Marriage and Murder (Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Book 4) (6 page)

BOOK: Marriage and Murder (Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Book 4)


“Kelly, phone’s for you,” Roxie said,
handing it to Kelly.

            “This is Kelly, may I
help you?”

            “Hi, Kelly, or I suppose
it would be more appropriate for me to say ‘Hi Mrs. Reynolds, given the fact of
your recent name change. This is Doc, and I wanted to tell you your wedding was
beautiful. I was honored that you and Mike would have me be a part of it. Guess
Mike will be standing up for me in the not too distant future when Liz and I
tie the knot. Your wedding gave Liz and me a lot of food for thought, but I sure
hope we don’t have all the uninvited guests you had.”

            “It’s we who thank you,
Doc, for standing up with Mike, and I agree, it was a beautiful wedding,
although I feel so badly about what happened to Jesse.”

            “Me, too. I really liked
him. Whenever I went to The Crush to get a bottle of wine, he was always so
patient with me, explaining all about the different wines. He’s really going to
be missed.”

            “Speaking of which,
you’re not at the coffee shop, and it’s noon. Something must be pretty
important for you to miss eating lunch here. Is everything okay?”

            “Yes, everything’s fine.
Somehow our scheduler here at the clinic overbooked me with patients, but I
would like to talk to you. I was hoping to do it at lunch, but that’s simply
not going to be possible today. There’s no way I can get out of here. I think
half the people in Cedar Bay have the flu. Any chance you could stop by the
clinic this afternoon?”

            “Sure. Can you schedule a
little time for me around 3:00 or so?”

            “I’ll tell the
receptionist to notify me as soon as you come in. I’ll make it work.”

            “Want to tell me what
this is about?”

            “No, I just heard
something I thought might be of interest to you. Don’t have enough to tell Mike
about it, so I thought I’d get your input.”

            “Sounds interesting. See
you at 3:00. Want me to bring you a doggie bag when I come?”

            “A little something for
me, and a little something for Lucky would be very much appreciated. Thank

            She walked into the
kitchen where Madison was refilling her coffee pot. It was a chilly day, and
Kelly had lost count of how many pots of coffee they’d made in the large
commercial coffee urn.

            “Madison, Charlie, I’m
making a little care package for Doc. He’s overloaded with patients and can’t
make it in for lunch today. I’m going to take him two of the chicken burritos
we’ve been serving. I’m writing ‘Hands Off’ on it, so neither one of you will accidentally
serve it to a customer.”

            “Got it, boss. I’ll keep
an eye on it for you,” Charlie said.


            She took her cell phone
out of her purse intending to call Luke and went into the storeroom for a
little privacy.

            “Hi, Luke, it’s Kelly.”

            “You must have ESP. I was
getting ready to call you and offer my congratulations to both you and Sheriff
Mike. That was a beautiful ceremony. I just wish Scott could have been here to
see it.”

            “So do I, and I also wish
Amber could have been at the wedding. I’m not sure you ever met her, but she
was my godchild.”

            “No, I didn’t, but I
remember reading about her tragic death in the newspaper. As I recall, she was
an only child. How are her parents doing?”

            “It’s been terribly hard
on them. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of visiting them this afternoon.
Doc asked me to stop by the clinic and see him, and the book store Ginger owns
is only a block down the street from him. I want to thank her in person for
taking care of the wedding guest book at the church.”

            “I wondered who that was.
I’ve met a lot of people in Cedar Bay since I came to the Center, but I’ve not
met her.”

            “I’m not surprised. It’s
taken her awhile to recover from Amber’s murder. I think the wedding was really
her first venture out in public other than going to work at her book store. She
and her husband have pretty much been holed up in their house. I’ve gone over
to see them a few times and frankly, they’re not doing very well. They both
seem to be hopelessly overcome with grief and sadness from the loss of their
daughter. Jim’s handyman business has become almost non-existent, and you know
what’s happened to private book stores since people can buy a book on the
Internet a lot cheaper than they can buy the same book at a book store.”

            “I didn’t know there was
a handyman in town. I’ve got several things that I need to get fixed out here.
Would you mind giving me his name and telephone number?”

            “Here it is,” Kelly said.
“I know he’ll be happy to get some work. I’ve used him for years and highly
recommend him.”

            “Good to know. Thanks. So
what can I do for you?”

            “I remember after Scott’s
death you told me that Jesse was going to give you a crash course in winemaking.
I’m wondering how that turned out.”

            “You’ve got a good memory.
We met a number of times since last November, and his help and advice was invaluable
to me. I’m really sorry to hear of his death. Interesting you’d ask me about wine
making, because this morning the Pellino brothers paid me a visit. You know,
they’re the ones who own the vineyard next to ours. They’re the same guys Scott
had a run-in with before he was killed over their improper use of dangerous
chemicals banned by the EPA.”

            “So you’re telling me
they came to see you? That’s a first, isn’t it?”

            “That’s true, but I don’t
quite know what to make of it.”

            “I’m very interested in
hearing what they had to say.”

            “It was an awkward
conversation. They wanted to know if I was planning on selling the Center now
that Jesse was dead. I asked them why Jesse’s death would cause me to sell the
Center, and then I told them I had absolutely no plans to sell it. They said
they wanted to buy it, and now with Jesse dead they figured I wouldn’t know how
to make good wine, and I might as well sell the vineyard to them. They told me
they’d give me a fair price, and they could pay the entire purchase price in cash,
since they didn’t need to get a bank loan.”

            “You’re kidding!” Kelly
interrupted. “I remember Jesse saying there was some talk that their money
might be Mafia money. What do you think?”

            “I have no idea. I’m not
planning on selling the property, but if I was, it wouldn’t be cheap and for
someone to pay all cash for it? I suppose it could be Mafia money. I don’t know
many people who have that much available cash.”

            “I know I may be jumping
the gun here, but it almost seems to me like they might have a motive for
killing Jesse. If Jesse was dead and couldn’t help you with the winemaking, you
might be inclined to sell the property to them. Maybe their intent is to try
and convince you that you don’t have the necessary skills to make the fine wine
that Scott was able to make. Does that sound crazy?”

            “No, not at all. I think
you’re right, and I’ve just made a decision. I’ve been debating with myself for
the last month whether I may be in over my head with the winemaking part of the
Center. There are so many other things to do here that I just can’t devote
myself to it exclusively. I met a great guy at the Oregon Wine Conference Scott
and I attended several months ago before he was killed. He’s a wine and
vineyard consultant. I think I’ll hire him to come here and help me. The Center
has the money, and with Jesse gone, I really do need some help. I don’t want to
be the one responsible for having to sell the Center because of lost revenue
from lower wine sales, and I sure don’t want it to go into the hands of the
Pellino brothers.”

            “I think that’s a great
idea. How long are you planning on hiring this consultant to work at the Center?”

            “I don’t know. If he’s
able to come here for several months, that would be great. I can easily put him
up here. I’ll let you know. Kelly, I just thought of something else. I
overheard the Pellino brothers talking when they left, and I’m pretty sure they
didn’t mean for me to hear what they said. It was kind of a veiled threat.”

            “What did they say?”

            “Well, like I said, it
wasn’t said directly to me, but I overheard Dante tell Luca that, and I quote,
‘He might want to take a lesson from what happened to Jesse.’ The meeting I had
with them took place here in my office. There’s a gap in my office window frame,
so I can often hear what people say when they walk past it on their way to the
parking lot. That’s how I overheard what Dante said. Since he didn’t say it
directly to me, I suppose technically it’s not a threat. By the way, that’s one
of the reasons I’m glad I got the name of Bob, the handyman, from you. I need
to have some caulking put in around the window in my office.”

            “The threat may not have
been said directly to you, Luke, but I sure would consider it a threat. Be
careful. I remember you had a .22 pistol that you started keeping in your desk
and nightstand after Scott was murdered. If you’ve put it somewhere else, you
might want to rescue it and get in the habit of keeping it handy.”

            “Good advice. Thanks for
the call. I need to see about getting in touch with the wine consultant and also
Bob, the handyman you recommended. Talk to you later.”

If the Pellino brothers
are tied to the Mafia, I sure wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them, and
it sounds like Luke is. I wonder how far they’d go to get control of the
Center’s property.




Kelly heated up the burritos in the
microwave and cut up some chicken for Lucky. When the burritos were ready she
locked the coffee shop door, and she and Lady walked out to her minivan. Lady’s
nose kept drifting in the direction of the cloth bag holding the food Kelly had
prepared for Doc.

“Not now, girl. When we
get to the clinic, you and Lucky can each have a treat, but not before.”

Five minutes later they
walked through the front door of the Cedar Bay Clinic, an attractive brick
building with yellow shutters on each side of the windows and a yellow canopy
over the door. It was an inviting, warm building, a place that welcomed the
visitors, whether they were seeing Liz, the town’s psychologist, or Doc, the
town’s medical doctor. No matter what they needed help with, they began their
visit in a friendly and inviting atmosphere.

“Would you please tell Doc
that Kelly Reynolds is here to see him? Thanks,” she said to the young receptionist,
as she looked around approvingly at the room which had vases filled with cut
flowers and vivid green plants on the tables. Photographs and paintings of Cedar
Bay filled the walls.

The young woman called Doc
on the intercom, then turned to Kelly and said, “He asked me to take you back to
his office. Please follow me.”

Kelly and Lady walked into
Doc’s large office where he was sitting behind his desk. Lucky, the yellow
Labrador retriever Kelly had given to him as a present, was in his dog bed next
to Doc. One wall was covered with the framed diplomas and honors Doc had
obtained over the years. Two of the walls had early 20
California Impressionist paintings on them, and bookcases filled with books covered
the fourth wall.

“Doc, it looks like you’ve
put some of the paintings you inherited from your family on the walls here in
your office. This is the first time I’ve been in your office, and I want to
tell you I think it looks great. I love the warm pale yellow paint. It’s very
soothing and comforting.”

“I read somewhere that if
patients feel at ease in a doctor’s office, they heal a lot faster. There’s nothing
worse for a patient than to sit in some sterile doctor’s office with austere
white walls and nothing to welcome them. They’re already nervous about having a
problem serious enough to require a visit to the doctor’s office, so no sense
making it worse for them.”

“I’m sure you’re right. I
bet your patients love your office, well as much as anyone’s going to love
going to a doctor’s office. Here’s the care package I promised you – two
chicken and bean burritos with some of my own favorite bacon chocolate chip
cookies from the secret stash I keep in the freezer. I also brought a treat for
Lucky, and I have enough for Lady as well. Don’t think she’d be very happy
about Lucky getting a treat if she didn’t.” She handed him the casserole dish
with the burritos and divided up the rest of the chicken for the two dogs.

“This looks delicious,
Kelly, thank you so much, and Lucky thanks you too.”

“My pleasure. Can’t let my
best customer starve! You don’t seem like your usual self today, Doc. What’s

“Sorry, I didn’t realize
it was that apparent. Even though I said I wasn’t going to call Mike about it, something’s
telling me I probably should. Since you’re here, I’ll tell you if you promise
you won’t do anything with the information other than tell Mike.”

“I promise,” she said,
mentally crossing her fingers behind her back just in case.

“Jesse Allen’s mother was
in here this morning. Poor thing is taking the loss of her son pretty hard. There’s
no reason to tell you why she came to see me, that’s confidential and not
important to what I’m going to tell you, but what isn’t confidential is what
she told me. She said she hadn’t been fully honest with Mike when he called her
this morning. She asked me if I would give him a message for her. I said I’d be
happy to, as you and Mike were good friends of mine. I told her I’d been best
man at his recent wedding where Jesse had provided the wine.”

“What did she tell you,
and what did she tell Mike?” Kelly asked.

“It isn’t so much what she
told Mike, it’s more about what she didn’t tell him.”

“Like what?”

“Last night she was
looking for anything that would help her sleep and she remembered that Celia
had some sleeping pills she’d gotten from me some time ago because of her chronic
problems with insomnia. Celia wasn’t home at the time, so she couldn’t ask her
where they were. She looked in the medicine cabinet in Celia’s bathroom and
couldn’t find them, but then she remembered Celia saying something about
keeping them handy next to her bed. She told me she opened the drawer of
Celia’s nightstand and didn’t see them. She was sure Celia had told her they
were in the drawer, so she took it completely out of the nightstand. At the
very back of the drawer were the pills.”

“That doesn’t sound so

“No, it wasn’t. What was
unusual was the gun that was taped to the underneath side of the drawer. She
told me the only way anyone could see the gun was if the drawer was completely
removed from the nightstand.”

“What does Mrs. Allen

“She doesn’t know what to
think. When Mike called her this morning and asked her if she’d noticed
anything unusual about Jesse or anything else, she’d told him no. She told me
she felt guilty for not telling him about the gun she’d discovered, and asked if
I would tell Mike about it. She said she was too emotionally distraught to call

“Did she give you any
indication why Celia would have a gun taped to the underneath side of her
nightstand drawer?”

“No. She said she couldn’t
imagine why Celia had the gun. The only thing she could think of was that Celia
had been married to a policeman who died quite a few years ago. That’s when she
moved in with her mother. Mrs. Allen wonders if the gun was his, and Celia
keeps it there as a remembrance of him.”

“I think that’s very
strange, Doc, but I wonder if this gun might provide some link to Jesse’s
death. Did she say what kind of a gun it was?”

“She said she doesn’t know
anything about guns, but she pulled back the tape on the gun, and saw where it
was stamped with ‘.38 S&W.’ I know quite a bit about guns, and it sounds to
me like it’s a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson, but I couldn’t say for sure
without seeing it. As far as a link to Jesse’s death, I don’t see one. It just
strikes me as very odd that a woman would have a gun taped to the bottom of her
nightstand drawer. I have to say it made me wonder what caliber of gun killed
Jesse. You can see why I wasn’t comfortable calling Mike with it. I just didn’t
feel it was important enough to call him, but something bothers me about it.
Celia was the one who brought her mother to the clinic today, and she seems
like a very unsettled and angry woman. I’ve treated her before, and while I’ve
always had that impression, today it was even more so.”

“She may be angry and yes,
angry people often kill, but her own brother? I just can’t connect the dots in
that scenario.”

“Nor can I, but as I said,
Mrs. Allen asked me to tell Mike, and I promised her I would. Would you tell
him for me?”

“Doc, of course I will.
How can you even think I wouldn’t?” Kelly asked in a hurt voice.

“Just trying to keep you
from doing anything Mike wouldn’t be happy about. As I recall, it’s happened
before. You can plan on it that I’ll mention it to Mike the next time I see
him. Sure would hate for him to hear it from me for the first time a couple of days
or weeks from now,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, his meaning clear.

“You have my word, Doc.
I’ll tell him tonight. Speaking of which, I better leave. I need to stop by
Ginger’s book shop on the way home, and I don’t want to be late. If there aren’t
signs of dinner being prepared, Mike may wonder if he made a mistake last
Saturday when he married me. Time for us to go. Lady, come,” she said, standing
up and walking over to the door. “You can bring that dish back to the coffee
shop when you come for lunch tomorrow. Believe me, there are plenty more where
that came from.”

“Lucky and I are grateful
for the care packages, aren’t we Lucky?”

Lucky voiced his approval
with a resounding bark.

A gun taped to the underneath
side of Celia’s nightstand. That’s really strange. Wonder how Jesse and Celia
got along. I know Celia’s close with Jesse’s ex-wife, Sydney, but like I told
Doc, I can’t connect any dots. Maybe Mike can come up with something.

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