Murder Down Under (A Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery Book 17)

COPYRIGHT

 

First published in Australia by South Coast Publishing, May 2015.
Copyright K.J. Emrick (2015)

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and locations portrayed in this book and the names herein are fictitious.  Any similarity to or identification with the locations, names, characters or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

 

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jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations.

 

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Chapter One

 

Jetlag.  It was now on the top of her list of things that should be made illegal.

Darcy had stayed awake for most of the flight but after awhile she put her head back and closed her eyes and sleep came almost at once.  Twenty-two hours on a plane, and that was after a two hour delay on the tarmac.  No way was she going to stay up through all of that.  She wanted to be all rested up for when they reached their honeymoon destination.

So she slept, and her dreams were silly things that were there and gone again.  The vibration of the airplane rocked her.

When she did wake up it was with her head resting on Jon’s shoulder.  He was stroking the long dark strands of her hair as he watched clouds floating by out the window
.
He’d let her have the window seat and here she was, sleeping and not even using it. 

He noticed her stirring.  “Good morning, Mrs. Tinker.”

She smiled, fingers touching the wedding bands on her left hand.  “I’m still Darcy Sweet, remember?  You said I could keep my own name.”

“I remember.”  He shifted so she could settle more comfortably in her chair.  “I wouldn’t have you any other way.  Ready to have some time off, just the two of us?”

“You have no idea.  I can’t wait.”

“Seems we waited a long time for this.”

Sleep was stealing up on her again.  She could feel it making her eyelids heavy and her thoughts a little fuzzy.  “Was I worth the wait?”

He kissed the top of her head.  “Totally worth it.”

That was exactly the right answer.  “I love you, Jon.”

“I love you, too.”

She was almost dreaming again when he said, “Hey.”

“Hmm?”

“We’re here.  Look.”

Out the window, Darcy could see a deep blue ocean lapping at a shore lined with green trees and plants.  A city of tall buildings and bridges and highways marched right up to the water’s edge.  She caught just a glimpse of the Sydney Opera House with its oddly shaped geometric roof hunkered down like some great animal waiting there on the edge of civilization. And the Sydney Harbor Bridge really did look like a giant coat hanger.

It was breathtaking.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the pilot’s voice came from the overhead speakers, “please return all trays to their upright and locked position and fasten your seatbelts.  The time is eight forty-three in the morning, local time, and if you look out your windows you’ll see a great view of the Eastern Australian coast as we begin our descent into Sydney International Airport.  Thank you for flying with us and as they say here in Australia, G’day Mate.”

There was laughter throughout the cabin, but Darcy could hear two of the flight attendants talking as they passed her and Jon’s seats. 

“I wish he didn’t have to say that,” the one said.

“It’s just commercial,” the other pointed out.  “For the tourists.”

Darcy smiled as she buckled herself back in.  Tourists.  That’s what she and Jon were on this trip.  Tourists.  No police work for him.  No mysteries for her.  For a whole week they were going to celebrate their wedding and every moment of their lives that had led up to this.  A whole two weeks in Australia. One week exploring Tasmania and the other exploring Victoria and New South Wales. She could hardly believe it.

There was a quick layover in Sydney before they boarded another flight bound for Hobart International Airport.  It wasn’t even enough time to go out and look around the city, but that was all right.  Darcy hadn’t expected to be able to see everything Australia had to offer in just one week.  So they made their way from one gate to another, getting there with less than fifteen minutes to spare, ready to depart for Hobart.

Hobart’s airport was smaller than Sydney’s and wasn’t able to accommodate a plane the size of the one they’d taken here from America.  A smaller twin engine jet brought them the quick trip from here to Tasmania, one step closer to their honeymoon destination.  The Pine Lake Inn.

The plane landed softly, the wheels bumping gently against the tarmac.  The whine of the engines powering down was almost anticlimactic.  Murphy’s Law wasn’t going to catch up with them on this side of the world, apparently.  Whatever could go wrong, hadn’t.  It was Darcy’s first time flying, and she had imagined a lot of things going wrong, each of them crazier than the one before.  The engines hadn’t blown up.  The wings hadn’t fallen off.  No one had been murdered at forty thousand feet.  Just smooth, easy sailing.

Jon took her hand as they taxied to a stop on the runway.  “Told you so.”

She let him gloat a little because he’d been right.  There hadn’t been anything to worry about.

Hobart International Airport was one long building a single story high.  It took only a minute to walk the length of the terminal to the baggage claim to collect their luggage.  Darcy’s excitement built with each step she took.  Australia!  She couldn’t wait to go exploring the beautiful landscapes she and Jon had seen in brochures and internet searches.  The Australian Alps, highest point Mount Kosciuszko.  Kangaroo Island.  Pink mountains and white beaches and animals and plants that only existed in this corner of the world.

Holding a heavy suitcase in each hand, a backpack slung over his shoulder, Jon regarded her with those amazing blue eyes of his.  She blinked at him and picked up her own two suitcases to carry.  “What?”

“I like seeing you smile like that,” he told her.

It was true.  She couldn’t help it.  Still, he didn’t get to make fun of her for it.  She stuck her tongue out at him as she searched the signs and digital displays all around them.  “Which way are we supposed to go?”

“Um.  That way.  I think.”  He shrugged, an awkward motion with his load of black and gray luggage.  “We have some time before we need to check into the Inn.  Besides, this place isn’t LaGuardia or JFK.  It’s Hobart International.  Pretty sure we’re not going to get lost in the terminal.” True, that it was quite small.

“You know there’s a hotel right here in the airport, right?”  They started walking, not the least bit in a rush.  “We could have stayed here.  I would have been all right with that.”

“No way.  You found that Inn and you practically fell in love with the pictures on their website.  That’s part of the whole honeymoon package.  You, me, and an Inn in the Australian wilderness.  What could be more romantic?”

The Pine Lake Inn had caught Darcy’s eye almost immediately.  Lots of things had made their list of things to see and do.  The idea of spending every spare minute of her honeymoon locked inside a room at an honest-to-God Inn with Jon was the bow on the whole package.  The final little touch to make this trip perfect.  He was sweet to indulge her.  She promised herself she was going to make it worth his while.

They found a snack bar along the way, the 1848 Espresso Bar, where they bought coffees and banana chocolate chip muffins to eat on the way.  The muffins were prepackaged and mushy but Darcy ate every bite.  She was hungry.  Her stomach was still on Misty Hollow time and it was positive that it should be eating dinner.

They found the front doors without much trouble, and stepped out into what promised to be a warm day in early autumn.  It was fall here.  Nature should be getting ready to go to sleep.  Back home it was still early spring.  Did it snow in Australia?  That was something she’d never thought about before.  Kangaroos hopping around in drifting piles of white snow.  It made for quite the image in her mind.

It really was another world down here.

They had debated the need to rent a car but had decided against it.  They were tourists, and even with a car they wouldn’t have any idea where they were going.  Better to take taxis and buses whenever they could.  Plus the whole driving on the left side of the road thing seemed like way too much to get used to.

In the front of the airport a circular drive had a line of cars.  Four of them in a row.  They were black, with orange doors, and blue lights on top.

“They aren’t yellow,” Jon said.  He sounded confused.

Darcy shifted the suitcase in her one hand.  It was beginning to get heavy.  “I can see it’s not yellow.  So what?”

“The sign on the side of the car says Yellow Cab Company.  If it says yellow, shouldn’t it be yellow?”

She elbowed him in his ribs.  “Let’s go.  I’m hungry and I want to lay down in a soft bed and sleep for a whole day.”

“If you do that you’ll miss a whole day in Australia.”

“Fine.  Then for six hours.  Eight, tops.”

The driver in the first taxi in the line stepped out and waved his hand in the air to them.  Darcy managed to only blink once when she noticed his seat was on the opposite side, then did her best to act like it was normal.  Which it was, for everyone who lived here.

“Hello, my friends!”  The driver spoke to them directly.  “Yer in need of the finest cab in all of Tasmania, I can tell.”

He was a tall man with dark, curly hair trimmed close to his scalp.  His dark skin was the color of almonds and his teeth were very white.  The red collared golf tee he wore with his black slacks was apparently the uniform for the cab company, with the logo stitched onto the right chest.  As he waved them over again Jon turned to Darcy with a smile.

“I guess our chariot awaits.”

“There ya go,” the driver said as he started taking the luggage from Darcy first.  “Let me get these things for ya.  There we go.  Now.  Where might you two fine folks be heading?”

“The Pine Lake Inn.  You know it?”

The driver paused in the act of putting the bags in the trunk of the cab.  Then he nodded to himself and went back to his work.  “Too right, I do.  All the way over in Lakeshore.  It’s a bit back of Bourke but I can get ya there right quick.”

“Back of…where?” Jon asked.

“Oh.  Sorry, forgot me manners.  I mean it’s a bit of a drive.”  He slammed the trunk closed after the last bag was in, rubbing his hands together.  “Don’t mean to big-note meself, but I’m the best taxi driver ‘round these parts.  I’ll get ya there in a jiff.”

Darcy watched Jon trying to translate the Australian slang in his head.  The driver’s accent was pretty thick.  “Well.  Sounds good to me,” he said.  “Let’s get started.”

“Beauty.  Allow me, Miss.”  He held the door out for Darcy, with a wink at Jon.  “No worries, Mate.  I’ve been happily married to me wife for eight years now.  We celebrate the tenth anniversary next month.”

He laughed like he’d just made the best joke in the world, and Darcy found herself laughing with him.  His good mood was infectious.  Here they were, in Australia, on their honeymoon.  Everything was right in the world.

“My name’s Roy, by the by,” the driver told them as he closed the door behind Jon and got in behind the driver’s wheel again.  “The folks over at the Pine Lake Inn expecting you, are they?”

“We’ve got reservations for a room there,” Jon told him.

“Good, good.  Popular place, the Pine Lake Inn.  Got all that water and scenery.” 

He pulled away from the curb with a wave of the hand out his window.  Darcy checked behind and saw the other cabs took that as a signal to move up in line to wait their next customers.

“So you two are from the States?” Roy asked them.  “Here for a vaca then?”

He pronounced it “vay-kay” and Darcy could figure that one out easily enough.  Vacation.  “No.  Actually, this is our honeymoon.”

“Hey!  Stellar.  Congrats to both of ya.  Well, you’ll get plenty of alone time in Lakeshore.  Nice hiking trails there.  Nice people.  Myself, included.”

“You live in town there?” Jon asked him.

“That I do, Mate.  Right friendly little place.  The local police might be a bit much, but we make allowances.”

Jon’s ears perked up.  “I didn’t realize there was a police station in Lakeshore.  Is it big enough for one?”

“Sure is.  Might not be Sydney or Melbourne, but it holds its own.  Lots of tourists come every year.  Even got a newspaper of our own, we do.  So, sure enough, there’s coppers, too.  Got all of four officers working there.  Plus the Senior Sergeant.  Not much for them to do except check for litterbugs and chase the roos.”

Darcy could tell by the look on Jon’s face that there was going to be a trip to the police station in their future.  Maybe he could even get a patch as a souvenir to take home with them.

For nearly an hour straight, Roy talked to them about anything and everything.  “Going to be neighbors for a bit,” he explained.  “Might better get to know each other now as later.”

They stayed on the Huon Highway coming out of Hobart, a narrow road that followed a wide river for part of the way.  Then at a small community named Geeveston, they turned off onto an even narrower route.  Kookaburra Road.  In Geeveston they passed small houses and people out walking and everywhere they looked there were trees just starting to turn colors.  “It’s not that different from Misty Hollow,” Darcy said.

“Never been to Misty Hollow,” Roy put in.  “But folks are folks everywhere you go.  All want the same thing, in my experience.”

Darcy couldn’t argue with that.  People were the same everywhere.  The good, and the bad too, she supposed.  Different accents and which side of the highway people drove on wasn’t going to change that.

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