Authors: Nancy McGovern
Tags: #Cozy Mystery
A MURDER IN MILBURN
The Novellas, #2:
Death Under The Fireworks
Rights & Disclaimer
This is entirely a work of fiction. All people, places and events contained have been completely fabricated by the author. Any similarities to real people, places, or events are completely coincidental.
Death Under The Fireworks Copyright © 2016 Nancy McGovern
All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any manner or used in any way without advanced written permission by the author.
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This book is for my sister-in-law, Nanci, who’s birthday has made July 4
ever since we met 20 years ago!
Happy Birthday, Nanni!
It was 90 in the shade and, so far, it seemed to Nora that she was stranded alone on this island.
She’d been dropped off by a ferry ten minutes before and had trekked up to the main house, dragging her luggage behind her.
The island itself was rather gorgeous - a small, sausage shaped landmass floating in the Georgian Bay, surrounded by sparkling blue water, covered with trees, and lined with a golden shore. The house that had been built on top of the one hill on the island gave the island its name, Glass Lion Island.
A giant statue of a glass lion stood in front of the mansion, one paw raised in the air, mouth open to display fangs. It let off glints of light under the sun, causing Nora to squeeze her eyes as she stared at it.
For the fourth time she rang the doorbell, and was disappointed when nobody answered. A month ago, she had received an email that had bought her here. Katya, an old friend from her days working as a chef in NYC, had written to her.
Where are you? I haven’t heard from you in so long, I figured maybe you’ve gone into hibernation out there in Wyoming. Haha!
Anyway, I miss you, Nora! Remember the old days when we used to finish up a shift and trade each other stories about our worst customers?
These days, I’m starting a new venture, a yoga studio in Portland, where I live with my fiancé Petyr. Yes…fiancé! That’s what I’m writing to you about. I’m getting married, Nora! Can you believe it? Remember when I’d tell you with certainty that I was never going to find a man? Oh you kept telling me, “Someday, you’ll find the right man, and you’ll know he’s the one for you.” Not that I ever believed you! But here I am, engaged to a gorgeous blue eyed boy, and I’m fairly sure my lower jaw is going to fall off from all this smiling.
Nora, can I ask you a favor? A big favor? I know you were one of the best in the business.
My fiancé’s family is having a little getaway on their private island (oh my god, I can’t believe I wrote that with a straight face. I should be squealing). Anyway, they’re having this getaway for the fourth of July. Petyr’s father was in the army once upon a time, and obviously, this is a very big deal to them. It’s the first time I’m meeting them, so it’s a big deal to me too!
I’d love it if you could come… his dad would compensate you if you just cooked a couple of meals over the weekend, and you’d live in the house with the family. We haven’t spoken in years, but you were the best chef I knew. It’s a long shot, but let me know. I’ve attached the address below.
Needing a break from the little town of Milburn, Nora had jumped at the chance. Sure, she’d have loved to spend time kicking back at Harvey’s place and chatting with her friends, but after recent events, including a rather media-heavy murder investigation, she’d decided she needed the break. A weekend away from Milburn would be a chance to get her head straight.
Besides, earning some extra money for a weekend at a private island? That sounded like every girl’s dream come true! Also, Katya’s email reminded Nora of how close they had once been, and she missed her.
” she’d emailed back after only ten minutes. “
I’ll be there! Let’s get out the BBQ and light up some fireworks!”
Except here she was now, ringing the bell for the fifth time, with no one answering.
A heavy bark distracted her, and she turned around to find a large black dog running towards her, followed closely by two men dressed nearly identically in navy blue shorts and a white oxford button-down.
The dog rushed her, and Nora raised her hand, automatically dropping her purse to the floor. The dog jumped up on two feet, planting sloppy kisses on her face, while she tried to push it away.
“Monty! Bad boy! Down!” The larger of the men caught him by the collar and yanked him off. “I’m so sorry!” He said, steadying Nora. “Are you all right?”
She was a little out of breath as he smiled down at her. She’d seen men this handsome on movie screens before, but it was a different thing to see one in real life. He was tall, almost a head taller than the man next to him, and a good foot taller than her. Equally, he was broad, with muscles clearly outlined beneath his white oxford shirt. His long blond hair was done up in a man bun, with one strand dangling in front of his ocean blue eyes.
“My name’s Petyr,” he said, with a big smile. “You must be Nora? Katya told me all about you.”
Nora found herself unable to reply, as the dog leapt up again and began kissing her.
“Boy, Monty’s got some crush on you,” the second man said, yanking him down. “I’m Petyr’s brother. Johann Von Kyburg.”
His eyes were on her, and a vague smirk on his handsome face, as if he expected her to immediately be interested in him. He looked very similar to his brother, though his jawline was weaker, and his hairline definitely receding. Still, he carried himself with the air of someone used to women falling all over themselves to get to him.
“Um…” Nora attempted again, only to be interrupted this time by the crash of trees, as a woman sped towards her.
Katya hadn’t changed a bit, Nora thought, feeling a big smile erupt on her face. The same cute pixie nose, the same big black doe eyes, and that slight innocence…
Although… what was it? There was something haunted about her. Something not quite right.
“I missed you so much!” Katya said, enveloping her in a hug. “I’ve been waiting forever to see you again! I’m so sorry I forgot what time you were coming. We went mushroom hunting and completely lost track of the time.” She chattered on non-stop, opening the door as she spoke. “Oh, we’ll get you to your room and then maybe we can all go for a swim. You do swim, don’t you? I didn’t think to tell you to get your suit along, but I have extra of course. Though I think you’re a little too tall to fit into mine.”
“Let her breathe, Katherine,” a deep voice said.
There was humor in that voice, and just a vague hint of sarcasm. Immediately, Katherine reacted much as the dog had, stepping back as if she’d been pulled off Nora.
Two women and a man had emerged from the thicket. The man had a shark-like smile, covering most of his face, and never reaching his eyes. His eyes, which were now on Nora, were the same blue as his son’s. But while Petyr had warmth in them, these eyes were cold as ice.
“Let me introduce you around, since Katherine’s forgotten,” he said. “I’m her soon-to-be father. Reynold Von Kyburg. Pleased to meet you. This is my lovely wife Maria, and my daughter-in-law Lila.”
“Pleased to meet you.”
Nora smiled awkwardly at everyone, wondering what they thought of her. Was she there as the chef, and so below their notice, or as a guest of Katya’s? Lila’s eyes flicked up and down, over Nora’s frayed Adidas sneakers, her simple grey t-shirt and blue jeans outfit, and the inexpensive leather purse that flopped at her feet.
The mother Maria walked up to Johann and handed him the basket in her hand.
“You forgot this when you came running,” she said.
“Oh, yes, of course. Thank you, mother.”
He smiled as he took it from her, but his eyes lingered a second longer on Nora.
“Let’s go inside, I can show you to your room,”
Katya said. “We’ve got so much catching up to do.”
“You should both change for dinner. We should all change, actually. We’re filthy, the lot of us.”
“I’m fine.” Petyr smiled.
“That was an order, not a request,” Reynold said. “Of course, Nora’s cooking, isn’t she?”
“She is, yes,” Katya said, still sounding wary.
going to have a Michelin rated chef come over,” Reynold said with a smile. “But Katya absolutely
on having you instead.”
“I see.” Nora smiled, “I appreciate that. I hope that my humble American fare tastes just as good.”
“I suppose supporting my son’s… whims is the least we can do,” Reynold said, again with the shark-like smile. “And of course we’ll appreciate some good all-American food.”
Clearing his throat, Petyr stepped forward and put one muscular arm around Katya’s shoulders. He dropped his head down to her brown hair, and gave her a kiss on top of her head.
“Enjoy yourself, darling,” he said.
He looked up again at his father, almost as if he were challenging him.
Reynold, clearly bored, walked into the house, saying in a loud voice, “It’s so
Maria. Are you sure the central cooling isn’t broken? After what we’ve paid for this house...”
Nora could tell they’d paid a lot for it. The house was magnificent, really. A huge kinetic chandelier dropped down from the central dome. Opening and closing its crystal petals, the faux-flower bloomed, giving off a pleasant yellow light. Underneath, the floor was tiled with what looked like pure Italian marble, and mahogany panelling covered the walls surrounding it.
Upstairs, the guest bedroom she was led into had a luxurious furry carpet all across the floor, at the centre of which stood a huge four poster bed, with velvet curtains hanging down from it. Surrounding it were an enameled nightstand and a chair that looked as if it came from Louis XVI’s personal stores.
“Wow,” was all Nora could manage.
“It’s a bit intimidating isn’t it?” Katya smiled. “Especially for you and me, after staying in rat-infested apartments with grand views of the sewage pipes next door.”
She laughed and threw open the windows, letting in sunshine. Nora let out another gasp as she saw the island gently sloping below her, with the glittering sea at the end.
“It’s a pretty house,” Katya said again.
Nora whipped around. There was something… something in Katya’s voice again.
“How have you been?” Nora asked, her voice warm.
She’d known Katya for only two years, but those had been her battle years, years of working 18 hour shifts each day, years of not having enough money to make it through the next week. She had once survived on two packets of ramen a day, and Katya, who had sensed her need, had begun bringing two portions of lunch and sharing them with Nora, without asking for anything back, or even indicating that she’d noticed. For this, Nora was always in her debt. Time and distance had made them drift apart, but being with her now, it was easy to slip back into the same friendship they’d had.