Lead Me Into Danger by Daniella Bernett is a debut mystery featuring a journalist and jewel thief embroiled in international intrigue (available October 1, 2015).
A journalist, a jewel thief, and a Russian spy…when their paths cross, it’s murder.
Journalist Emmeline Kirby hasn’t laid eyes on her former lover Gregory Longdon, a jewel thief, in two years. But she literally tumbles into his arms, after she witnesses two men attempt to murder her friend and fellow journalist, Charles Latimer, in Venice during Carnival.
Emmeline is determined to bring the murderer to justice, but as she and Gregory delve deeper, they become ensnared in a hunt for a Russian spy in the British Foreign Office, who has his sights set on keeping his identity a secret at all costs.
Emmeline pulled her cloak tightly around her shoulders as the February night wrapped her in its moist embrace. A few flurries had started to fall as she stepped out of the water taxi at Rialto. It was only a five-minute walk from the bridge to Campo San Bartolomeo, where the sixteenth-century church stood.
Emmeline checked her watch. It was 10:15. She was early, so she took her time along the winding streets. She stopped on a humpbacked bridge for a moment and closed her eyes, listening to the velvet hiss of the canal as its waters gently lapped against the fondamenta and the gondolas below. A world of watery enchantment, in which one couldn’t help but be swept away by Venice’s rich history. Indeed, the very air seemed to be imbued with elegance, romance, and mystery.
A whisper of a breeze trickled down Emmeline’s spine, causing her to shiver slightly. Her costume and the thin cloak did nothing to keep her warm. Or was it something else? Emmeline opened her eyes. All of a sudden, she was afraid.
The snow was getting a bit harder. She missed a turning and now she was lost. She started to walk in what she thought was the general direction of the church, but she wound up at a dead end. All the calle looked the same. There was no one else about, which was strange for Carnival. She tried to keep calm, to distract her mind by thinking about Venice’s past and what she loved about this city. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, her thoughts strayed to political murders and other intrigues from centuries past. “Stop it,” she chided herself. “Stop being silly. Panicking will not help. You’ll be there in another minute.”
Up ahead, Emmeline thought she heard voices. Or was it only her mind playing tricks on her? She stopped and listened. No, she definitely heard something and, by chance, she happened to find herself in Campo San Bartolomeo.
Emmeline quickened her pace. Across the square, there seemed to be three figures in the shadows by the side of the church. She heard male voices. One voice was raised in anger. They were speaking English, but she couldn’t make out what was being said. She thought one of the men had an accent, as if English was not his native tongue.
A scuffle seemed to be taking place. She heard a grunt and a small cry. Emmeline huddled in a doorway. A shiver slithered down her spine. She heard slow, hesitant steps.
“Charles, is that you?” She sucked in her breath. “You’re hurt.”
He swayed for a moment and then sank to his knees. He grabbed Emmeline’s wrist and pulled her toward him. She screamed when she saw the knife protruding from his rib cage. Blood was everywhere.
“Charles?” His eyes fluttered closed. She fumbled to untie the strings of her cloak and tore it off to try to stanch some of the blood. She bent down close to his ear. “Charles, can you hear me?”
His blue-gray eyes opened wide. He squeezed her hand so hard she thought he would break her fingers. “Emmeline.” It was a hoarse whisper.
“Yes, I’m here. Who did this to you?”
“I recognized—him—from Moscow. It’s—the same—man. I’m—sure now.”
“Who? You’re not making sense. Who?”
He looked up at her without seeing her and then his eyes closed. His grip loosened and his head slumped to the side. He was dead. Dead.
Emmeline was trembling.
Everything seemed to happen so quickly. Two men came running towards her. She stared at them for a second and then began to run back the way she had come. She was running blindly. All she knew was that she had to get away. She heard them behind her. They were getting closer. She darted down an alley to her right. Her breathing was coming in big gulps now. She thought her heart would explode in her chest. If only she could make her way to Piazza San Marco, there were always people at the cafes in the square. She could summon a police officer. Someone. Anyone.
Emmeline leaned against a wall for a minute. “Oh, please, God. Please help me.” She closed her eyes. She thought her legs would buckle under her and the two men would find her. She heard their heavy footsteps again. They seemed quite close. The moon reappeared through the thinning fog. She began to run. Every few seconds she glanced over her shoulder to see if they were catching up. She stumbled, her legs becoming entangled in the long skirt of her costume.
Completely rattled already, she looked down and saw the ground rising to meet her.
That was when a hand suddenly reached out and grabbed her.
Emmeline gasped as she was shoved against a wall by a man. Her dark eyes widened when he lifted his bauta mask and she saw his face. “Gregory.” It was a stunned whisper. That’s all she had time to say.
“Shh,” he hissed.
The next thing she knew, he was kissing her. He blocked her with his larger body as the two men who had been chasing her passed by and into Piazza San Marco without even a glance in their direction. After all, they were merely two lovers stealing a moonlight kiss on Carnival.
He pulled away, but he still shielded her in his arms. “It’s all right. I think we’ve given them the slip.”
Emmeline reached up and slapped him hard across the face. “How dare you? She sliced him to pieces with a single, icy look. “How dare you take advantage of the situation?”
Gregory laughed as he rubbed his stinging cheek. He took off his mask and tricorn hat. That laugh she remembered so well. That laugh teased her and made her even angrier.
“Now, love, is that way to speak to the man who has just saved your life?” He leaned in closer and pinned her to the wall. She felt his warm breath as he murmured against her curls. “How about another kiss to show me how much you’ve missed me?”
She turned her face away to avoid his kiss. “Bloody cheek. I have not missed you.” She glared at him defiantly. “I have more important things to think about these days. And, I’ll have you know I was perfectly fine.” She tried to push him away.
He laughed again and let her go. “I always liked your fiery passion when you were upset. So, why were those nice, friendly chaps chasing you?”
In her surprise at seeing him again, she had nearly forgotten about Charles. She shuddered, remembering his eyes staring up at her and the blood. For a second, she felt as if she might pass out.
Gregory grabbed her arm. “Are you all right, Emmy? You’re awfully pale. Here take my cape or else you’ll catch your death of cold.”
“Gregory, they murdered Charles Latimer. That’s why I was running. He fell at my feet. It was awful. There was a knife and—and blood. It was horrid.”
The shock was beginning to set in. She felt the tears rolling off her eyelashes and slowly down her cheeks. He pulled her into his arms, without any protests this time. She clung to him, glad of his warmth and strength.
When she had calmed down, he asked gently, “Do you think that you’d be able to find your way back there?”
She was silent a moment. “Yes,” she whispered. “He’s in Campo San Bartolomeo. I left poor Charles lying there and I just ran.”
“It’s all right. Let’s go find a carabiniere.”
There was a police station in a quiet campo off Riva degli Schiavoni near the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop. After being ignored for nearly ten minutes by the two officers behind the desk, a third officer appeared from the nether regions of the station and finally inquired if he could help them. Succinctly, Gregory explained the situation in Italian. The officer, an older man who looked tired and annoyed, asked skeptically, “Morto?” Dead.
“Cavalcante. Antonio Cavalcante.”
“Yes, Officer Cavalcante. Miss Kirby lost her way and stumbled across the murder.”
“Humprh.” Officer Cavalcante grunted and glanced over at Emmeline again. “And you, signore? Signore what, by the way?”
“Longdon,” Gregory replied. He was fast losing his patience as the officer wrote their names down in his notebook, as if they were the suspects.
“Signor Longdon, you believe this story Signorina Kirby told you? Perhaps you and she had a…what do you inglesi call it…‘a lover’s spat’ and she wanted to make you feel sorry for her? To make you jealous with a story about another man. When you English get into the Italian sun, it boils your blood and makes you mad.”
Gregory gritted his teeth and clenched his fists at his sides. “First of all, Officer Cavalcante, if you hadn’t noticed it is February and it is wet and cold. Secondly, I can assure you that Miss Kirby is not some flighty female. She is a well-respected journalist back in London. Thirdly, we just came across each other by chance. Neither of us knew that the other was here in Venice.”
At this, the officer’s ears pricked up. Gregory rolled his eyes. The bloody man probably thinks his name in the paper will get him a promotion.
“Allora, Signor Longdon, Signorina Kirby.” He touched his cap and gave a curt nod in Emmeline’s direction. “Take me to this body.”
“Officer Cavalcante, it is not ‘a body.’” Emmeline’s voice cracked, as she tried to swallow her tears. “That was my friend, Charles Latimer. A British journalist.”
“Yes, of course. Forgive me, signorina. Please.” He pointed towards the door.
It was midnight by now. An occasional wisp of cloud drifted across the full moon, which shimmered like a creamy pearl against the indigo sky. Strands of moonlight traced a path for them to the spot where Emmeline had encountered Charles and his murderers.
She stopped. “I can’t—” She swallowed hard. “I can’t look at him again. He’s around the corner.” She pointed vaguely in the direction ahead. “I’ll wait for you here.”
Gregory gave her shoulders a squeeze. The officer’s brow lifted, but he shrugged and said, “Bene.”
Cavalcante returned after five minutes. “Signorina Kirby, I do not know the laws in England. But, I am sure that the officers there do not appreciate it when you waste police time.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“What do I mean? What do I mean?” With each word, Cavalcante’s voice rose an octave. He took off his cap and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. “I mean that there is no body, niente. I am going home to my bed, where I would have been an hour ago if I had not listened to you crazy English.”
He started to walk away, but then came back. “Signorina Kirby, I advise you to leave Venice in the morning before you are charged with obstruction of justice.”
Emmeline stared at his retreating figure. Gregory was by her side again. He didn’t say anything. She pushed past him and went around the corner. The square was empty. She squinted into the darkness. She bent down in front of the doorway, where she had stood. There was nothing. No blood. No knife. Nothing.
Copyright © 2015 Daniella Bernett
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Daniella Bernett has wanted to be a writer since she was nine years old. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.S.in Journalism and has also written two poetry collections. Lead Me Into Danger is her first novel.