Today we have a sneak peek from author Ilil Arbel’s historical mystery novel, Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch.
Here she is, the elusive, enigmatic, undefeatable Madame Koska, who can solve a crime and run an establishment of magnificent haute couture with equal success. Who is she? What is her first name? Who was M. Koska and why did he vanish? Would she accept a new chance for romance? Where did she learn her trade? It must be Paris but she has a Russian name… where does she get her lovely mannequins? Does she smoke a cigarette stuck in a long ebony cigarette holder?
Here is an excerpt from Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch…
“But I can’t make it out, I can’t understand it. Who vould risk discovery making this infernal noise, at an early hour of the evening, and then not steal anything? I vonder if I vas in mortal danger,” said Madam Koska, shuddering dramatically and wringing her hands. Unfortunately, there were no rings on them, since she came down to work, so nothing flashed. It irritated Madame Koska. She preferred to see some sparkle even during a police investigation.
“This girl, the one you told to take the key and lock up, where is she?” asked the officer.
“Miss Saltykov, come in,” said Madame Koska loudly. The seamstresses, in shock, were crowded at the door, blocked from entering by another officer. Natalya skulked in, looking extremely frightened, her eyes red with tears.
“Miss Saltykov,” said the police officer. “Did you lock the door last night, as Madame Koska told me you were supposed to do, or did you just close it?”
“I locked the door, officer. Really, Madame Koska, everything was done. I locked the door, went upstairs, and dropped the key in your mail box.”
“Did you go straight home?” asked the officer.
“No, I stopped at some stores, but did not buy anything. The book shop, I was looking for a book on English to study better speaking. They did not have anything I liked. And then I bought some fruit Aunt Anna told me to bring.”
“And then you went home?”
“Yes. And told everything to Aunt Anna.”
“I see,” said the officer and looked thoughtfully at the tall, thin, frightened woman who could pass for a rabbit in his book, particularly with her red eyes. He shrugged, probably feeling slightly defeated by this pointless burglary where nothing was taken. “Madame Koska, here is your key. I suggest changing the lock, for safety.”
Madame Koska took the key and pulled out her chatelaine. Suddenly, just as she was going to attach it, she suddenly started and stared at it. “There is a bigger problem here than ve think,” she said. “I just noticed it. This is a copy, it’s not my key. You see, I always put a small sign on my keys as to which door it opens, since I find I always fumble to find the right one. I put tiny paint dots on them. My key had a vhite dot on it. Also, this one is shiny and clean and looks newer than the other one. Even though the original is not very old, still, it took on some patina, and had the vhite dot. This is a different key.”
The officer slowly put out his hand to take the key again. “Madame Koska, I will need to talk to each of the women here alone. Everyone who worked here after you left could have taken the key and copied it during her break.”