Murder on the Cliffs

Free Murder on the Cliffs by Joanna Challis

Book: Murder on the Cliffs by Joanna Challis Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joanna Challis
she—”
    “Disapproves.”
    “Disapproves?” I croaked. “I’m sure she
loathes
it!”
    “There’s the writer speakin’,” Ewe raised her eyes to heaven. “And I am not sure I approve of you wrappin’ yourself up in this no- good affair. What good shall it lead you to?”
    “It fascinates me,” I said, to which Ewe sighed long and hard.
    I couldn’t wait to escape the house.
    Her words accompanied me out the door, through the cottage gate, and down the lane. I hastened toward the beach. I’d go to the abbey afterward, I decided, but first, a morbid curiosity compelled me to revisit the murder scene.
    As I walked, I imagined myself the beauteous Victoria, about to marry the handsome Lord David. She must have been ecstatic with her good fortune. Why had she slipped out for a midnight walk? Couldn’t she sleep? Did she often stroll along the beach in the moonlight? Had she been alone?
    Or maybe there was a simpler explanation. Suicide. I had difficulty believing it. Why would a young woman who had everything: beauty, a handsome fiancé, and a full life ahead of her kill herself? It didn’t make sense.
    As I pictured her wandering the shores bathed in the moonlight, I remembered doing something similar once on a Greek island. Granted, I had worn a shawl over my nightgown and took shoes, for the rocks were sharp.
The rocks were sharp.
Victoria had not been wearing shoes when we found her body!
    If she’d gone for a walk or intended to go for a late- night swim, wouldn’t she have removed her shoes somewhere along the beach? And why would she have gone swimming in her nightgown?
    Why had Lady Hartley been quick to point out Victoria’s love of swimming? She did not approve of Victoria Bastion, a former servant in the house, but would she commit murder? And what did Lianne fear? What did she know about Victoria’s demise?
    Images of the dead girl in her cream satin nightdress filled my mind. I saw her there, on the cliff, staring down, down . . .
    I closed my eyes.
    I pictured an aggressor, sneaking up behind her, pushing her over.
    My feet took the path to Padthaway, a foolish expedition as I had no business being there. Pity I hadn’t thought to leave behind a glove. Mrs. Trehearn answered the door. “Miss du Maurier.” Astonishment, the briefest kind, shadowed her stony face. “Are you here to see . . . ?”
    “Miss Lianne Hartley,” I smiled. “May I come in?”
    I pushed my way into the house, for she didn’t seem eager to permit me entry.
    Mrs. Trehearn proved a reluctant escort to Miss Lianne’s chamber.
    Severe displeasure clipped her mouth as she informed Lianne of my arrival.
    “Oh, Daphne! How wonderful of you to visit me. Mrs. Trehearn,” she giggled, sweeping me inside her sanctuary, “probably thought you came down the chimney!”
    I asked why she thought this so.
    “No one visits us, and I mean
no one
. You can’t count Sir Edward or Vicar Nortby as visitors. I don’t know why. When we’re in town,
everyone
visits, but here . . .”
    She directed her troubled gaze out her bedroom window. “I suspect it’s because of Papa’s death.”
    “Your father? When did he die?”
    “Many years ago.”
    I nodded. Her room, I noticed, faced the old tower. The highest and remotest part of the house, the attic suited her eccentricity— open wood- beam ceilings, creaky floors, random old trunks stacked in varying corners, an eighteenth- century doll house, a Thonet rocking chair, a Victorian tea suite by the double- glazed full windows, and a modest collection of white semi- modern furniture all adorned a vast area of oddly slanted proportions.
    White and lavender were her colors. They gleamed everywhere, from the sprigged lavender bed- quilt to the oil painting of a heather field on the wall.
    A tiny smile played on her lips. “So, you came. I’m glad. Did you see Mummy? What did Mummy say to you?”
    “I didn’t see her,” I replied, recognizing her mother’s control over her.

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