OOLONG TEA AT 10:30
By Alice Cleveland Reed
Copyright 2007 by Alice Cleveland Reed, all rights reserved. Cover design by Steve Maas,
Mass Creative. masscreativeadvertising.com, all rights reserved.This book is sold for
personal use only----any other use, transfer, storage, or duplication constitutes fraud.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this
copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement,
including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the
FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine
This is a work of fiction. All characters, situations, locations and descriptions are fictitious
or used fictitiously.
Published by BooksForABuck.com
This book is dedicated to my best friend and husband John. I want to thank him for not
complaining when I'd forget to make dinner or burn the dinner already cooking on the
stove. Thank you for not complaining when I worked all night to complete a chapter.
Thank you for loving and accepting this preoccupied writer so I'm free to do what I love
doing more than anything else, write.
This is the opening scene to OOLONG TEA AT 10:30 by Alice Reed only. To buy the entire eMystery at the great price of only $3.99, click the "Buy Now" button below:
Robert Drake was killed in a car accident and Nights in White Satin played over and over in my mind, an endless reminder of my own mortality.
A funeral dirge wheezed from the ancient pipe organ in Holy Angels Episcopal Church, but it couldn't tune out the song. I covered my ears to keep the incursion of discord from exploding inside my head. But the song went on
I sat in the last pew until my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting inside the church. Streaks of sunlight seeped through the cracks in the stained glass windows. A multitude of lights glowed from ornate chandeliers hanging from the cathedral ceiling----too dim to cast a shadow. Ahead, a chain gang of mourners moved toward the opened casket at the foot of the altar. I had come, not to eulogize Robert Drake's life or to grieve over his body; I had come to mourn the thirty wasted years I had been Robert Drake's lover.
I joined the long line of mourners, many fellow Timberline employees. Some looked disgruntled; some were guilty of twisting the truth about my relationship with Robert to create excitement in their own hollow lives, ever unmindful of the harm done to others. Now, this commune of hypocrites used Robert's untimely death as an opportunity to win approval from his prominent widow. I deliberately avoided eye contact with them.
The heady fragrance of hothouse flowers filled the dank air, leaving me lightheaded. I devoured chunks of muggy air to clear my head and I continued.
Straight ahead, on either side of the casket, flaming candles stood like fiery sentinels. Puddles of melted wax fueled the candles until they burned brighter and the shadows grew longer and danced faster. The eerie glow seemed to give life to the lifeless.
The diffused lighting didn't hide the details on the hand-carved mahogany casket. The twenty-four carat gold handles cost as much, if not more, than the homes of many of the people in attendance.
Honora Drake, Robert's widow, sat as motionless as her husband's lifeless body. A black veil covered the crown of her wide brimmed hat and draped softly to her rounded shoulders. She stared straight ahead, probably for the same reason I did, and held her head high. Wisconsin's richest woman, sole heiress of the vast fortune accrued by the Timberline Paper dynasty, Cliffside's self-appointed matriarch's primary purpose in life had been to endorse by her presence all altruistic pursuits for the betterment of the city her great-grandfather had founded. Now she resembled a mound of potting soil as she sat alone at her husband's funeral.
I hadn't expected to feel sympathy for Honora Drake, but being all alone today seemed harshly unfair. Where was their son?
I was ten feet from the casket when I got my first glimpse of Robert's face. It offered little contrast against the white satin lining. Only four people were ahead of me. My stomach cramped and the lump in my throat made me feel as though I was suffocating. Hot saliva washed the inside of my mouth and I swallowed hard to control the nausea.
It seemed an eternity had passed since I had entered the church. Finally I stood in front of Robert's casket. Like the chain gang before me, I bowed my head to emulate grief.
In death, Robert's handsome face possessed the same flawless features I had fallen in love with when I was eighteen, the same features I searched for whenever I read a newspaper or watched TV news.
I remembered the happy moments we had spent together, stolen moments that had always ended too soon. I longed to feel the warmth of his cheek pressed to mine when he'd held me as if he never wanted to let me go. Just one more time, I wanted to hear him whisper he had made the biggest mistake of his life by not marrying me.
After he'd whisper his sweet nothings, Robert would leave--and I'd never know when we'd be together again. And felt the sting of abandonment because I knew we'd never make love again. At least, he'd never hurt me again.
For one final moment, I studied his face. I wanted to etch every detail in my memory.
His features displayed an unnatural piety as if his face had been chiseled from white Italian marble.
"It can't be!" I leaned over until I was almost nose to nose with the cadaver. "That's not Robert"
Someone in the front pew gasped.
"It looks like him." The fragrance of expensive French perfume filled the air. Without turning around, I knew Honora Drake was behind me.
"That's not Robert." I repeated loud enough for everyone in the church to hear.
The buzz of whispers provided the perfect background to Nights in White Satin's final lament.
The music in my head finally turned itself off and hurt became anger. Whoever had screwed up Robert's funeral just might have the key to recovering the money he had invested for me.
"If that's not Robert, who is it?" Mrs. Drake asked.
If there's a proper way to explain to your lover's wife how you knew every feature, every line, every expression on her husband's face, I didn't know what it was. From the moment I had entered the church, whispers had followed me. Was Mrs. Drake the only person in Cliffside who doesn't know her husband had a lover?
"Why did you say this is not my husband?" Mrs. Drake demanded.
Everyone knew of Honora Drake.
Few of the working class, excluding people like my mother who had worked at the Clifford Mansion as a maid, had met her personally.
I've lived in Cliffside all my life, but today was the first time our paths had crossed. Then again, talking to a black veil might not be considered meeting. Besides my mother, the only person within my limited sphere of acquaintances who knew her was Robert. He had become an integral part of her world on the day they were betrothed--The Chronicle's words, not mine.
I hated Honora Drake. I hated her money, her position in the community and especially, I hated what I had lost when Robert married her. I hid my anxiety behind words as sharp as hers, "I don't know who that is; I do know he's not Robert."
We hope you've enjoyed this opening scene to Alice Reed's OOLONG TEA AT 10:30. To buy the entire eNovel for only $3.99, click the "Buy Now" button below: