The Rosewood Inn - The Scorned Lover

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
After a successful stock broker repeatedly promises to divorce his wife and marry Paula Watson (his secret lover), he goes back to his wife and breaks off the relationship with Paula. Furious, Paula goes to Brandon's house to confront him while his wife is out, things then take a nasty turn and Paula runs from his house heading for The Rosewood Inn - (a safe haven) where she and her family vacationed when she was a child. Only The Rosewood Inn is no longer a safe haven for Paula, but her place of judgment for her sins.

Submitted: July 24, 2017

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Submitted: July 24, 2017

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Paula Watson blinked her eyes several times and stared at the dark winding country road she was driving on. She took another swig of cold coffee from her travel cup and tried to focus. She had been driving—how many hours now? She had lost track. She just hoped that she had left the nightmare behind her in Hartford, Connecticut.

How could she have been so naïve as to think that Brandon would ever leave his wife? Paula had fallen hard for him. Brandon Keyes—successful stock investor and trader, tall, handsome, with that smile that made her heart leap. He had lavished her with jewelry and gifts, taken her to high end restaurants where the chefs knew him by name. She took a deep breath of cool evening air from her open driver’s side window. The breeze fluttered her long, auburn hair, rippling through her attractive curls. Stay awake, she ordered herself. The town of Rumford should only be a few more miles down the road.

Rumford, Maine. An obscure dot on the map. Perfect place for me, mused Paula. I need obscurity now. The farther she had driven from Brandon’s house, the easier it was to breathe. Besides, she knew this area from when she and her family had vacationed when she was back in high school. Rosewood Inn was where they had often stayed because it was a day’s trip from her childhood home in Vermont. Now it was a refuge, a sanctuary from the horrible sight of her ex-lover’s dead body lying on the living room floor.

“I can’t believe I did it,” Paula said out loud for the hundredth time. She had been so furious with Brandon that she had totally lost control. Brandon had promised, that he would leave his wife in April. Then it was May, and now June. How could someone so quick to make investment decisions day in and day out be such a procrastinator when it came to relationships? And it was not that Paula herself wasn’t desirable. She was an advertising executive, up for promotion to VP of Sales. She had ambition, poise, was told by everyone that she was glamorous. Brandon always seemed proud to take her out and introduce her around. She loved the attention and the prestige that came with being seen with him. If only he had never given her that necklace….

Her birthday was May 15th. Brandon had surprised her with a red gift box and the most exquisite necklace. It had diamonds side by side along the entire chain, with a cluster of three larger ones in the front. She loved that necklace. For her, it was an enduring symbol of his love for her and of his readiness to get that divorce once and for all. And it would have happened, too, if he had not been such a coward. Teresa, his wife, suspected that he was having an affair. One of her friends thought she had seen him with Paula. He insisted it was just a business luncheon, but apparently his wife didn’t believe him. Anyway, two days ago, he told her that Teresa had found out about her and demanded that he break it off. Brandon mumbled something about deciding to try to make his marriage work. Paula couldn’t believe her ears. She was sure that Teresa was twisting his arm somehow and Paula was determined to twist it back the other way.

Brandon had mentioned that his wife had to attend a business retreat this weekend. Paula decided that this was her last chance to remind Brandon of why he had had the affair in the first place. She stopped by Brandon’s house after Teresa left for the airport.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Brandon greeted her reluctantly as he opened the front door.

“Why should this time be any different,” Paula replied with a smug smile as she breezed in past him. “She’s away, I’m here. Isn’t that how it’s always worked before?”

Brandon took a deep sigh. “It’s over, Paula, and that’s that.”

“You let me in, so why don’t we talk?”

“I don’t know what else to say. Both Teresa and I want to stay in the marriage.”

“You have a pre-nup, so what’s the problem?” Paula persisted. “She can’t get your money if you divorce. What did she say that made you do a 180 on me?”

“We reminisced and I remembered why I married her in the first place.”

“And you forgot all the things that drive you crazy about her? You have a very selective memory all of a sudden,” Paula retorted. Brandon shrugged helplessly.

“She has some kind of hold over you? Is that it?” Brandon winced at her words.

That is it, isn’t it? What? Something in your past?”

“Look, Paula, the matter is settled, and I’m not changing my mind.” Brandon plopped into his favorite black leather recliner with a finality that Paula recognized as his way of wanting to change the subject.

Paula suddenly said sweetly, “I’m going upstairs to freshen up.” She bounded up the stairs. Brandon called after her, “That’s not going to work this time!”

Paula took refuge in the bathroom for a minute. She glanced in the mirror at her image and for the umpteenth time compared her attractive looks to Teresa’s. She still could not see what kept bringing Brandon back to his wife when he could have her instead. Sighing, she wandered down the hall and into the master bedroom. She noticed a cut-stone bracelet on the dresser, figuring that Teresa had had a hard time deciding what jewelry to take on the trip. She eyed Teresa’s tall antique, black-and-gold jewelry chest next to the dresser. She opened the decorative doors and peeked in. Several long rectangle jewelry boxes were stacked inside. The top two boxes were empty. She opened the third one and took a double-take. There, against the black velvet was a pair of earrings that looked almost like the design of the necklace Brandon had given her. The necklace was missing. She picked up the earrings to stare more closely at them. She felt for her own necklace around her neck and held it side by side with the earrings. They were a perfect match! She quickly rummaged through the other boxes and through the necklaces hanging on the open rack. The necklace that would have matched the earrings was missing. Knowing Teresa’s style, it wasn’t likely that she would have taken the necklace without the matching earrings. That meant that the necklace she was wearing had been Teresa’s!

Wide-eyed with disbelief, she slammed the jewelry chest doors shut with such force that they bounced back open again. She headed toward the bedroom door, the earrings burning in her hand. By the time she was at the foot of the stairs, she was furious. She stormed into the living room where Brandon was lounging on his chair, sipping at some wine. Stopping in front of him, she held out the earrings for him to see.

“These are Teresa’s earrings!” she shouted at him.

“Ye-e-es?” Brandon answered, eying her with a puzzled expression.

And this is the necklace you gave me for my birthday,” Paula lifted the necklace around her neck to show him.

“So?”

“They are the same.”

“So I happened to pick a similar style for you.”

No, they are from the same set.” Brandon became very still and glanced away from her.

Brandon, Teresa’s matching necklace is missing. I can’t believe it. You STOLE your wife’s necklace and gave it to me for my birthday?” She quickly unclipped the necklace from her neck. “Why would you do that? You have the money to buy whatever you want.” Paula started pacing the floor back and forth in front of him. Her pent up anger, frustration and disbelief kept her zigzagging in front of his chair. She paused next to an end table with a foot-high bronze statue of Lady Justice with her scales of truth and fairness hanging on chains.

“Look, I was mad at Teresa that day,” Brandon tried to explain. “I saw the necklace and I was thinking about how much more beautiful you would look in it—and it did look a lot nicer on you,” he added trying to mollify her.

Looking at him as if she couldn’t decide if he were insane or just a jerk, Paula was speechless for a moment. Finally she replied, “I never asked you for anything. I would have been delighted with something inexpensive or no jewelry at all, but Theresa’s necklace? What were you thinking?”

“It’s no big deal. She never wears it. She probably never even noticed it was gone,” Brandon added, shrugging as if that settled the matter. He dropped the footrest and leaned forward to pick up a heavy crystal decanter from the gray marble coffee table to refill his wine glass.

Paula resumed pacing and ended up slightly behind Brandon as he leaned over the coffee table. Her eyes fell on the statue of Lady Justice, its symbolism of truth and fairness not lost on her. “So, by having me wear Theresa’s necklace, a little bit of her was always with us? What did that do for you—prove that your marriage was still intact? Keep you from feeling guilty?” Overcome with fury, she grabbed the statue with both hands, raised it high above her and swooped the heavy statue down against the back of Brandon’s head. Brandon crashed forward onto the top-heavy marble coffee table, which tipped over. The decanter skidded to the carpet and landed on its side, red wine sloshing out. Brandon’s wine glass crushed between his body and the table, shattered glass cutting his hand and fingers.

Dazed, Brandon tried to lift himself up off the floor, but Paula’s rage hadn’t been satisfied yet. She gripped the necklace between her hands and slung it around the front of his neck, jerking it back as hard as she could. “I can’t wear this ever again without feeling like I’m being strangled. Now you can feel what that’s like!” she hissed through her teeth. Brandon, suddenly without air, clawed at the necklace, trying to find a way to loosen it. Paula, her jaw set, her eyes cold, kept up the tension until Brandon’s arms fell to his sides and he slid to the floor. The jewel-studded necklace was embedded into his neck. Letting go, she had the presence of mind to check his pulse, but there was none.

Hit by a wave of dizziness and realizing exactly what she had done, Paula stood up and sucked in a panicked breath. She grabbed her purse and was about to run out the front door when she noticed blood on her hands. She ran to the powder room under the staircase and washed it off. She quickly checked herself over in the mirror. The blood was only on her hands, not her clothes. Relieved, she straightened her pale blue sweater, which had gotten twisted while she strangled Brandon, and smoothed down her hair.

As a precaution, she washed any possible fingerprints off the hot and cold water handles and the powder room doorknob. She grabbed a hand towel and ran back into the living room, carefully stepping around Brandon’s body. Picking up the statue, she polished the places where she knew she had touched the statue. She debated about wiping off the blood, but decided against it. She was queasy enough as it was and figured it wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Replacing the statue on the floor where she had first dropped it, she escaped the living room, grabbed her purse from the powder room and sprinted toward the front door. There she stopped, took a calming breath and opened the door. As she closed the door behind her, she leaned forward and called “Bye!” for the sake of any neighbors who might be watching. She then walked as normally as her pounding heart would let her to her car, started it up and left.

The only thought in her head was to get away—far away. The place that came to mind was Rosewood Inn. She had had many happy memories there with her family. There she could calm down and figure out what to do next. So, she drove to her apartment, grabbed a suitcase and an overnight bag of clothes and was about to leave when she remembered the box of movie ticket stubs and other mementos from her relationship with Brandon. She grabbed the box from her closet and stuffed it into her overnight bag. Then she rushed out of the apartment building.

After driving 45 minutes north on Route 84, she stopped at a mini-mart for coffee and a sandwich. While in the parking lot, she Googled the Rosewood Inn phone number and made a reservation. It was off-season, so there were plenty of vacancies. That done, she finished her sandwich and pulled back onto the highway.

She was exhausted, not just from the driving, but from the waves of emotion that were flooding over her. She was determined not to feel guilty. Brandon had treated her like his backup plan. If things didn’t work out with Teresa, well, he always had Mistress Paula to fulfill his needs. She kept coming back to that stupid necklace. Why take it from Teresa and give it to her? Maybe in his sick mind he was punishing Teresa, but didn’t he realize that he was also punishing the very person he had promised to live his future with? That insensitive brute! You don’t do that to people.

As she drove, random thoughts kept assaulting her mind. When would they find Brandon’s body? Had she washed off her bloody fingerprints well enough? Then she calmed down more and decided that since the necklace belonged to Teresa, maybe no one would suspect anyone else was involved. The necklace would point straight to Teresa. Everyone knew that Theresa was the possessive type. Besides, no one in the Hartford area had ever seen Paula with Brandon. He had been careful to take her to places out of town. Paula breathed out another breath and felt safe for the first time.

She saw the Rumford, Maine sign flash by and slowed the car. The driveway should be just around the bend. There. Smiling in relief, she turned onto the paved driveway and drove to the entrance. A parking attendant leaped toward her car door, politely introducing himself as Rich. He welcomed her and offered to get her luggage out. Paula nodded thanks and got out while the attendant pulled out her suitcase and overnight. As Rich drove the car around back to park it, Lawrence, the doorman, greeted her. He carried in her luggage, explaining that the bellboy had had a family emergency so he was covering for him.

At the sign-in desk, Ms. Peterson smiled and welcomed her to Rosewood Inn. Paula could not believe that the desk clerk was still here after all these years. Ms. Peterson seemed to want to talk about everything. Not wanting to encourage her, Paula quickly gave her name and showed her license. Maybe years ago, people could sign in under a fake name, but with everything computerized these days, her ID and even car tag number were required. Paula wasn’t too worried, though, because the affair had been so secret. It was safe for her to use her real name here.

As she started to sign in, she noticed a large framed black and white photo hanging on the wall behind the desk. Ms. Peterson, always eager to share her intimate knowledge of the Rosewood family history, remarked, “Oh, that is a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Rosewood at their second wedding.”

“Second wedding?” Paula heard herself asking and immediately regretted it.

“Oh, yes,” the desk clerk answered cheerily.

Ms. Peterson then leaned a little closer to Paula and lowered her voice as if telling a secret. “Rumor has it that Mr. Rosewood had had a very brief affair with his secretary about six years into his marriage with Mrs. Rosewood. The Mrs. found out and was furious. Mr. Rosewood begged for forgiveness and promised to be faithful. Mrs. Rosewood insisted that they have a re-commitment wedding ceremony. They are in vogue today, but back in the 1940’s, second weddings were a rarity and there was much press about it.”

“How interesting,” Paula interrupted her, hoping to hurry things up, but Ms. Peterson was so caught up in her story that she hadn’t noticed that Paula was waiting for the room key. She just kept on talking. “Surprising by today’s standards, the Rosewoods remained happily married and totally committed to each other until the day they died. That was right after they found out that their son had been killed in the war. So sad…”

Paula would have been reluctant to listen to this story under any other circumstances, but after what had just happened with Brandon, it really rubbed her the wrong way. She was extremely fatigued and stressed and just wanted a hot shower and bed. “Could I just have my room key, please? I am really tired.”

“Oh, forgive me, Ms. Watson. Sometimes I just get carried away with all the rich history of this wonderful mansion.” She gave Paula a courteous smile, reached behind her and grabbed the room key, then handed it to Paula. “Have a good night’s rest.”

Thank you,” Paula answered, thinking to herself, Finally. I thought she’d never stop talking. Lawrence, the doorman loaded her luggage into the ancient elevator and rode silently with her up to the second floor.

“This way,” he motioned, and carried her suitcase while she shouldered the overnight bag.

As they got to the door, Paula thanked him and gave him a tip. “I can take it from here. Thank you. Good night.”

“Good night, Ma’am,” Lawrence answered tiredly and trudged back toward the elevator.

“Poor guy looks as tired as I feel,” Paula mused, watching him go. She turned toward the door and unlocked it. Dragging her suitcase in with her overnight bag still on her shoulder, she entered the sitting area and walked into the bedroom. She glanced around and was impressed by a large stone fireplace opposite the bed. Dropping everything just inside the door, she hooked her suede jacket onto the nearest bedpost and stretched back onto the bed. A cheery down comforter with pale green, orange and pink flowers sunk beneath her body. She lay there for a few minutes with her eyes closed just to relax.

Deciding to get her shower, Paula sat up and took in the polished antique décor of the room. Elegant lamps with hanging beads and china figurines on doilies reflecting the style of the 1940’s accented every piece of antique furniture. It was like stepping back in time. As her eyes moved from one knick-knack to the other she found herself suddenly staring uncomprehendingly at the marble table by the bedroom door. On it was a foot-high bronze statue of Lady Justice with a necklace hanging on it.

What?” Paula mouthed the word in disbelief. She slid off the high bed, stood against it as if frozen and peered at the objects eight feet away from her. She stepped closer and finally found her voice. “It can’t be. It’s not possible! That statue and necklace are in Brandon’s house. I left them there. How can they be here?”

Paula’s first thought was that someone had followed her here and brought the statue and the necklace. Maybe he or she had put it in her room while she was listening to that desk clerk’s endless story about the Rosewoods. That had to be it. But who? Not Brandon. He was absolutely dead. And no, she was not going to feel guilty about it. That jerk deserved what happened after what he did to her. But who else would be so sick as to bring the murder weapons into her room? Paula stopped. That was the first time she had dared to think of Brandon’s death as a murder. Well, it wasn’t premeditated. It was an act of passion. People got lighter sentences for that.

Paula shook her head to clear it. She was getting morbid. No one was going to blame the death on her. There was no evidence to link it to her.

Well, someone was trying to spook her into confessing. Teresa. It had to be Teresa. That woman was relentless….No, if the police had discovered Brandon’s body, they probably already had Teresa in custody as the prime suspect.

Whoever had done this, Paula had to get rid of these horrible reminders of what she had done. She grabbed a bath towel and quickly wrapped it around the statue with the necklace still hanging on it. Suddenly she stopped and unwrapped them. Where was the blood? When she left Brandon’s house, there was blood on the statue where it had hit his head and blood on the necklace from where it had cut into his throat. But these two objects had no blood on them at all. Paula dropped them to the floor and stepped back, her hands suspended in mid-air. The statue landed with a clunk that seemed to vibrate down her spine.

This was too creepy. Paula retreated onto the bed, pulled her knees up to her chin and hugged herself, shivering. What in the world is going on here? After several deep breaths, she calmed down enough to look at the bronze statue lying on the decorative red rug. The necklace was still hooked around its neck as if they belonged together. Well, thought Paula, if it wasn’t Teresa, who could have done this?

Pull yourself together, Paula told herself. You are a top sales executive. You think on your feet all the time when weird situations come up. You can handle this. Just be logical. But it was another two minutes before Paula could force herself to get off the bed and walk over to where the towel had dropped. She picked it up and held it while she decided what to do.

Paula made up her mind to get rid of the necklace and the statue. Wrapping them back into the towel, she checked in several drawers before finding a white linen laundry bag, one of the Inn’s many amenities. Stuffing the wrapped objects into the bag, she grabbed her room key and headed down the hall in search of a laundry chute. She located it on the wall opposite the elevator. Glancing in both directions and relieved that no one else was in the hallway, Paula lifted the lid and dropped the bag into the chute. The towel muffled the clanking sound of the bronze statue hitting the sides of the chute enough so that Paula felt confident that no one would question what had fallen down the chute. With a deep sigh, Paula returned to her room.

After double-locking her door, she leaned back against it and said, “Now for that long overdue shower.” She walked back into the bedroom. She wasn’t sure what made her look at the table where the statue and necklace had been, but she couldn’t help herself. She had to look. What she saw made her collapse to the floor. There, in the exact same position on the marble table where she had originally found them were the statue and the necklace hanging on it.

Paula’s eyes widened in fear. She timidly looked around the room to see if anyone was there. She was alone as far as she could tell, but she grabbed her overnight bag, which was rather heavy and held it like a weapon as she checked the bathroom and each closet. She even checked behind the long velvet drapes. She advanced into the sitting room and explored every corner. Finally, she dropped the overnight bag. She was alone in the suite.

Maybe I am imagining all this,” Paula told herself out loud. “It’s been a crazy day, Brandon is dead, and I’ve had a long, stressful trip. I am exhausted. Maybe I’m so tired I’m seeing things.” She walked cautiously from the sitting room back into the bedroom and turned to face the marble table. The statue and necklace were still there. She shut her eyes again, hoping that they were a mirage of a guilty conscience. Upon opening them again, her heart sank. It was safe to say that they were definitely not a mirage. Overwhelmed by confusion, she slumped against the back of the closest overstuffed chair. Like it or not, she had to face the fact that somehow, someone or something had brought these objects back into the room. How? She had no idea. Why? To make her feel guiltier than she already felt?

Paula’ head felt dizzy. This was too much to handle. There was no way she would be able to sleep with that statue and that horrible necklace in the room with her. She had to find another way to get rid of them. For a moment she considered asking to be moved to another suite, but then if the desk clerk or other staff person found the objects, how would she ever explain them? No, she was stuck with this room, but there was no way she would let herself be stuck with the murder weapons. She had to get rid of them once and for all.

“I’ll dump them,” she announced to herself. On the way to Rosewood Inn, when she had first entered the town of Rumford, she had passed a small shopping center. She had been able to see the store dumpsters on the side as she passed by. “Perfect,” she decided, standing up. “Not too far away, but not on Rosewood property. If someone were to try to sneak them back into my suite, I would already be back here ready and waiting for them. Then I’ll know once and for all who is trying to drive me crazy.”

Paula opened up her suitcase and pulled out a long plastic zippered suit bag. Unzipping it, she removed two pantsuits. Laying them across the bed, she grabbed another towel and again wrapped the bronze statue and necklace. Zipping them into the bag, she rolled it up and then grabbed her jacket, purse and room key. Taking the stairs down instead of the elevator, she leaned over the rail to see who was down in the lobby. Ms. Peterson was not behind the desk, and Lawrence must have been taking a break. She quickly reached the first floor, slipped behind the desk and grabbed her car keys from the key box on the wall. Slipping out the front door, she sped up to a sprint to reach the parking lot around back. Once in her car, she took a deep breath and started the ignition.

Rumford was a small enough town that less than minutes of driving brought Paula to the small strip mall on the other side of town. She pulled into the parking lot and cut off her headlights. Half a moon lit the sky enough for her to see where she was going. She swung the car around in the rear parking lot behind the stores and parked her car next to the dumpsters. Lifting the black zipper bag from the passenger seat, she glanced around. Seeing no one, she got out of the car, walked over to the nearest dumpster, and raised the lid. The dumpster was half full, so the bag made no noise when she dropped it in, much to her relief. Quickly, she drove back to Rosewood Inn and parked in the same parking spot.

As she entered the front door, Lawrence was there, yawning as he greeted her. “Out late?”

“I just wanted a soda, but everything is closed,” Paula answered quickly off the top of her head.

“There are soda and candy vending machines at the end of each hall,” he offered.

“Thanks!” Paula replied with more enthusiasm than she felt. She took the elevator up and walked wearily back to her suite. Going in, she felt a qualm of fear. Locking the door behind her, she marched determinedly into the bedroom. Turning to the marble table, she realized that it was empty. She let out a relieved sigh. The murder weapons were gone once and for all. Stripping off her clothes, she headed to the bathroom. Turning on the shower, she waited a minute or so for the water to heat up and then stepped in.

Refreshed and relaxed, Paula toweled off and slipped into her night clothes. She was so tired. She didn’t want to ever go through another day like this one. Folding her pantsuits over the back of a chair by the dresser, she pulled the quilt and sheet back across the bed. As she climbed into bed, her eyes happened to glance in the direction of the marble table. What she saw didn’t register in her brain right away. She started to look away and froze. Dragging her eyes back to the table, she caught her breath. The bronze statue was back. And hanging from it as if they were part of a set was the necklace. “No!” she shouted.

Paula scooted off the bed and stood in front of the table, her breathing ragged with terror. She ran to the room door and tested to see if it was open, but it was still double-bolted. She turned and raced to each of the windows, but they too were locked. “How?” she panted. “Who?” She grabbed the statue with the necklace dangling from it and threw it across the room, yelling, “Leave me alone!” The statue bounced off the stone fireplace and cluttered to the floor. The scales of justice broke off from the rest of the statue and came to rest near the side of the bed. Paula’s head was pounding. She put her hand up to her forehead. “No,” she shook her head. “There is no way that they can possibly be here after I threw them in the dumpster across town. I have to be dreaming. I’ve got to lie down. It will all make sense after I get some sleep.”

Swaying from exhaustion and shock, Paula crawled into bed and immediately dropped off to sleep.

***************************************************

“I agreed to come with you to check on Ms. Watson, Lawrence, though I think it’s totally unnecessary. What’s really bothering you?” demanded Ms. Peterson. It was 9:30 in the morning and she and the doorman were walking down the second floor guest’s hallway toward Paula’s room.

 

I don’t know. I think I am feeling a little déjà vu,” Lawrence answered, his voice strained. “Remember that young couple where the wife left suddenly and the husband had a heart attack right in his room?”

“What does that have to do with Ms. Watson?” the desk clerk asked.

“Well, he didn’t come down for breakfast either.”

“Rubbish! Lots of guests don’t come down for breakfast. Besides, Ms. Watson’s car keys are missing. She probably left early and forgot to turn in her room key.”

“But Rich says that her car is still in the rear parking lot.”

Ms. Peterson stopped short. “No one told me that,” she responded in a subdued tone. She looked worriedly at Lawrence, locking eyes with him. “You think something has happened to her?”

Lawrence cleared his throat. “We just have to make sure she’s okay, okay?” he said gruffly. They had arrived at Paula’s room door and both hesitated. Lawrence took the key from Ms. Peterson and unlocked the door. The deadbolt was also locked, so Ms. Peterson drew out her master key and inserted it. Lawrence knocked loudly on the door and called out, “Ms. Watson, it’s the front desk. We just want to make sure you are all right.” There was no answer.

Lawrence and Ms. Peterson glanced at each other again for moral support. Then Lawrence slowly opened the door. Everything appeared to be in place in the sitting room, so they walked through to the bedroom. Their guest was sleeping in the bed. Nothing looked amiss until they got closer. Her color wasn’t right. She was extremely pale. ”Ms. Watson,” Lawrence called to her a little too loudly. “Ms. Watson, you need to wake up now.” He gently shook her left arm, which was lying on top of the covers. “She’s cold—“ Lawrence jerked his fingers back, turned away and covered his mouth with the back of his hand in disbelief. “Not again! What the heck?”

Ms. Peterson noticed that a diamond necklace was pressed tightly around the young woman’s neck. “Lawrence, look at this. Do you think she might have strangled herself accidently during the night with this necklace?”

I can’t imagine how. There’s nothing for it to catch on. We’d better call 911. I’ll do it this time,” Lawrence sighed heavily. As he reached for his cell phone, he noticed a bronze statue lying on the floor by the fireplace. “Hey, that looks like the statue from old Mr. Rosewood’s office,” he commented as he stepped towards it.

Lawrence, don’t touch it.” Ms. Peterson grabbed his arm to stop him. “Let the police pick it up.” She moved closer and stooped down and looked more carefully at the object. “You’re right. It looks just like the bronze statue of Lady Justice from his office. That room is locked except when we do a historical tour. I wonder how that statue got in here?”

Lawrence cocked his head to the side as he peered at it. “It seems to be missing a piece. Isn’t it supposed to have those scales hanging on chains? Wonder where they are.” He started glancing around the room for them.

Ms. Peterson stood back up. “You’d better call the police, Lawrence,” she said gravely. “Wait a minute. Take a look at this.” She pointed to Paula’s hand on the far side of the body. “Isn’t that the scales? In her hand?”

Lawrence could see the bronze metal and chain peeking out from under her right hand. “Looks like she was gripping it when she died. Maybe she was hoping for some kind of justice in her life.” He dialed 911 and told the emergency operator what they had found.

An hour later, the room was crawling with police and forensic experts. One of them had found a box containing references to a Brandon Keyes from Hartford, Connecticut, and they hoped that he could shed some light on the woman’s mysterious death. Sergeant Moore of the Oxford County police commented to Lawrence and Ms. Peterson that it was weird that two guests had died in the Rosewood Inn in such a short span of time—barely a month. “The last time probably was natural causes, the young guy with the heart attack,” he said, “but this one doesn’t make any sense. There is no evidence that anyone else was in this room, doors and windows were locked, but the coroner tells me that strangulation was probably the cause of death.”

“From the necklace?” asked Lawrence.

The sergeant nodded, “But the woman was choked directly from behind. There is no way she could have done that to herself and ended up lying peacefully in bed as if she just went to sleep.”

“You really think there might be a murderer prowling around Rumford?” asked Ms. Peterson nervously.

Either that or somebody’s ghost is prowling around the Rosewood Inn.” The sergeant shook his head with a grim grin. “We’ll get to the bottom of it. Just remember, no one leaves until we’ve interviewed all the guests and staff. Let’s go downstairs. I want you to verify that we’ve got everyone present in the dining room. We’ll let my guys finish up here.” He motioned for Lawrence and Ms. Peterson to come with him. They glanced at each other for a split second, and then joined him walking toward the elevator.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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