Thanks to all who sent expressions of sympathy after my blog about my Blue Time. Appreciate them very much.
This week, I’d like to give another short scene from my “work in progress” novel called THE LOVELY PINES, which will be the fourth in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series. (Can’t tell you how excited I am about working with Dreamspinner Press on the reissue of THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT and THE BISTI BUSINESS as well as the initial release of the third novel, THE CITY OF ROCKS, starting in the fall of this year.)
The following scene from Chapter 1 is the opening of the story. Regular readers will recognize BJ Vinson as the viewpoint character.
THE LOVELY PINES
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The dapper gentleman my secretary, Hazel Harris Weeks, ushered into the office spoke with a slight European accent. “Grüezi, Mr. Vinson, I am Ariel Gonda. It is good to finally meet you.”
Taking grüezi to be a German word for “hello” or “howdy,” I stood to accept the proffered handshake as my mind grappled for the meaning of his greeting. Then a memory dropped into place. Ariel Gonda was the corporate Treasurer of Alfano Vineyards in Napa Valley. I’d run across his name during what I mentally referred to as the Bisti Business, but I had never actually met the man before. If I recalled correctly, he was a Swiss national, so the word in question was likely Swiss German.
“Mr. Gonda, how are Aggie and Lando doing?” I referred to the two Alfano brothers to let him know I’d made the connection.
“They are well, thank you. At least, they were when I last spoke to Aggie. I am no longer with the organization. I am now one of you. That is to say, a bona fide New Mexico citizen.”
I smiled inwardly as he neatly covered his tracks. It’s best to be precise when drawing comparisons to a gay confidential investigator. “Welcome to our world, Mr. Gonda.”
“Please call me Ariel. As you can see, I have become Americanized. In my native Switzerland, we would never have arrived at first names so swiftly. I find the informality refreshing.”
“With pleasure, if you’ll call me BJ. Please have a seat and tell me what I can do for you. Unless, of course, this is a social call.”
“Would that it were. Unfortunately, it is your services as an investigator I require at the moment.”
He settled into the comfortable chair directly opposite my old-fashioned walnut desk and glanced around the wainscoted room. I detected a gleam of approval in his pale blue eyes as he studied pieces of my late father’s cowboy and western art collection adorning the light beige walls. He brought his attention back to me, a clue he was ready to discuss business.
I took a small tape recorder from my drawer and placed it on the desk. “Do you mind if I record the conversation?” With his consent, I turned on the device and dictated the time and place and participants in the meeting. “Now, why don’t you tell me about your problem?”
He cleared his throat. “The matter that brings me here is a break-in at my winery last week.”
“What was taken?”
“Nothing that I can determine.”
"Merely some papers in my office and lab disturbed. But nothing was destroyed or taken, and there are some quite valuable instruments in the laboratory."
I tapped my desk blotter with the point of a gold and onyx letter opener fashioned like a Toledo blade. “Valle Plácido doesn’t have a police force, so I assume you reported the break-in to the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office.”
“I did. However, since nothing was taken, they decided it was a case of adolescent mischief and closed the investigation—such as it was.”
“Apparently, you disagree with that conclusion. Have there been other incidents?”
“Certain small things have occurred. Things I would not have noticed were it not for the earlier break-in.” He paused to lean back in the chair and cross his legs in a less formal manner. Covering the lower portion of his face with a palm, he pulled his hand down over his chin and neck as though smoothing a non-existent moustache and beard. “I suppose I can best explain by telling you that two days following the actual burglary, if that is the proper terminology, I noticed some of my tools and equipment had been moved.”
Why in the world would a "nothing" break-in send a winery owner to a Confidential Investigator? Of course, the forcing of a hasp (as we later learn was the method of entry) indicates a serious effort to get into the place, but if nothing was taken or destroyed, why go to the expense of an outside investigation?
I hope this piques your interest in the book. I’m having fun writing it.
Thanks for being readers. Keep it up! Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
New Posts published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.
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