Driving to Murder

by SarahB



            Eve Simpson slammed down the phone.  She had called all of David Hearn’s phone numbers with no success in reaching him.  It had been over three weeks since she had heard from him and she decided it was time swallow her old fashioned idea that a lady waits for the gentleman to call.  She had believed that things were progressing well with David.

            She met him in the Federalist Bar of the XV Beacon Hotel in Boston.  While having drinks with friends after attended a realtor’s convention, she caught his eye across the bar.  Before she knew it he was sitting next to her and buying her drinks.  They talked late into the night.  She met him for dinner the next night and soon they were spending every weekend together.  

            He surprised her with a new Mercedes sports coupe in August.  He claimed that he didn’t like to drive her Cadillac when he flew up from Boston to visit her.  She would have rather received a ring from him, but she wasn't about to turn away such a fabulous gift.   

            In October, David had confided in her that he was having business problems.  He blamed it on his partners but Eve had a bad feeling about it.  She followed the news about it in the business section the Boston Globe and became increasingly worried for him.  She also started to feel nervous that perhaps his business had a shady side.  Suddenly, David just stopped coming or even calling her in November.  They had planned to spend Thanksgiving together and now he didn’t even bother to offer any explanations. 

             At first she was terribly worried, but as the days went by and she still heard no word from him, she became increasingly angry.  With today’s failed attempts to reach him, she decided that he had unceremoniously dumped her.  She had planned to stand by him through his business and legal troubles, but she was not accustomed to being dumped and she would not stand for it.  She stormed out of her office onto Maine Street.   She ran smack in to Seth Hazlitt.

            “Eve!  What’s got you all fired up?” he asked, clutching her arm to steady her.

            “Oh Seth, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” she said, cursing under her breath when she realized that she had dropped her files.

            “Well, what’s wrong?  You look like the wind just went out of your sails,” he said, bending over to help pick up her papers.

            “I’ve just had a bad day, that’s all.”

            “Well, come on, I’ll help you put this stuff in that little red car of yours.”

            When they reached her car, she popped the trunk so they could put her files in it.   A thought crossed her mind, “Seth, do you like this car?”

            “Ayuh, it’s a beauty.”

            “How’d you like to drive it yourself?”   

            “Oh I couldn’t possibly.   I’d be too nervous that I’d wreck it.”

            Eve pressed the keys into his hand, “Nonsense.  It’s yours.  We’ll transfer the insurance to your name today.”   

            “What?  Have you gone mad?”

            “Nope.  I hate this car and I can’t stand the sight of it.   In fact, I want you to take it out of my sight right now,” she said, not caring that this was even more impulsive than her usual style.

            “You’ve got to be kidding, woman.”

            “No, I’m not,” she said.   She removed her files from the trunk.

            “You can’t just give it to me!” Seth exclaimed.

            “Yes, I can, but if you’d prefer, you can buy it from me, for say, a $1,000?”

            “Is there something wrong with it?”

            “Of course not.  It has hardly any miles on it.  But if it will make you feel better, take it to the auto shop and have them check it out.  You can send me a check by the end of the week and I’ll have the tags changed to your name.  Deal?”

            He stared at a minute and thought perhaps she’d lost her mind.  “Are you sure you’re feeling alright?  Maybe you ought to come by my office for a check up,” he suggested, taking her wrist in his hand and checking her pulse.

            “Seth, I’m perfectly fine.  Please don’t make me go into why I don’t want this car.  A lady doesn’t like to talk about being dumped.”

            Er, right, I’m sorry about that,” he said, shifting on his feet nervously.

            “All right, now go on.  I’m serious about this whole thing.”        

            “Well, I’ll take it home and you can come get it if you change your mind.”         

            “Seth, I'm certain that I won’t change my mind.”

            He tried to hold back his smile and got in the car.  He pushed the seat back to fit his body a little better and started up the engine.  Even though he heard the engine purr like a kitten, he felt like he was in a dream. 

*  *  *  *  * 

            Seth gave Jessica a warm hug and kissed her cheek before putting her suitcases in the back of his new cherry red Mercedes sports car.    

            “Ah, you are a sight for sore eyes, Jessica Fletcher!”

            “What’s this? This is your car, Seth Hazlitt?  Why didn’t you say anything to me?”  Jessica exclaimed.

            “I wanted to surprise you,” he grinned.

             “Well, I am surprised but it’s more that you’re being so extravagant to yourself!” 

            “I bought it used.  It’s Eve Simpson’s cast off,” he sheepishly grinned. 

            “Seth!   You know better than to trust anything cast off from Eve!” 

             “Ayuh, you’ve got a point. Nevertheless, I had it checked over at the auto shop and it earned a clean bill of health.  Besides I got it for practically nothing.”


            They drove to Cabot Cove from the Portland, Maine, airport in relative silence.   Jessica thought about her agenda for the Christmas holidays.  She was looking forward to being back in her precious home.  She planned to catch up on housework and reading, both of which she found relaxing.  She had endured a busier semester than usual, between a full class load on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a book tour plus her new romance with George.  She had not been home since early October.  

            Jessica wanted and even needed to tell Seth about her new relationship with George.  She couldn’t help but feel very anxious about it, even though Seth was her best friend.   She nervously twirled the sapphire and diamond ring that George had given her in October.  She was hoping it would give her good luck.   She hugged herself and took in the snowy Maine landscape.   

            “What are you thinking, Jess?” Seth asked.

            “I’m thinking that I’m glad to be home,” she replied.  No, it doesn’t feel like the right time, she told herself.   She admonished herself for stalling, but this was news that she knew Seth would have a hard time accepting, although she wasn’t sure why.  

            “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” he asked, with concern in his voice.

            “Of course, just tired after a busy semester.  It will be good to be in my house for a change,” she said, smiling at him and patting his arm.

            Jessica told him about the end of her semester and Seth filled her in on all the recent goings on around home.    They pulled up in front of her house and Seth pulled her cases out of the trunk.   Jessica stood looking at her beloved, yet somewhat neglected, house.

            “Well, don’t just stand there, woman.  Let’s get in out of this cold air.  I’m still not convinced that you’re not coming down with something,” he said, as he hurried to her front door.

            “I certainly have a lot to do around here over the next month,” Jessica said, with a smile.  “Thank you for stocking the fridge for me.  Are you staying for dinner?” 

            “When don’t I stay for dinner when you’re home, Jessica?  I’ve thought of nothing else for the last week but having you home so I could beat you at chess.”

            “Just be prepared to retract that statement Seth Hazlitt!” Jessica laughed. 


            Jessica settled down into a slower, more relaxing routine over the next few days and allowed herself the luxury to think about a new book idea.  Her semester had been so busy with teaching and social obligations, not to mention George, that she was excited to start a new book It was the first time in a while that she didn’t have a deadline.  Seth had been over every evening for dinner. She relished beating him at every game of chess and although he was his usual grumpy self, she knew that he was inwardly happy about it.   She still hadn’t told him about George and she had a feeling that the longer she waited, the harder it would be. 

            It was good to be home indeed, if only for a while.  She loved her cozy home that she had shared for so many happy years with her late husband Frank.  She enjoyed living part of year in Manhattan but Cabot Cove was home.  She had looked forward to the walks in the cold sea air, the quiet simple days away from Manhattan and especially to sleeping in her own feather bed.

            Yet, despite herself, she found herself wishing that she had taken George up on his invitation to spend her Christmas break with him.   Their relationship as a couple was still new and she missed him terribly.   They had only been together since October. 

            Jessica had gone to London for her Thanksgiving break for eleven blissfully romantic days, a few of which they had spent in Paris.   It had only been three weeks since she had been with George in London and she was already longing to see him. 

            When she thought of George, she involuntarily smiled and sighed.  She still wasn’t sure how to refer to him.  She felt they were too mature to call each other boyfriend and girlfriend.  She had resisted admitting that she was in love with him for years and now that their relationship had finally taken this turn, she could hardly stand to be apart from him.   This presented a whole new conflict.  She wanted to be with George full time, but she didn’t want to give up her life in Cabot Cove and New York.   Even though George had hinted at marriage, he had not indicated that he might think of moving from London to the States.  She was especially not sure that she even wanted to live with George, much less remarry.  In October, George had told her that they would figure it out as they went along and the subject of maintaining a long distance relationship hadn’t come up again.   More than anything, she didn’t like the conflict she was feeling about having to choose between spending time with her best friend and her lover.


*  *  *  *  *

            The ladies at Loretta’s beauty parlor were talking and laughing up a storm when Jessica came in for her 9:00 a.m. hair appointment.  Phyllis was getting a manicure while Loretta was just finishing setting Ideal’s hair.  They were Loretta’s most frequent customers, and Jessica suspected they came forr the socializing more than the grooming. 

            “Jessica!” they all exclaimed in unison.  “It’s so good to see you!”

            “And it’s good to see all of you.  It’s been too long.” she laughed.  “So what have I missed?”

            They all laughed.   Ideal said, “Jessica, it will take until next week to catch you up!”

            Loretta crossed the room and gave her old friend a big hug.  “You know, doll, you’re absolutely glowing.  Anything you have to share with us?”

            Jessica blushed but said, “Uh no, I’ve just been busy working.  I’m glad to be home.”

            “Hmmm, Jess, I’d say the color in your cheeks is not just from the brisk air outside.  Don’t worry, we’ll get it out of you.   So, I guess you’ve probably heard some from Seth already but did he tell you the latest about Eve?” Loretta asked.

            “No, what’s up with Eve now?” Jessica asked, knowing that they would exaggerate and turn Eve’s escapades into a juicy soap opera.   Eve definitely kept them entertained.   She was also a widow and had built a successful real estate business, but she was always chasing some unsuspecting man.    Jessica’s late husband Frank had worked with Eve on many real estate deals and she considered Eve to be a dear friend, even if she was exasperating. 

            “Well, Jessica, poor Eve has another broken heart - I know you find that hard to believe.   She was dating this businessman from Boston for almost four months,” Phyllis said.

            “We all thought that he might actually be The One!” Ideal added. 

            “What happened to him?” Jessica asked.

            “His name was David Hearn.  He was very handsome, but a little slick for my taste,” Ideal said. 

            “Oh Ideal, your taste?  Please, we know all know you were making eyes at him too!” Phyllis said.

            “Well, I didn’t say he wasn’t handsome!” Ideal protested.  “Anyway, clearly Eve had him first.  Anyway, he started spending quite a bit of time here.  He even gave her that red Mercedes.”

            “Wait a minute, the Mercedes that Seth bought from Eve?” Jessica asked.

            “That’s the one,” Phyllis said.  “Apparently, he was wealthy and was fond of giving gifts. He also didn’t care for Eve’s Cadillac and thought she ought to be driving something a little sexier, so he showed up with that little red number one day.”

            “But why did she sell it to Seth?”

            Phyllis said, “Well, that’s the sad part.   One day, he just stopped showing up.  Eve hasn’t been able to find out anything.  She finally got so mad that she sold it to Seth for practically nothing and that’s why Doc Hazlitt couldn’t resist it.”

            “Yeah, everybody knows how cheap he is,” Ideal chimed in.

            Loretta said, “I say Eve was foolish to let the car go, but she won’t even talk about it.  I think she thought David was going to marry her but he just stopped calling.” 

            “I think she’s broken hearted, but she’s too proud to admit it,” Ideal added.

            “I see.  That is interesting.  Seth didn’t tell me any of this.   How is Eve holding up?   Has she been coming in?” Jessica asked, thinking to herself how devastated she would feel if George suddenly stopped calling her.

            Loretta replied, “You’ll see for yourself in just a little while.  She has a nail appointment with Corrine at 9:30.  Even with a broken heart, Eve Simpson always looks her best.   She’s my best customer, no offense, Ideal.”

            “None taken.   I say there’s something fishy about that Hearn fellow.”

            “How long ago did he give her the car and when did he stop showing up?” Jessica asked.

            “Well, he gave her the car at the end of August I think.  Sometimes he would fly up here in a helicopter service from Boston and then use the car for business trips to Portland, at least that’s what Eve said.  At the beginning of November, he just stopped coming at all.  Didn’t even call.   Eve sold the car to Doc just two weeks ago.  Said she couldn’t stand looking at it in her garage anymore,” Phyllis said.

            Just as Loretta was finished styling Jessica’s hair, Eve waltzed in with her usual style.   Jessica got up to greet her.  The two women embraced warmly and exchanged hellos.    Jessica noted that Eve seemed drawn, but she was still as beautiful as ever.  She knew that Eve was a master at hiding her emotions, unless it was lust.   Eve could never hide attraction to any man.   She just wasn’t capable of it. 

            “Hello everybody.  Corrine, I want my nails painted red this week to match my new dress I’m wearing out for the Christmas party at the Charter House.  I really hate red now, but I can’t give up my most flattering color, now can I?”  Eve asked.

            A chorus of “no’s” rang out.  

*  *   *  *  *

            Over steaming cups of tea at her kitchen table, Jessica asked Mort and Seth what they knew about Eve Simpson and David Hearn.  

            “Now Mrs. F, what brought this up?  I’d bet lunch that you were at Loretta’s this morning,” Jessica’s dear friend and sometimes colleague Sheriff Mort Metzger raised his eyebrows at her. 

            “Ayuh, look at her hair.  She just had it done.  Looks pretty too.  I guess Loretta does just a good a job as those fancy big city salons, eh Jess?” Seth laughed.

            “Yes, I was there.  They filled me in on all the gossip, of course.  Eve came in while I was there and she didn’t look herself, if you ask me.  The funny thing is that I’m sure I’ve heard of a David Hearn. I think there was an article in the business section of the New York Times about him.  I think I remember that a number of his investment deals were questionable and the SEC was initiating an investigation against him.  I wonder...” Jessica said.

            “Oh no, here she goes again.” Mort shook his head.

            “Hey woman, don’t you go snoopin’.  I got my car because that relationship went south and I’m not giving it back to Eve,” Seth growled.

            “Seth, I’m not ‘snoopin’’, I’m just curious.  That’s all, honestly,” Jessica responded.

            “Well, I never heard anything about him.  I know he came up there every week for the first few months and then all of sudden it was as if he vanished.” Mort said.

            “Did he have a family at all?” she asked.

            “Not that I ever heard of.  Well, Eve will be on to another man before we know it.  So, Jess, what’s for dinner tonight?” Seth asked.

            “Well, I thought we were all going to the Charter House tonight for the Christmas party?  I certainly was counting on it.  Did you forget Seth?  Did the speed of that new car blow away your memory cells?” Jessica laughed. 

            “Ayuh, that’s right.  Just forgot that tonight’s the night.   And I’ll thank you to not mention speeding in his presence,” Seth said, nodding at Mort.

            “Well, Doc, I’d be more worried about where you’re parking that thing if I were you,” Mort warned, with a laugh.

            Jessica spent the rest of the afternoon at her computer.  While researching ideas for her new book, she came across a news article about David Hearn quite by accident.   She couldn’t help but dig a little further into his background.  

            She was pleasantly interrupted by an instant message from George. 


InspectorBoy01: Awrite ma hen!

MysteryGirl02: And hello to you my George.   I miss you.  What have you been up to this evening?

InspectorBoy01: I miss you too.  I just returned home from an afternoon with my nephew Quinn.  He asked me to take him shopping for a Christmas gift for him mum.

MysteryGirl02: Let me guess. He conned you into letting him drive your Jaguar didn't he?

InspectorBoy01:   Aye, and I'm afraid we never quite got around to his Christmas shopping.

MysteryGirl02: What happened?

InspectorBoy01:   Well, love, you probably don't realize this, but driving the Jaguar out on the open road is a bit more rewarding experience than driving it in London

MysteryGirl02: Really?  How rewarding?

InspectorBoy01:   Let's just say that I'm getting my just rewards for caving to pressure to let Quinn drive, and Quinn, well he is getting his just rewards by having to make up the cost of the speeding ticket by having to do a list of jobs that I have to assign to him.  We are also both in a bit of trouble from his mum.

MysteryGirl02: LOL.

InspectorBoy01:   It's not that funny.

MysteryGirl02:  Okay, if you say so.   George, do you know anybody at Interpol?

InspectorBoy01: Oh no.  I don’t like it when you ask questions like that.  What are you up to?

MysteryGirl02: Just curious about a man named David Hearn.  My friend Eve Simpson was seeing him and he suddenly stopped calling her.  He is under SEC investigation, among other things.

InspectorBoy01: And you want to know if Interpol has a line on him?  I shouldn’t find out for you.  You know I don’t like it when you get curious.

MysteryGirl02: Oh yes you do, admit it.  It’s one of the things you love about me, am I right?

InspectorBoy01: Sigh.  Yes, you’re right.   You’re my Watson and I’m your Holmes...or vice versa.  LOL.  I’ll see what I can find out for you.  So, what’s on your agenda tonight, my love?

MysteryGirl02: We’re all going to the Christmas party at Charter House.  I wish you were here to go with me.

InspectorBoy01: Aye, lassie, I wish I was too.   I wish we were together for more than just a Christmas party.  You know, it’s not too late for you fly over and join me for the remainder of your holiday.

MysteryGirl02: I know, I know.   I want to spend some time with you.  But I just need to be here, I think. 

InspectorBoy01: You haven’t said, sooo I’m guessing that you haven’t told Seth about us yet.

MysteryGirl02: You’re right.  I want to. I just can’t seem to get the words out.  I don’t know why I’m so afraid of telling him.

InspectorBoy01: Jess, I know he wants you to be happy.

MysteryGirl02: I know you’re right about that.  Sigh.   George, I love you.

InspectorBoy01: I love you more.

MysteryGirl02: Impossible.

InspectorBoy01: Possible.

MysteryGirl02: No, really, I love you more.

InspectorBoy01: Okay, you win.   I give up.    

MysteryGirl02:   Thank you for conceding.  You’re such a gentleman, my handsome George.

IspectorBoy01: By the way, what are you wearing?

MysteryGirl02: To the party?

InspectorBoy01: Noooo, right now!

MysteryGirl02: Do you really want me to tell you what I’m actually  wearing right now?

InspectorBoy01: Of course!

MysteryGirl02: I think you’d like it better if you’d just imagine what I’ll wear when we’re finally together again.

InspectorBoy01: Actually, I’m imagining what you WON’T wear when we’re together again. 

MysteryGirl02: George! I think I better go now.  I’m suddenly feeling too warm.

InspectorBoy01: LOL.  Guid nicht, mah loove.   Ah loove ye.  xoxo

MysteryGirl02: Goodnight  - I love you. xoxo


*  *  *  *  *

            Late in the afternoon, Jessica took a leisurely bath and prepared for her evening out in Cabot Cove.  She knew the Charter House would be bustling with friends out celebrating the Christmas season.  It was always so festive this time of year plus everybody was raving about the new jazz trio for dancing.  She decided to wear her new green satin Dior dress, with new Ferragamo heels.   The dress was beautiful and she loved the way it fit her.   All the extra walking in Manhattan had been good for her figure.  The bodice wrapped around her body and tied at her waist and had a full long skirt.  She decided that she would have somebody take her picture so she could email it to George since he had not seen this dress.

            As she ran out to a waiting Seth, she pulled her white wool coat around her in the cold air that smelled of snow.  She still couldn’t believe he was driving that bright red Mercedes.  She couldn’t keep from giggling at the sight of him behind the wheel. 

            “What are you grinning at, woman?”

            “I’m sorry, I’m just admiring the cut of you behind the wheel of this car.  It’s just a little sexier than that station wagon you held on to for so many years, you know!” 

            He gave her a sideways look and pretended to mumble under his breath.   She laughed and kissed his cheek.

            “My goodness, you look beautiful, Jessie!”

            “Well, you look handsome yourself.  I can hardly wait to get to the party and hit the dance floor.  I was used to going out a bit more in the city.  Plus I’ve been craving some good Maine lobster.”

            “Ayuh. You still haven’t told me who’s been wining and dining you around New York. Should I be jealous?” 

            “Oh please Seth, it’s nobody special.  Just colleagues, my publisher, those sort of people,” she said, hoping he didn’t notice that her fingers were crossed.

            “Is it that MI-6 fellow? It sounds like he was always conveniently showing up wherever you happened to be,” he inquired, pretending to drill her.


            “Is it that Scotland Yard inspector? What’s his name?  I seem to recall you mentioning him pretty often.”

            “Seth, that’s enough.  Really!” she said and turned away so he wouldn’t notice that she was blushing.  “Is he baiting me?” she thought to herself.

            Seth looked over at her.  She seemed different since she had moved to New York City.   She had become more sophisticated and if it was possible, even more beautiful over the last five or so years...almost as if she had blossomed.  She was still his best friend but he was feeling like she wasn’t the woman he could always read like a book as before.  But he was glad to have her back if only for a month.  He planned to convince her not to go back to the university next semester.  He didn’t like not having her here with him all the time.  He had a feeling that there was something she wasn’t telling him and that if he didn’t act fast, he was about to lose her.

            Jessica, in turn, noticed that Seth looked a little different.  She was pretty sure he had lost a little weight and his hair was combed somewhat differently.  She patted his hand and smiled.  She knew that he had missed her over the last semester and of course, she had missed him.  Emails and phone calls weren’t always enough between old friends. She resolved to tell him about George the next day.


            The Charter House was as festive as she knew it would be.  It was good to catch up with so many friends on such a festive night.  She was also glad to see that Eve was there too and asked her to join them at their table. 

            “Jess, how about a spin around the dance floor?” Seth asked.

            “I thought you would never ask,” Jessica gladly accepted. 

            Cabot Cove’s new, and only, jazz ensemble had just taken the stage.  They were actually quite good at the old standards even though they were just college kids home for winter break.   She remembered most of them from when they were children.  She would have to request a song and crossed her fingers that they would know it.   

            “I guess you do your dining and dancing at some pretty fancy schmancy places these days, huh Jess?”  Seth asked as he led her around the dance floor.

            “Well, I admit that I have been to some lovely restaurants in Manhattan, but this is where I want to be right now - with my best friend in my favorite place.”  She smiled at him and placed her cheek against his. 

            “Jess, I couldn’t help notice that new bauble on your finger.  Pretty fancy.  Did you treat yourself after your latest bestseller?” he asked.

            “It is gorgeous, isn’t it?   George says that the sapphire matches the color of my eyes.”

            “George?” he looked at her, still guiding her around the dance floor.

            She bit her lip.   She hadn’t meant to bring up George tonight.  “Oh, you know, my friend George Sutherland from London.  He gave it to me as a surprise.”

            “That’s a pretty fancy gift from somebody who is just a friend,” he commented.

            She saw Seth’s face redden and decided not to respond.  She changed the subject: “The music is really quite good!  I love these old songs.  They remind me of my parents.”

            “Ayuh, they are good.  We should request a song.  I understand they have quite a repertoire.”

            She sighed inwardly that at least for now she was able to avoid talking about George.  She didn’t want Seth to be upset tonight.

            She let the mix of jazz standards and Christmas music take her away from her worries.   She and Seth danced five in a row and then took a breather.  She danced with Mort Metzger to a jitterbug as well as took a spin around the floor with Sam the mayor.   Eve danced with several gentlemen too.   Everybody was laughing and dancing, and Jessica noticed that Eve seemed to be having a good time, despite the sad look in her eyes.  Somebody started serving champagne and it really became quite a party.

            After a short break, the band started up again.   Jessica was feeling a little tipsy but she was have a good time.  Seth pulled her to the dance floor again before she could protest as the band played “I Could Write a Book.”  She tried to ignore the words as Seth softly sang along in her ear:  

If they asked me, I could write a book
About the way you walk, and whisper, and look.
I could write a preface
On how we met
So the world would never forget.

And the simple secret of the plot
Is just to tell them that I love you a lot.
And the world discovers
As my book ends,

How to make two lovers
Of friends.

            She started to feel uncomfortable in the way that Seth was holding her and had the feeling that everybody in the room was staring at them.   She started to pull away from him, “Goodness, I need to sit down.”

            “Just one more spin around, darling Jess.” 

            “Seth, really I’ve had enough,” she said.

            “Ayuh” he said as he followed her off the dance floor.  “Are you okay?” he asked with concern in his voice.  

            She nodded and took a drink of water. “It must be too much champagne.”  


            Later that evening, they drove in silence to her house, each lost in personal thoughts.  When they arrived in front of her house, he killed the engine, as if hinting that he wasn’t ready for the evening to end. 

            Seth, would you like a cup of coffee?” she reluctantly asked, despite the fact that she really felt too exhausted to play hostess, even to Seth.   

            “Just let me walk you to the door, Jess.” 

            Seth hurried around the front of the car and helped her out.   She took his arm as they walked around to her back door.  When they stopped there she turned to kiss his cheek good night, but he caught her and instead wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug.  They stood there for a long moment in the embrace.

            As Jessica started to pull away from his embrace, Seth whispered, “Ah Jess, I’ve missed you so much.  I don’t want you to ever leave again.”   He kissed her firmly on the lips and then simply walked away, leaving her standing in the doorway, stunned.

*  *  *  *  *

            “Oh my head,” she said out loud to herself as she lay in her feather bed with a pillow over her head.  She knew that only a glass and a half of champagne wouldn’t do this to her.  She forced herself up and into a soothing hot shower.  After a slice of toast and many cups of coffee, she made a batch of fresh bread and started the shepherd’s pie for her dinner later that night.   She then answered some pressing emails and worked on notes for her new book.    

            Unable to concentrate, she thought about Seth and the previous evening. She wondered what had come over him. She couldn’t get over that kiss he had planted on her.  She really had to get her talk with him over that day.   Even though she didn't normally interrupt his work day, she decided to call George at his office as she knew he would bolster her spirits and her courage.

            “Sutherland here,” George answered.

            “George, it’s me.”

            “Ah lassie, good morning.  I was just thinking about calling you.  Did you have fun last night?”

            “Yes, mostly.  I have a little trouble over here,” she said slowly.

            “Oh no, Jess, don’t tell me that.  Are you okay?  You didn’t become further involved in that Hearn matter, did you?”

            “No, nothing like that.  It’s Seth,” she said.

            “You told him?” he asked hopefully.

            “No, I have to tell him today.  Last night he was kind of, um, amorous.”

            “He was what?!” George exclaimed.

            “Well, just a little.  He was a little forward with me at the dance and then he kissed me on the lips when he walked me to my door.  It happened so fast I didn’t have time to back away,” she said miserably.

            “Jess, you’re not feeling guilty are you?  I certainly trust you,” George said with a soothing manner.

            “Of course I’m not, I just wanted you to know.  I know I have to tell him about you and me today.  I don’t know what got into him.”

            “You got into him, that’s what.”

            “Pardon?  What are you talking about?” she asked innocently.

            “Jessica, you really don’t know how beguiling you are, do you?   Surely, you must know that Seth is crazy about you.   In fact, he’s in love with you.”

            When she didn’t respond, he continued on, “Jess, anybody can see it.  I saw it when you and he were in London years ago and that was when you and I barely knew each other.   Just as I’m sure he saw that I had fallen in love with you too.  Women aren’t the only intuitive ones, you know.”

            She still didn’t answer, so George said, “Love, I didn’t mean to upset you.  Are you okay?”

            “Yes, George, I’m okay.   I’m just in shock, I guess.  I just don’t know what to do.   I’ve never thought of Seth as anything more than brother.  Thanks for listening to me,” she said, with a sigh.

            “Jessica dear, you can talk to me anytime about anything,” he said, his Scottish burr deepening.

            “George, how long until we see each other again?” she asked quietly.

            “Well, hopefully sooner than you think.   Listen, I found out from my contact at Interpol that they don’t haven’t had any reports on that Hearn chap crossing through any customs. 

            “Thanks for checking.  I guess that could mean several things: either he’s traveling under an assumed name; he’s still in the US; or, he’s dead.”


            “George, I’m just curious.  That’s all.  Really,” she said.

            “Aye, I know all about your curiosity.  So, what are you doing this weekend?”

            “Just working on my book, last minute shopping for Christmas presents, planning Christmas dinner, cleaning house...I don’t know what else, why?” she asked, her curiosity piqued.

            “I just learned that I am flying to New York tonight.   I’ll be in meetings most of tomorrow with the British Ambassador and part of Saturday.   But I’m on my own time both tomorrow night and Saturday night.  Spend the weekend with me?”

            “I’d love to George!  All of these things I’m doing can certainly wait.   Won’t you come back to Cabot Cove with me for Christmas week?”

            “Well, as much as I’d love that, I have to be back on a plane on Sunday afternoon for more meetings in London on Monday.  I can tell you more about it in person.   Shall I meet you at your apartment tomorrow afternoon?”

            “Well, no, we can’t go there.  Eli is staying there.”

            “Ah, young Mr. Hemminger.  I forgot that you told me that he’s apartment-sitting while you’re in Cabot Cove. Well, I’ll see what I can book on short notice.”          

            “How about a repeat performance at the Carlyle?” she said seductively.

            “Sweetheart, you read my mind,” he laughed.

            “I thought so.  George, I can’t wait to see you.”

            “Nor can I, my dear.   I’ll email you with the details and you email me your flight information.   Oh, by the way, bring some formal attire - you, ah, might need it.  Now, I must ring off because I have yet another bloody meeting to attend and then I have to get to the airport.  I’ll see you tomorrow, love,” George said.

            “Until tomorrow.  I love you, George.”

            “I love you too.  Bye Jess.”

            Her heart racing, she held the phone for a minute and then dialed Seth’s number.  When he didn’t answer, she left a message for him to call her.   She called Jed Richardson to see if he had space on his charter plane to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.  She made a reservation with the car service to take her in to Manhattan from New Jersey, then booked her train from Manhattan back to Maine.  She also booked a room at the Ritz-Carlton for her Sunday night stay in Boston.  She then took some time to pack her suitcase for the weekend.   She examined the Dior dress that she had worn to the Charter House party and decided that it was still in perfect condition.   She also packed another formal gown that George hadn’t seen yet, just in case she would need it.  Finally, she called Loretta to see if there were any manicure and pedicure appointments available despite the short notice.

*  *  *  *  *

            “A manicure and a pedicure?  He must be special indeed,” Loretta said coyly.

            “Oh, I’m just going to a party with friends in New York this weekend and decided to treat myself,” Jessica fibbed, imagining that her fingers were crossed behind her back.

            “Uh huh, what do you all think girls?  Seems to me that Jess is holding back on something.”  The room erupted in giggles and chatter of agreement.

            “You all are really too much.   Now, can I get a little service here?” Jessica laughed, pretending to sound exasperated.

            She chose red polish for her toes and nails.  It seemed festively appropriate plus it would match the new negligee that she planned to wear to surprise George.  

            From her chair under the dryer, Ideal said, “So Jessica, Seth told me this morning over at Mara’s that he’s working on you to give up living in New York.  It will be good to have you back here.”  

            She swung around in her seat, almost knocking over the nail polish. “He told you what?!”

            “Yes, he said he has decided that it’s time for you to stay in Cabot Cove from now on.”

            Jessica felt her face flush and her blood pressure rising, but all she could say was,   “Is that so,” she said more to herself than as a response to Ideal.

            As soon as her nails and toes were finished, she headed to Seth’s office to confront him.

            “Jessica!   To what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from you?” Seth asked.

            “Seth Hazlitt, I need to talk to you in private,” Jessica said, trying to keep her voice down.

            “Is this a professional visit?  I was afraid you were comin’ down with something,” he said.

            “Now!” she said.

            “Ayuh,” he said and went into his office.  He waited for her to come in and closed the door behind her. He tried to hug her and she dodged his advance.

            “Seth, stop right where you are. Why are you telling people about your plans for me to move back here full time?”

            “Well, I figured that last night that I made myself clear,” he said, looking Jessica in the eye.

            Jessica turned around and looked up at the ceiling, “You did not.”  She let out a sigh, and said, “I really don’t know what has come over you Seth.”

            “Well, I told you I don’t want you to go back.  You’re different now that you live there,” he complained.

             “I really can’t believe this.  You know what, Seth? I don’t want to talk to you anymore right now,” she said fixing a piercing look at him.

            “Come on, Jess, why are you so angry?  You know I don’t want you to go back.”

            “Seth, my life is my business.  But just so you know, I’m going to New York tomorrow and I’ll be back here on Monday.”

            Seth cleared his throat, “Jess, I’m sorry.  Forgive me?  I’ll drive you to the airport.  No arguments or lectures.”

            “Seth, did you hear me at all?” she asked, turning back from the door.  

            “Jessica, I’m sorry.   I really am.  Will I see you when you get back?” he asked, desperation creeping into his voice.

            “Maybe.  I’ll think about it.”  With that, Jessica was out the door.         

            Seth sank down in his desk chair.   Well, I think I blew it, he thought to himself.   He had foolishly assumed that it would be enough for Jessica that he merely state what he wanted.   She was the most direct and logical person he knew and realized that it had been a mistake to spring it on her like he had.   He also knew that she always did exactly what she wanted, being extremely independent.  “Seth Hazlitt, you old fool!” he said out loud.

*  *  *  *  *

            By the time Jessica was inside her warm house, she was feeling a little calmer.   Sometimes Seth really exasperated her, but this time he had really overstepped his bounds.   She was starting to realize that what George had told her earlier must really be true.   She decided to avoid thinking about it by now by getting a little work done. 

            But before she settled down to further develop her book outline, she Googled David Hearn.  She was curious as to how somebody of his stature could just disappear.  She clicked on some links to the Boston society pages and saw him in pictures at various charity functions.   Further, she found the website for his company, as well as his professional biography.  She then read some news articles about an investigation initiated by the SEC against him and his company.  Hearn was the president and founder of an investment fund called Hearn Investment Management Limited.   The SEC believed that he had been using funds of new investors to pay old investors:  a classic Ponzi scheme.   He was also accused of committing arson on a Portland warehouse that was supposedly filled with jewelry and smuggled diamonds.   The department of justice had indicted him and the SEC had filed a federal suit against him.  

            Her research was interrupted by Mort Metzger’s appearance at her backdoor.  She sighed inwardly, but welcomed him in.

            “Hello Mrs. F.,” he said, kissing her cheek.  “Feet hurting from all of that dancing?  I hope the Doc didn’t step on your toes too much!” he laughed. 

            “Hello Mort, it was fun, wasn’t it?  Cup of coffee?” she asked, as she got cups and saucers down from the cabinet.  She set a plate of cookies on the table in front on Mort.

            “Thanks.  So, it sure is good to have you home for a few weeks at least, Mrs. F.  It’s been awful quiet around here and Doc has just been moping for months without you.”  Sheriff Metzger grinned.

            “Oh Mort, really.  He’s just grumpy because nobody will play chess with him,” she laughed.  She decided not to bring up her argument with Seth. 

            They chatted a little more about the Charter House festivities and then Jessica broached the David Hearn subject again.

            “I think that Eve’s Mr. Hearn isn’t shunning her, but rather that he really is missing, or worse, he’s dead,” Jessica said.

            “What makes you think that Mrs. F., another of your famous hunches?” Mort asked, taking a sip of Jessica’s good coffee.

            “Well, according to the SEC lawsuit, Hearn and his associates allegedly committed securities fraud, diamond smuggling, arson and possibly murder.  He went missing just before the indictment was handed down,” she told him.

            “Murder?  Why is the SEC involved?  Shouldn’t this just be a federal criminal case?” Mort asked.

            “Well, it is, but the SEC is involved because of the securities fraud. Apparently, the Hearn was involved in a Ponzi scheme and there’s also evidence pointing to insurance fraud.   He allegedly filled a warehouse with imported jewelry, had it insured and then set the place on fire.   The warehouse was empty, but the insurance claim was still filed and paid. Then one of Hearn’s colleagues was found dead in the warehouse.  He died of smoke inhalation, but when arson is involved, it’s considered murder.  To top off everything, his creditors put him into an involuntary bankruptcy so now it’s in the Federal bankruptcy court as well” she explained.

            Oy vey, what a mess.  So what makes you think that David Hearn is likely missing or dead?  He may have just absconded with his company’s money to the Cayman Islands or somewhere else remote,” Mort surmised.

            “Well, I suppose that could be it, but I think because the articles in the Times indicated that Hearn was never available at his office before the indictment.  Plus he has not filed any papers in response to the legal action.  I also found out from a friend that he also hasn’t crossed through any customs.  If he had, Interpol would have shown him on its radar.”


            Jessica decided that she would pay a visit to Eve Simpson so Mort gave her a lift to Eve’s office on Maine Street.

            “Hello Eve.  How are you?” Jessica smiled at Eve Simpson.

            “Jessica, darling, wonderful to see you.  Now, let’s see, you’ve stopped by because you’ve decided to make New York your permanent home and you want me to handle the sale of your house?  I’ve been wanting to get your property on the market for years!  Well, you came to the right place, Jessica!” Eve said, with a characteristic twinkle in her eye.

            “Oh Eve, you never will learn, will you?  I will never sell my home.  You drove Frank crazy with that idea and you never will give up with me either, will you?” she laughed.

            “Well, Jess, a girl’s gotta keep trying!  Wasn’t last night at the Charter House fun?   You and Seth sure seemed cozy on the dance floor.”

            “Oh Eve, really.”

            “Well, there is somebody, isn’t there?” 

            “Oh, go on with yourself,” Jessica laughed.

            “Don’t tell me to go on.   I can see it in your eyes, Jess.  If anybody knows when somebody is in love, it’s me.  You must have met somebody in New York.  Come on, Jess, you can tell me all about him.” Eve, despite being depressed, never missed out on a hint of romance.

            Jessica tried to suppress her smile.  She was tempted to indulge in a little girl talk with Eve, but she didn’t want anybody to know about her relationship with George before she told Seth.  Eve was not known for her discretion.  She said, “Eve, listen, I didn’t come to talk about me.  I just stopped by to see how you’re doing.  I know it’s just gossip, but I heard all about you and David Hearn.  I can’t help but feel concerned for you.”

            “I’m fine, really, and I don’t want to talk about it,” Eve said and then pursed her lips.

            “Okay, but I’m here for you if you change your mind.  I’ll never forget how you were there for me after Frank died,” Jessica said, putting her hand on Eve’s arm.

            “Jess, it’s hardly the same thing, but thank you,” Eve said.


            After she left Eve’s office, she walked the long way to her house.  The air was freezing, and even though Jessica was excited enough to feel warm, she practically ran all the way home.  As soon as she was in her warm kitchen, she fixed herself a cup of tea, grabbed a pad and pen and sat down at her table.  First she wrote out a list to make sure that she didn’t forget anything for her trip to New York and second she made notes about what she had learned about Hearn.   She then went to her computer and printed out the latest email from George that included his itinerary and the hotel information.  She smiled when she saw that he had booked the Carlyle. 

            She had a light supper and then got ready for bed early.   She lay down and realized that she had left her notes on the kitchen table.   Pulling on a robe, she ran downstairs just as a knock came at the backdoor. 

            “Eve!  What are you doing out so late?”

            “Jessica, I’m so sorry to come over so late.  I see you’re already for bed.  I’ll come again tomorrow.”

            “No, no, please come in.  I was just going to read for a while.  Besides, I’m leaving in the morning for a weekend in New York so I won’t be here.  Come on in.  Cup of tea?” she asked, ushering Eve in and taking her coat.

            “Jess, I’m sorry.   It’s just after that you came by this afternoon, I realized that I do need to talk.  I need some advice.”           

            “Eve, no problem.  Sit down.”  She put the kettle on, took down two tea cups out and her box of assorted teas.   As soon as the water boiled, she poured each of them a cup and sat down with Eve.

            “Now, what is it you want to talk about?” Jess asked carefully.

            Eve let out a long sigh.  “Well, you’ve heard the rumors about David and me so I won’t start at the beginning.  I’ll just add that I’m in love with him.  I’m torn between being terribly worried and terribly angry,” Eve said and then paused.

            Jessica took a sip of her tea and looked at Eve.  Being a good listener, she didn’t say anything, giving Eve time to further collect thoughts.

            “Jessica, you’re the only person I know who has experience with real criminals, besides Mort, of course.  Somehow, I don’t think he would be quite as understanding as you.   Before I so impulsively sold my Mercedes to Seth, I accidentally discovered a package under the driver’s seat of the car.   I had dropped a pen there and when taking it out, I found a cloth pouch.  Thinking it might be a present from David, I opened it.  Well, I couldn’t believe my eyes when that it was filled with loose diamonds.   Hundreds of them,” she said and took a sip of her tea. 

            “I then checked the passenger seat and pulled up the back seats.  I found dozens of pouches, all full of diamonds.”

            “What did you do with the diamonds?” Jessica asked.

            “They are in my deep freezer.”

            “Eve, why didn’t you call the authorities?”

            “I know I should have.  But I wanted to hear what David’s explanation was, but he hasn’t called me in weeks and I haven’t been able to reach him.  I know I’m in trouble for withholding information.  

            “You could very well be.  I have a feeling that these diamonds were supposed to be in that warehouse that burned.”

            “But you can understand, can’t you?” Eve asked, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief.

            Jessica nodded silently and put her hand on Eve’s arm.   

            “On the other hand, I’m terrified of what keeping the diamonds in my possession could lead to.  I’ve started to think that some of my nagging suspicions I’ve had about David are true.  When I read about the death of David’s partner in the warehouse fire outside of Portland...” she said, her voice trailing off.

            Jessica took a deep breath.  “Eve, you cannot afford to not say anything at this point.  I suggest that you call Mort right away.  You very well could be in danger.” 

            She said, “I know, I know you’re right.  Can I use your phone?” 

            Eve called Mort and told him everything that she had just told Jessica.   Mort told her that he would meet her at her house.  

            “Jessica, thank you for listening and helping me.”

            “Eve, of course, anytime you need to talk.   Now, I’ll be in New York this weekend, but I’ll be back on Monday night.  I’ll call you and catch up.”

            The two women embraced and Jessica walked Eve to the door. 

            Just as Eve was almost to her car, Jessica ran after her.  She said, “Uh oh.  I just had a thought.  You know, Seth is going to have to turn over that car as evidence.”

            Eve turned and looked at Jessica.  “Oh no, surely not!  He’ll be crushed!  He loves that car.”

            “I know, he really is like a teenager with it,” she laughed.

            “Oh, I’m so sorry I got him involved in this mess.”

            “Don’t worry Eve, Seth will be okay and he’ll be glad that you’re okay.  I know that means more to him than any old, er sports, car.”

            “Thank you, I needed a laugh.  Now, you have a safe trip to New York,” she said with a laugh as she got into her car.   “And, oh Jessica, don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do,” she said with a final wink.

            Jessica, shaking her head, laughed out loud and waved good-bye to Eve.

*  *  *  *  *

            Despite the foul weather, Jed Richardson landed his small plane with ease at Teterboro Airport.   Jessica thanked him and told him she would see him the next week at Seth’s Christmas Eve party.   Jessica took the car service to the Carlyle Hotel on the upper east side of Manhattan.  At the front desk, she collected the room key that George had left for her and took the elevator up to the beautiful suite.   She felt a little strange not going to her own apartment, but was overcome with a wave of excitement and anticipation when she recognized it as the same suite in which they had spent their first night together.    Leave it to George to get the same room, she said to herself with a smile.

            She pulled her rolling suitcase into the beautifully appointed bedroom where she found a vase of red roses in the bedroom.    A smile tugged at her lips when she read the note that George had left her.


Jess, You’ve made it.  I’ve left a few goodies strategically placed here and there in the suite.   I trust you’ll find them all by the time I arrive late this afternoon.   I’m counting the moments in these infernal meetings until I see you. Love, George xoxo


            She smelled the roses and held the note to her heart, before tucking it away in her purse as a keepsake.  She looked around the room to see what these strategically items might be.  As she unpacked she found a little wrapped package in one of the bureau drawers.  It was a bottle of her favorite perfume.  George had attached a note to the bottle: I love that your scent remains on my clothes after we’ve been together, reminding me that the time was not just a figment of my imagination. 

            She then called room service for a light lunch and logged onto her laptop while she waited for lunch to arrive.   She emailed George on his Blackberry to let him know that she had arrived.

            She then continued her search for the packages and discovered sweet notes attached to each of them.   In the bathroom, there was a pretty basket of assorted bubble bath and scented oils.  It’s hardly possible, but here are few items to make your skin even softer to my touch.  In a drawer of one of the bedside tables she found a square box that contained lovely scented candles.    The flames of these candles are a mere symbol of the flame you ignited in me.  In the living room, she found yet another wrapped box that contained compact discs that George had burned himself.  You make my heart sing.  He had obviously spent some time compiling the songs - they were all of her favorites and many of them were songs that had special meaning to both of them, among them ”Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, “A Foggy Day in London Town”, “At Last”, “The Way You Look Tonight” and even “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.   She also found a box of chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne in the wet bar refrigerator.   Sweets that aren’t nearly as sweet as you.

            George certainly does have quite an evening planned, she said to herself.   She couldn’t help but wonder how he managed to find the time, but he always seemed to have romantic surprises up his sleeve for her.

            She went back to her laptop and emailed George again:   George, are you planning to seduce me tonight?   If so, it’s going to work.    She smiled at the thought of him reading her email and then finished her ceasar salad.    She thought about going out to do a little shopping, but after looking out the window at the freezing drizzle falling on the already slushy streets, she decided to lay down to read her friend Janet Evanovich’s latest “Stephanie Plum” book.  She pulled the covers back on the king sized bed and fluffed the pillows.  Here she discovered yet another surprise: under the pillow there was a beautiful lavender silk and lace negligee.  I can’t wait to see you slip out of this! 

            Oh George!   She laughed out loud and carried it to the bathroom to examine it.  She folded and placed it on the vanity for later and went back to her book. She read for a couple of hours, almost finishing Twelve Sharp. 

            Jessica thought that Janet had really outdone herself with her latest book and went to her laptop to email her. She loved sharing stories with her writing peers and enjoyed especially enjoyed receiving their feedback. 

            She then read a few emails from various friends and one from Seth.  Seth had sent an apology and said he hoped she would forgive him.   Jessica had been best friends with Seth for many years and she couldn’t imagine her life without him, but she didn’t want anything to spoil her all too brief respite with George so put off responding to him.   An email came in from George just before she logged off.  He had received her last email and his response caused her to flush with anticipation.   He also told her he would be leaving the meetings soon and was counting the minutes until he would see her.

            Jessica decided to bathe and get ready for the evening.   She contemplated what outfit to wear, since George didn’t mention dinner.   She studied the room service menu but decided she would wait to see what George had in mind.  Knowing him, she suspected whatever he planned would be special.  She ran the water for the bath and sank into luxurious bubbles.

            After her bath she decided to try on the lavender silk and lace negligee that George had hid under her pillow.   The silk felt luxurious next to her skin so she left it on while she continued to get ready.  She was just finishing her hair when she heard the key in door.   She stepped out of bedroom and met George at the front door. 

            George’s heart did a flip when he saw Jessica standing there.  He gulped as he realized that she was wearing the negligee he had bought for her, as it was just peeking out from under her robe.  She shed the robe and he realized that the color of the silk caused her eyes to turn a sultry shade of blue.   The negligee clung to her figure in such a way that it caused him to almost lose his breath.  He didn’t say a word, just bent down and planted a passionate kiss on Jessica’s mouth.  She grabbed his tie and kissed him back.   She pushed him across the room and then down on the sofa.   She looked into his eyes while running her hands through his hair.   

“I didn’t realize I would miss you so much, George,” she whispered into his ear.

            George gathered her close in his arms and hugged her tightly.   “Jessie, I missed you too,” he said and started kissing her neck.   “Ah, you look unbelievable in that lavender silk, just as I knew you would,” he sighed.

            Mmmm, thanks.   Thank you for all the presents,” she said, meeting his lips for a prolonged kiss.

“You’re welcome...but, I intend to enjoy them as well, love.”

            Jessica laughed as she pushed George back against the sofa cushions.   She kissed him again, this time working to remove his tie and unbutton his shirt.   George ran his hands up and her back and pulled her on top of him.  

            Jessica slipped out of his arms and stood up.   She took his hands and led him to the bedroom.  He slid the straps of the negligee off her shoulders and kissed her soft skin, letting the soft silk fall to the floor.   She, in turn, pushed his shirt off and undid his belt and trousers.  He removed the rest of his clothes and she pulled him down on the bed with her.


            Sometime later, as they held each other closely, they sighed in unison.

            Waw!  I guess you really did miss me!  It was only three weeks, lassie,” he murmured, kissing her forehead and working his way down her jaw line.

            “It felt more like three months.   Did you enjoy our repeat performance?” she asked.

            “Aye, indeed I did.  I think we need another encore, don’t you?” he said, nuzzling her neck.      

            Jess laughed, “How about an intermission first? I’m famished.”

            “I guess you worked up an appetite?  Ah, well, so did I,” he chuckled and kissed her cheek.  “All right, let’s get up and put on our dancing shoes.   We’re going to the Rainbow Room for a little dinner and dancing.”

            “Oh George!  What a treat! ” Jess exclaimed.

*   *   *   *   *

            George dressed in a classic tuxedo for the evening.  It would have been acceptable to wear a suit and tie to the Rainbow Room, but he decided to take it up a notch for Jessica.   While he waited for Jessica to finish dressing for the evening he sat in the living room sipping a scotch on the rocks from the mini-bar and watching CNN.  He was feeling quite pleased with himself that he had managed to turn the last minute weekend business trip into a bit of a romantic boondoggle with Jessica.  In the previous year, he had been appointed to serve as Scotland Yard’s coordinator on terrorism.  His duties had increased and he began working closer with the prime minister’s office on anti-terrorism efforts.   He was now facing an imminent job change that would change things geographically for him, but he didn’t want to tell Jessica about it before it was all set in stone.   

            The bedroom door open and Jessica emerged.  She was glowing in a red floor length gown.  The sleeveless bodice, cut low in a v shape, fit her.  The skirt was straight and layered with red organza and shimmering satin. She was wearing a double strand of pearls and pearl earrings that were surrounded by small diamonds.   George got up and crossed the room to her. 

            “Ah, Jessica, you look more beautiful than ever,” he said and hugged her.  He took her hand and kissed it, wanting to kiss her lips but knowing that she would fuss over her lipstick.

            “And you look more handsome than ever. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you in a tuxedo before.  Very dapper,” she said, hugging him back. 

            After donning his own overcoat, George helped Jessica into her white wool coat and asked,      “Shall we go?”

            “I’m really excited about going to the Rainbow Room.  I’ve been before, but never with a date quite as dashing as you,” she said, taking his hand.


            George and Jessica took a yellow cab down 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Center.   The Christmas lights hung across the avenue and the decorations in the store windows added to their already celebratory mood.   George had the driver stop in front of the channel gardens.   They walked in to the promenade that was lined with Angels twinkling with white lights.  The area was teaming with tourists and Christmas music was playing loudly from the skating rink below.  George asked a man to take their picture in front of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.  They walked around the plaza to 51st Street and entered 30 Rockefeller Center to the elevators that would carry them up to the 65th floor.  

            They stepped off the elevator and into a magical world.  A big band was playing and the room was full of merry people.   The maitre d’ led them across the room to a table at the floor to ceiling length windows  that faced the Empire State Building, which was lit in red, white and green for Christmas.   The night sky had cleared and the view of Manhattan was spectacular.   A waiter appeared with a bottle of Dom Perigon champagne.   He poured glasses for each of them and told them that he would return shortly with their first course of the featured three course Italian meal.

            George picked up his champagne flute for a toast: “Here’s to you, Jess, all my love.”

            Jessica touched the rim of his glass lightly, and said, “And here’s to you, George, all my love.”

            They each took a sip and took in the view around the room and outside.   George reached across the table and took Jessica’s hand.   She smiled at him.  

            “Dance with me?” he asked.

            “Of course, I thought you’d never ask,” she said, which caused George to laugh.   He led her to the dance floor and gathered her up closely.   The band was playing a waltz.   She didn’t recognize the tune, but let George sweep her around the floor.   He had told her in the past that he wasn’t a particularly good dancer, but every time they had the opportunity to dance together, which wasn’t often enough, she felt like she was dancing with a professional.

            “George, you’re like Fred Astaire,” she said.

            “Not exactly, but I guess that makes you Ginger Rogers,” he laughed.

            Over their supper, Jessica filled in George about David Hearn and everything that Eve had told her.   George shook his head in disgust. 


            “What a bleck.  I’m sorry for your friend Mrs. Simpson.”

            “I am too.   I wonder what’s happening now though.  I hope he hasn’t suddenly decided to show up on her doorstep.   Hopefully, Mort has already contacted the FBI and they are taking over.  This is definitely a matter for the federal authorities.”

            “I agree.  I don’t want you to dig any deeper and put yourself in jeopardy either,” he said.

            “Still...” she said.

            George said, “Jessica, drop it.  You yourself pointed out that this is a matter for the federal authorities.”

            “I know.  Of course, you’re right,” she said with a smile.

            George took her hand in his and kissed her fingertips, “Now for a happier subject.  Jess, would you consider living with me?”        

            “Hmmm, I need time to think about that.  I was always against that in principal, but we’ve already kind of made up our own rules, haven’t we?”

            “Yes, we have, love," he said with a sly grin on his handsome face.  "I also think it's time we met each other’s families.  You’ve heard me talk about mine and I feel like I know your brothers and Grady.  But what if they meet me and detest me?  Would they forbid you from me?”

            Jessica laughed, “George, they couldn’t, wouldn’t ‘detest’ you.   As for my brothers, they know better than to even try to tell me what to do, even if I am their baby sister.  But, I very much would like you to meet my brothers, and of course, Grady and Donna and their kids.  I would also very much like to meet your family.”

            “So do you want to try to set up a get together this spring?” George inquired, still holding her hand.

            “That would be lovely.  My oldest brother Marshall, his wife Renee, my brother Martin and his wife Suzy and I always get together over Memorial Day at our parents’ former vacation home in Kennebunkport.  Mommy and Daddy bought it after we all grew up and it became a tradition for us all to visit them there for our summer vacation.  We have kept it up even after they passed away.    Sometimes my nieces and nephews come as well,” she said, taking another sip of her champagne.

            “And Grady?  Does he go as well?  I recall that you told me that he is your nephew by marriage,” he asked, smiling that she so sweetly referred to her parents as Mommy and Daddy.

            “Yes, Grady was Frank’s brother’s son.  But of course he went with us to Kennebunkport because we raised him as ours while he was in high school. He goes now when it works out with  his and Donna’s vacation schedule.  Since they live outside of New York though, I could arrange for you to meet them anytime.  Grady used to work here in the city, but now he has his own firm in Westchester.”

            “I’d like that.   My sisters, their families and I always get together in Wick over the Easter holidays.  They’ve known about you for some time and have been pressuring me to bring you around.  I think Easter would be perfect.  Everybody is having fun and you could get meeting the whole clan out the way in one fell swoop.  If you tried to meet them individually, it would take years,” he laughed.

            “Well then, that’s settled.  I’ll visit you in Wick for Easter and you’ll come with me to Kennebunkport at the end of May.”

            “I’ll drink to that,” he said and toasted her.    “Now, how about one last spin on the dance floor before we head back uptown to the Carlyle?”

*   *   *   *   * 

            It was after midnight when George and Jessica returned to the Carlyle. 

            “Care for a nightcap in Bemelmans, Jess?” George asked while they were still in the lobby.

            “No thanks.  I think it’s past our bedtime,” she seductively replied.

            “Well, in that case, come on my dear,” he said, taking her hand.   When they stepped into the elevator, he drew her in his arms and kissed her passionately.  “I’ve been wanting to do that all night long.  You look completely gorgeous in that dress.”

            “I wanted you to do that all night long,” she whispered back.


            Over breakfast ordered from room service, George told Jessica about his meetings with the British Ambassador.  

            “Ambassador Kean is chairman of the UN Committee on Terrorism.   It’s not an easy position,” he told her.

            “So are you testifying before the committee because of the work you’ve been involved with in London?” she asked, taking another bite of her lightly buttered English muffin.

            “Aye, well, not testifying, but more or less consulting.   I don’t know that any country will ever defeat those blecks.   In the old days, the government only worried about the cold war,” he said with a disgusted voice.

            “Of course, but Britain has been dealing with the IRA for years, right?”

            “You’re right, but those blokes, while still operating out of hatred, fortunately didn’t take things to the level that the Jihadists do.  It’s all quite horrifying, really.”

            “I wish you didn’t have to be involved in that.  As horrible as individual crimes and murder are, this is a level that terrifies me.  I worry about you.”

            “I know, sweetheart: just be reassured that I’m not going out with the lads in the battlefields.   Being in a meeting room at Parliament or the UN is no where near as dangerous,” he responded, taking her hand and pulling her over until she was sitting in his lap.  She put her arms around him and he nuzzled her neck.   “So, what is on your agenda today while I’m at the bloody meeting?”

            She smiled at him and then got up to look out the window.  “I’m not sure.  I was thinking about going shopping," she said, pulling the thick robe provided by the Carlyle tighter around herself. “Ugh, the weather is still foul.   Maybe I’ll just lay around this lovely suite and watch television or read,” she said.

            “I like the way you think.  I made a reservation for Café Carlyle downstairs.  Maria Friedman is singing tonight.  She’s a Brit and I’ve been a fan of hers for a while.  Dinner is at 7:30 and her show starts at 9:00,” George said, getting up and crossing the room to where she stood still looking out the window at the wintry scene on Madison Avenue below.  He took her in his arms and kissed her neck. 

            Jessica turned and put her arms around his neck, “I love Café Carlyle.  Thank you for thinking of going, darling,” she said, kissing him tenderly.   “Frank and I saw Maria in Sunday in the Park with George in London some years ago.  She was wonderful.”

            “I thought you’d enjoy her act.   Now, I guess I better get going.   Just email me on my Blackberry to let me know what you’re up to.  With any luck, I’ll be back here around 3:00 or 4:00,” George said, kissing and hugging her tightly.   Kissing her goodbye and then going off to work made him feel very domestic, although he felt that this was probably a passing moment.   He shrugged on his winter coat and scarf.  Jessica walked him to the door and they kissed goodbye one more time for good measure.  Her smile and knowing that she would be here waiting for him to return was almost enough to make him happy about going off to another bloody meeting.


            Jessica couldn’t bring herself to leave the warmth of the sumptuous suite and she enjoyed her uncharacteristically lazy day.  She spent some time reading and then, while enjoying a light lunch from room service, she switched on the television and flipped channels for a while.   She came across the wonderful old movie, An Affair to Remember.   She found herself crying at the end which caused her to laugh.  She wasn’t usually so sentimental, but being in love with George had brought back her emotional side which she hadn’t felt since Frank had passed away.   She pondered this for a moment and decided that she rather liked it.   When she became bored with being lazy, she decided to write the first chapter of her new book. 

            Before she knew it, it was 3:00 and George was to arrive soon.  She saved her work and then spruced up a bit.  She changed out of her pink warm-up suit and into black slacks, a periwinkle blue cashmere twin set and black loafers.   Since she hadn’t been outside of the room all day, she decided to wait for him in the well-appointed Carlyle lobby.  

            She was aimlessly flipping through a magazine, when she noticed a man exiting the elevator.  She took in a deep breath as she realized that it was David Hearn.  She saw him go into Bemelmans Bar.  She put her magazine down and walked to the entrance of the bar.   She saw Hearn shake hands with a tall thin man and then take a table at the back of the room.   The tall thin man had long scraggly hair and was wearing a black leather jacket.  He didn’t look like the type who would be frequenting a classy establishment on the upper east side of Manhattan.   She returned to her seat in the lobby and was deep in thought about why Hearn might be in Manhattan when George approached her.   He sat down beside her and gave her a quick kiss on her cheek.  

            “Hello love, this is a nice surprise.  Tired of our suite?” he asked.

            Mmmm, George, not at all.   I just thought I would meet you down here and take you for a drink in Bemelmans Bar,” she said, kissing him back on his cheek.

            “Ah, you read my mind.  I wouldn’t turn away a scotch on the rocks,” he said, standing and taking her hand to pull her up from the sofa. 

            They walked through the lobby and went into the lovely Bemelmans.  The bar was just beginning to get busy for happy hour, so they took a small table near the back of the room so they could people watch.  Bemelmans always hosted its share of celebrities and socialites.  The walls were covered with delightful murals painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, the bar’s namesake.   George ordered a Knockando on the rocks while Jessica opted for a sparkling water.  

            Although they chatted about George’s day which had consisted of long meetings about coordinating international efforts to fight terrorism, he realized that Jessica’s mind was only partially with him.

            “Penny for your thoughts, Jess,” he said.

            Hmmmm, oh, I’m sorry George,” she said. She then leaned forward and whispered in his ear, “George, David Hearn is sitting at the table behind you.”

            “Jessica...” George began, trying to keep the edge out of his voice.

            “George, don’t worry, I’m not following through on my curiosity.  I’m just surprised that he would be here.  That’s all.”

            “I don’t like that look in your eyes.  Let’s get out of here,” he said, after he drained the last bit of his scotch.    He took her arm and led her quickly out of Bemelmans.

            On the elevator, Jessica protested, “Honestly, George.”

            “Jessica, I know you too well.   I don’t want you to think about Hearn or his mess anymore.”

            “But George...”

            He silenced her by kissing her just as the doors were opening on their floor.  She gave him a look but dropped the subject. 

            Once in their suite, George took Jessica in his arms and kissed her passionately.  

            “I missed you today,” he said, letting his voice drop into a low, sexy burr.

            “I missed you too,” she replied, reaching up and loosening his tie.

            George looked at his watch.  “Jess, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m not sure we have time before it’s time to get ready for dinner.”

            “I’m sure we do,” she said and gave him a wink.  She led him into the bathroom and turned the water on in the large walk-in shower. 

            “Ah, a steamy interlude?   I do like the way you operate,” he said with a laugh, as he began to remove his clothes.  

            After their shower, George dressed in his dark grey suit, crisply starched shirt and a red paisley tie and then sat on the bed to watch Jessica get ready.  She wore her green Dior gown accented by gold jewelry.

            When he saw her finished product, George said in his deep Scottish brogue, “God ye swatch bonnie.”

            “And ye swatch handsome,” Jessica replied, which caused George to laugh heartily. 

            “Shall we?” he asked, taking her hand.   “You’ll like Maria’s act.  I saw her perform in London recently.   Her boyfriend Adrian is a mate of mine.   He plays on my police cricket league.”

            “I remember her having an especially beautiful voice.  Not just anybody can be in a Sondheim musical either,” she commented. 


            They were seated next to each other near the stage.  Café Carlyle was an intimate cabaret space with a very small stage and room for only a baby grand piano along with a small ensemble.   Maria would only have piano and cello accompaniment.  A waiter took their drink order, a Chardonnay for each of them.  

            “George, do you want to hear something funny I’ve been thinking about?”

            “Aye, what’s funny?” he asked.

            “Well, I’ve been wondering how I should refer to you,” she said, smiling at him.

            “What ever do you mean?”

            “Well, when I’m talking to anybody about you, do I say my ‘boyfriend’ George or my ‘lover’ George?  How have you been referring to me?”

            George laughed, “I guess I’ve been calling you my ‘girlfriend’.  What are you wrinkling your pretty little nose at?”

            “Well, we’re kind of mature to call each other ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’, but ‘lover’ sounds sort of, I don’t know, dirty,” she whispered.

            “Jessica!  I’m surprised at you!   Well, why don’t you just refer to me as your fiancé?” he said slyly.


            “Love, might as well get used to the terminology.  I’m going to propose to you sooner or later.  Of course, once we are engaged, I’m not going to stand for a long engagement so you won’t have to say it for very long,” he said confidently.

            “Well, you have waited this long, what’s a little longer?” she laughed, elbowing him playfully.

            “Alright, I’ll produce the ring right now,” he said.

            “Oh George, you’re not really going to do that, are you?” A look of panic crossed her face.

            “Well, I could.  But I won’t, at least not tonight,” he warned, playfully bluffing.

            They enjoyed a wonderful supper.  They shared a Maine lobster salad that included avocado, arugula, tomatoes and pea shoots.  For their entrees, Jessica had grilled Dover sole with truffled basmati rice and George had the prime aged rib eye steak and giant fries.   Maria’s act was sublime, consisting of all Sondheim songs, although she did finish with a couple of Christmas songs.   After her show, she mingled with patrons and then came to Jessica and George’s table.

            “Hallo George!” she exclaimed.  “I didn’t know you would be here.  What a treat for me!”

            “Aye, just a last minute trip to the States for business.  This is my girlfriend Jessica Fletcher,” he said, which caused Jessica to kick him under the table.

            “Hello Jessica, so lovely to meet you,” Maria said, extending her hand.

            “It’s a pleasure meeting you, Maria. I thoroughly enjoyed your show.  You have a beautiful voice,” Jessica said. 

            “Maria, won’t you join us for a drink?” George asked.

            “That would be lovely thank you,” Maria accepted.

            “So, Miss Maria, where’s Adrian?” George inquired, indicating to the waiter to bring Maria a drink.

            “He’s stuck in London.  It’s a bad time of year to be away you know.  I’m going back myself this week.  My boys are anxious to have me home for Father Christmas,” she chuckled.

            “Didn’t you just finish a Broadway show?” Jessica asked.

            “Yes, we had a short run of The Woman in White.   I made my Broadway debut, although I’ve been working in the West End for years.”

            “Oh I know, some years ago, my late husband and I saw you as Dot in a wonderful West End production of Sunday in the Park with George.  You were magnificent,” Jessica said.

            “Why thanks, love.  Working with Stephen Sondheim is a joy.  He’s brilliant.  In fact, he’s my son’s godfather.”

            “How lovely.  I’ve seen most of his shows over the years.  I recently saw the new revival of Sweeney Todd and just loved it.   Lucky for me, George likes to see musical theatre too,” she laughed, squeezing his hand.

            “So how did you two meet?” Maria asked.

            George gave her the brief synopsis of their first meeting in London during the Marjorie Ainsworth murder investigation, but added, “It was love at first sight for me.”

            Maria laughed at that, “Took some convincing, now did you, love?” she asked Jessica.

            “Well, you could say that,” Jessica said with a smile.

            “I remember the Ainsworth murder.  You wouldn’t be J.B. Fletcher, the mystery writer, would you now, love?”

            “Ah, yes Maria, that would be her,” George responded for her with a grin.

            “Wow, I didn’t even realize it.  I love your books.  I was once even in a reading for one of your plays. It wasn’t produced but I had hoped it would be.  Maybe I can play you!”  She laughed.

            “Oh, I would be so flattered, Maria.  But I can’t imagine me as a character in a musical.”

            “I guess that would be a bit of a laugh.  Maybe it could be a musical murder comedy.   Well, I must be running.  You two enjoy the rest of your evening.”

            “Tell Adrian hello for me and have a safe journey home,” George said, rising to kiss Maria’s cheek.  

            “Will do love,” Maria said.  When she was across the room, she turned and blew a kiss to each of them.  Then she suddenly grabbed something and ran back across the room to them. “Here’s my new solo CD just released here in the States.  Jessica, I’ll trade you for an autographed copy of your book,” she said.

            “You’re on,” Jessica said.  “I’ll send it to you with George.”

            Maria signed the liner note of the CD, “To Jessica, it’s no mystery why my friend George fell for you. Love, Maria”.  She leaned forward, handed the CD to Jessica, gave her a quick kiss on her cheek and then ran out of the room.

            Beaming, Jessica leaned against George and said, “This was an absolutely delightful evening, George.  Thank you for bringing me.”

            “I enjoyed it very much as well.  Ready to go upstairs?” he asked.


            She nodded and he took her hand.  When they reached the door to their suite, Jessica turned to George.

            “George, I hate to ask you this, but would you mind terribly going around the corner to the Duane Reade to pick up some band-aids for me?  It’s silly but I’ve developed a blister from these new shoes and I didn’t pack any band-aids.  I don’t know why I didn’t think to go out for them earlier.  The hotel probably has some but I want the kind that are made specially for blisters.”

            George looked at her, his eyebrows rising into question marks, but conceded.  “Of course, Jessica.  Anything else you need?” he asked, taking his coat from the closet just inside the door.

            “No, that should do it.  Just hurry back,” she said and kissed him.   She closed the door and listened for the sound of the elevator doors closing behind him. 

            She hurried to change into her new red negligee and get ready for his return.  She lit the gas fireplace and spread a blanket in front of it.  She took out the candles that George had given her, placed them around the living room of the suite and lit them.   She then opened George’s bottle of champagne and placed it in an ice bucket next to the blanket, along with the chocolate covered strawberries.   She chose one of George’s homemade music CD’s and put it in the CD player.  Deciding that the room was ready, she finished freshening up.  She hung up her dress, fixed her makeup and sprayed on some of her new perfume that George had given her.  She also brought George’s Christmas present out from her suitcase.  She then lay down on her side in front the fire, just in time for George to walk in.

            When George opened the door, he called out, “Honey, I’m home,” with a chuckle.  But as he closed the door, he saw her lying by the fire.   He gulped and said, “Och mah, Jess.”

            “Merry Christmas, George,” she said, smiling up at him.

            He removed his overcoat and crossed the room, tossing the band-aids to her.  “I guess you really didn’t need these, eh?” he laughed.  He took off his suit jacket and sat down on the floor next to her.  “This is not the kind of Christmas present I expected, but you’ll get no arguments from me.”

            “I didn’t think I would,” she said, running her fingers along his jaw line and then through his hair.  

            He took her face in both of his hands and kissed her.  “I can’t say it enough.  I love you, Jessica.”

            “I love you too, George,” she said, kissing him back.   “Here, open this first,” she said, handing him the small box, wrapped in red paper and tied with a white bow. 

            He unwrapped it and found a sterling silver key chain attached to a set of keys.   He read the inscription on the key chain, “To George, I’m so glad you found the key to my heart.  Love, Jess”.  He smiled at her and kissed her.  “Those keys are to my apartment here in the city and to my house in Cabot Cove, for when you visit me, or whatever,” she explained.

            “Jessica, this is the best present you could give me.  Thank you, sweetheart,” he said, kissing her again.  “Stay right here,” he said, getting up and hurrying to the bedroom.  He returned with a small wrapped box of his own.  “Here, this is your Christmas present.”

            “George, but I thought this weekend was my Christmas present,” she said, biting her lip when she saw the tiny box.

            “Just open it, love,” he coaxed.

            She unwrapped the box slowly and opened the lid.  She gasped when she saw the diamond and sapphire earrings that matched the ring George had already given her.  “Oh George, they are gorgeous!” she exclaimed and jumped forward to hug him.  

            “Well, a girl must have a matching set of jewelry,” he chuckled.

            She reached over and took the bottle of champagne out of the ice bucket.  She poured each of them a glass, handing George’s his and lifting hers in a toast. “Here’s to us, George, all my love,” she said. 

            He touched the rim of her glass, “Here’s to us, Jessica, all my love.”  They drank and then leaned forward, their lips meeting in a lingering kiss.

            Once their glasses were drained, George took the champagne flutes and set them aside.   He pulled Jessica toward him and caressed her.  “You look absolutely sumptuous in this negligee Jess.”  

            “Thank you, I thought you might like it,” she said softly, kissing his face and neck.

            George and Jessica succumbed to an extremely passionate and romantic evening.   They fell asleep on the floor in front of the warm fire and stayed there in each other’s arms for the night.    

*   *  *  *  * 

            “Okay love, take a deep breath and let it out slowly,” George told Jessica as he sat next to her with his arm around her shoulders.  It was Sunday afternoon and time to head toward their separate destinations.

            With a tremor in her voice, she said, “George, I don’t want to go back to Cabot Cove without you.  This is too hard.”

            “I know love, and I don’t want to go back to London without you,” he said as he pulled her closer to him.   "We’ll be together again soon, before you know.  I promise,” he added, rethinking his decision about waiting to tell her about his new job.

            “I know, I know you’re right, George,” she sniffed.  She leaned forward and dried her eyes and blew her nose.  

            “There, there, all better now?” he asked and she nodded. “Now, come here.  We have just a short time left together before the car arrives and I don’t want to spend it talking.”   She leaned into his embrace and they hugged each other tightly for a long time.   He kissed her tenderly until they were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone.

            He reached over and picked up the receiver to learn that his car had arrived.   “I’m afraid it’s time to go, Jessica love,” he said, taking her hand.

            They kissed each other passionately one last time and then headed to the lobby of the Carlyle.  George had already had their luggage brought down and had taken care of an express checkout.   They stepped out onto Madison Avenue and into the freezing air.   They stood in each others arms for one last minute before he got into the backseat of the black sedan of the car service.

            She watched him leave, waving until the car turned the corner.   She then got into a waiting yellow cab and headed to Penn Station where she would take the Amtrak Acela to Boston.   She wasn’t in any mood for shopping, but she had already planned to spend time there and needed to pick up the final items on her Christmas list. 

            After boarding the train and taking her reserved seat in the very comfortable quiet car, Jessica napped for about an hour.  When she awoke, she took out Janet Evanovich’s book to kill the rest of the time on the train.  She couldn’t concentrate though, so she decided to go to the dining car to buy a beverage.   On her way back to her seat, a man was headed toward her.  She stepped aside to let him pass since she was holding a hot cup of coffee.   She looked up at his face and gasped inwardly.  He was the man she had seen in the lobby of the Carlyle and now he was here on the train.  She was certain that it was David Hearn.   He nodded to her and passed.   She returned to her seat to collect her thoughts.

            Jessica waited for Hearn to come back to his seat.  She wondered what he was doing on the train to Boston from New York.  If he was in fact in hiding, it didn’t seem logical that he would be traveling via commercial means.  On the other hand, perhaps he wasn’t in hiding at all but rather just a scoundrel who had jilted poor Eve.   But that theory, in her mind, didn’t hold water with Eve’s discovery of the loose diamonds.  She knew she should let it drop but her curiosity, as usual, was getting the best of her.

*  *  *  *  *

            Jessica took a cab from the South Street Station to the Ritz-Carlton at the Boston Common.   She enjoyed a dinner of fresh field greens, grilled salmon and roasted asparagus in the JER-NE Restaurant, a lovely restaurant located in the Ritz.  She considered calling one of her Boston friends to meet her for dinner, but opted to dine alone.   She wanted to go to sleep early so she could get an early start at shopping.  Her train would leave from Boston’s North Station for Portland at 1:00. 

            Just as her salad was being served, a man approached her table.  She was visibly surprised as she realized it was David Hearn.

            “Mrs. Fletcher?  Pardon me for interrupting your dinner.”

            “Not at all.  Have we met?”

            “No, but I’ve seen your picture and realized it must be you.  I’ve enjoyed your books.   My name is David Hearn,” he said, extending his hand to her.

            “A pleasure,” she said.

            She took his hand and studied his face.  She already knew much about him after Googling him, but she had to admit that in person he was quite handsome and very debonaire. 

            “A friend of mine lives in Cabot Cove.  Perhaps you know her? Eve Simpson?”

            “Oh, yes, Eve is a good friend of mine,” she replied, not saying that she knew that he had stopped calling her.

            “Yes, Eve is a lovely woman.  I haven’t seen her in a couple of months.  Do you know how she is doing?”

            “Eve is doing perfectly well.  I just saw her last week,” she smiled at him, not about to let him know that poor Eve was miserable.

            “Do you happen to know, that is, could you tell me if she is still driving her red car?”

            Jessica struggled with an internal debate and finally decided that it would be okay to tell him about the car, “Actually, Mr. Hearn, Eve sold her Mercedes, if that’s the car you’re referring to.”

            Hearn became visibly upset and then responded, “I see.  Well, it was lovely meeting you.  I wish I had a book for you to sign.”

            “Give me your address and I’ll send you an autographed copy of my latest,” Jessica offered.

            “That’s too kind of you, Mrs. Fletcher.  But I really must be going now,” he said hastily and suddenly fled the room.  

            She could see him join a group of men outside of the restaurant.  One of them was the tall thin man that she had seen with him in New York.  She knew she shouldn’t judge, but they looked like thugs, or randies, as George would say.

            Jessica found it unusual that he had left so quickly.  She looked around to see if anybody seemed interested in her or the fact that he had left so abruptly, but didn’t notice anybody in particular.

            Jessica finished her meal and then took a brief walk along the edge of the Common.  It was cold and the air smelled of an imminent snow fall.   Bostonians would be happy to have fresh clean snow for a white Christmas.  She used the walk to clear her head.  She had enjoyed a lovely romantic weekend with George.  She was a little upset that they had not committed a specific date to meet.  She hoped it would come sooner than later.  She knew that she could go at any time but she still felt hesitant about it all.  

            She decided not to tell George of her encounter with David Hearn.  She knew it would only exasperate him.   She pictured him shaking his head at her and smiled at the thought.  She realized that it had already started snowing so she hurried back to the Ritz.


            After she returned to her room, she prepared for bed and then settled down to call Seth.

            “Dr. Hazlitt speaking,” Seth said with a gruff voice.

            “Seth, it’s Jessica.”

            “Ah Jess, it’s good to hear your voice.  I’m so glad you called.  Are you back from New York?  Do you want to have a cup of coffee with me?” he asked, realizing that his voice sounded too anxious.

            “Actually I’m at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston.   I’m doing some shopping in the morning and then I’ll be on the 1:00 Amtrak to Portland.   I’m calling to see if you’re available to pick me up around 2:30 tomorrow afternoon.   I, uh, thought we could find time to talk on the ride back to Cabot Cove.”

            “Of course, Jessica.  I’ll be there. I, uh...”

            “Thank you, Seth.  I’ll see you tomorrow.  Good night,” Jessica said, hanging up quickly and denying Seth the opportunity to bring up their situation.

            Jessica was successful in her last minute Christmas shopping.  She checked out of the Ritz-Carlton at noon and took a cab to the train station.

*  *  *  *  *

            On the drive home, Seth and Jessica chatted companionably, despite the need to talk hanging between them.   She finally took a deep breath and decided that it was as good time as any to broach the subject about George. 

            She said, “Seth, I was very upset with you the other day but I know your heart was in the right place.”

            “I’m sorry I said anything, but I really do want you to stay home.”

            “Seth, I love being home, but I also love my life of writing, teaching and traveling.  I’m very fortunate to have it all.  Do you remember when you asked me about my new ring?”

            “Ayuh, I did.  It’s somethin’ else.  I was surprised that Sutherland gave it to you.”

            “Yes, it was a gift from George,” she responded nervously.

            “Okay, I’ll buy.  Why’d he give you a ring like that?  That’s a pretty expensive gift from somebody you hardly know isn’t it?  I’m surprised you accepted it.”

            “Well, I know him better than you think,” she said quietly.

            “Is that so?  Well, like I was saying the other day, you need to just get home and stop all of this galavantin’ and nonsense.  Sutherland is not right for you, bein’ that he lives across the ocean and is involved in such a dangerous line of work.  I’ve been thinkin’ that it is high time you and I finally moved on with our relationship,” he said as he glanced at her.  He was feeling braver than he ever thought he would, but enough was enough.

            “Seth, you and I have a wonderful friendship, but I’m afraid that’s all.   I consider you to be like one of my brothers.”

            “A brother?  Hardly.   Your brothers haven’t been around like I have,” he retorted.

            “Please don’t bring my brothers into this.   Seth, I’ve been trying to tell you about this for days.   It shouldn’t be this hard to tell your best friend something so important.” Jessica sighed and said, “I’m trying to tell you that George and I, well, we’re together as a couple now.”

            It dawned on Seth what she was telling him.  He felt his face coloring but was silent as he digested the information and tried to decide what to say next.

            “Seth, do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?   I really am flattered by what you said, but I don’t feel the same way. You’ve been my best friend all of these years and now you’re the first person I’m telling about George and me becoming a couple.”

            Suddenly, Seth seemed to be driving too fast and Jessica reached over and gripped his arm.

            “Seth, slow down! Are you that upset?!” Jessica exclaimed as she adjusted her seat belt and held on.

            “Jessica, look in your side mirror.  That truck is too close for comfort.  I don’t like how he’s coming up so fast on us,” Seth said, his brow furrowed and his knuckles white.

            Finally, they came across a road side park and pulled over and to let the truck speed by. 

            As they sat their catching their breath, a black car with black tinted windows pulled up behind them.  Thinking that perhaps it was a good Samaritan stopping to help them, Seth started to get out of the to talk to the driver.  Despite Jessica’s protests against him doing that, he was out of the car quickly.  She watched in the rear view mirror as two large men dressed in jeans and black leather coats emerged from the black car.  The driver was enormous with dark curly hair and dark skin. He looked like a linebacker. The other man was shorter, but quite stocky with a huge neck and shoulders.   A third man, who appeared to be older, got out of the backseat and walked around the back of their car.

            Jessica heard Seth say hello to them and then one of the men hit him on the side of his head with the butt of a gun.  Seth fell to the ground immediately.  Terrified, she quickly locked the doors and climbed over the console to the driver’s seat.  She turned the key and started the engine but didn’t know what to do next.  She didn’t think she could handle the car plus she was afraid to leave Seth.  Seeing the shorter of the men walking toward her door, she grabbed her cell phone and tried to dial 9-1-1 but she had no service.  He tried to open the car door.  Finding it locked, he pointed his gun at her and screamed at her to open it.    She lay down across the seats just as he broke the window, sending flying glass over her.  He opened the door and grabbed her arm.  He yanked her out of the car and to the ground.  She covered her head with her arms as she was afraid that he would hit her too.  

            He picked Jessica up and while twisting her arm behind her, pushed her to the black car.  He opened the backdoor and forced her in.  The driver dragged a bleeding Seth over and threw him in with her.   The men locked the doors and Jessica observed them having a conversation with the third man about what to do next.  She still didn’t get a good look at the third man, but she had a feeling that he might be in charge.  She prayed that they would leave them there.  She was afraid that it would be worse to go with them rather than to be left there, despite the cold.   It was beginning to snow, but it was a usually busy highway.  She was surprised that a car hadn’t passed by to witness this event.  Her fear was so great that she felt like her heart was in her throat.   She took a handkerchief out of her pocket and held it against the wound on Seth’s head.  He moaned but didn’t open his eyes.  She whispered to him to hold on.

            The men split up, one taking off in the red Mercedes and the other getting back in the black car.  The older man got in the passenger seat.  He was wearing a hat and dark glasses, but she instantly recognized him as David Hearn.

            “Mr. Hearn, I know that’s you.  I don’t know why you’re doing this, but, please, my friend needs help,” she pleaded.

            “Shut up, Mrs. Fletcher.”

            “Please, I’m begging you.  I don’t know what you want.   The car means nothing to us.  You can have it!” she cried, hoping that this was only a car-jacking.

            “I said shut up!” he screamed at her and brandished a gun at her.

            Jessica didn’t say another word.  It was already getting dark outside.  She looked at her watch and noted that it was 3:00 p.m.   Oh God, I hope Seth told somebody that he was picking me up in Portland.    She hadn’t talked to anybody that morning, not even via her usual email to George.   He would be long home by now and hopefully turning in for sleep.   He was probably suffering from jet lag and exhaustion after a long day of meetings.  Still he didn’t let a day go by without contacting her either by phone or electronic means. 

            Her mind was racing.  She tried to discern what direction they were traveling: had they turned around or simply pulled out?   She thought that Seth must have patients scheduled for the next morning so certainly somebody would realize that he was missing.  They would come looking for him at her house.  She hoped that they would even still be alive by morning.

            They had been traveling at steady speed the entire time, but now they were slowing down.  It was completely dark outside.   She was grateful that at least Seth’s breathing was steady.  She had taken off her scarf and tied it around his head.   The bleeding seemed to have subsided, but he was covered in blood, as was the car seat.   Suddenly, the car screeched to a halt.

            She could hear a number of male voices.  The driver and Hearn broke into an argument with the other men but she was unsure what they were talking about.   One man was furious that they had not been left behind.  Another said that it was no problem and that there were plenty of places they could be dumped.  In all of the scrapes she had been in, she couldn’t remember being this terrified.

            Finally, after what seemed like ages, yet another man, wearing jeans, a black leather jacket and dark glasses, opened the back door of the car and ordered her to get out.  She crawled out and tried to stretch.  The same man she had seen with Hearn in New York and Boston grabbed her and twisted her arm behind her. 

            “Please stop, you’re hurting me,” she pleaded to him.

            “Too bad,” he said, stepping even closer to her and breathing into her ear.

            “Please, sir, won’t you just let us go?  My friend needs medical attention.”

            “Lady, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your mouth shut,” he said.

            She looked around at her surroundings.  They were outside of a warehouse and she thought docks were near by, as she could smell the ocean.   Her mind raced to think of a location where they could be.  They had only been about an hour out of Portland when they were taken.    She tried to decide if they were being kidnapped or were just taken as an afterthought to a carjacking.  She looked back at Seth, still in the backseat.  She was so frightened for him.   She didn’t know what she would do if he didn’t make it through this.  She was certain that he had a concussion and the side of his face was swollen and already turning purple under the mess of the blood.

            Hearn definitely appeared to be in charge and yelled at two of the men to come and take Seth out of the backseat.  They roughly pulled him out and dragged him inside a door of the warehouse.   The tall thin man then pushed her in behind him.  As her eyes adjusted to the dark room, she saw that it was empty except for a desk, a battered old sofa, a folding chair and some boxes.  There was no heat and the room was freezing.  There was a door at the opposite end of the room that she hoped was a restroom.  Another man followed her in and threw Seth’s and her coats, as well as her purse, on the sofa.  

            “You idiot.  She can’t keep the purse.”

            “Hey, there’s nothing in it except tissues and lipstick. I got her phone and wallet right here.”

            Jessica again tried to plead with them, but the tall thin man pushed her down on the sofa.  He held her down and fingered the collar of her sweater, causing her to wince - she thought about kneeing him but kept still and silent out of fear.    One of the men yelled at everybody to come out and they all left, slamming the door behind them. 

            The only light was from a small window in the door.   She pulled Seth across the floor.  He was heavy but she managed to get him up to the sofa.   She covered him with both of their coats, then she sat in the folding chair and looked around in despair.  It was so dark that she really couldn’t tell anything about her surroundings.  

            She got up again and stood at the door, listening to the activity outside.   It sounded like they were working on one of cars but she couldn’t be sure.   Suddenly the door swung open, knocking her back.  She stumbled backward and tried to see out the door into the harsh light.     The tall thin man grabbed her arm and pulled her out.   He pushed her down onto the ground at the feet of David Hearn.

            “Now, now, Murray, that wasn’t necessary.  Please accept his apologies, Mrs. Fletcher,” Hearn said, offering his hand to help her up.

            Jessica refused to take his hand and got up on her own.  “I don’t know why you’ve brought us here.  Let us go and you can have Seth’s car.”   She backed away from him, hugging herself against the cold.   Before she get away much further, the tall thin man she now knew was named Murray grabbed her shoulders from behind and pushed her back toward Hearn.  He kept his hands on her shoulders, making her cringe with disgust.

            “Listen Mrs. Fletcher, I apologize for your friend getting hurt, but he’s been driving my car."

            "Eve Simpson sold her car fair and square to Seth Hazlitt," she replied.

            "If you had told me you knew who had the car when I asked you about it in Boston, we could have avoided bringing you into this.  Now, I’ve just found out that some items that I accidentally left in the car are missing from it.  I’d like to know where those items are.”

            She stared at him coldly for a moment before answering, “Mr. Hearn, I don’t know what you’re talking about and I assure you that my friend Dr. Hazlitt doesn’t know anything about any items either.   He bought that car from Eve Simpson.   How dare you involve me and my friends in your sordid crimes.

            Hearn drew back his arm and swung it toward Jessica, but stopped just short of slapping her.   Murray, take her back in there with Hazlitt.” 

            Murray pushed her back into the room and slammed the door shut.  She banged on the door for a moment but when no one responded, she gave up.  She didn’t think more pleading would help anyway.   She checked on Seth - he was still sleeping.  She pulled on her coat and paced the floor.  She heard more arguing outside so she resumed her place at the door to try to eavesdrop on them.

            Hearn was screaming, “Where the hell are the diamonds?   If I find out one of you have them, you’ll live to regret it.  Damn it!” 

            After about an hour, she heard the sounds of car doors slamming and wheels screeching away.  She took a deep breath.  She wasn’t sure if it would be better that they were abandoned there or if somebody was left behind to guard them.   After another half hour of pacing, she became too cold and finally joined Seth on the sofa.  She lifted his head and shoulders up long enough to position herself so that he was now resting in her lap.  She leaned her head back and began to cry softly until she succumbed to sleep.

*  *  *  *  *

            “Jessica, Jess, where are we?  What happened?” Seth croaked with a shaky voice.

            “Seth, oh my God, you’re awake.  We’ve been kidnapped.”

            “What?” he asked, as he struggled to sit up.

            She readjusted her body so that she could hold him down.  “Seth, don’t try to get up.  You were beaten by one of the kidnappers.  I’m certain that you lost quite a bit of blood and you most likely have a concussion.  You’ve been in and out of consciousness for quite a while.”

            “Ayuh, my head is throbbing.   I think my jaw is broken. What time is it?”

            “It’s about 3:00 p.m.   Do you remember anything?” she asked.

            “No, I don’t.  The last thing I remember was leaving Portland.  But when was that?”

            “That was about twenty four hours ago.  On the highway back to Cabot Cove, we were nearly run off the road by an eighteen wheel truck.  You pulled over and then a car pulled up behind us.  You got out to talk to the driver of that car and that’s when it all started happening.  There were three men, one of whom was David Hearn.” 

            “David Hearn?  Eve’s David Hearn?” he asked, with shock in his voice.

            “Yes, the very one.  He wanted his car back.   One of his men drove your car and another drove us here.  We drove with them for at least two hours and I think we are near the docks in Portland, but I can’t tell where we might be for sure.  It has been very quiet for hours and I think the area must be abandoned.”

            “But why would he resort to such violence for the car?  I told Eve she could buy it back anytime.  Why didn’t he just talk to her about it?”

            “I’m not sure other than he’s a desperate man.  Seth, before Eve sold you the car, she suspected that Hearn was most likely guilty of everything the papers were reporting.   She also found dozens of loose diamonds in the car.”

            “Good grief.  What was she thinking?”

            “She was thinking that she loved him and she was afraid.   She didn’t mean to get us involved, I’m sure.”

            “Are you okay, Jess?” he asked, trying to see her face.

            “Yes.  I’m okay.  I’m frightened, but I’m not hurt.”

            “What a nightmare this is.   I’m so sorry, Jess.”

            “Oh Seth, this isn’t your fault.”

            “Ayuh.  Well, knowing you, I’m sure you already checked this room for an exit.”

            “Yes, Seth, I did.  We are locked in and the only window is the one on the door.   Even if I broke it I don’t think I could reach the handle and I certainly couldn’t fit through it.   I haven’t heard a sound outside for hours.”

            “They didn’t leave us water or anything?”

            “No, but there’s a restroom.  They left our coats and my purse, but not until after they had already emptied it.  I’m without my cell phone and my flashlight.  I don’t even have any gum or a lozenge.”

            “Can you help me into the restroom?   I’ve got to at least try to wash my face and I could stand to use the facilities.”

            “I think I can help you.   Let’s take it slowly though.”

            Seth was successful in his mission, thanks to Jessica.  He felt terribly woozy but managed to make it to and from the sofa without too much trouble.    He fell back asleep almost as soon as he lay back down. 

            Jessica resumed pacing the floor for a while.  She tried to make sense of why Hearn would have left valuable materials, possibly diamonds, in that car with Eve for so long.  She prayed that he wouldn’t harm her.  Seth stirred and mumbled on the sofa and she hurried over to check on him.   He was still asleep and she reminded herself to be quiet. 

            She wished she had some paper and checked the desk drawers again.  She looked in the boxes as well, but they were all empty.  It was if the office had recently been cleared out.  A thought occurred to her that that perhaps they were near the warehouse that had burned.   She tried to discern with her sense of smell whether or not there was a lingering smoke smell, but couldn’t tell.   She started itemizing her thoughts.    I’ll just have to memorize my thoughts.   Why didn’t Hearn just keep his instead of give it to Eve?   Why leave diamonds in it?   Had he really been in hiding, and if so, why risk coming out with this group of thugs now?

            She finally exhausted her thoughts and rejoined Seth on the sofa.  


            Jessica awoke with a start about 5:30 the next morning.  The situation seemed desperate, but she had never given up before and wasn’t about to this time.   She wouldn’t, couldn’t stand for being kept in this room for another twenty four hours and decided to take matters into her own hands.  There was dim light in the room by now so she could see the perimeter a little better.  She began to reexamine the room.  The desk and boxes were completely empty.  She knew that even if she managed to break out the small window in the door, she would never be able to fit through it.   She had no tools with which she could pick the lock.    She looked up and examined the ceiling tiles.   Perhaps she could navigate her way through the ceiling.  

            Jessica pushed the desk against the wall and then placed the folding chair on top of the desk.   She was grateful that she had dressed casually in slacks, a sweater and loafers for her trip.   She climbed up on top of the desk and then the chair.  It felt shaky but it was their only chance.  She glanced at her watch - only 5:45 a.m.   She hoped that none of the men were posted outside of the door in the event that she made too much noise in this venture.  She wished she had her flashlight - she would have to rely on her sense of touch this time.

            She was able to push open the ceiling tile.  She pulled herself up and was able to balance her weight on a joist.   It appeared to be nothing more than a crawl space but she decided to explore further.   It didn’t look terribly promising, but she felt like she had no choice. 

            After what seemed like hours, she finally made it to what she thought to be the main room of the warehouse.    She removed a ceiling tile and looked down.  It would be a far drop and she was afraid she might break a leg if she wasn’t careful.   She leaned down and scanned the room.  It was beginning to become lighter outside and the room was lined with large windows.   She was relieved to see a ladder attached to the wall at the end of the room.   She pulled herself back up into the crawl space and kept going toward the end of the room.  She reached it and was able to lower herself to the ladder and climb down.  

            Jessica let out a huge sigh of relief.  She reminded herself that her task was not complete but she was feeling more optimistic.   Looking at her hands and her clothes, she realized that she was covered with black soot.   She felt sure that Hearn’s warehouse fire had been nearby.  She started to explore the main room.  The room was virtually empty, except for some wooden pads.  There was a row of large overhead doors, none of which she was able to lift.  The windows were all sealed as well.   The room was mostly empty, but she noticed a telephone on the wall.  She ran to it but was disappointed to discover that it was out of service.    There was a tool box but was empty except for a flat head screw driver which he pocketed just in case. 

            She then discovered that there didn’t seem to be a door back into room where Seth was.   Think Jessica, she said to herself.   She went back to the windows and tried them again.   She used the screw driver to scrape the paint around the lock on one of the windows and then scraped at the seal as well.  The screwdriver slipped and stabbed her left hand, giving her a nasty wound.   She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wrapped it around her hand.   She ignored the pain and kept working on the window until it finally budged.

            She climbed out the narrow opening and surveyed her surroundings.  A freezing rain was falling and she cursed not bringing her coat with her.   She walked around the perimeter of the warehouse slowly.  It appeared that they had been left alone.  She finally made it back to the door to the room where she and Seth were being held.   There was a padlock on it.  She attempted to pry it loose with the screwdriver, but she realized that she wasn’t accomplishing anything and was getting colder and wetter by the second.   She turned and looked away from the building.  She still wasn’t sure where they were but she still had the feeling that they were near some docks.  She decided that she had no choice but to start looking for help, so she started walking toward the southeast.

* * * * *

            Suddenly, she realized that somebody was behind her.   She hastened her steps and broke into a run but was overtaken and tackled to the ground by a man.   He twisted her around and she found herself face to face with the tall thin man known as Murray.

            “Help!  Somebody help me!!” she screamed at the top of her voice.  She scratched his face and beat her fists against him with all her might. 

            He slapped her and shouted, “Shut up!”  Then he grabbed her wrists and held down her arms.  

            “You won’t get away with this!” she screamed again.  He let go of her right wrist and put his hand over her mouth.  She took the opportunity to twist her sapphire ring George had given her around on her right ring finger toward her palm and then hit him again.  With the ring down and with all of her might she scraped his eye.  He pulled back and put both of his hands up to his face.  She then kneed his groin and scooted herself from under him. 

            She struggled up and took off running.  She saw a piece of pipe and grabbed it as protection. Murray quickly recovered and continued to pursue her.  When he caught up with her, she swung the pipe at his head with all of her strength.  She was shocked that she made contact and the results caused her to feel both ill and relieved.  Murray dropped to the ground.  She hoped that she hadn’t actually killed him but only stopped him long enough for her to escape.


            After an hour of alternating between walking and running, she finally reached some warehouses that weren’t deserted.   An older gentleman, who had been working on a truck, saw her approaching and ran to meet her.   He stripped off his barn coat and wrapped it around her.  She was grateful for it even though it smelled of engine oil and cigarettes.  Right now, this was a most welcome scent.

            “Lady, what in the world are you doing out in this weather without a coat?” he asked.

            Jessica didn’t immediately answer as her lips felt frozen.  He led her inside his shop so that she could stand in front of a small space heater.

            “Hold on Missus, I’ll get you something hot to drink.”   

            She nodded and knelt down in front of the heater.  

            The man returned and handed her a paper cup of hot coffee.  

            “Thank you, sir.  I really appreciate your help.  Do you have a phone I can use?”

            “Sure, but do you mind telling me who you are?  By the way, I’m Teddy Jenkins.”

            “Thank you, Mr. Jenkins.  My name is Jessica Fletcher.  My friend Seth Hazlitt and I were kidnapped.  I need to call the police.  My friend is hurt and is an abandoned warehouse about an hour from here - at least I think it’s about an hour from here.”

            Jenkins went to the phone and called 9-1-1 for the local police.  She learned from overhearing him talk that they were outside of Portland.   She then used the phone to call Mort.  

            “Mort, it’s Jessica.”

            “Oh my God, Mrs. F.!  Are you okay?  Where are you?” Mort exclaimed.

            “Yes, I’m okay but I don’t think Seth is.   Are you writing this down?  We are outside of Portland.  David Hearn kidnapped us, took Seth’s car and dumped us in an abandoned warehouse, after his men beat Seth.  I’m okay, just a little bruised and frightened.  I managed to get out of the warehouse and I’m now with a man named Teddy Jenkins.  He’s already called the Portland police.  I’m going to let him give you directions.   There’s one more thing.   I think Eve might be in danger.  Could you send one of your men over to check on her, and perhaps stay with her?   I’m afraid Hearn may have already gotten to her.”

            “Oh, Hearn tried to get to Eve all right.   She’s okay thanks to your advice.  The FBI has had men posted around her neighborhood since Friday.   He showed up this morning and they nabbed him.”

            “Thank God she’s okay.”

            “Now, let me talk to Jenkins and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

            “Thank you, Mort.   First, will you do something for me?   Could you call my friend George Sutherland at New Scotland Yard and tell him I’m okay?”

            “Mrs. F, he already called me looking for you.   I’ll call him right away, I know he’ll be glad to hear you’re alive and well.  Now, I’ll see you soon.”

            “Thank you Mort.   Now, here’s Mr. Jenkins.”

            Mr. Jenkins looked to be about eighty years old, with a scruffy white beard and skin that had obviously been subjected to many years of harsh sea wind and sun.  He insisted that she keep his coat on.   He washed her hand and applied antibacterial ointment to her hand, then wrapped it in gauze though he was sure that she would need stitches in it.  He gave her an ice pack for her cheek too, which was swollen and bruised by Murray.  Mr. Jenkins also was kind enough to give her a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of milk from his lunch box.   She only ate half of it and wrapped the other half for Seth.   She didn’t know how much longer it would be before he would get to eat something.   

            The Portland police arrived just as she was beginning to warm up.

            “Hello, Mrs...Fletcher, is it?   I’m Lieutenant Duane Howser.  Are you okay?” he said, as he extended his hand to her.

            She shook his hand and replied, “I’m okay Lieutenant, but I really want to try to find the warehouse again.  My friend Seth is still in there and we need to get back there before the kidnappers return.   He’s in bad shape and needs to get to an emergency room.” 

            “All right, Mrs. Fletcher, let’s go.  Teddy?”

            “Ayuh, I’ll stay here until the lady’s friend gets here.”

            “Oh yes, Lieutenant, I called my good friend Sheriff Mort Metzger from Cabot Cove.  Seth Hazlitt and I are from there.”

            “Mort?  Yeah, I know him.  Okay, Teddy, you call me on my cell phone when Sheriff Metzger arrives,” he said and handed him a business card.

            Ayuh, will do.   You be careful, lady,” Teddy nodded.

            “Thank you Teddy.  I’m very grateful for your kindness,” she said and shook his hand.

            Lieutenant Howser led Jessica to his squad car.   His partner got out and moved to the back seat, after Howser introduced him as Lieutenant Stern.   Jessica then did her best to retrace her steps from the abandoned sidewalk. 

            Fortunately, they had no trouble finding it and by car, it was only thirty minutes.  Howser called for backup to patrol the area and also called for an ambulance for Seth before getting out of the car.  Jessica told Lieutenant Howser about the man known as Murray, so he sent another squad car out to look for him.

            “Mrs. Fletcher, you stay here.  In the event that we need to leave in a hurry, I don’t want to be worrying about getting you back to the car.”

            “Yes sir,” she nervously conceded.  He locked her in the car.

            Minutes later, an ambulance arrived.  Jessica was overcome with relief.  She knew the ordeal wasn’t completely over, but this was a good sign.   The paramedics jumped out of the back and carried a stretcher to the door of the warehouse.   She was further relieved to see them bringing Seth back. 

            Howser unlocked the doors and he and Stern got in.   “His breathing is shallow, but I think we got here in plenty of time.  I’m sure he’s going to be just fine.   Now, I’m taking you to the hospital too to get that hand checked out.” 

            “Wait, Lieutenant, could you just check to see if my suitcases are anywhere around here?”

            Howser and Stern got back out and found Jessica’s suitcase and wallet almost immediately in a large dumpster behind the building.  They put the suitcase in the trunk and gave Jessica her wallet.  She checked it and everything seemed to be there.

            “I think, Mrs. Fletcher, that some of Hearn’s men weren’t the brightest around,” Howser said and started driving toward Portland.


            She used his cell phone to call Mort to tell him that they were heading to the Maine Medical Center and he told her that he would meet them there. 

            Once there, Seth was taken in immediately for x-rays and assessment.   She was taken into the emergency room where she was given a tetanus shot and stitches in her left hand.   The shot hurt and tears stung her eyes; she knew the tears were more from a mixture of worry and relief than from pain. 

            Mort was waiting for her in the waiting room.  “Mrs. F., I’m so glad to see you.  Are you okay?” he asked, placing his arm around her shoulder and leading her to a private waiting room with Howser.

            “Yes, I’m okay,” she said with a trembling voice.  “And Seth?” she asked.

            “Seth went into surgery for his jaw.  He had lost a lot of blood but was doing well considering the beating he had taken, and he didn’t have any internal injuries. ”

            “I don’t want to leave until I know Seth is okay.  Is there somewhere here where I can clean up a little and wait?”

            Howser replied, “Of course, Mrs. Fletcher.  I’ll see to it.  First, I need to get your statement.”

            Jessica told them everything that she could remember, including seeing Hearn in New York and Boston.

            “What about that man Murray?  Is he alive?” she asked, still feeling disgusted.

            “Oh yeah, he’s alive, but he has a whopping headache.  That was good self-defense, Jessica.  I’m sorry that happened to you, but I’m proud of you too,” he said patting her hand. 

            She gave him a weak smile and took another sip of the hot tea that Howser had brought her. 

            “Excuse me, Mrs. Fletcher, I’m just letting you know that Doctor Hazlitt is awake now and is asking for you,” a nurse said.

            “Thank you,” Jessica replied, relieved to hear the news.

            She turned to Mort, “Do you mind if I go in alone?”

            “Not at all, Mrs. F.  I’ll just wait right here.  You tell Doc that I’m counting on him getting back to normal soon.”

            “I will.  I’ll be back soon,” she said, following the nurse. 

            She had a lump in her throat and was nervous about her impending conversation with Seth. She wasn’t sure what he remembered from their drive.  She entered Seth’s room and let out a sigh, crossing the room with tears in her eyes.

            “Hey now, no tears, I'm fine,” Seth said with a mumble.

            “Oh Seth, I’m so glad you’re okay.  Are you in a lot of pain?”

            “Well, I’m not now thanks to the little blue pills.  Of course, this wired jaw is going to keep me from my usual style for a while,” he said, as his lips formed a smile.

            Jessica smiled at him and grasped his hand.   “I’m sorry about your jaw.  I guess you won’t be able to yell at anybody for a while.   When you get out of here, I’ll make you some good homemade crab bisque, extra smooth.”

            He nodded and said, “Jess, I just want you to know that I remember everything you said to me before those men took us.”

            “I was afraid you wouldn’t remember.  Are you upset with me?” she asked quietly.

            “I’m not upset with you, but I have to admit that I am a little broken-hearted.  I guess I should have made my move a long time ago.  Should have known that a beautiful woman like you would be claimed sooner than later.”

            She couldn’t help but smile at him.  She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and brushed his hair back from his forehead, “I’m so sorry Seth.  I never knew you felt that way about me.  You know, you’re very special to me.”

            “Jessica Fletcher, you’re very special to me too.   Now, you’re not going to run off to London to be with Sutherland, are you?”

            “Oh Seth, I don’t know what’s going to happen with George and me.  It’s still very new.  I am in love with him, but we’re just taking it a day at a time.”

            “Just promise me one thing?”    

            “Of course,” she said.

            “Be happy.”

            She flashed him a dazzling smile.  “I am happy.  I can assure you of that already.”  She knelt down again and gave him a lingering hug. 

            “Now get out of here, woman.  You deserve a rest and my little blue pills are starting to kick in.”

            With his dismissal, she kissed him on the cheek and left the room with a smile.   She was relieved that Seth would be okay and that he seemed to understand about her relationship with George.   All of the worry of the last few days was catching up with her and she suddenly felt exhausted.  She found Mort waiting for her in the hospital waiting room and asked him to drive her home.   She was ready for a hot bath and a good night’s sleep.

*  *  *  *  * 

            Mort walked Jessica to her back door and followed her into her warm kitchen. 

            “Mort, thank you so much for everything,” she said and gave him a small hug.

            “Mrs. F, I'm just glad you're safe and sound.   Don’t you worry about Seth, he’ll be back to his usual grumpy self on all counts,” he said with a chuckle.

            “Cup of tea?” she asked.

            “Nah, I think I’ll run home to Maureen.  I’ll check in on Seth again a little later.  In the meantime, you get yourself some much deserved R&R.  It will be Christmas Eve in a couple of days and we’ll all celebrate at my house this year since Seth is in no shape to host the party.  I’ll be going tomorrow morning to pick him up from the hospital in Portland.”

            “Oh thank you, Mort. You’re a dear one.   I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

            She locked the door behind Mort.  Normally she didn’t lock her doors, but after the last few days, she wasn’t about to take any chances.   She wearily climbed the stairs to her bedroom.  She decided she would call George after she had bathed and was tucked into her bed.  His was the last voice she wanted to hear before she drifted off to sleep.

            She was surprised to find her bedroom door closed.   She carefully pushed it open to find George sitting in her arm chair near the window.   He stood with open arms and a huge grin on his face.  Jessica fell into his embrace with a sob. 

            “George, I can’t believe you’re here,” she said through her tears.

            “Jessie, oh Jessie.  There, there love,” he said as he stroked her hair.  She buried her face in his shoulder and he held her even tighter in response to her sobs.  They stood there swaying together before he finally lifted her face to his.  He then kissed her tenderly.  “You’ve just come through a rough time but you’re fine now.  Do you want to talk about what happened?”

            “I...it was so horrible...oh George, no, I’m all talked out right now.  Maybe tomorrow,” she responded quietly.

            “Love, it’s no rush.  I’m always available whenever you need me to listen,” he said with a soothing voice.  “Now, ready for your bath?” he asked and took her hand.  He led her out into the hall to her bathroom.   She was pleasantly surprised to find that he had already run a bath for her.   

            “George, but how did you know that I would be home soon?” she asked.

            “Didn’t you notice Mort making a call?  I arranged with him to let me know when you were about to arrive.  I arrived from London early this morning.”

            She thought about it and a small smile crossed her lips.  “It’s all...heavenly, George.”

            “I’ll just leave you for bit.  Take your time, Jess.”

            Jessica undressed and stepped into the tub.  George had added a sensuous-smelling bath oil to the water.   She sank down into the steaming water and felt her aches as well as her troubles start to melt away.  Having changed into pajamas, George walked back into the bathroom with a snifter of brandy.

            “Starting to feeling better, love?” he asked.

            “Yes, better,” she admitted.

            George handed the snifter of brandy to Jessica and she took a sip.  He took it back from her, set it on the vanity and sat down on the edge of the tub.  He took a soapy cloth and rubbed her shoulders and back with it.    

            “That feels good.”

            “Well, we’ll just have to make a habit of it then,” he said.  He reached over for the brandy and took a sip and then handed it to her again.   She shook her head.

            “I don’t think so.  I haven’t had much to eat in the last couple of days.”

            “What?  I’m sorry, love, I was sure I thought of everything.”

            “That’s okay.  I’ll have something later.”

            “No, no, it’s coming right up, Jess,” he said as he stood up to go to the kitchen.

            “George, not yet,” she said.  

            She raised her hands so he could pull her up.   He picked up the towel and wrapped it around her while simultaneously lifting her out of the bath.    She put on her nightgown and then George put a new bandage on her hand.  When he finished, she followed him from the bathroom to the bedroom. 

            He led her to her bed, tucked her in and then went around to the other side of the bed and climbed in.  He drew her close and held her tight.  She cried herself to sleep and George finally drifted off sometime later.


            George and Jessica remained in each other’s arms for the rest of the night, drifting in and out of sleep.   When the sun began to rise, it was evident that a clear fat day was on their plate, but Jessica resisted getting up.  She content to study George’s face.  He opened his green eyes and looked into her bright blue eyes.   He kissed her tenderly.

            Guid morn, mah loove,” he said in his low burr.

            “Good morning my love,” she responded as she cuddled closer to him. 

            “Feeling better?” he asked, reaching up and pushing her hair away from her face.  

            “Yes, thank you for last night.   You knew exactly what I needed.  I still can hardly believe you’re here,” she said softly.

            “Yes, I’m here and I’m not leaving.”

            “You’re not leaving?” she asked, pulling back to look at him with a wide eyes.

            “I have news for you.  I’ve been asked by the British Ambassador to take a position with the United Nations Committee on Terrorism in New York.   It will be a difficult job and probably will take many of my waking hours, but I’ll be near you, if you’ll have me,” he added.

            Jessica gave him a huge hug and practically shouted with delight, “George, oh yes, I’m so happy!  And I’m so proud of you!”

            George laughed, “Well, lassie, I was expecting a reaction from you, just not quite so gleeful!  So, you’re okay with me being in New York City?  I won’t, er, cramp your style?”

            She leaned back again to look at him, “Oh no, you won’t at all.  I can’t tell you how excited I am.  When do you start?  What about your flat in London?  How long is the assignment?”

            “Hold on, hold on!   So many questions.  There’s plenty of time to discuss all of this later.   My post begins at the end of January.  First, I’m to attend a week long international conference on terrorism in San Antonio, Texas, the second week of January and I hope I can persuade you to go along with me.  Will you?”

            “Yes, I’ll go with you.  I’ve never been to San Antonio but I’ve always wanted to go there,” she said, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

            “Aye, but what about your classes at the university?”

            “Well, I also have news for you.  I’ve already decided not to take on any classes this semester.  I want to take a break from teaching to devote more time to writing. Now, knowing you’ll be in New York full time gives me even more incentive.”

            “It’s all going to work out, isn’t it love?  I told you we’d take it a step at a time, and things are falling into place.”

            “Yes, they are.  George?” she said, as she moved closer to him again.

            “Yes, my love?”

            “When are you going to ask me to marry you?” she asked quietly.

            “That’s fur me tae ken an’ ye tae fin’ it!”

            She laughed and kissed him.   After that, there was no more need for talk. 





            Mort Metzger picked up Seth Hazlitt from the hospital on Christmas Eve and brought him to stay with him and his wife Maureen, despite his ornery protests.    He recovered nicely and actually enjoyed Maureen’s nursing him back to health with her hardy meals and the brotherly affection doted on him by Mort. 


            Eve Simpson was mortified by the trouble and danger that had been caused by her love life and interest in David Hearn.  She would soon recover and resume her search for another unsuspecting man, but this time she was just a bit more wary.    She vowed never to drive a German car again, red or not.


            After Seth recovered, he found himself spending some time with Ideal Malloy.  She was a good cook and she made each Seth laugh.  Although she didn’t play chess, and he did try to teach her, she did enjoy the Antiques Road Show and Boston Red Socks games which pleased Seth. 


            Sorry, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see what happens to Jessica and George on their two week trip to  San Antonio, Texas,  and their spring together in New York City.


Author’s notes


Many thanks to Anne and Stephanie for their encouragement, their patience and their editing skills.  They practically collaborated on this story.


To see some of the New York and Boston places or real people I refer to in my stories, check out these links: