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Sharon McCone Mystery Series by Marcia Muller


Author: Marcia Muller

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


Publish Date: 2014

ISBN-10: 1455527939

Pages: 304

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

The row of Victorian houses loomed dark in the early June fog. I put my hand on the cold iron railing and started up the stairway from the street. As I pushed through the overgrown front yard, blackberry vines reached out to tear at my clothing.

Strange, I thought, that there were no lights. The houses were under renovation, but surely Jake would have brought a flashlight to the one where he had asked me to meet him.

I went up the marble porch steps and felt for a doorbell. Nothing. Finally I got out my pencil flash and shone its beam around the leaded-glass doors. The bell hung on wires, broken. I started to knock, and the door swung inward.

I paused in the high-ceilinged vestibule. There was no sound. Maybe my friend had gotten tired of waiting; I was later than I’d said I would be. I decided to see if he’d left me a note.

I went through an arch and crossed the parlor toward the back of the house. Behind it was another room with an ornate fireplace, and beyond that another archway and blackness. I stepped through the archway and waited for my eyes to become accustomed to the dark. When they were, I inched toward a faintly outlined door at the rear. My foot hit something soft.

The back of my neck prickled. I turned on the flash again. It went out. I punched the faulty switch harder and shone the beam down, at the floor. At a man’s prone body.

I recoiled, my heart pounding.

“Jake,” I whispered. “Oh, no. Jake!”

Even at a glance, even in this light, I could tell my friend was dead. He lay on his side in what common sense told me must be blood. Only it didn’t smell like blood.

My fingers clutched the flash. I stood for a moment, several moments. It seemed like hours. Finally I knelt and dipped my finger into the pool of liquid. It was thick and sticky. Paint. Bright-red house paint.

I straightened, wiping my finger on my jeans before I realized what I was doing.

“Oh, Jake,” I said, louder. My words echoed in the cavernous room, and then the old house enveloped me in ponderous silence. From outside came the bellow of foghorns on San Francisco Bay.

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