Authors: Ellen Crosby
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths
Also by Ellen Crosby
The Merlot Murders
The Chardonnay Charade
The Bordeaux Betrayal
The Riesling Retribution
The Viognier Vendetta
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Ellen Crosby
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First Scribner hardcover edition August 2011
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The sauvignon secret : a wine country mystery / Ellen Crosby.
—1st Scribner hardcover ed.
p. cm. —(Wine Country Mysteries.)
1. Montgomery, Lucie (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Vintners— Virginia—Fiction. 3. Cold cases (Criminal investigation)—California— Fiction. 4. Vineyards —California—Fiction. I. Title. II. Series: Crosby, Ellen.
Wine Country Mysteries.
ISBN 978-1-4516-2841-8 (ebook)
For Tom Snyder
THE SAUVIGNON SECRET
We are all mortal until the first kiss
and the second glass of wine
—Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan journalist, novelist, writer
I didn’t want to kill Paul Noble. Yes, I said I did. Worse, I said it in a public place. In my defense, half a dozen people at that same meeting chimed in. “Get in line” or “join the club” or “you and me both.”
It was a figure of speech, and everyone in the room—twenty-five northern Virginia winemakers like me—knew it. At least that’s what I thought at the time. So when I found Paul hanging from a beam a few weeks later in the old fieldstone barn he’d converted into an artist’s studio, the first thing I thought was, “Oh, my God, someone really did it.”
My second thought was that I could see my breath because the room felt like I’d stepped inside a refrigerator, which was odd on a sweltering July day. A blast of arctic air blew down my spine, bringing with it the faint but unmistakable sickening-sweet stench of death. How long had he been here? A few hours—maybe more— based on his mottled face, bugged-out, vacant eyes, and the slightly blackened tongue protruding from his mouth. I put a hand over my own mouth, swallowing what had come up in my throat. At least the glacial temperature had slowed down decomposition.
A paint-spattered stool was overturned in a wet spot on the carpet underneath Paul. He’d soiled himself—his khakis were stained—but the rug was damp from something else. An empty bottle of wine lay on the rug on its side next to a broken wineglass. I didn’t need to lean in to see what he had been drinking. A bottle of
my vineyard’s wine, Montgomery Estate Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. We’d won a couple of awards for it.
It was still possible to make out something in faded gold silk-screen on the wineglass. Nothing I recognized. No logo, no fancy calligraphy of a vineyard’s name or a commemorative occasion, just a cartoonish figure of an empty-eyed man whose hands were clasped over stubs of ears, mouth open in the perfect round O of a scream.
My stomach churned again. I reached out to steady myself on the glass-topped table Paul used for his tubes of paint, palettes, and jars of brushes, pulling my hand back in the nick of time. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department would be all over this place as soon as someone—meaning me—phoned in a suspicious death, and they’d check for fingerprints, fibers, and whatever they could find that would tell them who Paul’s most recent visitors had been. No point contributing evidence I’d have to explain later.