As promised, here’s an excerpt from the next Helen Binney mystery (due out March 7, but available for pre-order at most retailers already):
Helen Binney wanted to hit something. Punch, kick or stomp something.
In fact, somewhere deep inside, where her darkest thoughts were hidden even from herself most of the time, she wanted to hit someone, and she didn’t much care who it was.
For some people, that might not have been so unusual, but Helen had never been inclined to violence before. She’d always been a firm believer in the power of rational argument and civilized discussions. Besides, even if she’d wanted to get into fights, she’d always been short and small-boned, with little noticeable muscle, making her far more suited for verbal tussles than physical ones.
Helen was tempted to blame the weather for her bad mood. It had been particularly hot and humid recently, leading to reports of road rage. Helen didn’t think that was the main cause of her own violent inclinations, though. Having to retire in her forties due to lupus flares had made her somewhat cranky for the last three or four years, but she’d grown accustomed to a certain baseline level of irritability.
What worried her was that it had increased exponentially in the past few weeks, leading her to believe the real cause was the month she’d spent a month in Boston, undergoing seemingly endless tests and medical consultations in the search for better control of her lupus symptoms. She wouldn’t have minded the experience so much if she’d actually gotten some concrete answers for her treatment. Instead, she’d had to return to her cozy little cottage in the little town of Wharton, in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, without any real plan of action.
She would never understand how, with an estimated five million people affected by the condition worldwide, it was possible that medical science hadn’t yet figured out how to fix it. Just thinking about all her unanswerable medical questions left her itching for a fight.
At the moment, Helen was particularly annoyed with Ambrose Tate, her ex-lawyer and current significant-other. It didn’t help that she knew her irritation with him wasn’t even remotely his fault. After all, he’d only been doing what she’d asked of him, staying here in Wharton, while she’d been living with her city-dwelling niece, Lily Binney, for the duration of the testing. Tate had made the two-hour drive to Boston twice during the month Helen had been there, and she was quite irrationally irritated with him, both because he hadn’t visited more often and, in equal measure, because he’d visited at all, when she’d asked him not to.
Helen was used to getting annoyed when people did well-intentioned but unhelpful things that complicated her already challenging life. What she wasn’t used to was doing foolish, unhelpful things herself. Taking out her bad mood on Tate didn’t do anyone any good.
This morning Tate had sent her a brief text that had struck her as a very lawyer-like non-apology for some unspecified transgression. Probably because he’d realized she was upset with him, had no idea why, but was willing to take the blame. When even that had irritated her, Helen had realized she was out of control, and it was more than time to take some action to get over her bad mood. She couldn’t do anything about the unpleasant weather, and she couldn’t do anything to get medical answers that just didn’t exist, but she could do something about how she responded to those stimuli.
She’d called her driver, Jack Clary, to arrange to get her out of her isolated cottage, where even her cat, Vicky, was hiding from Helen’s bad mood. When she heard his truck coming up her gravel driveway, she grabbed her cane and the small backpack she’d filled earlier with what she was going to need today, and headed outside. By the time she closed the door behind her, Jack had already parked his vehicle, climbed into her Subaru Forester and turned it around to wait for her at the end of the front path.
Jack was a wiry, bald, middle-aged man who’d worked for a local luxury-car service when Helen had first moved to Wharton. During her years as the wife of the state’s governor, she’d been chauffeured everywhere, and then after her divorce and worsening lupus flares, she’d decided it would be safer for everyone if she didn’t get behind the wheel. They’d become friends over the course of her investigation of the death of her visiting nurse, and now he was her on-call driver whenever he wasn’t in too much demand as the maker of custom clay avatars for gamers. In Jack’s original job, he’d worn an official uniform, often complete with a driving hat and gloves, but these days he generally stuck to business casual sport shirts and khaki pants. The only trace of his previous formality was his insistence on calling her “Ms. Binney,” despite frequent reminders that he was welcome to use her first name.
Later, Helen planned to stop by the exotic lumber warehouse to pick up an apology gift for Tate, but for now, her destination was the Zubov House of Sambo. She was determined to find a better way to work out her frustrations than sniping at her friends. Learning a martial art seemed like just the thing.
Helen had to give Jack credit for not arguing with her about her plans for the day. He simply said, “Anything you want, Ms. Binney,” and set the car in motion down her long, gravel driveway.