Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

(3T)Three Bedrooms, One Corpse

Charlaine Harris

  (3T)Three Bedrooms, One Corpse

  Harris, Charlaine

  Berkley Books (2009)

  * * *

  * * *


  It's a simple if shocking question, and former librarian Aurora Teagarden is just the person to find the answer. Basking in an inheritance that makes her financially independent, Roe's looking for a new occupation. Her days as a librarian are over. Real estate might be fun, she thinks. And who better to teach her the tricks of the trade than her Lauren Bacall look-alike mother, Aida Brattle Teagarden Queensland, who happens to own one of the major real estate firms in town? Signing on as an apprentice, Roe agrees to show an expensive house to some out-of-town clients. The house has its charms, but the clients are not too thrilled with what's been left behind in the master bedroom: the corpse of real estate woman Tonia Lee Greenhouse. And Tonia's only the first victim. It quickly becomes clear that the killer is someone familiar with the real estate community in Lawrenceton, someone who has access to the houses that are on the market. Roe's not too sure she likes real estate, after all. She hadn't counted on murder. But she definitely likes her well-to-do client, Martin Bartell. In fact, it may be love at first sight. With memorable characters and lots of small-town southern charm, this witty and wise mystery proves that author Charlaine Harris is among the best of the new generation of crime writers.

  Three Bedrooms,

  One Corpse


  Aurora Teagarden



  Charlaine Harris

  Praise for

  Three Bedrooms, One Corpse

  “Delightful . . . Clearly focused plot, animated description of character and real estate, and sparkling prose commend this breath of fresh air to all collections.” —Library Journal

  “Quite entertaining . . . A very talented author.” —

  A Bone to Pick

  “Harris provides some genuinely funny scenes as Aurora breezily unravels the murderer’s identity . . . supported by an appealing cast of southern gothic characters.” —Publishers Weekly

  “A pleasant, fast read . . . Enjoyable.” —



  “Pleasant reading . . . Heartily recommend[ed].” —Pen & Dagger

  Real Murders

  “Real Murders is the first adventure for Harris’s perceptive protagonist and I eagerly look forward to the second . . . Harris’s story alternately charms and chills, a difficult combination she manages with aplomb and brilliance.” —Carolyn Hart, award-winning author of

  Set Sail for Murder

  “An ingenious plot and sufficient flow of blood keep the pages flying in Harris’s novel . . . Harris draws the guilty and the innocent into an engrossing tale while inventing a heroine as capable and potentially complex as P.D. James’s Cordelia Gray.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  continued . . .

  “One of the most original premises I’ve ever come across in a

  mystery, and the whole book is great bloody fun.” —Barbara Paul, author of

  The Fourth Wall

  “Clever pacing along with ample red herrings and judiciously placed clues keep Harris’s story moving briskly. Let’s hope for another fast-paced mystery featuring Aurora and her friends.”

  —School Library Journal

  Praise for Charlaine Harris’s

  Southern Vampire novels featuring Sookie Stackhouse “The goofy charm of Harris’s world, with its humor and occasional terror, is what makes Dead Until Dark so delightful.”

  —The Denver Post

  “Harris brings off this blend of mystery and vampires better than most.”

  —San Francisco Chronicle

  “A fun, fast, funny, and wonderfully intriguing blend of vampire and mystery that’s hard to put down and should not be missed.”

  —Susan Sizemore, New York Times bestselling author of Primal Heat and the Laws of the Blood series Praise for Charlaine Harris’s

  Harper Connelly Mysteries

  “Too much fun.”

  —Wilmington (NC) Star-News

  “Harris debuts a series that just might surpass all her others in popularity . . . Will have readers dying for more.” —Booklist

  “Fast pacing, excellent character development, and a strong story line . . . This fabulous opening gambit affirms that every series Charlaine Harris creates is utterly fantastic.” —Midwest Book Review

  Praise for Charlaine Harris’s

  Lily Bard Mysteries

  “Lily Bard [is] the equal of Kay Scarpetta, Kinsey Millhone, and V. I. Warshawski.”

  —Library Journal

  “First-rate mystery.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  “One of the best-drawn and most compelling characters in contemporary mystery fiction—complex, smart, streetwise, tough.”


  Praise for

  A Secret Rage

  “Compelling . . . Powerful.”

  —The Boston Globe

  “Not many novels, and no mysteries, have shaken me as brutally as A Secret Rage.”

  —Los Angeles Times

  “Absorbing tension . . . Effective crime fiction.” —Booklist

  “A thriller built on a vital issue . . . Riveting.” —Publishers Weekly

  Praise for

  Sweet and Deadly

  “A first-rate mystery with special character . . . As con- vincing as it is surprising in the final revelation.” —The Washington Post

  “Harris writes neatly and with assurance, and she avoids the goo that makes equivalent books so sticky.” —The New York Times Book Review

  “Packs a perennial punch. It offers a rarity in popular fiction: an unromanticized portrait of a southern girl.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

  Ace Books by Charlaine Harris

  The Sookie Stackhouse Novels

  dead until dark

  living dead in dallas

  club dead

  dead to the world

  dead as a doornail

  definitely dead

  all together dead

  many bloody returns

  edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner Berkley Prime Crime Books by Charlaine Harris

  The Harper Connelly Mysteries

  grave sight

  grave surprise

  an ice cold grave

  The Lily Bard Mysteries

  shakespeare’s landlord

  shakespeare’s champion

  shakespeare’s trollop

  shakespeare’s counselor

  The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries

  real murders

  a bone to pick

  three bedrooms, one corpse

  sweet and deadly

  a secret rage

  Three Bedrooms,

  One Corpse


  Aurora Teagarden



  Charlaine Harris


  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67
Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content. THREE BEDROOMS, ONE CORPSE

  A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author Copyright © 1994 by Charlaine Harris Schulz. Interior text design by Laura K. Corless. All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions. For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014. ISBN: 1-4295-9976-6


  Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014. The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  My thanks to

  Atlanta-area Realtor/broker Joanne Kearney,

  who provided me with much helpful information.

  If I have misused it, the fault is mine.

  Chapter One


  My career as a real estate salesperson was short and unofficial, but not uneventful. It started in the lobby of Eastern National Bank at nine thirty on a weekday morning with my mother glancing at her tiny, expensive gold watch.

  “I can’t make it,” she said with controlled savagery. A person who couldn’t manage her appointments was inefficient in my mother’s estimation, and to find her- self coming up short in that respect was almost intol- erable. Of course, her dilemma was not her fault. “It’s those Thompsons,” she said furiously, “always late! They should have been here forty-five minutes ago! Late for their own house closing!” She stared down at her tiny elegant watch as if she could change its reading by the force of her will. Her slim crossed legs were jiggling with impatience, one navy-pump-shod foot swinging ~ 1 ~


  ~ Charlaine Harris ~

  back and forth. When she got up, there might be a hole in the bank’s ersatz oriental carpeting. I sat beside her in the chair I would vacate for Mrs. Thompson, when and if she showed up. A couple stand- ing up Aida Brattle Teagarden Queensland for their own house closing was simply amazing; the Thompsons were gutsy, or so rich they wore an impervious armor of self- assurance.

  “What are you going to be late for?” I was eyeing her crossed legs enviously. My own legs will never be long enough to be elegant. Actually, my feet couldn’t even touch the floor. I waved at two people I knew in the time in took my mother to answer. Lawrenceton was like that. I’d lived in this small Georgia town all my life, and figured I’d be here forever; sooner or later, I’d join my great-grandparents in Shady Rest Ceme- tery. Most days that gave me a warm, fluid feeling; just part of that ole southern river of life. Some days it made me crazy.

  “The Bartells. He’s come in from Illinois as plant manager of Pan-Am Agra, they’re looking for a ‘really nice home,’ and we have an appointment to see the An- derton house. Actually, they’ve been here, or he’s been here, I didn’t get the details—he’s been here for three months living in a motel while he gets things lined up at Pan-Am Agra, and now he has the leisure to house- hunt. And he asked around for the best Realtor in town. And he called me, last night. He apologized beautifully for disturbing me at home, but I don’t think he was re- ally a bit sorry. I know the Greenhouses were thinking they would get him, since Donnie’s cousin is his secre- tary. And I’m going to be late.”

  ~ Three Bedrooms, One Corpse ~


  “Oh,” I said, now understanding the depths of Mother’s chagrin. She had a star listing and a star client, and being late for introducing one to the other was a professional disaster.

  Getting the Anderton house listing had been a real coup in this smallish town with no multiple-listing ser- vice. If Mother could sell it quickly, it would be a feather in her cap (as if her cap needed any more adornment) and of course a hefty fee. The Anderton house might truthfully be called the Anderton mansion. Mandy An- derton, now married and living in L.A., had been a childhood acquaintance of mine, and I’d been to a few parties at her house. I remembered trying to keep my mouth closed so I wouldn’t look so impressed. “Listen,” said Mother with sudden resolution, “you’re going to meet the Bartells for me.” “What?”

  She scanned me with business eyes, rather than mother eyes. “That’s a nice dress; that rust color is good on you. Your hair looks okay today, and the new glasses are very nice. And I love your jacket. You take this fact sheet and run along over there—please, Au- rora?” The coaxing tone sat oddly on my mother, who looked like Lauren Bacall and acted like the very suc- cessful Realtor / broker she is.

  “Just show them around?” I asked, taking the fact sheet hesitantly and sliding forward to the edge of the blue leather chair. My gorgeous brand-new rust-and- brown suede pumps finally met the floor. I was dressed so discreetly because today was the third day I’d fol- lowed Mother around, supposedly learning the busi- ness while studying for my Realtor’s license at night.


  ~ Charlaine Harris ~

  Actually, I’d spent the time daydreaming. I would much rather have been looking for my own house. But Mother had pointed out cleverly that if I was in the of- fice, I’d get first chance at almost any house that came up for sale.

  Meeting the Bartells might be more interesting than observing Mother and the banker going through the apparently endless paperwork-and-signature minuet that concludes a house sale.

  “Just till I get there,” my mother said. “You’re not a li- censed Realtor, so you can’t be showing them the house. You’re just there to open the door and be pleasant until I get there. Please explain the situation to them, just enough to let them know it’s not my fault I’m late. Here’s the key. Greenhouse Realty showed the house yesterday, but one of them must have given it to Patty early this morning; it was on the key board when I checked.” “Okay,” I said agreeably. Not showing a rich couple a beautiful house was bound to be much more enter- taining than sitting in a bank lobby.

  I stuffed my paperback into my purse, put the An- derton key on my key ring, and kept a safe grip on the fact sheet.

  “Thanks,” Mother said suddenly.


  “You really are pretty,” she said unexpectedly. “And all the new clothes you bought are so much better than your old wardrobe.”

  “Well . . . thanks.”

  “Since Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was in that movie, your hair seems to strike people as fashionable rather than unmanageable. And,” she went on in an

  ~ Three Bedrooms, One Corpse ~


  unprecedented burst of candor, “I’ve always envied you your boobs.”

  I grinned at her. “We don’t look like mother and daughter, do we?”

  “You look like my mother, not me. She was an amaz- ing woman.”

  My mother had stunned me twice in one morning. Talking about the past was something she just didn’t do. She lived in the here and now.

  “Are you feeling okay?” I asked nervously. “Yes, fine. I just noticed a little more gray this morn- ing.”

  “We’ll talk later. I’d better get going.” “Goodness, yes! Get over there!” Mother had looked at her watch again.

  Luckily I’d met Mother at the b
ank instead of going with her from the office, so I had my own car. I got to the Anderton mansion in plenty of time to park to one side so my practical little car wouldn’t mar the view from the curb. Two months ago, when old Mr. Anderton had died, Mandy Anderton Morley (his sole heir) had flown in from Los Angeles for the funeral, put the house on the market the next day, and flown back out to her rich husband after clearing her father’s clothes out of the master bedroom and emptying all the drawers into boxes that she had shipped to her home. All the furniture was still in place, and Mandy had in- dicated to my mother she would negotiate with the buyers if they wanted some or all of the furnishings. Mandy had never been a sentimental person.


  ~ Charlaine Harris ~

  So when I unlocked the double front doors and reached in to turn on the lights in the cold, stale two- story foyer, the house looked eerily as it had when I was a child. I left the front doors open to let in some fresh air and stood just inside, looking up at the chan- delier that had so awed me when I was eleven. I was sure the carpet had been replaced since then, but it seemed the same creamy color that had made me terri- bly conscious of any dust on my shoes. A huge brilliant silk-flower arrangement glowed on the marble table op- posite the front doors. After you circled the marble table, you arrived at a wide staircase that led up to a broad landing, with double doors across from the top of the staircase echoing the double front doors below. I ran to turn the heat up so the house wouldn’t be so chilly while I was not-showing it, and returned to shut the front doors. I flipped on the switch that lit the chan- delier.

  I had enough money to buy this house.

  The realization gave me a tingle of delight. My spine straightened.

  Of course I’d be broke soon after the purchase— taxes, electricity, etc.—but I actually had the asking price.

  My friend—well, really, my friendly acquaintance— Jane Engle, an elderly woman with no children, had left me all her money and belongings. Tired of my job at the Lawrenceton Library, I’d quit; tired of living in a row of townhouses I managed for my mother, I’d decided to buy my own house. Jane’s house, which I now owned, just wasn’t what I wanted. For one thing, there wasn’t room for our combined libraries of true and fictional