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Authors: Melanie Jackson

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BOOK: 4 Impression of Bones
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“Is it just
me, or is this place … hideous?”

Juliet
chuckled.

“I was about
to ask you the same thing since I am somewhat biased. I see lots of imagination
but not much taste—at least not as I understand it. Though we have escaped
an homage
to the NHL or Winnie-the-Pooh, so let’s be
thankful. And I now have a pretty good idea about what I don’t want to do in my
own room.”

“What will you
do? It seems to me that that isn’t the best space for decorating.”

“Well, because
the room is so dark I am going to use angled mirrors in the archers’ slits to
bring in more natural light. I plan to line the shelf—which will hide those
horrid angel faces—with apothecary jars filled with colored water and oils, and
light them from the back with battery-operated lamps—there’s no electricity in
the tower so I’m going with batteries and flameless candles rather than real
ones. The effect will be a little like stained glass. I hope. Last, to deaden
the acoustics which are extremely unpleasant, I’ve painted some canvases with
illuminated texts from the
Upanishads
—a
Hindu holy book. The fabric paintings are kind of a cultural mash-up but they
will look pretty to the western eye. And hopefully no one will ever guess that
decorating the room was a grudging afterthought, offered to an unknown artist
who specializes in custom t-shirts.”

“T-shirts?”
He sounded surprised and pleased.

“Yes. Very
nice, one hundred percent cotton t-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball caps, and
aprons. I also do awesome trick-or-treat bags if you are ever in the market.”

“I knew there
was a reason I liked you. T-shirts sound wonderfully normal. Frankly,
everything about this is a bit.…” He paused, deciding how frank he actually
could be.

“I understand.
Really.
It is my duty as a civic-minded citizen to
warn you that the art really does reflect the personalities of those involved,
so obviously some of the artists are a bit inclined to view the world in
different ways. As in reality is a lovely place but they don’t want to live
there full-time.” Manoogin snorted again. She was getting used to the sound. “As
a collective entity my colleagues are a bit much to take in one sitting. Some,
individually, are what Raphael would call three-act dramas. But most are nice
enough when you get beyond the theatrics. Just shy and poor communicators since
they deal in a visual rather than a verbal world. If you stick to asking what
they saw and not what they heard or thought, you will do better. In fact,
whenever possible, ask them to draw you a picture.”

“I’ll keep
that in mind. You know, I think I’ve seen enough for today. Thank you for your
time and translation. It will help me with understanding the parties involved.
I hope.”

“No trouble.”
Juliet had seen enough too.

“So you,
Esteban Rodriguez, and Raphael James all live in the same community?”

“Yes, though
not in the same building. Bartholomew’s Woods is an artists’ compound out near
the coast. Garret can direct you once you get to town. There aren’t any signs
for the place and we are a little backwoods.”

He glanced at
her and she shrugged. It didn’t take a clairvoyant to know that he would
probably want some face time with the friend who had gotten him involved in a
double homicide before he talked to them again.

“If it would
be more convenient for Mr. James, I could come out this evening and take
statements from you there. It would save him—and Mr. Rodriguez—a trip to the
station.”

“That’s kind.
It’s been a long day.”

“Would seven
be convenient?” Manoogin asked.

“It should be.
I can call you if Esteban or Raphael can’t make it.”

 
 
Chapter 5
 

After a day
exploring the castle, Juliet discovered her real love for her tiny bungalow,
complete with purring cat and no stairs. The room was stuffy after being closed
up for the day, and her small bed harder than any at the castle, but she would
sleep peacefully in her own, humble sanctuary.

Though weary,
she called Esteban and Raphael at once to warn them to prepare statements—they
were, all of them, entirely too familiar with the process—and to convene a
council of war before Lieutenant Manoogin arrived at seven.

They already
knew a few things about the murder. Sandra Kane didn’t have an alibi—she was welding
in the courtyard, which no one else saw and Juliet and Raphael couldn’t hear
from the tower room. The other artists and work crews had gone to lunch right
at noon, they claimed. One group of four designers had eaten together and
were
therefore off the immediately suspected list, but the
other decorators and artists had gone to various diners and restaurants alone.
It would take laborious police work to verify their movements. And that didn’t
include the artists and designers who weren’t officially assigned to be at the castle
that day, or all the other people in Dolph Kingman’s busy life. Given how many
contractors were coming and going from the site, a stranger of any gender could
have walked in and gone anywhere without being questioned once past the
security gate, especially since the guard was decoyed away.

Juliet’s
stomach was grumpy after hours of emptiness. The cupcakes she had picked up at
the bakery for their evening of war planning looked great but Juliet decided to
prove her maturity by splitting a can of tuna with Marley.

Juliet arrived
at Raphael’s just after Esteban. She had cupcakes. Raphael supplied some
excellent scotch which they sipped while comparing notes and waiting for the
kettle to boil.

There was an
embarrassment of reasons that someone might want to kill Dolph Kingman. Women
were high on Dolph’s list of temptations, but so was notoriety, especially in
the art world where he was trying to establish a name as a financial player. This
charity makeover was his big move into new territory. It was unfortunate that
he had made himself obnoxious in both worlds and supplied so many people with
reasons to dislike him. The ground was absolutely littered with potential
suspects.

Seven had just
passed when there was a knock on Raphael’s door. Garret had done his work. Manoogin
looked a bit resigned and perhaps a tiny bit amused when he took a seat and
found tea and pumpkin cupcakes waiting along with his witnesses. He also
allowed himself a moment to admire Raphael’s work in progress. It was a large
canvas of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. Like his namesake’s, Raphael’s
paintings glowed with inner fire that made lesser artists feel humble.

Manoogin
was also polite about their prepared statements. He hadn’t expected Raphael to
have seen anything from up in the tower, but there had been some slim hope that
Esteban might have spotted a car rushing out of the lot or something.

Having
discussed the matter in advance, they were agreed that they would volunteer
their thoughts on anything Manoogin asked, but not overwhelm him with theories
which were only speculations at this point. Juliet was chosen as point man for
the operation. Raphael had known
Dolph
longer but
Juliet had spent more time with him in the last week.

“The cars in
the lot belonged to Kingman, Sandra Kane, and the security guard?” Juliet asked
when Manoogin put the question of suspicious vehicles to Esteban, who replied
in the negative.

“Yes. We had a
look for signs that a car had been parked in the shrubbery along the road where
a pedestrian might bypass the security booth, but we didn’t see anything
obvious, and of course things are rather torn up because of the bulldozers and
other equipment.”

“There is a
service road that runs along the back of the property,” Juliet said, passing
the plate of cupcakes. There were pumpkin and lemon. She was pleased when
Manoogin chose pumpkin. “The fence back there is also simple hurricane, six
feet tall and easily jumped.”

“There used to
be a brick wall with barbed wire on top but part of it came down in the Loma
Prieta
earthquake. Since the building was no longer in use,
it seemed an unnecessary expense to repair the wall,” Esteban supplied. He had
been doing some research for Juliet’s ghost and had Barclay’s history down cold.
“The dirt road has some major weeds growing in. It may be possible to check if
they’ve been beaten down. After the long spell of dry weather it will be
difficult to get any tire tracks though.”

Manoogin made
a note.

“Lieutenant, I
was a bit shaken this afternoon, but it seemed to me that I didn’t see Dolph’s
watch on his wrist.” Raphael had noticed this because of having a lower view of
the body, but they decided the question might come better from Juliet.

“No watch,” he
confirmed. “It was expensive?”

“Yes, a
Piaget.”

This clearly
meant nothing. An honest cop on a salary would probably not have had a reason
to price luxury watches. Juliet certainly never had.

“It seems
unlikely that anyone would commit murder for a watch. Or does it?”

“Not for its
intrinsic value perhaps, though it was worth about twenty thousand, but maybe
the watch was a gift. Engraving is an old-fashioned habit, but not entirely
unheard of. Mind you, I have no reason to believe that the watch is a clue, but
unless it turns up in a bathroom or a coat pocket or something….”

“None was
found on the body or during the search, but the first walk through the castle was
cursory. We’ll look again in the morning.”

“You may also
be able to trace who bought it. The watches usually have serial numbers and the
company knows which shops have sold which watches. And there aren’t that many
places that sell them,” Raphael added.

Manoogin
nodded and Juliet took another turn.

“Also, I
forgot to mention it, but there is supposedly a hidden panel in the kitchen
that disguises a staircase down to what is now a wine cellar. I don’t know if
there is an exit from downstairs. Esteban tells me that there was at one time
and it was supposedly sealed after a tunnel collapsed. But maybe it wasn’t.”
Manoogin sighed. “I know it would be easier if we were dealing with a closed
ecology, but we have to consider the idea that there could have been an
outsider involved.”

Manoogin
looked at Esteban. Juliet explained: “I asked him to go into the history of the
building for me. I was having trouble figuring out what my tower room was used
for.” And why the hell she was so freaked out by the space and hearing noises.

Manoogin’s
gaze moved on.

“Mr. James,
you knew the deceased socially?”

“Yes,
slightly.”

“Can you tell
me anything about him that might be of help to the investigation?”

Juliet was
certain that the police had both too little and too much forensic evidence for
it to be of much use or they wouldn’t be asking this question.
At least not yet.

“Not a great
deal. If rumor is true, Dolph was about to marry again.”

“Again?
Where is the previous Mrs. Kingman?” Manoogin
asked Raphael. He seemed happier at the prospect of a spousal suspect.

“In
Sedona with a future Mr. Ex-second-husband.
I’m sorry but I don’t know the name.
He’s in oil. Her maiden name was Georgette Weston.”

“Miss Henry,
you are looking a bit disgusted but not surprised,” Manoogin said.

“I’m not
surprised.” Juliet knew her voice was dry. “Most men like being married. After
all, prostitutes can’t go on business trips and to the opera, and housekeepers
demand days off. The only one who will work twenty-four-seven and love, honor,
and obey in silence—at least for a while—is a young wife. I’m feeling disgusted
because this one is
very
young.
In fact, young enough to be his daughter.
And because though
he is newly engaged, he has been chasing after women at the castle.”

“Her name is
Brittany Saxon and she is a student at Santa Cruz University,” Raphael said.

Manoogin
scribbled some more.

“May I put a
straight question to you, Miss Henry?”

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