Many a twist, p.1

Many a Twist, page 1

 

Many a Twist
 



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Many a Twist


  Also Available by Sheila Connolly

  The County Cork Mysteries

  Cruel Winter

  A Turn for the Bad

  An Early Wake

  Scandal in Skibbereen

  Buried in a Bog

  The Orchard Mysteries

  A Late Frost

  Seeds of Deception

  A Gala Event

  Picked to Die

  Golden Malicious

  Sour Apples

  Bitter Harvest

  A Killer Crop

  Red Delicious Death

  Rotten to the Core

  One Bad Apple

  The Museum Mysteries

  Dead End Street

  Privy to the Dead

  Razing the Dead

  Monument to the Dead

  Fire Engine Dead

  Let’s Play Dead

  Fundraising the Dead

  The Relatively Dead Mysteries

  Search for the Dead

  Watch for the Dead

  Defending the Dead

  Seeing the Dead

  Relatively Dead

  The Glassblowing Mysteries (as Sarah Atwell)

  Snake in the Glass

  Pane of Death

  Through a Glass, Deadly

  Also available

  Reunion With Death

  Once She Knew

  Many a Twist

  A County Cork Mystery

  SHEILA CONNOLLY

  NEW YORK

  This is a work of fiction. All of the names, characters, organizations, places, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real or actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2018 by Sheila Connolly

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Crooked Lane Books, an imprint of The Quick Brown Fox & Company LLC.

  Crooked Lane Books and its logo are trademarks of The Quick Brown Fox & Company LLC.

  Library of Congress Catalog-in-Publication data available upon request.

  ISBN (hardcover): 978-1-68331-453-0

  ISBN (ePub): 978-1-68331-454-7

  ISBN (ePDF): 978-1-68331-455-4

  Cover design by Bruce Emmett

  www.crookedlanebooks.com

  Crooked Lane Books

  34 West 27th St., 10th Floor

  New York, NY 10001

  First Edition: January 2018

  Is iomaí cor sa tsaol.

  There is many a twist in life.

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Acknowledgments

  One

  “What do you think?” Gillian Callanan asked nervously. “It’s not been easy for me to do much lately, what with the baby coming. And Harry’s been so busy trying to sort out clients that he hasn’t been around as often as I’d like. He’d like to be, I think.”

  Maura Donovan looked at her obviously pregnant friend and wondered whether it was the very unfinished home or the impending birth of her and Harry’s child that had made her so frazzled. Probably both, Maura guessed—not that she had any real experience with either pregnancy or home decoration. But Gillian had asked for her opinion, and she wasn’t going to weasel out of answering it.

  “I think it’s a great place. It’s got the right amount of space for the three of you, and the view of Ballinlough is terrific. It’s all on one floor. It’s close to where you’ll be working—”

  Gillian interrupted with a snort. “If ever I work again. We still haven’t touched the studio space, and it’s filthy.”

  “We’ll round up a bunch of the regulars from Sullivan’s and scrub the place down for you. I’ll offer them some free pints. Location: great. Size: perfect. Access: easy. You’ve got a decent road right in front, but it’ll be quiet because whatever cars go by, the studio in front will block the noise.”

  “If I ignore the fisherman swarming about six months out of the year.”

  “I thought fishing was quiet.”

  “Once you’re out on the lake, it is. But it’s the getting there that’s noisy, and once the men are done for the day, they’ve been known to lift a few bottles on the way in.”

  “Is that legal?”

  Gillian shrugged. “Live and let live, we say. But this place has been empty for so long that those who fish here often have forgotten that it’s a home.”

  “Maybe I can ask Sean Murphy to keep an eye on things.”

  “Your faithful garda—what is he these days? Friend? Or more than friend?”

  “I don’t know,” Maura muttered. “But I’m sure he’d help.”

  “Don’t trouble yourself. Harry and I will work things out. Harry can always offer them his services as an accountant, which might hurry up their exit.”

  “Is he having any luck?” Maura asked, feeling a bit anxious. Harry Townsend had been a modestly successful accountant in Dublin, but then his great-aunt Eveline, who’d lived in the local manor house near Maura’s pub, had passed away not long ago, and Gillian had turned up pregnant. Gillian and Harry had been on-again, off-again for years, but now they seemed to be firmly on, and Eveline’s passing had provided just enough funds to buy the decrepit house and former creamery overlooking a small lake, Ballinlough. Harry had given up his apartment in Dublin and was trying to make a go of his business locally, but he’d been struggling. Maura knew in theory that a lot could be done by computer these days, but she had no idea what the timeline might be for setting himself up and finding clients in West Cork. The baby, on the other hand, had a very definite timeline.

  And no matter how Maura tried to reassure Gillian, the house was still just short of livable. Being so close to the water, there were damp problems, and little maintenance had been done for at least the past ten years. Maura really was going to have to step up her game, corral some of her patrons, and make sure the essential things got done on time.

  “Okay, Gillian, tell me this: What absolutely, positively has to be done before the baby comes?”

  Gillian gave some thought to the question before answering. “I’ve little experience with infants, but I’m going to guess the child should be warm and dry, so at least his or her room should be finished and done right. You know, heating, double-pane windows, proper ventilation. And I’m told they soil their clothes every time you turn around, so there’d best be a washer and a place to dry clothes. Something like a basic kitchen, so I can keep Harry and myself fed without too much work. A place to sit, and somewhere to sleep. God help us, there’s next to no furniture—I’ve been living in
rented flats in Dublin for years with none of my own. Harry’s been promised a few bits and pieces from the manor house, but I’d feel terrible watching black mold creeping up eighteenth-century end tables. You’re lucky, up the hill there—you get more of a breeze.”

  “Has your family come around yet?”

  “Do you mean, have they forgiven me, or have they actually visited here?”

  “Either one. Does anyone on your side have any baby things they can recycle?”

  “I doubt it,” Gillian told her, looking resigned. “My ma’s still not speaking to me, and my sisters resent me because I’m the one who got away, took myself off to Dublin, and called myself an artist, while they were stuck here having babies and going to Mass with Ma. You’d think they’d be eager to come lord it over me now, wouldn’t you?”

  “And Harry has no one on his side, right?”

  “Exactly. And you’ve seen the attic at Mycroft House—there are no discarded cribs lurking in the shadows there.”

  “What do we need to do right now? Heck, didn’t people use to put new babies in a laundry basket to sleep? It’s not like they need fancy furniture and matching sheets.”

  “Good point. The kid won’t mind, at least not for a few months.” Gillian hauled her bulk out of the chair she’d been sitting in. “Come on, I need to move. Let’s go out the back and admire the view. We’ve got a couple of very used plastic chairs out there.”

  “Fine,” Maura said and followed her to the back of the house.

  It was a view worth admiring. The lake was, in Maura’s Boston-raised opinion, just the right size: not so large as to be intimidating but large enough that sound didn’t carry off the water. Gillian’s house ran north-south, so the back view looked west, toward the setting sun. There were few houses in sight, only the gentle hills beyond the lake. Maura could hear the distant lowing of a cow—but then, she could hear that from almost anywhere in West Cork. Still, it was pretty and peaceful and surprisingly soothing.

  Gillian shut her eyes and leaned back in the rickety chair. “I suppose I should enjoy this as long as I can. I expect this child might have other ideas.”

  “I’m told they do sleep sometimes,” Maura replied. “You have any idea if it’s a boy or a girl?”

  “None. Harry would prefer a boy, I think. Someone to carry on the line, not that it matters anymore. But that’s a male thing, I think. I’ll be happy either way.”

  Maura wondered to herself whether Harry would stay the course. He’d been something of a—heck, what did they call it these days? Player?—for most of his adult life. He’d shown no signs of settling down until recently, although he was in his midthirties, as was Gillian. The two of them had danced around the idea of marriage, but it still hadn’t happened, child or not.

  “You have a doctor and all that?” Maura asked.

  “I’ve been to the clinic, and there’s a visiting nurse who comes around. Since I’m not exactly young for a first-time mother, I’m told I should have this child in hospital, although there are midwives around. And midwives in hospitals, for that matter. Don’t worry. It’s taken care of.”

  “And when do you have to be out of Mycroft House?”

  “The National Trust has been very kind to let us stay while we get things sorted out, but I think they’d like to have the place open for tours by the summer. We’ve already inventoried who gets what. And the O’Briens left in a huff as soon as Eveline died. As you might guess, I’m not exactly keeping up with the housecleaning these days.”

  “I’m told there’s a service you can hire to clean for you,” Maura volunteered.

  “Yes, over at Union Hall—I know a couple of the people there—but I’m not sure what money we have, and I’d rather save it for more important things.”

  Maura was feeling more and more useless. She really wanted to be able to help Gillian, but all this baby stuff was completely foreign to her. She’d never had any brothers or sisters since her father had died and then her mother had vanished when she was young, leaving Maura with her grandmother. She’d never done any babysitting in her Boston neighborhood because nobody paid for that there, calling on relatives most of the time, and Maura had needed to work to bring in some income, even when she was in high school. She knew which end of a baby was up and that they needed constant feeding and cleaning, but that was about all.

  Gillian laughed, startling her. “Ah, Maura—if only you could see your face! I know you want to help, and I’m glad to have your company.”

  Maura smiled in spite of herself. “Okay, but let me do what I can, will you? The least I can do is paint or move furniture around.”

  “Don’t fret. I’ll ask. I know—we can’t do this alone. Shouldn’t you be off about now?”

  “I told Mick I’d be in by five and cover the evening shift. So I guess I should be going. Is Harry picking you up, or should I drop you off at Mycroft House?”

  “A ride would be grand. Let me check in with Harry.” Gillian managed to get up, then made her way carefully into the house. She was back in under a minute. “Harry said he’d be eternally grateful if you would see me home.”

  “No problem. You ready to go?”

  “Let me pee once more. Thank goodness the plumbing here works.”

  Waiting for Gillian, Maura turned back to the view. The days were growing longer, but the sun was already hanging low. She’d meant it when she said it was a lovely place. A good place to raise a child. But she was still having trouble seeing Harry settling in here. Maybe he’d be able to find a small office he could afford in Skibbereen or even Cork city. Someplace he could set up a desk and files and a computer connection, away from the interruptions of a squalling baby.

  Gillian came out the door on the side. “Ready?”

  “Let’s go.”

  Two

  It was nearly dark as Maura drove along the Ballinlough road toward the village of Leap, where Sullivan’s occupied a central place on the village’s only main street. The building had stood there for centuries, leaning against a rock face behind, and its former owner, Mick Sullivan—usually known as Old Mick—had done his best not to change anything at all in the decades he’d managed it. In a way, Maura could understand that: if there was an Irish equivalent of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the shabby dark pub fit the bill. She had followed the same rule when she’d found out that Old Mick had left her the pub in his will, thanks to an agreement he and her grandmother had come to without ever bothering to mention it to her. Maura had always been wary of new situations, so she’d taken her time sizing up the place before deciding on any changes—or whether any changes were needed.

  The staff had already been in place, and all had stayed, much to Maura’s relief. “Young” Mick, in his midthirties, was the quiet mainstay of the place. Jimmy was less dependable, but he came as a package deal with his young daughter, Rose, barely seventeen, a sweet kid who was pretty enough to draw in some customers. Then there was Old Billy Sheahan, a longtime friend of Mick’s who, thanks to a deal with Old Mick, enjoyed free rent in his tiny rooms at the end of the old building, not to mention a steady supply of fresh pints of Guinness. But Maura had quickly recognized that Billy was an asset: he knew everybody and everything about them and the region and its history, and Maura wasn’t sure she would have survived the first few months without his steady guiding hand. Along the way, he had become the grandfather she had never had, and he was welcome to keep his warm corner by the pub’s fire as long as he wanted it.

  The pub was a small place with room for no more than two hundred people (which was also about the total population of the village) if they crowded together and used all the available space in the pub, but the people kept coming, first out of curiosity to see what the new young American girl would do with the place, and then because it seemed that they actually liked her—and because she hadn’t changed things much. The only real change was that Maura had brought back Irish music to the place, a long-standing tradition that Old Mick ha
d let lapse in his later years. The music attracted a few younger faces and a greater number of women, but it didn’t really change the feeling of the place. And that was fine.

  Maura parked her car on the street and walked into Sullivan’s, drawn by the warm glow of the windows facing the street. She was greeted by the familiar odor of smoke—a heady mixture of burning peat and wood—topped off with a bit of stale beer, a dollop of woolens that hadn’t been washed since fall, and a dash of cow. She raised a hand to Billy in his accustomed seat, and he smiled at her before going back to his conversation with two men she didn’t recognize. She made her way to the bar, where Rose and Mick were keeping moderately busy filling pints and making coffee from the gleaming stainless-steel machine—it had been languishing in the cellar under Old Mick, and bringing it upstairs and getting it running was another positive change she’d made.

  “How’s Gillian?” Rose asked, watching her row of pints settle with an experienced eye.

  “Large. Kind of overwhelmed with all the stuff that has to be done at the house, and she can’t begin to do most of it in her current condition.”

  “And where’s Harry, then?” Rose asked.

  “Drumming up work, she says.”

  “Is he serious, do yeh think?”

  “About staying around? Staying with Gillian? I hope so, to both. I think they’re still kind of feeling their way along with all these changes. Are you too busy to talk for a minute?”

  Rose checked out the room. It looked like most of the men held glasses that were at least half full. “I’ve time enough, I’d say. Can I make you a coffee?”

  “Please.” Maura watched for a few moments as Rose set the machine to brewing a single cup for her.

  After a couple of minutes, Rose slid it in front of where Maura was perched on a barstool. “Yeh wanted to talk about something? Yeh’re not thinkin’ of firin’ me, are yeh?”

  “Good heavens, no!” Maura protested, laughing. “Not unless I know you’ve got something better lined up, or you decide to leave your da to Judith and head for the big city. Why don’t we move to that corner? It’s a little more private.”

 
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