The Throwbacks

By: Stephanie Queen

Book 1:The Scotland Yard Exchange Series



Chapter 1




GRACE tiptoed along the brick path, trying not to get her party heels stuck in the cracks. She heard the cab pull away from the curb and looked back. Sophia bounced behind her, wearing sensible party boots.

“Do you realize you gave that taxi driver twenty dollars for a two-dollar fare?” her friend said.

“Oh—just like in the song.” Grace smiled and climbed the steps leading to Mabel’s back door. Then she stopped. She felt Sophia stop right behind her.

“What?” Sophia prompted.

“You know. The Harry Chapin song where…”

“Quit stalling, Grace. This is not a surprise birthday party. Open the door.”

“Are we sure about that? Today is my birthday.” Or at least she’d always celebrated her birthday on October fifteenth as a close approximation. No one had ever come up with a more likely date.

“No kidding? Not your thirtieth birthday is it?” Sophia stood on the step below her, making her even shorter than she already was. She looked like an updated version of Lucille Ball with an attitude and a bob. That thought made Grace smile.

“Wait until you turn thirty and see. You’ll have palpitations too.” Grace turned and pushed through the door into the back hall of Mabel’s Beacon Hill townhouse, willing away that intruder sensation she always got. Mabel was as good as family, she almost said out loud. Like the eccentric old aunt she used to dream up for herself back when she used to dream about it.

As they stepped into the old woman’s kitchen, the powerful aroma of food and familiarity warmed her. Even the clatter of the no-doubt expensive caterers didn’t spoil the homey effect.

“Mabel went all out for this bash. Any idea why she would be hosting this Scotland Yard party?” Sophia asked as she followed her through the kitchen.

“I don’t know. It’s a very big deal to her, though. My attendance was a command performance. I only wish I had a date.” She looked down at her friend. “No offense.”

Grace began to give herself the usual pep talk for going into a party dateless, the one about her soul mate being around the next corner, when her purse rang. Somewhere deep inside her bag her ringing phone hid. Weaving around the catering staff, she crossed the black-and-white tiled kitchen to the swinging doors as she dug inside the bag to find the phone.

“Buck up,” Sophia said. “After all, thirty is the new twenty, right? It’s not like you’re a spinster.”

The ringing grew louder as she pulled the phone from its depths. Mabel’s Scotland Yard party waited on the other side of the door in front of them. Pushing through the door into the room that Mabel called the “grand salon,” she stabbed the call button and spoke into the phone. Using what she hoped was a discreet voice, she said, “Hello.”

“Grace! I’m so glad I got you.” Her friend Theresa Torini’s voice boomed from the other end of the line so that anyone might hear everything.

“There’s been a murder!”

“What? You didn’t say murder, did you?” Grace said. Then she clapped a hand over her mouth and darted her eyes around to see if anyone was paying attention. A few curious glances were thrown her way. Still holding the phone to her ear, not one more word volunteered its way to her mouth.

“Yes! A murder! And you have to help.” Theresa shrieked loud enough for Sophia to hear.

Sophia’s mouth opened to speak, but Grace shook her head furiously. Sophia clamped her mouth shut and clamped a hand on Grace’s arm, her eyes perplexed.

Grace frowned. Murder? Her help? What the heck was she talking about? But even if Theresa was crazy or confused, her hysteria sounded real.

“Take a deep breath, honey. Aren’t you at your wedding rehearsal dinner?” Grace asked.

“Yes!”

Grace moved the phone a distance from her head to lessen the effect of her friend’s shocking volume. She moved away from people as best she could with the crowd already in full swing, pulling Sophia—who was still clamped to her arm—with her.

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you—Rick’s brother—oh poor Rick—his brother who was supposed to be our best man—has been shot. Murdered! Right here.”

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