Adultery’s a great motive for murder. And this redhead was a looker…
“Sam’s brother share the same last name, Mrs. Kingston?”
She nodded and I jotted. “Where can I reach him? I promise to be discreet.”
She pointed toward the front window. “He’s the overseer at the vineyard. He’s here from six in the morning until ten at night. He lives in the cottage closest to the winery.”
I handed her my card and thanked her. She looked at me, sadness finally evident. “Don’t try too hard to find this person, Detective. Samuel truly was a mean, evil person.”
“I hear you, ma’am. But unfortunately, being mean and evil isn’t necessarily a crime. Thanks again for your time.”
The butler appeared magically to escort me back through the house to the front door. If I’d worn a hat, he’d have handed it to me. Since I hadn’t, I figured I was entitled to a question.
“Any idea who killed your boss?”
He stood perfectly still and I thought he was going to ignore me all together. Then he shook his head. “It’s not for me to say, sir.”
I handed him a card too and patted his shoulder. “It is if you know anything, my man. Otherwise, you’re impeding an investigation and you can go to jail.”
If possible, he stiffened under my touch. “I have no idea, I assure you.”
I grinned at him and offered my hand which he shook. The huge glass and oak door closed quietly behind me.
I stood on the veranda and looked out over the estate. What a view. The vineyard and winery were at the base of the hill at the end of the drive. At five o’clock this morning, I hadn’t been able to appreciate the vast rows of greenery. I got in the car and headed down the road.
I arrived at the winery just as a small group of well-dressed men and women were leaving what had just a few hours earlier, been my crime scene. They climbed into a shiny black limousine and drove off in a cloud of dust. I pushed open the heavy arched door and entered the Cork and Bottle. Aged wood and wine has a distinct smell and that aroma hung in the air. The bell above the door had sounded my arrival, but no one appeared.
“Hello?” I called, looking around at the floor-to-ceiling racks of dark glass bottles. Some of the dates on the racks made these grapes older than me. I laughed to myself. They’ve undoubtedly aged better, though.
“Can I help you, sir?”
I whirled around, almost wiping out the profits of 1975 as I did so, and faced a tall man with a graying beard. “I’m looking for David Kingston. Know where I can find him?”
He inclined his head. “That would be me. And you are?”
I gave him my card and my credentials. He motioned me around the long wooden counter toward the sparsely furnished, but spacious office where his brother had died in the early morning hours. Someone had smoked a lot of fruitwood pipe tobacco in that room. He stopped outside the door, shook his head, looked at me and came back to lean against an old steel-rimmed cask. I explained what I needed. He looked down at his hands a long time. His eyes were not so bright when he met mine.
“I’d rather not go in there, just yet.”
“Can’t say as I blame you.” I told him of Mrs. Kingston’s alibi. He shuffled his feet and looked out the UV protected window.
“Theresa was not lying. We were together last night in Princeton. I can product the hotel receipt if that will help you.”
“Anyone see you two while you were there, Mr. Kingston?”
He shrugged. “We checked in together, the bellhop took up our bags while we went to the restaurant where we had reservations for dinner. However, after eleven, we went to our room to do the things we went there to do. No witnesses until check out time, I’m afraid.”
“Why was Mrs. Kingston reluctant to give me your name? You don’t seem to have too much of a problem with your relationship.”
“She is a lady. She has always insisted we be discreet about our affair and she’s right to feel that way. But my brother was a cruel man. If she’d filed for divorce, he’d have taken this vineyard away from her. It wasn’t his to take, but he’d have done it.”
“I see. So, no one can vouch for either of you between eleven and what time?”
“The time the telephone woke us up this morning. I believe the police spoke with Teresa around eight o’clock.”
With Princeton only forty minutes away, their alibi wasn’t as good as they thought it was.
“Are you married, David?”
His eyes narrowed. “Technically speaking, at least for another few months. My wife lives up the road. Stella Escondido of Escondido Wineries.”
“Wait a minute,” I said, halting pen mid-air, “why do you work here and not there? Mrs. Kingston sounded as though you’ve been the tender here for a long time.”
“Escondido Wineries went to Stella’s brothers, not to Stella. There is no love lost between the siblings and I didn’t want their money. I’ve always worked with my brother. Stella kept her family name and moved back to the family home about a year ago.”
I put pen to paper again and made a few more notes. “Were she and Sam lovers by any chance?”
His laugh was forced. “People like them don’t love anything. They had an affair with the grapes, Detective. The richest grapes, the biggest harvest, the oldest vintage, the most prestigious awards. It was a twisted rivalry between them, spiced with lust.” He shoved a magazine into my hands. “Teresa and I might as well have not even existed.”
Sam was on the cover of the magazine with a bottle of wine valued at a million bucks.
A million bucks was an even better incentive for murder…
Part 3: July 20th! See you then.
July 18th, 2012 at 8:05 am
Great work, Detective Dorian! 😉 I’m looking forward to part 3!