Authors: Kerry Greenwood
PRAISE FOR OTHER CORINNA CHAPMAN MYSTERIES
‘Corinna Chapman is certainly cheeky, charming and full of chutzpah.’ —
‘Kerry Greenwood has crafted a masterly chick-lit thriller, filled with sensual delights, twists and turns.’ —
‘Full of great food, humour, magic and lust — not to mention a likeable new sleuth, a lot of dead bodies and a spate of nasty little hate crimes.’ —
‘An appealing mix of humour, romance and tales of the seedy side of a city.’ —
‘A happy combination of the “chick-lit” genre and a traditional cosy mystery story, redolent with the smells of good things in the oven.’ —
‘Funny, street-wise and way outré.’ —
‘This is a fun read with amusing one-liners, entertaining characters, delicious recipes and enchanting descriptions of Corinna’s feline companions.’ —
is a pleasure to read — witty, surprising, and opinionated … There is corruption and violence … but there is also redemption, and compassion, and friendship, and courage, and humour. And good food. And lots of cats.
If any of these appeal to you,
probably will, too.’ —
REENWOOD is the author of thirty-eight novels and the editor of two collections. She is the author of the Phryne Fisher mysteries, as well as many books for young adults and the Delphic Women series.
When she is not writing she is an advocate in Magistrates’ Courts for Victoria Legal Aid. She is not married, has no children and lives with a registered Wizard.
Also in the Corinna Chapman series:
A Corinna Chapman mystery
First published in 2006
Copyright © Kerry Greenwood 2006
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The
Australian Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10% of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.
National Library of Australia
ISBN 1 74114 710 7.
1. Crime—Fiction. I. Title.
Set in 11.5pt/14pt Adobe Garamond by Asset Typesetting Pty Ltd
Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This book is dedicated to Annette Barlow for her great kindness, gentleness, intelligence and unfailing courtesy.
With thanks to David Greagg, Dennis Pryor, Belladonna and all the fans.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exhalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.
—Magnificat, Luke 1: 51–53
Trudi and Lucifer
Belongs to grazier family
Belongs to grazier family
Jon and Kepler
Therese Webb and Carolus
Mrs Pemberthy and Traddles
Andy and Cherie Holliday and Calico
Mrs Sylvia Dawson
Professor Monk and Nox
Kylie and Gossamer and Tori
Mistress Dread (Pat)
|SHOP 1 CAFE DELICIOUS/HESTIA
|SHOP 3 THE SIBYL'S CAVE/LEUCOTHEA
Meroe and Belladonna
|SHOP 2 NERDS INC/HEPHAESTUS
Taz, Rat, Gully
|SHOP 4 EARTHLY DELIGHTS/HEBE
Corinna and Horatio
It was one of the most horrible sound-effects I had ever heard. A thud, then a sick, wet crack, as though the victim’s skull had been cloven, spurting blood and brains as liberally as a Patricia Cornwell first chapter. I sat up straight in bed, grabbing for my lover Daniel. He wasn’t there. Then I grabbed for my cat Horatio, but he wasn’t there either. So lacking anything else to grab, I grabbed my furry boots, dragged them on — all the while the dreadful noise was making the hair on the back of my neck stand up like a yard broom — took hold of my remaining courage in both unoccupied hands, and started downstairs.
I live over my bakery in Calico Alley, in the city of Melbourne, generally not a place haunted by head-chopping fiends. Not historically, anyway. I knew I shouldn’t have watched that old Hammer horror movie before going to bed at my usual early time, ready to rise at the bloody awful hour of four am to make bread. My bakery is called Earthly Delights and up to this moment early mornings had been the only thing to fear in it. Or maybe it was that They Might Be Giants song ‘Dead’ echoing in my head. Or memories of the French Revolution as delivered by Mr Dickens in
A Tale of Two Cities
. He had described exactly how the severed head fell from the guillotine. I briefly wondered how he knew. Jesus, I was scared. But nothing was to be gained by staying where I was and being terrified. Meroe always said that the important thing about witches is that they didn’t run away from what they were afraid of. Where was Horatio, my gentlemanly cat and attendant of my bedchamber? Had he, God forbid, been a victim?
That idea pushed me down another ten steps. Anyone who attacked my cats was asking for a Grimm fairytale fate, baked in an oven. Another sickening thud — how many people were being executed in my premises? — and I unlocked the bakery door with all the caution of a compassionate person opening the morning paper, the world being what it is at the moment.
The noise became louder and ever more disgustingly fleshy, and under it a male voice was muttering, ‘Got you, you cunt!’ The Mouse Police slunk to my feet and gave me that look which cats reserve for moments when they are finding the human world unbelievably trying and are about to call their union. Usually nothing worries the Rodent Operatives but this was clearly more than even they, ex-alley cats with very flexible standards, were willing to tolerate.
I relaxed a little because I knew the voice. Jason Lewis, my almost-apprentice, maker of the most glorious muffins to be unleashed on a morning-tea hungry world. But I wasn’t entirely comforted, because Jason used to be a heroin addict and he did appear to be dismembering some unfortunate soul on my bakery floor. Which was also to the point, because bakery floors have to be really clean and how were we going to get the bloodstains off?
I found myself short of breath and cold as I pushed the door fully open to reveal the murder scene in all its horror. Body parts, indeed, were spread wide. Dark splashes decorated one of my pristine mixing tubs. Jason, dressed in his old trackie, was brandishing a short handled hatchet. His face was stained and distressingly organic fluids dripped from his adolescent cheeks and — erk — the blade.
‘Oh,’ he said, seeing me at the head of the stairs, dressed in furry boots, a heavy blue gown, and an expression of growing amazement. ‘Corinna,’ he added, as my expression hardened into anger. He decided it would be best to explain. ‘I wanted to make some soup for the shop, see, to go with the herb muffins, and I thought I’d make some as a surprise, you know, to show you, and then …’
‘Enough,’ I said, holding up a hand. I could see it all. Jason, poor innocent, had decided on a simple soup, which was sensible as his reading skills still weren’t too flash and he had never made soup before. Pumpkin seemed obvious, only two ingredients, one of which was pumpkin. And knowing nothing about the vegetable, he had gone and bought a Queensland blue pumpkin. These are covered with a hide which, like a saltwater crocodile (another Queensland native), repels bullets. If the navy ever cracked the secret of the Queensland blue, they would have a true unsinkable.
Which explained the series of blunted cooking knives, the shards of destroyed pumpkin on a clean garbage bag, the axe, and the embarrassment. Also the noise of cracking skulls.
Somehow it is hard to stay cross with Jason. No one else would have done this. Make soup to show me it was a good idea, I mean, and when foiled by the thickness of the obdurate veg, have had enough initiative to use the fire axe.
‘And no harm done, really,’ I concluded. ‘So if you will agree to take some advice on pumpkins in future, clean up the mess, and take all my knives down to the sharpener’s at Maison before you knock off, we’ll say no more about it. What time is it?’ I asked. It was black dark outside and felt far too early to be early morning.
‘Getting on for four,’ said Jason, dragging in a deep breath of relief. He has failed so often in his fifteen years of life that he still expects every mistake to lead to instant expulsion.
‘All right, I’m going to make coffee. You want to have a shower, get the pumpkin juice out of your hair.’ He ruffled his fair hair with his free hand and said, ‘Gross.’
‘And feed the Mouse Police extra munchies, they’ve had a fright. Get on with it,’ I instructed. Then I came closer and held out my hand. ‘And, Jason?’
‘Yeah?’ he asked, tensing again.
‘I think you might give me that axe.’
He gave me the axe. I let out a breath I had been holding and went upstairs to prepare to face the day, which meant that while I was dressing my coffee would be brewing. You may keep your energy drinks with their strange over-scent of curried grass. I am faithful to the superlative bean. No coffee, no baking. It’s a simple rule.
I caught the alarm before it went off, put on the life-giving fluid, made my bed, dragged on some tracksuit pants in size Extremely Huge and a top in Forget It No Human Is This Big, my very own sizes. I am fat in the way that Kate Moss is thin. Definitively. Even defiantly. The only diet I am ever going to undertake is the one which says stop eating when you are full, and I always do. Except for raspberries.
There is always an exception to every rule.
Horatio emerged from under my bed. He sat down in the kitchen, paws folded, tail carefully disposed, the picture of a cat who has been far too deeply asleep to come to the aid of his human, even though no one expects cats to do that stuff anyway, it being the province of pack animals of low intelligence, like, as it may be, dogs. Had he been aware of my need, he would naturally have given the matter some thought.
Perfidious beast. His shirt front was so beautifully groomed, however, that I forgave him and handed over his breakfast as I was toasting my own. A good solid rye sourdough with raspberry preserve, for what was probably going to be a trying day.