Table of Contents
OTHER BOOKS IN THE
MURDER, SHE WROTE
Manhattans & Murder
Rum & Razors
Brandy & Bullets
Martinis & Mayhem
A Deadly Judgment
A Palette for Murder
The Highland Fling Murders
Murder on the
Murder in Moscow
A Little Yuletide Murder
Murder at the Powderhorn Ranch
Knock ’Em Dead
Gin & Daggers
Trick or Treachery
Blood on the Vine
Murder in a Minor Key
Provence—To Die For
You Bet Your Life
Majoring in Murder
Dying to Retire
A Vote for Murder
The Maine Mutiny
Margaritas & Murder
A Question of Murder
Coffee, Tea, or Murder?
Three Strikes and You’re Dead
Panning for Murder
Murder on Parade
A Slaying in Savannah
Madison Avenue Shoot
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, October 2009
Copyright © 2009 Universal Studios Licensing LLLP.
Murder, She Wrote
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Bain, Donald, 1935-
A fatal feast: a murder, she wrote mystery: a novel/by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain. p. cm.
“An Obsidian mystery.”
“Based on the Universal television series created by Peter S. Fischer,
Richard Levinson & William Link.”
eISBN : 978-1-101-14071-0
1. Fletcher, Jessica (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Women novelists—Fiction. 3. Thanksgiving Day—Fiction. 4. Maine—Fiction. I. Bain, Donald. II. Murder, she wrote (Television program)
Set in Minion
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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With gratitude to Angela Lansbury for having given life to the wonderful character of Jessica Fletcher.
ornin’, Mrs. Fletcher.”
“Good morning, Newt. Lovely day.”
“That it is. Pleasure to be out on a day like this.”
He pulled a sheaf of mail from his bag and handed it to me. “Seems like you got quite a lot today.”
“I’m not certain that’s a good thing,” I said, sifting through the envelopes. “Depends on what’s in them.”
“S’pose that’s true. Mebbe somethin’s there can help uncatch that there typewriter of yours.”
My face reflected my surprise. “You know about that, Newt?”
He looked contrite. “Didn’t know it was a secret,” he said, “the way folks are talkin’ in town. Well, better keep to m’rounds. You have yourself a good day, Mrs. Fletcher, and good luck finishin’ that book.”
As he turned to walk away, we both looked across the street to where a man stood.
“Do you know him, Newt?” I asked.
“No, I wouldn’t say I know him, but I know who he is. Name’s Billups. Hubert Billups.”
“He must be new in town,” I said. “I’d never seen him before last week.”
Hubert Billups had a long, scraggly red beard. He was like a statue, arms crossed over his chest, eyes focused down the road, although I’d caught him staring at me several times. It was an unseasonably warm day for mid-November, yet he was dressed in a red-and-black wool mackinaw, scarf, black wool cap, and heavy boots, the same outfit I’d seen him in on most days the past week as he stationed himself on the side of the road across from my house.
“You okay, Mrs. Fletcher?” Newt asked, taking note of my concerned expression.
“What? Oh, yes, Newt, I’m fine.”
“He’s from away, come up heah about a month ago, or so I’m told,” my mailman said. “He’s livin’ in that rooming house over behind the industrial plant. Somebody said he was a cook once, only you can’t prove it by me. Strange-lookin’ fella, doncha think? I see him around town now and then, just sittin’ on a bench or inside one of the buildings when it rains. Just sits and stares. Probably tetched or mebbe a rumdum, if you ask me. Well, you take care, Mrs. Fletcher. I hear that friend o’ yours from overseas is comin’ for Thanksgiving. That must give you somethin’ t’look forward to.”
The Cabot Cove rumor mill was operating in high gear.
I sighed. “Yes. I am looking forward to it. Thanks for the mail, Newt. Best to your family.”
I returned to the house, where I settled in my study and plopped the letters, catalogues, and other mail on my desk. I swiveled in my chair and looked at the words on my computer screen. Those same words had been there for two days; seeing them caused a knot in my stomach.
Newt had been right. I’d recently suffered a rare case of writer’s block on my latest mystery novel, whose deadline was coming up fast, December 15 to be precise. I’ve always prided myself on meeting publishing deadlines. I know other writers who consider deadlines set by their publishers to be arbitrary, at best. I’ve never felt that way. For me, meeting deadlines is a sign of professionalism in any line of work, and above all I like to consider myself exactly that, a professional.
But unless I broke through this bout of inertia, my track record of always delivering on time was about to be broken. While I readily took responsibility for having lagged behind in my writing, other external forces had also played a part.
It was a little more than a week until Thanksgiving, which naturally meant a flurry of activity having nothing to do with mystery novels or any other form of professional writing. I’d agreed to host Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year, although Sheriff Mort Metzger’s wife, Maureen, an enthusiastic if unseasoned cook, offered to help me with meal preparation. There would be nine of us at the dinner table, including—as the town obviously knew, based upon Newt’s comment—my dear Scottish friend from London, Scotland Yard inspector George Sutherland. I didn’t harbor any illusions that the number of guests would remain at nine. In past years, there were always a few last-minute additions to the dinner table, which was fine with me. With a few extra leaves, my table can squeeze in fourteen.
George and I hadn’t seen each other in many months and I was delighted when he accepted, albeit at the last minute, my invitation to experience a traditional American Thanksgiving holiday in Cabot Cove. I wanted it to be special for him and intended to go all out in serving up a splendid meal, along with the requisite warm feelings that always accompany it.
I looked at the computer screen again and winced.
When will I find time to finish the book?
There were other distractions that kept me from my writing.
Each year, the town held a Thanksgiving pageant to re-create the holiday’s earliest celebrations in America. I’d written much of this year’s script, and had devoted far too much time to collaborating with my pageant cowriters, not to mention attending rehearsals and watching our joint effort blossom into a full-fledged production. In addition, I was also doing what I did every year at this time, helping out at the local senior center, where we serve a Thanksgiving spread for the town’s less fortunate.
No wonder I was blocked. I’ve often been accused of biting off more than I can chew, no pun intended, and this year gave validity to that charge.
I went to my front window and parted the curtains. Mr. Billups was still there, his pose never changing. When he spotted me, he turned his head, gazing off in the distance down the road. I had the same unsettled feeling I’d suffered for the past week, ever since he’d begun loitering there, not every day but often enough to make it obvious that it wasn’t by chance that he’d chosen that spot. I’d waved to him a few times when leaving the house but received nothing in return, just a hard stare.