Meine Filiale

The Puzzled Heart

A Kate Fansler Mystery

Kate Fansler Band 12

Amanda Cross

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Kate Fansler's husband, Reed, has been kidnapped--and will be killed unless Kate obeys the carefully delineated directives of a ransom note. Tormented by her own puzzled heart, Kate seeks solace and wise counsel from both old friends and new. But who precisely is the enemy? Is he or she a vengeful colleague? A hostile student? A terrorist sect? The questions mount as Kate searches for Reed--accompanied by her trusty new companion, a Saint Bernard puppy named Bancroft. Hovering near Kate and Bancroft are rampant cruelties and calculated menace. The moment is ripe for murder. . . .


Einband Taschenbuch
Seitenzahl 256
Erscheinungsdatum 01.12.1998
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-345-41884-5
Verlag Random House N.Y.
Maße (L/B/H) 17.6/10.8/1.9 cm
Gewicht 155 g
Verkaufsrang 18229

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  • One




    KATE FANSLER’S arrival on Leslie Stewart’s doorstep was thoroughly uncharacteristic.


    Leslie Stewart was, at the moment the doorbell rang, trying to persuade one grandson not to pull out the cat’s hair in handfuls and the other grandson, happily ensconced in a high chair, to put his applesauce to internal rather than external uses.


    “Will you see to the door, Jane?” she called in what she hoped were plaintive rather than irritable tones. “I’m rather tied up here.”


    And indeed, Leslie thought, I would far rather be literally tied up or in almost any other situation but this. Grandchildren she cherished, but only, it came to her with sudden clarity, at their more adorable moments and in anticipation of departure, either theirs or hers as the case might be. Today, unfortunately, the case was neither.


    “Jane,” she called again. She could hear, then, a growl of acquiescence and Jane’s footsteps as she crossed the loft to the front door, whose bell had again sounded, this time with urgency.


    Jane Berlin had long liked to point out that she had remained childless for good reason and had fallen in love with Leslie when she too seemed well past the possibility of childbearing. It was the likelihood of grandchildren that she had failed to take into account. Apparently, having passed one’s genes on to one generation, one felt impelled to encourage, even to assist, in the flowering of those genes into yet another generation. Jane felt, in a word, betrayed. Outraged was another word that might, without exaggeration, be employed. The strength of her feelings was in no way mitigated by Leslie’s assurance that she agreed with her, and that this particular occasion was unavoidable and not likely to be repeated.


    Jane’s far-from-rapid progress was, toward the end, and at the bell’s second ring, hastened by the happy thought that perhaps this was the boys’ parents returning. She was almost smiling when she threw open the door.


    Kate Fansler stood on the doorstep, looking so harassed that Jane did not even think to mention her disappointment in Kate’s failure to be the retriever of the children.


    “Are you all right?” Jane asked, somewhat rhetorically, since Kate looked far from all right. “Leslie’s in the kitchen preventing cruelty to animals and swathed in baby food.” Concerned, Jane followed Kate to the kitchen.


    Leslie looked up in surprise. “What is it?” she said, clearly expecting the worst. And with reason. For Leslie, Kate’s closest friend, knew that, in the first place, Kate never dropped in, never appeared unannounced, considering such behavior uncivilized; and, in the second place, would certainly not have chosen this afternoon to change in this respect since Leslie had told Kate of her, Leslie’s, obligation to babysit for her grandsons. Kate was notorious for her lack of delight in the very young.


    These thoughts were the matter of a few seconds. Abandoning the children, she went to Kate and pushed her into a chair. “I’ll make some tea,” she said. “Strong and sweet, for shock.” And she did move toward the kettle.


    “I’ll do it,” Jane said. “Unless you two would rather be alone.”


    “Reed’s gone,” Kate said.


    “Left you?” Jane asked. Leslie glared at her.


    “Not left me. Gone, vanished—kidnapped, if you insist on an exact description.”


    Even the boys were quiet, as though sensing the tension. Then the baby began to cry, his mouth turned down in the image of tragedy, his eyes scrunched up. The eyes of the older boy, as though in sympathy, welled up; a tear rolled slowly down his cheek. The cat departed, not caring for the atmosphere.


    Jane put up the kettle and waited for the water to boil. Personally, she would have recommended brandy, but perhaps Leslie was right. Leslie, being older and subject to more frequent familial perils, had dealt with crises more often than had Jane.


    “Start at the beginning,” Leslie said. She and Kate had seen each other through many trials, though it seemed to Leslie that laughter more often marked their conversations. They would begin in despair and end in laughter—that was about the size of it—but nothing, not even Leslie’s losing her husband and taking up with a woman, had seemed as daunting as this. Pray heaven that Reed, the most unlikely man for it, had not had one of those male life crises and run off with a younger woman or, she suddenly thought, a man. Good God.


    “We were to meet at a restaurant at six-thirty; we were going on to a concert at Lincoln Center. Reed is never late, or never really late, so after a time I called the lobby of our building to ask the doorman if perhaps Reed had forgotten and was planning to meet me there. The doorman said he hadn’t seen Mr. Amhearst all day.”


    By this time the tea was ready, but Kate could barely be persuaded to take even a sip. “It’s hot,” she said.


    “That’s the point,” Leslie said. “Do sip it at least.” Kate, obeying, sipped.


    By this time the boys had become more vocal in their sorrows. Jane gathered them up; holding the baby on one arm, the older boy by the hand, she left the room with them.


    “Grateful, and terribly worried about Kate, Leslie nonetheless had the horrible thought that she would have to pay for this. I am becoming a monster, she told herself. “Go on,” she said to Kate.


    “Then I called the law school. His assistant Nick, a pleasant young man whom I’ve met, seemed surprised to hear from me. ‘Actually,’ he said, ‘I watched Reed go, from the window; he had said he was going to a concert with you, and I thought how nice, when I would have to spend the evening studying. Then he got into the limousine and drove off.”


    “ ‘What limousine?’ I naturally asked. Reed calls limousines only for rides to the airport. Nick said he thought the men in the car had been waiting for Reed and were giving him an arranged-for lift. He didn’t recognize the men, and when I told him that Reed was supposed to have met me at the restaurant, he became silent. ‘Don’t make too much of this, Kate,’ he said, ‘but now that you mention it, I did notice that the men got on either side of him and seemed to be, well, helping him into the limousine. It wasn’t obvious, or I would have done something. I just think, looking back, that it was, well, funny. Can I do something, Kate?’ I told him to hold off for a while and say nothing at all to anybody. He very nicely said he would be home all night if I needed him, he would go home instead of to the library.”


    Kate almost automatically sipped again at the tea. “After that call I went home. It was now perhaps seven-thirty. I didn’t know what to do; every idea I had seemed less practical than the last. By nine o’clock I had about decided on some more telephone calls, when a message was delivered. That was a whole twelve hours ago; I still haven’t thought what to do. The letter told me to be at home tonight at seven. Meanwhile,” Kate concluded, “I’m here. I didn’t know where else to go. I was afraid if I stayed home I would call the police or feel compelled to do something, anything, and I thought I’d better talk it through first. But maybe I should get back.”


    Leslie had never seen Kate so worried, so indecisive, so panicked. “I’d better go,” Kate said. “I ought to be where someone can reach me. It was silly of me to come, but if I had to do something sudden and idiotic, this seemed the best choice.”


    “It was,” Leslie said. “We’ll go back together. I’ll just have to get my daughter and her husband to come for the kids.”


    “It’s all right,” Jane said, appearing at the kitchen door. “They’re changed and dressed now and can hang out with the less experienced of their two grannies, as Leslie’s daughter calls us.” Here she smirked. “It occurred to me while changing and dressing them that if Leslie’s daughter were homophobic, she wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving her little ones with us. Enough to make a cat laugh, isn’t it? You two go ahead to Kate’s house, after Leslie calls the parents. I’ll stay here till they come, trying to prevent serious injury to animals and children.”


    “Jane,” Leslie began.


    “Never mind Janeing me,” Jane said. “Just call the parents and tell them to get on their bicycles and pedal over here.”


    “Wait a minute,” Kate said. “You must have taken the kids for a good reason. Don’t let—”


    “And I’m giving them back for a good reason,” Leslie said. “Nobility has its limits, and they’ve just been reached. Listen,” she added, as Kate looked dubious and worried, “after a certain time in life, friends come first. Perhaps they should always come first. I was just trying to give the harried parents some much-needed time off, remembering my own years of child raising. But Jane hasn’t taken my offer well, to put it mildly, so Tony and Sarah might as well find out how the land lies now as later. Actually, you’re doing me a favor, giving me a good reason to back out now. Jane comes before grandchildren too, any day. Just let me have a word with her. Try to drink a bit more of the tea.”


    Dutifully Kate dropped back into her chair and tried to sip the tea, now cooler but still overpoweringly sweet. She too remembered from somewhere, English novels perhaps, that sweet strong tea was good for shock.