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Prevention: Chapter Eight (Conclusion)

 
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:58 pm    Post subject: Prevention: Chapter Eight (Conclusion) Reply with quote

Strong language present

Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure-old saying

Book One: The Garden Party
Chapter One



Vera King bolted out of the airport, tucked her small suitcase under her arm, stuck her thumb and index finger between her lips and whistled sharply. “Taxi!” She yelled, and waved at the yellow car. It ignored her, and sped past, despite clearly being empty.

“Bastard.” She muttered, and checked her watch for the tenth time in as many minutes. She groaned, and stepped cautiously out into the street to to see if any others were nearby. Salvation! Another Taxi was pulling to a stop at the corner. She dashed towards it, cursing the whole Transatlantic airline for delaying her flight. Less than a yard away from the car, Vera tripped, breaking the heel of her shoe and tumbling ungracefully to the ground.

“Ohff!” she exclaimed, the impact knocking the wind out of her and sending her suitcase skittering down the sidewalk. The Taxi pulled away slowly, like a curtain lowering on a tragedy. Vera rested her head on the pavement, fighting the urge to cry.

“Are you alright miss?” She heard someone say. She looked up, and saw striking man in a flawless suit staring down at her. She blushed with embarrassment and sat up.

“I think I'll live.” She said, and accepted his offered hand. As she stood up, The man suddenly looked at her with a peculiar expression.

“Verity?” he said slowly.

Startled, Vera dropped the man's hand. “Excuse me?” She asked.

“Vera King,” he proceeded with more confidence. “It's me, Oliver Bradly. Laura's friend. From Greenfield High.”

Vera looked at the man closely. A smile broke over her face. “Bradly? Wow! How are you? I'm surprised you remember me. It's been what, fifteen years?”

“Fourteen.” Oliver said, laughing at Vera rush of speech.“And of course I remember you. You haven't changed a bit.”

Vera's smile faded ever so little. She stooped down to pick up her suitcase, then regarded him carefully “Really? I haven't? But we only saw each other a half a dozen times.”

Oliver nodded. “Yeah, every year at Laura's birthday party. You were the only redheaded cousin she had.”

“Well, it really is great to see you.” Vera said, and offered her hand. Oliver offered his left, causing an awkward moment. “Of course,” Vera said, switching her suitcase to her other arm, “I forgot you were left-handed.”

Oliver made a dismissive gesture. “Everyone forgets, don't worry. So, would you like a ride or not?”

Again, Oliver had startled her. “Excuse me?”

He grinned. “You seem to be having trouble getting a cab.”

Vera blushed again. “Yes, but, you don't know where I'm going.”

“I'm willing to bet you're in town for the same reason I am: The Cuthburt's Anniversary party.”

“Laura's grandparents invited you? I didn't think they knew you.”

Oliver shrugged. “They don't. Laura invited me. It stands to reason if she invited a classmate she hasn't seen in ages, she'd invite extended family. And here you are, getting off the same flight, less than an hour before the party begins. It's not a difficult deduction.”

“Impressive. You sound like a detective.”

“It's a side-effect of being one.”

Vera's eyebrows arched. “Really?” she scanned his appearance critically. “You're a detective?”

“Yep. Private variety. Sordid domestic affairs and the occasional nut who wants me to find Elvis.”

“How, um, thrilling.”

“It's a paycheck. Most of the time. Anyway, you never answered my question. Do you want a ride? I rented a car for the day.”

Vera wrinkled her forehead. “Are you sure it wouldn't be any trouble?”

Twenty Minutes Later...

As the car sped down the road, Vera attempted to correct her scuffed-up appearance.

“In case I didn't say it before, I really appreciate you coming to my rescue like this.”

Oliver flashed a winning smile. “Always happy to aid a damsel in distress. Especially such a pretty one.”

Vera glanced at him sideways. “So, how are Peggy and the kids?”

“Peggy and the what?” he asked, puzzled.

“I heard form Laura that you up and married the prom queen a while back.”

“Oh, you mean Margaret. She hasn't gone by Peggy for years.”

“Oh. You've got two kids, right?”

“Yes, two kids.”

“What were their names again?”

“Chris and Adrian.”

“Nice to have a boy and a girl, isn't it?”

“Oh, wonderful. It's just what we wanted.”

Vera smiled to herself. “Are you alright?”

“Hmm? Yes, of course.”

“You seem a little tense, and you just drove right past the Cuthburt's house.”

“Did I?” Oliver said distractedly. “Could you point it out? I've never been there before.”

Vera complied, and a few minutes later they pulled into a cobblestone driveway. The Cuthburt's house was one of those large, Victorian homes that made guests expect to see horses everywhere. A tent stood cheerfully on the large green lawn, with several people setting up chairs and tables. Oliver pulled the car next to a row of others, and switched it off.

“Oliver.” Vera said softly.

“What?”

“We're about to go in there, and face Laura's entire family. Don't you think it would be better if you dropped this charade now?”

Oliver's eyes widened. “How did you...?” he began, but didn't finish the sentence. He sighed, then started over again. “I don't know how you picked up on it, but I'll confess. Things with me and Margaret aren't great right now. She's at her mother's with the kids.”

“I see.” Vera said. But she still had a smile on her face. The pair exited the car and headed up the long driveway to the house.

“Not that it matters,” Oliver said after an awkward silence. “But how did you know?”

“I'm a psychologist.” Vera responded. “People are sort of my job.”

“Really? Laura didn't mention that you were a shrink.”

“I'm not, I'm a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. My field is research, but I stay current on all the clinical applications.”

“In that case, I suppose I can trust you to be discreet?”

“Don't worry about it. I'm used to keeping secrets.”

They reached the front door, and Vera knocked loudly. A moment later, a petite blonde woman in a blue dress opened the door. Her face immediately burst into sunshine.

“Vera!” She cried, throwing her arms around her. “It's so good to see you. And-”

She halted, a puzzled expression taking over her face when she looked at Oliver. He smiled helpfully

“Hello Laura. Greenfield High.” He prompted. “Most likely to run away and join the circus.”

“Oliver?” Laura responded. Is that really you? How wonderful! Come in, come in. Grammy and Gramps ran to the store to get some things for the party. They'll be delighted to finally meet you.”

Laura insisted on showing her childhood friend all over the house. Vera pulled herself away, and shut herself in the bathroom. She took out her cellphone, and did a quick search for Oliver's name. Sure enough, a private detective agency popped up. She dialed the number, and a crisp, feminine voice answered.

“Bradly & Morris, private investigators; this is Jane speaking.”

“Hello, is Mr. Bradly in?”

“Oh no, he's taken the weekend off. He should be back on Monday. Shall I connect you to Mrs. Morris?”

“No, I need to speak with Mr. Bradly, could you tell me where I could reach him?”

“I'm afraid that's confidential.” Jane replied, with a mild note of shock in her voice. “Who shall I tell him called?”

Vera simply hung up on her. An odd smile crossed her face.

“Very clever,” she said to herself. “This should be interesting.”
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Check out Legacy, my primary story in progress, or Prevention, an inverted mystery.

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Last edited by PaperSwan on Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:26 pm; edited 9 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A sharp quick pace, which I enjoy, and it's left me in proper confusion... for the moment. I wasn't quite sure what Vera was thinking what was clever of Oliver when she picked up on something from Oliver's secretary. But I suspect I'l understand that later. Smile Next please?
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 9:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

She was most likely picking up on the fact that Oliver wasn't invited at all. Otherwise why would Laura have failed to recognize him? She's kept contact with him enough to invite him you'd think she knows what he looks and sounds like.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm very much intrigued by this story...more, more!!
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys. I'm going to edit the mistakes out of this one, and try and add the next chapter by tomorrow. Also, just fyi, since this is a mystery, I will not be answering any speculations Wink Feel free to do so, though Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Strong language present

Chapter Two

The moment Vera exited the bathroom, the front door creaked open. An elderly couple shuffled in, each carrying an armload of plastic bags. The old woman was attired in a simple black dress, with her snowy hair swept up neatly in a bun.

“Mind the step Harold,” she said in a clear, firm voice. “It wouldn't do to crack your head open right before the party.”

“I see the damn step, Franny!” Harold, a short bald man made entirely of wrinkles, snapped back at his wife. “I'm not blind you know.”

Harold promptly tripped, sending a cloud of napkins and paper plates flying across the foyer. “I told you, you silly man.” Franny muttered quietly. Vera quickly stepped forward.

“Mr. Cuthburt! Let me help you.”

“Oh, thank you,” Harold said, staggering to his feet. “Got the wind knocked clean out of-” He stopped abruptly, and squinted at Vera.

“You're not one of the grand-kids.” he declared. “What the hell are you doing in my house?!”

Before Vera could reply, Franny placed a hand on Harold's shoulder and spoke into his ear. “This is Verity, dear.” she said, raising her voice a little. “Mathew's niece.”

Harold looked at his wife as if she'd sprouted a second head. “Who?” He demanded.

“Matt, Sandy's husband. Laura and Leroy's father.”

“Oh, him.” Harold said, relaxing now that the puzzle was solved. “I never can remember his name.”

“Well, he has only been your son in-law for 41 years.” Franny answered, then turned her attention to Vera. “Hello dear, how are your parents?”

“Fine, thank you. Do you need a hand with anything?”

“Oh, no. Harold and I have plenty of help, you just make yourself at home.”

Vera wandered through the house, searching for Laura and Oliver. She found them in the library. Despite the fact the furniture was modern, and half the bookshelves were devoted to photos and decorations instead of books, the large fireplace, tall windows, and piano in the corner still made the room feel like a scene in a play. Laura was in the middle of a sentence when Vera entered.

“...never agreed to sell it.”

“I was wondering where you got to.” Vera interjected. Laura turned and motioned for Vera to approach.

“I just had to show Oliver our pride and joy, considering it's his first visit here.” She said. “You remember Grammy's painting?”

“Oh, yes.” Vera replied. “How could I forget?”

Laura referred to the large painting over the fireplace. It depicted dilapidated lighthouse on on ocean cliff at sunset, overlooking a fishing boat sinking into troubled waters. Apart from the breathtaking detail of scene, looking at it tended to give the observer a curious feeling, like they were being told a secret.

“When Laura told me her grandparent's owned an original Draighton, I didn't quite believe her,” Oliver stated. “I just had to see it for myself.”

Laura nodded. “I was just telling him that Grammy refused to sell it, because of Draighton leaving it to her grandfather. Apparently they were college friends.”

“That's amazing!” Oliver exclaimed.

“Isn't it? It was the only thing Grammy brought to this house when her and grandpa were married. His family didn't accept her right away, because they had so much more money than hers. She wanted to prove she wasn't a gold-digger.”

Oliver looked closer at the painting. “Did it work?” He asked.

Laura smiled. “Well, indirectly. They were horrible to her. She finally got so mad that she made a will that said if she outlived Gramps, anything she had when she died would go to charity, except the painting. Sure enough, they all started cozying up to her after that, because they all knew it was valuable. Whatever they thought she was, they were far worse.”

Oliver laughed. “I think I like your Grandmother a lot. Smart woman. Still, it's a very depressing painting, even for a Draighton.”

Vera and Laura exchanged a quick glance. Vera smirked, and shook her head almost imperceptibly.

“We should probably get ready for the party.” Vera stated. “Laura, you wouldn't happen to have a shirt I could borrow?”

“Of course, why?”

Vera twisted arm around and showed a tear in her sleeve. “I fell like the klutz I am earlier and split it.”

“Ouch! I'm sure I've got something upstairs. We'll see you in a bit, Oliver.”

Oliver smiled, and nodded to acknowledge their departure. After they left, he remained in the room, staring at the painting.

“Nearly forty guests,” he said to himself. “And one thief. This wont be easy.”
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ta-aha! I must figure out how Oliver knows there's a thief coming in... Paper, if I see you in the Inn, prepare to have your brain picked, poked and prodded for answers. Smile You don't have to answer, but it won't stop me from asking, muahaha!!!
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

this is really really awesome!! I love it!! Very Happy I'm intrigued by the painting...it seems so...I don't even know...mysterious isn't the word I'm looking for...but the line about looking at it and feeling like you were being told a secret...I LOVED that imagery...makes me want to see the painting myself. =) Keep it up!
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Three


The house was beginning to fill up with people by now; the pair had to squeeze through several noisy crowds of siblings, spouses, and friends, all chattering at once:

“Is this your new baby?! How adorable!” “It really has been far to long sweetie.” “You're so tall now! I hardly recognize you.” “Are you finished with your degree yet?” “So, when are you two getting married?”

The confusion of happy greetings was interrupted periodically by some emergency about party arrangements. It took the pair a valiant effort to push through to the stairs and up to a spare room.

“Here we are.” Laura said, herding her cousin into a cozy room with blue wallpaper and a window seat. “I should have something for you to wear.”

“Thanks,” Vera replied. “Something with long sleeves if you have it.”

“Long sleeves?” Laura asked. “It's got to be eighty degrees outside!”

“I don't mind the heat.”

Laura sighed and shook her head. “Alright. How you went from being the biggest goth in high school to being so obsessively modest, I'll never know.”

“People change.” Vera answered quietly. “Would you happen to have a bandage too? I didn't notice before, but I must have scrapped my arm when I fell.”

“Try the bathroom.” Lara said waving towards a pocket door off to the side. Vera had no trouble finding the box of ban-aids in the medicine cabinet. It was practically empty except fro cough syrup and toothpaste. After fixing up her arm, Laura handed her a dark blue shirt that fit her demands for long sleeves.

“I still think you'll sweat to death.” she said

“No, it's perfect.” Vera replied, “wait while I try it on. Vera shut the bathroom door and changed quickly, then walked out and twirled around for Laura to see. “What do you think?”

“The color's nice on you, it sets off your hair. I'm so glad you stopped dying it that horrible black color.”

“I haven't done that since sophomore year in college.” Vera laughed. “I think I burned all the pictures too.”

“Pity. We could've had a good laugh over them. We'd better get downstairs though, they're going to start soon.”

Most of the family and other guests had emptied out onto the lawn. Small tables full of finger-sandwiches, cheese, and fresh fruit were scattered around the seating area under the tent. Along the edge stood a single table decorated with colorful bottles of wine and other drinks. Some joker and hung a hand-written sign to the table stating: “Please drink irresponsibly”. In the corner, an area was marked off as a small dance floor. A man was sitting on a chair next to it wrestling with a laptop.

“Laura,” Vera said, surprised, “is that..”

“Hunter Brookes? Yes. He's been seeing Harriet for, oh, a while now.”

“Really?” Vera asked, eye's widening a little. “Are you okay with that?”

Laura laughed. “Of course. We only dated for about two months. It was never serious. He met Harriet by pure coincidence a couple of years ago. We're all fine with it.”

Swing music suddenly blasted out of a series of speakers, startling the crowd.

“I got it!” Hunter shouted. Several people clapped, and moved towards the dance floor. Franny sidled up to them and whispered in Laura's ear. Vera only caught a part of her sentence:

“...Won't take them. Could you?”

Laura nodded, and left abruptly with her Grand mother. Vera stood by herself in the family gathering, feeling out of place. She watched Hunter and Harriet dance together, each staring at the other like they were made out of gold. Just on the edge of the dance floor, Vera spied Joe, Laura's uncle. He was standing next to his wife, Lucy, who was sitting in a folding chair with her back to him. He leaned down and said something in her ear. Lucy looked at him and shook her head firmly. He said something else Vera couldn't hear, and tilted his head towards the dance floor while reaching for Lucy's hand. Lucy pulled her hand away sharply and glared at him. At that moment, Oliver walked up next to her.

“Nice music.” he said

“I was wondering where you got to.” Vera replied.

“Oh, just wandering. You don't look like you're enjoying the party.”

“I might be crazy, but I think something might be-”

The door to the house slammed behind them, interrupting Vera's thought. The pair turned and saw Laura stalking at them, her arms crossed. A second later, Harold and Franny exited the same door and shuffled towards the tent.

“Laura?” Oliver asked. “Are you okay?”

Laura simply shook her head and wouldn't look at him.

“Here they come!” Someone in the crowd shouted, directing attention to the elderly couple. Everyone started clapping. Harold motioned impatiently for everyone to settle down.

“Alright, don't wake the dead. And turn that racket down!”

There was some suppressed laughter, and Hunter quickly shut off the music. The patriarch of the family continued.

“I'm happy to welcome my family, and all you freeloaders,” he paused, waiting for the laugh before continuing “to Franny and me's Anniversary.”

“Seventy-Two years.” Franny chimed in, prompting another round of clapping. “We're very proud of our children,” she continued, “who all have fine families of their own. Our oldest, Sandy, with her husband Matt, and their kids Laura and Leroy.”

Sandy and Matt stood up and waved.

“Then there is our lovely daughter Lucy, who's been happily married to Joseph for over forty years.”

“I'd be a lot happier if he didn't snore like a sawmill!” Lucy interjected. The group burst out laughing.

“And then.” Harold said, raising his voice to get everyone's attention. “There's our son Henry. We lost his poor Alice too soon, but she blessed us with Harriet Who, if I'm not mistaken, has an announcement.”

A murmur ripple through the crowd. Harriet and Hunter stepped forward, each hugging Harold and Franny.

“As you all know” Harriet said. “Hunter and I have been together for a couple of years now. Well, we've decided to stop dating.”

A hush fell over the family. Laura put her head in her hands. “No, not now.” she whispered.

After the dramatic pause. Harriet Grabbed Hunter's hand and let a smile take over her face. “Because we're getting married!” She yelled.

The tent exploded into cheers and clapping. The whole crowd rushed forward to congratulate the happy couple. The next two hours were filled with drinks, dancing and laughter. Harold and Franny's children hovered around them, insisting that they relax and let them do everything for them. The other assorted family members and guests cracked jokes and caught up on each other's lives. Vera lost sight of Laura in the hubbub, and wandered over to the drink table. Oliver found her just as she was finishing off a glass of champagne.

“Hey, have you seen Laura anywhere, I can't find here.” he said

“I think she abandoned us. She probably...” Vera trailed off, never finishing the sentence. Instead she mustered up a smile and started over. “So, Mr. Bradly would you like to dance?”

“I thought you'd never ask.”

In keeping with the theme of the party, the music had progressed from the swing of Harold and Franny's youth to the music of the sixties. As Oliver and Vera entered the dance floor, Dusty Springfield was singing mournfully:

You don't have to say you love me, just be close at hand.
You don't have to stay forever, I will understand.
Believe me, believe me, I can't help but love you...

Several minutes later Vera snapped out of a trance.

“What, did you say something Oliver?”

“Yes. I asked what was wrong.”

Vera glanced over at the Cuthburts, the were laughing like they hadn't a care in the world and holding hands. “I was just thinking.” She said slowly “I hit me that I'm barely related to these people.”

“Does that matter?”

“This is a family party. A very important one, but I hardly know a soul. It's very isolating.”

“You know me.”

Vera frowned, and looked at Oliver as if seeing him for the first time. “Yes, I suppose I do. Why do you remember me?”

“What?”

“At the airport, you took one look at me and knew who I was. No one ever remembers me. I'm very forgettable. But you, Oliver Bradley, who I hardly spoke two words to, remember me. Why?”

Oliver was quiet for a moment, searching for something to say. Before he could find it Vera spoke again.

“Listen, can I talk to you? Alone? It's important.”

“Of course.”

Vera practically dragged Oliver off the dance floor. She stopped at the drink table and grabbed another glass, downing it in one gulp.

“Easy there!” Oliver exclaimed. “How many of those have you had?”

“Not Enough. I'm going to need all my courage for this.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I'll tell you inside.”

The pair entered the house. They started to round the corner to the living room, but Vera suddenly stopped and pulled Oliver back. She pressed her finger to her lips and cocked her head to the side to tell him to listen. Someone was shouting. It was Laura.

“You knew about this for months.” she was saying, her voice heavy with anger and tears. “And you didn't bother to tell me. How could you, Harriet?”

“Laura, honey, I-” Harriet started, but Laura cut her off.

“No! There's no excuse for this. You should have told me, but instead I had to find out like this; on today of all days.”

Laura's voice cracked, and she ran upstairs. “Laura, sweetheart?” Harriet called desperately, and ran after her.”

Vera cautiously stole into the empty room, Oliver followed her. There was a set of french windows, overlooking the opposite side of the house, and a large, comfortable sofa.

“What was all that about?” he asked.

Vera didn't answer right away. A slip of red paper stuck out from between the cushions, had caught her eye. She picked it up, and examined it:

Gregory Hamish
Art Appraiser


A strange expression took over her face.

“Alright.” Oliver said, losing his patience. “Are you going to tell me what's going on now?”

“I thought I was going crazy.” Vera said, speaking like someone waking from a dream. “But I'm not. There's the number of years, whatever it is Harold wont take, and the painting.”

“I'm afraid you've lost me.”

“Lucy wouldn't dance.” Vera continued, “Harriet is getting married, and now this.” she flashed the card at Oliver. He took the card, looked at it, and shrugged.

“Vera, either you're very drunk or I'm just dense. What are you trying to tell me?”

Vera looked around the room quickly, as if afraid of being heard.

“Oliver,” she whispered, “I think someone is going to die.”
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh ho!! things get interesting!! well, MORE interesting, i should say. i have to say i'm just about as confused as Oliver sounds...but i like it!! keep going! lol
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AH-HA! Now I got it! I wasn't sure who knew everything was going on: Oliver or Vera. Now I do. XD Brilliantly done! Maybe could be a tad bit slowed down with some more details in places but it's still well done. Bravo!
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys. I should have the next chapter up tomorrow or Sunday. I do need to warn you, I think there's only going to be a couple more, since this is a kind of 'origin' story for what i hope will be a longer series. Ergo, I'm packing the next two chapters with tiny clues. Get out your magnifying glass Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Strong language present


Chapter Four:

Oliver blinked like someone had thrown something at him unexpectedly.

“I'm sorry, run that by me again?”

Vera sighed, and sank onto the couch.

“I know, it sounds insane.” she said. “But I know something is wrong. Nothing here adds up.”

Oliver frowned. “Vera,” he said sternly, like he was speaking to a child, “listen: you've been drinking. You're surrounded by strangers, and you're by your own admission on edge. I'd expect a psychologist to understand paranoia.”

Vera's eyes narrowed slightly. “You think I'm inventing a threat? I'm not. People are my job, remember? I'm very good noticing when things are wrong.”

“Lots of people think they are. I can't tell you how many clients I get who try to do my job for me; badly. It's easy to build up a plot in your own head when you don't have any facts, but-”

“It's a fact Laura didn't invite you.” Vera interrupted. Oliver stopped cold.

“How on earth did you know that?” He demanded.

“Laura was surprised to see you.” She said calmly. “And she needed to be reminded of who you are. If she'd invited you here, that wouldn't have happened. Add to that the fact that no one else from her high school is here. The Cuthburt's don't know you, you've never even been to their house. Of course, arriving with me made it look like I'd brought you, so no one would ask questions. I'm willing to bet that the real reason you're here is that the painting is going to be stolen.

Oliver's jaw dropped.

“Who told you about the painting?”

“No one. It just follows that your presence here when you weren't invited, and the fact that you lied about why you where here, means someone is concerned about it but wants to keep things quiet. A big party means a lot of red herrings, and a lot of distractions. It's the perfect opportunity for a thief. By the way, who did hire you?”

For a moment, Oliver said nothing. He sank onto the couch next to Vera and stared out the window. “I must be slipping,” he finally muttered, “I had no idea I was so transparent.”

“You really weren't. I actually have to congratulate you on how skilful you were at sneaking in here. I only noticed because I've been watching you all day.”

“You have?” Oliver asked, his eyebrows arching, “Why, exactly?”

A smile tugged at the corners of Vera's mouth. “That's not important.” she replied, “We have a tragedy to stop.”

“I'm still not convinced one of those people out there is a killer. Have you seen them?”

“Have you ever seen a killer? They don't look like you expect them to.”

Oliver leaned forward and began rubbing his temples in a circular motion.

“Look, I'll make a deal with you.” Vera said “Tell Mrs. Cuthburt that our flight has been canceled. That will give us an excuse to stay here tonight. If we don't find evidence that something is wrong by noon tomorrow, then I'll drop the whole thing and we'll leave.”

Oliver scrutinized her before answering. “Why do I have to be the one to lie to the sweet old lady?”

“Because I'm willing to bet you're a much better liar than me. Does this mean you're in?”

If Oliver had seen the chain of events that his actions would set off, or known the way in which it would link his life to that of the strange woman in front of him, he would have left the house immediately and never regretted it. But fortunately for himself, Vera, and the Cuthburt family, he couldn't; and in blissful ignorance of the life he was leaving behind, he stood to his feet and shrugged.

“If it will shut you up, fine.”

It proved a simple thing to get an invitation for the night. Vera stood near the house and watched as Oliver headed towards the tent, and whispered in Franny's ear. She watched as he smiled and apologized and made helpless gestures with his hands. She shook her head and frowned deeply.

“What am I going to do with you?” she said under her breath.

Vera tried to enjoy the rest of the party, but she ended up sitting off to the side, lost in her own thoughts. Oliver mingled with the guests, talking and laughing like he hadn't a care in the world. At one point, Vera saw him speaking to Lucy; they were chatting like old friends, while Joe stood at the other end of the tent, staring at them.
Most of the family was staying the night, so Franny didn't consider it an inconvenience to host two more guests. After the party broke up, she showed Vera to a small room behind the kitchen.

“This used to be the servant quarters, in the old days.” She was saying, “We couldn't find a better use for it, so we just kept it as it was. It looks outdated, but you should be comfortable.

“Thank you Mrs. Cuthburt, I appreciate you helping us out.”

The old woman smiled. “It's Franny,” she said, “and it's not a problem. Oh! Before I forget...”

She opened a small wooden chest at the foot of the bed, and motioned for Vera to sit next to her. The chest contained piles of old, but clean clothing.

“Since I'm sure you didn't pack for this, feel free to use any of these. I put them here to get them out of the way. They're out of style and I haven't been your size in decades, but I just didn't have the heart to throw them out. There's something about the old styles that seems so artistic.”

“That's very kind of you,” Vera said, and pulled out a black dress with ruffled cap sleeves and white lace around the collar. It looked like something an under-appreciated heroine would wear in a black and white movie. “These are all beautiful.”

“Yes, although you might want to pair that with this.” Franny dug through the pile and found a matching jacket. “I know you prefer long sleeves.”

Franny looked at Vera significantly. Vera took the jacket and tried to say something, but failed. Franny placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“It's alright dear, I don't make any judgments. It isn't your fault.”

Vera blinked back tears. “Not everyone sees it that way.”

“They're all bastards.”

Vera laughed in spite of herself. “Franny, I like you.”

A thought occurred to her, and she seized it.

“And, as long as we're being honest, I just want to tell you how sorry I am. About the whole situation.”

Franny's shoulders slumped. “Laura must have told you. Poor girl. I assumed her parents had told her. I never meant for her to find out like that.”

Franny lapsed into silence, staring off into space. After a moment, she continued in a dreamy voice.

“It's very strange, living as long as I have. Seeing your children and grand children grown. They look to you like you're some kind of pillar. Someone who has life figured out; you even start to think you actually do, and then-”

Her voice cracked, and tears welled up in her eyes.

“Something like this hits you, and you realize that you're just like everyone else; Stumbling through an indifferent world, hoping you can say at the end it was worth it, but never knowing if you'll be able to.”

“I'm so sorry. If there's anything I can do to help-”

Franny squeezed her hand. “You're a sweet girl, Vera. I'm glad Laura has someone like you around. She's going to need it.”

After Franny left. Vera sat on the bed, and took a pen and notepad from her purse. She opened it to a clean page, and wrote 'Unresolved questions' at the top. Underneath the title, she wrote in large letters: What did Laura find out? Then listed beneath it: Harriet's wedding? She frowned, crossed it out, and scribbled 'upset before announcement'. She then added the questions:

Why is Franny upset?
Who appraised the painting and why?
What's going on with Joe and Lucy?
Why 72, instead of 75?

After writing the last question, Vera stopped and stared at the page. She drew a connecting line between the last question and Franny, and connected them both to Laura. Like a flash, the motive and victim appeared in front of her.

“Of course,” she said. “How stupid of me. Oh, poor Laura.”
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 2:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

... is it a bad thing if I'm still confused? I think you're moving a little fast and jumping things for my brain. But well done writing-quality-wise! I quite enjoy this when you post up new chapters. I'll just sit and hope things are clearer in the next few chapters.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you're confused because there are two mysteries going on here, but the second isn't quite what it looks like. You had to be paying very close attention to get the clue for non-murder mystery, and it's creating some fog for the second.

Also, I'm still feeling out how clear the clues are. It's possible that I made them too small. There are only going to be two more chapters for this mystery, and I would very much like feedback on whether or not they make sense in the end.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry for taking so long to get to you, Swan, but i LOVE this still!! I'm confused, but I think it's coming together...and isn't that part of the fun of a mystery? Being confused until the end? haha!! Your writing is near flawless!! It's always crystal clear who is doing and saying what, and you pause in just the right places to describe action so we're not just overwhelmed with dialogue, and yet it stays natural and doesn't seem like you're forcing the action in. Love it LOVE it!!
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks! Sorry it's taking me so long to get the next chapter out, Battling illness Sad
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really like this story. I'm glad I came across it! I have to say I'm a bit confused...but at the same time I think I'm getting it, like my head is in the midst of grasping what's going on but isn't quite there. Does that make sense? Anyway, spectacular story, I can't wait for the next chapter! (Get better soon, too, btw!)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2012 10:17 pm    Post subject: Prevention: Chapter Five (Finally) Reply with quote

(sorry it took me so long to post this. I have a chronic condition that's an absolute bear to deal with sometimes. So I'm going to do a few more smaller chapters than I planned.)

Strong language present

Chapter Five

Vera stole down the stairs, careful to be quiet. She made her way to the library door, and pressed her ear against it. After listening for a moment, she slowly twisted the handle and pushed the door open. As soon as the door clicked shut behind her, a beam of light struck her eyes. Oliver was standing in front of the fireplace, fully dressed, with a flashlight in his hand.

“Vera? What are you doing?”

“I couldn't sleep.”

Oliver switched on a table lamp and turned off the flashlight. “Me either.” He said.

Vera joined him in front of the fireplace, and gazed at the painting.

“It really is beautiful,” she said, “and it means a lot to the Cuthburts. You have to stop whoever's trying to take it.”

“It is an amazing piece of art, but so depressing.”

Vera looked him and knit her brows together. “Oliver, what do you think the painting is illustrating?”

Oliver made dismissive gesture. “It's obvious: An abandoned, broken lighthouse, and a ship sinking in a storm because of the lack of it. It's probably a reflection of what Draighton went through himself. You know what happened to him?”

“Yes. He lost a child, and his marriage didn't survive the shock.”

“It was the last painting he produced, too. A tragic theme for a tragic life.”

To Oliver's surprise, Vera laughed. “Are you sure you're a detective? Because you've missed a lot.”

“I don't know what you mean.”

“Look here,” she said, and pointed to the upper window of the lighthouse. “You see that shadow, near the beacon? Well it's not a shadow. If you close, you can see it's an arm. Someone still lives there, which means the lighthouse still works. And here:”

Vera drew Oliver's attention to the grass on top of the cliff.

“There are regular intervals of the grass pressed down,like footprints, but these over here are smaller. That suggests two people live there, or at least the owner has a frequent visitor. And finally, by the boat:

Vera pointed at a small slip of color protruding from the sinking boat's side. Oliver had mistaken it for a reflection of light off the water.

“This right here is the nose of a life raft. Someone made it out. So, you have function, where there appears to be decay, companionship, where it looks like isolation, and life and hope, where there appears to be only death and despair.”

Instead of responding, Oliver stepped closer to the painting, and peered at it. Vera continued:

“You were right about this being Draighton's final message. He wanted people to know that tragedies aren't the end. Even when you can't see anyway out of them. Even when you're sinking.”

Oliver stared at her for a moment, and shook his head. He tried to say something, but failed. Vera stepped closer to him, an anxious look on her face.

“Oliver,” she said softly, “is there something you want to tell me?”

“You ask the weirdest questions.”

“And you evade them. You never did tell me who hired you.”

Oliver shrugged. “I can't. Client confidentiality.”

“What if your client is the one plotting murder?”

I can assure you that's not the case.”

“How?”

Oliver closed his eyes and counted to five. “I just can. Alright? I can't tell you any more. And don't forget, you still haven't convinced me that-”

“Harold is dying.” Vera interupted. “Soon.”

“Excuse me?”

“Why else would they be throwing a 72nd aniversary party? Don't get me wrong, that's amazing, but isn't it usually the 75th that's a milestone?”

“That's a fair point, but why Harold?”

“For one thing, you can tell he isn't quiet all there, not all the time.”

“He was fine at the party.”

“Yes. After Laura persuaded him to take something he didn't want to, which also upset her greatly. That's probably the real reason she was fighting with Harriet.”

Oliver lapsed into silence for a moment, thinking. “Alright,” he finally said. “Bad health fits with those facts. But I still don't see why anyone would want to-Oh!”

A flash of eligtenment hit him. He looked slowly back at the painting, then back at Vera.

“You mean Franny?” he nearly whispered.
“Yes.” Vera sighed. She's leaving everything to charity. That's why she has to die first.”
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh-ho, the plot thickens! Wink

This installment was short but very, very spectacular. Even in its shorter state you still managed to keep the same pace as the other chapters - lots of pertinent information without bogging us down, and moving the plot/story forward. The description of all the extra detail in the painting was fantastic as well. I would say maybe Vera needs to change her profession, but Laura (by the look they shared in the second chapter) seems to have noticed/know about those little tidbits as well (or maybe they were sharing a glance for a completely seperate reason?). It seems I'm still a bit mystified, yes?

Anyway, another great job! Looking forward to more! Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Six

Vera and Oliver exited the room. They stood or a moment in the hallway, letting their eyes adjust to the dark.

“Get some sleep,” Vera said, “we’re going to have an interesting day tomorrow.”

“I don’t think I’ll be sleeping,” Oliver replied, “it’s nerve-wracking knowing there’s a killer under this roof.”

“Potential killer” Vera corrected.
“What’s the difference?”

“Nothing differs more. If we were all defined by the things we almost did, we’d all be lost causes.”

“Let me guess, Psychiatrists don’t believe in lost causes?”

“Psychologist. I can’t speak for all of them, but I don’t. Even when someone does have a past, they’re never a lost cause. They always have the opportunity to change.”

Oliver studied Vera’s face almost as closely as he had the painting a moment before.

“I-” he began, but thought better of it. He paused, then finally said “Goodnight Vera.”

He turned around abruptly and disappeared down the hallway. Vera shook her head.

“I keep giving you a chance, and you keep running away.” She said to herself. She turned in the opposite direction, and headed back to her own room. She’d just reached the kitchen door, when she heard a sound. A low-rumbling sound, emanating from a door to the left. Quietly, Vera pushed the door open, and stole into the same room that had staged Laura and Harriet’s argument earlier.

The French windows let in a flood of moonlight from outside, leaving the room well-illuminated. A person was stretched out across the couch, snoring loudly. Vera crept up slowly, and peered at the face. It was Joe. Vera frowned, and reached into her pocket. She pulled out the business card she found previously. She looked from the card to Joe’s unconscious form, and her shoulders slumped.

“My condolences.” She whispered, and stole back to her room. She tossed the card onto her nightstand, flopped on the bed, tried in vain to sleep.

The next morning, attired in the dress and jacket Franny had given her, Vera dragged her sleep-deprived self into the kitchen. Olive was there, sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee in his hand, sporting another impeccable suit and looking irritatingly chipper.

“Good morning.” He said, scanning he appearance quickly, “Why are you dressed like Ginger Rogers?”

“Why are you dressed for the prom?” Vera retorted.

“Unlike you, I pack for emergencies.”

“Emergencies? Like unexpectedly staying the night at stranger’s houses?”

“The need sometimes arises.”

“Really? What does your wife think of that?”

Vera punctuated her sentence by grabbing Oliver’s cup and downing the contents quickly.

“You’re grumpy in the morning.” Oliver observed.
Instead of responding, Vera gazed despondently at the now empty cup. “Is there more?” she asked.

“By the sink.” He sat quietly for moment, watching Vera pour her coffee.

“Look,” he said at length, “I didn’t get much sleep either, and not just because of our conversation last night. Something odd happened when I went back to my room.”

A smirk spread across Vera’s face. “I could venture a guess.”

“Really? Surprise me.”

“Someone was there waiting for you.”

Oliver sighed. “I’m getting tired of being astonished. Why don’t we skip that and you just tell me how you knew?”

“Easy. You’re the only non-relative in party of drunk adults facing bereavement. It would be weird if someone wasn’t there.”

“Fair enough. Anyway, I got there and Laura was-“

“Laura?” Vera asked, a shocked expression on her face.

“Yes. Laura. You expected it to be someone else?”

“Never mind, what happened?”

“Well, she was extremely drunk.”

“How drunk?”

“She kept calling me Hunter.”

“Ah, that drunk. Go on.”

“Anyway, she kept demanding to know if I was after Harriet’s money. She said that just because the family was shrinking didn’t mean her inheritance increased.”

“She said the family was shrinking?”

“Yes, those were her exact words. She finally said I was in for a nasty surprise, and stormed off.”

A strange expression took over Vera’s face.

Oliver,” she said, “Does it ever strike you how strange it is that people can know something vital and be clueless at the same time?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that Laura gave us the last bit of the puzzle. I know who’s planning to kill Franny.”


_________________________________________________________________

Sorry for disapearing for so long, being sick sucks Sad. Anyway, the Next Chapter settles the Murder plot, and there will be a bonus chapter afterwads with a stuning revelation! See if you picked up on the hidden mystery in this story Smile
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You, good sir (or madam? XD), are the master of mystery!

I have reread this a few times but can I figure it out? Nope. The light is on, but no one seems to be home. It looks like I will just have to wait for the next chapter. I can't wait! Keep up the awesome work! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Seven

Oliver stood to his feet, all humor draining from his face.

“Who is it?”

Vera set her cup down and looked around herself as if she didn’t recognize her surroundings.

“There’s no time. Is the family awake?”

“They’re out on the lawn having breakfast.”

“Come on!”

Vera grabbed Oliver’s arm and dashed up the stairs. When they reached the top, Vera suddenly slowed down and crept towards the door at the end of the hallway. She pushed it open slowly, then relaxed and strode in with Oliver behind her. It was a brightly lit bedroom with a window seat and a four poster bed. A pair of large rolling doors to the close stood open; someone was rummaging through its contents. Vera motioned for Oliver to be silent, and stepped forward.

“Laura, is that you?” she called.

Laura poked her head out the closet. Her hair was unkempt and there were dark circles under her eyes.

“Oh, hi,” she said wearily, “I’m trying to find Gramp’s pills. He won’t take them unless I ask him to. Grammy told me they were in here somewhere…ah, here they are. You’ll pardon me if I dash-“

She caught sight of Oliver and stopped. She looked at him very hard blinked like waking from a dream.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s just… You ever get that weird feeling you’ve forgotten something important? Anyway, Gramps needs his pills.”

With that, Laura exited the room. Vera sighed in relief and shut the bedroom door.

“I was worried for a bit,” she said, “She easily could have scared him off.”

“Him?”

“Yes, him. There’s no time to explain. A very desperate person is going to enter this room in a moment. I need you to hide in the closet.”

Oliver started. “What?”

“This is crucial,” Vera continued, “Stay put and don’t come out unless-”
She stopped abruptly, as if afraid of continuing.

“Unless he tries to kill you.” Oliver finished. Vera nodded without speaking. “Vera, why are you doing this? Why not just call the police?”

“Because we have no hard evidence, and even if we did…” she trailed off searching for words.

“Yes?” Oliver prompted

“Do you really think the only life at stake is Franny’s? Do you know what it does to someone to live with a secret like this?”

Before Oliver could respond, the sound of footsteps reached them. Slow, deliberate, cautious footsteps. Oliver slipped into the closet, and Vera closed the doors softly. She dropped behind the side of the bed facing the window, hiding herself from view. The door creaked open slowly. By flattening herself on the floor, Vera could see through the gap between the floor and the bedcovers. A pair of brown shoes paused on the threshold. After a moment, they stepped backwards, then stopped again, and continued forwards. Whoever it was shut the door behind themselves, and tiptoed towards the closet. He had just placed his hand on the door knob, when Vera sprung up silently behind him.

“You won’t find them there Joe.” She said.

Joe spun around, terror on his face. When he saw Vera, he twisted his mouth into an uneasy smile.

“Verity, isn’t it? I don’t think we’ve met. Harold sent me to get his pills and-”

“No he didn’t.”

“Excuse me?”

“Franny asked Laura to get them. He won’t take them any other way. You know that.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re-”

“Yes you do. You were planning to put Harold’s pills into Franny’s coffee. It wouldn’t kill her of course, but it could easily put her in the hospital. Did you plan to kill her there, or poison her again when she got back?”

Joe’s face blanched. “What? I…How dare you even-” he faltered in confused rage.

“It’s no use.” Vera continued, perfectly calm. I already know about your plan to murder Franny. Although to you, it probably doesn’t seem like a real murder. Franny is an old woman, in her 90’s already. She's bound to die soon anyway, what does it matter if she precedes her husband? That way, you’ll inherit a large sum of money, and maybe your wife won’t leave you.”

Joe stepped backwards, as if hit by a heavy blow.

“How do you know about this?”

“The first hint was when I found the card for the appraiser in the couch. It could have been dropped by anyone, but the fact that you’re sleeping there makes it much more likely to come from you. It also confirms that things aren’t good between you and Lucy.”

“I keep telling her things will get better,” he said in a daze, “The business will pick up again, and then things will get back to normal, but she just doesn’t see. She just won’t believe it can be fixed.”

“She’s right Joe.”

Joe’s daze passed. He glared at Vera with real anger, and took a menacing step towards her.

“You don’t know that! No one does. What do you know about it, anyway? We’ve been married for thirty four years. Thirty four years. You haven’t even lived that long. What makes you think you could possibly understand any of this?!”

By now, he was within striking distance; Vera saw the closet door move slightly. Without changing her expression, she slowly drew back the sleeve on her jacket, and held her arm out, revealing a jagged, ugly scar running from her wrist almost to her elbow.

“What I understand is despair.” She said calmly.

Joe stared at the scar on her arm, and sank slowly onto the bed.

“I know you’ve thought about it yourself.” She continued. “I can tell. I’m not here to threaten you. I’m trying to help you see reason.”

Joe shook his head, and dropped it into his hands.

“I don’t see any other way.” He said

Vera sat next to him and put her hand on his shoulder.

“Lucy is a lovely woman.” She said.

Joe nodded. “She’s just as beautiful as the day I met her.”

“She takes after Franny, doesn’t she? They look a lot alike.”

Joe paused, and sat upright again. “You know, she does take after her mother. I never really noticed.”

“And she’s going to go on taking after her, the older she gets.”

Vera gently touched Joe’s face and made him look at her.

“Joe, listen to me. Even if this plan of yours works, and even if Lucy goes back to you, you will have to see your victim more and more, every day for the rest of your life. You’re a desperate man, but I don’t think you’re a callous one. You won’t be able to face that.”

Joe sniffed loudly, and nodded. “You’re right. I know you’re right. But what do I do?”

He looked at her helplessly, tears threatening to spill over his face. Vera quietly stood up and picked up a pen and pad from the nightstand. She started writing.

“The first thing you do, is leave this house immediately. Don’t talk to anyone; don’t leave any messages, just go. Go home, and when you get there,” she tore off the page and handed it to him, “call this number. They can help you.”

Joe took the slip of paper reluctantly.

“You won’t tell anyone?”

Vera smiled softly. “No, I won’t.”

Joe took a deep breath, and promptly left the room. Vera waited a moment, and opened the closet doors. Oliver looked at her for a split second, then to her surprise, hugged her.

“Vera, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

“Thank you.” Vera replied, her voice cracking at last.

The pair parted, and Vera wiped the tears from her Face.

“I think I’d like to go home now.” She said.

After composing themselves, the two took their leave. The whole family said goodbye to them, and Laura made Oliver promise to keep in touch. When they got to Harold, he seemed confused.

“Goodbye Violet” he said, shaking her hand.

“Verity, dear.” Franny corrected him with a sigh, and shook her hand herself. “It’s been wonderful seeing you again, say hello to your parents for me.”

“I will.” Vera promised, and left.

Oliver held the car door open for her, then slid behind the driver’s seat and started the car. The whole family waved at them as they left.

“Lovely people,” Oliver said, “I hate to leave.”

“I know what you mean. But it doesn’t have to be the last time you visit. You are an old friend after all.”

“Right.” Oliver replied, and shifted uncomfortably.

It was a short ride to the airport, and after the pair exited the car Oliver looked at Very with a strange expression on his face.

“Would you think it was overly sentimental if I said it seems weird to split up after something like this?”

“Sentiment is underrated. But we do both have lives to get back to. You have a wife and kids waiting.”

“Yes.” Oliver stated again with a slight nervousness. “Well, is there at least anything I can do for you before I see you off?”

Vera knitted her brows together. She leaned on the car as if looking for support, and looked at him earnestly.

“Yes, there is one thing.”

“Name it.”

“If you could tell me you’re real name, I’d be grateful.”
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unexpected! You know, now that the the would-be murderer has been revealed, all the pieces are coming together. (How awesome of me to figure it out in the aftermath, huh? XD)

I really loved this story. It was fast-paced, but at the same time didn't get away from the reader, even though you put a lot of information and little tid-bits in every chapter.

I can't wait for the bonus chapter! Still one mystery to be solved. Wink
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chapter Eight

Oliver stared at Vera keenly. Almost imperceptibly, his face changed. It relaxed, falling from the cheerful, open expression into one of exhaustion.

“So you know.” He said. His voice also had changed. The Midwestern pattern gave way to a Londoner’s accent.

“That you’re not Oliver Bradley? I knew that right away. It took me a bit longer to figure out you were a thief.”

“I overplayed it, didn’t I?”

Vera nodded. “You were too happy to see me. Bradley never had any time for me. But the real problem was the memory you claimed. You said you remembered me because of my hair. It was a clever idea, but impossible. I died my hair black all through high school; I didn’t stop till sophomore year in college.”

“I couldn’t find any pictures of you from then.”

“I’m not surprised; I did a lot of hiding as a teenager. Then of course there was the fact that you got very nervous every time I mentioned Bradley’s family. I have to admit, it was smart to pick two gender neutral names for his kids, and claim marital problems, that covered your lack of knowledge well. You really are a first class liar. I don’t think I’ve met anyone better.”

Oliver sighed wearily.

“A dubious compliment.” He said.

“So why didn’t you do it?”

“What?”

“Why did you decide not to steal the painting?”

Oliver paused, searching for words.

“After last night, when you explained what it meant. I just…couldn’t. I don’t know why myself.”

Verity took a step towards him. “It’s getting more difficult, isn’t it?” she asked quietly.

Oliver stared at her without replying. Vera continued:

“The life of a professional thief is one we romanticize. But common sense dictates that it’s a very isolated and bleak existence. No friends, no home, always looking over your shoulder. It’s bound to take a toll eventually.”

Oliver nodded in assent. “You’re name fits you, doesn’t it?”

“Pure coincidence. I was named after my Grandmother. You still haven’t told me what yours is.”

Oliver looked at her, and a slight smile spread over his face.

“It’s Arthur. Sutton. And that is my real name, not one of the aliases I use.”

“Like Gregory Hamish?”

Arthur shook his head. “How do you do that?”

Vera shrugged. “You have to find targets somehow.”

Arthur’s face fell. “You do realize that about a hundred police detectives would give their pensions to know that?”

“I figured. But they won’t get any help from me.”

Arthur started. Vera held up her hand to prevent him from speaking.

“Arthur, I know from personal experience what it’s like to lose yourself. Plenty would disagree with me, but I think it’s punishment enough on its own. All you have to do is turn around and walk away, and you can rest easy that I won’t turn you in. Or,”

Vera nodded towards the airport.

“You can get on that plane with me, and I will help you leave all of this behind.”

Arthur looked at her, mystified. “You would do that, for a criminal?”

“Yes. I would.”

Arthur was quiet for a moment, turning things over in his head. Finally, he stepped forward, put his hands on Vera’s shoulders, and planted a light kiss on her cheek.

“I’m sorry Vera; I truly am. No one has ever tried to help me like you have. But not all things can be fixed so easily. There is such a thing as a lost cause."

Tears welled up in Vera’s eyes and she nodded silently. Arthur returned to his car, and pulled out of the parking lot. Vera stood there, watching him leave as the car shrunk into the distance. When it finally disappeared, she sighed, brushed the tears from her face, and headed into the airport. She made her way straight to customer service and pulled out her ticket.

“Is there any way I can transfer to an earlier flight?” She asked.

The attendant looked at the ticket and frowned.

“Are you sure ma’am? This flight leaves this afternoon.”

Vera shook her head. “It isn’t soon enough.”


The End
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Check out Legacy, my primary story in progress, or Prevention, an inverted mystery.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hunch about art thief spot on! (But you had me doubting myself for a bit there XP)

Bravo, PaperSwan, on a very awesome mystery! It was fantastic and kept me hooked the entire time. I hope to read more of your work in the days to come Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all of your encouraging comments throughout; I'm still recovering, but there will definitely be more exploits in the future Smile
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