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Laurel Lamperd - Writer
Murder Among the Roses
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Murder Among the Roses is my new book in progress. A murder happens at Taylors Crossing, a fictional town in the Darling Ranges near Perth in Western Australia. What are the secrets of the town's inhabitants , which has made them unwilling to assist police investigations.

 

Murder Among the Roses

 

Chapter 1 

 

After hearing a car stop, Cecily Loving glanced through the living room window and saw Jeremy Hepplewaite’s white sports car parked at the front of the house. Looking neat in brown shirt and fawn trousers, Jeremy walked along the path with short dapper steps to the front door.

She hurriedly ducked out of sight. She couldn’t imagine why he would visit her. Composing herself, she waited until the doorbell rang.

It still shocked her when it did.

“How are you, Cecily,” Jeremy said when she opened the door.

She stepped onto the verandah before he could enter the house. No way was she going to allow him in. She’d heard about his bottom pinching and suggestive remarks from some of the women in Taylors Crossing. They had laughed and said not to be caught alone with him

Eunice Donnelly hadn’t laughed. She had heard her tell Sophie Spalding he was making himself a nuisance calling on her two and three times a week and she would have to tell him his visits weren’t welcome.

“You’re getting on well with the house,” Jeremy said, studying the new flooring on the verandah.

Cecily wondered whether he was spying on them. “Rufus does what he can with his time off.” She felt she was apologizing for her husband. 

He nodded. “The old fellow who used to own this place allowed the house to fall into disrepair. I’d have bought it if I didn’t already have my house. The land here would be better for the roses too. It’s pretty dry up on my hill.”

She nodded, feeling glad she lived in the valley. She liked the morning mists that sometimes hadn’t dispersed until after ten. The trees emerged, dripping wet, to birds calls echoing along the creek bed. She pushed her bushy red hair back from her face. She felt friendlier towards him. Perhaps he wasn’t such a ladies man as the rumours made out.

She’d heard he was an author. She didn’t know what he wrote. Perhaps he used a pen name. A few people she knew in Perth dabbled in writing, but they barely made enough money to pay their postage.

He moved closer. “I have a proposition for you.”

She stepped back a pace. She was at eye level with him. He was only a little taller than her and she wasn’t tall. “Oh, yes.” She wondered what it was. He might want her to clean his house. It would be one way to get her into his bedroom, but she wasn’t going to fall for that old trick. He wouldn’t be the first man who had propositioned her.

“Would you like to sell drugs to your friends?”

He said it so casually she wondered if she’d heard correctly. She saw his smiling face behind the short grey beard covering his chin and the thinning dark hair, which was probably dyed, and knew she had. “Why would I want to sell drugs?” She tried to remain calm, but knew by the way her voice rose higher with each word she wasn’t succeeding.

He showed the glint of a gold filling in his teeth. “You’ve sold drugs to them before.”

She felt her face reddening. “I don’t sell drugs.” He must know about the six months she’d spent in gaol for selling marijuana to her friends.

“It would be worth your while. I wouldn’t tell anyone you’d been in gaol.”

So he did know. Was he threatening her? Did he mean he would put it around about her stint in prison when she was trying to make a new life for herself? She should complain to the police but it would be his word against hers. The police would sure to believe him instead of her, seeing she was the one with the criminal record. “Rufus wouldn’t agree.” She fell back to using Rufus in situations she found difficult to handle.

“How do you know he isn’t into drugs himself?”

 “He’s not.” She wanted to slap his arrogant face but she wondered if it was true. And if it was, how did he know? Perhaps Rufus was selling drugs. She knew little of what he did.

“He wouldn’t tell you, would he? It would be easy to sell drugs in his job.”

So he knew Rufus worked as a bouncer in a nightclub. Rufus had been furious about her getting caught with marijuana. She wondered if he had been worried she’d lead the police to him.

“You wouldn’t have to tell him. It would be between you and me.”

That’s what she thought when she sold marijuana to her friends. “I don’t have anything to do with drugs.” She croaked the words and before he could say anything, hurried the few paces to the door, expecting to feel his hand on her shoulder. Her fingers fumbled at the latch. She wrenched it open, nearly tripping over the doorstep in her haste to get inside. Not looking at him, she slammed the door and locked it. Hurrying to the back door, she locked it too. She stood with her back against it, breathing heavily, her eyes darting fearfully to the windows. He couldn’t get in unless he smashed one, but if he looked through a window, he’d see her crouched against the door like a scared rabbit. She didn’t want to pull the drapes and bring his attention to her.

She rushed to the bathroom, pressed the latch to lock the door. She glanced at the high frosted window. He couldn’t see her in here. Her nails bit into her clammy palms.   

So what if she’d grown a few plants among her pot plants and sold it to friends as a favour. Then a friend had sold the marijuana to one of her friends and the friend was caught. The police followed the trail to her. It all came out. She had sold marijuana to fourteen women.

“A housewives drug circle,” the policeman said who booked her. He didn’t bother to hide his grin.

It wasn’t really criminal though the police and that woman judge thought it was. The judge’s blue eyes were steely under her wig when she sentenced Cecily to six months gaol without parole. “You have to be made an example of,” she said in a firm voice. “We can’t have this happening in our suburbs.” The other women involved were fined and placed on good behaviour bonds.

She wept when she was led away by the young policeman who could have been her son if she had a son. All she saw was Rufus’s angry face.

She hadn’t sold marijuana to make money but the little bit she made, well it was more than a little bit, came in handy. She missed it but she wouldn’t go down that track again. She didn’t want to go to gaol again. It would be a longer sentence next time the social worker told her.

When she came out of gaol, she discovered Rufus had sold their Perth house and bought this old house in Taylors Crossing.

“The further you are away from your friends, the better,” Rufus said, glowering when he met her at the gaol.

He didn’t have to tell her. She wasn’t going to grow or smoke pot again.

She made new friends at Taylors Crossing. She hadn’t expected to but one did in a small town. No one here knew about her past except Jeremy.

* * *

She lost count of time. There were only the sounds from men working on the two new houses next door. She rose from where she sat on the fluffy white bathmat, stiff and aching, and unlocked the door.

She crept from the bedroom and along the short passage to the living room. Stumbling to the window she peered at the road. Jeremy’s car had gone.

She drew the curtains, made a coffee and sat in the living room watching television, feeling too ill to even knit.

She’d finished her third coffee when a vehicle drove into the carport.

It was sure to be Rufus. Hurrying into the kitchen, she was just in time to see him walk past the window, but she wasn’t quick enough. Before she could unlock the door, he rattled the doorknob, calling, “Are you there, Cecily?”

She unlocked it before he knocked again.

Rufus Loving’s brawny arms and chest filled the doorway. He’d been state heavyweight-lifting champion in his younger years. His coach tried to persuade him to enter the national championships, but he was too lazy to put in the training needed to propel him to the top.

He pulled the curtains aside from the window. “It’s like a morgue in here. Why was the door locked?”

“I had a visit from Jeremy Hepplewaite.” She bit her lip, feeling her bottom lip wobble.

He turned from the window. “Hepplewaite shouldn’t worry you that you had to lock the house?” He filled the kettle and switched it on.

His sarcastic tone annoyed her. “He asked me to sell drugs.” The shock on his face made her laugh. “I suppose he found I’d been in … you know. How would he know?”

“He’d make it his business. I’m surprised Hepplewaite is in the drug business. I’ve only seen him a few times around the clubs.”

“Do you know many people who deal in drugs?” She held her breath, afraid of his reply.

“You get to know who’s who.”

His mild answer relieved her. “He suggested you might be into drugs.”

His square face contorted with rage. “The bastard. I’ll kill him. What else did he say?” In his fury he could hardly get the words out.

She wished she hadn’t told him. “Nothing,” she stuttered.

He looked like he wanted to strangle someone. “I’ll see the bastard tomorrow morning.”

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