It’s five after eight on this gorgeous Sunday morning in July, and I’m on my way to meet Lowell Hartman. I’m pretty sure Lowell didn’t murder two people in my Golden Age of Mystery book club, but I’m nervous all the same. There’s always the possibility that he is the killer. In which case he’ll know my driving route since he suggested our meeting place. I shiver to think he might be waiting for me en route, about to make me Victim Number Three. And so I remain vigilant, swiveling my head nonstop from side to side, like a lighthouse beam on a foggy day.
Lowell’s asked me to meet him at a diner a twenty minute drive from Old Cadfield and all the people we know. He says it’s close to where he runs on weekends. I bet he wants to talk about what happened yesterday. It was kind of weird, coming upon him and Ginger acting like two teenagers. I mean, Lowell’s ten years older that Ginger and married to her cousin. Not that being married stopped him from resuming his relationship with Anne. Poor Anne, who’s dead. As is my old friend Sylvia. And Lowell was the last person to speak to Sylvia. I clutch the steering wheel and stomp on the gas pedal. Relax, I tell myself, and slow down so I won’t get a speeding ticket. I exhale a deep sigh of relief when I finally pull into the diner’s parking area, but keep up my guard until I’m safely inside.
Lowell’s waiting for me in a corner booth. He stands to kiss my cheek, and I see he’s wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. I become aware of his broad shoulders, his long and muscular legs, something I never noticed before. He hasn’t bothered to shave, which only adds to his appeal.
Stop drooling! I tell myself. The guy’s no movie star. Besides, he has the morals of a alley cat. I settle down after reminding myself that Lowell Hartman’s thirty-three; only six years older than my son, Jesse.
The waitress takes my order, and I find myself chatting easily with Lowell. We talk about Anne, who was my lawyer. He says I’m one of the few people he can talk to about her. He tells me she was the love of his life. His words anger me. “Then why did you go back on your word to her and stay with Paulette? I understand her parents gave you a hefty sum of money.”
Lowell insists that the money had nothing to do with his decision. He says he feels guilty about Paulette’s miscarriage, and goes on fervently about his need to protect Paulette from her overbearing mother. At first I can’t believe he’s for real, and then I realize he means what he says. He’s revealed a glimpse of the young lawyer who started out intending to defend the poor and ended up handling cases that have nothing to do with his earlier aspirations.
“And what about Ginger?” I ask.
He doesn’t dodge the issue. He admits they were a bit lax, but he never would have allowed the relationship to develop. He brought Ginger to the beach because he knew she was troubled by something that had happened in her teen years and was impacting her relationship with her boyfriend. Lowell advised her to tell Todd about the incident and to see a therapist.
I believe him because I know all about Ginger’s trauma. We go on to talk about other Old Cadfield people. I appreciate his wicked sense of humor. As I listen to him, I realize Lowell’s one of those rare males who doesn’t avoid discussing emotions and feelings. He’s damn good looking, and very appealing. Is it possible he doesn’t realize the affect he has on us women?
Time passes. Now the diner’s humming with activity. Lowell gets up to pay the check and mutters a curse. When I ask him what’s wrong, he tells me Malice Mouth is here.
I look around and see Marcie and Scott Beaumont sitting across the room, studying their menus. Marcie’s the most unpleasant person in the book club. I’m hoping she won’t see me here with Lowell because she’s sure to assume we’re having an affair. I walk to the rear door and can’t resist turning back. Marcie’s seen me, all right. If the proverbial looks could kill, I’d be writhing on the floor in my death throes.
You can read more about Character in Murder a la Christie, the first book in the “Lexie Driscoll” mystery series, published by Oak Tree Press. Book is available at online booksellers.
Meet the author
A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and books for kids. Her latest mystery, Murder a la Christie, is out with Oak Tree Press. Untreed Reads has brought out a new e-edition of her first Twin Lakes mystery, A Murderer Among Us–a Suspense Magazine Best Indie–and will bring out a new e-edition of the sequel, Murder in the Air, in April. Her ghost mystery, Giving Up the Ghost, and her romantic suspense, Dangerous Relations, are out with Uncial Press. All of her mysteries take place on Long Island, where she lives.
Her books for young readers include No Boys Allowed; Rufus and Magic Run Amok, which was awarded a Children’s Choice; Getting Back to Normal, & And Don’t Bring Jeremy.
Marilyn loves traveling, reading, knitting, doing Sudoku, and visiting with her granddaughter, Olivia, on FaceTime. She is co-founder and past president of the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime.
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