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Heads You Lose by Christianna Brand {Excerpt}

Heads You Lose by Christianna Brand {Excerpt}

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Published by MysteriousPress
As war rages in Europe, the citizens of London flee to the country. At Pigeonsford, a group of guests plays cards, drinks tea, and acts polite—but Grace Morland knows the strong emotions that lurk beneath the placid social surface. She’s painfully in love with Stephen Pendock, the squire of Pigeonsford, but Pendock’s smitten with young beauty Francesca Hart. One afternoon, Fran debuts a new hat, and Grace’s jealousy gets the better of her. She exclaims, “I wouldn’t be seen dead in a ditch in a thing like that!” She will soon be proven wrong. Grace is found dead with the hat on her head—and her head removed from her neck. To the scene comes the incomparable Inspector Cockrill, who finds that far more than petty jealousy lies beneath this hideous murder.
As war rages in Europe, the citizens of London flee to the country. At Pigeonsford, a group of guests plays cards, drinks tea, and acts polite—but Grace Morland knows the strong emotions that lurk beneath the placid social surface. She’s painfully in love with Stephen Pendock, the squire of Pigeonsford, but Pendock’s smitten with young beauty Francesca Hart. One afternoon, Fran debuts a new hat, and Grace’s jealousy gets the better of her. She exclaims, “I wouldn’t be seen dead in a ditch in a thing like that!” She will soon be proven wrong. Grace is found dead with the hat on her head—and her head removed from her neck. To the scene comes the incomparable Inspector Cockrill, who finds that far more than petty jealousy lies beneath this hideous murder.

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Published by: MysteriousPress on Jan 25, 2013
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09/29/2013

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 HEADS YOU LOSE 
By Christianna Brand
GRACE MORLAND WAS SITTING on the terrace outside Stephen Pendock’s house, putting the finishing touches to a wishy-washy sketch of the Old Church Tower in theSnow. To the left, the railway line made an interesting pattern, smudged abruptly acrossthe plump white downs; to the right a factory chimney reared its sooty finger and acolumn of grey-black smoke rolled grandly against the wintry sky; but Grace Morland’seye was systematically blinkered against atrocities made by man. She ignored thechimney, put in the downs without the railway, and concentrated upon the church tower which, having been erected to the glory of God, could be relied upon to be picturesque.It had other advantages than this, for it necessitated a fluttering request that shemight be permitted to sit, as quiet as a mouse, upon Stephen Pendock’s terrace so as toget the only perfect view. “I shan’t be in anybody’s way,” she had promised, looking upat him with her yearning pale-blue eyes; “I shall sit as quiet as a teeny mouse, and be notrouble to anyone …”It was certainly unlikely that she would be very much in anybody’s way, out on asnow-covered terrace in the teeth of a biting wind. “Why, certainly,” Pendock had said,eyeing her with tolerant indifference; “as long as you like. But haven’t you done it before?”Of course she had done it before. The Old Church Tower in Bluebell Time, hung,even now, over her mantelpiece at Pigeonsford Cottage; the Church Tower, Autumn, was pushed away into the cupboard underneath Pendock’s own stairs, to be producedwhenever he had notice of her coming to the house and hung up on the dining-room wall.Spring, summer, autumn and winter she asked, twittering, if she might sit on the terraceand be no trouble to anyone; and spring, summer, autumn and winter she sat so late thathe was obliged to ask her to tea or dinner before she went home, and, finally, whether he
 
 might not see her to her door; but spring, summer, autumn or winter, so far, he had never  proposed.Pendock was fifty: a tall, straight, good-looking man, with hair growing becominglygrey above his ears, and eyes of a quite amazing deep blue-green. Lying at the edge of acliff looking down into the clear, cold water of the Cornish seas, you looked into the verydepth and colour of Pendock’s eyes. Kind eyes, good eyes, humorous, warm, friendlyeyes; but not loving eyes; not sentimental eyes; not, anyway, for Grace.She looked anxiously at her watch. Half-past four and the light was getting so dimthat, really, she had no excuse for sitting out there any longer. She pondered theadvisability of putting in a plea to be permitted to come again to-morrow; but to-morrowthe remains of the snow would probably be gone. It was thick on the downs still, butdown here in the valley it was rapidly melting away, and she had had to use a good dealof imagination, even as things were. Of course the
wind 
was very cold—it might snowtonight … But surely someone would come out of the house soon, and ask her to stay totea. Perhaps they had forgotten her. Pendock had guests, she knew: Lady Hart, who had been a friend of his family from the days before he was born, who had stayed atPigeonsford since his grandfather’s time, was there now with her two granddaughters;and Henry Gold who had married Venetia Hart, one of the granddaughters; she imaginedthem all sitting indoors over a cosy tea—herself, forgotten, left out on the terrace in the bitter cold. There was no pretext for going back into the house, for if she were to keep toher promise of being no trouble to anyone, all she had to do was to walk down the stepsof the terrace, pick her way through the melting snow on the lawn, nip over the little bridge that divided Pendock’s garden from the orchards that surrounded the Cottage, and be having tea in her own drawing-room by a quarter to five. She began reluctantly toclean up her palette and put her brushes away.Voices from the french window behind her considerably accelerated this process,and a sleek black dachshund arrived upon the scene and commenced investigations.Venetia Gold and her sister Francesca stepped out on to the terrace.

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