Poisoned the alex harris.., p.1
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Poisoned (The Alex Harris Mystery Series), p.1

           Elaine Macko
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Poisoned (The Alex Harris Mystery Series)


  An Alex Harris Mystery


  Elaine Macko

  Other Books in the Alex Harris series




  Coming Soon


  Copyright © 2011 Elaine Macko

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright holder, except for brief quotations used in a review.

  This is a work of fiction and is produced from the author’s imagination. People, places and things mentioned in this novel are used in a fictional manner.


  “She’s trying to kill me!”

  I shushed my sister, reached over and took the mug containing the suspect liquid from her hand. “No she’s not. It’s just tea,” I said, through clenched teeth.

  Sam leaned closer and peered into the cup. “What are those bits floating around?”

  I grimaced. “I don’t think we need to know.” I took the mug to the small sink and dumped the contents down the drain.

  “I don’t know what gets into Millie sometimes,” Sam said, referring to our assistant at our temp agency, Always Prepared. “She eats and drinks some weird stuff. Said this tea would cure my cold. Yeah, by killing me.”

  I nudged Sam back into my office where we sat waiting for Millie to return with the weekly printout of our database. I grabbed a large jar off my desk and poured a handful of Halloween M&Ms into my hand. My name is Alex Harris and I’m an M&M-aholic. I love this time of year. I can buy M&Ms with no blue ones. I really hate the blue ones.

  I popped six of the little candies into my mouth and eyed Millie suspiciously as she came into the room and took a seat next to Sam. A pumpkin pin stuck on the lapel of her blazer hinted to the impending holiday along with a large pumpkin and some Indian corn on the small front porch of our office. When I arrived this morning I noticed the small faux fireplace in the reception area had mysteriously acquired some artfully placed cobwebs and spiders that hadn’t been there when I left on Friday night. But despite Millie’s penchant for frivolity, she possessed a wealth of administrative talents.

  “Where’s your tea? Do you want another cup?” Millie looked at Sam’s empty hands.

  “No!” Sam blurted.

  I looked at my sister and rolled my eyes. Sam’s tactful gene had never kicked in. “Well, I need another one.” I got up and walked by my sister, gently whacking her upside the head. “I’ll get us both one.”

  “Let me get this straight,” Sam began when I returned, getting back to a conversation we started earlier. “The woman you met with looked just like Mrs. Scott?”

  I took a sip of my tea. “The spitting image.”

  Sam narrowed her eyes at me. “Before she died or after?”

  “Before! Geesh! What’s wrong with you?” I shook my head wondering, not for the first time, if Sam and I were really related. “I know Mrs. Scott didn’t have any relatives, so Mrs. Sulpizio couldn’t be related, but I tell you, my heart almost stopped.”

  I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes, silently berating myself for my lapse of professionalism on Friday. My appointment with the head administrator of a new suite of medical offices had been momentarily sidetracked the moment I laid eyes on the woman, who unfortunately resembled Elvira Scott, a woman who had been killed ten months before—and whose body I had found.

  “Maybe I’m just more worried about that other agency than I thought,” I said, thinking about a new temp agency that managed to snatch away several of our clients. “She couldn’t have looked that much like Mrs. Scott.”

  “It hasn’t even been a year, Alex,” Millie reminded me. “It takes time to get over something like that. You may never truly get over it.

  I sighed. “It is a gaping wound, whenever one touches it and removes the bandages and plasters of daily life.”

  Sam and Millie exchanged glances.

  “Winnie, again. Right?” Sam asked, referring to my quirky habit of quoting Winston Churchill. “You have to hand it to him, the man had something to say about everything.”

  “Tease all you want. We’re New Englanders. We’re supposed to be eccentric.”

  After they left, I swiveled in my chair and looked out the window at the autumn colors brightening my view. I always thought it ironic that these magnificent hues resulted from something dying, though it didn’t look like any form of death I was familiar with. And I was. Up close and personal. I shook my head, trying to shake the images that had not diminished with the passage of time. But something else bothered me. Something I never admitted to my sister, and I told Sam everything. And what I didn’t tell her, Meme, our adorable grandmother, would. But the thing that I couldn’t admit to either one of them was that I had actually enjoyed the murder.

  No, I chided myself. Someone died a horrific death. But still. I liked the sleuthing, the gathering of information and trying to piece it all together. I liked working with the suspects and asking questions no sane person would ever have the nerve to ask. Quite simply put, I realized with a start, I was nosy. This kind of caught me off guard because I always thought my sister was the nosy one. And now, here I was, pretty much the same.

  I walked to the window and lifted the pane. The pungent aroma of a leaf fire somewhere in the neighborhood came to me on a sudden breeze and all at once I knew—everything was just right for murder.


  At nine-fifty, I pulled into the circular driveway of the Brissart home, a very large and stately house surrounded by a parcel of land I thought resembled the city park. The house looked lovelier than I remembered. Potted mums planted all along the perimeter of the lawn added glorious color. A wrap-around porch draped the old house and a big glider provided comfort on summer nights. It wasn’t a pretentious home at all. Given the financial status of Mrs. Brissart, neither house nor owner put on airs.

  I parked my black Honda next to a cherry red Ford Focus belonging to Chantal Bradbury, an employee of Always Prepared. I stepped out of the car and took a deep breath filling my senses with the scent of raked leaves and the pungent smell of the Sound, only a few blocks away. I sighed with complete contentment. Autumn—my favorite time of year. I walked along the path toward the grand house and purposely crunched leaves under my shoes like I did as a kid. A year ago, the agency paired Chantal with the owner of this house and the union worked perfectly. Chantal’s fluency in French—a skill attributed to her French-Belgian mother, appealed to the eccentric Roberta Brissart.

  The old woman didn’t speak a word of the language but liked the idea of someone who could speak it working for her. I knew another quirky New Englander when I saw one and with French in both their backgrounds, no matter how far back, it served as a common denominator that made the pairing a success. And now, with Chantal taking a few days off to help her mother-in-law recover after an operation, I couldn’t let just any of my many temporary staff take over. I’m saying many with a bit more optimism than perhaps I should. That new agency, Paulson’s Professionals, now employed some of my best people. Paulson’s Professionals. What kind of name was that, for pity’s sake? It sounded more like an escort service.

  “Hi, Alex,” Chantal smiled as she opened the front door. “I saw you coming up the walk.”

  I entered the house and removed my sunglasses and tucked them into my purse.

  Chantal took my hand. “I’m so glad you’re going to fill in for me while I’m gone. I’ll just feel better knowing Mrs.
Brissart is in good hands.” Chantal’s brows inched closer as a cloud of concern covered her face. “I do feel bad, though. I mean, you’re the owner. Oh, gosh, Alex. I’m probably taking you away from more important things.”

  I gave Chantal a warm smile. “It’s fine. Mrs. Brissart is very important to the agency. Besides, it’ll give me a nice change of pace to come here for a few days.” And maybe get my mind off of the other agency, which had captured not only our people, but also another one of our clients judging by the figures Millie printed out this morning.

  “Fresh coffee on the table. Help yourselves, ladies, and come into my study.”

  I jumped an inch at the sound of Roberta Brissart’s voice behind me. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mrs. Brissart. I didn’t hear you.”

  Chantal and I sprinted after the very spry woman. Chantal nudged my arm and pointed to Mrs. Brissart’s feet. “She always wears her high-top white Reeboks when she’s home. I didn’t know they still made them anymore. They make her stealth-like. It can be very unnerving. You’ll get used to it.”

  In addition to the high-tops, Roberta Brissart wore a beautifully tailored dress. At eight-three-years old and barely five feet tall, she had a lovely head of silver hair and soft blue eyes that hadn’t lost their luster. And she still possessed all her own teeth, she once told me—a fact that delighted her to no end as her two sisters, May and June, the bane of her existence, did not. I never met May and June but the family was so prominent in our little town that word of some of their antics over the years kept the gossip mill running.

  We followed the woman into the study and took the two seats next to the massive desk.

  “I have a few letters,” Mrs. Brissart began, directing her comments to Chantal, “and then Bradley is coming. He has more of the family history for you to type if you don’t mind.”

  “Not at all. And it’ll give Alex a chance to meet him.”

  “He’ll probably arrive about noon so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave you to your work. I’m going to make a batch of macaroons.” Mrs. Brissart gave me a small wink. “Bradley loves them and I haven’t made any in ages.” She clapped her hands together and left the study.

  “Who’s Bradley?” I asked as soon as Mrs. Brissart was out of earshot.

  Chantal moved around the desk and turned on the computer. “Grandson. His father is Mrs. Brissart’s only child. Kenneth, that’s his name, and his wife, Lillian, live in London. You’ll like Bradley. He’s a gem—kind, intelligent, good looking. Too bad I’m married.” Chantal shrugged and I laughed. “The history is very interesting. You’ll have to read it if you have the time. Why don’t you grab a chair and I’ll explain the system to you. Mrs. Brissart is very fussy about how her correspondence goes out.”

  An hour later, the sound of the doorbell startled us out of our thoughts.

  “Mrs. Platz will get it,” Chantal said.

  I tried to pick up my train of thought again. I drafted a letter to the Center for Abused Families outlining the ideas Mrs. Brissart came up with for charity events throughout the year. The Center wanted to relocate to bigger quarters and with Mrs. Brissart on the finance committee, they hoped to raise more donations.

  “Roberta! Where are you? We must talk!”

  Chantal slammed her hand hard on the desk. “Damn. They’re back. That high-pitched voice is none other than June Doliveck. And wherever June goes, May is sure to follow. Come on. You might as well meet Mrs. Brissart’s sisters and get it over with.”

  I stopped typing and followed Chantal out to the hallway.

  “Roberta! I know you’re here!”

  “Good morning, Mrs. Doliveck,” Chantal said to the shouter. “Mrs. Estenfelder.” Chantal nodded to the other woman.

  “Where is Roberta?”

  “I’ll go find Mrs. Brissart.” Chantal turned toward me and rolled her eyes.

  I quickly followed not sure I wanted to be alone with these two women.

  “I know. Don’t tell me. They’re back,” Mrs. Brissart said as Chantal and I walked into the kitchen.

  “Yes, they are, and anxious to see you,” Chantal said.

  “Well, they can wait!” Mrs. Brissart said peevishly. “Sorry, Chantal. You know how I feel about them. Can’t believe they’re my sisters. Wish they weren’t. It’s not a nice thing to say, but I can’t help myself.” Mrs. Brissart paused, visibly trying to regain her composure, and then added a cup of chopped nuts to the macaroon mixture sitting in a metal bowl on the tiled counter.

  Mrs. Platz, the housekeeper, came into the kitchen after hanging up the coats of the two waiting down the hall, and went over to the old stove and put the kettle to boil.

  “If you’re making tea for them,” Mrs. Brissart spat out the them, “you can just forget it.”

  I looked at Mrs. Platz across the room and gave a little shrug. “Well, I’d like a cup, if you don’t mind, Mrs. Platz.”

  Mrs. Brissart picked up an empty package of shredded coconut and the eggshells scattered on the counter, and dropped them into the trashcan. She wiped her hands on her apron and took it off. “Well, I best go out there and tell them to go on home.”

  Chantal and I followed the woman out of the kitchen and back down the hall. I had a feeling fireworks were about to explode and I didn’t want to miss a thing. That nosy thing again.

  “There you are, Roberta. I began to think you were trying to avoid us.”

  “I was. I just came to tell the pair of you to get out! I’m busy making macaroons.”

  May Estenfelder took a hankie from her purse and dabbed her eyes. Really. Just like they do in the movies.

  “You can cut that phony baloney crying of yours, May. It won’t do. Not in my house.”

  “Well, you don’t have to be so gruff, Roberta,” June said, going to sit by her sister.

  June and May. Twins. Five years younger than Roberta, from what Chantal told me. Though not biologically identical, they nonetheless looked very much the same down to the penciled-in eyebrows in a hideous shade of brownish red.

  May dabbed again at eyes surrounded by an overly tanned face. A leathery tanned face.

  June stood up and walked to the fireplace. “We’ve asked a few people to come by this afternoon.” She turned to Roberta. “I said—”

  “I heard you. It won’t do any good. I am not, repeat, not, changing my mind, and that’s all there is to it. And don’t you even think about letting those tears start running.” Mrs. Brissart pointed a stern finger at May, who put hankie to eyes again for the third time.

  “You can’t hold out forever,” May said, forgetting about the tears for the moment and returning to an air of superiority with the ease of someone used to slipping in and out of personalities depending on the circumstance. “That land is going to be sold and that’s all there is to it. The whole family is in complete agreement, except, of course, you.”

  I watched as a smile formed on the lips of Mrs. Brissart and wondered what this was all about.

  “It seems my non-participation is enough to cancel the deal. Without my signature, you cannot sell that land, and if I must repeat myself for the millionth time, I will—I will not sign, I will not sell! If you want that land, you’re going to have to kill me first!” Mrs. Brissart got up and went back down the hall.

  “We’ll see about that!” the twins shouted after her. “We’ll be back this afternoon! You might want to dress up a bit—at least change your shoes!”

  A few seconds later the front door slammed.


  Bradley Brissart arrived at precisely one o’clock. Chantal greeted him with a wide smile and introduced us explaining I would be assuming her duties for the next few days. Chantal was right. Bradley obviously won the good looks lottery and possessed some great manners. The perfect gentleman.

  “I thought I heard you,” Mrs. Brissart said a few seconds later and placed a kiss on her grandson’s cheek. “I made a wonderful surprise for you. Go ahead and start your work. I’ll be back shortly.

  Bradley looked hopefully first at me and then Chantal.

  “She’s been in the kitchen most of the morning and that’s all we’re going to say,” I teased him, already feeling comfortable with this young man who seemed to be full of fun.

  “Well, then,” Bradley clapped his hands together in much the same way his grandmother did, “it must be something to eat. Good. I never ate lunch.” He put down his briefcase and took out a stack of papers. “Did Mamoo tell you about the history?”


  “It’s what I call my grandmother. My brother started it way back when and it stuck.”

  “She did. And it’s no problem,” I said. “Chantal filled me in about what you’ve written so far and it sounds fascinating. I’m looking forward to working on it.”

  I took a stack of papers from Bradley and looked them over. Chantal told me his foray into the family history started about six months ago; about the same time he started dating Kendra Merchant and had discovered their family histories were bound together in the eighteen-hundreds before the death of one of Kendra’s ancestor severed the ties.

  Deep into reading the history, I was jolted out of my thoughts by Roberta. She really was stealth-like. The CIA could probably put her to good use.

  “Surprise! I made your favorite, Bradley.”

  Bradley turned toward his tiny grandmother dwarfed further by the large platter she held. He leaned closer for a better look at the large, lumpy, orange and dark brown concoctions, some with chocolate chips arranged into sinister faces.

  “Mamoo, I don’t believe it! How on earth did you get them to look like this?”

  “Oh, it’s nothing and they should taste the same. Help yourself, ladies.” Roberta put the platter down and watched her grandson take a bite.

  “Mmmm. Heaven. Just like always. You still make the best macaroons.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Add comment

Add comment