menu and ordered up something simple for dinner – a rib eye steak with baked potato and salad for George and grilled fish with steamed rice and salad for herself.  Realizing that she needed to pack as well, Jessica removed all of her personal office items from the desk and organized them into their proper locations in her briefcase.  Next, she searched the room for any other personal items that might easily be forgotten.  Just as she decided that she hadn’t missed anything, room service arrived.    

Once their meal had been transferred from the serving cart to the dining room table, Jessica collected her few items from the table and carried them into the bedroom, where she had expected to find George resting.  When she didn’t find him there, she checked the second bedroom, where she found him face down and obviously fast asleep.  When he failed to wake up easily, she decided that sleep was more important than food at the moment and covered him with an extra blanket that she found in the bureau.  After quietly closing the door, Jessica returned to the dining room and ate her own dinner before returning to the chore of packing.  She laid out an outfit for the next morning, straightened up the bathroom and packed everything that she would not be needing before checking on George again.      

Deciding to allow him to continue to sleep, Jessica left him a note on the dining room table and rode the elevator to the lobby.  As she exited the hotel, she noticed Michael climb out of the passenger’s side of Tessa’s green VW Golf. 

“Jessica,” Michael said, obviously surprised to see her, “where are you going so late?”  

Tessa, too, noticed Jessica and rolled down her window to say hello.  After explaining that she was on her way to George’s loft to pack for him, Tessa offered to help.

“I wouldn’t want to spoil your evening,” Jessica said, feeling a slightly awkward.

“Don’t worry, Jessica, you haven’t,” Michael said.  “We had a very lovely dinner, but I, too, have a few things that need to be taken care of before tomorrow.”

“Breakfast at seven, then?” Michael asked Tessa before leaving.

“Yes, seven o’clock,” Tessa verified, smiling sweetly at him.

“Jessica, you and George will join us, of course?” he asked.

“We’d love to,” Jessica said, accepting the invitation without considering George’s reaction to seeing his little sister with Michael. 

As soon as Jessica had climbed into the car, secured her seatbelt and they were underway, Tessa asked, “You’re not planning on telling George that I invited Michael to dinner, are you?”

“What’s there to tell?” Jessica answered as straight faced as she could manage. 

“I knew I liked you,” Tessa responded, relieved.

“It might not occur to him right away, but eventually he is going to wonder how the four of us ended up having breakfast together,” Jessica informed her.

“Then I’ll just have to hope it doesn’t occur to him until you’re on your way to Southampton,” Tessa decided.  “Do you mind if I ask you something, Jessica?”

“No, not at all,” Jessica answered.

“What is Michael like when he turns off all of that charm that seems to ooze out of him?”

“You’ve picked up on that already?” Jessica asked, clearly impressed.

 Nobody is that charming,” Tessa observed. 

“Except Michael,” Jessica said with a laugh.  “Seriously, though, Michael is a good, decent man, but sometimes his job doesn’t allow him to be as open about things as he should be,” Jessica explained.

“I was wondering about that.  He does a pretty good job of side stepping around the topic of what he does for a living,” Tessa said.  “After everything I heard tonight at the museum, I’ve come to the conclusion that he probably works for MI-6, SIS or one of the others,” Tessa said as she stopped at a red light. 

“You know, Tessa, I have to admit that I was a little bit concerned when I saw Michael get out of your car back at the hotel, but I believe I’ve changed my mind.  If there is any woman alive who can handle Michael Haggerty, I do believe that it is you.”

“That’s good to know, but seeing Michael again isn’t what worries me,” Tessa admitted, glancing over at Jessica.

“If you’re worried about whether he’s likely to be scared off by your brother, don’t be,” Jessica said.  “I think that they have developed a mutual respect for one another and truth be told, Michael isn’t likely to be scared off too easily.  He happens to love a challenge.”


The next morning, Jessica woke early, showered and ordered up a pot of coffee before waking George. 

“George,” she said, gently shaking his shoulder.  “You need to get up if we’re going to have time for breakfast.”

“Breakfast?” he asked, suddenly wide awake and sitting himself up in bed.  “You were supposed to wake me up if I fell asleep,” he reminded her unnecessarily.

“If I’m not mistaken, I just woke you up,” Jessica replied.

“Jessica, you knew exactly what I meant,” George said as he sat up on the edge of the bed.  “What time is it?”

“Six thirty.  Breakfast is at seven.”

“I don’t have time for breakfast.  I have to pack,” George replied as he stood and took several long strides toward the door.

“You’re already packed,” Jessica informed him, causing George to stop in his tracks.   

“You packed for me?” he asked in disbelief as he turned to look at her.

“Tessa helped me,” Jessica clarified as she joined him by the door.  “Your overnight bag is on the bench next to the window,” she said, gently turning him in that direction, “and your clothes are hanging in the closet,” she added before kissing him on the cheek.  “The rest of your bags are in the living room, which is where I’ll be when you’re ready to go.” 

George emerged 15 minutes later, carrying an overnight bag in one hand and a garment bag in the other.  “Ready?” he asked, when Jessica looked up from where she was reviewing their travel itinerary.

Unable to resist, Jessica commented on his wardrobe, which Tessa had picked out for him.  “Very GQ, George,” she said, “but you didn’t shave,” she added when she noticed his full day’s growth of beard. 

Shaking his head, George replied, “I’ll say it again.  Tea was a very bad idea. And I didn’t shave because you didn’t pack my razor,” George pointed out.

Jessica folded their itinerary and tucked it into her purse before standing and joining him.  “We’ll have to remedy that as soon as we get to Southampton,” she said.

“Actually, I was thinking that this might be a good time to grow a beard,” George said, rubbing his chin.  “Two weeks should be plenty of time to get a good one started.“

“Oh, no, you don’t’ need to do that.  I’m sure we can find you a razor,” Jessica assured him before realizing that he had been teasing her.

George set down his bags and joined her on the couch.  “We could order breakfast up,” he suggested.  “That would give us a little more time to take advantage of this beautiful suite of yours,” he added before kissing her tenderly on the cheek.

“It sounds to me like this suite isn’t what you’d like to take advantage of,” Jessica responded just before George worked his way from her cheek to her lips.

“You’re right, of course, but you have to admit that it is a much better idea than having breakfast in the restaurant,” he said before standing, pulling Jessica up with him and wrapping her in his arms. 

 “We’re meeting someone,” Jessica informed him at length, now wishing that that wasn’t the case.

“We are?” George said, clearly disappointed.



As they entered the restaurant, George’s disappointment quickly turned into surprise when they found both Michael and Tessa waiting for them.  By the time they had finished their meal, George’s suspicions were beginning to grow, but unlike his sisters, he remained silent. 

After everyone had said their goodbyes in the lobby, Jessica sensed that George was about to ask Michael for a moment of his time, but before he could, she hooked her arm in his and maneuvered him away from Tessa and Michael.  Very quietly and discreetly she warned him, “Don’t say a word.”

“I have to, Jess, she’s my sister,” he replied, looking around to see where Tessa and Michael had gone. 

“She’s a grown woman who is fully capable of handling herself and of handling Michael Haggerty,” Jessica assured him, as she offered a wave to Tessa and Michael who were headed out the front entrance.  “Besides, you should be more worried about what you’re going to say if Grady starts asking questions about the two of us.”

“Grady?” George asked, clearly confused. 

“Yes, George, he and Donna are meeting us in Southampton.  You’ll have five full days aboard the Queen Mary II to get to know them.”

“Splendid,” George answered with as much enthusiasm as he could muster at the thought of being on the receiving end of a warning that might be even remotely similar to the one that he had just moments before intended on offering to Michael.



Later that day, after boarding the Queen Mary II and being shown to their individual cabins, George heard a knock on his door.  After hanging up several shirts that he had been unpacking, he answered it, but there was no one there.  Hearing the knocking again as he walked back toward the closet, he realized that it was coming from the wall that he shared with Jessica, whose cabin was next door.

“George, open the door,” he heard Jessica say from her side of the wall.

Looking up and down the wall, he finally located a small handle that he had not noticed previously.  After turning the lock, he slid the door open to find Jessica on the other side.  “Well, this is mighty convenient,” George said as a broad, mischievous grin spread across his face.

“I didn’t plan it this way,” Jessica assured him.

Sure, you didn’t,” George said.  “It looks to me like you’ve been planning to use your seductive wiles on me for weeks,” he said, causing her to blush instantly.

“I was not,” Jessica replied.  “It’s just a fortunate coincidence,” she added before inviting him into the room. 

“What’s that?” George asked, noticing a rectangular, ivory box sitting on Jessica’s bed.    

“A bon voyage present from your sister, Tessa,” Jessica said.  “It was just delivered from one of the onboard shops.” 

“What is it?” he asked curiously as he reached for the box.

“You’ll have to wait until tonight to find out,” she answered, grabbing the box before he could.

“Is it silk?” he asked, lifting one eyebrow.

“You’ll find out…later,” Jessica answered, hiding the box behind her back.

“It would be a shame if it was made of silk,” George said as he leaned in close and reached around Jessica’s waist to reach the box.

“Why would it be a shame?” she asked, intrigued by his comment.

“Because you’re not likely to get to enjoy it for very long before it ends up hanging on the back of a chair or lying on the floor,” he explained before kissing her on the lips.


The End