Excerpt from The Green Remains
Nora Tierney is an American writer living in England and awaiting two important events: the publication of her first children’s book, and the birth of her first child, one she will raise alone. Heavily pregnant, Nora’s morning walk around the shore of England’s largest lake, Windermere, plunges her unexpectedly into the midst of a murder investigation. This is the second in the series, set in Cumbria, and follows THE BLUE VIRGIN, set in Oxford.
The back door to Ramsey Lodge opened and Nora slowed her steps. Darby darted out, followed by Kate with a basket slung over one willowy arm. Simon followed, and the siblings made their way down the last remaining rows of their extensive vegetable garden, stopping at times to confer, making selections of squash and late greens that would be on tonight’s menu. Nora admired their energy and determination in keeping the lodge running after their parent’s death. Kate had been a set designer in London, and enjoyed decorating the rooms and refinishing the furniture. Simon continued his painting at a studio off his rooms. An Oxford gallery was the lucky recipient of most of his scenes and portraits, and now he appeared to be enjoying illustrating her books. Life had a way of presenting change when you least expected it, but these two seemed to roll with the punches. Resilient, she decided.
Nora turned back to the water and continued her walk, swinging her arms to loosen up. She didn’t want either Ramsey to feel her scrutinizing them. Kate had become a dear friend, and Nora was excited over her friend’s engagement to a local detective. As for Simon—his affection stirred feelings in Nora she found comforting at times, but felt overwhelming at others. He was so creative and patient, very kind and understanding. Yet at times his seeming perfection grated on her nerves. She didn’t understand her own feelings toward him and wasn’t ready to explore them.
She heard Kate’s raised voice and looked back to see Simon playfully throw a carrot at Kate before returning to the lodge. Lately Nora had felt friction between the siblings. Not open confrontation, but more of a dissonance, with Kate in favor of expansion to grow the lodge. Simon feared expansion wouldn’t allow time for his art. Only last night at dinner he’d pronounced: “I think you’re going to see that all of these changes won’t be necessary.”
Nora wasn’t on either side—she didn’t have experience in their kind of business. Being an only child, she’d often wished for the kind of companionship and understanding she thought a brother or sister would have given her, the comfortable relationship Kate and Simon usually exhibited. She thought they would work out this glitch. People couldn’t agree on all things; that was what made humans unique.
Nora drew in great gulps of fresh air, deep cleansing breaths to expand her lungs. Her baby waved inside her, kicking in his own morning calisthenics. She rounded the corner of Bowness Bay, eyes roaming the shallow water along the pebbly shore. Simon had explained the lake dropped to well over two hundred feet at its center, but here the water was clear, and Nora searched for small fish among the waving grasses at its edge. A few yards ahead, the tip of an overturned green scull caught her attention, wobbling up and down at the stony shore, disturbing its neatness.
As she came abreast of the scull, the next slopping wave nudged it higher onto the shingle. Without pausing, Nora left the path and reached out to pull on the scull’s tip to keep it on shore. Someone would be looking for it later today. She was surprised when it barely budged, and heaved harder, balancing herself, but throwing her small frame into the effort. It must be filled with sand and water, she thought, and tugged harder. There was a sucking sound, and suddenly two-thirds of the scull slid up the bank, toppling Nora off balance onto her knees on the damp sand, bringing her abruptly opposite the swollen, glassy-eyed face of a very dead man, partially covered in muck from the water’s edge. He lay bent on his side, the dripping water revealing a greenish cast to his skin, mottled with gouges and missing pieces of flesh. His swollen purple lips grinned grotesquely at her. She saw one eye socket was empty. The distorted features lapsed and moved with the next wave as Nora’s stomach roiled and her breakfast threatened to come back up. She sucked in air and gasped. Then her screams echoed across the water when she realized the dead man was someone she knew.
Meet the author
Marni Graff writes the Nora Tierney Mysteries from her coastal NC home, where she is working on Book Three in the series, The Scarlet Wench. A member of Sisters in Crime, Graff is a frequent traveler to England and this year attended St Hilda’s Crime and Mystery Conference. She is also co-author of Writing in a Changing World and Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press. She writes a weekly crime review blog (www.auntiemwrites.com) All books available from the Press or on Amazon.com, in print and Kindle versions.
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