Detective Beck arrives, and against her better judgment, Bailey becomes infatuated with him, forgetting her tepid relationship with her boyfriend. Bailey learns that one of Anna's clients died of heart failure after she worked on him. Then the spa owner's second husband, who was clandestinely pursuing Anna, becomes suspect number one. But Anna's past also provides numerous suspects. Was she killed by a client who'd been rebuffed? Or by a male therapist who she'd apparently spurned? Or the son of the heart attack victim who blames the spa for this father's death? Or by someone from her deeper past? Bailey keeps digging, getting closer to the truth. Then there's a second horrifying murder at the inn, and it's clear that Bailey's life is in danger. Nothing prepares her for the answer she finds as she finally discovers who the murderer is.
About the Author
Hometown:New York, New York
Date of Birth:1950
Place of Birth:Glens Falls, New York
Education:Union College, 1972
Read an Excerpt
A Body to Die For
By Kate White
Time WarnerCopyright © 2003 Kate White
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhen I think back on everything terrible that happened that autumn-the murders, the grim discovery I made, the danger I found myself in-I realize I probably could have avoided all of it if my love life hadn't been so sucky. Or let me rephrase that. Nonexistent. Late in the summer, I'd been kicked to the curb by a guy I was fairly gaga over, and though my heart no longer felt as raw as a rug burn, my misery had morphed into a sour, man-repellent mood. It was as if I had a sign over my head that said, "Step any closer and I'm gonna bitch-slap you."
So when I was invited to spend an early fall weekend free of charge at the Cedar Inn and Spa in Warren, Massachusetts, I grabbed the chance. Trust me, I wasn't expecting to meet anyone there-except maybe a few rich women in pastel sweat suits and fanny packs who thought having their bodies slathered in shea butter would miraculously vaporize their cellulite. I should also admit that I've generally found spa stuff pretty goofy. I once had a complimentary prune-and-pumpkin facial, and when it was over I kept thinking that I should be stationed on a sideboard between a roast turkey and cornbread stuffing.
But I do go nuts for a good massage, and I was hoping that a few of those and a change of scenery would improve my mood as well as jump-start my heart.
Unfortunately, soon after I arrived at the inn, all hell broke loose.
I pulled into Warren just before seven on Friday night. A reasonable arrival time, but three damn hours later than I'd originally planned. A combination of things had thrown my schedule into a tizzy. I'm a freelance journalist, specializing in human-interest and crime stories, and an interview that I was scheduled to do with a psychologist for an article on mass hysteria got pushed from morning to midafternoon. I would have liked to just blow it off entirely. But the piece was due at the end of the following week, and I was feeling under the gun. I didn't hit the road until three-thirty, guaranteeing that I'd have a good chance of getting caught in a rush-hour mess somewhere between Manhattan and Massachusetts-and I did. In addition, I was undone by a smoldering car fire on the southbound side of the New York State Thruway, which caused people on my side to practically crawl by on their haunches so they could get a better look. You would have thought the front half of the Titanic had been dredged and deposited along the side of the road.
If I'd arrived on schedule, I would have been welcomed by the owner of the inn, Danielle (aka Danny) Hubner. She was the one treating me to an all-expenses-paid weekend. An old college friend of my mother's, Danny had been pleading for me to visit the inn since she'd opened it three or four years ago. But I'd always been too crazed with work-or too caught up in the stages of grief that followed the demise two years ago of my flash fire of a marriage: heartache, healing, and manic horniness. This fall, because of my snarky mood, I'd finally said yes.
It would be great, I figured, to not only be pampered 24/7, but also to spend a nice chunk of time with Danny. She was really my friend, too, and she had a slightly offbeat personality that I found absolutely refreshing. I got the sense my visit would also prove beneficial to her. My mother had called right before she flew to Athens for a Mediterranean cruise to say that Danny had seemed in a bit of a slump lately, but she didn't know why. My mother was worried she might be having troubles with her second husband, George, whom I'd yet to meet-and whom my mother didn't seem wild about.
Since I arrived so late, I'd missed Danny. According to the desk clerk, she'd driven into town on business she could no longer put off, but she'd left word that she would check in with me later. I was given a brief tour before being shown to my room.
The inn, a rambling, clapboard building probably erected in the mid-1800s, was really quite smashing, even more so than in the pictures I'd seen. Instead of dripping with the cutesy country charm that you so often find at a restored inn, the decor was elegant, pared down-lots of beige and cream tones and brown-and-white-check fabric. And there wasn't a whirligig, weather vane, or wooden swan in sight.
Since I was late, I figured I'd blown any chance of getting a treatment that night, but my guide explained that Danny had arranged for me to be squeezed in for a massage at eight-before a late dinner. The inn's spa, which also operated as a day spa for the area, stayed open until ten.
I had about fifteen minutes to catch my breath before the massage. My room was maximum charming, a suite, actually, with a small living area. It also sported checks, but in red and white and paired with several quirky print fabrics. I unpacked the clothes most likely to wrinkle and hung them in the closet. (I'm a contributing writer for Gloss magazine, and I read in a recent issue that you should roll your clothes in tissue paper before packing them in order to prevent wrinkles, but I'd no sooner take the time to do that than I would to iron my underpants.) Next I took a very quick shower, letting the spray of hot water do a number on muscles achy from a long car ride.
I dried myself off with a thick Egyptian-cotton towel. Thanks to a towel warmer, it was as toasty as a baked potato. As I buffed my body with it, I noticed a small earthenware jar on the bathroom countertop. It was filled to the brim with amber-colored bath salts, and a little tag announced their availability for sale in the spa. They were a blend of sandalwood and sweet orange aromatics with a hint of frankincense, prepared, the tag said, so I could "surrender to a state of total enchantment and emerge with a primitive power." God, just what I needed. Was it actually suggesting I could get both in the same weekend? I glanced up, into the mirror above the sink. I'm five six, with short, brownish blond hair, and blue eyes, and I'm considered pretty in a slightly sporty way, but there was no denying that at this moment in time, I looked weary, even burned-out. It was going to take a helluva lot of bath salts to leave me feeling enchanted and empowered.
I arrived downstairs at the spa with just a few minutes to spare. It was actually a large addition to the inn, abutting the eastern edge of the building. The decor was Asian inspired: beige walls, cracked stone floors, bamboo plants in large putty-colored pots, and hallways lined with sheer beige curtains that poofed outward from the breeze that you created walking by them. It was very different from the decor of the inn, but because they both featured such muted tones, it all seemed to work together.
I undressed in a spacious dressing area and then waited for ten minutes in the so-called relaxation room. Haunting Asian music played in the background, water gurgled over stones in a small fountain, and the scent of green tea wafted from two flickering candles. I tried to let go and relish it, but I felt a little silly. It was as if I'd somehow stumbled into a scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Fortunately, it was only a few minutes before I was led to a treatment room. I could barely wait for my massage to start, for the chance to have those sore muscles unknotted. My only concern was that it had been so long since I'd had any physical contact with another member of my species that I might begin to whimper at the first touch-like a poor little pound puppy. Unfortunately, on a scale of one to ten, the massage was no more than a seven. My "therapist," a red-haired woman in her thirties, was skilled enough and had plenty of strength in her hands, but she seemed distracted, pausing at odd moments as she worked. It was enough to make me wonder if I had something weird happening on my butt-like a humongous boil-that was forcing her to stop and gape in horror. I was almost relieved when I was finally back in my suite and could totally veg.
After ordering a club sandwich and a glass of Merlot from room service, I unpacked most of the rest of the stuff from my bag, sticking my underwear and shirts in a dresser. In the early days that I'd traveled, I used to wonder who actually used hotel dressers, but lately, at the ripe old age of thirty-three, I'd come to discover that I prefer not having to forage through my suitcase each time I get dressed.
My food arrived within twenty minutes and, ravenous, I devoured it. Then, after opening the window a crack, I undressed and turned back the thick white duvet on the bed. I was looking forward to reading between sheets that felt as if they exceeded a three-hundred-thread count.
As I lay between said silky sheets, though, I could feel my mind itching to go places it shouldn't. In other words, it was dying to ruminate about my most recent love trouble. His name was Jack Herlihy, and he was a thirty-five-year-old professor of psychology from Washington, D.C., whom I'd met in May after he'd come up to teach a summer course in New York. At the time, Jack had come across like a breath of fresh air compared to most of the guys I'd been meeting. He was great looking, nice without being a wuss, and an amazing listener (well, he was a shrink), and he managed to be all of these things without ever showing up, like some New York men, with too much product in his hair. He seemed like a straight shooter, not the kind of guy who promises to call the next day but doesn't for weeks, giving you reason to believe that he calculates his time in dog years. Jack didn't like games-or at least that's what I assumed before he started playing them.
Most of my Jack ruminations generally involved trying to figure out how I'd blown things. Admittedly, our romance had gotten off to a slow start, but he'd seemed okay with the pace, and it was certainly fine with me. I'd been fairly skittish since my ex-husband-the attorney-at-law and gambler-at-large-had fled the scene. Jack and I had some fun nights in the Village (he was hoping to eventually relocate to New York), one glorious day on the beach on Fire Island, and a night of half-naked groping in his apartment, during which I explained I wanted to wait a little longer for the full-frontal variety.
Then, in the beginning of July, Jack announced that his younger sister had meningitis and he was going to be going home to Pittsburgh each weekend to help his family. Since his life was about to become insane, he wanted to put our relationship on hold for the next few weeks-until he and his family were through the worst. I promised to be there when his life returned to normal.
We'd stayed in phone contact through July and the first week of August, and then suddenly I stopped hearing from him. I told myself to be patient, that he was caught up in the crisis. But after several weeks had gone by and he was still incommunicado, I started to panic. Since I didn't have any reason to believe he'd entered the Federal Witness Protection Program, I suspected that I'd been given the boot.
But wait, things get worse. Just before Labor Day, as I was cruising the Village in search of fall shoes, I spotted him from a distance with a couple of cute female student types-he seemed talky, flirtatious, Mister Not-a-Friggin'-Care-in-the-World. As I'd ducked on wobbly legs into a store to avoid being seen, it was finally clear that it was o-v-e-r.
The only question left in my mind was why? Had he not been that interested in me to begin with and his sister's illness had become a good excuse to put distance between us? Had he met someone else in the weeks we'd been apart? Had my request to take the sexual part of the relationship slowly discouraged him despite the fact that he had sounded okay with it?
Just as I was about to travel this tiresome ground in my mind for the millionth time, the phone rang.
"Bailey, it's Danny. I didn't wake you, did I?"
As she spoke, I could see her in my mind's eye. She was in her early sixties, pretty, or rather handsome, I'd say, with blondish gray hair lightly curled. And she was tiny-only about five feet tall and as slim as a candlewick.
"No, no, I'm just lying in bed with a book," I said. "Danny, your inn is absolutely gorgeous. You've done an amazing job with it."
"Thank you so much, dearest. How has your evening been?"
Well, for the last twenty minutes I'd been tapping a freshly scabbed emotional bruise, seeing if I could make myself squeal-but I spared her that sordid detail.
"Terrific. I had a lovely massage and then a light dinner up here in my room-or should I say my suite fit for a princess."
"Who was your massage therapist, do you recall?"
"A woman. Redhead. Name started with a P, I think."
"Piper. She has wonderful hands, don't you think?"
"Yes, definitely." I wasn't going to get Piper in any kind of trouble by saying her heart hadn't been totally into her work tonight.
"By the way, I've set up a meeting for you and Josh, the spa manager, at four tomorrow-if that's still okay with you."
I write a few travel articles each year-it's a free way to see the world and also a nice break from the crime grind-and Danny was hoping that while I was ensconced at the inn I could provide some ideas on how to better pitch her place to editors and travel writers.
"Of course," I said. "But when do I get to see you?"
"How about breakfast together tomorrow morning?" Danny asked. "Would nine work for you?"
"Absolutely, though I still may be in a stupor from my massage."
She laughed lightly, like someone jangling her keys. "Well, you know what I always say-too much of a good thing is wonderful. Just wait till you have some of the other treatments I've got booked for you. Have you ever had a massage with hot stones before?"
"No-but I'm game for anything as long as it doesn't involve colonics."
"Oh, Bailey, you always make me laugh," she said. "Well, I'm going to turn in now because my head is throbbing for some reason. I'm staying here at the inn tonight, by the way, in case you need to reach me."
"Do you do that to see things from the guests' perspective?"
"Partly. But also George is out of town and I hate staying alone. Our house isn't far from here, but it's very secluded. Shall we meet in the lobby, then?"
"See you then. I can't wait."
And I meant it. I felt a tremendous debt to Danny. She had been so good to me when my father died the year I was twelve, taking me on all sorts of little adventures and day trips at a time when my mother was struggling so much that it was hard for her to comfort me. Danny must have sensed early on my fascination for the macabre, because one of our excursions had been to Salem, to learn more about the witch trials. My mother had looked slightly agog at both of us when she'd learned where we'd ended up that day, but it had been pure heaven for me.
My family eventually lost touch with Danny, during a period when she'd lived out west in a bad marriage.
Excerpted from A Body to Die For by Kate White Copyright © 2003 by Kate White
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.