Arsenic with Austen

Arsenic with Austen by Katherine Bolger Hyde Read Free Book Online

Book: Arsenic with Austen by Katherine Bolger Hyde Read Free Book Online
Authors: Katherine Bolger Hyde
she herself would never see fifty again.
    She finished her coffee and moved to the library, where she spread out on the massive desk all the papers Jamie MacDougal had given her. She read through the will, which was straightforward and contained little of Aunt Beatrice’s characteristic acerbic voice until Emily came to the paragraphs detailing her own bequest.
    To my great-niece, Emily Worthing Cavanaugh, I leave all my books, as I know no one else who would value them as I have done. As I do not wish the books to be moved, I leave her Windy Corner as well; and since the house is likely to become a money pit in its old age, I bequeath to said great-niece all the residue of my property not otherwise disposed of herein. I regret to say this is likely to include the cat Bustopher Jones, who will undoubtedly outlive me as he is far too ornery to die; however, it may be possible to palm him off onto Agnes Beech, who seems to have an unaccountable fondness for the creature.
    It is my hope and belief that this sudden acquisition of wealth will not spoil Emily’s character nor prove to be too great a burden; but if it does become a burden, I ask only that she shall not dispose of any of the real property in accordance with the fiendish and underhanded plans for development of Mayor Everett Trimble, nor entrust it to the agency of Vicki Landau for sale. This is a request, not a condition, as I have every faith in Emily’s intrinsic Worthing good sense, which bypassed her father but has only wavered in Emily once, to my knowledge, in her extreme youth.
    Emily smiled as she read. She could hear Beatrice’s voice in her head, could almost see her standing just there, by the French window, dictating these words to Jamie MacDougal. She winced at the final phrase, though. So Aunt Beatrice had known about Luke, though Emily had hugged the secret of their relationship to her chest like a safety blanket. Of course. Aunt Beatrice knew everything.
    And if Emily did not carry out her wishes, Aunt Beatrice would know that, too, and would undoubtedly exact some awful vengeance, such as siccing Bustopher Jones on her from beyond the grave. It was fortunate Emily’s good Worthing sense had already set her on the right path.
    The will, to her surprise, did not specify the wording of Beatrice’s epitaph, stipulating only that Emily should be the one to write it. She was touched by that. Beatrice trusted her not only to honor her memory, but to do so eloquently, concisely, and without undue sentiment. This was not stated, but Emily knew from the many times Beatrice had corrected her essays exactly what her aunt would expect.
    She turned to the list of properties. A total of fifty-three rental units, including single houses, duplexes, and a couple of fourplexes, most of them in prime locations within sight of the beach. The Driftwood Inn, the biggest and classiest of the town’s three hotels. Three entire blocks of downtown retail space. “Downtown” was a mere four blocks long, and the fourth block had gone to Brock. This left only a few outlying shops, cafés, and taverns to be owned by others. In addition, Emily now owned all the undeveloped property from the beach to the highway for more than a mile to the north of town, all the way past Windy Corner and up to the rocky promontory that put a parenthesis to that end of the town’s five-mile-long beach.
    No wonder Trimble was eager to get Emily on his side. North was the only direction the town could potentially grow. To the east, the coastal range rose too sharply to permit more building. To the south, the beach ended where the houses petered out and Tillamook Bay began. Beatrice, and now Emily, stood in the breach, single-handedly defending Stony Beach from unwelcome expansion.
    She felt rather like Boadicea defending Britain from the Romans. She might fight with all her valor, but her eventual defeat seemed assured.

    As a brother, a landlord, a

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