Read 5 Blue Period Online

Authors: Melanie Jackson

5 Blue Period (4 page)

BOOK: 5 Blue Period
5.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Some of the lavender was being made into wreaths.
The giant table where the florists worked was something from a castle that had fallen on hard times. It was damaged, scarred on top but also charred by fire. Juliet circled the table. One couldn’t help but think of things like the French revolution but probably the mutilation was more recent. After all, who would pay to move a table that was so injured across an ocean? But when had it happened? There had been no mention in her reading of their being a fire at the winery.

However damaged, i
t was a masterpiece, an example of overwrought baroque. The legs were deeply carved—with a lion. And a dragon, and something that might have been a phoenix, though no bird would be arising from the burnt wood at that end of the table. If the fantastical menagerie was not enough, it was further embellished with vines and fruit and roses.

“We grow both English and Spanish lavender
,” Seamus said enthusiastically, mistaking the focus of her artistic attention. “The English lavender is wonderful for potpourris and general household or pest repellant use. Also for culinary consumption. We supply the local restaurants that use it in their menus. The Spanish lavender is mainly ornamental.”

“I didn’t know it came in so many colors,” Juliet
answered, staring at the smaller baskets that had yellow, white, and pink stems and not knowing what else to say.

“They are a novelty item. Most people want their lavender to be, well, lavender.”

As they chatted about flowers, a pale wraith detached itself from the base of the chimney stack where it had been enjoying the sun. Most of the patio was robbed of sunlight by the shed roof and the chimney was the only spot out in full light. The orange and white cat yawned prodigiously and sauntered over to greet the guests, keeping away from the nearby fountain that splashed gently, either delighting or annoying the fat koi who swam under the threads of spun water.

Juliet
bent to stroke the cat. As she made her introduction to the feline she looked south and noticed several men out combing the hills on the opposite side of the ravine. They were not inspecting the grapes, but rather searching them. And not for anything small because they moved quickly and did not look between vines, but hurried straight ahead.

“That is Blue Period acreage?” she asked unnecessarily because she could see the top of the castle’s crenelated tower through the trees.
Gouts of light were splashed about on the ground between the vines and the men and their short shadows were clearly visible.

“Yes
, indeed it is, it is.” Seamus stood beside her, frowning into the distance. “What are they doing? Those fields have been harvested already.”

Juliet stood upright. She tried to swallow her sudden alarm
but the saliva just slid past the growing lump.

“They’re searching,” Raphael said
grimly. “For someone, or something.”

“I hope they’ve not been troubled with trespassers again.”

Movement flickered at the corner of her eye. Juliet turned and stared at the dark shapes circling the sky to the east. Her bird was back and had been joined by others. They were air-sailing in the direction the men were heading.

“Are those vultures?” she asked
over the purring of the cat who continued to strop her ankles, though again it was an unnecessary question. The giant silhouettes could only be one thing.


Aye, they are, and so. Something’s dead out there. Perhaps one of the new sheep. What a shame. They are only just come to the winery.”

It wasn’t a dead sheep
, Juliet was certain. That wouldn’t turn out the whole staff of the vineyard to fetch a dead animal.

“Well hell,” Juliet said, having a premonition.

“Indeed,” Raphael answered. She didn’t like seeing the frown between his brows anywhere but the studio. Juliet knew well what it meant. They were their own people, individual and whole. But together she and Raphael were also something. A third entity. An
us
. That meant that wither Raphael went, so did she. A dead body meant he was probably headed back to Blue Period to make enquiries.

“The question is do we go back, or take a long lunch
in town while they deal with things?” Raphael asked, demonstrating that he was on the same frequency and being thoughtful.

They looked at each other
, having a silent conversation about the pros and cons of various actions.

“But what are they doing?
Surely they have not turned out the whole staff for a trespasser,” Seamus asked again. His sister had joined them. Her weathered face was impassive but the eyes were intent.

Juliet finally answered.

“It seems probable that they are looking for the body of Carl Owens.”

Brother and sister turned to stare at her.
Seamus looked shocked and even a bit distressed. Moira didn’t look like anything.

“And
it seems that they’ve found it,” Raphael said. “I hope they have sense enough not to touch the body before the police get there.”

Juliet snorted.

“Too late. And if there were any footprints they’ll have destroyed them too.”

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

“Did you know that menstruating women are never allowed to stomp grapes?” Talbert asked as he stared out the window of Juliet’s cottage, not looking for anything but just being watchful. “It is said that it will make them sour.”

Talbert wasn’t even trying to mimic the manners of someone who cared, at least superficially, about how Juliet was getting on
with her new life as an artist.

“I didn’t know that bit of lore and, frankly, would rather not know it. I already have enough contempt for the local chauvinists,” Juliet answered.

“I take it that none of them know who you are?”

“I’m an artist. That’s what they know.”

Talbert shrugged impatiently.

“But they don’t know who you were.”

“It’s irrelevant, so no. They don’t.”

She was trying to get a feel for what Talbert wanted
with her. So far, the man had managed to avoid coming to the point.

“You don’t have a feel for who might have killed Owens?” the agent finally asked.

Juliet resisted the urge to point out that her favorite candidate for murderer was Talbert himself. It wasn’t true and provoking him wouldn’t be wise.

“I believe the spouse is always suspected,” she said lightly.

“Not this time,” Talbert said sharply. “Carissa Owens was with me at the time of death.”

“Which was?”

“Between midnight and two. He was out in the fields that had already been harvested.” A pause. “He was shot. Maybe because he was shooting at someone first. He had a rifle with him and it had been discharged. The police are wondering if the killer used one of the guns from the residence. It’s absolutely bristling with firearms. Of course, a lot of the homes around here are. They are doing an inventory of the house but….” He shrugged.

The countryside was hilly and Owens had died a long way from the cottage.
The harvesters had also been running, filling the air with a distant hum. Still it bothered Juliet that she hadn’t heard anything.


If it isn’t the wife, then I guess the police will have to look at other suspects,” she said at random.

“Schneider, the old business partner
, moved into the third cottage yesterday afternoon. He’s limping around today. Says he sprained an ankle walking around in the dark.”

Why was he telling her these things? Did he want her involved?
Surely he would prefer that she stay out of any official investigations.

“That’s quite possible. The land around the cottage is fairly rough if you stray off the patio.”

He stared at her.

“You’re not taking a hand?”

“Not if I can avoid it. I was not close to the
familia
Owens and this matter doesn’t concern me.”

Talbert looked
skeptical. She understood. She had been involved in previous murder cases. But circumstances were different this time. She hadn’t been the one to discover the body and she didn’t know the people involved. As the old saying went, she didn’t have a dog in this fight. In fact, if the police hadn’t asked her and Raphael to remain for another day, she would have happily packed up her paintings and left. She had had enough of the heat and bad wine, mud baths and overpriced restaurants and boutiques.

“You aren’t curious about this affair?”

“Not madly. I plan to remain as indifferent as circumstances will allow.” She did not ask about the NSA’s involvement. They were a cryptological intelligence agency that analyzed foreign communications for the Department of Defense, and she couldn’t imagine why they would care about winemakers in California. Didn’t want to imagine it either, though she had to wonder if this was a warrantless surveillance. There had gotten to be an awful lot of them.

What she did not explain was that the further she moved from her old life, the more reluctant she was to enter the maze of lies that
one had to walked to find the truth—or at least the truth about who had pulled the trigger. Karmicly speaking, Owens, like many others killed, had probably actually murdered himself through the accumulation of ill will his life choices engendered. But the law had little interest in cosmic philosophies and reckonings. It just wanted an eye for an eye, a life for a life, or whatever else would appease the public. And it would give them the best deal that the prosecutors and defense attorneys could barter.

Still the question
of what had happened was just sitting there. Questions begged answers. Her curiosity could be an enemy impossible to placate, distract, or control once it was aroused. Once started on a quest, it went on gathering and sorting data regardless of her wishes.

Maybe she was lying to herself about getting involved.
There was no need to admit this to Talbert though.

“You surprise me a little,” Talbert said. “Usually women who make it near the top are battleaxes who cleaved their way through the competition. The only way they let their power
go is when someone pries it from their cold, dead hands. But you just walked away.”

This sounded complimentary but Juliet couldn’t think of any appropriate response to the backhanded compliment.
She didn’t try to explain about leaving some of her skin behind when she left the game.

“Not to be rude, but I have a lunch date
and need to leave,” Juliet said, rising to her feet and reaching for her sunhat. She resisted the urge to add polite words about how Talbert should call her if she could be of help. The less she saw of him the better.

“Right. I should be getting on too. I just wanted to make sure that you were alright.” He had belatedly recalled that some show of concern would be polite.
Talbert was great at masking thoughts and emotions, but Juliet had the feeling that he was vaguely relieved that she seemed so indifferent to the murder. Was that because he was involved? Juliet squashed the thought as quickly as she could.

“I’m fine.
Thankful that I needn’t compete in the finals of the grape stomp. I don’t know how anyone can find that enjoyable, especially in this heat.” She opened the cottage door and ushered Talbert out. Later she would go over everything in the cottage and look for listening devices. She hadn’t seen him plant anything but he could have gotten in while she was at Trefoil.

Taking his dismissal with a pretense of grace, Talbert waved and then stalked off toward the Owens
’ private residence. The sun glared off the patio, hurting her eyes, but Juliet stared after him until Raphael joined her.

“Your meeting was convivial?” he asked.

“Instructive.” Juliet smiled, turning her back on the sun. “And, though it may be indelicate under the circumstances, I have to admit that I’m starving.” The police had been slow about getting around to take their statements when they returned to the winery, possibly since neither one of them was a person of interest, and they may well have been warned off inquiring too closely by Talbert.

BOOK: 5 Blue Period
5.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
Zero Hour by Andy McNab
The Death of the Wave by Adamson, G. L.
The Russell Street Bombing by Vikki Petraitis