Meet Torrey Tunet. Great career. Big dreams. One terrible mistake.
Accept an invitation from a stranger who spills soup on her at a restaurant to stay at his Irish castle? What is pretty translator Torrey Tunet thinking? That's easy. She's thinking that luxurious rooms and gourmet meals beat the seedy Dublin hotel her agency booked for her. Fluent in numerous languages, Torrey intends to say non, nicht, nyet, and no way to any passes her host makes. But even Torrey is left speechless by what he actually suggests...and by stumbling upon a murdered man near a forest cottage. And when a priceless heirloom disappears and an old secret from her past surfaces, all fingers point to Torrey. Now she faces ruin-and gaol (jail)-unless she uncovers a truth darker than Irish nights about twisted minds, sinister passions and red-hot revenge...
About the Author
Dicey Deere lives in Sag Harbor, New York, with her husband. The Irish Cottage Murder marks the start of a new mystery series featuring the author's heroine, Torrey Tunet.
Read an Excerpt
Just past a castle glimpsed on a hill, he spotted the pond through a break in the hedgerow and stopped the yellow Saab. Shakily, he got out of the car.
There was a greenish scum on the pond the other side of the hedgerow. He knew it was only algae, but at the last minute, kneeling there on the bank, he couldn't drink it despite his thirst, the furnace in his throat. Vodkas and brandies and a couple of Irish whores picked up outside that pub in Rathdrum. What a night! The worst hangover since his wedding twenty-six years ago in Helsinki. Only thirty miles more to get back to his hotel in Dublin on the access road, but his thirst couldn't wait.
He drew back from the scummy pond. Through the trees he saw a shack. No, it was a small, decrepit cottage. Maybe they'd have a well, cool well water and a tin dipper, or even a refrigerator with ice-cold Cokes, or beer. He had traveler's checks and a few Irish pounds and some pence.
He stumbled toward the cottage. It was a dreary-looking, tumbled-down dwelling with a lopsided wooden bench by a low door that was scabbed with peeling green paint. Small, square open windows; dead silence. He stopped. Something odd. His brain felt fuzzy. He was remembering when he was in the army, coming into a supposedly empty village; the strange kind of silence. So instinctively, instead of knocking, he moved cautiously to an open window and looked in. At first, nothing. Then, his eyes probing, he saw.
"Christ!" he said aloud. A head turned; he saw the face, the eyes looking at him. He stood motionless. The dooropened. He backed away. "Christ!" he said, again. It was the last word he was ever to utter.
The voice on the telephone from across the ocean rang like a dark bell. "Forty thousand dollars, Ms. Tunet," said a cultured Boston accent.
Torrey couldn't answer. She stood there, naked, shivering, hair dripping, clutching the towel, chilled from the shower, staring from one of the long bedroom windows of the castle. The voice from Boston dimmed the morning's view of the mountains north toward Dublin; it fuzzed the ragged edge of blackthorn that bound the castle's woods and hazed the leafy entrance to the bridle path. Forty thousand dollars. It brought a bitter metallic taste to her mouth, a copper penny from childhood on her tongue. Water from the shower slid down her legs and puddled on the rug; the damp towel was cold.
"Ms. Tunet?" Boston, polite, but impatient. In Boston it must be 3:00 A.M.
She swallowed. She'd find the money. She had to. "Please go ahead." Having said it, she felt a moment of panic.
She put down the phone. She picked up the towel she had let fall. She had run from the shower when she'd heard the phone; Boston calling back.
Today was what? Tuesday, July second. So she had three weeks. Forty thousand dollars. She didn't even have four thousand. Or three. Or two. Back home in North Hawk, north of Boston, population seven thousand, she rented a one-bedroom apartment above an antique shop. Her car was an old 1985 Cabriolet convertible Volkswagon with perennial engine trouble. "Wasting your money, driving this baby," Larry the mechanic said each time. What else? Lump all her jewelry together and it might bring five hundred dollars.
She had to find a way. She had to. She stood biting a fingernail. She'd get two thousand for her interpreting job this coming week. The Belgian-Hungarian conference in Dublin. But her next job assignment could be weeks away. Longer. She lived on the edge. She loved the risk of it. It was a high-diving kind of life. Maybe she was a gambler. Maybe she had inherited a love of adventure from her Romanian father, an explorer. "The ice floe was green and huge, and us a black speck like a bug in its lee...." "They threaded the snake on a spit ..." "The women's palms were tattooed in patterns like lace ..." Her father. She, the same. Though her exploring was in languages, endless, absorbing.
But forty thousand dollars!
She gazed helplessly from the window. In the distance, she glimpsed a flash of yellow, a yellow car on the road that went past the castle gates; it was going toward Dublin. She glanced at the clock on the ornate mantel. Quarter past nine. She'd better dress and get on the road to Dublin herself.
In the bathroom, brushing her teeth, she thought wryly that at least she had the luxury of staying in this castle when she so desperately needed money. Interpreters International had booked her into a second-rate hotel in Dublin. But here she was in Castle Moore. Funny, she didn't really know her host. She'd met Desmond Moore just once, a week ago, through that mishap with the spilled plate of soup in the restaurant in North Hawk. When he'd learned she'd be working at a conference in Dublin, he'd insisted she be his guest here in Wicklow. "It's only a half hour from Dublin," he'd assured her, smiling. Why not? she'd thought. A castle! So she'd cancelled the reservation that Myra Schwartz at Interpreters International in New York had made for her in Dublin. When she arrived at the airport, she'd rented a Mini-Cooper. With the slip of paper with Desmond Moore's directions to Castle Moore on the dashboard, she'd driven southwest to this castle in Wicklow. She had arrived late last night. Desmond Moore had not been there. A plump little maid named Rosie had shown her to her bedroom. Jet-lagged, she had slept until eight this morning. Rosie had brought her breakfast: black tea, brown bread, boiled eggs, sausages.
She glanced around the bedroom. It was bigger than her whole apartment in North Hawk. She'd hated it on sight. Heavy damask curtains she'd love to rip down, a bed canopied in swaths of raspberry satin, a furbelowed dressing table, tapestried walls, a fireplace filled with silk flowers, a scattering of priceless little cherrywood tables with Moore family photographs in gold and silver oval frames all the marks of historic pretension via an expensive decorator. All this was presumably Desmond Moore's taste.
So Desmond Moore, an American of Irish antecedents. She knew nothing more about him. She guessed he was in his thirties. He was obviously rich. Certainly hospitable. Yet, oddly, she'd felt repelled by his assessing yellow-green eyes.
"Ma'am!I'm sorry, ma'am!" In the bedroom doorway, hand to her mouth, giggling, staring, blushing, stood Rosie in her blue uniform and starched white pinefore apron. "I thought you'd left for Dublin, ma'am. I came for the breakfast tray."
"That's all right, Rosie.... Is Mr. Moore about?" Torrey held the bath towel to her breasts to cover herself. She was twenty-seven and felt she had no reason to be embarrassed. After all, she was sleek and slim in spite of eating so much pasta with gorgonzola and all those chocolate bars with almonds. She didn't care if Rosie saw her naked. But she'd once read that European aristocrats in earlier centuries thought of servants as animals and had no modesty before them. She wouldn't do that to Rosie. Or to anybody. Except on purpose. Out of malice. Or mischief.
"Mr. Desmond's gone to a horse sale in Wexford, ma'am. He and Brian Coffey, who's in charge of the stables. They left over an hour ago. He said to tell you drinks in the library, seven-thirty, before dinner."
"Anything else, ma'am?" Rosie picked up the tray.
"No, thanks. I'm off to Dublin."
Alone, she dressed quickly in her businesslike, navy suit and white shirt. She ran a comb through her hair, which was short, dark, and wavy. She slid a geranium-colored lipstick across her mouth. Her eyes were gray, with short black lashes, but they somehow looked better without mascara. She strapped on her watch, a man-sized Timex with date, day, and world time sweep. It was nine-thirty. The watch looked too big on her narrow wrist. But it was vital to her business.
"Ready?" She stood soldier-straight before the mirror. "Ready." Torrey Tunet, interpreter. She was proud of herself. She had struggled out of a morass. She had studied twelve hours a day for ten years to achieve this career. She knew, with a sometimes lurching heart, how lucky she was to be doing work she loved.
But now forty thousand dollars. It was as stunning as a hammer blow on her head. Where would she get that much money?
She picked up her briefcase and headed for the door.
That claw-footed, gleaming mahogany table near the door. Silver-framed Moore family photographs. In an oval frame, a dowager, regal-looking, white hair piled high. Around her bare neck was the same diamond necklace that was in her portrait in the great flagged hall downstairs. The diamond necklace with a pear-shaped emerald at the throat.
Torrey's heart beat faster; her temples pounded; she shivered.
No, never that! Once she had been a thief. Recidivism. Once a thief, always a thief? Recidivist. From the Latin, recidivus, "recurring"; from recidere, "to fall back"; from re plus cadere, "to fall"; "to one who relapses"; "an habitual criminal".
No, never! It had taken years. But she had left the horror behind. She had become somebody. The past was over. Forgotten. Never to be exhumed or thought of. Buried. None of it could touch her now.
In the castle driveway, she slid into the seat of the Mini-Cooper. She put her briefcase on the seat beside her, drove down the winding tunnel of ancient oaks, and turned left onto the access road to Dublin.
Forty feet beyond the castle gates, she said, "Hey!" indignantly, and swerved to pass the empty yellow Saab that someone had left parked carelessly, half off the road.
Fourteen-foot-high bookshelves lined the walls of the library at Castle Moore. Arched windows soared. It was noon. A bronze clock ticked on the Florentine desk with its red leather top.
Fergus Callaghan, genealogist, working at the desk, flung down his pencil in exasperation. His wrist struck his teacup. Tea spilled onto the red leather desktop and onto Fergus's tweed trousers. "Shit!" Fergus said.
On his feet, swearing, mopping with his handkerchief, Fergus thought enviously of the American girl in the red Mini-Cooper he'd seen earlier this morning disappearing up the oak-lined drive. He wished he had such freedom from care. He sighed and went back to feeling angry and frustrated.
"Mine is a noble and ancient Irish family," Desmond Moore had announced to Fergus in his overbearing, pompous manner.
That had been at their first meeting. Desmond Moore had arrived by appointment at Fergus's state-of-the-art office in the Dublin suburb of Ballsbridge.
"I want my family traced, Mr. Callaghan. Our lands were taken from us in the seventeenth century, at the time of Cromwell. This box is my grandfather's records. It's all I have. Search me out my branch of the Moores, Mr. Callaghan. You'll provide a genealogical chart, of course."
"And a coat of arms."
Fergus had swallowed. Integrity was his watchword. Genealogy was a tricky business. It had been his business for thirty years. He had a reputation.
That had been two weeks ago. From his office window on Boyleston Street, he had watched the retreating self-assured figure of Mr. Desmond Moore. He had found Mr. Moore unpalatable.
But he had accepted the job. He had accepted it because he was in love. He was in love with the widow, Maureen Devlin, who lived in a decrepit cottage in the woods a half mile from Castle Moore in Wicklow. Ordinarily, he would not have come to Castle Moore at all. He never worked on a client's premises. He kept a distance. But Maureen. So here he was.
Working with the handful of barely legible documents, he'd scoured regional archives, parish records, land grants. He'd tracked back through both Protestant and Catholic records so as not to miss anything. But even the Genealogical Research Office on Kildare Street at the National Library, usually an unfailing source, had failed him.
Now here he was, unhappily righting a teacup in the library of Castle Moore.
He ran a hand over his balding head. He was fifty years old this past April. This was his third morning at the castle. Disliking every minute.
"Keep on," Desmond Moore had said at eight o'clock this Tuesday morning in the library. He had stood over Fergus, tall, hard-bodied, slapping his leather gloves against his riding breeches; he was off to a horse auction in Wexford. "Let's see some progress. Let's say, on the chart? Let's say by next week?" and significantly"I expect you'll come through, Mr. Callaghan" hands in the pockets of his tweed hunting jacket, yellow-green eyes cold "considering what I'm paying you."
Provide me a genealogy chart-cum-crest out of your own noggin, Fergus Callaghan. As though he, Fergus Callaghan, were a charlatan, a weasely faker of antecedents ... so Desmond Moore, an arrogant thirty-six-year-old, could hang a tapestry coat-of-arms on the walls of Castle Moore in county Wicklow, Ireland. Fergus had blushed in shame at the veniality of mankind. A genealogy chart! Woven out of air.
Desmond Moore, with brassy fair hair and cold yellow-green eyes, had an eastern Massachusetts accent. He pronounced chart like chaat. His great-grandfather, Flann Moore, had been born in Hingham to Mary and Liam Moore, who had emigrated from county Wicklow in one of the "coffin" ships to escape starvation during the potato famine. "My grandfather, Erin, Flann's oldest son, got rich in America," he'd told Fergus when he'd hired him. "Cement, not politics. And not running booze through Canada during Prohibition," Desmond Moore, smoking a Havana cigar: "My father visited Ireland twenty-six years ago and bought Castle Moore. It was Castle Comerford then. The Comerford family were English. Anglo-Irish. Usurpers. Six hundred acres, riding to hounds, the sheep-rich lands of Wicklow, Irish renters in thatched huts. Around nineteen-seventy, the Comerfords touched bottom. Stupid management. Bad investments. Buying the wrong horses." Desmond Moore had laughed; he'd had a high-pitched laugh that had made Fergus wince. "They had to sell. Pa bought it. So the Comerfords were out. Likely weeping and rending their garments. I was ten then; I'm an only child. My mother felt lucky she'd managed the one. We spent a month here every summer after that. I own this place now. My parents died in a plane crash five years ago."
"Any other relatives who'd have Moore family records?" Fergus had asked hopefully.
"None. I've only got one cousin. Winifred. Winifred Moore. She's thirty-eight, two years older than me. A lesbian. Looks like a walrus. Lives in London. Writes poetry. Doesn't believe in antecedents, family stuff. If she'd had family records, she'd likely have torn them up. Or burned them." He shrugged. "A bitch. Doesn't like me any more than I like her." So that had been that.
Standing beside the Florentine desk, Fergus looked for the tenth time at his watch.
Quarter past twelve. Now. He shoveled the documents from the desk into his briefcase. His heart beat faster.
Outside, he put the briefcase in the basket of his motorbike. Getting on the bike, he felt sweaty and ugly. He was five feet, seven inches tall and twenty pounds overweight, and his belted tweed jacket was too heavy for the July day, though in this part of Wicklow the summer temperature was sometimes as low as twelve Centigrade, and this morning when he'd arrived at Castle Moore, he had shivered in the chilly air. Lately, he'd felt the cold more. He shrank from thinking of his age. He felt drearily that he had a nerve being in love with a widow who was only thirty-one.
In love. This morning, as always, he'd left his brand-new white Toyota in Dublin and ridden the thirty miles to Castle Moore on the motorbike. That way, returning to Dublin, he could take the bridle path that wound through the woods; he could leave the bike on the path, skirt the bogs, and a five minutes' walk through the woods would bring him to Maureen Devlin's cottage near the hedgerow. He'd just as lief not be seen visiting her; he felt a romantic fool. Others would agree. So he didn't want to leave his Toyota parked on the access road by the hedge for all to see.
He started the throttle on the motorbike and glanced at his watch. Almost twenty past twelve. Just right. Any minute, Maureen would be arriving back at the cottage from her morning job in Ballynagh. His excuse to visit her would be that he'd come for a loaf of her bread. It was always the same excuse. But the truth was that just the sight of Maureen Devlin would ease his heart.
Twelve-fifteen. On the narrow access road between the tall hedges of blackberry bushes, thistle, and holly, Maureen Devlin, six years widowed, wheeled her bicycle to a stop. In her bicycle basket were two five-pound bags of flour. In a few minutes she'd be home in the cottage with her feet in a basin of hot water. Then she and Finola would have a tomato sandwich for lunch and a cup of tea. After that, she'd bake the bread. She already had three orders.
Who had left that yellow Saab parked near the hedge? The car door was hanging open. Maureen looked around. Nobody. No sound except for birds and the rackety hum of a mowing machine in the McInnerny's field a quarter mile away.
She wheeled the bicycle toward the break in the hedge. She could feel the pebbles through the soles of her black sneakers, though she'd put on heavy woolen stockings against the early morning cold. The full skirt of her navy cotton dress came almost down to her ankles. She had rolled up the sleeves of her faded red sweater so that the raveled cuffs and elbows didn't show. When Desmond Moore paid her for the loaves, she'd buy the blue dress at Clery's in Dublin for Finola's birthday. Finola would be eight next month. Maureen would take the bus to Dublin on her next day off. She got one day off a month. Mr. Moore wanted six loaves. He had guests. He paid her two pounds a loaf. But the way he handed her the money! Holding out the pound notes folded the long way, his head turned a little aside, as though to avoid contamination. Lord-of-the-manor dispensing largesse to a beggar. As though those Moores hadn't come up from a dung heap! Come up? What did she mean, up? Joyce to Desmond Moore was likely only a girl's name. And the poetry of Seamus Heany so much gobbledygook.
But baking bread was the only way she knew to make a living. Working in O'Curry's butcher shop in Ballynagh from six in the morning to twelve noon came to only thirty-five pounds a week. Still, what choice did she have? In Dublin they wanted young girls for the jobs. Besides, her looks were shot her skin was no longer soft and creamy, and although her curly brown hair still had a burnished gold look, it was striated with crinkled gray strands. Gone was the passion, the surging love and wild whispering nights and her skin throbbing with joy. Now she had no husband. But at least there was Finola.
That yellow car. A Saab. Maybe a man had stopped to urinate behind the break in the hedge? A pity, a perishing pity if he was modest. She had to get home!
She gave a loud cough to warn the fellow urinating and made her way as usual through the break in the hedge.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
"Enough plots, subplots, and full-blooded characters to supply a half-dozen novels. An excess of riches, then, in a most promising debut." Kirkus Reviews
"Interesting characters, vivid descriptions of Irish countryside and villages, and a tricky plot with numerous twists and turns." Booklist
"A suspenseful first mystery...nicely paced and surprising." Romantic Times