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Authors: Melanie Jackson

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“Juliet,
please.
And of course.”

“Are you
planning on investigating this murder?”

“The straight
answer, Lieutenant, is yes.
Not intentionally perhaps, if you
object.”
That would be for Esteban and Raphael to do. “But I have work
to do there at the castle, assuming that the project will go on as planned, and
I cannot stop being aware that there may be a killer among us. My brain looks
for patterns all the time, whether I give it permission or not.”

Juliet picked
up Raphael’s teapot.

“More
tea, anyone?”

 

Things wrapped
up shortly thereafter. Once outside, Manoogin was apparently struck by how dark
it was away from the streetlights and under a canopy of trees.

“You live up
the hill?” he asked Juliet.

“Yes, I’m on
the third tier.”

“I’ll walk you
back to your bungalow.”

“Why, thank
you.” She didn’t think Manoogin was doing this entirely out of gentlemanly
instinct. “I have a flashlight, but with the full moon we shouldn’t need it if
the clouds hold off a bit longer.”

They discussed
the weather on the way up the path, but since there was little of it happening
at the moment, the topic petered out quickly.

“At least Mr.
James doesn’t seem any the worse for wear after his afternoon in the tower.”

It was rather
amusing the Manoogin still thought of Raphael as a fragile flower. She wondered
if that was Garret’s doing.

“He wouldn’t
let on if it was otherwise. Raphael would be polite on his way to be hanged. If
I asked him how he felt about the afternoon he would assure me that his
pleasure at seeing a skeleton while waiting hours in a stuffy, dark, and very
hot room was a foregone conclusion if he was of any help to me.”

“So he can
lie?” Manoogin asked. He sounded amused. Juliet liked him, but he was making
the mistake that many people did in seeing Raphael as harmless.

“Only
in the best of causes.
And never about anything important.”

“And you? Do
you lie?”

“Like a rug.
But only when it’s important.
It takes up too much energy to
fabricate stories now that I’m retired.”

“Your job was
to lie?” He sounded bemused.

“To find lies
and, if necessary, make up better ones to replace them.”

Marley was
waiting up for her, planted in front of the door. He studied Juliet’s guest for
a moment and then retired to the bed where he began shoving the covers into a
desirable nest.

Since the
lieutenant hadn’t found a way to introduce whatever was on his mind, Juliet
suggested that he might like to see the tapestries she had painted for the
castle.

She turned on
the overhead lights in her studio. They weren’t subtle, but there weren’t all
that many of them so things were still a bit shadowy. Juliet used task lighting
when she worked at night.

“This looks
like embroidery on parchment. Or velvet,” he said, leaning closer, obviously
fascinated with the wall hangings. “It also kind of reminds me of those holy
Irish books.”

“Illuminated
manuscripts.
But it
isn’t embroidery.
It’s
fuzz from scrap velvet that
I’ve run through a document shredder,” Juliet confessed. “I embedded it in the
wet paint. This method was the only practical one since applique would have
taken months and I am not that much of a seamstress. I also used some gold leaf
to burnish parts of the lettering.”

“They are very
rich looking. They look like antiques but…. Well, I’ve never seen anything like
them.”

“That’s the
idea. They might look a little weird in the bright light of high noon, but that
is something that tower room will never have. Here are some sketches of the meditation
room as I picture it.” She pointed at an easel where her drawings were pinned
to a corkboard. “I still have one more panel to do. Between the shelf and the
hangings, the ghastly cherubs should be pretty well hidden. That will tone down
the creep factor.”

“They really
bother you?”

“I think
whoever carved them had lizards in his brain.”

Manoogin
grunted.

“You have a
nice space here. I can see why you would prefer it to the courtyard at the
castle.”

“Yes. It’s
easier to work here and transport them later than to risk something happening
to the fabric which is more fragile than it looks.”

Juliet didn’t
explain about how she had been so disturbed by the invisible shadows tiptoeing
around behind her back that she had decided to do all her work in the bungalow
rather than on-site like the others. She would have to very carefully transport
her hangings later, but it was worth the effort. She still didn’t believe in
ghosts, but whether it was bad air—maybe fouled from the corpse in the
chimney—or the poor lighting, she didn’t plan on spending any more time alone
in the tower than she had to.

“These are the
jars you told me about?”

“Yes,
apothecary jars. Let me turn on some of the lights.” Juliet switched on the
battery-powered candles and was pleased with the effect. It had taken her a
while to achieve the colors of oils and water that she was after.

“Is it
insulting if I say that I’m surprised?” he asked after a few moments of quiet
study.

“I suppose it
depends on your reasons for the amazement,” Juliet said with a small grin.

“Everything
else at the castle is so … not real.
So over the top.
Not
what I can imagine anyone wanting in their home. But this is something you
could actually have in your house.”

“Thank you. Lieutenant—”

“Vince.”

“Vince, if you
like
real
, you will probably love my
t-shirts.”

“I probably
will. Do you have any here?”

“A
few.
I need to do
some more. The tourists have been generous this summer and the shop that
carries them is almost out.” Juliet went to a cupboard and pulled out her few
remaining samples. “Not that I have any problem with showing off my work to
someone who admires it, but I think there was maybe something you wanted to say
to me?”

She was
careful not to look at the lieutenant as she laid out the shirts on her work
table. He appeared to be studying her printing press which she used in
combination with silk-screening.

“The thing is,
I usually don’t like civilians getting involved in my cases,” Manoogin said at
last. “In fact, I’m not even crazy about other branches of law enforcement
getting involved, especially the Feds. It’s my sandbox and I prefer to play
alone.”

“No one can
blame you for that. But if it is my federal ties that worry you, I am very,
very retired.”
Technically.
“And so are Raphael and
Esteban. There won’t be any official entanglements. Unless Dolph’s murder turns
out to be about terrorism or related to the smuggling of classified material.
That we would have to report. But I simply can’t imagine his death having any
wider governmental implications. Dolph was a womanizing jerk, a kind of
carnival barker who was rather phony but effective at drawing people into his
schemes. He probably wasn’t always truthful with his tax returns, and may well
have screwed over former business partners in his effort to get noticed. But so
are lots of people.”

“And I don’t
suppose that … well, you already answered.”

“Are you truly
that upset at having other eyes—who know the art scene, the castle, and the
players—looking out for suspicious things?”

“No. If
looking is all you do. Looking and reporting what you see,” he added.

“I assure you
that I have no ambitions to do anything of a physical nature. Vince, I am
fifty-two years old. My days imagining myself as a super-agent have long since
passed, and anyway I outgrew my desire to be Spiderman when I was about seven.
My only aspiration in life—beyond eating a lot more pumpkin cupcakes—is to
finish this project and get the hell away from that blasted castle.”

“You wanted to
be Spiderman?” He wasn’t bothering to suppress a smile. He also knew when to
abandon a futile battle.

“Of
course.
Didn’t
everyone?” The lieutenant shook his head and went back to the t-shirts. “Oh, let
me guess. You wanted to be Batman.”

“Well, he had
a cool car.” Manoogin excused himself as he picked up one of the shirts which
was
a caricature of her neighbor Mickey Shaw. Mickey liked
doing yoga in the nude. The shirt showed a skinny lizard in a variety of yoga
poses while he was being buzzed by a fat bee.

“Do you have
this one in a large?” he asked.

 
 
Chapter 6
 

There was no
malingering the following morning however appealing the comforts of bed. A lingering
thunderstorm and a hungry cat with an unwinking stare made sure she was up with
the dawn.

“Witch critter,”
she grumbled but got up to fetch food for immediate gulping.

The storm
itself blew out quickly and Juliet was able to make the drive to Barclay with
no more than a few sprinkles on her windshield.

The back of
her car had four sections of curved shelving which protruded out of one of the
windows. Esteban had cut the shelves for her and was planning on arriving
sometime that afternoon to help install them.
If the tower
was cleared for her use.
Manoogin had seemed confident that the skeleton
would be gone and they weren’t going to hold it as a crime scene since all
evidence outside of the corpse itself would be long gone. All that remained was
to get rid of the debris from the chimney facade, and they could work around
the fallen tiles and masonry crumbles if need be, though hopefully the workmen
would be available to clear it away. Things were probably going to be a bit
disorganized until someone stepped in to take Dolph’s place. Juliet couldn’t
think of an obvious candidate but there had to be some structure within his
charitable organization. At the very least someone was talking to the
newspapers and trying to downplay what had happened. Juliet had only read one
paper, but the headline was harrowing enough that she fully expected to find
the castle under siege by those looking for an exciting opening for the evening
news, along with the merely morbid and various psychic kooks who showed up when
the words
corpses
and
curse
were used in the same sentence.

A security
guard was on duty. Not the one who had been there the day
before.
Though the older guard recognized her, he peered into her back seat as though
expecting to see the boogieman hiding among the pieces of lumber. He wrote down
Esteban’s name and estimated time of arrival.

The ancient
oaks were drying out by the time she pulled into her regular spot in the lower
lot. They were as placid after rain as they were after sun. Only their shadows
were changed with the weather. Their shades were as pale as spider webs in the
hazy light. It seemed appropriate if not particularly cheering.

Lieutenant
Manoogin’s car was in the lot along with another vehicle that looked a lot like
an unmarked police car. She was glad to see that there was no yellow tape
stretched across the castle’s giant doors.

Though she
knew that she should check in with the foreman, Juliet decided to borrow an
empty cart and to wheel it down to the lot for fetching her shelves. The task
took twenty minutes and left her sweaty, but there was real pleasure in making
progress with her new plan of getting the hell away from the castle. Finding
the body in the tower and getting rid of it should have made her feel better
about her room. After all, surely that would lay the ghost, if ghost there was.
But somehow Juliet was not reassured and she feared that they might not have
seen an end to the violence, though whether it was old violence or new she
couldn’t say.

She paused in
the courtyard to look over the various projects in progress. Most of the lumber
being worked was pine or cedar. Both woods had distinct odors and hues. None of
the sawdust matched what she had seen on Dolph’s body. Of course, that could
have been a trick of lighting. Hazy daylight made things look muted.

Coming in from
the inner courtyard, which was still busy with contractors getting on with the
earthquake retrofit, Juliet heard Manoogin’s voice in the kitchen. She followed
the exasperated echoes down the corridor and discovered the lieutenant and a short
stranger in the process of pressing and tapping the walls. He wasn’t in uniform
but he didn’t need clothing to proclaim his profession.

“I take it you
haven’t found the secret panel that leads to the wine cellar,” Juliet said.

Both men
turned to look at her. Juliet was not exhibiting her talents for the fun of it.
She was usually self-embargoed from displaying her insight since she preferred
people remain ignorant of her abilities and think of her as nothing more than
breathing wallpaper. The fact that she had to be involved at all was rather
maddening. She hadn’t even liked Dolph Kingman. Truthfully, she never liked any
of the people who got killed around her. Of course, that wasn’t terribly
surprising. There was much less call for murdering nice people than rotten
ones. Still, this case was likely to stall if she didn’t intervene because
there was so much Manoogin didn’t know about the art world. The sooner this investigation
was over, the sooner she could put Barclay Castle out of her mind.

BOOK: 4 Impression of Bones
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