Death Takes a HolidayBy: Elisabeth Crabtree
(A Grace Holliday Cozy Mystery)
New Year’s Eve
“Is he dead?” Robert Kirby’s calm brown eyes sought out Steve Mattingly. It was a simple request. Not the painful raw entreaty one expects from a grieving son, but a simple direct request for information.
Shrugging, Steve knelt down next to Victor Kirby’s body lying on the floor of his opulent master bedroom. He felt along the old man’s neck, unnerved by the unblinking brown eyes that continued to stare passed his shoulder.
No pulse. Not even a flutter.
Standing, Steve threw a brief questioning glance at Asa Wellington, his employer—former employer, Steve amended sadly to himself.
Feeling his face burn, Steve quickly looked down at his feet. He backed up until he was standing against the wall, wincing when the movement caused his shoulder to throb painfully. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Michaels take a step toward him. He gently shook his head and waited for Wellington to take over. To his surprise, the old detective seemed to be in no rush to begin.
Casually dropping the brocade curtain he had been inspecting, Wellington slowly strolled toward the body, stopping periodically to stare at a piece of furniture or a speck of lint on the carpet. He had just begun to examine the inhaler lying next to the body when the deceased’s nephew, Jack, reached out and grabbed his arm. Wellington looked at the young man expectantly.
“I’m sorry. So sorry,” Jack said in a rush before shaking his head and running out of the room.
Wellington stared after him for a moment before finally walking the rest of the way to the lifeless body lying on the floor. Victor’s wife and two sons crowded around him as he did the perfunctory checks for life. “I’m afraid he is, Mr. Kirby. And has been for at least a couple of hours I would guess.” The deep timbre of his voice vibrated through the room.
Robert Kirby nodded once before giving his stepmother an accusatory look.
“Michaels,” Wellington said, “call the authorities.”
Michaels pulled out a cell phone and walked out of the room.
“Who killed him?” Felicity asked breathlessly.
Asa Wellington sat back on his heels and considered the newly widowed woman carefully. “What makes you think he was murdered?”
Felicity’s heavily made-up lids blinked furiously as she glanced from her two stepsons to the detective kneeling next to her husband’s body. “Well, I just thought—”
“Thought what, Felicity?” Robert asked coolly.
Felicity’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean by that?”
“What do you think I mean?” Robert snapped.
“I don’t know why you’re looking at me like that,” Felicity said. “I certainly didn’t kill him. I’m the one who almost died a few days ago in that fire. I’m the one who’s in danger.”
Robert pointed to his father’s body. “Then why is he the one on the floor?”
Felicity smiled sweetly. “Because everyone, including you, hated him.”
“Some of us more than others,” Robert countered.
“Knock it off, Robbie,” Lucas Kirby said testily as he crawled onto his father’s king-sized bed. Lying on his stomach, he looked over the edge of the bed and stared at his father’s body dispassionately. “Step-mummy’s only saying what we’re all thinking.”
Felicity glared at her stepson. “Would you please stop calling me that?”
Smiling, Lucas rolled over and propped himself against the headboard. “So, which one of you did it?”
“Us?” Felicity sputtered. “If it was anyone it was you.”
Lucas grinned. “Why would I kill him?”
Felicity gestured toward the hallway. “For your fiancée.” Placing her hands on her hips, she walked past the broken door barely hanging on its hinges. “Parker,” she shrieked at the top of her lungs. “Get in here!” She glanced over her shoulder and back at Lucas. “For your inheritance, Lucas. We all know how much you need the money.” She walked the rest of the way into the hallway, her high-heel shoes clicking against the marble floor. “Parker, come in here right now!”