Vivian De Winter | writer & artist

Ophelia, Dixie and Max
Cardinal County Series
Work in Progress
Book 4 | Ophelia, Dixie and Max

AGE APPROPRIATE: 13+

Excerpt | CHAPTER 1

A fine piece of wood cabinetry enclosed the body of a dead woman I’d only ever met through the hearsay of my parents.

Directly across from me, on the other side of the cemetery, sunlight reflected off the water, breaking into smaller pieces of brilliance as a flock of geese took to the air. I watched two young girls skip along the edge of the pond. Their long blond hair wiggled and jiggled, ringlets stretching out and bouncing back. Their combined bout of giggling coaxed my lips to form a smile. The taller girl reached for the hand of her younger sister. They continued to move as one, until they broke apart, each going in a different direction.

I hadn’t paid much attention to the words addressed over the casket. Feet tingling with standing in one place for too long, I lifted my right leg, bending at the knee as if my dozing muscles required a warm-up before starting off on a thirty minute run. My shoe fell off. I lost my balance and tried to gain it back by raising both hands in the air. My handbag smacked me on the side of my face and my umbrella opened up of its own accord, stabbing my leg with one of its tiny talons. I’d have fallen head-first into the scantily-clad grave opening, if it hadn’t been for a strong arm encircling my waist--an arm hidden in a black woolen jacket, white dress shirt and adorned at the wrists with pewter cufflinks.

Who wears wool in the heat of summer?

“You’re not going to faint, are you?” a voice asked.

I shook my head and lowered my arms while my bare foot searched for my shoe in the grass.

“Do you need to sit down?” the voice asked.

“I’m fine,” I answered, looking down at the black material encircling my waist. He pulled me backwards a few steps before releasing me.

“You have something in your hair.”

“An inchworm? A flower? A ladybug?”

“Hold still.”

Heat from the sun landed on the skin of my neck as he lifted a few strands of hair.

“What are you doing?” I asked, making a move to turn around.

“Almost done. Just keep looking ahead.”

I stared at the coffin draped with flowers and glossy green leaves. A bee emerged from one of the lilies and buzzed on over to the rose.

The joke is on you, sucker. You likely can’t make honey from a cut-flower.

I kicked off my remaining shoe just as my rescuer stopped tugging at my hair.

“Can I turn around?” I asked.

“That’s the best I can do for now.” He wiped his hands on a handkerchief. “Good thing I always stick one of these in my pocket.” He looked down at my bare feet. “You’re fairly tall, for a woman.”

“You’re fairly observant, for a man.”

Short cropped haircut. Lively eyes and a voice to warm my cold, cold feet.

“What did you find back there?” I asked, pointing to the back of my head.

“What would you prefer? Specifics or generalities?”

“Five words or less.”

“You are better off not knowing.”

“That’s six words.”

He folded up the white fabric and held out his hand. “Victor Jarvis.”

Dropping my handbag and umbrella, I reached out, placing my hand in his.

“Edwina Monk.”

“Really?” he asked, a grin on his face.

“Would I make up a name like that?”

“What’s with the umbrella?”

“They were forecasting rain this afternoon.”

“Didn’t you have something in black or grey?”

“I know, I know. Bringing a pink umbrella to a funeral service. What will all the neighbours think of me?”

“Doesn’t much matter, now does it? You don’t live here.”

“Thank you for your help, Victor.”

His gaze moved from my face to somewhere over my shoulder. “I think someone is waiting to talk to you. Over there, by the trees. He’s holding a briefcase.”

“Must be my aunt’s lawyer.”

“You’re the niece?” Victor asked.

“The one and only.”

“Better hurry up. They charge by the second.”

THE CARDINAL COUNTY SERIES:
Augusta Louise
The Making of Mirabelle
Chilliko Road
Ophelia, Dixie and Max
Tall Grass Cutting Skin
The Muttering Raven of Fotheringham Avenue