Puzzles and Pearls

Written By S.W.W.

I recommend reading The Highland Fling Murders, the 8th book in Donald Bain’s Murder, She Wrote book series, and The Banks O’ Loch Lomond, by Anne Del Borgo, prior to reading Puzzles and Pearls.  I believe that the background that they provide really makes this a much better story as it was by both of those works.

I would like to thank Donald Bain for the wonderful character of George Sutherland.


I would also like to extend a special thanks to Anne for the inspiration that The Banks of Loch Lomond provided for this story and for her guidance on this project. 

Just a short note regarding continuity.  While Banks O’ Loch Lomond was a great influence for Puzzles and Pearls and follows Jessica and George’s adventure there, it was written prior to On a Midsummer’s Eve (which you really should read if you haven’t).  Basically, Puzzles & Pearls occurs along a parallel time line or in an alternate reality (or unreality) if you prefer, than Anne’s wonderful Legends & Songs Trilogy even though they share the same starting point of the Banks O’Loch Lomond.  Hopefully that makes sense.  I suggest that you don’t let yourself get bogged down in the continuity of things and just enjoy the story.  I hope you do. -- Stephanie


“Good morning, Mrs. Fletcher.”  Jessica was greeted brightly by her next-door neighbor, Stacy Nygaard. 


The first flowers of spring were in full bloom.  Deep purple crocuses, bright yellow daffodils and a river of red tulips bordering Jessica’s front walk were a welcome sight after a long, bitter New England winter.  The refreshing spring air was already being warmed by the morning sun and the early morning chorus of song sparrows confirmed that spring had finally arrived.


“Oh, Stacy, good morning.  I must have been daydreaming.  How are you this morning?” Jessica finally replied.


“Very well, thank you, but I certainly can’t blame you for enjoying this beautiful weather.  I was just heading to the clinic.  Can I offer you a ride?” Stacy said as she walked in the direction of her champagne colored Jeep Grand Cherokee.  She was dressed smartly in a gray pantsuit and she carried a black Italian leather briefcase.  Professional, yet feminine, Jessica thought.     


“Thank you, but I think that I will take advantage of the weather and walk this morning.  See you at eight?” 


“Sounds good.  Don’t forget about graduation today,” Stacy reminded her, as she opened the door of her vehicle and reached her briefcase across to the passenger seat.


“No, believe me, I haven’t forgotten,” Jessica replied with delight.




Jessica enjoyed her leisurely walk toward the center of town.  The gray storm clouds from the previous night were clearing nicely and patches of blue now dominated the sky above.  The sun’s rays warmed her face and a light breeze ushered her along, carrying with it the scents of spring.  Jessica walked toward Cabot Cove’s Main Street, where she stopped at the white, Italianate Victorian home, which Stacy and her husband, Michael, had converted into a physical therapy clinic.  The front entrance was sheltered by a navy and burgundy awning and Jessica always found the small waiting room to be cheerful and inviting. 


Jessica had been receiving physical therapy for the past several months after being diagnosed with a frozen shoulder by her good friend, Dr. Seth Hazlitt.  She had dislocated her shoulder the previous year when she and her close friend, George Sutherland were attempting to flee Sutherland Castle to the safety of an old family hunting cabin.  Her shoulder had seemed to be healing nicely and the two were able to enjoy a final few days together in Kilcleer, Ireland, after leaving George’s ancestral home in Wick.  That was, at least, until she returned home and aggravated it while doing fall clean up in her back yard.


Jessica hadn’t had the heart to tell George about her shoulder.  He would undoubtedly feel dreadful if he knew of the pain and disability that had plagued her over the winter months.  The experience had certainly made Jessica a believer in people who swore that they could predict the weather based on the aches and pains in their joints.  It was not that George had not inquired about her shoulder on more than one occasion, but Jessica was quite adept at skirting the issue, as she saw no point in worrying him.  He certainly had much weightier matters to deal with everyday as a high-ranking inspector at Scotland Yard in London.



“Do you have any other questions, Mrs. Fletcher?” Stacy asked.  “You have your green Theraband and your new home exercise print out so, you should be all set.”


“No questions at all.  You have been very thorough.  I greatly appreciate everything that you have done for me,” Jessica said as she rose from her chair and followed Stacy out of the treatment room.


“Well, actually, Mrs. Fletcher, you deserve all of the credit because you did all of the hard work.  All I had to do was convince you to do a few things that you really didn’t want to do and maybe twist your arm a little bit.  It is always a pleasure to have a patient who is as compliant as you are,” Stacy said with great sincerity. 


“It has been a pleasure to work with you as well and please, call me Jessica.”


“I will have to remember that when you are officially no longer my patient,” Stacy replied while glancing down at her watch, “which would be right about now.”  They both laughed. 


“Let me know if there is anything that Mike or I can do for you while you are gone and enjoy your time in New Hampshire. I hear that you are supposed to have wonderful weather while you are gone, almost like summer.”


“I’m glad to hear that,” Jessica responded as they passed through a swinging door and into the small waiting room.


“Don’t forget to pack your exercise band and instructions.  There is no reason that you can’t do your exercises while you’re gone and don’t forget that quality is more important than quantity,” Stacy reminded her. 


Jessica and Stacy shook hands and gave each other a small hug before Stacy headed off to see her next patient, but before she vanished once again behind the swinging door, she turned, smiled and winked mischievously, before adding, “and no more running through the woods with that Scottish inspector friend of yours, even if he is as charming as he sounds.”


Jessica felt her face flush slightly.  Had she talked about George that much?


Having officially “graduated” from therapy, Jessica was now ready to get a few errands crossed off her list before heading home to pack for her two-week stay at her alma mater, Harrison College.  Jed Richardson would be picking her up at noon the following day for her flight to Green Falls, where she would be speaking in an evening lecture series and teaching creative writing.




Jessica was greeted at the Green Falls Airport by a very attractive young woman from the college.


“I hope that you had a smooth flight, Mrs. Fletcher.  Those small planes can get pretty bumpy at times,” the young lady observed as she picked up both of Jessica’s bags.


“Yes, they can, but we had a wonderful flight.  We had clear skies the entire way and Jed is a terrific pilot.”


“I noticed he put her down right on the numbers, not an easy thing to do even under VFR conditions like today.”


“No, you’re right, it is not an easy thing to do.  Are you a pilot, Miss Ross?”


“No, not me, but I do like to sky dive when I get the chance,” she said, glancing upward at the blue sky above.


Jessica shook her head.  “I will never understand why anybody would want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.”


Samantha Ross ushered Jessica to the parking lot, which was located next to the Franklin County Airport general aviation terminal.  She opened the passenger door for Jessica and then placed her luggage in the rear of the vehicle.


“I apologize for the Jeep, but all of the college vehicles were already reserved so I volunteered to drive my own.”


“That’s quite alright, Miss Ross, this looks more than adequate,” Jessica said as she climbed into the navy blue Jeep Wrangler.


“Please, Mrs. Fletcher, call me Samantha, or Sam if you like,” she said as she settled herself into the passenger seat.  “I’m afraid that we don’t have much time to have a proper dinner before your lecture starts, but we do have time to catch something quick as we head back to campus.  Do you have a preference?”


“Actually, why don’t you choose for us,” Jessica suggested.  “I haven’t been in Green Falls in quite sometime.”


“In that case, I recommend the Bread Basket, one my favorite places.  The sandwiches are superb and you can get pretty much anything that you want.  If we’re lucky, maybe the sherry chicken soup will be on the menu today.  If not, all of their soups are delicious and very filling and their desserts are fabulous.” 


“Sounds delicious,” Jessica said enthusiastically.




After dinner, Samantha drove them to Meland Hall, which houses the largest lecture hall on campus.  It hadn’t changed, at least on the outside, since Jessica’s college days when she had spent many hours attending classes there.  After parking in a short-term parking spot in front of the building, Samantha showed Jessica into the hall where she would be lecturing in a little less than an hour.  It was obvious that the room had been prepared far ahead of time for her lecture that evening.


“Here is the remote for the projector,” she said, handing the small controller to Jessica.  “It is already connected to the lap top so, all we should have to do is insert your disk and you should be all set.”


Samantha booted up the computer, inserted the diskette that Jessica had brought with her and assisted Jessica in loading the proper program.  After the program had been loaded, she gave Jessica a quick tutorial on operating the computer and the accompanying audio-visual equipment. 


“Now, Mrs. Fletcher, if you don’t mind, I am going to run out and move my Jeep before I get a parking ticket.  I will drop your bags off and be back in a jiffy.”


“That sounds fine.  It will give me a chance to review a few of my notes,” Jessica replied.



Jessica had spent nearly an hour presenting “Murder Mystery Writing 101” for the Harrison College Life Long Learning program and her voice welcomed a brief respite.


“Mrs. Fletcher, may I get you a cup of coffee, a soda, or maybe a glass of water?” asked Samantha as she approached Jessica at the front of the room.


“A glass of water sounds wonderful,” Jessica replied.  “Coffee at this time of night will keep me up until dawn.”


 “I am so sorry about the lighting in the rear of the room.  I have called maintenance but have no idea when they will get here.  Most likely tomorrow.  Those poor people in the back rows are practically in the dark,” she sympathized.


Samantha Ross was a beautiful young lady with gray-blue eyes and short, stylish blonde hair.  She was tall and athletic, yet elegant.  Samantha was evidently very intelligent and from their telephone conversations, Jessica had determined that she was one of the most organized people that she had ever encountered.  She was bursting with energy and enthusiasm, which radiated to all of those around her. 


Samantha returned shortly with a tall glass of ice and a bottle of water, which she handed to Jessica. 


“You enjoy your water and rest your voice and I’ll collect the questions for the Q&A period,” Samantha said.  “It has been my experience that if we start with a few written questions, the audience is less timid and more likely to get involved.  You probably don’t need the help, but we have had a few lecturers in the past whose topics were…let’s say… mind-numbing,” she whispered the last word, “and it was very helpful.”


“And so, Mr. Heinz, I would recommend that you write, write and re-write.  You may also benefit from taking some workshops and it is always a good idea to become involved with other writers in your field.  As you probably already know, becoming a published author is very hard work.  I hope that I answered your question sufficiently.”


“Yes, you did.  Thank you.”


An eager young co-ed in the front row waved her hand enthusiastically. 


“Yes, the young lady in the front row,” Jessica prompted.


“Mrs. Fletcher, is it true that you never intended on being a professional writer?”


“You are quite right.  I actually wrote my first book without any intention of trying to have it published.  I was really just filling time after my husband passed away.  It was just something that I had wanted to try for quite some time, sort of a personal challenge.  My nephew stumbled upon my manuscript and without my knowledge or permission passed it on to a friend in the publishing world and the rest is history, as they say.  I was very fortunate.” 


The next question came from a middle-aged woman seated in the center of the auditorium.  “Mrs. Fletcher, would you mind signing a copy of your new book for me?  I brought it along with me tonight.”


“Certainly, I’d be happy to sign your book.  We can do it as soon as we are finished here.”


The question and answer period went much longer than originally planned, but Jessica enjoyed the enthusiasm of her audience and stayed until they had no further questions. 


“Mrs. Fletcher, that was absolutely wonderful.” Dr. James Andrews greeted Jessica as she left the small stage.  “Thank you so much for speaking tonight.  We are so happy that you agreed to join us for the next couple of weeks.  I know that all of our creative writing students are looking forward to learning from you.”


“You’re so kind, Dr. Andrews.  It is my pleasure,” Jessica replied.


Dr. Andrews was a short, thin man with gray hair, nearly white at his temples.  He was dressed in a gray suit with a white shirt and red “power” tie and he wore small, round, wire-rimmed glasses.  He was a pleasant man, but seemed to be a bit frazzled at the moment. 


“I hate to run, but I have another engagement this evening,” Andrews said.  “Samantha will make sure that you get back to your hotel tonight and we can meet for breakfast tomorrow morning at the Trestle to go over your schedule.  Say, eight o’clock?” 


“Oh, don’t worry about me.  Samantha is doing a wonderful job.  I am sure that we will be just fine.  Eight o’clock at the Trestle.  I look forward to it.”


“I am sorry about that, Mrs. Fletcher.  Dean Andrews is having a hectic week.   I am surprised that he even had time to make an appearance tonight,” Samantha commented. 


“Thanks quite all right.  I certainly didn’t come here to be wined and dined,” Jessica said as she placed her diskette and a few note cards into her briefcase.


“They are revamping the criminology program here,” Samantha explained.  “Some type of cooperative effort with the FBI and some other law enforcement agency.  Anti-terrorism emphasis, I think.  They are working with consultants from the Boston Police Department, the FBI and even Scotland Yard.  I am sure that Dean Andrews has been busy rolling out the red carpet for those folks.  Politics, you know.”  


“You wouldn’t happen to know any of their names, would you?” Jessica asked.  “I have a friend who works for Scotland Yard.”


“Let me see, I have a memo here in my bag.  Special Agent John Spencer of the FBI, Detective Judy Walsh from the Boston PD and Inspector Thomas Whitmore from Scotland Yard,” she read before returning the paper to her bright yellow and gray backpack.


“No, my friend’s name is George Sutherland.  Thank you for checking, though.”


“I think that I have just about everything.  Just let me check once more and we can head back to your room at the Kappa Delta house.  I hope that’s right because that’s where I delivered your luggage.” 


“Yes, an old friend, practically a sister, is the house mother there,” Jessica explained.  “Sort of nostalgic in a way.  We are looking forward to spending some girls only time together,” she said with a slight grin.


“Let me get the lights and we can sneak out the back way.   It will be quicker,” Samantha suggested as she motioned for Jessica to follow her.  “I should have asked, but you don’t mind walking, do you?  It’s not very far.”


“No, I would welcome a walk.”


“Oh, shoot.  Mrs. Fletcher, could you grab that small stack of paper there next to the banister?  Sometimes, I swear I would lose my head if it weren’t attached,” Samantha admonished herself.


“I like to keep a file of materials from each lecturer, including any unused questions.  You never know what will come in handy in the future.”


As Jessica reached for the papers, the prose on the top page caught her attention. 


“Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw,

I dearly like the west,

For there the bonnie Lassie lives,

The Lassie I lo’e best.”


Good old Robbie Burns, Jessica thought to herself.  “One minute, Samantha,” Jessica said as she glanced back into the now empty auditorium. 


“Is everything okay, Mrs. Fletcher?”


“Yes, I just wanted to check on something,” Jessica replied as she handed Samantha the small stack of paper.


“Strange,” Jessica said shaking her head slightly.


“Aye, the little ditty by Robbie Burns,” Samantha said in a very convincing Scottish accent after noticing the questionnaire that Jessica had been reading.  “Paul must have stopped by to catch part of your lecture.  He knows that I like Burns.  When I first met him, he would leave little notes like that for me.  I think he wanted to ask me out on date.”


“Did it work?” 


“Not exactly.  We’re just good friends, but sometimes I get the idea that he is interested in more than that.  Back then he would leave poems and even notes that were written in some sort of code, anagrams and such.  It was kind of fun and got me hooked on word puzzles.  Actually, we’re meeting for coffee later if you would like to join us.”


“Sounds tempting, but I already have other plans this evening.  Maybe sometime before I head back to Cabot Cove,” she offered.


“Whenever it fits into your schedule.  I should warn you ahead of time, though.  If you do meet Paul, don’t be surprised if he asks you for an interview.”


“Is he a reporter?” Jessica asked.


“Yes, but I hinted that you had a very busy schedule while you were here so hopefully he won’t mention it, but knowing Paul, I wouldn’t count on it.  He doesn’t get many opportunities to interview celebrities here in Green Falls.” 


“No, I don’t imagine that he does, although, I have never considered myself to be a celebrity.”


“Just the same, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  He can be fairly tenacious about certain things.”


“Point taken.  I’ve been adequately warned.”


Samantha led Jessica through a small maze of hallways and out the rear door of the lecture hall.  The pair continued their pleasant conversation as they made their way toward Jessica’s home for the next two weeks, Kappa Delta house.  Samantha was a wonderful hostess and made Jessica feel very at ease.  In addition to being highly intelligent, she conveyed sincere interest in their conversation.  Jessica certainly looked forward to spending more time with her over the next two of weeks.




“Jessica, you’re here,” squealed Margaret Sands, as they hugged.  “I am so excited to see you.  You look wonderful, not a day older than the last time we saw each other.”


“I love to hear it, even if it isn’t true.  Look at you.  You are stunning as ever,” Jessica returned the compliment.


“Well, living in a house with 30 young girls tends to keep you…well, hip, I guess,” Margaret replied.


“Now, I’ve already gotten your things settled.  Sam dropped them off a couple of hours ago.  You’ll be staying in my apartment, which is right around the corner here.  It is secluded from the girls’ rooms and most importantly it has its own private bathroom,” Margaret explained as she led the way for Jessica.  “It’s quite a bit smaller than our house, but it does have two bedrooms so, I have plenty of space.”


“It’s charming!” Jessica exclaimed as they entered the small residence.  The living room was very tastefully decorated in cream, navy and burgundy.  Before moving back to Green Falls, Margaret had owned her own interior design business and even now she still did some special projects, but mostly for friends.  She and her husband, Curtis, had moved back to New Hampshire several years ago when he was offered a position as Chairman of the English Department.  They had always loved Harrison College.  It was a very special place for them, the place where they had met and fallen in love many years ago.  Unfortunately, Curtis had been killed in a car accident the previous summer.     


“Very warm and inviting,” Jessica observed after they had seated themselves in the living room.


“Yes.  It reminds me of Curtis.  This room in particular makes me feel like I am surrounded by him.  It gives me peace.” Her tone had become noticeably more somber.


“He was a wonderful man, Margaret.  I am sure that you miss him terribly,” Jessica comforted her dear friend.  They sat quietly, taking in their surroundings for a few moments.


“Well, on to a more cheerful topic,” Margaret said, trying to elevate her mood.  “Tell me what you have been up to.  It has been forever since we last saw each other.”


They discussed nearly all aspects of their current lives.  Jessica was looking forward to summer and working in her garden, had a book tour scheduled for fall and planned to host both Thanksgiving and Christmas at her home in Cabot Cove.  Margaret enthusiastically accepted her invitation to visit for the holidays and showed Jessica the plans for her latest interior design project, a renovation of the Wetmore Mansion, located just a few blocks from the college.  After an evening of girl talk, complete with a midnight raid on the refrigerator, Jessica and Margaret said good night.  Jessica felt relaxed and content as she pulled the soft, warm bedding up to her chin.  She drifted away quickly into a deep, peaceful sleep.




Jessica awoke refreshed and invigorated and by six o’clock was ready for an early morning walk around campus.  She had dressed in gray sweat pants and a red and blue windbreaker.  The sun was rising and created a warm glow across the entire campus.  She loved quiet moments like this.  Suddenly, she heard the sound of running shoes on the path behind her.


“Good morning, Mrs. Fletcher.”  It was Samantha Ross.  “Out for a morning walk?  I thought that you might have slept in after your busy day yesterday,” she said as she monitored her pulse.  A serious runner, Jessica thought to herself.


“No, this is my favorite time of day.  I hate to miss it,” Jessica replied.


“Do you mind if I join you?” Samantha asked.  “I should be starting my cool down now.”


“Certainly, by all means,” Jessica responded.


They chatted about Jessica’s upcoming creative writing classes and Samantha offered several suggestions for dining and entertainment while Jessica was visiting.


“Well, this is me,” Samantha said, coming to a stop.  “I would recommend taking the path along the river.  There are some spectacular views, spectacular views for a college campus anyway,” she clarified.


“I will be sure to do that. How far is the walk around campus?” Jessica queried.


“Two and a quarter miles on the perimeter and closer to three miles if you take the path along the river and make a figure of eight.”


“Do you run quite a bit?”


“Only a couple of laps this morning, but if I didn’t run every day, I would have to give up cooking and I love food so, I run.”


“Do you have a specialty?” Jessica asked inquisitively.


“I just dabble a bit,” Samantha answered with a slight tilt of her head and shrug of her shoulder.  “Desserts, sweets, anything with chocolate.  My mother was an executive chef so I have spent plenty of time in the kitchen.  She and her partner owned the Vintage at the Balmoral before she died.  He still lets me use the kitchen when I get in the mood and I even help out when the pastry chef needs a hand.  It is a nice change from working in the library,” she explained.  “Actually, I will be there tomorrow night.  You should come, be my guest.”


“That sounds wonderful, but I have no idea what my plans are just yet.”


“I’ll tell you what, Mrs. Fletcher, they always leave one empty table at the seven and eight o’clock seatings, just in case somebody important drops by without a reservation.  I’ll put your name down for the eight o’clock reservation just in case you decide you can make it.  If you can’t, there is bound to be a walk-in who will take it in a heartbeat.”


“I certainly can’t say no to that,” Jessica agreed.


“Well, I really should take a shower and get to work.  It was good to see you again, Mrs. Fletcher,” she said before continuing up the walkway toward her home and disappearing inside.


Jessica continued her walk along the river.  It was as lovely as she had remembered it.   


After meeting with Dean Andrews for breakfast to discuss her teaching schedule and responsibilities for the next two weeks, Jessica was free for the remainder of the day until an evening social sponsored by the Harrison College alumni association.  Plenty of time for the shopping excursion that she and Margaret had planned for today.  It would be a perfect time to pick up a birthday present for Mort, some new stationary and an anniversary present for Grady and Donna.




Jessica felt as though she had met every faculty member and administrative person employed by Harrison College within the past two hours.  The evening was passing by in a whirlwind.  Add to that a full day of shopping and Jessica was nearing exhaustion and ready for a long, hot bath and a good book.  Although she secretly wished to sneak out unnoticed, she also felt that it would be impolite to leave without saying goodbye to her host, Dean Andrews.


“Mrs. Fletcher, would you please bear with me for just another ten minutes or so.  There are a few more people that I would really like for you to meet.  Please, have a seat here at my table.  I know that they are running late after a long day of meetings, but they should be here any minute,” he assured her.  “I will go and see if I can find them.”


Despite her fatigue and desire to turn in for the evening, Jessica did as he requested and seated herself at his table along with several other people, who she had not previously met.  With Dean Andrews gone, they made their own introductions. 


Dr. Judith Kraft was an assistant professor in the English Department.  She was a pleasant woman with an average build, fine features and red hair.  She was dressed almost casually in a bright multi-colored, flowing skirt, white blouse and long, dangling earrings. 


Dr. John Osman was a professor of archeology and he would certainly qualify as tall, dark and handsome.  Jessica guessed his age to be between forty and forty-five.  His face was tan and he wore a heavy five o’clock shadow.  His brown suit was exceptionally tailored and was complimented nicely with a white shirt and muted brown tie.


Seated next to Dr. Osman was Teresa Castleman.  She was dressed in a short, black skirt with a vintage black tweed jacket, which covered a pink charmeuse blouse.  Her make-up had been carefully applied and accented her high cheekbones, but was unsuccessful in hiding the expression of disinterest that she wore on her slightly pretty face.  She was by no means unpleasant, but did seem uninterested in chitchat.  Apparently Jessica was not the only one who was ready to call it a night.


Seated on the other side of Ms. Castleman was Karen Andrews, Dean Andrews’s wife.  She was a very pleasant woman, who seemed to be enjoying herself immensely.  No doubt, she was very familiar and comfortable playing the part of hostess.


Seated on Jessica’s immediate left was Dr. Martin Koob.  Dr. Koob appeared to be in his mid-forties and had sandy brown hair with just a touch of gray.  He was dressed in a navy suit with a white shirt and red and blue paisley tie.  Jessica’s initial impression was that he was a pleasant man, but perhaps a bit shy.


Jessica tried her best to carry on polite conversation, but struggled to keep her eyes open and had nearly succumbed to her exhaustion when Dean Andrews finally returned with his guests.


“Mrs. Fletcher, I would like to introduce you to the trio of consultants who are working with our criminology department, Detective Judy Walsh of the Boston PD, Special Agent John Spencer of the FBI and Chief Inspector George Sutherland of Scotland Yard.”


Jessica was instantly jolted awake at his words, but it took her a few moments to completely process the information.   


“Mrs. Fletcher?” Dean Andrews said.


After recovering from her initial shock, Jessica finally spoke.  “It is a pleasure to meet you, Inspector.”  A hint of confusion accompanied her words.  Jessica stood, shook hands and exchanged polite greetings with each of the three law enforcement officials.


“The pleasure is most certainly mine,” responded Sutherland, with a mischievous grin and a twinkle in his green eyes. 


“The J.B. Fletcher!  The mystery writer?” Detective Judy Walsh asked.         


“That’s right, Detective Walsh,” Andrews answered.  “Mrs. Fletcher gave a lecture last evening as part of our Life Long Learning program and she will be teaching creative writing for us over the next couple of weeks,” he explained.  “Jessica’s first lecture was such a success that we have asked her to do a repeat performance before she leaves,” he continued.  “Jessica is undoubtedly our most famous alumnus.  She has even had a hand in solving one or two real murders, I understand,” he continued.  By now, Jessica was feeling more than a bit awkward.   


“Mrs. Fletcher, my wife loves your books.  She can’t put them down,” Special Agent John Spencer interjected.


“Thank you, Agent Spencer, that is so kind of you to say,” Jessica responded with a kind smile. 


“Perhaps Mrs. Fletcher would like to sit in on some of our meetings this week?” Detective Walsh suggested eagerly to the group.


“Oh, you’re too kind, but no, I prefer to stick with writing about fictional crime.  True crime isn’t my turf, so to speak.  I really prefer to leave it to professionals, like yourselves,” Jessica said, declining the offer.


“All evidence to the contrary, Mrs. Fletcher,” George replied, a thin smile creeping across his lips. 


After several minutes of polite conversation, Dean Andrews excused himself and ushered the small contingency toward another group of attendees, but not before George discretely whispered something close to Jessica’s ear.  “Meet you outside, by the fountain, in twenty minutes?” 


She smiled, her answer was clearly reflected in her now radiant face.


Jessica said a few more goodbyes, located her coat and slipped out of the party and into the fresh evening air.  She had no trouble finding the fountain again even after so many years.  It had been one of her favorite places to study as a student. No sign of George yet, though.  She rummaged through her purse, dug out a penny, gazed into the glassy water for a moment and tossed in the coin.  She was so lost in thought that she hadn’t noticed him watching her nor did she hear him approach from behind.


“You certainly are a bonny site for this Scotsman’s sore eyes, Jessica Fletcher,” he whispered softly into her ear before gently kissing her cheek.


“George!  What on earth…what are you doing here?” Jessica exclaimed as she turned to face him and gave him a huge hug.  “It is so wonderful to see you, unexpected, but wonderful,” she said as she released him from her embrace.  Jessica’s face beamed with happiness.


“Well, I’d say that is a tad better than ‘It is a pleasure to meet you, Inspector,’” he mocked playfully.  “You had me worried there for a minute, Jessica.” 


“I’m sorry about that, George, but I think I dozed off for a second and then seeing you…well, it ‘threw me for a loop,’ as they say,” Jessica explained.


“Aye, the look on your face was priceless, my dear.  No harm done, though.  I think that my ego is still sufficiently in tact.”  


“Now, let me look at you,” he said as he took her hands, raised them above her head and pirouetted her around, admiring her graceful form.


“Ouch,” she cringed.


“Oh, Jess, forgive me.  Your shoulder!  I am so sorry.  I didn’t mean to hurt you.” 


“No, it’s my toe.  New shoes, and not very sensible ones at that,” she explained.  


“Are you sure?  You know you can always be honest with me, Jessica,” he said. 


“I am always honest with you, George.  I’m surprised that you would even say that.”  She sounded a bit annoyed. 


“I do worry about you sometimes, Jessica.  I just don’t want you ending up back at the bloody physiotherapist,” he replied.     


“How did you know that?” she asked in great surprise.


“Confidential informant,” he answered, trying to inject a little bit of humor into the situation.


After a few moments of contemplation, Jessica asked, “Maureen Metzger?”


“Now, how did you know that?” It was now George’s turn to be surprised. 


“Elementary, my dear, Inspector,” Jessica retorted. 


“She rang you, didn’t she?” he asked with a nod.  She smiled and they both laughed.


“Well, sort of.  Mort left a message today saying that Maureen had taken a call from you, but I haven’t had time to return his call to get the details.  Now, go on, tell me what you’re doing here?”


George spent the next few minutes explaining how he had been asked, at the last minute, to fill in for a colleague, who had become ill with appendicitis.  He had spent three days at Quantico and was to spend the next two weeks with the Criminology Department and Police Academy at the college to consult on program changes, many of which would focus on anti-terrorism training.


“Your turn.  Tell me about your lectures and the classes that you will be teaching.”  Jessica did so quickly.


“Do you have plans for the remainder of the evening?” George asked.


“The only thing on my agenda was a long, hot bath and then to bed.  What did you have in mind?”


He reached into the pocket of his brown tweed jacket and withdrew his pipe.  After lighting it and taking a few satisfying puffs, he asked, “Care to take a walk with me?”


“Of course,” she replied as she hooked arms with him.  “Would you mind walking me back to my room, though?  I should really check in with Margaret so she doesn’t wonder where I’ve run off to.” 


“Fair enough, but you’ll have to lead the way,” he answered.


The walking paths were relatively quiet, with the exception of a few other faculty and staff leaving the reception, the occasional student hurrying back to his or her dormitory and a young couple walking hand in hand, seemingly in no rush to go anywhere.


“On your left,” they heard as long, fast strides approached them from behind.


“Oh, hello, Mrs. Fletcher,” the voice said as the figure slowed to a stop next to them. 


“Samantha.  You’re running again?” Jessica asked.


“I had to make up for taking it easy this morning.  Besides, I find running relaxing.  Good for thinking, actually,” she said, not the slightest bit out of breath.  


“Samantha Ross, I would like to introduce you to a good friend of mine, George Sutherland.”


“It is a pleasure to meet you, sir.  Scotland Yard, right?” she said, extending her hand. 


“Aye, and it is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Ross,” he answered, while shaking her hand. 


“Please, call me Sam.  Sorry to intrude on your walk. It is a lovely night for it.”


“Yes, it is,” Jessica agreed.


“I really should get going, sorry again for intruding.  See you tomorrow night, Mrs. Fletcher?  Bring the inspector, you’ll have a great time, I promise.”


“I’m not sure what my plans are for tomorrow night, but I will let you know if I…if we can make it.”


“Good enough for me.  Enjoy the rest of your walk, Mrs. Fletcher, and mar sin leibh an drasda, Inspector?” she said as she jogged backwards, turned away and then resumed her run with long, smooth strides.


“What?” Jessica asked, confused by Samantha’s final words. 


“She said goodbye for now,” George explained.  “Charming lass.”


“And a very intelligent woman,” Jessica commented.  “And very beautiful.”


“Hardly noticed, with you on my arm, Jess.”


“What do you mean, hardly noticed?” she said, giving his arm a light squeeze.  “How could you not notice?  She’s stunning!”


“I said that I hardly noticed.  A man would have to be blind not to have noticed at all, Jessica.  Now, what were these plans for tomorrow evening?” George said in an attempt to change the topic.


“Nothing definite yet, but Samantha invited me for dinner at the Vintage restaurant.  Apparently, she will be helping out in the kitchen.  Her mother was actually the executive chef and part owner there at one time.”


“Miss Ross is a chef?”


“Not exactly.  She is actually a research librarian, but also has a love for cooking.  She helps the pastry chef on occasion.  After dinner, she mentioned some type of movie that is showing on campus.”


“Well then, I suggest we take her up on her invitation, at least for dinner, unless you already have other plans.”


“No, I’d love to.  The reservation is at eight,” she replied.


They continued to walk along the well-lit path until coming to a small river where the trail divided itself.  They chose the path that continued along the winding stream with plans to cross at its southern most bridge.  Their conversation had slowed.  Jessica enjoyed the warm, clear night and George was deep in thought. 


“Here it is,” Jessica announced.  Banner Bridge.  We almost missed it.  This area here used to be completely open, just a big empty field until they built the new library.  Kappa Delta house is just another hundred yards after we cross the bridge.” 


George stopped as they reached the center point of the small bridge, tamped down the ashes in the bowl of his pipe and placed it back into his jacket pocket. 


“Beautiful campus,” he observed.  George turned to face Jessica and coupled her hands in his.  His kind, gentle green eyes looked downward, peering deeply into hers.  To his pleasant surprise, she held his gaze. 


“Jessica, I need your opinion on a small matter, but first I need to clear up a couple of things that have been weighing on my mind the past day or two,” he admitted.  “Jessica, are you sure that your shoulder is all right?”   


“Poor man, what had Maureen Metzger said to him?” Jessica thought to herself. 


“Honestly, George, my shoulder is fine.  Really, it is, you needn’t worry.  It’s good as new.  I promise,” she assured him as she elevated her left arm and made a large circular motion with it.  “See?”


“Aye, I can see that it is fine now, but why didn’t you tell me that you were having to see a physiotherapist?  I seem to remember us agreeing that you were free to share your burdens with me.”


“I wouldn’t classify it as a burden.  It was really more of an inconvenience,” she said casting her glance downward and away from his eyes.


“Semantics, Jess.  That’s not the point.  What kind of relationship do we have if you can’t share these things with me?  I’m sure that Seth and Mort both knew about it, didn’t they?” he asked.


“Unfortunately, yes, they both knew.  That was unavoidable.”  She paused, looked upward and once again met his eyes.  “George, I just didn’t want you to worry about me.  You have plenty of other troubles to deal with everyday and you certainly don’t need to add me to your list.”


“Jessica, love, you are rarely that far from my thoughts, although I will admit that I’m usually more worried about what kind of trouble you’re getting your pretty little neck into.”

“Point taken,” Jessica said.  “Thank you for being concerned about me, George,” she said as she raised herself slightly and gently kissed him on the cheek before turning to continue across the bridge.  “Now, what was it that you wanted my opinion about?”


Still holding her hands in his, George gently pulled her back toward him and drew her into his embrace.  “In a minute,” he murmured.


His arms enveloped her firmly, but with a certain gentleness.  He bent his head downward, letting their cheeks brush slightly against one another.  She could feel his warm, slow breathing against her neck and any desire that she had to continue their walk had quickly melted away.   George released her slightly, lifted her chin gently and looked down into her eyes. “I’ve missed you terribly, Jessica.”  She suddenly grew pale and drew herself down into his chest and deeper into his embrace.  George could feel her tremble in his arms. 


“What’s the matter, Jess?” he asked tenderly. 


“Look!” she exclaimed as she pointed to the near shore.  The distinct outline of a human body could be seen lying in a crumpled position, moonlight reflecting off Samantha Ross’s white illumiNITE running vest.  Her once beautiful face, partially illuminated in the moon’s glow was trickled with thick, crimson blood while her head lay in an unnatural position.


George climbed down the rock retaining wall to the river’s edge, where Samantha Ross’s body lay in a crumpled heap.  He carefully assessed her vital signs, being careful to not disturb anything.


“Jessica, I’m afraid that she’s dead,” George said from below.  “We had better call the authorities.”


“I’ll do it. You stay,” Jessica said before quickly making her way to the Kappa Delta house where she called 911.  She returned, accompanied by Margaret. 


“Oh, my! Is that Samantha Ross?” Margaret exclaimed.


The faint sound of sirens could now be heard in the distance.


“Jessica, why don’t you two stay up there? ” George suggested.


Although Jessica would have preferred to explore things a little bit with George, she knew that he was right.  She also knew that if Samantha’s death had not been an accident, it was vitally important to not contaminate the scene.  Shortly after Jessica and Margaret seated themselves on a bench next to the walking path, two police cars arrived, with lights flashing and sirens wailing.


“Did one of you ladies call 911?” the young officer asked urgently.  He appeared fresh out of the academy and didn’t look any older than his early twenties.


“I did,” Jessica said as she approached the young man.


“You reported a body.  Where is it?”


“Down there,” Jessica said, pointing downward toward the river’s edge, where George stood a few feet away from the body, which was now totally in shadow.


“And who the…who’s down there with her?”


“Hey, get out of there, you’re contaminating my scene!” he yelled with the utmost authority.


“Excuse me, officer, but that is my friend George Sutherland.  He is a Chief Inspector with Scotland Yard.  We were together when we discovered her.”


“I don’t care who he is, I want him out of my crime scene.”  He paused.  “Did you say Scotland Yard?”


“Yes, I did, Officer….”


“Sorry, ma’am, it’s Rellik, Officer Greg Rellik.”


“And I am Jessica Fletcher.”


“Nice to meet you,” he mumbled as he shook her extended hand.


“Carl, call Jeff and get him down here immediately and then set up a perimeter!” Officer Rellik barked at his colleague, who had also responded to Jessica’s 911 call.


Officer Rellik stood at the edge of the river embankment as George ascended the last few feet of rock wall.  


“What do you think?” Officer Rellik asked. 


“Pardon me?”


“Sorry, Inspector, but I didn’t exactly know who you were?”


“Greg Rellik, GFPD,” the young officer said as he extended his hand to shake with George.


“George Sutherland,” George replied.


“The lady said you were with Scotland Yard?”


Aye.  That’s right.”


“Well, what do you think, Inspector?” Rellik asked again.


“Hard to see much in the dark,” George deferred.


“I had better at least check for identification so we can notify the parents.  Care to take another look?” he offered.


Officer Rellik, followed by George, climbed down to the lifeless form, which lay partially against the base of the rock wall.


“Samantha? Sam! No!” he yelled as he neared her body.


“You knew her?” George asked after a few minutes.


“Ya’, I know her,” the young officer answered faintly.


“Hey, Rellik, you down there?” yelled a voice from above.


“Shut up and get down here, Jeff.  It’s Sam!”


“And get the forensics squad here, yesterday,” he ordered.




By now, a moderately sized crowd of onlookers had gathered behind the yellow crime scene tape, many whose morbid curiosity had them craning their necks in an effort to get a glimpse of Samantha Ross’s body as it was removed from the scene by the EMS personnel.  Harsh floodlights illuminated the grim scene, as it was meticulously processed by the forensics squad. 


George and Jessica had finished answering routine questions from both Officer Rellik and a GFPD Detective, named Jeff Rellik, and had provided their names and contact information for the next couple of weeks.  Jessica judged Detective Rellik to be in his mid-thirties.  He was dressed in gray slacks, white shirt and dark gray jacket.  Jessica couldn’t help but wonder if the two officers were somehow related.  Rellik was not a common name and the spelling was a bit unusual.  They had strikingly similar features – high cheekbones, firmly set jaws, closely cut fair hair and an air of self-assuredness – and a slight accent, which she could not quite place. 


“Inspector Sutherland, Mrs. Fletcher, if there is anything else that you remember, please give me a call,” the Detective said, as he scribbled a number on the back of his business card and handed it to George. 


“We’ll be sure to do that, Detective,” George said, taking the card and placing it into his jacket pocket.


“Detective, do you know if Miss Ross had any family here in Green Falls?” Jessica asked.


“No, I don’t think that she did.  Her father passed away several years ago and her mother died in a car accident last year.  Excuse me a minute, I have to take this,” he said as he flipped open his cellular phone and walked a few steps away.  “Just a second, I need to write this down,” he said and he pulled a small notebook from his pocket.  “Okay, go ahead.”


 “Did you see anything of interest down there?” Jessica asked as they waited for the Detective to finish his call.  


“A wound of some sort to her left upper back and some scratches on her neck, but not much else.  No footprints.  Whatever happened, it happened up here and I doubt if it was an accident.”   


“I was afraid of that.  Did you notice all of the matted grass next to the walking path and behind the bushes?” Jessica asked.


“Glad you waited,” Detective Rellik said when he returned.  “I have one more question for you, Inspector.”


“Certainly, go ahead.”


“Any idea what time it is in London right now?”


“About six in the morning,” George responded. 


“I guess it can wait a couple of hours, then.”


“What can wait, Detective?” Jessica said.


“Notifying Sam’s next of kin, an uncle who lives in London, a Professor Ross.”


“Dr. Charles Ross?” George asked.


“Might be, Inspector, her employee file listed a Professor C.T.  Ross, Barnet College, London, 011-222-5544.”


“Do you know him, George?” Jessica asked.


Aye, retired from The Yard about five years ago to take a post at the university.  Detective Rellik, I don’t wish to interfere with your investigation, but Charles Ross is a mate and if you don’t object…”


“No problem, Inspector, I would appreciate it.  Worst part of the job.  Just let me know when the deed is done, okay?”


“I’ll be sure to do that.”


George escorted Jessica and Margaret back to the house.  It was well past midnight now and early morning dew was beginning to collect on the blades of green grass, through which they walked.     


“It was a pleasure meeting you, George, even under the circumstances,” Margaret said before excusing herself to check on the girls inside. 


“Oh, and Jessica, it’s past curfew, house rules, remember?” she said with a slight smile and a wink as she disappeared through the door.


“Curfew?” George said.


“Midnight.  Although, I remember it being much earlier in my day.”  She smiled at the memory.


“Are there any other house rules I should know about?”


“Probably number two.


“Which is?”


“No gentlemen on the premises without first being announced and without a proper chaperone.” 


“But we don’t need a chaperone,” George replied.


“I know we don’t need a chaperone, but those are the rules, at least they were,” she said followed by a light laugh.


“Okay.  What’s on tap for you tomorrow, Jessica?”


“I have class until eleven and then I thought I would do some…exploring.”


“And where might this exploration take you?”


“The library, Samantha’s office to be precise.  She had a file that I want to review before I give my next evening lecture.”


George slowly shook his head and smiled knowingly.  “Just one file?”


“Well, maybe more than one.  What’s on your agenda tomorrow?”


“The morning and early afternoon are filled with more meetings, then I need to do a couple of reports and get them faxed back to London and sometime I need to squeeze in an errand or two.  Are we still intending on having dinner at the Vintage, Miss Ross’s invitation?” he asked.


“I think that sounds like a good idea, don’t you?  It will give me a chance to tell you what I dig up.”


“I wouldn’t expect any less from J.B. Fletcher.  Meet you there at eight?”


“I’m looking forward to it.”


George escorted her to the door. 


“Tell me something.  Did Jessie McGill ever break a house rule?”


“Maybe once or twice, why?”


“Just curious.  Pleasant dreams, Jessica,” he said before kissing her softly on the cheek. 


Jessica watched him as he turned and walked in the direction of his hotel.  He looked back briefly and smiled.   




Despite the events of the previous night, Jessica woke relatively refreshed.  Plenty of time for a nice walk around campus before getting ready for her eight o’clock class, she thought.


She dressed, once again, in her gray sweatpants and blue and red windbreaker, but this time she did not take the walking path that passed in front of the house.  Instead, she walked through the grass toward the river and Banner Bridge.  The area where she and George had discovered Samantha’s body was still roped off with yellow crime scene tape.  Jessica inspected the bushes next to the walking path where she had noticed the trampled grass.  Could someone have been waiting for her?  Or maybe it was just a quiet place to study.  She walked slowly onto the bridge, scanning for anything out of the ordinary.


“Can I help you with anything, Mrs. Fletcher,” a man’s voice said from behind.


Jessica turned to see Officer Greg Rellik join her on the bridge.


“Doing a little detective work of your own?” he asked. 


“No, just thinking.  George told me that you knew Samantha.  Were you close?”


“Ya’ I knew her really well.  If it weren’t for Sam, I would never have graduated last year.  She tutored me in Spanish for almost two years.”


“She was intelligent, wasn’t she?”


“Brilliant would be more accurate,” he said, looking down and gently kicking a small pebble with the toe of his highly polished shoe.


“Has Detective Rellik come up with any leads yet?” she asked.


“Still waiting on forensics and the autopsy.”


“Yes, I suppose so.  When will they be completed?”


“Later today or tomorrow is my guess.”


Jessica continued to scrutinize the crime scene.  “Did you see this?” she asked, indicating a small, folded piece of paper, which was lodged between two large rocks near the top edge of the stone embankment. 


“Could just be a piece of trash that blew in during the night, hard to tell.  It’s tough processing a crime scene at night,” he explained.


After returning from his patrol car with an evidence bag, Officer Rellik carefully picked up the paper, by its edge, unfolded it and slid it carefully into the bag. 


“It’s a fax,” he said after reading the piece of paper.


“Mind if I take a look?”




Brenna Letters


Cole Conklin


“Does it mean anything to you,” Jessica asked.


“No, but you never know with Sam, it could be a word game of some kind.  She loved ‘em.”


“The signature, Cole Conklin, anybody you know?”


“No.  Never heard of him, but I’ll check it out.”


“Officer Rellik, did you notice the young man who was sitting on the bridge last night?  The one who looked incredibly distraught and on the verge of possibly becoming physically ill.”


“Paul Peterson.  He was a close friend of Sam’s.”


“The reporter?  Samantha mentioned him.”


“That’s him.  He’s a pretty good guy.”


“Samantha gave me that impression,” Jessica said with a slight nod of the head.


“Sorry, Mrs. Fletcher, but I have to go,” he said after glancing down at his watch.  “Thanks for your help,” he said before returning to his patrol car.   




Jessica returned to the house, showered, dressed and had a cup of coffee and toast before heading across campus to her eight o’clock class.  She greatly enjoyed the opportunity to teach again.  It had been years since she had worked as a substitute high school English teacher.  Secretly, she had always hoped that someday one of her students would turn out to be the next Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.


After classes were finished for the day, Jessica headed for Samantha Ross’s office, which was located in the James P. Patrick Library.  The building was no more than two or three years old and had floor to ceiling glass walls, which separated the ground floor circulation area from classrooms, archives, and special collections, which were also housed on the main level.


“Excuse me, but I am Jessica Fletcher and…”


“Oh, Mrs. Fletcher, I am so happy to meet you.  I was hoping that you would stop in some time while you were here.  How can I help you?” asked Donna, the library assistant who manned the circulation desk on that particular day. 


“I was wondering if you might help me find a file that Miss Ross had.  It is for the lecture that I am giving again tomorrow night.”


“Oh, what a shock!  She was such a nice girl.  Hard to believe that something like that could happen here,” she commented.  “We’re really not supposed to let anyone into Samantha’s office, but since you just need a file for your lecture, I don’t see any harm in getting that for you.”


Donna led Jessica to a small, windowless room located just off the main circulation area.  Oatmeal colored carpet and walls matched the chair located behind Samantha’s desk on the far wall.  The near wall was lined with tall, almond colored filing cabinets while the other walls were hidden behind cherry bookshelves.  The room was immaculate and verified Jessica’s initial impression that Samantha Ross had been a very organized woman.


“Sam’s files for the Life Long Learning program are in this first cabinet here.  If you can’t find it there, she cross-referenced everything and you might find it under ‘F’ for ‘Fletcher’ in that cabinet.  I’m not sure if she made an electronic copy of it, but if she did, it would be with her CD’s and diskettes on the shelves behind her desk.  I need to get back to the circulation desk, but I’ll check back in a few minutes just in case you don’t find it.”


Jessica found the file immediately.  Samantha had labeled it “Murder Mystery Writing 101” and had already filed it in the first cabinet.  Out of shear curiosity, Jessica checked another file cabinet, which held files “D-F” and found another copy of the materials under “Fletcher, J.B.” One of Samantha’s diskette files also contained a disk labeled LLL-Murder Mystery Writing 101-JB Fletcher.  Jessica slipped the “Murder Mystery Writing 101” file into her bag and continued to browse the room. 


The shelves located directly behind Samantha’s desk held a small collection of framed photos, which clearly represented her passion for life – skydiving, a snow skiing holiday with her parents, with friends on Halloween and with a group of people on a field trip of some sort.  A burgundy calendar desk pad covered the center of the cherry desktop while a black flat screen monitor, printer and combination scanner & copier unit took up much of the remaining space.  Samantha’s appointment calendar, opened to the previous day, lay on the right, front corner of the desk.  Otherwise, the desk top was bare, no pens, pencils or paperclips in sight. 


“Do I dare open Samantha’s desk drawers?  No, better not, Donna will likely be back any moment,” Jessica thought to herself.   Time to go, she decided, but not before she used Samantha’s small personal copier to make copies of her appointment calendar from the previous week.  Jessica exited through the main circulation area, located Donna and thanked her for her assistance.  She then returned to Margaret’s apartment where they enjoyed a late lunch of tuna on wheat and small garden salads.


“What do you have planned for the rest of the day, Jess?” Margaret asked as she cleared their plates from the small dining room table.


“I was hoping to just relax a little bit and maybe do some reading and then George and I are meeting for dinner at eight.  Would you like to join us?”


“Thank you for the invitation, but I have so much research to do on this decorating project that I really need to work tonight.  Besides, I wouldn’t want to be a third wheel.”


“Don’t be silly.  We would love for you to join us.”


“No, I really do have to work tonight and I get the impression that the Inspector would love to have you all to himself,” she smiled knowingly. 


“Marg, it’s not like that.  We’re just good friends.”


“You just keep telling yourself that, Jess,” she teased.  “I think I know better.  I can still read you like a book.  Don’t forget, I remember what you were like when you were dating Frank,” she reminded Jessica. 


“Marg, you’re imagining things,” Jessica protested.   


“You have all the same signs as you did back then.  Oh, I almost forgot,” Margaret said, knowing Jessica well enough to know that it was time to change the subject.   “You had a message last night when you were at the alumni social.  With all the excitement, I forgot all about it.”


“Who was it from?” Jessica asked.


“Paul Peterson from the Herald.  He wanted to know if you would be available for an interview while you’re here.”


“Did he leave a number?”


“Yes, right here next to the phone.”


“I think I’ll give Mr. Peterson a call.”




“Hello, this is Paul Peterson,” a melancholy voice answered.


“Mr. Peterson, this is Jessica Fletcher.  I’m returning your call from yesterday evening.”


“Oh, Mrs. Fletcher, I am so glad that you called me back,” his tone had elevated significantly.  “I was hoping that you might find time to do an interview with me while you are in Green Falls,” he explained.


“Certainly, it would be my pleasure.  When and where would you like to meet?”


“Whenever it’s convenient for you, Mrs. Fletcher.  I’m flexible.”


“How about four o’clock this afternoon at your office?” she suggested.


“Perfect.  Do you need directions?” he offered.


“No, I know where it is.  I’ll see you at four o’clock,” she said before hanging up the telephone.





Paul Peterson was a good reporter.  It was obvious that he had taken a great deal of time to prepare for this interview.  He seemed to be quite familiar with Jessica’s work.  He was focused and articulate and he asked very well thought out questions, but Jessica could not help but think how different that he and Samantha Ross had been.  She was sure that the chaos that was Paul Peterson’s office would, no doubt, have driven Samantha Ross crazy. 


“You know, Mrs. Fletcher, I didn’t really think that you would be interested in letting me interview you,” he said after they had finished.  “Sam said that you would probably be too busy.” 


“You two were good friends, weren’t you?”


“Yes, we were.  I still can’t believe she’s gone,” he said quietly as he stood and turned away from her, but not before Jessica noticed his eyes begin to fill with tears.


“Mr. Peterson, would it be okay if I asked you a couple of questions about Samantha?” she probed gently after giving him a few moments to collect himself.


“Sure,” he said, turning to face her again.  His sad eyes were now watery and slightly reddened.


“I don’t mean to be insensitive, but do you know if Samantha was seeing anyone?”


“No, not here anyway,” he answered before pausing for a moment.  “I thought maybe she met someone last summer when she was in London, but she never talked about it.”


“What made you think that she met someone in London?” Jessica prodded.


“Well, a bunch of us got together at her place the night that she got back.  There was this new book on her shelves, brown leather, and no title.  I was curious so I opened it and on the inside, front cover was a man’s name, written over and over.  You know how girls do that kind of thing?  I think that it was a journal, but I’m not sure.”


“Did you read any of it?”


“Trust me, I wanted to,” he said, with only the slightest hint of guilt about invading his friend’s privacy.  “But it wasn’t written in English.”


“Was it in Spanish?” Jessica asked.


“No.  Something else,” he said shaking his head.


“She was multi-lingual then?” Jessica said with a note of surprise in her voice.  Jessica had great respect for people who were dedicated enough to learn a foreign language, much less two.


“You could say that.  She was fluent in at least four or five languages, maybe more.”


“Four or five?  When did she have the time?” Jessica asked, almost to herself.


“Like most things, I think it just came easy to her,” he concluded.


“Mr. Peterson, the name of the man in Samantha’s journal, was it Cole Conklin by chance?”


“No, it was Ian Brickman.  Why?”


“Do you know what the Brenna Letters are?” Jessica continued on her current train of thought.


“Mrs. Fletcher, I have already told Jeff Rellik all of this.  That fax that Greg found was from me.  It was a puzzle, a code.  Sam loved word puzzles.”


“You see,” he said as he grabbed a pencil and began writing on a piece of scrap paper, which he had retrieved from a small pile on his desk.  “The name Seuss refers to Dr. Seuss.  You know, Green Eggs and Ham?”


“Sam I am?” Jessica filled in the blank.


“Right and the other two are anagrams.  “Brenna” is “Banner” and “Letters” is “Trestle” or “Bridge.”  “Cole Conklin” is “Nine o’clock.  Do you see?”


“We were supposed to meet at Banner Bridge at nine o’clock, but I was late.”


“Why were you meeting?”


Paul thought hard for a moment, while chewing absentmindedly on the nail of his left thumb, before answering.


“Did Sam tell you that she was writing a book?” he asked.


“No, she never mentioned it,” Jessica said, shaking her head.


“I’m not surprised.  Okay, anyway, she was writing this book, but she would never tell me what it was about.  She said that I could read it when she figured out the ending.  She left a message yesterday around two o’clock and said that she had finally figured it out and would know for sure after she talked to Dr. Osman.”


“Dr. Osman, the archeology professor?”


“Yes.  She was an archeology buff, used to audit classes with Osman and even went on a couple of digs with him and some of the people from the archeology department.  Word around town was that the two of them were having a fling.”


“Samantha and Dr. Osman?” she asked. 


“Ya’, that was last spring, but she denied it.  She claimed that he wasn’t her type.” 


“Who was her type?”


“Let’s see…she once described the perfect man as one part Indiana Jones, two parts James Bond, a dash of Descartes and a pinch of Eliot.  Certainly no one I knew.”


“Anyway, I faxed her back that note around three o’clock.  I got to the bridge around ten after nine.  She was…weird, excited weird.  She said Osman was a slaidear, whatever that means.  She also said that she needed to work out a couple of more things and needed to finish her run so she could think.  She was going to meet me at Hannigan’s after she was done.  Last I saw her she was laying on the grass, stretching out because her hamstrings had tightened up.”


“Do you know when or where she met with Dr. Osman?” Jessica asked as she rose from her seat and began to look closely at the personal photos on Paul Peterson’s desk. 


“No.  Sometime before I got there, I guess.  She didn’t say.”


“Is there anyone else who you can think of that might have known that she was going to be at the bridge last night?”


“Anybody, everybody.  She ran almost every night and she was easy enough to see in that reflective vest.  She always ran the same path, changed direction, but always the same path.”   


“Do you know where her manuscript is?” Jessica queried.


“I don’t know for sure, but I guess the best place to look would be on one of her computers,” he said, turning his palms up slightly and shrugging his shoulders.  “Why?” 


“I just thought that I might enjoy reading it, that’s all.”


“Well, Mrs. Fletcher, I should really get going.  Thanks again for doing the interview.  My boss will love it.  Can I give you a lift somewhere?” he offered as he collected his briefcase from the floor


“It’s nice of you to offer, but I think that a walk would be nice and I don’t have too far to go. It was nice meeting you Mr. Peterson.  Thank you for talking to me about Samantha.  I know that it must have been hard for you.  It’s obvious that you were close.”


“We were.”




Jessica sighed as she collapsed onto the over-stuffed couch in Margaret’s apartment.   It was nearly six thirty, which gave her plenty of time to shower and get ready for her eight o’clock dinner with George.  She took a long, hot shower, which had its intended revitalizing affect.  She chose a pale pink skirt with a matching blouse.  The outfit was perfect for dinner at the Vintage, extremely comfortable, and she looked marvelous in it, or so Margaret had declared while on their marathon shopping spree the previous day.  Jessica grabbed a light coat, in case the weather changed, and her purse and exited the house to meet a waiting taxi.


George was already at the Vintage when Jessica arrived.  She found him sitting casually at the bar, drinking a single-malt scotch. 


“Ah, Jessica, you’re particularly lovely this evening,” he said as he rose from his seat and greeted her with an expansive smile and a long hug.


“Thank you, George, and you are as handsome as ever,” she returned his compliment with complete sincerity.


“May I show you to your table?” the hostess said as she approached the pair.


“Certainly,” they said together before following her to their table.


The food was delicious.  George ordered the Kobe/Angus Filet Mignon and Jessica opted for the pan seared sea bass over lobster risotto.  Their conversation was relaxed and easy and neither of them was in a rush to bring a close to their evening together.  


“Would you like to see our dessert menu?” the waitress asked when she returned to clear their table. 


“I’m sorry, but I assumed that you would be without a pastry chef this evening,” Jessica inquired. 


“Actually, we were, but we were able to get a substitute at the last minute,” the waitress answered quietly.   


“Did you know Samantha Ross?” Jessica asked.


“Not very well. I have only worked here for a few months.  She filled in for us occasionally, but when she was here it was fun.  She was very pleasant to work with, not temperamental, like our regular pastry chef.  It was always fun explaining the dessert menu to customers when she was here.  She was very inventive in the kitchen, right down to naming her desserts.  Actually, we have a couple of her recipes on the menu tonight.  Would you like to try one of them?”


George nodded in agreement to Jessica’s silent question. 


“What do you recommend?”  Jessica asked.


“Well, actually, she had added a couple of new things just yesterday.  She said that she might have a guest dining here tonight and wanted to prepare something especially for her.  I think this is one of them.  ‘Supreme Cheesecake with Fresh Maine Blueberry Sauce’ and the other one is right here,” she said pointing to the menu, “’The Guilty Conscience’.  See what I said about the names?  I also recommend the trifle or ‘A Proper Trifle’, as Sam called it.  That was another one of her personal favorites.”  


“Guilty conscience? Sounds fattening,” Jessica commented.


“But wonderful,” the waitress replied.  “The base is an exquisite chocolate fudge brownie topped with homemade vanilla ice cream, surrounded by fresh whipped cream and then drizzled with Sam’s special strawberry sauce.”


“I can’t resist,” Jessica said.


“And for you, sir?”


“Go ahead, George, order the trifle,” Jessica prodded, “you know that you want to.”


“You’re right.  I’m afraid that I can’t pass that up, especially if it is a proper trifle as you said,” George answered. 


Once the waitress left the table, Jessica commented, “She really was a sweet girl, wasn’t she?”


“I am sorry to interrupt, but Inspector Sutherland has a telephone call.  You can take it at the bar, if you prefer,” the hostess suggested.


“Excuse me a moment, Jess, I had better take that,” George said as he rose from his chair.  “It must be urgent if someone tracked me down here.” 


Jessica’s thoughts quickly returned to Samantha Ross and her unfortunate death the previous night.


“Jess, are you feeling all right?” George asked as he returned to the table.


“Yes, I’m fine, just a bit tired,” she answered.


“Well, then, I suggest that we see that this dear lady gets to bed,” he suggested.


The waitress returned to the table a few minutes later with two delicate, oblong dessert boxes in hand.


George helped Jessica on with her coat and they departed the restaurant, arm in arm, into the fresh, night air.  Jessica stopped abruptly to read a green flyer that flapped in the light breeze from where it was attached to a nearby light pole.   


“Know what I’d like to do?” she said.


“What’s that?”


“See a movie, but I need to change first?”


“I thought you were fagged,” he said slipping into his Scottish brogue.


“I am, but I think that it might help us to get to know Samantha a little better and she promised that we would enjoy it.” 


“I can’t pass up an offer like that, especially if it means extending our evening together,” he replied.


They returned to Margaret’s apartment where Jessica quickly changed into the most comfortable outfit that she had packed – khaki slacks and a lightweight, creamy white sweater.  She placed their dessert boxes in the refrigerator and rustled up a blue and green tartan blanket.


“Are you anticipating being cold?” George asked, pointing to the blanket that Jessica carried folded over one arm.  “It’s pretty warm tonight.”


“No, but I don’t want to get wet?”


He looked at her inquisitively, raising his eyebrows into the shape of question marks.


“Where exactly are we going that we might get wet?” he asked.


“Hartsoch Quad.  They show old movies on the side of the gymnasium during the warmer months.  Something that I have never done before.”


“Nor have I.  Sounds interesting.”


Ten minutes later, they arrived at the quad.  Jessica arranged the blanket on a flat area located directly in front of a large red maple tree.


“Good evening, Mrs. Fletcher, Inspector,” Greg Rellik said as he approached them.  He was dressed casually in blue jeans and a white button down shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows.


“Nice night.  Sam would have approved,” he observed.


“I think you’re right.  She promised that we would enjoy it,” Jessica offered.  “Is there anything new on her case?”


“Not yet.  Still waiting on forensics and the autopsy.  I knew she should’ve taken out that restraining order, but she wouldn’t listen to me.”


“Restraining order?  Was someone harassing, Samantha?” Jessica asked.


“Ya,’ Will Ferguson, one of the assistant coaches for the rugby team.  They met on one of Sam’s archeology digs.  He kept asking her out, but she told him she wasn’t interested.  She was pretty nice about it, but he didn’t get the hint.  One night, a couple of weeks ago, he pulled her onto the dance floor at Hannigan’s and wouldn’t keep his hands off of her so she defended herself and actually broke his nose.  The next night, someone broke out the windshield of her Jeep and a week later someone launched a big rock through one of the windows of her house.  She filed with her insurance and had them fixed, but wouldn’t file a restraining order.  She said that he would cool off soon enough.”


“So you think that this Ferguson fellow is responsible for Miss Ross’s death?” George asked.


“He claims to have an alibi, but he seems like a pretty logical suspect to me.  Looks like the movie is about to start, I had better go,” he said before striding away with his head lowered, eyes fixed on the ground in front of him. 


After he left them, Jessica settled herself on the blanket, sitting with her legs crossed and feet tucked beneath her.  George sat down next to her.  His long legs, crossed at the ankles, were extended in front of him and he leaned backward slightly against the large maple.   


“What are you smiling at?”  Jessica asked.


“Sounds like Mr. Ferguson should have been the one taking out the restraining order,” he commented with a soft laugh.


“George, I’m surprised at you.  Don’t you think she had a right to defend herself?”  Jessica looked slightly perplexed and perhaps a bit irritated by his comment.


“Of course she did.  You misunderstand me.  I’m actually quite impressed.  I imagine it was quite a scene, though.  A rugby coach getting his nose broken by a lass, in a pub, and most likely surrounded by all his mates,” he explained.  “Bloody embarrassing, don’t you agree?” he concluded.


“I see your point, but do you think that he might have been angry enough to kill her?”


“She certainly dented the man’s ego, but a motive for murder, probably not, but you never know.  It might be worth looking into.”


Within a few moments the red, brick wall of the old gymnasium had been transformed into a movie screen and the prologue from Casablanca crackled over the speaker system.


“I’m afraid your Miss Ross was a romantic, Jess.”


“Or enjoyed playing cupid,” she laughed.  “Any objection to staying?”


“No, none at all,” George said, adjusting his position and relaxing onto one arm.  “I haven’t seen this…in quite a long time,” he finished.


They watched the movie in near silence, simply content to be in each other’s company and enjoying the warm spring evening.


“George, what are you looking at?  The movie’s over,” Jessica asked as she followed his gaze upward.


“Cygnus,” he answered.




“The Swan.  It’s almost impossible to see in London.  There are too many lights.  Do you see it right there?” he said as he pointed up into the night sky.


“I’m sorry, George, I have absolutely no idea what you’re pointing at,” she said, shaking her head.


“Okay, look over here.  Do you see the Plough?” he said pointing further to the East.


“Sorry.  The only thing that I can pick out is the Big Dipper.”


“Good enough.  We call it the Plough or Ursa Major.  Now, do you see Ursa Minor, up and to the left a bit?”


“The Little Dipper?” Jessica asked, rubbing the back of her neck against the strain of looking upward into the dark sky above.


“Yes, the Little Dipper.  Now, to the left of that is Draco, the dragon, but you can really see it better if you lay flat on your back,” he suggested.


Jessica adjusted her position and laid flat on her back with her knees bent.  George remained on his side, propped on his elbow and upper arm, which he had offered to Jessica as a headrest.  She listened and watched him closely as he pointed out each constellation above.  Rarely had she seen him this animated.


“You can see the head, body and tail of Draco.  The tail forms the bend that you see below the Little Dipper,” George explained as he pointed upward and traced the form of the dragon with his finger against the night sky. 


“Now, if you look further left, you should see a cross.”


“Yes, I see it.”


“That is the Northern Cross.  The stars that make up the cross are also the chief stars that make up the



“I can make out the cross, but I will have to take your word for it about the Swan,” Jessica replied.


“Just tip your head a little bit that way.  Do you see the bright star on the top of the cross?  That is the swan’s tail.  At the other end of the cross is the beak.  Do you see it now?”


“Yes.  I think I do.”


“Now, if you go back to Draco and go upward you can see Cepheus.  He looks like a man with a crown.  Then further north is Casseopeia.  She looks like the letter ‘M’.  Do you see them?”




“Have you ever heard of the Myth called the Boast of Casseopeia?” he asked.


“No, I haven’t.”


“Sorry, Jess, I’m boring you, aren’t I?” he said, turning his gaze from the night sky downward to her.  They were almost close enough for Jessica to feel his heart skip when his eyes took in her face, which glowed in the moonlight.


“No.  You’re not.  I’m just surprised.”


“You never knew this about me, did you?  Not much time for star gazing these days though, besides it’s more fun when you have someone to share it with,” he said with a slight hint of sadness in his voice. 


Jessica met the deep gaze of his gentle green eyes. 


“I had better get you home before Margaret starts to worry,” he said, fighting off every urge he had to do otherwise. 


The pair strolled in the direction of Jessica’s apartment, both of them quiet.  Jessica was so lost in pleasant, warm thoughts that she hadn’t noticed that George had taken her hand.


“Now, tell me about your day,” he said and they continued to walk.


Jessica told George about her visit to Samantha Ross’s office and her interview with Paul Peterson.


“I wonder if Miss Ross had a special friend that she was supposed to share this evening with?” thought Jessica aloud.


“Aye, I imagine she might have.”


“Paul Peterson?” Jessica guessed.  They had seen Paul on the quad, alone, watching the movie earlier in the evening.


“Or Greg Rellik,” George speculated.


They slowed as they drew closer to Jessica’s apartment.


“Will you have time for breakfast tomorrow?” Jessica asked as they approached the Kappa Delta house.


“I’m afraid not.  I have to fly to Virginia at six o’clock.  That was the call I had to take at the restaurant.  I have a few things to do at Quantico in the afternoon and my flight back from Washington doesn’t get in here until almost nine thirty. 


What do you have on your schedule for tomorrow?” he asked.


“I have a class at nine thirty and my evening lecture will run from six until about seven thirty.  Other than that, I thought that I might visit one of the museums.”


“The archeology museum, I presume?”


“Yes, as a matter of fact.  I’ve always wanted to see it,” she said with a glint in her eye.


“Jess, I know that you really liked Miss Ross.  I also know that you have a penchant for getting to the bottom of things and that there is no use in trying to dissuade you so, just promise me that you will stay safe while I’m in Washington.  I needn’t remind you that there is still a murderer running around somewhere.”


“You know that I would never intentionally put myself in harms way,” Jessica assured him.


“It’s not your intent that worries me, Jessica.  Just be safe.”


“I’ll call you when I get back.  Charles gets in tomorrow afternoon.  Perhaps we can meet up for a nightcap if you don’t have other plans then.  I would like for you to meet him.  In the meantime, get a good night’s rest,” he said before kissing her gently on the forehead. 


They parted company at the main door of the house.  She watched him walk away and was struck once again, as she had been on their very first meeting, by his gait, casual but self-assured.  He looked back once, smiled and waved before crossing the street and heading east, toward his hotel.




Jessica’s sleep was deep and pleasant and she awoke feeling very warm and content.  She enjoyed a leisurely shower and joined Margaret for a breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon.   


She arrived early for her class and enjoyed the opportunity to chat casually with a few of the students who had arrived early.  Her lecture ran smoothly and the students seemed to be eager to get started on their first assignment. 


“What I would like for you to do before we meet again is to write a couple of pages describing a setting of your choice,” Jessica instructed.  “Try to pick a location that you are familiar with, some place that you have actually visited.  It is usually easier to write about something that you know.” 


“Has anyone already chosen their setting?” Jessica inquired.


A young man seated in the back row raised his hand timidly.


“Zach, please, tell us what setting you have chosen.”


“I was going to use the Wetmore Mansion, next to campus.”


“Good choice, lots of history.  Is there any other reason that you chose it?”


“Yes.  They say its haunted.”


“Haunted?  I’ve never heard that.  I can’t wait to read about it.”


“Would anyone else like to share their ideas?”


“I thought that I would use a lake side resort, like the one that I worked at last summer,” a young lady in the front row answered.


“What a wonderful idea!  I can see that I am going to have lots of good reading to do after we meet again.”


Jessica’s class concluded shortly before eleven.  She returned to the apartment and called Trisha Hanson to make sure that everything would be ready for her lecture that evening.  With that done, Jessica had a light lunch and enjoyed a few moments of quiet reading before leaving for the archeology museum.




As Jessica entered the front doors of the Howard Carter Building, which housed the archeology and anthropology departments as well as the Alfred Watkins Museum, she met Teresa Castleman.


“Miss Castleman, how nice to see you again.”  Jessica greeted the young woman, who she had previously met at the alumni social, with a smile.


“Mrs. Fletcher, I’m surprised to see you here.  We don’t often have people from the English Department visit us,” she responded pleasantly.


“Actually, I have the afternoon off and thought that I might explore the museum a bit.”


“It is usually only open on Saturdays, but I can ask Dr. Osman if it is okay for you to tour it today.  He is the director of the museum.  There are a couple of doctoral students working on one of the displays, but they shouldn’t be in your way.”


“I wouldn’t want you to go to any trouble.  I can always come back on Saturday,” Jessica offered.


“No, Mrs. Fletcher, I am sure that it will be no trouble at all.  Why don’t you come into the office and have a seat and I will call Dr. Osman to make sure that it is okay for me to open the museum for you.”


Jessica took a seat in one of two burgundy chairs, which were located just inside the entrance to the small office, and placed her handbag on her lap. 


“I’m sorry, Mrs. Fletcher, but he isn’t answering his phone just yet.  I’ll run down and see if he is here.  Just let me put a few things away and find my key for the museum,” she said as she began riffling through her purse.  “I know that it is in here somewhere.  I apologize, for not being more organized, but I just got back from running a couple of personal errands over my lunch hour, you know how that is, and I wasn’t expecting anyone to visit the museum today.”  Before she found the key that she was searching for her desk was covered with a wallet, facial tissues, breath mints, a packet of gum, several receipts and ticket stubs, lipstick, a toothbrush, a travel size tube of Crest, a comb, two ball point pens, a large set of keys and a compact.”


“Here it is,” she said, pulling out a single key, which was attached to a small key chain.  She haphazardly stuffed the remaining items back into her purse. 


So much for being more organized, Jessica thought. 


“I’ll be right back, Mrs. Fletcher.  Shouldn’t take but a minute.”  She returned a few minutes later.


“Good news, Mrs. Fletcher, Dr. Osman is here and he said that it would be his pleasure to give you a personal tour of the museum.”


“That sounds wonderful,” Jessica replied.


Dr. Osman was a very knowledgeable guide.  He was an outgoing man with charming manners and a smiling countenance.  He was magnetic and engaging and his speech was truly captivating.  Samantha Ross and Dr. John Osman would have made a very handsome and intriguing couple, if the rumors of their having had an affair were true. 


The museum was very interesting and had nearly one hundred small but impressive displays, which dated back as early as the 15th Century B.C.  Most fascinating for Jessica was watching two doctoral students work on a display of Viking tools and weapons, some of which dated back to the Iron Age.  The display included many items, which were made of wrought iron including keys, a hilt, and a set of shears that would have been used to cut cloth, thread or hair.  A small collection of iron knives with antler handles was included in the display as were two women’s knives.  Dr. Osman explained that all of the articles had been recovered from an excavation site at Hamwic two years ago. 


Jessica couldn’t pass up the opening that Dr. Osman had provided for her to delve into his personal relationship with Samantha Ross.


“Was Samantha Ross part of the excavation team at Hamwic?” she inquired as she continued to watch the two students as they worked on the display. 


“Yes, she was,” he answered.  “Samantha was a very bright girl,” he commented before continuing to explain the significance of the group’s find at Hamwic. 


“Did you know Miss Ross very well?” Jessica continued, probing delicately into their supposed romantic relationship.


“Samantha took several of my classes over the years.  She was very intelligent and outgoing and I enjoyed having her in class, but no, I wouldn’t say that I knew her any better than any other student,” he said, shaking his head.


“Was she taking a class from you this semester?”


“No, she wasn’t.  Why do you ask?”


“Dr. Osman, it is my understanding that she had an appointment with you the day that she died.”


“She did.  That’s no secret.  We met in my office shortly before the alumni social, but to be frank, I really don’t understand why that is any of your business,” he commented matter of factly and without any change in his demeanor.  If Dr. John Osman was surprised or offended by Jessica’s interrogation, he didn’t show it. 


Ignoring his comment, Jessica continued her line of questioning.  “Were you aware that Miss Ross was writing a book?”


“I think you’ve been misinformed, Mrs. Fletcher.  No, Samantha Ross wasn’t writing a book, she was thinking about writing a book.  That is why she asked me to meet with her.  She wanted me to collaborate with her, to give the book more credibility,” he said with an air of self-importance.


“Did you agree?” Jessica asked, trying to remain casual while once again turning her attention to the efforts of the two students.


“No, I did not.  Miss Ross was a bit of a romantic, Mrs. Fletcher.  I am a scientist and I have no interest in writing or even collaborating on a work of fiction.  As you can see,” he said, motioning with a wave of his hand at the collections on display in the museum, “I am an archaeologist, not a bottle digger.”


“Bottle digger?” Jessica asked, turning to face him.


“Treasure hunter,” he clarified.  “Unfortunately, the two are often confused.”


“Is that what Samantha’s book was about, a treasure hunter?  It sounds interesting,” Jessica said, nodding her head slightly. 


“I’m afraid it was rubbish, not very original, especially for a young woman as bright as Samantha.  It’s a shame because she was a very talented writer.”


“I’m afraid that we are going to have to conclude our tour, Mrs. Fletcher, I have a class to teach in about ten minutes,” he said after glancing down at his watch.  He turned in the direction of the exit, expecting Jessica to follow.


“Of course.  Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to give me a personal tour.  It was very educational,” she said as she turned to follow him.


“It was my pleasure,” he said very sincerely, but without turning around to face her.


Dr. Osman escorted Jessica back to the entrance of the small museum.


“Do you mind if I ask you one more question about Samantha?” Jessica queried.


“Certainly, what is it?”


“Did you see her again that evening, after your meeting?”


“No, I didn’t,” he said shaking his head.  She was very angry, almost livid, when I turned her down.  She stormed out of my office and slammed the door.  Miss Castleman and I left for the alumni social about ten minutes later and after the social I met friends for a late dinner at Caliopes,” he explained, while once again checking the time. 


“Now, if you will excuse me, I have a class to teach.  It really was a pleasure to meet you.  We really should get together again before you leave us,” he said while looking her directly in the eyes and shaking her hand firmly with both of his. 


Jessica found her way back to the main office, where she observed Teresa Castleman working at her desk.  She was scrutinizing a piece of paper, which sat on the desk top in front of her.  Her deep concentration was accompanied by nervous fidgeting.     


“Oh, Mrs. Fletcher, you’re back.  Did you enjoy the tour?” she asked with enthusiasm once she realized that Jessica was standing in the doorway.


“Yes, it was very educational.  I was thinking about returning on Saturday.  I have a friend who would enjoy seeing it, he is a bit of an archaeology buff, you might say.  I was wondering what time the museum might be open that day?”


“From one o’clock in the afternoon until nine o’clock in the evening,” she said after checking her wall calendar.  “Dr. Osman is scheduled to be giving tours that day.  They start on the hour,” she explained.


“Miss Castleman, do you remember if Miss Ross was in the building the afternoon before her accident?”


Teresa Castleman appeared slightly surprised by Jessica’s question.


“Actually, she was.  She met with Dr. Osman at the end of the day, just before we left for the alumni social.”


Jessica was not sure how far she should continue along this line of questioning. 


“Was anyone else here at that time?” Jessica asked.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?


After resting her chin on her hand and thinking for a moment, Teresa answered Jessica’s question.


“Not that I know of.  I think that Dr. Osman and I were the last ones to leave.  Yes, I’m sure that we were the only other people who were here at that time,” she clarified.


“Did Samantha appear to be upset?” Jessica questioned.


“Not that I could tell, but I didn’t actually speak with her.  Why do you ask?”


“No reason really, just that Dr. Osman mentioned that she was quite upset when she left his office, but I saw her later that evening and she seemed to be in good spirits.  Then again, I didn’t know her very well so perhaps she was upset,” Jessica said with a slight nod.


“Well, if Dr. Osman said that she was upset, she probably was.  Poor thing, I think that she just never got over their breakup.  You did know that they had an affair, didn’t you?” she asked in a loud whisper.


“I had heard that, yes. Well, I really should let you get back to work.  Thank you so much for making arrangements for me to see the museum today.  It was extremely educational.”




Jessica returned to Margaret’s apartment and cuddled up on the couch with a book.  She and Margaret shared late afternoon tea before Jessica left for her lecture.  Once again, the evening ran smoothly and Jessica thoroughly enjoyed herself.  Margaret was working diligently when Jessica returned.  Swatches of fabric, paint chips and sketches covered all of the flat surfaces in the small living room and adjoining kitchen and the television played quietly in the background. 


“Oh, Jessica, you’re back.  Are we still having dinner tonight?”


“Of course, I just need a few minutes and I’ll be ready to go.  What time is our reservation?”


“Eight fifteen.  It’s only seven thirty.  You have plenty of time.  Go ahead and get ready and I’ll put away a few of these things.”


Margaret busied herself with cleaning up while Jessica went to the bathroom to freshen up.


“Jess, do you remember what flight George is on?” Margaret asked from the living room.


“Mid-Atlantic 1431 from Washington Dulles.”


“Jess, could you come here for a minute?”


“I’ll be right out,” Jessica sang.


“I think you had better come now,” Margaret said more urgently.


Jessica hurried to the living room where Margaret sat, eyes transfixed on the small television screen.


“What is it, Marg?” 


“Jessica, sit down.” 


Jessica sat next to Margaret and shifted her attention to the breaking news bulletin.


This is Tom Stone once again reporting live from Washington Dulles International Airport where Mid-Atlantic Flight 1431 crashed shortly after take off earlier this evening.  Authorities are not yet releasing the names of those aboard pending notification of family members, but at this time it is believed that all thirty-two passengers and three crew members perished in the crash.  We also have unconfirmed reports that among the casualties were an aid to Congressman Walter Kerbaugh and an official from Scotland Yard in London.


“Oh, Jess, I am so sorry,” Margaret said as she clicked off the television.  She sat down next to Jessica and embraced her tightly.  After several minutes, Margaret wrapped a blanket around Jessica’s shoulders and the pair continued to sit quietly on the couch.  Jessica was chilly and her hands and feet were freezing.  She was obviously in shock.


Jessica had felt the indescribable pain that now permeated through her entire body only once before, when Frank had died.  The intense anguish that accompanied his passing had never diminished, but over time it had occurred less frequently.  Now, however, the pain had returned and was accompanied by a deep feeling of regret. 


Frank and Jessica had spent nearly thirty years together and he had been ill for several months before his death.  His passing, while certainly no less painful, was not unexpected, but Jessica had always felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to leave nothing between them unsaid. 


“Why didn’t I tell him,” she thought to herself.  This time there had been far too many things left unsaid.   


Over and over Jessica’s mind played back the same images and memories…tea at Brown’s Hotel in London; his kind, gentle green eyes, like Granny Smith apples; his expansive grin; a view of the San Francisco skyline, secure in the comfort of his strong arms, while standing at mid-span on the Golden Gate Bridge; George standing on the stone steps of Sutherland Castle, in a kilt, waist-length black formal jacket and white shirt; the tiny park, with a bench and a small bridge crossing a narrow running stream, where he had once proclaimed his love for her;  the sting of seawater on their faces as they stood on the edge of a sheer granite bluff overlooking the North Sea; a candlelight dinner for two; the deep resonate Scottish burr of his voice; the warmth of his hand as he massaged her injured shoulder; and his gait, as he walked away for the final time, a turn, a smile and a wave and then he was gone.


The loud ring of the telephone was insufficient to disturb Jessica’s thoughts.


“Hello.  How did you get this number?” Margaret asked angrily.


“No.  Why are you calling here?  Mrs. Fletcher has no intention of speaking to you or any other member of the press.  Please do not call here again,” she said angrily before she hung up the phone.


“The nerve,” she muttered to herself.


Jessica sat numbly on the couch, occasional streams of tears quietly ran down her cheeks. 


“Jess, here is your tea,” Margaret said as she sat the cup down on the end table nearest Jessica.  “Are you sure I can’t get you anything else?” she asked, but she knew better than to press the matter.  Margaret was a good friend and a dear woman.  She understood Jessica’s pain all too well and would do her best to comfort her beloved friend.


The phone rang again an hour or so later.  “Hello,” Margaret answered.  “Is this some kind of sick joke?” she said as she slammed down the telephone.


Ten minutes later, it rang again.  Margaret answered, but this time listened to the caller very closely.


“Yes, Sheriff Metzger, I understand.  Thank you so much for calling,” she said before returning the receiver to its cradle.  Almost immediately, the phone rang again.  Margaret answered, spoke briefly with the caller and then carried the portable receiver to the living room, where Jessica sat motionless on the couch.




“Jessica, dear, you need to take this call.”  Margaret’s words barely registered, but Jessica obeyed and held the receiver up to her ear.




Jessica’s mind continued to play back memories, George’s deep resonant voice this time.


“Jessica,” the voice said more urgently.


“Jess, please answer me,” the voice pleaded.


“George?” Jessica said in a half-whisper.  The heart has a way of playing tricks on the mind at times.


“Good. Yes, that’s right.  It’s George.  Jess, I want you to listen to me very carefully.  I was not on that airplane.  Do you understand?”


“George?” Jessica asked once again and with more conviction as her mind continued to process the information that it was receiving.


“Yes, love, it’s George,” he said tenderly.


“Oh, George, I thought…” her words trailed off as tears once again streamed down her cheeks and a deep ache choked her words.


“I know, Jessie.  I know.  I just found out.”


“Jessica, are you still there?”


“Yes.  Where are you?” she asked softly.


Quantico still.  Out of my control, I’m afraid.”


“When will you be back?”


“Several hours yet.  Well past twelve for sure, probably later.  I have a charter waiting in Alexandria, when I finish up here.”


“Then I’ll wait for you in the lobby of your hotel until you get back,” she said, sitting herself up a bit straighter.


“No, Jessica, you won’t.”


“Yes, George, I will.  We need to talk.  It’s important,” she said emphatically.


“In that case, I will come there, as soon as I get back, if that’s okay with Margaret.” 


“I guess that will have to do,” she agreed and slumped once again into the soft couch.


Margaret and Jessica spent the next hours quietly.  Margaret fixed them a light dinner, but Jessica wasn’t hungry and didn’t eat a bite.  Eventually, Margaret suggested playing some cribbage and Jessica agreed almost willingly, anything to make time go faster.  


Jessica had never had a fear of flying, but she was decidedly nervous and wished more than anything that George was not in an airplane right now.  Jessica prepared tea while Margaret located the cribbage board and a deck of cards.  The diversion was welcome and Jessica’s mind was finally able to slow itself and focus on the game.  They spoke sporadically. 


“Two o’clock in the morning.  Where is he?” Jessica thought to herself. 


“You would have missed him wouldn’t have you?” Margaret asked softly.


“A pair, for two,” Jessica said as she laid down a card.  “Yes, I would have missed him a great deal.”


“Fifteen, for eight,” Margaret said as she played a five of hearts.  “Have you ever told him?”


“Twenty-one.” Jessica played another card.  “Told him what?”


“Thirty-one, for two,” Margaret said as she laid down a card and advanced a peg two spaces.  “Told him that you love him, Jess.  You do, don’t you?”


“Four.”  Jessica said, playing a card.  “It’s complicated.”


“Because he’s in London and you’re in Cabot Cove?”  Margaret queried.  “Fourteen.” 


“Yes, partly,” Jessica responded.  “Eighteen and final card for one.”  Jessica advanced a peg one space. 


“Fifteen two, four, six, eight and two pair for twelve,” Margaret said as she laid down her hand and advanced a peg twelve spaces.  “Are you going to tell him?”


“Fifteen two, four and a double run of four for fourteen and six in the crib.  Your deal,” Jessica said, sliding the deck of cards in Margaret’s direction.


The speaker system buzzed before Jessica could answer Margaret’s last question. 


“I’ll get it,” Margaret said as she stood.  A moment later, she returned, followed by George.


“Oh, George, I thought you were….”  Jessica was once again flooded with a confused mixture of emotions. 


“There, there, Jess, it’s all right, I’m right here,” he said as he hugged her and gently brushed a tear from her cheek with his thumb. 


“I’ll just leave you two alone,” Margaret said quietly as she excused herself.


“Jessica, are you all right?” George asked after they were seated on the couch.


“I am now,” Jessica said, looking up slightly at his handsome face.   Her eyes hadn’t left him since he entered the apartment.


“Good.  I’m glad.  See, not a scratch.  I’m perfectly fine.  Now, I think it’s time that you got some sleep and I get back to my hotel.”


“George, we need to talk, it’s important.   There’s something that I should have told you a long time ago.  George, I am in…”


“Shhhhhhh,” he said, as he gently pressed his index finger against her lips.  “Not tonight.”


“But George, I thought you would want to have this conversation,” frustration was evident in her voice.


“Jessica,” he said very tenderly, “you know that I would like nothing more than to have this particular conversation with you, but not tonight.”


“Why not tonight?” she challenged.


“Frankly, because you have spent the last several hours on the proverbial emotional roller coaster.  It is almost three o’clock in the morning, you haven’t slept and I’m not convinced that you suddenly wanting to discuss this isn’t just the result of what I have put you through tonight and extreme fatigue.  Selfish on my part, I know, but this is not a conversation that can be easily undone or forgotten and as soon as you get a good night’s sleep, I think you’ll agree with me,” he said with a note of finality in his voice.   


“Neither one of us is going anywhere for more than a week and if it takes more time than that for you to get over this frightful incident and you still want to have this discussion, we’ll do it when you come to London in October.  All I’m asking is that you give yourself some time.” 


Jessica knew that he was right. Defeated, she slowly allowed her head to fall forward onto his shoulder and chest.  She felt, warm and secure in his arms and faded off into a peaceful sleep within minutes.  George carried her to her room, tucked her into bed and kissed her gently on the forehead before letting himself out of the apartment.




“Jessica, telephone,” Margaret said as she opened the bedroom door slightly.


Jessica picked up the telephone, which sat on the nightstand next to her bed, and heard the click of Margaret replacing her receiver in its cradle. 


“Good morning, Jess.”


“Good morning, George.  Where are you?” she asked as she suddenly realized exactly where she was and that he was not there with her.


“My hotel.  Did I wake you?”


“Yes, but that’s okay.  George, why didn’t you stay here last night?” she asked, still sounding sleepy.


“Jessica, I think we both know why I couldn’t stay there last night.”


“For the same reason that you didn’t want me to meet you at your hotel?” she asked.




“George, what time is it?”


“Seven.  I figured you might need a wake up call this morning and I wanted to make sure that you were all right before I had to leave for the university.”


“I’m glad you called.  I have class at eight,” she said, sounding more awake now.


“Are you sure you don’t want to cancel and go back to sleep?”


“Of course not.”


“I figured that would be the case.  Are you free for lunch today?”


“Of course.  I have class until eleven and then nothing the rest of the day.  How about you?”


“I’m busy most of the day, but have time for lunch around one o’clock, if that will work for you?”


“One o’clock it is then.”


“I will pick you up at Margaret’s shortly before.”


“I’ll be here with bells on,” she promised before returning the phone to its place on the nightstand.




After taking a quick shower and having a cup of coffee, Jessica headed for the English Department.  The morning air was invigorating and when combined with the enthusiasm of her students, the lingering stress and fatigue brought on by the events of the previous night soon dissipated and her thoughts returned to Samantha Ross. 


“Jessica, you’re back.  How were your classes this morning?” Margaret asked.


“Wonderful.  I really enjoy being back in the classroom,” she answered as she sat herself down in an overstuffed navy chair in the living room.


“Would you like me to fix you something for lunch?  You didn’t eat any breakfast.”


“Oh, no, Marg.  You don’t need to do that.  George is picking me up at for lunch at one o’clock.  I think I will just sit here and relax until then.”


Jessica removed a small notebook from her purse with the intention of making some notes regarding the death of Samantha Ross, but she was soon overcome by a wave of exhaustion. 


“Marg, would you mind waking me in about an hour?” she said as she set the notebook down on the end table and headed for the comfort of her bed.


“Certainly, have a good nap,” Margaret said as Jessica disappeared into her bedroom.


Jessica awoke feeling fully rested and alert.  She could hear voices coming from beyond her door. 


“Jessica,” Margaret’s voice said softly through a small crack in the door.    “Good, you’re awake.  George is here.”


“Just give me a minute to straighten up and I will be right out.”


“Sure thing,” Margaret responded.


Jessica took a few minutes at the small dressing table to touch up her hair and make-up.  Noticing that her clothing was very wrinkled from her nap, she quickly changed into a navy skirt and white blouse.


“Jessica, you look wonderful,” George said as he crossed the room to greet her with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, once she had joined them.


“I’m sorry that I overslept, I hope we’re not too late for lunch.”


“Actually, we’ll have to make it dinner, I’m afraid.  It’s already six o’clock.  You slept through lunch,” he said as he released her from his embrace.


“Why didn’t you wake me?” Jessica asked, checking the clock on the dining room wall to verify the time.


“Believe me, I tried.  You were terribly knackered.


“Knackered?” Jessica and Margaret said in unison.


“Tired,” he explained.


“If you don’t mind, I would like to show you something before we have dinner, though,” he said, offering his arm to her.


“Sure, where are we off to?” Jessica asked.


“Samantha Ross’s flat.  We’re meeting Charles and Detective Rellik there.  I didn’t think you would want to miss it.”


“You’re right.  I don’t,” she said with a smile before grabbing his hand instead and leading the way out of the apartment.


The house was within walking distance, which gave George time to exchange information with Jessica regarding Samantha’s murder.  Charles and George had met with Detective Rellik in the morning and were told that the autopsy confirmed that Samantha had been stabbed, but that her death was actually the result of blunt force trauma to the head and a fractured neck, most likely caused by the fall down the rocky embankment.  They were still doing research to determine the type of weapon that had been used.  Samantha had no defensive wounds on her hands and there was no evidence of rape, despite several scratches on the front and back of her neck.  It had also been determined that the scratches had been made by a fine, sharp object, most likely not a person’s fingernails.  No weapon had been found and so far nothing significant had shown up in the trace evidence. 


In turn, Jessica told George everything that she had learned.  They agreed that there were still far more questions than answers.  The police had already been through Samantha’s house once before, but Charles needed to take care of a few things for his niece so the three men had agreed to meet there that evening. 


Detective Rellik met Jessica and George at the front door.  “Inspector, Mrs. Fletcher, how are you this evening?” he asked politely.  “Dr. Ross is in the living room.”


The house was much larger on the inside than it had first appeared.  The living room was eclectic in style and very organized, with the exception of the overflowing bookcases, which lined the walls.  A black, baby grand piano was positioned in one corner.  A desk occupied another corner and the remainder of the room was filled with a large sectional couch, two leather recliners and an entertainment center.  Dr. Charles Ross was seated at the desk, slowly examining a small stack of Samantha’s personal files.  George made introductions and Dr. Ross returned to the unpleasant chore of getting Samantha’s affairs in order.


“Did Samantha play the piano?” Jessica asked.


“Not before she moved in here.  The landlord didn’t want to move it.  That would have ticked me off, but not Sam.  She saw it as a challenge and started taking lessons, if you can believe that.  Like most things, she picked it up pretty quickly,” Detective Rellik answered.


“Detective, I don’t think there is much that would surprise me about Samantha at this point.  She seemed to be a smart girl.”


“One hundred thirty-eight IQ,” Charles said to no one in particular.


George and Jessica examined the room, taking in the volumes of books, movies and music that lined the shelves.  Harry Connick, Jr., Stevie Ray Vaughan, Motown’s Greatest Hits, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, John Denver, Bach, Beethoven, the Sound of Music, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and many more found their home next to Samantha’s entertainment system. 


Books were arranged by subject and varied from Egyptology, archaeology, and lost civilizations to the classics including Melville, Steinbeck and Copperfield.  A broad range of biographies and cookbooks dominated the collection as a whole, but there were smaller collections dedicated to the likes of Shakespeare, Dickens, Herriot, Conan Doyle, Grisham, Patterson and even the poetry of Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling and Robert Burns.   


“George, I think you were right, Samantha was a romantic, at least based on her film collection.  Bringing up Baby, Casablanca, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, An Affair to Remember, Ghost, The American President,” Jessica said as she scanned the movie titles.


“She must have been older than I initially thought,” Jessica said as she read several framed documents that had been pushed aside to make room for more books.  “A PhD in Information Science from the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, three years ago.  That would mean that she was probably in her early thirties at least.”


“She would have turned twenty-eight this summer,” Charles said.


“Then she was only twenty-five when she graduated with her PhD?” Jessica asked, thoroughly impressed with the young woman’s accomplishment.


“That sounds correct,” Charles responded matter-of-factly.


“Jessica, didn’t you say that that reporter mentioned a diary or a journal of some kind?” George asked as he lifted a book from a shelf.


“Yes.  Brown leather, no title on the binding.  Did you find it?”


“Possibly,” he said as he paged through the tome.  “Sorry, Jess, I can’t read it.  It’s not in English or French.”


“Mr. Peterson said that she was fluent in several languages,” Jessica commented as she joined George and tried to make out Samantha’s writing.


“Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Romanian, Hebrew, Norwegian, and she was learning Japanese and Scottish Gaelic last I heard,” Charles commented.


“Ian Brickman?  Sounds familiar, but I can’t place it,” George said as he read the front inside cover of the journal out loud.


“Samantha’s love interest in London, according to Mr. Peterson,” Jessica reminded him.


“Samantha wasn’t seeing Ian Brickman,” Charles responded.  “Brickman was an arts and antiquities thief.  Back in the late-nineties, the Swiss police raided some bonded warehouses in Geneva and found thousands of stolen paintings and artifacts.  Apparently, Brickman was the ringleader.  He’s British so, we got called in on the case, but no one ever found him.  Sam must have asked me a million questions about that case last summer when she was in London. What made you think of him?”


“His name is on the inside of her journal,” George offered.  “Take a look,” he said, holding the book out to his friend and former colleague.


Charles Ross spent the next thirty minutes slowly paging through Samantha Ross’s personal journal, occasionally stopping to read a page or two. 


“Detective, did you happen to find Samantha’s manuscript?” Jessica asked Jeff Rellik, who had been sitting quietly on the piano bench, observing the others.


“Not yet.  We also haven’t been able to locate her laptop and we won’t be able to see a copy of her will or life insurance policy until tomorrow afternoon, when her attorney gets back from Dallas.  He also has the key to her safety deposit box.”


“Bloody brilliant, Samantha, bloody brilliant!” Charles Ross exclaimed while shaking his head.


“What’s bloody brilliant?” George asked.


“It’s not a diary.  It’s more like a research journal.  It sounds like she was trying to find Brickman.  The final entry says something to the effect of “I’ve got it.  Confirm Dr. Osman five o’clock today.  Apparently, she thought she knew where Brickman was.  I can’t make it all out, but the passages that I can translate make an awful lot of sense.  Names, dates, places.  So far it’s all circumstantial, but it fits with what I remember from the case.”


“Dr. Osman said that he met with her late in the afternoon on the day that she was murdered, but he claims that she approached him with an idea for a fictional novel and wanted him to collaborate with her on it,” Jessica commented.


“He told me the same thing,” Rellik added as he approached Charles Ross in order to look more closely at Samantha’s journal.


“It sounds like she was planning on writing non-fiction to me,” George observed.


“If Samantha thought that Dr. Osman was her link to Brickman, would she have confronted him on her own?” Jessica asked as she began pacing.


“Yes!” Charles Ross and Detective Rellik answered together.  “Especially if she had the evidence to back it up,” Rellik added.


“Assuming that Samantha was right about a link between Dr. Osman and Ian Brickman, that could mean that Dr. Osman might have killed Samantha to protect Brickman,” Jessica thought out loud as she turned and continued her pacing.


“I don’t think so, Mrs. Fletcher.  Dr. Osman has a pretty iron clad alibi.  He was at the alumni social until nine fifteen and then had dinner at Caliopes with Dean Andrews, President Phillips and the mayor.” 


“In that case, Dr. Osman would have to be in close contact with Brickman, who must be close by,” Jessica surmised.  “There were only a few hours between her meeting with Dr. Osman and the time of her murder,” she reasoned.


“Mrs. Fletcher, we don’t even know for sure that the two things are related,” Detective Rellik argued.  “We haven’t ruled out the possibility that it was a random attack or an attempted rape.   She could have tried to get away and fell off the embankment.  Regardless, it sounds like I will be paying Dr. Osman another visit to clear a few things up,” Detective Rellik concluded. 


“Anything else you want to look at tonight, Dr. Ross?” Rellik asked. 


“I think Samantha’s journal will keep me plenty busy for the remainder of the evening, Detective,” Charles answered as he closed the book.


“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I have to take that into the station as evidence, but you’re welcome to come down and read it there,” Rellik offered.  “Lord knows we don’t have anyone who can translate it,” he said, shaking his head.  “Hopefully, we can get some help from the Foreign Language Department sometime tomorrow.”


“Well, if there is nothing else, I would like to lock this place up and get back to the station,” Rellik said before escorting them from the house and locking the door.


“Hungry, Jess?” George asked.


“Famished,” she replied.


“Care to join us, Charles?” George offered.


“No, thank you, George.  I think that I will take Detective Rellik up on his offer.  Do you think you can arrange for me to see a copy of the old case file on Brickman?  It might come in handy.  Samantha seems to have had an intriguing theory and I would like to look into it a bit more,” he commented.


“Sure thing.  I’ll ring the Yard first thing tomorrow morning unless you want me to fax something tonight.”


“No, tomorrow morning should be soon enough.  This will keep me busy for awhile,” he said, holding up the journal.


“Can I drop you two off somewhere, Inspector?  There are plenty of good restaurants between here and the station,” Rellik asked. 


“Aye, that would be greatly appreciated, Detective,” George responded after Jessica nodded her agreement. 


The foursome climbed into the dark blue, unmarked police car, Detective Rellik and Dr. Ross in the front and Jessica and George in the back.


“Well, Jessica, what are you in the mood for?” George asked.


“A thick, juicy steak,” Jessica answered.


“Steak?  Jessica, you don’t eat steak.”


“Steak,” she confirmed.


“Okay, you won’t get any further argument from me.  Detective, any recommendations for a steakhouse?” asked George.


“For steak, I would recommend Roland’s Steakhouse.  It’s not as fancy as the Vintage, but the steaks are better.”




“Sounds good to me,” she answered.


“You never fail to surprise me, Jessica,” he half whispered as he leaned his head toward her ear.  “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have some of that dreadful sushi instead?”


“No, George, I really do want a steak.  I haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday,” she answered in hushed tones.


“Why didn’t you say so earlier?”


“I didn’t want to miss out on exploring Samantha’s house.”


“Now that doesn’t surprise me in the least,” he said with a quiet chuckle.




Mason Roland’s Steakhouse certainly offered a friendly environment.  Jessica and George were seated in an elevated booth next to a window, which gave them a view of the passersby on Sullivan Street, the refurbished area of downtown Green Falls.


“Good evening, my name is Anna, and I will be your waitress this evening,” said a petite young co-ed who arrived at their table as soon as they had been seated. 


“Have either of you ever dined with us before?” she asked eagerly.


“No, I’m afraid we haven’t had the pleasure,” Jessica replied.


“Then I will take a minute to explain how things work.  The appetizer menu is right here,” she indicated, pointing to the clear glass surface of the table, which covered the small menu.  “We have a full bar, anything that you would like and your empty peanut shells go on the floor,” she said as she set a small metal bucket of peanuts on the center of the table.  “And here are you menus.  The specials tonight are the filet mignon with fresh green beans and a spinach salad and the creamed pheasant with potato and salad.”


“Can I get either of you a drink from the bar or an appetizer to start?” she asked, holding her pen to her notepad, ready to scribble down their orders.


“Certainly, I would love a glass of red wine,” Jessica said.


“I’ll have a Scotch,” George answered.


The waitress wrote down their drink orders.  “I will give you a few minutes to look at your menus while I get your drinks,” she said as she turned to leave the table.  “Oh, I almost forgot.  I need to see your i.d.’s before I can get your drinks.”


“We card everyone,” she said after seeing the quizzical expressions on both of their faces.


“I think I like this place,” Jessica declared with a laugh after the waitress left. 


Detective Rellik was right.  The food was delicious.  Jessica ordered the petite filet mignon and George chose the pheasant.  Their conversation was relaxed and enjoyable with no mention of Samantha Ross’s murder or Mid-Atlantic flight 1431.  


“Jessica?” It was George’s voice.  She had become momentarily distracted.


“Jess, would you like dessert?”


She hadn’t noticed that Anna had already returned and cleared their plates.


“No, not for me, thank you,” she declined politely before returning her gaze to the window.


Anna retrieved their check from her apron and placed it on the edge of the table.  George laid his credit card on top of it and the waitress collected both and left for the register.


“Penny for your thoughts?” George said.


“I was just thinking…what do you see when you look at the window?”


“Streetlamps and shoppers, what do you see?” he answered as he turned his attention to the scene outside.


“More importantly, what do you think Samantha Ross would have seen?” Jessica said as she pulled out a piece of paper and pen from her purse and began writing.


“Jess, what are you doing?” he asked with great interest as he squinted to make out what she was writing.


“The letters on the window.  Mason Roland’s Steakhouse.  Did I mention that Samantha, Paul, and Greg ate her the night before she was murdered or maybe more importantly, the night before she met with Dr. Osman?  I noticed it on her appointment calendar.”


“No, you didn’t.  I’m afraid you’ve lost me, Jessica.”

She continued to scribble in her notebook, pausing occasionally to think. 


“Do you think it’s possible that Samantha thought that Osman didn’t just know Brickman, but that Osman is Brickman?  Look,” she said as she slid the notebook across to George.


“What is it?” he said as he attempted to decipher the words on the page.


“A sort of word puzzle connecting Osman to Brickman.”


IAN =                      BRICKMAN =



HANS                         BRICKLAYER =


JAN                           MASON

JACK                         SOMNA

JOHN                         MASNO





JOHN                         OSMAN


“It’s a bit…creative, Jess, even for you.  So you’re saying that Samantha Ross thought that Dr. Osman was the slaidear, Brickman.”


“A what?”


“A slaidear.  A robber, a thief.” 


“Actually, I was just thinking out loud, but now I’m almost certain of it.”


“Detective Rellik said that Dr. Osman has an air tight alibi,” George reminded her while replacing his credit card into his wallet and placing a generous tip on the table.


“I know, but that doesn’t mean that Osman isn’t Brickman.  It just means that Osman, or Brickman, probably didn’t kill Samantha.”


“Let’s go,” Jessica said as she got up from the table and headed toward the exit.





“Jessica, this might be a tad easier, if you told me exactly where we are going,” George said as he drove the silver Chrysler Sebring rental car along a dark country road just outside of Green Falls.


“George, pull in right there, after the trees,” Jessica whispered as she pointed toward an old, neglected mailbox.   


“Where are we and why are you whispering?” he asked as he pulled the car into what appeared to be an old, badly maintained farmstead. 


“John Osman’s farm,” Jessica said as she quietly got out of the car, closed the passenger side door and headed for the front of the faded yellow, two-story house.


George caught up with her on the front steps, where she had already knocked on the door and was peering through the glass pane of the door, trying to make out the interior of the darkened house.


“Let’s try the back door,” she said as she descended the steps and walked around to the northwest corner of the house, without waiting for George to follow.


“He’s obviously not here, Jess.  Perhaps Detective Rellik found him at the museum before it closed,” George suggested.


“In that case, there is no harm in checking things out then,” Jessica decided.  She reached into her purse, retrieved her trusty flashlight and turned it on.


“Jessica, we can’t break into his house,” George said sternly.


“Of course not, but I would like to find out what’s been going on in the barn,” she said, pointing the small light at the ground and illuminating fresh tire tracks, which lead in the direction of the red, gambrel-roofed, Dutch barn, which stood a few hundred feet to the east.


They entered the barn through a door, which lead into a small milk house.  Another small door lead into the wide central aisle of the main barn.  There were a series of stalls, running the length of the structure on both sides.  They proceeded to the far end of the barn, using the flashlight to quickly inspect each stall.  Seeing nothing of interest, Jessica began climbing a set of stairs, which lead to the hayloft.  After reaching the loft itself, Jessica swept the flashlight across the room from left to right.  The light reflected off several rows of glass cabinets. 


“That’s far enough,” they heard a grave voice say as a harsh floodlight was illuminated and aimed directly into their eyes.  They both froze, with hands shielding their eyes, as they heard the unmistakable sound of a round of ammunition being chambered.


“This is quite a museum, Mr. Brickman,” Jessica said boldly.


“Yes, it is rather impressive, isn’t it,” he responded as he stepped out from the darkness that engulfed the majority of the loft.  “Unfortunately for you, it’s not open to the public,” he remarked coldly.  Dr. John Osman held a twenty gauge shotgun, aimed directly at George and Jessica.   


“So you’re the treasure hunter that Samantha Ross was going to write her book about?” Jessica said, slowly lowering her hands as her eyes had begun to adjust to the bright light.


“Not so fast, Mrs. Fletcher, hands back up,” Osman commanded.  “Back downstairs, both of you,” he ordered,” waving the shotgun in the direction of the stairs.


Jessica didn’t move.


“Do what he says, Jessica,” George said as he lowered his hands and motioned to take her by the elbow and escort her down the dark stairs.


“That’s right, Mrs. Fletcher, listen to the Inspector.  He’s a smart man,” Osman commented, indicating again that he wanted them to descend the stairs.


“I don’t think so, Inspector.  I’m not an idiot.  Get your hands back up in the air,” Osman said, still holding them at gun point.  Jessica began to descend the stairs, followed by George.


“So, you did kill Samantha Ross?” Jessica accused as she reached to bottom. 


“No, I didn’t get the chance, but I will have to kill the two of you,” he declared without any emotion as he joined them at the bottom of the stairs.  “Murder, suicide, I think.  Yes, a lover’s quarrel, that’s perfect,” he concluded as he directed them out of the barn toward George’s rental car.


The barnyard was instantly awash with harsh, fluorescent light.  George grabbed Jessica and tackled her sideways to the ground and away from Osman, shielding her with his own body.


“Police, freeze right there, Dr. Osman,” they heard a familiar voice command from behind them.  “Drop the gun, get down on your knees, and place both hands behind your head, now!”


John Osman held out the shotgun with his left hand, slowly bent down and lowered the weapon to the ground before kneeling and placing his hands behind his head as instructed. 


Detective Rellik rushed forward from the shadows and handcuffed Osman before reading him his Miranda rights.


“Are you okay, Jess?” George asked once Rellik had the situation under control.


“Yes, I think so,” she replied.  “Although it is getting a little difficult to breath,” she said, attempting to adjust herself and wriggle from underneath his body weight.


“Sorry about that, you’re sure you’re all right?  Your shoulder’s all right?” he asked as he released her, slowly got up from the ground and reached down to help her to her feet.


“Yes, are you?” she asked.


“Yes, just a tad dusty is all,” he answered before brushing the dirt from his trousers and jacket.


“Mrs. Fletcher, Inspector, are you two okay?” Detective Rellik asked as he approached them after allowing another officer to escort Osman to a waiting patrol car.


“How did you know that we were here?” Jessica asked.


“I got your message and came out here looking for Osman.  I saw the two of you go into the barn and followed you, but Osman ambushed you before I could catch up.  I heard him order you back downstairs so, I retreated to the stalls at the other end of the barn and radioed to my back up that you were on your way out.  I guess you know the rest.”


“Yes, we know the rest,” Jessica said, nodding her head.


“What were you saying up there about a museum?” Rellik asked.


“We’ll show you,” Jessica said as she headed back into the barn and up the dark flight of stairs.  Using her flashlight, she located the floodlight, which soon illuminated the rudimentary museum, which was located in the hayloft.  It appeared that Dr. Osman had been hurriedly packing crates with hundreds if not thousands of valuable antiquities and other pieces of art.  Most of the items were still displayed in their glass cabinets and nearly all of the pieces had been roughly dated, some as early as 2000 B.C. 


“Look at this,” George said as he picked up a large notebook.  The notebook contained maps showing the origin of each piece and from where each piece had been stolen.  The loft had been renovated into three rooms.  The largest room served as a simple museum.  One of the two smaller rooms was being used to clean and restore the treasures and the other was being used as a photographic laboratory, which was being used to build a catalog of the stolen items.  It appeared that Samantha Ross’s theory had been correct.




Jessica, George, Charles and Detective Rellik enjoyed brunch the following day in a small café on Sullivan Street.  It was Saturday morning and downtown Green Falls was bustling with shoppers.  The rejuvenation project in Green Falls had been completed a few years earlier and the street was lined with prosperous businesses, most displaying colorful awnings at their entrances.   


“Mrs. Fletcher, I have to hand it to you.  How did you figure out that Osman and Brickman were the same person?” Detective Rellik asked.


“Just a hunch at first, but then I remembered something that Mr. Peterson said.  He said that Samantha called Dr. Osman a slaidear, but he didn’t know what it meant and neither did I.  I was really just trying to figure out how Samantha’s mind worked and then George used the same word to describe Brickman.  Charles seemed so certain that Samantha had found a close link between Osman and Brickman.  If there was no link, there was no reason for Dr. Osman to lie about Samantha’s book.  If there was a close link, nothing could be closer than Osman actually being Brickman?  It was merely a logical conclusion.”


“It’s just too bad he has such an air tight alibi for the night of Samantha’s murder,” Rellik commented, while rubbing his chin as though deep in thought.  “Any ideas on that, Mrs. Fletcher?”


“No, I’m afraid not, Detective.  Have you gotten any new information on the weapon?”


“Right now it looks like a knife, but the blade had a very unusual shape, almost like a scythe, but much smaller.  It is taking a lot longer than I had hoped to identify it.  We don’t have much else to go on right now.  Sam’s attorney had his flight cancelled so we won’t see her will or safety deposit box until at least tomorrow afternoon so, for now we’re just trying to develop some more leads.”


“Until then, I’m up to my ears in paperwork on this whole Brickman matter.  Actually, I had better be getting back out to Osman’s farm,” he said as he rose from the table.


“Mind if I join you, Detective?” Charles Ross asked.  “I’d love to take a look at some of those artifacts.”


“No problem.  I imagine we’ll be there for a few days by the look of things,” he concluded.  “Inspector, Mrs. Fletcher, care to join us?”


“Jess, it’s up to you,” George said, deflecting the question.


“How about tomorrow, Detective?” Jessica responded.


“Sure thing.  We’ll see you tomorrow,” Rellik said as he and Charles departed the cafe.


“Well, Jessica, what do you have planned for the rest of the day?”


“Nothing really.  I thought I might explore downtown a little bit.  Care to join me?”


“Of course, where to first, my lady?” he said as he offered her his arm.


They spent the next hour walking arm in arm, talking and window shopping.


“Want to go in?” Jessica said as they approached McBaren’s Smoke Shop.


“Only if you don’t mind.”


“Not at all.  I have something to pick up next door,” Jessica said, indicating an interior entrance to the neighboring shop, the English Tea Store.” 


George purchased a tin of McClelland pipe tobacco and a small package of Calibri flints, which he placed in his jacket pocket.


“Did you find what you were looking for?” he asked as Jessica returned, carrying a small package.


“Yes, as a matter of fact, I did.”


“Ready to continue then?” he asked, once again offering her his arm.


Jessica inhaled deeply, taking in the sweet smell of pipe tobacco, which lingered in the shop.  She had many fond memories that she associated with that particular smell.


“Sure,” she said, linking arms with George.  They exited the shop and continued along the busy street. 


“Dessert?” she said as she held a small open tin in George’s direction.


“Churchill’s toffee, my weakness, I’m afraid,” he responded before accepting a piece.


“I know.  You keep a tin in your top left hand desk drawer next to your Olivewood pen, your wallet and your car keys.” 


He looked at her curiously for a moment.  “Sorry, Jess, I forgot for a minute just how observant you are.”


Jessica stopped suddenly at a corner jewelry store and looked thoughtfully at the window display.  George stood closely behind her and gently placed his hands on her shoulders. 


“Romantic chap,” he observed, looking over her shoulder.


The window displayed several photos of a handsome couple, who Jessica judged to be in their late twenties.  An engagement ring sat in the center of the display.  Attached to the ring box was a small note, which read, “Alexandra, Will you marry me?” To the right was another photo of the couple taken outside the same shop with the young man down on one knee and another note, which read, “She said yes.”


“Let’s go in,” he said as he grabbed her hand.  They were inside before Jessica could protest.


“What are we looking for?” she asked somewhat apprehensively.


“Nothing, really.  My watch needs a minor repair.  Why don’t you look around while I take care of this?” he suggested.


“It should be ready on Tuesday, Mr.Sutherland,” the saleswoman said as she handed him the stub from the repair ticket.


“Find something you like?” George asked when he rejoined Jessica, who was browsing the display cases. 


“Most of it,” Jessica replied.


“Anything in particular?” 


“No, why?”


“No reason.  Ready to go?”


They resumed their walk, arm in arm, in the direction of the Harrison College campus.  As they approached the campus, they came upon the athletics fields.


Rugby practice,” George observed.  “Come on.”


“Where are we going?”


“To watch,” he said, heading in the direction of the pitch. 


“George, I don’t know anything about rugby,” she said, catching up to him.


“Then I’ll explain it to you.”


“You play rugby?” she asked in surprise.


“As a school boy, Jess, it’s a young man’s game.  I haven’t played since my university days.”


 Jessica and George seated themselves on the grass next to the field and watched for the remainder of the practice. 


“That must be the famous Mr. Ferguson standing on the edge of the pitch?” George said.


“You know, he looks vaguely familiar.  Let’s go and find out. I’d like to talk to him,” Jessica said.


“I figured that you might,” he said as he got up from the grass.


“Coach Ferguson, could we have a minute of your time?” Jessica asked as they approached the man in question. 


William Ferguson was a tall man, at least six foot two inches, with broad shoulders.  Jessica judged him to be in his late twenties and he was in considerably good physical condition.  He had a head full of thick, blonde, windblown hair.  If it had not been for his recently broken nose, he may have been considered by some to be quite handsome.


“Sure, what do you want?” he said somewhat rudely.


“My name is Jessica Fletcher and this is my friend Chief Inspector George Sutherland of Scotland Yard.  I was a friend of Samantha Ross.” 


“I’m busy,” he said as he began to step past Jessica.


“Please, it will only take a second,” she countered politely.


“Fine, what would you like to know about the lovely Samantha Ross,” he said without trying to hide his sarcasm.


“I was just wondering if you saw her the day that she died.”


“I had no reason to see that stuck up little bitch,” he said with an intense look of anger.  She noticed his right hand clench into a fist.


“Are you sure that you didn’t even see her running on campus that night?”


“Look, lady, if you think that I had anything to do with her getting killed, you’re way off base.  After practice, I drove to Concord to scout a game, okay.  Now, get out of my way, I’ve gotta’ go,” he said as he pushed Jessica out of his path, causing her to lose her balance and nearly fall to the ground.  George quickly righted her and placed himself in William Ferguson’s path. 


“I think you owe the lady an apology,” he said, glaring at Ferguson. 


The man attempted to push George aside, but George was too quick and in an instant he had the younger man prone with an arm cranked behind his back.  “I said, I think you owe the lady an apology,” George repeated.


“Fine, fine, I apologize.  Now get off me,” he said as he struggled to free himself.


George let the man up.  Jessica smiled as she heard him say, “And one other thing, Mr. Ferguson, don’t ever touch her again.  Do I make myself clear?”


Crystal,” he said with a scowl.


“Jessica, are you all right?” George asked as Ferguson stomped away angrily.


“Yes, I’m perfectly fine.  Thank you.”


“Did you figure out where you know him from?”


“Yes, I think he was one of the doctoral students who was working in the museum.  They were working on a display of Viking tools and weapons from the Iron Age.”  She paused and thought for a moment.  “George, do you have your cell phone?”


“Sure, whom are you calling?” he said as he removed the phone from his jacket pocket and handed it to her.


“Detective Rellik.  I think I know where the knife that stabbed Samantha might be hidden.”


After calling Detective Rellik, Jessica and George continued walking toward the Kappa Delta house until they found themselves standing on Banner Bridge, overlooking the small, meandering river. 


“Jessica, do you remember the other night, I mentioned that I wanted your opinion about something,” George said as he removed his pipe from his pocket and readied to light it.


“Yes.  I’ve been meaning to ask you about that,” she said as she watched the repair stub fall from George’s pocket to the ground.  She bent down, picked it up and examined it.


“Sorry, George, but can we discuss this later.  I think I know who killed Samantha Ross.”


“William Ferguson?”




Jessica hurried to the path located just above the stone embankment where Samantha’s body had been found.  Down on hands and knees, she combed through the grass carefully.


“What are you looking for, Jessica?”


“Found it,” she exclaimed before getting back up to her feet.



“Do you really think this is going to work?” George asked as he held the shop door open for Jessica to enter.


“I hope so,” she answered.


Jessica and George had returned to Hartman’s Jewelry Store, where they browsed the numerous display cases, which showcased a wide variety of jewelry and precious stones. 


“Is there something that I can help you with?” a saleswoman asked with a smile and a glint in her eye.


“No, thank you, we’re just brows…” Jessica started.


“Actually, we’d like to see that piece, right there,” George said, pointing into the case in front of them.


“George, what are you doing?”


“Just getting into character, love.  Try it on,” he suggested.


“It is very beautiful,” Jessica observed.


Just then the small bell above the door jingled and Teresa Castleman entered. 


“May I help you, ma’am?” another salesperson asked her.


“Yes, the manager called and said that there was a problem repairing my ring.  Could I speak with him?”


“One moment please.”


“Miss Castleman?” the manager said as he approached her.


“Yes, that’s right.  There’s a problem with my ring?”


“Actually, yes.  If you have your ticket stub, I’ll get it and show you the problem.  Teresa emptied her purse onto the counter, retrieved the ticket stub and handed it to Detective Jeff Rellik, temporary manager of Hartman’s Jewelry Store. 


“Miss Castleman, I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Samantha Ross,” he said as he stepped from behind the counter.


“You’re crazy.  I had nothing to do with Samantha Ross’s murder,” she said defiantly.


“You have the right to remain silent.  You have the right to an attorney…,” Rellik continued citing her Miranda rights.


“Greg, please take Miss Castleman to the car,” he said to his younger brother, who had been posing as a customer, once the woman had been handcuffed. 


“Thanks again for the tip, Mrs. Fletcher.  You were right.  We found the knife in the museum.  It was labeled as a Viking woman’s knife.  The blade looks like a pretty good match.  We’ve got several good fingerprints for comparison and the blood matches Sam’s.  They also found plenty of epithelials and some white fibers on the damaged prong of Miss Castleman’s ring.  It looks like it got snagged on Sam’s vest when she drug her over the edge of the embankment.  It was probably also responsible for the scratches on her neck.  DNA should be back sometime tomorrow.  But tell me something, how did you know it was her?  After you called about the knife, I had my money on Ferguson.”


“The way I see it, Ms. Castleman was the only person who had access to the museum and the knife and who may have overheard Samantha’s conversation with Dr. Osman.  I also remembered that when I was in her office, she kept fidgeting with her ring finger as though she was used to having a ring on it.  When she emptied her purse to find the key to the museum, I noticed a ticket stub from the jewelry store, but it wasn’t until I found the missing pearl and you confirmed that she had brought a ring in to be repaired the day after the murder and to have a pearl replaced that I knew for sure.”


“The ring links her to Osman or Brickman, whatever his name is.  We’re lucky that you were able to find that pearl.  It looks like the ring was part of some famous collection called the Mary Queen of Scots Pearls.  I don’t know anything about jewelry, but apparently most of the original collection is still in England, but part of it is spread throughout France.  The ring was stolen from a private museum somewhere in France three or four years ago.  Osman was more than happy to give her up to avoid being charged as an accessory.  Apparently they were having an affair and he gave her the ring as a gift.  He claims that Miss Castleman confessed to him that she had killed Samantha in order to protect him.”


“It would have made for an interesting book,” Jessica commented after the detective had left.


“Yes, it would have,” George agreed.




Jessica had just finished her hair and make-up after taking a quick shower and dressing for dinner and was putting in her earrings when she heard a soft knock on the door.


“Come in,” she answered.


“Are you sure?” George asked as he poked his head inside.”


“Of course.  I am almost ready.  I just need to put on my necklace.”


“Need some help?” he asked.


“I think I can get it.”


“No, I’ll get for you,” he said as he crossed the room.


“Thank you so much, George.  I always have a terrible time with this clasp,” she said as she handed him the necklace.


“Did you get it?”


“Almost,” he answered as he worked at the clasp.


“There, how did I do?” he asked once he was finished.  Jessica hadn’t noticed him place her necklace back onto the table.


“I’m sure you did just fine.” 


“You’d better check, just in case.”


She turned back around to face the mirror and caught a glimpse of his sparkling eyes, from where he was crouched behind her.


“Oh, George, it’s beautiful!  But you shouldn’t have, it was so expensive.”


“Let me worry about that.  Happy Birthday, Jessie,” he said before kissing her softly on the lips.  “You don’t mind, do you?”


“Of course not.  But my birthday isn’t until Wednesday.”


“I know that, but I’m afraid that I won’t be here to help you celebrate.  I have to go back to London tomorrow morning.”


“Tomorrow morning?”


“Afraid so.  I have to escort Brickman back.  I don’t have a choice in the matter.”


“No, I suppose not,” she conceded.  “I thought we were going to talk before you left,” she asked.


“I know and we will.”


“When?” she pressed.


“The next time we see each other.”


“George, I don’t come to London for my book tour until the end of October.  That’s six months from now.”


“Are you two ready?” Margaret said as she stuck her head in the door.


“Aye, let’s go,” he said as he took Jessica by the elbow and guided her into the kitchen.


“Do you mind if we make a quick stop at the house before we go to dinner?” Margaret asked.  “I really would like to have your opinion on a couple of things.”


“George, do you mind?”  Jessica said.


“Not at all.  I’d love to see this house that you two have been going on about.”


The drive to the Wetmore Mansion took only a couple of minutes.  The three-story house was built of beautiful brownish-pink Sioux Falls Quartzite and dated back to 1890.  From 1923 until 1979, the mansion had housed the Wetmore Declamation Bureau, which published superior award winning speech materials.


“It is even larger than I remember,” Jessica commented as Margaret gave them the grand tour of the main floor.


“4500 square feet,” Margaret answered. 


“Wasn’t this house originally willed to the college with the intent that it would be used as a museum?” Jessica asked.


“You’re right, Jessica, but the college is still working out the specifics.  This floor will house the museum initially, but that is still a couple of years away.  The bathroom in the master suite is too modern right now and will need to be redone if it is ever going to be a museum.  Actually, the school might use it as a rental for temporary faculty on one-year contracts until they are ready to turn it into a museum.  The rent would help pay for maintenance and repairs while I continue to research and get things in order for the museum.  I am afraid that it is going to be a long process.”   


“Oh, Margaret, this must be so fun for you.  The woodwork and design are absolutely beautiful,” Jessica observed.


“Yes it is, but I need to finish the kitchen and dining room on this floor and add a few finishing touches to two of the bedrooms on the second floor by mid-August and like I said, there is quite a bit of research involved in getting the details just right.”


They continued to explore the rooms on the main level of the house. 


“This is the ladies parlor, my personal favorite.  Don’t you love it, Jessica?  It would make a wonderful retreat for reading or writing,” Margaret commented.


“I was just thinking the same thing,” Jessica agreed.


Margaret guided them through the small kitchen and into a very ornate dining room. 


“George, were you ever planning on telling me about your job offer here at the college?” Jessica asked quietly once Margaret was out of earshot.


George looked at her with a puzzled expression on his face.


“Margaret told me,” she explained.  “Well?  Were you planning on telling me about it?”








“Through here are the den and the gentleman’s parlor,” Margaret continued.  George and Jessica followed.


“Upstairs is where I really need your help, Jess,” Margaret said as she returned to the room and motioned for them to follow her up the first flight of stairs. 


Jessica lingered behind; obviously not ready to terminate her conversation with George.


“Shall we?” George said and he motioned for Jessica to lead the way. 


“George, you’ve leaving tomorrow,” Jessica said in a loud whisper as she passed him at the foot of the stairs.


“I realize that.”


“This is the largest of the guest rooms.  What do you think, George?” Margaret asked after they had all reached to top of the stairs and readied to enter the first of four bedrooms.


“Nicely done, Margaret.  Perhaps a little masculine for you ladies, but I think most men would find it comfortable,” George answered.


“Good, that was my goal.”


“Jess, what do you think?”


“It is very handsome.  The colors are wonderful, deep and rich.  But I will have to disagree with George.  I don’t think it is too masculine.”


“I’m glad you approve.  Now, the next two rooms are bedrooms also, but I haven’t started on them yet.  There is still so much research to do.  Go ahead and look around.  The woodwork is magnificent.  I’ll be right back, I forgot to turn the light off in the last room.”


“Don’t misunderstand me, George.  You certainly don’t have any obligation to discuss such things with me.  It’s just that I thought that we agreed to try to create more opportunities to see each other so I just can’t help but wonder why you haven’t mention it,” Jessica said, in hushed tones, as she once again tried to resume their conversation.


“I did, twice,” he responded in a whisper as he continued to admire the intricate crown molding.




“On the bridge.  We were interrupted.”


“Were you planning on mentioning it again?”


“We’ll discuss it another time.  Margaret is waiting.”  George cocked his head toward the door clearly indicating that he was ready to move on.


“Jess, this is the room that I really need your opinion about,” Margaret said as they entered the master suite.  The room was magnificent.  It overlooked a small formal garden in the back yard.  It was very spacious and had a fireplace and a king-size, four-poster bed.  The bathroom was modern and included a large Jacuzzi-style bath, which was situated in a corner, and a separate shower.  The sitting room was tastefully decorated in cream, accented with a dusty rose color.  The furniture was tasteful and looked very comfortable.


“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Jessica said.  “It’s breathtaking.” 


“Sit on the bed, Jess.  It’s pure heaven.”


“I shouldn’t,” Jessica declined.


“Our secret,” Margaret replied with a wink.


A jacquard comforter covered the large bed.  Beautiful diamond patchwork blended with an array of soft pastels in ivory, sage, winter rose and champagne.  Lace and pearl embellishments added a quality of elegance.  Accent pillows of matching jacquard, soutache trim and lace completed the ensemble.  Three antique floral panels accented with gold wrought iron cartouches adorned the wall above the head of the bed.   


“You’re right, it is heaven,” Jessica said after sitting down. 


“Hello, this is Margaret.  Yes…Tuesday at ten o’clock?  No, I’m afraid that won’t work.  I will check my appointment calendar for next week and call you back in five minutes.”  Margaret closed her cellular phone and put it back into her purse.  


“I’m sorry, Jess, but I need to run out to the car for a few minutes to check my appointment calendar and then call the upholstery shop back before he closes.  It shouldn’t take me more than ten minutes.  Take your time and enjoy the house.  Explore a bit.  It’s a great old house.  I’ll be back in a little bit and then we can go to dinner.  Sorry about this.” 


“That’s no problem.  I’m sure we can entertain ourselves until you get back.


“Thank you so much, Jessica.  I’ll be right back.  Maybe you two can find the secret passageway while I am gone.  It is supposed to lead from one of the bedroom closets to a hidden staircase, but I haven’t been able to find it yet.”


“Take your time, Marg.  We’ll be fine.”


Jessica slowly admired the room from her seat on the edge of the bed, soaking in the beauty around her.  She relaxed and leaned backward, closed her eyes and breathed in deeply.  The bed was soft and luxurious. 


“She might not be able to get me to leave,” Jessica commented. 


“George? Are you still here?”  Jessica sat up and looked around the room to see George looking down into the small garden below.




“What are you looking at?”


“Nothing, just enjoying the view,” he answered without turning to look at her.


“George, do you remember when you said you wanted to ask my opinion about something.”


“Aye, I remember,” he answered, still looking out the window.


“Was it about the job offer?”




“Are you even considering accepting it?”


“I haven’t declined it, yet.”


“But you haven’t accepted it yet either?”


“No, I haven’t,” he said, turning to face her.


“Are you planning on telling me why?”


“As you know, it’s very complicated, Jessica?”


“Is there any chance that you are going to explain it to me any time soon?”


“You’re a dour woman, Jessica Fletcher.  Come over here and sit down,” he said, indicating that he wanted her to join him on the love seat.


They seated themselves on the small loveseat in the sitting room. 


“Jessica, I trust that you know that I still care very deeply for you and I do want to have every opportunity for us to continue to develop our relationship, but I also know that your life in Cabot Cove is “idyllic,” as you once described it to me, and I have no wish to disrupt that for you and I am very concerned that that is exactly what would happen if I were here in Green Falls.” 


“George, you wouldn’t disrupt my life,” Jessica said, placing her hand gently on his.


“I’m far from being convinced of that,” he replied, looking her straight in the eyes.


“Well, I am,” she replied emphatically.


“As I said, it’s complicated.”  He looked briefly away from her gaze.


“And?” she prodded.


“Jessica, it’s only a temporary position, nine months, and the college needs an answer before I leave.  Right now that answer is no and I don’t see that changing in the next sixteen hours.”




“Jessica, I cannot and will not burden you with making that decision, not after what happened earlier this week.”


“George, I’m fine and I’m certainly capable of rendering my own opinion on the matter.”


“Jessica, you are the most intelligent, logical and reasonable person that I know, but I don’t think that you have thought this through.  I have a very strong feeling that you would be basing your opinion almost purely on emotions brought on by stress and that’s not like you.”


“And I disagree with your assessment.”


“Okay, Jessica.  Tell me this.  How many boards and committees do you serve on?”


“Two or three.”


“I would say five or six, at least,” he countered. 


“I don’t see what that has to do with it?”


“You and Seth still cook dinner together and play chess on Friday nights, right?”


“Yes, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if we didn’t do it every Friday night and you could certainly join us.”


George shook his head.  She certainly could be frustratingly stubborn at times.  


“The point is that we would either not see each other, in which case I might as well be in London, or I would disrupt your life,” he explained.


“No, you wouldn’t,” she said adamantly.  “And we certainly would see each other.”


“Jessica, now I’m certain that you haven’t thought this through.  Where will you be this fall?” he asked. 


“I have a book tour,” she said matter of factly.


“And where will this book tour take you?”


“I will be in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco in September.  I go to Sydney for two weeks in early October and then London for a week in late October followed by a week with you in Wick.”


“Actually, I would be here, but that is beside the point,” he reminded her.


“We would be together here for the holidays,” she said hopefully.


“You know that I would love to spend the holidays with you, but in all likelihood I would need to go back to Wick to get caught up on business.”


Jessica thought silently for quite some time. 


“You’re absolutely right, George, I didn’t think it through very well.  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to fight with you.”


“You didn’t.  You’re just stubborn sometimes, but that happens to be one of the things that I love about you,” he said as he brushed a small lock of hair away from her eyes.  Neither one of them spoke for a moment.


“Pleasant idea, though, wasn’t it?” he said with a small smile.


“Yes, it was,” she agreed, with a pleasant smile.


“Jessie, I do love you, very much,” he said as he hugged her.


“And I lo…”


“Shhhh, please, not until you’re really ready.”  He released her slightly so that he could look her in the eyes. 


“I have absolutely no problem telling you that I love you, but I don’t expect to hear it from you nor do I want to unless there is absolutely no doubt in your mind about it.  Understand?”


Jessica nodded her head slightly.


“In the mean time, there is one other thing that I would like to do while we are still alone.”


“Find the secret passageway?” Jessica asked.


“Not even close, love,” he said with a slight smile and shake of his head, before bending down and kissing her gently on the lips.     


“Jess?  George?  Are you two still up there?” They heard Margaret’s voice call from downstairs.


George slowly got up from the love seat, helped Jessica to her feet and pulled her close into his arms. 


“Thank you, George, for being you,” she said as she embraced him tighter.  “We should go.”


“In a minute,” he said as he held her for a moment longer.


“Are you two ready to go?” Margaret asked as she poked her head through the opening in the doorway.


“Be right there,” George said, sounding less than enthusiastic about the idea.


“Did you find it?” Margaret asked when they finally joined her in the hallway.


“Second bedroom on the third floor.  It’s on the south wall of the closet.” George answered.


“George, we didn’t even look,” Jessica whispered.


“I found it a few days ago,” he whispered back, with a mischievous glint in his eye.


“You’ve been in this house before?” Jessica asked as they followed Margaret down the stairs.


“I never said that I hadn’t given serious thought to moving closer to you, Jessica,” he said as he wrapped one arm around her and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze as they descended the stairs.


“You know, George, I do love that room but I don’t think that I could have stayed here,” she said, stopping and turning to face him.


“Only if you had wanted to, Jess.”


“I’ve stayed with you before, in Wick.  That’s not the problem.”


“Afraid you’ve lost me again, Jess,” he said as he held the door open for her to exit the house.


“George, this house is haunted.”




“That’s what they say.”


“Another haunted house.  That reminds me.  I’m afraid that I probably won’t be able to take you to Wick when you come to London this fall.”


“You won’t?”  Jessica was clearly disappointed.


“Afraid there’s no room in the inn.  With the exception of my own room, which only has one bed, it’s completely booked during the time that we were supposed to visit and I don’t think I can cancel that many reservations.”


“Of course not.  I would never expect you to.”


“I do have an alternative plan, if you would like to hear it?”




“How does Venice sound?” he said, offering her his arm.


“I’ve always wanted to go to Venice,” Jessica replied, taking his arm.


“I think you’ve mentioned that before and I would like to be the one to take you there, if that is acceptable to you.”


“Well, I was really looking forward to going back to Wick, but if you insist, I guess Venice will have to do,” she said before giving his arm a light squeeze.


“I insist.”


“Then Venice it is.”