Final Exit [Jack and Jill Mystery #1] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Arline Chase
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: When Jon Abercrombie attends a benefit performance with his psychic sister, Jill, the murder onstage turns out to be real in this period mystery. And the number one suspect turns out to be Jon's father. Can Jon attract the attention of a certain curvaceous actress, whom Jon's father has been courting on the sly. Can Jon protect his father by finding the real murderer? How does one solve a murder that takes place onstage in front of hundreds of people?
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, Published: 1999
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2005
This eBook is part of the following series:
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On an evening that would end in murder, Jonathan Lloyd Abercrombie III sat beside his younger sister, Jillian, in a lower box overlooking stage right at the Lafayette Theatre. His mother posed on Jill's other side, while Jon's father, an attorney known in the city as "Sidewinder Johnny", spoke quietly to cronies in the back. Jon saw the new police commissioner join them. Harry Burke was a heavy-set man with an underslung jaw that had earned him the nickname, "Bulldog".
If left to his own devices, Jon might have found better things to do, but Father had insisted he attend. Jon knew the old man was up to something. But what?
"He wanted me to meet some young man, but they're not coming." Jill whispered an answer to Jon's unspoken question.
Jon shrugged. It wasn't the first time his sister had read his mind. Their box so overhung the stage he could almost touch the actors. Except for a brief but galvanizing meeting-of-the-eyes with the tall and slender beauty who played "Columbine" in the commedia del l'arte, Jon felt bored. He tried not to think about the dark-eyed actress. Her single direct glance had caused him to check her name in the program. "Genevieve Desmond as Columbine," looked magnificent.
Jon wouldn't have minded if his father hadn't forced Jill to come. She had a what MaMá called a "delicate constitution." Less kind people often termed her "afflicted with a peculiar turn of mind." Jon didn't know what to call it. Even in a new century, he felt that a practical man shouldn't embrace the word "psychic", yet he had learned long ago that if Jill touched you, not even your most private thoughts remained hidden. Tonight, Father had insisted Jill attend the play. When Jon heard his father complain that one of his law partners had not brought his son, Jon realized his sister had been right about the attempt at matchmaking.
In an effort to hide his carnal thoughts about the actress, Jon was careful not to touch Jill's arm as he whispered, "You look very pretty tonight." She did look elegant in her emerald silk, with her tawny hair swept up in a golden cascade of ringlets.
"You, too. It's a shame your dinner jacket will be ruined."
Jon smiled, as if her comment made sense. Jill leaned closer. "That woman over there thinks we're twins." She nodded toward a woman in large improbable pearls who surveyed them through opera glasses.
Actually, Jon knew they looked alike. Same dark eyes, same straight nose, same generous mouth. But his hair was dark where Jill's was fair, and his jaw was square while Jill's pointed chin gave her face a heart shape. MaMá gave Jill a warning look, but she continued to stare at a woman who wore a large picture hat trimmed with ostrich feathers. A heavy gold snake bracelet coiled round the forearm of her opera glove. "She's the one." Jill pointed with her fan, in case Jon hadn't seen.
Jill leaned closer and whispered, "Father's mistress."
"Ridiculous! Father--?" Jon knew his father had quite a reputation with the women, but had not expected Jill or his mother to know.
"He thinks we're too stupid to suspect." Jill pleated her skirt with her fingers. "But of course, the woman knows it's over."
"But it's true. Hèloise told me!"
Hèloise! Jon forced his face not to scowl. Hèloise had been Jill's imaginary companion since childhood. As a baby it had been amusing. At eighteen, even if one called Hèloise a "spirit guide" it was more than sad. Jon closed his eyes as the new electric lights dimmed and the curtain went up again. Perhaps MaMá hadn't heard. Jon wished the woman, and her ostrich feathers, in hell. He knew, from the location of her box, that she had something to do with the Beaux Arts Society. Beaux Arts members had some fairly Bohemian tastes, but only "the right" people were allowed to join, so the woman must at least be respectable.
On stage, Harlequin leered down Columbine's cleavage, poured himself a large drink, and drained the glass in three gulps.
"Careful, Jack. Here it comes!" Jill ducked her head, almost hiding behind her fan as the leggy and beautiful "Columbine" chased "Harlequin" across the stage with an ornate dagger. In ringing tones, she warned him not to reveal "The Truth" to her wealthy husband, "Puncinello."
"He shall never know!" Columbine plunged the dagger repeatedly into Harlequin's back. The wicked looking blade disappeared with each strike. In apparent pain, Harlequin swarmed up a lattice, aiming for a balcony. At the last moment, Harlequin lost his footing, started to fall, then grabbed for the Abercrombie box. A startled sound erupted from the audience. Colorful in his sequined half-mask, Harlequin clung outside the gilded rail. Sweat beaded through his greasepaint as Jon dragged the actor over the rail.
A moment later, Harlequin vomited across Jon's dinner jacket, and collapsed in his arms. Jill leapt to her feet, a keening sound coming from her throat.
"Someone call a doctor." Jon dragged the actor as far away from his sister as possible and laid him on the floor. "Quickly! Get Jill away." Jon found the racing pulse at the man's wrist, as Father ushered the two women out into the corridor.
Like a cat, Harry Burke moved from the back of the box and knelt beside the stricken actor. He felt expertly under the jaw for a pulse, nodded his head and reached down to open Harlequin's collar. "His heart's flying, but he's alive." Burke looked up at Jon, his glance assessive. "You're Abercrombie's boy?"
"Who told you to give the orders, here?"
"My sister isn't well." Jon stuck out his chin.
Burke shrugged and moved toward the front of the box. "Please! Keep your seats, everyone. We need a doctor up here." A moment later the house lights came up and two men hurried toward the back of the hall.
The woman in ostrich feathers screamed. "She killed him! That woman, there!" She pointed toward the figure of Columbine, standing center stage with one hand at her throat, the knife still clutched in the other. "Stop her!"
But Columbine didn't run. Instead the actress gave the woman who had spoken a withering look and said in her clearest voice, "For heaven's sake, it's only a play," as someone rang down the curtain.