The town of Winchester is filled with many quirks and oddities. Between authors who played at crime scenes and undertakers who wished they were alive, D. I. Knighton is never short of things to investigate. A pall is cast over the town, however, when a sudden rash of killings spread throughout. Will the detective be able to solve the mystery before one of her loved ones becomes the next target?

(Comments, constructive criticism, and theories are welcome and appreciated!)


7. VI.

     Violet looked around to make sure none of the others had heard before she pinned Josephine with a glare. “Keep your voice down,” she ordered, and Josephine nodded. Her eyes were still transfixed on the dead man's face, and Violet could spot the first signs of panic in her friend. “Jo? How do you know him?”

     Josephine turned away from the body and took a few steps away before taking a long, deep breath. She turned to Violet only to have to turn away again and take another breath. Christian stood and took a careful step towards her.


     “'M fine,” she mumbled before shaking her head hard enough to muss her normally perfect hair. “He was a student of mine. A good one, if not for his constant tardiness.”

     “Were you two...?” Violet implied, and this time Josephine did look at her, her eyes filled with anger.

     “Of course not!” Several officers turned to see what the commotion was, but Violet waved them away casually. They went back to what they were doing, which was pretty much nothing by that point. When Josephine spoke again, her voice was low and controlled. “I'd never date a student. I'm just unnerved. This is the second victim that was a student of mine.”

     Violet realized this too and made a decision as the Coroner and his aide came to retrieve the poor man on the ground.

     “We're taking a trip to the Undertaker's. If you're connected to these two, maybe you're connected to all of them.”

     She looked at the other officers who were mulling around restlessly. Everyone was beginning to be on edge. Winchester had never seen a death-rate so high, and people were starting to feel unsafe. She bit her lip before issuing orders to sweep the area once more before being dismissed. She then turned to Christian.

     “There isn't enough room in the Coroner's cab,” she looked up at him apologetically. He gave her a smile that could have melted a glacier before giving her a quick kiss.

     “I'll handle the food at home and make sure Sylvia hasn't eaten Bellamy.”

     Josephine glared at him. “That isn't funny.”

     He smiled and waved her off. “I'm sure Bastille has valiantly protected your damsel in somewhat distress.”

     Josephine gave him a fake smile before climbing into the cab with Violet. He watched until he could no longer see them, and then he began his trek back to where his own carriage awaited him.

     “Excuse me? How do you know Professor Adderdale?”

     Christian turned in time to see a metallic glint heading toward his chest.




     The undertaker of Winchester was exactly how Josephine remembered. He had long, inky black hair that was brushed out of his face and left to fall behind him at his waist. His acidic green eyes were ringed by black charcoal, and the shadows under them were hidden well by it. He was tall and slender in a way Josephine never even tried to achieve, and he wore dark clothes under a black lab coat. With his profession and attire, it was thought that the undertaker would be dreary and depressing. Most people who saw death for the majority of their life probably would. Basil was far from depressing. When he spotted them, he gave them both a warm smile and removed his bloody gloves. He looked like he'd just come in from something hazardous.

     “Detective Inspector. Professor.”

     “Hi, Baz,” Josephine smiled back.

     She'd met Basil Wake for the first time after her books first began to become popular. He was a fan and when she needed to figure out how to describe a corpse who'd been found in a frozen lake, he'd kindly introduced her to a Jane Doe who had slept a few weeks in a icy pit. They'd been friends ever since.

     “Mr. Wake, we need to see the bodies of the victims of this latest crime spree,” Violet cut straight down to business.

     Basil clicked his tongue before sizing her up.

     “It's nice to see you too, Detective. Why, my day has been brightened by your pleasant company. I am so very grateful that your well-mannered and lovely being has graced me with your presence.”

     Josephine bit back a laugh at his tone, and Violet simply raised a brow.

     “I apologize,” she stated, “but this is an emergency.”

     “Everyone believes that their business is important, Detective. Just a moment ago, I had a heart thrown at me because I had not finished sewing up a body. Apparently the assaulter could not receive the settlement until after the body was buried, and I was taking far too long to make that happen.”

     Violet's brow remained arched.

     “Are you planning on filing a complaint?”

     Basil gave her a dazzling smile before leading them toward the back room. “Oh goodness, no. They're good people. They've just had a bad day and needed an outlet. As I assume must be your case since you normally greet me with an excerpt, dear Josephine.”

     Josephine gave him an apologetic sigh.

     “I'm sorry, Baz. It has been pretty long. I promise the next time I come, we'll sit down and chat about the scene between Detective Opal and the missing head of Barnaby.”

     Basil nodded, though Violet didn't even pretend to care. She'd never once read one of Josephine's novels, though she knew they were growing in popularity. There were several people in her own precinct that read them, and many civilians had come up to her and asked her if her life was as exciting as Detective Opal's with her steamy romance with fellow detective Bellamy. How the people around her described her, Violet certainly doubted that.

     “I can't wait to see what happens to the Señor,” Basil grinned as they entered a long hallway with several doors on both sides. He went to the third on the right and held it open for them to enter. “I just know he has something to hide.”

     Josephine gave him a cryptic smile before she followed Violet into the room. There were five tables arranged in a circle with enough space for Basil to slip through. Josephine gave a little huff as she watched Violet and him enter the circle while she remained on the other side of the tables. Thin people, she thought almost bitterly. Still, she got a good view from where she was as well.

     “Do you recognize them, Jo?”Violet asked as she walked around, remembering each one and how she'd found them. Josephine followed from the outside.

     “This is Eliza Doubery. She graduated from my class last semester. I thought she'd returned to America after that.”

     There was no mistaking the sadness in Josephine's voice, but Violet knew enough about her not to try to console her at the moment. Basil watched them both but said nothing.

     “This is Margaret Devereaux. I bought flowers from her every week. When I didn't see her last month, one of her other customers told me that she'd gotten an engagement from the man she loved back in France. I didn't think much of it.”

     The third girl was familiar to Josephine, but she couldn't place why. She was a petite little thing, and it was obvious that she was of Latin descent. It was hard to see pass the deep gouges across her face, but Josephine knew that she knew the girl from somewhere. Violet told her that it was okay, that she didn't expect her to recognize them all. That didn't sit well with Josephine. She was a murder novelist. This was her career. Well, one of them at least. It's what she always wanted to do, and she'd trained long and hard to take in everything. To memorize every detail. So the fact that she couldn't remember this familiar girl was downright disturbing. Still, Violet made her move on.

     The fourth girl wasn't foreign. She was a native of Winchester and the daughter of Bell's vet. She had known that Olivia had died, but she had never been told how, and she wouldn't dare ask her vet. He'd been a blessing to find since most veterinarians had told her to give up on her precious Bellamy. He'd quite literally brought him back from the brink of death, so Josephine never wanted to hurt the man. When she'd found out about Olivia, she'd cried right along with him and his wife, who'd also been really nice to her over the years. To see their daughter like this now angered Josephine to no end.

     The last girl, Miranda Hardy, was the student that Josephine had recognized earlier that day. She wondered if anyone had notified her parents yet.

     “Someone's killing people who know you,” Violet finally stated. They both knew it, but someone had to say it aloud, and it was obvious that wasn't going to be Josephine. “Can...Can you think of anyone who would do that?”

     Josephine stiffly shook her head as she turned back toward the girl who she couldn't quite place. She stared at her mutilated face, her anger still boiling before shock washed it away.

     “She's the twin!”

     “What?” Violet asked, startled by her sudden outburst.

     “That girl there,” Josephine continued and pointed at the dead girl. “On my class roster, it only has their last names and the first initial of their first names. The man that was killed tonight? They were twins! He's in my class, but she wasn't. The killer must have realized that she wasn't connected to me and then went after her brother!”

     And he'd certainly gone through great lengths to do that. But it didn't change the fact that someone was killing people who came in contact with Josephine.

     “I'm putting you into protective custody,” Violet stated flatly.

     Josephine's eyes widened incredulously, and for a moment she couldn't speak.

     “Wh-no!” she finally spoke, and Basil took this time for him to slip out of the room. He had no interest in getting between the two women. With his luck, he'd get another heart thrown at him.

     “This isn't an argument, Jo.”

     “I know it isn't,” Josephine glared, “because it's not happening!”

     “Josephine, it's obvious you're being targeted! Why are you being so obstinate?”

     “Because it's obvious they aren't after me. They're after the people around me, and I won't be responsible for that! If you're willing to waste Law resources, you should spend them warning people of the killer's intentions.”

     She suddenly thought of Adam, and a cold chill went down her spine. She had to warn him before he left her house. If the killer was targeting those close to her, there was no one closer than him. She reached for her bag where she kept the device he'd made so that she could always contact him, only to realize that she'd left it back at Violet's. Frustrated, she ran out of the room, followed by Violet who was trying to get her to calm down.

     “I have to use your phone!” Josephine swung open Basil's grandfather's door to his study. The elderly man was sitting behind an intricately carved wooden desk with several accolades and mementos from his younger days stacked upon it. He was sipping on a glass of whiskey, which he almost dropped at the sudden sight of her.

     “Why, Professor Adderdale! I would think you had better manners than this!” he tsked as she entered the room.

     “And I apologize for the disappointment, sir. There is an emergency and I need to use your phone."

     It was obvious that the elder Wake wanted to scold her further, but he allowed her to make her call first. Her fingers shook as she spun the number into the dated rotary phone. Twice she had to start over, and she mentally prayed that Adam was still at her house. Once she finally put the correct number in, she listened as it rang over and over.

     Not now, Adam! You always answer my phone!

     “Adderdale residence.”

     She couldn't breathe as relief rushed over her. Her legs nearly buckled, and she had to use the desk for support. She'd never been so happy to hear Adam's voice in her life.

     “Hello?” he asked and Josephine began to laugh. “Jo? Why are you calling your own house?”

     “J-just checking on you,” she giggled. She finally cleared her throat before she continued. “Stay at my place, okay?”

     “Why? I was about to leave.”

     “Not until I get back, okay? Please?”

     Adam sighed. Josephine knew he'd never tell her no if she asked nicely.


     And then he hung up.

     “Now, miss-”

     “Are you okay now?” Violet interrupted Mr. Wake.

     Josephine let out a long sigh and nodded.

     “Good. Now, let's go get your friend and then meet up with Christian at our house. We can figure this all out there.”

     Agreeing, Josephine began to follow her out.

     “I have never met such a pair of ill-mannered women,” Mr. Wake huffed, but they were already gone. He took another sip of his whiskey.

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