Dead by Any Other Name

Dead by Any Other Name by Sebastian Stuart Read Free Book Online

Book: Dead by Any Other Name by Sebastian Stuart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sebastian Stuart
Tags: Fiction, Mystery, Novel, soft-boiled
incomprehensible, I wanted to buy a kibbutz and have his babies. Need I tell you Mummy and Daddy were livid.” She turned to a maid who was slouching in the doorway. “Juanita dear, do bring the tea! … Unless you’d rather gin?”
    â€œTea is fine.”
    The maid left. Octavia took a huge mouthful of some greenish pudding. “I must warn you that my sister Lavinia will be appearing at any moment. Of course I adore her, but she is …” she leaned in close and lowered her voice, “… peculiar .”
    â€œIs she?”
    â€œOh yes.” She popped a cookie in her mouth. “It happened when Daddy died, she quite lost the plot, now she spends all day with Jerome. I’m quite fond of Jerome, but at a certain age one must refresh oneself. That’s why I took up painting, it’s released all my inhibitions.” She gestured vaguely to the huge splattered canvases. “A curator from Vassar came over and pronounced my work arresting . Would you like to know my secret?”
    I nodded.
    â€œI paint from my vagina. I just pretend that I’ve chopped my head right off and my id pours onto the canvas like a cosmic orgasm ! My dear, you haven’t touched a crumb.”
    Juanita/Inez/Maria appeared with a large silver teapot. “Thank you, Lupe.” Octavia poured us both tea; it was strong enough to peel paint.
    â€œI wanted to ask you about your boarder, Pavel.”
    Octavia’s whole demeanor changed, she sat up straight and eyeballed me. “Pavel has been very naughty.”
    â€œOh?”
    â€œHe’s been spending time with that other woman , that crass little nobody who lives up in the woods somewhere.”
    â€œYou mean Natas—”
    She clasped her hands over her ears and cried, “ Don’t mention that name in my presence!” She lowered her hands to her lap in a great show of restoring her dignity. “What you have to understand is that Pavel is the great love of my life. And I of his. He has proposed marriage to me. I, of course, as a lady must, have withheld my consent—I have a duty to uphold my family’s standards. And so to punish me, he’s undertaken this meaningless dalliance with that tawdry mountain woman. I’ve heard she has enormous feet !”
    â€œNatasha Wolfson is dead.”
    Octavia’s eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open. Then she was still for a long suspended moment. “Are you quite sure? Dead ?”
    I nodded.
    She stood up and began to pace, a flush of triumph racing up her bosom to her face. “Does Pavel know?”
    â€œI don’t know.”
    â€œI must go find him!” She raced halfway out of the room, turned, came over and lightly cupped my face in her hands, her eyes welled, “You’re my angel, my Italian-Jewish angel, sent from the heavens or Tel Aviv or wherever …” A half-mad smile spread across her face. “ Do have some gooseberry pudding!”
    Off she sped.
    I tried the gooseberry pudding—boy, that is some weird-ass food, slimy and sour, like something they’d make you eat on a reality show. A maid walked by the doorway, texting. I looked out the picture window at Collier Denton’s estate on the other side of the barbwire fence. His house was a rambling old stone affair, the kind second-homers swoon over, surrounded by some serious gardens that had gone a bit to seed, when you looked closely the paint on the house was worn and chipped. A high cloud passed over the sun and suddenly the day grew dark and the scene looked forlorn and melancholy.
    â€œRipping good tea here, Jerome.”
    I turned to see a mannish woman (she would have been a mannish man, too) walk into the room; her build was similar to her sister’s but she was wearing a tweed jacket, oxford shirt, tie, wool slacks, and men’s shoes, all of it a bit disheveled and not altogether clean. Her short hair was slicked back but had burst

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