The Nantucket Diet Murders
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Warm memories and good food greeted Mrs. Potter's retum to her beloved Nantucket, but so did a chilling surprise. Her old friends had a dangerous new look: dangerously thin and dressed to kill!
Was something sinister going on? A handsome new diet doctor had won over the richest widows on the island with his weight-loss secrets -- and his very personal attention. But when sudden death was seved up along with delightful Down East dishes (try sinfully rich Scrimshaw Inn Rum Pie or tangy Nantucket Cranberry Cup Pudding!), the inimitable Mrs. Potter knew it was time to stir the pot and come up with a devilishly clever culinary killer.
Release date: December 16, 2009
Print pages: 288
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The Nantucket Diet Murders
Oscar deBevereaux painfully eased his sagging flesh, his aching bones, into the high old-fashioned tub.
“Hell of a way to end the day,” he said to himself, thinking of long-ago late afternoon parties on Long Island, when Bunny had been alive, of tea dancing at the Plaza in even earlier happy days.
Then, as he knew they would, came memories even more painful than the torment of his arthritic hips and knees. He thought, as he knew he would, of Marthé, his plump and beautiful little Marthé, riding her fat pony in late afternoon Long Island sunshine. Then, of an older Marthé playing tennis with laughing, long-legged boys on the tennis courts in the lower garden, of a white-aproned maid carrying great trays of milk and lemonade and sandwiches and cakes to hungry young friends, their golden arms and legs glowing in the light.
He thought of his daughter, as round and sleek as a young seal, making her neat trim dives into the pool beyond the house. He saw her joining her schoolmates in field hockey. “Yea, Martie!” he heard girls in school uniforms cheering from the sidelines.
Again he could hear her say, at first cheerfully, and then in later times plaintively, “But I’m just too revoltingly fat!”
He and Bunny had remonstrated, he remembered, and he could still see Marthé’s firmly set, square little jaw. She was still saying the same words when her emaciated body had to be carried upstairs for the last time to her girlhood room in the big Long Island house. “Too revoltingly fat.”
How light the burden of that coffin must have been, Oscar deBevereaux thought again, as it carried the wraith, the caricature, of that once beautiful, sturdy little body.
The sorrow was as new as it had been that day, and so was the rage that had been its companion for all these years. Soon, he told himself grimly, he would be able to act. At long last he was now building a case, in the eyes of the law he served and respected, that would begin to avenge his daughter’s death, although a case that involved another child and a tragedy of a different kind.
He groaned, perhaps from the slight relief of the hot water as he soaked his aching joints. Was that someone at the kitchen door downstairs? He heard a woman’s voice, the words unintelligible, then the door’s closing. Never mind, he told himself, he could never have got there in time anyway, and what deuced difference could it make? People were always coming in and out his back door, and one reason it was left unlocked was so he wouldn’t have to disturb himself coming up and down stairs. His bath, his bedroom, his comfortable living room, were on the second floor of his Nantucket house, a remodeled small barn in the center of town. The kitchen, a small guest room and bath, and the large dining room that doubled as a downstairs sitting room were on the first.
Half dozing now in the cooling water, he roused at the thought that for a second time the kitchen door downstairs had been opened and closed, but this time he heard no call of greeting.
Maybe it was Edie, with something from the office. He’d given her the afternoon off for some kind of softball girls’ do at the Scrimshaw. She’d told him it was her birthday; it seemed only three months since her last one, he thought irritably. Anyway, he’d see her in the morning, whenever he managed to get down. Today, with no secretary in the office, he had taken the afternoon off himself, had removed the phone from the hook and settled down with a book in front of the upstairs fireplace.
About to turn on a fresh stream of hot water, he reconsidered. Slowly he hoisted his now waterlogged and wrinkled body out of the high, claw-footed tub. Awkwardly he toweled his softened skin and eased his arms and shoulders into a gray flannel bathrobe. He’d go down to the kitchen and make himself a cup of tea, at least, even if he didn’t feel much like dinner. Maybe, if it was there, he’d even try some of that comfort-comfrey stuff, whatever it was called, that Beth Higginson had said she’d leave for him, see if that would help this damned arthritis.
A tin canister on the kitchen table next to the back door was neatly labeled Comfrey Tea in Beth’s familiar hand. The wilted clumps of half-green leaves it contained looked unpromising, but he told himself Beth was the authority on herbs, not he. He boiled water in a saucepan, added a small handful, and let it simmer for a minute or two, a procedure that seemed vaguely suitable for extracting its virtues, if any.
The resulting pale liquid seemed too anemic in color and aroma to suggest it would be an effective remedy for anything at all. He decided to let it simmer a little longer while he looked for a possible message from a second caller. Finding none, he decided he had only imagined the second opening and closing of the kitchen door.
When he thought the tea must be sufficiently brewed (it was no darker and no more aromatic now), he filled his big tea mug. Then, neat as always in his bachelor kitchen, he rinsed the sodden leaves into the garbage disposer in the sink. As they flushed away, he rinsed and dried and put away the saucepan.
With mug in hand, he made his way back upstairs to his big chair in front of the fire. It was only good manners to try the stuff, and its taste was not too disagreeably grassy. After all, an old friend had gone to the trouble of bringing it to him. He’d drink it now before it got cold, then call to thank her in the morning. Tell her he felt better, whether he did or not.
The grip of sudden pain in his chest, when it came, made him forget his aching bones, even the sharper hurt of old memories. His head was splitting, and so, in a great revulsion of nausea, were his stomach and bowels, a red flood of pain engulfing him in continually increasing rhythm.
Through glazed eyes, Oscar deBevereaux saw the curl of surf on his own beach on the Long Island shore, each crest flaming in the sun, a red ebb and flow commanding his entire attention. Finally there was no pain, but the ebb and flow of each crested wave continued, now blue in the fading light. Then, at the last, there were only soft murmurs of gray water and white spindrift along the sand.
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