Opening Chapter of Death Takes a Mistress, A Rivka and Dan Sherman Mystery by Larry and Rosemary Mild
Chapter 1
Mistress Lost
London, England--Wednesday, March 3rd, 1982

Nothing in the clammy London grayness seemed to herald that evening's terrible discovery. Following a full day's work at the law offices of Bleak and Fullbrite, solicitor Wayne Sachs set off for home to his wife and son in their fourthfloor flat. After rattling through six Underground stations on the crowded Central-Line Tube and walking several blocks, the thirtyfive-year-old bounded up the steps at 103 Devon Court. Passing 3C, he saw the door was wide open. He hesitated for a moment and stuck his head inside his neighbor's flat.

“Lainee?” he called. No answer. Wayne pushed two steps inside and yelled her name once more. “Lainee Cohen!” Sweeping his eyes about the room, nothing seemed to be amiss, so he continued up the stairs to the next landing, taking with him a sense of foreboding. But even then, the worst had not occurred to him.

Janice Sachs stood just outside their door, waiting for her husband of eleven blissful years. Three-month-old Ivy Cohen nestled deep in the crook of her arm. Wayne kissed them both on his way into their flat, dropped his briefcase on the nearest chair, and hooked his suit jacket on the Bentwood tree in the corner. When his short, curly-haired wife didn't follow him inside, he again sensed the dread. Something wasn't right.

“What's wrong? Where's Ollie? Is he hurt?” Wayne pivoted toward her, anxious about their nine-year-old son.

“No, Ollie's still at school—at the cricket match,” she answered. “He'll be home in an hour. It's Lainee I'm concerned about. She hasn't come by to pick Ivy up.”

“Lainee's door is open,” Wayne said, “and she didn't answer when I called to her.”

“Dear, this is not good. I've been baby-sitting Ivy all day. Lainee told me it would only be for a few hours. She was going to break the news to her boyfriend that he'd become a father. And that was at nine this morning.”

“Did she expect a problem telling him?”

“Oh, yes,” Janice replied. “So much so that she brought all the baby's things upstairs with Ivy. I thought that in itself was strange, so I asked her why. She just said she wanted to tell the boyfriend in her own time and in her own way.” Janice shrugged. “Not a very logical reason.”

“A delicate situation, eh? Why haven't we ever met this boyfriend? I'll bet the blighter is married and diddling her on the quiet whenever he feels like it.”

“You really think so?” Janice asked. “That could be. She hardly ever mentions him.”

“Have you ever run into this lover boy? Do you know what he looks like or anything about him?”

“No,” Janice answered. “That's weird, too. Especially since she just had his baby. And I always thought Lainee and I were so close. Wayne, honey?”


“Shouldn't we check up on her? After all, I still have Ivy on my hands, and there're only two diapers left. Besides, it's not like Lainee to go out and leave her door open.” Janice shifted Ivy to her other arm. The baby nestled against her chest and kept slumbering.

“I agree,” he said. “I'll go downstairs and give her flat a thorough once-over.” thorough once-over.”

“I'm coming, too.”

They clomped down the carpeted steps to the floor below. Located on the opposite side of the staircase, Lainee Cohen's flat was the mirror image of their own. Through the wide-open door, the dining room appeared undisturbed. Wayne stepped into that room first and quickly faced the front of the house toward the bay window above the street and parlor. Still nothing out of order. With Janice trailing a few feet behind him, he moved down the hall to the kitchen and bedroom, only to find a few dirty dishes in the sink and an empty tossed bed.

Returning to the front of the flat, this time he stepped all the way into the parlor. Wrapping paper and gift boxes were strewn about one end of the ell-shaped room.

Wayne stopped abruptly. Two shoeless feet stuck out from behind the tapestried sofa. His heartbeat quickened as he stepped closer. Lainee's petite body lay on her back, legs apart, with bare toes pointed toward heaven and a salmon-colored robe tied loosely about her tiny waist. Strands of her shoulder-length coal-black hair lay matted and stiff against one side of her head. Dried blood, he guessed. Her expressive dark eyes, now glassy and dull, locked on the ceiling. Her mouth gaped, half-open lips twisted in fear.

A chill gripped Wayne as he reluctantly knelt and put an ear to her chest, listening for signs of life. None. Lastly, he failed to detect any pulse. When he looked up again, he saw a wide-eyed Janice standing behind him with Ivy still asleep across her shoulder.

“Good Lord!” she gasped. “Shouldn't we call the police?”

“Absolutely,” he said. “I'll call. You take the baby back upstairs with you.”

* * * *

Ninety minutes later Scene of Crime Officers (SOCOs)moved about the flat like so many flies scouting new feeding fields. A tall woman in a tweed blazer was directing this assault on Lainee Cohen's apartment. Frequent photo flashes accented each potential clue.

“Aren't those photographers finished yet?” Inspector Jervis Harvey bellowed when he arrived eight minutes later. At first impression, he appeared to be a middle- aged grouch of broad girth and short temper, but he was a proven policeman and a caring human being.

“Yes, sir,” replied a uniformed constable.

“Forensics? SOCOs?”

“Yes, sir, over there.”


“ 'Tis a toss between strangulation and a bop on the noggin. Maybe both. The SOCO doc said he couldn't rightly tell 'til he got 'er back to the lab. There's blood right here where she hit her head.” The constable pointed to the red blotch on the steam-heated white radiator.

“Killer leave any signs?” asked Harvey, kneeling beside Lainee. Getting a negative answer, he probed on his own, noting the small amount of blood soaked into the carpet behind her head; the black-and-blue finger marks on her neck; both arms set at her sides; and a strange distortion in the doll-like face. The body looks to have been rearranged, and certainly the robe should have come open when she fell, accident or not, he thought. It seems the killer was sensitive to her nakedness and covered her up.

“Anybody else touch the body?” asked Harvey.

“None of us, sir. Just the bloke what discovered the vic',” responded the constable. “He tried to take her pulse. Nothing else.”

“And where is he now?”

“Upstairs in 4B. The bloke and his missus both discovered 'er,” replied the constable. Looking down at his notes, “Mr. Wayne Sachs and his wife, Janice.”

“Any significance to all these presents or their packaging?” asked Inspector Harvey.

“Three things, sir,” responded the senior officer of the SOCO team. “First, the lingerie items look expensive, and I'm betting they were intended for the victim. The sizes would be a close fit. Second, the merchandise is foreign—comes from several shops in Annapolis, Maryland, in the States. Three, they're extremely intimate-type gifts. Our perpetrator had to know the victim pretty well.”

“Thank you, Miss . . . Mrs.?”

“Miss it is, sir. Felicia Anders, Forensics, SOCO team leader, sir.”

“Well, Miss Anders, your people turn up any prints yet, other than our victim's?”

“No, sir. It appears that everything has been clinically wiped down. We did find a brand-new, unopened box of Pablum in a kitchen cupboard. Only the victim's prints on it.”

Inspector Harvey frowned. “Can you place the time of death, Miss Anders?”

“Early afternoon, I would say, sir, but we won't know for sure until the autopsy.”

Harvey nodded, satisfied with her answer. “Was the victim a mother?”

“I don't know. Other than the Pablum, it looks like Miss Cohen lived alone.”

“Good job, Miss Anders. I'll be in touch.”

* * * *

“What in the world are we going to do with Ivy?” asked an anxious Wayne.

“Exactly nothing,” Janice said. Her voice trembled as she added: “You and I are going to take care of this darling infant as if she's our own. Lainee has no one else in the world, not a single relative. What if the bastard who killed her is Ivy's father? What if he lays claim to their baby? Well, he's never going to get her, not if I can help it.” In her bulky sweater and skirt, Janice took on a protective, defending-the-barricades look as she gripped her tiny bundle more tightly.

A frown creased Wayne's high brow. “You want to lie to the police?”

“If I must,” she snapped. “If it will keep Ivy out of the deplorable orphan and foster care system.” She patted the baby on the back and rocked her from side to side, eliciting a pleasant, gurgling sound.

“Won't they find out anyway? Her things?” He held his hands to his forehead, feeling trouble coming just as surely as if it were a migraine.

“Don't you see? Everything belonging to Ivy is already in our flat. Lainee brought up two suitcases full of her things. She even dragged the portable crib up here.”

“Where are we going to put it all? Besides, won't.....”

“You wanted another child, didn't you?” she pleaded.

“Well, sure, but . . .” He followed her into the bedroom as she laid Ivy down in her crib for a nap.

“But nothing. You get this child free, no hospital or doctor fees.” She turned out the light and pulled the door partly shut.

A flash of stubborn solicitor's logic shot through Wayne's brain. Suppressing it, he took a deep breath and held out his arms. Janice folded into his waiting embrace. That was all the answer she needed.

“I suppose we'll manage one way or another,” he mumbled.

The doorbell rang, and the two of them looked at each other.

Inspector Harvey stood in the doorway. “Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Sachs? I have a few questions for you.”

“Of course. Come in and have a seat,” Janice said.

“Ma'am, I understand your husband called the police. Did the decedent have any relatives or close friends or even regular visitors that you know of?”

Janice shook her head, fighting back tears. “No relatives. I suppose we were about as close as anyone to her.”

“And visitors?”

“She mentioned she had a boyfriend, but we don't know anything about him.”

“Was Miss Cohen employed anywhere?”

“Not in the last six months,” Janice said. “She was employed as a salesgirl at Herrod's department store in Knightsbridge before that.”

“Did she ever mention any co-workers?”

“She did talk about Sally somebody, but I don't know a last name.”

“Who paid the rent if she was no longer employed?”

“I really don't know. She did have that steady boyfriend, though. Maybe he paid it.”

“Do you know his name?”

“We've never met him. For that matter, we've never even seen him. Lainee rarely talked about him and when she did, she used some funny nickname, beginning with an S, I think.”

“Would that be Snooks?”

“Maybe . . . I think so. How did you know?”

“Our crime people came up with a diary. It was hidden under her mattress.”

Janice froze. “Then you know about the baby.”

“Of course.” Inspector Harvey noted her reaction and made an instant decision not to grill her on why she and her husband failed to disclose this fact. Instead, he took a kindly approach. “Are you minding the child?”

“Yes. Lainee can't—couldn't—afford a nanny, and I loved helping her out,” Janice confessed, her words catching in her throat. “It's so hard talking about her in the past. Ivy is such a sweet baby. She never cries.”

Inspector Harvey's keen eyes swept over the orderly parlor. Solid, well-chosen furnishings. Polished wood tabletops. Shelves filled with books that looked read, not just for show. He made an on-the-spot appraisal of the husband and wife. “Are you both willing to take the child into your family on a temporary basis?”

“You bet,” replied Janice. “Even on a permanent basis.”

“Me too,” chimed Wayne.

“I can't promise anything,” the inspector said. “You'll have to face a bunch of social workers, solicitors, barristers, and eventually a judge.” He moved his bulk into the hall.

Janice's cheeks flushed with relief. “Thank you, Inspector.”

“Wayne, honey,” she began when the door had finally closed.

“What, sweetheart?”

“About that extra child.”


“There might be two of them. I've been having morning sickness for nearly a week now.” She tried to smile, but couldn't. She was too worried about his reaction.

“How come I didn't notice?” he asked.

“My belly very considerately waited to throw up till you left for work.”

“Wow! The more the merrier, I guess.” He kissed her with enough passion to erase any of her concerns. “Hey, I almost forgot. My boss called me into his office today. He's pleased with my work, so there'll be eight and six more in my pay starting next check.”

“That's wonderful, dear,” Janice said as the two embraced again. “We'll need every bit of it.”

From one kid to three in the space of two hours? Wayne's chin rested on the top of his wife's head, guaranteeing that she wouldn't see the hint of alarm in his intelligent gray eyes.

End of Chapter
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