Author Archives: NL Quatrano

About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014. Author of Murder in Black and White, Still Shot, Merciful Blessings, and numerous published short stories.

COLD AS ICE – Part 3

Daphne's Chandelier    I watched the tail lights on his van disappear down the long, tree-lined lane, then turned to join the others in the house. I was too tired for another long night. I needed to get this done.

            Interviewing Joseph Oberhauser seemed straight forward. He looked to be shattered by his wife’s demise. He was her senior by almost fifteen years, but by his account, they were devoted to each other. He pulled out photos of happy times; black tie and evening gown affairs that showcased how perfect they were for each other. They had no children although he had two from a previous marriage. One lived in Ocean County, the other all the way across the country in California. Where it was warm.

            Officer Knight had finished his coffee and left after I’d come in. He was going to knock on the doors of the other homes on the lane just in case anyone had seen anything. We doubted it, but it was protocol. We needed to locate our tipster if we could. And the tow truck still had to pick up Mrs. Oberhauser’s car.

            “When can I have Daphne back?” the husband asked quietly.

            “The coroner will call you to make arrangements as soon as the autopsy is done, Joseph. He tries to be quick about it. Usually twenty-four to forty-eight hours if he’s not worried about toxicology or anything.”

            “I still can’t believe she’s dead. How do I go on without her?” He asked me as tears streamed down his face.

            I never have an answer to that question, and it’s been asked of me dozens of times in all the years I’ve been a cop. I shook my head. “Have faith that time will heal, Mr. Oberhauser. That may sound empty at this point in time, but it’s my experience that it is true.”

            He looked me in the eye. “Has time healed your pain, Detective?”

            I didn’t answer him and he waved the question aside. I let it slide by me like a smelly dog that wasn’t mine.

            “Can your daughter stay with you tonight? You probably shouldn’t be alone. I can call her for you if you’d like.”

            “We are not on speaking terms. She disagreed with my marriage to Daphne. Some nonsense about being unfaithful to her mother.”

            “And her mother is where?” I asked, taking notes as fast as I could.

            “She’s been dead for fifteen years. You’d think Jenny would get on with life, wouldn’t you?”

            I shrugged. “Kids handle things in their own way, I guess. At least you’d hope she’d want to see you happy again.”

            “She doesn’t. She believes I should be miserable my entire life. And now I will be.”

            “How does your son feel about it all?”

            “David’s in the Navy. San Diego almost ten years now. He felt he should devote himself to one career and he didn’t chose a family. I gave my children horrible legacies, Detective.”

            “How so, sir?” I asked.

            “My daughter thinks I killed my first wife. Not literally of course, but by not being around enough. I was fighting to keep the family business alive, amassing the money it would take to care for them in style. It required a lot of hours and travel. Jenny feels Mandy died of loneliness.”

            What the hell could I say to that? After all, my marriage had been a victim of too many hours and days absent, too. Not for money maybe, but I was responsible none the less. I stood quietly and concentrated on not shuffling my feet. “When did you become a minister?”

            “Ten years ago. After a certain point, the money lost its sparkle. After Mandy died, I took a good look at my life. The company is strong, and I made sure that the family would be taken care of in the sale. I can do the Lord’s work, now.”

            “No vow of poverty, huh?” I asked, realizing why I’d recognized the man when I saw him at the kitchen table. He traded salvation for personal checks three nights a week on the local cable stations.

            “It isn’t money that’s the sin, Detective. The sin is what we are willing to do for it.” I was usually wishing I had more, so I couldn’t relate to a man who collected millions from blue-collar people like me every week.

            “Is there anyone who can stay with you, Joseph? You shouldn’t be alone right now.”

            He shook his head, his hand on the gleaming brass door handle. “I’ll be all right, Detective. The Lord is with me. And with you. Thank you for your time and your compassion. You’ve made this somehow bearable.”

            I shook his hand, pulled on my gloves and shoved through the heavy door into the blistering wind. My head down, I forged through the snow toward my car. I turned the key and let the engine idle for a few minutes. When I looked at the house, I could feel sorrow reaching out to me through the arched Tudor windows. Secrets. The fireplace flickered in the parlor, the only light in a house of many windows.

***

            “No Elise, I’m not giving you any more money. I’m paying you what the judge ordered and I’m paying you on time. That’s it. Get a job if that’s not enough.” I was having this conversation at seven fifteen in the morning, after four hours sleep and no coffee. If I hadn’t been sound asleep when the thing rang, I wouldn’t have answered it. Even after eleven months apart, my ex-wife could still push my buttons.

            I listened for another minute and swung my legs out of bed. “I’m not angry with you. I’m just tired of this whole thing. I’ve moved on. It’s not my fault your boyfriend did too. Don’t call me again.” I closed the phone and turned it off. If the station needed me, they would call the unlisted house phone.

            After a trip to the bathroom, I crawled back into bed. The dawn was not bright and glorious, so my bedroom was still dark. When I woke next, it was eleven o’clock.

            I started the coffee, took a hot shower and dressed for doing nothing. Coffee mug in hand, I put down tuna and whitefish dinner for my three-legged feline housemate, collected a soggy paper from the front porch, and settled in at the kitchen nook to read what was dry enough to decipher.

            The kitchen phone rang at one o’clock. “Mickey Holmes.”

            “I finished the autopsy on Mrs. Oberhauser,” said Bill. “You might want to see some of this.”

            “Fair enough. I’ll be there in forty minutes.”

            We signed off; I changed into jeans and a sweater, my partially dried boots and my parka. “’Bye Cat,” I called to my independent but pretty housemate.

            I strode into the coroner investigator’s office and tapped on the door before entering. Bill was pounding his keyboard at a feverish pitch. I peeled off my coat and gloves and dropped into the worn, black swivel chair on the other side of his desk. By the look of him, I’d had much more rest than he had.  

            “You sounded like you found something that surprised you, Bill. What’s up?”

            He handed me a clear plastic bag with my current business card in it. On the back of the card, in neatly printed letters was a warning. “SHE’S NUMBER 5.”

            “So we’re right, huh? He’s back.” I dropped my head in my hands. “Why is he back?” I asked Bill who knew exactly who I was talking about.

            He patted my shoulder. “I don’t know, but we have to catch him this time. You know how bad this will get.”

To be continued…November 9


COLD AS ICE – Part 2

    Snug as a bear in a cave...           After too many years in homicide, the last ten of those with the NJ State Troopers, I knew what to look for. There was no sign of struggle here. I glanced into the parlor to my right and looked longingly at the inviting fireplace which was of course, lit and burning warmly. A book lay flattened, its spine broken, on the plush gray sofa, a discarded blanket beside it. Someone had been cozy as bear in a cave.

            My cell phone rang again. I pulled it out and glared at it. “Holmes.”

            The coroner’s investigator was a bit breathless. He was still at least twenty minutes away. The exit at the Route 9 turnoff was closed with an overturned tractor-trailer

            “Anyone hurt?” I asked, hoping he wasn’t going to get sidetracked at the accident scene.

            The injuries seemed to be minimal, but the required detour meant they had to go back to Egg Harbor and go around. He asked if we needed anything.

            “We’re fine. The vic is still out there in the snow with a patrolman watching over her. I’m in the house trying to determine if this is part of the crime scene.”

            “The way this wind is whipping around, the snow will have her and any other clues covered up in no time.”

            “I know, Bill,” I sighed, understanding his upset. “We parked the cars to block as much as we could – it’s too damned cold to do much else.”

            He agreed and signed off, needing to concentrate on his driving so he would eventually arrive, investigate, and transport the then-frozen Mrs. Oberhauser to the morgue.

            I returned to my task. There was no blood trail, inside or outside the house. If there’d been an argument in this house, someone had been very quick to cover it up. But then, that was not at all in keeping with what our tipster had relayed.

            The kitchen was likewise, spotless. I moved to the door that led to the garage where the dead woman’s car would have been parked an hour ago. Nothing to indicate she’d been stabbed in there either.

            The house was so clean it made me grimace. I’m not a complete slob, but even on cleaning day, my place didn’t sparkle like this one. I sniffed the air; no bleach, no detergent, no spray cleaners had been used recently. A faint scent of vanilla hung around…

            By the time I’d walked through the entire thirty-five hundred square feet of house and garage, the coroner’s truck was outside. I closed the door behind me and hiked back to the road and the puzzle at hand.

            I knocked on the window of the patrol car which by now was so steamed up the cop couldn’t see an ax murderer if he was standing next to him. “Yeah, Detective?”

            “Why don’t you take Mr. Oberhauser back inside, Officer? Maybe put on some coffee? Stay in the kitchen if you wouldn’t mind.”

            “Yes sir, I will,” he said, scrambling to get moving. Undoubtedly the idea of hot coffee had made the man nearly delirious. He opened the door and let Daphne’s husband out of the inescapable back seat of the cruiser.

            “Knight, would you mind taking the husband’s statement for me? And I’ll want your report by tomorrow at quitting time, understood?”

            The rookie almost stood at attention and saluted and I nearly laughed, but then my face would have cracked because I was so damned cold.

            “I’ll try, sir. He hasn’t answered a single thing I asked him. He’s either in major shock or he’s deaf.”

            I sighed. “Give it some time. He’ll come around in a little while.” I shooed him toward the walk. They disappeared in the blowing snow to the big house on the hill with the darkened windows.

            I stomped my feet, kept my gloved hands stuffed as deep and tightly in my coat pockets as I could and tucked my chin into my chest to hide in the parka hood. Bill moved around as though it was a chilly fall night, not eight below. However he wasted no time. He took her body temp, checked her gorgeous blue eyes for broken capillaries and examined her alabaster throat and wrists for bruises. He took more photos, finally stood up and closed up his bag of tools.

            “How long’s she been dead, Bill?”

            He shrugged his shoulders. “With these temps, who knows? I have to get a liver temp back at the lab – that will give me a better idea.”

            “Give me a guess? An hour? Two? Ten?” I was walking beside him, tossing out my smartass remarks as we moved to his truck.

            “She’s not frozen stiff, or completely buried in snow, so I’d say she’s been laying there less than two hours.” He grabbed a folded sheet and looked Daphne’s way.

            “Help me get her into the truck will you? I told the assistant I could handle it so we weren’t both out in this awful weather.” I nodded. We carefully rolled her and her bloodied fur coat to the side and slid the sheet beneath her. We repeated the procedure in the other direction. Bill tied the ends of the sheet, and we lifted her easily.

            “What is she, maybe a hundred twenty pounds? No defensive wounds. She knew whoever it was that killed her.”

            Bill shook his head. “Or she didn’t see him coming.”

            “Or her.”

            “Or her,” he agreed quietly. I hadn’t corrected him to be politically correct. It was important that we both remembered not to make assumptions. We’d made that mistake years ago and a serial killer still roamed free.

            He jumped down from the back of the truck and slammed the doors. I double checked them. We didn’t want to lose our corpse before we’d decided what had happened to her.

            “Did you get a call this time?” he asked as he stomped his feet to get off some of the accumulated snow.

            “Sure did. Woman called it in. Hung up before dispatcher could get any verifying information.”

            He thought a moment and nodded his head. We’d been here before. He climbed into the SUV without another word and drove off.

            What he didn’t say terrified me.

To be continued… October 26


COLD AS ICE – Part 1

Detective Mickey Holmes is on the scene again, another stabbing victim, another rich community. But the weather’s brutal and the twist on this one almost does him in…. hope you enjoy a cold weather story to cool you off!  NL Quatrano

It was lung-burning. Vicious.

            Eight below zero was too damned cold to be hanging around outside. What survives in this kind of howling, grueling cold, anyway?

            The body I was standing over hadn’t. Of course, by the way the ice pick still stuck up out of her full length rabbit fur coat, obviously the cold had nothing to do with her death. It would account for the unusually small pool of blood beside her lovely blonde head, however.

            “Hey Detective Holmes, we can go in the house, right?” the patrol cop called to me. He’d been standing around for the better part of a half hour waiting for me to get to the scene so he was possibly colder than he’d been in his entire life.

            “No you can’t. Why don’t you sit in your patrol car? I’ll do the photos and wave down the coroner.”

            He nodded and ushered the dead woman’s bereft husband into the back of his car. Then he climbed into the driver’s seat and started the engine to get the heat running. Folks from Wisconsin or Winnipeg might be acclimated to these temperatures, but people in New Jersey certainly were not.

            I pulled the instant Polaroid camera out of the oversized pocket on the inside of my arctic parka and snapped a few pictures of the victim. As fast as my gloved fingers could manage it, I stuffed the photos into my shirt pocket so my body heat would help them develop. When I’d shot the first eight frames, I headed back to my car to load a new cartridge. The wind screamed at over thirty miles an hour, the snow was driven sideways.  

            I was in the car and had just ejected the spent film pack when my cell phone rang. I glanced at the number and decided I didn’t need any more aggravation tonight. After the third ring, a lovely disembodied voice from the phone company would take a message for me. My ex-wife, Her Royal Pain-in-the-Buttness. It was the third time she’d called today.

            I snapped the film into place and pulled the photos out of my pocket to take a look.

            Mrs. Daphne Oberhauser was a lovely corpse. Long lashes graced her translucent cheeks like those on a fine porcelain doll. Her lips were full and perfect if not just a touch bluish, her hair thick and shoulder length and the exact color of clover honey, spread out on the snow-covered ground beneath her like it would on a glistening satin pillowcase.

            I glanced into the rear view mirror but still no sign of the coroner’s office. I tossed the photos on the seat of my car and headed back outside to finish the body shots. When I was happy with all the angles, I trudged through the snow for the house. The cop in the squad car started to open his door, but I waved him off. I pushed open the front door of the house and stood in the quiet hallway, listening.

            I pushed the heavy door closed with the toe of my snow covered boot and pulled off my leather gloves, replacing them with clear latex ones. The foyer was amazing. The lights glistened off the Austrian crystal chandelier overhead, like moonlight on an ice-coated lake. The black and white tiles made me think of Alice in Wonderland. Where was that strange rabbit now? Was Daphne’s husband the Mad Hatter?

To be continued Oct 12….


The Holmes Chronicles: Part 4 The Trouble with Redheads

My cell phone hummed in my pocket, but I let it go. Undoubtedly, the Doc with the information I probably no longer needed. I went into the foyer to the marble table and picked up the kit and returned to the sitting room with it in hand.  I unzipped the fine leather jacket and laid it open on the table. Tucked inside the black velveteen was the hand crafted cup on a silver chain, the testevin of the sommelier. The wine thief was there, too.  One tool was missing however. One very sharp tool. A tool that would penetrate the ear canal and enter the brain, leaving a victim to die slowly but surely.

“Where is your  knife, Ms. Escondido?”

“I have no idea, Detective.” She looked at the kit as though it might bite her. “It should be right there.”

“Mi Dios,” the maid uttered under her breath.

“Where is the corkscrew, Angelina?” I turned to her with my  hand outstretched. She began to back out of the room again.

The young woman, only slightly less terrified of me than of her boss, crept forward, her right hand in her pocket. She pulled out a bloodied linen napkin and handed it to me.

I tore a page out of my notebook, cradled the messy package in my palm and carefully unfolded the napkin.

I wrapped it up and slipped it into my pocket. “Ms. Escondido, you’ll need to come with me.”

“I don’t have to go anywhere. I have no idea how Angelina got my knife. For all I know she was sleeping with that bastard. Maybe she killed him with it.”

The young woman looked at me, the fear in her eyes replaced with loathing. “I did not do this thing she says. She gave this to me when she came down the stairs. I did not even see what it is.”

“I’ll have you deported you ungrateful little bitch,” Stella hissed. Angelina’s back straightened as she untied her apron and let it fall to the floor.

“Can she do that to me? She promised to help me be American person. Can she make me go back?”

Immigration wasn’t my specialty, but I had friends in many places. I shook my head. “She’s not going to do anything to you, Angelina. Don’t worry.”

“Sure, let a killer walk away and pin it all on me, you two-bit Dick Tracy. I’m going to call my lawyer right now.”

“No, Stella. You can call him from the police station. Let’s go.”

I reached for her arm and snapped a cold steel cuff on her wrist. Her eyes widened and she jerked away from me. I saw it coming and stepped beside her, catching her other wrist in my hand.  I began to recite her rights.

Rage-filled eyes blazed at me. “That egotistical bastard was going to cut me out of that prize-winning wine. Well, I showed him. I gave him what he begged for. ‘Screw me, baby, screw me’.”

I cuffed her hands behind her back and finished reading her the card. She raged on, all but foaming at the mouth.

After the squad car came and took her away, I checked my cell phone. Sure enough, it was the M.E.

I beat her to the punch line.  “Here’s one for your files, Doc. The guy was screwed to death.”


The Holmes Chronicles: Part 3 The Trouble with Redheads

With two suspects on the list and more  to interview, Detective Mickey Holmes is determined to find the killer of wine master Samuel Kingston…

I was still reeling over a bottle of wine valued at a million bucks. I stared at the magazine in my hand.

“Can I keep this?” I asked Samuel’s brother, thumbing through it quickly.

“Sure. Be my guest. Any questions, just let me know.” David stuffed his hands into his pockets and looked me in the eye.

“You said the Cork and Bottle wasn’t Samuel’s. Want to fill in the blanks?”

“Teresa’s grandfather owned this vineyard. Teresa was the only surviving child and quite business savvy, so rather than sell it, her father left it to her when he died. Samuel was a vine tender of note. His grapes won awards. Her wedding present to him was this vineyard, with no pre-nuptial agreement. Foolish perhaps, but it’s what she did. A month later, she was little more than a lovely companion for his award banquets and dinner parties.”

I finished my notes and stood. “Where can I find your sommelier?”

He shook his head. “That would be my wife, I’m afraid. And she hasn’t come in yet. I ran the morning tour myself. I called the house and was told she would be here later.”

I got Stella Escondido’s phone number and address and thanked him for his time. I shook my head as I got in the car. All this money and the only thing with class was the grapes. Jeesh.

The five-mile drive to the Escondido farms was beautiful enough, but I had a feeling this case was about to be closed tighter than a ten-year old vat of Cabernet. I pulled up to the massive colonial mansion, parked and got out of the car. I picked up the brass grape cluster and knocked three times. The white plantation-style doors swung open and I was greeted by a young Latino woman who I figured must be the hired help.

“Senor? May I help you, please?”

“I’d like to see Ms. Escondido. Tell her Detective Holmes is here to see her. It’s important.”

I was invited to stand in the grand entry, so I did just that. Another four-thousand square foot mausoleum with more art on the walls than the Met. Wine sure paid well, these days. Of course, we weren’t talking about the wine I bought for the occasional in-home dinner party.

I probably stood there ten minutes. Just as I was about to start hollering at the top of my lungs, Stella Escondido came through the hallway by the winding staircase. Eyes the color of burnished pennies looked at me like I was an insect. I made sure to look her over good, from the top of her head to the toes of her brown suede pumps. Her olive complexion colored just a bit. Another gorgeous redhead. Just great.

“Can I help you, Detective? I was getting ready to go over to the Cork and Bottle. I had such a headache this morning, I couldn’t get going.”

She had a bruise on her cheek, too. Oh, the expensive foundation did a nice job, but I know bruising when I see it. And she knew I saw it. She dropped her gaze and looked at the maid.  “Bring coffee, Angelina.”

I noticed a black leather case on the marble side table and recognized it from the wine magazine. The sommelier’s case would contain her tastevin and sommelier knife…

“How’d you get the black eye, Ms. Escondido?”

Her fingers flew to her face and she paled. “I stumbled last night leaving the winery. I can be very clumsy when I am tired and have had too many tours.”

“I see. Pretty nasty bump, for sure. Looks like it hurts.”  I looked around. “What time did you leave the winery?”

She shrugged, but I noticed the trembling fingers before she slipped her hands into the slash pockets of her white linen slacks. We were moving toward the parlor to the left of the entryway.

“Around midnight, I think. Samuel and I had some business to discuss after the Romenelli tour left.”

“What sort of business, Ms. Escondido?”

“Private business. Why do you ask?”

I decided to ignore her question. “Can anyone vouch for your whereabouts after midnight last night?”  I cleared my throat. “Your husband, perhaps?”

“I have no idea what you’re getting at Detective. And I’m sure you already know that my husband and I are in the process of divorce. We do not spend our evenings together. However, if you’re quite finished, I need to get to the winery. There is no one to do the tours if I don’t get there.”

“Actually, I’m not finished. And your husband did the only tour there is today. The winery is closed, Ms. Escondido. Mrs. Kingston closed it about an hour ago. In honor of her dead husband.”

A gasp escaped the maid who almost dropped the coffee service on the floor. She placed the tray on the coffee table and stepped out of the room. Stella however, remained cool and composed, though her clutched hands were shaking like a drunk with the DT’s.

“Teresa wouldn’t bother closing the winery. Or opening it either, for that matter. She doesn’t care that much about the grapes or Samuel.”

I looked at her a long time. “How do you feel about the winery, Stella? How did you feel about Samuel?”

She shot me a look that would have pinned a lesser man to the wall, but I worked the streets of Brooklyn a lot of years.  “The winery is the best in the state. I helped to make it that way. My blends created one of the finest wines in the country.”

“Like the million-dollar bottle on the cover of Wines Unlimited magazine?”

“That was my creation. Neither the million dollars nor the award belonged to Samuel. I made that point very clear last night.”  She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and dared me to disagree. “He was unhappy, but alive when I left him, I assure you.”

I’ll just bet…

Part 4: August 3rd. See you then!

Dorian


The Holmes Chronicles: Part 2 of The Trouble with Redheads…

Grapes of wrath?

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.

Dorian


The Holmes Chronicles:The Trouble with Redheads

Hello, Dorian here–the biggest slacker of them all. I’m sorry I was MIA, but seriously, David is right – we’ve been up to our eyeballs in writing stuff and so have the Rogues, but we’re back on track now!!  Hope you went out and bought YOUR copy of The Method Writers and Fictitious Fiction!  If not – what are you waiting for??  Oh, YOU want the hardcover? Well, you can preorder it at the publisher – and get a free bonus, so get going! July will be here before you know it!  (www.clearviewpressinc.com)

Since I  still love listening to The Green Hornet on the radio late at night, and the rest of the gang is doing such a great job with their stories, I’m jumping on the serial bandwagon, too.  It’s 1990. My character is an aging New York cop who’s left the big city for a sleepy region in southwestern New Jersey. An area of wonderful vineyards, miles of horse farms, and a quieter way of life. Or, maybe not.

Without further ado, I submit for you, part 1 of, The Trouble with Redheads

Award winning NJ wines   I’m an old street cop with a homicide detective’s badge. The name’s Mickey Holmes and I’d rather not get into my mother’s passion for old mysteries. It’s ten-thirty in the morning on the Monday after my brother’s wedding, and I’m in the coroner’s office, with a bit of a hangover.  They delivered my vic for autopsy around six-thirty this morning.

“Hey, Doc, what’s the word on Kingston? Any cause of death yet?”

The coroner looked at me with bloodshot eyes. “Did you bring coffee? No coffee, no report,” she said.

I produced the requisite double latte and sat my left hip on the corner of the desk. “Okay, let me have it. Stabbing, right? But what weapon am I looking for, any idea?”

Dr. Macabre winked and slid out of her chair. “No idea, Mickey. Not something I’ve seen before. Homicide for sure and it is a stab wound, but it’s not a knife. It’s also not an ice pick or letter opener. Point of entry was his left ear, however.”

“You’re a big help. Can you give me anything at all?”

“Well, lividity and such indicate he was killed around two in the morning, so he was dead about three hours when you were called. No defensive wounds on the hands, a bump on the head that was not fatal, probably sustained when he hit the floor. I’d suspect a female killer.”

I drained my coffee and tossed the cup in the trashcan across the room. “What makes you think that?”

“The wound was inflicted with an upward thrust. Not a certainty of course, but a woman would be shorter, slighter than Samuel Kingston. There’re also some red hair strands that are obviously not his.”

I had all I was going to get. I needed to find his wife and have a chat with her, then get a warrant to go back into the crime scene, just in case. Twenty years on the force had taught me to listen to my intuition and my gut told me the murder was related to the winery.

“Thanks, Doc. Call me if you dig up anything else.”  I waved over my shoulder as I headed out the door and down the corridor.

I climbed in my navy blue Crown Vic and steered into the downtown traffic. Samuel Kingston owned the Corkand Bottle Winery and all five hundred acres of the finest grapes in the State of New Jersey. Two phone calls and I was told Mrs. Kingston was supposed to be at the manor house by the time I got there. I didn’t want to keep her waiting.

Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the Montgomery Township estate and drove up the half-mile long drive that wound through the vineyard. I pulled up to the front door and parked my car. Before I climbed the steps, the door opened and a white-gloved butler appeared.

“Detective Holmes, I presume?”

“That’s me,” I said, presenting my shield and identification for his inspection. He nodded and I put it back in my jacket pocket.

I entered the foyer and looked around at the Impressionist paintings and the Belgian crystal chandelier. Not overly ornate, but it was damned expensive that’s for sure. My ex-wife and her Hampton-bred parents would have approved. The Kingstons’ lived well. Or had lived well. A moment later, the butler reappeared and escorted me to Mrs. Kingston. A stunning redhead with emerald green eyes and freckles.

She rose from behind her gold leafed Louis XIV desk, removed her oval rimless glasses, then offered her hand. I shook it and noticed the firm grip. No tears streaked down her fair cheeks, but not everyone shows grief with tears. I took the seat she indicated. She sat across from me and crossed long, perfect legs.

“I’m sorry to bother you at such a terrible time Mrs. Kingston, but the sooner we get the facts straight, the sooner we’ll catch your husband’s killer.”

She looked me in the eye. “Must you?”

“Must I what?” I asked.

“Must you find his killer? He’s done society such a grand service; it would be a shame to punish him.”

I caught myself before I laughed out loud, but I wanted to. She was a trip. No love lost in the Kingston Empire, I guess. “Murder is illegal, Mrs. Kingston. I’m afraid I do have to find the killer.”  I cleared my throat. “You seem to think the killer is a man. Do you have someone specific in mind? A particular enemy of your husband’s?”

She smiled at me as though I was a dim-witted child. “This list would be endless, Detective. I have no idea who may have done this. I just used the male gender at random. I suppose it could have been a woman, of course.”

“Where were you this morning between the hours of one and four?”

She barked a deep throaty laugh and tossed her head back. “I was at the Princeton Hyatt. That’s where I got the call from the police. I’m sure you can check on that.”

“Can anyone at the hotel vouch for you?”  I asked, holding her mischievous gaze.

“Yes, someone can vouch for me, though I’d rather not divulge his name.”

I pulled out my notebook and pen. “I can understand that, but I need that name. If the story checks out, the name gets filed.”

A faint blush spread along her fine cheekbones and she looked out the window, breaking our connection.

“I was with Samuel’s brother, David.”

# # #

Part 2: July 6

Happy 4th of July!!!  Dorian


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